Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Adolescent Town

So I'm in Connecticut now, trying to envision my life here. This includes attending community events, reading and running, and trying to find some moments of silence to blog and write. After three days, I've picked up Louise Erdrich's The Blue Jay's Dance, continued down Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, and have finished another chapter in Mark Kingwell's Concrete Reveries.

This last one is proving to be a challenge, with words like adumbrated used to describe postmodern architechture and the fact that architechture was the first medium to witness the rise of postmodernism.

But last night it paid off.

See, I come to this small New England town of about 7,000 every couple months. The first time it was all about trips down memory lane, as my honey regailed me with stories from his youth, of hiking trips and cemetary toboggoning. My next visit came in the springtime, when everything is at its peak and life in Thomaston looked good.

Now, I'm here for a month, in preparation for my semi-permanent move here next fall. And late November is proving to be grey, wet, and generally unfriendly. (To think last year at this time we were in Hawaii!)

In any case, as I stuggle to find a suitable, moderate perspective on this transition, Kingwell -- and Jed Perl -- come to my rescue.

While they discuss NYC, and the lurching feelings of ambition and discouragement one experiences upon moving there, I'm thinking my own wedded bliss in Thomaston could be seen in such a light:

Kingwell borrows Perl's term "the adolescent city" to describe "that shimmering land of half-fantasy, at once true and false, that presents itself to artists and writers when they first come to write about a place such as New York or Paris or London [or Thomaston]-- that sense of alightly awed but boldly sanctioned arrival, or Gatsbyesque ambition about to succeed (or not), dreams about to be realized (or dashed). I mean the way we all feel when, well-dressed and fresh-faced at east in imagination, we step off the train for the first time at Grand Central or Gare du Nord or King's Cross."
-- Mark Kingwell, Concrete Reveries

Considering this last depiction, perhaps its marriage itself that is the new town, the new land, that is open for conquering as much as it is collapse. Or maybe it was all those youngens I was hangin with last night, smoking cigarettes in their parents living room and playing beer pong, that made me feel adolescent again.

Either way, something is about to begin.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Writing while running

It doesn't work. I've long wished for some sort of device, concept, or even a simple approach to remembering the great thoughts that stream through my mind while running. It wasn't until recently, listening to authors at the Ottawa Writers Festival, that I realized maybe this wouldn't be such a good idea.

My high school creative writing teacher would tell us to Write it Down! (He loooved exclamation points and would plaster his wall is such Do it Now! euphemisms to inspire and irritate us). And I always interpreted this as a time-sensitive instruction, as if we were really meant to transcribe every thought that could possibly have any merit. But as I listened to the likes of ... O darn, of course I can't remember which author(s) said it ... in any case, on more than one occasion I heard that authors actually let ideas, characters, situations, moral dilemmas, etc. sit with them. They carry them with them, introduce them to friends, speculate on their qualities, sometimes before committing them to paper at all.

This thinking all came about as I was bounding down my street this morning, on my way out for a run. I was like 'darn, forgot to post to Twitter that I'm going for a run.'

I'm new on this Twitter thing, and I did just send a mobile update last night, but I don't run with my cell phone and I never want to. If I run into people in the (gasp) real world, it's a nice coincidence ... not to mention a little ego boost for me 'cause I'm always just a little bit proud that I actually run in the winter. But Twitter isn't going to be the device I've been looking for, and maybe I'll never find it.

Maybe technology just doesn't work with inner dialogue. And maybe that's why inner dialogue is so frighteningly special.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fashion Weeks

Here we go ...

Over the next few weeks I'll be covering a few events in Ottawa aimed at giving local and national designers more coverage. There's a strange thing going on -- best to read my advancer story the Ottawa Citizen

Tonight, it's the launch party for Ottawa Fashion Week. I'm particularly excited because it's a free event; the organizers are working hard to keep their events accessible, have given free tickets to all high schools in the city, and are keeping it alcohol-free. It feels very welcoming, and that's a good thing, cause it's my first fashion week.

Better run. Lots to learn and, despite my love for wit, I don't want to arrive fashionable late.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ah, the home office

Yes, I'm working from home today. My wonderful boss at the Ottawa Writers Festival gave us the day off (given the fact that we did 12-hour days for ten days in a row, I suppose it should be expected, but I was still surprised!)

And because I am a bit of a work-aholic, love my work, and am trying to inject new life into my freelance career, I'm working on my 'day off.' And it's great!

