saved from my own ways by beautiful boys

sanfran leap
San Francisco 2008

My summer is about to explode. It has already started, a little, (I sneaked into a rave on Friday night, spent Saturday on a cross-Atlantic guitar lesson with Richard, Saturday night with dear friends at a dinner, blowing people’s minds with synchronicity, and Sunday at an epic wedding that involved a boat, a full-sized, bright red, radio controlled dalek wedding cake that shouted EXTERMINATE, (part gluten free, too!), a hexacopter ring-bearer, and friends from six or seven countries), but this past weekend was just the amuse bouche.

My comrade Nathan is taking us to Cirque Du Soliex’s Totem tonight for my upcoming birthday, then we’re leaving on Thursday evening for the Sasquatch Music Festival. The line-up is absolutely fantastic, many of my favourite bands are playing, (Elbow, Mogwai, Die Antwood, The National, Cut Copy, TuNe-YaRds, etc.), and it’s going to be our first road-trip. I almost cannot wait. I feel like a little kid, counting sleeps.

Then, on the way back, Nathan is dropping me off in Seattle and I’m going to California for my birthday, courtesy of my ability to fit into a suitcase AKA a sweetheart’s business trip to the Google mothership! Flexibility pays off. Apparently I’ll be flying from Seattle on the 26th or 27th and staying for approximately two weeks.

I leave Canada in four days, but know zero about my flights or even where or when I’m to meet up with my dear B. It is so strange and yet delightful to know I am to be travelling, but not know when or precisely where to. It’s like a trust exercise with the universe that I am surprisingly completely fine with. Are we meeting in Seattle? In California? Where? No idea. I have zero information, but it’s.. gratifying? It feels proper. Makes it more of an adventure, for sure.

I imagine I’ll be taking the train a lot back and forth between SF and Silicon Valley for the first week and tucking in for work during the days, but other than that, my time is open. B. will only be there for the first week and mostly busy with work, which is a bit sad, he is smart and sassy and wonderful, but I’m still thrilled. Once I wave my kerchief goodbye to him at the airport, I’ll couch-float with friends in the Mission or the Castro or the Tenderloin.

The only plans I have so far: Jed and I are making sultry eyes at Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind on May 30th, (come with us!), and Richard has informed me that must visit him at the Vulcan on the first Thursday in June. And Morissa says I can use her house for a birthday dinner party! (Party date as yet to be determined). Other than that, it’s almost all a giant question mark. Do you know of anything going on in SF between May 26th and June 6th-ish? Let’s adventure!

Then I’m back to Seattle for a week to go to the the Georgetown Carnival and the Power Tool Drag Races and all that fun stuff. Maybe play some flaming tether ball. Mars and I are learning to be friends again, too, which makes Seattle much better to visit. I don’t know if B. will be around, but I hope so. (If he isn’t totally sick of me after sharing a hotel room for a week, that is. “Why are all the towels stained scarlet?”, “Why is my pillow purple?”, “How did the room ceiling end up covered in glow-in-the-dark stars? Are those constellations.. accurate?”)

I plan to return to Vancouver on June 15th, immediately put my passport in for renewal the day I get back!, collect certain papers from my mother, Vicki, that she’s bringing back from Ireland, do all of the laundry in the world, maybe throw a quick Vancouver-based birthday party, then head out to Ontario. The plan is to go to REcon (June 23rd – 29th) in Montreal via Waterloo courtesy of Ian, my besty who wants to drive up from Ontario in my fine company. Improbable, yes. Possible, very. I owe his cat Dewie about a thousand snuggles. And I think he’s starting to get tired of carrying his favourite Internet Girl around in his phone à la Her. And Audra has offered us her charming AirBnB apartment in Toronto for a couple of nights, (she has a cotton candy machine!!!), so we could home base out of Toronto and visit with people and stay up late in the city rather than having to go back to Waterloo. I’m sure we’ll use it, as I’m five or six years overdue for a visit and the good people just keep piling up. I even have an uncle there I’ve never met who seems supracool. Why don’t I live in Toronto? I Do Not Even Know.

We’ll be stopping by in Ottawa on our way to Montreal, too, to stop by the river market and stuff our faces with scrumptious berries and sugary beaver tails and APPLY FOR MY IRISH PASSPORT WITH THE EMBASSY! Happy birthday to me! I’m Irish! I HAVE EU AND EVERYTHING. As of, like, six days ago. My mother, bless her, went to Ireland as part of a Canada Council art project with Paul and took the packet of my needful documents with her, followed the very detailed instructions, and has filed my birth with the Irish government!

