Friday, October 31, 2008

scribbling toward ecstacy

An enormous crow was perched atop the streetlamp this morning, watching me warily as I crossed the street. It was still there when I returned a half hour later, but let me pass unmolested. This time.

Perhaps it was waiting for more tender flesh. Or perhaps, it was simply basking in the glorious morning. We have been enjoying an actual autumn this year, something that almost never happens in this part of the country. Usually we go from summer to blizzard in about a week and a half, but we have been hovering close to 20C for weeks now. And still no snow. I am expecting loads of little Iron Men and Jokers to crowd around the door tonight and have sensibly stocked up on approximately 17 million mini chocolate bars.


The gigantic anniversary slash birthday bash is tomorrow night, and the insane cleaning frenzy that began with an ill-fated attempt to remove greasy strings of dust from the kitchen ceiling has continued unabated since. I figure we might as well put this place on the market while we
are at it, because it is never going to be this clean again. I'm not sure why I have this compulsive need to clean the hell out of the place whenever people come over, but I am pretty sure that the origins are pathological.


Recently, the sumptuous and sassy Phlegmfatale, of Fatale Abstraction, bestowed a Superior Scribbler award on me, and while I am naturally overwhelmed and truly honoured, I do feel unworthy. However I can partly see her rationale for naming me, as "scribbling" does pretty accurately describe my ramblings.

But now the hard part - passing the
Superior Scribblers crown over to the exulted heads of five others. Not that I can't find five worthy bloggers, oh no, quite the opposite. Rather how do I possibly narrow the list down to a mere five?

But choose I must, so please join me in honouring these scribes:

Jen, of Cherished Misery, who has a way of getting past the bullshit to the truth. She is usually irreverent, often blasphemous (much to the annoyance of the Jesus-freak stalkers), and always entertaining. She makes me cringe sometimes, and that's what seems to turn people on these days. I know it does me.

Urban Blonde, of Urban Blonde in the Burbs, who is another sassy scribe who takes no prisoners. The mouth on this one! And yet beneath the blasphemy, she tells the honest truth, and in a most eloquent fashion.

Allison, of Flying Buttresses, who has a wonderfully skewed way of looking at life. Her posts are perfect little snippets of slightly off-kilter and random observations that make you reevaluate your world view.

Sean, of Everything is Pop, a fellow music aficionado, whose finger is firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist of the music industry in Canada and the world. A multi-facetted appreciation of music and a keen understanding make his posts an always welcome read at the end of the day.

Bloody Awful Poetry, of Blogeddy Blog Blog, who more than lives up to the expectations for humour that one would naturally expect of someone who takes their blogger name from Smiths' lyrics. She has a gift for writing far beyond her years and the fact that she writes in English makes this even more impressive.

Well done, you Superior Scribblers!

With great power comes great responsibility. Here be the rules:

*The Rules:Every Superior Scribbler will name 5 other Super Scribblers.If you are named you must link to the author & the name of the blog that gave you the award. Then you must display the adorable award and link to THIS POST, which explains the award. The same post also allows you to add your link. Then they will have a record of all the people who are Super Scribblers!


Do you know who was a truly exceptional Superior Scribbler?

Shirley Jackson.

Every Hallowe'en, I feel compelled to read aloud the absolutely perfect first paragraph from her wonderfully creepy novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Won't you join me this year? Just let me turn the light down a little bit first, and make sure that the doors are all shut and locked.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

keeping things as awkward as possible, because that seems to turn people on these days

Chad VanGaalen - Uptown Theatre, Oct 25/08

Despite his pronouncement in the local papers the day before about his intention to keep things awkward at his cd release party, it was actually a pretty sublime affair. Sure there were half-started stories and restarted songs, there was a gentle mocking of the audience ("every time I do that, you guys are like wooooo!") and astonishment at his own popularity ("I'm just some guy"), not to mention the fact that the rest of his band (who are all members of other bands) had forgotten about the concert and were busy elsewhere, but the love and appreciation for this local hero were so palpable that it felt more like we had all been invited over to the VanGaalen living room (or maybe the basement) to hang out and listen to the new album.

