not made for this weather

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” –Dom Helder Camara

For all my poverty, I am rich this week thanks to a fridge full of vegetables and half of a left-over chicken. It’s unbelievably exciting. Luxurious, even. Edibles: the best gift ever. Though it is a blessing to be able to eat when I want, groceries are never high on my priority list. Instead I skimp to pay off my Heart of the World debt, living off rice and potatoes and very little else, and anything I can claim as extra, however meager, goes to better things, closer to my heart than survival or an easier life. Last time I went out, for example, instead of food or a camera bag or a casing for the naked SATA drive that contains my photography archives, I purchased tickets to the Dusty Flower Pot’s upcoming show, The Hard Times Hit Parade, for Valentine’s Day. Possibly not the most clever decision, but the kind of choice I’ll stand by and defend tooth and nail, even as my tummy growls defiance. A large part of being poor is knowing when to make those choices, understanding that while it is important to scrape by, it is equally essential to feel alive sometimes, too.

That said, today I’m about to splurge on something that neatly straddles the line between requirement and desire – I’m replacing my shredded duvet, the one that died so ignominiously on the way to Burning Man. It’s not something I can afford, strictly speaking, not when ten dollars is still a lot of money to me, but it’s a want that has finally nudged its hesitant way past wistful desire to actual need and why I have a credit card. I have been cold almost every night this winter, waking up so regularly in the dark of morning, shivering underneath two layers of inadequate blanket, that my cat, Tanith, has finally learned to sleep under the covers with me, the better to share some heat. My first thought this morning, as I lay in the dark, huddled in a tiny ball, “To be warm again, I can’t put a price on that.”

EDIT: Even better, I’ve been given the opportunity to barter for one! Photography for a duvet! Internet win.

Don’t expect things to be different unless you do things differently.

I’ve been finally attacking the extra stuff in my house, much of it left here by other people or from a time when I lived in a house instead of a three room apartment. It helps that poor people buy less, so the influx of new things has gone from a slow trickle to almost zero. Plus, unemployment may be depressing, but it certainly makes for a lot more “free” time.

My cleaning method is fairly simple: clean what you have time for, put everything else in boxes to be sorted later. The idea is to separate the mess into smaller, more manageable chunks that can be sifted through later until everything has either found a home or been put aside to be sold or recycled. The upside is a tidier apartment, the downside is that I never quite know what’s where. The other problem is that the boxes pile up in closets and spare corners when life gets busy, untouched for weeks or even months, a perfect example of out of sight, out of mind. If I need something, where is it? How much space am I using up with things I don’t need?

The first step to conquering the boxes is to actually set aside some space and open one. (Or even better, two). It’s often surprising what I’ll find inside. Anything small enough to fit in a box has probably been fit into a box. Anything! So usually when I decide to tackle one, I lay out some tools – a recycling box and a garbage bag. I also like to have a space set aside for things to sell or donate. That way, no matter what it is I find, I can immediately sort it into place. Is it something I missed while it was packed away? Then I find a home for it in the apartment. If I can’t, back in the box. If I didn’t miss it or it isn’t important, it’s discarded. Eventually, the boxes begin shrinking. Five to three to two to one.

Some of what I find is difficult to place, though, so I have to ask myself harder questions. The broken things I find, the ones I always intended to fix – are they worth keeping? It can be hard to let go of broken things, especially if you’re like me and tend to mend rather than replace, (save the environment! save money!), but will I actually get around to it? It’s hard to admit, but unless I fix something within two weeks, it might as well be never. The flash of guilt I get for discarding something that could have been saved is overwhelmed by the fact that I will never have to feel bad about it again. The same with gifts I never use that I’ve received from people I like. They meant well and that’s what counts. The thing itself can go.

Given my recent progress, my goal is have all the boxes emptied and dealt with by the end of October. The rest of the plan is to go through the rest of the apartment and get rid of everything else we’ve been meaning to sell or give away, like the unwanted-stuff pile that’s swallowed our front hall. List it all on Craigslist. Apartment yard-sale anyone?

good thing we didn’t get the wok, too

Today I am putting together a set of Ikea shelves as an act of devotion, running the pieces through my hands like rosary beads, expressing a sweet swell of affection with every screw and wood dowel. On half a whim, Tony and I went to Ikea yesterday, fount of all things storage solution, to unearth a set of shelves to go under my computer desk and slaughter all of the spaghetti cord monster clutter there. We found some that seemed perfect – tiered, white, with a cut away back for cords – but fifty freaking pounds. Not being drivers, either one of us, it was decided that walking the flatpack box to the skytrain would count as an adventure, if a somewhat dubious one, in part spurred by the fact that we both need significantly more exercise and that the station, while a few blocks away, was in no way far. An idea which would have been completely fine if we had walked down the correct highway, which we did not.

