Sunday, May 31, 2009

nothing more to see here.

go here instead.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

pimping out my bitch.

that guy that I live with, or usually live with, or have lived with more than I have lived with anyone else for the past oh, nine-ish years or so, well that guy fancies himself a moviemaker. Maker of movies. He's all mr. editor of digital video and whatnot. AND here is some stuff he has been working on. (go to the end of this blog post if you want to skip to the way cool documentary stuff.)This is not all he has been working on. His definitive work, French Panic, is not finished yet. Which is kind of funny that I've called it his definitive work, because it is unfinished. Agh.

I'm not making any sense because I AM TOTALLY HOSED AS I AM WRITING THIS. I just watched some hockey, where Montreal totally KICKED TORONTO'S ASS, and I'm feeling all "Montrealer" and "weepy" because I just had an unexpected night out with two of the people I am going to miss the most -- actually, my whole Saturday thus far has been an extravaganza of PEOPLE I REALLY LIKE AND AM GOING TO MISS TERRIBLY: Lora, Laura, Emmanuel, Lina, Jeremy.

Like I was saying, I was just hanging out at a lovely franco bar in my neighbourhood, watching the hockey game on the big screen, drinking beers that other people paid for, and I am feeling very Canadian, and very fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

Okay. So I mentioned earlier my fella's documentary film, French Panic, which he is not currently working on because I'm not learning French anymore, and it has a surprising dramatic twist thanks to my brother-in-law and his whole "I'm a gonna commit suicide and all" thing, and now I can't remember why I brought that up again. Maybe because it's 11 pm on a Saturday night and I haven't had anything to eat since 4 pm except for that row of cookies in the 3-rowed cookie package I bought yesterday and so my thinking is maybe just a little weeeeeeerd.

And I'm annoyed at my landlady because she left a message saying people would be over to look at my place on Sunday.....but that's kind of vague. For example, there is a big difference between 10 am Sunday and 3 pm Sunday. Especially since I've been known to stay up until 4 am to watch Miss Congeniality in its entirety. (Not one of Sandra Bullock's finest. I prefer The Net, if you want to get into bodies of work, or oeuvres, or whatever you call it. Career proof. Movies. I think Sandra Bullock could do better than a lot of the crap she's in.)

Okay. Pimping out my bitch. My bitch being the guy who edited these clips I'm about to describe.

Clip #1 features Levi Riven.
Levi was also featured in the film Leaving the Fold, about Hassid/Hasid (I never know how to spell that) Jews who have left their way of life for something more secular. It's interesting. And you'll see the first comment after the film clip is from someone named Kat. I know Kat. She lives in New York and takes cool pictures. Here is where I would link to her website if she has one but apparently she doesn't have the same strong feelings about her photography abilities as I do.

Clip #2 features Dierry Jean
. He's a boxer. He has a Haitian accent. Need I say more? I love boxing movies. Boxing is crazy. Punch punch punch, jab jab jab, brain damage brain damage, here's some piddling amount of money. Crazy.

Aw shit. I just actually clicked on the Dierry Jean link. It's the version without subtitles. That means if you don't understand French, you're shit out of luck. Boooooo, lack of subtitles, boooooooooooo.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

feedburner = my nemesis.

Today was a good day. I spent minimal time on my computer this morning. I made coffee for a local artist dude and he drew a sketch explaining the machine he is currently constructing, which sounds really cool. I did an income-earning related task. I spent some time in the sun with my friend and her 3 month old baby (he has impressive farts. I was holding him while he was having a fart party and his entire body vibrated). I talked to my sister. I talked to my mom. I talked to random people in the neighbourhood. I heard from a friend I haven't seen in a while.

Then I looked at my blog. And noticed that the feedburner count (um, people/machines who subscribe to my, uh, blog feed, I think -- I'm not really clear on the technology) dropped from 35 to 22 within the space of a few hours, after holding steady at 34 for weeks. WEEKS. This could mean:

13 people were so disappointed to learn I'm moving to the west coast that they dumped me.
or
13 people were disappointed to learn that I engage in illegal activities.
or
13 people got tired of all this suicide mumbo jumbo/wailing heart on sleeve nonsense.
or
it means nothing.

Numbers, schmumbers. Maybe it's just another sign that I should dump all this number stuff - how many people landed on my blog today? How many pages did they look at? Am I, like, totally popular? What is 'popular'? Bleh. It seems strange to define my self-worth by random numbers associated with this thing. Not that I do that. But I do get a thrill (yes. a thrill. I'm all blueberry hill over here.) when I see that someone has spent some time clicking around, reading me me me me. And then I get the opposite of a thrill when SUDDENLY, THE NUMBER OF SUBSCRIBERS PLUMMETED ON FRENCH PANIC'S BLOG. SHE FELT, LIKE, TOTALLY SAD until she remembered that she didn't really understand how that whole feed thing works so why get all hung up on numbers and stuff.

P.S. My landlady just called and she has already had 20 calls from people interested in my apartment. One person wants to see the place tomorrow. The landlady was describing what this prospective tenant's job is and where s/he works "'Cause you know, it's important to get people in who have jobs, you know. People who can pay their rent."

Which I think is proof that I am magical. Because neither my fella nor I have had jobs since last summer. (Jobs that pay us money, that is. We work, just, um, yeah.) And, magically, our rent always gets paid. On time. Early, sometimes. Maybe it's not magic - maybe we are good at hustling. Maybe we are working hard at dispelling the myth that people without jobs are lazy and irresponsible and incapable of stuff. Maybe we have been working hard at oh, I dunno, saving our money so that we can take care of ourselves for a while when bad times hit? Or, maybe, employment insurance payments are a fucking godsend. Or, maybe, we have amazingly generous relatives.

Could be a combination of many of the aforementioned factors. Whatever. It's magic. Our rent gets paid by magic. Ta-da!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

conversation with my landlord.

The scene: I have just been smoking a joint in the middle of the day and dancing around to some really loud, happy ska music - yes, hello, I am a stereotype - and my part of the conversation is overly cheerful and dare I say: chipper? My landlady is a Hassid (think: Orthodox Jewish Person) and has a lovely, stereotypical Jewish way of talking - loud, accented, right to the point.


Me: Hello?

Her: Hello. It's Mrs. --------.

Me: Oh! Hi Mrs. --------! I was just going to bring over the rent to your office. Is that okay?

Her: Okay. Good. And you're bringing the paper? The paper that says you're staying? [Most leases in Montreal start and end on July 1, aka Moving Day. If there are rental increases, the tenant must agree/disagree to the increase by April 1. Same for notice to vacate. 3 months notice. Yeesh.]

Me: Uh, no. Actually, there's been a change of plans and Husband and I are not going to be renewing the lease. I have the official notice; I'll bring that with the rent. [I had actually lied to her last week when she called and told her "It looks like we're staying!" And then after I hung up was a series of phone calls to a few loved ones that were all "holy shit I just lied to my landlord what's wrong with me" with responses like "what? I thought you had decided! Are you staying now? What's going on?" and "No no no, we're going. Just please remind me again why I'm moving and all of the good reasons because I'm having trouble here" (hyperventilate, tears, etc.) Thank you Jill for talking me down.]

Her: Oh. Where are you moving to?

Me: Vancouver.

Her: Oh - that's where your sister lives? [Mrs. ------ has been been made aware of our situation....there has been much going back and forth and weighing of pros and cons in the panic/pamplemousse household, and because we're all grief-stricken and crap here, we may have told some people a bit too early that we were thinking of moving.]

Me: Yesssss.

Her: Oh. How is she doing?

Me: Oh, she's doing...... she's fine. She's doing fine. [She's not, but it's easier to say "fine" then "quite horribly, actually". Pamplemousse, Mrs. -------, and I had an uncomfortable conversation a few weeks ago. Well, I dunno if SHE was uncomfortable, but pamplemousse was kind of panic-stricken at the direction the conversation was turning, and I found myself answering a lot of questions and dealing with statements I didn't feel comfortable with, like: "So, how did he do it?" and "Well, your sister will feel better soon. Maybe by next week she'll be ok."]

Her: What? Well if she's doing fine, why are you going?

Me: Well, I want to be closer to my family. My sister is out there, and it's closer to my parents, and Husband's..... [and we are both fond of mountains and the ocean and we actually like walking in the rain and the job situation looks better for both of us there and we'd been talking about moving there but just didn't expect it to be this soon and Husband has good friends out there and.....]

Her: Oh. Okay. Well [and then blah blah blah advertise blah blah I'll let you know when someone is going to come by to look at the place blah blah blah blah blah blahhhhhhh]

And then I hung up the phone and danced around some more and felt the proverbial weight fly off my shoulders because now it's done. It's official. I have to get my shit together and hide the porn and stop with the weed in the middle of the day and erase the frantic scribblings on the white board in the office and pick my underwear up off the floor and keep up appearances. And plan a cross-country move.

Now, I have to finish that joint and put some eyedrops in before dropping off the rent. Because that always fools people, you see. Eye drops.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

you have a lot of time on your hands.

um. yes. yessssssssss.

I have a lot of time on my hands. This pithy observation was stated to me by one of my internet friends (yes kids, it's true. Even grumpy, angry ladies can make friends on the internet; I am living proof) after I sent her a ridiculously long email. I mean, this email was so long, that if I pounded out the same word count daily, I would have a book-length work in a matter of weeks. A tome. A rambling, incoherent, convoluted book-length work, but if a piece of droning crap like Gravity's Rainbow can be published, my drivel should make it into book form some day too.

I was thinking about throwing myself a party -- I have an oddly huge cache of gin in my cupboard, and thought it would be nice to share my gin collection with gin-loving folk while celebrating my one year anniversary of being officially unemployed. But then I realized I didn't have the sass required to mock myself by throwing a celebratory party. Because, to be truthful, this year has been really really hard. Like, totally. I'll admit to an idyllic summer, where I de-stressed after stopping working for a place I was ill-suited to be working for in the first place. But I won't admit to the days of that idyllic summer where I wouldn't eat or drink anything until 4 or 5 pm, wouldn't leave the house for a few days, wouldn't answer the phone. Nah, I won't cop to that, because then it sounds like I'm depressed or HAVE A PROBLEM or something, right?

