Sick Kitty.

My cat is on drugs.

No, really. We have been having some issues with the little guy. He’s been unnaturally aggressive at times. He was attacking me if I tried to go outside, sometimes. And then there was the pooping on the rug thing. Like, every two days. Sometimes right while we were in the room. He’d just drop a deuce and then look at us. Time for the vet.

E took him to see Dr Bob. When E let Bax out of his box to be examined, he shredded E’s arm (we are talking rivulets of blood), so Dr Bob wouldn’t go near him. “He’s angry”, he observed, and gave E some Diazepam for Bax.

We sneak it into Baxter’s food and he is mellow. No anger there. Right now he is on my bedside table, purring at the lamp. But E and I are worried that we did something to Bax. We feel sick and guilty. How did he get so angry?

Time Passes. I’m Sill Awkward.

I walked into Morgan and Tara’s housewarming last night and the past slipped a banana peel under my heel and I pratfalled (pratfell) directly into 1988.

Angus and Jane were there, down from the Queen Charlottes. When I was in Grade Nine, Angus loaned me my very first Led Zeppelin album (Yes, it was a record. ‘Hot Dog’ had a skip in it so I didn’t record it on my tape and thus never discovered the song for several years.) and Jane and I once had a ski race wherein I skied into a pole in the lift lineup and sustained a mild concussion.

Angus gestured to the slightly burly man leaning on the counter.”This is Sam. Russel.” And I was completely addled for about an hour.

Sam was simply the coolest boy we could imagine when we were fifteen. He skipped class to do stretches and martial arts. He wore all black. he had long hair and guarded brown eyes. In shop class, he made a Samurai sword. (Wears all black and makes a Samurai sword? Today he would have been flagged for psychological assessment, but back in the Neverneverland of the Eighties, before Columbine, that was fine.) He didn’t talk much. Sometimes he half-smiled at someone’s joke. He was perfect crush fodder for angsty teenage girls.

“Are you really?” I gasped. He laughed. I examined him, trying to find evidence of that teenage enigma.

“No one’s ever asked me that before, when introduced to me,” he offered after a while.

I laughed and made some mention of him being in the Mossad and so hard to spot, but since he didn’t know what the Mossad was, it kind of fell flat.

I chatted and smiled and drank some sangria, and covertly, I watched Sam for some sign that he was that boy. You know where I found it? His body language. Fifty pounds and two decades later, and he still stands the same way, feet slightly splayed, pelvis relaxed, arms crossed.

But those loafers? Black and glossy as a beetle’s carapace. They belonged on some kind of salesperson. I didn’t have the ‘So, what do you do?” conversation with him (largely out of nerves on my part, couldn’t I think of something more original?) but those shoes broke my heart a little bit. Gorgeous Sam, doing the splits on the grass, should never do anything as prosaic as sell things.

A little while later he grabbed another beer from the fridge. “I’m doing the world tour of non-alcoholic beer,” he informed me quietly. In a massive conversational hemorrhage, I came back with, “I don’t drink nonalcoholic wine. There are too many juices and stuff to fill the gap.” “Too much sugar,” he replied.

Sometimes in the past twenty years, I have asked myself, “What would I do if I ever saw Sam Russell again?” Be friendly and open? Act charming and relaxed? Smile mysteriously? No. The answer is clear. I would make a fool of myself. And I did.


I am not very good at clothes shopping in malls or chain stores. The serried ranks of different sizes of garments, cunningly orchestrated ensembles on the walls, the canned music, and both the eagerness or indifference of salesclerks inevitably all leave me confused and defensive.

I like bargains. I like to dig for cool finds. I like to be left alone to pluck something out of a bunch of stuff and consider it, in and of itself. So when Sandii and Sharon and I hit the Folk Festival’s Marketplace for a preview last night, I was in heaven.

The Marketplace is a long corridor lined with stuff: Clothes, jewelry, art, cosmetics, gewgaws, knickknacks, crystals, instruments, accessories, and everything else under the sun. All of it made by local people who have green, sustainable ideas, and who know that sometimes a shopper does not want to have her hand held as she shops.

