Thursday, December 29, 2005

Accusation of the year

Pav called to tell me J.Lass's funeral was planned for yesterday. I replied to M. Biologique's email knowing he's more acquainted with members of that circle than I am: "... so anyone wanting to pay their respects now will be shit out of luck."

I ended it asking him if it's weird I'm not grieving the way everyone else seems to be reacting to the news a week after her death. I've given up hope of its arrival: the truth is, she had long slipped out of my life to have left a void large enough to make a difference.

***

My father accused me of being a bobo: a bourgeois bohemian. He said I, unlike him, do not obsess over money because I've never lived without it. (True.) He said I, unlike him, am so "above" it all -- meaning the "establishment" -- that I would never be caught gossiping over someone's salary because it's "tacky", nouveau riche-behaviour. (Not true. I can be tacky if I want to be.)

"Oh no, Lily," he mocked. "Money isn't something you talk about because it's all about the art, right?"

I feel like he's paying my way through university so I could be further removed from him. Counterproductive, I'm sure. But what the hell? I wanted to say. You're a communist! What the fuck are you doing asking me how much the kid from That's So Raven! makes? It pisses me off whenever he starts and ends a conversation on the green stuff. Who has it, who doesn't, who deserves it, who shouldn't, where he can find more. It's so gratingly irritating considering our solid middle-class income and relatively comfortable lifestyle. When I confront him about his gauche remarks, he turns it into an issue of status distinction and class conduct. In reality, it's blindingly clear that he's become a miserly curmudgeon.

He changed the lightbulbs to make everything dim. He wastes much of his time figuring out ways to save energy that are both time-wasting and impractical.

"Let's buy a hydrogen cell car," he's been suggesting. "Go on the Internet and find me pictures."

Why not keep the cash for the car and continue driving the Honda gas guzzlers we already own? It's not as if he's even seriously thinking of shelling out moolah for these bright ideas of his. My dad's a tech-whore without the know-how: he's flirted with installing solar panels on our roof, wind energy windmills in our backyard, hot air balloons for travel, folding bicycles for work, the list goes on. We have an 18-foot satellite we never use. We have an incomplete playground apparatus built outside like a deserted cabin in a Bjork video. Oh, and his spending sprees at second-hand shops are legendary. Glow-in-the-dark portraits of Christ, cracked yogourt machines, treadmills that jiggle, clocks that wiggle, dancing non-denominational holiday figures, his crap has filled our entire garage and three-quarters of the basement. Lately, he's been hiding new purchases in the minivan. I feel like he's acting out in his own subversive way. Trapped in a suburban hell with a still-ambitious wife. He isn't happy; isn't doing anything about it either. Blames it on the kids; reminds us as he loves us. Reverts to his childish nature when he's not revering his past. He reminds me of some grotesque version of seasoned banality, a listless bore with a bone to pick.

I might be a boho, but he's just become old.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas

I hadn't the heart to write since my last entry. Part laziness, part avoidance, I've had a considerably eventful holiday (although not nearly as dramatic as Sam Anderson's take on the New York transit strike).

I was a little drunk a few hours ago -- and no, not on the Christmas spirit. My uncle was pouring Bailey's into my glass like manishevitz wine. "You're legal, you're legal," he reassured me. A plastic smile inched across my face as I reached for the milk. Diluting it will make it less potent, I lied to myself. An hour later, I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, slumped over the toilet seat, trying desperately to stave off fatigue before the baby found me.

I woke up smelling of meat.

***

Banana Chic and I went to see The Chronic -- What? -- cles of Narnia. I let her pick the movie because, well, after a bad incident involving Le Divorce and a Russian, I was never allowed to choose anything from Blockbuster again (though it didn't stop me from suggesting Syriana anyway: "It's about oil, and politics! And a fat George Clooney!" The flames from her burning glare tickled my ear through the phone). Now normally, we are a fine audience. We rarely whisper, never talk, and hardly make a noise. But this! This piece of crap was sacriligious! "Why aren't the beavers wearing aprons?" I demanded. "And why am I strangely drawn to that half-naked faun?" Every scene looked like it was taken straight from the original BBC version. "Oh, here's something I don't recognize," Banana Chic pointed out behind her blatant sarcasm. "Right. Like who doesn't expect Gandalf to rise from the dead?" (Aslan, Gandalf, give her a break: she had initially guessed "Golem".) The movie relegated the concept of the remake to an even cheaper state. Every long shot and close-up felt like deja vu: "I could've sworn Lucy walked around with a flask in the first one too!" When Santa Claus bestowed the children with their wonderous presents, I couldn't resist subbing in my own interpretation as the gifts were handed out: "Yah, a pearing knife and some rum. Thanks Santa./ Aww, I've always wanted a bag full of darts; how'd you know?" And Mr. Claus himself looked like a reject from a whimsically gay production of King Lear (featuring Nathan Lane as an all singing, all dancing Cordelia). The whole thing was a rehash of that special childhood memory we shared with everyone from our generation: "What the hell? We paid 10 dollars to see another set of buck teeth?" The producers could've, at the very least, changed something. I mean, Elton John is still Elton John whether or not he has a crotch full of willing man -- the source material isn't compromised due to an element or two of change. And yet! they churn out this shit anyway. Even the Turkish Delight appeared more delicious in the beebs' rendition -- the current incarnation had Edmund eating something that resembled a coagulated tampon from a back alley abortion clinic. Millions of dollars were spent on exactly what? Props from Puppeteer of the Penis?

***

Guitar Guy is back in my life again. Sort of. Shotgun Toter and I attended his first gig. Let me explain how oblivious I am to normalcy: When she suggested that we go, I thought we would be ridiculing the guy. See, to me, it's more believable to go all the way across town to make fun of someone than be there because one of us likes the guy. "Why would I go if I didn't like him?!" Shotgun Toter asked. I was shocked: "You LIED."

