Rules of the Roadhouse

Soon my sister-in-law will be in the country, and I’ve been busy arranging every detail.  Booking hotels, planning routes, and making reservations.  I called this restaurant yesterday, one of my all-time favorites, to ensure that we had the best possible table.  And then I had the most offensive, surreal customer service experience of my life.

Firstly, let me just say, that if I call you–to order pizza, check on my student loan, ask a question at the bank or immigration office, or even to make a reservation, I’m going to ask you how you are.  People seem to struggle with this.

They’re like: “Thank you for calling blah, blah, blah, this is blah, blah, how can I assist you?”.

I’m like “Good morning/afternoon, how are you?”

They’re like…(significant pause)…..”Fine?”


There’s this level of disconcerted suspicion, my asking how you are.  I’m just trying to establish a bit of friendliness, acknowledge their humanity. Perhaps they’d prefer not to be reminded that they are a person.  But in all my years of work in the customer service, I appreciate politeness.  I appreciate kindness, compliments–”How are you today”, “Thanks for the great service”, what have you.    My husband rolls his eyes in embarrassment whenever we go out for a meal, I’m always cleaning up the table, stacking plates nicely and thanking the server profusely.  In every hotel we ever stayed in, he always implores me to not clean up the hotel. But, I’ve done these jobs, and it’s just nicer that all the towels are in the tub.  I’ve occasionally stripped the bed , but then I stopped out of fear that the housekeeper would think something freaky had happened on the sheets, when it was just a girl with a colorful job history, who understands your pain…and is probably being a little too helpful.


When my husband and I were living in Australia, we did a big road trip up the Western coastline over Christmas holiday.  On New Year’s Day, we were driving along the highway in the blistering sun, holding take-away lattes and sitting in comfortable silence, when a zippy little compact car passes our lumbering camper-van at extremely close range.  Rocks and pebbles pelt the vehicle.  It takes a couple minutes for us to notice the fist sized hole in the back windscreen.  When we do, we both gasp and gape, and Ben immediately pulls to the side of the road.  Amid the black flies and t-shirt drenching heat, there is not another car within sight.  The entire screen is shattered, and making this horror-movie type groan.

My husband, being part Macgyver, springs into action, immediately running over the glass with the duct tape he always insists you bring on holidays.  “This is why you always need duct tape”. he says before getting to work on saving the day.


When the glass is moderately secure, we get back on the road in search of a roadhouse.


No, not that kind of Roadhouse, sheesh, if only!

road-house 2

Of course, in Australia, you can travel for many, many miles without seeing…anything really.  There may not be a roadhouse for a very long time.  Okay…one more.


Jeez Louise would you look at those jeans! That fly goes on than longer the legs on that blonde in the bad wig, who’s trying to get a piece of the Swayze action.  Ahem, my apologizes.  There’s just something about Patrick Swayze that makes me digress.  At long last, somewhere in the middle of nowhere we find a payphone, and fresh rolls of duct tape.

map in the middle of nowhere

While Ben tries to fashion something out of the tape, a cardboard box, a Swiss Army Knife, I call the rental agency. Of course, I greet the person who answered with warmth,  acknowledging humanity,  and explaining the information in a clear and detailed manner.

“And what exactly do you want me to do about it?”.

I look over at Ben, who has his ‘project face’ on, and see that he is fashioning a rather fortress-like facility out of tape and shattered glass.

ben fixer

“Well…I guess we just wanted…to tell somebody”.  He grumbled about not being able to do much, on account of it being a holiday. He could not have sounded less interested and seemed even less impressed by the sound of my voice on the phone.  “It’ll take days to sort this out” he says, and I try to interrupt:  “”It’s okay, we can make do, we just wanted to let you know that it happened…(you jerk off)”.


When we returned the vehicle, the back end wrapped in cardboard and duct tape, we brought photos of the damage. I even brought the offending rock in a small plastic bag.  In the end though, it was all unnecessary, our insurance covered it, and they didn’t seem to care much at the rental office.  What did I want from that grumbling voice on the phone, while huddled in a smelly pay phone, being attacked by flies like I was Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption”?


“Is everyone OK? Is there anything I can do?”

That’s all.  There really was nothing that he could do. I appreciate that there’s nothing worse than working on a holiday.  I would be grumpy too.  But not grumpy enough to not give a shit about someone possibly stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Okay–”Where is she going with this?” You wonder. “Whatever happened to the restaurant reservation at the beginning of the story?” You implore.  “Will she show more pictures of Patrick Swayze in ‘Roadhouse’?” You query.

Well…I’m not entirely sure where I’m going either, but I do know one thing is for certain.


I call the restaurant, and when someone answers, there is an inaudible mumble.  And then silence.

“Oh, I’m sorry? Is this BlahBlahBlah?”


“Okay, how are you this afternoon?”


“(clears throat) Um, I was hoping to make a reservation”.


“No, for a few weeks from now, but I wanted to get a great table with a good view”.


“On this date, for five people at seven pm”.


“Okay…so I’ll just confirm the name, date, the time and the guest numbers”


“You got all that?”


“Well thanks very much”.


And then I literally had to hang up on the sound of passive breathing.  I was totally rattled by the experience.  If I had to put money on it, I reckon it was a teenager working in the kitchen and no one else was around to answer the phone.  But it bothered me enough to call back this morning.  Not to complain, but to let them know, as so no one else would get that treatment.  I’m glad I did call, because he had made a reservation for seven people at five pm, there was no mention of specific seating, and no name.  We would have shown up that night, on my sister-in-law’s first holiday in Canada, and I would have had to go all Roadhouse on their asses. And I’d hardly be dressed for the occasion, and that would pick me off even further.   Because if you don’t know the Roadhouse policy, I’m going to only say it once: ‘be nice, until it’s time not to be nice’.  It’s not time to not be nice yet…and if you cross me after I have been considerate and polite…I will high-kick you in the face, right through the phone, and you will not see it coming.

