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Monday, June 30, 2003
A bit somber today. Sometimes an anniversary falls on the exact day of the week an event occurred, making it (to me) resound that much more. My grandmother woke me at 7:00 a.m. on Monday, June 30, 1980, to say "Your mother has gone. She's at her peace."
Usually I try not to think too much in depth about that day, though I will never forget how Nik dropped whatever she was doing and sped over to the house, spending the rest of the day and the night with me. I remember talking to the surgeon and then going upstairs to play my guitar. I remember the undertakers. I remember how hot and bright it was that day. I remember being thankful that Mom's suffering was over, yet terrified at the thought of facing the coming days in the new state of being motherless.
Sometimes it's hard to believe that I once had a mother. Sometimes it's hard to believe that those two months of horror actually happened to my family. But if, as they occasionally do, friends ask if I've "gotten over" Mom's death, the answer at bottom is "no." Obviously I've learned to live with it. However, I'll always miss her.
At the risk of this becoming maudlin, I'll just say that the Japanese film, "Afterlife," captured my imagination permanently after seeing it. It posed the question: Which memory would you take with you to the afterlife? For one character, it was greeting her husband returning from the war -- the exact moment she saw him crossing a bridge in her village. For me, it would be the night Mom woke me up late after coming home from a bridge party with her friends. I would have been 16. Instead of ordering me back to bed immediately, she and I sat at the kitchen table while she told me the risqué jokes she'd heard at bridge, making me promise never to tell anyone I'd heard them from her. Two naughty confidantes, constricting their honking laughs to stifled hissing and snorts so as not to wake the menfolk, in a darkened kitchen. Priceless.
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Snob recants. So I walked into the dinner theatre lobby last night, and my first thought was "Oh my GOD." The crowd really did look like a church group -- lots of '80s hairdos, heavy makeup, Sears pantsuits, etc. My snob sensors were firing at maximum, but I knew I had to see it through. Besides, I wanted to see Rachel and Darcy sing and dance.
I loved it.
The show was called "Falsettos," a spoof on mafia-themed television and movies, and it was at once corny and hilarious. Rachel played the 'godmuddah,' and did so astute an imitation of Marlon Brando that I was reduced to wheezing within minutes. She and Darcy continue to astound me with their talent, whether acting, singing or dancing. I've always liked Darcy because, like me, he tends to be silent in groups. To see his transformation into an insane gangster on stage was an entertaining revelation.
That Jubilations company really works its performers over. Not only do they perform, but they wait on tables and bus them as well. Usually at a dead run, and always in character. I don't know what they're getting paid, but I'd bet it's not nearly enough to compensate for what is effectively two full-time jobs. Still, it's show biz! And as Harry Friesen, veteran farmer, once said to me, "You gotta' walk through the hog pen to get outta' the barn."
Friday, June 27, 2003
Rarely found in the same sentence: "dinner theatre" and "Jane." But that's exactly what I'm doing tonight, heading off to Jubilations Dinner Theatre to see my friends Rachel and Darcy in some kind of murder mystery spoof. When I heard the name "Jubilations" I thought at first I was in for some Christian revivalist show like "Up with People," but apparently it's not like that. Phew. I saw "Up with People" in 1982 and *still* haven't recovered. And I still remember my counter-theme song:
Down, down with people!
Kill 'em wherever you go!
Down, down with people!
Bury them deep in the snow.
If more people were dead people,
then people everywhere
Would have a lot less people to worry about,
And a lot more parking to share.
Okay, weak last line, but it got a giggle out of my dorm mates at Camrose Lutheran College.
Anyway, yep, dinner theatre kicks off an exciting weekend of working at the office on a very, very, VERY important assignment, heading to the old Dragon Pearl on Saturday night with my old roomie Lori to continue consoling ourselves for turning 40, and maybe sneaking in a visit with Vinnie La Vin to watch her blouse poke out unexpectedly as the baby does the backstroke.
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Morals versus Moolah: Volunteering in the cash room of the Stampede Casino until 3 a.m. today, I was overtaken by conflicting thoughts:
  1. Gambling is wrong, wrong, wrong.
  2. Raising money to help senior citizens enjoy lawn-bowling is good, good, good.
  3. Two cameras trained on me while I sort denominations? Don't you TRUST me?
  4. Ooh, crisp $100 bills, lovely brown Canadian $100 bills I love them I love them mortgage payment car loan property taxes more worsted weight yarn....oh.
Gamblers are such a paradox, you know? How can you simultaneously have a knack with mathematics and memory and yet not grasp the simple equation that Casino plus Your Money equals The House Always Wins? A strange case of optimism and denial, or rather, optimism born of denial.
Walking across the casino floor, another thought struck me: replace the cigarettes with Power Bars®, the weak drinks with Jolt® cola, the slot machines with massively gigged computers, and they could all be programmers. Same fierce concentration, same territoriality, same fashion sense. [Oh, har har...I am not really one to talk about fashion. If I'd been the costume designer for the original Star Trek, they'd all have worn sweaters and jeans. Red sweaters, of course, for expendable crew members.]
