My brother started collecting squirrel skulls at the age of seven. But it is not yet time for madness to enter the story.

My mother found a ring at the Canadian National Exhibition Princess Gates. But it is not yet time for turquoise to enter the story.

I fell in love on the Paris Metro. But it is not time for Trocadero to enter the story.

Still, we have to enter somehow, with the story of something. So how about the story of the thimble in my jewelry box – and how it is the only thing left from my father’s house. He burned mom’s recipes and gave away her coats. Who would want them? he asked the daughter, seriously.

So I rescued her thimble and keep it preserved. And I guess that in itself is a little bit of madness and, in fact, is proof that it’s never too early for madness to enter a story.

Collecting squirrel skulls is certainly madness. My brother didn’t kill the squirrels, I hope you didn’t think that; that would be seriously mad. No, he just saved and preserved skulls he found in the woods; he had good eyes, good skills for such a thing. Our father had been a naturalist and taxidermist from the age of 13 so in our family this sort of thing was considered not even close to madness. When my father’s mother, my grandmother Clem, killed herself at 38, her madness was swept under the rug. His collections of bird and small animal skulls provided some kind of intricate, earthy solace.

The ring? Why did I save my mother’s thimble instead of the turquoise ring? I don’t know, really. The thimble seemed more her to me. She sewed some clothes for me with it. If you know what I mean.

trocadero-2I’m starting to think the turquoise ring would fit better inside a story about love on the Paris Metro. So now it is time to introduce Trocadero to the story.

There is no Eiffel Tower stop, you see; you have to know that you get off at Trocadero if you want the best view of the tower. There is a flat plane leading up to it, and always lots of people selling Eiffel Tower trinkets. Key chains. Pens. Sunglasses. Statuettes. Bottled mineral water that says Evian on the label but you suspect has been replaced with tap water. Counterfeit Evian. Paris is just that kind of place. You love and trust it even as you are suspicious of everything.

Trocadero. Did I really find love there? Seriously? No.

But I really love the sound of Trocadero. Troc-a-de-ro. Trocadero. I also love the sound of Vavin – which is a Metro stop close to another Paris tower – the less famous, big black monolith of Montparnasse that’s world-class ugly and completely soul-less. Apparently there is a view, but why would you go up to see that when you can just sit in the Odessa Cafe and enjoy the swirling sepia tones of the City of Light?

Vavin. Va-vin … Va va va voom … TROCADEEEEEEERO!

I fell in love with a boy on the Paris Metro. He was wearing a turquoise ring and reminded me a bit of my little brother. He made art that induced madness in squirrels.



la gare

seen better in black and white
seen best through a brasserie glass
how can i tell you: it felt like home
from the first inhalation

down on the other corner is the cemetery
where simone du beauvoir and jean-paul sartre, seeking eternal rest,
are pestered daily by well-meaning fans leaving stones, coins, metro tickets
still, it beats lying next to jim morrison over in pere lachaise
that one’s like a bloody airport, crowds of people pushing and weeping
looking to pocket fragments of the famous: chopin dust, piaf crumbs
smearing the pink tomb of oscar wilde with lipstick kisses

edgar quinet is the metro stop
ringed by art stores, pharmacie, cafe la liberte, news stand.
there is creperie row, and opposite is rue de la gaite
you can pick up asian takeaway and X-rated video on your way to la gare.
down that spoke is the cyber cube where you can rent an english keyboard
and on rue delambre there’s a laundry next to cath & dave’s hotel.
there are loads more art stores; you said you like to paint?
and café dietetique, where the food is not salted
but it makes you feel lucky.

wednesday means street market, where the most brazen of eggplants
and strawberries compete for your love with cheeses and other-wordly olives
and fresh cut flowers and paisley ties and pickpockets.
there are tablecloths and genuine french berets
and leathers and imported scarves
there are small dogs attached to large owners, and satchels,
and not as many people smoke anymore.

on sundays the mussels and vegetables are replaced by etchings and small sculptures.
art invades this street. the vendors will ship it to your house
on the other side of the world.