Perth to Exmouth 010Images Courtesy of Google/ Personal photos courtesy of Ashcroft…Roadhouse!

| Tagged Australia, Customer service, Duct tape, , Macgyver, , New Year's Day, Patrick Swayze, Perth, Recreation, roadtrips, Swiss Army Knife, travel

Something Borrowed

A movie can be so bad that it can somehow become good again.   “Something Borrowed”  is not one of those movies, but despite my cynical sensibilities, I absorbed the film like an unquenchable sponge. Essentially, it’s about two life-long, but totally different besties. An imminent wedding.  An unspoken love. Lying. Cheating. Choices to be made! You know, the standard cinematic experience.


But, what totally saved the film was good ole John Krasinski.  That little cutie pie is always welcome at my table.  But seriously, I don’t want to gush, but as an actor he is endearing, humorous, and and wholly likeable.  He is good as a lead, like in “Away We Go” or “Leatherheads”  but he’s perfect in supporting roles, like “It’s Complicated” or this little gem of which I am currently speaking.  Every time he comes onscreen it’s like “Thank God you’re here, Kate Hudson can hardly move her face, and she’s stinking up the joint with her acting”.  But then again, I’ve had a soft-spot for him ever since “The Office”, a program I have a particular fondness for.


When I lived in the yellow apartment that overlooked the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, I had a neighbour named Glenn.  We met, not as most neighbours do, in the staircase, or in the lobby, but when I knocked on his door with a crisis.  A fashion crisis.  As I recall, he stood there, in a backwards cap, shorts and a hockey jersey. I was wearing a ghastly kimono, but was fretting over which shoes to wear with the ghastly kimono.  He stared at my feet, frowning at the thought of having to choose.  He made his suggestion, and I offered my thanks, spun around and went back to my apartment.

And then we were friends.

He was much older than I, in his forties when I was in my twenties.  He worked from home, and had his finger on the pulse as to what interesting music was out there.  He downloaded scads of amazing albums–of fantastic artists that no one has ever heard of.  I’m going to age myself a bit here, but this was in a time when it was relativity unheard of to get television programs on the internet.  But this guy…my god, this guy had anything you ever wanted to watch ever.  You make a vague reference to a album you haven’t heard in years and the next day it would be taped to the front door. It was an education is popular culture.  We developed a mutual fondness over the American version of “The Office.  I was seriously into the will-they or won’t-they storyline with Jim and Pam.


My poor neighbour was having his own will-they or won’t-they concerns about us.  But to me, he was the best friend a girl could have.  Which of course, is the last thing a man with a crush wants to hear.  I once came home with another man, and as I was walking up the drive, I noticed  my neighbour peeking out the window. He was watching us like he was the Grinch sneering over Whoville.  And it was then that I knew that we couldn’t really be friends.


And as you do in your early twenties, when faced with discomfort or adversity, you shove a handwritten note under the door explaining why you can’t hang out anymore.  And then, the waters were muddied, and I lost a kindred spirit.  But then again, it does tie into the notion that men and women can not truly be friends.


Jim and Pam were friends, Harry and Sally were friends. In “Something Borrowed” , Rachel is mooning over her best friend’s fiance, (who in flashbacks we learn was equally as smitten with her and equally as incompetent as her to make a move).  Meanwhile Rachel has a wise-cracking, super supportive friend in Ethan, who–(I’m spoiling it, don’t worry, it’s not much of a surprise) professes his love to her, saying “You are home to me”.  And she’s like, “Yeah…but I’d really rather just break up this engagement because that makes for a better movie”.


And it breaks your heart when someone professes their love to you.  You wish that you could accept it.  Love them because they love you.  Because you already know them.  Because they live next door.  Because it would be easy.  But the heart wants what it wants, and in that equation, there are an awful lot of nice guys who confess romantic feelings, and are rejected for the sake of some jack-ass that will never treat her like they would have.


I bumped into Glenn a few weeks later, in the stairwell.  I was heading down with books, he was coming up with groceries.

“Hello”, I smile.

“Hi”, his response is so terse it comes out almost as a ‘h!”.

“How are things?


“That’s good”.

There’s a silence, and the awkward jingling of keys.

“How’s…how’s everything going with Jim?…With Jim and Pam?

He smirked.  “They just can’t seem to work it out”.

“Who can?” I shrugged.

“Maybe…come round and catch up…with Jim and Pam”.

“I’d like that”.

And I barreled down the stairs, off to catch the bus.  I knew I’d stop by that night, sit on his couch and watch “The Office”.  I knew that we’d be friendly again, but not really friends.  We did not belong to each other, we were simply on loan.  Something borrowed until the real thing came along.

eathen from something borrowAll Images Courtesy of Google

| Tagged "Something Borrowed", "The Office", , John Krasinski, Kate Hudson, , Office, Rachel, the friend zone, , Whoville

Cheque Mate

Whenever possible I like to live as, say, Audrey Hepburn would.  Graceful, elegant, chic, effortlessly gliding into rooms and humbling people with my ballerina-like ways.


Of course, this is rarely the case.  While I often hope that I can glide in to spaces, I mostly crash into them. What I’d like is to be elegant to the point of invisibility.


Today, I opted for a delicious sleep in (7:06am, but whatever).  Ben took the car, and so when time came to run pressing errands, I had to walk to pick up the vehicle.  The first order of business was to retrieve my final cheque from my former employers.  I handed in my resignation notice last Friday, incidentally on payday.  I was dreadfully nervous, fearful of retribution or confrontation.   I had  just come from an hour long yin yoga class, one that focused on hips and upper thighs, so when I stepped out of the car, my knees nearly betrayed me.


