This morning I woke up and immediately went downstairs to grab a can of Pepsi because I needed caffeine and was too lazy to make coffee.
I accidentally grabbed a can of Bud Light* instead, and did not notice until I took a sip. It was shocking. This was at approximately 8:30 a.m.
I believe it was a test.
I’ve been living in Nova Scotia for just over a week. I often joke about the province’s drinking culture. I can totally do a keg stand or four and then funnel a beer and then do three tequila shots and then drive home**. Totally. Because I’m from Nova Scotia, and that’s how we do’s.
It’s especially important to make that known while living in BC, because they have a strong drug culture and it makes me sound all tough and shit without having to actually smoke or inject anything.
Anyway, lately I’ve not been sleeping particularly well. Though in theory I should be relaxed and smiling and stress-free, that is not actually the case. Also, unpacking sucks and takes kind of a long time when you are unpacking absolutely everything you own. There’s also the concern that my books have been neglected. It’s been a week, and they are just… sitting. In a pile. They are not alphabetized. They have not been sorted by genre. Novels are mixed with memoirs and writing resources and textbooks and cultural criticisms and short stories and what am I supposed to do if I want to read a short piece by David Sedaris? How will I find it? Will I settle for something by Augusten Burroughs instead? If it’s Running With Scissors that might be okay, but I’m just not sure if I can make that type of time commitment right now, you know? And his short pieces, like the ones in Magical Thinking, kind of suck compared to David Sedaris and if that’s all I can find will I ever be satisfied?
These are the sorts of things that keep me up at night. Along with, you know, worrying about money and my sanity and world peace, I guess.
We’ve also been having people over pretty frequently. This is great, because people are fun and they usually bring alcohol. Sometimes they bring types of alcohol my male counterpart and I rarely consume, like Bud Light.
Now, though it may be true that I don’t drink Bud Light because it’s a girl beer and I’m from Nova Scotia and thus too hardcore for that shit, free booze is always appreciated. I also never drink Canadian, but make an exception when it is free. Right now, the middle rack of my fridge is completely filled with Keith’s, Canadian, Bud Light, Strongbow, and also several cans of Pepsi.
And, this brings us full circle to that time I grabbed a beer for breakfast.
So what did I do? Did I drink the beer?
Sadly, no. I considered it for approximately three milliseconds. People drink mimosas in the morning, after all, and is that really so different?*** But in the end I decided against both the Pepsi and the Bud, and figured it was a sign I needed more sleep. About three hours later, I enjoyed a satisfying can of Pepsi. About four hours after that, I (kind of) enjoyed a (somewhat flat) can of Bud Light.
Maybe I’ve been in Vancouver too long. Seven years ago would I have had the beer, kick started my day? Probably. But I do know that even though I enjoy a good Keith’s and a kitchen party, over the last couple of years I’ve been known to get a hangover after two beers. Really puts a damper on the whole keg stand**** beer funnel thing.
Is this what getting old feels like?
*If you’ve never looked at the two right next to each other, do it. They are the exact same colour.
**I can’t even drive home sober, as I do not have a driver’s license. You kind of need one of those when you live in Dartmouth. The good news? I do have a car. I just need to learn to drive it.
****I’ve only ever done a keg stand once and I’m pretty sure I puked.
I’m kinda busy. This is an unusual circumstance, at least since completing university.
I work in a store, full-time. Ordinarily that’s just the kind of job I would despise. But after working from home for a year and a half, I don’t mind occasionally conversing with other members of my species. It helps that it’s only occasional; I work alone, and customers are sparse. It also helps that I don’t have to work weekends. Most days I spend perched in a chair behind the cash register with my Kobo. I’m averaging 2-3 books per week.
Of course this job is only temporary, a two-month gig; that’s probably why I still like it. In a few weeks, I am making a 6000-kilometer, cross-country move. Moving is expensive. Hence, the job.
I am extremely busy, gone from 8:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m every weekday. ‘Cooking’ and ‘cleaning’ are no longer uttered by my lips (not that they held a prominent place in my vocabulary previously). I don’t do laundry anymore. My plants died. I do make the time to shower daily, but that’s largely because my job (and probably my relationship, though it has not been explicitly stated) depends on it.