I Love Blogging, Episode #6952: I finally got around to looking up "notmydog" on Google once again, expecting to see web pages of a slightly ticked off South African rock band who didn't manage to register the ".com" URL before I did. Instead, I found that a blog entry of mine from October 2001 was quoted in an academic paper about the proliferation of WTC jokes post September 11th. The paper is called "Making a Big Apple Crumble," by Bill Ellis, Assoc. Prof. of English and American Studies at Penn State Hazelton. I don't know how long it's been out there, but discovering it this morning, despite being lethally sleep-deprived, really made my day. Especially being called "thoughtful." Thanks, Professor Ellis. I hope you don't mind if I pass this along to everyone I've ever met in my entire life.
Monday, June 23, 2003
The weight of the word on my shoulders. Right now I'm exhausted by words. The words chatty people speak to me. The words I have to read before I write my own words on paper, or on screen. It's all been said before, I think. Including that, I remind myself.
I've got a family reunion coming up at the end of July and the thought of it is daunting at present: all that small talk, all that iteration of the same personal details to a parade of relatives. I feel like wearing a T-shirt with the words, "I'm still in the same job (copywriting at a design agency), my vehicle is working fine, nope, I don't get up to much, there's 'no one special' in my life right now, yes it's lovely weather, and thanks, you look wonderful, too."
Don't get me wrong: I love my family before anything else. My brothers are two of the best men I know. I'm lucky that my cousins are also some of the closest friends I've ever had. I love these people. I love seeing them. So I'm hoping that this word-phobic phase gets over itself in the next month, that I'll be my usual long-winded, pointless-anecdoted self. A talent show is on the programme for the reunion, but right now I can only think of going as "The Amazing Silent Auntie! She looks, she blinks! She listens!"
You've heard of OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which some professionals hold to be a symptom of certain types of depression. Well, lately I've got a case of OKD, Obsessive Knitting Disorder, and the closest counterpart to it in life is Tetris Brain. That might be why words that are not "knit," "purl," and "slip 1 stitch" are so difficult to take on board. The massive afghan, or condo cosy, is almost 5/8ths complete. We are on the mend.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Phew! Just back from the Monterey Aquarium, kids, and boy are my fins tired. I forgot to mention in the last post that I laughed my abundant guts out yesterday watching "Finding Nemo." Suddenly the admittedly colourful yet somewhat dull clownfish were the biggest draw in the entire museum. Not for me, though...I get mesmerized watching the gigantic tank filled with gigantic bluefin tuna, sharks, dolphinfish, sea turtles and California barracuda. Like the entire undersea cast of "Finding Nemo" swimming past your eyes. Then I fall in love with all the sea otters. Then I sway along with the giant kelp in the forest. But I didn't see any John Dory fish, so Les and the kids and I couldn't do our impressions of a dory speaking whale. Confused? See the movie.
Update! Thank you to the ichthyologically inclined pal who sent an e-mail pointing out that Dory in "Finding Nemo" was "a Blue Tang, not a John Dory, you land-locked dope."
June 12, 2003: *click*
Okay, okay, the "40" thing. Let me tell you the best way to do it. First, have your pals throw you an amazing surprise party about 6 days before your actual day. (See below, June 9th entry). Then, the night before your birthday, crush your feeble, snivelling opponents in a rousing two games of lawn-bowling. And then force Fearless to drive you to the airport at 6 a.m. on your birthday so you can fly to San Francisco.
The well-mannered birthday celebration consists of martinis, bonfires on the beach, riding rollercoasters on the Santa Cruz boardwalk (and screaming like a banshee), shopping in the best bookstore on the planet, the Santa Cruz bookstore, getting pushed into an unheated swimming pool by a 4-year-old (yes! it's! cold!), too much wine, shopping at Trader Joe's, playing in the surf, going to the amazing farmers' market in Aptos, singing on the balcony overlooking Monterey Bay, making vegetables and fruit out of air-drying clay, sleeping in gloriously, deliciously, and....well, that's about all it takes. Cousin Leslie [Lester Polyester or Schmeslie to her pals] and her children, Noah and Jordan, have willingly agreed to fritter away the days playing and laughing. To thank the kids, I bought them the "Spirited Away" DVD. To thank Leslie, I've....I've....I've magnanimously said she can come up to El Condo Non Grande and frolic in the Bow River any time she chooses.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
So, how good was Cirque du Soleil? Well, put it this way. I had already seen the show on video, though watching a circus on TV is like watching fireworks on TV -- you get the idea, but it's nothing like being there in person. I paid top dollar for my ticket, yet still had my view partially blocked by a tentpole. I sat beside two loud-mouthed 20-somethings who yakked pretty much constantly. One was a former gymnast who said, after one act, "That's not that hard. That's just tumbling!" So by all my standards I should have been irritable, stewing and disappointed. And yet I was transported, joyous and charged with positive energy. Also, one of the performers missed a landing and slammed onto the stage, but continued on gamely to the next dangerous stunt. That's what I call theatre!