I came into the building on my jello legs.  And stood in the reception area for a moment.  I could not, for the life of me, remember the word “resignation”.  I just stood there, my sweaty palm moistening the envelope.  “Resigning”? “Resignatory”? “Resignative”?  No matter, I could go into the office, drop the perspired paper purposefully on the desk, recite a haiku in German, and it wouldn’t really matter.  But somehow, I needed a grip on that exact word…like it was a mantra.  I offered the letter to the only person in the office.  And she took the letter without a fight.  Not that I wanted a fight, but in the same way you want to glide all over town like a chic starlet, it wouldn’t hurt for a wail, a cry to the gods, a shaking fist  to the sky, or my favorite, the ‘on the knees begging you not to go’.  “You have to let me go, I’ve just given my reignignatory letter, please, you’re only embarrassing yourself”.  She wished me the best, we shook hands, and I wobbled out on my rubber legs.  And I made it all the way to the car before I realized:  “Ah frick, I didn’t get my cheque”.  There’s nothing worse than having a tense or emotional moment with someone and then pop your head back in and ask if they validate parking.  Luckily, I was able to get my pay without having to pop back into the office with a cute “Me again!” kind of shrug.

Anyway, today, heading down the hill in black leggings and tank top, wearing black flip flops.  Listening to Erykah Badu on my I-Pod, and envisioning myself walking into the building, grabbing that cheque and walking right back out.  Don’t look back.  I was grooving to Badu, negotiating my way down a dusty hill, and imagining the end game. I pictured myself picking up that cheque, already basking in the closure–check mate, bitches, I don’t have to play this game anymore.


I’ve walked this way plenty of times before, but this was a first in these shoes.  It was lightning quick, the sliding, the levitation that occurs before a fall, with just enough time to know that you are about to eat shit, but not enough time to do anything about it.

falling pinup

Lying in a cloud of dust, I propped myself up on my elbows.  This is when I see the blood.  It appeared that my big toe decided to separate itself from…itself.  There was a strange, dusty, dirty divorce on my left foot, and still a small distance to walk.  I stepped gingerly down the path, loathing the fact that my in-and-out plan was thwarted.  This is the moment to walk through that door, coolly pluck that cheque that out of someone’s fingers, and go back the way you came.  You never, ever want to smile weakly and say “There’s actually an awful lot of blood here, mind if I raid the first aid kit for old times sake?”  The receptionist was very kind, she guarded the first aid kit politely, (as if I had tried to cut my toe off just to get my hands on unlimited antacids, PMS tablets and finger condoms). After I was washed and bandaged, I took my cheque, and excused myself.  Not the graceful exit I had hoped for.

It was not glamorous.

Actress Marilyn Monroe with Actor Robert Mitchum

Not chic or elegant.

jackie o crutches

Not adorably injured, I was bleeding like a hobo after a parking lot knife fight.


And let me tell you, with the money I just received, you can just forget about buying a 24-karat gold wheelchair a la post-hip surgery Lady Gaga.


I  limped away, covered in dust and dirt all, my foot throbbing, final cheque in hand.  I exhaled. No matter the exit, at least the job was over.  And I hobbled  towards the future, whatever it held for me, forgetting the injuries of the past.

mm with swin instructorAll Images Courtesy of Google

Fireworks in Dog Years

Ah, the delicious statutory holiday.  In my lifetime, those days have often eluded me.  I’ve been the one in some unbreathable polyester uniform, sweltering in the heat, dying of humiliation in some sweat-stained visor.  Or slinging breakfasts, brunches, burgers and beers to holidaymakers, who are beyond bliss from hours spent in the sun…on a yacht…after making love all afternoon.  It’s like trying to take an order from a pool of water, or melted pudding.  And you’re hot and hungry and tired, and occasionally fantasize about that chilled beverage you bear on your tray, dripping with condensation, titillating with that ice-cube rattle.  Instead of placing it on their coaster, you want to lift it to your parched lips and chug like it’s a frat party, and you’re refusing to lose a double dog dare.

witress pinup

But not yesterday, I spent Canada Day at the park, and then we went to the beach.  I basked in the sun, swam in the lake, and I felt like a knot inside of me was being unraveled.


I smiled goofily as I dipped my fingers in the water, watching all the people around me.  The much older man talking politely with his young Asian wife, as she nods politely and holds their baby.  The rock-n-roll mother in the bikini, fedora, covered in tattoos and wearing huge rings, smoking in an inflatable dingy next to her daughter.  The teenaged couple on the grass, making out like he was about to go off to war.  An older couple standing waist deep in the lake, their serious expressions and tense hand gestures leading me to believe they were having some kind of aqua quarrel.  And there’s me, snooping at snapshots in the lives of others.  After the swim and the sun, Ben and I drove home.  We napped, we ate more, we walked through our neighborhood for potential firework viewing spots.

Something you should know about me…I hate missing fireworks.  And as a result, I like to get to the viewing spot early.  And it’s always way too early, as the city’s website will say 10:00pm, when what they really mean is “when it’s dark enough, and whenever we feel like it”. We venture down to the lookout spot, a crushingly popular one at that.  We got there at 9:20, and it was packed with folks sitting on top of their trucks, families set up with lawn chairs, and us, with a shitty blanket and nowhere to sit.  Which brings up the issue.  Should we go somewhere else? Of course, the minute you climb into the car, the explosions would start.  You’d try to drive closer (or should we go further away to see it better?), and ultimately, you’d be speeding along the highway like a storm chaser, trying to get inside the eye of the explosion.