I tried to volunteer at places. You know, keep active. Maybe get more opportunities to practice my French. Flex my French muscles, if you need a cliché. I applied to volunteer for a local film festival, but when I hadn't heard from them in four months, I figured I didn't make the cut. Until I received a mass email from them asking me to head down to (wherever) the very next day to stuff VIP bags.

Um..... and my stuffing of VIP bags gets me exactly what in return? I hear nothing for four months (no way to contact these dipshits to ask what the volunteer deal is, anyway -- hours worked = x number of movie passes, right? Or so I thought.) The whole point to volunteering at film festivals, for me, is not to bask in the camraderie of my fellow film enthusiasts. It's to get free shit, as in movie passes. I wanted to see movies, and I couldn't afford a festival pass, so..... volunteering, right? Clarity and ease of communication is important EVEN WITH VOLUNTEER POSITIONS. Are volunteers always treated like shit? I think I treated my volunteer staff too well. I even bought going away presents for them. Out of pocket. Because the department budget didn't allow for token gifts to volunteers. Yes. I AM A SUCKER.

The autumn brought another attempt at volunteering, at a local library. In case you don't know, the Montreal library system is totally fucked; each library is on their own, financially speaking. It's chaos. So you'd think a local library that runs on volunteer power would loooooove to have a trained up information professional to work for them, right? Right? RIGHT? Someone who is EAGER and WILLING to do some cataloguing. I filled out their fucking form, was polite and professional to the old lady who took my form, AND NEVER HEARD FROM THEM AGAIN. See, it's bad enough when you're looking for a job and getting rejected for paid positions - it's downright devastating when nobody even wants you for free. For freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Eventually, I found a place that happily accepted my experience and abilities. Except volunteering at that place also gave me a clear demonstration of how difficult it is to find a good job, en anglais, in Montreal. And you know, volunteering can only get you so far, intellectually speaking. You put in a few hours, but to really be able to help, to be able to use my brain, I would have to get to know the collection. Spend more than 4 hours a week there. Invest some TIME. But you know, and they know, that as soon as you get a paid position, you will leave them, so is it really worth it to train me up on various systems and whatnot?

It was the winter of my discontent, let me tell you what.

And then that guy my sister has been in love with for 14 years killed himself on the same day my last EI cheque arrived. HUZZAH!

And then after a month of 24 hour a day widow-sitting, I return home to.....no job. No prospects. Business plans in disarray. Even my clients for my half-assed business venture don't return my phone calls these days.

Oh yeah, there are my projects for self-employment that I've been yabbering about for a year and a half now. Those business plans I've sketched out. Budgets I've attempted to work out. Graphic designers I've attempted to hire who put me on their back burner. Graphic designers I have hired who come up with shit for me and tell me they don't understand what I'm asking for -- which is another kind of self-esteem blow because I fancy myself a writer and yet I am unable to communicate what I want, and am ignored by people who said they'd do work for me. AAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

And really, if I am really so gung-ho on Being an Entrepreneur and Starting My Own Business, shouldn't I have done it by now? Because that's the other thing I need to face: I SUCK at self-motivation, and I don't think I actually want to DO this 'roving contract archivist' bullshit plan I had. I think I want to write, but baby, I do not deal well with rejection, and that's what creative shit is all about, right? Being rejected. And then the paranoia creeps in, as being rejected starts to make me think there is a conspiracy out there. Or that there is something so incredibly, inherently, horribly flawed inside of me that it cannot even be named. I want to know WHY I can't get interviews. I want to know what's wrong with me. I want to know why people don't even want me on a volunteer basis.

I've been noting the jobs that the people I graduated from library school have now. One of my friends is earning $20 000 more a year than what I was making at my last job. She's on committees and stuff. She's very busy. It seems stressful. But she's making a name for herself in her professional community and I am sitting here with too much time on my hands. She puts up with stupid committee bullshit, whereas I lose patience and eventually quit those committees. She recently pointed out to me that even though we have the same birthday, she will still always 'be older' or 'more responsible' or something like that because she has children and I don't. I think she was joking - I remember laughing because I'm good at remembering social cues, sometimes - but. well. yeah. I am surrounded by people who are passionate about their jobs/careers/whatever and doing the right things professionally speaking and making babies and MOVING FORWARD in their lives and their careers, while I feel like I am rolling downhill, backwards, no brakes -- and with too much time on my hands.

I AM FALLING APART HERE, PEOPLE.

And no, I am not asking for advice. Please don't give me any.

"Go get your resume checked by a professional." It's in progress, dear reader.

"Write out a schedule, or a list of tasks to do. It will give you a sense of completion once you cross those things off." This is the same fucked up logic I've been told about paying for classes, or declaring something publicly. "If you pay for classes, you HAVE to go to them." "If you let people know about something, you don't want to lose face and fail, do you?" Huh. Actually, I know that in the long run, most people don't give a shit about other people. A lot of people revel in others failures. My living room and kitchen is covered in lists. And my desk. My couch is my new desk because my real desk is covered in papers and books I don't want to deal with right now. I MAKE LISTS ALL THE TIME. But I don't actually follow them. I don't get a sense of satisfaction when I cross something off my list. I thought I would feel better after sending off the book review I have been meaning to do since November, but, well, nope. Just that steady empty non-feeling that seems to have rooted itself permanently in my psyche.

"Get out of the house, go for a walk." And yes, it's true. I do feel better when out of the house. I have even sought comfort in hipster cafés - and found comfort, surrounded by skinny jeans and boys with earnestly ripped sweaters and chunky eyewear. But leaving the house means I have to return to the house, and be confronted yet again with tasks undone.

"One thing at a time." Yes. I finished a book review this morning. I'm about to send my resume out to another potential employer. I have full intentions of getting out of my bathrobe, putting some caffeine inside of me, possibly even some food, and doing some laundry. Also on the list: pay rent, give notice that we will not be renewing our lease.

Because that's another thing. We're moving. To Vancouver. Where I will spend the summer looking for a job AND a place to live (already have a sweet sublet in Kitsilano, thank you sister for having a friend who lives & works elsewhere for 3 months of the year), and that means that I definitely won't have too much time on my hands. I won't have enough time on my hands. So my lollygagging and procrastination is being forced to come to an end, and I'm mourning that, in a way.

Mourn mourn mourn. Mourning the death of H. Mourning the death of a huge chunk of my sister's soul. I am leaving my home -- to make a new home, in a new city, and yes, there is something wonderful and exciting about that -- but I thought that if I was moving to a new city, it would be because me or my fella had an actual job to go to, not because somebody died. But that death facilitated a swift rearrangement of personal priorities, and I'm going to honour that. I'm leaving some great friends. I'm leaving a fantastic neighbourhood. Some of my friends have some very cool children that I won't get to see grow up, and chances are that though I will be missed, the "missing" will become stale, correspondence will go unanswered, we'll all "move on" with our lives, and that will be that.

So yeah, I'm not looking for advice. I am merely wailing into the internet void. Feeling incredibly lonely and detached these days, so I'm resorting to howling through 1s and 0s. I'll get over it. I'll get shit done. I'll probably regret writing this and various other blog entries and erase them, as it's not like I'm hiding myself very well and some clever future employer will find this blog and read it and be horrified at my tendency to overshare. I'll give the landlord the notice she requires. I'll get some exercise. I will eat more vegetables than waffles. I will continue to make social plans with people and I'll continue to try and act cheerful around them because nobody likes a sad sack. And indeed, people pull away from sad sacks in fear and disgust. I've done it. People have done it to me. So I'm trying very hard to not be a sad sack.

But I'm not going to finish all that gin on my own. That would be.... dangerous. Right?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mail-art call: birthday card project.

I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year.
After all I am alive only by accident.

-- from "A Birthday Present" by Sylvia Plath
O Sylvia. Dear sweet dead Sylvia. While I agree that life is largely accidental, I share a different opinion on the receiving of gifts.

I want something substantial this year. I want attention, dammit.

Many sorrows and dismal throes,
Many forms of fish, bird and beast,
Brought forth an infant form
Where was a worm before.

-- from "The Book of Urizen" (Chapter VI) by William Blake

Life is suffering. This is what Buddha tells us. To be born is to suffer.

However, to be born is also to celebrate. Each year of being alive is a brave, grand thing.

My birthday is in April. Help me celebrate my birthday; I'll help you celebrate yours.

Send me a birthday card or postcard. Include your date of birth and return address to receive a card or postcard for your birthday.

(If you want to send a present, I collect fortune cookie fortunes and public transportation tickets -- old bus passes, metro tickets, transfers, etc.)

Please send by April 30, 2009.
Size: Not much larger than 13 x 18 cm (5 x 7 inches)
Postal cards and art envelopes only, please.
There will be no jury and no returns, and all cards will be exhibited online at http://carriecarm.blogspot.com with your name and a link to your website, if you so choose.

Send your post/cards on or before April 30 to:

[address deleted after April]


Thank you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

So, how's that whole 'learning French' thing going for you?

Oh, thanks so much for asking. How thoughtful of you to ask after me.

It's not going well at all.

I dropped my class two months ago, the day after my sister's husband killed himself.

The morning I dropped out, I practiced what to say. I was practicing while in the shower. I was also crying while practicing -- that was the whole point of the practicing, to get to a point where I could say something coherent, without bursting into tears. Some things are hard to say out loud, no matter what language you're using, or how comfortable you are with that language.

I didn't want to use se suicider, or tuer (to kill). Too many details -- I hadn't sorted it out in my brain yet, and the school only needed to know that someone had died and I had to leave my classes.