(*Full disclosure: I've known Guitar Guy since I was 12. We've grown to appreciate each other's company on numerous occasions, but nothing ever went past the platonic. The reason being my phobia of men. Okay, and him. He's too nice! I've put him through the ringer so many times, he should technically be flapping in the wind, clipped to a clothesline. Yet, he'll continue to be there for me whenever I need company or a laugh. And it's not like he's unattractive because he is, he really is. It's just that, damnit! Why does he have to be so damn decent and dependable? Fucking working class stereotype. But back to the story ...)

So Guitar Guy approached our table during the break. We chatted, inside jokes abound, Shotgun Toter virtually drooling by the verbal wayside. He asked me how I'm enjoying myself. I replied it was nice to hear one song from this century. He promised he'll play something by the Killers. I shrugged my shoulders, Whatever. He hopped on stage and dedicated the song to me. Shotgun Toter swooned: "He's so nice!" Half an hour later, I was ready to leave for the second time -- "Lily, you better stay for this one," he spoke into the mic. Heads turned. How embarrassing. We heard the opening chords to Weezer. Shotgun Toter swooned all over again.

Later that evening, he messaged me, telling me how much he appreciated me coming. "No problemo, but thank [Toter.]" I then proceeded to not-so-casually drop her name in the conversation to fish for his reaction, but he refused to take the bait. *sigh* They'd make a good couple. Two terrific people, both relatively sane: He'll finally find someone to serenade apologies to who wouldn't, in turn, threaten to smash his guitar against the lockers if he did.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cosmic Joke

J.Lass died Monday evening. From what I could gather, she had been crushed under the wheel of an oncoming snow-removal truck. It's surreal, you know? She was 21-years-old, the first friend I made in Montreal. She was the sole witness to my every freshman experience. And although we had been growing apart lately, she still occasionally called to check up on me because I was her "baby". A fine specimen I turned out to be. She asked me to come out for a coffee two weeks ago and I, instead, politely declined to continue working on my essay. One coffee, one measly coffee, and I refused to tend to her. I should've gone. I hadn't seen her in months. Why didn't I go?

Because I never thought she'd die.

I found out from Swiss Alps as I was making my way to Toronto. He was getting ready to fly home too:

"Lily?" he asked, voice cracking under the strain. "You better sit down for this."

I expected him to ... No, I didn't expect anything. It wasn't right, it wasn't real. Why did it have to happen to her? "An accident", apparently preventable: another reason to mourn. It made me angry; I was numb. A million thoughts raced through my mind: who, what, where, when, why, why, why? "Oh my God," I kept repeating into the receiver, "oh my God." As if to fill an ever-expanding void, a gaping wound that won't heal, "Oh my God," I kept saying. What else was there to say? Was there anything more or less appropriate in a situation like this? What was the correct procedure? I was once again dumped onto foreign terrain, helpless to the fact. Life stood still even as it plummeted.

My life really felt like it was starting to come together again. I was meeting people, they were making an effort to get to know me, I wasn't so cautious anymore.

"It's funny," observed my seating neighbour on the train. "I always see you at Cinema du Parc, and I work there."

Reading between the lines, I could tell he was probably in his mid-twenties. We flirted, talked, teased, and shared reading material for the next four hours. He was handsome, very handsome. A hipster, stylishly put together. Cute, too cute. With a contagious cockeyed confidence. I didn't try to lure him, I wasn't especially witty. Like Oprah says, "If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away." It was a mantra I went over in my head to convince myself to wait out the silent lulls. He'd playfully sneak a peak at me and wait for me to notice. It was sexy. Patience was breeding results.

Then I got the phone call. It was strange: he said he was stunned too (but I didn't believe him). The range of emotions that began seeping into my consciousness felt too incoherent, fractured, disingenuous to reveal to a stranger -- I, not-too-subtly, changed the subject. He offered to drive me home from the station, "Am I going to see you again?"; his cockiness turned sweet, I kissed him goodbye.

I called Pav as I sat waiting in the bus terminal. Heeding no memory of his behaviour a few entries back, he was the only other mutual acquaintance she and I shared listed in my phonebook. "Lily! What a nice surprise to hear from you," he purred through the phone, oozing that famous brand of sex appeal. "Did you hear the news?" I cut in. "[J.Lass] was hit by a truck and," I choked, "she died. You two were close, I thought you deserved to know."

His response was similar to mine. Words were being spoken, but they had no value. They existed to lessen the impact, to take the focus off the blow. "Keep me, ya know, au courant." I assured him that I would. I needed to hear a familiar voice, comfort be damned. M. Biologique didn't pick up. Maybe I needed that. Two steps forward, one step back, forgive me for my moment of weakness. I was too traumatized to play petty games, yet I knew exactly what I was doing:

Tragedy makes the heart grow fonder -- pity grows into guilt. I fished for attention to feed the hungry heart. What could be more crude, more corrupt? I feel immense pressure from myself to cry and not stop for days. She deserves my grief, yet I have little grief to give. It's as if my sadness is not enough, I don't feel right that I'm not shell-shocked or in tremendous pain. I want to be punished, I want to hurt. This isn't how I'm supposed to feel. I am cold, I am wicked. I am ashamed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Update

*Editor's note: Ha, make that 4 dollars. I just spent my last 8 bucks on pharmacy-bought sandwiches, macaroni salad, a stick of cheese, and 99 cent chocolate bars. Damn you CatCouver for inviting me out to paint vagina birthday cards in a bar full of rowdy men with art supplies!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Early morning ramble

When I went to Thailand this past summer, I bought a bottle of moisturizer. It contained facial whitening ingredients. Hell, everything in Asia seemed to have contained whitening ingredients, from talcum powder to paper masks. And although I understand, as a Chinese person, being light-skinned has historically been linked to social status (for only those forced to toil the fields were darkened by the sun), the commercialization of such an archaic concept feels like a minstrel show in reverse. It's bitterly aggravating.

