Sunday, March 30, 2008

Going Natural

What does that phrase mean, anyway?

I believe there was a time when 'going natural' meant not dyeing ones hair. Generally referring to women of a certain age (for me, it was 25), going natural meant embracing the process and consequences of aging, and allowing the world to witness the emergence of grey.
The subject-verb agreement does seem a bit twisted, though, because we are all born natural. What does going imply? The fact that we were once not natural?
It's true, I spent a few years experimenting with boxed dyes.
And then I decided to "go natural."
Now, in the rising green economy, 'going natural' implies organic, chemical-free goodness. In food or in cleaners, lubricants or toilet paper, natural is the oasis, the green pasture in which we will be reborn, erasing all our chemical sins of the past.
But, as I learned this week, it doesn't always work that way. Forgiveness may be swift but chemical exposure--harmful as it is--cannot always be dropped cold turkey.
I recently visited Pure Joy, a natural hair salon in Ottawa. No, not because I'm stil fighting the grey (though the stick-em-up strands, the ones that are so dry they're kinky? They meet the tweezers).
No, my visit to Pure Joy was pure research, for a short piece on the salon. We were a bit concerned that the place was selling itself as greener than it really was. Why are there still chemical products on the shelf?
Because, the stylist explained, hair gets hooked on it.
The natural stuff is, well, weaker.
What, it doesn't burn my eyes? Will it really work??
Apparently the results are better, softer, even 'more youthful.'
So this is a way to 'go natural'-- but without the grey.

Hmmm...I'm still a bit confused on the subject-verb agreement, but to be honest, I don't completely understand the expression subject-verb agreement.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On the Other Side

Now that I've returned to Canada, things seem different. Not only that—-I seem different.
I feel like I'm clinging to past identity markers: I listen to the CBC more and am embarrassed to be seen beside an American flag.
This time around, I was able to view more family dynamics and Easter traditions, and glimpse, form a more intimate perspective, the Most Powerful Country in the World.
So...what did I learn?
First of all, at Easter, you've got to paint a lot of Easter eggs. These are hard-boiled eggs painted with crayon and dipped in dye. You can draw little bunnies or, in the case of my Jesus-lovin' boyfriend, scrawl 'Jesus Rules' on the little guys.
Then you put them in a basket and/ or make deviled eggs. (We did both; not sure if the devil got Jesus.)
There's also way more cities in the U.S. As family trickled in for Easter dinner, and I was introduced to all, I had a hard time tracing the routes home. In Canada, especially in Ottawa, it seems people basically herald from along the 401 corridor. My roommates are from London and...Namibia. Okay, so there are plenty exceptions.
But in the U.S., people will drive for six hours to the next state, where there's a whole new line-up of capitals and metro areas. And this goes on, state by state, across the country.
Which is why, by the time the train hit Canada, I heaved a little sigh of relief. No more cities. Yes, there'd be Montreal suburbs and big box stores, but those are generally around something, ie, one of the biggest cities in Canada. If you take southern Ontario out of the equation--and I know you don't like that, Toronto, but the fact is you're small potatoes in relation to the rest of North America--Canada is a huge area with, relatively, little development. And I love that!!
I'm sure Texans would think the whole of Saskatchewan a National Park (Regina being a visitor's centre of sorts, stocked with Mountie trinkets).
Suddenly, I'm more territorial about the Canadian border...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pass the Port

Yes, I'm back in the U.S. of A.,
You don't know how lucky you are, boy ...

Lucky that my roommate realized that she had my passport in her car the day before I left and, despite the fact that she'd already left town for Easter, was able to mail it back to me in time.

Lucky that I happened to notice, as we were leaving Ottawa the week before for Vermont, one of the passengers clutching her passport tightly. O yea. Turn around.

I'm now trying to decode this irrational behaviour. When I first went to Hawaii I was fairly paranoid about border hassles; images of Syrian prisons and U.S. detention centres looming as I filled out forms and answered questions.

The fact that my friend Maher Arar is not allowed here is quite inconceivable to me now. Americans seem like friends--I am, after all, in a long-distance and serious relationship with one of these 'cousins to the south.' (That doesn't make it incest, though, right??)

The thing is, the more you pass through that checkpoint along the 49th parallel the less it feels like another country, which makes me wonder what purpose it's serving anyway.