But who wants to work that hard?  It’s only fireworks.  This is what I’m thinking to myself, as the population of people builds at the city look-out.  On one side of me, some jerky kid has just evicted his tired-looking mother from the lawn chair by barking “It’s my seat, it’s my seat, give me back my seat!”.  (And I had seen enough mothers all day to know that even though they are in bathing suits and sundresses, it’s not exactly their day off, diapers must be changed and sandwiches must be made, and I felt like smacking that kid upside the head for talking to his mom like that).  But don’t worry, on the other side, there was an elderly grandmother whose patience had run thin, hollering at her granddaughter to ‘sit down’, ‘calm down’, ‘behave yourself’, ‘shut up’.  As the time passed, the children were growing restless.  While one gave up her seat to soothe her child, the other was smacking fingers and threatening toys to be tossed into a ravine.  I’d like to think that when I’m a parent, I’m going to be somewhere in the middle.  But I can appreciate the eternity one must wait for these fireworks to start.  I’m 31, and I was losing my grip on my patience.  The cement beneath my feet.  The collective smell of bodies.  The children…just being sticky and whiny.


The time creeps toward 10:00.  Any minute now.  They will begin and then we can go home.  A fleet of people in electronic wheelchairs and scooters arrives.  One was clearly the leader, and proved this by bossing strangers and forcibly guiding his chair into cramped spaces.  I hear him demand the time of said fireworks and I pipe in “It starts at 10:00″.  “NO- it starts at 10:30″.  This is a dangerous situation to be in, because even though you are tired and annoyed, you never want to be the person arguing with the kid in the wheelchair just because he dares to disagree with you and the city’s Canada Day schedule.  But it was like he knew the answer was 10:30, and asked just to prove you wrong.  I dropped my blanket, and plunked down on the concrete.  Ben crouched down next to me.  We were talking quietly, recalling firework displays from the past.  We were remembering the Australia Day spent in Perth, when it was so hot, and then began to storm in the middle of the light show.  We were discussing how we ran home in the rain when the little girl shoved her hand right below Ben’s nose.  Ben smiles grudgingly before standing up.

I continued to sit.  Really taking the time to consider just how important this fireworks display.  It was 10:20, and life was starting to feel as though it was being passed in dog years.  Suddenly, there’s one magnificent burst of light.  I leap up, and then…nothing.  More waiting.  Shortly after 10:30, the fireworks begin, and it’s over within ten to fifteen minutes. When they finish, giving the same notice they did when they began, people give a brief pause, as if another round is possible.  And then, everyone abandons their long held post.  On the way home, I can’t help but think about how this ritual is like so many others.  Exciting and disappointing all at the same time.  That it’s like life itself.  Sometimes there is so much waiting, waiting for something magnificent to happen.  And then it happens, and you don’t want to blink because it’ll be gone before you know it.

fireworksAll Images Courtesy of Google

| Tagged British Columbia, Canada, fireworks, , , , national holidays, relaxation, summer,

Baby in the Corner

Darlings, it’s a perfectly puffy-eyed situation happening over here.  Last night I sat outside and basked in the warm evening sunlight, and stared up into the tree that hangs over the patio.  I could see patches of sky-blue through all the leafy green, wondered how far through the forest I would have to trudge to see a glimmer of success.  It’s not the end of the world, it’s just a contest, it’s just disappointment.  My husband has gently pointed out that perhaps it is not the contest, but that it is a deeper issue.  I’m not in a satisfying career, strike action is taking place in Immigration sectors, and we have no idea what the future holds.  And mostly, that I have so much to offer;  a heart that is about to burst from wanting so much, but it feels like like few things are possible at this juncture.    I’ve received some lovely emails, and comforting shout-outs, and I really appreciate it. What I’d like to do is print my competitive piece here.  It’s not everyone’s cup, but I’m proud of it. And after all, nobody puts Baby in the corner…


It’s the middle of the week, I’m eight years old, I’m wearing a second-hand Brownie uniform, and my mother has just invited me to watch the last ten minutes of Dirty Dancing.  Sitting on the sofa, crossing my legs like a lady, I recognized this as a rite of passage.  If ever my parents brought a film into the house, it was promptly previewed with scrutinizing eyes.  Many were considered unacceptable for viewing.  Nonetheless, my mother decided the final dance sequence of this film passed the test.  And I didn’t blame her.  I had no idea what was happening, but I knew one thing: this couple had charisma.  Their energy was so infectious that the only cure was for everyone to dance.  I had so many questions.  Who are these people? Why are they dancing? How did the homely girl come to be in the corner? And just who is this Johnny Castle character?  All questions melted away as the scene progressed to its climax.  Baby in her pink skirt, leaping into Johnny’s muscular arms and being lifted up into the lights, her arms stretched out, her heart open wide My pulse was racing.   Patrick Swayze was the most magnificent creature I had ever seen. It was then I made a silent declaration: that one day I would experience the entirety of this movie. 

The following summer my Grandmother visited from Wales.  She was a strange creature from the Old World, with a thick indecipherable accent.  Alone with her one afternoon I seized an opportunity.  “Do you like movies Grandma?”  “Oh, I like Coronation Street”, her Welsh accent a musical swing-set, swaying up and down as she spoke.  “Have you ever seen Dirty Dancing?” “Can’t say that I have”.  “Really? Wow… it’s pretty much my favourite movie”.  “What’s it about then?” “It’s…um, it’s about…dancing…that is dirty?” “I don’t know if I’d like that”, her frown line deepened.  “No! Not “dirty” I’m not describing it properly”, I’m panicked, sweating.  “Maybe we should take a stroll to the corner shop and look for it”.  I knew there was a copy at Bob’s Mini Mart; whenever my parents went there to buy cigarettes or milk, I’d spot it on the shelf.  I’d clutch the display case in my pudgy fingers, rubbing my thumb over Patrick’s face.  Now with my grandmother in tow, anything was possible.  Who was I to deny her an authentic North American experience? She had come all the way from the United Kingdom to stay a month in this sleepy little town, with few amenities beyond gas stations and grocery stores.  She had never even heard of Patrick Swayze.  Poor dear.  We were both in need of an education. 

