Thursday, September 29, 2005

Renunciation.


Pictured: Three men I previously might have considered marrying before I saw the light.


I swear, I am never going to buy another jar of Nutella or any generic Nutella-type products ever again. A body is not built to process that kind of deliciousness. It's too good. It's too hedonistic. There will be Karmic retribution if I indulge again. Help me be strong.

Food Of The Gods.

What is a fatal dose of Nutella? I'm worried.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Freddy v. Bowie.

This might be a little macabre, but think about it:

If you had the power both to travel back in time and the power to decide who lives and dies, would Freddy Mercury have survived and David Bowie gone on to the great spaceship in the sky? Or, would things have stayed the same?

The thing is, David Bowie is cool and all... Yeah, he's a style icon... But have you ever actually listened to his music? I tried - I did, but I cannot transport myself to a time and place where Bowie's music is good. But, Freddy Mercury just plain-out rocked. Queen was awesome. Queen is awesome. I know he would have continued to rock had he not died. That gets in the way of genius.

This question has been bumping around in my head for a while. I didn't just randomly hear Under Pressure or anything - I hear it all the time. It's a miracle of rock! Go listen to it right now. Go listen to it, and then ponder who you wish was alive - Freddy or Bowie.

What I Do With My Days.

This house is palatial. It’s for two people, and even then, it’s awfully big. The phone rang at the other end of the house yesterday and I had to run to get it in time. That there’s enough room in this house that I can get to a speed that one could call "a run" means something. In my old place, I might have been able to "stride purposefully" before I hit the other end of my apartment, but no faster than that. I hope someday I can afford a place that I’m comfortable in, but I’m thinking more like a loft or something (The picture in my head? The set of John Mayer’s Your Body Is A Wonderland video.).

I’m going through a strange time of contentedness. I’m quit of my MA, I’m quit of Hamilton, and I’m on my own without being in anyone’s way. Sure, I have no income, but I have a little bit of time before I get desperate and call my MP for work.

I went for a walk yesterday and I noticed how great it smells here. Someone was mowing a lawn, which reminds me of summer, my father, and my grandparent’s place in Newfoundland. Summer makes sense - it's the only time people mow lawns, really. My father, well, we have a corner lot on PEI and Dad dedicates a lot of his time to tending to the lawn. The Newfoundland connection? We used to go visit for two weeks every summer, and it still brings me back to playing in Grandad and Gran’s shed in the backyard. The shed was tiny, but housed all the outdoor toys and Grandad’s lawnmower, so everything that came out of the shed reeked of gasoline and mulched lawn. Now that smell reminds me of my youth. Breathe deep.

My everyday:

Ok, first of all: "Dawson’s Creek" is on every weekday from 10am-noon. The Creek (or, on PEI, "The Crik") is not even a guilty pleasure – I’m proud of my dedication. I love that show. Then, I’ve been happy to discover that "What Not To Wear" is on every day at noon. No, I’m not just sitting in a daze for these 3 hours. There’s a TV next to my uncle’s computer, so I listen/watch while I check emails and e-search for jobs. Online searching for jobs blows. Hah. Hm.

Ok, it's almost 1pm, so I should go start my day. What's so bad about unemployment anyway?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fire Your Agent.

If I had a profile on the Internet Movie Database, I would take special care in choosing the picture to accompany my portfolio. Case in point: Mr. Jason Bateman. Oh, Bateman, why… Michelle Williams chose this one. Besides this being a shitty pic, it’s from her somewhat tolerable film Dick. Ewan McGregor. I really wanted Ewan’s to be nice. Oh, Ewan.

Zach Braff's is the best I’ve seen so far. Lindsay Lohan's is ok, too. Is it the black and white? Maybe…

The Defence.

Here’s the rundown of my defence.

First of all, I was late. But it wasn’t my fault! Since I spent the night the a hotel the night before my defence, I didn’t have access to email, and the room location was changed the evening before, but I didn’t get it. My second reader was a little bitchy about it, but she can shove it. Yeah, that’s right – I said it.