I, undoubtedly, irritated my relatives with my incessant questioning. "Why would you want to look like you're dead?" I'd say. "What's so great about looking so ghastly pale?" I'd ask my cousin. "Don't you want a woman who looks like she leaves the house once in awhile?" The answer was always an emphatic no.

To want to change the colour of your skin has almost become a necessary evil. To tan or not to tan is brought up as often as to bathe or not to bathe. That is to say, it's hardly ever questioned because it just is. Do women dress for men or do we dress for each other, I commonly ask. The horrendous beauty rituals we typically read in history books have normally been constructed and systematically enforced by women. It's as if once an illusory standard is generated, we have no choice but to perpetuate it. Simone de Beauvoir advocated for female financial independence. Thinking that, by breaking free from the source of our absolute dependence, we might be able to live more contentedly. Yet, somehow, somewhere in the past 30 years, something went wrong. The new-found fortune of the new woman now fuels the industry of desire whether or not she believes it is realistic to her. I hate to sound pro-quelque chose, but being a woman is important to me. Maureen Dowd, during an interview about her book, "Are Men Necessary?", said that Ed Needham, editor-in-chief of Maxim, told her he gets tons of mail from women who want to be in his magazine. And this amuses him because, as he explains it, the airbrushed celebrities featured in it are supposed to be a man's guilty pleasure -- not anyone's idea of a seriously desirable partner. We'll always be bound to this convoluted Catch-22 as long as we're social creatures of the utmost extreme. Conceptual theories of equality are less hindered by biological differences than the games we formulate in order to fuck. And we further complicate matters with each social construct when we demand the usherance of a new conception, intending on displacing the old one. But it just as fast becomes the new status quo once the economy changes directions again.

I'm obviously not making any sense. Morning hunger! You dastardly devil! Better end this before I keep going ...

[*Editor's note: Lily currently has 13 bucks in the bank which incidently signals her return home tomorrow (not that it's the, uh, only reason).]

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Capote

I reserve Sundays to allow myself to act particularly spinsterly. Dumpster chic with a hint of Bacall, it's a day when I indulge in era-specific dressing even moreso than usual. I hike about town in my lace-up boots and over-sized cardigan cinched at the waist, patrolling the streets for trends to avoid and trends that are in to avoid. Making eye-contact with hobos, I smile. I tell them, Sorry, no change, but you have yourself a happy holiday. Condescending, I know. But what else could I say? Wife, okay? You're not married? Have a good one, anyway? Wandering different neighbourhoods, down different streets, I scour for enclaves I have yet to patronize, businesses in industries no longer demonized. Vintage vinyls alongside butchers, frayed fashion by furniture galleries, I enjoy immersing myself within this mirage of good taste, this miasme of driftless establishments intended to be undiscovered -- unsound ventures, knowingly brief, a paradox of cool for the seriously hip. Yet, even as I develop immunity to their novelty, the sheer volume of variety counteracts convention, disturbing any plans for long-term routine.

But I do this alone. I prefer it that way. Music is turned up high to form a sensory wall of indifference. I observe the nearby space without having to interact with it: I don't have to be on when I'm not recognized.

The world is too small a place when that "slutty guy" who slipped you his number also knows a good friend of yours. "I met this beautiful, Chinese girl named Lily," she's told.

I hear; I groan. There are a lot worse things than being complimented, but hollow descriptions leave me cold and uneasy. It's unsettling to be talked about (even if it is just one man's opinion).

***

I watched Capote last night. It made me want to re-read In Cold Blood. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is a tour de force. The whole cast is exceptional. I admit I even cried a little at the end. (I've been doing that a lot, haven't I?) Clifton Collins Jr. as Perry Smith just embodies his character. The facial ticks, the rage, the loneliness, all under an effortlessly subdued demeanour. He says things in a way in which you never quite believe what he says because how he says it always gives him away. You think, how does he do it? You want to uncover the actor's secret, you want to escape the illusion, but you give up and fool yourself that what you are seeing is real -- what other option is there? And Catherine Keener as Nelle Harper Lee. To see her in "Being John Malkovich" to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" then this, her versatility as an actress is unquestionable. Never has her abilities been more apparent or complete than it is here. Alright, an exaggeration, but to see her body of work and never recognize her, not "see" her, is quite a feat. When Halle Berry plays ugly, she's still Halle Berry playing ugly. Even as a bloated lesbian with age spots, Charlize Theron reminds you she's acting. But when Keener appears on-screen, she could be wearing no make-up, she could be tearing off her clothes, you get the sense that she understands the human condition and its contradictions. Her voice wavers a little, she scoffs because she means it. What she does best is in portraying imperfect, and thus, incorrect caricatures. I think Keener's characters always seem familiar -- and this is quite true during "Capote" -- because their multidimensional quality appears not through the specifics of the dialogue or the fictional background provided for them by the screenwriters, but in the incalculable bodily movements produced by someone completely in tune with her strengths and vulnerabilities. To borrow the old adage, she acts like nobody's watching.

I was never a huge fan of Hoffman. I've always thought he played a different version of the same stock character: a bit albino, a bit geek. No doubt, he was always dependably good, but he wasn't ever great. Then comes "Capote" and my opinion of him has done a 180. He's that good. Hoffman walks with a bit of a swivel, capturing Truman's limp swagger and small frame. He simply melts into this role without ever falling back on reliable cliches. You feel bad for him when he's looked at strangely, you get angry that he lies. It's an unflinching look at an undeniably gifted, conceited, compassionate man.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dad's Random Tangents #2

My summer not-fling is on a plane about to land in Toronto in a few short minutes. My dad called to check up on me. I proceeded to tell him about my summer hijinks and the backstory as to why I'm cringing this boy's arrival.

