Friday, December 30, 2011

read my mind

those who know me in person know that i am a reader. i am the kind of person who will purchase a book and have it completely read within a day or two. i am that weirdo who will stay up long into the night because she's at a really good part in her book and can't put it down. i have no ability to comprehend people who "don't read"; in my mind, reading for pleasure is one of the most vital things a person can do. (also, being a writer, i absolutely believe that the only way you get better - other than writing all the time - is by reading as much as you can, to study and absorb other peoples' writing styles)

and so it saddened me to see some quick news bit the other week about some study reporting that people these days are reading for leisure less than ever; i personally can't imagine my life without books. sure, i digest most of my news and long-form essays online, but if i have some time to myself in the evening, i will eschew internet, video games and television so i can work away on my current read instead.

gentlemen, i'm here to tell you that the essay date a girl who reads completely rings true. we are a special breed, we are. /humblebrag

as for me, i fear that a quick scan of my bookshelf won't reveal any deep thinking or philosophical studies (my university english professors would be so disappointed in me, but god i fucking hated the critical theory courses), but - like my terrible taste in music - i'm not ashamed of it at all. my taste in books isn't highbrow, but it's not harlequin romances or pulp trash either, so i guess it's more...pop-culture taste, you could say. it's my taste, and i would rather read something i enjoy versus forcing myself to slog through ayn rand or derrida or whoever.

however, this was also the year that my bookshelf turned partly virtual -- i got a tablet with a built-in e-reader app, so i was introduced to the wide, cheap world of e-books. and although i'll never be able to forsake the feeling of bound pages between my hands, i like the idea of saving both trees and room on my already-crowded bookshelf. so.

(my current reads: lev grossman's the magicians, and stieg larsson's the girl with the dragon tattoo -- the larsson is a reread, though. i also have caitlin moran's how to be a woman on order.)

what follows here is a brief unordered list of my top reads of the last 12 months; i read an ass-ton more than what's listed below, but it wasn't all good, therefore i'm not recommending everything. i understand that you all are busy people with busy lives, but if you're looking for something to pick up and fill your few hours of downtime, i heartily recommend books -- these books specifically.

best books i read in 2011 (not necessarily books that were released in 2011 - just ones that i read for the first time):

deadline, by mira grant

i like zombie apocalypse books. i figure i've read almost all the zombie apocalypse books worth their merit right now (this does not include the passage, which was awful), and this one - the second in a trilogy - was one i was eagerly anticipating. although it took a few reads to get into part 1 (feed), part 2 expands even further upon grant's huge undead-filled world, and makes for even more complex plot twists. also, there's weirdly incestuous overtones (shades of dexter?), so you might want to try and overlook those.

the sisters brothers, by patrick dewitt

look, with the exception of red dead redemption (the zombie expansion pack especially), there are few genres i hate more than the western. it's right up there with war movies as films that make me fall asleep almost instantly. and so i'd heard the sisters brothers was good from a number of friends, but i wasn't quite sure i'd be into it because ugh, westerns. then my mom openly sung its praises, and i decided i'd give it a shot. result: i read it in one day. it's fun and breezy, and absolutely clever in all the right places. plus, the characters are so well sketched out that the sweet ending is even more satisfying.


the long walk and 11/22/63, by stephen king

the former is old and the latter is new, but i got equally sucked into both -- and it's funny, i didn't even think i'd care for 11/22/63 that much, because i'm not a fan of historical nonfiction and i know nothing about the kennedy assassination. surprise, surprise -- my father loaned me his copy and i finished it in less than a week. as for the long walk, it's one of his older and shorter stories (penned under the richard bachman pseudonym), but it's supremely messed-up, and is even more relevant now in the days of reality tv. also: i love stephen king books and i think stephen king is an unbelievable writer and you cannot tell me otherwise.

secret diary of a call girl, by belle de jour

backstory: i'd actually read the sequel to this one, the further adventures of a london call girl, many years ago -- it was my airplane read when i was flying from toronto to vancouver for the first time. however, i didn't manage to track down the first book until this year when i grabbed a copy off ebay, and i found i enjoyed the first one far more than the second. (i bought further adventures at the same time and read them one after the other) where the second book has belle spending most of her time fawning over her utter asshole boyfriend, the first book is a much more naughty real-life look at the world of call girls, and makes for a fascinating read.

a song of fire and ice books 1-5, by george r.r. martin

i bombed through these five books in about a month. maybe two months, tops. reason being that i didn't want to watch the tv show without having read the books first...and then i got sucked in, and couldn't stop until i finished all five in the series so far. although i felt like the narrative got bogged down a bit at times - and you really have to work your brain to keep up with all the individual character storylines going on - there were a number of great total-shock moments, which i love in a novel more than anything.

the night circus, by erin morgenstern

i was debating whether or not to include this one on the list, because i felt that what was supposed to be the main driving force behind the plot - the celia-marco love story - ultimately fell flat, but...i can't not give credit for the descriptive prose in this novel. it's completely beautiful. and while the subplot with the kid and his circus friends is just enough to hold up the weight of the book, i'd really read this one mostly for the descriptions of the night circus itself.

bossypants, by tina fey

yes yes yes! i actually read this one with a very thin knowledge of tina fey's work (i only started watching 30 rock this year -- i know, i know), but i've since read it twice more and given copies away as gifts. i have a weird sense of humour - which i commonly refer to as "asshole humour" - in that there's nothing i find funnier than sarcastic mockery, and tina fey brings it in spades. also, there's such a level of cleverness in her writing that makes this one actually laugh-out-loud funny (which is something i basically never do with books). and then i started watching 30 rock, and then it was all downhill from there.