“That was a nice film wasn’t it?” my grandmother smiled, satisfied as the credits rolled.  I drifted featherweight back to reality.  Nice didn’t even begin to cover it—this film was spectacular.   As a family of six we didn’t travel much.  Resorts that employed tough, yet tender dance instructors to teach lessons about life and love was beyond reach.  That was a real concern for me; if I never went anywhere, how would my true love find me? At school I had few friends and was unpopular with boys—I had thick eyebrows, chubby thighs and an overbite; I was socially incapable and totally uncool.  Often overcome with loneliness, I retreated into a cinematic fantasy world, yearning for love and adventure.  Staring out the window onto the trailer park lot, I’d imagine Johnny Castle rescuing me from my unhappy corner of the world.  How I wanted my very own musical montage, dancing to Hungry Eyes with a sweaty Swayze all up in my mix.  He’d write She’s like the Wind about me, and nobody would blame him.  I wanted to run, leap and be lifted overhead, light as air, my pink ballerina skirt floating angelically.  I wanted to be raised up and swept away.

Twenty years later, I met my husband in New Zealand.  In amidst a music festival crowd I saw Benjamin and knew that I was home.  Our partnership was immediately tempered by deadlines, departure dates and other logistical elements of our different birth rights.  We married eight months after meeting, and fuelled by temporary working visas we travelled for two years before settling in Canada.  We were finally faced with the dreaded immigration process, which pressed on a visceral, adolescent nerve.  Johnny and Baby didn’t want to be separated either.  They were divided briefly; the conservative type at Kellerman’s couldn’t accept their attachment. But in the end, Johnny came back for her and much dancing ensued.  But would they really have stayed together after the summer in the Catskills?  Would Baby not attend Mount Holyoke College or join the Peace Corps as planned? Would they just ‘promise to keep in touch’? Somehow I can’t imagine Johnny Castle being your pen to paper, stamp to envelope kind of guy; he’s a lover not a writer. 

When is a summer romance really worth fighting for?  How do you know that you have truly found ‘the one’?  When you are willing to fill out the paperwork?  The permanent residency process is a totally unromantic yet completely necessary venture, and an excellent device to weed out the weak.  The fine folks at Immigration in Vegreville, Alberta need to know everything about you and your partner.  To prove that our marriage was a genuine, conjugal relationship a paper trail was required. We provided forms, financial documents and supplemental appendixes, with references, letters, photographs and old bills addressed to both parties.    This lengthy task combined two fears: not finding a common country with my husband, and really complicated paperwork.  We were happy to confirm that we had not desecrated churches, partaken in genocide or organized any political uprisings. We had confidence in the evidence that supported the legitimacy of our marriage.  For us, the medical exam was the greatest cause for concern.  “What if they find something and I have to leave the country… I’d have tuberculosis and you’d be on the other side of the world”.  Benjamin whispered as he squeezed my hand in the waiting room. “You’ll be just fine…there’s nothing wrong with you” I assured him. Of course I don’t know that, I’m not a doctor; I don’t even watch enough Grey’s Anatomy to peg a guess.  But his nervousness planted a seed of doubt inside my mind: what if something was wrong?  In life and in health, nothing is certain.  Patrick Swayze, once physically fit, athletic, healthy and gorgeous, died at 57.  It’s as if Johnny Castle is the immortal girlhood fantasy, but Swayze represents the crushing weight of reality.  There are no certainties, the universe is not fair; my existence is not the exception, nor is the life of the man that I love.

During Benjamin’s medical I waited in the reception area, tucked in the corner with a magazine, a noose of anxiety tightening around my neck.  The reading material was limited so I lingered over the calorie-wise recipes and parenting tips in the lone issue of Canadian Living.  An elderly couple appeared at the desk and were discussing the woman’s upcoming surgery with a doctor.  The doctor answered her questions with a smile, offering support and information.  She blurted out, her voice quivering: “I’m really scared. Will I be alright?” Yikes.  The doctor didn’t respond with absolute certainty, he simply offered wishes for a surgery well done.  Being an empathetic eavesdropper, her vulnerability made my heart swell with sadness.  The doctor excused himself. The couple, stooped and weathered, slowly shuffled to the exit.  He was holding her small beige handbag in his left hand.  On his right his wife lifted her tiny arm and linked herself to the crook in his elbow.  They exchanged a familiar glance, leaned closely together, passed a corridor and disappeared from sight.

Tears strained against my eyes like a storm front against a window pane.  I held my breath to cease the impending waterworks.  I wondered if they remembered being young and in love and just starting out, whether their relationship grew from flimsy childish illusions about romance to a solid refuge of sustenance and care.  I wondered if any of their past struggles and sacrifices even mattered anymore as they edged out of the clinic and closer to the end of their lives.  Sitting in the stillness of the clinic waiting for my husband to return, I thought about what happens after young love. After summer sunshine when autumn leaves fall and frigid winter sets in, when it is harder, when we are older, is when love burns its brightest.  It is when you are backed into a corner and somebody who loves you pulls you out of the shadows and lifts you up into the light.

2685_5Images Courtesy of Google

| Tagged "Dirty Dancing", , disappointment, frustration, , immigration, , Patrick Swayze

The Golden Ticket

The long list for a contest I entered, and so badly wanted to be nominated for came out this morning.  I started my shift at five am, I thought it best to not not look until after the ten hour shift.  I sent the piece off in January, before I started my blog, before I wrote everyday.  As time has passed, I began to meditate on how much I wanted to be considered, to have a shot at platform-building prizes.  What it would mean to see my name on that list.

My name was not on the list.

In fact, the alphabetical list started on “C” (I could think of another c-word, if pressed hard enough).  My husband reckons it is not my writing, it is that this national contest is prejudiced against “A” names.   At least, that’s what I think he said, I was blubbering and making this sad little sound that sounded like the airplane noise you make when trying to entice a toddler into eating cold pea mash.

Needless to say, there are little mountains of sopping wet tissues all over the house.  These formations have colonized the house, starting in the living room, and trailing to the office, the bedroom and everywhere in between.

