Did I mention it’s in *really* nice font?

So I have just seen the final version of my… *ahem* the Bob & Ray CD liner notes. Which my article appears in. Which OH DID I MENTION I AM INSANELY HAPPY ABOUT THIS?

Because I so am. Tempered only slightly by the Grandshoes’ refusal to get into the spirit of the thing during a recent visit, especially once they found out I wasn’t getting paid. Yes, yes, I was probably a bit naiive and should’ve held out for more than a ‘cultural critic’ credit. On the other hand, I now have liner notes, whereas you guys have a weekly trip to Swiss Chalet Chick’n’Ribs to argue over who ordered the vegetables and why they don’t allow you an extra baked potato with your value meal.

…um, sorry. I do realise they’re, like, eighty-nine. The Peterborough Experience generally tends to have that effect on me — kind of the same effect that Idol forums do. Eventually, I snap and start blurting random stuff in self-defense of my sanity. Because there is no straight-faced way to handle the news that your elderly Aunty has run right out and bought wedges of actual sod to replace the burned spots on your Grandfather’s lawn, and they are now in her trunk. The sod, not the burned spots. Oh, and by the way, could I look up The Magic Google to find out how one installs fresh sod?

Anyway, liner note squee. It’s beautiful, really. Elegant font and everything. My words, in actual print — this remains a significantly different feeling from seeing them online; I don’t know why that should be exactly, but there you go.

And I will never have to proofread them again. This thing is becoming the adult equivalent of that speech on Canada geese I gave in the eighth grade, that made it to the school semifinals; a beloved memory of a literary success, except that why, exactly, is becoming increasingly fuzzy.  "The Canada goose is the most popular goose in Canada…"

Especially since this thing is designed to be read and appreciated almost exclusively by experts. (Face it, not a huge market out there for ‘Ooh, Bob & Ray? Sounds fresh and funky! I’ll make a playlist!") You know ‘pee shyness’? I think I have article shyness, sort of. I didn’t quite expect anybody to be looking.

Still… my words. In elegant font. On account of I am a ‘thoughtful’ cultural critic.

Life is good.

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Thanks, that was fun…

…It’s not that I don’t like living here… well, OK, it’s that I don’t like living here.

I do like living in this apartment, though. It has a sunroom, which is divided from my bedroom by sliding glass doors, and I will probably never get over thinking that ever so sophisticated. Also, it is on the fourteenth floor, meaning out of any random window I can look out on a gracious expanse of park and pond.

Keyword there being expanse. This is a suburb. In suburbs people have cars, or more frequently family-friendly minvans. They shuttle ’round in them from work, to picking up the kids, to get groceries and maybe a flick at Blockbuster, then home to feed the kids supper and the movie.

I don’t have a car. I don’t even have a license. I get where I’m going mostly on foot. And I am trapped in an area where people look at you really, really funny when you tell them you walked anywhere. Which I can understand, because — parks aside — this area has no walks. The only reason to go anywhere around here is to get there. In your car. Because ‘there’ is, in all probability, a Dollarama.

At the time, I figured the parks would make up for it. Which they do — sort of — right up until you stop on the picturesque little bridge over the creek and notice that dirty limericks have been scrawled all over the runoff tunnel nearby. To live here is to be in total agreement with Linus van Pelt: I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.

Check that — I like my congregation OK. They are kind, sane, sensible people who do not collapse theatrically into my arms after two whole days’ separation. I really needed a break from that, same as I needed one from the commute. It’s been nice, being left alone to organise life on my own terms… if a little unfulfilling. To paraphrase those other great philosophers, the Barenaked Ladies: Pack the car and leave this town/who’d notice that I’m not around?

Thusly I have taken an executive Life Decision: Pack the car — Shoemom’s car — whatever, I don’t want to live here anymore.

Then, having looked around and discovered the universe was still intact, I took a couple more:

–I don’t want to have my job anymore. Something my boss has finally taken care of quite handily by hiring it out from under me, then reassigning me as a departmental ‘floater’ until something more permanent comes up. It’s kind of bemusing how I am reacting to this; one side of me is all  "Way to go, you’ve escaped the rat race, now life can have real meaning!" and the other is going "Oh, dear, oh dear, I’ve given up the challenge, how can life have meaning now?" I figure, worst-to-worst, studying this phenomenon should keep me in grant money for a good while.