Weekends, too, are packed. With limited time remaining in this lovely city, every moment is carefully planned for optimal levels of fun. Many road trips have occurred. This all takes planning, thus time. Something else that takes planning: driving across Canada with a car full of things.
So of course, there’s packing.
Am I complaining? Well, yes, obviously. But I shouldn’t be. Because in about a month I will be back to having nothing to do, ever. I will wonder what happened to all the things. I will probably cook, and maybe pick up a sponge from time to time*. And this time, there will by no escaping to the beach, or Robson Street. Dartmouth, Nova Scotia doesn’t have a Robson Street. It should.
*But probably not.
For the past few months, I’ve been a bit of a crime TV junkie. It began with true crime; shows on Investigation Discovery like Stalked or Cold Blood or Deadly Women, for example. Eventually the obsession transitioned into hour-long dramas on Netflix. Specifically… CSI Miami. On evenings the boyfriend and I don’t feel like fighting over what movie to watch (most evenings), we share our time with David Caruso and his dramatic sunglasses.
Halfway through season two there’s an episode featuring a not-yet-famous Chris Pine. His girlfriend is looking for an “extreme thrill,” so he pays for her to be kidnapped by a company that excels in such matters. Unfortunately she ends up being chucked off a building, and David Caruso must find out who murdered her and save the day.
A few days later we were browsing through Netflix and came across The Game. This movie isn’t so much ‘kidnapping’ as being forced into a few high-speed chases and dealings with creepy clowns, but it’s a similar premise.
Both of these dramas happened at least a decade ago, which means enough time has passed for someone to attempt making this into a real-life business. Attempt, and succeed. Entrepreneur Adam Thick founded Extreme Kidnapping after being inspired by The Game.
GQ writer Drew Margary signed up, flew across the country, and spent a day being stun-gunned and waterboarded while duct taped to a chair. And, all for the low price of $1500!
$1500 is an all-inclusive trip to Cuba. Or a night of fear tailored specifically to you, based on your selections on a “torture menu.” Fire? Piranhas? Knives? I’ll probably stick with Pina Coladas and a lounger.
Things are cheap in America. Things like groceries, beer, gas, shoes, dinner, etc., etc. For this reason, we take a quick trip across the border once every month or two to pick up some necessities. This is usually extremely unexciting.
But once in a while the border wait is totally worth it because we end up doing something awesome and fun. Such was the case this past Easter weekend.
I’d wanted to go to Portland, Oregon for a while. All I knew about the city was that there was a pretty funny TV show set there, and they have an amazing bookstore. While I didn’t see Fred Armisen, the bookstore did not disappoint.
Portland was warm, clean, sunny, and quiet. Very, very quiet. I was surprised to learn that in terms of population it’s only a smidgen smaller than Vancouver, because the atmosphere would make you believe it’s half the size. It’s extremely laid back, there aren’t a whole lot of people milling about, and the people you do see hold doors open for you.
The highlight of the city, of course, is Powell’s City of Books. It claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, which I will not dispute. We went there three times. That may seem like overkill, but the average person could easily spend a few hours there, and when it comes to books, I am not exactly the average person. I could have spend an entire day there, maybe more. No, definitely more. It is four stories high and covers an entire city block. Even better: it sells both new and used books. Together. Like, there isn’t a separate “used book” section; no, they don’t have any of that nonsense. The new and old words live together in harmony, so you can easily search through a stack of the same book and choose the cheapest one. Which is, of course, exactly what I did. Eleven books and only $60 later, I decided to celebrate with a beer.
Oh, yes, the beer. We quickly learned why the streets were so quiet. Everyone was inside getting drunk. Portland is known for its breweries; we wanted to try them all out while we were there, but that turned out to be impossible because there were hour-long waits to get in no matter the time. I’m talking 3pm, or 5pm, or 8pm. But we did manage to get to a few; namely, Rogue, BridgePort, and Rock Bottom, and they were a delight. After the final bookstore trip we managed to get into Henry’s Tavern, where they had a very cool outdoor patio and an extensive beer list. It, too, was a delight.
But besides the beer and the books, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. We browsed through the Saturday Market. We would have gone to the International Rose Test Garden, but it wasn’t quite the right season. We spent a lot of time walking along the water. Drank some coffee. And ate some doughnuts.
