Monday, July 21, 2014

the lazy woman's book review

If you are familiar with David Sedaris' books then you:

a) know exactly how hilarious they are, and
b) probably already read Me Talk Pretty One Day, since it was published in 2000.

If you are not familiar with David Sedaris' books, then I cannot even begin to do justice to them in a book review, and can only suggest that you immediately pick up any David Sedaris book that you can get your hands on. Doesn't matter which one; they are all snorting-coffee-out-your-nose funny.

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

grey area

Maybe there is a reason why grey is my favourite colour. Neither black nor white, it straddles the horizon line between dark and light.

Evil lives there, peacefully, next to good. They talk over the backyard fence almost every day. They regularly share cups of coffee, amicably, there in the grey zone.

Grey is serenely accommodating in its role as the catch-basin of all extremes. It fulfills my need to see all sides of an argument. It quiets my compulsion to be all things to all people. 

I live in the grey. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

a bit of giddyup

I caved to peer pressure this year, buying new jeans and sandals for Stampede. These were clothes that I desperately needed to buy anyway, but finding them about an hour before having to head out to a fancy Stampede do lent a heady sensation of urgency to the tedium of shopping. I felt like such a desperado.

The National Music Centre Stampede BBQ - held way the hell out of town at The Crossing at Ghost River - was jaw-droppingly spectacular and well worth the trip. It was even worth almost running out of gas on the way home. A gob-smackingly beautiful setting, combined with impeccable hospitality and high-end musical guests made for a first-class party. And I am not just saying that because it was the National Music Centre. This was truly a lesson in how to put on an event.

A lot of the ladies in attendance were pretty giddy to be serenaded by both Jim Cuddy and Paul Brandt during dinner and we were all in awe of the ageless energy of Buffy Sainte-Marie who turned the big white tent into a rocking pow wow during dessert. I swear that woman has a painting of herself getting older in an attic somewhere.

A little closer to home, I got my annual pancake feed at the NMC offic - chocolate chip pancakes, y'all - and managed to feel all responsible by saying no to a late-morning Caesar, opting for orange juice instead. Maybe I am not as cowboy as I thought.

But even my shameless self-promotion is Stampede themed today. My latest Calgary Sun/NMC article features my chat with The Travelling Mabels - a beautifully-harmonizing three-generational female band - about Alberta, country music and Stampede. 


Sunday, July 06, 2014

navigating the prairie waters

We delayed our trip to the lake place for a couple of days, first to spend a bit more time with the Offspring during her whirlwind trip home, then once again because of the ominous weather warnings we were hearing from the prairies. Those warnings were well-founded. 

By the time the rain stopped, after three days of torrential downpour, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were almost impassable with road closures. And not just gravel country roads either - the Trans Canada Highway from White City to Grenfell, a stretch of 108 kms, was closed for several days initially when it was covered with water and then parts of it closed once again when the road caved in.

We saw some crazy sights on our drive. We saw water pouring out from underneath railroad tracks. We saw a car that had been washed off the road. We saw convoys of vehicles cautiously navigating submerged sections of highway. Prior to this trip, we didn't even realize that ditch water could have a rapid current. And this was a full five days after the rains had stopped.

And of course, with the ground already saturated, it is going to take a long time for the water to dissipate. Most of it is heading into Manitoba.

Our usual 10 hour trip stretched to 11.5, as we were detoured south after Regina, in order to go northeast. But we saw some parts of the province we hadn't seen before, and we were happy just to make it to our destination at all. We didn't have to resort to our backup plan of turning around and driving back to Moose Jaw for the night before heading back home with our tails tucked between our legs. Kudos to the province of Saskatchewan for dealing so effectively with a situation that was still so fluid. So to speak.

At the lake place, the house was solid and dry, as always. We met with the plumber and finalized plans for water and septic tank installation. The next time we head out there, we should have indoor plumbing. My heart beats a little quicker as I think of civilization drawing nearer.

We did some yard work - including a bit of bushwhacking - which roused the curiousity of the local beaver, who came by to see what the heck was going on. We conversed with the swallows, chiding them on their messiness while being grateful for their effective mosquito-eating prowess and being charmed by their elegant flight. We hung out with the chipmunks and finally spotted one of our resident garter snakes for the first time this year. The Spousal Unit managed a bit of fishing and landed a hefty rainbow trout. We made plans and lists.

Life, after all, is all about the plans and lists.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

storm the crease like bumble bees

The Lonely End of the Rink: 
Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie 
- Grant Lawrence

It's probably safe to say that only Grant Lawrence could make me read a hockey book. The quintessentially Canadian CBC host has a self-deprecating approach to storytelling that usually elicits more than a few coffee-spewing snorts out of my nose. His memoir Adventures in Solitude: What to Wear to a Naked Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound, which I reviewed in 2011, was one of the most engaging books I had read in a long time. Surely if anyone could make a book about hockey enjoyable, it would be Grant Lawrence?

In many ways, he has.

