Leave it to Bieber

There was a bus stop close to our home  in Australia that for a very long time, had a poster promoting Justin’s Bieber’s concert-documentary “Never Say Never”.  He’s standing in the middle on the road, and one one side is cold, forbidding, grey Stratford, Ontario–and on the other side the bright lights of…who’s cares what city–it’s AMERICA!Justin-Bieber-Never-Say-Never-Movie

OK… I didn’t pay close enough attention to the ad–that looks like New York city.

Anyhoo, I’ve never give much though to the ole Bieb’s, after all, I am hardly his demographic.  Which is why when I told my mother that I had bought tickets to see Justin Timberlake, she looked confused.

“Well I hope that he just sorts himself out after that whole London thing”.

“Wha? No, mom, that’s Justin Bieber“.

“Oh, okay, phew! I was really concerned there for a minute”.

This mistake did allow for the hilarious mental image of my 6’9” husband standing amongst a flood of shrieking girls.  But she was not the only person to make the mistake.  While at work one morning, the radio announcing every minute detail about the Boston bombings, a conversation followed that is now generic at this point.  “Why do people do things like this?  Why do things like this happen?”  A general quiet followed, as if everyone was contemplated the violence, when I piped up about the recent Bieber-backlash after his visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  In the guest book he wrote:

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

We all laughed at the remark.  And then my co-worker said” “When are you seeing him?”  This confused the ever loving shit out of me. Had I just hallucinated this conversation?  When am I seeing Justin Bieber?”


“Aren’t you seeing him in concert?”

Just then I wanted to step onto a platform and bark into a megaphone.  “TIMBERLAKE, PEOPLE NOT BIEBER!”.  My god, am I just walking around, striking people as a card carrying belieber?

Because I’m not.


Okay, in doing today’s research, I will admit, his face is structurally sound, and even aliens from distant planets would agree that there is an attractiveness quotient happening there.

But that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t feel so good to punch him in the nose, wrench off his spiky little ball cap and thwack him in the face and pull those god damned pants up so high, I’m practically giving him a wedgie.  Shit, why not just go for gold and give him an all-out wedgie?

“And this is for Anne Frank! You ignorant A-hole!”


One could imagine that going to the museum was arranged through some public relations scheme.  I suppose this comment isn’t that terrible when he could have written: “I just found out about you not ten minutes ago…and what was the deal with the Holocaust? This is all news to me! Love Justin”.  Bieber just needs to sing more and talk less.  Or take a page out of the other Justin’s book–and work hard, gain respect, don’t be a dick, and never make assumptions about the preferences of Holocaust victims.


And of course, there is a heap of articles about Frank because of Bieber’s comment, so there is some gold being spun–“yes, it was ignorant, but isn’t it nice that Anne Frank is making a comeback?”  Yes, but in a hashtag-Anne-Frank kind of way.  She’s this year’s “Gangnam Style“.  It also reveals a bit about what Bieber’s prime fan base knows about the holocaust and one of it’s most famous victim.  In fact, that has been the butt of a million jokes–Ricky Gervais cracked wise about all the illiterate teenaged girls who are fuming over this mystery girl.


There are arguments back and forth whether Anne Frank would have been a belieber…she was a teenager, she liked movie stars, her bedroom wall was decorated with cinematic imagery. So… ‘why not Bieber?’  And sure, she may have liked him, if she were a modern girl in a contemporary world.  One rabbi, speaking in defense of Bieber, said that Anne Frank would have been a fan, possibly going as far as to follow him on Twitter.


Nonetheless, Bieber is in some kind of moral danger. Lord knows that history has a tendency to repeat himself.  There have been others before him that have tried and failed to survive their success.  Hello Elvis? He was a total babe, and then came the jumpsuits and dying on the crapper, and now that’s all people really remember.  And Bieber’s out there buying strange monkeys–which is edging towards Micheal Jackson territory–and we all know how well that all worked out.  It was not that long ago that little baby Bieber was a boy from Ontario, with a dream, a camera and a You-Tube account.

young justin b

Look at that sweet little face…couldn’t you just picture that on the wall of the secret attic?


You know, I hate to admit it–but there is a similarity between these two–they were once kids with dreams of success–Anne Frank wanted to be a journalist, a writer, an actress.   Her father Otto had her journals published as a way to honour that dream, and now she is a symbol of lost innocence.  Bieber had dreams of being a famous singer, and his mom published a book about being…his mom.  (There has not been a more important birth since Mary and her boy Jesus).  But his innocence has been lost as well–not in a horrific manner like Anne, but in having too much–money, fame, attention.  And it’s a shame, for he could be a neat little Canadian success story; instead he is turning into a tragic tale of entitlement and decadence.  But if there’s anything to be learned from Anne Frank is that we are remembered by what we write down, and leave it to Bieber to add these eye-roll worthy remarks to his already sterling legacy.  Hopefully next time, Bieber could be a bit more frank instead.