–I don’t want to live on the moon… er, seriously, as long as I’m working in the area I need to figure out a reasonable commute. At the same time, though, I find I’m willing to handle some travel, in exchange for a real haven on the back end of it.

And, check it out, Shoemom and -sis have just moved to Burlington! Close to where I wanted to be in the first place, precisely for its haven-esque yet practical carpool-related qualities!

Still suburb-ish, but Shoemom has a car, also a place in the same two-building complex on the lakeshore that she used to manage back in the early ’90’s. A lot of our friends are still in that same congregation. A place I like, have always liked, in that under-the-skin way that a dozen practicalities cannot replicate.

So. I move in across the way when my lease is up in the New Year, Shoemom’s happy, I’m happy… Shoesis, possibly not so happy, but not in much position to do anything about it. We’re planning on not telling her until it’s necessary. For instance, as it happens on closer inspection, there are quite a few admin jobs on offer in that neck of the woods…

This is where the plan stands as of even date. It feels good. It feels honest, adult, thought-through. Like something worth working towards.

Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with the rest of this year. There’s only so many voyages of retail discovery a sane body can take.

Here’s a truck stop instead of Saint Peter’s…

So I went to Niagara Falls this weekend, and came home with a fairly wicked sunburn.

This — for those of the readership not au fait with So. Ontario springs — is, to put it mildly, odd. The wind- and rainstorm that’s now blowing up in the sun’s wake is more typical… assuming this were mid-July, that is.

That said, I had a pretty good time at the Falls. Not that I’m unfamiliar with the wet’n’wild marvels themselves; Shoemom is native to the area, meaning they were routine scenery on weekly Sunday family drives, and later a mandatory timekiller for the grandkids’ visits. 

The thing is, the surrounding area has… developed… a bit, since Shoemom was a little sneaker. She recalls Clifton Hill as a sedate collection of swank little shops, her mother’s trips to which required actual dressing up. Every commercial advancement past that has been met with curled lip, if not outright contempt. That most of these encounters happen in tourist-snarled traffic does not help any.

I myself, on the other hand, am a bit more ambivalent. In my lifetime the Hill has always been tacky, the concentrated essence of all those roadside attractions than used to flourish along American highways. ‘Come See the Amazing _____!’ the signs would blare, and even the most savvy kid would be at least uncertain, because if they did have what they claimed, it really would be incredibly amazing, and who’s to say that just this once…

This is the principle that Clifton Hill embraces with all the gaudy shamelessness of a particularly desperate Victorian tart. And I’m here to announce that it works… not as well as when I was little, but still, I couldn’t see the harm so much. Thus pleasure drives along the Niagara Parkway tended to be a trifle tense.

Never a dull moment, under the cut…

OK, here’s the deal.

I’m moving to Brampton.

Not with Shoemom.

And I have to type this fast because a) there’s a kitten trying to annex my keyboard and b) all of this is happening as of January 15th. Good thing I don’t celebrate Christmas, as it turns out this year. Really good thing.

Right, backstory. About a month ago, the three of us had this epic family blowout in which Shoemom and I basically threw this post at Shoesis. Culminating in me screaming that there was no way she was gonna be moving near us and she screamed back that there was no way I was gonna stop her and Shoemom screaming… um… yeah, I agree, getting into TMI territory real fast here.

Upshot of it all was, Shoemom decided she wasn’t, for the moment at least, going to move period. She was going to stay here in the current apt, while she figured out what she really wanted to do. Meanwhile, I would find my own place, which she would think of as a getaway and visit on alternate weekends… and in future, since neither she nor Shoesis actually want to stay permanently in the city, or with each other come to that, who knows?

It was kinda nice, actually, how it all fell out re: realising exactly what we all wanted. Shoemom and I aren’t in the same position vis-a-vis each other as we were six years ago; we don’t need each other, but we do still want to hang out together, and will always be there to help each other out. Meanwhile, Shoesis and she are tied still as a practical matter, re: work and so on. Except that Shoemom’s on my lease, too.

