Posted by: rocketbride | August 9, 2017

Things I Loved About Seeing the Dark Tower Movie yesterday


  1. All of the in-world references, starting immediately from Tet Productions, the logo of which was a Turtle and Rose.
  2. Idris Elba as the Gunslinger. There were a few bad notes in the script, but I totally bought him as the ancient, wise knight.
  3. Matthew McCaunnehey as The Man in Black. I’ve never found that guy handsome, but his slick storytelling and waxy, lizardy looks were perfect for this.
  4. The focussed on the most important relationship: Jake Chambers
  5. Watching Idris Elba reload his gun and shoot things and then reload again. Before I went I watched the trailer three times in a row and I think it made me pregnant.
  6. The fact that the moments from the trailer were just as cool in the larger context
  7. The fact that it’s a sequel to the stories!! No more brilliant answer could have been made to the many many diversions and weaknesses when compared to the original series. Best explanation since “a wizard did it.”

The whole movie watching experience was an interesting departure from my normal MO. Mason had tickets to a fancy beer event, so we went in together and I met Dirk at the theatre. Scherezade joined us for dinner, and then she and I wandered the streets of Toronto eating desserts and discussing the untimely passing of Pixie. It was like the old days, if we had good taste in the old days and sense enough to visit the best ice cream shops and Italian bakeries instead of settling for what was local. We pursued three perfect desserts: hand-made ice cream (passion fruit raspberry tart), Italian cookies – the good kind, not the kind my family always buys (chocolate amaretti), and finishing up with what bills itself as the best Sicilian cannoli in Toronto. We split that last one. Even queens like us have a limit.

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Posted by: rocketbride | July 2, 2017

sesquicentennial

Yesterday was Canada Day, and when I checked in briefly to Facebook there were a number of people celebrating, as well as a significant number of people writing about the flaws in our country. There’s a fear, I think, that we have in expressing happiness in something without a caveat, that we will be judged simple and worse, unfeeling of all the bad things that balance out the good. It’s part of being an adult, I suppose: looking at the shadow as well as the dazzle.

The best thing about the timing of Canada Day is that it comes hot on the heels of National Aboriginal Month in Canada. If you can get through the entire month of June without coming across an opportunity for education, or for appreciating the cultures of the First Peoples, well…it’s possible you’re not trying hard enough. I am uniquely privileged to be in education at a time when focus (and more importantly, money) is being devoted to integrating some degree of Indigenous perspective into the mainstream (i.e. settler) curriculum. There are manifold opportunities for me to learn more, and I’ve been deeply moved by many of these experiences. As a result, I think about First Nations much more than I used to, and all throughout the year. Canada Day brings all of this into focus.

I love history. Since most of my education was on Western European and colonial history, I still find myself loving that (although questioning it more closely than when i first learned the stories). As problematic as the history of Canada (a.k.a. the history of European settlement) is, I still cherish it. I look forward to learning more about the history that was passed over in the search for a simple narrative, in the search to justify civilization in a straight line from Athens to Rome to London to Toronto, but I will never fully abandon the patriarchal colonial narratives. I can’t; they shaped the current discourse.

I also love the current Canada, the big flawed timbit where I make my living and my home. I desperately want to see it improve, so that it embodies our best ideas about ourselves. I want clean drinking water and safe, spacious, well-designed houses, and innovative education and respect and hope flowing to and from the First Peoples. I want my seventh descendant to be proud of us for starting the hard work.

If you know me, then you know that I can be pathetically devoted. I am ride-or-die for Canada, despite its problems. Canada is like a beloved family member with some serious shit to work out. And my job is figure out where I can make the cracks wider, to provoke the breakdown that brings insight and inspiration. We need to run head-first into every uncomfortable conversation that stands in the way of right living. We need to get down in the shit and fix it.

Thank God we have something worth fighting for.

Posted by: rocketbride | June 27, 2017

Resolutions

You and me both, kid. 

Posted by: rocketbride | June 10, 2017

tutu disappointing

Eight months ago I signed up to run a half marathon tomorrow. I will not be running a half marathon tomorrow, for a few reasons. The first one is that my delightful cousin counter-scheduled her much-anticipated wedding shower on the same day, and I couldn’t figure out a way to hop off Toronto Island and get to a fancy ladies’ event in the same day, let alone on time. I tried to sell the spot, but no dice. I let my training stagnate, an easy decision when my stomach was not only siphoning sleep every night but showing up around the 3rd kilometre of my practice runs, giving me cramps and generally torching my motivation.

