Friday, December 27, 2013


I have been an extremely ineffective blogger this year.  It's funny how that impulse to write and share and ruminate comes and goes.  Truth be told, a lot of the motivation to post was to make sure that I had a record of the things going on in my life - and from time to time I do go through my blog and relive some moments past.  But, one might say, the thrill has gone.

It has been a hard year in some ways ("hard" in first-world terms that is...I count my blessings, really I do), and certainly a year of turning more inward than outward.  I haven't really wanted to share, I haven't really wanted to let people look at what is going on with me.  And I know that in part that is because I don't want to look too closely myself - it's a familiar pattern for me.  Usually when I'm quiet, it's because I have had to take my toys off to my own corner of the room and think for a bit.

It's a funny thing.  In some ways, I am happier with myself and my life than I have been in years...BUT I'm also dealing with some staggering insecurities.  And I know I'm going to have to face up to them very soon, and it scares me.  But I also know that as soon as I do, they will be less scary.  Not immediately, but eventually.  And I do honestly have the feeling that once I get through that process I will find something...good.  I've been dialling it in for too long, at least in some parts of my life.  It's got to stop, but like all bad habits, it's hard to make that change.

But enough of that.

Despite my near complete silence, and the moaning in the first few paragraphs, it has been a year that rightfully deserved a lot of time and writing.  There were some great little jaunts across the border - I wrote about the Portland trip, but not about the fun I had again this year with my pals at Hump! (and for those of you brave enough to watch one of the festival winners, you can find it in the comments under the link...and get ready to say 'ouch').  There were some great theatre pieces, dance works, and concerts. I challenged myself of the dating front in ways that I couldn't have anticipated.  And, happily, I now have a house that looks a little cheerier from the outside.

So, I will leave you this year with a photo that pretty much captures me at the moment, taken as I got ready for a Christmas party I really REALLY didn't want to go to.  A bit blurry, hiding behind a bit of put on shine, and living in a state of minor chaos.  Hopefully next December I will present a more focused sense of self.

Monday, October 14, 2013

PDX, will you marry me?

Just back from four fantastic days in Portland.  Oh Portland - I would SO marry you, but if all we can manage is a dirty weekend a few times a year, I will take it.

I was lucky enough to be invited along on the PDX adventure of dear pals A & J.  I've been to the city a couple of times before, but this time I really felt I got into the nitty gritty of this fantastic city, thanks to A's planning and their knowledge of the fun and quirky and caffeinated wonders the city has to offer.     From the PSU farmers market, to the bizarre urban goat yard, coffee roasters/baristas that take incredible (and justified) pride in their product, the quirky heritage home extravaganza that is Hippo, to beer and cheese festivals, to happy hours that were...well, happy...and great food throughout - there is no shortage of things to love. Oh - and the tax-free lifestyle is pretty easy to get used to.  As are coffee shops that have nibbles that are great - and $1.  ONE DOLLAR.  Nirvana.

I've said it before but I will say it again - if I were 25 yrs younger, I'd be living there and going to PSU, probably drinking way too much coffee and getting way too many tattoos.  The place is a hot spot of hipster culture, but somehow it dodges the annoying attitude you find in Vancouver.  There is something genuine and engaged about the young people there.  And I must say there are some gorgeous tattoos, on gorgeous people.

I will be back, my PDX love.  And if I'm good, and improve my cryptic crossword skills, maybe the best tour guides ever will invite me along again :)

And in other news, the bunkle is in the midst of getting a bit of a more giant cherry tree, which seems to be making the whole house blush.  Not quite finished, but close.  The big reveal when it's all done, promise.

(And I'm not sure what is going on with this crazy oversized font...sigh.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Folk Fest (and more)

Yes, it's happened. I haven't posted for ages, and now there is a tonne I feel like posting about. I know that feeling will likely pass in the next 20 minutes, so let's see how far I get.

Firstly, summer is amazing this year. We haven't had a drop of rain all month - sun, temperatures in the 20s - glorious. Really. Equally glorious? A day trip to visit a dear pal I haven't seen for about ten years.  So nice to reconnect, and lovely to meet her family.  Galiano is spectacular.  And Moxie is pretty awesome too.