"Daddy," I explained, "He's not, what you say, 'good husband material.' He's over-protective and actually stretches out his arm to prevent me from crossing a busy street! And what is up with that whole will divorce his future wife if she didn't get along with mother-thing? It's weird!"

Without missing a beat, he suggested perhaps the boy should marry the woman instead. ("But don't tell your mother I said that.")

I reminded him that it still didn't solve the dilemma of my having to put on clothes because he's staying with us.

Dad: "What is the English word for 'tolerance?'"

I defended myself. I'm simply not tolerant of the "situation," I said.

Dad: "What do you call someone who is not 'broad-minded' and not 'narrow-minded?'"

me: "I don't know. 'Minded?'"

Dad: "Mild? Not too hot, not too cold? Like barbecue sauce?"

me: "... yes."

***

Sexy Spinster: "Are you coming home tomorrow?"

me: "I could and with little effort. But it took me 7 hours to pull on a pair of underwear today."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Aisle

I went to the cinema with DaDutch last night to go see "Three ... Extremes". I don't even know how to begin this blog entry. 8 hours later and the trilogy of films is still lodged in my memory bank; the images itching to be interpreted. The first of the three shorts is called "Dumplings". It's a dark -- and I do mean dark -- satire criticizing the extent in which society will go to maintain youth, beauty, and, in essence, female sensuality. The second feature, "Cut", plays with our preconceived notions of morality. Roger Ebert wrote:

"[The villain] wants to force the director [the protagonist] to commit evil, so that he will realize he is not so good after all -- that to be good sometimes means only to have escaped the need to be bad."

I had to read that over a few times, desperately struggling to conciliate this idea with the pictures in my head. It makes sense, but at the time, I must've been too focused on aesthetic qualities because the closing shot sort of came out of left field. Although the gore was mostly confined off-screen, both DaDutch and I were squirming in our seats, requesting that the other keep her eyes open, which generally meant me. Fortunately, neither of us ended up getting too spooked to commit the ultimate filmgoing no-no when we realized this movie employed more MacGuffins than a Hitchcock anthology.

The third film of the set was definitely the most atmospheric of the bunch as well as being a real head-scratcher. I simply could not wrap my dumb head around "Box" until now. Was it all a dream? Part of it? Some of it? None of it? I couldn't drop it from my mind: I needed a conclusive answer. So I visited IMDB.com and discovered more than one and immediately regret what I had done. Since the dialogue is delivered sparsely, I might need to watch it again to catch all the nuanced hints. Like, why was it observed that the novelist was a lefty when the little girl used her right hand to throw the dart? Is there a connection there somewhere? Were the two girls one of the same, the "other" being her sexually-tainted childhood that continues to haunt her in a bid to be acknowledged? Redeemed? Remembered? Recognized? Were the portrayed events real or fantasy sequences? Did her guilt manifest itself to become an unignorable parasite? I even toyed with a literal translation, proposing that the characters actually underwent a radical medical procedure to save the other twin's life (a la "Tales from the Crypt"). In any case, I think this eerie ambiguity probably made it even more satisfying for the audience.

The entire thing was a joy to watch: I was on edge the entire time. Beats the hell out of the schlock Hollywood conjures up to meet its annual quota.

***

I met DaDutch in my French class. She's bubbly, highly articulate, well-informed, and surprisingly punctual. I say "surprisingly" not to condescend, but to recognize a quality missing in a lot of university students -- "to be prompt" isn't exactly complimentary in the typical sense (though it should be). I mean, we agreed to meet at 9 p.m. I had arrived by 8:48 and she came in through the doors minutes later, almost on the dot. It was beyond words, this rare occurrence of not having to wait. I couldn't believe it; I wasn't used to being respected on a first date.

Anyway, after the movie, we proceeded to chew on even meatier subjects I, frankly, would rather discuss more often with people (as opposed to the sludge I normally have to contend with: boyz, boyz, and their obviouz problemz). From the ABCs of art and international politics to the gilded lily that is bourgeois philistinism, DaDutch could not only follow, but frequently followed-up. We didn't go on "tangents"; we "brainstormed" (to use a selective euphemism).

In conclusion: Good movie + great companion = jolly good time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Guilt: How utterly, utterly, gauche

*UPDATE*
What was I whining about? It was all very innocent. Nothing could've possibly happened; it was in a public place. Polite, he was being polite. No one noticed and no one did. I'm imagining things. It was an accident, that's all. A technical error. No reason to fret.

So how 'bout them prawns?

***

He tongued the corners of my mouth. Or that's what I think he did because after he walked away, his saliva stayed on my lips. Let me backtrack: He told me that joke about the pirate and his missing eye (which I've heard a thousand times before because men seem to have it memorized since before the release of their placentas and the cardinal rule is: laugh anyway). Then he said he was hungry. So he stood up. I looked up. He bent over and ... WHOOSH! Lip, smack, paddy wack, Peter Piper pecked.

I barely know him; surely, it was a mistake. Bad aim, confused as to where the location of my -- his? -- cheek was. When everyone in Montreal goes around bisou, bisou-ing each other, something like this was bound to occur, right? Right. But when did an air kiss require gentle lubrication and GPS know-how?

Anyway, since we were around people he knew, I'm betting it'll go over well with the girlfriend. It's deja-freakin'-vu all over again: Always the runner-up, never the crown. Lung ... collapsing ... can't breathe. How do I get myself into these things? I was only there to catch up on some news and read today's paper. Gossip drill, rumour mill: let's pray this doesn't become a high school turf war over his he-parts.