I'll think about that on the Amtrak Monday...Easter weekend (they don't get Monday off) brings with it some domestic duties, and I hear the washing of dishes and the sanding of new doors...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fitting things in

What can I fit in between now and 22 minutes from now? In 22 minutes--21 now--the parking man will swoop down from his smart-car roost and drop a ticket on my boyfriends' car like a terd on a Sunday dress.
When can I fit in a run? a Blog? a coffee with an influential and admired colleague?
How many things can I fit into one day??
Only so many, I'm learning.
There's always room for more, of course. I can compile research files and make a loaf of bread; I can return emails, connect with editors, follow up on pitches and make a trip to Canadian Tire.
Or, I can let the day, with all it's weather and visits (sister and boyfriend!), nutritional needs and energy surges, flow as it will.
I can enjoy and blog peacefully, loosening my grip and slowly, carefully, micro-manage less.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Meeting the neighbours

Today's the day! We're going over to the neighbours tonight, at 8:30 p.m., to crash their book club and *hopefully* make new friends.
For some reason I'm placing a lot of importance on this event—-I canceled plans with a friend I haven't seen in months and I'm now basically counting the hours.
Admittedly, I don't have much of a social life and I love things that are free. But here's one more attractive quality of tonights rendez-vous: it's next door!
One thing I love about living in a small town is that everything is either really close, or unthinkably far (as in, you need a car to get there). From Molokai, to rural Japan, to ski resorts in B.C...I've always found a comfortable vibrancy in communities that have barely enough entertainment venues to sustain a night life.
With slim pickins', we're forced to frequent shadey bars and sketchy taverns, make buddies with locals (albeit sometimes out of fear), open up to happy hour regulars, and generally believe deeply in our own basic need to socialize...cause there ain't no In Da Clubs Columnist telling us this is the place to be.
It's in these same small towns that I've had the best relationships with my neighbours.
Nowhere was this more true than in Whitecroft, B.C., a little hamlet at the base of Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops.
The place is all of one mile around. No CBC coverage. Nothing in the way of commercial enterprises (though I think one failed condo development is now being used as a Bed and Breakfast).
There were more dogs than people, and both ran wild.
Packs of canines ran and howled through the night.
Gangs of ski bums wandered in search of weed.
And if you had a fire in your backyard --generally big strips of land leading into the centre of 'town'--be prepared for every Whitecroftian to show up.
Toilet paper was sometimes an issue, but the general consensus was 'the more, the merrier.'
It was also seen as a way to move the action off the hill, the mountain resort that paid our bills--barely--and then took us for what little remained via food and booze. Besides, moving up and down the mountain was always a drag. Better to lose a couple cheap cans to overly-familiar neighbours than to pay three times as much to party ... especially when you know your boss is reaping the benefits of your hangover.
I shouldn't say boss. Employer.
My boss was all about the in-house parties, organizing monthly potlucks for our department that were the talk of the town.
I remember clearly when he first gave me the low-down on these events. Rob, the lift operations manager, sort of took me under his wing, we'd gone to the same Ski Resort Ops college, and I was asking him safe, well-informed questions about schedules and visitor demographics. But I think he saw right through me: I wanted the low-down.
He told me they're always a riot, a great way to get to know people and rock it out in our snowpants.
And what a rockin good time they were! Outsiders vied for opportunities to stop by; word spread fast about locations; the 'what would you bring to a potluck' question became a stock question for new recruits.
To tell you the truth, I'm a bit sick of potlucks now.
I just want some easy-to-follow directions to a social outing, and a place to borrow an egg if I get half-way through a recipe. But you never know, with this weeks run-in with the white teeth (see former post), maybe karma is on my side and I will have a fortunate, fated encounter ce soir.
So I'm probably idealizing tonight's event, but I'm still excited. Just an hour and a half to go...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Biting Back