This was my big opening sentence: "Hier, mon beau-frère est décedé, et je dois partir à Vancouver."
Translation: "My brother-in-law died yesterday, and I must leave for Vancouver."

I spoke these words to the secretary at the office. Her eyes got soft. She said she was sorry to hear that. But that I must speak to the director of the program. For paperwork purposes, of course.

I went down the hall to the director's office. I smiled and apologized for interrupting her. I tried to speak my sentence to her. My big reveal.

She corrected my pronunciation.

I was telling her that my brother-in-law was dead and I had to fly fly fly across the country, and she corrected my pronunciation.

décedé = died
decidé = decided

You see the similarities. The subtleties of accents. But. Context. CONTEXT helps.

I guess I was saying "Yesterday, my brother-in-law decided...."

Or.

Maybe I did say décedé correctly. Maybe I didn't say decidé instead. The immediate interruption and condescending correction of my apparently appalling use of the French language kinda shook me.

I was so confused.

WHY is she correcting my speech while I'm telling her this terrible thing? I got more shaky and stuttery. I explained that la femme dans la bureau told me I should talk to her. She corrected even that, interrupting me to say: "la secrétaire".

Sometimes, in English, the language I am most comfortable expressing myself, sometimes I forget words. I could see myself saying "the woman in the office" instead of the word "secretary". I could see people around me understanding who I'm talking about. But only an asshole would interrupt me and say "secretary" like I'm, well --- I was going to say like a retard. But mentally handicapped people shouldn't be spoken to and treated like they are stupid. Because they're not.

She spoke to me in a manner to which I have become accustomed. Living in Montreal has meant that I've become used to being treated like shit. (Not that everyone is an asshole, not AT ALL. I've had many pleasant encounters with strangers in French. But the bad ones seem to stick with a sturdier emotional glue.)

I get constant interruptions from others when I am trying to stutter out a sentence. I have had my pronunciation corrected by strangers. I have been laughed at in stores and by government representatives. I have had the person I am speaking to immediately switch to English when they detect that I am having problems. I have been in customer service situations where the other person just stops talking to me and won't answer my questions.

So the fact that while I was trying to tell someone that there had been a death in my family, she was busy trying to 'improve' my ability to speak the French language -- this was not really a surprise to me. Not really. It was not a surprise, but it was devastating nonetheless.

I have spent an unhealthy amount of time in the past two months going over that little scene in her office, desperately wishing for a time machine so that I could go back and bark out the French equivalent of:

My sister's husband just killed himself.
I have to leave classes. I don't know when I'll be back.
Can I do the exams at the end of February to get into Level 3.

I also wish for a time machine so that I could go back and not do the smiling, friendly, keeping-it-together act. Instead, I would allow the tears to flow freely, I would walk into her office with my face covered in snot and saltwater, I would blubber, I would shake, I would wail. I would not even attempt to talk to her in French. I would be hysterical. I would give her an interesting, tragic scene she could talk about with friends, family and colleagues.

I think I might have gotten more sympathy if I hadn't been concentrating so hard on keeping myself together. At least a fucking "I'm sorry for your loss." Instead of a speech on how important it is to master at least the first 3 levels of French and how it would be impossible for me to not get lost if I was to go into Level 3. But the whole experience fucked with my head -- did she say she was sorry? Did I miss it because I miss a lot of what people say to me in French? Why do I even care if some grumpy middle-aged lady isn't capable of muttering various social niceties or showing sympathy?

So instead of sitting in a classroom for 4 hours a day, I have been trying to watch dubbed versions of C.H.I.P.S. and La femme bionique. But it's not really working. I don't really concentrate. I just wait for the parts where Lindsay Wagner does her slow motion running with that "ch-ch-ch" soundtrack, and then I do the slow-motion running along with her and change the channel. That's fun. And C.H.I.P.S. will never be the same once my husband dude pointed out that the shots of the cops on their motorbikes are weird because clearly they are being hauled around on a trailer.

Some guy on the street handed me a coupon for a new hair salon in my neighbourhood. I tried to joke with him about getting my hair done (dreadlocks seem to inspire horror in some hair professionals) but I had NO idea what he was saying to me. So I ran away, in slow motion, à la femme bionique.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

everyone's a winner baby that's no lie.

Okay. Maybe that is a lie. But I am. Or was. I was a winner. I won something. Last summer/fall I went online contest crazy and entered damn near every contest I could find. But I didn't win anything. Until now.

All the way back in January, I won a painting from the nice folks over at DiPoe. They held onto my blondified work of art until I got back from Vancouver; it arrived in the mail....last week? The week before? Right now it is sitting on top of a pile of pamplemousse's photographic prints. Art likes art.

It was well packaged and wrapped in plastic. Actually, it's still wrapped in plastic, and it's a damn good thing that it is because pamplemousse dumped an ashtray on it the other day (accidentally, of course. or so he tells me.). It will find its way onto a wall sometime soon. I can be quite slow about these things. But in the meantime, I will be more careful about the contents of ashtrays and their proximity to destroyable things.

Thank you kind DiPoe artist people. I am very pleased to have won a real, live work of art.

I found out about the DiPoe contest via another blog I like to look at/read: Oh Honestly Erin. She is funny. And she writes cool stories to go with her paintings. And she makes cool photographs. She's having a contest right now, at this very moment - she's giving away a bathroom plaque. Of course, I want to win it, and I hope I do, but maybe you would like to win it too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

49 days later.

In Tibetan Buddhism (& Buddhism in general, but I'm just temporarily talking Tibetan here), it is believed that it takes 49 days for a soul to get to where it's going. Also known as a bardo, or transitional state. So for 49 days, a person is prayed for.

It's been 49 days since my brother-in-law died.

He chose to take his own life.
He committed suicide.
He killed himself.

Self-inflicted violence ending in death.

Saying the words. Writing the words. Doesn't make it better. Doesn't make it go away. No polite euphemism works for me, for telling what happened. He committed a most grievous indignity upon himself. And everything is different now. Everything.

I could say it bluntly - describe exactly what he did - because we know how/where/when. But I'm not gonna. I think I sent out too many emails with too many details when this was all very fresh. Sometimes people just don't want to know, you know? But then there's people like me - I like details. I want to know everything. But that's just me. You can use your own imagination, if you like. I've discovered the hard way that I have to be very careful about 'details'. Some people out there in the world have no idea about boundaries. They ask all sorts of inappropriate questions. Which made me realize that I need to set some of my own boundaries.

And I'm having problems with that. It's like I have no will of my own.

There were a couple of kids over here recently and one of them wanted to trim the wig of one of my dolls (long story, but I have a wicked cool child-sized mannequin that I like very much). I didn't want her to cut the wig, because the wig doesn't grow back, but I told her to go ahead and sat by quietly as she fucked up my doll's hair. I told her that it's okay because I need to get a new wig for her anyway. Before the trim, I thought her hair looked kind of funny, but I hate her hair now. It looks horrible. But I couldn't tell her to stop. Didn't tell her to stop. Even gave her permission. I got out of my chair and walked across the room to get the scissors for her. Put them in her hands.

So.

My brother-in-law killed himself seven weeks ago.

I'm having problems making decisions about things. I see now where people become vulnerable when they are grieving or going through a traumatic shock. My husband person is worried about leaving me behind while he goes to work -- he has to leave the province, and he won't be back for a couple of months. So it's not like he's just leaving me for a few hours. And, well, he should be worried. I let small children play beautyschooldropout with expensive doll wigs. I haven't been eating. And when I do eat, it's disgusting: chips. pop. chocolate. ice cream. hamburgers with processed cheese. Even right now as I wrote "processed cheese" I'm thinking of a big fat jar of cheez whiz and how disgustingly wonderful it would taste right now. I already have plans - as soon as pamplemousse leaves, I will be haunting my local Jewish bakery. I will be the junkie in the doorway, waiting for my fix of chocolate, cream puffs, cheesecake.

I haven't been hydrating myself either. My lips are chapped. I've been letting myself get dehydration headaches. I have one right now. Today: one glass of water, three cups of coffee. I am deliberately trying to fuck with my kidneys, I think. How's that for a little post-suicide trauma self-destruction. Call me Textbook Case.

I have difficulties making eye contact with people. (Well, I've always had that problem. But I've noticed that I can't even do it with friends anymore. I remind myself to make eye contact when speaking with people these days. So far, I think it's working, but I might just be some weird French Panic sized doll who is laughing when other people laugh and smiling when other people smile who is making everyone around her very uncomfortable.)

And I'm worried that when I speak, I will say something inappropriate or I will start talking and won't be able to stop. I've seen the uncomfortable glances. It's not my imagination.

I sit on the edge of the bed and stare off into space for long minutes, which could turn into hours, but my husband person reminds me that we need to eat or I need to get dressed or I need to do something.

I feel like I'm in the wrong place right now. I should be somewhere else. I should be back in Vancouver with my sister. I don't know what I'm doing here. Phone calls and emails are not the same, and things are becoming more and more distorted. Miscommunications abound.

I fixate on things I maybe shouldn't fixate on. I was telling a friend about this problem. I keep on thinking about all the people who HAVEN'T sent their condolences my way. I want condolences.

My friend tells me that everyone deals with death differently. (I know this. Still it is comforting to be reminded of such a thing. Because my head ain't working right these days.)

My friend tells me that she knows that if something like this happened to her, she would want to be left alone; she wouldn't want to get cards/phone calls/emails.

And I asked her "How can you possibly know until it happens? You THINK you know how you will react. But you never know until it actually happens."

So I think there are a lot of people out there who don't know what to do. I KNOW there are a lot of people who don't know what to do. So in not knowing what to do, they do nothing. I think that is very very sad. Pathetic. Lame. Stupid.

My friend tells me that with something like this, she would want to stay away. Not interfere. Leave the griever alone. Tell the griever something like "If you need anything, let me know. I'm here for you."