Instead of turning down Highway 1 we stubbornly continued along Lougheed, completely ignorant of our missed turn. Eventually we found a gas station and called a cab to rescue us, but not before Tony, bless him, insisted on carrying the unwieldy box alone for about twice the distance as would have been required to get to the train station, all up-hill, proving without a doubt that he is willing to carry my damned metaphorical books as far as a boy can and still walk the next day. And so, today, here I sit, surrounded by computer parts, boards, and pages of wordless instruction manual, assembling the shelf like Lego for grown-ups, breathing his name into every piece so that it may stand in my room as an unobtrusive yet significant statement to love.

selling parts of home to feed the cats

House cleaning and (un)employment classes swallowed me whole upon my return from Burning Man. The classes, in part, were hideously depressing, there was a day where I came home and almost cried, but at least I’ve brought some peace back to my apartment from the belly of the sad whale. The front closet has been seriously decluttered, the bicycles have been operated on, some mirror frames have been painted white, and at least four boxes of miscellany have been removed from the house, never to be seen again. I also, and this was also depressing, easily halved my wardrobe, by taking all the clothes that are now too small for me and tucking them into a suitcase, out of the way.

Today Lung is taking the remaining bicycles, helping me drop off unwanted parts at the Our Community Bikes recycling program, and swinging me past A Baker’s Dozen, where I hope to sell some of my antique ephemera for grocery money. In the same vein, I’m also looking to find homes for my white frosted glass chandelier and the home made foam-topped storage bench that’s been living in my hall. $25 each, because that’s how much it costs to feed the cats.

leaving the curse behind (story seed, a letter)

Tony illustrating a point with my picture and
a frame from one of my favourite music videos,
Elbow – the Bones of You

Video: Alasdair on a gigantic plinth in London as part of an art project.

Instead of going to Michael’s office after work yesterday, I went to the shop and got stick-on blackboard for the fridges, (both the one here and the one in Seattle), and scoured my way through Chapter’s cheap section looking for books about painting and colour, to try and better pin down what would be nice in the bedroom, (both here and in Seattle). I felt alone in the city, dislocated, as if my movements were an echo of someone else’s long past afternoon, a pattern of motion left like a mark on time, waiting for the right kind of lonely to step into it to manifest.

Eventually I shook it off, bought bus-tickets and a slurpee and went home, uncertain what my plans were, not thinking about it, reading a discount Hannibal Lector book and wondering what I needed to feel present in the day.

Thankfully David was home when I got in, and about as aimless as I was, so it was we found a mutual solace in finally tackling neglected projects around the house, our new sticky tape blackboard our starting off point. We folded away winter blankets and hung art and mirrors to Temple of the Dog and Live until eleven at night, when it was decided that continuing to bang nails into the wall might be crossing the line from antisocial to fully justified murder. Much of my art still needs to be framed, so most of what’s left isn’t going anywhere until some future pay-cheque, but it was mighty refreshing to get a start on what’s been on our To Do list since possibly last summer. The only thing that would have make the evening better was if I had a head full of hair dye, but again, of all things, that one will not hurt to wait.

I would like to learn to do something wonderful.

Tony & Jhayne

We began with Craigslist ads, scanning through pages of apartments that offered beautiful views in inconvenient neighborhoods or move in bonus televisions instead of laundry rooms, weeding them down until we had four likely candidates, two of which called us back to view.

The first building felt like a horror movie set. Wide, dark hallways lined in red, with wavy leaded windows on the stairs occasionally missing a pane of glass. The building manager was a young man, passably nice, slightly more sleazy than eager, who in another situation I might have liked, but in this time and place felt like a liar. The apartments we were shown were much the same. Old, antique, almost pretty, with hardwood floors, high ceilings, and wide, open windows, great to visit, but not to live in, even the newly renovated ones. The kitchens were cramped hallways thin as the galley of a small sailing ship, with washrooms much the same, but more awkward, and the entire building slanted as if entire rooms had bumped their heads and never quite recovered. The word charming was thrown around, as was quaint. It was a relief to leave it behind.

Our second building, thankfully, was not so disheartening an experience. As buildings go, it was merely uninteresting. The outside looked promising, a great red brick edifice shaped like a castle, and the hallways were nice, as befit its history as a posh art deco hotel, but the room itself was less than inspiring. We were more concerned with the shaky emotional state of the nice, young building manager whose grandmother was in the hospital than for the space she showed us, crooked, cramped, filled constantly the sound of the I5 louder than live music. When we left, we were glad we let her vent about her family, but also that we’d never be back.

Capital Hill is currently bristling with APARTMENT FOR RENT signs, however, so we called and took reference photos of at least one building every block we passed on our way to lunch at the B&O, basing our choices on capricious things like garden friendliness or how much we liked the font of their signs. Though we’d been having a rough start, our mood was far from dire. Instead we were having fun, finding an unexpected delight in our arbitrary superficial judgments. Even better, they snagged us the perfect place.

