the contrast between who I’m visiting and where I am

Denver is so beautiful from the air it crushed my heart. I stayed glued to the window for as long as I could manage, resenting my own breathing as the cold of the glass fogged from my breath. So far in the sky, the small plane that carried me would barely be visible from the ground, yet I could see down into streets, houses, everything. Bridges seemed like running rills of glowing LED jewels, even though the entire thing looked organic, as if the city were a vast glowing creature hidden within the darkness of a velvet cave.


Santa Fe is odd in that it feels perhaps smaller than it already is because all of the buildings are low, styled identically, and everything is the same three shades of tan. The ground and the architecture and all but the sky all seem the same tones, all taupe and dust and matte adobe, as if the city is an attempt to camouflage human habitation from some great predator. There is barely any colour in public, excepting a few painted window sills on what are obviously art galleries or the homes of eccentrics. (I am told that traditional adobe houses have doors and trim painted “virgin mary blue”, the actual name of the turquoise, in order to ward off witches, but I have yet to see any). I think of drones and how lost they might be in this place, unable to source a target. I imagine flying over in daylight and only seeing half of the buildings. It makes for few landmarks, and locals navigate by the shape of mountain ranges and give directions like, “turn left at the #restaurant-name”, instead of “at the green house”. I can sense the reasons for this might be deep and fascinating and potentially religious, but I am not certain if the questions that lead to that understanding are the sort that might occur to me to ask or try to answer.

(I can already tell I would not want to live here, though I like that the mountains are far enough away to allow for the illusion of a horizon).

The place I am staying is a double-wide mobile home, decorated inside like a cross between an unconventional shah’s palace and a set from Twin Peaks. I imagine anyone from this place who is not familiar with my godmother, Silva, would be actually stunned upon entering the home. I am told it is a mobile home because it is a structure with a Vehicle Identification Number, as a car might have, but there is no way to tell from the inside. The interior matches nothing of the surrounding culture or landscape. There are small, startling still life scenes scattered about, (a silver vase of metal roses alone on a blue chest of drawers, isolated and knife sharp in front of a wall painted the same blue paint; a menorah perched on a tiny shelf mounted close to the vaulted ceiling, perfectly framed against a blood red plate of small, shimmering tiles and haloed with five antique ornaments detailing five stories that melt Buddhism and Taoism together), and all the walls are richly ornamented with wall hangings of massive sequined tigers or hand-painted wooden panels that look like they might have been stolen from either a very expensive Asian restaurant or a First Nations history museum. The whole kit and ensemble is lush and gorgeous and profoundly unlikely, yet presents together in perpetually interesting ways. Silva has always nested in opulent surroundings, so it feels immediately familiar.

Outside the land is bleak. Across the frozen mud lane is a high security penitentiary and base for the National Guard. Nearby are other small houses, but not a lot, and many of them have cement brick shacks or broken down cars in what passes for their yards. Trees are scarce, all of the plants are dead, and the only breaks in the lines of the land are rocks.

The snow, however, is beautiful. We are so high that the snow come down shining like flakes of mica, each one separated from the others by a foot or more. It is as if a great hand were shaking glitter down from the clouds to slowly and deliberately hide the scarred ground with a blanket of soothing white.

zen flowers

Vicki Silva

Louisa May Alcott’s Letter to Her Mother

“Whatever beauty or poetry is to be found in my little book is owing to your interest in and encouragement of all my efforts from the first to the last; and if ever I do anything to be proud of, my greatest happiness will be that I can thank you for that, as I may do for all the good there is in me; and I shall be content to write if it gives you pleasure.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Vicki and Silva. Thank you for all your love.

wanted: people to move boxes

Can you help? Silva‘s departure date is right around the corner. An essential part of moving, however, involves loading a truck and her and her wife, though they are fierce, brightly shining people, are still two little older ladies, and they can’t do it alone.