This is why I didn’t check at work, this kind of blow is not what you want to receive in gumboots and an apron.  But I thought about it. What it could mean.  I thought about Charlie Bucket and the golden ticket in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory“.  I kept thinking about when Charlie’s family hears on the news that the final ticket was found.  His Grandpa says, ‘let’s not wake him, lets let him have one more dream’.  But then the camera cuts to Charlie, wide awake and well aware.


So essentially old Chuck Bucket was my inspiration for waiting. He’s a poor bastard anyhow, he’s such a sad, goony kid who wears nerdy turtlenecks and has all four grandparents sleeping in the same bed.  It’s like “Bob & Carol &Ted & Alice“, but with arthritis and bedsores.

Poster - Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice_04He doesn’t fit in, has no social networks.  There’s no money for sweets, and he has no pleasure in his life.  What this kid needs is a better hair cut and an opportunity to shine.  A golden ticket.

charlie bucket candy

Obviously, there was a misunderstanding with Charlie, and he eventually gains access to Willy Wonka‘s delicious fortress, and learns of the many riches and quirks of the Chocolate Factory.  No matter, this prize is clearly the Robert Redford to my Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa“. It was not mine.


Yes I’m mixing movie metaphors, I’m delirious with grief over here.  This is also why I most likely don’t win contests.

There’s a line to be drawn, a balance between hope and reality.  I hope I look like Heidi Klum, but in reality I look like Snooki without the hair and makeup.  Hoping to win is not the same as winning.  But you also want to have an open heart, believe that these things are possible, and not fall apart when things don’t work out.  Like I always say about Mick Jagger, and what he always says, “You can’t always get what you want,  but you get what you need”.

Yeah, I guess Mick. If you say so.  But for now, I’m just going to have a good cry.

audry h cryingAll Images Courtesy of Google

| Tagged "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", , disappointment, loss, Meryl Streep, , Robert Redford,

Thug Lite

My epic weekend has been followed by long days of work.  Well, so far just two days. I’m not toiling away in a sweltering cotton field, but you know how it is.  Aren’t we all more fabulous while not at work?

So…the writing feels a bit like a homemade airplane, sputtering and failing to reach great heights. Mostly it sort of hovers over the runway with the same kind of awkward rigidity of a teenaged boy getting a girl’s bra off for the first time.  Fumbling like fuck.

But fear not bitches, it can only get better from here.

Can I call you “bitches”? Are we friends like that? I don’t know. YouTube recommended Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack to the film”Super Fly” to me, which I feel is the website’s way of saying “I respect the hell out of your taste, here’s something groovy for you while you don’t write your blog”.


Funnily enough, I also have a plan to “stick it to the man”, so that’s just another thing that Super Fly and I have in common.  Otherwise it’s nothing but guns, drugs and hos.  Or is it ho’s? Or hoes like in gardening?  I can’t remember I missed that day of Pimp School.   I also missed the course of pimp ultimatums, when Fat Freddie doesn’t have his money, up and coming drug kingpin Priest warns him that either he is going to get his money by robbing someone or he will put his wife out on “whore’s row”.  Now that is one hell of a threat.. in fact, it’s kind of a lose/lose situation. I bet Fat Freddie never thought, “Could I get a full time job and pay you back in weekly installments?” He’s like “Honey? You still got that dress you wore for Halloween last year?”   Don’t worry, there’s a song on the album “Freddie’s Dead”, so you just know that someone popped a cap in his ass.

Am I saying that right? Pop a cap? Like am I actually shooting him in the butt, or is ass a general term?  Are people still getting jiggy with it? Is that still a thing?

I’m not even going to lie to you, when I came here tonight, feeling like one major blah-ger, I was going to write about James Spader in Pretty in Pink.

JamesSpader_4209Don’t you just want to knock that ashtray right off his knee into his smug face in the same way you’d like to sweep an arm across a cluttered desk to make out with him on top of it.  “Pretty in Pink” James Spader confuses me.

tumblr_lu2ev4qhap1qzoaqi“I can’t do this right now James Spader, I’ve got a blog to finish”.

It’s 8:30 at night, and this is not usually my style to post so late.  I actually just received a phone call from my mother, demanding the whereabouts of said blog.  “Mom–I’m writing about pimps, R&B concept albums, and I cannot figure out out to spell ‘ho’ –just back off!”  And then I talked to her for twenty minutes while surfing the internet for pictures of various pimps and thugs…and young James Spader.


But that’s the beauty of blogging, sometimes you think you are going to write about Beyonce and Jay-Z’s “Bonnie and Clyde ’03″…


And you write about “The Shining” instead…


You think it’s scary when you read my edited thoughts, you should see what it looks like inside my head…


You better believe that’s not alphabetized.

The disorganization and time wasting is all part of my plan for sticking it to the man.

tumblr_m4610cmJCS1rn4ypvo1_500All Images Courtesy of Google

| Tagged "Pretty in Pink", "Super Fly", , Curtis Mayfield, , James Spader, , music, pimps, writer's block,

Dance All Night

You know when you are working towards a goal, a date, a time–graduation, marriage, holiday, and it takes forever to get there, and then it happens and suddenly passes? It all goes by so quickly, doesn’t it?  This weekend has come and gone and it was wonderful.  I was participating in two improv shows and a festival at the university.  I was prepared, I was excited, I was…perfectly terrified.

sad hep

What if…I choked?

audrey-hepburn marbles

In the end, ll was perfectly successful, which absolutely lifted my spirits. Home late last night, watching “Pretty in Pink” at midnight,  I felt like Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”.  Undressing after the ball, when all the hard work paid off, and no one recognized her as the cockney flower girl she really was and totally bought her as a fictional aristocrat.  When she got home, she was singing “I Could Have Danced All Night”, and mooning dreamily all over the bedroom.  Those poor maids were hard pressed to get her ready for bed with her dancing all around, and admonished her: “It’s after three now/Don’t you agree now/She ought to be in bed”.