...and that's about it. agree? disagree? have recommendations for my first 2012 reads? drop me a line and let me know, my friends.

[ music | the futureheads, "decent days and nights" ]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

musical interlude

so again, here we are back in toronto after the holidays. this year, it was a short respite; this was somewhat thankful, as i’m finally starting to feel the family stress and emotional drama that comes with “going home for the holidays”. also, as i noted post-christmas last year, i’ve absolutely begun to think of toronto as my real home, and after nine years here (minus those bleak eight months in vancouver), it’s more true than ever.

however, it won’t be long before i’m back on the eastward train again - my grandmother’s memorial service is on saturday january 14th, and i promised my father i’d attend. bit of a no-brainer, there; she was my grandma, after all. so it won’t be a family reunion under the best of circumstances, but at least i’ll see the aunts and uncles i missed at christmas (since there were no family holiday celebrations on my father’s side, clearly).

the one-sided familial nature of this christmas, at least, made for less drama and less time spent being shuttled between parents’ houses. instead, i spent the majority parked on my mother’s couch (when i wasn’t at the gym, that is - yes, i kept my resolve and went every single day except christmas) and amusing myself with music, the internet, watching hockey and food prep. even my life in kingston is exciting, oh yes it is.

not in kingston, but a very excellent shot of me in the massively oversized skull sweater that the boy was about to donate to charity before I shrieked and claimed it as my own.

anyway, on to today’s real topic: music playlists. as i was on the train home, i glanced back over the group of playlists that i'd long since programmed into my mp3 player, but haven't really touched in the last couple of years. i went through a pretty serious phase (mostly 2006, by the looks of it) when i would make mix cds - and later mp3 playlists - to coincide with the travel i did, in hopes that i would later associate the memories of those trips with the chosen songs. i'm not entirely sure if i succeeded there but, with the full consenting knowledge that i may totally embarrass myself by revealing my musical selections (as well as which ones are repeatedly across multiple playlists), let's take a look:

NYC - 15/09/05
An Honest Mistake - The Bravery
Blood - Editors
Munich - Editors
The Specialist - Interpol
Karma Police - Radiohead
Don't Go Back to Dalston - Razorlight
Riot Radio - The Dead 60s
Lovesong - The Cure
Down in It - Nine Inch Nails
All My Life - Foo Fighters

- this one was a cd converted into mp3 format, so i think i lost a few of the original songs (i likely deleted them in order to make space on my mp3 player), but this is what remains. along with the suicide girls black heart retrospective compilation, this was the cd i listened to the entire way to and from new york city on that fated week in fall 2005. i don't think any of these songs made too much of an impact, besides me listening to "down in it" during an overnight bus stopover in the rain so they could fix the wipers (making the "rain, rain, go away" part of the song especially appropriate), and turning on "an honest mistake" (by nyc natives the bravery) as the bus drove into new york city and i saw the big metropolis for the first time. also, dead 60s? lolz. (i'd totally just interviewed them the previous month, i think.)

BOSTON - 04/02/06
Foxy, Foxy - Rob Zombie
French Disko (Stereolab cover) - Editors
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor - Arctic Monkeys
Cash Machine - Hard-Fi
Gold Lion - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Charlotte Sometimes - The Cure
My Coco - stellastarr*
In The Walls - stellastarr*
Alert Status Red - Matthew Good
Post Blue - Placebo
Stripped - Depeche Mode
Blue Monday - Orgy
With Teeth - Nine Inch Nails
Crazy Bitch - Buckcherry
Straight As An Arrow - Marty Casey and Lovehammers
The Tunnel - Marty Casey and Lovehammers

- oh, boston. this was a much-needed cd at the time; the bus trip was something in the realm of 16 hours. but these songs really did make something of an impact, "charlotte sometimes" especially -- i still get weird about listening to that song. of course, this boston trip was for a boy in a band - because a boy in a band wanted to see me, which was still something new for me at the time - and i ended up skipping almost a week's worth of university classes to disappear into the american northwest. my other pervading memory is crossing the us-canada border at just after midnight, a lone twentysomething girl, and the immigration officer asked me my purpose of visiting. "to see a boy," i replied wearily. the officer chuckled and said, "i hope he's worth it." i rolled my eyes and answered, "he's really not." so that kind of summed it up. was fun and made for some...interesting memories and life experiences, but i learned a lot of valuable lessons about the other sex.

A Pain That I'm Used To - Depeche Mode
Golden Touch - Razorlight
Porno Star - Buckcherry
Portions For Foxes - Rilo Kiley
She Sells Sanctuary - The Cult
Stripped (Depeche Mode cover) - Shiny Toy Guns
Ride The Wire - Crash Kelly
Ariel vs. Lotus - Limblifter
Black Metallic - Catherine Wheel
No Tomorrow Girls - The Black Halos
Orange Crush (REM cover) - Editors
Make-Up Sex - Clear Static
Fade Into You - Mazzy Star

- i have so few recollections of that montreal trip; like, maybe zero. i think it was likely some weekend trip to see my uncle and get away from the insanity that was the three jobs i was holding down at the time. but then(!) came the glorious august weekend that was lollapalooza 2006, and i went back to chicago for the third time in my life. of course, something had to be said about the fact that i spent less time on the concert grounds and more time just wandering around the city, but that was probably a bit of foreshadowing of my love of chitown. oh, and on the playlist -- i'm fairly sure mazzy star was only on there because i had to take that chicago weekend and debate internally over whether to completely end things with the band boy from the boston trip (after one too many lies and casual disappearances on his part -- oh, musicians). and that was that.