There is a perma-line outside the downtown VooDoo doughnuts location, but we eventually sucked it up and soldiered through. High on the list of tourist traps, VooDoo was a must-try on our trip. At 8am the line was only a half hour long, and we left with a box of oddly-flavoured and hilariously named baked goods.
To sum it all up, Portland is a pretty cool place where people drink a lot of beer and read a lot of books. Thus, it gets my stamp of approval.
At present, I make a living writing.
This isn’t nearly as glamourous and elegant as it sounds. A year ago, when I quit my full-time, almost well-paying job, I thought I would be spending my days sipping whisky with a cigar in my mouth, possibly while wearing a top hat. If this doesn’t sound elegant or glamourous to you, ‘tis clear you have not seen Midnight in Paris. But alas, I’ve not yet acquired a taste for whisky, though I could probably get down with the cigars… and, come to think of it, I have been wearing hats a lot more lately.
But can beer be elegant?
Perhaps instead, I can begin a downward spiral into despair, ending with my head in the oven. Probably not ideal, but there is definitely some glamour there.
I’ve never been much of a poet anyway.
Anyway, the point is, I spend most days at my desk, which is maybe, maybe two inches from my bed, in my pajamas, eating Mr. Noodles or frozen mini pizzas, while writing about car insurance or pharmaceuticals or the health benefits of water.
And as I spend 20 minutes shaking the pizza crumbs from between the keys (while I procrastinate writing an article called Benefits of Accutane) (hint: there aren’t really any) I can’t help but wonder… how did this happen?
Well, it happened because nobody cares about my short stories or witty anecdotes, and a lot of people care about online pharmacy scams.
This wouldn’t matter because at least I’m getting paid and it’s not like I’m “above” writing about Viagra, but the thing is, I think I forgot how to actually write.
See, when you’re writing SEO-friendly articles called Propecia and Hair Loss Myths or Car Rental Companies’ Hidden Fees or Cialis: Don’t Be Afraid of Treatment, you kind of lose any passion you might have once had for your, ahem, craft. You no longer care if you used 10 words to say what could have been said in two; in fact, you appreciate the higher word count. Cliches are not frowned upon; they make it easier for the average pharmacy-scam reader to understand the content.
Should I feel like a bad person for writing these websites? Well, I don’t, because they’ve paid me thousands of dollars.
I don’t feel like a bad person, but I do feel like a bad writer. I’ve dabbled in writing about relationships and fashion and found myself using the phrase “cringe-worthy,” straight from Cosmo, on more than one occasion. For an online dating website targeting religious senior citizens, I included sentences like, “Once you submit the application, let God connect your spirit with the spirit of your soulmate.”
None of this is okay.
Is there a point to this rambling? Well, yes. I’ve decided to stop. No more. Or at least, much less. I will now attempt to find part-time or seasonal work, and will continue writing only for regular clients whom I have not mocked in this post. The rest of the time? I’ll spend learning how to actually write again.
There are a lot of great videos on the internet.
If you want to listen to a smart person say funny things, you can laugh along with Jenna Marbles.
And if you’re looking for something new to do with an avocado, a washed up 90′s rapper is more than happy to help out.
Wait, what? Cookin’ With Coolio? How did I miss this?
It looks like this was a thing about 5 years ago, but this new-to-me web series features Coolio, of Gangsta’s Paradise fame, who will “teach yo ass how to cook… Sucka!”
To find out more, you can check out his YouTube channel. There are all sorts of handy recipes, including a stir-fry you should be high when you try.
… How did this happen?
There are countless ways to lose a day; some, admittedly, better than others. Some days, I actually have to work. Usually something super fun, like writing articles on cancer or vascular diseases or producing marketing copy to sell diet scams. Some days it can seem like I’m wasting my life in a tiny apartment eating crackers and researching angioplasty. I try to convince myself it’s not really a waste; crackers are cheap, and the angioplasty thing is a paycheck.
When I’m using words to craft careful paragraphs that give me no pleasure (besides enabling me to purchase those crackers) (that’s a lie, the boyfriend probably bought them) it can be difficult to find the motivation to push those creative portions of my brain. Those parts that allow me to use those carefully crafted words to express well-thought-out ideas or humorous anecdotes or anything at all that forces me to think for myself rather than rewrite extremely common information in a way that is different enough from everyone else’s that I’m not accused of plagiarism. Trust: if you google “angioplasty” or “leukemia” or “onychomycosis” every webpage you find will have the exact same information with the sentences rearranged and choice words skillfully replaced with the aid of a thesaurus. Except for this one, of course.