If my maids clucked about me swooping around my four post bed about my fantastic weekend, they would hear about it.   I can go from zero to sixty on the diva scale (which zero being Audrey Hepburn, sixty being Naomi Campbell) in ten seconds flat.


I’d shriek, “I don’t pay you to hold me back when I’m celebrating my fabulous good fortune through the majesty of song“.  And then I’d throw whatever was within reach at the offending servants before commencing with my song about loving the shit out of my life.


Don’t worry, I pay them handsomely.


I’m sort of basking in the glow of knowing so many good people.  I feel blessed. I feel reconnected to this feeling I’d thought I’d lost, a sort of existential emptiness with which you could not identity the source.  Turns out…having a stone-cold pack of theatre weirdos back in my life is what was lacking. My heart is bursting with happiness.

Cheers for the love everyone.  You know who you are.

audreyhepburn-myfairladyAll Images Courtesy of Google

Faint of Heart

Another morning spent not preparing for pressing projects, and instead watching “Inside the Actor’s Studio” with James Gandolfini. Poor guy.  Such an untimely passing in Rome at just 51.  As you can imagine, the violence levels of his breadth of film and television work has deterred me from really having perspective on his talent.  But after sitting with him and James Lipton, I can appreciate his process.  “The Sopranos” is what he will be remembered for, alongside a variety of ‘tough-guy’ supporting roles in movies like “The Mexican” and “True Romance”.


“The Sopranos” is just one of those shows that I truly believe you when you say it’s excellent, but I’m probably not going to be able to hack it.  I have such an extremely low tolerance for violence, and this show really seemed to have the market cornered on bloodshed.  Of course, being a faithful cinephile, I’m aware of the character dynamics, the general premise, and the impact of the program on popular culture.  My friend Jenna saw the series through, and one morning, too hung-over to go anywhere, I watched a few episodes, including “Employee of the Month”, when Dr Melfi is brutally raped in the stairwell of a parking garage.  This was probably not the greatest introduction to the show, being sick and sleepless after a big night out.  Otherwise, I’ve caught a few episodes and scenes here and there, but never braved the whole series.

Movies_Films_The_Sopranos-wallpaper After the earthquakes in Christchurch, my mother-in-law faced many sleepless nights.  She remedied her insomnia with the entire series, which I found so peculiar.  The show’s violent intensity would surely counteract with an already present stress level.  Personally I’d have taken all ten seasons of “Friends” over “The Sopranos”, (look at them splashing around in that fountain, and that Ross is such a hoot.  But she said that the program was so well-made, well written, that she was engrossed in the story, which took her far from the shaky ground she walked on.  And a program like “Friends” doesn’t have that kind of transformative power.


Don’t you just want to know what’s happening in this picture?  I’ve always felt such a reluctant interest in this series.  The acting and writing is meant to be excellent.  And I’ve read about the show over the years.  I’d happily read the scripts, but then you’d miss out on the performances.  And yes, it is just ‘make-believe’, nobody actually dismembers bodies, fires shots on a whim or I don’t a pregnant woman to death, but great lengths are taken to ensure it’s authenticity, and that’s just not my jam.

the-sopranos-2_7524Nevertheless, I feel for the loss of Gandolfini.  I highly recommend watching “Inside the Actors Studio”, he was humble, gentle and vulnerable.  He came from a working class family, and sought to bring dignity to blue collar characters.  He also touches on the emotional impact of playing those violent characters, especially when the violence was directed towards women.  He references episodes like “University”, where a stripper is raped, and a pregnant woman is beaten to death with a metal railing–in a 22 second long scene–which would feel like a slim slice of eternity, having to watch that.  The IMDB parent guide itemizes the violence and profanity, and concludes: “The violence against women in this episode is frequent and intense. Not for the faint hearted”.  That’s me, faint of heart.  That’s the kind of thing you’d make me watch if you were trying to punish me.  But it sounded like Gandolfini struggled with those portrayals, that they are not easy things to enact, or to watch.  But it’s a crucial part of this narrative–that it’s meant to be set as an example of how far on the spectrum these people can go.  That’s their reality.  But imagine having to play that?  Gandolfini spoke about the lengths he went to get to that place of anger to play those scenes convincingly: excessive amounts of coffee,  banging his head into a wall, forgoing sleep, a sharp rock in a shoe.  That is a lot of energy being given to a character, a character that is in a sense immortal. But the ramifications of that kind of work takes a toll on the mortal vessel, and sometimes this big heart, so full of other people’s struggles, burdens and emotions, can’t tick another second, and just gives out from holding on to too much.

the-sopranos-wallpaper      All Images Courtesy of Google

| Tagged "Inside the Actor's Studio", "The Sopranos", acting, Christchurch, IMDB, James Gandolfini, James Lipton, , television. loss, violence

Parton Ways

Several years ago, I played an embittered first wife in Arthur Miller’s play “After the Fall”.  I was meant to deliver this line, “I am a separate person”,with stoney certainty, but at the time, I didn’t quite understand it.  What does that even mean? Of course I’m a separate person, I’m standing apart from you.  But I’m married to you, so I’m connected to you? Either way…you’re leaving me for a thinly veiled version of Marilyn Monroe?

after the fall

But the play wasn’t about Louise, the nag, the shrew–it was about his second marriage, with Miller’s most famous wife, Marilyn Monroe, the red-hot mess.  (Before he can possibly consider marrying his third wife, the breath of fresh air).   Now, I love me some Monroe, my heart breaks for her, but historically speaking–Monroe was not a spectacular wife.  She just wasn’t. She was a selfish star who self-medicated with pills and champagne.  She was mentally ill, and wasn’t properly cared for.  Of course, Miller tried his damnedest to save her, but it was a truly impossible feat.  It would have been so easy to love her, but it was have been impossible to sustain that affection because it would have been like trying to fill an eternal void with all your precious energy.

miller monroe

The issue for Miller was that he was at a great height in his success, he was a beloved playwright with a Pulitzer Prize, and catalogue of important work.  But under Monroe’s spell, his work dwindled.  His sanity suffered.  He lost himself in trying to keep their relationship afloat.

miller behind monroe

He worked on her projects, followed her everywhere and even wrote the last film she ever completed, “The Misfits”.  By the end of filming, they flew home on separate planes, and their marriage was over.


