Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Mondays on the Margins (or whatever, it's still summer, shut up): Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore

I bought this book quite a while ago because I had read and loved (and reviewed, to a thundering silence, geez man) Lamb, and I found the synopsis intriguing, and ultramarine blue is one of my very favourite colours and has always seemed a little mysterious to me. . Then I put it in my stack and promptly forgot about it or passed it over for library books that were about to expire. Over the summer, I packed it every time we were going somewhere where I'd want an actual book to read - in the sun, on the beach, anywhere it wouldn't be convenient to read on my ipad. It took me all summer to finish, and it is now extensively foxed and sandy and water-swollen, and I savoured every line of it and never once wished that I had brought another book (yes, another summer has passed wherein I read no Trollope). It was magnificent.

I accidentally just glanced at the praise page and now my head is crowded with the phrases of others that describe the book perfectly: "Art history is playfully - and perilously - rewritten" (Publishers Weekly); "exultant joie de vivre" (Kirkus Reviews); "surprisingly complex novel full of love, death, art, and mystery" (Library Journal); "consistently delightful journey into the sweetly demented mind of novelist Christopher Moore" (Philadelphia Inquirer).

More than anything, it just seemed like Moore had a hell of a good time writing this - immersing himself in the art and history of the Impressionists and then swirling it all into a mad reimagined palette of riotous colour. And like in Lamb, the humour, the debauchery, the cutting wit, even the suffering and death (frequently by syphilis), is rendered with such a light and loving hand - it is for this reason that I'm contemplating reading nothing but Moore's entire oeuvre for the next while. That or inventing a time machine so I can go back to 1890 and hang out in bars and whorehouses with Toulouse-Lautrec. This, along with Jaclyn Moriarty's A Corner of White, busted me right out of my "oh my god, I'm so jaded, every book seems like an echo of a bunch of other books, nothing feels fresh, nothing feels new, nothing feels transporting and fantastic and galvanizing" rut. It also gave me the same possibly spurious but still warm feeling that I got from the Vincent Van Gogh episode of Dr. Who - not that Van Gogh needed to be rehabilitated, but that he has been gathered in tenderly by history and imagination more than he ever would have imagined. 

It's very much not for everyone - I'm sure it would seem heretical, or glib, or silly to some. I love reading about people who are passionate about something, I love witty banter, I love fantastical elements like stopping time and time pockets, and the word 'penis', coupled with the phrase 'Accident. Couldn't be helped.' made me giggle helplessly almost every single time. So loved it. I really, really loved it. 

Memorable Quotes (A very narrow selection - I felt like highlighting most of the book):

-"'Yes, painter,' said the blond. 'But you make your living as a baker, right?' 'I sold two paintings just last month,' said Lucien. 'I sucked off two bankers just last night,' said the whore. 'I'm a stockbroker now, no?'"

-"She smacked young Lucien in the head with a baguette. The crunchy yet tender crust wrapped around his head, bending but not breaking, showing that the oven had been precisely the right temperature, there had been exactly enough moisture, and in fact, by the ancient Lessard test method, it was perfect.. Lucien thought this was the way of all French boulangers, and he would be a young man before anyone explained to him that other bakers did not have a test boy who was smacked in the head with a loaf of bread every morning."

-"Monet had trained himself to be a machine for the harvest of color. With brush in hand, he was no longer a man, a father, or a husband, but a device of singular purpose; he was, as he had always introduced himself, the painter Monet."

-"The Colorman is like that carp, Lucien. In all of our paintings, Pissarro's, Renoir's, Sisley's, Morisot's - even poor Bazille, before he was shot in the war - even back then, from the first days when we all met in Paris, he is there, in all our art, just below the surface."

-"'Yes, but when you did the poster for the Moulin Rouge you didn't do a clown fucking a windmill.' 'Sadly, no, they rejected my first drawings. And I'm good friends with one of the clowns there, Cha-U-Kao. She would have modeled for me. She's both a clown and a lesbian. At the same time! Art weeps for the missed opportunity."

-"Toulouse-Lautrec unfolded the map until he had revealed the seventh level below the city, then looked to Lucien. 'It follows the streets as if on the surface.' 'Yes, but with fewer cafés, more corpses, and it's dark, of course.' 'Oh, well then, we'll just pretend we're visiting London.'"