The point is, such monotonous work is draining and it’s hard to pick ones self up to work on that latest short story after spending a morning researching toenail fungus. Most writers need a boost. Many turn to drugs and alcohol, but I’ve not yet given myself permission to down a bottle of wine at 9:00 a.m. (check back after 10 years of writing about blood and fungi and DNA and we’ll see where we stand). For the time being, I rely on the occasional motivational speech, usually given by a successful self-deprecating writer who can make me laugh. TEDtalks may be saving me from a life of creativity forced by mood-altering substances. Thanks, Ted**. I’ve decided to share a few of my favourite speeches.
And, these last two aren’t TED talks, but they are fabulous.
**Ted isn’t a real person, but it’s easier to pretend he is.
I try to make a habit of keeping up with literary trends. The Hunger Games; Eat, Pray, Love; The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; Harry Potter; even those terrible Dan Brown books, back in the day. So, the 50 Shades trilogy was a natural addition to my library.
The books don’t really have a plot so I can’t imagine that I’m giving anything essential away, but just in case, I should mention that this may contain spoilers. But my advice to you is ignore my warning and keep reading this post because in the end I’m going to tell you not to read the books and that if you already bought them perhaps you should burn* them.
Let’s be clear. When I began the first book, I was not expecting a literary masterpiece. I was expecting something Twilight-esque, but with sex. Twilight was bad. The whole series, absolutely atrocious. I hated Bella. I hated Edward. And every time I read the word “dazzling” I wanted to throw the book against the wall. I wanted to, but I didn’t. That’s because I’m a lazy ass, and I knew I would have to get up and pick it up and keep reading because I genuinely wanted to know what happened in the end. It’s just too bad that the end was four books later.
But that’s the major difference between the Twilight books and the 50 Shades books (besides the sex, which I’ll get to later). When reading Twilight, I did become curious about what would happen. There was a hook there. I would have been equally (or much, much more) satisfied reading a plot summary on Wikipedia, but I’m a trooper and soldiered on through all four books. 50 Shades, though, was also atrocious. It had male and female leads I hated. Every time somebody “murmured” something or completed an action “idly” I wanted to throw the book against the wall. And this time there was nothing stopping me; there was no hook, nothing to keep me going back, and I had to force myself to get through the entire trilogy. I probably wouldn’t have if my boyfriend hadn’t bought me the final two books; guilt is what kept me going.
There are big problems and there are little problems and I hardly know where to start. So I’ll just begin with what the book is most known for: the sex. These books are supposed to be absolutely scandalous, change the way women think about sex, spice up bland marriages, mend relationships, even create new life, if we’re to believe news reports and inappropriate onesies. My verdict: if you’ve seen an R-rated movie, you will not be shocked by 50 Shades.
It seems almost pointless to discuss character development and plot and writing style and all that jazz because nobody really cares. It’s like looking for a political message in Zoolander. But I’ll touch on it anyway, because E.L. James is now rich and famous and I spend most days writing about pharmaceuticals or car insurance or DNA for a paycheck and I might be just a tad bitter, mmmkay? So here we go. Ana is a young, naive, virginal 21-year-old who has never found another man ever attractive ever before. Ever. And for this reason, she must be with Christian, no matter what, forever, because he is clearly the only person on this planet who can ever satisfy her needs, ever, even though he wants to beat her repeatedly and she doesn’t want him to; that’s just a minor hiccup on their long road to happiness and bliss. It sounds like your average everyday high schooler, convinced they will be with their prom date forever even though they’re going to different colleges where they will be partying all the time with new, better looking people, because for them it will be different and their love will conquer all. Only in Ana’s case, it’s actually true. Love conquers all. Ana’s love turns Christian into a better man. It’s a wonderful lesson, no?
There are a few key takeaways from this series.
1)If someone had a terrible, abusive childhood and it gives them all sorts of crazy complicated mental and emotional issues, that can all be solved by a month spent with their soulmate.
2) It’s okay to marry someone you’ve known for about six weeks, especially if you’re 21, have never been in a relationship before, and the person you are marrying wants to make rules about how often you should eat and work out. In fact, your best friend should do it, too!