FALL/XXIII - 10/05/06
Shoot The Runner - Kasabian
When You Were Young - The Killers
Burn Burn - Lostprophets
We Still Kill the Old Way - Lostprophets
Civil Sin - Boy Kill Boy
She's In Parties - Bauhaus
Somewhere Else - Razorlight
Keep The Right Profile - Razorlight
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah - Razorlight
Map Of The Problematique - Muse
Chemicals Between Us - Bush
Goodnight, Goodbye - Kill Hannah
Black Metallic - Catherine Wheel

- the "xxiii" was my attempt at being cute - roman numerals, obviously, and that 2006 weekend was my twenty-third birthday - and i was clearly full on into the british bands at this point in time. seriously, look at that -- only three of those bands aren't british (well, lostprophets are welsh). this was also the stage in my music journalism career when i would snatch up any interview ops with british bands, and you can obviously see that reflected here. yes, i really loved the fuck out of razorlight. as for this point in my life, i think it was another "get your shit together" sort of weekend in kingston with my family, but that clearly wasn't too successful, because a month later we got this:

Shaken - Shiny Toy Guns
Bling (Confession of a King) - The Killers
Chemicals Between Us - Bush
Running Up That Hill - Placebo
Sister - She Wants Revenge
Fascination Street - The Cure
Just Like Heaven - The Cure
Enjoy The Silence - Depeche Mode
Blood - Editors
Shoot The Runner - Kasabian
To Hell We Ride - Lostprophets
Starlight - Muse
Time Is Running Out - Muse
Post Blue - Placebo
Elmo - Holly McNarland
Doctor Doctor - Razorlight
Sweet Troubled Soul - stellastarr*
Love Like Winter - AFI

- oh, okay -- this was the only playlist that was actually a "theme" rather than something to serve as a travel soundtrack. back in that fated fall of '06, i was carrying on a rather, er, illicit affair with somebody i shouldn't have been. but he was a sexy asshole jerk (unfortunately for me, i tend to be attracted to sexy asshole jerks, current boy the only exception) and i couldn't help myself. the power trip and mind games were basically like a magnet to me. so the above playlist (named after an all-american rejects song) detailed much of how i felt about the situation, and him, and what the hell we were doing. basically, we were idiots, and there wasn't even a "we" at the end of the day, and so. again, as with boston, interesting memories but served more as a life lesson/cautionary tale against that type of boy. (funny to note that "elmo" was my angry-breakup anthem from a much earlier rock star relationship; i must have thought it'd be wonderfully ironic to include it. oh, 23-year-old self.)

Shooting Stars - The Black Halos
Some Things Never Fall - The Black Halos
Sell-Out Love - The Black Halos
Warsaw - The Black Halos
Three Sheets To The Wind - The Black Halos
She Is The New Thing - The Horrors
Inside Inside - I Hate Kate
Always Something - I Hate Kate
Chelsea Dagger - The Fratellis
Special K - Placebo
Every You Every Me - Placebo
This Picture - Placebo
Special Needs - Placebo
Chemicals Between Us - Bush
Ever Fallen In Love - Buzzcocks

- the wake of my time on the road with a band proper, and trying to sort out which direction my life would take after i'd swung it wildly off course. this trip predated my moving-to-vancouver idea; i think it was more to go home, get my druthers, let my parents know i'd survived (albeit with black-dyed hair and a new tattoo), and decide what sort of major leaps i wanted to take. i ended up taking a high-pressure job at an indie record label that i was absolutely not ready for, which of course led to me running away to the west coast. and so we have the following:

Untitled - Interpol
Transmission - Joy Division
Running Up That Hill - Placebi
Never Let Me Down Again - Depeche Mode
The Killing Moon - Echo & the Bunnymen
I Melt With You - Modern English
Leave It Alone - MOIST
She Sells Sanctuary - The Cult
When You Were Young - The Killers
Black Metallic - Catherine Wheel
Strange Days - Matthew Good Band
Plainsong - The Cure
Bizarre Love Triangle - New Order
Special Needs - Placebo
An End Has A Start - Editors
Enjoy The Silence (Depeche Mode cover) - Division Day
Reach For The Sky - Social Distortion
Broken Radio - Jesse Malin
There There - Radiohead
Lucretia My Reflection - The Sisters Of Mercy
Hummingbirds the Size of Bullets - Kill Hannah
This Picture - Placebo
Avalanche - Matthew Good
We Are Pilots - Shiny Toy Guns
Devil By My Side - David Usher
Atmosphere - Joy Division
Heinrich Maneuver - Interpol

- this was the last playlist i made, appropriately enough, and it was done for my flight from toronto to vancouver where i would start my life anew and all that. i was going with a one-way ticket, a duffel bag and a backpack, and that was it -- hence a lot of the endings-and-beginnings, roll-credits type of songs above. and though this "new" chapter in my life didn't quite work out the way i thought it would, i still don't regret the time i spent there -- and sometimes i wish i might've given it more of a chance. but i know myself, and i know my crazy stupid emotions, and i'm pretty sure the loneliness would have made me a weird social recluse eventually. (seriously, i basically spent most of my weekends alone, and didn't talk to anybody.) it also taught me by comparison that this is my home - here in toronto - and as gorgeous as the mountains are, i can't live without the streets of my city. not permanently, anyway, and not right now. i finally made it back home.

now, to go start making new memories with new music, as i trudge off into the cold to go to the gym.

