Crisis, catharsis & other people’s popcorn.

Every year I set an intention for my time with the Kamloops Film Festival. I swear that THIS will be the year I take careful and consistent notes. I will record daily documentations featuring vivid impressions, articulate reflections, where I ate, what I wore, who I KFF’d with. When the festival concludes, I will effortlessly capture the essence that was  #KFF(insert year here).”

Every year I break that promise.

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Instead, all I wind up with is a bag full of bits and pieces: KFF guide, pass, blanket, lip balm, tissues, mints, ticket stubs, leftover Twizzlers (that lived in the most indiscreet plastic packaging. No sneaky, secret licorice for you, doll).

When the time comes to reflect, I turn into some grizzled, hardboiled detective, piecing together evidence of the past ten days.

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It reminds me of Almost Famous when young journalist William Miller, on a deadline, tries to write about an entire experience that had just ended. He doesn’t know where to begin. He rifles through his collection of polaroids and receipts he’s collected along the way. It all means so much, you just can’t possibly know how much it means. There needs to be time for reflection, but the longer you wait, the further away you feel from the details that define a timeframe.

It all goes by so quickly.

Suddenly, it’s a more than a week past Closing Night. It’s a feat to recall it all in crystal clear detail. It’s all a blur in the best kind of way. That’s how it is every year, I am left with a memory of feeling, my imagination brimming with cinematic lifetimes.

Upon the opening of this year’s film festival, I was up to my ears in some big-time winter blues. All the world was itchy wool to my sensitive soul. There has been grief. There has been uncertainty. There has been a fist of sadness digging pressing into my heart. I was feeling like a tangled ball of frayed yarn: nervous, weepy, agitated—and, as a bonus—also profoundly exhausted. February was like a long and tedious play you were forced to sit through…because all the doors are locked. The seats are uncomfortable; the theatre damp, and the audience packed with sickly people harboring annoying habits. Still, you try to sit in that discomfort with a gracious smile, sitting attentively, responding appropriately, straining to find meaning in the moment.

Ugh, this too shall pass, am I right? As always, the film festival offers a reprieve from emotional ailments. I was gladly swept away to other places, times, lives– nothing cures an existential crisis more than a thorough examination of the human condition.

On opening night, during the beautiful and emotional Shut Up and Say Something, I felt very grateful to be sitting in the dark. It was like catching your breath after being under water for one second too long.

Yes. I’ve been waiting for this moment.

I call this kind of movie a “throat soaker,” where the tears can’t (and won’t) be contained. And why should they be? The theatre is a safe space. The festival is a time for unabashed emotional catharsis. When it comes to assessing and realigning my emotional landscape, I’m the equivalent to a group of middle-aged divorcees at an all-inclusive on Spring Break. I’m just going to cut loose; enthusiastically and openly cry my god damn eyes out to any movie I damn well please. That’s what the giant sunglasses are for.

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Sheesh, for the Wineing Discussion on closing day, I wore black cat-eye glasses as my little puffy mole eyes were raw like sushi after the 10 am screening of Indian Horse, only to be worsened by the noon screening of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

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After Indian Horse, my KFF BFF Tanya sat alone in the theatre, broken-hearted and bereft. Often, during the festival journey, you reach these points along the way when the stories are too painful, too real, and the education you are receiving is brutal beyond words.  Based on the late Richard Wagamese’s novel of the same name, Indian Horse provided an enraging, blistering, redemptive lesson about a blight on Canadian history–Residential Schools.

The most popular film of KFF 2018, Indian Horse broke a KFF single film attendance record of 924.  Indian Horse also won the KFF 2018 Audience Choice Award.

(KFF FUN FACT: The same film has never before won both awards, which speaks to the impact it had on Kamloops–the adopted home of Wagamese.)

Now back to my Tanya, who hasn’t felt a film this deeply since The Color Purple.  We’ve got to recover, and quickly. I’m one step away from taking the vintage melodrama route and shaking her back to reality with a vigorous speech reserved for downtrodden teams in football movies. “Get up! Get up! Pull yourself together! You’ve got this. We’ve got this. As god, as my witness, you’re will  make it to the next movie.”

Although, I had come fresh from crumbling in my friend Jeffrey’s arms, sobbing freely into his chest. “Oh honey,” he said, patting my back. “I haven’t seen the movie yet; I’m catching the six.”

Forgive me friends, I’m telling this story out of order. (This is why you write things down!)

First of all, the film festival timeline was punctuated with several other events, (Kamloops was positively happening!) which left me with a rather shameful score of 14/22 for movie attendance.

KFF FOMO: I missed Entanglement to catch the Bahamas show at Cactus Jacks, with my husband, brother, and sister-in-law. I missed “A Fantastic Woman” as I was working with another fantastic woman: Mary Walsh (who was performing her one-woman show at TRU for IDays.)

After her show ended, I hustled downtown to catch Call Me By Your Name. 

KFF Highlight Alert!!!  It was hands down was my favorite love story of the season. I had to sit in the cinema until it had emptied out because I was sobbing so deeply into my insufficient pile of  tissues. It was such a beautiful, elegant, humorous film set in such a warm and romantic place. It was like a heartbreaking holiday.

KFF FOMO Part 2: I missed the International Women’s Day screenings of In the Fade and The Divine Order because I was the “Mermaid of Ceremonies” for a Sustainable Seafood dinner for I-Days. (Yes, that last sentence really happened).

I also, as a last-minute decision, skipped The Insult to do some laundry, wash my hair, and grab dinner with my husband. I was originally pleased with my self-care techniques, but was instantly remorseful when I arrived at the Brewing Discussion and listened to everyone gushing about the gripping legal drama. I had a flicker in my mind that made me think—how important is personal and marital hygiene anyway?

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With the benefit of hindsight, I would have caught Insult and skipped Dim the Fluorescents, which was my least favorite of the KFF season. (I was not alone in that sentiment) Let’s be honest. Every artist needs a ruthless editor who forces you to kill your darlings. No matter how much you think it’s all necessary, most of it needs to go. This movie had perfectly adequate ingredients, but it went on about 4000 years too long. I fell asleep at some point and woke up around 11:20 pm and the film was STILL HAPPENING. Seriously guys, cut at least 40 minutes out of this and never call me again.

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KFF Highlights!

  • All the times I was too busy to get popcorn, but was always offered samples of other people’s popcorn.

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  • Playtime at the Family Friendly party. Mandarin oranges and David’s Tea shared with little friends was a perfect way to kick off the day.
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  • Saturday triple feature: The Breadwinner, Tulipani (an absolutely charming and heartfelt film) and Tomato Red, with nibbles at Blue in between.
  • All the steeping, brewing and wineing discussions.
  • Kamloops Independent Short Short film festival–too many gems to choose from.
  • Ditching the second half of Happy End. (Not the most popular film of #KFF2018, that’s for sure. In fact it was the least popular film in the year.) I had more than one guest hand me a “1” on the voting card, as they left the film midway through).
  • All the red carpet action, naturally.

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  • Sunday Brunch at Blue. Eggs benedict, coffee and mimosas make everything better.

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  • The Oscar PJ Party was a fun little affair, especially when the internet cut out and I had to riff about Gary Oldman for a short sliver of eternity.
  • The trippy, twisted telepathic adventure that was Thelma.

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  • Patricia Clarkson’s crackling cynicism in The Party. This film was short but far from sweet.

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  • Staving off sleep in Loveless, feeling like I’m forever falling into some post-apocalyptic Russian realm.

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  • Annette Bening in every second of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. When she was carried down the stairs in her sunglasses, head scarf and fur coat at the end of the film…I just bawled. The dignity of glamour darling, it masks so much sadness.
  • Catching Indian Horse at 10am, so I could finish KFF2018 on a lighter note with Adventures in Public School.
  • Midnight on closing night, when all the stresses of the festival had melted away.

(“There’s actually still a considerable amount of paperwork to do,” Chair Dušan Magdolen shouted over the pulsing dance music).

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No matter. Nothing was better than dancing, Denny’s and being the designated driver. Laughter and singing and being faux-Olympic skaters on the dance floor once the guests had left, and the high heels cast aside on the floor. Time change included, I crawled into bed around 4 am. Sunday was a day of “Couch Island,” with all day pj’s, naps, food, tea and quiet reflection.

Despite the standard post-festival malaise, there is something within that feels recharged and reconnected. One can feel so alone in their feelings and experiences, it’s easy forget that it has all been touched before.

As my friend Monica would say, “You think you invented any of this?”

While there is suffering, there is still beauty. What a comfort. Heck, it’s a privilege to exist at all. To feel, express, reflect, connect. So little in life is guaranteed, but what we can know with absolute certainty is that stories are a gift. Narratives can cure loneliness, soothe depression, quiet anguish, quell anxiety–for the time being at least.  Alternatively, they can transcend you to dark places so you can be awakened, activated, alleviated.

Words never quite express my love and gratitude for those ten days-the food, the friends, the films, the fun–and for what remains long after the credits roll.

“All that we are is story. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that, and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside; we see each other, we recognize our kinship – we change the world, one story at a time — Richard Wagamese.

Pinot Noir, Popcorn & Piles of Laundry

The 2016 Kamloops Film Festival has come and gone. Le sigh. There’s so much work and momentum leading up to these all-consuming cluster of events–it’s a whirlwind of film, food and friends–full on red carpet and red wine. So. many. outfits.  Suddenly it’s two weeks later, and you’re alone in your office,  wearing a battered old pink bathrobe on Easter Monday, trying to remember every detail for the #KFF2016 review.

For me, the festival is such a fabulous time of year. I tend to immerse myself in all social aspects of the KFF. I clear my schedule, I rearrange my life, I forsake sleep.  I wind up at the Commodore at 1am, dancing like nobody is watching.  It’s like a holiday in my hometown; a fantastic social explosion. Drinking wine and grabbing meals with other committee members and festival goers. The awesome conversations that transpire in between all those film–the tears, the laughter, loads of red lipstick–pure bliss.

This year being my third, I was able to truly organize myself in a way that made the rest of my life seem perfectly manageable. I had learned a thing or two since the first year.  (See: White Girl Wasted– https://pinuppickspenup.com/2014/03/21/white-girl-wasted/). The morning of A Night with Oscar, I spent some quality time in my closet, selecting a variety of outfits to be worn throughout the entire festival. That’s a highly recommended KFF survival tip, put together ten to fifteen fabulous, and that’s one less thing to worry about. Time is tight, life is short, and you never want to be left wondering what to wear at the last minute.

In fact, I received a impromptu invitation to grab a quick Pinot before watching Holocaust drama Son of Saul. Fugitives running from the law have not moved as fast as I; out of my dog walking clothes, and into a preplanned ensemble, out the door, and drinking wine at Blue with my good buddy Tanya within twenty minutes. That was a real proud moment for me. Organization is key to drinking fabulously!

How those carefully selected pieces gathered height and momentum as they began to pile up over the edge of the bathtub as the festival progressed. Like fabric clockwork expressing the passing of time. Laundry can wait-life is happening right now! Although, the whole devil- may-care approach is super charming when you live alone, but if one has to be a considerate human being to spouses and flatmates. It’s nice to take a quick second to do something considerate and helpful before buggering off…again. Another fun life hack, do a whole bunch of nice things before the film festival begins, and then, make it up to them on the other side of those ten days. Better yet, bring them to a movie, and make it rain at the concession stand that’ll also do the trick.

