Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"See what else your old heart can take"

On Monday night I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Rosanne Cash performing at the Winspear Centre. Here's a picture of the stage at intermission:

I have been listening to Rosanne Cash's song "Seven Year Ache" regularly since 1981; in fact, until I lost all my 45s, I still owned the song as a single (backed with "Blue Moon with Heartache," a sad, sad song). In 1981, I was eleven, in grade six, really getting into popular music and starting to think seriously about my musical identity. If you had asked me at the time, I would have told you I didn't like country music, and I certainly didn't consider Rosanne Cash "country" — after all, I discovered her by listening to either 1260 CFRN or 630 CHED, both of which were at the time top-forty stations. And bizarrely and ironically — and truthfully — I did not connect Rosanne Cash to her very very famous father until I was much older. (Interestingly, Ms Cash does not consider herself a country artist either, but rather a singer and storyteller.)

At Monday's concert Cash and the band played through her latest album, The River and the Thread, in its entirety and in track sequence, with breaks between songs to explain their background and inspiration. I really enjoyed this presentation, as I like the new record. In the second half, Cash and the band presented a short set of hits, including "Blue Moon with Heartache," a stripped-down cover of "Long Black Veil," "Tennessee Flat Top Box," and of course "Seven Year Ache." I was swoony: I LOVE Rosanne Cash's voice: she sings with such longing. So for me it was a fine, fun evening.

That's likely it for major concert action this season. Always good to go out on a high!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Friends and Memories

Mornin'. It's snowy and blowy here in the city this morning; spring has been delayed. In its absence, here is a group of pictures of friends: more people who make me smile.


1. Dale, July 1987: This photo is from our Kate Bush Convention. Dale is about to sing and mime "Kashka from Baghdad." This is the Saturday evening, July 25, before the infamous Black Friday tornado, the following week. We are in Acacia Hall in Old Strathcona; the weather outside was hot, and the air inside the hall was stifling. Still, a very fun night.

2. Montreal, 1988 and 1989: One of the most spontaneous and unusual things Nicole ever agreed to do with me was to fly to Montreal over Reading Week in 1988 — we booked the trip less than two weeks before we departed, a big no-no back then. The first picture below is from that trip; also in the picture are Dave, our host, and his brother Donovan, to the far right. The second picture below is from my return trip, in April 1989. A big year. I recently read a cultural history of photobooths in Canada; images like these are definitely endangered.

3. Nicole, 1994: This is Nicole's Uni grad photo. Shortly after this photo was taken, Nik departed for a two-month trip to Egypt, Turkey, and various European destinations; when she returned from that trip, she and Jim got serious and then got married. I think you can still see Nik's early plans for world domination in the corners of her eyes.

5.  Jim in the 1990s: This is Zak's birthday party; I'm pretty sure the year is 1995, although I did not record that detail on the photo. We took Zak on the riverboat for his party and after had cake at the park alongside the riverboat landing. Just out of the image is Adrienne, Zak's closest playmate until we left King Edward Park. Jim is being tied up in this photo — always a good sport and great with kids.

6. School friends, May 1996: This photo was taken at a birthday party for my professor, at the right-hand side of the image. The woman on the left was my grad-school friend, Shazia. She was a great grad-school friend but we lost touch, as soon often happens after the bonding pressures of grad school have diminished.

5. Friends at Work, 1996: This photo was taken at the end of my term at Western Board. I'm very glad that Earl remains a friend and did not lose touch after my leaving — because if grad-school pressure was a bonding force, then the exigencies of working at WB were on a scale to create diamonds.

7. B in 2011!: Here is B at work. This photo was from the first Beers and Bouquets event. He's doing a cameo here because, he says, he never gets to be in any of these retro throwback picture sets — but that's true no more.

And so. Here's to good friends and people who keep us on the right side of the glass. Cheers!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rory-racious Reading

For some reason I feel incredibly silly when I tell people the only television I've been watching for the last few weeks is Gilmore Girls. But I find the show well written, strongly woman-positive and strangely surreal (I mean, who wouldn't want to live in Stars Hollow?!?).

Rory, the youngest daughter character, is a committed reader and is often shown in scenes reading or holding a book. Some internet citizen with far more free time than I have collected a list of books read, shown, or referred to on the series — nearly 350 of them. I'm only in Season Two right now, but clearly there are many more books ahead.