[ music | death from above 1979, "sexy results" ]

Monday, December 26, 2011

semi-wonderful christmastime

first/sad things out of the way first: my grandmother died on thursday morning. (this would be my paternal grandmother; my mother's are both still alive, but super old) hi everyone, welcome to bummer christmas.

coming home actually wasn't as dreary as i expected it would be - although my dad was a mess the day of (and i have zero experience comforting a parent), he was much better in the following days, which was a relief. but still - remember what i wrote in the last entry about things beginning to change now? hard not to see this as a harbinger of said change. so unsure about the coming years, now.

anyway, her memorial service is january 14th, so i'll have to be coming back 'round these parts again. and i'm sure the memorial won't be easy either, but i need to pay my last respecyts to family. i've gotten lucky so far - no major affecting family deaths until now (save for my paternal grandfather, who died when i was three). don't think i don't frequently keep that in mind, either.

so with that as a bit of a mournful cast on the holiday proceedings, everything else has been going on yearly schedule - too much food and booze, family overload and ensuing small dramas, and so on. christmas goodie haul was a solid one; many nice new wardrobe pieces, including this much-coveted lululemon running jacket, which probably delighted me the most. (sticking with that theme, i also received $100 in lululemon gift cards, which will be enough to let me stock even more cute workout gear)

also, this year i'm attempting to take some pride in the fact that i'm determined - and sticking to - a regular workout schedule at the nearest gym. yes, holiday dietary transgressions have definitely been happening, so i'm trying to soften the blow a little bit. added bonus: makes a great excuse to get out of the house and get away from family for a couple hours.

on the heels of that, i've decided to start my new year's resolution five days early: no refined sugar for 30 days. this will be a mighty slog, as i have the worst sweet tooth of anyone i know. but i want to lighten up and not feel so sluggish and crappy, so i want to take this on as a fascinating body experiment. i can't wait to see if i start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

that will probably be the most exciting part of new year's eve in five days, come to think of it. i'm heading back to toronto late tomorrow night, though it's not in a rush or anything - we have no nye plans aside from cooking a nice dinner together, drinking champers and renting movies. really, it's all the stuff in the week leading up to it - spending xmas gift cards, going for coffee with previously-unmet friends (hi randeep!), movie + dinner date with the boy for our anniversary (and to make up for the fact that i spent our christmas date crying in the bedroom at the news of my grieving family) - that i'm looking forward to. well, not so much all the gym classes and the detoxing. really not so much that.

but hey - i'm off work for another week, the leafs are in a playoff spot, and i have good things to look forward to. that, my friends, is a happy boxing day 2011.

hope santa was good to all of you, and that your hangovers and food comas weren't anywhere near as bad as mine. (seriously, i didn't sleep on christmas eve because i swear my stomach was going through its own personal apocalypse. no more sugar.) back home soon!

[ music | m83, "midnight city" ]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

remembrance reflections

the holiday season will forever be a number of things to me:

1. being on a bus to chicago in the dead of winter when i was 21. for some reason, this whole experience from december 2004 really sticks out in my mind; i think it's probably because it was one of the craziest things i'd done to date, and it had been absolutely worth it. for some reason, i mostly remember the fact that i was stuck on an overly warm greyhound bus for about fifteen hours due to the terrible weather and road conditions, and then i had to sit by myself in the freezing detroit bus station at four in the morning. but, you know, worth it.

2. i was really "discovering" music for probably the second time during this december in 2004, and there was absolutely nothing that i loved more on this earth. i was buying up all the music magazines (another thing i associate with the holiday season: the nme yearbook, which i don't think they produce any longer, sadface), i was just getting into my music journalism, and i was still at the point in my life when i'd happily trot off to see a beloved band in another city. (i missed a lot of university classes in those days.) this was also the last of my innocence, because shortly after this, i'd begin my first sort-of relationship with a sort-of big time musician, which would lead into another relationship with another musician, and so on, and so forth, unto now. so, that chicago trip and that holiday season are also earmarked in my memory as being the last days of harmless musician love. it all got a bit dark from there on.

2. shitty lo-fi songs by the sisters of mercy. i had gotten into the "newer" sisters stuff in a big way while living in vancouver in 2007, and when i came back to ontario for christmas, i pounced on a cd i'd left behind at my mother's -- a copy of some girls wander by mistake that adam had made for me. and that album is fucking incredible -- a 1992 compilation of a bunch of their early tracks from various vinyl releases in 1980-1983. (i was born in 1983, which blows my mind when i listen to this stuff.) like i said, they're not very good quality and aren't polished whatsoever, but it's a perfect portrait of a band in its nascent phase, with a dark horizon ahead. ever since that bleak but unexpectedly bright holiday in 2007, "floorshow," "heartland" and "adrenochrome" always get a ton of airtime from me during the christmas weeks. not exactly traditional seasonal cheer, i know, but it's my type of seasonal cheer.

3. party times with good friends. for the last few years, one of my group of friends has hosted a holiday party for our social circle, and it's become something i associate with the season. for example, here's the wine and cheese party that jenna and i threw in 2008, and last year there was a smashing new year's eve get-together. just last friday, there was a fun gathering with a lot of booze, brie and general bonhomie.

requisite cute dog photo -- the host & hostess's adorable pupper, marlow:

that leads into a side point: what i've come to be really thankful for this year is my friends. i've mentioned before that i didn't have a lot of friends growing up, and that's very much the truth -- i was one of those weird insular kids who kept to themselves. that still holds true today, actually; the difference now, though, is that when i'm alone, it's by choice, not by default. i don't have to worry any more about having nobody there for me. boyfriend aside, i have a great core group of friends (male and female) and any number of good acquaintances, both online and off. it's something i never try to take for granted, given how lonely i was as a kid and how desperate i was for even one close friend. now i have a number of them, and that fills me with warm fuzzies.  (plus, i'm at the adult age now where friendships stick, and they're a hundred times more genuine and trustworthy than they were when i was younger. that alone is cause for celebration.)

