Monday, August 17, 2015

witness all the days

so a couple weeks ago, i opened facebook to see this pop up:

within a few minutes, i was purchasing tickets for the vip weekend package, and planning a pre-christmas visit to chicago for kill hannah's final show. absolutely no question about it.

(this is where i say hi haters, and also bye haters. this blog post is not for you.)

funny timing there, because lately i'd already been flashing back a lot to summer 2004. 2004 was a big year for me -- i was turning 21 in the fall, i had finished my second year of university, i'd been living in my own non-dorm apartment in toronto for the first time, i was successfully juggling work at my part-time job while attending classes, and most importantly, i started freelance writing for music magazines, which opened me up to a whole lot of new and current music. i fell in love with a lot of music in 2004 - interpol, the bravery, the faint, the libertines, robin black - and it was the kind of love that you only have when you hear seminal music during your formative early-adult years. even now, i have fond memories of 2003-2004 as being a pivotal couple of years for good new music, but that might just be my nostalgia talking and maybe it was mostly awful, i don't know. but it was in summer 2004 that i also started buying all the music magazines i could find in order to get better at my work, and that just introduced me to even more stuff i should be listening to. (my addiction to the uk's nme was absolutely responsible for my longstanding love of british bands.) i had no boyfriend, no university diploma and no career path, but damn if i didn't have an all-consuming love of music.

then i was introduced to the music of a chicago band called kill hannah, and although i had previously sworn that i would never love a band as much as i loved moist, all of a sudden, there was a rival for my fangirl affections.

an old (diaryland!) blog friend of mine, jesi, knew about my love for the makeup-wearing pretty boys of robin black & the intergalactic rock stars, and recommended that i give kill hannah a shot. "if it's pretty boys you love, then they're the band for you," she told me. and man, were they ever.

their first big commercial smash album, for never and ever, had just come out the previous fall, and they were making huge inroads among the nascent pre/post-teen myspace crowd. they were five hot dudes, yes, but the music they made was catchy electro beats mixed with alternative rock, kind of like placebo or afi. i dug it all immediately, especially their huge single, "kennedy":

even now, i have huge nostalgic love for some of the more obscure lo-fi early tracks, like "lightbulbs" or "lightning causes madness" or "stunt pilots" or "chloroform". plus i've yet to hear a more haunting song than "hummingbirds the size of bullets", which still gives me goosebumps every time i listen to it.

so i jumped into the fandom face first, racking up tons of time/infamy on their website's message board and making likeminded friends across the united states (they weren't known in canada at this point, and i actually met one of my best friends because she recognized the band's logo tattooed on my arm). as was my tradition at the time - when i had very few bills to pay and even fewer responsibilities or obligations - i used my love for a band as an excuse to travel. i went to detroit (my first time there), then chicago (also my first time), then back to chicago, then back to detroit, then chicago again. i saw them play every time they were in toronto, obviously, and went to a montreal show for good measure. but yeah, i would definitely say that this was where my love of chicago started; ever since then, the city's been intertwined for me with happy memories of epic concerts and excitable band-following. (i even got the city's flag tattooed on my right shoulder blade back in 2012.)

there was a kill hannah dvd filmed at their chicago homecoming show in 2003, and i'm all over it. i get briefly interviewed in line about my (still newish) kill hannah tattoo, and then you can see me in the front row with my friends for the entire show, dancing and howling and pumping my fist in the air. see, i never grew up in a family with video cameras, so to me, it's entirely bizarre to be able to see video footage of myself from over 10 years ago. i look much the same as i do now (but with a little more baby fat and fewer lines on my face), yet at the same time, there's me, me at 20 years old, and i remember being there, i remember being that girl.

that girl, beaming and excitable, has no idea what will happen in the years to come. she doesn't know about the people she'll meet, the relationships she'll gain and lose, all the places she'll end up living and the travelling she'll do. it's me, but it's not me, and that always trips me out a little bit. i'm still so young there.