Things got off to a bit of a dicey start, in that there was still a film (Man on Wire, I believe)
playing in the theatre in which the concert was being held, so we had to line up for a good half hour after door time. Nobody got overly owly about it, despite some grumbling, and it was all forgotten once we settled ourselves into the intimate theatre which boasts only great seats.

Local band, Ghostkeeper, were the openers. Boy on guitar, girl on drums. She had a really decent voice, but he sang most of the songs and I could barely hear him. I don't know if it was a tech problem with his mic, or if he just doesn't have the capacity, but the real problem actually lay in the songs themselves. They were rather disjointed, switching up rhythms and melodies seemingly randomly and I'm afraid they just didn't work for me.

But of course we were all there to hear Chad anyway. Stating that he was trying to kill some time, he started things off by showing a 10 minute unfinished animation. And if you have ever experienced his animations, you know what strange and wonderful beings they are.

We were then treated to an impressive number of brand new songs, and then, amongst the stories of breaking Ian Russell's (head of Flemish Eye records) headphones while out recording train sounds with his baby strapped to him in a "front pocket thing", dog in tow, and a bag full of recording equipment to schlep around, Chad played pretty much every song from Soft Airplane. To make up for a lack of a backing band, Chad was accompanied for part of the show by a cellist. As she clambered onto the stage initially, and picked up an accordion, someone in the audience sagely pointed out "that's a funny looking cello". Someone in the audience will always make a sage observation at a Chad VanGaalen concert. It's a law, I think.

Sadly, I can't recall the cellist's name, but she was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and she and Chad played well together, despite the fact that he kept jumping up to bring her a powder-blue Strawberry Shortcake xylophone or to show her how to plug in his circuit-bent keyboard. Because you know the home-made instruments were well represented that night.

Even though I think I have seen Chad VanGaalen perform more times than any other musician, I could never get mundane about his shows. Perhaps because he never set out to be a performer, he has a way of connecting intimately with an audience. His little tales of personal failures that go off onto extreme tangents feel like the sorts of conversations we have in the urban assault vehicle every morning, but we don't sing near as well.

Saturday's cd release party felt like a sublime trip on a errant school bus. And the inner eight-year-old in me is very pleased.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yeah, I've got some candy for you

come and get some

Beth's hosting a Big Wicked Online Pageant for the most beautiful child in all their Hallowe'en glory.
Ideally, we were to post photos of ourselves as wee ones, but the fourth child does not get her picture taken. Fact.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

it was this or a thousand words, the choice is yours

Does anybody else find it perplexing that since I am no longer working a dayjob, I have had far less time available for blogging? Not that I expect you to spend your waking hours agonizing over my timetable, but in your experience, aren't Lazy Unemployed Bastards like me supposed to have all the time in the world?

Obviously the world is better off without somebody in the role that I vacated.

However, I am pretty pumped about some of the freelance work that I have been doing and have planned and I will fill you in on that as things gel more solidly. I am also still pretty pumped about Chad VanGaalen's incredible cd release party last night, but as it was a late night, I'll leave the details till tomorrow when my brain is functioning again after a full six hours of sleep.

In the meanwhile, I am going to honour the spectacular Bloody Awful Poetry, who celebrated her birthday yesterday (and I am sure they are still setting off the fireworks across Asia) by participating in a meme that she posted a while back. It's a popular one (the sassy Captain Karen also did this meme not long ago), and with good reason, because it's fun and easy.

The Google Image Meme
To answer the questions, do a Google image search with your answer, and then choose one picture from the first page of results to post as your response. Do this with minimal explanation if possible. Tag 5 other people when you are done.

1. The age you'll be on your next birthday

2. A place you'd like to travel to
(Scandinavia, in case you did not immediately recognise it)

3. Your favourite place
(if "near water" wasn't perfect enough, this place has a laptop too)

4. Your favourite food
(it could be a mound of dog shit, but as long as it's got cheese and spinach ...)

5. Your favourite pet
(that would be Sputnik, for those of you not intimately familiar with the Soviet space program)

6. Your favourite colour combination

7. Favourite piece of clothing

8. All time favourite song
Holy snapping duckshit, that's akin to asking me to name my favourite breath of air ever drawn. Chances are pretty good it will be a Radiohead song, though.