sometimes there’s a flea market with bird cages and old dolls
no photos please, monsieur, you must stop your camera merci beaucoup

we can sit now in cafe odessa, the most darling of all my french mistresses.
she reeks of tobacco and beer and her music is a tired loop of hits
from the american ’80s.
her upholstery is worn, and in some places torn
but we don’t care. we tell ourselves it’s charming,
in the same way the waiters pretend to find our canadian accents charming.
we know they’re making fun of us
and we don’t care.
we order beer named after french gnomes, even though you wanted a coffee.
beer is cheaper, madame; you might as well get that.

this neighbourhood is even better at night. all the outside chairs are taken;
people talk and eat and glasses tinkle
and motorbikes zoom past and drunks amble by
muttering obscenities (which always sound fiercer en francais)
and shaking their fists at le ciel

and this is where picasso and hemingway liked to party
wait, you mean you didn’t know that?

at another cafe a cat sits on the tables,
a case of black-cat ass right on your linen napkin.
i took a picture of it through the window one time
kitty bum snuggled right next to the cutlery
i do not recommend dining there

on another corner, buses. the ugly black tower.
a department store that sells the finest cheap lemon vervaine soap
and those striped shirts that make me wish i was a russian sailor
cinema, patisserie, pain au chocolat, tarte au citron
sweetest of all is that screeching metal-burnt sugar smell of the paris underground
how can i tell you it has held my heart
for a thousand years?


oot and aboot / from the kiwi road less travelled

three reasons why i’ll never be a travel writer:

3.) you need to have an attention span; i had mine surgically removed some years back.

2.) you need to make careful observances about regional landmarks and scenic things, and take lots of notes. i am unable to do those things when i travel. i eat what’s in season, and i drink what’s on tap at the local pub, and i take pictures of visually appealing meals that are plunked down in front of me, and i stare at these most amazing clouds, and i forget the names of almost everything that is shown to me, so that later, when it comes time to write about these things, i can’t remember a thing.

1.) you need to capture the essence of place in your writing, in a way that is compelling and interesting for the reader. being totally self-absorbed, and constantly in search of comfort foods, i tend to capture little but the essence of what’s on the end of my fork at any given time.

that said, what follows is the sum total of the woefully inadequate jottings from my upside-down travel journal, new zealand, 2009.

january 16: finish packing. tidy computer desk. clean basement. leave for auckland, 4 p.m. flight

jan. 17: the lost day

jan. 18: arrived in auckland 5 a.m. it took half an hour to get our bags and another 30 minutes to get through various customs checks. a security beagle sniffed out my cashews, which were missed (ha!) by the spaniel.

lindy’s friend claire met us at the airport and drove us to blockhouse bay road. had coffee/tea and chatted a bit, then went for groceries (to two stores, and still forgot some things, which meant another trip out later in the day.) i slept from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. while lindy and claire went out walking. ate lunch around 2 p.m. — bread, cheese, tomatoes and a nice hummus with jalapeno and lime and even coriander (which was, mercifully, disguised by the jalapeno).

took my camera for a walk for about an hour, and then sat on the back step and stared at claire’s clothesline and garden. dinner was pasta with artichokes, olives, rocket, preserved lemon and haloumi. yummy.

claire and lindy at galbraith's pub, formerly a library

claire and lindy at galbraith's alehouse, formerly a library

jan. 19: woke around 5 a.m. after seven straight hours of sleep. got up at 6 and made coffee. there’s a bit of rain but also lots of blue sky above. to get: coffee. claire took us on a literary tour of auckland / ponsonby / devonport (lunch).

jan 21: gannet colony (takapu refuge) and muriwai beach.

jan. 22: vector arena. leonard cohen concert. 7:30 p.m. awesome. 26 songs, including seven during three encores. (when cohen sang the line, “democracy is coming … to the u.s.a.” — this being two days after barack obama’s inauguration — the entire place erupted.)

jan. 23: women’s weekend at whatipu lodge.

jan. 24: walked two hours up big hill overlooking the water. (ed’s note: see what i mean about lack of attention span? details, macfayden. grab some freakin’ details.)