I got there, finally, and had to deliver a 10-minute speech running down the particulars of my project. I finished writing it that morning and had only finished typing it up 15 minutes beforehand. I was pretty nervous, I guess, but it was more of a dry mouth kinda thing rather than a retching kinda thing.

The speech went fine, and then the three people on my committee started asking their questions. My second reader started first. She started bugging me about the gender issues I didn’t address. This bugged me a lot because a) I’m so not interested in gender issues and b) I tried to explain the fact that I interviewed a lot more women than men. I took some hits from her, but shot her down in the end, I think.

My third reader, an emeritus prof who everyone was so excited about my having on my committee, went next. He told a cutesie-poo story about a trip he took to Prince Edward Island, and then asked this gem: "Tourism as pilgrimage? Really?" Ok, I’m paraphrasing, but essentially, that was it. He took me out at the knees. It was great. I started quoting scholars and shooting him down. He said by my thesis, him sitting down to watch "The Sopranos" should be considered a pilgrimage for him. Well, I said there was no journey and not much hardship, but if it was meaningful enough to him, I suppose it could be considered a type of pilgrimage. He also mentioned visiting war graves as a type of pilgrimage, which I addressed excellently, by citing Tony Walter, a British anthropologist. Take that.

He then asked something about the authenticity of the culture packaged for tourists and how that compares to everyday "genuine" culture on Prince Edward Island.

Next up was my advisor. She had nuthin’. She asked something about a Levi-Straussian binary opposites (or something) and asked me to respond. I did. Then she asked about the common case of locals in tourist destinations harbouring animosity towards tourists. I hit that, too.

Then it went around to my second reader one more time. She said she didn’t really have a question – it was more of a comment. She said that even after reading my thesis twice, she couldn’t get one thought out of her head: that the common denominator of pilgrimage is God. I said, a god or a deity? She said no – "capital G" God. Oh. Huh. This threw me for a loop. I tried to knock this down. I cited Graceland; I cited Hindu pilgrimages, in case she was focussing on monotheistic Abrahamic traditions; and I cited perspective and subjectivity. Then, to my great relief, my advisor jumped in and kinda turned on my second reader, to the point where it became a debate between the two of them and I just sat back and let them go.

When they were spent of questions, they asked me to go outside to make me sweat while they asked one another about their kids, and then they had me back in to congratulate me. YAY! Catherine S. Sweet, M.A.!

I went back to the hallway where all our offices are and sat with Stephanie, a second-year M.A. student. I was chatting with about how it went and trying to calm down about how awesome I am, and Kim came down the hallway to congratulate me. Then she said she heard my defence went well. Huh. How? I’d only spoken to Stephanie since I got out. Kim told me that she ran into my advisor downstairs and was told that I kicked ass. Wow.

I really don’t think I have an academic mind. Well, If I do, I just don’t like to play the game. I don’t take it seriously enough, I guess. I think since I know this, and most everyone else knows that, I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a burden and a disappointment to my advisor. I mean, she’s not going to get a lot of glory out of me, that’s for sure, so attaching her name to an MA thesis of a student who wants out of academia is probably not high on her list. So, telling people that I did well is really meaningful to me. Since then, I got word that she told an old student of hers who is teaching at MUN the same thing. Holy crap balls. Remarkable. It just makes it all the more great for me – that she was proud enough to tell people I don’t know that I did well. I think that’s great.

So, in the end, the great Inquisition I was awaiting turned into a debate, and I remembered that I actually liked my project. After a month of making sure all the margins were right and all the justification was fair, it was cool to actually talk about what I was investigating.

Do you think getting degrees is like getting tattoos? Is one enough? Are two enough? Sometimes it’s just easier to go on. Well, you know what I mean… not easier, but setting it on cruise control is like working in a trance. I know I could to a PhD. I just don’t want to. Ability is not the issue. I just know that I don’t want to be a professor, and there are enough doctors in my family as it is, thank you very much.

Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Couch-Surfing Saga.

Whew. It’s been a while. I’m going to try to detail very briefly my last 3 weeks. Warning: this is so tedious to read, I won’t blame anyone if you don’t. Zzzz.

I’ve been effing stressed out. My sleep hasn’t been great and my skin has freaked out into a leprous mess. I was couch-surfing, as a master wordsmith put it.

I was at Mike’s for 12 nights, and then started skipping around. I was at Lily and Sarah’s for 3 nights, then went to Waterloo for three nights, then to Alisha and Kristin’s abandoned apartment for a night, and then I treated myself to a hotel room the night before my defence, and then Ben Lefebvre’s for a night, then next door to Kim Harding’s, then back to Lily and Sarah’s for one last night before my sister and Dad came into town and I was in their hotel room.

Mike was good to me, but busy with a billion things, so moving on was a good plan. Lily and Sarah were also insanely busy as Sarah was scheduled to defend her MA thesis the same day as me and Lily was writing her major comprehensive exams Wednesday the 21st and Friday the 23rd. It was kinda good because we were all in our own little places and didn’t bump up against one another.

Since my defence was set so far ahead in the future (grrr), I decided to get to Waterloo to see John and Holly. That was very nice, not only for the company, but also to get out of Hamilton. Since I had to journey to get there, it didn’t seem so much like I was a freeloader, but more like I was a guest. Waterloo is my kind of town. The Hamilton sulfur odour was replaced by the slight whiff of manure. It was great. It reminded me of home. It’s really the kind of place I can see myself living. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Alisha was presenting a paper in Minnesota and Kristin was in Regina, unfortunately attending to all the family events that accompanied the death of her grandmother, so I had the place to myself! I got there pretty late because I had running around to do, but I chilled and watched tv and slept. The next morning I started writing the 10 minute speech that I needed to prepare for the next day’s defence.

I returned to Lily and Sarah’s because Sarah’s boyfriend cooked we three stressed girls supper. Then – and this was a big great part of the whole month – we watched the season premiere of Arrested Development. The first season was good. The second season was better. The season premiere to the third season was mind-blowing. Ok, too much. It was freakin’ hilarious. And risqué. I’m not sure how they get away with all the racist, homosexual, and incestual humour (Bateman says this is excusable because the characters are so blatantly flawed). Is it wrong that I’m rooting for the (maybe) cousins to hook up? The second episode is on tonight, and I am going to be incommunicado from 8-8:30pm, fyi.

Anyhow, that night I trotted up to the top of Dundurn Street and slept at the Admiral Inn. It was quiet, clean and solitary. A nice choice, for sure.

The night after my defence, I was at Mr. Ben Lefebvre’s dee-luxe apartment in the sky. He put in the taped episode of Arrested Development for me to fully enjoy for the second time, and I was so baked after a busy brain day, I fell asleep. I fell asleep during Arrested Development! Don’t tell Bateman!

Ben’s great all round.

The next day I skipped next door to Ms. Kim Harding’s place, which is Monica and Rachel’s to Ben’s Joey and Chandler’s. I printed off my thesis at her computer, and ran to school to do crap. That afternoon I met Kim and we went grocery shopping for a lovely night in with Ben coming over for supper. We got a cake iced to say, "To Jack, Love Chrissy and Janet." I want to live in a sitcom, too!

The next night (my second last night in Hamilton) I was back to Lily and Sarah’s. I had to go to school that day to submit my thesis to the School of Graduate Studies so I could actually graduate. When I returned to Lily and Sarahs’ apartment, my father and sister were there! My dad had a meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, so he took Friday off to come get me and move me to the capital! Marilyn lives in Ottawa and has no classes on Fridays, so she came too. We had to wait around for Lily to return after the last day of her writing her comps, evah, and for her boyfriend to arrive to surprise her by flying in from California.

