Wednesday, May 22, 2013

through the looking glass

so, yes! kingston.

i've worked hard over the last couple of years to retrain myself to stop referring to kingston as "home"; it may be my hometown and my birthplace, but it hasn't been home to me for over 10 years now. toronto's my home, right down to my very goddamn soul. so i'm trying to make it weird for me to say that i'm "going home" when i head off to kingston, because really, i go there to visit my family. all of my immediate family still live there -- i'm the weirdo black sheep sticking it out on her own in a different city, almost three hours away.

but that's fine with me, because i know it's where i belong. seriously, every time i go back to kingston, i entertain a few thoughts about what it'd be like if i moved back. i could see my family all the time; i could get a way bigger apartment on the amount of rent i'm paying now; i could scale my life back and take things easier. plus there's just something about being in my mother's house in kingston that makes me feel insulated, i guess. it's a nice, sometimes welcome separation from my grownup life in toronto.

then i start really thinking about it, and i usually just laugh at myself for ever even considering the thought. me, leave toronto? i couldn't. just couldn't. i would end up spending my days obsessing over what was going on in the big city without me. (i don't know if this would be the same if i moved to another big city, like montreal or chicago or new york; i suspect it's likely, given how much i missed toronto when i briefly moved to vancouver)

so although it's nice to be somewhere where i can disconnect and pretend to be a different person with a different life for a while, i'm always conscientious of the need to go back to my real home at the end of the day. i can't be a little kid in kingston forever, nor do i honestly want to go back there, because that's just such a step backwards for me. it's a nice place to visit, but i'm a grown-ass adult now, and i can't make it my home again. i just want so much more than that, and toronto's still the place where all the opportunities are, for me.

there are always nice photo opportunities in kingston though, at least:

a two-pound brick of imported parmesan cheese that my stepdad bought for me. look, i'm just part of this family; i don't presume to understand it. (though yay endless cheese for things)

my sister's shy kitty, lily.  it took a lot of patience and coaxing to get her to even come this close, let alone turn her head to acknowledge the shot.  but she's a pretty little tortie, and clearly very photogenic.

i've seen this before but it never fails to make me smile evilly.

walking back over the expressway to get home after a bbq at my dad's.  filters are my friend.  (i was motivated to take a couple of "artsy" shots after both my mother and stepfather seemed half-impressed, half-dumbfounded at the fact that it appears i have marginal photography skills.  i would just refer them to my instagram, but you know, blerf.)

see above with the whole "artsy shot" business. (this was a basic vodka & soda, dressed up with some fruit and lime juice; one of the few times last weekend that i wasn't drinking endless glasses of red wine. i drink a lot of wine when i'm at my mother's.)

and an observation to my mother that made her laugh, during a discussion of swimsuits:

juxtaposed with current life:

well, yes.

and now i'm off to crossfit to go barf up a lung. be excellent to each other.

[ music | nico vega, "so so fresh" ]

Monday, May 20, 2013

but gravity always wins

there are two giant storage bins in my father's basement, and every time i come to kingston - which is where i'm from, and where my family still lives - i have the compulsive urge to sort through them.

see, these two bins hold all the detritus and memories from my twenties -- they're where i stored everything extra that i decided i didn't need when i moved to vancouver in 2007, but i wanted to keep anyway. and because i'm entirely a creature of nostalgia, i almost always want to examine the stuff i've kept preserved in there.

let's take a look!

the remainder of my meagre vinyl collection.  i used to own a turntable and a very nice pair of speakers, but i bequeathed all of it - along with a number of records from the days when i'd go lose my mind in rotate this - to one of my friends before i moved to vancouver in '07.  however, for some reason, these are the records i hung on to, and it's a pretty motley collection, as you can see.  (the moist "push" vinyl is purple, though, which i enjoyed)

a whole vinyl of derrick l. carter's "kennedy" dub mixes.  i can't even remember where i got this.  (maybe kill hannah's first toronto show?)

