Tuesday Small Community Blogging.

Did you know that the word ‘Sointula’ is Finnish for “Place of Harmony” or “Harmony”? It’s also a tiny community on Malcom Island. Where? you ask. You take a ferry from Port McNeill. Almost the top of the Island. It is beautiful, in that damp esoteric way that makes the North Island so hard to forget. It’s too far north for Arbutus trees, but is a haven for cedar, both red and yellow.

Sointula is a little North Island miracle. It was founded in 1901 by a band of Finnish settlers looking to create a commune for themselves. The experiment only lasted for four years, before the dream was abandoned, owing to money troubles and the little niggling details that never let communism win, at least not on a small scale. People were greedy in their own small ways. Plus the unrelenting rain for about eight months of the year must have made them think there was mold growing in the crevices of their skin.

But many of the people stayed on the island and opted for the capitalist way, and bought property. They turned their faces to the resources at hand: Fish.

Sointula produces some fine fishermen. And women, but mostly I love the men.  They are not the leather-elbow-patch, shined-brightwork types, as many of the Campbell River trollers are. These are not masquerading as gentlemen. They are burly and weathered. They happily haul 80-lb cannonball weights down the dock and swing them into the boat without breaking a sweat. They shrug at 22-hour days. These are MANLY men.  They call it an easy week, coming in from several days of fishing, cleaning up and then two-stepping the night away at the cowboy bar.

I loved those manly men. I loved their Finnish noses and their narrow jaws and the way the redheads freckled on their forearms.

I miss those Sointula Finns.

When Society Crumbles…

...and we have to live off the land, don’t make me the tomato farmer. My tomato yield this year: One plant. Two undersize tomatoes.

I need to go listen to my friend Jim. He says he has hybridized Romas and Beefstakes, which means he’s got Romas bigger than my clenched fist. He is my agricultural hero.

Striking A Blow For Interstellar Friendship.

Yeah, it was Friday at work. A little lazy, a little lackadaisical.

J was in my last class. She used to be shy. Now she has me pegged as An Adult Who Will Tell Her Stuff, and she chatters and laughs about the topics she introduces.

She was reading an article on the possibility of extraterrestrial life. She dutifully read it. The following conversation ensued.

J:Do you believe in aliens?

Me: I don’t see why not. The universe is a big place. Wouldn’t it be strange if we were the only people in it?

J: (after consideration) I’m scared of them.

Me: Of aliens? Why?

J: They are ugly.

Me: How?

J: You know. Long necks. Three fingers, not four. They are grey. No hair. And no clothes.

Me: But just because they don’t look like us doesn’t mean they’re scary.

J: (unconvinced)

Me: They won’t hurt you. Maybe they want to be friends. Maybe THEY think WE are ugly!

J: We are?

Me: yeah! Look at us! We’re all pinky-brown coloured! We have four gross fingers! We have yucky hair on our heads! (I pull mine up so I have extreme Pineapple Head)

J: (Looks at her hand dubiously) Maybe.

Me: Also, if they’re naked, maybe they don’t know why we wear clothes. Are we too ugly, so we need clothes?

J: (giggles) We are ugly?

Me: We might be, to aliens! We look different, right? But we could still be friends.

J: How?

Me: Well, what if there’s a girl alien out there, just your age, who likes watching movies and drawing, like you?

J: Aliens like movies?

Me: Some of them probably do. If they do exist, I mean.

J: Girl aliens?

Me: Totally. And what if you and the girl alien both liked to watch movies and draw? Would you be scared of her just because of how she looked?

J: No. (brightens) She would like to watch Ice Princess with me!

Me: She probably would love it.

Saturday Sermonette.

He is stooped over a display of ladies’ shoes. At first I only notice his hunch and his slightly crablike shuffle as he looks over the merchandise. His large polarized glasses are adjusting back to clear from being out in the sun. He has an impressive moustache. I wonder why he’d be interested in womens’ footwear, but then I see he has a little piece of paper. His wife or someone has obviously sent him on an errand.

He stares furiously from shoes to paper, as if daring them to be anything other than the Ortho-matic Series 200 or whatever.  The shoes on the table he is keeping such an eagle eye on support my guess that he’s there on an errand for his wife. They are all comfortable, arch-supported, easy to get into-and-out-of styles.

I see him later on his way to the bus stop. He can’t move fast. His legs don’t work that well. But he is clutching a bag with a shoebox in it. he has triumphed against Ladies’ Footwear!

I wonder who he is, if his wife is cooking him up a nice dinner at home. He’s old, wrinkled, stooped, no longer conventionally attractive in the least. But he’s buying shoes for someone who loves him, and someone he loves.