The phone rang over lunch, “We could come by in half an hour,” we said. “Perfect,” they replied, “Come on down.”

Our first good sign was the woman waiting for us outside, Penny, and our second was her amused reaction to our amused reaction to the “flesh” tone dildo tied to a pair of colour matched expensive leather boots hanging from a telephone wire just across the street. Smiling, competent, she seemed immediately our sort of person. As did the building once we were inside, a 1920’s three story, with six or so apartments on every floor, even the foyer was gorgeous. Someone had come through and meticulously faux finished every wall to be a fancifuly distressed work of art. From then on in, it was all roses. The apartment itself was utterly lovely. Graceful, airy, well balanced, with wide, pretty windows, and incredible light. Describing it feels like trying to capture dance. Even cluttered with the detritus of someone else’s life, it glowed with the possibilities of home.

Tony put the deposit down on Thursday. We move in right after we get back from SF.

it’s a good revival

My dear friend Joseph, who I unconditionally adore, rode his motorcycle up from Seattle on Friday to stay with us for a really nice weekend get-away full of long walks, Nicole visits, and good food, with a Sunday bonus of home made nut pancakes and an introduction to the Mad Max trilogy.

When he first arrived, I asked him what he thought of where I live:

“This place looks far too normal to have you living in it.”
“What on earth were you expecting?”
“At least a secret pet tiger.”

I’m still uncertain whether or not I should feel insulted or validated, as I did later chase him with a raccoon skull mouthing OM NOM NOM, which he thought was incredibly creepy, (or maybe it was the mouse fetus inna tube, I may never know), so either way, I’m sure I deserve it.

Past that, (and my sudden burning curiosity in regards to how my far-away-friends live and what they might think of my house in return*), it turns out he might be unexpectedly, oddly, at least metaphorically right, because…

Cue the drum roll please…

The Year of The House Guest continues as a word-smithing tiger of pure awesome is going to be joining my mad and crazy “entirely too normal” household of wacky, quiet, movie addicted doom! As of March 1st, my friend Shane, Internationally Acclaimed Slam Poet Extraordinaire, is going to be moving in with me and David for two months while he works on a poetry performance the Cultch commissioned for April. No word yet whether his band, The Short Story Long, will also be spending time on my couch, but if they do, that’s okay too. I always like waking up to random mandolin. Who doesn’t?

*Anyone want to play a game of I’ll show you mine if you show me yours and we all post photos of our chaotic living-spaces that we’ve oh so nonchalantly attempted to tidy before showing to the internet with a false modesty “please excuse the mess”?

I’ll have internet while I’m gone

Book about photobooths.

I haven’t gone camping in so long that I’m certain I’ve forgotten to pack some obvious essential more useful even than a toothbrush but smaller than a sleeping bag. It doesn’t help that between this trip and my last, I’ve already lost my duffel bag by “putting it in a safe place”, leaving me to borrow David’s much tinier one, that will not fit either my tripod or bed-roll. If I don’t watch out, I’m going to get stuck with an uncomfortable, awkwardly packed backpack.

In other news, Amy’s moving out, which means there’s going to be a two-bedroom apartment in my building available December 1st for $950/month. Third floor near Commercial Dr, between Venables and Hastings, better views than my apartment, laundry in the basement for a dollar, bike rack in the bottom floor vestibule. Pets aren’t allowed, but we all have them anyway. Landlord is pleasantly neglectful, and tends to only come by for rent.

Man splendidly decorates basement with $10 worth of Sharpie.

facing away from the desert

Southern California is Burning Again.

Yesterday someone replied to the Craigslist ad I put up regarding our old catboxes, (the cats have taken over the bunny-igloo litter-spaceship David brought over and will never give it back), and I replied, “Sure! Come on over.” while sending David a note, “were they bleached or were we overwhelmed by other things?” The message back, “overwhelmed.” So while I’m at work, feeling guilty for having David scrub the catboxes, as it was my chore to do, I decide to rectify matters I must fetch him delicious treats and chocolate while getting groceries on the way home.

(It’s fully dark by the time I leave work. The only benefit to this: Keith and I watch the result of the four p.m. sun set from our seventh floor office window as the tips of ordinary architecture are suddenly beautiful, bathed in melted girl-music gold, while everything at street level is already a heavy blue day-crunched dark.)

Fast-forward to arriving home. I stumble in, ready to drop, heavy with bags of vegetables and canned soup, and then I stop, stunned. The apartment I left in the morning is gone, replaced by an entirely new portion of space. Everything unsorted that was haunting our living space, (minus the bathroom and the bedroom, untidy disasters both), has been shifted into neat piles in the spare room library. There are no more boxes to step over. The floors are clear, flat surfaces have resurfaced, it’s a miracle. The apartment has been organized.

Summary: There is Not Enough Chocolate In The World.