jan. 25: sick. sore throat and flu-ish. left whatipu (pronouced fa-ti-poo) around 2. stopped for lozenges on the way home. (thank you, claire.)

jan. 26: *mail birthday card to shelley. 7:30 a.m. train to palmerston north — 10 hours. met by maree at 5:30 p.m., then about a half-hour drive to tangimoana. still feel sick. ate supper at 9 p.m. — zucchini soup, potatoes and beans, pasta with zucchini and beets. sabine made me thyme tea with honey for my throat. (thank you, sabine.)

sand dunes at tangimoana

sand dunes at tangimoana

jan. 27: toast and honey for breakfast. walked with lindy to what we thought was the sea, but was in fact the mouth of a very large river. took lots of pictures. had soup for lunch. sabine made a thai curry for supper. still sick.

jan. 28: throat worse. (like i swallowed razorblades.) sabine & maree insisted i see a doctor in palmerston north before we boarded the bus for wellington. am now on penicillin (it’s probably strep). 4 p.m., checked into cambridge hotel, wellington. paid $17.50 for two beers at a bar down the street. had dinner at an indian restaurant.

jan. 29: $2 breakfast special (egg and toast) at the hostel cafe, and another $6.50 for tea and coffee. $4 for a takeaway coffee at a cafe and $2.50 for a lemon-thyme flavoured chocolate for lindy. picked up groceries: almond butter, hummus, yogurt, juice, tea, milk. te papa national museum / shopping for merino wool items on cuba street / willis street / indian supper on courtenay.

pumpkin coconut soup at leafee cafe, wellington

pumpkin coconut soup at leafee cafe, wellington

jan. 30: rode the “iconic” wellington cable car to hector’s observatory and the botanical garden. lunch (pumpkin/coconut/curry soup) at leafee on T. road, then more tramping around the botanic garden. supper at one red dog cafe (pasta, salad, beer).

jan. 31: still in wellington. lindy made penne pasta & veg. stirfry for supper in the hostel kitchen, which took over an hour on the world’s most inefficient stovetop.

random notes: wellington has a nifty writers walk along the harbourfront. te papa museum is amazing. went there twice and still didn’t come close to seeing everything. the botanic garden is huge, full of many paths with unclear signage that became very irritating by late afternoon. saw some cool installation art (e.g., white lace and red ribbons on trees) and many more mutant hydrangeas in lovely light blue and lavender colours.

feb. 2: 8:25 a.m. ferry to picton (south island). rough crossing. walked from ferry dock to sequoia hostel on nelson square. then walked back into town to check out cafes, stores, eco-tours, etc. had supper in an indian restaurant. found a nice red pinot noir — mill road hawkes bay 2006. and i generally don’t even like pinot noir, but this one was something to write home about.

feb. 3: this hostel serves free breakfast (toast & jam, coffee, tea) in the mornings and hot chocolate pudding with ice cream every night at 8 p.m. for lunch we cooked penne with swiss chard (called silver beet down here) and garlic. in the afternoon we went on a four-hour eco-tour to the motuara island sanctuary; along the way we saw diving gannets, spotted shags (cormorants), a rare “king” shag, hector’s dolphins and fur seals. on the island we saw a blue penguin chick (in a nesting box). supper was beer and very tasty greek pizza at the slip inn restaurant, where the power kept going off.

feb. 4: (happy birthday shelley b. and kathy s.) rainy day, too wet for another boat tour, so we played scrabble and watched LOTR, part 2, in which the dialogue sucked but the scenery was stunning.

feb. 5: 1 p.m train to kaikoura. quenched our thirst with a monteith’s original on tap, then found a thai restaurant for supper. excellent green curry and veg. pad thai (spelled “pud” thai on the menu). receptionist at dolphin hostel huffy, stuffy and downright rude. toilets are co-ed and smell like pee. room so small we can barely move around the bed; no place to hang clothes or stow our backpacks. we’ll remember this when it comes time to fill out the “backpackers hostel rankings” survey.