"somebody told me" mixes.  i don't even know, man.

once upon a time (read: mid-to-late adolescence), i thought i might be able to be a guitar player.  this is what i relied upon.  you can see why i didn't get very far with this dream.

t-shirts!  glorious t-shirts.  i never actually wore the one on the far left (i won it on ebay because autographs omfg) nor the "black black heart" tank top (i have never, ever been able to wear babydoll tops, mostly because of my non-existent boobs and monstrous shoulders), but the black "all your sex and your diamonds" sleeveless shirt was basically the only thing i wore that year of high school, despite my mother thinking i would be sent home to change because it had the word "sex" on it.  the moist t-shirt at the very top was something i tried to pull off and failed numerous times, mostly because it was so small on my teenage self that it was basically a belly top, and i was not very small as a teenager.

album after album crammed full of photographs.  a lot of them are neatly marked with the show date and location, and some of them are just stuffed into envelopes and blank pages, but man, this was one of the gut-punches.

yes, i kept empty water bottles that got hurled from the stage.  these are from two kill hannah shows -- the one on the right was my first time seeing them live (in detroit back in late summer 2004), and the one on the left was from their show here in toronto at the phoenix in fall 2009, i believe.  mostly included this for the absurdity that is me keeping water bottles as souvenirs of my wayward past.  water bottles.  i am a weirdo.

...but if it's absurd souvenirs you want, look no further than these three envelopes. they're completely full of everything from ticket stubs to wristbands to laminate passes. there's bus tickets and plane tickets and random receipts for random purchases across america. gig flyers and handbills and stickers and posters torn off of venue walls. there's a brochure from a greyhound station in philadelphia where i had to abandon tour with my then-boyfriend because i had basically gone missing in toronto for a week and my then-roommate was about to call the cops. there's a baggage claim stub from a flight i took from los angeles to toronto when i felt like my heart was collapsing somewhere over colorado and nebraska. there are used guitar picks, and broken drumsticks, and autographed setlists that have been crumpled and creased a dozen times over.

back in the day, i couldn't have told you why i wanted to save all this stuff; now, in retrospect, i can probably say it's because i wanted to prick the heart of my present-day self with shards of broken glass. but i guess that's the cynic's way of looking at it; really, i wanted to have something to jog my memory, to prove to myself that it wasn't all just some fever dream or something i watched on tv once. it was real. it was my life, and it was the only thing i wanted.

so here's the part i'd rather be vague about: i was looking for something specific, this time.

two things, actually -- one i knew would be there (it was a photograph) and one i wasn't sure existed but felt in my heart of hearts that it did (if it did, it would be in the form of a magazine clipping). i found the photograph easily enough - it was stuck in between the vinyl and the guitar tab books - and i actually took the time to look at it for once. i looked at the guilty smile on his face and the sadness in his eyes, and i exhaled slowly. no more ghosts there. i put the photograph away, back where i'd buried it when i was twenty-three and unsure of everything.

as for the second thing - the intangible - i rifled through the clippings i had safely tucked away in a large envelope, feeling like i was getting closer. and then, sure enough, there it was. i stared at it for a while, then took a long swallow of wine before sighing and burying my head in my hands. because my life runs cyclical, and finding that little coincidence there amongst the other relics of my past was inevitable. these are the things i know for sure.

...i'm a firm believer that you can't get something you really want without paying some sort of price. and once the deal is done, baby, it's done. but the trick of it is, i think, to not let it consume you, and to work to eventually rise above it. that was one of my major failings in my twenties: i didn't try to get out of it, and revelled in it instead, and let it consume me. because this was all i really wanted, right? when i was a teenager, i had a very clear idea of the life i wanted for myself in the future. and, because i was a dumb kid, i was willing to do whatever it took to get to what i believed was my ultimate destiny.

i got there. but i still struggle at moving above it, and past who i was, and what i keep in those bins is a testament to this, for sure. (i actually still can't open up those envelopes and look at a lot of that stuff.  it's hard in a way that i don't have words for.)

but i look at the sad boy in the photograph, and i look at a page torn out of a magazine from 2005, and i remember that while i may have cared for all of you, it's only been a few of you who've changed the course of my life.

and i'm okay with that.

[ music | tori amos, "famous blue raincoat" ]

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

take the risk

i'm not dead. sorry to worry you.

but yes, the leafs lost in a complete heartbreaker of a game, and they're now out of the playoffs -- as many of us expected would happen, but not quite in such a horrible, painful way. this here is a good piece that explains how most of leafs nation has felt in the aftermath, and this too. me? as soon as the bruins scored the dagger goal, i immediately shut off my tv and let out a long howl of frustration and sadness. then i refused to read anything on the internet until the next morning. i preferred mute silence to wallow in defeat, thank you.