Monday, August 17, 2015

Last night

It was late, and Matt and I were in bed after a whirlwind of preparations for his trip to Asia early this morning - mining the piles of camping laundry for clothes for him to pack, getting the garbage day details straight since he wouldn't be here to do it (THEN WHY DID I MARRY YOU, I usually say), figuring out what baseball events I would have to drive Angus to, and a few other things (but this is not that kind of blog - usually). Matt was asleep and I was reading on my ipad in the dark. Eve was asleep down the hall and everything was dark. Then there were quiet footsteps on the stairs and through the crack in our slightly-open door I saw the bathroom light go on. I realized that I had assumed Angus was already in bed, but now here I was, lying in bed listening to the hum-and-rattle of water, the soft click of toothbrush and soap dish. It was a complete reversal of being small, tucked up and listening to the sounds of my parents getting ready for bed, which was always such a lovely, comforting feeling, and that last light going off was the signal that everyone was in safely for the night. As it was now, and everyone was still in safely, but the signal was sort of reversed.

It didn't make me sad. It was nice. It was just... different.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bluesfesting While Anxious

Before I had kids, I went to Bluesfest regularly, usually with a friend (my husband isn't really into live music. It's okay, he has a lot of other good qualities). It was downtown so I would bus nearby or to my friend's place and we would walk over. I saw John Hiatt, Buddy Guy and Saffire and the Uppity Blues Women (they were great musicians and hilarious - one of their songs was called Silver Beaver, and it's about pretty much what you'd guess from the title - and while I was looking them up to embed the link I read that one of them died and now I'm sad) and The Blind Boys of Alabama and a bunch of bands I didn't even know or can't remember now.

We moved to even more of a suburb. We had a couple of kids. Bluesfest moved somewhere a little less accessible and I stopped taking public transit and got less comfortable with it. Bluesfest got much less Blues-packed, but that wasn't really a factor for me - I like the blues, but I understand that the festival has to attract a wide demographic to sell more tickets. It fell off my radar a bit, it always took me off guard when it started in early July, and whenever I thought about it, I would think "I have to go back someday" but I kept not doing it. Until last year when Alison and I saw Styx and Foreigner in the pouring rain, followed by a double rainbow.

This year I was determined to make myself go. I thought I should bring Eve to at least some of it, since she likes music, and we like doing things together, and it would be the summer! Yay! Mother-daughter adventure, live music in the sun! I told her we could go see Iggy Azalea if she wanted to, and she was stoked. I bought us both passes at a good price the first day they were available. I felt all smug and cool and culture-consuming.

For about four days. Then I realized that Eve and I both have tendencies towards anxiety, and we both kind of hate crowds, and we're not that great with really loud places. Also, I don't love driving, especially downtown, especially when I don't know exactly where I'm going, or where to park. And I also hate hot weather, and Bluesfest is in Ottawa, in July. And as it got closer, I realized my husband wasn't even going to be home to walk me through the route I should take and possible parking spots - he was going to be in freaking Detroit or Dallas or some other city in the states that begins with D, and I was going to have to do this TOTALLY ALONE, except for my kid who I would probably scar for life by screwing up and driving the wrong way down a one-way street, or parking fifty blocks away and not getting to the festival site until all the music was done, or just sobbing in absolute terror.

Basically I looked at myself in the mirror going "THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU???"

School went on. School ended. Zarah came for a week and that distracted me. Then she left and I spent half a day in full-blown panic. I actually thought I might have to cancel.

But here's the thing. This is me at the beginning of every canoe trip, and dance, and party, and any event where I have to leave my reading chair and my house and my comfort zone: Why am I doing this? Who thought this was a good idea? I can listen to music and look at nature and make up witty quips at home. Why didn't I stay there?

The first night I had to breathe exaggerated deep breaths on the drive down and literally almost threw up.
The second night, I put on the dress I wanted to wear. I opened the door from bedroom to the hallway and Eve said "you look pretty!" I said "I feel like I'm showing too much of my boobs." She shrugged and said "enh."

The third night I took a couple of her friends who had tickets and met my friend Nat, who is WAY too cool to listen to Hedley but hung out with me out of a mixture of friendship and pity, with which I am TOTALLY fine. 