The sun filters in as I watch the day outside turn from sunny to wet-snowy, to grey with patches of vibrant blue. A tiny boxer puppy seems to smell something interesting on my patch of grass ... his owner tugs him along. The phone rings; I take diligent messages for my roommates.

And the mail comes!

All my life I've loved the mail. I procrastinated on the whole email thing because I knew it would be one more reason to avoid snail mail. In the late 90s I was still writing letters, pasting together photo collages and sneaking in little stickers and ticket stubs to more tangibly share memories with friends. Some snail mail allies would even write back, and I have tons of colourful, sentimental scrawlings in basement boxes.

But email came, and letters went. Or did they?

As a freelancer, I still get cheques in the mail. I know a lot of freelancers complain about the inconsistency of the invoicing system, but I sort of like it. Yes, I've had to hound editors who've had to hound accounts payable who maybe never even got the invoice, and I guess I'm luck because my rent is low and my bills even lower.

But there's something in the NOT knowing. Something in the limbo -- a sense that it could all be taken out from underneath you -- that keeps me working hard and prevents me from taking anything for granted. When I do month-by-month projections (ok, these are more like passing thoughts will running than Excel spreadsheets), I just kind of hope and visualize library trips, hours at the local coffee shop, frugal meals and quiet afternoons.

Yes, I'm on a contract now that gives me a regular paycheque. And yet I welcome the return to full-time freelance.

Maybe my hopeful tone is just because I got mail today, but it's worth noting that I did not receive a cheque. No, I got a stack of Ottawa Citizen Style Magazine, sent to me by my editor, who seems to think there's more work to be had and that I might just succeed in this game.

I also received the journal that my fiance and I correspond in. He's in Connecticut, and he gave me this hard cover book in Hawaii when we first parted in December 2007. Back and forth it goes, filled with hope and love and scrawling... looks like I have another ally in the snail mail underworld.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What you lookin' at? Part Two

After my last post I was still stuck on a few of the things I wrote. I felt it was necessary to clarify the region of said pants that were all stretched and skanky. It wasn't the crotch, it was the inside seams -- more like my upper thigh.

And schizophrenia isn't a disease, it's a disorder.
From Wikipedia:
Schizophrenia (pronounced /ˌskɪtsəˈfrɛniə/ or /ˌskɪtsəˈfriːniə/), from the Greek roots schizein (σχίζειν, "to split") and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, "mind") is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social or occupational dysfunction. Onset of symptoms typically occurs in young adulthood,[1] with approximately 0.4–0.6%[2][3] of the population affected. Diagnosis is based on the patient's self-reported experiences and observed behavior. No laboratory test for schizophrenia currently exists.[4]

I also visited "You know who I am," a site recently launched by Royal Ottawa. Good Ol' Alfie is the poster child, and the media storm that took place at it's launch really brought some attention to the confusion and stigma that is mental illness. Unfortunately, it left me uninspired.

This bare bones site, where readers share their experiences, was much more insightful:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What you lookin' at?

Just in from a morning run (finally able to pull myself out of bed and the bizarre REM dreams that come with the snooze button!), and I've got to say, I'm feeling a bit paranoid.

While it wasn't the 17 degrees we saw yesterday in Ottawa, the air was warm and thick, with a fog that reminded me of Trois-Rivieres. That usually means paper-mill stinky, but I have good memories of TR, so for me it was nostalgic. Maybe it was this reminiscence that, as I quickened my pace and made for the Library and Archives (my new locale for stairs and hills) brought the creeping sensation of paranoia.

And then I remembered that the pants I'm wearing are cheap tights circa 2003, which means they've fallen apart at the seams ... right around the crotch. Last night it seemed inconsequential, as I made my way like a ninja through the dark streets. But now, under the increasing glare of slick bureaucrats making their way to their well-put-together offices, I felt a tad ... nasty.

When I meet red lights I usually do a few crucial stretches. Now I only roll my ankles.

The people I expect to be admiring my gait, not to mention my dedication to run outside, in the morning, despite the cooler weather ... now I see as mean-spirited gawkers, ashamed for me and my skanky pants.

As I made my home I remembered something I read about schizophrenia. That paranoia, the feeling that people are whispering about you behind your back, is common for these folks struck with a most misunderstood disease. And I remember that sensation as a small, brown, not-particularly coordinated or confident person in public school.

Usually runs leave me feeling on top of the world, like I can do anything. And while this was somewhat true of this morning's run, I feel this one did more -- it gave me newfound empathy.