That night I met people at the Ceilidh House for drinks, and then back to the hotel to sleep for the drive the next day. I was so glad so many people came out. And I got to show off some of my friends to Marilyn and Dad, which is great. Thanks, all.

I guess, after all that, one might be able to see why I was stressed out. The couch-surfing was exhausting, so all my friends were so good to me, I couldn’t have survived without them. Thanks to each and every one of you, if I slept on your bed, futon, floor, couch, or not – I have a great support network in Hamilton that I can’t forget.

Right – on to the next entry.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Done Like Dinner.

I am well.

I survived my defence.

Thanks to all for the support!

I’m super busy running around today, doing last-day stuff in Hamilton.

Off to Ottawa tomorrow.

I will update when I can.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Feel Like I Win When I Lose.

There’s not much of a difference in my state of mind since my last post. However, I am going to Waterloo today to visit with Holly and John for a day or two. I wanted to see their place before I went to Ottawa, and I have some time now before my defence, so it’s pretty good timing for a visit, really. They should cheer me up, or at least distract me for a little while.

I’ve been at Lily and Sarah’s place for three nights now. Holly and John’s for a couple of nights, and then up to Alisha and Kristin’s for a couple of nights. Then I might come back to Lily and Sarah’s, or maybe somewhere new. I don’t really want to stay in one place too long, because an extra body in a small apartment is pretty taxing. And I’m not the cheeriest houseguest these days.

So, I don’t think I’ve posted it, but my defence date is set for Tuesday, the 20th of September. I tried to get it moved to this week, and my advisor e-yelled at me for being impolite and unreasonable. Maybe it was, but I had to try, right? I can’t stand my freeloading existence and I want to get on with my life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pathetic Fallacy.

I’m feeling pretty wretched these days. Sometimes you need a mirror held up to you, you know?

For about an hour today, I was stuck in the fat, pouring rain, bus after bus passing me, each one packed to capacity with people lucky to have gotten on, stops earlier. I stood there, hoody soaked through, water dripping down my nose, baguette soggy, just thinking about how à propos the weather can be sometimes. I wondered if I looked as pitiful as I felt.

I know, after all these years in RS, that there should be a balance. Yin and yang. The light and the dark have to be in balance, or everything’s thrown off.

Maybe there’s been too much light in my life. I’ve been lucky. I have a great family, and good friends, loyal friends, old friends. They will all support me if they know I’m in a dark spot. I know they will. They have done, and will continue to do so. My friends are of a high calibre. They don’t stick around for long if they’re not (I recognise this might sound snobby, but I mean it in more of a compatibility way).

So, should I introduce more darkness? It’ll make hard times easier, right? In comparison, I mean. Maybe I should toughen myself up. Then maybe I can balance my life better when something is dark, and it won’t overshadow everything else in my life and bleed into relationships. I’ve always had a hard time concealing, well, anything. I’m just an open book. I have a hard time keeping things bottled up. Lucky for me, I’m usually pretty sanguine and I can keep stress under control, so my inner attitude spilling over isn’t usually a problem.

These days, I think I should just cloister myself. I think I already have, in some ways.

Bah. Existential bullshit.

Monday, September 12, 2005

From Glen to Glen and Down the Mountainside.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I might not like Hamilton, but there are bits and pieces of promise. Sometimes the trees are especially green and the breeze is refreshing. I like the big squirrels here – they seem mischievous. I like how the panhandlers are rarely verbally abusive. My friends are almost all in walking distance. The size of this city affords one a certain level of anonymity, which is both a blessing and a curse. I like the random little events that make me contented. Today:

Early this afternoon I was watching Ewan McGregor’s very early and very excellent Shallow Grave, which is about how Ewan’s flatmate goes mad after mutilating three corpses. You know – that old tired storyline. Anyhow, in the back of my mind I could hear the soprano tack-tack-tack of a Scottish snare. When I pried my eyes off of Ewan, I shook my head and realised I was missing a parade! I threw on pants and a shirt and dashed out to the street.