My feelings were further complicated when Toronto Island flooded. I was hoping for a cancellation/deferral, but they just moved the venue. As my spot stubbornly refused to sell, I entertained brief fantasies of just running the fucking thing. Who cared if I could finish the half, I’d just jump into the 5k. Oh, the 5k sold out? Still possible.

Today I’ve been floating around in a headachey daze, as my sleep debt all came due last night when my new meds kicked in, and I couldn’t get out of bed. 13 and a half hours of sleep later and I’m just not making good decisions today. So when I finally got around to checking out the possibility of changing events or whatever, I discovered that I had missed the end of packet pick up by roughly 90 minutes, and if I wanted to run I would be even more guerrilla than I had planned.

It’s a bummer, not just because I essentially set fire to $75 last summer chasing a cheap tutu that would never be mine. My crummy trailing record of late is just another side effect of the garbage way my stomach has been since the start of April, and I’m getting frustrated with all of the little thefts. I haven’t felt well for more than brief periods for months, I drink peppermint tea like it’s my job, and I spend the early hours before my alarm goes off praying for sleep, and if not sleep, that Mason won’t try to hug me when my stomach is at its angriest.

“I’m on warm milk and laxatives.” – “Penny Royal Tea”

I feel you, Kurdt. I feel you.

On the other hand, I had a suprise visit from therapy dogs on Friday, who remind me not to take myself too seriously. Nicky and Icon, meet everyone. Should I get a dog?

Posted by: rocketbride | May 29, 2017

In 1979 I was just learning how to be thirteen. I didn’t know that I’d have to keep thinking about it until I was twenty five. I thought that once I figured out thirteen, then it was history, junk for the archeologists to find years later. I thought it would keep working that way, figuring out each year as it came, then discarding it when the new one came along. But there’s much more to the whole thing. I mean, I had to figure out what it meant to be a boy, a man, too. Most of all, I had to find out what it meant to be Indian, and there ain’t no self-help manual for that last one.

(Sherman Alexie, “Witness, Secret and Not”, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, page 211)

viva-la-vida
“Viva la Vida” by Brandon Maldonado

My 41st year is turning into a bit of a mememnto mori experience. Not in the sense that I am preoccupied with my own death (although I have been thinking about the death of my parents more than usual), but because claiming 40 means that I am officially Too Old For This Shit, as my death won’t wait for me to grow up.

In some ways this has been liberating: I’m constantly making lists of silly things I’ve always wanted to do but have ignored, like getting my aura photographed or having one of my moles removed for non-medical reasons. I have also been getting closer to a few life-long dreams: I took time out of writing this entry to register for a course that will qualify me to work in the library as well as the classroom, and I am inching closer and closer to taking a creative writing course and seeing if I can find my story.

It’s been a weird year socially. A few very long and cherished friendships seem to have died when I wasn’t paying attention, and I have been working on being mature enough to let them go. I have had trouble with this my entire life. I am not only super sad when I feel a friendship cooling off, but even when it’s going well I’m sometimes jealous of any other person that they seem to enjoy. Once my jaws are in you, do not expect me to drop off without a fight. I oscillate between thinking that I’m brave and loyal like a wolf or a terrible pest like a tick.

So it takes me a long long time to realize it when 1 or 2 rebuffed invitations turn into years without any contact from them. I am guilty of counting huge seasonal parties that are so open-door that it doesn’t really matter if I go or stay away as real interactions; they’re not. At this point, I inventory our past relationship, mourning the death of what could be. I do this in spin class, or when I’m in the middle of a run and have nothing else to think about and the grief rises up me like fumes.

Ultimately, being 40 means that I have to cut the shit and follow the same advice I would give to anyone else. If someone is acting like they don’t like you, they probably don’t. If someone doesn’t invite you to their gatherings, it’s probably because they don’t want you there, and no amount of affection you had or have for them changes that.

There are so many people-shaped holes in my heart that might never be filled again. I have to find a way to lean into this.

Posted by: rocketbride | May 20, 2017

Church yard sale


Woody and the rest of the toys had a good grasp on the existential horror of the yard sale. On the one hand, you want to get rid of the stuff that’s holding you back. On the other…my stuff!