9. Favourite TV show

10. First name of your significant other/crush

11. The town in which you live
(the caption reads "Calgary taps the gay tourist market")

12. Your screenname/nickname

13. Your first job
(babysitter to all of the 8-child families on our street)

14. Your dream job
(sitting on my ass, writing, preferably in a trendy cafe)

15. A bad habit you have
(compulsive list-making)

16. Your worst fear
17. One thing you'd like to do before you die
(live on the ocean)

18. The first thing you'd buy if you had a million dollars
(Stanley Donwood painting)

Apparently I now need to tag five others. I am exhausted from all that googling, so I will just pick on the first five people that pop into my head:
Westcoast Walker
Gifted Typist
Urban Blonde


Thursday, October 23, 2008

I am not slamming the trades, but

The plumber was at our house for 4 friggin hours today. Mind you, this included 3 trips to the hardware store, one time for a replacement main shut-off valve for the house, the original which snapped off as he tried to turn the water off. The rest were just because he forgot a bunch of stuff in the first trip.

Plus he kept getting lost in our house. Seriously. And it's not that big a house, but every time he tried to find the basement or the bedroom in which the en suite was located, he had to
stop and ask me. This happened at least 5 times.

Now, I am not going to quote an electrician friend and talk about how plumbers are electricians with their heads caved in, but really what is there to remember except that shit flows downhill? Mind you, this is coming from someone who had to call a plumber to replace the guts in the toilet tank, so maybe I should just shut the hell up.

On another matter, I am so incredibly overdue on some memes that I owe people (and let's not even discuss those book reviews that I can't even remember the books for which I never wrote them), that it's time I pulled up a couple of socks here.

Tonight's meme is so long overdue that it's almost new again and comes compliments of a tag
from the lovely and talented Westcoast Walker. Mr Walker wanted a peek inside my psyche via my Top 25 Most Played Songs feature on itunes. Normally I would agree that this is an excellent way to get a glimpse of someone's personality or at least predilections, but in my case, it's not as telling as it should be. I do a large portion of my music listening on my endless commutes, during which time I play entire cds, and I generally slap my computer on random, so my Top 25 list is not as informative as it should be. That said, and with sincere apologies to Westcoast Walker, here be my Top 25 Most Played:

1. Cries of the Dead - Chad VanGaalen (11)
2. Part of a Poem by Alden Nowlan Called Ypres:1915 - NQ Arbuckle (9)
3. Rabid Bits of Time - Chad VanGaalen (7)
4. Apartment Story - the National (7)
5. Gagging Order - Radiohead (7)
6. Scatterbrain - Radiohead (7)
7. President (35) - Elliott Brood (6)
8. When My Boy Walks Down the Street - Magnetic Fields (6)
9. Lozenge of Love - Radiohead (6)
Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur - Sigur Rós (6)
11. Big John Shaft - Belle and Sebastian (5)
12. Human Behaviour - Bjork (5)
13. Willow Tree - Chad VanGaalen (5)
14. Bones of Man - Chad VanGaalen (5)
15. Phantom Anthills - Chad VanGaalen (5)
16. You Trip Me Up - the Jesus and Mary Chain (5)
17. Analyse - Thom Yorke (5)
18. Inside the Molecules - Chad VanGaalen (4)
19. Bare Feet on Wet Griptape - Chad VanGaalen (4)
20. Poisonous Heads - Chad VanGaalen (4)
21. TMNT Mask - Chad VanGaalen (4)
22. Molten Light - Chad VanGaalen (4)
23. Old Man + the Sea - Chad VanGaalen (4)
24. City of Electric Light - Chad VanGaalen (4)
25. Ballad of a Lonely Construction Worker - Cuff the Duke (4)

Jesus Christ on a cracker, I hear you exclaim, what's with all the Chad VG songs, and suspiciously all from his new release too? That, my friends, would be the easiest question I have answered all day (with the possible exception of which way to the basement). It's a fine fine album, and the release party is this Saturday night. I'm practicing.