The first order of business following the festival; besides sleeping, slothing and sorting through enormous piles of laundry–was to sit down for a lengthy lunch with Dušan Magdolen, the KFF Chair and long time friend. I adore Mr. Magdolen, we met a million years ago and our first conversation was about movies.  I saw him after years away overseas, and we talked about movies. His invitation to participate in the planning of the film festival was a total no-brainer. Naturally, it’s completely necessary to discuss all the films together over hot cups of tea.

In the end, I saw sixteen out of the twenty films. As promised, I ditched Darkfest, but did feel a teeny bit of frightful FOMO–especially The Witch, which is ridiculous, in no way do I cope well with scary films.  Due to such high numbers on opening night–they had to open another theatre!-members of the Events team skipped Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World to prepare for the Q&A and the Mingle & Jazz that followed the documentary.  This film was eventually voted ‘favorite’ out of the twenty;  it was a shame to have missed it. Ultimately, it was the best call for the committee members to check on everything one last time, before tucking into delicious appetizers and Pinot Noir at Hotel 540 with our lovely entertainer Cathi Marshall.

The first film I saw wound up being my favorite.  Mustang was a truly powerful story. The last twenty minutes was agonizing. Stressful, thrilling, and perfectly gripping. I sobbed out of sheer relief for the characters by the end.  In fact, I kind of had to lurk in my seat as the credits rolled and audience members milled out of the Paramount. Once feeling composed, I made an attempt to leave, and then wound up jabbering incoherently and tearfully in front of another committee member. Sheesh. Maybe just sit this one out–and avoid eye contact as you hustle off to the car.

I powered through all four films on the first Saturday; which wound up being a day of catharsis. Three out of four films made me cry–including the children’s film Snowtime, which wound up being a total anti-war film.  The child I brought leaned over, “I think something bad is going to happen”–I consoled her, “everything is going to be just fine”, and then something bad happens–to a dog no less. Introducing crying jag #1. Sushi at Sanbiki, and the next movie with my parents.  I love me some Maggie Smith, as did my folks and the rest of Kamloops.  The Lady in the Van had the most audience members, which was perfect, as it was also our Film for a Cause–with the Kamloops Food Bank collecting items at the door.

Following dinner at the Noble Pig; (one of my #KFF2016 haunts) I returned to the Paramount for James White and Youth.  James White was a truly devastating film–and won the Ugly Cry Award for me this year.

Other committee members were quite drained after that film, and decided to call it a night. I felt I had to cleanse the palate a wee bit, end the day on any other note. Youth was beautiful, sensual, life affirming, and quite touching. Jane Fonda shows up at the end and devours her scene. A main character commits suicide, and it’s completely unexpected,  and once again I blubber like a baby in the darkness.

Nothing like a Sunday matinee, except I found Victoria to be a bit of a challenge, and gave me motion sickness. It was a really fantastic production, nearly two and a half hours in one continuous shot, but all the jerky camera movements made me rather queasy.  I briefly entertained the thought of leaving, but managed to hang in there for the length of the movie.

No Men Beyond this Point was my favorite comedy of the season; the actors Patrick Gilmore, Kristine Cofsky and Tara Pratt were delightful during their Q&A. Gilmore and Pratt joined committee members at the Noble Pig, and more Pinot was enjoyed. Who needs sleep??

Born to be Blue and wine with my friend Trish, and My Good Man’s Gone with members of the KFF team. A Q&A with actor Robert Baker, and writer Nick Citton. More wine at the Noble Pig.

A Royal Night Out was another favorite; light, frothy, historically grounded. A simply delightful cinematic experience –Brewing Discussion at Red Collar to follow.

Before Macbeth, Mittz Kitchen with Benjamin for lamb and risotto. Met my brother and his girlfriend for the film.

Macbeth was a really beautiful yet severe picture. Made worse by the man sitting a row ahead of us, shaking a mammoth cup of ice before munching on it during the quietist parts of the movie. It was infuriating to the point of hilarious, and being overtired, it gave me the giggles, and I had to leave the cinema. I came back and Lady Macbeth was dead. Perhaps she died from all that infernal ice crunching, who’s to say?  Wine-ing Discussion at Hotel 540 afterwards, made the humbling mistake of approaching former TRU professor Connie Brim, and exposing just how long ago I studied Shakespeare. The table collectively exchanged notes about acts and scenes that were cut or altered, speeches that were shortened, changes to classic characterization. And me, like a deer in the headlights–totally not remembering much about the play, and thusly having little to contribute. When in doubt just say…”Does…everyone like…wine?”, and then back away slowly, and read the Macbeth synopsis on your phone.

(This is the actual moment being captured by photographer Jen Randall Dustin, this guy is on a hilarious rampage about the adaptation, and he is slaying Connie Brim–brilliant Shakespeare expert–with his witty repartee. And I’m all……”I like the Fassbender when he comes out of the water”.

Thursday Double Feature, Oscar winner Son of Saul, a grim and heartbreaking Holocaust drama and Ben’s At Home, a light independent comedy of little consequence. Donuts and warm beverages at PDK afterwards.

A note about the food: there was so much delectable numminess throughout the festival; and I was smack dab in the middle of a clean-eating, weight loss program.  Beyond the Pinot Noir, my official #KFF2016 beverage, I was not participating in the snacking at any of the events…with the exception of a partial sugar -coated donut that I had in my purse for my husband. Walking back to the car, I reached into my bag and took one big massive bite out of the pastry, a la a Black Widow chomping off the head of her mate. Without missing a step, the donut was out of my bag, chomped into a sugary horseshoe and was thrust back in my bag, my pace quickening as I licked sugar off my lips. No regrets!

Final Friday of the festival, Kamloops Art Gallery for samples of Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs, before seeing a film about his life. Followed Eadweard with Pinot Noir and Green curry at Mittz Kitchen and gin and Karaoke at the Central with special guest Meisha Lowe, photographer Jen Randall Dustin, and ladies of the Events Committee, Tanya and Nathalie. We took Bohemian Rhapsody to a whole other level, and it was glorious.

I came home at midnight and then proceeded to reorganize my whole life. Drunkenly cleaning one’s home is a highly recommended activity. It makes the act of cleaning popcorn kernels out of every purse you’ve ever owned a real hoot and a holler. Pump up some sweet jams, and take on at least a dozen tasks at the same time. It’s also an unbelievable delight to wake up to. This is a legitimate #KFF2016 life hack. #Cleanwhiledrunk.

I caught the first Saturday matinee, Anomalisa; the Charlie Kaufman penned animated feature. I didn’t love it as much as I expected to…and there was a very thorough sex scene that had some…ahem, audible qualities, that was cringe worthy at best.

I skipped Embrace the Serpent and the Painted Pony Steeping Discussion to spend some time with my dog Bluebear–(a shout out to my husband, who was in Vancouver for closing, who had taken care of so much during the festival).

Saturday night: sushi at Oriental Gardens and Forsaken with my mother and two aunts.

After the movie, I scuttled over to Hotel 540 for the Closing Night party. More Pinot to be had! The James Welsh Band was a seriously groovy musical group. All in all, a perfect celebration with the marvellous #KFF2016 committee.

Once all duties were over, and the crowd gave way to the late evening, I danced the rest of the night away; finishing the festival as I tend to do–at the Commodore.

Falling asleep at 4am, another festival finished;  a head full of cinematic stories, a belly full of wine, and a pile of laundry higher than the Himalayas.

For more information of the Kamloops Film Festival, check out the website: http://www.kamloopsfilmfest.ca/

 

Photos Courtesy of Jen Randall Dustin , Chris Warner & the  fine folks behind the Internet.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Blahs, The Blues & The Bell Jar.

Can I just preface anything I write with…you know, I don’t have the descriptive capabilities to even preface these days.  Feeling a bit colorless.  I’m like Eeyore, but with Winnie the Pooh’s curves, and Rabbit’s irritability.

Usually I’m a big crier–commercials, novels, hunger, exhaustion. I’m like an over-sized toddler with the occasional grey hair. I’m feeling so blah that I’m not crying.  I wonder whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. There’s something to be said about a good sob.  Although come to think of it, like an idiot, I suggested watching Marley and Me last weekend. That was a huge mistake. Low-grade depression and movies about dogs is a dangerous cocktail. What a deceptive film.  Jennifer Aniston is wearing cut off shorts and flip flops on the movie poster, how serious can things get? Who would have a leash that long? Boy, that puppy sure does looks mischievous, I’m laughing already. This is going to be a easy-breezy casual cinematic experience.

Sure it starts off all light and fluffy, but then it all comes crashing down.

We’ve had Bluebear for over a year now, and I’m such an unabashed dog mama. Since dealing with this bad batch of the blues, Bluebear has been especially comforting. Though I feel like we’ve seen this movie in the past, it totally impacted me on a whole other level.  I once saw Marley and Me on a plane. I was in the middle of a really painful break up, and I arrived at the airport feeling rather unhinged. What does one do when feeling emotionally unstable in a claustrophobic environment? Drink wine, brood quietly and lose yourself in a bad-good movie; light, blonde and bubbly. No love stories need apply.  I chose Marley and Me because the Aniston+Wilson+Labrador Retriever seemed to meet the aforementioned requirements to surviving a long flight while in a dreadful mood. To my broken hearted-relationship centered head space, I realized that this movie wasn’t about a dog, it was about a marriage. That’s how I remembered the movie; Benjamin and I even saw it early on in our relationship, and again that’s how I perceived the film.

Well, as a bonafide dog parent, I saw this movie very differently. Sitting next to a mountain of tissues, sobbing deeply with Bluebear tucked up next to me, snoozing soundly with her chin on my knee. After the movie ended, Benjamin and I were like-NEVER AGAIN! Never again will I let Marley and Me trick me into feeling more than need be. It was not the best complimentary flavour to my deepening winter blues.

To clarify-I’m functioning as a living, breathing human; but I’m not bursting with any kind of citrusy creative zest. After three weeks of  summertime in New Zealand, coming back to a Canadian January was always going to be a challenge. Facing some genuine unpleasantness upon my return made the transition back to reality all the harder.  Nothing takes the warmth of a post-holiday glow like bad news or unwelcomed change. Emotionally I’m somewhere between abandoned diva Jennifer Hudson in Dream Girls

…with a solid helping of angst ridden of Winona Ryder in Reality Bites when she gets fired from her job, spends all that money on the psychic hotline, loves and loses greasy ole Ethan Hawke and everything in between.

With nothing to do, she sloths about her house, sinking deeper and deeper into her doldrums.

Reality Bites :

It’s the worst feeling in the world, that stifling Bell Jar feeling, anxiety like walls closing in on you.  It’s as though you wish you could step outside of yourself to have a break from your own thoughts. It’s maddening to be sick of your own company. When you feel that low, it’s hard to motivate yourself.  How is it that when we feel depressed we turn away from the things that would ultimately make us feel better?  We resist socializing, exercise, expression. All becomes a vicious little ferris wheel of a sad little life. It’s an uphill battle to straight up Liz Taylor yourself back to the front lines.