I think about the nature of humanity. Not many of us are really beautiful in the societally mandated way, like models or actors, glossy thoroughbreds tossing their locks for the paparazzi. But all of us, even the ugly ones, the smelly ones, the old ones, we all deserve to love and be loved.

Cow Bay Day

Six thirty AM comes quickly to someone like me, who likes her sleep and likes a lot of it. But I got downtown to meet Bo and Carol to get on the bus to go to the ferry. We were chatting in a desultory kind of manner, just beginning the long descent into Horseshoe Bay, when the bus stopped. And stayed stopped. It had broken down, and whoops! We had 15 minutes to catch the ferry!

We made it. Just. We boarded after all the cars, so took seats to keep an eye on the cafeteria lineup. It was about 45 minutes before we got our food and I even ate the bad ferry eggs, I was so hungry. I’d like to say that I consoled myself with the ravishing scenery, but I was too tired and grumpy and hungry.

Dad met us and we drove the hour back to his place. As usual when I see my dad, I was trying to think of things to say. Now I was overfull, tired, and grumpy, so I didn’t have a lot to say.

Dad’s place is a condo. It overlooks the bay. It looks nice with the family furniture in it, but I kept having moments where I’d go, “Oh, we have that too! No, wait, that is my family’s hall stand.” Very strange.

I got the town tour. Dad introduced me to many of his new friends, including the carver, Herb, who works at the Maritime Center, and several boat owners. We toured the Center, and this may be surprising, but I am actually the more capable, of his two kids, of appreciating the restored 1932 outboard engines and restoration projects on old boats. There was a really cool Evinrude from the fifties, all in aqua tones. They are doing some fine work there on the boats, too. The docks there are busy with people conferring and commiserating with one another. I really liked it. I saw a handful of boats I knew, and some I wanted to get to know better. I was happy to see that one of my old fishing pals had donated his eighty-year-old double-ended gillnetter for restoration. That is a damned cute boat.

After the town tour, we all went inland a bit to visit my cousin’s winery. It’s just a small operation, but my cousin showed us the bottling machine and explained the process. When I saw the hand-bottling machine, it made me regret drinking his wine so freely, not thinking of his efforts.

There was another winery around there that sells the most amazing blackberry port. You know how so many things that purport to taste of blackberries don’t? This stuff does. It is gorgeous, so I bought a bottle.

We came back to Dad’s place and Bo and Carol and I picked blackberries from the bushes that grow beside the condo property. I was feeling kind of weird about the whole day, but then, picking the blackberries, all of a sudden, it was normal. I was just hanging out with my family. Dad took some pictures of Bo and I picking, him high, me low. Carol assiduously getting the ones we missed. Pictures of his family, hanging at his new place. Bo was planning a pie. I’m making tarts.

We had an early dinner at a fish restaurant where they knew my dad. Then he drove me back to the ferry. Coming into Nanaimo, he said, “Look, we can keep going and go to Hardy if we want.” I confessed that I sometimes missed it. He asked how. Was it the people, the job, the town? I admitted that it was everything. That sometimes, I’ll be in the middle of something and just think, ‘Hey, I have to go to work now!’ And the barge is the job I’m thinking of.

I told my mother something like that once. She told me I was imagining it.

What I just realised today is that my father loves me. He wanted to introduce me to those people. He wanted me to meet the people and see the boats. He is proud of me. And it even looks like the person he’s proud of, he knows pretty well. At least, he knows my love of old wooden boats and mechanical things.

This is pretty cool to me. I spent most of my life hiding my opinions, as well as many of my likes and dislikes. Is it possible that my father actually noticed them anyway?

IKEA World

Nobody saw it coming. We all bought the ubiquilamp when we went to university, the same GALANT study desk, the computer chair.

In our first apaprtments, everyone had IVAR shelves. Some had POANG chairs, and most had BILLY bookcases. The same scrubbed pine table and the folding chairs.

We graduated out of the basics when we got onto career tracks. Ditched the POANG that was beginning to sag, upgraded to KLIMP bookocases and maybe a KOMFTY bed. Something simple. And by that time, our old futons were too busted for anything but the landfill. So much easier to just get a new bed.
Kids came along. Back to IKEA for nursery stuff, cute little $3.99 rubber duckies and $10 baby bathtubs. Lots of lights on our kids’ walls, shaped like stars and seahorses.

Kids got to school age. Back to IKEA for more BILLY bookcases (they never lasted more than a decade) and more IKEA beds, computer desks, chairs, and decor.

The problem came when the governments started looking at what was in the landfill. Particleboard and allan keys. Broken BILLYs and POANG arms. A million star-and-seahorse-shaped pastic light fixtures.Broken VINSTRA storage units and KOMPLEMENT plastic cubes.
They started taxing IKEA furniture. But people still bought. We couldn’t go anywhere else. it was too cheap! The meatballs were too delicious!

