Wednesday, April 7, 2010

over the sand, over the plan

A few weeks ago, I went to see "Chloe" with my mom. After seeing the previews and reading the reviews, I wasn't expecting much: some dramatic tension, Amanda Seyfried's butt, the chance to snicker when familiar Toronto landmarks came into view (Cafe Diplomatico, really? that place blows). But my mom, for some reason, was expecting more. She told me afterward that she had hoped the movie would be great. She sincerely believed it could be one of "those movies"-- you know, those ones, the ones that hit you in the gut and linger in your shadow for weeks.

Chloe was not that movie.

Last night I went to see "Greenberg". As a fan of Noah Baumbach, I thought, maybe, maybe!, but no, no. It couldn't end fast enough. Where were the characters with lovable quirks? Where was the near-disaster and faint trace of redemption? Where were the endearingly uncomfortable moments? Where was the goddamn squid and the motherfucking whale?

I've been thinking lately about the titles that would make up a list of "those movies" for me. There haven't been a lot in my lifetime, but there have been enough--and the important ones have certainly stuck with me. I've dragged them around like dirty blankets, showing them off to anyone who'll pay attention. So pay attention:

- The [aforementioned] Squid and the Whale: I watched this movie for the first time in the spring of 2006, shortly after my own parents separated. It made me want to puke (jizz on the lockers) and it made me want to cry. It captured the shittiness of teenagehood and the absurdity of writing workshops and it's uncomfortably funny from start to finish. It was perfect for me then, and still now. Every time I watch it I just want to puke-cry.

"She's a very risky writer, Lili. Very racy. I mean, exhibiting her cunt in that fashion is very racy. I mean Lili has her influences in post modern literature, it's a bit derivative of Kafka, but for a student, very racy. Did you get that it was her cunt?"

- Lost In Translation: the movie at the top of my mom's list, as well. It's so small and so compact, and yet it left a pothole inside me. Somehow, it always makes me feel safe: even though the movie is about characters lost in a foreign land, lost inside themselves, it still feels like home to me.

- All the Real Girls: I first rented this from the Brampton Public Library (!) in high school, and then several times from the Mississauga library, until my boyfriend was finally able to find a copy for me on dvd. After imbibing a slew of movies over recent years about rich people with problems (Funny People, Greenberg), it's so refreshing to come back to this simple small-town beauty. I watch it now, and think: fuck, this is so sad; fuck, is this ever lovely; Zooey needs to get rid of the bangs and M. Ward and go back to this, terrific acting with a bad haircut.

Monday, January 18, 2010

you get a boner in your stomach?

Tonight, during the Golden Globes telecast that I had been waiting for, I found Angus on the Family Channel and felt incredibly torn: do I watch one of my favourite impossible-to-find movies from start to finish (commercial free, I might add) or do I keep it on NBC and watch terrible upsets like Carey Mulligan (of An Education, one of my favourite movies of the past year) getting snubbed out of her deserved best actress win? Sandra Bullock won out, at the Globes and in my living room. My Angus, as ever, went unwatched at the other end of the dial.

Admittedly, the movie isn't very good. It's got a pre-Dawson's Creek James Van Der Beek and a miscast Kathy Bates and an embarrassing George C. Scott and plenty of cliche. It sums up 1995 for me pretty well, though: I was nine at the time, and a real sucker for teen comedies. My love for this movie has grown over time, mostly due to circumstance: it hasn't been released yet on dvd, it's rarely shown on tv, and finding a vhs copy is like finding a needle in a thrift store. The hunt is hard. So whenever I find it, even if just in snippets during commercial breaks, I feel immensely satiated. Watch this scene and you'll see how heartbreaking it is. Well, how good it is. Just how not-terrible it is, particularly for a movie starring Dawson Leery.

Other 1995 tidbits, plucked right out of my childhood:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Johnson & Johnson & Dead

On December 31st I publicly announced (to the small crowd in our living room) that my new year's resolution was to "finish my thesis". Okay, fine, but that's not so much a resolution as an obligation: failure is only an option if I'm willing to shell out another 5 thou worth of tuition to buy myself more time.

My new new year's resolution is to be a better diabetic so I don't flame out at age thirty like Casey Johnson. Of course, continuing to avoid becoming a drug addict will probably help me out the most on this front, but still. Thirty years old? Diabetics should not be dying at thirty. We're supposed to enjoy long, glorious lives like Mary Tyler Moore.

Wait. I just looked up MTM on Wikipedia, and this is what it told me about her: "In addition to her acting work, Moore is the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International.[26] In this role, she has used her fame to help raise funds and raise awareness of diabetes mellitus type 1, which she has, almost losing her vision and at least one limb to the disease."