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Looks like it's my week for looking gobsmacked: Last night, for the first time ever, I won a game of Scrabble against the ferocious Valestuks. Usually I won't play with them, because, you know, humbling defeat loses its attraction after the 31st or 32nd time. But last night Vinnie La Vin coaxed me into a game. I played my usual sulky, grudging words, and then the miracle happened. The miraculous score sheet has been autographed by the loser witnesses and affixed to my refrigerator door. I'll retire now.
Monday, June 09, 2003
For the record, what I said was, "I don't understand why 40 is such a big deal. It's just a damned number."
This past Friday night, if you'd been in Calgary, you'd have been able to witness the spectacle of me tucking in to a big-ass portion of those words. Because I was stunned, gobsmacked, buffaloed and bushwacked by a surprise birthday party thrown by my friends.
The set-up: a phone call from Craig, who says that our old pal Fergus has finally condescended to coming to Calgary for a weekend, and could I please keep June 6th free to play some bar trivia with them.

The hook: Craig phones on Wednesday to say that he has to pick up his daughter from dance class and could I please get Fergus from his place at 6:45 to get to the bar by 7:00, the time we've reserved a table. "You know Ferguson," said Craig, "I wouldn't be any earlier than 6:45 if I were you."

The pay-off: I arrive at Craig's house on Friday night at 6:48, bound up the stairs and greet Ferguson in the doorway. He's not ready to go, what the hell? Liz, Craig's wife, comes out to greet me. "Come in for a second," she says, and since Fergoo's not ready, I comply. "Gee," I say to Liz, while looking at the dining table spread with goodies, "looks like you're having a party." "Well, kind of," Liz says. DING! And Farries clues in at last!
And here's what the Best Birthday Party, Ever, is like on Planet Jane: Books. Books. Books. And a handmade bookcase. And my favourite people reading their favourite literary bits aloud to me. And a cellist playing classical selections. And a special cello duet by Craig's daughter Madison and her cello teacher. And beer and wine and single malt. And Craig playing the guitar. And drinking too much and eating too much and being overwhelmed, still, every time I think of what's happened.
So, to my incredible friends Kirsten, Craig, Liz, John McD, John Ferguson, Rory, Jon, Jackie, Jean, Laurie, Duane (Bad Man!), Alison, Penelope, Sue, Madison, Sean and Nikki: you got me. Forever. Thank you.
So Cute I'm Dying. I read in Salon today that pet prairie dogs have transmitted what was at first thought to be smallpox to several people in the American Midwest. Then it turned out not to be smallpox, but a strain of monkeypox usually only found in Africa. Two things: first, pet gophers? Honestly. The owners deserve to get sick. Talk to any Alberta farmer: gophers is what you shoots, not what you plays with. Second: "monkeypox" is just far too cute a name for a disease. You can't be alarmed by "monkeypox," "binkyitis," or "fluffybunny syndrome." Acronyms are much scarier: AIDS. SARS. But, double bets that several garage bands are changing their names to "MönkeyPöx" as I write this.
The Unmentionables. Grant writes to chide me gently on a misspelling in a previous article, where I'd used a slang term for underwear.
"The proper spelling of this piece of undergarmentware (at least according to my recollections of 1970s elementary school in northwest Calgary) was always ginch (female) and gonch (male). Gaunch makes it sound European or something. Just thought you'd like to know."
Ah, but you see, I grew up in the north, where the temperature is cooler and the dialect somewhat different. Compared to the south of Alberta, our spelling of the word "gaunch," like the garment itself, is slightly longer.
Friday, June 06, 2003
And I'm not in charge of everything, why? Look, city council, it just shouldn't be this hard to enforce a few non-smoking rules. Listen, if a place's main business is a bar or lounge, then smoking should be allowed at its outdoor patio. If it is predominantly a restaurant, then smoking is not allowed either indoors or out. Restaurants that want to allow smokers are going to have to call themselves bars and renovate accordingly. Oh, and no goddamned vanilla-scented cigars anywhere, ever. You left that part out the last time.
And what have we bought ourselves so far as compensation for The Big Day next week? (1) A ticket to Cirque du Soleil. (2) A ticket to California. (3) A lovely bottle of wine. Bit of a chord change tomorrow as I head out to buy gaunch and socks.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
About every 7 years I get the urge to knit something. No, not "urge"...more like an uncontrollable compulsion. Am I a good knitter? No. Is it the height of stupidity to knit during the summer? Yes. How many skeins of worsted weight acrylic have been crammed in boxes in my various residences over the past 20 years? Don't ask. Will I ever learn? Never.
So, work work work during day, knit purl knit purl knit purl at night. I have finished a baby afghan for Vinnie La Vin's upcoming blessed event, which will be perfect as long as the infant's the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Now I'm working on an adult-sized afghan, and God knows how big it'll turn out to be. Could turn out to be a condo-cosy, the way I knit.
The Domination Commences...The Myrmidons take to the lawn-bowling green tonight for the first games of the season. Perhaps we shall continue to lull opponents by losing spectacularly until the semi-finals in August, then coming out of nowhere to lose in the finals. That is, if last year is any indication.