and listening to the music now - especially at the height of summer, back when i was either all over the message boards or running off to see kill hannah a lot - is like an audible reminder of the last of my excitable youth, lack of shame, and unsuppressed recklessness. it forever reminds me of the exuberance of road trips, screaming along with everyone else in the front row, singing every word together. it's questionable fashion choices and smeared eyeliner and feeling weirdly awkward at being one of the oldest people at the after-show meet-and-greet. it brings back all the memories of how that escape was something i was living for at the time, and how being out on the road for a band - or with a band - was the only thing in the world i wanted to do. i didn't want a 9-to-5 job or a big house or kids or a conventional life. i wanted something a lot more than that, and i can see it all over the face of my younger self on the video footage. it was like i was finally home.

the other day, i was discussing the nature of fandoms with sean, and how it's hard to love anything as deeply as you did when you were younger and with less commitments. but when it came to the bands, i said, i'd probably do it again. he looked at me and cautiously said, "you can totally tell me i'm wrong on this, but doing that all again, at 31? i kind of don't think you would."

i shook my head. "oh, no. i would. i absolutely would."

because how do you really explain to someone who wasn't there just how happy you were back then, when you thought you were going to be 20 forever?

so, i'm older now, and a lot of things have happened, but i'm still that girl on video dancing and singing along in the front row. and so i'm going back to the very first place i visited on my first-ever trip to chicago in 2003, to say goodbye to one of my favourite bands, and to see how far we've all come.

[ music | none ]

Monday, August 10, 2015

queen of peace

it's been a busy month already and we're only a week in. whew! feels good, man.

first, though, i'm pleased to report that i'm typing this on my laptop running windows 10, which had a much more seamless installation than i'd expected. at first i wasn't sure if i'd be able to install it, given that my laptop is from 2010 and was still running windows 7, but it worked like a charm. this pertinent article from gizmodo went a lot way in alleviating my fears that my laptop would burst into flames. so now it's not quite like having a brand new computer, but i feel like it puts off the need to buy a new laptop for at least a couple more years. (if i'm being honest with myself, i really won't need a new laptop until this one breaks down completely -- it works fine for me right now, i just like having new tech toys)

i love my dell baby. (yes, i actually paid extra to have it skinned. i feel like it wasn't a waste of $75 or whatever.) i even gave it a good cleaning for the first time in, like, forever. anybody have a teeny tiny vacuum i could use to suck all the crap out from the keyboard?

anyway, having an updated machine is important for me right now, because i'm spending more and more time typing away on freelance assignments. that's right -- through a combination of my writing skills and my frugal life choices (even though my apartment remains my biggest expenditure, but hey, it's not like i have kids or a mortgage), i'm managing to earn my freedom from the 9-to-5 cubicle grind. freelance life is absolutely working for me, a writer who never adapted well to sitting in an office all day and conforming to the rituals of an "adult" job. (i did it for six years, though, so you can't say i didn't try. and it was rewarding in a lot of ways, but it never really felt right to me.) sure, it means that sometimes i work on weekends and late into the evenings, but you know what? i'm happy to do it. i'm really psyched to be productive on my own time and my own terms. it is tremendously rewarding to be your own boss, to set when and how you work, and to know that now you're freed of constraints, you've finally having a ton of fun doing what you do. it's a blast.

as i quoted on my tumblr:

my mom: "well, you should still get a part-time job, if only so you get out of the house once in a while."
me: "why would i ever want to leave my house?"

true facts.

however, additional bonus to the homebound freelance life: i might finally(!) be able to get a cat. i feel like now's as good a time as ever, especially since i'll be home a lot and we could keep each other company. so this might actually be happening in the fall, depending on how my budget situation is looking. (the cat-loving boyfriend is very excited by the prospect of this happening.)


i'm still kind of kicking myself for not succumbing to this tiny cutie that sean spotted at the local petsmart in june:

what a sweet little tiger face. (honestly, though, as much as i succumb easily to the charms of a kitten, i'd totally be open to adopting an adult cat too. every kitty needs a forever home, and after volunteering at the humane society back in 2011, i'm all too aware that the grown cats often get overlooked in favour of kittens. it's sad.)

