Sweatin’ in the summer sun

June 26, 2007 at 9:24 pm | Posted in life | 1 Comment

My third floor, un-air conditioned attic apartment was sweltering by 9 am. Even though I had a while before I had to be at work, I left early to take advantage of the air conditioning there. That’s pretty much unheard of.

Summer’s one of those funny seasons for me. There are things that I love about it, including the clothing, or lack thereof; sometimes it’s nice to leave the house wearing only a single layer. I like summer activities: swimming, hiking, camping, biking. Summer songs are pretty much awesome and hilarious and it seems like every band has at least one (off the top of my head: basically anything by the Beach Boys; Summersong by the Decemberists; that one by Sheryl Crow…ya know, the one that goes something like, “Put my 45 on so I can rock on,” though why she needs sunscreen for that is beyond me).

But oh God, I was born and raised in Miami. I have a lifetime of summers stored up. I’m not hurting for summers. Springs, falls, winters: those are the seasons I’m lacking. But spring is over and fall is yet to come, and it’s bittersweet anyway, cause that means winter’s on its way and while I don’t mind winter I haven’t come to love it, and so right now there’s summer.

I love summers in un-summery places — people seem to alternately revel and wilt in them. I remember in college in Portland when, after a long, rainy winter, the sun would finally come out and even though it would be 60 degrees, max, girls around campus would try not to shiver in skirts and halter tops. We’d be out in bikinis and playing frisbee and soccer in March, our pasty skin barely warming in the still-chilly air. It seemed so obscene to me at the time, to see so much skin after so long. I’d have forgotten that my classmates had bodies under their polar fleece and Gore-Tex and when they revealed their arms and legs and cleavage I almost had to look away.

The summer of 2002, between my junior and senior years of undergrad, I worked on my college’s paint crew with my boyfriend, with whom I also shared an apartment. We were up at 6:30, at work at 7:30, and done at 3:30. I worked on the indoor crew, repainting the scuffed walls of the dorms. Even in shorts and a t-shirt, with the windows wide open to let in whatever (stiflingly hot) breeze there was, we’d be sweating like pigs by 10 am. There were days when it was too hot for the boys on the outdoor crew to paint. In the evenings, Vito and I would return home to our humid apartment, where mold grew year-round. Complaining about the weather was practically a regional past-time.

Still, that was one of my favorite summers. I was off to Scotland in the fall, and the last two weeks before I left were wonderful — a week in San Diego, in a rented beach apartment with Vito and his mom, boogie-boarding in the cool ocean and baking in the heat; three days in Lake Tahoe with Vito and Aundra, catching crawdads and swimming in the lake; a couple nights at Crater Lake with the same two, when the forest fire smoke cleared for a single day, the day we were there, and we took the boat to Wizard Island.

Summer here is gardens and cottages and days off work and smog and fans and bikes, from what I can tell. I already have a tan line from my watch, various tan lines from various tank tops, a tan line from my Birks. I’m not one of those careful girls who pulls the straps of her tank top or bikini down to get an even tan, or slathers on sunscreen at the first sign of summer sun. Hell, I don’t even try to tan, it just happens.

With my oscillating fan, endless bottles of white wine and maybe even refrigerated red wine (blasphemy) for those lightly alcoholic weeks, shorts and tank tops and sandals and skirts, a wet sarong draped over my body at night so I can sleep, a bike to get around town quickly, summer will pass.

The cult of happiness

June 23, 2007 at 1:22 pm | Posted in life, things that annoy | 3 Comments

I was indulging in my favorite Saturday morning ritual — eating breakfast, drinking tea, and reading the newspaper which, come to think of it, is actually an everyday ritual but I suppose it’s made a little sweeter on Saturday by the fact that I don’t have to go to work — and I came across this piece on happiness in the Globe and Mail. It’s written by Leah McLaren, who’s generally not one of my favorite G&M writers, though I have to say that I find her grumpiness a little charming at times.