And yes - time for the Folk Festival Recap.  I won't go on about the weather again except to say it made for a pretty perfect weekend.  I was there with my usual partner in Folk Fest crime, A., and by a lucky twist of fate our pal L. managed to attend as well.  It was the usual scene - thousands of people, a high percentage wearing Keens sandals and Tilly hats.  Musically I can't say that I came away having fallen head over heels with any band in particular, but there were a number I'd go out on a second date with:  Aidan Knight, the talented Mangan-esque singer/songwriter from Victoria;  Sara Watkins, ex-Nickel Creek and standing strongly on her own skills as a solo performer (though I have to admit, if I had to pick an ex-Nickel Creek member to put on my desert island of musical geniuses, Chris Thile would be it); Hanggai, a band from Beijing that plays some crazy mix of Mongolian folk and more contemporary stuff, fronted by a guy that ... well, I'll let you watch the video.  Words don't do him justice.  And a sure fire way to get a crowd going?  Mongolian throat singing. Who knew.

Tough decisions at 10am
Other than that - The Cat Empire got the crowd up and bouncing but the kind of jazz-morphed-ska they do is not really my thing...super talented musicians no doubt, but ...ya.  Of more interest to me is another (related by marriage as it happens) Australian band, Tinpan Orange - singer Emily Lubitz is transfixing, perhaps not hard to be when you're a 6 foot readhead.  Canada's Danny Michel paired up with the Garifuna Collective from Belize and it was pretty magical - I've always had a great deal of admiration for Danny Michel, he consistently puts out great, creative music - he should be getting a lot more attention than he does.  And there was a great workshop stage with The Brothers Comatose, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Canada's own Wooden Sky - banjos, guitars, and a lot of humour and heart.
I have to post one of these every year - even if we look frozen and awkward 

Emily Lubitz (Tinpan Orange)

Briga (of Briga) and Tim Scanlan (The Latchikos)

Sara Watkins

Dominic Desrochers  (Bon Debarras)

Alex Burkoy (or Ron Jeremy?), Tinpan Orange

Aidan Knight

And as I've said in years past, it is the workshop stages that make folk festivals the wonderful things they are - the irreproducible moments of magic you'll hear when bands that have never met before find some amazing musical connection.  On that front, I will give a huge shout out to Alex Burkoy, who plays guitar, violin and mandolin for Tinpan Orange.  The man is quietly PHENOMENAL.  During a workshop stage that included artists as diverse as London's quiet, Antony-esque Phildel, horn-fueled singer-songwriter Aidan Knight, and Lena Anderssen from the Faroe Islands, he managed to find a way to quietly support every other musician up there in a way that made their music shine brighter, instead of putting his own clear stamp on things.  So very cool to see.

And the audience?  As expected:  intolerant Folk Fest Nazis still congregate and firmly stake their ground at shady Stage 2, and inconsiderate teenagers watch the world revolve around them during the contemporary music at Stage 5.  As for me...well,  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I just get slightly grumpy with all of them.

Not my most engaging post - sorry.  And as predicted, I'm out of steam.  It will take me a while to get back into the swing of this posting thing I guess.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

AWOL. And that may not stop for a bit.

Yes, it has been a long LONG time since I've posted. I really haven't felt like it, and it may be some time before I feel like it again - or, I may suddenly get the bug and post something interesting. Really hard to tell. Life has been ... well, sort of good, and sort of terrifying. Good: a trip back to Ontario for work, and more importantly for play. I spent some great GREAT quality time with a lot of different pals over a four day period, and my dear pals M&M let me crash in their newly renovated basement, which was so very appreciated. Toronto has changed so much, but my fabulous friends have not. Reconnecting is so important. I will do it much more often. And in other news, I may be dealing with the ground completely shifting under me soon. It is somewhat terrifying, somewhat sad (strangely...), and - potentially - somewhat exciting, if I don't sink into a black hole along the way. Either way, I know there are going to be some hard times ahead. When the dust settles, or becomes clearer, I will let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A ten tonne catastrophe on a 60 lb chain...

Had the remarkable good luck to see Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds this past weekend.  This is one of those moments when you thank whatever cosmic alignment was necessary to bring them to town, and to have them play my current fave venue, the Vogue.

I could go on and on about the reverence I have for Nick Cave.  Don't worry, I won't.  But I will say that the man has an amazing brain - and he is probably one of the strongest lyricists around.  Heck, arguably one of the strongest writers, based on his film work and other writing.  The best singer in the world? Probably not - but his voice is perfectly suited to the material, and he can sell a song like no one else.

A couple of fine examples from two ends of the Bad Seeds spectrum, c/o my frere and his superior videoing skills - first, the lovely Into My Arms (I challenge any other lyricist to work in "interventionist God":

And the EPIC Stagger Lee:

We were so lucky. SO lucky. And really, there isn't much else to say.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Endings and beginnings

Spring is finally here.  Really here - with cherry trees in bloom and spring bulbs brightening up the garden as everything goes through its annual rebirth.  Life is happening again. For once, I've been feeling that way too.  Optimistic.   Mixed with a surprising level of contentment...all marked with that vibrating, spring-y promise of things to come.  Not really sure what is causing me to feel this way, but I will hang on to it for as long as it lasts - and I'm old enough to know it probably won't be all that long.  