truth time: although i feel like i ought to belong to the stay home club (anybody want to buy me a t-shirt?), for a week or so every month or two months, i get the urge to be as social as possible. it's like i need to binge on friend hangs to make up for all the time i spend at home alone (and also possibly remind my friends that i exist). i mean, for reals, as much as i can be happy being a hermit, i do love and treasure my friends and it's fun times to hang out with them. also it's a nice self-reminder that i'm not utter shit at being social, haha. (for me, it's one of those things that's like a muscle: if you don't use it, you lose it.)

for some inexplicable reason, i've been finding myself at the ballpark a lot lately:

i'm not at all what you'd call a fan of baseball, but i am a fan of 1) cheap sporting tickets and 2) going with groups of pals so we can all drink $10 beers and yell at baseballing together.

baseball friends! that's me in the middle, very happy with her awful beer (bud light lime, haters). my gold and black jays cap - borrowed from my new era addict boyfriend - was chosen on purpose to match with my seth rollins t-shirt. where my fellow architect devotees at? we love you, crossfit jesus.

i took this shot a few days later, at the simcoe day game where david price debuted as the newest blue jays pitcher. man, i don't know if i've ever seen the skydome that full before. (i peace'd out from that game earlier because i was sitting in the direct sun and getting a headache/nausea, but again, this is where a general non-investment in baseball comes in handy.)

aside from bazbol, there's been concerts, birthday parties, coffee dates/wine dates with girlfriends, and general tomfoolery to remind myself that getting out of the house can be a damn good time.

so, there we have it: the happy work-life balance, achieved at last. autumn is looking up.

[ music | saint pepsi, "fiona coyne" ]

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

teenage wasteland

hello! sorry for the radio silence, it's been a busy month (but in an awesome and productive way).

although i'm going to publish this blog post once i'm back in toronto on tuesday and can organize pics & formatting for the post, i'm writing this as my final dispatch from the family home in kingston, which was actually just sold a few days ago after a month on the market. my mother told me the good news almost as soon as i got off the train on friday. so that just kicked off the beginning flurry of packing up, because not only did they sell the house (they've already purchased the new one), but they're moving out at the end of august. sounds like a lot of time, sure, but there's a ton of stuff packed into that small suburban mansion. the basement/rec room's almost all packed right now, actually. weirdness.

anyway, i'm here because i was asked to come home to go through what remains of my old belongings, to see if there's anything i'd like to "keep" (aka go into storage at my dad's, which will one day go into storage at my place, once i can finagle a ride from kingston to toronto). like i said before, i consistently lived here during my teenage years - 1996 to 2002, one last year of elementary school plus all of high school before i pulled up stakes and ran to toronto - so there was apparently still quite a bit of my teenage stuff hanging around in boxes and bags.

here's some of what i found:
  • i was way more into traditionally girly things than i remembered (or would like to admit, really). lots of rainbow, unicorns, flowers, kitties, and dragons. eeeeeesh.
  • there was an entire box of my teenage writing journals and diaries. i took one look and instructed my mother to burn the box.
  • it's actually a bit sad to go through a couple bags of your old stuffed animals that you used to love the shit out of and realize that they mean so little to you now. (i still grabbed my first favourite stuffie, an ancient, ugly cat hand puppet that's missing almost all its fur because i used to carry it everywhere with me)
  • looking over my old sketchbooks was weird. i remember trying to make a go at being an artist when i was a kid, and i could have probably worked at what i had, but in the end i just didn't feel like i was good enough. oh, well.
  • i found a box full of ribbons, medals, trophies and certificates. like, just full of the stuff. and i swear to christ, i can barely remember winning any of it. there were awards in there for poems and essays, art, public speaking, track and field, basketball, baseball, karate, and more. sure, a lot of it was "participant!" garbage, but as i asked my mom -- "was i like, a kid genius or something? and where did that go?" (i also found a plaque for a schoolwide english award that i won in grade 11 and which i have zero recollection of winning, but it's kind of funny how well it predicted my adult career. as my mom said, "i'm not sure your teachers knew what to do with you, and just how well you could write.")
it's kind of an interesting point that i later remarked on to my stepdad: by all accounts, as a kid, i was good at a lot of things, but not amazing at one thing. jack of all trades, master of none. so would it have been better for me to have found one true love and stuck with it, worked on it and made it into a real talent, instead of spreading myself out through all these hobbies? but then, as he pointed out, that's sort of what you do when you're young -- try a bunch of different things and see what sticks. i just kind of wish i'd found something then instead of trying to blindly scrabble for useful (read: profitable) hobbies/talents now.

