And miles to go before I sleep

Hi Friends,

Is it just me, or are any of you itching for an excellent and exciting escapade in a fantastical foreign landscape? It’s been two weeks since my return from the land of palm trees and face-lifts, and while I very much enjoy my employment here on the West coast, (I actually really do love my job) I am already daydreaming about the next big trip Monsieur M. and I will take together.

Or small trip.

There is just something undeniably awesome about international travel and intrigue…

I'm like a bird, I want to fly awaaaaaayyyyyy.

So pip pip, my passport is expiring at the end of March and I am putting together my application for a renewal.

Because everyone knows that a top spy-cum-adventurer needs two things at her disposal at all given times:

– valid passport

– excellent sense of humour and improvisation. (Okay, this might qualify as two things in some circles, so I beg of you to cut me some slack.)

A cute outfit, a quality camera and an ever present willingness to take on the unknown probably never hurt anyone either (in my experience at least.)

I’ve been surfing the internets quite a bit, researching all sorts of magnificent and mesmerizing locales – everything from Sweden to Salt Spring Island; Costa Rica to Colorado; Morocco to Montreal.

Seriously dudes, as much as I rail against the morally bankrupt ways of that ever elusive one percent (has anyone been able to find a contact number for them yet?), sometimes I can’t help imagining how lovely it would be to live with unlimited funds.

Sweet cash dollars would not only buy me many terrific trips, but countless beautiful shoes and a villa in the South of France.

(Lest you think me superficial, these are but other must-have accoutrements for said previously mentioned spy. Plus they’re pretty!!!)

This fantasy, however, always comes crashing to a (rather spectacular) halt once it veers into the territory of what I would actually have to do or condone in order to get that wealthy.

This knowledge alone would undoubtedly ruin all the splendor of that villa (and those shoes) and eventually turn me into some tragic pseudo-Lady MacBeth.

All in all, pretty darn grim.

And that is why I am happy sitting and planning out The Next Great Travel Thing! (Copyright Ethel the Dean, 2012).

In the meantime, let me share with you three snapshots of times past, spent in brilliant places, with beautiful people.

Someone once asked me: why do I love to travel? why do I need to travel? The following are just a part of the answer.

Hawaii 2007

M and I travel to Oahu’s North Shore where we stay in a beautiful one-floor, many bedroom-ed beach house with five hilarious, and very accommodating friends.

The view from our house. Heaven.

We end up sleeping on the sofa bed in the main room and I fall asleep every night to the sound of the breaking surf, just steps away from our lanai, while our friendly neighbourhood gecko makes quick work of the few flies that made it past my feverish guarding of the patio bug screen.

We go swimming with sea turtles and sting rays, eat chunks of fresh pineapple and laugh as the juice trickles down our cheeks, tan ourselves brown (such a contrast to the white of the sand) and learn that Vancouver’s Starbucks obsession doesn’t hold a flame to the ABC stores in Waikiki.

The shell my ring was hidden under.

On the third day of our visit, M asks me to accompany him on a sunset walk. There, on a beach, a few miles outside of the quaint seaside town of Haleiwa, with the sky the colour of one big Shirley temple, he asks me if I will spend the rest of my life with him.

I cry. And cry, and then I cry.

And then because he is just sitting there, looking at me, I tell him yes, of course yes.

I will.

I will until the end of the world.

Greece 2008

M and I have been married for exactly one week.

We set out on our honeymoon, travelling to a place the two of us have only read about in books (he especially, and we’re not exactly talking about contemporary literature either. I mean, say what you want about the relevancy of Ovid, et. al. but we’re not exactly getting any younger here.)

Greetings centurion!

The weather is excruciatingly hot, but we travel light, and from the moment we arrive it is as though we have been instilled with a boundless energy – so eager we are to explore and experience and indulge in the decadence of this dream-like world, that we walk until our legs our coated with a fine dust, our lips chapped dry.

We came early to get good seats.

An ancient city, a modern time.

During our time on Crete we visit King Minos’ home, pay homage to Theseus (and the Minotaur) and visit Matala, an ancient Roman graveyard.

Old spirits greeting newlyweds, teaching us the secrets to a long life, but longer lasting fame.

Switzerland 2009

Christmas in Geneva. The streets are frosted white and the mercury dips lower, and lower with each passing night. The air here in the city is so much crisper, so much cleaner than that of Birmingham, our home for the past four months.