Speaking of rebirth, we finally scattered Dad's ashes today - along with those of two of his canine companions, Chobe and Chaka.   The timing was right - Mum has had his ashes for a couple of years now, and she was ready to let him mix with the water and go back to the earth.

We aren't a family that does well with formal ceremony.  For other families, this could have been grave and solemn.  And to be honest, if Dad had been on the shore scattering one of us, it probably would have been more formal - his upbringing was such that ceremony brought him comfort.  Instead, the ashes were carried down to the beach at Whytecliff Park in a British Butcher Shop bag - something that seemed appropriate to us (after all, you can get Murray Mints at the British Butcher).   The dogs went first, followed by Dad.  As the ashes were scattered, and we watched the grey clouds of ash being mixed and spread by the tide, chased by tulips, the sun started to peek through the grey skies.

It was right.  And a lovely way to say goodbye - again.

(Goodbye that is to all but the layer of Dad that blew back onto Mike's legs - which to be honest, felt right too)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Just give me a name

A brief post about a couple of this weekend's fun escapades:

Firstly, the last of this season's DanceHouse shows - Carte Blanche's "Corps de Walk", which was much more amazing than this clip makes it seem. A piece that felt somehow industrial and sensual at the same time - and danced by people wearing creepy grey contact lenses to boot.

Will definitely want to buy tickets for next season.  I'm not sure I understand contemporary dance any more than I did two or three years ago, but I find it more and more compelling as time goes on.

And secondly - a great concert with long-time Canadian alt-folk/popster, Hayden, touring on his lovely recent album Us Alone.  Musically, he remains the stark, subtle, heartbreaking artist he's always been - and live he was a joy, as he's been every time I've seen him - a quietly funny guy, as many of the more poignant songwriters often are.  A quietly funny guy with totally epic hair, that unfortunately my poor video quality doesn't do justice.  This is one of the poppier tunes from the most recent album, performed with Lou Canon, who also did an opening set.

The Rio is quickly becoming one of my favorite place to see quieter performers - but YAY to the high stage, and the comfy seating.  The lighting could do with some work, but otherwise they're doing a grand job.

One of these days I will feel like writing something more thought provoking.  But not today.  It's too sunny out.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How has my love affected you? & other good things

A quick, lazy post, on one of the rare sunny days we've seen this month.... A cultural-life check in from this week: firstly, a gorgeous, first-nations inspired production of the Magic Flute by the VOC with my brother, and secondly, the thought provoking "How has my love affected you?" - explained succinctly in this trailer:
A very compelling piece of theatre for sure, performed by the father/son duo Marcus and Zak Youssef. My cultural-partner in crime A. mused afterwards that perhaps in the sharing of the very difficult, at times disturbing (finding his mother beside him in bed when he was 18? Not so normal...) relationship with his mother, Marcus isn't at some level doing the same sort of 'oversharing' with his son that his mother did with him when he was young. I guess the difference is perhaps the context, and one hopes the overall 'health' of their relationship in general. There is one point when Marcus starts to tell a story about him and Zak, and Zak pulls him up short, and Marcus respects his son's boundaries - a conceit I guess to clarify that boundaries and respect exist in their relationship, things that were obviously bent and strained in the relationship between Marcus and his mother. Music was written by the always amazing Veda Hille - love that woman's work, I really do!

 Before I forget - we had dinner at Edible Canada before - two thumbs up, and ALL digits up for the amazing chai flavoured crème brûlée - it's my mission recreate that joy in ice-cream form soon.

And today - a gorgeous hike in Deep Cove with the goils. In the sun. I could almost smell summer.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The murder has landed...

It's done.


I am thrilled, and relieved.  I was wound up like a spring yesterday morning, waiting for my noon tattoo with Eric.  I was wound up as I had only seen preliminary artwork (which I liked, but did request changes to), I had no idea if I would be able to deal with the pain, and the biggest fear - regret.  Regret because the piece had turned out terribly, regret because I might change my know.  Regret.

I parked a bit early, wandered down to the restaurant Tui works in for a good luck hug (and a very very tasty almond milk chai) - a nice coincidence that she was only half a block away from the shop.  Eric was having a smoke outside the shop when I arrived.  He reassured me I'd be fine (what else is he going to say?).  I walked in and one of the girls working in the shop said OH you're here for the crows! They're AWESOME!

