Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Heathcliff (is in my lungs)

I was sick last week with bronchitis. Nurse Sarah called it a newborn virus, which means you hope it happens to you before you turn two. I guess when you are two, your schedule is a lot more flexible and people are less likely to yell at you for getting behind in your responsbilities because all you do is take naps all day. Anyway, take naps all day is all I did, for days. It got boring even while it was still necessary. I didn't realise how dopey I was until I tried to read and couldn't understand the plot. It was an Edith Wharton book, so not that much to understand: young lady who is not quite destitute but almost is willful and refuses to let her heart be constrained by the poverty of her circumstances. Later this weekend it made more sense. Except for the end, but I think that was the fault of Wharton, not me. I was reading "Summer" and I've previously read "The House of Mirth", but what's with ending every story with your heroine falling into a hazy kind of stupor in which she, to her own incredulity, does exactly what she's been fighting against the whole book? Canonical chops and critical praise notwithstanding, I don't know if I feel up to reading more Wharton if I know I'm going to spend the last twenty pages of the book going, "Noooooooooooo. Ugh."

I guess I'll just clutch my handkerchief to my lips and utter another TB-like cough (upper respitory track infections are so romantic) and swallow my bad-smelling antibiotics. And try not to get impregnated by tepid youths who would love me for all eternity if they weren't accidentally sort of, whoops, engaged to someone else. If I've learned nothing else from Wharton, I've learned that. I wish she had called one of her books "Why Buy The Cow?"

Cough cough cough cough cough cough.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Last weekend my friend Katie's younger sister Emily died in a hostel fire in Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile. She was backpacking with her friend Lauren and they were about set off for adventures in Patagonia. She was 25. Both of them were quickly identified because they had gone to sleep lying on their passports and the passports were undamaged, so we know they died of smoke inhalation. They just went to sleep and never woke up.

I spent some days this past week up in Vancouver with Katie and her family. It's hard to know how to write about this thing: it is too big to fit my arms around. I was really scared to go to Katie's house because her house is so much like my house. I spent a lot of time over there when we were in high school (it's only a walk through the top of the park and then one more block) and I know where the mugs are and the plates and the spoons. This turned out to be helpful. I tried to bring everything I could think to: music and novels and the BBC Pride and Prejudice. Every day felt really really different than the day before, and different stuff happened. Katie's mom always thought I looked more like Em than Katie did, so I was trying to be careful. Sometimes Kate and I talked about Em, sometimes we talked about calling people and arrangements and sometimes we talked about silly stuff like re-enacting The Taming of the Shrew with cabbage patch kids for English class in grade 12.

People brought or sent a lot of food over, which was helpful. Especially vegetables, salad, fruit, and dishes to reheat. A lot of the food was wonderful comfort food, but made one feel a bit sluggish.

People brought or sent a lot of flowers. They were appreciated but let me dole out some advice: if you'd like to send flowers, ask the family while on the phone with them to see if they'd rather have the money sent to a fund or if they'd rather the flowers came later and were plants. Please don't send formal, funereal bouquets, they are depressing. If you are going to send a bouquet, let it be colourful and cheering and come in its own vase. If they are stuck into those green foamy things they wilt quickly and that's the last thing you want. In fact, though it may seem humble, a living plant may be the best kind of thing to send. But ask first, especially if it's a couple days in.

I felt happy to know the family well enough that I could just hang around and be another person in the house. I think sometimes the tendency is for people to stay away in a time of grief, but the Longworths wanted people around and they wanted to talk about their funny kid and see pictures of her grinning away or see all the cool stuff that she made and even hear stories about how she duped her dad into think the Liquor Board of Ontario charges on his visa were for the university bookstore. Fortunately Em went lots and lots of places and took armloads of great photos, in almost every one of which she is grinning a huge and joyful grin. She made lots of stuff, including a beautiful knit blanket for her sister for a wedding present. Katie cuddled under that a lot.

I knew Em a bit when we were growing up, but got to know her as an adult this spring at Katie's wedding. I had a fantastic time at the wedding. The whole thing felt so uncontrived and genuine. Miss Emily was a big part of that: she's kind of a fun expert. After the dinner, most of the guests went to bed, but Em and her friend Lucia and a handful of Katie's friends and I stayed up and danced and drank until super late. It was the most fun I had had in a long time and I remember being really thankful to Katie and her sister for such a joyful time.

Last week Katie and I went for walks and runs in Lighthouse Park, which is basically a forest on the sea full of little rocky trails. The reward of all the hills and valleys is to get to the shore and see out across Burrand Inlet, out to Point Grey and see and hear all the life around you. Katie kept seeing eagles, every day. Eagles flying in to roost in the snags, or in the reflection of the pond in my front yard, wheeling overhead, quite close and low. Once we were standing on a high rock face and an eagle flew from a tree top near our heads out to the sea. When my grandma died, my mom kept seeing ravens and finding raven feathers--huge black wing-feathers lying across her path as she stepped out the back door. Katie said yesterday she and her husband Brendan were standing on a rock by the sea and two eagles flew in over the water to roost right above their heads.

You can look at Em's travel blog here and her friend Lauren's travel blog here . The family will be holding a celebration for Em on February 17th in Vancouver. You can email emilys.celebration -at- gmail.com for more info. The family is accepting donations in lieu of flowers for a fund for beginning teachers in East Van and they are accepting cards via a friend--please be in touch with me if you need this information.

Hangover Twin!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sorry For Touching Your Soup Can

There's this guy in my writing class who really wants to name his pirate epic "Black Flag". We keep telling him not to because of the band, but he persists. I keep thinking of him and Henry Rollins having a fight over it. Rollins would win.

Many people not from Vancouver, BC, Canada have not heard of Nardwuar the Human Serviette, which is a shame because he's great (early stuff is the best). Perhaps his brand of gonzo works best in a limited locality, although Nardwuar worldwide sounds kind of like a planet I'd like to live on.

Once Doretta and I went to a Peaches show back when it was really hard to get "The Teaches of Peaches" in North America, even though she's Canadian. CiTR had it and Doretta played it a lot on her show and we'd bop around in the studio while it was playing. Anyway, the show was great and Dorrie said I should do an on-air review of it, but I had to work during her show, so I did the review over the phone from the pay parking booth in scenic Horseshoe Bay. The show was great, one of the best shows I've ever been to. It was Peaches, a piece of shit electronic backbeat, her wearing aviators and a moustache and doing a strip show that ended in hot pants with pubes poking out the sides. And then her opening act rushing on stage and them spitting fake blood on each other's chests. Killer. I did the review over the phone and forgot parts of it and said "oh, yeah, I forgot this one part" a lot.

Anyway, Dorrie said she passed Nardwuar in the hallway that day and he said the review was the best review he'd ever heard. When Dorrie told me this it was like I breached another plateau of cool. Nardwuar loves me? I love him!

Thursday, February 01, 2007