Sperm whale tail, Kaikura

Sperm whale tail, Kaikoura

feb. 6: waitangi day / mario’s birthday. train to christchurch didn’t leave til 3:30 p.m. so we had time to go on a mid-day whale-watching tour. saw three sperm whales and a pod of dusky dolphins. took about 300 pictures (culled down to 50). guy on the boat sitting next to me got seasick and puked his guts out. arrived christchurch in early evening. women’s guesthouse has a nice herb garden, spring water, and lots of places for hanging clothes — a concept that is lost on many hostel operators.

feb. 7: christchurch market; mailed postcard to sarah (who has a thing about christchurch).

feb. 8: 8:15 a.m. train to greymouth. global village backpackers hostel = nice, clean, cheery. took their bikes out for a walk. (lindy felt uncomfortable riding on the sidewalk, even though it was sunday afternoon and the place was a ghost town.) 4 p.m. tour of monteith’s brewery. our guide paul was very generous with the pour when it came to sampling the six varieties. 6 p.m. laurie’s now-infamous hostile/hostel meltdown (unsuitable content removed by moderator).

feb. 9: 2 p.m. shuttle van tour to punakaiki / pancake rocks and unco-operative blow hole. walked the truman track through rainforest. took lots of photos. very humid.

feb. 10: train back to christchurch. ate hummus & sprouts sandwiches for lunch on the train; supper was nuts and rice crackers and lots of WINE at the women’s guesthouse. light rain in evening. there are two guineapig mascots at this hostel, named princess and duchess.

feb. 11: laundry day at the guesthouse. while lindy toured yet another museum — or was it another botanic garden? — laurie visited the casino and won $2200 NZ. thank you, pink panther slot machine.

feb. 12: rain. women’s guesthouse overbooked, so we moved a few blocks away to foley towers (NOT fawlty towers). met sabine at the art gallery and took her to lunch at the lotus heart. then went to the paua shell house exhibit at canterbury museum. hilarious kitsch. pizza for supper at the bohemian cafe.

Stones from the beach, Akaroa

Stones from Birdlings Flat, on the way to Akaroa

feb. 13: 8:40 a.m. bus to akaroa for harbour cruise. cruise ended up being cancelled due to rough seas, so we had lunch (pizza, beer) and stocked up on more merino wool apparel (lindy bought a scarf and gloves and longjohns, and put ALL of them on, because it was so cold that day); laurie got attacked by a flock of vicous red-beaked seagulls.

feb. 14: lunch at the twisted hop; nice pub grub (couscous, roasted vegs) and an outstanding beer sampler. caught a matinee performance of la cage au folles, followed by happy hour (marlborough wine, cheap like borscht!) at a cafe next to the art gallery, followed by valentine’s day supper at lotus heart, followed by email check at an internet cafe. a good heart day.

feb. 15: 7 a.m. train to picton, then 1:10 p.m. ferry to wellington. staying two nights at downtown packpackers hostel.

feb. 16: viewed outstanding “monet and the impressionists” exhibit at te papa. (this was the reason we changed our itinerary and made room for two more nights in wellington. well, that and another lunch at the backbenchers’ pub, home of the best french fries and aioli in the freakin’ salty snack universe!)

feb. 17: 7:25 a.m. train to marton. lunch at the mothered goose cafe in bulls. pasta supper at laura’s (another friend from the gardening email list).

feb.18: 10:25 a.m. train to auckland. arrived at britomart station at 8:30 p.m., one hour late. bumped into claire on the way up from the train at avondale.

feb. 19: auckland. a day of laundry and email.

feb. 20: RAIN. all day. sick (again). claire drove us to thames (“tims”) tonight. we’re spending the weekend at julie and steve’s B&B.

Lunch in the Coromandel at Driving Creek Cafe

Lunch in the Coromandel at Driving Creek Cafe

feb. 21: still SICK. cold, flu. (bah.) thames market / coromandel town. lunch at the driving creek cafe. rainforest, kauri grove …

feb. 22: lunch at SOLA (voted best cafe in the region). still sick. stopped at bird refuge on the way back to auckland.

feb. 24: bus to rotorua. lunch at the fat dog cafe, home of the world’s most unique veggie burger. after supper (and poking around steaming stinky sulphur holes), had a lovely soak at the polynesian spa (hot springs). sat outside under the stars at the funky green voyageur hostel and ate brie and drank white wine. lots of white wine.

feb. 25: shuttle tour to lady knox geyser, mud pools, various other places full of of geo-thermal wonders whose names i cannot recall. (ed. says: wai-o-tapu, waimangu, you idiot.)