That helped.  Hearing that, helped.  And the energy in the shop helped.  They were young, and enthusiastic.  When a new client got booked by one of the women, she wandered back and excitedly told Eric what she was getting to do.  There was no attitude.  No jaded coolness.  Just fun and passion for what they do.

And she was right - the crows were awesome.

Eric is lovely - a kind, unpretentious young guy.  We chatted about music, and school, and family.  About the things he had to do when he was an apprentice tattooer (including repeatedly stencilling the word "woof" on an academic professional's 'taint'...something that obviously haunts him a little).  About what parts of the body hurt most under the needle (apparently bums smart something fierce - who knew?).  About how he wants to get tattooed (pretty much) everywhere, in part so he has a good sense of what each area feels like for his clients.  And all that chat kept my mind off the discomfort going on - and I will call it discomfort for 90% of the process, pain for 10% (those big solid black areas do begin to smart something fierce).  I focused on the weight of his arms on my leg, and that somehow reassured me and made it easier.  Also making it easier?  A quick visit from Tui who took the photos above.  She was slightly disappointed that it was seeming so easy for me, kind hearted soul that she is.  It was four hours of fun, but it didn't feel nearly that long.

One thing that came out talking to Eric is how differently he (and the girls in the shop, and probably most young tattooers) view tattoos.  Me, I ruminated on this for years.  Where, what, would I get tired of it, who would do many decisions.  Them? They have some downtime and will tattoo each other on the spur of the moment.  He laughed and told me that when he started, he used to practice on himself, so his thighs are covered with random, slightly ridiculous tattoos.  There was a bit of regret - only in that he has lost some space that could be used for bigger pieces.  But there is still plenty of skin to play with, I gather.  An attitude reflecting a generational difference? Maybe.  Or maybe once you're into body modification in a big way, you are liberated from the kinds of worries I had.

The end result?  I'm very happy.  He hit the level of detail I wanted perfectly.

At one point during the process, I made the comment that "this is a one time thing" - he looked up and smiled, and said "that's what you think..."  He may be right.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

(im)permanent change

Lazy blogger here.  It isn't that there hasn't been a lot to blog about - last weekend was full of film and dance and hikes and science world nerdy fun.  Still, the impulse to write - well, it just wasn't there.

Consider this a pre-boarding announcement for a blog later this week that hopefully will be more interesting.

I've been going through a fair bit of change over the last year - changes of focus, changes to routine.   Some internal changes, some external - my hair is probably 6 inches longer, and my body is three sizes smaller.  Those are things will fluctuate over time I'm sure.  Impermanent change.

And I've been fussing over the last year about a permanent change - a tattoo.  I've known what I want, and where I want it, for a long time - actually I've known what I want for at least four years, but I didn't decide on the where until more recently.  The last year has been a strange roller coaster of trying to find the right person to do it.  First, I wanted a woman.  I found someone amazing in Montreal who travels to Vancouver from time to time, but she didn't get back to me.  I gave up on her, and tried to find a woman in town whose work I really liked, but couldn't.  And, to be honest, what I want done isn't all that complex, and isn't going to be of much interest to the 'superstars' in town anyway - and things are such that good artists can pick and choose their clients.  Then my brain flipped on the whole "female artist" thing, and I started looking at the guys in town.  AND - I found someone whose work felt right...but I was also pulled by the work of a junior guy that was working at the same shop.  A couple of weeks back, I decide to try to make an appointment.  Ya, well, guy number one was dead - a heart attack in January apparently.  Which left me with the junior guy.  I met with him last week, and for some reason (hopefully not delusional) he feels right.  He's got a nice manner, and none of the ego that can go along with the industry these days.  He will get some artwork to me early this week, with plans to do the work on Thursday if it all pans out.  I have a feeling this long journey has ended up with me being where I was meant to be.

So, think of me Thursday afternoon, crashed out on T1s and praying that this permanent change will turn out OK.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Still standing ... you

Still standing you. [or] Still supporting you. [or] Still bearing you. [or] Still standing for you. [or] Still standing with you. [or] Still standing. [or] Just still. (PuSh 2013)

Ah yes, that time has come - it was my last PuSh show last night, the remarkable Still Standing You - a contemporary dance piece quite unlike anything I've seen before.  I went with my discerning partner in dance viewing, A. ("hey, do you want to go see a dance piece with two naked guys throwing each other around?" "Sure!") - ok, our decision making isn't always the most refined process, but we both love being challenged, and PuSh programming is almost always a safe bet.