Monroe was a rapidly wilting flower, and nothing could be done to change that.  I think she was convinced that marriage could save her life, but that’s a pretty lofty expectation for any relationship.  But Miller wasn’t without fault, he had told reporters that Monroe would make fewer pictures now that they were married: “She will be my wife.  That’s a full-time job”.  And that’s a mistake old Joe DiMaggio made as well, that marriage would somehow tame Monroe’s ways.  When in fact…I think marriage brought out the worst in her.  Anyhow, she and DiMaggio didn’t last a year, and her relationship with Miller failed after five years.  They split in 1961, and she died the following year.

unhppy monroe

Being married to Monroe would have been an all-consuming gig, and it would not always be rewarding.  (Louise ain’t looking too bad now eh Arthur?)  Demanding to be thought of as a separate person is not a crime.  It’s not a crime to demand that your spouse all but dissolve into your own being, but it’s certainly a misdemeanor.  In marriage, perhaps a bit of separateness is  needed for longevity.  Now married, I am just learning what that means.  We belong together, we live, eat, sleep and travel together, but we are still separate entities.  I think of marriage as a kind of three-legged race.  You are bound to each other, and are trying to run in a unified order in the same direction.  But what if you want to go in opposite directions?  Is that the fork in the road that signifies the end of your marriage?  That’s a perfectly terrifying thought.  In your marriage…or in any long-term relationship, there are decisions to be made.  These range from, “where are we going to order our Chinese takeout from?”, “which grocery store will we shop at?” “what movie are we going to watch tonight?” to “where are we going to live?” “how many children are we going to have?” “how will we spend our money?” “if I become a famous [insert profession here] will you accompany me to [insert award show, press junket, photo shoot here].  These are serious questions, and when the answers vary, it’s cause for concern.

picnicrace1946As a couple, my husband and I are polar opposites.  He is a strong silent type, and I just won’t shut the fuck up.  I want to be onstage, and he’d prefer to be behind the scenes.  I’m a social butterfly, and he’s a solitary bear.  He’s a sturdy structure, and I’m a twister swirling all around.  Our unifying quality is that we are both stubborn as  hell, and we often lock horns.  Our marital three legged race can be a challenge, I want to go one way, he the other.  But we don’t want to break up, fall apart, get divorced.   Is it possible to remove that tie and change the game?

These conversations have been occurring more frequently: “your thing doesn’t have to be my thing”.  Of course, I’ve never been married before, and obviously all my relationships failed before I met my husband, so I’m no expert on how to get these things right.  I love him deeply, I am committed to him, but I still belong to myself.  How do you successfully live your life as a spouse without letting go of your personal goals.  How does that important role not engulf you?

wedding photo

Last night, lying in the dark, thinking about my marriage, my husband, myself, my thoughts turn (naturally) to Dolly Parton.  Hasn’t she been married for ages to a man that has nothing to do with her career?

Dolly-Parton wedding

Yup. Dolly Parton has been married for a staggering 47-years to Carl Dean, whom she met at a laundromat when she was 20 years old.  Dean has absolutely nothing to do with the public aspects of her career.  She explained this in an interview with Oprah–another gal that knows a bit about being a “separate person”.  She and her partner of 25 years, rarely appear together publicly, and prefer it that way.  They also never married and claim that is what kept them together.


As for Dolly and her camera-shy husband, they learned quickly what worked for them:

“Early on in my career, I’d won [Song of the Year] in 1966, and I asked him to go with me. … He was so uncomfortable…He said: ‘Now I want you to do everything you want to do. I want you to enjoy every minute of your life. But don’t you ever ask me to go to another one of these things. Because I am not going.’”

And so, she never pushed him into partaking in another public event ever.  What is really interesting is that in exploring these ‘separate’ relationships, I’ve noticed an abundance  of criticism and suspicion.  Open marriages, secret lesbianism– Parton is rumored to be in a homosexual relationship with her best friend, a rap Oprah has also dealt with. God forbid it has anything to do with being comfortable in your marriage and and confident about going your own way.  And it is just that–she wanted to go this way, he wanted to go that way, but at the end of the day, they wanted to come home to the same place.

“He’s proud of me. He’s just basically shy about things like that. He doesn’t like crowds.  And I respect his privacy. I respect the fact that he loves to be out of the limelight. That’s one of the reasons I think we’ve lasted so long.”

parton marriage

(Wow, they seriously do not appear together in public, pictures of them are hard to find, and those you do see are grainier than a poorly made sex tape).

This is revolutionary thinking.  When Ben comes home from work, I’m invigorated by this concept–that I can have a life that I want, and the husband that I love, and that I have solid evidence that separateness can occasionally work.  I’m following him around the house and jabbering away about Dolly Parton.  A smile creeps across his face when I explain that Dolly happily goes it alone, and her husband happily stays at home.
Now, my husband doesn’t want me to be alone, but he’s relieved at the thought of having his own choices as well.     What I’m learning is that while there is room for growth, people have unchangeable qualities.  And I’m pretty sure that would appear on any ‘Ways to Not Cock-Up Your Marriage” lists:  don’t try to change your partner.  If you marry someone thinking that the ring on their finger will magically make them go against the values they started out with, then it will never work.  For a marriage to succeed for decades upon decades, there needs to be a bit of room; freedom to wander away, and know that there is a place to come home to, and a person who is waiting to hear about what you achieved all on your own.
o and dollyAll Images Courtesy of Google