We thought about keeping the Oakville dream alive for awhile, but minus older woman with car and desire to visit Ye Olde Upscale Wine Shoppes on a regular basis it became a bit impractical. Really, I thought to myself on the way down to look around, I’ve about had it with this commuting thing altogether. While staring wistfully out the car window at these really nice buildings a mile or so from my office, which I’ve always rather liked…

Right, you can guess the rest. The thing that had always been holding me back re: Brampton is that when it’s ugly, it’s really ugly. Old industrial parks and scruffy neighborhoods and tacky strip malls. On the other hand, as it turns out, when it’s nice, it’s really, really nice. Parks and a lovely little downtown and all sorts of up-to-the-minute amenities and did I mention only a mile or so out from work?

Twenty-five minutes walk. That’s as long as it currently takes me to reach my carpool pickup in the mornings. And this way, instead of arriving at 7:15 to face an hour’s drive into work, I’ll be arriving at work, pretty much anytime I want. We have flex hours, and my boss is cool with them. I can sleep in to 8:30 every morning if I so desire; and if I want to stay a few extra hours to get things done, no biggie. Life is good.

The apartment’s pretty amazing too. One of those ‘lifestyle complexes’ that were all the rage in mid-80’s Southern Ontario — a couple big buildings set in lavishly landscaped grounds, complete with pool, ‘fitness room’ and swings for the kiddies. There’s even a coffee machine in the lobby, fertheloveofPete. All of this corporate chic put me off a bit at first — in my heart, I’m still the 21-year-old iconoclast who dreamed of starving in some Victorian garret — but hey, in reality I’m thirty-eight and according to my sister’s WiiFit I could really use that fitness room.

Besides, once I saw the apartment itself all was forgiven. One-bedroom on the fourteenth floor, spectacular view, no balcony (hence no fretting over cats falling off same) but a gorgeous little sunroom set off from the bedroom with sliding glass doors. You walk into this place, and all you see is windows. Then you see the big kitchen. It has a double sink. Shoemom is thrilled. Outside the well-maintained grounds, there’s the Central Library across the street and the huge shopping centre, with transit hub, just down from there. Toronto is only a $3 bus ride away.

So, there we are. Or will be. Soon.

I guess eventually even iconoclasts have to grow up.

…and that’s not even mentioning the 3-for-$10 deal on Haagen-Dazs miniatures.

Apologies to the six-seven people who’re probably wondering if I’ve dropped off the face of the earth. Short answer: No. Longer answer: I’ve been working on the snark project described below, and as often happens, it touched off so many unforeseen wellsprings of aggravation that editing the rant is taking more time than actually writing it.

However. I did just want to pop in and provide a capsule update of recent hilights @ Shoe Central, because the more I thought about it, gosh they’ve been piling up:

I’m typing this on my new (PINK!) laptop… well, OK, sort of a subtle rose. Anyway, it is in my lap, on the couch, and it is FABULOUS.

This is not because I’m a spoiled brat — although I probably am — but because the Shoe household has finally decided the lines along which it wants to fracture itself. And one of the other pieces wants to buy my old desktop. More on that later… yes, I know I keep saying that. You know my stories, they’re complicated.

I just bought the entire BBC series of Little Dorrit on iTunes. And have an entire weekend to watch them in. Bliss.

Shoemom is currently out attending the bridal shower of our 83-year-old friend. Her fiance is 87. The wedding is coming up really shortly.

Jasmine is at the vets’ getting fixed. Apparently they’ve stuck her in a little funnel collar thingy because she tried to lick her stitches. Is it wrong that I find this mental image absolutely hilariously adorable?

Sisterly lovaaaAAAARRRGH…

So Shoesis, the professional cleaner aka the only person I know who flips out over messes that haven’t even happened yet, is also on vacation this week — in Florida. Which frankly has a lot to do with the extra-peachiness mentioned below.