4. anniversary. the boy's and my anniversary is december 26th, 2007 - although we didn't make it official until february 4th, 2008 - and though i'm typically not back from kingston until after boxing day, we generally try to mark the occasion by recreating our first "date" (though it was really more of a hangout): nachos and beer at sneaky dee's. we missed it last year (maybe that's why things didn't go so well in 2011?), but here's an example from 2009. we're aiming to do it up again probably next wednesday or thursday -- a couple days late, yes, and i'm not sure how much more indulgence my hips will be able to take (nachos are my kryptonite), but i want 2012 to have an extra dose of good relationship karma. it'll be our fifth year together, holy shit.

5. watching love actually. i don't have a whole lot of holiday traditions (aside from the above-mentioned sisters of mercy mania), but somehow watching love actually has become one of them. this isn't something you'd typically expect from me; i despise rom-coms as a rule, and i recall not being too impressed with this movie the first time i saw it (which i'm pretty sure was christmas 2004 -- again! that year was a big one). i think it had something to do with the fact that not all the storylines are wrapped up at the end, and there is so much suspension of disbelief that has to take place. but once you learn to just forget about all that, it's a really cute little chestnut of a movie. sure, it's soppy as fuck and like i said, most things work out in absolutely improbable ways, but oh well. bill nighy is awesome.

6. trader joe's holiday goodies. i'm listing this in hopes that it does become a yearly tradition for me. please, please.

and that about wraps it up. basically, i've spent the last ten years in toronto for the holiday season (minus one year that was spent in vancouver) and it really feels like a wonderful time of year. yes, i'm one of those christmas nerds.

it is a bit scary, though, since i feel - and i know - that time is running out on what i know to be my yearly holiday tradition of going to kingston, staying overnight on christmas eve, opening presents with my family in the morning, having brunch together and then a big christmas dinner. time's running out because none of us are "the kids" any more (in fact, this will be the first year where none of us still live at home), and because my mother and stepfather are getting older and less obligated to keep things up for "the kids' sakes". eventually, there's going to come a year when either they can't do it or don't want to do it, or maybe it'll be a year where i say i want to do something different, and maybe stay in toronto or go abroad for christmas instead. (i don't plan on having a family of my own, or else that would probably force me into starting a new routine.)

no matter what, though, i get the sense that these are the last days, because we're all growing up and moving on. whether or not that extends to christmastime traditions remains to be seen, though, i guess.

on that downer of a note, i'm off -- i've got one more day of doing stuff here in the big city (aka getting in some gym time before a date night with the boy), and then this time tomorrow i'll be on the train to kingston, so i'll be more or less occupied for the next few days with the christmastime stuff and family visiting stuff and all that. thus, i wish you all the very best of a holiday season, and hope you find lots of fun stuff under the tree on sunday morning. i'll be back shortly afterward with holiday updates and recaps, et cetera.

merry christmas dear readership!

[ music | the chameleons uk, "nostalgia" ]

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

passion is the price

so last night, we attended the leafs nation fan night, because of course we did. (we both won a pair of tickets, but my pair had better seats)

it feels funny sometimes to talk about how much hockey means to me these days, especially given how i was never an athletic child and i went through the typical early-to-mid 20's goth-punk period of hating on anything sports related. but the background for my love of hockey was always there, thanks to a tomboyish childhood spent with hockey night in canada on saturday nights and a father who religiously cheered for the toronto maple leafs. (ever the rebel, i insisted on cheering for the pittsburgh penguins - and mario lemieux and jaromir jagr - instead. oh, the follies of youth.) i was the only girl who collected and traded hockey cards in elementary school. hockey was rad.

but, as i said, one's interests tend to wax and wane over the years, and i lost interest in hockey as i moved into my anime/manga/video games period (which was later supplanted by my rock band/rock star period). once i moved to toronto in my late teens, though, it was hard to ignore hockey mania -- especially since this was back when the leafs were still making the playoffs, and car horns would be blaring in celebration downtown whenever they won. so, you know, a little more interest was gained back, which came in handy once i met the hockey-crazy boy in '07. my memories of the game were a little rusty, but i still remembered the fundamentals and a number of the players, so that helped. (in fact, the first night we ever seriously hung out together - boxing day 2007 - was spent getting tanked and watching that night's leafs game at a nearby pub)

now, though, it's gone far beyond a simple bonding experience. sure, it is that - the boy and i watch almost every game together - but it was also good knowledge to have when i worked in sports marketing a few years ago; there, my love for the game basically quadrupled. ever since then, i've actively adapted a stake in my family's old loyalty: the leafs, of course. (it's common knowledge that i come from a half-leafs, half-canadiens family; this causes quite a few heated moments at family gatherings)

recently, though, i've been watching hbo's 24/7 series religiously, and there's literally nothing that makes me more delighted. it showcases these hockey players as being both characters and real people, which is something that can be lost when you only ever see them on the ice. not to draw too tenuous a connection between my old interests, but i've always had a deep love of fictional characters, and something in my brain doesn't always connect when i see people on tv. it's like they're not real, somehow. this was the same thing with rock stars -- i had a hard time mentally taking them off a pedestal.

is this weird? i'm assuming it's weird.