Laurie on the boat to Motuihe Island

Laurie on the boat to Motuihe Island

feb. 26: bus back to auckland.

feb. 27: claire’s birthday. small celebration with cake at home, then out to dinner at an indian restaurant.

feb. 28: were supposed to go to mangawhai but will now stay in auckland. (nice to stay in one place and just hang out, after so much travelling about.)

march 4: buy tim tams. pack. afternoon boat cruise to motuihe island, to take part in a special release of 18 kakariki (red-crowned parakeets) into the wild. fabulous way to spend our final day in auckland.

march 5: 7:30 p.m. return flight to edmonton, via san francisco.

(at this rate i should have the paris trip bloggage posted by august.)

red, white and blue all over

i’m back in e-town after a week in nashville.
i love to travel, so generally any road trip is a good trip … but i’m still trying to sort out my conflicting gut impressions of music city.

some of the high notes:

  • getting to hear john irving (the world according to garp, hotel new hampshire, cider house rules, a prayer for owen meany, etc.) deliver a free lecture to an almost-packed house at the ryman auditorium. irving spoke at length about the state of publishing in america, and the importance of libraries (“there you can still find the classics; most of the books in a bookstore today are crap”).
    he talked about censorship and book-banning in the u.s.a. (“americans love to ban things. there’s no law that says you have to read a book before you can ban it.”) and how that spills over into issues like same-sex marriage and abortion rights: “the instinct to suppress is always there. suppression is very american: if you don’t like something, don’t let ANYONE have it. my own attitude is, if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. and why should it matter to straight couples if gay couples get married? how insecure can they be? all over the world, i am asked: ‘what is the problem you americans have with gays, with abortion, with sex, with drinking?’ ah, yes, drinking. remember how well prohibition worked.”
    his advice to young aspiring writers: “read every book you can get your hands on, see every play that you can. if you’re fortunate enough to become a (successful) writer, there’ll come a time when you’ll want to write more than you read. and then you won’t read anymore. the time to read everything … is when you’re young. being a widely-read person is the only defence there is from crap, from the junk. you’ve just gotta read as much as you can. read, read, read.”
  • the frist, the rymer gallery, cheekwood museum: there’s a whole lot more to tennessee than country music, jack daniel’s, football and barbecue. there’s a thriving arts scene, for example. but it can be hard to find when the titans are 9-0, and the CMA awards are coming to you live from 5th and broadway, and elvis paraphernalia assaults you from every souvenir shop window.
  • the honky tonks: thumbs up to the concept of rotating bands at live music venues all through the day and long into the night. no cover? even better. nothing but budweiser and pabst on tap? pity.
  • the country music hall of fame/museum: awesome! as you’ve probably guessed, i’m not a huge country fan but it was hard not to be dazzled by this outstanding multi-layered attraction which includes an amazing array of musical instruments, rhinestone jackets, satin shirts, belts, and of course cowboy hats and boots. elvis’s gold piano and cadillac, webb pierce’s “silver dollar” car, and johnny cash’s black shirts are just a few of the gems preserved in Sing Me Back Home, the museum’s permanent exhibit which includes artifacts, photographs, original recordings, archival video, and interactive displays that glorify the history and sounds of country music. . . (did you know there was a song called “dern ya” recorded in feminist response to roger miller’s hit “dang me”?). there are walls and walls of gold & platinum records (anne murray’s on there at least twice), bill monroe’s gibson F5 (“the most famous mandolin in American music history”), and a gift shop that stocks thousands of CD titles, not to mention googoo clusters — a confection item involving chocolate, peanuts and marshmallow that’s apparently been an american tradition since 1912 and is manufactured right there in nashville.
  • the grand ole opry: yes, indeedy, i attended the opry at the ryman. saw vince gill and randy owen and mel tillis (pam’s dad) and diamond rio and marty stuart, and a parade of geezers from the glory days of the ’50s and’ 60s. i had fun … still, couldn’t help but notice that there wasn’t a single person of colour in the entire audience. (the ryman is located two blocks from a boulevard named in honour of rosa l. parks. if you’re missing the connecting thread … google rosa parks.)walkhank1