And partway into the experience, I remembered what I always realize: Sometimes you just have to get out of your house and do stuff. Because the world is big and inside your head can get very small. Because amazing opportunities will present themselves. 

Because you'll meet people who are a little different. 

Because you'll hear a familiar line of music, or fall in love with an unfamiliar one, or see an amazing view, or navigate a new stretch of river, or stretch a new set of muscles, and inside your head will get a little bigger. 

Because you'll be All Out of Love, Lost in Love, Making Love out of Nothing at All, and Every Woman in the World.

Because you'll find a seniors' centre that offers their parking lot as a fundraiser, and you'll know that most of your friends will refuse to pay for parking on principal, but you don't give a flying fuck because now you know exactly which address to punch into the GPS every time you drive down, and where to park, and how long a walk it will be (not long), and after Iggy Azalea (who is surprisingly very sweet and whose music is much less noisy and unintelligible than you assumed it would be, even in the second row) your daughter will sigh ecstatically and say "You don't even know how happy I am right now."

Because your husband will say "you should be proud of yourself, in some silly little way", and you'll say "uh, yeah, but not quite", and he'll say "sorry, I was trying not to be condescending" and you'll say "then you're doing it wrong", but it will be okay, because, yeah, it was kind of silly and little, but you did it. And next year you'll do it again. Hopefully minus the Kanye, because, *visceral sudder*, gah, the sweaty heaving mass of humanity you had to drag Eve through to get to the exit after Hawksley Workman? NOT pleasant.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Stuff

Okay, I'm just going to start small or I'll never start at all (great, now I'm BLOGGING in Air Supply lyrics).

I love when Zarah visits because most of our conversations go like this: "Want to go for a walk?" "Yes"; "There's a really good bagel place on the way home, should we-" "-Yes"; "There's a new ice cream place by the-" "-Yes". "Are we letting the kids stay up late to watch another-" "Yes".

Eve was in a basketball camp at Carleton University last week with two of her friends, one of whom plays competitive and is crazy good but also amazing at encouraging people who aren't as good. The first couple of days she came home happy but flat-out exhausted and a bit worried that the counselors would assume she could do things she couldn't actually do, like dribble between her legs and behind her back. But they got lunch in the cafeteria and swimming in the afternoon, so it was good enough, and in one five-on-five a boy who kept refusing to pass to her finally had to and she swished it, and she said "then he high-fived me - I guess because he figured out I had arms".

THEN the third day was "the best ever" because one of the counselors (they're all players on the university's team, and the girls found it hilarious watching the big tall guys in the cafeteria with eight glasses of orange juice and three trays of food) traded to get her on his all-girl team, and she was with her friend, and they ended up being the first all-girls team to win the end-of-camp tournament. And she can almost dribble between her legs and behind her back. Eve is quite good at a lot of things but doesn't have a lot of experience with that kind of intense activity, which I think is good for everyone to experience now and then. She came home with blisters and scrapes and bruises and was falling asleep on the couch by eight - she loved and already wants to go back next year.

Lucy is sitting on my foot, so I'm going to go walk her.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Watch This Space

I'm not sure where this overpowering disinclination to write anything springs from. I'm not that sad anymore. I'm not that busy anymore. Eve is in basketball camp this week and I keep meaning to upload pictures and write posts around them, and thinking of things that I want to write about, and then I just feel very tired. But I want to tell you all about the Little Free Libraries, and Doing Bluesfest With Anxiety, and how Zarah got me and Eve hooked on Call the Midwife. And I want to wax ragefully eloquent on People Being Stupid and Mean About How Women Dress, and People Not Baking Cakes for Gay Weddings. But my fingers are slow and my head aches.

Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, July 13, 2015

What Happened Before I Got Sad

I slid rather precipitously into the Slough of Despond when Zarah left, so pretend I'm posting this last Monday, okay?

The bad thing about having Zarah and the kids come for their weekly summer visit right after school ends is that we're all kind of exhausted.

The good thing is that we already feel like we've done a bunch of fun summer stuff when July's barely started.

Like trying on floppy hats in the market.

Learning about gladiators (this picture is misleading; apparently gladiators were fed well because they needed muscular strength but also a generous layer of fat.)

Trying on gladiator armour and realizing it would be really freaking hard to just walk wearing this stuff, never mind fight and look like Russell Crowe. 