so when i attend things like live games, it's always something of a thrill to see these guys who've only ever existed in my television. i sadly don't see as many leafs games as i'd like, due to the insane cost of tickets, but on the rare occasion when i win tickets, then it's absolutely golden. such was the case with tuesday's fan night event, in which you had to collect various passwords from around the interwebs. the more you uncovered and entered, the better chance you had to win, and due to my persistence in entering every goddamn password i could get, i snagged tickets in the first round of draws.

our seats were this good, in fact:

that was taken without zooming in at all.  yeah, we were five rows from the ice.  as i said on twitter, i'll never be that close for a leafs game ever again. (for those unaware: platinum seats at a leafs game are like a bazillion dollars. each. also, they're mostly taken up by billionaire season ticket holders or the people who inherited those season tickets after the billionaires died)

so what fan night basically ended up being (and it was something completely different from the skills competition that we bought tickets to see last year) was a regular ol' leafs practice that lasted a little over an hour.  lots of drills, lots of fancy skating and shooting, capped off with a 15-minute scrimmage.  i couldn't help but wonder how awkward it must have been for them to have some thousands of people watching them, well, practice.

i actually found it pretty fascinating, given how insanely coordinated and planned-out their drills are.  literally, someone just needs to blow the whistle and all the guys immediately break into a skate for a few laps.  still, i'm willing to bet a larger portion of the audience found the whole thing more boring than fascinating (because seriously, it's a practice).  oh well.  leafs up close! i was a happy girl.

i admit that i spent almost the entire night ogling their hot swedish goaltender, jonas gustavsson (not pictured in the above).  thankfully his net was in our end of the arena, so i basically just stared a hole through him.  dean wasn't too impressed, ha ha.

group huddle!  (this was shortly before the guys changed jerseys for the scrimmage, and i catcalled and hollered, "WOOOO TAKE IT OFF!!")

so yes, i greatly enjoyed myself - well, until the end of the night.  see, our seats were a couple seats down from the gateway entrance where the leafs come in and out, and i was previously unaware how many human vultures (for lack of a nicer term) hang around that hallway as the team enters and leaves.  basically, asshole middle-aged men drape themselves across the gate and beg for souvenirs or autographs and just generally make obnoxious fools of themselves.  i saw one jerk whine, "come on, man! come on! can't i have that stick? just give me the stick!" and then when he got the used game stick he wanted, he immediately snatched it up and walked away, no thank yous or anything.  so gross.  wonder what it is about celebrities/athletes that reduces us to assholes and morons.

at least the boy and i finished the night on a high note:

thank you, c'est what?, for being so close to the arena. i wish i could visit you all the time.

bonus pic of the boy (he was wearing that jets t-shirt under his leafs jersey the entire night, sacrilege!), right before he grumbled something about how he hates his profile and "why you gotta do that?" (he also hates when i spontaneously snap photos of him)  hee hee hee.  i like it.

...and with that, i've officially kicked off my christmas vacation and all its festivities. i'm off work until january 3rd and i'm going to kingston early friday morning, but in between, there's going to be sushi with jenna and old housemate matthew tonight, and a movie + leafs game-watching (at our local pub, not from those platinum seats) date night with the boy on thursday. also: mundane things like workout classes (so many workout classes), finishing up my christmas shopping, doing laundry, and so on. will be back with one more blog post before christmas!

[ music | amy winehouse, "you know i'm no good" ]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


now that the year's wrapping up, i've already started pondering possible 2012 trips. itchy feet, what can i say.

at the same time, i came across this post from back in february, which got me to thinking about how many of those travel destinations i actually managed to check off in 2011 -- and it was more than i expected. in total, here's where i ended up in 2011 (minus the few usual trips to kingston to see family):

- chicago in may for solo vacation (5 days)
- moncton/halifax in september for vacation with the boy (3 days)
- montreal in september for a bachelorette party (2 days)
- san francisco in october for work (5 days)

all in all, not too shabby, especially considering that 50% of those trips involved airplanes, and we all know how much i despise air travel.

funny, too, how in that blog post from february, i mentioned that i want to do most (if not all) of those trips with the boy. well, one of the things that i learned this past year is that i travel better alone. not saying that the east coast trip with the boy was any big disaster or anything - and i definitely had fun on the bachelorette weekend with my girlfriends - but i really do think i like traveling by myself the best. turns out i'm not a huge fan of travel companions - even if said travel companion is my significant other - because i'd rather be free to do what i want, when i want, without having to compromise with somebody else. sure, you don't quite get the shared-bonding-experience thing, but i can live with that.

with that in mind, here are my travel ambitions for 2012 (all repeats and nothing new, but whatevs):

- chicago: this is almost 100% happening in february, of all times, because my brother's band is touring that area for 1-2 weeks and i'm going on board as the merch girl. but the tour hasn't been confirmed yet, and chicago is an absolutely brutal place to visit in the wintertime, so even if i do go in february i'm probably going to go back in the summertime. i love that city. i can't stay away. will live there someday, guaranteed.

- vancouver: as far as i know, this will be going down on the may long weekend. and as an exception to my rule above about traveling with other people, i may be going with jenna. i'm not exactly sure how that'll work once we get there - would we stay at the same place? would we tour around the city together? - but i guess that can be worked out later. regardless, i haven't been to my old temporary home city since 2009, and that's a crime. my father and stepmother are there right now and i'm envious.

- montreal: post-bachelorette weekend, there was talk between jenna and i of us bringing our boyfriends for a double-date weekend getaway in montreal, and we're trying to keep this ambition alive. unfortunately, it probably wouldn't happen until more favourable seasons - montreal is also horrendous in the wintertime - but it would be a smashing time if we could pull it off. jenna's boy speaks french, my boy has plenty of friends in could work quite well.

