Straight, no chaser

I don’t know about you guys, but lately I have been listening to all of the jazz.

And believe me when I say ALL OF IT.

There’s just something about the start of fall that makes me want to cuddle up in bed, crack open a really great book and listen to some Lee Morgan until my eyelids droop, and my breathing falls slow and steady.

I want to herald my dreamscape with these fantastical riffs, these trumpet strains.

It’s funny.

I have such a strong memory of this exact same scenario being played out, over and over again by my mum, most nights growing up.

As we kids wound down and slowly adopted the more melodic (and ultimately less manic) postures of the late-night, I can see her so clearly: her in her nightie, washing her face, slathering her skin in moisturizing cream, and puttering about her bedroom to the soft and oh-so cool musical stylings of Thelonious Monk, or Cole Porter, or Quincy Jones.

Sometimes she’d say something like, “I just love this music.”

Other times, she would just close her eyes and sway to the melody.

CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has a number of fabulous jazz programs, and they will be forever married to these memories.

As we chatted about our days, my sports-teams gossip, and her work drama, we’d let the notes dance about us, almost like invisible fireflies, lighting up the night.

It was nice.

It was a nice way to unwind.

As much as I loved those evenings, I never really thought much about jazz as a teenager.

It’s not that I didn’t like it – it was just in the grand scheme of music, there was always something pop-ier, or rock-ier ready to take its place.

In the teenage canon of cool, there’s not much room for Benny Golson.

Much like the sky, or the natural scenery beholden to Vancouver, the beauty of jazz was one I took for granted.

It was just there.

I didn’t need to appreciate it, because it was a part of my everyday life.

Now, I sit at my computer and am practically moved to tears listening to these incredible tunes, these notable notes.

They make me imagine Parisian streets, lit up by a watery moon; cobblestone alleys, flecked with raindrops, and lovers sighs.

They make me imagine red dresses, and strappy heels; an empty café with a lone couple, dancing cheek to cheek. The sweet scent of candle wax, espresso, and wine, hanging in the air.

They make me imagine.

Sometimes I feel as though I was born with the capacity to feel too much.

Everything – every word, every song, every glace; every thought, every sound, every jest seems to rush through me, straight to my heart.

I think too much, I worry too much, I care too much. I am incapable of divorcing myself from my work, my loves, my passions, my friends,

My family.

Everything and all that they are, I pack tightly inside of myself, and work desperately to make sure they are kept safe.

Kept pristine.


When I sit here, and I listen to this music – this fabulous noise, these perfect sounds, I can feel my chest swell.

I can feel myself expand, feel these worlds rushing out; I watch as all this love that lives inside me is unleashed, and I relive this memory.

Reliving it as though it happened yesterday.

And it hurts so much, because I want to be back there.

I want to be sitting in that bedroom, listening to Quincy Jones.

I want to feel my mum’s hand in mine, the soft fabric of her sheets on the backs of my legs.

I want to look outside of her window and see the glow of our neighbours lights; hear the patter of the rain on our roof.

I want to listen to the jazz without thinking about listening to jazz.

I just want to listen to jazz.


That old black magic that you weave so well

My sisters and I didn’t watch a lot of TV as children.

For many years our television set didn’t even pick up basic cable, so whatever cartoons we were watching came in the form of The Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Movie or The Three Caballeros (or whatever we owned on VHS at that specific time.)

One time we discovered our mother’s Jane Fonda’s Workout video and we absolutely killed ourselves laughing at the clothing/hair-dos as we danced around half-heartedly mimicking the exercises.

Every Friday night we were allowed to rent one film and goodness knows there was a period of time when we must have watched Mary Poppins for upwards three years straight. Steppin’ time is RIGHT, Bert.

Also, for what it’s worth – those Bugs Bunny cartoons still crack me the heck up. I am pretty much incapacitated by giggles every time I hear things like “What a way to run a railroad,” I’ve also started to re-populate my vocabulary with some of his saltier insults, and I have been using “should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque” since time immemorial (or you know, grade school.)

However, there was a time when we finally entered the 20th century, and procured a television set that was neither steam powered, nor cable intolerant, and I was introduced to all the magic and majesty that was the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s children-friendly programming.

(For only two hours every Saturday, mind you.  After all there were limits on how far my parents were willing to travel into said new century.)

Still, limited hours or no, we were introduced to the brilliant likes of Under the Umbrella Tree, The Polka Dot Door, Fred Penner, and Sharon Lois and Bram – seriously folks, this stuff is the stuff of legends.

Take the opening credits to F. Penner & Co.:



Good grief.

I still remember my favourite episode – it was the one where he found a four leaf clover, and the whole episode revolved around teaching us kidlets about good luck and superstition.

Through song. SONG!