as i alluded to above, though, it was funny/sweet how i had friends and family members legitimately concerned for my well-being. i'm not far that gone on a sports team that i would do anything dangerous to myself, guys. but yeah, it was a definite split between total disappointed sadness and a strong sense of pride that the team even made it as far as they did. sure, the explosion was spectacular and horrifying, but pretty much nobody believed they'd push the bruins to the brink like they did. for that, i can at least be proud i'm a fan. (still, i'm a bit sore about the loss, so don't chirp me about it or i will kill you dead)

my oblique twitter thoughts on the collapse:

i believe in this. i believe in this with all my heart and goddamn soul. not to mention i've been through this hell and back so many times -- i mean, come on, you want heartache and disappointment? christ, try hanging out with rock bands and musicians for the last ten years. like i said before, when it's bad it's absolutely awful, but there's nothing quite like it when it's good.

and that's what having an emotional investment in something is like. it means sticking it out through the worst of days because you have the undying human faith that things will get better, and when they do, it will all be worthwhile. in fact, the retroactive suffering might make it feel even more glorious when the payoff finally occurs. (or maybe only i feel this way, because i am a masochist.)

as soon as you put an emotional investment into something, you risk being disappointed. likewise, as soon as you give somebody your heart, you give them the power to break it. that's how it goes. that's being human. and personally, i would rather stick my neck out and make those connections and invest that time and love and emotion even if i know it could wreck me. and it does, and it has, over and over again. but i keep going back, because i'm waiting for that payoff. i refuse to give up hope that some day, it will all work out.

and so on, and so forth.

in the meantime, i buy cheap bikinis and take selfies:

i actually own not one but two swimsuits now (the above from h&m and this cute retro one-piece from modcloth), which is a huge thing for me since i haven't owned a swimsuit in basically forever. and i'm mostly amazed to find that i...don't look terrible in swimsuits these days. (my self-esteem and terror about wearing a swimsuit in public is genuinely what's kept me from buying one for the last ten years.) or maybe it's more that i've stopped giving a shit about what other people think. well, either or. progress!

in the not-at-all-distant future: i'm heading out of town this friday to spend the long weekend with my family (the majority of which i haven't seen since christmas), as well as getting drunk and lying around by the pool all day. (hence, swimsuits.) there will also be barbeques, seeing the great gatsby with my dad, sorting through my boxes of shit in my dad's basement, and even more drinking. viva la long weekend.

[ music | evaline, "there there" ]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

here comes the sun

whew! hi.

now that the sun is coming out more often - and i get to unearth my collection of cute skirts and sundresses - my previously-cloudy mood is improving greatly. also making me feel happier these days is, obviously, my favourite hockey team's current run in the stanley cup playoffs -- the first one in nine years, remember? (i also like the feeling that i'm doing my family proud -- my father's family were scottish immigrants who settled in toronto and adopted the team as their own) because i work downtown now, i walked over to maple leaf square outside the air canada centre to watch game 1 last wednesday with approximately a billion other leafs fans.

the above triptych of awesomeness snapped by leafs buddy erin. (we unknowingly coordinated our knee socks.) unfortunately, as the narrative goes, the leafs lost game 1 pretty badly. erin and i spent most of it in a bar close to the arena, drinking away our sorrows. well, that's how it goes.

this really didn't make the night much better, either:

fuck my life and everything in it.

then there was game 2 on saturday -- i was very kindly invited to watch the game at a friend's new house, and in between barbeque and beers, there was much screaming and celebrating with each leafs goal. i think i had minor heart attacks at both the kessel and jvr goals. holy crap, this is playoff hockey. echoed especially when my subway car home was happily invaded by drunk dudes toting flags and jerseys and chanting players' names at the top of their lungs (i joined in, obviously):

party time, bro!

after my vision/head cleared the next morning, i had to get my ass in gear early in order to have the beautiful sunday afternoon free for smoking multiple cigarettes and getting smashed off my ass on cheap prosecco. just like my university-student days, but with more nagging responsibility and the dumb drive to get up at 8 a.m. on a weekend in order to go to spin class! (well, it...sort of makes me feel better about shit i do to my body, anyway.)

of course, park hangs with friends are a must to welcome springtime (though honestly, it's practically summer here in toronto already) -- even better when said friends are former coworkers that you've been missing. it's been a billion years since i've just spent a sunny day lounging around trinity-bellwoods park, and last sunday was absolutely perfect for this.

having double-jointed elbows means your arms can sometimes look really, really fucked up in photos. i don't actually know what's happening with my left arm, there.

megan's arms are very normal by comparison.

sunny happy alison.