(i guess you can look back on it and note that the large majority of my accolades were for writing, then make the conclusion that i did nurture one big talent after all, but i'm greedy and i want to be able to do more.)

at the end of the day, i didn't end up putting a lot of stuff aside to put into storage or take back to toronto -- just a few books, my university diploma and photos, a cat-shaped wind chime, and a stuffed penguin that waddles along the floor playing marching music (don't ask). i also did some scavenging for things for sean's apartment, and came up with a queen set of sheets for his new bed, a ridiculously massive bath towel, a beer stein, and a wine glass for me. goddamn if i didn't wish i lived closer to kingston so i could steal more stuff before it goes to yard sales or the trash, but that would mean i'd live in like, trenton or something, and no thanks.

my mom also unearthed this photo of very tiny eight-year-old me as a brownie in 1993. (the brownies were the precursor to girl guides, or girl scouts as americans would know them.) as i quoted on tumblr, we also had this exchange: "i kind of hated doing it, you know." "well, you hated doing a lot of things." "that's awesome because i hate doing a lot of things now." some things never change.

oh, and i decided i'd be remiss if i didn't go for one last dip in the family pool, though it was almost a joke considering that i'd swam in the pool a grand total of like four times since we moved in 1996:

kept the lipstick on because why not.

but then i actually had a tiny cry as i lay in bed on my last morning in this house, thinking about how it had always been the place i went to during my turbulent twenties, when i had no idea how to deal with what was going on in my "adult" life in the big city. this place had been my way station between adventures in different cities, where i came back to when i felt like i had nowhere else to go. and it made me think about how time is fleeting, and how things can and do change without there being anything you can do about it. that's just how life is. but it can be a scary thing, if you think about it too much.

i think about the time many people have in their twenties, when you're convinced you're going to be an exception to the rule. you're never going to age, your parents are never going to die, your friends will always be around, and your childhood home will forever be there for you to return to. you think it's going to be like this for you forever and you can't imagine a time when it won't be.

and for me personally, this is probably one of my biggest hang-ups. i've never gotten over the fact that i'm not an exception. that's why my turning 30 was so tough for me - it was my first realization that life does move forward for me, and that there's no going back, and someday everything i know will be gone. (nobody who i've been close to has died yet, but if they had i would probably be speaking differently, here.) i can't explain how or why i ever thought i'd be able to freeze time, and like, i've never been delusional; i just didn't think it would happen to me, somehow. but all of a sudden i'm noticing my metabolism slowing and small wrinkles around my eyes and a few gray hairs coming in, and my parents sold the family home, and i feel weirdly betrayed by my 22-year-old self, who thought she'd be 22 forever and with a home she would always know. she thought she could make time stay like this forever, somehow -- or, at the very least, oh i know that life will change, but not quite yet, i still have time. but then one day you wake up and realize that that time is now, and a lot of things, as you knew them, are gone.

[ music | halsey, "hurricane" ]

Monday, July 6, 2015

fake empire

posted on my tumblr with the accompanying caption "I maybe have a problem":

so by now in my copy of neko atsume, i've got the home expansion plus a renovation, and i'm basically attracting cats to every surface and toy i put out. it only took me five days to attract every single one of the 45 cats available, so now the goal is to make them all happy enough that they bring me the full collection of treasures you can get (i only have 23 of those so far). it's a hilariously weird and cute game that you could just play for whatevs, but i like having an objective.

in conclusion, you should all download neko atsume and let me know which cat is your favourite. (i've since got my cat-loving boyfriend hooked on it as well, and we've since spent a shameful percentage of our time together checking on our cats and comparing notes.)