If I had to describe my recent mood with one word, I’d just release a shrug and a sigh. Maybe a sour milk scented scrunched up face for emphasis.

Don’t worry. This is not a cry for help. Artistically speaking this is the equivalent of Britney Spears ‘Lucky’.

…or a very special episode of Blossom.

No shit. Alf is in heaven? That’s a huge relief. That’s one less thing to worry about.  My very special episode would be about the blues and the blahs. Some big time sads. Like a large American soda from a movie theatre sized cup of sadness. Nobody needs that much of anything. But seriously, can we discuss ‘Lucky’ for a quick sec? That was probably a bad example–that has “Cry for Help” written all over it–it should have been called Preface to a Shaved Head.

I can certifiably say that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’ve spoken with a number of women that are slogging through life as if through very sticky mud. It’s a bland time all around. Blame it on January, it’s such an unpleasant month. I mean, January 1st, sure, it’s a new year, a new day, it’s still a shiny new toy; that fresh start, that clean slate. With a head full of resolutions, and a belly full of eggs benedict, possibly still drunk from last night, it’s easy to beam with a renewed sense of enthusiasm.

And then…actually…no, you don’t have this. What you have is tighter jeans from all that champagne and hollandaise. That glow of Christmas has faded; no more parties, no more leftovers…the anticipation of wrapped presents under the tree is now that toy you step on when coming around the corner.You have to go back to work, and just wander around the office like you’ve just been stung by a tranquillizer dart. You have the energy level of Han Solo immediately after being thawed out in Jabba the Hut’s chamber.

You just need to lay down…really wherever is fine.

Life is just better on holiday; I am simply a better person on a foreign beach with the sun on my face. Aren’t we all? In our daily lives we are trudging Clydesdales, on holidays we are majestic unicorns. That’s just science.  Upon my return, and in the weeks that followed, I felt like a jet lagged goldfish in extremely cloudy water, trying to do a complicated algebra exam in Latin.

It’s like every day is Blue Monday, where weather/debt/monthly salary/ time since Christmas/ time since failing our new year’s resolutions/low motivational levels all meet at the intersection of one’s existence and then crash into each other in one fiery explosion.

Where do you go from there? How do you get out from under the clouds, count your blessings and pick that chin up?  How can I be more like Taylor Swift and shake-shake it off? You feel bad for feeling bad, feel guilt for a first-world state of depression.  Roof over my head, food to eat, people to love, rights and freedoms, what more do you need? Why do I feel so sad? Now mid-to late February, the blues are just now starting to lift. At the moment, I’m taking things one day at a time. Setting teeny tiny goals that benefit my health and happiness. Admitting my sadness, getting some sleep, drinking more water, hugging my husband, cuddling my dog, writing, talking, listening, walking. Laughing whenever possible. Living life like Liz Taylor, but without all the husbands and diamonds. Knocking over the bell jar and gulping fresh air as if my life depends on it…because it does.

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Lights Out.

Winter is starting to creep in.  It’s pitch black by four pm, and the rest of the day is grey. No snow yet as of Saturday morning, but you just know that nasty bitch is coming for you.

Chilly morning spent in a quiet dark house. Radio off; tiptoeing in the kitchen, making coffee. It’s still quite early, and the odds are that Benjamin will snooze for at least two more hours. A sleeping husband, a hot coffee, a warm blanket, and a mellow dog content to nestle beside me on of the sofa. Pretty delicious combination if you ask me.

My social media newsfeeds are filled with Paris: reports, opinions, comments and loads of political propaganda. The death and injury toll grew overnight. My heart feels unbearably heavy…not just for Paris but for the state of the world. School shootings, online bullying, rape culture, extreme poverty, the threat of terrorism, actual terrorism, the unreliability of the media. The Kardashians. Global warming.  It’s all so terrifying. It’s like the planet is a pressure cooker on roller skates trying to cross a tight rope over a pit of wildly infectious vampire zombies. The odds are just not looking good as to whether it can get across safely.

It makes me sad. It makes me feel helpless. Every news story you hear about any violence is depressing, but the City of Light is especially upsetting. I’ve never been to Paris, and I’m quite keen to go.  It’s been high on my list for so long, it just hasn’t happened yet. Waiting for the right time to include it in an epic European adventure. Just me, the Bear, three to six weeks, two back packs and a couple of train passes.   Benjamin and I have gone on many adventures in the last 18 months–New York, Mexico, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Bend and Vancouver–with a trip to New Zealand planned for Christmas. I keep envisioning that Europe would be up next up for us. We take on extra projects, work weekends, and are always striving to get closer to the goal of seeing more of the world. It’s an insurmountable project and the investment has little value in regards to a mortgage or mutual funds. Sometimes travel is the only thing that matters, sometimes you wonder what it’s all for.  Still, there’s no place I’d rather be than to my next destination.

I think about the state of the world and the age of my biological clock and it all feels like one hell of a tight time line. Wondering how my time is best spent. Sure, I could pop out a wee one and then in twenty years go see what’s left of the world. That’s quite the gamble. There’s also the issue of what we leave behind for said offspring. Between all the worlds ailments…there’s not much more that can be said or done.

I am my truest self on the road. I am alive in a new place; all I have to do is eat and explore, take pictures and breathe.  When Benjamin and I were first married and heading off to Australia, we planned for a few weeks on the South Island. We would start with Christchurch and finish with a road trip. Then an earthquake happened. It was like the clocks had all stopped. The tremors forced a sudden self-governed state. Everyone evacuated, dogs loose on the streets, traffic at a stand still. Everyone trying to move forward.

It was easy as catching a Tuesday matinee on a rainy morning. Getting comfortable in your seat. Getting lost in a story. We had been exceptionally happy in Christchurch. Our trip was so pleasant. We had had a lot of immigration/visa related stress, and that had come to the end. I remember sitting on a bench outside of the Cathedral. There was a marketplace set up, and people milling about. Benjamin is buying a hat. I’m sipping on a latte, watching the passersby and catching short snippets of strange conversations.  An accordionist is on the church steps, playing music from Amelie. The whole thing was very Kiwi-Parisian. It was one of those rare moments in life when you feel feather light. No pain, no fear, nothing to avoid, no schedules, no agendas, no worries. To me, that’s pure bliss, the high of every holiday; to be a stranger in a foreign place.

Suddenly. Suddenly, we’re running though a forest, splashing through dirty water. Being pulled along by your wild eyed husband.

Hurry up.

Move faster.

Please.

Leaving the car behind and rushing across a broken bridge. This mass exodus of stunned survivors. Trying to get home. Trying to get to their people. Calls weren’t going through, and there was no way to know how anyone was. The crack in the radio announcer’s voice when he tried to get a message to his wife. They played a lot of happy songs. Bob Marley and whatnot. I wonder if there is pre-recorded music for states of emergency. Nothing sad or sentimental. Pleasant, respectfully mellow–maintaining positivity, but not so excitable that you’d need to break out the ABBA.

It’s the apocalypse after all, not Mardi Gras.

People can survive, cope, recover…it’s amazing really, the resiliency that forms when there is a sense of purpose. Supporting your neighbour, establishing a game plan, pooling resources, tending to children, collecting water, preparing food, developing a small community to weather the storm.  Treading water until things settle, or until the shock wears off and everything becomes a new kind of normal.

Obviously, a terrorist attack and a natural disaster aren’t from the same source. Terrorism is hateful, violent deliberate action–a blood spattered spectacle to capture attention and assert authority. A natural disaster is a brute force in itself, and there are no means to reason with it. Its intentions are not cruel though-that’s the only difference.  The consistent thread is how the worst of circumstances can bring out the best in people, the abundance of generosity. Of course, it also brings out the worst–but I’m trying to keep things borderline ABBA here.

The individuals who orchestrate violent acts, or those who abuse the circumstances of natural disasters (the looters, the thieves who scoured the news for names of the dead and pillaged abandoned houses) are without an explanation that I can provide. How they justify their actions to themselves is beyond comprehension. That’s not what we should focus on anyway. I think about the little boy standing on the sidewalk with a working garden hose, a bar of soap and one towel, offering an opportunity to wash your hands and face. People with access to power setting up movie nights and charging stations. Opening up their homes to those who were without. Humanity is a mixed bag. Is it naïve to think that people are more the spare towel and soap kind over the gun toting extremist kind?  I want to believe in kindness, in fairness, in forgiveness. I want to believe that Paris is exactly how Audrey Hepburn left it.

This attack exposes my selfish desperation to travel the world in its entirety, and the deep-seeded fear that I will never see the destinations I have yearned for since my youth. That the planet is spiralling out of control, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It makes me weep alone in the darkness of my living room.

The sleeping husband and an obligation free Saturday was a tender mercy; I decided to soothe my blues with a little cinematic therapy.

Amelie is the obvious choice. It’s a sweet and melancholic love story that celebrates the small pleasures in life. It is also a perfect postcard version of Paris.

Amelie is lost and lonely; she finds her purpose in helping others…not necessarily in a practical way, but by appealing to their own secret small pleasures. She discovers this passion through a strange turn of events: hearing the news of Princess Diana’s fatal car accident in Paris causes her to drop her perfume lid, which led to the discovery of a box of childhood trinkets. She shuts off the news and focuses on returning the box to it’s rightful owner. Yes, life can be futile, bleak, forbidding and unfair…but there is something to be said for tiny treasures. Joy is endless when you insert yourself in the lives of others to bring the thinnest shred of comfort.

Colorful and whimsical, sincere and quietly optimistic, Amelie is comfort food for the soul. As always, Paris looks divine, and the length of the movie usually feels like a little holiday. Today fat tears fall down my cheeks as I watched Amelie gallivant all over. Crying because I love that city; because I don’t know it and wish that I did. Crying because darkness engulfed the City of Light. Crying for fear of suddenly; afraid of losing what little control I actually have left.

Images Courtesy of Google, Ashcroft & the Fine People Behind the Internet

Downward Facing Dog Gone Girl

The 2015 Kamloops Film Festival has just come and gone; this piece was featured in the festival insert that accompanied the Kamloops This Week…without further ado, the extended and Pin-Up-ized version of the article…

Award season is in full swing; and the social media news-feeds are filled with tidbits from these congratulatory evenings that pulsate with fevered anticipation, glittery gowns, and talented performers who are spray tanned within an inch of their life. ‘What are you wearing?” “Who are you here with”? “Are you excited?” “Nervous?” And my question if I were granted court: “When was the last time you had a sandwich?” Of course these people are excited. Number one: if you’re walking that red carpet, dripping in diamonds and adjacent to a bulging three hundred pound bodyguard named Rocco—you’ve made it. You’ve been a part of a significant project, and it’s now being clustered into an exclusive group of significance and a lucky few receive a holy trinket as a result.


