Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nick and Natasha hosted a hell of an old school Halloween house party last night.  Festive cupcakes and jars of candy, spider webs and Martha Stewart craftiness all about.  There were cheerleaders and action heroes, boy scouts and Golden Girls.    I was some kind of mercenary (complete with muscular padding) and Jeff was Sue Sylvester, bullhorn and all.  We drank, we danced, and we kept one eye on Little Shop of Horrors playing on the TV.  

What did you get up to this weekend?  Link to your Halloween pictures in the comments!  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We've had a remarkably sunny 2010 here in Toronto.  A nice spring, a gorgeous summer, and (so far) a bright and agreeable fall.  This isn't always the case.

For many people, spring and fall are the preferred seasons, moderate and fashion-friendly, rather than the extreme ends of the hot-cold spectrum.  So it's a real joy when we get a good six or eight weeks of each.  Plenty of time for mid-weight trench coats and blazers, jaunty scarves and fussy suede shoes, so picky about the weather to which they're subjected.  Nice dry days, 15°C.  Perfection.

And for these rare and cherished sunny days of autumn, here's another music mix.  I've been so pleasantly surprised with all the downloads - I spend a long time compiling and sequencing, so I'm glad you're all listening.  Thank you!

Enjoy this one, a more upbeat (or at least uptempo) mix, but with all the themes and sounds you may have come to expect.  Some are legitimately happy, while others employ the art of a sad song sounding happy.  I love it when that happens.

(And please let me know what you liked from the last mixes in the comments!  Any newfound musical loves?  Did you hit iTunes and buy-up any back-catalogues?  Anything you hate and can't believe I love?  Be honest, I'm super curious to know what you think.)

Songs for Sunny Autumn Days

  1. Enchanted - Patrick Wolf
  2. Ballantines - Aimee Mann
  3. Martha - Rufus Wainwright
  4. Wild Heart - Gentleman Reg
  5. So Small - Jim Guthrie
  6. These Flowers - Martha Wainwright
  7. All the Trees Will Clap Their Hands - Sufjan Stevens
  8. God Knows I'm Good - Danny Michel
  9. Utilities - The Weakerthans
10. Cousins - Vampire Weekend
11. Winter Sun - Jenny & Johnny
12. The Co-Dependent - Sia
13. Lovers Do - Jim Guthrie
14. Magic View - Diane Birch
15. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois - Sufjan Stevens
16. Man Under the Sea - Patrick Watson
17. Now, More Than Ever - Jim Guthrie
18. Scared at Night - Kathleen Edwards


Note: To keep the songs in this order, select all the files in the folder and then drag them into a New Playlist you've created in iTunes.  

It was ten years ago that I came out.  I'm not sure if my particular story is unusual, but what I recall most about the time is overarching joy and a sense of freedom I had not known.  

After telling my very best friend, I waited many more months until I told my parents.  I knew my friends would love me, not a doubt in my mind.  But the part people don't understand is this: While I was quite certain my parents loved me, I was only 99.9% sure; that's enough in nearly every imaginable situation, but the 0.1% chance that they'd look at me differently, or that they'd decide not to love me, was too much risk.  The little knob in the brain that controls doubt would pulse and the mere idea that they'd blame each other (or themselves) or that their marriage would collapse or that it would just. ruin. everything. was debilitating.  

And this is what keeps kids from saying it out loud: The snowball's chance in hell that everything will evaporate.  And, for an agonizing time, it's just not worth it.  No matter how miniscule the risk, it's there.  Gnawing.  A couple of words could literally change everything.

I left my parents a note before slinking out of their house and back to my college-home-away-from-home.  Obviously writing things down is my go-to-method, so this seemed easiest: it would allow me to tell them without seeing their faces, and would allow them the opportunity to make any face they may have no control over. In my letter I asked them to call and leave a voicemail, just so I could hear their voices, maybe get a sense of how they were feeling.  I can still conjure my Mom's voice (stunned, blindsided, had she been crying?) saying they'd gotten it.

She said they loved me very much.  And I had nothing to worry about.  And everything would be okay.

And in a those few, spare words, I knew it would be.  I didn't cry, but rather breathed fully for the first time in years.  It was over.  I finally was what I had always been.  On the record.  For real.

People refer to weights being lifted, but for me, at last, I sunk down into myself with all of my weight.  I became heavier.  I took root that day in October, ten years ago.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's that time of year - It starts getting dark at 6:00 and stays that way until after 7 each morning.  Our bodies adjust to this lack of daylight over time, but it's a bit jarring at first, in the early days of October.  It makes it difficult to pull yourself from the bed to start each day, the warmth and coziness outweighing even the delicious coffee you promise yourself.

So it's nice to have a loose plan for a free day, something to drive you from that cocoon.

Yesterday I had one of those lovely mid-week-days-off where you putter about, tend to back-burnered tasks, listen to your favourite songs through headphones.  It started with a lovely brunch at Lady Marmalade on Queen East where I finally got to meet the lovely Tara McMullen, a local photographer and balls-to-the-wall-funny-chick, and we had the nicest time. We talked in that familiar, circular way, meandering about between subjects, then finding our way back to where we started.  We ate eggs at one in the afternoon and I got jacked on caffeine.  It was super.  