One of my most favourite shows however (and one that not a whole lot of people my age seem to remember) was called Today’s Special, which was set in a downtown Toronto department store, after closing hours.

You see, once the place shut down for the night, a mannequin named Jeff would come to life with the aid of his magic hat. (Oh, and someone had to say “hocus pocus alimagocus”.)

What? Like that’s weird or something?

If the hat ever came off of his head – POOF – he turned back into a mannequin.

(This often resulted in a huge number of shenanigans.)

The remainder of the cast was made of up Jodie, the store manager (and Jeff’s totally badass “human” mentor), Sam, the store’s security guard (a puppet, mind you), and Muffy Mouse, the resident rhyming rodent.

To say that I loved this show would be totally oversimplifying it.

I dug it so hard, that if I was actually going through the motions I would have made it all the way to China and back.

I really believed that magic – magic like what was needed to bring Jeff to life every night – was real. It was just up to me to find the right source, and figure out what role it should play in my life (beside of course making me invisible, giving me the power to fly, and helping me learn everything I could possibly learn about everything in the world in – oh, about a day and a half.)

As you could imagine, I was a pretty laid-back kid.

I’ve been thinking about this part of my life quite a bit – a childhood not only wrapped up in enchantment, but the never-ending search for magic – because in the past two weeks I have read Dandelion Wine and The Magician’s Apprentice, and at present I am currently halfway through The Magicians – and it seems as though I cannot stop reading about it.

I cannot stop reading about magic.

These are three (very different) books, but they are all compelling and heartbreaking in their own way.

Dandelion Wine had me shedding tears every morning as I rode the rickety skytrain into work – I felt as though my heart was going to burst out of my chest, so overwhelming was my nostalgia for a life I have never lived, but knew so well – almost as if the words themselves were already etched into my heart, punch drunk on the possibility of an endless summer, so many long years ago.

The Magician’s Apprentice is a fabulous read, but almost deceptive in its outward simplicity – much like a magic trick. But like said trick, it stays with you the long after it is finished, and you find yourself going over it, again and again in your mind – trying to figure it out, and understand it – trying to relive it.

I am not yet done The Magicians, but I am enjoying it very much. I am realizing that should I ever have had that chance to find my magic as a child, I may not necessarily have been in control of this power.

(I will keep you posted once I am finished.)

In the meantime, we sun-dipped mortals (or is it muggles?) are racing about this ball of blue, full speed, arms akimbo, waiting on the next adventure.

We found this feather on the Sunshine Coast. I am sure it has magical properties.

We’ll pick a card.

Any card.

Soup, soup, tasty soup

Well, boys and girls, it’s back to the sick bay for me.

If only I had a real-life Dr. Crusher.

She, in her fierce blue-black onesy, and camp-fire toned hair would not only cure me, but also immunize me from any other cough-flu-colds I may pick up in the future. (Somewhere around the rings of Saturn no doubt.)

Plus, on top of it all, Wil Wheaton was pretty darn cute as her son.

I like to refer to it as the Death Star's hipster little brother.

Side note about Mr. Wheaton: In one of our more, well, nerdy moves, in 2007 M and I went down to Seattle for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony, as M’s favourite author is Gene Wolfe who was being honoured that year. Gene Roddenbury was also being celebrated and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who was the man introducing him until I turned to the woman sitting next to me and stage whispered, “HOLY FRICK – IS THIS WESLEY CRUSHER?”

Little did I know that he’s now some prolific blogger and hugely popular figure in the nerdverse and highly celebrated as such. Seriously, the women seemed very off put that I was at an event at the Sci-Fi Hall of Fame and didn’t know this.

I actually got a photo with him after the celebration that ran on for an entire week.

Ah well, live and learn.

Last night on my way home from work my entire body seemed to go into shut-down mode. A thick fog swept its way over my brain, throughout my sinuses and down into my lungs.

My bones felt as they had been soaked in rubbing alcohol.

It was all I could do to pick up the necessary ingredients for a much needed cure-all: Jaime Oliver’s Mint Pea Soup.

I take all my cues from my little sister who is a rock star professional chef. No joke.


What I love so much about his recipes is just how easy they are – you make them once and it’s easy-peasy (pun intended) to memorize the ingredients and instructions – it takes absolutely no effort to put them together.

Mr. M likes to get involved.

Plus they taste so darn lovely.

The finished product.

I got home, unloaded my bags and turned on my favourite CBC radio program As it Happens.

Now, hands down, if I could have any job in the world, I’m pretty sure hosting this show would be it.

They interview the craziest, most irreverent, brilliant, interesting, heartbreaking individuals, and cover stories that can be described in pretty much the exact same way.

Last night they interviewed a city councillor from Louisiana that is working on banning pyjama pants from public places (having already passed a bylaw prohibiting the wearing of baggy pants.)