People look healthier hear. (People sound healthier too.)

There must be something said for chocolate and cheese.

(And I’ll be the first to say it.)

We stay with M’s cousin. The way she speaks French is a bit difficult to describe. It sounds almost as though she is singing. The tone and cadence so gentle yet lively – a quality particular to the Genevois people and I love it.

On our third day in the country we travel to Bern.

The beauty packed into the city’s old town is as striking, as it is astounding. The history of this place is breathtaking to behold, but the so is the cold, as it sneaks into my boots and down my coat and around my ears.

Be still my heart.

I munch on roasted chestnuts as M and I walk to Einstein’s old apartment.

We watch out for bears. But on this day, it seems there are none to be seen.

Holding hands, we catch snowflakes on our tongues and I whisper sweet French nothings into his ear.

Just like a song.

Chillin’ out maxin’ relaxing all cool

Tonight I am exhausted.

I have my health regime down to a tea.

Having been quite sick for most of the last week, my energy is at an all time low. Normally I can kick it pretty well after about a day or two of an illness, but this blasted flu has really dug its claws in deep.

I feel as though my sinuses are in a vice that has been set on “death grip.”

That, and the fact that my nose is dripping for all of Canada. It’s like I have a leaky tap attached to my face.

I really hope my cat doesn’t start to hydrate herself from my nostrils as I sleep (uneasily at best), thinking that I actually have transformed into some kind of human-malfunctioning-faucet hybrid.

(If you’re reading this Uwe Boll, I don’t give you permission to take this idea and turn it into a movie. Just walk away now.)

Our kitty doesn’t do well at the vet at the best of times and I really don’t want to have to take her in due to massive mucus ingestion.

The embarrassment of the explanation alone might destroy me.

So as you can imagine, all in all, this whole sickness experience has been, for lack of a more poetic term, bloody lovely.

(Let me assure you.)

(Erm.)

Anywho, despite my all-encompassing-entire-body lethargy, M and I went and had dinner with some brilliant friends this evening.

My sister in-law is in town from the Big Apple, and we had dinner with her and her parents, and her three nephews.

At one point every single person in the house, save for me, was playing (re: wailing on) an incredibly random assortment of musical instruments. For serious, we had the bodhran, the maracas, the violin, the bagpipe chanter, the recorder, the auto harp, and the piano all going at once.

I just laughed like a loon, giggling myself into a tear-streaked stupor.

It was like that scene from Mary Poppins that features Bert’s one man band, just without the – you know – talent and musical prowess.

Not that I’m complaining. It was sheer brilliance.

Now that I have arrived back home, I am in the process of rehydrating. It is imperative that I replace all that vital fluid I lost through my laugh attack induced tears – plus my throat is like the mother fracking Sahara here dudes. DRY AS CRAP.

The way that this this blasted sickness has set up camp in my chest, it’s like Occupy fricken Wall Street in there.

Though Occupy Respiratory System doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…

(We’ll also have to wait and see if Kanye manages to show up or not.)

Okay, enough now. I’m all over the place tonight.

What I’m trying to say here is that I am making a concerted effort to just chilling out.

FOR REAL.

This is especially true due to the fact that I always find that it’s a bit of an adjustment period heading back to work after an extended period of time off. You have to find the right rhythms, get used to the crank of the gears, and the ebb and flow of the, well, flow charts.

(Let alone the challenge of accomplishing all this when you have an accordion in your lungs and nasal cavities with the proportions and capabilities of a water hose.)

It’s discombobulating! But heartening to acknowledge that at least everything will eventually return to as it once was, all in good time.

In the interim, I am going to sleep like a sleeping thing, and drink like a drinking thing, and eat as much lemon meringue pie that I possibly can.

When life gives you lemons - blow your nose and eat pie.

It’s probably not the best thing to be eating while still fighting the flu.

Can I write it off as part of my daily citrus-Vitamin C intake?

Because that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The best game you can name

I used to love hockey.

Like, A LOT.

For the past eight and a half years M and I spent countless hours together (and apart) watching the sport – curled up together on our couch, pacing the length of our living room, crammed into the booth of a sports bar, languishing in the nose-bleeds – we’ve done it all.