Justin-BooberImages Courtesy of Google

Inspiration Bored

There are a select few that I occasionally check in with–“So…how’s the blog coming along?”  You can only see your work in a particular way, and any writer needs a handful of honest folk to set you straight.  When I last asked my husband, he said “It’s good”.  But he says “good” in that goooood, where there is a significant pitch in the dead center of all those O’s.  There’s a chocolate cheesecake kind of ‘good’, and then there’s awkward one-night-stand kind of ‘good’.  And his good was not sounding desserty in the slightest.

“…there’s just a lot about you saying how hard it is to write”.

“Well…yes…that’s sort of the deal with the blog”

“Oh…is it?”

“Yea, it’s mentioned in the tagline”.

He shrugs.  “Hmm, never mind then, it’s good”.  And there were no superfluous letters as he uttered the word.

And that is the point: to combat writers block! To write daily!  To make it part of the routine! To cultivate thoughts and shape them on the page!  It’s about harassing my scattered thoughts and finding a solid thread to guide me towards a tangible article of writing.  It’s also an exercise in exploring different topics–seeing what an audience responds to–(favorite feedback from a younger reader: “I like when you compare your childhood to other shit”). For lack of a better word, this is practice.  My brain is wearing a little sweat band, flexing it’s muscles, making things like thought, focus and action happen. Mentally, it can get very sweaty.  And a result of the inexperienced daily writer, there is potential to just unload some serious stream-of-consciousness drivel day after day, and it’s the equivalent to being at a chic luncheon and having a big hunk of spinach stuck between your teeth.  I just need someone to tell me to check myself before I wreck myself.

This practice of writing daily makes me think about Julia Cameron‘s “The Artist’s Way“, which is a book that symbolizes my own deep-seeded creative blockage. This book is designed to reach into one’s self, and find your find your ‘true creative artist self’.  (In a nutshell).  Two aspects of the program include ‘the artist’s date’– once a week you do something that you love, but you do it alone; second is the ‘morning pages’, where each day you write–with a pen on paper–three pages of stream of conscious thoughts.  And this is the first thing you are meant to do each day.

Yikes.  That is a lot of pressure.

I’ve started the book a number of times, but I’ve never finished it. Of course with the morning pages, you aren’t meant to share or re-read them, and I suppose the point is to just gush your every naked thought without self consciousness. When blogging the way I do, you are laying your personal shit out for dozens upon dozens of people. You have to fight the urge to censor yourself, because it becomes inauthentic.  And then it’s not any good at all.


I never resent the task of writing, but its not uncommon to just stare at the screen in the same way I just sort of stare at the coffee maker at 430am. When not staring at the blankness…it’s about looking anywhere else.  In my office there is a window–which doesn’t overlook much, so I bask in the natural light and stare up up a stacked cork board.  I don’t want to go and throw a term like “inspiration board”, but it is a board covered in things that (ahem) inspire me.


Everyone needs a visual happy place, especially when you are championing procrastination.

I know my brain is on the fritz as there is an awful lot of “…”

The funny thing is…

The trouble I’m having with…


There’s a lot of half baked, partially typed sentences happening here.  And not nearly enough pictures.  This is another problem–you get so damned bored with the thoughts inside your head.  If not bored–annoyed– as if your train of thought is some well meaning albeit excessively chatty seat mate on a plane ride.  Blathering away when all you’d like to do is flip through a magazine, watch a movie or take a nap.  Or worse, when you talk to this person for a certain period, but want to get on with said magazine or movie.  It’s a difficult transition, to go from chatting pleasantly to ceasing pleasantries.  This is also a struggle–finishing each piece with a snappy little closing line when sometimes there’s nothing more to say, just eyes drifting elsewhere and … silence.

Rush Hour

Talk about a tough situation.  I’m just about to settle in, ready to compose today’s masterpiece, and my husband deigned to ask me: “Just how long is this blog going to take?”  To which I scoff, how does one estimate time when creating genius?

Did anyone ever ask Picasso–“So, when are you um, going to be done with…whatever is happening over here?”   


Did anyone ask Coco Chanel if she could pick up the pace on her little black dress? No man, she would smash you in the face with that cigarette, and you’d still think that was the classiest broad alive.


Did anyone ever ask Miles Davis, “Hey can you give me a rough estimate on how long it’ll take to record your heroin laced stream of consciousness jazz riffs?” No, they did not.

miles-davisLook at that expression…do you want to be the jackass that questions this face?  He’s about six seconds away from saying: “Aaaaah, fuck off”. 