REcon is apparently a marvelous time, too. It’s run by Hugo, who I love to hang out with at CanSec. I’ve never spent as much time with him or his friends as I would like, so this is perfect. And apparently the Circus Festival starts in Montreal on July 2nd, so maybe we’ll get away with sticking around for a day or two longer for that. Either way, I plan to get fat and happy on delicious food, hug a lot of people, dance my face off, and ride a lot of city bikes. Christine wants to go to the new Cirque show, Kurios, too. I approve. There will also be chocolate and a stop by Santropol. Oh yes.

And no, I don’t know anything solid about flight dates on this trip yet either. IT IS ALL A FANTASTIC MYSTERY.

And then I’m in Vancouver until ToorCamp. (That might be for less than a week, oi). ToorCamp is another hacker event, but in Washington State on July 9th. Nathan wants me to go with him, so of course I said yes. Hopefully my passport will have come back by then and I’ll be good to go. I don’t know much about it, except that the people I know who’ve gone in the past are all excellent.

I have also been tapped to work as the Art Director for Hacked Festival, another hacker event from August 11th – 14th, but this one in Vancouver. It’s their inaugural year and maybe I’ll be able to help, even though I’m barely going to be around for the next few months. (Apply to be a speaker or an artist naow!) I’ve told them about my travel schedule, but the founder met me at BIL and he seems to want me involved anyway, so I might end up going through with it just because. If that ends up being the case, that will fit in right after ToorCamp. And right before Burning Man.

I have a number of options for Burning Man this year, but I think I might be tossing a bunch of them over to stay with a lawyer friend from Seattle. Not only do I appreciate him a metric ton just in general, I cannot get enough of his art project, an infrared photobooth. People step inside into pitch blackness, the infrared flash goes off, and though all they see is a small red light, the pictures look like they were taken in daylight.

And then, come September, rest. Playing with ferrets. Adventure is fine, (dying is fine)but Death), but I’m going to miss my ferrets. Pepper and Selenium are the best.

TLDR; If all goes well, I’m going to live out of a suitcase this summer.

box made in italy, music made in switzerland

Victoria Victoria Victoria

Promotional headshots for my mother, electronic multimedia artist Victoria Gibson, for the Guelph Nuit Blanche 2011!

My mother brought me a small, wooden jewelry box yesterday. It’s a beautiful thing, laquered marquetry and celadon tinted birdseye maple, as finely crafted as an expensive guitar. Inside is a music box mechanism, one of those spring-wound revolving cylinders, that plays Impossible, a song hauntingly familiar yet difficult to place, (always the mark of a classic). I adore it. I am a sucker for music box mechanisms. I used to regularly carry them, the manual kind that you place on a surface and wind by hand to control the rotation of the barrel, hey jude, canon in d, as time goes by, until the constant wear against the other things in my pockets would break the metal keys off the comb. I love how clever they are, how much clockwork goes into them, how very simple yet complex they can be, how much strange and wonderful history they contain, the first mechanical music, the basis of the first programming, the melodic birth of the computer. Now there is a small graveyard of them in my room, each one flawed in some essential way, each one with a snapped off spot in the melody, a haunting gap where a remembered note should play, as perfect as a zen garden.

Really she came over for a photoshoot, the box was a bonus, something she bought me years ago, but lost in her house until recently. Rather than cash, she’s paying me in Burning Man gear, a good sleeping bag, two 5L water jugs, and a big, hefty cooler, which is completely fantastic. Also, due to a mix-up last year, Lung has a spare tent I can use, and Tony’s offering to split a bunch of our left over supplies from last year. Crowd-sourcing for the win! Now I need a ride, a place to camp, a bedroll, and to figure out a week’s worth of food, sugary electrolytes, and wet wipes, all on a budget of close to zero. Andrew’s bet twenty bucks I can pull it off. Screw being reasonable, I’m not going to let him down.

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.

I want to talk to someone like me again

Every time I listen to Let The Devil In, from the TV On The Radio album Return to Cookie Mountain, I’m inspired to track down a bunch of musicians, get them drunk, and have a giant sing-along house party. I blame Naysayer.