And then I ambled across the bridge, westbound, toward the St. Lawrence Market.  I poked about the beautiful harvest of October vegetables.  I needed lots to make my very first turkey soup.  My first from-scratch-soup.  Like, really from scratch. Boil the carcass for hours, skim the fat, pull the peas from the pod and the corn from the cob kind of scratch.  

I scooped up heirloom carrots, purple potatoes, green beans, broccolini, celery, onions, a knob of ginger, and some garlic.  A bunch of fresh thyme, some bay leaves, and a whack of sage.  My basket was heavy and satisfying.  The lovely lady at the stand I frequent gave me the usual discount, rounding down a couple of bucks, and before I knew it I was simmering the bones in a sea of herbs and spices.  I left the vegetables big and hearty; from stalks of broccolini (a bit bitter) to gigantic green peas (sweet and crisp) this soup has it all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This is not to say I do any of the above, but I've been known to sit in my own self-pity while listening to sad music.  What can I say: I like it.  And from the response to my last music mix offering, you do too.  With lots of downloads, it seems I have oodles of moody readers, from northern Canada to the southern U.S. to all parts of Europe and Asia.  

And I'm here to please.  So, do enjoy another collection of seasonally-appropriate music, from me to you.

(Oh, and I don't necessarily condone solo-drinking, but have to say, there are few things like wallowing in a bit of standard-issue Seasonal Affective with your choice of music when the lover's out for the night.  Amiright?)

Songs for Lonely Drinking

  1. Everything is New - Antony & The Johnsons
  2. I Don't Blame You - Cat Power
  3. Manifesto - Gonzales
  4. How God Moved at Twilight - Michael Cashmore, featuring Antony
  5. Oh My God - Gentleman Reg
  6. Big Bird in a Small Cage - Patrick Watson
  7. Trouble Weighs a Ton - Dan Auerbach
  8. Call It Off - Tegan & Sara
  9. Cloud - Sia
10. Beg, Steal or Borrow - Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs
11. Sleep Alone - Bat for Lashes
12. Our Hell - Emily Haines
13. Blue - Julie Doiron
14. Wrists - Tegan & Sara
15. Oh Father - Sia
16. Dust and Water - Antony & the Johnsons

Songs for Sunny Autumn Days (October 17, 2010)
November Rain | Playlist (November 29, 2011)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We opened the cottage on a crisp day in April and closed it on a warm one in October.  Six months up north ain't bad for these parts, and we certainly lucked-out with the weather: one of the hottest summers on record topped-off with that special kind of Thanksgiving Weekend where the days are bright and warm and nights are calm, manageable with the buzz of an electric heater and an extra blanket at-the-ready.

And so, with family, food, and more pumpkin pie than any human should ever ingest, we spent our final weekend in our favourite place.

I missed the change of the seasons last year, so didn't get to marvel at how the cottage changes from Spring, through Summer, and into glorious Fall.  From that ripe, wet stench of the thaw to the balmy lakeside heat of July to the crisp shock of Autumn.  From rubber boots to suntans and back to boots again.  

And the colours.  Los Angeles might have perpetual summer, but we've got magical, shape-shifting trees.  Though much of the forest around our lake is pine and ever green, the new hits of yellow and red dot the landscape like flickering candlelight.  With just the light crunch of half-dry leaves underfoot, there's a quiet that settles when all the little critters retreat to a warm place beneath the ground, only a few birds left calling in the treetops. The occasional sound of a chainsaw in the distance is welcomed, the image of cutting and piling wood for winter a comfort as the sun starts to sink at four in the afternoon.

I took thousands of photos, most boring and pointless, but couldn't resist poking about in the woods.  And sure not to miss an opportunity to photograph the babes, I schlepped them out into the mottled light in their photo-ready fall attire.  In unseasonable 18° weather, they lived it up and hammed it up among the leaves and pine needles, burnt orange and endless, coating everything in sight.  It's a wonder there are any left on the trees at all.

With surprising despondency and smelling of woodstove smoke, we packed up the lawn furniture, stowed the canoe and bid farewell to cottage life for another season.  Traffic was a long-weekend-nightmare, so we got off the beaten path and meandered through the countryside.  The forest I wrote about in the summer has ditched its monochromatic greens, replacing them with goldenrod, maintaining its majesty in a new ensemble, but with an earthy scent and the sun decidedly low in the sky.  Choosing which you like better is like deciding between the freedom of a t-shirt and shorts or a cozy winter cardigan: impossible and agonizing.  While Canadians like to complain about Winter, the joys of Spring and Fall require us to bear its misery.     

Growing up in a town of 500 I saw my share of farm animals.  And, like all the other details of my young life, the older I get, the more I wish I could go back and relive them without the impatience of childhood.  Every time we drive through the country, I ogle the livestock, wanting nothing more than to pull over and spend the day with the cows.  Only recently have I discovered a strange fascination with them, stately and gentle, though bigger than you imagine, quite startling up-close.  They seem easy-going and kind-hearted, the animal equivalent of a kindergarten teacher.  Several of them moseyed over to get a look at me, hunkered there in the ditch, and we shared a few special moments.  

I'm not sure what's happening to me, but if you're looking for me in 10 years, there's a good chance I've set myself up well outside the city limits.  Beautiful and quiet, it's an awfully tempting scenario.

In closing, a little video I put together.  Come for the wanky artschool tendencies, but stay for the song.  And download it (Gonzales' beautiful and quirky "DOT") here.  You're welcome.  Happy Autumn: get it while it's hot.