ingeniously, a pair of girls were walking around the park and selling handmade flower crowns. they noticed i was already wearing a flower headband, so they came right over to supply my pals with botanical accessories of their own. most excellent. (we were later asked if we were part of a bridal party or something. to be fair, this was also while we were drunk and scaring children.)

and then there was way too much drunken eating of deep-fried food at the lakeview, the end.

so, there you go -- life update, nothing deep or serious-business here. it's kind of hilarious how i feel the need to post fluffier entries in order to reassure people that my life is good times; it's not all doom and gloom and angst and brooding. (also funny how i usually write that stuff as an antidote for all the chipper, happy, omg-best-life-ever stuff that people broadcast over their social networks; nobody's life is as perfect as they display it, and i would rather show mine with its warts and all. it's more real, right?)

okay, work time now (hopefully with a minimal of freaking out over the austin city limits lineup and trying to figure out how i can go). as i always say to the boys before they go on tour: be good, but not too good. later.

[ music | girl in a coma, "road to home" ]

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

still my love remains the same

so, two weeks ago, this happened:

and i responded thusly:

what dave was hinting at - especially with "hiatus" in there - can only mean one thing: a possible moist reunion.

which is something i've been dreaming about for over ten years now.

in light of this possibility (nothing hard and fast has been announced yet), let me take a blog post here to explain just why this one band means so much to me. i know this is familiar ground, and i've told variations on this story in previous blog posts; indulge me here, mostly because i want to reframe it now, and because i do have new readers who might not understand.

those of you who love music like i do (and that's probably a lot of you -- i attract my people) have got a band whose music changed your life, or saved it, or whatever, so you'll likely understand where i'm coming from, even if you don't know moist. but this is my story:

i didn't experience any sort of tumultuous childhood. i grew up in a beautiful house on a farm in the country with a family that loved me, and any sort of hardship i suffered was nothing out of the ordinary (bullied heavily by other kids; parents divorced the week after my twelfth birthday; therapy shortly thereafter). but i was always the kind who was into escapism ("caitlin's usually off in her own little world" was a usual comment from my teachers on my report cards), and once the turbulence of adolescence hit - hormonal changes combined with a move to the city and both my parents remarrying, creating blended families on both sides - i was ripe and ready for a way out. and though my immediate family had never been musically inclined, i began to get into semi-current rock music thanks to both my stepsister and my high school best friend, listening to mix tapes full of bands like beastie boys, the offspring and veruca salt. my favourite rock radio station, 103.7 the river out of nearby brockville, introduced me to a canadian rock band called the tea party that swiftly became my favourite; "heaven coming down" was a monster single in summer 1999, and i was so in love with it that i recorded a shitty version off the radio via cassette and listened to that damn thing at least 20 times a day. (four years later, the tea party would be my second-ever interview as a fledgling music journalist, and i would go on to interview them twice more after that. mind = blown.)

so there: that came close to what i was looking for, but i knew there was a deeper level. i knew there was something there that would help me find myself -- something that would speak to me and for me no matter how i was feeling. then came some random night while i was lying on my stomach on my bedroom floor, trying (and failing) to do my math homework, with 103.1 on in the background as my usual soundtrack. then the opening chords of this song began, and my life changed.

moist weren't a new band to me. this was late 2000; their singles "breathe" and "underground" has been all over the radio that summer due to the recent release of their album mercedes five and dime. truthfully, i hadn't thought too much of them -- the singer had a great voice, but the songs didn't have the hard edge to grab me with. "resurrection", though, that was a different story. i remember sitting bolt upright and falling silent throughout the rest of the song, staring at the radio, then realizing that i had to get to know this band. i had to get their albums. this was mine.

and though i didn't know it then, my life with the rock stars had been decided on that night when i was sixteen years old.

fast-forward almost two years to early 2002. moist had quickly taken over my life, with me listening to their albums near-constantly and plastering photos of them in my high school locker and scribbling their song lyrics all over my binders. however, i had resigned myself to the sad fact that i wouldn't get to see them play live, as they had been on a proclaimed "hiatus" since 2000. my timing sucked. but on the flip side, frontman david usher was doing a solo thing, so i quickly hitched my fangirl caravan onto his posse of travelling fanatics (many of whom were also old moist fans). i went all over the place with the posse, usually toting a neon yellow sign for spastic keyboardist kevin, my favourite member of the band who had also been in moist (even back then, i knew the importance of having a schtick for both getting recognition and attention). it was a summer and fall to absolutely fucking remember and, as i noted above, it set me on the path that would ultimately decide a huge portion of my identity.

