Friday, April 27, 2012

into the judgment zone

Two trips in one week to the Ship and Anchor pub, both before noon.  This could prove interesting.

On Wednesday I was lucky to score an invitation to the unveiling of the 2012 Calgary Folk Music Festival lineup. Oh man oh man oh man!  Jeff Mangum, John Doe, Whitehorse, Little Scream, Beirut, the Rural Alberta Advantage, Rae Spoon, the Barr Brothers, Eve Hell & the Razors, Dan Mangan, Chris Isaak, Jon Langford, Mary Chapin Carpenter, 100 Mile House, Iron & Wine, Justin Townes Earle ... and that's nowhere near the complete list.  The complete list is here.  It's going to be an awesome four days in late July.

On Sunday, I am heading back to the Ship & Anchor, to hang with my peeps from the folk fest again.   Only this time, I have the huge honour of being one of the judges for one of the annual CFMF songwriting contests.  I will be bringing down judgment upon the Untapped Newcomers, poor things.  Thinking of bringing my gavel.

If you are in the area and looking for some sweet tunes and a very judgy judge, you should come to the Ship & Anchor on Sunday, 12-4. I'll buy you a beer!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

confessions of a strategic voter

In the end, I opted for the devil I know.  I never dreamed that I would be casting a vote for a party that I could never support, but given the spectre of the right-wing extremists who seemed poised to take over, I, like so many other left-leaning Albertans, chose to hold my nose and vote strategically.

I know I did this to the detriment of the parties that I philosophically support, and I feel awful about that, but I really don't feel as though I had any choice.  In this election, for the first time since moving to this province, my vote was not wasted.  Although it was a vote made out of fear and it was a vote against something rather than for something, my little vote finally made a difference.  Even if it served to maintain the status quo.  

In my riding in particular, the results were very close.  In fact, so close that they are still not official - a couple of dozen votes separating the top runners.  The incumbent, who has ruled the riding for the past 300 years, crossed the floor to the extremists last year, leaving a great deal of uncertainty as to how this staunchly conservative riding would vote.  Were my neighbours red-neck enough to follow her or would they stay the course and continue to vote the same way they always have?  Sadly, none of the other parties have ever stood a snowball's chance in hell in this riding.  In fact, only four parties ran candidates in my riding during this election, having learned from past experience that there is no return on time, effort and money to run here unless you are a conservative.

I simply could not take the chance of allowing the Wildrose to form the government.  

To be honest, I rather like our premier.  She strikes me as intelligent, compassionate, and measured in her approach.  She seems open to reaching out to others, building bridges, as she would say, rather than firewalls.  As a former human rights lawyer, one hopes she understands the importance of a humane inclusive government.

I feel less dirty casting the vote I did, knowing that many of the most right-wing in the party had already switched allegiances to the Wildrose.  My hope is that this PC government will demonstrate more centrist values, in deference to those of us who elected them.  

Remember us, because we will certainly remember.

Edit:  Looks like my neighbours were indeed red-neck enough to follow the incumbent in my riding over to the dark(er) side.  The official final count now shows that I live in a Wildrose riding.  Uck.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

city of glass from the 29th floor

 Did I mention the incredible view we had from our hotel 
room during last week's west coast jaunt?  It turned me into a salivating, photo-snapping zombie, swooning at the mere thought of all that amazing architecture.






Thursday, April 19, 2012

between the pacific and the automall

I now appreciate the rain repelling qualities of the toque, particularly those widely favoured by East Van bike hipsters. The infamous north shore deluge caught me completely unprepared when we disembarked from the seabus in North Vancouver. The OFKAR graciously fitted her wool toque on my dripping head as we searched for refuge and hot coffee, while across the water from whence we had just come, people strolled lightly spattered pavements.

Other (less damp) activities thus far include:
- thrift storing
- sushi lunch with Mel and Wandering Coyote
- parking garages and being grateful to have rented a compact vehicle
- drive by of the OFKAR's new digs
- family pizza party and sleepover
- stealing coffee from the Spousal Unit's meeting
- figuring out what makes North Van so odd
- the aforementioned sea bussing, complete with eavesdropping on an awesome hairdressing trio
- veggie goodness dinner at Naam
- running into the awesome sea bus hairdressing trio at Naam
- as always, hours and hours of walking

What have you been doing?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

meanwhile, in 604

Once again I have forgotten to pack the little cord that allows me to upload images from my camera to my computer. It's probably for the best, since it means sparing you the photo I took of the hotel bathroom floor. It's covered in a highly glossy black tile, almost mirror-like, so that you can look down and view a bottom-up image of yourself sitting on the toilet. TMI, I know.

Instead I will give you a much more palatable photo taken by the OFKAR, a much better photographer than I.