They taxed more heavily.

The latest tax was 73% on every IKEA product walking out of the store.

The landfill is still filling with IKEA products.
IKEA, the big, friendly, Swedish box store with the cheap furniture, is taking over the world.

What You Should Do. (Or, Happy Birthday To My Mom.)

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been sixty-six. We would have had a party that was organized by her, but Dad and Bo and I would have done the leg-work. That’s what we did.
My mother spent a lot of time telling me what to do.

She thought she was being helpful, giving me guidelines of how to live my life, but she had no idea of the chain of events she was setting in motion.
It was really highlighted for me when I was travelling with Kirsty and Michie in Italy. I realized that it was silly for me to have to call every two or three days “Or I’d worry, Dear.” And then when I did call, she’d tell me what I should do or what I should see. And little old me? I’d feel guilty for saying I wasn’t going to do things her way. While making agreement-type noises, because if I said “No, I think I’m going to do this instead,” she sulked. Yes, actually sulked.

Now, I have spent years rationalizing her behaviour. She was an invalid, she couldn’t do things and therefore wanted to have the experiences I was having, blah, blah, blah. All true. She was limited in her mobility. The recent trip my dad and I took to Philadelphia to see my brother, which involved a crack-of-dawn flight across the country, a party late into the night, and three days of walking everywhere, would have been as doable to her as a trip to Mars.

Okay. That’s the rational. Here’s the emotional: I am thirty three years old and swimming in the middle of a life that is absolutely strewn with possibility. Every day, my options are limitless, but I am paralyzed with fear that I’ll become her somehow. That I’ll cause people to form entire networks of interpersonal relationships just so that they can fulfill my every goddamned whim. And then, when the relationships are good and entrenched, and these people are completely emotionally attuned to do my bidding, I’ll die. And leave them flailing.

Because of my goddamned fucking fear of turning into my mother, I am afraid. I’m not sure if I want children. Why fuck someone up the way I’m fucked up? I don’t actually think I’d get a child as eager to please as I was (hard to do), but I still do not want to cause anyone to feel the way I feel. Or how my brother feels. I don’t want my nonexistence to fuck anyone up as badly as my dad is fucked up, either.

I also have this little voice of my mother in my head explaining that I won’t be a good parent because I will try not to do it her way. This is completely irrational,as her way consisted of being controlling but attentive until I was 12, getting a debilitating spinal disease, and being controlling but immobilized and out of touch from the time I was 12 onwards.

Sometimes I think I’d be a pretty good parent. I’m pretty sure I could work up the confidence If. Only. I. Could. Get. Her. Voice. Out. Of. My. Head.

And me? I’m still too much of her child to know how to kick the voice out.

Every day I am getting older and older, and the opportunities being presented to me won’t be here forever. And me? I’m a deer in the headlights, paralyzed by indecision, anger, and regret.

And I still don’t know what to do.

The Outer Editor

I’ve been editing my November novel all day.

My judgement may be clouded by the fact that I’ve been reading my own writing, but I’m beginning to think I didn’t do such a bad job. Especially with the “I need an idea, NOW!” parts.

After The Parade

The streets are back to normal, at least where we are. Sunday traffic crawls up Thurlow, the sun beats down. Back to normalcy.

But not.

Here and there, drifting along in the eddies of movement are little pieces of colour. There’s a six-foot stringbean of a guy, still painted blue, still wearing devil horns. But he’s traded his cloven-foot shoes for one of those cool low-rider bikes with the high handles. The handles echo the curve of his horns. He’s eating felafel and I can see the sauce dripping down his arm, gleaming in the sun.

Walking to the corner, I see a tiny dog on a leash, a rainbow ruffle around its toothpick neck. I don’t know what breed it is. It’s like a super-hairy chihuahua,(maybe it’s a special hairy chihuahua?) but has an expression like it’s just smelled a really bad fart. It swivels its little ginger head with the radar ears and sniffs at me like I’m a blackened chicken wing kicked to the gutter in the height of a Chicago heatwave.

Up ahead, I hear a jingle my ears are tuned to. There’s a belly dancer coming towards me. She’s all in scarlet, coins jingling, silk scarves swirling, but she’s put up her long red hair and has some dollar-store sunglasses on her face. She’s got fifty pounds on me, so when I saw her dancing down the parade route, I got the full impact of her shimmies. I see that she walks with unconscious grace when she’s just walking. I’d like to be her friend.

I know I have a beautiful city. I cherish it. But the little flashes of colour are jewels that make it perfect.

I Know You Wondered.

Your Pimp Name Is…

Her Majesty Slick

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