But. I asked for help when I needed help and the help didn't come. The help was promised. But it never came. However, intellectually, I know that the help didn't come because the people offering the help were also fucked up. But here, now, back home, in Montreal, I don't know what to do. I don't want to call people up to "hang out." I know I'm not quite right, and pamplemousse is not quite right, and it isn't pleasant to be around people who have to fight off tears in public places.

The fact is: someone I liked very much died. Someone I LOVED died. The man that my sister made a forever commitment to died. That death has left my sister messed up. Fucked up. It's fucked up a lot of people. Death does that.

And yes. He died horribly. He died painfully - clearly there was some mental pain going on there, and the method of death that he chose means that there was physical pain involved too. And because it was a suicide, it makes things just that much more horrible. He has left hundreds of people messed up. And he left the person closest to him in a very fragile, dangerous, scary place.

And now, 49 days later, things are not better. In some ways, things are worse. Much, much worse. Everything has changed now. My sister has changed. Her friends and his friends have changed. My parents have changed. His mother has changed. I have changed. My pamplemousse has changed. Everything is different now.

Time heals all wounds. Ha ha ha. Suicide is a wound that never completely heals. My apologies for the clichés, but seriously. That fucker of a wound is going to fester and fester and get better then fester then get infected then develop an abscess then heal a little but it will always be sore.

But just so you know, just in case someone you know experiences the suicide of someone in their life (don't ask questions like "were you close?" because that question deserves a "fuck you.") ACKNOWLEDGE IT. This is serious stuff, people. It is really scary to have your reality completely distorted, and it's nice to know people are thinking about you. More than nice; it's fucking vital. Let the person you are thinking about KNOW that you are thinking about them. They might not return your phone call(s) or email(s) or card(s) or letter(s) right away, or ever.

But please believe me when I tell you that your silence will be noticed. Even in the holymuthrfuc wanna puke wanna scream [you do scream and it feels good but its fine effects are temporary] times -- well, when those times pass -- there is a remarkable clarity. But also that vague 'well, i feel like I'm going crazy but it feels so normal so maybe i'm not thinking things through' feeling. At the same time as the clarity. Which makes everything unreal. New realities. Crystal clear unpleasant reality. So folks like me -- we fixate on the absences. They are noted. I hate that I do this, but I do. I tally my grudges.

This terrible thing happened and it needs to be acknowledged.

This man who is now dead, he was a beautiful man. And I know everyone says things like that after someone dies. He was flawed - yes. Yes indeed. I'm not saying he was perfect, because he wasn't. Nobody is. But he was sincerely, seriously, the very last person I would ever suspect would kill himself -- for most of the time I knew him, for most of the past fourteen years, he was Mr. Positivity. He was a generous, loving man. A highly intelligent, thoughtful man who took friendship very seriously. He was also physically beautiful - movie star handsome, he had done some modeling and appeared in a movie (yep, he had his own IMDB page), and now he is gone forever.

He left my sister - this really clever, remarkable generous loving woman - in the worst possible way.

49 days later. I'm very sad.

Monday, March 16, 2009

purge.

Last week I deleted two facebook friends from my facebook account. It felt good. Real good. It felt so good that later that day I deleted the rest of my facebook friends and closed down the account. Well, deactivated it. I think there is a more permanent way of eradicating one's facebook activities, but in my flurry of gleeful erasing, I didn't bother to research all of my options. I just wanted to be done with it.

Other things I have purged in the past couple of weeks:

My address book. Deleting people I haven't contacted in a couple of years & deleting people I have contacted, but who can't be bothered to write/call me back. Also the people I can't be bothered to write/call back. I am no innocent.

My music collection. This meant erasing crap from my iTunes that was taking up valuable computer memory, as well as various CDs. Gone. Done. Ahhhh.

My book collection. The pamplemousse and I went through all of our books and we now have piles of books throughout the kitchen and living room that visitors are welcome to pillage. And which they do pillage.

I got rid of all of my notes from university a few months ago. I'm not sure why I was holding on to those things. Because they cost so much money? Probably. Because I thought I would get a job interview and would need to review the principles of cataloguing or the Rules of Archival Description? (RAD - one of my least favourite acronyms. It makes me cringe to think of the high-fives and the "ha! clever!"s that must have been going on in the room whenever some archivist person came up with that one.)

Unfortunately, in my purging purgeathon, I deleted a recent blog post. It caused a problem with one of my family members, so I deleted it. But the actual deletion of the blog post caused a problem with another one of my family members. ("Hey! Why'd you take that post down?") So. I can't please all of the people all of the time, but I can please some people some of the time. I'm okay with that. I put the post back up. I don't think it's so controversial. But I'm learning valuable lessons on the repercussions of putting my opinions & feelings Out There. French Panic is Growing Up.

On Friday, I happened to catch a few minutes of Oprah. Her and her roundtable of bleached teeth, baggy-eyed celebrities were talking about how awesome facebook is and how it is such a great tool to reconnect with people.

I know a lot of people see facebook as The Great Re-connector. But why did you lose contact with someone in the first place? Sure, sometimes people "lose" contact, I guess. Amnesia, random kidnappings, bankruptcy scandals and witness protection programs where you are forced to lose contact with those you once cared about. I think most people make a conscious decision to cease contact. "Oh, I should phone so-and-so back..... but I don't really like them, and talking to her is such a downer....." so you "forget" to phone someone back.

You move away and "forget" to let certain people know your new phone number or mailing address.

You get a phone call from one of your best friends one day - unfortunately, she calls on a day when you are dealing with the realization that you think you are clinically depressed AND you happen to be completely stoned - she tells you that her son was born last week and it was really touch-and-go but now things look fine. And then you bawl/sob/heave for a good hour after that phone call because she lives so far away and you thought she was going to die (yes, it's true, kids: people still have really terrible, horrible pregnancies and people can still die in childbirth... or almost die, in the case of 2 of my friends) and you are in your thirties and earning $9 an hour and have very little money and you're so far away from everyone you ever cared about and you wanted to be there but you couldn't. And then you find out many months later, after you have made many phone calls and sent many emails and sent gifts only to never hear from her - you find out that she thought you didn't give the proper amount of excitement over the birth of her son -- you didn't make all the right noises (maybe because you were having, um, suicidal thoughts and were really confused about a lot of things in life and didn't want to tell your friend with the newborn baby that you have been thinking that life is not worth living) and so she decided to shut down 15 years of friendship because you didn't squeal with joy when she called that one hot spring day.

Or maybe you are visiting another friend, and you haven't seen her in a year, and you bring along a CD of reggae music for her reggae-loving 4 year old, and you bring along a novel you finished reading recently that you thought your friend would really like, and she gives you a strange look when you hand over the novel and she asks "why are you giving this to me?" and you mumble something about how much you loved it and how one of the characters reminded you of her and then later you think about how you are always the one to call, you are the one who remembers her birthday and how she seemed so put out to receive gifts you had spent some time and money on -- and you decide not to contact her again. And she has clearly made the same decision because you never hear from her again either.

I think that if you want someone in your life, you make an effort to have them in your life. Sometimes, sure, one loses contact. One loses address books, or loses the slip of paper with someone's new phone number..... but if you really want to get in touch with that person, you will find a way. But usually, somewhere along the human relationship continuum, someone makes a conscious decision to not stay in contact.

I don't buy the "Oh, I'm so terrible at staying in contact with people!" yelping whine excuse that so many people use. Priorities. We all have our priorities. Unfortunately, I have had a tendency, in the past, to take seriously the promise of "Let's keep in touch!" But I see things differently now. Where once there was consistent distortion, now there is an abundance of lucidity.

Monday, March 09, 2009

ma soeur.

ok.

I realize I'm not being so good at this "uh, French Panic is on hiatus" thing. Other people go on hiatus and it's a hiatus that lasts for a while. Me, I seem to go 2 weeks. Or 2 days. But I have discovered the joy in turning off the 'comments' aspect of this blogging thing. Encouraging open dialogue? Fostering a sense of community? Whatever.

And it's not like I have a public to answer to - there aren't thousands of people aching to read my every word. Or hundreds. Or dozens. You - reading this right now? YOU ARE SPECIAL.

With the recent catastrophic events in my life, I have been emailing and talking to people I haven't talked to in years (some) and have noticed that a lot of these people don't bother to read to the end of my emails. Or even the beginning of them. I wrote to a friend while I was in Edmonton and told her/him, first sentence: "I'm in Edmonton right now and am returning to Montreal tomorrow." This was just a short little email. A paragraph. A few sentences, at most.

And then he/she asked: "So, how long are you staying in Edmonton? Will you be back in Montreal soon?"

I picture people opening up their email accounts and rolling their eyes when they see my name in their inbox. Instinctively reaching for that 'delete' button.

In a recent email to an aunt, I told her how I had found her daughter/my cousin's flickr account a few months ago and how eerie it was to see how much she looked like her mom -- and her (our) grandma. And to see how much another one of her kids looked exactly like his dad. My aunt responded with the address to my cousin's account and urged me to "check it out someday - you might be curious to see how the kids you used to babysit turned out!"

Uh.

So. I realize it's a chore for people I know/love to sift through my monster long emails, (and it's still embarrassing for me to admit to myself the number of times I have sent - and still send, sadly - handwritten letters and received no reply.... I seem to take this "let's keep in touch!" thing much too seriously, and big props to pamplemousse for listening to me whine about it all the time - that dude puts up with a LOT of whining) and it causes me to wonder what sort of sick vanity is gripping me that I've been doing this damn blog thing for close to 3 years now?

I was at a meeting a couple of months ago - all persons present happen to have blogs - and one person was complimenting another on her recent postings and how enjoyable they are -- and my selfish self was sitting there quietly (stuffing chocolates past their due-date into my cake hole) but internally screeching "AND WHAT ABOUT MYYYYYYYY BLOG???????"