And you would fuck off, because you’d be sorry to asked such a stupid question.

You can’t rush perfection, bitches, just ask Barbra Streisand.


You can only imagine what was happening right before this picture was taken:

“Where’s Barbra?’

“Over there, cuddling that dog in front of that giant picture of herself”.


What’s really happening here is that I’m stumped for a topic I’d like to write about today.  And I’ve promised my husband that I’ll be done in one hour.  Truth is, I’m feeling frustrated, which is becoming an increasing sensation in my life.  It’s as if my very existence is at the end of a long hallway and every door is locked.  But I don’t want to turn this blog into a bitch-fest, we’re all here because we need a little break; you don’t want to take a break from your own version of the daily grind and be like: “Oh good, her life is super depressing, and her exquisite writing skills really makes me feel her pain… I’ll be sure to tune in daily”.  I’d like to keep things light, fun, frisky–like Cosmo  magazine, only with more pictures of gay icons holding dogs.   So, on occasion when I do drop something heavy on you–it’ll be kind of like borrowing your car without permission–it’s okay if I only do it once in a while.

helen gb2

The creator of Cosmo, Helen Gurley Brown, just look at her keeping it light and having it all.

Radio Gaga

By the time I get off work on a Saturday afternoon,CBC radio 2 is seriously into their opera.  Which is a shame because I want to get and the car and drive home merrily, singing along to whatever musical trinket they decide to play.  But I can’t do opera–that is a musical genre that seriously gets on my tits.  I would rather listen to gangsta rap than this high-pitched ear-ssault.  As I lower the volume–choosing silence over any other station.  All day long at work it’s Nickelback/Justin Bieber/Rhianna friendly station–the same twelve songs played on repeat Pitbull and his non-singing singing style, and Britney Spears with her fake British accent as she jams with Will. I. Am.


Worse yet, the radio personalities are so upbeat you’d think they were couple trying to shield their nasty divorce from their children, and are over compensating with enthusiasm: “HAHAHA, what a wonderful joke! I’m so glad to be here! Red hot deals! Brand new tracks!  Don’t you just love everything about talking to each other on the radio!?!, Next up! Avril Lavigne!


I’ve always been a big fan of mellow.  I like a mellow radio personality, sounding high or just a little bit bored.  On the CBC 2, normally they speak as if having a chat, their tones are like the music they play– pleasant, but not condescending.  I used to listen to this radio station in Australia where they played music from the 40’s and 50’s.  The personalities were at least 100 years old, and would sometimes just pause in the middle of a sentence…for a significant period of time.  It also sounded like they were playing actual albums, because sometimes the record would skip, and because everyone who worked at that station was so old that there was not a huge rush to remedy the skip, crackle and pop.


But opera! Not the opera.  Again in Australia, there was a huge Opera Extravaganza in a city park.  I wanted to walk over and take a look.  Ben says “No way, opera sucks” (I’m paraphrasing here).  And I accuse him of being ignorant and uncultured (I’m sort of paraphrasing here).  I eventually lured him out of the house on the pretense that we go for an evening stroll, and then once out on the streets, it was: “Oh go on, let’s walk in the direction of opera”.  Ben was not having it, but he’s a good sort, so he eventually let me lead the way to the park.  There was a ton of people there, and we stood on the peripherals.  Ben relents, and says “Fine. We’ll check it out”, his expression defeated. I reckon that gives me a solid fifteen minutes before he loses his patience altogether.  The event begins and there is applause, and then the vice-president of such and such, and the chancellor of blah, blah blah and the mayor of a neighboring city, and then the mayor of Perth.  The hourglass of Ben’s interest released its final grains of sand, and I felt like the poor bastard who has the decide between colored wires while trying to detonate a bomb–(the red one or the blue one? Red or blue, what’s it gonna be?)  We start to inch away from the park, and I’m limping behind, trying to buy time so the show can begin.  And then–the lights changed and the opera began–and it was…absolutely not my taste.  It was instantly irritating.  Ben was more than happy to leave the park, and we trotted away from the singing and the story we did not understand.  As for today, as I arrived home the opera was ending when I pulled into the driveway. The announcer gushed to her co-presenter, “Oh Bob, I can hardly catch my breath, what a magnificent performance”.  Sheesh, pull yourself together lady.