I always come home from a church sale with a few dumb things. Usually it’s books: I can use my classroom library to excuse a multitude of impulse purchases. Maggie always wants some toy, just as her brothers did. Blake has aged out of most of the yard sale charms (this is a kid who once begged me for $5 so he could buy a VHS set of Back to the Future movies from out neighbours across the road), but he did fall in love with a sugar bowl and creamer set that look like ducks. I took home a plastic witch cauldron, because Macbeth and also I don’t have to answer to you! There are also baked goods to trap the unwary.

This year was extra upsetting because my grandparents’ flotsam were on most of the tables. I was helping the set up last night, and I rather aggressively “repossessed” a few things for myself: a 45 box with a dozen of the best 45s, a few LPs, my grandmother’s ceramic mixing bowls. Most of the family has had opportunities to go get mementos at this point, and I think my mom is right to let most of it go into the world (even if that means the dumpster) instead of hoarding it, but that doesn’t mean that I was spared a pang seeing the box with the glass Loch Ness Monster figurine, or four pen-and-ink pictures from a long-ago trip to Quebec. Sometimes I would recognize something and blurt it out, at which point the tender-hearted older ladies gave it to me immediately, no questions asked. I ended up throwing a bunch of cash into the kitty as a way of apologizing for my family’s caprice, and for my sudden onset sentimentality.

I was particularly struck by two things. There were personalized mugs, which made me comment on my grandparents to whoever was around setting up last night. One of the ladies heard the names and fetched a silver anniversary tray, which I immediately recognized as my mom’s half-hearted late attempt at an anniversary present. Their 25th anniversary was in 1982, and I remember going to the mall to pick something out with my less than enthused mother. “She’s upset that we didn’t do anything,” my mom explained at the time, my mother’s indifference to her mother’s second marriage palpable. I was a year older than Maggie is now.

This morning I was idly perusing the picture frames when I muttered, “that’s my brother…and that’s my cousin.” Sure enough, two tiny pictures of the younger avatars of my family beamed out from tiny frames I remember from the tv/figurine cabinet. The ladies handed them over, of course, and they’re currently safe on my piano, along with a few loose prints of the family that had migrated to the bottom of a packing box. Something about those tiny beaming faces seeking their destiny among strangers gave me an ugly turn.

20170520_104331

I know that I need to give up these silly attachments. I know that the more I accumulate, the more uselessly complex my life becomes. But I’m helpless in the face of these cravings. Maybe it’s because I dream of long-gone family houses almost every night that I cling to their debris when I wake up.

Posted by: rocketbride | July 30, 2016

wood

Five years is wood.

I’v always loved celebrating the anniversaries in terms of materials. It started as a joke, with my mom giving the Boy and I paper one year, cotton balls the next, and it became something that focussed each year. When you are meshed, when your life is complete and whole because the other person is there, it’s easy to lose track of the number. Knowing the material of the anniversary gives me something on which to hang my hat. It gives a lense to my creativity. And Mason has risen to the challenge. (There are many, when married to me.)

On the first year, he gave me an elaborate Japanese wall hanging from my favourite paper store, and I made him a picture from our wedding with red silk stitched into the border.

On the second year, we bought each other cotton pillow cases, dressing our beds in bees and rock bands.

On the third year I gave him a wallet and he gave me a fancy black and white purse of leather.

Last year, for fruit and flowers, I made him bourbon and fig jam. He bought me a perfect dress covered in flowers.

This year is another favourite. Wood is full of beautiful metaphors for our shared life. The living wood that grows together, breathing in poison and breathing out life. Cut down, it builds our house and chairs and piano, everything that keeps us sheltered and joyful. Trees are an investment in the future, a bond taken in decades and demanding patience befoe fufillment. Trees are notoriously tricksy, bearing fruit one year and staying stubbornly bare the next. Wood is life, turned into permanence. It smells good too.

I have a hundred ideas for presents, things just for Mason, but we agreed a month to buy something big for the both of us: a big wooden mission style bed. It’s going to be great. And one day, just as we did this month for my grandparents, my family will have deal with an old, bulky, wooden bed. It will outlast us. Because: wood.

(Maggie is completely over watching me type. So no pictures this year.)

(Maybe one.)

eng_low_res_0047

Posted by: rocketbride | May 3, 2016

Go Set a Cash Register

to_kill_a_mockingbird_still

I need the long form for this. I’ve been quite complacent about fitting my thoughts into status updates, but I need more space for this. Spoilers ahead, but I frankly do not give a good goddamn who is angry with me. Don’t worry about losing your sense of surprise, just don’t read this book at all.