Because she has been living with us for the past few months. Basically she has a ton of debt from previous lives that need to be erased before she could ‘make a new start’, and is willing to keep the place clean in exchange for board. Fine. Whatever. If Shoemom doesn’t mind sleeping on a cot in my room, who am I to complain?

Well — as you’ve probably guessed — this is me, complaining. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this sister and I aren’t quite BFFs in the best of circs. We can’t be, because she’s inherited Shoedad’s neurotically desperate need to be endlessly sweet and ncie and accommodating to the outside world — and direct all the blowback at the family. And there is a lot of blowback.

Somewhere in-between the two extremes is a smart, funny, personable, all-round great girl… could she somehow be persuaded it’s OK to show her off. But this same insecurity has given her a horror of ‘psychological crap’. Her whole self-image is tied into how she doesn’t have no stinkin’ issues! It’s the rest of the world that’s absurdly high-maintenance!

Ah-huh. She doesn’t try to pull much on me or her other sis anymore. Shoemom, on the other hand, has slipped into the same toxic dance with her daughter as she did with her father: She’s kind, capable, domestic, it’s ‘not that big a deal’ to just give in to the demands and deal with the tantrums. Endless physical accomodation, emotional validation, basically becoming a psychic garbage can to be dumped on at will; not that she likes it, or doesn’t wish it could be different, but…it’s just what a mother does, right? Even when her daughter is thirty-five, right? Right?

More familial ranting this way…

Harlan Ellison, eat your heart out… on second thought, nevermind.

In case you’re wondering why Shoemom and sis haven’t been gracing these pages much lately, despite allegedly living with me, fear not. It’s only that Shoesis has lately acquired Season Seven of Little House on the Prairie, and the two of them are currently eye-deep in the amber waves of schmaltz.

We all watched this show as kids. Some of my fondest preteen memories involve the weekly episode, a big bowl of popcorn, and permission to stay up to 9pm, to watch TV in my parents’ queen-sized bed, oh, bliss!
Then, after awhile you would start noticing that life on the prairie was possibly getting kinda sucky… but that was OK, it was historical and stuff. Then, you’d catch yourself keeping a running tally of Rotten Things That Somehow Kept Happening to Mary… but you’d still be able to convince yourself that Grace wasn’t really using her baby to beat out the window during the fire at the blind school. Barely. This is the strange power that Michael Landon held over TV viewers, and it is awfully hard to explain to the young’uns today.

"A frontier dude with a perm?" they snort. "Striding around his prairie Hell, sobbing like a Robert Bly wet dream?" You do not hear the rest, because they are too busy racing to TWoP to record their delight. You are frankly kinda glad to be rid of the little whippersnippers.

But there finally came the ep where Albert’s teenage girlfriend got raped by the guy in the clown mask, and you were faced with one of those defining road-forks of childhood: to continue believing that the prairie dude with the perm had all the answers — in which case you were rewarded with an ep in which he literally called down fire from heaven to heal his dying son on a mountain altar — or to have your sentimentality circuits shorted permanently. Picking interestedly at the scar optional, but funny.

That I am not even allowed in there now, watching a couple more sniffly orphans see their parents killed in yet another wagon wreck, should be a pretty good indication of which camp I ended up in.

Still… occasional apparent psychotic breaks aside, there remains something endearing about the Landon mythos. Even the most fraught eps were wholesome, in that they were so completely innocent of any desire to hurt. I don’t think there’s ever been a media figure so totally unable to tell where drama ended and camp began; the sheer sincerity of it all loops back around on itself, meets the man’s undeniable charisma, and becomes something almost hypnotically entertaining.

Frankly, I enjoyed this iteration of the Seventies Sensitive Male a whole lot more than Alan Alda’s brittle, knowing version. Both were almost hysterically out of place, both operated off a deeply flawed sense of mission, both evolved series so inner-directed that they resembled therapy sessions… but Landon’s was about the flaws, and Alda’s the fastidious shame of having them. Obviously (one series lasted nine years, the other eleven) both models resonated with large segments of the public; I guess it’s another of those polarizing things.

…When I figure out what it all means, I’ll let you know.

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