What are your current Top 25 Most Played, and what deep dark secrets do they reveal about you? Come, let me pick your brain.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

this is why I will never again clean the house

I've been meaning to clean the kitchen cupboards for about ten years. In fact, it is chore #14 on my Lazy Unemployed Bastard list. We have the misfortune of having white kitchen cupboards, so that every spot of grease and every fleck of dust, and especially every long stringy smear of greasy dust is highly visible.

We are having a party in a couple of weeks, and you know that everybody will end up in the kitchen, because everybody always does, so I figured I would be proactive and clean the damn things, from the top down. I've got all this cut-glass crap sitting on the bulkhead above the cupboards, which were all disturbingly opaque, so I climbed up and hauled everything down and washed it all. And while I was up there, face inches from the ceiling, I could suddenly see the stringers of greasy dust hanging down from the stipple ceiling.

What asshat invented stipple ceilings anyway? There is no easy way to clean it. So I hauled out the vacuum cleaner and started trying to suck those greasy stringers off the ceiling, while still standing up on the kitchen counter. I really should have attempted this with both feet flat on the floor, because when I inadvertently pressed my arm against the halogen tracklight, I almost fell into the sink. I'm not sure if I felt the searing pain or smelled the charred flesh first, but I can tell you that those halogen fuckers are really really hot.

I now have a 2 inch by 1/3 inch strip of blistering flesh on my forearm and I look pretty bad-ass, if I do say so myself.

We may just go with the filthy toilet idea for the party, though.

Monday, October 20, 2008

theatre of the insane - Gogol Bordello

For a Tuesday night concert, it sure was packed. Maybe it helped that it was also election night, but from the wild enthusiasm of the audience, it was clear that people were here to experience the over-the-top madness of Gogol Bordello, rather than escape from the realities of Canadian politics.

Local punk band, Rum Runner, set the pace for the evening with a frenetic and high energy set, decidedly drawing on the Celtic punk influence of Stiff Little Fingers and the Pogues. We quite liked them; they had a tremendous amount of feel-good energy, even if their songs did all sound pretty much the same.

We waited forever and ever for Gogol Bordello, getting all excited at the false starts, as the background music ended abruptly, or as another guitar tech wandered onto the stage. But then just as we were starting to get annoyed, the crazy larger-than-life spectacle that is Gogol Bordello took the stage and launched into a no-holds barred gypsy punk debacle.

"What the fuck is going on, Calgary?" were the only words that Eugene Hutz spoke to us for the longest time, but really, there was no time for idle conversation. Gogol Bordello were too busy sawing the hell out of their instruments, putting on a wild circus of punk-tinged songs laced with Eastern European sensibilities.

Gogol Bordello are a huge band. Maybe not Polyphonic Spree huge, but certainly big enough to all but overpower the sizable concert space of MacEwan Hall. And they have a huge presence, complete with oversized stage gestures and enormous dramatic presence. There is nothing timid about Gogol Bordello and they put on one hell of a performance.

I don't believe I have ever before seen an entire audience jumping up and down as one being like that before. And I have never clapped along with the music quite so much before either.

The patented indie kids were surprisingly outnumbered at the concert, but in their absence we had Viking helmets and capes and tophats with feathers. A debate ensued following the concert as to who was more theatrical - Gogol Bordello or Of Montreal, whom we had seen in the spring. But while Of Montreal wowed us with glitter guns and backup dancers wearing wild animal masks, Gogol Bordello floored us with their awesome hats, armbands, and dramatic staging. Ultimately, we agreed to call it a draw, but we were all on side that nobody embodies a sweaty carnivale atmosphere straight from the Balkans quite like Gogol Bordello does.

If you ever get the chance at Gogol Bordello tickets, grab them without giving it another thought.

Friday, October 17, 2008

please excuse the Zombie's absence from class

Don't you wish that life came with a safe word, that you could call out if things got too scary, and you could stop everything for a while? Sadly, life is so much tougher than just a rough sex romp.