Yet another reason why voluntary confinement is the cure, not the cause.
I need to stay in more.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Getting back in the game one step at a time

I've developed my first ever TV crush. Evan Solomon. Oh man, oh man, he is one accomplished babe. Journalist, editor, television personality, novelist, simply delicious. I can't believe I'm gushing. Okay, I can, because he is so fine, like a lemon meringue pie or a rolled sock in the trousers. 31-years-old and seemingly a workoholic, I can totally deal. His travel plans wouldn't interfere with my worshipping him. Oh, sure, he'll get up from breakfast to fly to Hong Kong and leave me sifting flour by the bread bowl. And yeah, he'll be on assignment to meet Bono or the guy who plays the King of Siam ... 's mentally retarded chimp on Broadway and ruin our anniversary plans. So what? I'll get used to it. Being second banana comes with being over-shadowed. I'll greet him at our studio loft in an apron and nothing else, and we'll sit by the overhead projector and discuss world politics on PowerPoint and gossip about Kofi Annan and "What was he wearing?" and laugh when I bring out the steak because he was with Eric Schlosser "just yesterday" listing the number of cow parts in a conventional burger.

Tee hee hee, I'll say, rubbing his knee and squeezing his bicep. Stop it, you're too funny.

We'll have a night cap before bed after reading articles from the New Yorker to each other, shaking our heads at the media frenzy surrounding Jeffrey Tambor's transexual confession and the arrest of Nicole Brown's killer in a Kazakhstanian golf course. (OJ's hunch had been right all along!)

Three hours later, we'll wake up to have emergency sex because he'd been relocated to the Kenyan bureau. But darling, I'll say as I brush the semen from my teeth, I'm pregnant. He'll walk out without a word and return four months later accusing me of sleeping with Dan Rather. I'll obviously deny it. Don't make this about me! He'll apologize for what he said and send me a bouquet of camillas, making all my girlfriends mad with jealousy. I'll see him walking through the factory doors wearing a uniform he picked up from a dead insurgent overseas and he'll ask where I am and the ladies will point That way, and as he goes to pick me up in his arms, he's shot from behind.

By Dan Rather.

*sniffle, sniffle* Rest in peace, my love. Rest in peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Random Tangent #99

There's a certain comraderie people develop with each other when they see someone slip on the sidewalk. You look at the fallen victim and reassure them with a smile. "It's insane, this snow," your eyes seem to say. They nod timidly as they reach for the nearest parking meter.

Sometimes the comraderie is developed at the mere sight of flailing arms. Strangers walk up from behind, passing you by with a gaze that doubles for sincerity. "Watch out now," you sense their comfort.

Okay, so that person was me. Twice. I landed on my bottom twice. It wasn't a busy street, but it didn't make getting up any easier. Although, making eye contact with sharply dressed women who were also wobbling down the sidewalk made it less embarrassing. We gave each other knowing glances, a warning of the impending trek to come. A secret language had been created; a coded message, conveyed: "That's the price we pay to look good."

Indeed, lady with the shearling aviator boots. Indeed.

***

Target: Achieved. Jacket: Acquired. Credit card company: Mucho contente.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Random Tangent #98

Materialistic longing, rising! rising! Consumer rationale, fading! fading! Cropped orange round-neck collarless tweed jacket with puffed shoulders and off-center fasteners.

Says it loves me too (using somewhat less adjectives). Must buy now.

***

I have to admit I approached The Von Bondies's sophomore effort, "Pawn Shoppe Heart", with some apprehension. In all fairness, lead singer Jason Stollsteimer and his entourage did try to shamelessly capitalize on his bloody scrape with the pale Hercules that is Jack White. Anyone who backstabs co-patriots who single-handedly launched their careers should be blacklisted in everyone's guide to hypster etiquette (and other ironic hypocrisies). But even ungrateful ingrates deserve a listening to and it's exactly what you'd expect from Detroit Rawk City -- a perfect blend of distortion and 3-chords with a driving rhythm section. The appropriate antidote to a party hearty neighbour's Limp Bizkit marathon.

Taste isn't relative -- some people just have it bad.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Family Tradition

My parents are regular folk. And like regular folk, they celebrate Christmas. Now by no means are we Christians, but it's the thought that counts.

Our first Christmas with a tree was in 1996/7. My dad found it in the basement of his store. It was one of those "fit wire branch into corresponding slot" type things conveniently left over from the previous owners. Filled with generic decorations, my dad loaded the cardboard box into his trunk and drove home, beaming. It was the find of the century.

The first time we put our tree together, my mother and I carefully inserted each branch into the appropriate colour-coded hole. The final product was reminiscent of God's patchy green pubes. The second time we put the tree together, we decided to fill only the left side and stuck the whole thing in the corner so its obvious baldness could not be detected by the casual viewer. We figured no one would notice its shabby appearance after it was decorated.

We dressed it up with the familiar embellishments: garlands, ornaments, outdoor lights, and pinecones; plastic globes and dollar store Jesus, two-year old ginger bread cookies and action figures; glitter crafts, popsicle stick cabins, paper stockings and unrelated children's art taken from the fridge to hide that other gaping cavity in the tree. It was beautiful really, like a nativity scene re-created by a blind person from a yuletide dumpster.

Every December my mom would take us shopping to pick out our own gifts. We'd drive up to Costco and scan the coupons, hoping something we liked would be featured. "Ooh!" we'd say when we did, "jumbo crayons and a tarp!" Typically though, my mom would find a sweet parking space near Toys R Us and let us go crazy (assuming whatever it was we chose was less than 30 dollars):

"Can I get this, please? Mommy, can I? Can I, please?"

"Ice cream mak-ah. Why you make ice cream? I buy for you, why you make? You crazy."