But seriously, win or lose, that’s a pretty solid way to spend an evening. Coiffed to perfection, you are privileged to wear jewels and couture, rubbing elbows with wealth, talent and celebrity; swag bags would have gold dipped M&M’s and the champagne fueled after-party people watching would be Olympic level greatness. As it is happening, and in the days that follow, the event and its participants are neatly categorized by the media under: best/worst/memorable/uncomfortable; the hits, the misses. I can’t help but think about the people behind the flops. Who are the people behind the choices? Like…who approved Bjork’s swan dress?

The late 80’s scandal magnet Rob Lowe singing Proud Mary with Snow White?

Who was the guy who pitched Anne Hathaway and James Franco as Oscar hosts? Seriously?

Fact is things hit as often as they miss—sometimes you don’t know why, sometimes you wonder why no one foresaw the future flop–but sometimes the miss evolves into something spectacular in retrospect, and falls under the best category of all–“so bad it’s good” .Rob Lowe + Snow White x “Proud Mary” = The Greatest Thing to Ever Happen to Me. If only something tossed Lowe a saxophone so he could play a la Billy Hicks from “St Elmo’s Fire”, it would have lifted the bar a fair bit.

This performance was so bad that the Academy received strongly worded letters from the likes of Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. Ouch. I just hope I never screw up so badly that I get a strongly worded letter from Mary Poppins.  Perhaps I can comfort my collection of small failures with the sentiment.

It also says something about formulas for success. I can only imagine the late 1980’s executives in their boardrooms, jacked on cocaine and ego clapping each other on the back for these ‘excellent’ ideas. “People love Rob Lowe. People adore Snow White. People can’t resist bastardizing the lyrics to “Proud Mary” with clever cracks about dwarves. What if we threw it all in a great big blender…how smooth would that go down?” Hey—I like fish and I like ice cream, but it doesn’t mean I want to combine the two. In my experience as an event coordinator, I constantly obsess at the near mathematical combination of time of day/day of week/point in year in combination with financial climate/theme/location…and all the details in between. Most importantly, “Who am I catering to?” “What gets people off the couch and out the door? “Why should they get a babysitter?” “Why should they make the time?” Socialization is hard work—at least the idea of it is. I feel like participating in dinner parties or social occasions is like exercise. You don’t feel like doing it, and then you do it and maybe it starts off painfully, and then…you’re just running—smiling, cheeks flushed, wind in your hair, and heart pounding mightily in your chest. You’re glad you tried it. You feel better for having done it. Still, you need to get moving to get that feeling. And that, as everyone knows is the hard part.

So…who are you? What do you want? What do you want in a party or event? What kind of music? What would you eat? Drink? What would make you want to stay? Want to go? The mind reels, right? Do you even know what you want? You want that freshly exercised feeling without the pain. I know I do. Whenever I have a hand in the planning of an event, it always comes with a touch of heartburn and crippling self-doubt. If I planned an event that suited me, there’d be nothing but cheeseboards, bread, mellow lighting, and comfortable seating,  listening to the CBC at a moderate level while waiters who looked like George Clooney handed out free drinks and lingered while making eye contact. But hey, that’s just me.

Also, planning takes time, and when you don’t have time—you are up a creek without a paddle. I don’t know about you, but I personally have the ability to overload my schedule in the same way a prison inmate or a university student would load up their plate at a buffet on a cruise ship. Always, always, always room for dessert, and maybe more mashed potatoes. Heaping spoonful’s of absolutely everything—YOLO y’all, YOLO. Sleep is for babies and great things can be achieved if you make that the thing to take off the plate. It kind of makes you like a circus performer who rides a unicycle and balances plates on sticks…except you are drunk, experiencing vertigo and only have one leg. Oh. And you are on fire. In the thick of film festival preparedness, beyond my demanding career, I was also participating in a thirty-day yoga challenge. Then, just for fun, my husband and I got a new puppy. We named her ‘Bluebear”, which is Latin for “Nothing will ever be achieved in a timely manner again”.

With my e-mail inbox fuller than a Kardashian’s pout, Bluebear’s need for attention at an ‘11’ on the puppy scale, I was at a breaking point: downward facing-dog-gone-girl. This furry little toddler was gnawing away at my spare time like the carpet in the living room; prevention had no point, she was destroying the fabric like it was her mission from God. I had one afternoon to myself, and was bent on catching up. I ran an errand with the dog on the passenger seat. The radio playing low and the pup resting her head peacefully, and me…just driving for 45-minutes basking in the quiet. Eyes narrowed on the road—like a fugitive from the law—just a couple of procrastinating bandits–she the Thelma to my Louise. “Let’s just keen going Blue–let’s just drive until we run out of road”.

My phone rings, my husband’s voice over speakerphone sounding concerned. “Where are you—I’m waiting for you to come home, I was going to take the dog”. “I’m just driving!” I say, laughing, my own voice teetering on the edge of madness—sounding as incredulously giddy and nonsensical as if I had just said: “I just walked on the moon in ice skates, good thing I had my sunglasses! I just had Justin Bieber’s baby—I didn’t even know I was pregnant, I’ve never even heard his music! Charlie Sheen is doing Shakespeare in the park—and he makes a wonderful Juliet!!” Okay then…time to stop driving. This is like 2008 Britney Spears behind the wheel with a baby on her lap kind of crazy.

Once home, both husband and the puppy out of sight, the opportunity presented itself to work alone in the sanctity of my office. I faced the email onslaught with the intensity of Rocky dashing up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art once he’s finally in fighting form. One by one, the emails are answered and filed or deleted, the pressure lessens, a new to-do list is born.

Why do this? Every volunteer has full plates of their own: families, jobs, responsibilities and yet they save room on the dish for the film festival. We do it because we are film-lovers who love film-goers. We like to put all these pieces together, and create a special experience for our community. No greater joy than to sit back and watch others enjoy; like the matriarch in a multi-generational family watching everyone devouring the meal she spent the day making: feasting, tasting, laughing—satiated by your own loving efforts. It makes balancing it along with the yoga challenges, puppy problems, and time constraints worth the while. To participate in a committee like this is to invest your time in creating a special, cathartic, emotional, entertaining and fabulous chain of events. It’s a cinematic holiday in your daily life where film-goers gather to love movies together. It’s worth the lost sleep and increased intake of Tums.

Why the film festival? To me, it’s one of my favourite times of the year. This Netflix age—much precious time is spent looking for “something good”. And then—you finally make a selection, only to lose interest in the first 15 minutes. And so—the journey continues, trudging the path of indecision in the land of endless choices. The issue is of timing and context. It’s the dilemma of film’s purpose—entertaining vs. edifying. Let’s be honest, life can take some pretty dark turns: disease, divorce, war, poverty, the way toddlers have a better i-Phone than you and are so technologically adept that they could very well be the Sony Hackers. There are many serious, important, controversial films that hold a mirror up to history, to humanity—and I have never seen them. Simply because there never seems to be a good time to experience the breakdown of a marriage, the death of a loved one, the atrocities we afflict on others on large and small scales in the comfort of your own home. It never goes well with the end of a long work week, a ratty oversized hoodie and a plate of Chinese food on your lap. If nobody minds, I’d like to keep it so light that the movie could practically float away.

Though in my defense, I am a true sap, an empathetic cinematic sponge that is inflicted with whatever ailment haunts the characters within. My husband has said on more than one occasion: “You know this movie isn’t actually happening to you…right?” Of course I know that…but it could, and being reminded of life’s fragility whilst my fingers are tunneling through a bag of buttery popcorn is as bad a combo as Snow White and Rob Lowe. It makes me think of last year’s beautiful “The Broken Circle Breakdown”, which is quite possibly the most devastating film I’ve ever seen. That’s a kind of film that you watch once, die inside a little and then never again. It does such an exceptional job at bringing you into the heartache, like a 3-D effect, that it hurts way too much to repeat.

With that in mind, it makes you want to polish off too many margaritas and watch a Cameron Diaz movie on a Friday night. Sure, you watch it ironically, and it’s the cinematic equivalent of taking a cabana boy as your lover on holiday. You wouldn’t bring it home with you, but it’s good for the night. But one cannot live off of twenty year olds named Pedro and “Bad Teacher” alone. You need to see the poetry of the human experience in its full breadth: the best/worst/memorable/uncomfortable; the hits, the misses. There are so many excellent emotional cinematic efforts that would pass you by if you avoided the film due to its emotional weight.That’s the beauty of the film festival. It’s a safe place. It is an adventure. It’s a little bit dignified; it’s a social community event. You’re out in public, so odds are your bra is still intact and not carelessly flung onto the kitchen table in the decisive—“Not leaving the house ever again” kind of way. Whether it’s a comedy, a tragedy or somewhere in between—it’s something outside of the norm, outside of your comfort zone. You’re surrounded by empathetic film goers, who share the same doubts, fears, concerns, and who also quiver in the chill of life’s dark shadows; who want to laugh whenever possible, who want to talk about the minor details over a cup of tea afterwards. In the darkness, the group becomes one collective heartbeat, muted observers glimpsing into the lives of others, at the light that shines through the cracks. And you know that you are not alone.

Images Courtesy of Google

Thick & Thin

Saturday afternoon of a long weekend.  This time off was so necessary. After a hectic, stressful, busy, emotionally challenging week I am feeling a bit like a filthy t-shirt you wear for the entirety of a four-day music festival.  I’ve seen all kinds of shit.  It was like crawling through the desert on one’s belly, the oasis always beyond one’s reach.  Then you find out that the desert is filled with landmines and the oasis is just a mirage.  Still, as all things must pass, the stress did recede like the ocean after an angry storm, and all was calm once more.  This weekend is the Richard Gere to my Debra Winger.

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To take my Officer and a Gentleman metaphor one step further…this week has been the Louis Gossett Jr to my Richard Gere, forever riding my ass and testing me to the brink of sanity.

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It’s like…”Thanks a lot universe, what did I ever do to you?”

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Leading up to the long weekend, Benjamin and I were making a lot of plans.  ‘Let’s go on a mini break’, “Let’s go to the lake’, “Let’s see people’. And now, past lunchtime on Saturday it’s like…. ‘Let’s never leave the couch ever again”.

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After the longest winter ever, the long work hours and Netflix on the couch I’m feeling…like I could use a little bit of a detox.  But then I hear about no bread, dairy, alcohol or caffeine, and I feel instantly bored.  As for activity, I love to be tricked into exercising.  I love my yoga, and a good long walk, but anything with a higher intensity level is too much to bear.  My favorite thing to do when I have free-time is research and write blogs.   I spend an inordinate amount on time on the computer, social media updates and promoting different events.  Endlessly searching Google images for the right picture to capture my particular vision.  It’s satisfying mentally, but it’s no cardio, and does absolutely nothing for my core.  I think about exercise more than I actually exercise. I think about it as I’m drifting off to sleep.  I’ll get up an hour early and exercise.  That’s what I’ll do.  And then the morning comes and I hit the snooze harder than I would hit the gym.  I should really make time, take up jogging, do it everyday.  Then again, nobody looks happy whilst running.  In reality, I’d only run if I was being chased.