My dear friend Gigi (who introduced me to Gilmore Girls in the first place) downloaded the list and highlighted the books she's read; she tagged 77. Then she passed the list on to me; I tagged 88. Some highlights from this process:

• My Hemingway list is hopelessly incomplete: I've read some of his lesser-known books but have missed two of the major novels.
• Ditto Jane Austen: I've never read Emma or Northanger Abbey.
• I abandon too many books unfinished: I could have added half a dozen books to my count if I hadn't given up (yes, I'm looking at you, Moby-Dick).
• B will love this: I need to make a more consistent effort to read the books I already own, as doing so would have added another half-dozen or so titles to this count.
• Thank goodness for my full-year undergrad Shakespeare course, where I read a pile of Shakespeare's minor plays (this point applies to the list and many other areas of my life, too).
• There are SO many books I want to read again. Working through the list made me miss certain books the way I miss people.

Here's to TV writers and directors who are not afraid to represent bookishness in a positive light. And yay, Rory! And thanks, Gigi!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Inexplicable life choices

This morning I said I'd rather be John Lennon than Paul McCartney. That, and my declaration of preference for Bert over Ernie (B is so definitely Ernie), elicited this comment: "I don't understand your life choices." Hmm.

Time to put on Sleeping at Last!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The vault of lost lyrics, chapter 86

I adore Joni Mitchell's music. I have been listening to her seriously for almost thirty years; Court and Spark is playing as I type this post. She is definitely one of the artists who has shaped my sense of self.

This song is from Dog Eat Dog, released in October 1985. I remember listening to this album (on cassette) incessantly in late 1985 and early 1986 as I commuted on the bus from home to school and back. With time, these lyrics have become much more poignant as I have watched friendships — and friends — come and go. A wry but truthful song, pointedly and accurately observed.


"Good Friends"

(Joni Mitchell, performed with Michael McDonald)

I have to come and see you
maybe once or twice a year
I think nothing would suit me better
than some downtown atmosphere
In the dance halls and the galleries
Or betting in the OTB
Synchronized like magic
Good friends you and me

The sun goes down in Jersey
Rises over Little Italy
We could talk it up
'Til the block gets up
Swapping stories
Sitting around in some all-night zoo
Watching it run like a movie
Synchronized like magic
Good friends you and me

No hearts of gold
No nerves of steel
No blame for what we can and cannot feel

But now it's cloak and dagger
Walk on eggshells and analyze
Every particle of difference
Gets like mountains in our eyes
You say "You're unscrupulous"
You say "You're naive"
Synchronized like magic
Good friends you and me

No hearts of gold
No nerves of steel
No blame for what we can and cannot feel

Sometimes change comes at you
Like a broadside accident
There is chaos to the order
Random things you can't prevent
There could be trouble around the corner
There could be beauty down the street
Synchronized like magic
Good friends you and me

No hearts of gold
No nerves of steel
No blame for what we can and cannot feel
No nerves of steel
No hearts of gold
No blame for what we can and can't control

Good friends you and me
Good friends you and me

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Youthful Lack of Discretion

In seminar yesterday, the students were reading Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty. Our presenter led us through an activity that involved writing a letter to a stranger, structured around five questions. One of those questions involved oatmeal, another enduring friendships.

When I was in grade eight, our French teacher (I loved her!) connected us with a school in Quebec and assigned us pen friends — much as happens in Celia. I sent one of the photos in the following set to my pen friend in Quebec. He wrote back once or twice, but as these things usually go, after the assignment was done, we forgot about it. Yesterday's seminar reminded me of it — and of these pictures from roughly the same era. As we all know, every picture has a story to tell.


1. Bonjour, c'est moi! This is the picture I sent to my pen friend. If he sent one in return, I don't have it. This photo was taken on New Year's Day 1983. Goodness only knows how I convinced my parents to get the film processed within the same calendar year.

2. Maternal grandparents: Another picture with my little C-110. The fancy china is on the table, so this is probably Christmas dinner, 1981. The "Beware Fo Pig" poster in the background is a demonstration of my poor talents in the industrial arts — in particular, setting type by hand. Of course I'd grow up to be an editor!