Anyway, McLaren points out that we are living in a time when happiness is a hot commodity — there are dozens upon dozens of self-help books devoted to the pursuit of happiness, and we are constantly being urged to take up yoga or journalling or meditation, activities that are apparently guaranteed to at least point us in the direction of our elusive goal — and then calls bullshit on it.

About fucking time, and thank fucking God.

No amount of pop psychology or gratitude journalling is going to change the fact that the president of my country has engaged young men and women and civilians from all over the world, but particularly those from Afghanistan and Iraq, in an endless, morally bankrupt war.

No amount of yoga or motivational speaking is going to change the fact that our actions and practices are causing global warming.

No amount of smiley faces is going to change the fact that children are being abused, women are being raped, and men are being tortured, all over the world, in every community and every country, often for nothing more than being gay or female or black or whatever.

In short, the world is a fucked up place, even in relatively decent North America, and I refuse to mask my anger and frustration and sorrow over all of the screwed up things that happen with a smile and a gratitude journal. (As McLaren writes, “While positive psychology points to rising levels of depression as a legitimate problem in our society (Prof. Ben-Shahar warns of a great “emotional bankruptcy”), its solutions are inward-looking and facile. Imagine, for a moment, where we’d be if Martin Luther King Jr. had decided to purge his negative emotions by keeping a gratitude journal?”)

But.

That’s not to say that I don’t experience happiness and contentment, often on a daily basis. I’m gainfully employed and I like my job and the people I work with. I have a comfortable apartment to come home to every evening. I live in a vibrant, healthy city. I have a group of awesome friends who make me laugh harder than I ever thought possible. I have a small container garden and the simple, lovely joy of watching plants grow makes my mornings and evenings a treat. I have a family who loves me. I have a bike and a camera. I know how to make things and I do, often. I read tons of books. My life is pretty much awesome.

Pessimist? Yes. Realist? Yes. Depressed? Yup. Cynical and sarcastic? Sure. Unapologetically pissed off about the state of the world at large? Abso-fucking-lutely.

In love with my life, as it stands, at this very moment? You better believe it.

Thank you, Leah McLaren, for reminding us that one does not need to be either happy or unhappy, positive or negative; that rose-colored glasses don’t change the fact that the world is fucked up; that pessimism and happiness are not mutually exclusive.

Kill closet rock stars

June 21, 2007 at 11:59 pm | Posted in boys, things that annoy | 1 Comment

Ok, I like music as much as the next girl, which means:

–I listen to lots of the music I was raised on, including the eternally uncool Billy Joel and the Beach Boys’ surf songs (not just the hipster-approved Pet Sounds);

–I also listen to pop artists and indie bands and folk and classic rock and grunge and sometimes classical and never, ever, EVER country or techno or Celine Dion; and

–I even went through my own rock star phase when I was 14, wherein I decided that my dream in life was to play the guitar, so I took lessons and went to a rock ‘n’ roll “camp” over the summer (two weeks at the University of Miami; it wasn’t super elaborate or anything and there were lots of cute boys); I wore band t-shirts and Converse and torn jeans and flannel; and I shopped at the now-defunct Y & T Records in Miami, where I longed to buy the Don’t Suck Corporate Cock shirt but figured it might not be the best idea to ask my mom to buy it for me (shut up).

However.

I grew out of my music snob phase quite a while ago, and even though I still enjoy teasing Lorien for her taste in music , I just do not give a shit about my friends’, my coworkers’, the boys I date’s, taste in music. (Sorry for that awkward sentence construction there.)

Sometimes, I think I might be the only one.

Has anyone else had the unfortunate combination of being a single girl in a large, hip city; being attracted to tall, thin nerdy types; and also not giving a flying fuck about anyone’s band? I mean, hello, I barely even know the names of the musicians in the bands I like. But, I fear that I should just resign myself to dating pretentious music snobs and closet rock stars, people who consider knowledge of obscure bands — most of them local — to be the pinnacle of knowledge and the only thing worth discussing.