I realise I have been scarce around these parts this week, but rest assured that I am starting to resurface, and I do have some things waiting in the blog hopper that I want to tell you about.

Like the Gogol Bordello concert. Short review - it was crazy. Details on the way.

I do have time to brag about my brilliant career, though. The fierce and fabulous Ms Jen, who writes a sassy no-holds-barred gossip column as a regular contributor to B.C. Musician Magazine, recommended me to her editor recently. I am happy to report that my first article will be coming out in the November issue. And I have been asked to submit something for the December one as well.

Being an outsider, I had to find something that an Albertan (albeit a somewhat reluctant one) could talk about that would resonate with BC musicians. Fortunately for me, it's becoming increasingly difficult for Canadian bands to get work visas to play in the US, so a lot of them are choosing to travel to Alberta instead. Instant angle for me!

I approached the Vancouver band, Portico, whom I had seen open for Chad VanGaalen during the Sled Island Festival and they were gracious enough to answer my lame questions about the rigours of touring, give me some horror stories about driving over those damn Rockies, and tell me their perspective on whether the recent opening of all kinds of unconventional concert spaces in Calgary actually benefits BC bands.

It was great fun to write, and think I am finally doing something that I really really love. I'm also really excited about the idea I have for my December article. But I can't tell you about that yet.

This being a Friday, though, we need a list, I think.

Top Five Things That I Know For Sure:

1. A proper house number should have 3 digits.
Anything less than 2 or greater than 4 is an abomination.

2. Dachshunds have the most expressive faces of all dog breeds, except perhaps for my niece's dog who has the most worried-looking eyebrows I have ever seen.

3. 8:00 am is the perfect sleeping in time for the weekend.

4. If the newspaper is more than 4 days old, you no longer have to read it.
You never have to read the sports section.

5. You should be able to claim pedicures on your health benefits, if not through medicare. Because everything rests on your feet.

May your world feel safe and cozy this weekend.
And may all your truths be irrefutable.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Secrets yearning to be told in One Flea Spare

Sage Theatre's recent production of Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare is a darkly poetic look at society stripped of its conventions, where the laws governing wealth, class, and sexuality are obliterated and reinvented.

Set in London during the Black Death, the play uses the bubonic plague that ravaged society as a leveler of class distinction. The mansion in which the pompous William Snelgrave and his emotionally-starved wife Darcy have been quarantined for the past 28 days may serve to give them a layer of protection from the infected paupers who are dying in the streets, but it cannot inoculate them from their own diseased marriage. Mere days before their scheduled release from quarantine, their prison/fortress is breeched by two strangers - the disturbing and impetuous Morse, an adolescent girl offering tales of escaping from beneath the corpses of her parents after they died within their own mansion, and the impoverished sailor Bunce, bringing with him his own tales that have an unsettling impact upon those to whom he tells them.

When the presence of the intruders is discovered by the jovial yet sadistic guard who has been ensuring that the Snelgraves do not escape their quarantine and who is their only conduit to the outside world through the single small window left unsealed in the house, an additional 30 days is added to their confinement.

What follows within the confines of the house is a lyrical unfolding of role reversals and deeply buried secrets unearthed, as the mores of society are stricken down.

As with each new Sage Theatre production, I was very curious to see how the theatrical space had been reinvented for this intimate and spare play. And of course, it being Sage Theatre, I was not disappointed. Set in the round, within a backdrop of heavy black curtains cascading behind the surrounding seats, the small stage area was bare but for two chairs and a window frame. The red stylized embers criss-crossing the black floor and curtained ceiling were the only embellishments of colour in the space.

The characters in One Flea Spare are trapped, not quite in the world of the living and not quite in that o
f the dead. In a city where human life has been completely devalued, the characters are forced to examine whether they have devalued their own lives through their past evils, and whether their spirits are not in fact more dead than alive.