I’d like to make this clear I am not a music snob–I appreciate all kinds of music.  In writing this I listened to Feist and Basia Bulat.  But in no way would you describe my taste in music as ‘cool’. This is coming from someone who–just the other day– willingly listened to most of an album that Barbra Streisand made with Barry Gibb in the early 80’s.

barbra guilty

You wanna know what I’m guilty of–I’m guilty of loving cheese.  Give me “Love is a Battlefield”, “Don’t Stop Believing“, and “Jessie’s Girl“.  Give me Electric Light Orchestra, ABBA, Grace Slick in Jefferson Starship, the workout scene in “Flashdance, that bit in “Footloose” when Kevin Bacon dance-kicks the shit out of his bad day.  And that’s generally as how hard I like to rock…which is not that hard at all.  The kids on ‘Glee’ rock harder than I do. Even these guys rock harder than me.

ELPLook at one of the right…he’s loving the shit out of this photo shoot.

So…where was I going with this?  I started talking about opera, but then started looking up cheesy album covers. This is what happens after an early morning and long work day..I start rambling like a boozy aunt who corners you at a family reunion. I see you, eying the door, only half-listening to my meandering anecdotes and plotting your escape.  Fair enough. But first, before I let you go, allow me introduce you to my new boyfriend.  His name is Jim and he loves his life. jim_post_i_love_my_lifeImages Courtesy of Google

Friday Night Bites

When we four children lived together under the same roof–the greatest dinners were not the holiday feasts that my mother slaved over (sorry mom, those were good too),  they were this accidental phenomenon that she created–‘make your own sandwich night’.  A couple different kinds of meat and cheese, some crusty buns, a few condiments, a handful of potato chips and you had yourself a party.  For years we would rave and reminisce about those nights.  Recently, my brother mentioned how he told a friend about these nights, and his friend was like: ‘Nah, man, that’s just sandwiches for supper”, to which he replied “No, man, its ‘make your own sandwich night‘. My mother admitted that she did it on nights when she couldn’t be bothered; just took our enthusiasm as a small victory for all mother-kind.  She was just grateful that it was better received than the time she dished up stewed tomatoes from the pantry. Bless her, she really did try to sell this meal, as I sobbed hopelessly at the table.  “Oh, I used to love a big bowl of tomatoes in the summertime, with a spoonful of sugar on top!”  Cool story mom, but I call bullshit.


Fridays are my toughest blogging day, it’s my first day back at work, and it is also our grocery shopping/errand running day.  By the time we get home, unpack, prepare some kind of sustenance…I kind of wish I had my own make-your-own-sandwich blogging equivalent.  Just throw a bunch of raw ingredients on the table, stand back and smoke a cigarette while everyone happily stuffs their faces.  Maybe tonight is more of a stewed tomato kind of night, so just sprinkle some sugar on top, and know that there will be many feasts in our future.

And now for some some old movie stars eating sandwiches…


sandwich 2Images Courtesy of Google

Where There’s a Heming-will, there’s a Heming-way

After writing yesterday’s blog, I went out for a walk, and found myself at the bookstore.  I spent a leisurely hour wandering around, latte in hand, perusing the different sections.  I thumbed through a couple of Hemingway books, such as  “The Sun Also Rises” and “A Moveable Feast“. There are so many books about Paris, which is a place  I would love to go to–and the closest I can get is through films and books, and the soundtrack to “Amelie” I listen to on YouTube.  There seems to be a surge of interest in the icons and characters of the 1920’s;  I wonder if the imminent release of Baz Luhrmann‘s “The Great Gatsby” is responsible for the renewed focus.  But I’m not complaining, I adore this era–the style, the decadence  the tragedy, the romance.  Which is why I thought I would love “The Paris Wife”.


One reader comment urged me onward, towards the end of “The Paris Wife”.  My husband worked late last night, and so I tucked up on the couch with a glass of wine and invested my attention into the story (then the poor fellah came home after a twelve hour shift and I’m like: “I’m sort of drunk and really into this book…just how important is dinner to you?”). Later,  once in bed, Ben dozed while I finished the novel by lamplight. Talk about a slow burn–this book practically bursts into flames when the agonizing demise of a marriage is explored.  Hemingway, that cheeky ole sod, really thought he had pulled a fast one on first wife Hadley Richardson.  “Why not bring a friend along on our holiday? So you have company when I get all moody and writer-y…might as well bring the one I am also sleeping with”.  And then his poor wife is stuck hanging out at the beach all day with Pauline Pfeiffer, the ‘other woman’.  Pauline is sweet and kind, and then helps herself to some Hemingway whenever she says she is taking a shower or having nap. Meanwhile Hadley is busy digging the deepest hole in which to bury her head.

(Pauline, striking a pose).