I had a lovely start to this trip, meeting two old friends for dim sum, neither of whom knew one another. We were all at the University of Manitoba at the same time, however. One of my friends had a flight to catch, but my other friend and I spent the remainder of the unexpectedly warm and sunny afternoon walking, buying art supplies, shaking our heads at ostentatious yachts, and finally lingering over beers on an oceanside patio. Talking, talking, talking, and solving the world's problems.

Back at the hotel last evening, in our room on the 29th floor, I realized I had a great view into the apartment building next door. Naturally I indulged in some snooping, particularly of the penthouse suite. Three levels of floor to ceiling windows, and a spiral staircase leading to a rooftop patio. Probably safely out of my price range.

This afternoon, I am meeting with more of my Vancouver ladies, for sushi and a wander, and then later picking up the OKFAR on the heels of her final exam. A trip to the Vancouver Art Gallery (locally known as the VAG, pronounced vaj, of course) may also be in the works.

But first I have to tear apart the rental car, in order to figure out how to turn off the back windshield wiper that I inadvertently activated while reversing into my parking spot. Either that, or it better rain.

Monday, April 16, 2012

world in my ear

An upside to being up at 5:00, is that you get to listen to BBC World Service. You get a whole new perspective on news stories and hear about regional issues not normally covered by the CBC.

So, thanks early flight!

Do you listen to radio when you are getting ready in the morning?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

songs from the crumpled dark

John K Samson
Palomino Smokehouse
April 13/12

You've probably heard me gush on previous occasions that there are no bad seats at a particular venue. The venue downstairs at the Palomino Smokehouse is the antithesis - there are no good seats. Oddly enough, that's one of its charms.

There are only about a dozen tables downstairs at the Palomino, varying vintages of mismatched kitchen tables with chairs rescued from family cottages. None of the tables really have a sight-line to the stage. But it wouldn't really matter if they did because once the open area in front of the stage fills up with 8 foot guys, as it will inevitably do at any concert worth its salt, you aren't going to see anything on the stage anyway. So relax.

The Palomino is a very laid-back place. Nobody gets too bent out of shape about things like the doors opening at the specified time. With an original door time of 8, then 8:30 and finally 9, we would normally have been seething, but it was easy enough to just head back up to the restaurant, have another drink and listen to the band.

So after filling our bellies with pulled pork and garlic fries (and trying not to breathe on anyone) in the smokehouse restaurant on the ground floor of the Palomino, we headed downstairs and pulled some chairs up to a wobbly 1970's kitchen table tucked in beside a bank of speakers. The split-log walls, plastered with posters, the dated furnishings, exposed ceiling ducts, and big round bar opposite the stage give the place a comfortably retro rec room vibe. A rec room with a really great sound system.

Because, as concert-goers of a certain age, we were more concerned with a comfortable seat than a good view of the stage, we didn't really see much of the action on stage. During the entire opening set, I was able to see Shotgun Jimmie's elbow. He was wearing a red shirt, that's all I can tell you. He does have a unique and really great guitar style that the Spousal Unit was particularly taken by.

Apparently so was the fan girl who parked herself directly in front of the stage. She proceeded to make herself at home, using the corner of the stage as a repository for her purse, coat and two drinks, so that she could boogey unencumbered. I was mesmerized by her because she looked exactly like our financial advisor.

John K Samson, backed by the Provincial Band, did what he always does so well, mixed sweetly reflective and literarily-charged songs with some insanely catchy fist-pumping anthems. Gestetner, cartography, and ampersand are not words you normally hear a Friday night bar crowd singing lustily, but you do when John K Samson is the one rocking the house.

We toasted Gump Worsley. We sang the entire first verse of Left and Leaving without any vocal assistance from JKS. One couple, both still in puffy winter jackets, slow-danced to Night Windows. It was a quintessential Canadian moment.

For the final song of the encore, Samson made his way across the packed floor, stood on the bar with his guitar and led us in a rendition of Virtute the Cat Explains Her Disappearance. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

being human in Canada

Runaway - Alice Munro

There's a very good reason why Alice Munro is consistently referred to as one of the best short story writers in the world. Quite simply, because she is.

I first discovered Alice Munro when I was in my twenties. Despite being a Winnipeger, I found immediate resonance in her tales of life in small town Ontario, lives primarily of girls and women. The fact that she wrote about female coming of age with a searingly unsentimental yet deeply profound voice, felt at times as though she was writing my life. I quickly devoured everything she had ever written, and then moved on.

I recently stumbled upon Runaway - Munro's
2004 collection of short stories - at the library, realized it had been years since I had read any Alice Munro, and took it home.