Also, does anyone have Talvin Singh’s Heavy Rotation Radio Refixx remix of OK?

Tales of The Unexpected: a Roald Dahl inspired Tim Walker fashion editorial featuring, among others, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter.

The weather today is a slow molasses jazz of rain and cold wind, but last night was gloriously different. The skies were profoundly open, a bit of silk fluttering dark black and blue pinned in place with a bright, round, almost full moon. My mother and I took a night ride on her motorcycle, enjoying the last drop out of her last day with insurance, out to the store, the long way around. Five layers of clothing against the cold, three jackets, stockings, tights, black leather gloves, my matching black helmet. I’m still not used to how small she is against me on the bike in the same way I’m not used to how big her newest bike is. There’s nothing like realizing you’ve grown bigger than a parent to remind yourself of mortality.

Riding out into the night, we flew downtown, soared across the Burrard St Bridge, and out to UBC, to circle around and come back along Spanish Banks, the most splendid view to be found in Vancouver. The glut of ugly picket-fence condo development that’s been climbing up the mountains is transformed into a skein of tangerine gemstone glitter at night, tiger striped black by the remaining runnels of nature that drip from the tops of the peaks all the way down to the ocean. Downtown becomes a dream of skyline, a precious, tiny thing floating on water, but like it’s in the sky, held up by a willing suspension of disbelief. Everything that wasn’t lit up didn’t exist. I felt like we were something new, my mother and I, connected better than we have been, the city blocked out by the motorbike, separated from our weekends and bleak days. As if to prove my fresh perspective, or to reward the moment with permanent memory, I looked up over her head at just the right time to see an airplane perfectly silhouetted as it flew over the moon.

canine: In common usage, a synonym for dog or an adjective meaning of or resembling a dog

Black Mirror

Picture this, we’re riding up the I5 at night, the wind in our helmets making the sort of sound that broken headphones might, and around the 300 st. exit, maybe fourty minutes out of Seattle, the gas tank starts reading E. So we pull off the highway, spilling straight into the set of a horror movie, the sort where they kill the back-packing teenagers for buying condoms and booze at the convenience store, one by one, but don’t bother running much to do it.

Will you admit to seeing House Of Wax? It was like that.

The gas station we found was closed, empty, though not abandoned. Though it was built, at a guess, sometime in the late seventies, all peeling paint and white wood, and eerie lighting, it seemed oddly updated. Instead of offering coffee, a banner advertised ESPRESSO, and the text on the free standing, four legged marquee next to the street in front offered Chai Tea, $1.79. These touches of modernity weren’t very reassuring in the dark. Rather, they seemed smeared on like fake smiles, as if to put us at ease while out back Jimmy grabs the knife he’s going to slash our tires with.

happiness is a warm gun

Brushing this off as a side-effect of mixing heavy pop-culture saturation with the primitive fear of the dark, we stopped. I got off the bike, verified the pumps as new enough to accept credit cards, then Vicki followed suit and we stretched our legs as the bike started filling. Curiosity led me to peer in the windows of the gas station store, to see if the inside felt as left behind by time as the exterior. Sadly, there wasn’t enough narrative in the soil. It only looked like a stereotypical small town corner store, harmless, complete with a comic book rack, crates by the door, aisles of cheap toothpaste and cheaper potato chips. There was no formica counter, no rusty bear traps on the wall – slick give-away posters for soda-pop, juice, and iced-tea bursting from CG water were the only decorations. I turned around, disappointed, to ask Vicki how far we’d come, but then the barking started.

The sort of barking you hear when you’re running from the law, when you’re tearing through the woods away from the vampires, the werewolves, and the farmer you stole those chickens from. At the other end of that barking lies slavering, teeth, someone with a shotgun, pain, fear, and blood. I’d forgotten dogs are capable of such a massive sound.

Two of them came out of the darkness, low to the ground, and loud, a large rough collie and a great brown creature that came up to my hip. Get the Hell Out Of Here, they angrily shouted, Get The Hell Out Or We’ll Take Your Leg. Suddenly our Isn’t-This-A-Creepy-Place-Ha-Ha, didn’t seem as amusing. They came closer, barking louder, and I shouted at them, “Hey, Get off. Go.” The collie did, though grudgingly, but the bigger dog, the great brown thing, did not. It only got quieter as it continued to stalk closer, walking towards us in a criss-cross pattern, as if to stay out of reach while it looked into options to circle us.