I used to be, as they say, ready to rock it. Vintage Canadian hockey sweater, Olympics 2010

And I loved it.

I listened to sports radio on an almost daily basis, often e-mailing or texting into the shows, with the hosts regularly reading them on air. I liked being a part of their banter.

I really loved going to parties and knowing more than all the dude-bros who were always congregating in the corners of the living room (seriously why only the corners dudes?) discussing the latest scoring stats, and drinking their Budweiser.  Their squinty eyes and slightly open mouths always said (though never out loud): How does a girl know this much about hockey?

For my birthday last year M bought me a beautiful old school Canucks jersey that I wore with pride to every game that I attended (as well as each game I watched from said before mentioned pubs/couches/houses/etc.)

My three favourite teams were (in order): the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Redwings.

My hockey husbands were Teemu Selanne and Henrik Zetterberg.

My hockey little brothers were Jonathan Toews and Drew Doughty.

M and I bought sticks and pucks and gloves and tape, and we would brace ourselves against the biting cold of the early (or not so early) Winter mornings so we could go play street hockey together at the elementary school rink, close by to our home.

I cried big, hot, sticky tears and my body heaved with my heavy sobs, when the Canucks lost in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals, on that beautiful summer day, June 15, 2011.

(Heck, I cried big, hot, sticky tears when Patrice Bergeron scored the opening goal, and was assisted by that idiot of a goonmeister known as Brad Marchand.)

(Take my word for it, that human parasite is one giant embarrassment for all of Nova Scotia. Anyone who tells you different is unhinged.)

I once made fun of Sidney Crosby and then came to love him.

I probably watched Alex Ovechkin score a hole-in-one as many times as I watched his many highlight reels.

I loved the mastery, and skill, and speed, and intuition, and love, and passion, and hard work, and magic that hockey could produce.

I lamented over and over again at the lack of sportsmanship of the league, and the violence worship by fans, and the permeation of goon culture, and the destructive and saddening “win at any cost” attitudes of so many of the players, GMs, coaches, spectators and media.

I decried the NHL as a bush league more times than I can count.

And yet.

I loved hockey.

I used to love hockey.

I used to love hockey, but my love has left.

I have not sat down and watched (or perhaps I should just say watched – as those who have ever spent an entire three periods with me would know that I can never sit still for long) more than 30 seconds of highlights since the season began in October of last year.

I feel very much strangely detached from this whole development.

My mother and I were talking on the phone last night and she momentarily commented on the World Junior Hockey tournament, asking me if I was watching the semi-final game between Canada and Russia.

“No, Mom,” I said. “I don’t watch hockey anymore.”

“Oh yes, that’s right,” she replied. “It’s just so hard to imagine. It was such a huge part of your life for so long that I keep forgetting. I keep forgetting.”

The strange thing is, I keep forgetting too.

I keep forgetting that this sport once played such a pivotal role in my life, for so many years.

The one thing I do miss is how excited I would get each Valentine’s Day. I used to pick a sports bar where myself and M would go watch the game, order nachos and drink strongbow (or diet coke) and root, root, root for the home team (in the parlance of our times). It was a tradition that was romantic and brilliant, and most importantly, it was ours.

Now, I don’t even give the game more than a passing glance – maybe if I catch a highlight here or there I will remark on the beauty of that one play, or goal, or pass.

But mostly, I just shake my head, because everything is still the same, and I can no longer protect myself from all the rot that exists inside of the League and still enjoy the game for what it should be:

Athleticism, and art, and respect among players for their ability to create and sustain, but most importantly excel, within these two noteworthy mediums.

Instead, I read about concussions, and fists, and broken backs, and slashes, and elbows, and sexism, and racism, and homophobia, and xenophobia, and I’m just so tired of all this bullshit and it’s propagation and adoration and alienation.

And I truly believe this is what destroys athleticism. This is what destroys art.

I used to love hockey.

Maybe I still do. At some level, I’m sure of it.

But not this.

I can’t love this. Not anymore.

Book em, Dano

M and I received some pretty great books for Christmas this year. He was gifted some Stephenson and Pratchett, and I, some Murakami, Richler and Mantel.

Bliss folks – for us, THIS is bliss.

I am currently 600+ pages into 1Q84 by Mr. Murakami and if you were to catch me at any given time today you would have found me in a position similar to this:

Aomame and Tengo are my new best friends.