I looked for clips of the work online - this one isn't great, but it is the one that best gives the arc of the performance. It starts with one man balanced on the other's feet, talking to the audience very casually about his experience in the city they are performing in, which sets up a particular relationship with the audience.  It takes away any preciousness or pretension from the work, cues you in to the fact that it is OK to laugh, and begins the process of setting up the dynamic between the two men, which is maybe best outlined by the quote at the top of the post.  The piece moves from the two growling and taunting and jockeying for position through to moments of remarkable tenderness and support.  It's every relationship.  With the caveat that most relationships don't involve one partner attempting to consume the other's Superman underwear.  And most dance pieces don't include remarkably intricate moves that result in mind bogglingly manipulated foreskins (yes, this is not a work that could be performed by the circumcised).  A remarkable, incredibly physical, funny, moving piece.  Gads, I love the arts.  


Other than that, I had a chance to catch up briefly with a dear pal from Toronto this week - someone I've known since 1988, and my first friend when I moved back east.  So good to see her, and so good to see the gods smiling on her life.  The gods have perhaps not been smiling on Maggie, who had to have her teeth cleaned and one extraction this week (I was arguing for a gold crown but no dice).  She is finally getting back to normal, despite having to suffer through having meds squirted down her throat twice a day.

And as for me?  Well, I am in a battle with my dissembling brain, an organ that likes to taunt me from time.  Hopefully the 20% of my brain that seems to realize what is fantasy and what is reality will win out.  Memory is truly a funny thing.  The saying "time heals all wounds" really means time will give your brain a chance to rewrite history, and blur the pokey edges.  That's not a bad thing, but you have to be on your toes enough to know what's going on.  I will put my pointe shoes on.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The God that Comes

A quick post about a true delight this week:  Hawksley Workman's "The God that Comes", part of Vancouver's amazing PuSh Festival.  I've gone to a show or two at PuSh the last few years, and will see three this year, but next year - next year I'm determined to really give it the time it warrants.

Anyhow - what an incredible treat this performance was.  I have been a fan of Hawksley's since I first saw him perform in 2001, and I've seen him god knows how many times since - but never quite like this.  He has always been a theatrical performer, and this story-telling version of Hawksley was just...perfect.  A perfect demonstration of his myriad talent, a perfect subject, the perfect sized room, the perfect seats (front row, natch), the perfect company.  It was another one of those moments where you forget about the irritations of the day, and just marvel and how lucky you are to be just where you are.

There is a trailer for the piece posted below.  It doesn't do it justice, but it gives you an idea.  Now, just add on some lipstick, and a mannequin with a crotch-mounted harmonica, and you must just start to scratch the surface ...

This musical, theatrical delight will be touring nationally and internationally.  If it comes anywhere near you, GO.  Really.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sans Soleil

I went to see a screening of Chris Marker's remarkable Sans Soleil last night, part of a retrospective at Pacific Cinematheque (purveyors of fine films and absolutely ASS KILLING theatre seats).  I feel like a bit of an idiot for not having heard of Chris Marker before, but thankfully A. was a fan and invited me to tag along.

I'm not too sure what to say about the film - it is a documentary of sorts, structured around letters sent from a fictional traveller, focused largely in Japan but moving to Africa, San Francisco, Paris, Iceland.   The hypnotic and beautiful musings on memory and history pull you right in and keep your attention, even if your tailbone is screaming due to the ass-killing seat you are sitting in.  I kept wishing I had a pause button to stop and reflect on some of the voice over - luckily it is available as a Criterion DVD so that possibility exists.

If you too are a bit of an idiot, do try and see it.  

Sunday, January 06, 2013

It's the new year...

..and really only one question is plaguing me:

Raylan Givens....

...or Cullen Bohannan?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

2013. Seriously?

Hard to believe.  But I guess it warrants a quick new year's post of some sort.  I'm admittedly a bit of a New Year's Eve Hater - it's an overblown night, with a focus on a fake sort of happiness that for me is infinitely depressing.  That being said, when spent with close pals, in a close pal's home laughing and eating and playing, it does give me an opportunity to reflect on what I have, and what I want for the year to come.  For once I have made a mental resolution list - it is a small one, and manageable - I think.  I will let you know how successful it was in 2014...maybe.

New Year's Day was spent with my frequent partners in crime, going on a chilly but lovely slightly-hikey walk in Cap Canyon, followed by soup and crazy good ginger cake.  It's important to start the year as you mean to go on, and so much of that day reflects exactly what I want my year to be.

And yesterday was spent on the ferry, going to meet the next member of the family in Nanaimo.  She should arrive next week.  She is extremely sweet, and seems just neurotic enough to fit in perfectly with this family.  Apparently she vomits on long car rides. So do I.  Obviously we're related.