I don't remember this outfit from Spartacus, do you?

I did take a picture without the neon green shoes, but I prefer the one with it. 

Sophie helped me make biscuits. I taught her about the Ugly Biscuit, which is the one that you make last when there isn't enough to cut anymore, so you smush the remaining bits of dough together and it bakes all crazy. Usually Eve claims it, but Sophie got the Ugly Biscuit from the first batch this time.

Yes, we WILL force Angus out of the basement, AND fit seven people at the table for dinner. 

....Whatever this is. 

Walk the dog on the trail by the river and see if we could finally tire her out. 

We couldn't. 

Try out the pub that Matt and I have driven by in North Gower on the way to Smiths Falls a few dozen times. Best coconut cream pie EVER. 

And ice cream. Lots of ice cream. If I posted pictures of all the ice cream, you would lose all respect for us.

Summer ahoy. Stay tuned for more out-of-order really-late blog posts.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

This Is Forty Or, Why I Love My Friends So Much

From: Janet
To: Allison, Matt, Margot, Michael, Collette, Mark, Gerry

Subject: Dave

Hi guys,
Dave had a bike accident on Saturday morning. He had his foot locked into his bike pedal and couldn’t get it unhooked quickly enough and fell over onto his shoulder.  Luckily, a nice Samaritan stopped and called an ambulance and even brought Dave’s bike back to our place.  Dave should be going in for surgery today and will have his arm in a sling for the next 6-8 weeks.  Hopefully he’s up to doing wings this Tuesday and can tell you all about it himself.


From: Allison
To: Collette

Subject: At Hospital

With Matt. Possible kidney stone. Guard your husband. Bad week for men in our group.



From: Collette
To: Janet, Dave, Margot, Michael, Mark, Gerry

Subject: Matt

So…Matthew in in the Queensway Carleton now.   Rushed there by ambulance.
They suspect kidney stones.
I’m sensing a trend…Mark, Michael, or Gerry next?  Maybe we can set up a pool?


From: Margot
To: Allison, Matt, Janet, Dave, Collette, Mark, Gerry, Michael

Subject: When it rains....

Michael already lost his gallbladder so hopefully he will get a by this time.


From: Collette
To: Margot, Michael, Allison, Matt, Janet, Dave, Gerry

Subject: When it rains...

On the contrary…he’s in a weakened starting position, more open to a possible attack.
 I’m not sure from what exactly---some sort of unusually high gall-needing food that will wreak havoc with his digestive system and leave him in a puddle on the floor. Only to be rushed by ambulance to the Queensway Carleton to be ignored for many hours. 
From: Gerry
To: Michael, Margot, Allison, Matt, Collette, Mark, Janet, Dave    
Subject: When it rains...                                                                                                                                       
Open to possible attack... FROM A BADGER!
From: Michael      
To: Gerry, Margot, Allison, Matt, Janet, Dave, Collette, Mark
Subject: When it rains...
I think I'm susceptible to psychological attack. I'll be checking every twinge, itch, or change of body temperature for the rest of the day against WebMD. I may spend some time concentrating on not hyperventilating after I accidentally become conscious of my own breathing and start over-thinking it.  I'll also be scanning the dark corners for badgers.
From: Gerry
To: Michael, Margot, Allison, Matt, Janet, Dave, Mark, Collette
Subject: When it rains...
From: Matthew
To: Michael, Margot, Allison, Janet, Dave, Mark, Collette, Gerry
Subject: When it rains...
I am on my way home from hospital, feeling much better. Hopefully see everyone at J. Canuck's tonight.
From: Gerry
To: Matt, Allison, Michael, Margot, Janet, Dave, Mark, Collette
Subject: When it rains....
From: Gerry                                                                                                                                     
To: Michael, Margot, Allison, Matt, Collette, Mark, Janet, Dave      
Subject: When it rains...     
 In spite of my general badgeriness, I won't be making it tonight.  While not hospitalized, I do seem to have either a head cold or some allergy thing going on that's making me drip mucus rather heavily.  Lack of oxygen + beer may be fun, but sleep is desperately needed to recuperate.
From: Collette
To: Gerry, Matt, Allison, Margot, Michael, Janet, Dave, Mark
Subject: When it rains...
It's probably Ebola. It starts out like that.
3 down, 2 to go....