“We’re loading a truck with heavy boxes and a very few pieces of furniture on Thursday morning at 10 am. If this kind of activity appeals to you, and if you want to help, and if you *can* help FOR SURE,and can be here from 9:30ish until noon please let me know. I have to run off to a dentist appointment at 12:30 so it HAS TO be finished by then. There will be non-alcoholic cold beverages and cookies and much gratitude.”

I’m going to try and take the morning off to help, but I might not be able to and it’s very important that people show up.

Silva’s selling all her really cool stuff. Jump on it!

As some of you may or may not know, my godmother Silva, my mum away from mum, is soon to be moving.

To facilitate this, she’s selling as many of her non-essentials as possible, this includes silver, books, furniture, mirrors, tea things, antiques, oddities, and almost anything shiny and interesting you can imagine. (Sorry everyone, the giant plaster parrot has already moved to my house.) Bonus: 250 books are for sale, $2 for any hardcover and $1 for any softcover

So come one, come all, to Silva’s Super Saturday Sale!

She’s been a constant inspiration in my life and I’ve always been immensely proud to be related to her. What she’s about to do, move across the country to be with the woman she loves, is going to be difficult, and she needs all the help she can get. Even if you come by for five dollars worth of books, you’ll be contributing. Added up, it tips the balance. That, and it gets it out of the house, which counts for more than you might think. The less she has to worry about, the better.

More pictures of what’s for sale in her journal.

I’m ready for your love

Canadian chocolate, it’ll break your knees. Wait, what?

The closer I get to stepping on a plane, the more of New Wave I’m apparently listening to for an ultimate dose of positive reinforcement. Excitement has been building up in my body, buzzing in my chest and cooling my stomach at random moments of smiling memory. It’s so natural, I’m not even worried. Well, not about Mike, at any rate. No – even better. My primitive and peculiar social structures extend over the mountains. I realized today that not only is Calgary home to the man who was my very first boyfriend, but also my ex-boyfriend who’s since been declared a relative.* And, just for fun, they’re friends.

Oh, my convoluted family, how I love you all. I’m hoping to get to Silva and Amber’s wedding photos soon. They have been languishing, (yes languishing – a person with the right flavour ears can hear them crying), on my hard-drive, just waiting for me to have the time to process them and pick out the good ones. I’m thinking they’ll have to wait until I get back from Calgary, however, as people have continued kindly sending me requests for photos, (I’m at $130, can you believe it?), and those, being monetary, have priority. That I’ve managed to survive the past year without a Real Job is nothing short of extraordinary.

New York manhole covers, forged barefoot in India.

*the term boyfriend as used here is inaccurate, but close enough for rock and roll. Also, I am hilarious.

a quick, useless note before bed: we’re all related because we say so

I have decided my family tree isn’t even a bush. It’s a tesseract. My day began crawling out of bed at Alastair’s, (who briefly dated Kelly, one of Antony’s co-workers), stealing a pair of his pants, coming home, slipping on the corset Antony gave me over one of his left-behind shirts, then taking part in my godmother Silva and her partner Amber‘s coyote-blessed Jewish/Hopi wedding. (Where I found out that her nephew used to be my friend Elliot’s wife’s roommate for many years). After the wedding was concluded and the reception wrapped up, I was dropped off by my not-actually-aunt Terry, (one of Silva’s best friends), at Eaon‘s birthday party, (who was best friends with Silva’s ex-partner’s daughter), who then introduced me (to simplify things) as his sister-in-law on the basis that he’s slept with my not-actually-sister, the ex-step-daughter, and I’ve slept with his not-actually-brother, Antony, so therefore

I am beginning to believe I have reached a social event horizon.

To tie it all together in a nice neat loop, last time Antony was in town, I brought him to Silva’s for nummy birthday cake. (And with that, the use of the word nummy, (is that even in the dictionary?), I am giving up and going to bed. Night all. Congratulate Silva here and Amber here)

as whitewashed as I can make it..