There was a lone pipe band marching north on Bay Street, followed by some sort of regiment and what looked like cadets or something. It was odd. I didn’t see anyone else marching with them. I don’t know what it was for? Drills? Memorial of some sort? I know it’s the 11th of September, but I doubt that’s the connection.

Anyhow, I followed them from Charleton Street to Main, then they turned up Main and I was afraid I looked like a dork following a pipe band with a sloppy grin on my face, so I returned.

I love pipe bands. I don't know why. There's not a drop of Celtic blood in my veins, I don't think. Bagpipes just remind me of home. I want to learn. I’ve never played a wind instrument. I’d probably get dizzy and pass out. I always like the awkward instruments – first double bass, I wanted a berimbau but couldn’t find a decent one, and now the pipes. What’s next? The harp?

So, I’m still waiting for my committee to set a defence date. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll know when it is. I’m very idle right now, which leads to heightened creativity on my part. Back in ’99, I had a month of idle days before I moved to England. I started writing (bad) short stories and designing alternate album covers for all my CDs. Now it’s working on the ever-thought-about, never-congealed screenplay. Every image I see, I ask myself how I’d economically and effectively describe it in Courier font. I smile, thinking about how the lines I write can be interpreted differently by different actors. Do I put in oppressive stage directions? Do I leave it almost blank of direction, a la Shakespeare? It’s just a matter of, you know, starting to write. Easy.

I finished “The Alchemist” this week. It was a nice read. It might be on the recommending reading list for the Church of Catherine, I think. I was chatting with one of my great classmates, Rubens, and he told me that the author, Paolo Coelho, was a Brazilian druggie songwriter in the 60s/70s and when he starting writing literature no one would take him seriously. Rubens went to the same university as Coelho. They had the same advisor. Small world. I will probably read another of his books.

I have begun “What We All Long For” by Dionne Brand, which I don’t want to set down. I like the way it makes me think about Toronto. I hope to review it when I’m finished.

I’m in a much better state of mind since my last post. Ne t’enquiete pas.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pigeon-Holing Friends.

I learned a valuable lesson this week. I learned that certain friends are for certain activities. Each friend is not a friend for all seasons, a jack-of-all-trades, if you will. I wouldn’t expect my academic advisor to give me a flu shot, and I wouldn’t expect a bank teller to give me a haircut. We all have strengths and weaknesses and I can’t expect everyone to give me what I need at the specific moment I need it. That’s unfair and unreasonable.

This week I was upset about something and vented to a friend, who was either ill-equipped or unwilling to comfort me. At first I was angry at this friend’s inability to even try to make me feel better, but really, that was pretty selfish. I don’t know what was going on in this person’s head. Essentially, I asked my bank teller to cut my hair, and my bank teller just stood there, stunned and silent. Then I started to cry, and my bank teller shrugged.

It’s true, though, isn’t it? That we have friends for specific uses? It sounds dreadfully utilitarian. I have separate and overlapping friends with whom I talk about my schoolwork, my frustrations, or with whom I create, or sing and dance, or pig out, or hang out, or go to the beach, or do nothing, or get drunk, or get high, or argue about movies, or play cribbage, or tease, or talk about music, or plan the future, or fantasize about the spoils we would buy with our lottery winnings. So on and so on.

I like this list. It comforts me. Also, now, three days after this friend upset me so much, I love this friend all the more for not holding me and offering me a shoulder on which to cry. That would be uncharacteristic of this person, and I wouldn’t have learned anything.

Yay! Learning!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Ah Yes Indeed It's Fun Time.

I just got an email from my second reader. I was all wound up about what she would say for a few reasons. First, I know her and how precise she is. Second, I’ve been told that second readers seem often overly critical because they hadn’t been along for the whole writing process. Finally, I was afraid that she would tear it a new one and I’d be delayed even longer.