i've been saying lately - and i will keep saying - that i probably need to get a cat this year. i am a Cat Person. (yes, that's serious enough to receive capital letters.) my family always had cats when i was growing up, always females, always siblings -- frisky and benji when i was four; baskets, cinnamon and mittens when i was seven; and the two exceptions to the rule, cleo (probably the most adorable kitten ever) and my dear sweet boy mr. gray (whom i found wandering our property as a stray and pleaded with my parents to let me take him in). after all the years and a move to the city, mr. gray - my tough old fightin' tomcat - ended up being the last cat standing, but he passed away from a heart murmur while i was away at university. he was the best cat and i still miss him.

yet i've moved around so much as an adult that i've never had the chance to adopt a cat of my own. it's just never been the right time for me -- i'm always working, or moving, or busy, or not able to take on the responsibility. plus i've always felt conflicted about condemning a cat to a small living space; i know there are many people out there who'll argue that you can raise a cat that will be happy living indoors in a small home, but that's not me. i grew up with barn cats, cats that loved to roam around outside, and i just can't imagine them being happy otherwise. and since i'll never make the kind of money that would buy me a large house with a yard, i've never been entirely sure i should even get a cat.

still, it makes me sad. my stepsister has a cat. my sister has two cats. (my stepbrother broke the pattern by getting a dog.) the closest i have is a tumblr "kitteh" tag that currently has 257 pictures of cats. and sure, i have plenty of neighbourhood cats to visit with - especially my favourite floof - but sometimes i really want a warm purring ball of cuddles hanging around my place. i totally torture myself regularly by looking through the ranks of toronto cat rescue. sigh. (i especially have a weakness for boy cats, in the memory of mr. gray.)

my main dude doing one of the things he loved most: sleeping tucked into a still-warm bed. (the other would be eating -- my family used to joke that mr. gray loved food first, caitlin second)

on a completely separate topic, last week allegra and i went to see magic mike xxl on opening day, and it was so, so worth it.

allegra and i saw the first magic mike together in theatres back in summer 2012, and we were, well, pretty disappointed. not just in the lack of full frontal (ha ha), but in the fact that it was long, drawn-out, and weirdly dull for a movie about male strippers. channing tatum spent most of the movie trying to win over a boring, crabby girl who had all the personality of a wooden plank. it was beautifully shot, though, and the dance sequences were top notch, and shit yeah, that "pony" striptease that channing tatum does is just the best. so there was definitely potential for something better, yet i didn't exactly expect there'd be a sequel. what a pleasant surprise!

this movie actually went above and beyond the first. it established personalities for all the guys, and made them all seem like the best dudes you could ever hang out with. in her stellar review, stacey may fowles notes how the movie emphasizes a new type of bro -- one who respects women, is in touch with his sensitive side, always has your back, and is able to joke about things without being offensive or assholish. i was brought up by feminist parents, so this is the kind of guy i want to believe is most widespread than not. i want to believe all men are like the guys of magic mike, even if they don't have the 10-pack abs. you could feel safe with these guys, and they seem to just really value people, men and women equally.

director gregory jacobs had a great thing to say in this interview at now: "I kept saying, 'I want to make a movie about friendship - between guys, between men and women, between women and women.'" and all of this is really wonderfully portrayed in magic mike xxl. there's just so much respect between everyone, and even when the guys clash, they eventually hash it out by talking through their issues with each other. there's no demeaning of women, no threats, no derogatory accusations of being "gay" just because the dudes are in touch with their emotions. it's so modern and really a game-changer when it comes to cinematic depictions of male friendship, if you ask me.

in short, i would go see it again, and i think pretty much everybody (regardless of gender or sexual orientation) should go see it too. (for those easily offended by nudity, there's no full frontal, just a lot of abs and the occasional bare butt) here's the most perfect recap ever (warning: spoilers) by roxane gay over at the toast as well as a more supernaturally fun review at io9. and, because i love you, here's a video of channing tatum busting out all the dance moves:

gym now, more writing later.

p.s. i just booked a trip to kingston for friday july 24th to monday july 27th, because 1) i want to give my dad his father's day gift; 2) i want to say goodbye to the family home as well as scavenge anything that my parents won't need in the new place (my mom and stepdad are looking to move out by the fall, but sooner if they can); and 3) my mother has tasked me with going through my old belongings that are still in storage at the house. this should be interesting, to say the least.

[ music | lana del rey, "blue jeans" ]