The touchstone of this is the sailor Bunce, nursing a wound in his side which will not heal. His presence brings to a head the simmering infection between the Snelgraves, and his interaction with each of them is cathartic, albeit in vastly differing ways. Despite the stigmata he bears, he is no Christ figure, he merely draws out what is buried deep within the others. For the repressed and disfigured Darcy, this manifests itself in a yearning for long-abandoned human contact and sexual release. For the pompous and cruel William, the sailor's stories unearth his own depravity and soullessness.

When Morse, the creepy little English kid, asks in the opening lines of the play "why are you out of your grave", it is uncertain whom she is addressing. By the play's end, we have come to understand that she
is confronting all the characters (and perhaps the audience), as well as acting as a harbinger of events about to unfold.

Each player in Sage Theatre's season opener of One Flea Spare turns in a solid and commendable performance, but it is perhaps Lauren Parken's understated portrayal of the tragically repressed Darcy and Chad Nobert's highly nuanced Bunce who are the most compelling. They impart their respective characters with complex humanity, making utterly believable the success with which they
succeed in breaking through the boundaries of convention, and with which they ultimately bestow dignity upon their situations.

Since circumstances forced me to see this Sage Theatre production of One Flea Spare near the end of its run, you are no longer able to take in this performance. And this is a shame, as it was a deeply compelling and well executed production.

The next Sage Theatre production will be The Attic, The Pearls, and Three Fine Girls, running November 13-22, 2008.

Friday, October 10, 2008

50 doesn't feel so very different from 49.999

That's probably a good thing. I would hate to wake up and find that everything had changed overnight. Instead, the alarm jolted me awake at 6:00 as usual, the cat waited for me to get out of the shower as always, and I picked her up and we looked out the window together, searching for Orion's Belt in the pre-dawn, just as we always do.

I always feel a little pensive on this day, but this year more so than ever, as I keep thinking back on the story my mom used to tell of being in the hospital with me after my birth. How the nuns would bring her such a good breakfast every morning. You could sense her satisfaction all those years later, as she would tell of the tray they would bring to her bedside, set with good porcelain dishes containing strong hot coffee and fresh crusty rolls with sweet butter. She loved a good breakfast.

Actually one of my favourite stories about my mom revolves around breakfast. It was the morning after my brother's wedding. We had all gone out for breakfast and ordered bacon and eggs, and when the waitress asked my mom how she wanted her eggs cooked, mom replied, "oh, just normal". I'm always tempted to order my eggs that way.

She feels really gone today. Although my mom couldn't really talk on the phone the last few years, I am still tempted to dial her old number, just to hear it ring out into the cosmos.

I am really looking forward to getting caught up on everyone's blogs over this long weekend, so you had all better be writing lots and lots for me to read. No going out and doing yardwork until you have written plenty of your patented witticisms to keep me entertained.

In my real life, the lovely Resident Offspring is accompanying me down to Mission after school today, where she has offered to buy me a coffee and a lemon slice at the Purple Perk, and where we will then peruse Casablanca - one of the city's better indie video stores - for some good films for the weekend. The Zombie family is taking me out to our local fancy schmancy lakeside restaurant for dinner tonight. Om nom nom.

On Sunday, I intend to roast and devour The Magnificent Bird for our Thanksgiving dinner. The family is pretty excited that I have also promised to bake a pumpkin pie, but for me it's all about the turkey. The fall yard work also awaits, and there is nothing quite like heading back into the house
on a crisp fall afternoon, fingers chilled from scooping up the piles of leaves, and having the excruciatingly divine scent of roasting turkey waft over you as you open the door.

Back here, where I really live, I intend to catch you up on things long overdue in the telling -
a wonderful Icelandic film we saw at the Calgary International Film Festival, a strange and poetic play we saw a couple of nights ago at Sage Theatre, as well as some developments in my brilliant new career. I am also really looking forward to once again participating in some long overdue memes that I was tagged for.

I'll ease back into it by playing along with Just A Cool Cat's Friday Random Ten, for which he has been faithfully keeping the home fires lit for quite some time now.