They also interviewed Michael Semple, a former EU envoy to Afghanistan, on negotiations with the Taliban, and read a story about how sheep shearers in New Zealand are trying to get their sport into the Olympics (albeit just for demonstration.)

To say that the show is scintillating and thought-provoking would be simplistic in the extreme.

It is, the best.

I think one of the biggest reasons behind why I enjoy it so much is the brilliant way in which it is structured: mixing in the odd with the important, the beautiful with the bad.

There is a very fine, very important balance to the program. No one emotion, and or sentiment is ever allowed to hold a monopoly over the stories they cover.

For one and a half hours, you get the happy, and you get the sad.

Because isn’t this how life itself, actually unfolds? From my experience, nothing is ever just good, and nothing is ever simply bad.

That’s why As it Happens is such a refreshing look at world events compared the overwhelmingly negative  emphasis that I find so pervasive in traditional news outlets. Turn on any news site – whether radio, television or online, and I promise you the focus will be on what bad thing happened, in what bad town, orchestrated by which bad individuals.

No wonder so many people chose to remain uniformed – the constant onslaught of depressing stories is enough make even the strongest individual weary of established (read: static) journalistic practices.

We already know bad things can happen. Need we be reminded every single day of this fact? I don’t even have the energy to get into how this is probably the number one reason why so many dangerous and harmful isms are so readily and easily reinforced and socially institutionalized.

There is a reason why brainwashing has remained en vogue for so long. It works.

I suppose this is also another reason why I really love CBC radio programming as a whole – the overwhelming diversity it brings to the table. And yes, I am fully aware of how nerdy this makes me (yo – Wheaton, are you hearing this? I’m encroaching on your crown so you better watch yourself!) but I really don’t care. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family that always had it on in the background, but the more I listen, the more I learn, and the more I am inspired.

Don't have CBC in your life? That, my friends, can change! Or, you know, an over-sized cat mug with pea soup also helps.

There is so much good work being done in the world, it’s just such a shame that so little of it remains unreported, and unnoticed.

But then, even just typing those words, immediately they rang false – because if these wonderful works actually went unnoticed, I have a hard time believing the world would even be running at the (somewhat limited) capacity that it is.

They may not be celebrated, but they are definitely making the world a better place.

And that makes me feel better, on the whole.

And I hope that, perhaps, just being aware of this will, like a real-life Ms. Crusher, make me just that little bit healthier.


Sunglasses at night

So I says to Mabel I says: Going to work in the dark and leaving work in the dark is definitely a bit crap. 

I find myself heading out at lunch time, just to breathe some fresh air, (fresh life!) into my lungs and bask in the limited-time-only daylight that seems to be available only between the hours of ten in the morning until two in the afternoon.

Working within this time frame makes me thing that whoever in charge of allotting Vancouver’s daily sunlight ration must also be affiliated with the Swiss consulate (as they seem to keep the same hours.)

It’s quite a trip looking out the window as I exit my office building and see the moon, shining down on myself and all the other commuters at 4:26 in the afternoon.  It makes me want to yell out: “JUST BECAUSE I LIKE THEM, DOESN’T MEAN I EVER AGREED TO LIVING INSIDE A PHILLIP K. DICK NOVEL!!!”


(Or Heinlein, or Asimov, or Herbert, or – okay hopefully you get my drift).

That tiny dot on the left? THE MOON! At 4:30pm!

The one plus to this perpetual darkness?  The view walking to transit in the morning can be utterly breathtaking.  The sky is engulfed by a brilliant mosaic of blues, and greens and oranges and purples – like the most beautiful bruise you have ever seen – and Mount Baker stands stark, back lit, like an American Mount Doom, looming in the foreground.

One view to rule them all.  One view to find them.

[Please sir – may I be an elf?]

Okay, in all honesty I really shouldn’t gripe.

There is something almost romantic to getting up, and getting out, in the early a.m.

The world is quiet, still.

Because it is so early, each person who is up, are themselves quiet.  Although they move, they exude, are even defined by, a pristine stillness, becalmed by the early hour.

We are awake, but are still, very slowly coming alive – stretching our arms, wiping away the sleepy cobwebs in tandem with the molasses-slow sunrise as it heralds the official break of day.

Standing on the metro platform, our breath is a thick fog that hangs suspended in the morning chill; no one talks, no one looks at each other.

We are like living statues, meditating on the start of the day (or perhaps just counting down the minutes until hot java will surge through our system and jolt our brains into activity.)

This sunrise took my breath away (sorry for bad quality!)

I actually don’t understand those who prefer waking up later and therefore staying at work later – why would anyone want to leave work at a time when it doesn’t just look like night, it actually is night time?