Selfish. Vain. Uppity attention whore. Oui, c'est moi. But then there are the Chosen Few who do bother with me - who do seem to give a rat's ass about my ramblings. And that gives my selfish-vain-attention-seeking-self some sort of solace.

Like my sister, the person who has named herself my #1 fan.

My sister, to whom I owe my love of Love & Rockets, Prince, the Police, David Bowie, the Cure, the English Beat.

My sister, who sends me emails telling me how much she laughed over whatever blog post, or who leaves a comment once in a while.

My sister, who makes True Statements such as this while we were recently watching Pretty in Pink: "James Spader should have won an Oscar for his performance in this movie."

And of course, she's right.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

mon mari.

When I was in Vancouver recently, I met a lot of my sister's & her husband's friends for the very first time. These were people whose names I had heard, and some who had stories attached to their names, but I met them in the flesh for the first time. Same thing for them. I know many of them had heard about me, but I was still brand new.

I was standing in a parking lot with one of these new friends, idly chatting while we waited for my sister, and this new person said something along the lines of "wow, you sure are different from your sister."

Yes. Well. And I said something along the lines of "Yes. Well. I know we look different (we don't, actually, I cannot tell you how many times in the last month people have needed to remark on how it is so obvious we are related), but there's a lot about us that is the same."

I am different from my sister in that I am half a foot taller than her. And I weigh about 80 pounds more than her. Yes, I feel like Goliath next to her wee self.
I am different from my sister in that I have dreadlocks. She doesn't.
I am different from my sister in that I don't like Neil Young.
I am different from my sister in that I would prefer to listen to tired ol' run-of-the-mill classic rock rather than classical music. Bach & Mozart are alright, but I prefer AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, if given a choice.
I am different from my sister in that we travel in different social & financial circles.
I am different from my sister in that I don't have as many friends. My sister is a self-admitted people-pleaser, I am a self-admitted people-disappointer.

But we are the same in many ways. I really don't see too much of a difference. She just has a smaller clothing size than I do. She speaks Japanese, I'm good at smiling & nodding. No big deal.

However, there are things about me that make me "different" in general, not just "different" in comparison to my sister.

One of these things is that I have a huge, and I mean HUGE, problem with the institution of marriage. To me, it makes absolutely no sense to have to pay the government some money to tell you that NOW you are legally & socially recognized as husband and wife. However, I understand that for a lot of people, getting married IS a huge deal.

But here is the big difference: I respect that a lot of people make this bizarre choice to sign a paper and call themselves husband & wife (or husband & husband, or wife & wife, or spouses, or partners, or whatever they choose to call themselves). I even buy them presents. Send them cards. Travel long distances to attend their weddings.

But a lot of people don't respect my choice to recognize the man I have spent the last 9 years of my life with as 'my husband.'

We have not had a wedding.
We have not registered.
We have not signed some papers.
We have not exchanged rings.
We have not purchased a wedding license.

But still, I've taken to calling him my husband lately. With the last couple rounds of French school, actually. I call him "mon mari." My husband. I used to call him "mon conjoin", but in the last year or so, I call him "my husband."

In Vancouver, I constantly introduced my husband as "my husband, ---." This caused confusion. Once, he answered the phone and identified himself as my sister's brother-in-law, and the person on the phone said "Oh, I didn't realize Frenchie had gotten married! Congratulations!"

Or, I would hear him being referred to as "French's boyfriend" from various family members.

Can I tell you this? Yes, here it is: Pamplemousse and I have intended to get married for a couple of years now. Not because of the romance, but because of the practicality. It is commonly understood that common-law marriages are granted the same rights and privileges as government sanctioned marriages. This is not true. It is especially not true in Quebec, where I have had heated arguments with people about this. Just because Quebec has a higher number of common-law relationships does NOT mean that your common-law husband will be allowed to make decisions for you if you are on life-support. Or that if you die and don't have a will, your belongings will go to him. It's not true. I have looked into it.

So, why haven't we married if we have been "planning": to do so? Many reasons.

One reason is that I am terrified of all French language bureaucracy, and I am too nervous and shy to talk to someone in French. And Pamplemousse -- well, I don't know why he hasn't gone to the local notary, so I can't speak for him. He knows my terror of dealing in French. I think he's just tired of my terror and is waiting for me to "get over it". We both have really terrible procrastination problems. It's easy to put off doing things that we don't want to do.

But my main reason is that I resent having to spend approximately $300 to make it happen. It costs half that in other provinces. I resent the fact that we have to wait 20 days to get married once we apply for a marriage license here. (Archaic church laws apply even for a civil ceremony.) I resent the fact that once it is known that we are "legally married", friends will expect a party of some sort. Family knickers will be twisted because siblings and parents weren't "invited". There will continue to be some sort of family/social shame associated with the union of French Panic & Pamplemousse because clearly there is something wrong with them for not wanting to make a big deal out of something they decided NINE YEARS AGO. Okay, EIGHT years ago. I had always told my friends and family that if I ever moved in with someone, that would be the equivalent of marriage to me. But many of them forgot that. Strange little French Panic. So quaint with her adolescent ideals.

So adorable that her cute little "must not be serious" relationship has lasted longer than many of the marriages of her friends and cousins.

In one of my French classes, I sort of made friends with a fellow, and even though I had talked about mon mari, this new friend clearly forgot that I had said I was married, and defaulted to the fact I don't wear a wedding ring (actually, I do wear a wedding ring, it's my great-grandmother's wedding ring, but I wear it on the 'wrong' hand. And Pamplemousse and I do have rings, we just don't wear them on our 'wedding fingers'.) and so this guy started talking about my boyfriend. I even corrected him. Mon mari - and the guy kind of laughed and continued referring to my husband as son chum.

I think this is weird that so many people have a problem with referring to people by how they choose to be referred to. It's weird, but more importantly, it's downright rude. If my biological family cannot even recognize 'my husband', what hope is there for the rest of the world?

I'm reading a book right now about transgender issues in history, and I realize that in the context of gender politics, my annoyance at not having my husband referred to by others as my husband --- well, it's a relatively small annoyance when there are people out there that aren't readily recognized as the gender they identify with.

But it still rankles.

Especially when mon mari was right there with my biological family as we dealt with the aftermath of the horrible, violent death of my sister's husband -- and he felt like a useless third wheel because his position in the family was stuttered over more often than any of my family would probably want to admit.

Titles. Proper names. It all gives me such a terrible, terrible headache.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

hot damn.

it's only a matter of minutes now before I become an internet sensation. You can see AND hear me ranting over on the pamplemousse's blog.

He says it's my internet video debut, but I've put myself on the internet before. Lip-synching, not ranting, so it's not the same, but still.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

still hiatusing.

This post is still in effect.

I got a little wild there with my previous post and my previous-to-my-previous post, what with the ranting and yowling and whatnot.

I'm in Vancouver, and I was telling a Vancouverite the other day how much I have been enjoying the weather compared to all the snow in Montreal (last week was nothing but blue skies and not having to wear my winter coat) and he said "yeah well, except for today" and with 'today' being yesterday in fact, it was kinda cloudy and kinda drizzly and it was kinda awesome. Could also have something to do with finding a café in Yaletown that is not part of a chain and knows how to make a cappuccino. And also has the friendliest service ever. I was THANKED when I put money in their tip jar. I always used to thank people for that when I worked in a café. But often it is just ignored by whatever sad grumpy cafe worker whose day I am trying to brighten. A simple thank you can mean quite a bit.

Why is it that everywhere I go, everyone ALWAYS complains about the weather? Is it a Canadian thing? Or a human thing? It's so strange. Complain complain complain complain. Surely there are more interesting things to complain about than the weather, that thing we have no control over.

Today it rained quite a bit, but the sunset was pretty from what I could see in False Creek, and all these glass buildings in downtown Vancouver look like a mysterious faery town after dark.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

how are you?

At some point in my long, painful adolescence, I decided that the question "How are you?", usually uttered as a greeting by us North Americans

Hi, how are you
Hey, howya doin
Hello howz it goin

was ridiculously inappropriate in many situations. I thought it was an incredibly personal question, and I made a conscious decision to stop asking it, unless I truly wanted to know how a person was doing.

The usual is:
Hey! Howya doin?
Good, good, you?

Or some sort of variation.

My version went something like this:

Someone: Hey, how are you?
Me: Fine, thank you.
[vague uncomfortable silence as I didn't respond in kind with the same damn question.]

And I still felt weird about answering with a "fine, thank you" because often, things are not fine. And I generally try hard to not tell lies. Even those little white lies that are supposedly harmless.

Yeah, yeah - I know. It's just a greeting. A figure of speech. A customary something or other.

But what's wrong with just a hello and a smile? Especially in those stupid customer service situations. Like the other day, at the grocery store, some overly friendly dingleballs cashier asked me "So, how's your day going?" And my day? WAS NOT GOING WELL. NOT VERY WELL AT ALL THANK YOU.

But I didn't want to get into it. So I lied. "It's good, thank you." What's the point of saying "oh, it's the total shits - but I don't want to talk about it. Ask me no questions I'll tell you no lies." I've been honest before and then felt bad about bumming a clueless idiot out. I'm wired poorly that way. I worry too much about what other people think. I'm working on it. But I really hate lying. But I'm also not into bringing everyone I come into contact with into the current horror movie that is my life and the lives of those I love.

Unfortunately, my lie somehow began a very one sided conversation as my cashier then wanted to know if I was walking or driving, and I mumbled something about visiting my family and then he wanted to know where I was from oh yes lots of language problems in Montreal and then he went off into a very long winded, excited tirade about French Arabian history and Palestine and how Americans are all fucking nuts (same shit, different colour -- reference to Obama -- nice) and Zion something or other while I am emphatically extending my credit card to pay for Vancouver-priced groceries (totally insane prices, if you're curious) and starting to get panicky as he JUST WON'T SHUT UP and he's looking at my boobs while going on about Israelis and I am nodding and smiling because MY DAY WAS NOT GOING WELL and I didn't trust myself to not start screaming at him (or for my eyes to spontaneously do some projectile leaking) if I opened my mouth to ask him to please just stop stop stop and it's not his fault he has no manners and and and (well, maybe it is his fault. But I've been under a wee bit of stress lately so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm all, like, generous and stuff about, like, stuff like that.)