I was approximately four years old when my parents became involved with another woman, Sarina. My clearest memories of her involve cigarettes, dark hair, and a lean, shrewish voice. As the story goes, she met my mad father at a bar and found him interesting enough to follow home, pretending that her car had coincidentally broken down in front of our house. Apparently, somehow, this worked. She moved in soon after, bringing with her two little children – Daniel, age three, and Brianna, age two – from her marriage to another man. It was unexpected. Suddenly, not only did I have another mother, I had young siblings, the first children I had ever encountered.

All three of us were incredibly blonde. We were thin kids, the sort with exceedingly clever hands that like to climb bookshelves and get in behind furniture. (Once, in a fit of crackling genius, we gave Brianna a safety-scissors haircut coloured with our favourite smelly markers.). In the few photographs that survive, we look unquestionably related. It wasn’t official, however, until our parent’s decision to have children together – Robin in January then Blake in September.

My mother left soon after, young, worn, and tired, taking Robin and I with her. We moved out, (really it was more of a midnight raid as we ran away, with Daniel helping me out of the bedroom window), and settled into a nice apartment on the Drive above Nick’s spaghetti house. Silva lived across the hall, I began going to school. Life continued. Very rarely did I see that branch of family after we left. Not only did they move every year, Sarina became increasingly difficult, systemically explaining to we-the-children that everything we lived had been delirious make-believe, even to the point of raising Blake with a fictional name. Eventually, they became impossible to find. Vancouver Island swallowed them whole.

All of this was so long ago that I never expected any of them to remember – Blake certainly couldn’t, he was a tiny baby, maybe three years old the last time I saw him, and Daniel and Brianna had likely been quite thoroughly brain-washed by their unappealing mother – but I continued to hope I would find them again. Vancouver Island is vast, but population small, and Blake’s birth certificate, after all, had my father’s name on it. One day, eventually, he would need it, if only to apply for a driver’s license.

It turned out, however, that Blake found out he had a different father when he was seven years old. He and our sister Brianna were having an argument, and she burst out, in perfect cliché, “He’s not even your REAL daddy!” Way to go, girl. (Last time I saw her, she was extolling, very seriously, the various merits of My Little Ponies). From there, the facts began to trickle in. His false name was discarded when his CareCard came, (“My middle name isn’t James?”), and when that foretold moment with the Birth Certificate happened when he was sixteen, his mother threw a fit, refusing to tell him anything or sign anything until he legally changed his name from Holmes. Apparently it was a bit of a drag down war, complete with shouting matches and threats of cutting him from the will. Being a smart kid, however, he simply waited out three years and applied again when he was nineteen. At that, his mother, not relenting, but simply giving up, finally told him of my existence. That was six months ago.

Next time he was in town, he looked me up on-line in the phonebook. And that, my friends, brings us to yesterday. Tah-fiddle-dah. My long lost brother returned, remarkably undamaged and notably sane. I’m proud of him for struggling through our dubious genetic heritage, our intensely unstable parentage, and his obviously isolated upbringing. He could have gone away and come back a deeply unpleasant individual, but he didn’t. Apparently none of them did. I’m told our brother Daniel is currently scuba-diving in Thailand and our sister Brianna is living in Sweden with family. I never would have guessed.

where are you people?

I’m sitting out in Silva’s back yard, comforted by the constant joyful screaming from Playland and the laptop warming my lap like a cat, streaming Imogen Heap’s electric siren call, but hoping more people come. It’s been raining on and off today, like taps being turned just behind the clouds, and it’s driving off all the gray-hairs we had been hoping would drop by. Mostly what we have are dreadful brass figurines and a rather stolid antique collection of pink, intricately patterned imperial dishes of the sort I remember seeing in museums back east, (where they tend to care about that sort of thing). In my opinion, there is very little sane people might want in their house, hence our attempt to get rid of them. There is, however, a very grand old chess-set I hope finds a good home, some leather clothing, and some silver candlesticks quite this side of nice.