There is a moment in the book where Hadley notices that there are “three of everything” in the hotel, bathrobes, breakfast trays, bathing suits on the line.  She then notices their three bicycles outside precariously leaning, as it ready to topple over like dominoes–as it would in this accidental love triangle.  The boundaries were becoming so blurred, this strange union happened in such a seemingly organic fashion, the way plants creep closer together in the sunlight.  And then there were three, and nothing would ever be the same again.  This is the moment where I lowered the book and pondered that image.  It’s like—you couldn’t make this stuff up, write it as fiction, because no one ever would believe it could really happen–but here it is, a historical fact that this situation with Ernest Hemingway was the basis for the beloved sitcom “Three’s Company”.  Come and knock on our door indeed.

threes company

Hadley Richardson is slowly dying inside while Hemingway is having his cake and eating it too.  There is a moment in the book when they are laying down for an afternoon siesta, and Pauline sneaks in to the room, and has sex with Hemingway, as Hadley just pretends to sleep.  The mind reels, the gall of those two.   Hadley was a bit weak and unassertive, but she really should have rolled over and said: “You know what I’d love…I’d love it if you could just dismount my husband…cause this is just in bad taste”.  But she knew that she was losing, but she wasn’t ready to admit defeat.  What remained of her marriage was a handful of sand in her fist–until she could open up her hand and let it blow off her palm, she simply had to let each grain slip through her fingers.

(Hadley on her wedding day, no idea what the future holds).


Ultimately ole Hemi suggests that they all go live with Pauline’s family in America.  Hadley says that the three of them can’t all just live together, to which her husband shrugs: “we already do live together”.  Oh no he didn’t!  Yes, dear readers, he did.  Maybe he just thought they could live like that forever, everyone steeped in denial and Hemingway knee deep in lady business.   Maybe if he played his cards right, maybe he could swing a wee three way– who knows what the man was plotting?  When Hadley finally confronted the obvious situation, he struggled with the age old: “Oh, woe is me, I’m in love with two women, and I’ve really enjoyed the convenience of everyone living in the same house… how ever shall I choose?”  Of course he will go for the newer, younger model, because when given the choice, any one would take the upgrade.  It’s like with “Three’s Company”, if Jack Tripper had to, he would choose blonde and busty Chrissy over boring brunette Janet.  That’s just how it is ladies, and we have Ernest Hemingway to thank for that.  (That and the “Old Man of the Sea“, which was really quite good).

Hadley makes the decision easy for him–she opens her hand, and lets the sand go, and proclaims that if he can be apart from his lover for 100 days, and is still in love after that time, then she would grant the divorce.  But the saddest part is that in Pauline’s absence, Hemingway spends time with Hadley, sharing meals and a bed.  Argh, and it’s so painful, because there is a friendship there that can’t be broken despite the fact that he is going to leave her for another woman.  So she enjoyed his company for as long as she could: “just to be at the same table” with him one more time.

Hemingway would marry Pauline, and marry twice more after that, with many lovers in between.  The book ends with an epilogue of Hadley in 1961, long since married to another man.  She and Hemingway speak for the last time, shortly before he committed suicide.  He expresses regret, but both express gratitude  for the era in Paris when they were young and their love was pure.  They had the “best of each other” before the well had been poisoned.   And there is not one particular person or thing to muddied the waters; those were some crazy, definition bending times, and free love comes with a hefty price.  They left the conversation knowing what they had was good, that they were once happy together.  Hadley says that the strength she gained from knowing Hemingway, was the strength she needed to survive loving him.  She was grateful that he was once hers to lose, and that there was a time before the walls crumbled, that they both slept under the same roof.

(Hemingway and Pauline, a wedding portrait)


The Paris Wife

Before I started this blog, I would say that when I felt I couldn’t write, I would just go back to reading. Really, its the opposite side of the same coin–as Stephen King says: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that”, and he’s published a book or two, I think he’s pretty trustworthy.

ImageOf course, I would read for months at a time before writing down anything more than cryptic notes that not even I could understand.  Or worse yet, I wouldn’t read or write, and I’d have no momentum to do one or the other.  In “Almost Famous“, Penny Lane advises teenaged writer William Miller that “if he ever gets lonely, go to the record store and see your friends”.  Of course, record stores don’t exist anymore, but I feel the same way about bookstores.  If ever I feel discouraged or uninspired, I’ll go round to the nearby Chapters bookstore, get a latte, and poke around.  Image

On the most recent trip there, having just devoured both Caitlin Moran books, and my interest fading in Jenny Lawson, I wandered through the fiction section–though I am a pretty strict reader of memoirs, humor and personal essays–“The Paris Wife” caught my eye.  I’ve read reviews and recommendations, and though it is fictional, it is about real people, Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, in Paris in the 1920’s.  Sold!