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I mean, I walk briskly from the parking lot to the office, I move around a lot of work and I go to yoga class a few times a month.  But that’s hardly a calorie burner.  My friend invited me over and over to come to kick-boxing. The timing was difficult, but then I finally made it and it was awesome.  I resolved to buy a punch card, go all the time, be fitter, be better, perfect my round-house kick.  And then I took on additional projects and have never been available since.  Free time is feeling scarce, and I do need to maintain my creative life.  Thought admittedly, the writing doesn’t take nearly as long as searching for pictures.  Example, I’ve spent fifteen minutes searching “Baby Got Back”.  But aren’t you glad I did?

rvCPm_TAF7UlYou have to credit Sir Mix-a-Lot for being a true feminist, a pioneer for positive body image.

  • “I’m tired of magazines/Sayin’ flat butts are the thing”
  • “I ain’t talkin’ bout Playboy/Cause silicone parts are made for toys”
  • “So Cosmo says you’re fat/Well I ain’t down with that!”
  • Yeah, baby … when it comes to females, Cosmo ain’t got nothin’ to do with my selection. 36-24-36? Ha ha, only if she’s 5’3″.
  • So your girlfriend rolls a Honda/Playin’ workout tapes by Fonda/But Fonda ain’t got a motor in the back of her Honda

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Sir Mix-a-Lot is a true poet.  And he’s right about Jane Fonda.  She doesn’t have much going on in the Honda of her Fonda.  Led to believe that Mix-a-Lot ran a support group for big-bootied ladies,  I dialed 1-900-MIXALOT, to talk about my body issues.  When he said, “To the beanpole dames in the magazines/You ain’t it, Miss Thing!”, I really felt a kinship.  I felt empowered. I was trying to do as Sir Mix-a-Lot says, and “kick them nasty thoughts”, but I think I’ve misunderstood what he meant by ‘nasty’.  Unfortunately, the representative was rather crude, kept referring to his anaconda, and ‘doubling up on my juicy double’…whatever that means I am still trying to figure out.  I’m pretty sure it was Drake; he is long, strong and is always down get the friction on.

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Really, if you look at the lyrics with a critical eye, the rapper is still telling you to get a sweat on.  After all, he likes to keep [his] women like Flo Jo.

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Goodness me, Flo Jo was a fit lady, known as the fastest woman in the world. Wonder what her secret was, besides God-given talent and speed? The fastest woman in the world also had the longest nails in the world.  Pretty difficult to tuck into recreational snacking with those Freddy Kruger fingers at the helm.

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It’s a balancing act trying to please this body-conscious performer.  According to the Gospel to Sir Mix-a-Lot: “You can do side bends or sit-ups/ But please don’t lose that butt”.  He also heeds a warning: some brothers will play that “hard” role, and try to tell you that the butt ain’t gold.  Don’t worry, remember your affirmations ladies, your butt is plenty gold.  When non-big butt enthusiasts “toss it and leave it”, you can count on Sir Mix to “pull up quick to retrieve it”.  That’s comforting.  But it’s a lot of pressure to live up to.  Imagine deliberately trying to have a fat ass?

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The likes of Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn and Kate Moss were an anomaly in a world that once leaned towards the full female figure.  Certain retro advertisements were certainly geared towards curvaceousness as sexy, and skinny as lacking.

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Of course, for every Sir-Mix certified ad encouraging curves, there’s evil advertising that says…”you’re fat, stop that”. Loving this ad below, the clever ad execs behind this gem offered a pearl of a tagline for this product. Shape. “Stop eating”.  Subtle.

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Thank God that Warner’s has a Body-Do, because I’m apparently a ‘body-don’t”.   The pear shape is here to stay,  I had a big butt when I was a new born baby.  That’s just nature.  Good thing there are so many wonderful products out there to accommodate your full figure.

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Why must generous portions of lady curves have to be reduced to words like chubby? Where is Sir Mix-a-Lot when we need him more than ever?

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Easy on the sugar indeed. She’s so hungry and acidic from all the eggs and grapefruit that she’s seconds away from ramming that spoon us that smug bastard’s nose, in the same way ancient Egyptians yank out the brain for mummification.    Reduce this motherfucker.  Then she could enjoy a large cinnamon bun, sickeningly sweet tea and smoke a cigarette with sticky cream-cheese icing fingers while her husband quietly bleeds to death on the carpet.  This is why we need carbs people.

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I’m 32 now, skin elasticity is as fleeting as fertility and youth.  How can I have my cake and burn it off too? As always, I turn to Victoria Beckham for advice.  She is a busy mother-of-four, a designer, entrepreneur world traveler, and she is fit as fuck.  How does she do it?

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Naturally.  Take the fun of work and then add more work.  I would literally die if I tried to attempt this.  There is almost no space between the treadmill and the wall.  Isaac Hayes died on a treadmill and he was probably in suitable footwear. Me + typing + treadmill x those epic heels=suicide bomber’s certainty of personal injury.

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Bully for you Mrs Beckham.  Is that why you’re lying on the ground? I could wear stilettos all day too if all I had to do was laze about on my back kicking my legs in the air.  I will just need a pillow, my phone and somebody’s WiFi password…and David Beckham to pop in and bask in the glory of my beauty.  I don’t know, I have a difficult time prescribing to celebrity doctrines.  Sure, they put in the work to maintain their pristine figures, but if I had a team of people behind me I could make a hobo red carpet ready.   But wait–there are people far busier than you that look better than you, also without the luxury of extra help.

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I’d love to see this gal post this on the local Mom Swap Facebook page, and then read the 350 comments over a glass of wine.  This mother of three has a better body than me. What’s my excuse? Meh, I’m not too fussed really.  It’s not as important as everything else.  I mean, if I could naturally look like Audrey Hepburn, that would be ideal.

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Since I don’t have a dancer’s body, I can’t help but want to find the balance between happy to improve but happy to love myself regardless of my physical imperfections.

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Still, I catch the occasional glimpse in the mirror that makes me wonder whether some crazy-long Flo Jo nails would be a good idea.  Or maybe I should worry less about exercise and just take up smoking.

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Then again, you wouldn’t like me when I am hungry. It’s like those Snickers ads, only I don’t turn into a hilarious caricature, but a snarling werewolf.

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Hungry + angry =Hangry.  That’s my personal danger zone.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry.  It’s like drowning and having no air to breathe.

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This isn’t sounding good.  I don’t want to not eat, all my favorite things involve sitting and a committed exercise regime is not suiting my current schedule.  This is a slippery slope between having a muffin top and being the mom from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

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My brother Mark and I got talking about that film on our morning hike. It’s too sad to ever watch again,  but it still resonates as a genuine fear.  How does that happen…you are born, you are a child–learn behaviors and eating habits, you grow up, and eventually become so obese that it’s easier to burn the house down than to remove your dead body through the front door.  Of course, there is a long road between thick and thin and back again.  You are usually just going along in your life, not necessarily seeing the changes in yourself until you catch a reflection.

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These photographs are a few years old now, but a terrific example of body shaming.  Jennifer Love-Hewitt is a happy and well-fed gal and the internet had a field day, hammering her for being “fat”.  For the rest of us, with bodies just like that, it sends a clear message that this is an unacceptable joke-worthy body type.

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If she’s happy, and her lover is happy, she is healthy, and her clothes fit, then what’s the trouble?  She’s on holiday, she’s relaxed. Does every day need to be met by a date with the treadmill?  Ugh, the idea of exercise…how exhausting.  The idea of fitting it into jam packed days is even more exhausting.  I wish I could adopt a fictional Gilmore Girls-esque all you can eat, movies and junk food couch potato lifestyle, and still maintain a spectacular physique.

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I flip through a magazine, read the weight-loss success stories and for a fleeting moment, wish I were just like the models in the magazine.  But then again, who would want to work that hard? Until the day comes that I shake from me the excuses and muster up the commitment to truly trim down, I’ll be happy as Love-Hewitt, splashing in the water, not for a second wishing I were any different.  What can I say? I like big butts and cannot lie.

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Images Courtesy of Google

Put a Ring on It: Collective Regrets from the George Clooney Women’s Guild

Winter has worn away at my soul.  I desire a luxurious getaway as one longs for a conjugal visit after years of imprisonment.  I am afraid of what I would do for a plane ticket to a hot far-off destination.  I would sprint towards a holiday like Whitney Houston did to Kevin Costner at the end The Bodyguard.  Mashing my face all over it’s face and while belting I Will Always Love You in the background.

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The later-years Beach Boys classic Kokomo recently came up in conversation, when I was expressing to a friend just how badly I wanted to be nursing a solid buzz on a beach with a trashy magazine in my hand.  One simply cannot discuss Kokomo, but must live it, sing it,  harmonize with it.  Hot skin and wet hair. Toes in the sand. Sounds of crashing waves. Salty kisses from island lovers.

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I proclaimed that the Beach Boys song said everything about my current state of mind. And I think a really good solution to all of my problems.

As follows: my personal top ten list of why I would like this song to be about my life.

  1. Now if you want to go and get away from it all (which I do, I really do)
  2. Off the Florida Keys, there’s a place called Kokomo. (There’s not apparently, but let’s move forward anyhow)
  3. That’s where you want to go to get away from it all
  4. We’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow
  5. We’ll be falling in love to the rhythm of a steel drum band (I usually fall in love to the sounds of banjos so this would be a welcomed change).
  6. Afternoon delight, cocktails and moonlit nights
  7. That dreamy look in your eye
  8. tropical contact high
  9. Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahama, Key Largo, Montego, Jamaica
  10. Bodies in the sand, tropical drink melting in your hand

When I Googled the lyrics of Kokomo, I realized that the line was be “tropical drink melting in your hand”…when all these years I thought that it was “tropical cake melting in your hand”.  I had even remarked that the other day: “I don’t even know what it is…but I want it”.  I imagine golden yellow slice, glistening with coconutty goodness, a thick slab in the palm of your sun-screened hand. Still…a gooey piece of cake is hardly beach food.  And why are they no plates at this resort? Could a sister get a wet-nap up in here?  Stand down guys.  It’s tropical drink, which when you come to think about it…that really does make more sense.  Perhaps this is because my first introduction to this super timeless track is when the Beach Boys appeared on Full House.  I would have been about six, and a stiff cocktail would have been no good to me.

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Wow. What kind of deal with the devil did these guys make in the 60’s to make an appearance on this saccharine-sweet sitcom in the 80’s? Look at the guy in the dead center wearing those ridiculous mom jeans…I really don’t know who was driving that style choice there.  His fly is longer than Mary Kate/Ashley Olsen’s leg. And ole pointy fingers on the end…leather jacket+ball hat+those sweatpants =my favorite person in this picture. Nonetheless.  The song grown had  with me, and now I would like to feel like the human equivalent to the saxophone solo in this sexy, ooey-gooey cheesy beach jam.  Haven’t heard it recently? Allow me to remind you.

 It’s one of my favorite things about YouTube: that some guy in Peru loved Kokomo, and the film in which it was written for (Cocktail) so much that he just plays full scenes of the movie. Not a montage in sight, just whole chunks of muted dialogue with the Beach Boys crooning away.  But what an ending to the video.  Ugh, when have you ever woken up and thought: “I really hope I don’t have sex in a waterfall today” or “Jeez I hope that a hunky bartender doesn’t try to get into my black one piece bathing suit”.  Cocktail is actually loosely based on a relationship I had.  Watching the footage actually makes me feel very emotional….in light of the current news.