She said the whole thing is very good and she put very few recommendations on it. She said repetition was something I can be careful about, but otherwise, it’s not too shabby. I know why it’s repetitious: I wrote it in pieces and assembled it into a whole, um, and then didn’t read it over. Yeah, I’m really invested in this degree, you can tell. I can’t believe she didn’t jump on my lack of addressing gender issues or spiritual healing literature!

I’m going through another Beastie Boys phase. I listen to a lot of different types of music, but there’s usually a focus. Two weeks ago, it was a classic Elton John thing (c. 1972’s “Honkey Chateau”). After that, I couldn’t listen to enough Dave Matthews Band. The Brown Derbies, Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, Tenacious D, Franz Ferdinand… It changes all the time.

I’m now without my computer, and therefore without my collection. I don’t like downloading a lot of stuff onto Mike’s computer since he doesn’t often like my music, and he definitely doesn’t like the Beastie Boys. I don’t know why – I’m not sure he’s ever said. I didn’t really pay attention to them until my last year of my undergrad when the Production Editor of the student newspaper where I worked played “Licensed to Ill” on a loop. Their sound has become so much more sophisticated since that album.

I want to dance. I need some energy. I’m pretty bored and listless, and I’m about to start editing on the repetition recommendation of my second reader, but I think I’ll bust a move (read: flail in a WASPy way) to Ch-check it Out and settle in for some work.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mischief Managed.

I’m back in Hamilton. Mike and I drove to Ottawa yesterday, after cramming my stuff into a rented minivan. The van had to be back to the dealer at noon today, so instead of getting up at crowpiss and driving back this morning through Toronto traffic, we decided to drive back last night. That’s right – Ottawa and back in one day. It was a good choice, in the end. The only others on the road were convoys of truckers, so it was smooth sailing at 120km/h for almost the whole thing. Mike was pretty cranked on coffee, and I was nauseated with fatigue, but we got back here at about 2am. I passed out so quickly, I don’t even remember hitting his futon.

While I was in Ottawa, I saw my sister and her husband, and we all went out for supper. My sister’s awesome and funny. Ginny Weasley-esque, sans red hair. Almost all my guy friends always had crushes on her when we were in high school. (Typical of my luck.) It’ll be cool to hang out with her more this autumn.

The night before, I had to do a little cloak-and-dagger. Jeremy was my accomplice. Backstory: The previous place I was living was a cellar apartment under a house close to school. My landlord was terrible. He told me that he would furnish the place, and when I arrived to find it empty, he said, “Uh, yeah, I think I can get a tallboy in here.” So, he dragged a chest of drawers down and that’s all he gave me. Anyhow, it went downhill from there as this behaviour was indicative of what a knob he was. When I moved out, after some coercion, I packed the tallboy with my furniture, and I’ve been using it for 16 months. Every time I look at this dresser, I think, “I stole that.” While the thrill of “stickin’ it to the man” remained, my guilt never waned.

On Wednesday, Jeremy and I waited until dusk and drove up to Manny’s house. We stealthfully placed the dresser and its four drawers in his driveway next to his beat-up truck and booted it back to the “sporty get-away vehicle” (a geezly big SUV/minivan spawn). So, now my conscious is a little clearer. I am no longer harbouring stolen goods, and even though my ex-landlord might not deserve to have that dresser back, order has been restored in my mind.

I’m now a displaced person. I don’t want to spend the whole time here at Mike’s, because I don’t want to get up his nose/be a third wheel, but moving all my crap to a new locale will be a big dirty ordeal. My bus pass expired at the end of August, so it’s even difficult for me to get away from here.

My second reader has not yet returned my draft to me. She’s had it for 9 days now. I want to get it back so I can start preparing my final draft, but at the same time, I really want to not do anything this weekend. The sooner I get this revised, though, the sooner I can defend and start the next phase of my life. This makes me sad, because there are some things (mostly people) I don’t want to leave in Hamilton, but this move is for the best. I have to do this: something new on my own.

So, now I’m drunk on sleepiness, bored and a little lonely. I think the cure-all elixir is going to be a power-nap.