Some of the stories in Runaway follow the same characters over time, geography, and circumstance. I love the continuity in that approach, mainly because my main objection with Alice Munro's short stories is that, although they are as fully realized and as deep as any novel, I miss the characters when the story is done. It's comforting to see them return to the pages, older, and though not necessarily wiser, certainly with a different understanding of life.

The final story in Runaway, although a single story, is divided into chapters and spans 50 years. Perhaps another reason that Alice Munro's writing keeps resonating with me is that just as I read her coming of age stories as a young woman, I now find something of myself echoed in her current stories about women of a certain age.

Munro is at her very finest when she writes of the small tragedies of life, those often unexamined minor twists of fate that subtly but irrevocably tinge the future. Those missed encounters, those lies we tell ourselves, those misunderstandings that are never resolved - these are the currency of Munro's stories.

The collection of stories in Runaway enthralled me, moved me, and left me slightly wistful but much richer for having read them. You really should read them too.

Monday, April 09, 2012

it's just a trick of the light, don't panic

Three articles to write. Two shifts to work at Cantos/NMC. One John K Samson concert. Plus about 3 million bits of paper and snippets of data to organize into tax claims. This all needs to be done before our flight next week at this time. Good thing I don't have a normal job.

In university I always seemed to write an exam on Easter Monday, so spending the day shuffling papers and cyphering business expenses is pleasant by contrast. Besides, it's Get Your Own Damn Supper Day, compliments of the noble bird who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to grace our table last night. Even if turkey weren't so incredibly delicious, it would still be my favourite meat, just for the leftover possibilities it offers. If I play my cards right, I can get away with only having to prepare supper three times this week. Don't tell the Spousal Unit.

He's got meetings on the wet coast next week, so I am tagging along on an air miles flight and crashing for free in his hotel room. I won't get to see much of the OFKAR, as she will be writing exams, but I will help her move a few boxes into temporary storage at a friend's place. There is a week's lag between when she has to move out of the Non-Judgment Zone and when she takes over the lease on the new digs.

I can't wait to do a walk-by of NJZ 2.0. It looks to be perfectly situated, close to the university, bus, shops and Pacific Spirit Regional Park. It will be hard, not having the OFKAR come home for the summer, but knowing she is set up with housing for the year, with good roommates, will make the silence of home a little less jarring.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

I have

- a brand new grand-nephew, Ari William. It will be a while before I get to indulge in that new baby smell, but I am anxiously awaiting photos.

- my Calgary 2012 Cultural Ambassador bling. It was a real down-home shit-kicker of a media launch yesterday, complete with poet laureate Kris Demeanor leading us in a battle for chorus supremacy singalong of Sweet City Woman. (The filmer was right in front of me, you may just hear me singing)

- dark purple toe nails, almost black. I feel so secretly goth.

- heart palpitations over the breaking news that Jeff Mangum is playing the Calgary Folk Festival this year. In the same media release, came the news that Iron & Wine and Randy Newman are also coming to the festival. I always get Iron & Wine mixed up with that other heavily-bearded dude Bon Iver, so while I know I saw one of them at the folk festival a couple of years ago, I couldn't really tell you which one. Also I can't hear the name Randy Newman without thinking of that Family Guy episode where Randy Newman sings about everything that he sees.

- finished reading Ruth Rendell's The Vault, but am feeling a tad too lazy to give it a proper review. I really should, because I enjoyed it thoroughly and found it to be a completely satisfying Inspector Wexford mystery. How about a Twitteresque review, instead? Read it.

What's noteworthy for you this holiday weekend?

Monday, April 02, 2012

good eats, in the dark

We observed earth hour this weekend with good friends. Candles, wine and battery-operated tunes set the pace for the evening. As is standard with this group of friends, we also prepared far too much food.

We had decided upon a Korean menu, but, besides picking up a tub of kimchee from the nearest Korean restaurant, the only Korean dish I had previously prepared was beef bulgogi. A stroll through the internet netted me instructions to prepare:

- kongnamool (soybean sprouts), which I initially thought I turned into something capable of causing nuclear meltdown when I substituted hot chili oil for Korean chili powder, but after it denatured in the fridge for a couple of hours, it was actually super good.

- pa jun (scallion pancakes) which at the last minute I struck from the menu, when it became evident that we already had far too much food.

- jap chae glass noodles, which, interestingly, our guests brought as well. Exact same recipe too. There was definitely no shortage of noodles, although our friends made theirs with sweet potato noodles from a Korean grocery store, while I made mine with bean noodles from Co-op. They won the authenticity contest, hands down.

I feel sorry for you that you couldn't join us, because it really was a fine evening. To soften the blow somewhat, how about if I share my top secret bulgogi recipe with you?

Feel better now?