- los angeles or boston: these are destinations i'm actually campaigning the boy to come with me to; i've been to both once before (l.a. with an underage friend in 2007, and boston by myself to see a dumb boy in a band when i was 22) so i would love to go to either/or with the boy, who's spent a fair amount of time in both cities. would be cool to visit with someone who knows the lay of the land (not to mention the best spots for fish tacos).

- new york city: again, this is another one i wouldn't mind being a weekend getaway for the boy and i, but if he can't make it/doesn't want to do it, i'd be fine going alone. new york is such a neat, weird city to me; there's so much of it i have yet to see and explore, which is understandable since i've only been twice. next time, i'd like to do more tours and things to help me learn more about the city and its history.

it's interesting, though, how despite my urge to travel anywhere and everywhere, i'm so at home where i am. really, i think i've come to love toronto even more in the years after i moved back from vancouver, and i'm not sure i could see myself living anywhere else right now. occasionally i'll have these little moments of lucidity - reading a book on the couch and staring out the window at the nighttime skyline, maybe, or walking to the gym at dusk and watching the lights come on as the sun sets - and i realize that this is what i always wanted. growing up in the country as a kid and daydreaming about what my big important adult life would be like, well, this is it. this is exactly how i wanted it to turn out -- big city, lovely downtown apartment, happy relationship (yes, i know), good friends, solid career, future plans, the works. and like i said, it's sometimes just this bizarre juxtaposition in my brain of what i thought "adult life" would be like, and what it actually is now that i'm living it -- and it's very nearly one and the same. which is endlessly cool.

so: bring on 2012 and all the world-exploring that comes with it. i have a sense of home now to ground me, and that's what's most important.

[ music | none ]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

in the evening

last night we had a dinner party.

it was the kind of thing that i more associate with my parents, because far from being some raucous house party where we stuff as many people as possible into our living space, it was a simple get-together with another friend-couple.

old photo from last halloween because we're both camera-shy otherwise

jenna is one of my longest-standing best friends; we met at the drake underground in 2005, where she excitedly identified me as "the girl in the kill hannah dvd" (i was interviewed briefly about the sniper heart tattoo - the band's logo - on my arm) and i was just excited to find another kill hannah fan in toronto (they were rare in 2004-05). since then, we've spent long nights partying together and equally long nights moaning about our fucked up lives together. when jenna moved to vancouver for school in 2007, i followed her out there soon after -- then when i moved back to toronto in 2008, she came back a few months later as well. we've thrown a wine and cheese party for our friends, we eat a lot of brunches, and she was the first person i got drunk with when the sad breakup stuff came down last month. in short, she's the kind of friend that everybody needs.

jenna's current man is paul, who - like dean - is another longtime member of the toronto rock scene. the two of them met through jenna and i (though paul was already huge fan of dean's band), and actually became friends independent of us girlfriends, which we found totally cool (and convenient). so jenna + paul and me + dean are essentially the same couple - rock musician and reformed band groupie - a fact that has never failed to escape jenna and i, especially when we laugh about our shared past as hopeless rockstar lover-vagabonds.  we've done pretty well for ourselves, all things considered.

here's another one of those weird, ironically hilarious things about me: i really enjoy putting on parties. i would probably make a very good party planner -- it definitely appeals to the detail-oriented control-freak side of me (and that's a pretty big side). this is basically weird, ironic and hilarious because when juxtaposed against my angry nonconformist goth-punk past, it...doesn't fit, exactly. but i am well aware that the fact that i like to cook, bake and generally be a homemaker doesn't particularly mesh with my younger self, and i kind of like the contradiction.

here are the appetizers, because as i've gotten older, i've firmly come to believe in appetizers:

seriously, how can you ever go wrong with a cheese plate? trick question - you can't. (sure, i didn't stray into any weird-cheese categories - mostly because i think jenna and i could polish off a wheel of brie by ourselves - but a cheese plate is something we'd never say no to. also, the tamari almonds i make are 110% better than any i've bought in stores, thx)

for the main course, ina garten's stewed lentils and tomatoes.

jenna is a vegetarian, and that dish was one of my absolute favourites when i was veg as well -- very flavourful and filling. plus, it's one of those dishes that gets better with age, which makes it easy to cook the night beforehand and then just reheat right before eating. martha stewart would be proud.

also, to accommodate the palates of the meat eaters in the crowd, i separated the dish into two batches and added cooked sliced chorizo sausage to one batch. lentils go with chorizo like chocolate goes with peanut butter. for sides, dean's homemade caesar salad (the best i've ever tasted - he makes it from memory!) and crusty bread to go with the stew. and red wine for drinking, of course. (though admittedly, i'd popped open the bottle the night beforehand - i'm at the point in my old life where i seemingly can't cook a good meal without drinking at the same time)

as for dessert...i am probably the only one out of the four of us who has a proper sweet tooth, so i didn't want to kill myself making an elaborate dessert to go with dinner. instead, i settled on serving up some good quality eggnog with a choice of booze (brandy, cognac, scotch or spiced rum) to go in it. because people may say no to dessert, but nobody says no to seasonal booze drinks. and sure enough, that carton disappeared in a flash.

so by the end of the night, everyone was sated, slightly tipsy, telling stories and laughing. between the four of us - especially given jenna's and my shared history and dean's flair for storytelling - the entertainment just didn't stop. and seriously, that's the kind of social fun i enjoy these days. no more with the getting drunk at stupid bars or cramming myself into tiny apartment parties -- being able to host a little get-together for just a few of us (whose presences i enjoy and trust) is far preferable now. again, this is one of those things my early-twentysomething self would undoubtedly be horrified by, but she had her time and place. this is my time, now -- and good times they are.