Back story: when I head that a new manuscript had been discovered, I was thrilled. Not that I’m unique, but Mockingbird is one of my favourite books. I’ve taught it many times, including last year, and I love introducing another generation of teens to the meticulously detailed social commentary hidden in the slow folksy narrative. LOVE IT.

But then doubt was cast. A lot of it. If you haven’t read that Toast article, do yourself a favour and read it in full. My initial happiness fled when Mallory Ortberg pointed out the many inconsistencies and warning flags in this “discovery.” After much soul searching, I decided not to read the “new book.” I consoled myself with the thought that I would be able to read it once Harper had passed, as her death would be the natural time for the buzzards to cash in anyway. And when she died, I asked around and was immediately lent a copy by a run friend, a person to whom I will be returning this copy forthwith.

I started the book on Saturday; I finished it sitting on my front porch, shooing Maggie away so that I could get 3 minutes of peace and finish this monster once and for all.

It’s awful. It’s terrible. It’s an abomination.

It’s not that it was a cynical cash grab; that’s the way this ugly world turns. It’s not that the characters did things I didn’t like; I follow long serials just like everyone else, and I make a point of not complaining about storylines as if I had a right to my wishes. Art is art and we should all be grateful for another chance to hang out with our fictional friends. And it’s not that the book is poorly written or unfit for publication; in fact with a few minor changes to the characters’ identities I would have thoroughly enjoyed it as a penetrating lyric on race politics in the 50’s and 60’s.

And I knew that Atticus was “a bit racist” before I read it.  Christ, what a fucking understatement.  Some jackass publisher thought it was all right to take Atticus, beautiful, upright, lonely Atticus, and make him into a horrifyingly abstract racist. All of the criticisms of his character – that he may be righteous, but he does right at no cost to himself – have been made horrifyingly true.  By releasing this book they have not only shit on one of the finest characters in all of literature, they have managed to shit on Mockingbird, as this book gives Atticus completely different motives for all of his “upright” behaviour. It’s that they inserted a dark catastrophe into the relationship between Calpurnia and Scout. And God help me, I will not be able to read my beloved Mockingbird without knowing the total shit show Maycomb becomes.

I have read books that I didn’t like. I have abandoned books in the middle. But I have never read a book and wished devoutly that I had never started reading it in the first place. This wasn’t just a questionable decision. This was a desecration.

I wish I could hold someone to account. I wish I had been warned. Now the best I can do is stop Mason from reading it, to keep it out of the hands of my children, and to warn all of my students.

Posted by: rocketbride | February 19, 2016

the saddest

Today I learned that the saddest funerals are for young people. Today I went to the funeral of the former student who died violently over a week ago; I was there because Mason couldn’t be, and I was there because I needed somewhere to put all the feelings of regret I’ve been having over not having been a good teacher to this kid. I thought that the worst part would be seeing his friends break down, but seeing his parents and grandparents was far worse. Even the music was upsetting: when someone started into “Tears in Heaven,” a song I have always loathed as overwrought, it seemed as if it had been written for today. At first I cried silently, then ugly sobbing, then more silent tears. It was bad.

How awful and frustrating it must be to love a child with all your heart and have to field calls from people who write him off as lazy or a thug? How awful to have to tend that picture of your perfect baby deep inside because you know you are the only one who feels it? And how awful to bury that child and all of your hopes for him just as he’s starting to become his own person.

Posted by: rocketbride | February 13, 2016

memorial

Last weekend a former student was shot at a nearby parking lot. Mason, who spent many years at Bat Masterson in and out of the behaviour support program, knew him quite well. I taught him one semester; if you expand the definition of “taught” to include mostly marking him absent and holding my temper with both hands whenever he graced us with his presence. To say that this kid was difficult seems disrespectful now, but the truth is that he excelled at manipulating relationships. Now that he’s dead at the age when I first met the Boy (in other words, in the dim mists of prehistory), I can’t help but regret how easily he kept me from caring about him.

We sometimes joke that a student will end up dead or in jail. It’s been 8 years since my first students went to jail (a string of gas station stickups) and now I have graduated to the next level of loss.

The funeral is on Friday, and it’s going to be awful. His friends all knew he was making bad decisions, and they warned him repeatedly. This funeral is going to be a monument to the theft of his potential. It’s going to suck.

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