I knew instantly that he'd broke the skin. It all happened so fast, so close to home...and after a weekend of dog-cuddlin' and animal lovin'.
This morning, eager to get my week off to good start and start piling on the mileage in anticipation of the Ottawa half-marathon I'll be running in May, I headed out for a neighbourhood jaunt.
I'd barely ran ten feet when I was jumped, snapped, and yes, bitten by a little white lap dog. I was wearing thick lycra running pants and tough running tights, but I felt the sharp points make contact.
I jumped back and took an earphone out.
"Your dog just bit me!" I said, surprised, to the sunglasses woman dressed head-to-toe in fur.
She seemed almost as surprised as I was, even dropping the leash of the other dog she was walking.
I put my foot down on the leash and took in the situation.
I've been road running for nearly twenty years, and a dog lover even longer. My two passions were colliding in the worst way. I always prided myself on being able to stride past the gnarls and growls of the feistiest animals. I believed that if they smelled your fear they'd take a bite out of you--if they didn't, they'd become passive and let you on your way.
But this was a different situation. The woman explained that another dog, a big black one, had just 'attacked' her little white one (looked like a West Highland Whitie this morning). The little guy was spooked and on the offensive.
I told her she was lucky--I'm a dog person.
As I continued on my run I thought about how I should deal with it. On the surface, my leg hurt. I shouldn't have to worry about my personal safety when walking out my front door.
Then I thought about litigation. A friend of mine used to work in mediation, and she explained that a lot of cases are now being settled with mediators rather than lawyers. Not only does this save on court costs, my friend told me, but much of the time it isn't money that plaintiffs want, but empathy. They want to know that someone understands their point of view, the fact that something unjust occurred.
It was then that I decided to visit the owner; she'd pointed out her house, we were practically neighbours.
Later in the run I remembered my accident in the summer of 2003, when I cracked my pelvis at work, in a strange collision that involved me, a golf cart, and a tree. My boss picked me up at the hospital afterward, bought me ice cream and french fries...and had the golf cart disposed of the following day.
By the end of the summer the tree was also gone.
By the end of the year, I'd wished I'd taken the company to court. I'm sure Intrawest can afford to offset my student loan. It could be seen as a send-a-kid-to-camp program...only for ski bums who've hurt themselves in the line of duty.
But of course, this is Canada, and one of the things we pride ourselves on is the fact that we're not Americans, that we don't sue.
But sometimes I wish I could talk to my boss now, hear his side of the story. (If you want to hear more of mine, please ask. It's a pretty funny story).
As I made my way home I knew my leg was fine but I resolved to seek out the dog owner and get the full run-down.
Just now, I noticed her in front of my house, walking in the late afternoon sun Daylight Savings time has provided us.
I stepped out in my slippers, called her over, and identified myself as the runner from this morning. We chatted about the incident and I asked about shots. I even caught a few glances from the slow-moving rush hour cars on my street, smiling at the exchange between neighbours. Winter holes us up--spring is almost here.
Her name is Evelyn, and her dog is Spencer. Up close he looks more like a laso apso.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

IWD: A Journalists' Conundrum

And so it is, on Wednesday morning, I still haven't made a decision about the weekend.
Most of the time I couldn't care less about my nightlife, being pleased as punch to curl up around a laptop and watch whatever random pick I've ordered from Zip.
But this weekend is different—it's International Women's Day (IWD).
It also happens to fall on the Vermont Weekend, the weekend my friends and I were planning on visiting the Green Mountain State for a little White Mountain Fun (hosted, no less, at a hot tub- and horse ranch-equipped cabin in the woods).
For me, IWD usually comes and goes without so much as a high-five or a you-go-girl, but this year I'm writing about a unique event that's bringing female urban artists together at Babylon nightclub in Ottawa.
(Check out and come out!)
I've already interviewed the organizers——two DJs and b-girl——for the piece that will run in Saturday's Ottawa Citizen. I've already transcribed my notes, written the piece, and I'm about to send it...once it's out I can wash my hands of it, right?
The thing is, I can't stop hearing the voices of my sources.
It happens sometimes, with stories or people that really hit home. I used to think this was a sign that I was less of a journalist--a softie wanting to please everyone.
But earlier this week I read 'Reinvent Journalism in 10 easy steps' at
Last on the list is 'Cover your community like it's your invested in your community and care about its people.'
And I have to say, since arriving in Ottawa in 2003, I've felt nothing but welcome; I've seen artists rise up through the ranks and impromtu house parties foster new talent. Ottawa, specifically it's arts community, feels like a hometown.
And it's people like my 'Ladies in the House'that set the tone in this community.
It's easy to say I've done my part; I pitched the story to the Ottawa Citizen and kept at them to make it happen. I've done more than a $6 cover charge will in terms of awareness of IWD and urban arts in Ottawa.
I care about the people involved in this story and I've invested much mental energy in crafting this story. I guess I just want to 'show' it, by attending the event on Saturday (it's also gonna be plenty fun!)
But, as one of my sources said, "364 days of the year we're DJs, b-girls [and journalists]; but on one day of the year we’re really focusing on the fact that we’re women.”
As a writer, I was lucky enough to sit down and talk frankly with these people that hold down the arts fort in Ottawa.
As a woman, I'm proud of them...and leaning toward a weekend sans snow fun.
As a skier, it's tough. My mom visited Killington when I was a wee tot——missing my sisters' birthday. I've heard it's Amazing. Huge. Snow is coming on Saturday. In fact, were it Mother's Day, I'd feel obliged to hit the slopes instead of the clubs...