Afterwards, we'd go home and enjoy our presents for a few days before gift-wrapping them in time for Christmas. We'd wake up the next morning and they'd be under the tree and we'd tear open the packages and act really, really surprised before running to the kitchen to thank her. (*Note: My mom's not very touchy-feely. She'd wrestle, yeah, but until recently, I'd get an awkward pat on the shoulder following, "Why you touch me? You crazy.") Frequently, we'd see stuff we bought months ago there too, like puzzle boxes and shoes or a newly washed blender.

We were known in the neighbourhood as that family who had their tree up by November and didn't (still don't) take it down until some time after August. People thought we were weird when they saw our flashing beauty through the window, but it was just practical: We simply didn't have any other light source to watch TV with. My friends would be surprised to find me plugging in the artifical Christmas tree whenever they came by to hang out -- I'd switch off singing Santa to be considerate during the Simpsons.

***

Thanksgiving was the same tree with handprint turkeys.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Are you kidding me?

I like how my mom slips in "by the ways" in our afternoon chats the way conversation fillers occupy silence; the way you'd start narrating what you're doing by the phone because you've sufficiently updated the other person on the other end ("I never noticed how dirty my ceiling is. ... and now I'm bleeding from the butt. I'll call you back").

The cell phone does a vibrating dance, backlight illuminating the caller ID -- MOM.

"Leelee?" she chimes. "You awake?"

It's 2 p.m.

"No."

She proceeds to make small talk. I can barely position the gadget near the vicinity of my ear, mumbling half-coherent sentences she doesn't respond to. After another mouthful of niceties, she gets to the point: That guy I met on vacation this year? That handsome, yet highly sheepish, boy who took me out on evening dessert runs and picked out that watch I've since stopped wearing? He'll be living with my parents for at least the month of December until he gains his footing in Toronto for "academic-purposes." This coincides with, of course, my trip home for the holidays.

I go berserk. Tongue-tied and sleepy, I lash out at her:

"And what? What does he have to do with me?" I begin. "Did you intend to see to it that I entertain him? It's just like you Chinese people to do this! Always! Oh, two kids, same age, it'll be a gas! That's how you Chinese people think! You'll ... you'll make him tag along when I'm out with friends to 'show him around,' that's what you'll do. And, well," I take a breath, "you'll just find reasons to put us together!"

She is silent. Then:

"Why you so crazy all da time? Yelling, yelling, everytime I call, you yelling. I no say anything! You crazy, I no speak to you!" and hangs up on me.

I sit up in bed and immediately start rationalizing. The disturbing truth escapes from all the grey. Sure, I don't want the burden of tour guide duties, nor do I want to see him feel unwelcome in a foreign country, away from like-minded friends, and completely isolated by his language barrier. There are times when even though I recognize what I'm doing is wrong, I still can't be bothered to do right, compelled to be self-serving for its own sake. And this is one of those times. Anyway, the "disturbing truth" is this: How the hell am I going to get away with hanging around the house in various states of undress if there's going to be a hormonally-charged teenager there? My parents already warn houseguests of my "unmannerly conduct" with playful resignation (unless the news is received in utter horror, in which case, they pretend to be shocked too). Imagine having to reveal to my Potential Summer Fling my Secret Single Behaviour: it'll be an excruciating game of understated blue balls. I'm bloody right to be worried!

Sexy Spinster said she understood what I was trying to say, but the way I went about explaining it to my mother was all wrong:

"You shouldn't have said, 'You Chinese people,' because it's a problem with everyone's parents."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Waiter, there's kismet in my soup. What else is new?

I worked on my 3000 word take-home exam intermittently between 7 o'clock last evening and 3 o'clock this afternoon. The paper was due at 4 o'clock. I accidentally fell asleep for a good 5 hours, waking up more stressed than the night before. My printer didn't work. I went to the library. All the seats were taken ... except one. The man got up to leave just as I was passing behind him. Out I went with 8-pages of meticulously written jibba jabba clutched in my hand. The bus driver waved at me from across the street. It was Bill. He's cool. We're buddies. He's Greek. I asked him how his fake Japanese girlfriend and 18 kids were. He said they were good. I stared at him incredulously: "Did you just say I looked damaged?" "No, no! You look beautiful, always!" I sighed, "That's okay, I know what I look like. You can say damaged. It's the essay's fault." I didn't even bother to put on a bra and brush my hair. "What time you have to be there?" he asked. 3:55. He looked at his watch. "No problem! I can do! You want me to go 200 miles per hour? I go! For you, I go!"

And off he went, like a speeding bullet. Like a speeding bullet had it taken one too many bites out of a brontasaurus breast. I saw the campus a block away. He wasn't kidding. 3:55. I ran to the journalism office. The bitchy secretary took my paper. 3:58.

I made it. With two minutes to spare.

***

I gave in and signed on to Zip.ca. This means I pay a flat-fee each month to take out UMLIMITED MOVIES. From Asiatic to Zulu, they've got everything! Yes, this will confirm what everyone's suspected for years: I'm a genetic hop, skip, and a beak from a house-trained mutt.

Now shut up and hand over L'avventura. I'll be in for awhile.

Dad's Random Tangents, premier issue

My darling dad called me to ask me how I was, how my French was going, when I was coming home. We discussed the possibility of him investing in my (improbable) magazine. He seemed supportive of the idea. Maybe he was humouring me. My dad has always assured financial backing for any crazy scheme I dream up, as long as they're reasonably feasible and legal. I like that, simply knowing my parents are as gung-ho as me.

He suggested I look up to that lady who also has her own magazine, the one who went to prison:

"Who?"

"You know, that woman on TV. Play with flowers and cake."

"You mean, Martha Stewart?"

"I don't know. She go to jail?"