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Whoa, looks like somebody’s gotten their priorities all out of whack at the Daily Express.  Hayfever hell? Boohoo.  My Georgey-Porgey is getting married–and I am having a difficult time coping.  When I first got word I…had a rather strong reaction.

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The Vicodin I took couldn’t touch my grief.  The three martinis I threw down my throat didn’t dull the ache. George, George, not you.  That’s when I starting smashing everything in sight.

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He said he never wanted to get married, only because I didn’t want to marry him.  It’s not that I didn’t want to be “Mrs George Clooney”. It’s just that he wanted to be “Mr Alicia Ashcroft” a bit too desperately.  George loved me so deeply, that it really was all-consuming.  We were young, met on holiday, and let’s just say he got ‘under the waterfall’.  He adored me.  Worshipped me.  Said I was perfect mix of Jackie Kennedy and the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  I loved him in return. We were the Golden Couple.

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Some of the greatest moments in pop culture were inspired by George’s romantic gestures to me. John Cusack in Say Anything? That has George all over it.  He actually had Peter Gabriel write In Your Eyes about me.

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In later years, he had inspired Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), because he was trying to get a message to me.   I was hesitating and he was slipping through my fingers.  George actually said that to me one night, after a dinner party at our home in Lake Como.  He hissed it, so that the waitstaff couldn’t hear.  All the other couples were married and engaged, nannies holding gorgeous babies who are named after exotic locations and expensive cheese.  George was humiliated after Beyonce and Jay-Z pressed us about our single status.  Why couldn’t I give him those things? Why didn’t we have a little Camembert Dubai Clooney? Why couldn’t I put a ring on it?

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Not this again.  George, baby, things are so good why complicate it with things like marriage and children?  What if dating is like the first half of Cocktail, hot sex in a Jamaican waterfall and marriage is like the second half, when it gets all serious with unwanted pregnancies, angry parents and suicide notes?  A friend and I had both lamented that brief and glorious time when love is new and your lover doesn’t know you yet.  “Just dating” George Clooney was my life support.  Marriage was quicksand.  I pressed myself up against George, and swore my allegiance.  I knew his heart was breaking.

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Eventually we fell apart…around the”In your Eyes” era.  He needed to get married, and by the time I offered to throw him a bone and marry him just to shut him up…it was too late.  His heart had hardened to the whole institution of marriage.  I broke George Clooney. I regret everyday since that I couldn’t repair the damage I had caused.

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I don’t see him around much.  I hear things like the rest of the world does now….in the news, on the internet.  Do I get jealous? Well, sometimes I miss the Italian air, our housemaid Lupe, and the smell of George’s musk.  He had good musk.  When I see pictures of George trying to aptly describe just how enormous his Clooney is, and people like Sandra Bullock aren’t even paying attention to him, I get a little peeved.  That could have been me. 

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News of Clooney’s engagement has shaken the world through and through, inspiring bios on his new fiance Amal Alamuddin, and lists of “Clooney’s former flames”…or as I like to call it, “Clooney-Bear and the luckiest Bitches on Earth”.

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Don’t look for me, I’m not on the list.  I don’t know if this is TMZ’s mistake, or that George has worked so hard to forget me, that the press has forgotten me as well.  That’s fine…the paparazzi know me by name, but whatever leave me off the list.  I know what I had with George.  I don’t need to prove it with pictures of me on George’s yacht.

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Please…that’s obvi me…I would recognize those legs from anywhere.

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Oh this? Just George and I leaving after a nice meal out.  The photogs were really there to catch a glimpse of me, but snaps of George would do too.

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The other women knew about me as well. I was famous amongst the other Cloonists as having made his hair go salt and pepper from all the heart ache I caused him.  Many tried and failed to slay the dragon as only I and his ex wife Talia Balsam had done before.

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So…after all the replacements that George has tried to tried to fill the gap with…all the vivacious, intelligent brunettes he’s known–and all he could see was me.  And now…it seems that someone has finally ‘put a ring on it’ : Beirut born, London based human rights Lawyer Amal Alamuddin.

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Well let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room.  That’s my doppelganger.  I’ve got piercing eyes and endless locks of shiny ravine hair.  The similarities do not end there. Amal Alamuddin? Alicia Ashcroft? Uh George, this is a little embarrassing for you, chasing the dream as you tend to do. At the last Clooney Guild meeting, the others offered scant details–just that George chases versions of me the same way a nerdy Asian teen tracks ever-evolving technology.  Amal Alamuddin is just a new i-Phone..a shiny distraction.  When news of the engagement spread, I caught a ride to the secret compound on Kelly Preston’s helicopter along with Stacey Keibler and the gal with the awful arm band tattoo circa Pamela Anderson in Barb Wire, who now dates the guy from Jack Ass.  We pooled together about what we knew of her:

  • She’s provided legal council to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
  • She served as council into the United Nations.
  • Legal advisor to the King of Bahrain…
  • She speaks fluent French and Arabic…
  • She’s a published author.  Apparently has written several  articles about international criminal law.
  • She was voted “hottest barrister in London” by a particularly sexist and ethically dubious legal blog called Your Barrister Boyfriend…for achieving “the seemingly unattainable ideal of contemporary femininity: she is both breathtakingly beautiful and formidably successful.”

Breathtakingly beautiful and formidably successful? That’s how most people describe me.  Frankly, it’s like looking in a mirror.  Although, according to this photo she’s like a little pocket-sized lawyer.  That’s never going to work. What is this? A bride for ants?

Amal Alamuddin dresses up on her way to dinner in New York City

Maybe watching Clooney up and marry my evil twin is my equivalent of The Beach Boys on Full House:  karmic payback for not appreciating the glory days.  I had him, and I lost him, and now I have to live with it.  All because of my foolish pride.  So there it is.  Goodbye George Clooney.  I will grieve this loss in only the most glamorous of ways.   One of the things he loved most about me.

charade-1963-720p-bluray-x264-cinefile01-13-28   Images Courtesy of Google

 

Good as Gold

After a certain length of marital life, my husband realized that he didn’t know a lot about my previous life in Canada.  From high school to adulthood Benjamin had lived in Hamilton, New Zealand.  He lived with a few mates, and it had been a revolving door of a core groups of friends as tenants in a few houses over the years.  Quite simple. A to B to C.  My story is not as simple…if his life is the alphabet, mine is more like that useless font “Wingdings”, where letters are nonsensical symbols.  I’m like the Littlest Hobo, I just roamed from town to town depending on the kindest of strangers willing to throw me a bone.

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During the immigration process, we both had to list all the places we had lived in the past five to ten years. Jeepers creepers, who can recall the exact address of that place you flatted with for six months when you were 23? Not me.  I could tell you about the emotional scope, or aesthetic details, not directions from the highway. And I’d have no means to deliver a package to the new owners.  I eventually just had all my mail sent to my parents house.

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As Dr Seuss once said:Oh the places you’ll go, all the couches you’ll sleep on”.  I was always in a transition, but not so much so that I didn’t know where I was going to lay my head each night.  Maybe…if I had to venture a guess, thirteen moves in eight years?   And that was before I graduated and moved to New Zealand.  Thank God for my mother, who had kept track of my whereabouts in her address book, which she had supplied a copy of for the Immigration questionnaire.  Places I had long forgotten about, and would not have been able to provide if Immigration really needed me to swear on a bible about where I was living in any given year. I don’t remember things linearly, I’ve mentioned my tabloid calender, if you give me a pop culture reference or major event, and it’s like… ‘Ah yes, September 11…which was in 2001, and I had just come back from a summer in Vancouver Island, and just started university’.  It felt like the world was ending just as I was getting started.    That’s a pretty universal example, but generally it’s like my life story is hand written scribbles on play bills, napkins and take out menus and stashed between the pages of history.  My memories are kept in a very unorganized library; it’s not the best way to keep track of your life, but it’s just how my brain works.

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I had just read that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was celebrating it’s tenth anniversary. I remember seeing that in a cinema in Victoria BC, during my reading break. (Student loan dollars hard at work).  This movie was devastating to me.  It’s achingly vulnerable piece about how even our worst experiences make us the people we are, and how those collections of memories shape our existence.

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I was twisted with anxiety  at the thought of those memories getting sucked up into some cosmic vacuum.

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Ten years ago, my 22nd year, was a time of great tempestuousness. I reckon it was the hardest year of my life.  I faced the darkest side of another person, and in turn everything I knew about myself was stripped away like one’s road-rashed skin after a high speed motorcycle crash.  I had gone to Victoria to visit some friends, and fell in love with the city.  How I felt in the city.  The newness of it all.  The distance from the scene of so much unhappiness.  I knew that I had to come back to live. I finished my semester, unloaded a vast amount of my possessions and went back to Vancouver Island for the second time in my life, this time with intention to make a new life there.  Which I did, for a time, but I eventually returned to my English degree, moving on to a Theatre Major, keeping me in school for three more years before finally graduating.

vintage_blonde_educated_lady_round_sticker-rf99db5468d634b4a8dec1d623d059fc6_v9waf_8byvr_512Which brings up another question from my husband–how did you make your money when you were in university? How else? Student loans and waitress tips.  I came into a bit of money a couple of times, but eventually it depletes like snow in the hot sun.  If I had a time machine that would be my first stop would be to take Thirties Alicia to Twenties Alicia, get her a gym membership and dance lessons, and pay for my education through the majesty of exotic dance.

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Student loans certainly seemed like a good idea at the time.  As a young, creative, self absorbed drifter who happened to fit in well with academia, eight years of school and part time work dominated the scope of my twenties.  A savings account was a mythological concept.  There was enough for all the essentials: tuition, cigarettes, wine, travel, clothing, weird thrift store knickknacks, kitschy coffee mugs and dusty records.   When I graduated, my traveling nest egg had come from winning a rather sizable scholarship before I graduated.  I waitressed at a Mexican bistro all summer and lived at a former professor’s house until I left the country. It was all about jumping to the next lily-pad and trying not to drown.

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Having to pay back my student loans was like imagining your own demise, it was too far away to fathom. Now, whenever I have any kind of a Stevie Nicks-Landslide-climb a mountain and turn around moment, I can look at all my wonderful choices, all those times that I should have been prepared but wasn’t, the times I should have listened but didn’t, and all those times I could have been a much, much better friend and couldn’t.  I could have been more financially responsible,and better organized in general.  But you know…I was busy, distracted, learning, growing up.  Who can keep track of time and money?

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I could pay my student loans back by writing a book about all the people I’ve lived with.  I once wrote a collection of short stories for a creative writing course about the most memorable people and places.  I got an A…why not a book deal and movie options? When recently organizing my office I came across the papers and was amazed at the dire conditions I have lived in for the sake of little or no rent.  I could write a Twilight length trilogy that would be a mash up Fifty Shades of Grey,  Girl Interrupted, The Complete Works of Shakespeare and all ten seasons of Friends.  

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Real quick–has anyone seen Jennifer Aniston lately? We just watched We’re the Millers, and bless her soul, her face just doesn’t look authentic.  It’s distracting.  It makes me feel sad.  As Benjamin would say, Jennifer Aniston is “tidy”.  Yes, she is fit and fabulous, and Lord knows she’s doing a hell of a lot better than me.