But here is a lesson for you all.

HOW ARE YOU DOING is one of the worst questions you can ask when someone fiercely, strongly loved has just died a very violent death. And I'm pretty fucking stunned at how many people keep on asking it. All. The. Time. Especially the ones who know the situation. It makes for awkward phone conversations. Nowadays, a "Hi, how are you?" brings on a deadly stifling silence each and every time. Except for the times when someone wails "WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THAT?"

Aw, I'm peachy keen jellybean! Each day is getting better and better! Woo hoo joy & light!

The day of a funeral is NOT the "hardest" day. It's not like emotions immediately start flying on an upward trajectory and there is 'closure'.

Fuck closure.

And fuck the fuckers who talk about 'closure'. Who's the dipshit who came up with that gem?

And you know, grief doesn't manifest at all times. Sometimes there are moments of non-stop giggling at crazy trashy reality shows and totally inappropriate shared bleak dark humour. And there's the knowledge that it's probably good to maintain some sort of daily routine. Like buying groceries. Because even when grieving, even when random flashes of horrid crystal clear imagery flit through your mind, even when you have intestine twisting moments of realizing holy shit he is really gone forever and ever and ever, you still need to eat.

Maybe someone whose life has just instantly changed forever, and maybe someone caring for another person whose life has just radically changed forever, maybe they need to just go outside, go out in public, go through the motions of buying groceries, running errands, getting stuff done, well.......maybe the grief - the sickening emotional what.the.fucks hitting you at random times - maybe they're kind of scary and going out in public takes on the surreal twisted fear of collapsing into tears or spewing bitter rage but maybe, maybe that grief isn't so clearly written on their face (or maybe it is manifesting itself as cold sores and tired, tired eyes) - and maybe that person with the tired, tired eyes is smiling at you because maybe they need to smile at someone and say hi, maybe they need to go through the motions of normalcy in order to hold onto a vague semblance of 'regular life'. Smiles don't mean someone wants to talk and talk and talk and talk.

Someone who is having a really bad day, as in tremendously bad day, as in REALLY REALLY bad day in a non-stop string of bad days, someone might actually be somewhat decent at looking 'normal' or 'going through the motions' with convincing 'normal' energy. Not everyone having a bad day LOOKS like they are having a bad day.

I suggest: only ask someone "how are you?" if you are willing to hear the answer. And baby, the answer just might not be so pretty.

Think before you speak. Think hard. You might save someone from writing a blog post, lord knows we don't need more rambling blog posts in the world.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

french panic suddenly not so panicky about speaking french.

I know there are a few people out there who read this really awesome super blog regularly or semi-regularly, and you might be one of them. If so, please be advised that due to a family emergency, French School Confidential is on an indefinite hiatus. If you would like to be notified if/when it resumes, feel free to subscribe, either through email or through a feed reader (handy buttons for such a thing are there to your right).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Library school: stupid group work with awful people.

That's a direct quote from someone I went to library school with. Well, no. I didn't go to library school with him. We attended the same library school at approximately the same time. But I didn't really talk to him while I was there -- I was too busy muttering angrily to myself and weeping quietly in the washroom to talk to anyone, really -- but we are bosom buddies now.

No, we're not really bosom buddies, but we go to the same French school. Anyway, me and my not-bosom-buddy-but-definitely-buddy-nonetheless met ANOTHER former library schoolmate a few weeks ago for brunch. I know. I'm totally popular with the library school crowd, right?

And I guess it's not really a DIRECT quote. I'm pretty sure I'm paraphrasing.

Okay, so at this brunch, he successfully summarized my feelings about library school EXACTLY when he described it as "stupid group work with awful people."

There was someone in my French class who was recently accepted to the same library school I went to. He wanted to know how the program was. And "stupid group work with awful people" would have been the perfect response instead of my stammering "uh, well...... I don't like school ...... I dunno if I'm a good person to ask..... and I was only in library school because I didn't know what else to do....... and ....... uh..........".

So. All you people who are out there preparing your library school applications, this is what is in your future: Lots of stupid group work, and lots of awful people.

Oh, and if you are male, and looking for action, and like ladies who like cats - library school is the place for you. I think the majority of the males in my class hooked up a lot. At least from what I observed. And I am a keen observer. Two of them even scored wives out of the whole thing. So. Yeah:

Library school: where awful people get married.
Library school: stupid group work that gets you laid.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ainsi point de vieillesse, ni de dangers: la terreur n'est pas française.

And so, no old age, and no danger: fear is not a French emotion.
- Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell

A week ago, I rambled on about how I wanted to be taught more PRACTICAL things in French. (Yep, I'm going about this language thing in a terribly passive way, wanting to be taught instead to actively seek out and LEARN LEARN LEARN.)

Today, I want poetry.

Pssst. Here's a secret. French Panic Industries is hard at work, filming a documentary about my idiot ways of learning French. Yep, you might see me on the teevee someday. You can witness my irritating habit of peeling the skin off my lips when I'm thinking about something, and hear me prattling about my apparent learning block when it comes to French.

Long story short: I've been asked some seemingly innocent questions that have left me in a dreadful Kirkegaardian tailspin. WHY am I in Montreal, severely underemployed yet still saddled with grotesquely large student loans and not trying harder to solve the debt vs. need-to-travel-to-foreign-lands thing? WHY am I trying to learn French? WHY am I not trying harder to learn French? WHY don't I move somewhere where the getting-a-job-thing would be easier?

Except. Ha ha ha ha. I HAVE been applying for jobs in cities where the default language is English, not French. And I haven't heard a thing. I'm not professionally desireable in either language, and it's killing me. Ha ha ha.

Okay, all I wanted to say is that I think we should maybe be learning poetry in class. Oh right.... and I mentioned the film because, on camera, I become acutely aware of what I am saying. Like yesterday, I found myself being pretentious: "But I really want to learn French so I can read Amélie Nothomb in the original - and French poetry. Yeah, totally. French poetry."

But could I remember the name of a French poet? Nooooooooooo. I knew exactly which book I was talking about, where it was on my book shelf, but I couldn't remember the title or who wrote it. So I mumbled something about Baudelaire before I remembered that I haven't read any Baudelaire, and I was sounding like Claire in The Breakfast Club, when she got all condescending about Molière.

The point I am trying to make is that Rimbaud's A Season in Hell has some great examples of passé composé usage. And if I'm not learning the practical things I want to learn in class, I would like to be learning beautiful things. To give me hope that there is more to learning French beyond the pedestrian practicalities of job-hunting.

But I must do my own bit in this French-learning thing. Can't just go to class. So I'll add a dash of Rimbaud to my irregular viewings of culturally bizarre educational shows for kids. I vow to rent me some low-brow gore-fest Québécois horror movies. I will stop skipping classes.

It's all gonna work out juuuuust fiiiiiiiiiiiiine:

J'ai appelé les bourreaux pour, en périssant, mordre la crosse de leurs fusils. J'ai appelé les fléaux, pour m'étouffer avec le sable, le sang. Le malheur a été mon dieu. Je me suis allongé dans la boue. Je me suis séché à l'air du crime. Et j'ai joué de bons tours à la folie.

I called up executioners in order to bite their gun-butts as I died. I called up plagues, in order to suffocate myself with sand and blood. Bad luck was my god. I stretched myself out in the mud. I dried myself in the air of crime. And I played some fine tricks on madness.


The above is near the beginning of A Season in Hell. Rimbaud wrote it when he was 19. He became bored with creative writing shortly thereafter.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I think maybe French class would be more interesting if

So, in level 2, we are taught the vocabulary and a standard call-and-response type thing for if we are late for a class, or if we miss a class. I missed the bus, my alarm didn't go off, there was a suicide in the metro, my kid was sick, I had a medical appointment, etc.

It might be useful to also learn how to tell people "Oh, so sorry I missed class yesterday, I was gripped by painful uterine cramps."

"I didn't go to class yesterday because I can't stop crying lately, and I know it makes other people uncomfortable to see a steady stream of tears leaking from my eyes, so I opted to stay away."

"I was late for class/didn't come to class because I am feeling emotionally fragile/I couldn't find my painkillers/my drug dealer didn't show last night/I feel like there is no point to any of this/I ran out of scotch while writing cover letters and readjusting my resume for jobs I don't even want/there is a constant replay in my head of all the stupid backhanded compliments people have given me over the years and I can't get them to shut the FUCK up!!!"

That sort of vocabulary might be useful. But probably not. Too much information, I suppose. I think it might lead to more interesting conversation topics if people were honest with their 'excuses'. Maybe not.

Monday, January 19, 2009

je suis tombé dans la rue. Or, another unfinished blog entry.

translation:
I fell in the street.

Today in class we reviewed the good ol' passé composé. So I'm all up on my past tense. And yes, I'm going to take the phrase "past tense" and get all symbolic and shit on yer ass. Wait, that came out wrong. I'm not going to shit on your ass. I'm gettin all symbolic & shit. I'm street. And I fall in the street.

Okay.
Past tense.

In the past, I have been very tense when it comes to French classes. This time, not so much. I even had one of those minor epiphany-type moments while walking home today: I like my class. I like that every day from 8h30 to 12h55, I don't have to do complicated things like figure out how to make money, or research things that may or may not lead to money, or think about my future, really. I'm all "in the moment" and "gettin my buddha on" and "overusing quotation marks" and "fighting the urge to type in all capitals, which I seem to do a lot lately."

I like the people in my class - it's a small one, 16 or so people, and most people seem pretty happy to be there, and my usual cynical self is cruising along on a very low gear - I've been mostly successful in keeping her muzzled.