What happens with me is that, although I read quite a bit, and for the most part, I enjoy everything that I read (and even those books that I do not enjoy, I slog through them anyways. I finally finished Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare only a couple of months ago, after what seemed to be an on-again-off-again relationship with the book for close to eight months) I tend to go overboard on those works that I do enjoy, like, A LOT.

You see, there are some authors that I find so transcendent, that I develop an almost perverse obsession with findingand reading all of their published works, lest I miss out on experiencing everything their genius has to offer.

And I really mean everything.

Three of our bookshelves. I really fear that we will be crushed to death once the big one arrives. At least we'll go with the things we love...

The earliest memory I have of this phenomenon is from grade four, when I first discovered the great Canadian children’s author Kit Pearson. I picked up The Lights Go on Again not knowing that this book is in fact the third of a trilogy that explores the journey of two young English siblings’ experiences as war children, evacuated from a (fictional) small town in England and sent to live in the posh Toronto neighbourhood of Yorkville.

To say that I loved this book (and then the rest of the books in the series) would be an understatement. I am sure that I read each novel close to twenty times. This fascination with Ms. Pearson’s writing was then transferred onto her other works, The Daring Game and A Handful of Time.

So you must understand what a soul crushing blow it was to read her newest work (at the time) when it came out, hot off the presses, and to feel no connection whatsoever with the narrative or the narrator.

In fact, I remember despising the protagonist, and feeling utterly morose by both the story’s flaccid narrative arc, and (what I felt to be) rather limp conclusion.

To paraphrase Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, I was DISAPPOINTED.

Alas.

In grade five I started reading “grown-up” book. Pilfering from my older sister’s collection, I read most of Anne Rice’s

Bedroom bookshelf. Now will more Gene Wolfe.

Vampire series, (do I regret this? No. But, erm, next time, I think I may take the left turn atAlbuquerque and forgo any literary adventures with Mr. Lestat), and pretty much everything John Grisham and Michael Crichton had written up until that point.

I remember passages from both The Firm and Jurassic Park as if they have been burned into my cerebral cortex (or whatever part of the brain is used when flipping those pages over, and over again.)

The one big mistake however? Reading Misery. Yeah, not about to get those nightmare filled sleeps back anytime soon!

In grade eight I started my five year love affair with Mr. William Shakespeare, obsessing over King Lear’s poor decision making processes, despising young Hamlet and his gutless procrastination, and emulating and loving (and therefore memorizing) Beatrice’s lines and soliloquies.

I read every one of his plays, including the ones that that most people probably wouldn’t recognize. However, I am sure that if you asked me right now, I probably couldn’t even remember the simplest of story details of those plays (let alone two hours after I had finished them) because they left no discernable effect on me what so ever.

I am sure I decided to read the entire canon not so much due to my burning desire and admiration for the Bard and his words (although this did, and still does very much exist,) but because I was fifteen and thought I was misunderstood and brilliant.

Kerouac I was not.

When I first met M, he gave me Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions to read on the long flight down to Nova Scotia and I almost died with shock and delight within the first few pages. During those next two weeks I inhaled every work of his I could find.

As I mentioned before, in first year of my undergrad I read Dostoevsky’s Devils and my brain (metaphorically) exploded all over my room. I gobbled up Crime and Punishment with an almost maniacal zeal, and after that devoured The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov.

These are a few of my favorite things!

The next year I discovered the fabulous and hauntingly beautiful writings of the Swedish author Henning Mankell, and spent my summer telling everyone I knew to, “check out this guy from Sweden because holy frick you will never read anything so bloody good in your entire bloody life!!!”

I received a lot of strange looks during that time.

I could go on at length about all the books that have shook me to my core, but I think it may be impossible, and I really must try to reign myself in.

I just get so overwhelmed and confused when I hear that so many people don’t read anymore, and I get panicked and desperate when M tells me that his students at school are hard pressed to even read their assigned passages, let along deign to pick up a novel outside of class.

I even get anxious worrying over whether I’ll die not having read all the books I want to read.

Yeesh.