This is quite off-script. He usually typecasts white people into two categories: Celine Dion and Jean Chretien (affectionately called "droopy mouth"), depending on gender. But this mention of Martha Stewart comes as a shock.

I do believe my dad is diversifying.

***

I wonder how my family's going to be politically divided this time during the January elections. People say you can't live with a spouse who leans differently than you, but last time around, I supported Liberal; my dad, Green; my mom, Conservative. This is how they explained their positions to me:

Dad: "I tell you, Leelee. Everything so dirty, you know? So bad, I die."

Mom: "Why I pay [taxes] so single mommy dri'e bettah cah than me, pah-ty all night, no show up fo' wok?"

Why indeed. I might go NDP this time to maintain the current minority government. It keeps politicians from getting too cocky, and Stephen Lewis said they're more likely to pay attention to public discord and do something about it as long as we let them preserve the status quo. It keeps them humble (*rolls eyes*).

Bah! Paul Martin and his stupid trade ideas. He has mashed potatoes for brains! Surplus smurfplus, what use is money when it's not being properly invested? Did every businessman look up to Gorden Gecco after graduating from college? Money is just pointless numbers on a scorecard unless you do something tangible with it besides counting it. Otherwise, it's toilet paper with security features. Math Judas argued that we should use it to relieve our debt-by-Trudeau. But if we were making timely payments before this nice surprise, I'm sure we can manage to divert a little attention to social-orientated progress. Our health care system has become increasingly archaic in a post-baby boomer era. I read in the paper today that Britain spends approximately 3 percent less than we do (around 10%) on health care, but that doesn't mean we can't still make very necessary changes. Look into Singapore's health care policies, Sweden's, etc. To paraphrase the article, restructuring is not synonymous with "Americanization." We should think of it as an issue of practicality, and not one of cultural assimilation.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Random Tangent #76

Alright, so I was taking a piss, yeah? and it came to me mid-wipe: homophobia seems to be more prevalent in men because it is a direct by-product -- a mirror, if you will -- of the way they view social relationships!

We've heard it for years. Sex, sex, sex, that's all men care about. Now, being a woman, I found that sexist and condescending. It is so not true that's all they care about, I'd defend. Intimacy is an all-pervasive human trait: we all need a shoulder to cry on!

All rah rah equality, and hear me roar.

Okay, but hypothetically, what if that's exactly how men perceive things? What possible link could it have with this irrational fear, near hatred, of homosexuality?

I was brushing my teeth with one hand while trying to hook my bra on properly with the other when another ah-ha! moment appeared. If all relationships were simplified into degrees of sexual interrogation or complex levels of courtship, then it is easy to see why men would feel threatened by the presence of a gay man. Besides living in the vain belief that gays have zero standards and would naturally hunt down straight geezers for some afternoon fellatio, I've always thought it, well, unreasonable to grow dangerously insecure even at the mere mention of l'homme sur l'homme action. But if relationships are perceived to be matter-of-fact, a dualism between predator and prey, then it seems obvious where this bigotry may stem from: a loss of power, forced to be lame, a victimized thug opposite the gaze. I'm sure there is also deep-seated sexism in there, more simply observed as an unwelcome reminder of the shame that comes with being placed in a woman's position. Ancient texts have been known to discuss sodomy in degenerative terms. Surprisingly, not in the context of a man buggering another man, but in the shame of being penetrated, to be on the bottom, to be like a woman and lose your badge of dominance.

Anyway, by this time, I was really late for class and still didn't know which pair of shoes to wear, so I opted to stand in front of the mirror for another good 10 minutes, figuring out why my clothes were messing with my proportions and leaving me paranoid.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fannypack

Oy! One more assignment and this semester is finally over. I can't wait to start my communication studies again. PimpRV, NappyMop, and I were talking in class when this man -- a part-time student -- approached me and asked if he and I could "get together sometime." Oh yeah, yeah, I dismissed, going right back to talking to my girlfriends, not realizing he already had my number, taken under different pretenses two days ago.

PimpRV mentioned how old he was: "And that receding hairline?"

"Yeah, he's like [NerdQuirk's] even older brother."

Fo sho. Look, I admit I'm especially judgmental because I'm going through a dry spell. Sure, it's been going on for ... before I can even remember and I sabotage promising relationships to dodge potential promise. But I'm young! and maybe a bit asexual. I mean, I find platonic friendships swell. What is the point of showing up at my place when I have no literal need for you? That might sound unconscionably harsh -- and I don't deny that living alone frequently sucks -- but if I'm deriving satisfaction from a renewable source (i.e. myself), why pretend they're someone they'll never be? Why lead them into thinking they are an integral part of making me functional when I am more functional without them? Been there, getting over that. To be so dependent on an idea -- a self-serving one at that, however masochistic -- wasn't healthy for me. I punctured myself with holes to provide an ideal landscape for a two-person play. And although no man is an island, he's no excavated Pompeiian artifact in dire need of a glue gun either. We might be social animals, but it is a conditioned affliction to believe we are not whole until we find our "better half" -- a statistically futile pursuit. It's a paradox: we search for that perfect symbiotic relationship only to realize, too late, that the source of our growth has become a source of dependance.

So let's just be friends. It's all I can hope to offer.