    … and some sour notes:

  • kevin costner and modern west. kevin, give it up. you are not a singer. you are barely an actor. put an end to this charade right now and let us remember you for bull durham and dances with wolves … not for your feeble attempts at becoming a country crooner.
  • the veterans day parade. in canada, regardless of how you feel about war, november 11 tends to be a day of solemn remembrance, of showing respect for victims of war; a day for honouring those who gave their lives in battle. it’s two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. for many it’s a day of sadness; of sombre reflection and gratitude.nashclown1
    in the states, if nashville is any indication, november 11 is a day to flex your military muscle by rolling your tanks and jeeps down main street while marching bands play peppy tunes, shriners in garish fake arab costumes (oh, the irony) ride around in ridiculous little miniature cars, and soldiers atop armored tanks spin their turrets at clowns mugging for cheap laughs. (excuse me, i seem to have forgotten… somebody please remind me again what’s funny about war?)
    perhaps most pathetic was the sight of white-haired veterans in their 80s and 90s crowded onto wagons and flatbeds pulled by tractors, smiling and waving feebly at people on the sidewalks. these were clearly soldiers from wars prior to vietnam and desert storm, before iraq and afghanistan. knowing how the current administration treats, er, ignores the broken veterans of its more recent military actions … well, let’s just say it was harder to stomach than the googoo clusters.

the joy of not working

i’m quickly coming up on the one-year anniversary of quitting my job in order to write and paint full-time.
as expected, the bank account is not being fed nearly as frequently, but the soul is thriving.

crow and skya few years ago, inspired
by ernie zelinski, the edmonton-based
author of the joy of not working, i composed a list of things i wanted to do — some realistic, some pure whimsy — if and when i had, er, made the time. here are some of the things from that list:

learn the banjo
write letters to the editor
read books / poems / magazines
listen to alternative / public radio
listen to my own music

go to the movies
wander whyte avenue

dance / alone or take lessons
redecorate the house (streamline / simplify)
cull wardrobe
organize photo albums / negatives
write a song

have a garage sale
sing / alone or with others
star gaze / stare at the moon
study zen buddhism
start a writing group
throw a theme dinner party
ride the LRT from end to end
fight pollution
climb a tree
swing on a swing
keep a dream journal
try a new restaurant
recreate a favourite restaurant meal at home

attend live theatre / concerts
go on a retreat (writing / nature / spa)
enter writing contests
send out writing to publishing houses
write a book

make lists (!):

  • the soundtrack of my life
  • songs i want played at my funeral
  • the successes in my life

go birdwatching / hiking
take pictures / make photo cards

swim / cycle
do nothing
have fun

i’m surprised that travel wasn’t on that list, because it’s one of my favourite things. and i’ve definitely done a lot of that since hanging up the cleats. but this particular list was created in 2003. fast-forward five years and … despite having much more time on my paint-spattered hands, many of the things on that quirky wish list remain undone.

i haven’t taken up the banjo — yet — but i have arranged to learn bass guitar from a former beatnik who happens to be the illegitimate son of monk montgomery’s barber.

i’ve written a few letters to the editor, but none of them has appeared in print.
(too scathing? too left wing? too cryptic? can’t handle the truth? cowards!)
i’ve meditated — but not more than twice. which hasn’t gotten me very far.
i’ve been to the movies and wandered whyte avenue.
those ones are easy.
culling the wardrobe, on the other hand, is a constant challenge — even though i can now stay in my pyjamas all day if i choose. three decades’ worth of photo albums & negs are still in disarray. i haven’t exactly written a song, but i wrote one in a dream, does that count? (sadly, all that i can remember is the title … all the more reason to start keeping a dream journal.)