paris wife

That night I crawled into bed with my new book…and fell asleep almost immediately. Night after night this was happening, until I come to realize that I was just not that into this book.  Yesterday afternoon I attempted once again, and found myself glazing over the same page. Why am I not digging this book?  It’s got lots of elements to enjoy: Paris, the 1920’s, famous writers, failed marriages…but I’m not consumed, I’m not entirely interested.  Maybe I’m not feeling connected to Hadley, the wife who mopes around Paris while Hemingway writes, and works as a foreign corespondent for “The Toronto Star“.  Her whole life revolves around her husband, which is so dangerous–I mean, I love the ever loving shit out of Ben, but I can easily fill the day in his absence.  After reading reviews on this incredibly popular book, I have to cry out a massive “THANK YOU” to New York Times critic Janet Maslin, who called Hadley a “stodgy bore”.  Maybe that’s what it is–she just bores me.  But listen, the book is not over yet, though they’ve just moved to Toronto to have their baby, apparently they go back to Paris–their undoing is yet to be done.

But it brings up an interesting point: in this fast-paced, short attention spanned world, how do you capture a readers attention and maintain that grasp?  I was speaking to a writer recently, her first novel about to be published, and she said that of the beginning of her own book, that to establish the story requires details that are not always immediately thrilling.    Sometimes the introduction has to begin as a slow burn, before the fire really gets going.


And this is true for the writing process, and for the building of a platform or fan base.  These things take time, but there needs to be a commitment to making it work, just like in a marriage.  In “The Paris Wife”, Hemingway is captured as a frustrated, unpublished writer, who is trying to find his style.  He puts this work before his relationship with Hadley.  He works diligently, has an enormous amount of material: manuscripts, vignettes, short stories.  Good ole Hadley, on her way to meet him after a separation caused by his work–empties out his shelf of said work and then leaves it on the train, goes to get a drink and stretch her legs, and comes back to find it stolen.  Oh my god, the mind reels, that would be the longest journey of your life, knowing that you had to admit that news, and that it would ultimately change your marriage–and historically speaking it was the beginning of their end.  And though I haven’t finished the book, I know that infidelity, betrayal and divorce is on the menu–which seems to be an recurring theme in Hemingway’s life–which ended when he committed suicide in 1961.

What I can appreciate is that Paula McLain wrote “The Paris Wife” as an answer to “The Sun Also Rises“.  Hadley Richardson supported him, loved him, waited for him, and then he wrote this fictional account about a time in their marriage, but hardly made mention of her.   Instead he creates a love story between his impotent protagonist and a promiscuous divorcee, who was based on a woman from their social circle.  He did dedicate the book to her, and the book and film rights were given to her.  Though they divorced, they remained friendly.  Apparently before Hemingway shot himself, he called Hadley and they reminisced about those years in Paris.  The general consensus amongst scholars is that Hadley was his greatest love, for Hemingway had once said: “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her”.


For more information on the many lives and wives of Ernest Hemingway–this was an interesting site:  http://theblogalsorises.com/tag/hadley-richardson-hemingway/

Joy Division in the Morning

I have a medical procedure later today and because of that my husband and I have an unprecedented day off together.  Ben, in his excitement to sleep in, forgot to turn off the alarm clock, which went off at 545 am.  And just like that, we were wide awake and could not drift back into a peaceful slumber.  So why get up and go out for breakfast? As we walk through the door, Ben noted that the restaurant has WiFi, and that he’d show me how to access it on my new mobile.  I am slowly learning how to use my phone–I have been so reluctant to get with the wave of cell phone culture, where some people can do everything but make a stir-fry with their tablets–(Oh, Apple is already working on that? Okay, so there’s that to look forward to).  Ben is always encouraging my writers platform, saying the phone would allow me to Tweet anywhere–instead of “sitting in front of the laptop…again”.  Though, I feel reluctant to share everything–isn’t it enough that I tell you all about my marriage, my choice of contraceptives, my darkest fears and deepest hopes…do you need to know that exact moment I eat a sandwich?  (Oh you do want to hear that? Duly noted.)  But, as we waited for our eggs, Ben showed me features on my phone that I didn’t even know I had.  And he explained how to tap into the WiFi.  I didn’t really have any pressing internet business so it was all a bit anti-climactic, but it was good to know nonetheless.

The music playing in the restaurant was heavy, upbeat dance music.  Ben says: “This is not morning music, this is ‘I haven’t gone to bed yet’ music”.  Suddenly, the music switched to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John singing.  Don’t worry, it was from “Grease”, not from their latest (ahem) album.  The song that followed was Captain and Tennille‘s “Love Will Keep Us Together”.  Ah, delicious musical cheese.