I’ve dated musicians before and have found that this always, always, becomes a point of contention, partly due, I’m sure, to my own attitude towards their obsession with music and their band. Talking about music doesn’t bother me, actually, and I like being exposed to new stuff; it’s when music becomes the only topic of conversation that I start to get pissy and irritated. Why do people, urban boys in particular, become so obsessed with music? Why is it used as a platform of cool? Is it because it’s something we all have in common? I mean, everyone listens to some kind of music, so I suppose knowing more about it than most other people has a certain kind of attraction, if you’re a certain kind of douchebag. It’s just bothersome that we can never discuss things about which I am knowledgeable, like literature or knitting or photography. Or even things that neither of us know anything about, like woodworking, or kites, or whatever. I mean, I don’t care what the fuck we talk about, as long as it’s not (often and incessantly):
–your band,
–your friend’s band,
–[insert name of obscure local band here], or
–the Beatles versus the Rolling Stones (similarly: Pet Sounds versus Revolver; how country music influenced rock ‘n’ roll; why early the Who is better than late the Who).

The impetus for this post is that I’ve been browsing through some ads on Lavalife (online dating, for the uninitiated), and I swear to you, nine times out of ten, if I happen upon a profile that isn’t littered with exclamation marks or cheesy, pseudo-romantic catchphrases (Am I the 1 4 U? and similar), the dude is a musician. Some even mention it in their LL “name” (e.g., GuitrLovr). I feel like just throwing in the towel and dating an accountant or something. After all, OkCupid’s dating persona quiz told me, a Window Shopper, that “Even though you might be attracted to them, avoid artists at all costs.” Clearly, there is only room for one artsy snob in a relationship, and that’s sure as hell going to be me.

The better way

June 19, 2007 at 11:02 pm | Posted in family | 3 Comments

My parents were visiting for a few days, and overall, we had a lovely time: we went to Algonquin Park and went hiking and canoeing; they attended my graduation luncheon; we visited the Toronto Islands. We took the TTC a number of times, as my dad finds it difficult to walk long distances without resting (which is hilarious, cause on our 11 km hike in Algonquin, he was light years ahead of my mom and I). I even made my parents take public transit into town by themselves when I couldn’t meet them at the airport. Now, I consider both of them to be fairly intelligent people, but I swear to God, it’s as if they’d never been on public transportation before.

The Kipling station doesn’t have turnstiles, which means, essentially, that you don’t have to pay a fare if you’re coming directly from that station (if you’re coming from the airport or another bus route, you’ve paid on the bus). They could NOT wrap their minds around this, and we must’ve had the following conversation 50 times:

Mom: “So, when we take the Tube/Underground [subway; for some reason they thought we were in London] tomorrow [to Kipling], are we going to have to pay when we get off the subway?”
Dad: “You mean we’re going to have to pay twice?”
Me: “No. You’ll pay at Dupont station, then transfer at Spadina, then ride the subway all the out to the end of the line. You won’t pay at the bus.”
Mom (or Dad): “So how do they know that we’ve paid?”
Me: “Because you’re coming from the subway, but even if you weren’t, it doesn’t matter because that station doesn’t have turnstiles.”
Dad (or Mom): “But how do they know that we’ve paid?”
Me: “Because you’re coming from the…” ad nauseum infinitum

I swear, 90% of our conversations consisted of me explaining the TTC to them — or them asking me questions I couldn’t answer. Do any of you know the answers to the following?

Is the population of Montreal similar to that of Toronto?
What is the largest immigrant demographic in Toronto?
Is that the Toronto flag?
Is that the Ontario flag?
Are the provinces broken down into counties?
Does Lake Ontario get rough?
Why isn’t this lighthouse closer to the lake?

Shuffle is brilliant

June 12, 2007 at 10:39 pm | Posted in random | 1 Comment

I was in the darkroom the other day and I was listening to my iPod. I usually listen to it on shuffle cause I like the variety. Anyway, Ben Gibbard does this pretty funny cover of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” (I love it cause at the end, he’s all, “The situation really isn’t that complicated, is it? I mean, she’s into this guy and he’s just not really all that into her.” Hilarious), and it came on. The next song — the very next song — was Avril Lavigne’s original. What a priceless moment.