I just want to create a place where everyone can live peacefully, and where I will read to them from Thomas King, and Neal Stephenson, and Robertson Davies, and Hanif Kureshi, and Gunter Grass, and Terry Pratchett, and George R. R. Martin, and Richard Russo, and, Michael Palin, and Hunter S. Thompson, and Gene Wolfe, and J. R. R. Tolkein, and Robert Heinlein, and Richard Matheson, and Ray Bradbury, and P.D. James and well, this list grows ever long, and I’m sure, your patience short.

One day I will find the Dolphin Hotel

My great friend A gave me my first Murakami book this year for my birthday. A Wild Sheep Chase is gut busting hilarious, and heart breakingly sad. Reading it alone set in motion my newest “author” fixation, and I have blown through a good portion of his works to date.

So now, I sit (please consult the above picture for the exact positioning), reading his latest tome, and I am so inspired, and intimidated, and just plain breathless by what an extraordinary work it truly is.

I am trying to take it slow, to savour the process, each page, each line, each word, each letter.

But it is hard. So very hard.

I have around three hundred pages left, and I am sure to be done before I know it. I am sure that I too, like the characters in the book, will be living in a slightly altered world, because of this work.

So with this, I can’t help but say: “Bring it Murakami.”

Bring it.

A cup of kindness

It’s pretty crazy to think that we are only two days away from beginning a new year.

I don’t know whether time is speeding up, or if I am slowing down, but events seem to be happening at a much quicker pace, than say, ten years ago.

So, to whomever turned up the dial on the world’s treadmill, could you slow it down a tad friend? I need to catch my breath and get my bearings!

I find that doing something that really pushes your physical and mental limits is a great way to help both time run away from you, and yet somehow make it hang suspended in mid-air, like some crazed escape artist, hanging from a tightrope wire.

For instance, yesterday, M, my dad, and I climbed Mount Haystack, all 3560 feet high and 8.6 miles long of it.

DO IT.
Just a hop, skip and a jump to the summit!

It was an adventure and a half, especially seeing as though for the actual ascent we didn’t have a marked path.

I have never scrambled up so much loose rock in my life.

I have never been pricked by two different types of cacti, nor have I ever seen a coyote while mid-mountain descent ( they are usually only skulking around my backyard back home).

Nor have I ever seen a view quite like this one before:

This is the definition of man-made (and man-maintained).

We started out at 7:30am, to get a jump on the crowds (there weren’t any) and the heat (there was quite a lot of this).

It was a seriously fun, seriously taxing hike.

Other things that I learned while out on the trail:

1. Barrel-head cacti always grow leaning to the south, and look like giant prickly cucumbers.

Keep those barrels rolling. ROLL HIGH!

2. An oasis will crop up in just about the most remote, random place that you could ever imagine.

Yet not a drop to drink.

3. Making your sandwich with a tomato in it the night before is never a good idea, even if you think you’ve protected the bread with both lettuce and cheese, because the lettuce and cheese will also make it grow soggy.

I don't have a photo of my sandwich so please accept this glowing cactus.

4. I am the queen of the world.

Leo ain't got nothing on me.
A room, erm, peak with a view!

It’s quite insane to really mediate on 2012 as a tangible, real thing. I remember ringing in 2000 as if it was yesterday.

You've got to put one foot, in front of the other...

It’s not that I am weary of the new year, but more curious, filled with a subtle sense of wonderment about all the new (and completely bonkers) adventures I will embark on next.

So here, in no particular order are my resolutions for the approaching three hundred and sixty-five days:

– Run the Victoria marathon in 3:30:00 – Begin training in April, qualify for Boston in October.

– Travel, explore and take on the (sometimes scary) unknown with the love of my life, Mr. M.

MISTER M!

– Continue having a positive relationship with food and my body, because without this, there is no way I will be able to accomplish numbers 1 and 2.

I am also so happy to be writing regularly again through Rant and Roll.

Many, many thanks to all of my fabittyfabfab readers and subscribers. Your encouragement, comments and support mean the world to me! Without a doubt, you all make my little, slightly daft heart smile!

I wish you all a brilliant and beautiful coming year, free of prejudice, and bias, but always REMEMBER: should you encounter any of this in your daily life, do not despair, for after I wrench myself from the corner from whence I have curled myself up in the fetal position, I WILL TAKE THEM ON AND I WILL CRUSH THEM!!!

FOR I AM THE ERADICATOR!!!

Erm…

Smile, little heart. SMILE!

Happy New Year to you all!

– Ethel the Dean.