yeah, and you'll notice that i'm posting this on a saturday night, because i'm home on my laptop in my pajamas.  woooooo, adulthood!

one more look at our new centrepiece, because i love it so:

of course i would repurpose a pretty vodka bottle as a vase. of course.

here's what else has been going on:

on my half-drunken insistence, we stopped in at the new maple leaf gardens loblaws last weekend, and holy crap that is a supermarket. i've mentioned before that i have a bizarre fascination with grocery stores; this one more or less put me in a trance. the above is a snapshot of what has to be my favourite aisle of any supermarket anywhere.

dean faces off at the center ice dot! it's in aisle 26, if you stop by, or just look for the huge crowds near the asian cooking sauces.

my christmas cactus is on time this year!  this is the same one i've owned since i was seventeen, and it's literally a beast.  i'm considering repotting it and splitting it at the same time, probably soon.

prime example of the solo time i need to relearn how to indulge in - a book and a pint in a pub, by myself.  exactly the kind of thing i did a lot when i was single - not so much any more, and i've missed it.

tonight's dinner, to make up for last night's vegetarian entree: the endearingly-named meatza. yes, that's essentially pizza with a crust made from ground beef (pre-broiling - the cheese did get all melty and awesome). and holy shit, was it ever glorious. delicious meat coma glory. leftovers for work lunches next week will be fun.

coming up soon: leafs fan night on the 20th, which i was fortunate enough to win tickets for, and so the boy and i will be right down in the lower bowl -- possibly behind the bench. i've already warned him that i might start yelling things at goaltender jonas gustavsson about how i want to tap that hot gawky swedish ass etc. etc., and he looked a little uncomfortable about that, but whatevs. i have my fun.

so that's it for today's randomness.  likely more holiday-style social recaps in the near future, with possible hot-mess ridiculousness. 'tis the season!

[ music | nirvana, "about a girl" ]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

what came after

so, anyway.

quick housekeeping questions that came up a few times:

1. will you be deleting all the entries/tweets you wrote? nope. i'm a firm believer in not erasing history (unless of course history has a typo in it) and, you know, it's that kind of stuff that makes a life an interesting read. it's more human to read about peoples' gigantic fuckups. provides more dimension and perspective. sure, it doesn't always make me look so good, but i'd rather not sugarcoat my life. if you're here reading this, you get the ups and the downs, and you can judge for yourself. (though i'm getting to the point in my adult life where i'm not caring too much about other peoples' judgements and opinions. i'm the only person who has to live with myself, at the end of the day.)

2. will you still be moving? thank god, no. although we'd already signed to give up the apartment, we hastily corrected this mistake -- which basically made my year, because i love this little apartment so so much. now we just have to sort out things with the owner of the apartment (since we've been subletting for all this time) -- does she want to keep the place and we'll continue on as usual, or does she want to give it up and let us sign a lease for it in our names? the latter option is going to be a slightly more costly proposition for us, but it's a little more fair to the friend who owns the apartment (since we're paying her less than what she's paying, as part of a deal we worked out before moving in last year). either way, whatever -- we decided we're willing to pay it. we both love this apartment and want to stay. it's home, and we're so lucky to have it.

and that's that.

so i guess out of all of this, i learned a couple of good lessons: about who my real friends are (as said above, the ones who don't immediately pass judgement and are there for me no matter what; the ones whose only concern is that i'm happy either way), and about how much of myself i should and should not be investing solely in my relationship. because it's been at the "comfortable" point for so long, i realized i've been cancelling social engagements and friend hangouts - much to the detriment of both my friends and my social life - because they weren't part of my life with my boyfriend. and i think that's one of the trickiest things to try and balance -- learning how to be part of a couple, as well as how to be yourself as an individual, yet how the two don't have to be completely separate worlds. they have to be complimentary.

relationships are hard, y'all.

but we're working on it, and we're growing together, and we're making things better. and that's the important part. many apologies to all the disappointed boys out there who finally thought it was their turn. ;) har har har.

in the meantime, i've been gearing up for christmas -- the shopping's just started, i've been narrowing down my list of goodies to bake for friends (i made a batch of this on sunday and it turned out beautifully), i've stocked my cupboard with seasonal things and baking ingredients from the new mega-loblaws at maple leaf gardens, and we're having another friend-couple over for a little holiday dinner party on friday. i have three kinds of booze to go in eggnog. we're set.

it will be a good month.

[ music | none ]

Saturday, December 3, 2011

love is weird

well, that breakup lasted about as long as kim kardashian's marriage.

...i've tried to write a blog post about how we reconciled yesterday and he said he was so sorry and promised to do things better and i tearfully confessed that i didn't want to go and that this is home for me...but you know. this is one of those things that i don't feel i owe anyone an explanation (and/or defend myself) for. we're staying put here, and it looks like we're staying together, albeit with some work involved (counselling, anyone?).

to all my friends who will undoubtedly be concerned: thanks for that, but know that i'm happy (which is the important thing), and this is a good thing (especially considering that we're going to work on our problem areas). sure, you can start feeling sorry for me and start thinking of me as that idiot friend who's stuck in a bad relationship she can't get out of (or whatever), but i'm the only person who has to live my life, and i know the truth of the matter.

we're going to try and start again, and work at it, and make things better this time. if that fails too? well, i don't know. i sure won't be expecting a hell of a lot of sympathy, obviously (ha ha), but i'm going to take that as it comes.

right now, i have what i want, and it's this life.

[ music | none ]