i moved to toronto because of the bands. that's the most straightforward way to put it. in my senior year of high school, i'd gotten letters of acceptance from university of western ontario (in london) and mcmaster university (in hamilton) but i held out until i got that magic note from the university of toronto. sure, it would be the toughest of the three, but that didn't matter to me -- my only driving ambition was to get to the city where the rock stars lived, be they moist or david's band or any of the other big names that i knew and loved. i wanted to be in that scene, be as close to it as possible. i wanted to be known. i wanted to be somebody. and toronto was where it all came together.

my very first tattoo was done on my 19th birthday, and it was the moist logo on my left shoulder blade. a few years later, i asked bassist jeff if he would transcribe the notation for the "believe me" bass line so i could get it tattooed, and he obliged my happy fangirl heart. if you've ever wanted to hear my tattoo, pay close attention to the bass part that starts this song:

that's what i've got inked around my upper left arm forever, and it's probably my favourite of all my tattoos.

here's another classic, from all the way back in 1997 (and probably their darkest video, though the majority of their songs have dark edges, which is what i always loved about them):

sadlarious fact!: the cigarette shown at 1:51 was dropped by a production assistant by day/drummer by night who, almost ten years later, would become my boyfriend of five years/most recent ex. (it is continually so fucking weird to realize that many of the guys i know now were a part of this very scene in the late 90's. something in my brain just refuses to compute this. but like i said, i did want to be a part of everything, and the toronto music scene is absolutely, ridiculously incestuous. everybody knows everybody. blessing and a curse and also a huge reason why i tried to escape to vancouver six years ago.)

anyway, over the years and after some 40-odd shows, i quietly faded out from the david usher fangirl posse. i can't remember if dave just took an extended period of time between solo albums, or if my interest just waned into the background, or what. but other things began and ended in my life - school, friendships, life experiences - and by the time i considered getting back into it, i felt a bit too old, a bit too past everything. upon recollection, it felt wholly like my adolescence, like a childish pursuit, and i had since moved on to more complicated adult things. (you know.)

to get back to the main point: i have never see moist live, and if this is actually happening, then it'll be the fulfilment of a dream i've had since i was a teenager.

but the main thing is that to me, their music is representative of the time before.

see, back when i was a sheltered teenage fangirl growing up in kingston, ontario, the boys in the bands were nothing less than demigods on a distant pedestal. they were the creators of the music that soundtracked my life, and thus they were absolutely untouchable. they were ciphers, holograms, cartoon characters. to me, they didn't exist outside of stereo speakers and music videos and pictures plastered inside my high school locker. for me, this was the time before.

it was before i came into my own, as a friend at the time put it -- came of age, as it were. it was before i moved away from home and struck out on my own. it was before i lost my virginity to a musician in a hotel room in new york city. it was before i ever went on the road with multiple indie bands over the years, learning that my heart belongs in a van full of rock stars touring across the country. it was before they made me cry in pretty much every public place possible (buses, trains, coffee shops, washrooms, stairwells, hotel lobbies, airplanes). it was before the chain-smoking, the binge-drinking, the eating disorder, and the self-hatred because i felt that if they didn't like me enough then i shouldn't like me enough either. it was before all the promises made and promises broken and me silently screaming get out of my apartment get out of my life just get the fuck out. (i would still listen to their music, though.) it was before i learned that i can't fix them, and i can't save them. (i would still try, though.) it was before i got all of these symbols and words inked under my skin forever, as reminders, as nascent apologies. it was before toronto, and vancouver, and montreal, and westchester, and flagstaff, and albuquerque, and las vegas, and hamilton, and back to toronto always. it was before i acquiesced to the knowledge that they are my people, that this is all i know, and that this is the only thing i want in this world -- because it may hurt like hell when it's bad, but when it's good, to me, there is nothing so fucking euphoric.

basically, it was before i realized that the people who made the music playing in my headphones and onstage in front of me were human, and before i found out that they can break my heart -- and, to a surprising extent, that i actually have the power to break theirs.

but my favourite band has never broken my heart, thank god, and their music still reminds me of a time when the rock stars were just posters on my bedroom wall and song lyrics that i understood - and that understood me - completely. it was a time when the music pulled me through. and sometimes, in the confusion and tumult of adulthood, that reminder of a simpler, more innocent time is all you really need.

i wanted more than this.
i expected more than this.

[ music | moist, "place" ]