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Nonetheless, when the magazines crow over Aniston and Cameron Diaz, and all the other face-freezers… that ‘they’ve stopped time, can you believe it?” Of course I believe it, they’ve got a chef and personal trainer.  It’s not inconceivable that the better paid stars have NASA-grade accessibility to the best equipment to fight ole Father Time–anti-gravity chambers, access to experimental European dolphin semen serum, that is injected directly between the eyes causing you to live forever. Over time body parts are slowly replaced with plastics and by the year 2065 they’ll be robots that run on Vodka and Botox.  Sadly, science still can’t make your hands look young for Madonna is going to have to wear those little fingerless gloves until the end of time.  When anyone moons over Aniston in that film I feel a bit like Mugatu in Zoolander. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

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In the film version of my Couch Surfing trilogy, naturally Natalie Portman will fall at my feet to play me.  I guess I do look a lot like her, some say you can’t tell us apart. (Just to help you out, I’m the one in the white).

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Where am I going with this you ask? My youngest brother has moved to Australia, and conditions have proven challenging for him.  It’s a scary and frustrating time, and to me, I’m feeling very bothered about the situation.  Yesterday afternoon, I went into a yoga class and my mind wandered over to my twenties, my choices, and how I had come to make rational responsible decisions in my thirties.  I can’t tell anyone how to live their lives, convince them to approach things differently.  But if I could it would be this:

Hang in there. Have faith. Try again.Don’t give up. Fight Harder. Have fun.Do your research.  Be mindful. Be grateful.  Know you are loved.

Even though I was an occasional arsonist of my own life and have now rebuilt a sturdy foundation over once smoldering ashes, my advice is meaningless to someone who still needs to learn those life changing lessons.  As I imagine a parent would, I can’t help but worry…and wish I could do it for them.  But then one loses the all mighty life experience, the reward for all that fucking-up–becoming a true grown up. A graduate of ‘the school of hard knocks’

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When I left for Victoria, I stood on that ferry watching the mainland drift away from me, convinced that this was the beginning of a successful new chapter.  I had some good friends, all I needed was a job and a room to rent.  After the first few days, when the party died down and everyone else settled back into their studies and jobs, it was time to face the business of employment.  Ugh.  Which brings up one of my greatest ever pet peeves.  Handing out resumes is like those scenes in American high school movies. The new kid standing in the cafeteria, tray in hand not knowing where to sit.  Smiling and standing at an unnatural state of straightness.  Nodding enthusiastically.  Feigning interest.  After a generous portion of pavement pounding, I stopped into Lulu Lemon, and the salesclerk was about as kind at the shop girls in Pretty Woman. 

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The job application required details about my education, experience, history—which is another pet peeve of mine…”but all of this information is on the resume I just handed to you”.  Why am I transcribing all that information onto the page with the too short lines, eventually requiring you to scribble in the margins, when it is clearly laid out of the resume”?.  What a waste of time and ink.  If you want to get down to the personal deets–what was the last book you read, what’s your favorite color, how many dates do you got out on before putting out, then sure, let’s explore the psyche on a deep and meaning level before we book an interview.  At the Lulu Lemon, the question that stopped me cold.  “What style of yoga do you practice/prefer”? Um…something told me that the VHS copy of “A.M Yoga with Rodney Yee” that I used intermittently, would not satisfying the requirements of the tall, thin spandex clad.

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Utterly defeated–feeling like no job on earth belongs to me.  In reality, I’d only applied to thirty places…just that day.  There are so many variables to applying for jobs in a time sensitive situation.  These things take time.  I don’t even think I had a cell phone, so I would have to get home to listen to the answering machine to see there was any need for my services.  I had been there less than a week, and there was a terribly fearful creeping over me that I had made a mistake.  It always feels like a mistake when you first get somewhere.  You don’t have a place to live, no job–if you don’t know anyone it’s lonely, if you know people they are busy.  But it’s the desire to make it work that pushes you forward; something brought me here, exactly what lesson am I being taught?  That afternoon, I only made it as far as the pub.  I snagged a small table on the patio that overlooked a popular shopping area.  All these smiling tourists, shopping bags in hands, strolling by.  I ordered a beer, and exhaled deeply before I took my first sip. Putting it down on the coaster, distracted by the passing people, I mislaid it, causing my full glass to tip and pour all over my lap–a cool pair of khaki capris, now soaked in ale.  I sat in stunned silence as the beer slipped through my thighs, creating a lawn chair crotch puddle.  A waitress came over with a towel, and drew as much attention as I got liquid into the material.  I had to pass the packed patio to slink off to the bathroom to push my pelvis as close to the hand dryer as possible.

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I came back to the table, mostly to grab my manila envelope, and get the bill, but the waitress had mercifully followed me with a fresh drink.  Something to kill the time while my knickers dried, I guess.    The couple next to me gently cracked a joke about my predicament. They invited me over to the table, and asked for my story. I opened up about my frustrating day, my crisis of faith.  The couple was from Los Angeles, nearing retirement age.  He gave me his card: “Jack Gold”–he was a judge, with a much fancier title that I can’t remember –‘Super Judge’ or something.    They shared their story–which I can’t quite remember, but ultimately, this man was someone who climbed his way to the top.  In his mind, anyone could reach those heights, if they worked hard enough, believed enough, weren’t afraid to get your nails dirty scraping your way to a higher plain.  He had offered his services, to call that private line if there was anything I ever needed.

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Of course, I never called the private line.  Luckily I never needed to call in a favor with Jack Gold: Super Judge.  He provided everything I needed right in that moment.  I like to think that it’s some kind of cosmic force, like God speaking through a total stranger; telling you that even though you’re unemployed in a strange city and it looks like you’ve just pissed in your khakis, that everything is going to be okay.  Pants dry, wounds heal, embarrassment fades and failure becomes our best teacher.  Support systems also appear out of nowhere, take a half empty glass and make it brim–and that is worth is weight in gold.

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All Images Courtesy of Google

Paint Me Paltrow.

"Pin Up Picks Pen Up"

I wish I had Gwyneth Paltrow‘s problems. I wish I had her money.  I wish I had her wardrobe.  I wish I had her legs.

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I wish I could make huffy remarks like: “When you go to Paris and your concierge sends you to some restaurant because they get a kickback, it’s like, ‘No. Where should I really be? Where is the great bar with organic wine?”…oh yeah, and you have to say it with a straight face.  And, furthermore, Paltrow complains about poor concierge recommendations, like “Where do I get a bikini wax in Paris?”  You just hear her fury loud and clear.  My god, this is a woman with her finger on the pulse.  She is touching on some serious issues that today’s woman really struggle with–being in a foreign country and having no one to tend to your solid gold snatch.

What’s embarrassing, is that…

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White Girl Wasted

Following the 18th annual Kamloops Film Festival, my immune system crashed like they thought the internet would following Y2K.  Sick over Spring Break. That’s like getting a giant school project assigned at the last minute when your plan was to sleep in, watch day-time television, ride bicycles, and lounge lazily in the sun. This is like the time I pinched a nerve in my neck when I was eight, and had to spend an entire weekend looking over my shoulder to stare out the window.

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I knew this sickness was coming, I could feel it’s shadow creeping over my sinuses.  I was working hard to prevent it’s viral blossoming–wheatgrass, acidophilus, as much rest as possible, but with the festival came late night after late night.  I’m no spring chicken, you know.  I need my eight hours.  I was dodging this plague like a fugitive from the law.  By closing night, fueled by gin and tonics (with plenty of lemon and lime, just for that hit of Vitamin C), I took that dance-floor like a death row inmate takes his final meal.

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As a rule, I don’t generally take dance-floors by storm anymore.  But back in the mid 2000’s…well let me tell you, I could bust a move to Destiny’s Child with the best of them, party until four am, and be at work the next morning like it was no big deal.  We celebrated opening night by following Oil Sand Karaoke–a fascinating mash-up about a Karaoke contest and the Albertan oil sands…with a Karaoke party of our own. Ignited by the spirited renditions of Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler, Stevie Nicks, Tom Jones and Reba McIntyre…the sound-technician says right before midnight: “We’ve got two more minutes…do we have time for some Journey?”  Be still my heart. There’s always time for Don’t Stop Believing.  It was the perfect way to end that portion of the night.  Afterwards, a select few hit the town and continued with the cocktails. I’m like Romy and Michelle on the dance-floor filled with festival guests and curling enthusiasts from Kamloops’ simultaneous event,  The Brier Cup. My friend Mallory and I were in the somewhere in between denial and acceptance of looming early work days as the clock ticked well into the morning.  When the company, the music, and the vibe is this good, you’ve just got to cut loose like nothing will ever be that good again.

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Heading home at a late night hour, listening to the cab driver talk about the Film Festival and the Briar Cup, and all the folks he’s had in his backseat that night.  He drops a term that I need him to back track on.    According to Urban Dictionary, “White Girl Wasted” is more a cocaine related verb as in: “With this pile of cocaine, I’m going to get ‘White Girl Wasted'”.  The cab driver was meaning it more like teenage girl on prom night.  Healthy portions of giddy and sloppy, with just a dash of hysteria.  Not me, of course, I am the Audrey Hepburn of intoxication.

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Oddly enough he was referring to himself, and how he likes to party.  Apparently ‘white girl wasted’ is where it is at, it’s the crown jewel of good times, the Paris Hilton of partying.  The imitation that came from the non-white, non-intoxicated (I hope), non-woman was giggle inducing.  “Haha, WGW”, I chortle, attempting to make some kind of catch phrase and hip gang sign, but most likely looking like I had cerebral palsy.  “Er, what does that stand for?”, the cabbie asks.  “Uh…White Girl Wasted?” I respond.  Holy shit…did I just hallucinate that entire conversation? What was in those G&T’s? “Oh, heh, heh, yeah, right…WGW”, he chuckles, pulling into the driveway.   The trouble with me is that I’m too sophisticated, fabulous and complex that even the most perceptive cab drivers don’t understand me.

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If I’ve learned anything from Journey, it’s that for a smile you can share the night, that some will win, some will lose, that some were born, simply to sing the blue.  Still, no matter what happens, don’t stop believing and hold on to that feeling.  It’s a nice, uptempo reminder that better days are right round the corner.  When the long days of winter grind you down, the lack of light calcifies over the bright light inside of you, it’s nice to be reminded that you can actually be a whole whack of fun.  Sassy, wisecracking, fearless, flirtatious, adventurous are just some of the personality traits I can offer.  I am trying to clutch on to these feelings as this sickness colonizes my body.  Alas, never one to be totally bored during an illness, I make a point to surround myself with warm blankets, hot cups of honey laden tea, expensive orange juice, boxes of tissue, a stylish pashmina draped round my throat and of course, “cinema comfort food “. Well worn personal film favorites, that sometimes just play in the background as you snooze, doze, or just pant feverishly like a dog after running on a hot day.

