And we can dress real neat from our hats to our feet.

SLIP | Dance by @PhillipChbeeb & @ReneeKester | Music by @ElliotMossMusic | Shot by Jerel Mascarinas

I left my name behind during my last trip and found new homes for more of my belongings since I have returned. My life grows smaller and smaller still. Fewer things, fewer people, less and less and less. It is exhausting to be alive and so isolated, to survive this hollow crush of vacuum inside my heart and skin. I do not want any of it. I no longer even have the energy to wish it were different. It just is.


There was a political argument last summer between me and an American that lasted for months. “Healthcare is not a human right,” he said, those literal words dropped from his mouth, and I would not stand for it. (Bad enough he has a thing for guns.) Bitter fire licked the inside of my damaged frame. “And what am I, then? What do I mean to you? What rights do I have, with this crippled body I cannot afford to fix?”

He thought the Canadian system was better than it is, that my injuries must have been mended to the limit of possibility before they were abandoned, but that’s never been the case. I have been broken since I was a teenager, struck by a drunk driver in a truck while crossing a street, and because I have always been poor, I have never been able to afford to see the specialists who could diagnose what ails, let alone heal me. (I have had partners who could have helped me financially, but they did not offer and I did not ask, even when I hurt so much I could not walk.) Because of this, my adult life has never had a day without pain.

The problem, according to my semi-socialist government, (the worst of both systems), is that even though I was on a cane for years and could barely lift my right arm for nearly a decade, my damage does not immediately threaten my life nor, conversely, is it so mild that a GP could stick a pharmaceutical band-aid on it and call it done. Instead I live in the hollow of the system, the trough of suffering in between the two extremes; constant chronic pain destroys my quality of life, but not “enough” to be treated for free.

After his surprise came horror and eventually the offer of a peculiar deal; to stop arguing these politics with me if I agree to let him cover my medical bills. This particular treaty, though gracious, struck me as untenable for a long while. It is not that he cannot afford it, I know he can, but I was steadfast for months. At the heart of it, the unfairness that still remains unaddressed, the countless others who are stuck in my position who are not so lucky to have any patron. Be the change, do not falter.

Yet now, almost a year later, the appointments have begun. Not because of what he offered, but to remove the look that crawls across his face when he sees me wince. It irks me to the marrow to be a burden, I rage against it, but there is one thing that trumps it – I cannot stand to cause pain. I have been well trained by my awful history to pay my own distress little mind in comparison to that of others. (Did you know that the root of “martyr” is “witness”?) My resistance activated both until, unknowingly, he tripped that wire.

So I booked some appointments and started seeing specialists. (Without telling him what it’s cost me, aside from sharing how hard it is to do these things alone. Perhaps he’ll read this confession and ask to address the credit card bills that have been too large for me to pay. Won’t that be another fascinating conversation?) Some of them started talking about having to cut me open. Some of them sent me for tests. But all of them passed me to other specialists, until earlier this week I was examined by an an osteopathic at an expensive sports medicine clinic so foreign to my experience that it looked to me like the set of a dystopian sci-fi film, the background of some medical breakthrough the plebeians aren’t allowed to have. The doctor’s specialties are musculoskeletal problems and athletical medical injuries. He was quick with his diagnosis, but seemed very sure and all the symptoms seem to line up.

The doctor believes I have a severe case of sacroiliitis caused by previous injuries. (The sacroiliac joints are inside the hips and connect the leg to the spine.) He told me my original injury must have been truly serious, it’s “flat-out amazing” that I get around as well as I do, and that the remaining pain is most likely an inflamed sacroiliac joint that originally puffed up when I was walking on even more “impossible pain”. (He guessed that, but correctly. I did so for years.) Also, sacroiliitis will never heal without medical intervention.

To treat it, I’m to go to a chiropractor, be studded with needles run through with electric current to relax the area, and then the doctor will give me an ultrasound guided Sacroiliac Joint Steroid Injection of corticosteroids directly into the space between my bones right after. If his diagnosis is correct, that I’ve mostly healed from the original injury and all that’s left is reactionary protectionist instinct, the pain should evaporate after only one shot. My appointment is at the end of July. I am dreading every part of it.

Fun fact: According to Wikipedia, corticosteroids were voted Allergen of the Year in 2005 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

He had no comment on my other sources of chronic pain, (ankle, shoulder, the mysterious misplaced lump of hot and suffering tissue that lives in my lumbar), or the the blood-where-it-shouldn’t-be and the follow-up ultrasound appointments, but if he is correct about the sacroiliitis, then he will be able to remove the debilitating screwdriver-in-the-flesh source of what cripples me most. I’ll be able to move again. I’ll be able to walk and to run.