3. Family resemblance: Same dinner as #2 above. My mum and her mum. My mother looks so young! In this picture she's more than a decade younger than I am now. This is definitely Christmas dinner.

4. Family friends: This is Jason, the son of my parents' friends Roger and Darlene. The setting is my old bedroom (before I moved to the front bedroom), and the picture was taken in January 1982. My parents lost touch with Roger and Darlene, as with so many other friends, but Jason's younger sister Alyssa ended up working in St. Albert in the late 1990s, at the same time I was editing a book for the same business. It's difficult to start knowing someone again when nearly twenty years have passed. I heard Jason was well at the time and hope that's still true.

5. Party animals (a, b, c): All of these pictures were taken in December 1982, the event of my thirteenth birthday. The scene is my parents' basement, complete with dark faux-wood panelling. Photo A features my friends Rick and Kim. I love the expressions on both faces! Photo B is of Elaine, plus Kim's arm intruding on the left. Elaine was the girl with whom I went to my first "rock" concert: Air Supply at the Jubilee Auditorium, July 1982. We were still good friends at the time of this photo, but in grade nine things were very different. Photo C is of Jody, with whom I went to school from kindergarten to grade nine. You can't tell from the image, but he was a very small boy; he also had a wild sense of humour. With his back to us is Kent, one of the boys from my grade-eight home room. (Did you ever have to invite a boy's best friend to get a boy to come to a party? For this one, I did.) I love the details in the background of this series. For instance, that's my very own record player behind Jody. When the party was over and the guests had left, my father put up our Christmas tree.

5. Teen angst: Another birthday party, this one Kerri's thirteenth, in January 1983. In the foreground are Sheri and Raquel. Raquel and I were close through grades eight and nine and then lost touch when we went to different (and rival!) high schools. No idea about Sheri. In the background, to the left, are Kim and Rick, at the time a short-lived couple — "going around" together. To the right are Jody and my friend Tanya Lee. I'm deep in the shadows, wearing red.

6. Choose unemployment: For one day of my life — in late May 1983 — I worked for Dickee-Dee, the bike-pedalling ice-cream sellers. This picture was taken at the end of my "shift"; the photographer was my boyfriend at the time, Daryl (close friend of Rick, above). The location is the Londondale Centre on 144 Avenue; the store I'm entering is Little Gem, owned by the Lee family. At the time, their daughter, Grace, was part of the group I spent time with. We weren't close, but we were bonded through piano playing. At Grace's birthday party (of which I have no pictures) I ate the first Korean food of my life — and enjoyed it.

7. The old homestead: There's no date on this photo but it is unhelpfully captioned "Boxing Day" — I suspect 1982 because of the car in front of the house. This monster is the car I learned to drive in, so there's really no rational reason I'm so nervous in my current tiny-tiny car.

8. Cat and mouse: This is my first cat, Annie. She knows there are mice in the walls, and she caught them. I love — and despair about — the details of my childhood captured in this picture. No date on this one, but I'd guess it's late 1981 or early 1982, based on the appliances.

9. A new era: This picture was taken in July 1984 at the Strathcona Science Park. The photographer was my father, but the man I was dating at the time took a bunch of pictures of me that day, too. What you can't know from this picture is that my mother was furious at me because of the way I was dressed — ironic, since these are some of the last clothes she bought for me. But oh to be fourteen and fearless again. Well, then again, maybe not ...

Bonne chance to my erstwhile pen friend, who never saw the bigger story of my life in this period (lucky for him!). There's a letter in each of these pictures. What would you write about your pictures?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Missed again!

This week has been unusually hectic and I feel like I've been a few minutes late for everything. (Haven't really been, but perception —like context — is all.)

Maintaining the trend, here's something that actually is late: my Throwback Thursday pic. Quite a throw, this one.

This photo was taken at the Western Board Conference in September 1993. I'm sitting with the Treasurer, Pat. I have no idea who took the picture, but it was likely one of the other board members. This conference is only time I've been in Winnipeg, and though I stood on the corner of Portage and Main, I saw almost nothing else of the city.

(If you're into trivia, the dress I'm wearing was also my grad-banquet dress from 1986. A gorgeous three-quarter-length wool crepe with deep lace insets in the skirt. I loved that dress!)

Monday, March 09, 2015

Why Organize?