But this reminds me of a Joy Division fun fact (is that an oxymoron?)–I try to explain it to Ben–that someone in the band–Ian? Curtis? Heard this song–is it circa late 70’s or early 80’s? And then wrote “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in response.  Take THAT Captain & Tennille!  Everyone in Joy Division was impressed with the song, not noticing the dark lyrics, and possible cry for help.  He then committed suicide– shot himself? hung himself? While the Captain is probably out there somewhere, tickling the ivories and still wearing that stupid hat, singing the song that drove Joy Division apart.  There are so many factual holes in my fun fact, it was like telling a joke improperly, ‘oh wait–it’s important to know that the elephant was on a bicycle’.  Then I remember–I’m a modern woman, and I’ve just figured out how to access wi-fi on my phone.  And so, I Google Joy Division and get all the facts–he hung himself at the age of 23, in 1980, the night before his band was to go on it’s first North American tour.  You kind of have to feel bad for the band–bags packed and stars reached and then Ian Curtis has a tangle with the washing line, leaving his wife to find him, and causing his band to reconfigure the group into the aptly titled; “New Order”.

Ah-technology, as Nora Ephron said “Google replaces memory”…or something to that effect.  I like to think that it builds your memory, remember that time we went out to breakfast, and I learned to use the internet and immediately looked up a dead musician?”  If I had more time before the benzos kick in, I’d do more research, but now I can do it on my phone that I just look it up right after I tweet about the delicious sandwich I just had.  But first–lets have one more picture of the Captain and his overall wearing lady.

c and t

Sisyphus in the Stairwell

While driving home after a long day of work, I caught myself frowning–like seriously frowning.  My shoulders are knotted and my hands gripping the wheel tightly.  I’ve been up since four am, I’m hungry, tired and annoyed by traffic, drivers and the birds flying around, looking so god damned free.  Oh my god, I have got to relax–quick reality check, the sun is shining, I’m on my way home, and as if to prove that all was about to get better, “Mushaboom” by Feist played on CBC 2.  This song is so happy and hand-clappy and just breaks my heart with the cuteness.  The song is about building a life with your lover on a limited budget: “I got a man to stick it out/ And make a home from a rented house/ And we’ll collect the moments one by one/I guess that’s how the future’s done”.  Okay…exhale.  I roll the window down and chimed in.  I arrived home before the song ended, and I just took a moment in the parking lot before I headed inside.  This is a common action, to just sit in the car and hear a song out, like the closing arguments in a court case.  Its also about trying to leave stress of a work day behind…the day is done, it doesn’t matter anymore.  The song is about not being ‘there’ yet…but making that place in between your home.  After all: “It may be years until the day/ My dreams will match up with my pay”.  It feels like it sometimes, like your station in life will never improve, or success will happen when you are so old, you have to spend your fortune on Botox due to the craggy lines that have burrowed into your face from all the hard work and post-work scowling.


I have had many jobs that did not suit my temperament–sometimes in the thick of the drudgery, worn down by the grind, I’ve felt like a caged songbird who has forgotten how to croon, and something inside of me dies a little.  Surely I was meant for more than this.  I have a friend who works at a liquor store, and he was telling a co-worker how he was doing the job until he finished university and got a real job–“Oh, that’s what I said, but I’ve been here a few years now”.  And there was something about this person’s casual landslide from means-to-an-end to career made my friend rather insistent, like a prisoner in solitary confinement arguing with a mouse:  “No, really…I’m going to get out of here–just you wait and see”.  “Sure kid…that’s what they all say…every one here is just passing through”.  (why do I imagine this mouse chewing on a little tiny toothpick menacingly?).


When we lived in Australia, my work visa limited me to a minimum of six months to one job.  I waitressed at a posh spot along the waterfront, serving Perth’s upper crust businessmen and political figures.  The job was fine, and the pay was excellent, but the hours were terrible.  But I was good at the job–I am a very good waitress.  But I’m good for the work in  the same way you pump change into a meter and after a brief period, the allotted time runs out.  Around the time I told a customer that she “wasn’t going to die if she had to wait for her chardonnay”, my six months were nearly up, and I got a job working on the same construction site as my husband.  As a magnificent stroke of luck, the site–a brand new apartment complex was a mere block away from our flat, and every morning we’d walk to work, our hard hats in hand–and in the middle of a staggeringly hot summer, we’d skip home at lunch and go swimming.

As cleaner, my job was to take dusty, filthy suites, strip the protective plastic layers off every surface. All I had to do was avoid empty bottles filled with urine–which was an issue–work quickly, and I could make hundreds of dollars a day.  To save up for our holidays, Ben and I worked long hours, usually six days a week.  I worked alone, and would go long periods without seeing another soul, which I loved.  I would listen to the radio, rush about the finished suites, and daydream.  I was like a steel-toed Roxy Hart in Chicago, while I was filthy and exhausted, I was elsewhere in my mind.