***

Just got Fannypack's most recent release, See You Next Tuesday. A trio of Brooklynites who sound like an urban M.I.A. with infectiously danceable beats. In indie rock news, Get Set Go are okay, listenable, nothing too special. "Abraham Lincoln smoked crack on the downlow." Typical absurdist lyrics. Another recent album I got was Mercedes Sosa. Beautiful Latin voice. She's 70-years-old and has been tackling an illness, but her voice still doesn't sound fragile nor contains the unintentional frigidity found in the music of her cross-over pop successors.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Ivy - In The Clear (catchy as HELL, the good kind).
Feist - Let It Die (sang for Kings of Convenience, a member of Broken Social Scene).
Roisin Murphy - Ruby Blue
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (it's one-part clown rock, one-part get up and dance).
Pink Martini - Hang On Little Tomato (but if you enjoy covers: Sympathique)

I didn't think I'd enjoy James Blunt because he reminds me too much of a corny artist featured in a Top 10 sappy playlist. But fuck it, he does saccharinity well (odd, considering his intense military background). And for anyone who just wants a relaxant, there's Coralie Clemente. It's French chanson with bossa nova and other jazz-derived influences. There's also PSAPP, Nouvelle Vague, Edan (old-school remixes which explains an appearance by LL Cool J), Isolee (electronic, but accessibly experimental), and lest I forget, Antony and the Johnsons. The lead singer is a fat goth who sings like no one I've heard. He warbles like a swallow and does it so beautifully, floating between a falsetto and a baritone within a bar and octave. He's like Dr. Frankenstein: sewing feminine and masculine elements together as if it's the most natural thing to do. And frankly, he does a damn convincing job. I have so much more music I want to introduce. Anyway, Math Judas has a habit of asking me for recommendations and as a friend, I feel like this is the only way to relieve him of his Iron Maiden monstrosity, save duress. (You know you do, don't deny it!)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Amaretto

Great party last night (this morning?). A lot of positive people. Intimate and fun, I'm glad I went. So ... what next? Well, it seems I'll be home for the holidays, saving my mother a whole lot of moolah. In which case, I'm going for it. That's right, the whole nine yards, kit and caboodle: I'm going to get a PERM. Not just any perm, but one that screams, "SHAZAM, girl! You too much!"

THE GOAL:

THE MORE LIKELY RESULT:


***

HaiPhia and I waited a good hour and a half (if not more) at a Caribbean restaurant for a cavity-inducing mango chicken and an (oh-so savoury) roti to arrive. Needless to say, I (barely) tipped. We were both pissed, looking over at our waiter 5, 10 times. After she lost the argument as to who should confront him and he came over to apologize, we sweetly asked for something free (don't mess with immigrants!) and he threw in a plate of plantains. Pfft, I would've offered him a month's rent, but why fiddle with the details?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Haircut!

Heading to Funky Toque for a haircut tomorrow (today?). It's going to be one-part Hitchcock beehive, two-parts mod, and a handsome dash of Clara Bow. Gothic and doll-like, I want to straddle a new look that projects a certain je ne sais ... where she bought her mascara from. It's mussy sex hair, it's just got dumped hair, it's eating two pints of Ben & Jerry's custom-blended tubs of instant-nirvana hair. Or perhaps, more accurately: it's the actually moving on from the painful memories of that torrid affair and taking responsibility for the cycle of ecstasy and loss that constantly appears and reappears as a reminder to deal with my shit before it gets out of control hair. My friends have really helped me through this absurd ordeal. They've been quite frank in telling me what they feel I need to hear, but are good-humoured enough to ridicule my self-bred neurosis when appropriate. I have since seen him twice by chance, and twice, I did not hesitate to emote sparingly. All smiles, he was. All How are yous? and How've you beens? as if strong-arming me to let go of his ne'er-forgotten deeds with the sheer will of his charm is a legitimate substitute for remorse.

No. I like it here just fine. A balanced core, the freedom of neutrality. I grieve, not passively anymore, but proactively -- unburdening my pride with affirmations of my (now warranted) suspicions and reminding myself that compared to the conquests of his past, I have survived undeniably unscathed and intact.

We hate those who mirror ourselves. I tried to fix him to atone for my past. To recognize faults is an attempt to walk away from our own. Point the finger and lay the blame.

So upon reflection and growing detachment, it became clear to me that I had to divorce the concept of "loneliness" with the act of being "alone." It was a Catch-22: Being with him, I was never allowed to carelessly express myself. Away from him, I was stuck with what I had become -- vulnerable to criticism, sensitive to a fault. So for the last few weeks, I've been explaining to each of my closest girlfriends why I haven't been calling and reassured them that, no, I am no longer mourning, and that yes, I am fine -- terrific, in fact. They've been infinitely patient and have respected my temporary, if rather drastic, boundaries.

Huge party tomorrow! WOOHOO!

***

I just put the finishing touches to my project in my publishing workshop class. The assignment asks for a 4-page layout spread for a fake newsletter we are required to create. I chose to christen mine The Narcissist Times. The final page had to be a photo/graphic collage representing the "essence" of our idea. Mine is designed to look like an FBI Most Wanted 9-piece grid. B&W photos of Pinochet, Amin, Kissinger, Mussolini, Tojo, Duvalier, Noriega, Milosevic were placed around the center, Whoopi-warmed, square which is reserved for none other than the fabulously dickless Mr. Geraldo Rivera (with the word "APPROVED" stamped across his forehead in big, bold, juicy, red letters).

My original plan was to use a picture of a sonogram that had the caption: "The unborn child of Tom and Katie Cruise: a crazy war criminal in the making!"

But that didn't show as much promise as using the Fox News reporter -- and part-time moustache model -- for the target of ridicule.

I will try to find a way to upload my project on to my blog by tomorrow.

***

The drunk girls are at it again outside my door. Vulgarity is a matter of degrees. I mean, how might you interpret violent outbursts punctuated by declarations of affection?

"Open this fucking door!" garbled the more inebriated of the two. "I want to tell her that I love her! She's such a fucking good friend!"

The door opened followed by an immediate warning hush.

"Shhhh, not so loud," my neighbour whispered.

"Fuck you! I love her, man! I looo~ve her ... Let me in! Don't touch me, let me in!"

The ensuing racket of shoulders, walls, bobbing heads and elevator doors quickly dissipated. So the dance continued ... out in the parking lot.