Okay. My new new new year's resolution? To stop reading articles about diabetes that scare the crap out of me. I'd like to keep all of my limbs, if possible, thank you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I never went to camp as a kid. I went to a day camp, twice, in the woods north of Brampton: the first time, when I was six, someone stole my sleeping bag on "sleepover day" and I refused to go back for the remainder; the second, when I was ten, my best friend was supposed to accompany me but came down with chicken pox instead. Still, I never went to real camp. I just watched TV all summer. I just watched TV shows about other kids going to camp.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

pitter patter

This past Saturday, watching Broken Social Scene play a free show at Harbourfront, I nodded my head and convinced myself that I had seen them play there before in the summer of '05 (the summer where I was nineteen, the one after all these major life changes had taken place.) I watched Kevin Drew sweat on stage, and I thought to myself: the last time I saw these guys play, I had just gotten through the hardest year of my life. Yeah, I thought. That's right. I had survived some tough shit and made it to the other side, where KD et al were standing on a stage and playing songs just for me, for free. Yeah. Two thousand and five.

Then Brendan Canning grabbed his mic: "the last time we played here was in 2oo4!"

And I thought, fuck, really?

It was five years ago. I had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was little more than a month away from moving to Halifax for university. I had accomplished nothing that summer;, nothing more than learning how to stab my skin with needles. My brother took me downtown for the day, and then to this free show at Harbourfront. I was all too familiar with You Forgot It In People, had listened to it plenty of times in our parents' stationwagon while rain ran down the windshield. But this was the first time I had ever heard them play live. And it hit me hard.

At the time, I had no idea that this band would stick around for the next five years of my life. I couldn't have known that their music would be there, playing quietly in the background, through so many crucial moments to come.

I would see them play, again, at the Marquee Club in the Fax, just a few short weeks before it closed down. It was the first time I would use a fake id, but in reality I wouldn't use it: the bouncer would check my friends, but, amazingly, not me. I'd be slightly stoned, a little drunk. I'd lose the others in the crowd and watch the show all alone, feel the trumpets, feel everything.

I would trek through a snowstorm to buy Stars' Set Yourself On Fire the week it came out, and I'd listen to it every goddamn day, even the day later that spring when I'd move away from the Fax forever. I'd sit on a plane and watch the coast disappear.

I would buy the next album when it arrived in the fall of 05. I'd listen to "It's All Gonna Break" after every crush failed, and I'd feel better. "Backyards" was to be playing in the background the night my mom would call to tell me that my dad's secret affair had been revealed and they were divorcing.

I'd sit on someone's bed, watching Half Nelson on his computer, well aware I was making the gravest error, "Shampoo Suicide" everywhere.

I'd learn to love my first name, all thanks to Feist.

I'd fall in love, real love, finally, over a shared appreciation for music and a mutual history of arts & crafts moments.

And then I'd see them again, one cool summer night in a garbage-filled city, from my spot in a crowd thick with assholes. A tall guy behind me would knee me in the back; the hippie girl in front would toss her frizzy hair into my face. I'd be so short that I could barely see. But I would still feel something. They'd go on to play four encores, and I'd feel all of it.

I feel it, still.

Monday, May 25, 2009

that's how i was when i was young

Lessons in Growing Up, #1:

Last Friday night I decided to go running, for a couple of reasons: 1. I had nothing else to do, 2. I haven't been able to run for weeks, and it felt about time to break the rules, and 3. I pride myself on being a night runner. Starting from the summer I was 15, I always tend to run at night once the days get hotter. Night running is such an unusual thing, not least of all because it is SHIT TERRIFYING. I've witnessed intense fights, stumbled on couples having sex, been threatened by wildlife, fallen on my face a few times, and interrupted plenty of pot-smoking teenagers. But running at night in the summer also encompasses all the things I love about the sport, at its heart: it's always quiet, you get felt up by a nice breeze, flowers smell better after dusk, and the aloneness doesn't feel lonely at all. Most of all, you're invincible. You're completely covered in dark and yet you're still invincible. As I started out on last Friday's night run, I felt all of it. It wasn't that dark out, and I even decided to dart through the scary woods behind the St Clair West station. Near Bathurst I stopped in a park to tie my shoelaces. Some old fat guy walking a pug waved me over. Nervously, I went. He shook his head as he spoke to me:

"You know, I wasn't going to tell you this, but I have to. A few weeks ago, right in that parking lot over there, I saw a girl get raped. She got raped by a black guy on a bmx bicycle. The police were all here, and it was on CP24--you didn't see it? And, my god, her face, she was so scared. So, you know, you just can't trust people, and you gotta be careful at night, and I just had to tell you, so."