I haven't fallen asleep in class yet. That's a good sign. I've been late 2 out of 4 classes, but that's just normal, for me. I haven't skipped yet - also a good sign.

Here is what I know:

I know I will probably never be completely, totally, reading/writing/speaking bilingual. I still learn new English words, or

------------------------------------------------

I wrote the above on January 9, the fourth day of French classes. Attempt #5 at improving my French. And to be super technical, the 3rd time starting at level 2. I know the passé composé. And whenever I look at my Bescherelle (the most important French verb tense conjugation textbook that ever there was), I have fleeting memories of once knowing the differences and when to use the imparfait, plus-que-parfait, passé simple... and the subjonctif also looks familiar.

Anyway.

It's been two weeks. People ask me "How are the French classes going?" Consider this: this is Day 10, and I have already skipped two days. Not in a row, but still. Two days. Eight hours of instruction. I feel sort-of guilty, but sort-of not. I'm still thinking about #5 and #6 from my last post, where I stated that I have been asked, two times each, IF I wash my hair and WHY I don't have children.

I've been thinking about how I would have responded completely differently if I had been asked that in English. I don't understand how people can be so freaking rude and yet, I suspect that I would've looked like the uptight cunt if I had snapped back what I really wanted to. I understand that, unlike myself, not everyone reads etiquette manuals cover-to-cover, or spends any amount of time thinking about social niceties. Not that I'm perfect. I have been one of those a-holes who says "oh, let's get together for dinner sometime!" and then never follows through. And I have called strangers very bad names, to their faces, more than once. I have a tendency towards public acts of rage, unfortunately.

Lately, a lot of people have been complaining about winter - how cold it is, how it seems like it's never going to end, etc. THAT is how I feel about French class. I want to whine about it, I DESPERATELY want to whine about it, but I know it's not going to get better if I do that. Like the winter thing. Does incessant complaining make you feel better about winter? Does it make winter pass any quicker? Does it warm up outside every time you grumble "I hate winter I hate winter"? No. It doesn't. It's just what it is. It will pass. But talking about it seems to make it worse.

So. French. By the end of February, I will write some sort of exam, or have some sort of oral exam - probably both, and I will pass them, and I will then start Level 3 at the beginning of March. And I will continue along until I stop having heart palpitations every time I enter a store, or have to make a phone call, or stare at a job application while wishing I had paid someone to translate my resumé into French when I had the money.

I don't like that we spent well over an hour the other day practicing how to look things up in the Bescherelle. However, I understand that not everyone understands all the same things, all the time.

I don't like that we have to sing along to songs. Are we going to have to dance next? I don't want to dance.

I don't like that Level 2 conversation topics seem to be more appropriate for some sort of matchmaking/potential stalker situation than realistic, every day conversation: How old are you? Are you married? Where do you live? What do you do? Do you have children? Why not? Do you wash your hair? Are you free Saturday? Do you like team sports?

I want to know how to ask for various cuts of meat and understand cooking instructions from my butcher.

I want to know the same from my local fish monger.

I want to know slang. Idioms. Colloquialisms. And how they sound in a variety of accents: Haitian, various parts of Africa, French from France, Northern Quebec, with a heavy Spanish accent, with a heavy Italian accent, with a heavy [any language] accent. This is important information for a woman to know.

One day I will understand, but I don't know when that day is. So I'm trying really hard not going to think about it, because then I trap myself in an endless cycle of despair. I'm just going to go to school, sit in the chair, absorb some stuff, and one day I will understand what the people around me are saying, just like one day I won't have to wear a toque, or scarves, or be constantly misplacing my mittens....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

killing meme softly.

Internet Tag or some such thing.

Rules:

Link to the person who tagged you.
This person tagged me.

Post the rules.

Write six random things about yourself.

Tag six people.

Inform the taggers and the taggee of all of this stuff.


1. It's 3:23 pm and though I've had a shower and ate some waffles, I still haven't gotten dressed or "started my day."

2. I was just looking through the McGill Classifieds and Craigslist, looking for medical experiments I can do that will give me money.

3. I used to be one of those people who went to yoga classes. Not anymore.

4. I really miss the friendships I used to have in my early 20s. Now, everyone is having babies and creating families and focusing on their careers. Making plans to go see a movie or just to freaking hang out & talk becomes this huge bloody ordeal and, well, it sucks.

5. I have been asked twice this week, in French class, in French, if I wash my hair. Yes. Yes, I wash my hair. I wash my hair about once a week, though I have gone two weeks without, and once I went three weeks without washing it. I wash my hair just like everyone else: wet, lather, rinse. I have a fondness for Aveda products, due to their excellent smells, but I also use all-natural ingredients shampoo bars. I also use an apple cider rinse every once in a while, because I read somewhere that it's a good thing to use an apple cider rinse on dreadlocks. I also rub olive oil, mixed with rosemary essential oil and sometimes lavender, in small amounts on my scalp and along my dreads - for moisturizing the things, as well as moisturizing my scalp. In fact, right now, I have very clean dreads piled in a towel on my head, because all of this talk about if I wash my hair has made me paranoid that I smell. I don't understand why people think that asking me if I wash my hair - in front of about 18 other people - is a question that actually deserves a polite response.

The next time someone asks me if I wash my hair, I will either burst into tears, or explode in a fury of "FUCK YOU!!!!"s. This question pains me, deeply. I understand being curious about a hairstyle that is 'different', but questioning someone's personal hygiene in a classroom situation is not a good way of learning the ins and outs of all things dreadlock.

6. I've also been asked twice in the past two weeks, in French class, in French, why I don't have any children. French class is violating my personal space.

The last time someone sent me a meme, I didn't tag anyone. I am going to continue that proud tradition. Being tagged, though it DOES give me a warm glow of being acknowledged by another human being, also fills me with apprehension and worry. What if I was to tag someone and they ignored me? The horror.

Let me add a #7: it has taken me almost an hour to write what you just read. I thought this would be a quick way to do a quick blog post, but I was wrong. I do a lot of erasing. A lot of tangents were wiped out during the writing of this post. But now I'm wondering - is there a point to writing these things at all, if it takes over 60 minutes (now 70, actually) to write, and I feel hideously self-conscious, and I'm not making any money, and it's 4:30 on a Saturday and I have done NOTHING with my day, and my arm has gone numb from hovering over a keyboard that is in a really bad position (ergonomically speaking), and.............

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

a day in the life.

People are always asking me "How do you spend your days, frenchie?"

Actually, no. Nobody asks me that. Except yesterday, someone did, sort of. I haven't talked to my evil twin, Jill, in a long time - a couple of months. She lives in London. The one in England. She is the only person who has subscribed by email to this blog, which makes her a bit of a superhero in my mind.

I had a bit of a bad day yesterday, so when she asked "what have you been up to?" my mind was a bit of a blank.

The day started off okay - the husband-type-person had growled about a bit, muttering angrily to himself about something while I was waking up. I chose

-----------------------------------------------------------------

hmm. so this is what happens when I don't finish something I've started. I wrote the wee snippet above on October 25. Now I'm curious - how was I going to describe my day? Different than my current days.

These days, Monday to Friday, I'm in French class from 8:30 am to 12:55 pm. Okay, generally a bit later than 8:30 as I have a lifelong Sisyphean struggle with the concept and artificial structure that is "time", but I've been trying Very Hard to get to school on time. Because I don't want to cause a lecture on "being on time" and force my fellow classmates to suffer through the bizarre logic that we should always be on time because we are adults. Yes, there are definitely respect issues that go along with "being on time", but when I know there is going to be a lecture because I am 5, 10, 15 minutes late for class - well, it just becomes that much easier to not show up at all.

After class, I usually return home, eat lunch, and then make vague attempts at doing things on my to-do list. Today was going to be my phoning day - I need to make various appointments for financial things and whatnot, and they are kind of time-sensitive, but here it is, 4:30 in the afternoon, and I have done absolutely nothing on my list. I didn't even eat lunch. Unless you count half a grapefruit, a couple of chocolates, and a coffee "lunch".

But I did have a big fat philosophical/complainy conversation with my roommate/co-worker. And re-reading this entry, or at least the beginning of it, now makes me miss my buddy Jill. I call her my evil twin because she is a brutal cynic - witty & terribly clever - and I confessed to her once that I always feel like I am in danger when out with her in public... I never know what's going to come out of her mouth and I often think someone is going to overhear one of her snide remarks and beat us up.

And she confessed to me that she feels the exact same way about me.

See? Twins. Both evil. Good twins are boring, right?

I wish that someone would perfect that whole teleporting thing that science fiction has been promising me for years. Many of my favourite people live far, far away. And I've realized over the years that distance does not make the heart grow fonder. It just makes people lose interest.

Luckily, I'm like a retarded dog, ever faithful to people who mostly ignore me but throw me a bone once in a while, so I tend to keep the long distance love alive. Or at least try to. Jill is waaaay better at using the phone. My phone is a rotary and those international calls require a lot of dialing. Yes, I'm a self-admitted hypocrite. It's part of my charm.

spreading the hate, and a righteously indignant rebuttal.

I received yet another poorly written forwarded email from a person I'm related to, very similar to the email s/he sent me during the baby jesus celebration time.