My go-to cold and flu list is as follows:

  • Waitress
  • Annie Hall
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  • Amelie
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
  • Julie and Julia
  • Dreamgirls
  • Out of Africa
  • A Star is Born (1976)

Give me cheese, give me music, give me a happy ending, give me a sad ending, but no guns or car chases please.  This time, having just come off of the film festival track, (seven films in ten days) I opted to curl up with CBC 2 and a good book.  When the illness refused to budge, I went to the place that I dread most.  The walk-in clinic.  A most vile place.  A line up begins more than an hour before the clinic opens, and once inside, it is a cluster of coughing, sneezing, wheezing, hacking patients, noisy children squawking over 100 Huntley Street on the TV in the counter.  Horoscope disclaimer on the other telly: “not meant to replace intelligent decision making”.  The receptionists are unhurried, sipping Diet Coke at 9:15am, eating cookies and wiping their hands on their zip up hoodies.  This place is enough to make you sick.  When I return for my appointment later in the afternoon, I come prepared for a wait.  Wearing sunglasses and a large coral scarf, I brought an enormous juice, cough lozenges, tissues and a well-loved copy of “Eat, Pray, Love”.

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I hate to admit how much that story has influenced my life.  A copy of the book was given to me before Oprah got her hands on it, right when my fiance and I were dismantling our relationship and upcoming wedding.  That book tapped into a very primal urge. I too have a wandering soul, and hunger for self reflection; this need to move forward, this desire to look back.  In devouring of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, and through writing of my own, I made the decision to travel.  During that time overseas, I read and reread the book, underlining passages, and drawing conclusions about my own life through her experience.  Having read Eat, Pray, Love a number of times at different advents of my life, I saw it from a number of perspectives.  This past week has been the perfect time to re-re-re-read the primary source.  Now much closer to the age that Gilbert was when the book started, I see new similarities in our personalities, namely the deathly fear of motherhood equaling the death of adventure. But the true lesson of EPL is that despite the travel theme, that the answers have been inside of you all along, it’s all very Wizard of Oz.  If only at the end of a personal disaster you gain a greater sense of self…well, that’s better than nothing I guess.  A book deal to pay for the trip would also be an acceptable consolation prize.

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Like Gilbert, I met my husband on my journey of self-discovery and followed it with a years-long struggle with immigration.  She wrote a sequel called Committed, about how immigration issues forced their hands in marriage.  I read the book before we arrived in Canada and it was scarier than a Stephen King novel.  The longer the waiting process, the more limitations placed on you, all that effing paperwork….unraveling patience of a wandering soul.   What a way to take the edge of a happy ending Liz Gilbert. They traveled extensively while awaiting word from Immigration, we waited in Canada, unable to leave the country until the verdict was given.  And then when we were given the green light, the finances simply weren’t there to get back out on the road.   What I would give for the time and resources to travel the world and report back in colorful prose to the masses. I could eat all the pasta in Rome, detox in India and peruse Balinese marketplaces with Javier Bardem, and live to tell about it.  I would accept a pay cheque for that.

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For all intents and purposes, the film festival was like a little holiday: a whirlwind of parties, engrossing films, interesting guests, endless conversations about how we each relate to the stories of others.  One of those nights I heard someone ask aloud “How many times do we live?’–perhaps on the last night, when hipsters in nerdy sweaters were rolling on what looked like some rather exceptional Ecstacy.  One girl rubbed her lips on my cheek, knocking out my vintage earring breathing “Life. Is. Endless” all over my skin.  “Mmmm”, fastening the earring clasp I respond like I’ve a bad taste in my mouth but don’t want to offend the hopeful chef wearing an apron and a heart on their sleeve.  This is not the time to talk about the end of things.  Of course there’s only one physical life of indeterminate years, but to the film lover, you can have a thousand lives.  You can also get glimpses into the future, into the past, over the fence, into other eras, relationships and continents.  If a story is told convincingly, you can escape your body completely and experience this whole other life, gain a whole new perspective on our very existence.

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Following Oil Sands Karaoke film was Sex After Kids, with special guest Paul Amos.  The movie got huge laughs, and was a festival favorite.  In the Q&A that followed, Amos talked about the grassroots project–the film was financed by donations, scenes were filmed in everyone’s homes, actors used their own children, and shared their own experiences of life after baby. As a childless woman in her early to mid 30’s this movie was more slightly horrifying than humorous. Faithful readers know that pregnancy and motherhood is a sticky, oft-discussed subject within the walls of this blog.  To me Sex After Kids did for parenthood, what Before Midnight did for marriage; it’s well written reflection of this particular chapter in the human experience.  A transformation that one can not anticipated until this little bundle of joy lands in your lap.

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As I was heading to the lobby I saw a heavily-pregnant woman, rubbing her belly and frowning in thought.  I fought the urge to approach her and ask “Are you like totally freaking out right now? I’m freaking out and I don’t have a seven pound fetus pushing on my bladder right now.”  They should show that movie to teenagers in sex education.  Not so funny now is it?  I’ve traveled with my husband and his sister as ‘Team Childless’, and we’d laugh merrily at all the things we would never do as parents.  If this movie taught me anything, it is that children bend your tree branches until they snap like twigs.

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The closing night film That Burning Feeling had a similar thread of a fresh, modern, urban–a very funny, heartfelt comedy about promiscuity, sexually transmitted infections and the deliberate humanizing of our night stands.  Director Jason James was a delight as our final guest of the season.

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Le Weekend was a British comedy about a marriage in it’s thirtieth year; a weekend in Paris, where they honeymooned three decades prior.  The husband is struggling with forced retirement, a restless wife and is confronted by the wild successes of a former schoolmate–the deliciously smug Jeff Goldblum.    The Past (another film set in my beloved Paris) was infidelity, divorce, secrets, lies, a suicide attempt and a coma…which culminated in a rather unsatisfying ending.  What does it even mean? Did she squeeze his hand, what does it mean that he stayed in the hospital room? Is he choosing his new life? I’m not sure I get it…I’m not sure I care. Finding Vivien Maier was so interesting it needs a blog all it’s own.  Gloria was an excellent film, and we followed the viewing with a coffee shop discussion, which was jammed packed with guests.  Gloria was…a rather erotic film.  Surprisingly so.  Like…full frontal.  Audible passionate kissing noise, which had the same allure of an obnoxious date masticating with his mouth open. Lengthy scenes of intimacy which is a kin to walking in on your grandparents making love.   Talk about fifty shades of grey. Still, you had to love this smartly dressed “woman of a certain age” (mid-fifties divorcee), singing along to the radio, who gets her hands on some marijuana and a much older lover.  Her heart gets broken, and she takes that pain to the dance floor–girlfriend doesn’t even need a plane ticket.

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The Broken Circle Breakdown came early in the film line up, but I felt it necessary to mention it last as this piece will overshadows the rest of the list.  This film was magnificent.  There was not a dry eye in the house at film’s end.

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The story seamlessly shifts back and forth between a new love, marriage, parenthood, illness, loss, despair and the deterioration of a once great love…all amid a gorgeous musical collaboration.

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As the social media maven of the film festival, I had come to know all the movies well, occasionally stumbling upon some major spoilers. Spoilers don’t bother me too much, I like to be prepared.  I often check in with IMDb for content details, especially in regards to potentially violent films.  This was born after I was Rob Roy’d, thinking this was a Robin Hood-eque Liam Neeson vehicle, and suddenly Jessica Lange is getting raped on the kitchen table by Tim Roth and is then sobbing and bathing herself in the river in the aftermath.  I’ve also been Sean Penned, and it’s not something I recommend.  It’s not like me to like surprises.  I’m what you call “cinema sensitive”, I absorb the suffering like a sponge.

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I stumbled upon the mother-load of spoilers for The Broken Circle Breakdown, and went to the cinema armed with knowledge, and a shitload of tissues. Actually it was a wad of toilet paper that I wrapped like a thick bandage around my hand before stuffing the whole lot in my purse.  I did leave a no-spoilers warning on the Facebook page, gently suggesting that you bring something other than your sleeve for this event.  No matter.  By the end of this heart-wrenching feature about the deterioration of a once happy life, complimented by goose-bump inducting blue grass performances.  There’s something about crying in public that makes me feel terribly vulnerable…as it’s never as simple and elegant as a single glistening tear rolling down your cheek.

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…this was more like…funeral crying.  Snotty sobs, gasping for air, lips sputtering.  It’s something I prefer not to do publicly, which is quite difficult as I cry about as often as a new-born baby.  It’s not an attractive look in the slightest.  The toilet paper reserves were dwindling as the movie was jam-packed with emotional land-mines.  I had get creative by folding the sopping wad like origami, as if to make it like new.  Eventually I just sobbed into my scarf.  It reminded me of this time the airport–on my way to New York, a trip once slated celebrate my upcoming wedding with my maid of honor. Standing outside of the departure gate, in what turned out to be one of the last times I spoke to my fiance:  “I just keep thinking that you’ll change your mind”…I whispered, eyes cast on the ground, a volcano threatening to burst.  He smoothed the hair off of my face, smiled tenderly and said “…I won’t”.  I made it to the plane in the same way you drive all the way home, and realize you don’t actually remember driving.  Once in my seat, I was more unglued than Blanche Dubois in “Streetcar Named Desire”.

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Sunglasses firmly in place.  Airport napkins balled in a tight fist.  Planes are not a recommended place for a potential nervous breakdown.  There is little to do, and nowhere to go.  Sitting frozen. Staring out the windowThere’s something about sobbing in a airplane washroom that just takes depression to another level.  There’s also your neighbour to consider: the  poor woman next to me, was settled into a good book and blissfully unaware.  This a perfect metaphor for that inescapable sensation of grief–the crushing weight–the Alice in Wonderland outgrowing the Rabbit house.  Nowhere to hide from the hurt.  From this moment forward nothing will ever be the same.  This new reality is so much bigger than your earthly body that it threatens to burst right through your skin; an explosion of teeth, bones and tears and all that pain you felt would fill the room like a noxious gas.  Instead you calmly make paper cranes out of cocktail napkins as your broken heart seeps out of your eyes and nose.
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Viewing The Broken Circle Breakdown in the cinema was a transformative experience, one I would be reluctant to repeat.  Still, it was my favorite movie in the festival.  It did an agonizingly convincing job detailing how the clashing of ideals and the testing of faith can turn the tide.  How marriage vows– promises you made when life was good and love was easy can be irreparably broken by exterior forces.  That sickness ruins, that love is not a cure.  When the film ended, the credits were rolling and I was still sobbing as others were reaching for their coats.  The storyline jumped to the beginning, middle and end so fluidly, tattooed songbird Elise unravels, as pragmatic Didier tries and fails to save his wife and child.  It’s nearly too much to bear. Though I knew the twist in the ending, I was properly devastated nonetheless.  Everyone mingled in lobby afterwards, puffy eyed and sniffling.  Catharsis at it’s finest.  It certainly garnered a very large glass of wine in a dark bar afterwards, where stories were shared, and new levels of understanding occurred.  This is the power of cinema, the shared experience of a story;  how it reminds us of our own battles, fears, desires, and memories that shape us as unique individuals.  All is not lost, as the light dims on another day…  the band plays on regardless, even if the song no longer means the same thing.

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All Images Courtesy of Google