There are several ‘best’ vendors I love, but by far my favourite is Alchemy, an outfit that recycles used saris into wrap skirts and tops. Because this is the West Coast, they also do lovely, comfortable, stretchy yoga wear.

But. BUT! Alchemy has the best way to suck ragpickers like me in. They have a $5 pile of clearance stuff. Things with tiny imperfections: A stitch loose on a two-tiered silk sari skirt in crimson and peony. A seam that doesn’t meet up on a teal wraparound yoga jersey cover up. This pile? It is 20 feet long and about two feet high. It is a paradise for ragpickers.

Seriously, Sandii and Sharon and I were on a recon mission yesterday, but we got sucked into the Alchemy booth for a half an hour or so. Searching and poking and pulling and sifting through the pile, I was in my element: Aqua, tangerine, cinnamon, mint, cobalt, eggplant, peony, emerald, lilac, lapis, fuchsia, indigo, ultramarine, pomegranate, mango, watermelon, candy apple, peach. Every colour in the whole wide world was in that giant mound of clothes.

I am totally going back tomorrow.


I ended up going. I waffled til the last minute, though. But with Tara as my date, I felt a little braver.

We walked in and were given name tags with our grad pictures on them (Did I graduate at 12? Was I ever that young?) and bought drink tickets. Three bucks for a beer or a glass of wine. This ended up being my shameful downfall. More on that later.

It ended up being a hell of a lot of fun. Funnily enough, a lot of the things I had predicted for my classmates had come true. Became A Stripper is now a trophy wife in a gated community in Texas. Little Weasel is a salesman and has been in rehab twice. Looked like he was heading there again. Skater Dude tossed his long, palomino locks and acted chill. Married A Nerd was more relaxed and confident than in high school. Too Tall still has muscle cars and is a suave DJ. Unexpectedly Kind Rocker Girl, who used to comfort me in the bathroom after I failed math tests, went brunette. Scrawny Boy bulked up and has a comfortable, booming laugh. Known Him Since Birth is a responsible Government worker, and has grown into his face charmingly.

And, of course, my old friends. We are all a bit plumper and less neurotic, for sure. Tara and Duncan held no surprises, because I see them semi-regularly. Although Duncan is slowly becoming King Lear. The funny thing was, I noticed the differences in them and then they were just my friends, and there were no more differences. Pia still mothers, Jenny still bosses, Christi still has a laugh that can light up the world, and Jess still finds the absurd. Perfectly.

It was wonderful, except the three-dollar drinks. I budgeted for six dollar drinks. That was a lot of wine. But Tara was the Best Date Ever, and got me home. Although I don’t know how I broke my key or managed to get into bed. Maybe it was my resourceful teenage self, helping me along.

Goodbye Paul and Wendy.

It is so hard when students I’ve had for a long time go back to Korea. As a private tutor, it’s my job not only the help educate them, but to be a friend and mentor in Canadian life and experience. That’s so much of the joy of my work: Helping kids to get comfortable navigating life in Canada. My students, Paul and Wendy, whom I have been tutoring and mentoring for two years, left today. I will miss them very much.

When we first met, they were diffident and seldom made eye contact. They had no opinions. They were in culture shock, confused and lost. No wonder. They had been transplanted to a place where they were expected to excel, but had none of the cultural ground rules. Over two years, we changed that, together.

The siblings I left yesterday were outgoing and confident. They made eye contact. Wendy and I have been teaching each other Girl Guide songs. Paul has been telling me about the World Cup and his iPad. Linguistically, they both have improved almost unbelievably. I’m so proud of both of them. Unreasonably, E refused to adopt them so they could live with us in Canada. He is heartless.

I wish we could stay in contact, but I know how demanding their lives are going to be when they get back to Korea. Paul will be expected to study til at least Midnight, and Wendy, not much earlier. They will both be enrolled in several academy after-school classes. Neither will sleep for more than seven hours a night for the next several years.

The only thing I can do is send them off with love, wish them success, and hope that in their busy, stressy lives, they remember that there is another way to live their lives than a constant treadmill of obligation.
Oh, and that they remember that reading is fun.

Wendy and Paul, keep safe, and good luck.

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