This was in my inbox this past Saturday morning:


Our National Anthem - at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics
Please read and forward to as many Canadians you can think of – thank you
WE ARE PROUD CANADIANS
Bruce Allen is on the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Committee and new Canadians (specifically Hindi's/Indian's) want him fired for his recent comments outlined below:

I am sorry, but after hearing they want to sing the National Anthem in Hindi at the 2010 Olympics- enough is enough. Nowhere or at no other time in our Nation's history, did they sing it in Italian, Japanese, Polish, Irish (Celtic), German, Portuguese, Greek, or any other language because of immigration. It was written in English, adapted into French, and should be sung word for word the way it was written.
The news broadcasts even gave the Hindi version translation - which was not even close to our National Anthem. I am not the least bit sorry if this offends ANYONE, this is MY COUNTRY; My Grand Dad served in the military, other family members also served, as well as my wife & I served a combined total of 56 years between us. We made many sacrifices for our country and do not feel we should feel obligated to allow invited people we've welcomed with open arms to influence & change our society to better resemble the one they chose to leave to come here!!! - IF YOU AGREE ABOUT THIS GREAT COUNTRY, SPEAK UP BEFORE ITS TOO LATE
-- please pass this along .
I am not against immigration. In fact I believe we need more, my ancestors were immigrants -- just come through like everyone else. Get a sponsor; a place to lay your head; have a job; pay your taxes, live by the Rules AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE as all other immigrants have in the past -- and LONG LIVE CANADA!'

It's time we all get behind Bruce Allen, and scrap this Political Correctness His comments were anything but racist, however, there are far too many overly sensitive 'New Canadians' that are attempting to change everything we hold dear.

ARE you PART OF THE PROBLEM ??? Think about this: If you don't want to forward this for fear of offending someone, will we still be the Country of Choice and Still be CANADA if we continue to make the changes forced on us by the people from other countries who have come to live in CANADA because it is the Country of Choice??????

Think about it!

IMMIGRANTS, NOT CANADIAN'S, MUST ADAPT.

It's Time for CANADIANS to speak up.. If you agree ? Pass this along; if you don't agree?
Delete it and reap what you sow because of your complacency!


And then I sent my darling relative the following reply:


Hey Relative!

Who's the dipshit who is sending you these stupid emails? This one in particular is littered with grammatical errors AND factual errors and even though it says "I" and "my Grand Dad", there is no signature.

I had not heard of this particular controversy, so I looked it up - this all started in September 2007. So this email is kind of out-of-date.

This dreadful little hate letter also says that Allen's comments weren't racist. Yes, they were. Racist and misinformed. He is quoted as saying:

"This is easy to solve: these are the rules, there's the door. If you don't like the rules, hit it. We don't need you here. You have another place to go -- it's called home. See ya."

It seems that this Bruce Allen fellow seems to forget that immigrants ARE home. They have immigrated HERE, THIS IS THEIR NEW HOME. So how can they go home when they are already there?

I hear all the time about people who are born here disagreeing with various rules and laws. I know I certainly disagree with a lot of the rules I am supposed to follow. But that is what makes Canada such a good place to live: freedom of speech and the democratic right to DISAGREE with our rulers.

How many people who were born here in Canada don't like the fact that gay people can get married? It's an actual LAW. So where are these anti-civil-rights people supposed to go, when they are already home?

It's also kind of cute that this mysterious mystery letter writer says, in capital letters, that immigrants need to LEARN THE LANGUAGE. The mystery letter writer seems to have conveniently forgot that Canada has two official languages. I wonder if the letter writer is fluent in both English and French - obviously he has problems with written English. The letter writer also says the national anthem was originally written in English. It wasn't. It was written in FRENCH, for St. Jean Baptiste day in 1880. It wasn't translated until 1906, and didn't become Canada's official national anthem until 1980.

And I haven't been able to find the source of his quote that begins "I'm sorry but...."* Did Bruce Allen even actually SAY that?

I really hope that the next time a poorly written, hate-spewing email lands in your inbox that you give some thought as to where it came from and if it is accurate. This particular email is filled with lies and shouldn't be forwarded to anyone. Spreading lies is lame. Don't be lame.

---------------------------------------------

Within a couple of hours of sending this off, I received this reply (paraphrased):
"Well, looks like I got my lecture for the month!!!!!!!!!" I should probably call this person to see if s/he's pissed at me or what, but I sense it will be an awkward conversation, so, um. Yeah. Maybe this means I won't be getting any more offensive emails from him/her? I hope.


*Don't even get me started on people prefacing their opinions with an "I'm sorry, but......" Chances are, s/he isn't sorry. Why DO so many people apologize before stating their opinion, anyway? I suppose one could shrug it off as "a figure of speech" - and I think many people do that - but it needs to be stopped. Stop being sorry for having an opinion, you people out there who say this. Stop dismissing your own opinion before you even state it. People who do this sound like idiots. And I'm not sorry that I'm calling you an idiot.

Monday, January 05, 2009

if you threw a party and invited everyone you knew.

I like to set up little mini-projects for myself. Since I started this blog, I have made schedules with the intent to post things regularly, 2-3 times a week. I have yet to follow through with those "schedules", even though I keep on writing them down.

My latest bright idea was to write party reviews for the xmas parties I attended in December. But... the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. Or something. Isn't that some sort of well-known saying? I would consult my Dictionary of Clichés, but at the moment it is one of five texts that my laptop is resting on, in order to bring it to a somewhat ergonomically correct eye level for me. (My French dictionary is also one of those books - but it's at the top of the pile, you know, for easy access. heh.)

So, I only ended up with two reviews; I completely lost all motivation to continue. Especially after one party (brunch on Christmas Day) was cancelled due to the hostess' pregnancy getting a little wonky, and was replaced by an unpleasant substitute brunch which did not go well and which I realized later that I couldn't write a review of it without, you know, permanently destroying a friendship. Not that most of my real-life friends read the shenanigans of French Panic, but there's always the chance someone might, and then get super pissed at me, so I try not to say things that I wouldn't say in person. Self-preservation and all.

Here is what I wrote on December 15 (ish):

************************************

It's the season for people to throw parties. I've been to two this weekend. And as with most social invitations, I was really super excited and happy to gleefully accept and say with utmost conviction: YES I will attend that party YES it will be a good time YES I am excited YES YES YES.

And then the days or weeks pass by, crawling closer and closer to The Party, and my mind starts to play out various scenarios that may or may not occur, and I start to do the "what ifs" and "oh I remember from last year... and that made me sad" and blah blah blah. So that by the day of the party, I am filled with sick dread and start wondering what sorts of excuses I can make to the hosts, and contemplate telling lies "omg I was so sick omg I'm sooooo soooooorrrrrry I missed your party" while at the same time telling myself I'm going to have an awesome time, it's all in my head, these people wouldn't invite you somewhere if they didn't like you, what's your problem you fucking weirdo.

The party we went to on Friday was a big one. A Society of sorts. People who make documentaries. And the guy I live with makes documentaries, so. But we knew exactly two people at this party. And neither me nor the guy I live with is very good at approaching groups of people who obviously all know each other and making ourselves part of the conversation. So we stood around and watched people, which was enjoyable. Sort of. Like revisiting a junior high dance. Except instead of a DJ, there was a guy with a laptop. Wait. I guess that's a DJ.

And technically speaking, I knew more than two people there. I spotted someone who is friends with someone I used to be friends with (junior high logic!) until my inability to not openly mock people who believe in astrology caused a small contingent of Montreal lesbians (and-the-men-and-women-who-love-them) to hate me. The particular hippie-esque person who was at the party on Friday has stared blankly and/or sneered at me when I've said hello to her in the neighborhood. She even snarled at me at a wedding, once. We pretended not to notice each other at this party. Or maybe she really didn't notice me. I kind of wish I knew what I did to piss her off. SEE? JUST LIKE JUNIOR HIGH!

At the party on Saturday, I knew more people. Also I had this fantastic conversation with a person still in the single digits, age-wise, as we sat in a corner in the kitchen:

"Oh, you picked a good corner, S. This gives interesting perspectives on how people look. Lots of feet and legs."

"I know."

"Sometimes it's way more fun just to sit and watch than to participate."

"Yeah. Hey, you wanna come play in my room?"

"Well, actually, yes. Yes I do. But I can't. I have to play nice with the adults and participate in adult conversations."

"Ugh. Adult conversations are so boring."

"Yes."

Which of course is not true. Sometimes adult conversations are damn near scintillating, and conversations with children make you want to rip out their vocal cords.

But the best ingredients for awkward party times? Take one writer (not me) and take one book reviewer (me), and have the book reviewer give the writer's book an unfavourable review. Make sure the writer and the reviewer have the same friends in common, and keep the book reviewer guessing if the writer has even read the review. Is the writer somewhat standoffish towards the reviewer because of

1. the review
or
2. the reviewer

Most likely 3. the reviewer BECAUSE of the review.

That type of situation makes for freaking faaaaaaantastic anxiety levels. I was pretty much in a tizzy all day, knowing the writer would be at the party, and wondering if she had read the review..... I made a total pig of myself at the food table - nervous eating. Not maintaining eye contact with the writer. Wondering if the spouse and the child of the spouse were acting weird towards me or if I was acting weird towards them. Feeling awkward being alone in the kitchen with the writer. Wondering what the hell Miss Manners would say about the situation.

Also at the party on Saturday, there was an "unwanted gift exchange" thing where people bring their unwanted things and wrap them up and pick numbers and open other presents and steal other people's stuff and all of that.

I scored a fantastic gift that, long after the game was over, was stolen by the kid who donated it in the first place. It was late, the party was pretty much over (um, except for the 2 extra hours that my spouse and I stayed after everyone else left because YES, we are party cockroaches, we never ever ever leave), the kids were going to bed, and the little imp in question saw the bag with my booty and declared "hey! I'm taking my stuff back!" and I glared at her and said "oh no you don't. That's mine now. I have plans for that stuff." And she just looked at me, looked away, and marched off with the bag.

But I didn't put up a fight because a 34 year old woman fighting an 8 year old girl for a couple of Barbie dolls? Yeah. I am not completely without dignity.

*****************************

And the good news is that as of this writing, as of January 2009, I have those barbie dolls back in my possession. And they've been sitting nicely on my bookshelf with barbie-sized booze bottles that I stole from yet another party. Where my cheeseball was a total hit, and probably helped to clog a lot of colons. Because that's what the holidays are all about to me: nervous anxiety leading to overeating and hangovers, and spreading the joy of constipation.