The history of progressives, socialists, and organized labour is long and tangled and anything but consistent. Just the same, here is a list of a few features of modern life fought for by progressives, some socialists, and labour unions.

1. The eight-hour work day: In 1886, four anarchists were executed in the aftermath of US-wide strikes for an eight-hour work day. This action is allegedly the real origin of May Day.

2. A living wage: Note: not available in all jurisdictions

3. Suffrage: Unions were major players in winning the vote for working men. In recognition of March 8, International Women's Day, I would have to note that some unions were also major players in resisting women's suffrage in the twentieth century.

4. Public services: Trade unions were some of the first to advance the idea of public health and public education for all. Regrettably, while unions themselves may still support these ideals today, my experience with individual union members differs.

5. Solidarity in the workplace: At least in theory, workers enjoy greater security in the workplace because of organized labour, meaning that we have the right to speak out against management and to work together to advance the greater good because our colleagues and co-workers will take our sides. A good theory.

Regrettably, unions globally are losing their traction, and locally some unions have grown complacent about their ongoing work toward social progress. My "professional association", for instance, gave up its right to strike a decade ago and is increasingly on side with management rather than working for the majority of its membership, who provide just-in-time, insecure teaching labour; no surprise that these members of the precariate are mostly women.

Despite gains in the twentieth century, we've lost a lot of ground en route to social inequality. We have a long way to go! Are you listening, Alberta?

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Delhi, Not Dele

On his blog, B used to post pictures of performing-arts events we'd attend. He's fallen out of the habit (and of course we aren't seeing as many events as we once did), so I am taking up the challenge. Wish I'd thought of this at Big Sugar last week.

Last night Akemi and I saw Delhi 2 Dublin at the Arden Theatre. Though you get no idea whatsoever from this intermission picture, it was an incredibly high-energy show: so much fun! Even I was out of my seat. (I know!)

In the second half, the band gave away a single to those of us with mobile phones. Catchy! And even more impressively, the music got most of the Arden audience to its feet and dancing — you know that's no mean feat.

Delhi 2 Dublin was an infectiously exciting live show. I'd definitely see them again. Thanks again, Akemi, for a great time!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

The vault of lost lyrics, chapter 15

You know, sometimes you have one of those days. Weeks. Months. Well ... whatever. You know how this feels. Or at least I do.

"I'm Going Slightly Mad" (as recorded by Queen)

When the outside temperature rises
And the meaning is oh so clear
One thousand and one yellow daffodils
Begin to dance in front of you — oh dear
Are they trying to tell you something?
You're missing that one final screw
You're simply not in the pink my dear
To be honest you haven't got a clue

I'm going slightly mad
I'm going slightly mad
It finally happened
It finally happened
It finally happened

I'm one card short of a full deck
I'm not quite the shilling
One wave short of a shipwreck
I'm not at my usual top billing
I'm coming down with a fever
I'm really out to sea
This kettle is boiling over
I think I'm a banana tree

I'm going slightly mad
I'm going slightly mad
It finally happened
It finally happened
It finally happened
I'm slightly mad

I'm knitting with only one needle
Unravelling fast, it's true
I'm driving only three wheels these days
But, my dear, how about you?

I'm going slightly mad
I'm going slightly mad
It finally happened
It finally happened
It finally happened
I'm slightly mad!
Just very slightly mad
And there you have it...

Thursday, March 05, 2015

What a difference a day makes

OK. More accurately, that head would say "a date makes." But you get the idea.

I was thinking today about how quickly time moves and changes. Maybe a year is an insurmountable period. Maybe a year passes in the flash of an eye. Maybe both conditions exist simultaneously. Maybe a year is all in the mind of the person living through it.

Anyway. Speaking of years ...

C'est moi. January 1, 1983. Thirteen years and two weeks old. Nineteen eighty-three was a hugely important year in my life. By December 31, 1983, I would be almost entirely a different person and would have crossed some major milestones en route to adulthood. Gotta love perms, eh? Within the year I would perfect the curling iron.

If you're keeping track, this is the same kitchen I photographed a couple of years earlier. No longer yellow. Apparently my mother was on a tropical kick. And I'm not really that tall — I'm standing on a chair that you can't see in the frame of the photograph.

Do you know where you were on January 1, 1983? Was it a momentous day, if only in memory?