Perfect day

June 10, 2007 at 12:47 pm | Posted in life | 1 Comment

I love weekends, particularly Saturday mornings. I’m usually not hungover cause I don’t really like going out on Fridays. I’m tired from work or school or whatever, and I just want to chill and relax and watch tv and knit, which is exactly what I did this Friday. I love waking up on Saturday morning, all refreshed and happy, and having the whole weekend ahead of me.

The Globe and Mail weekend edition comes out on Saturday, so I can hang out with a cup of coffee or three and read all of the foofy shit I don’t get to read during the week — the Style section in particular is perfect Saturday/Sunday morning reading. Do you care about capris? No? Are you sure? That section has a way of making me feel like I do, actually, give a shit about the in length of pants this season. Love it.

And then there’s the food. Yesterday I made chocolate chip banana pancakes with fresh strawberries sliced on top and maple syrup. (We’re going to overlook the fact that I think that my syrup has mold in it.) I’m making potato hash with dill and goat cheese today, and I’m cooking the potatoes and listening to the Talking Heads as I write this.

I love these slow moments, when I can cook leisurely and listen to music and enjoy a beverage (dinner cooking = wine or beer, breakfast cooking = coffee or tea), and I’m not pressed for time at all. Pretty sure that these are the moments that make for a contented life — cooking something from scratch, singing loudly and poorly all the while; or laughing with a friend over something inane; or taking a long walk for no real reason; or settling in with a good book and a glass of wine. The mediterranean lifestyle has always appealed to me — they seem to understand that life doesn’t always have to be fast and frenetic to be happy and productive; in fact, it’s probably the opposite.

One thing that I hate about the United States is that there’s no room for leisure. Americans are among the hardest-working people in the world and our productivity is mainly for naught. Or, I suppose, not for naught, because our efforts are destroying cultures and ecosystems all over the world. But when it comes to contentment and fulfillment, I wouldn’t say that Americans are the forerunners worldwide. How could we be? We’re too busy buying bigger better televisions and houses and cars to actually enjoy the small moments of life that actually matter.

Speaking of which, my hash is ready and there are at least two sections of the paper that I haven’t read yet.

Daddy’s little girl

June 3, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Posted in boys, family | 6 Comments

I’ve sworn off men once again, people. I know, I know, not a huge surprise, and also a vow likely to be broken in a matter of days, given the course of my dating life so far. But if it doesn’t get broken, more power to me.

I mentioned this no-more-men vow to my father, who along with my mom usually gets the abbreviated version of my dating life (it’s not a love life, really, and I would be a fool to refer to it as such). My dad is vaguely supportive of me in my romantic spills and scrapes — he obviously doesn’t wish me any harm but also refuses to hand out advice on the matter; I’m not sure if this is because he thinks it would go unheeded and doesn’t wish to waste his breath, or if it’s because he doesn’t want to be held accountable for anything I do upon receiving advice. My frequent lament is that I haven’t had a really serious boyfriend since Vito, my college boyfriend, and I broke up four years ago (holy fuck). Since, I’ve dated plenty of guys and have entered into little pseudo-relationships with some that never last more than a couple of months. (This is certainly something I see as a failure. What, after all, is the point of trying on so many freakin’ hats if you never ever find one that you want to wear for more than half a season?) Anyway, I was discussing this with my father, and I mentioned that I put up with a lot of bullshit from Vito that I wouldn’t necessarily put up with from him or anyone else now. My father said, “Well, maybe that’s your problem. Maybe you need to lower your standards.”

I was floored. My father thinks I need to lower my standards? People, when your parents start telling you that you’re aiming too high, someone has a problem. Isn’t my dad supposed to say things like, “That bastard! His loss,” and, “No man is good enough for my little girl”?

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