3) As long as you say you’re independent over and over again, to yourself and to everyone else, it’s true. Even if in the end you give into your boyfriend every. single. time.
I want to say that the only people who like these books are people who have never read another book. It’s their first foray into reading, and with nothing to compare it to, it seems pretty okay. Especially if they’re comparing it to what they see on TV and they’re into Teen Mom and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. If I was going in blindly, that’s exactly what I’d say. Unfortunately, I know this to be untrue. My own dear boyfriend read the trilogy and liked it. And it wasn’t even because of the sex scenes; he skimmed over those, but found the plot engaging. He thought there was a plot. And he tried to discuss character development with me, which means he thought the characters had… character. We almost got into a fight about it, because as a writer and someone who appreciates good literature I couldn’t believe I was living with someone who thought 50 Shades of Grey was amazing. It’s like telling an actor I think Rob Schneider is a genius, or a musician that I can’t wait for Nickelback’s next album. So I guess that there is the occasional intelligent person out there who can get past the bad writing (he did concede the writing was terrible) and find something to enjoy in the books. I have not yet figured out what that “something” is.
So, as promised: do not read these books. If you already bought them, perhaps you should burn** them.
* I don’t really think you should burn these books. Burning books is bad.
** I mean, in theory I don’t believe in burning books. But in times of extreme hardship, say, it’s winter and you have no heat or power and you need fire to cook, these books might not be a bad place to start. There is an apocalypse coming, after all, and you should always be prepared.
Christmas is big in my little household. By mid-November our apartment is covered in garland and nutcrackers and lights and candles and a tree with no free surface space, among (many) other things. Presents, too. Last year, it would not be an exaggeration to say it looked like the present pile was meant for a family of four, including two young children. We make a big deal out of Christmas, and Santa never forgets us.
This past Christmas, nestled between a superman mug and Star Wars and cologne and The Zombie Apocalypse, there were two tennis rackets with my significant other’s name attached. It was one of those gifts that seemed really great at the time, because it was snowy and rainy and cold and gross, and it didn’t seem like that would ever change. I didn’t really consider (at all) that I would someday have to actually hold one of the rackets, in my hand, and run around frantically trying to hit a yellow ball. They were sort of an… “in good faith” gift, like, yeah, totally, I’ll make an effort to try new things and be adventurous and do activities you like because it’s raining and you can’t actually hold me to it anyway.
But then eventually seasons changed as they tend to do, and this “spring” thing happened. At first I was all excited because there was sun and that meant it was beer-on-patio season. Then, of course, I was reminded of the tennis rackets. We played that very afternoon.
It wasn’t my first foray into tennis. When I was 10-ish, it was actually a favourite pastime among my friends. We didn’t know the rules and we couldn’t serve, and we (or at least I) weren’t really strong enough to consistently hit it over the net. But I tried, and even took tennis lessons one summer. And I had fun because I didn’t suck more than everyone else in the class; I was beautifully average. But then one day we were warming up running laps or something when I fell and scraped my knee. This should not be surprising since, up until I began playing tennis, I was the worst person in any group playing any sport I had ever tried. This is still true. And on this day, my lack of sportsmanship presented itself in the form of a bloody knee. But the faulty knee didn’t concern me. Nor did the possibility of infection. What did concern me was the bottle of peroxide in my tennis instructor’s hand post-fall. So I jumped up and ran away from him, around the tennis court, multiple times, more content to risk another fall than subject myself to that familiar stinging sensation. He chased me and he caught me and my knee burned, and that was the end of my burgeoning tennis career.
Until Spring of 2012, of course. So besides my lack of interest in all things sporty and my intense self-hatred for coming up with such an ill-thought-out gift, I had to deal with traumatic childhood memories regarding the sport. I was not prepared for a pleasant day. We walked down to the tennis courts at Stanley Park, and after a few minutes I grew sweaty, and my hand started to hurt, and the sun was in my eyes which made them water and somehow I still had…. fun? Yes, fun.
The moral of this story is: Hmm. Well, perhaps something about how it’s good to try new things? No, too corny. What about…. it’s important to remember that seasons change? Probably not; doesn’t really fit the ending. Perhaps we’ll just stick with “tennis is kind of fun.” Yes, that will do just fine. Also fun: post-tennis beer on the patio in the sun.