So? I ran home faster than I ever have. Thanks for nothing, pug man.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Loneliness Of

I started using my insulin pump a week and a half ago. My nurse (a precocious woman who loves lipstick and looks like a deflated Fran Drescher) clicked the device into place, and that was that. Well, not exactly: I was given strict orders to follow for the next few weeks, in order to get my blood sugars down and insulin rates stabilized. Most of the rules are tough (3 meals a day, no snacks in between [where is that DQ Blizzard I was promised?], tight carbohydrate budget). Some of them truly suck (no alcohol or sleeping in!) But one of them has proved nearly unbearable: no exercise. Until my body works out the kinks with this pump, I am indefinitely barred from putting on my New Balances. No matter how sunny and beautiful the weather is (today), no matter how much my leg muscles twitch from lack of activity (happened today), no matter how much I ache to get out there and start up my half-marathon training again (oh god, today). These running-free days are killing me.

I just finished reading Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I've never really loved his writing style (something lost in the translation, perhaps) and this book is no exception, but it drew enough parallels with my own life to draw me in. I read it while sitting on the train to London. As we sped past creeks and forest floors and backyards, I thought about running. I thought about writing. I thought about running and writing, at once: two things I love, used to love, still care for, need to do, need motivation to start, can't give up. I want to run as fast as a VIA train and write as well as Murakami. That's what I want.

"Most of what I know about writing I've learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate--and how much is too much? ... How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself? ...
In any event, I'm happy I haven't stopped running all these years. The reason is, I like the novels I've written. And I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of novel I'll produce next. Since I'm a writer with limits--an imperfect person living an imperfect, limited life--the fact that I can still feel this way is a real accomplishment. Calling it a miracle might be an exaggeration, but I really do feel this way. And if running every day helps me accomplish this, then I'm very grateful to running. ...
Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life--and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree."
- Murakami, What I Talk About...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

hey, yeah, awww

This time last year, I assumed the hardest part was going to be getting in. Of course. All that paperwork! All those weeks of waiting! Once I got in-- and once I passed that remedial mythology bird course laden with trick questions-- then the water wouldn't be choppy anymore. Then I wouldn't be worried.

Then things wouldn't be so unclear.

Wouldn't it be nice.

It's the April of the first year of my master's program, and I've barely made a scratch. There's certainly no dent. I know that I have a voice, and that I have so much more time to prove myself and make progress, but I can't help but feel this: the more time I put into this pursuit, the less I'm getting out of it. I don't really want to be a grad student slumming away at a part-time coffee shop job. I don't want to be a Torontonian who still secretly hates Toronto. I don't want to be a writer with permanent writer's block.

I want to think that I made the right choice last April, but I'm starting to worry that I can't keepy trying to convince myself anymore. I don't know what to do with myself.

How does one get themselves out of a slump like this? What is this slump, anyway? It isn't the stuff undergraduate hissy-fits are made of. No, it feels bigger than that. It feels like a total confusion of place and time and direction-- maybe none of this is right?

I used to always spend summers at my grandparents' cottage on Lake Huron. They sold it the winter I turned 14, but we all knew that the preceding summer was probably going to be our last and we treated it accordingly. By "we" I mean just me: I was the only other member of the family who showed any attachment to the cottage apart my from grandparents themselves.
Our cottage was a real cottage, (dilapidated, tiny, and wooden) unlike all the suburban-style monoliths that grew in the empty lots down the road over the years. It stunk like mothballs, and rain bled through the walls, and ants got into the sugar pots, and I loved it there. We listened to my dad's Jeff Healey band cassettes and played Scrabble. There was a receding, zebra mussel-infested shoreline behind our property, but we usually just went to the beach area just down the street that was much larger and cleaner. (The time my cousin and I found a bra and panties discarded in the surf there is, sadly, a story for another time.)
If you stood in the middle of this beach and looked straight out at the lake, you could see a rocky island with a single gnarled tree directly in front of you. It wasn't that far out, but as a child I thought it was the most impressive thing I'd ever seen: this bizarre, dead tree, floating on a bed of rocks in the center of the lake.
During that last summer at the cottage, I decided to finally swim out to the island. It didn't take me very long, and I found that the island wasn't even straight out from the beach-- it was located a few hundred metres to the left. It was a disgusting pile of rocks and the tree itself was practically driftwood. I stood on the rocks and touched the dead tree trunk and it wasn't even sunny out. But I did it, right? I got there, and that still matters, doesn't it?

Wouldn't it be nice.