i did have a garage sale … and would prefer to never have one again. they’re bad for the soul. and the feet. and i rode the LRT to both ends of the line one day … man, is e-town’s north-east end spectacularly brutal in its sprawling ugliness.

i’ve tried several new restaurants, and did manage to create a pretty good version of matahari’s mee goreng in my own kitchen. my improv veggie version just keeps getting better, actually, whereas matahari took theirs off the menu. um, maybe they heard how good mine is and surrendered?

achilles tendon problems have prevented me from playing any tennis in the past two years. but the feet are healing, slowly, slowly. (and who knew so much depends on the glorious & notoriously unsung big toe?)
i’ve retreated to the banff centre three times in the past four years, and visited a vancouver spa for massage and a tiny bit of pampering.
haven’t written a book — well, i guess i actually have, the manuscript just hasn’t been published yet. it’s sitting in a tight sweater somewhere on the corner of jasper and 105th, waiting to be discovered.

nola\'s famous muffelata sandwich, veggie versioni’ve watched lots of birds — particularly love to gawk at west-coast eagles and the herons that nest on the fringes of stanley park. i have wandered the beaches near tofino. i sipped the local cider near erdeven on the north-east coast of france, and roamed the gower in south wales. i washed down a veggie muffelata with an abita beer on a humid sunday in new orleans, after being wowed by the tragically hip
at the house of blues the night before.

in the past year of working without a net I’ve sold a few more paintings, and will have two pieces on display in visual arts alberta’s annual diversity exhibit in conjunction with the works art & design festival. (june 19 through july 19, 2008, site # 21, harcourt house, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 street, edmonton; opening reception thursday, june 19,
6 to 10 p.m.)

i also took a sculpture workshop. i made it to the regional finals of the annual cbc poetry faceoff competition. i helped some very good friends celebrate milestone birthdays and they helped me with one of my own. i kicked up my heels at a wedding or two, and actually saw mingus tourette do the bird dance. (having posted that, i may now have to enter a witness protection program.) in the last few months i’ve thought a lot about mortality as i watched two friends bury their mothers, and witnessed another friend’s amazing journey back — literally — from the brink of death.

i’ve accommodated several sets of house guests, ranging in age from 16 to 70.
i read: novels, poetry, some non-fiction. and i discovered there actually is a book called “the complete idiot’s guide to nascar.” (insert your own redundancy joke here.)

i slept. in fact, i have gained a whole new appreciation for sleep. when i was five i hated having to sleep. it’s taken me decades to realize that sleep is quite a lovely thing, especially if you can master the art of doing it well, and for seven or more hours at a time. (such restorative power. such bliss.)

bonus round:
on sunday night, i got goosebumps hearing k.d. lang sing hallelujah live at the jubilee auditorium.
on monday night, i was privileged to hear gloria sawai read one of her wonderful short stories to an intimate gathering at the faculty club.

life is good. i’m having fun.


hell, yeah.

check engine

you never want to be on day 2 of a 5-day drive and have your “check engine” light start winking at you from the dashboard. but that’s what happened in the suburu (AKA jupiter 2; the buick is voyageur when we’re communicating via walkie talkies — damn these new-fangled communication devices!) yesterday as we were cruising into nipigon, about an hour east of thunder bay, road-weary and gobsmacked by lake superior’s majesty.

it’s probably just the sensor, we all agreed, smiling on the outside but anxious on the inside. day 3 of the drive (today) is the t’under bay to winnipeg leg, featuring dead man’s curve (see previous post) and you don’t want to be taking chances with a potentially wonky engine on any inch of that particular stretch of pre-cambrian asphalt, so just to be on the safe side, jupiter 2 is now at the local suburu dealership in beautiful downtown thunder bay, on the receiving end of the automotive equivalent of a tongue depressor to the tonsils. it’s delayed our departure by an hour so far, but as long as she requires no major surgery, jupiter 2, voyageur and their valuable cargo (including four restless drivers, three books on CD, two thermosii of coffee and one amazingly mellow cat, NOT named toonces) should be pulling into kenora in time for afternoon tea and yodels. she said hopefully.

see you in the central time zone …