Most importantly, I was a contractor on a piece rate, and there was nobody to micro-manage me.  There was about five women amongst the hundred or so men; the other cleaners were nice ladies, called me ‘love’ or ‘bub’. I didn’t see them often, they chose to work on hourly-rate and mostly spent their days looking for windows to smoke out of.  Everybody smoked on this job site, it was like “Mad Men” with tool belts.  To get into the building, you’d have to ride the alimak, meaning that if this elevator was a belly button, it would be an outtie, not an innie.  At first the novelty surpassed the cigarette smoke and stench of unwashed men.  (How this combination has not been made into some celebrity fragrance is beyond me), but I very quickly lost patience with the ride, and so I took the stairs up to my floor, some twenty five flights up…three times a day.  What an incredible slog, that journey each day, hiking the dingy staircase, climbing upwards to eternity.  Like being on small planes makes me think of Buddy Holly, this made me think of Sisyphus–the King sentenced to push a giant boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down; and he would repeat this action forever.  No six month visa limitations on that shit y’all. I came to think of Sisyphus on each and every climb.  What a shitty deal that would be–maybe you’d have a good body from all that hard work, but what would happen if you met someone? (“So, where’s your family from? Ooops, hold that thought, I’ve got to push this boulder up this hill, be back in a jif”)


For a while, things were ticking along…we were saving money, off to Bali, then off for Christmas, and then, as our year was winding up, the building’s official deadline began to creep closer.  Naturally, to speed things along, they hired an elevator operator to act as cleaning manager.  Her name was Hanna, but with her accent she pronounced it “Huna”, and the others called her “Huna Muntuna”.  She was given a clipboard and it made her drunk with power, why not just give her a loaded gun?  She started coming by everyday and began to nit-pick.  Prior to this, I had been dealing with men, and generally are much easier to convince that something is perfectly clean…when it’s really not.  But it really was an impossible job with improbable expectations.  All the other workers that came before made such a mess, so as the last person working in a ‘finished’ space, I failed before I even began.  If jobs took an unreasonable amount of time because of the tilers or the painters, I would claim my piece rate fee, but also take an hourly wage for the extra time spent.  I fought for that rate–went to the manager of that site and demanded it and he allowed it.

But Huna Muntuna didn’t think that was a good deal.  “You see Alicia…that’s what we call ‘double dipping’ in this business”.  She’s standing in the doorway, and I am perched on a rickety ladder, wearing a vac-pak, (imagine if a vacuum cleaner and a back pack had a baby), and she is threatening the nice little routine I have made for myself.  “It’s not coming out of your pocket Hanna…I work hard, and I wouldn’t make any money otherwise”.  She studied the clipboard, and gives me this pained look that said “I’d love to help you, but I don’t want to”.  This whole conversation took place while I was on the ladder, dressed as a hoovering Quasimodo.  I felt this singular angry drop of sweat roll down my side.  I stepped off the ladder, and let the vac pack fall to the ground.  “Hanna…you’re not going to change a thing, you don’t have to worry about me”.  Ben had told me when I started the job that I had to be ‘stroppy’, be tough and no tears.  This was the crowning achievement, my coming down to her level and fighting for my bread and butter.  Did I yell? Yes. Did I cry? Absolutely. What did she know about my work?  Nothing.  Though she claimed she came from a family of cleaners–maids begetting janitors, like generations in the bible, she was still unaware of the work that was happening in this very room.

After I shouted and sobbed, Huna Muntuna generally left me alone.  The days in the country were winding down, and I had a week left to go.  She came to check on me one afternoon and was picking out something “that didn’t feel quite clean” that was only reachable if you were to rip a limb from your body and jam it under the sink and right up under into the ledge just behind the plumbing.  I felt that white hot rage of managerial injustice, and then I try to reason with her…but asking her questions about her life, and by telling her about myself.  I ask her where she’d like to travel if she could go anywhere: “Alaska”, she decided “Yea, I saw a show on it once, looks real mean (read-“cool’).  “Well, I’d really like to go to Europe eh?” I say to her “I love the idea of all those countries clustered together”–“Yes, one minute you’d be in Paris, next minute you’d be in France”.  “They are quite close”, I smiled.  And just like that all my anger fell away.  She can have the have her clipboard and authority, this is not the last job I’m ever going to have, and Hanna would always be in the exact same place.  On my last day of work, I was nervous that she would not sign off on my last floor. Glory be, the Gods were smiling on me, and it turned out that she had called in sick, and I was elated to finish my job in solitude.  At the end of the day, Ben and I went to the roof of the building and looked over the cityscape, all the pools down below, the palm trees, the blue water.  There was this moment of quiet, as we examined the view.  All these images and possibilities that was far beyond reach. We were not yet home, we were somewhere in the middle, like Sisyphus the moment after he lets that boulder roll down the hill.  Image