Even if the daylight has faded, I would prefer to have the afternoon and evening to myself – go to the gym, prepare dinner, read, spend time with my husband and cat, go for a walk, watch a movie – all in the same night if need be.

I can’t imagine accomplishing any of these things, let along all of them, if I was leaving work after eight o’clock at night.

Plus I really hate doing laundry anytime after seven o’clock – eight MAYBE if I’m really pushing it..  I get this crazy anxiety that the clothes won’t have time to dry properly and everything will end up moldy and smelling like the boot bin at one of the Annapolis valley Frenchies.

(a.k.a. THE WORST EVER.)

Also, I am paranoid about the neighbours having a conniption about the late hour of these washing exploits.

Having worked shift work for two years, I am familiar with very early mornings and very late nights (that I suppose should also be classified as early mornings.)  I know about sleepiness on both ends of the tired spectrum and I promise you, that if I was forced to chose between the two, I would pick early mornings ten times out of ten.

So Mr. Morning Sauron! Bring on the 6 a.m. starts!

I’ll name my first child little Vanilla Bean Gamgee  if need be.

Safety dance

I was listening to CBC’s “As it Happens” last night and they replayed an interview that focused on white nose syndrome, a commonly misunderstood disease that has affected over one million bats living in eastern Canada and the United States.  I have read articles on this malady and the photos that inevitably accompany the piece are heartbreaking.   I couldn’t listen to more than a couple minutes of the show because I felt as though my heart had been placed in a vice.  In between deep breaths I kept repeating to myself, “those poor batties…those poor little batties.”

Sheesh – anyone who might have overheard me would probably have immediately written me off as “poor” and “batty” too.

But the crux of the matter is, I am very easily overwhelmed by things I read or hear about.  It’s almost as if a temporary paralysis sets in, and I am unable to concentrate on anything else.   Whatever “it” happens to be, completely derails me from my everyday mental and physical normalcy.

So, just as I cannot stand to listen about the untreatable ravaging of our little nocturnal flying friends, I also cannot get the image of my mother, sitting at her kitchen table, eating two massive pieces of toast, dancing to Maroon 5’s “Moves like Jagger” out of my head.

The difference being, of course, is that this image does not make my heart ache, but swell.

I should clarify however, she was not full on dancing – just shoulder-heavy, top half dancing, with quite a bit of arm movement thrown in for good measure.  The kind of dancing you do when you’re sitting on transit and the BSE (best song EVER) comes onto your ipod and it’s taking everything in your being not to jump up and start breaking it down, because even though no one is sitting next to you and you have a good amount of room, and really, no one is looking, and certainly no one cares, and you think you might as well go for it, you really don’t want people to stare.

In trust, it was one of the most simple, beautiful and hilarious things I have ever seen.  She had never heard the song before, and when it began to play on the radio she didn’t immediately react; my mother isn’t one to immediately burst into the shoulder swing.  (Coincidentally, we were also listening to CBC – we don’t do much else in this family.  Side note: I was having tea with a friend and I asked her if she ever listened to the station and she was like, “No, but my Dad does!” which only reinforced my belief that I may be aging prematurely.)

Anyways, there was mom, sitting, eating her toast, reading the Globe and Mail’s editorial cartoon, and as I’m watching her, I begin to see the song start to work its magic.  The song itself isn’t revolutionary, but it’s darn catchy.  It’s pretty hard to listen to it and not get a good foot tap going.   So first, I notice a finger wag, then, a head nod.  In no time, slowly but surely, and then WHAM!  Shoulders shimmying for all of Canada.

Living so far away from my family members is hard.  As much as I enjoy phone calls, skype chats and e-mails, nothing really can take the place of a face-to-face, in the flesh chin wag.  If anything, as electronic means of communication get better and better, it seems to get harder and harder to maintain individual, in person relationships.  (Also, is it just me, or to cross-Canada flight prices increase with each introduction of an iphone upgrade?)

This conceit is certainly not new, nor is it groundbreaking.   That electronic media has usurped traditional forms of communication is a horse with a “flogged” tattoo on its hide.

The one thing I can, and do take to heart in knowing this, is that the things that make it okay for me to live so far away from my loved ones is not a machine with an operating system that will be obsolete in six months, but the images of a dancing mom, or a poker playing dad, or one sister that eats hot sauce on everything and another who always asks “do you love me?” before she crushes me in a hug.

I will choose a locket with two tiny photos sitting inside it, over an electronic picture frame any day.

Pragmatic addendum: these images that live inside of me are also excellent blinders for the times when I think that 5000km aren’t enough of a buffer between myself and these individuals (but this doesn’t happen all that often.)

In the mean time, I’m going to do a little dance.  And since I’m not on transit, I’m going to give it.  Because hot damn, can I move like Mick Jagger.