I might even be able to dance.

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.

I’ve got a lot of bitches to plow

2010 To-Do List

0. Get out of debt. 1. File taxes 1999-2009. 2. Learn to drive. 3. Finish highschool. 4. Get new glasses. 5. Take a dance class. 6. Learn something new.


1. Filing taxes requires having paperwork that I do not have. The government will provide them, though not right away. Once the paperwork is provided, I should be able to file the entire ten years all at once. Task mostly requires patience and obscene gobs of waiting, as well as calling numerous tax office help lines. (Cost: unknown.)
UPDATE: I have an appointment on April 26th to request my T4s.

2. Obtaining a driver’s license in BC is a multi-year process. First you must pass a written knowledge test, which I have no qualms about, and pass a vision screening test, which I am almost certain to fail, as my current glasses are scratched to a fog. This gets you a Learner’s license. After a year has passed as a Learner (L), you are then allowed to take your Class 7 test. When you pass the Class 7 road test, you’ll be given a Class 7 Novice (N) licence. You will need to display an N sign and obey the N restrictions. You will remain in the N stage for at least 24 months. After 24 months in the N stage, then and only then may you take the second road test. If I were to pass a written test tomorrow, I would not have a proper drivers license until I was thirty. Yes, it’s ridiculous. No, it does not B.C.’s roads any safer. For the record, I passed the written before, but it expired before I could do anything about it. (Cost: $15/written test, ?? – $1200/driving lessons, $50/driving test, $31/two year N license, $75 actual license.)

3. The General Educational Development (GED) is a set of five multiple choice tests in the areas of language arts writing, language arts reading, social studies, science and mathematics. The language arts writing test also requires the writing of an essay. By passing the tests, GED certificate holders demonstrate they possess academic abilities that are equivalent to those of secondary school graduates. Specific knowledge, however, such as mathematical and scientific formulas, specific literary works, etc., is not tested. Lucky me? They are only held seven times a year, on very particular dates. The next testing date is APRIL 30/MAY 1, which is my one year anniversary with Tony. The next one after that is JUNE 4/5. (Cost: $60/GED test, $10/Transcript of Marks.)

4. Thom, the fellow from LastWear, pointed me in the direction of Zenni Optical, as a reliable place for cheap on-line glasses. He swears by them, and his eyes are almost precisely as wretched as mine, if not worse. They only need your prescription and pupillary distance, the distance between the pupils of the eyes, center to center. This is significant, as last time I got glasses, my lenses alone cost approximately $350. (Cost: $75-90/eye exam, $20-$90/glasses.)

5. I felt I had to throw something on the list that didn’t feel dire. The Drive Dance Center just up the road has some nice looking mid-week classes I’d like to take. I’ve been feeling like a whale lately, a pale, soft creature, blubbery as protection against cold, and exercise can only do me good. Plus, dancing! I love dancing! You know what I don’t love? Sit-ups. And that none of my clothes fit. (Except for the most recent batch, in size large, that I bought so I would stop feeling like I couldn’t leave the house). (Cost: $145/11 weeks of progressive 1 hour clasess.)

6. Word.

I was twenty minutes late for work today.

The minimum wage in 1938 was 25c, a number inconceivable now. I was considering it yesterday as I finally walked up to the shop for groceries. The street is lined with windows and nowhere on any of the numbered price tags could there be a number less than five dollars. Industrialization has created a world with such mythical numbers, you read of billions of dollars being dropped on a project. How is it that exists? Digital editors are sitting in darkened rooms with sickly green text scrolling past. Math as myth. Arithmetic the new alchemy? When pennies can add up into a heavier weight than an office building, I wonder. Pennies are the small change that isn’t worth picking up from the sidewalk. It’s a copper gleam embedded in every intersection. Even in Hollywood, where there’s glitter in the very pavement, I could see them there, pressed in by countless daily tires. I remember children being impressed by the colour, the metal the colour of fallen leaves. I had a penny collection, I started my bank account with one. One Hundred and Eight Dollars, counted out cent by cent into little brown paper rolls printed in blue with FIFTY CENTS. Sadly, the attraction has darkened to a commodity wholesale, every celebrity a symmetrical face, a stamped out piece of Too Little To Count, in spite of the newspaper obsession. I still pick up pennies, and I look at the Queen, thinking of wishes and luck, and I question, “How could anyone count out a million in these?”.