Here's the Sorry I Drooled on You, I was Thinking About Turkey edition:
1. the hem of his garment - Basia Bulat
2. gumboots - Paul Simon
3. 1963 - New Order
4. song for sunshine - Belle and Sebastian
5. new cities - Uncut
6. no beginning no end - Hawksley Workman

7. little things - Bush X
8. exterminator (massive attack remix) - Primal Scream
9. lake charles - Lucinda Williams
10. loomer - My Bloody Valentine

What delectable delicacies are wafting randomly out of your player right now?

I'll leave you with a little gift - the ohrmwurm that has been haunting me all week. Hey, if I can't get pasty bare-bummed Icelandic boys who run recklessly across fields out of my head, why should you be able to?

góðan daginn - sigur rós

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

twenty years is a long time ...

... but not long enough to tell you how much you mean to me.

Twenty years is a long time,
but not long enough to begin to understand the wonders of your fine, keen mind.

Twenty years is a long time, yet it seems like mere moments since we began this wondrous journey together.

You are a visionary, you make things happen. While I scrabble about in the dust, tinkering with minutiae, you soar through the stratosphere, visualizing the big magnificent picture. We make a good team that way.

Happy Anniversary, my darling. The past twenty years have been a blast. I can only imagine that the next twenty, and the next twenty after that, will be glorious.


And of course I cannot let the day go by without wishing the magnificent Mr. Thomas Edward Yorke all the best on his 40th birthday.

Shine on, Thom. You are just getting started.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

after the good-byes, we move forward

We returned home last night.

Thank you again to everyone for the kind comments and emails. It was truly comforting to know that there are such good and caring people in the world.

Although this was obviously a time of sadness, there was also a great deal of laughter and comradery. There is something simultaneously heartbreaking and cathartic about sorting through your mother's possessions after she has passed. One the one hand, it feels so invasive, to be handling these items; on the other hand, it brings comfort and memories.

There was a lot of stuff to sort through - personal items from mom's room, her will, the safe deposit box which contained some perplexing items. (Note to self: itemize my cherished goods so that when I die, people know their history and their importance in my life.)

But the tears and the tough decisions were eclipsed by the stories and the laughter. As none of us are religious, we were originally planning to have a self-directed ceremony, but it turns out that nobody had the heart to officiate the service, so we contacted the vicar or whatever of a local community church who had been recommended to us.

Pastor Tim was wonderful, as it turned out. We met with him a couple of days before the funeral, and he was so perceptive and so sensitive to our needs and desires that we immediately knew that we wanted him officiating the funeral. If I ever felt the need for organized religion, it would be at a church with someone like Tim as the head. He never once got into the god-talk during the service, but instead based his talk around something called The Mourner's Bill of Rights. It was particularly comforting to me to hear him say that everyone's grief is personal and unique, that there is no set protocol to how one experiences death. Because at this point, I was still concerned with being strong for others, with doing what needed to be done, and saving my grieving for a time when I could be in my own place, by myself.

I had the privilege of writing the eulogy for my mom, and my two of my nieces, who are
currently in Korea and in Chile and obviously could not attend, sent beautiful letters of remembrance of their Oma. Their sister read these letters at the funeral, and I have no idea how she was able to read them in front of all those people, because they made me cry just reading them to myself.

About fifty people attended the funeral and the luncheon that followed, and I was saddened to see that there were only two people there of my mom's generation. At my dad's funeral seven years ago, there had been many more old folks, but I guess there are less and less of them left.

Personally I had a wonderful time, reconnecting with people, some of whom I hadn't seen in years. Many of them told lies about me to the Resident Offspring, claiming that I used to be a wild one, but we all know that I have always been the very picture of decorum, don't we?

My mom had a good death, as it turns out, and she would have been very glad to see her kids laughing and teasing each other, sharing stories and hugs with old friends, and not being able to make any decisions about who should take what. It's just the Bruederlin way.

I am going to beg your understanding if it takes me a few days to get back to visiting all of you on a regular basis. Now that the funeral is done, and we have dealt with most of the legal trappings and have made plans for how to deal with the rest, I think I will have time to do some reflecting. Now that we are no longer around people all day and all evening, I think I can find the space that I need to do my private mourning.

And that may take me a while.