Eventually, it came close enough to kick, or claw in the eye. Vicki stayed behind her motorbike, keeping the FJ between her and it, but I was still out in the open, so it came up to me, tail wagging, jaw dropped in a grin, and growling like a sound that came out of the earth. It sniffed at me, continuing to growl, and started budging at my hands, trying to get them out of my pockets. Generally, I’d be more than happy to oblige, (I love ruffling the velvet of doggie ears), but the sound didn’t stop, the growling continued, growing in intensity, so it seemed a friendly gesture full of menace, as if it was hoping to snap fingers off to chew on later.

Now me, I like dogs. I had a puppy I named, all full of blossoming irony, Spot, when I was little, and I loved that dog like mad. I even like big dogs. Really big dogs. The bigger the better. Dominique and I once saw a dog outside of Uprising Bakery that we both simultaneously mistook for a pony, and my immediate reaction was to go cuddle the damned thing, though it weighed more than both of us together. This dog, however, not so much. It would be a gross overstatement to say it had the spark of hell in its milk chocolate fur, but it wouldn’t be far off to say it had the hate of a righteous preacher in its eyes. We were atheists impinging on the gas station Holy Land, and we needed a killin’. It wanted us dead, or hurt, or maimed, and gone.

We, of course, were happy to oblige. The dog backed off enough when I shouted at it to edge over to where Vicki was getting the bike ready to go, and when it saw we were both behind a big crazy metal thing, it dropped back off a few paces, still growling a guttural, menacing promise of walking the world with eight fingers, and dropped to the ground to watch us. Vicki was worried that it might have been the sort of dog to chase motorcycles, as some find the sound drives them crazy, but we lucked out. This one only watched, turning its head as we left, roaring out of there as fast as zero to sixty could take us.

“That was weird.”
“Oh good, it’s not just me.”
“Nope. That was a bit scary, Jhayne. It’s not just you.”

seattle scenes

Wind tearing at my helmet, I let it pull my head back and up, as if hands were cradling me, and stare at the star rich sky sliding above my mother’s head as we thrum up the highway North. I know I’m likely cold, blood slowing and a chill setting in, but I can no longer feel it, I’ve been sitting perfectly still for too many hours. My body has fallen into stasis, it’s merely an organic part of the machine we’re riding, one hand locked around the passenger handle, the other braced on the gas-tank, motionless, and it has nothing to do with me. The only things that move are my eyes, as if the edges of my helmet are the edges of a screen and the stars are a hypnagogic film spun out of my memory.

“I’m sorry your girl left you. It’s hard, sometimes.” “This one was the special girl, I liked her even more than I liked sex with her.” “Though I don’t relate to some of the background there, I do understand. Want to know my sad-hearted secret?” “Sure.” “I knew he’d started seeing someone else, months ago, before anyone ever thought to tell me.” “How’s that work?” “He stopped writing me back.”

An old man three tables down keeps raising his tired voice to answer moments of our conversation. We are five slumped at a table which seats four, geek t-shirts and utili-kilts, politics, software, and video games, tired from dancing, hoping for food. Our perfect, tragic waitress, dark haired, pretty, looks over us to him, frowns, shakes her head, and puts the pad away as we order. “Don’t mind that,” the antique sound of a scratched phonograph, “How was your night?”. She’s a friend, warm, kind, and brings us extra whipped cream in the milkshake we split.

When the man stands up and shuffles past us to the back of the cafe, the dim light erases his face, so he seems made of darkness, only the shape of a man inside a worn thrift-store suit.

who can feed the cats while I’m gone?

Vicki and I are leaving on her motorcycle for Seattle tomorrow afternoon. We’ll be staying with Robin, Joseph wants to go dancing, Ivo put dibs on Saturday brunch, MJ’s asked for Saturday afternoon/evening, and Kyle and Trillian have called Sunday afternoon/evening. After that, we’re on the road back home. Pray, my people, it does not rain.

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.

best mother’s day gift possible

My mother finally bought herself what we’ve jokingly dubbed her “mid-life crisis baby”. I got on to heft it and found myself intimidated. Her new bike is not a machine which goes down easy. It’s so heavy that if it falls over, she’s going to need a mother-panic of adrenaline to get it back up. That or three big men. So there, that’s my mother, proud and pleased, cradling her fast, dangerous creature. It makes me happy.