Lawrence's reminiscences about his long, often painful, journey from small, bespectacled, knee-braced bully target in elementary school to Vancouver Canucks-loving (albeit still insecure) goalie in a championship-winning beer league hockey team is a surprisingly informative read. Lawrence weaves the history of NHL championship battles - primarily those involving the Vancouver Canucks - throughout his narrative. And although I generally only had a passing familiarity with many of the hockey names mentioned, the history of the game is rich enough with oddball characters and nail-biting suspense to keep even a non-athlete like myself entertained.

Lawrence is at his best when relating his own personal history. His tale of growing up the decidedly non-athletic child of two very athletic parents is vintage Lawrence story-telling at its finest. As in his earlier book, Lawrence borrows song titles as chapter titles, a practice that I admit to indulging in myself. There's that feeling of being part of the inner sanctum when you recognize and understand the significance of the name.

I admit that I enjoyed Adventures in Solitude somewhat more than The Lonely End of the Rink, but I am pretty sure that lies in the fact that I am more interested in the hippie counter-culture of the inappropriately-named Sunshine Coast than I am the Vancouver Canucks. Strictly a personal preference. 

Now I just have to convince the Spousal Unit - for whom I bought The Lonely End of the Rink as a Christmas present - that it's time to read. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The month's work is done and invoices prepared. The giant list on the fridge has been all but scratched out. It's summer at last.

The arrival of the Offspring this afternoon marked a setting aside of time to indulge for a few days. Indulge in time whiled away on the front porch, indulge in family stories told again, indulge in meals prepared together and recipes shared.

The raison d'etre of the whirlwind trip is ostensibly a Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds concert on Friday night, but it's really quite a lot more than that. Oh, concert we shall, but look for us also in your friendly neighbourhood thrift store, more than a few coffee shops, and perhaps a farmers' market or two. The rest of the world can wait. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

no exit

There are now two dead people on my blog roll. One taken by illness, one taken by rope.

I have no intention of ever removing the links that join my blog to theirs. As long as their blogs are left intact - as a testament to their existence - I will keep the words they left behind among those of my living friends. Consider it my small tribute to two talented, insightful and witty writers who have been silenced. 

It's not much, these strings of letters prefacing a dot com, but it's all I have with which to honour their memories. In this brave new world where digital is forever, flesh and blood remains terribly fleeting. May their words live on.

Friday, June 13, 2014

feel-bad sex

The Death of Bunny Munro - Nick Cave

Bunny Munro is not a nice man. A philandering, increasingly alcoholic, door-to-door beauty product salesman, his entire purpose in life revolves around having sex. Continually sniffing around his female clientele for any sign of weakness that will give him an in, Bunny will shag anything that doesn't run away fast enough - including himself - several times a day. One of his thoughts upon discovering his wife's hanged body was that her tits looked really good.

Following his wife's suicide, Bunny takes to the road, son Bunny Junior with his ever-present encyclopedia in tow, to escape her ghost and to find something to bonk. Things deteriorate.

I was initially excited when I stumbled across this book - Nick Cave's second novel - at the library. I had never read any of his fiction, but am a huge fan of the musician. And of course many of his songs have a strong narrative that feature less than sympathetic characters. I am thinking of Cave's murder ballads, in particular. And I did quite like young Bunny Junior, poor sweet kid.

But although reading The Death of Bunny Munro was somewhat akin to passing a particularly nasty auto wreck, one that is impossible to avert one's eyes from, the writing is ultimately disappointing. Whether you believe sex addiction is a real thing or just an excuse for acting like a self-centered asshole, the writing just isn't that great. Ultimately, Bunny Munro's obsessive pursuit of sex, and Cave's endless descriptions of same, felt vaguely juvenile. I felt Nick Cave was capable of better.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

queen of limbs

I have been trimming the lower dead branches from the back yard spruce trees over the years. It's an ongoing attempt to make the yard look a little less like the witch's house at the end of the street that we all avoided at Hallowe'en when we were kids. With the row of trees starting to look decidedly scraggly, it was time to step up and make the trimming look a little more deliberate and a little less bandagey.

Most of the branches that we removed yesterday were pretty sketchy, but there were a couple of nice branches that swept over the front of the little playhouse that were still full and green. I considered sparing them but they made the whole thing look rather mulletty. So I said a couple of words of apology to them and then chopped. It was a very tree-huggy moment.

The space is still a work in progress, and it does showcase just how rough the fence has become over the years, but once I get some stepping stones down and strategically place a few bits of yard ornamentation around, it's going to be a lovely shady retreat. I think the giant plastic frog that currently resides in the secret side garden will nicely offset the pink flamingo who guards the row of trees along the back fence.

Stayed tuned for updates.   

Sunday, June 01, 2014

travelling light

Sometime between lift-off and re-entry, the biosphere transformed completely. Brown flashed into green. Dry nubs exploded into pinks and heady whites. The distant roar of the gas mower was on every playlist. Welcome to the two minute spring.

It must have been utter torture for the house cat, trapped on the wrong side of the picture window, watching the world being reborn in a flutter of baby bird wings.

Suddenly, there is no inside or outside. There is just barefoot time and not barefoot time. The evening is stilled by the seductive undulation of the old-fashioned sprinkler, kissing the grass so gently.

Mesmerizing me.

Hypnotizing me. So that all I want is to roll in the grass until I come to rest under the pin-cherry tree. I stare at its obscene pinkness until my eyes ache.