27 February 2010

there's always more...

another little excerpt from something i've been working on for quite a while now. it gets steadily closer to completion and, yes, i do intend on finishing it. on my own time.

*

For a second, Adela can see a flash of the customary liveliness in Louise’s dark eyes.

“Chris. One of the tattooed guys. I went home with him last night, remember?”

Adela can see Louise flouncing out of Moebius, her young catch in tow behind her. “I forgot to ask you how that went.”

“Better than today,” Louise grins. “Sweet guy, really. Didn’t mind the fact that I insisted on walking home. I took off my shoes and threw them at a car at one point and I guess he gathered them up for me, because they were here this morning. Ripped the shit out of my nylons, though.”

“Hopefully no one else saw you doing that, because I think you’d have to use all your PR skills to explain what you were doing wandering around the city streets blind drunk in the middle of the night throwing your shoes at people.”

A cloud passes over Louise, making her look even smaller and more frail than usual. She has the expression of a dog catching the scent of imminent danger.

“That’s the weird thing. They were following us.”

“Who was?”

“The people in the car. I saw them three or four times behind us, or at corners when we were crossing. I didn’t want them to follow us all the way back to my place. I didn’t want them to see where I lived.”

“You were pretty out of it. Are you sure you didn’t just think it was the same car every time?”

“Chris was joking about it. I can’t remember which of us saw it first.”

“He might have been having you on because he saw you were getting paranoid.”

Louise shakes her head insistently. “No, they were following us. They took off after the shoes hit their car. I couldn’t even see how many of them there were. After that, I remember Chris came and put his jacket around me and he seemed really worried.”

“Maybe he was worried you were going to get arrested.”

“Adela, you of all people know about trusting your gut. They were following us. Not like a bunch of college yahoos trying to bug us, either.” Louise looks pained, quietly imploring Adela for some understanding. “I was scared.”

There it is, likely the worst thing that Louise can bring herself to admit. She was scared. Trotting around with her confidence sailing, a young man wanting to take her to bed and feeling the decadent rush of being drunk on a weeknight, the crucial thing that she remembers, the thing that she needs Adela to get from what she is telling her, is that she was very, very scared and cannot quite figure out why. Who is Adela to deny her some understanding in these circumstances? Adela, whose whole life is made up of sensing things about the people and places around her, of indistinct realities that form her life.

21 February 2010

all rise for the national anthem


some of you may have gotten sucked into watching the olympics recently, or at least have been exposed to some vitriolic coverage of the games currently taking place in vancouver.

many of you may not be familiar with canada, since we are a somewhat quiet nation, thought of (in some circles) as perhaps a bit dull or slow, especially compared to our rather dynamic neighbour to the south.

so many of you may not know that canada is the second largest country by area in the world, or that we are home to the second largest french-speaking city in the world. or that canada was the unlikely site of the largest pre-atomic explosion in world history. likewise, you may not have heard that in the one war fought between canada (then a british colony) and her neighbour to the south, that we not only defended ourselves admirably, but marched south and sacked the capital. (we probably wouldn't try this again nowadays. of course nowadays, if the americans burned toronto, a lot of canadians would probably bring them gas cans and kindling. (the country's odium towards its largest city is another thing about canada that seems to remain a national secret.)

the battle that raged around washington inspired an american by the name of francis scott key to pen a hopeful little poem called "the defence of fort mchenry" when he saw that the tattered flag of his young nation had survived a brutal assault on chesapeake bay by the british navy.

canada's own national anthem is a bit of a mystery, with its oddly ungrammatical lyrics, its self-deprecating humour and its melody, which demands to be sung at such volume that no sober human can hope to do it justice. whereas other national anthems project gravitas and pride, ours is simply one more of the strange bonds that ties our unwieldy country together.

ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the lyrics of "o canada":

O Canada
Your home’s on native land
True pastry love
That all of us command
With glowing hearts
We seethe and rise
The true north song we freed
Flung far and white
On cannonballs
We stand on carts and freeze
Cod feed our land
Glory of the seas
O Canada
We stand on God for thee
O Canada
We stand on God for thee!

16 February 2010

pain in the neck


i've had it. everyone goes through these things, but i think i have reached the end of my proverbial rope.

my back and neck hurt. sure, there's nothing surprising about that. after all, most people suffer from back and/ or neck pain at some period in their lives. the difference for me is that it's chronic. as in, my back and neck have been hurting for about twenty years, give or take. constantly. at least a couple of days a week, something "pops" and i'm not able to turn my neck to one side or the other. again, this is something that happens to a lot of people, i just get the feeling that it's happening to me too frequently to qualify as "normal".

when i was a teenager, i was troubled by a "numb spot", a spot on my middle back where i had a strange lack of sensation and, occasionally, some swelling, like a small water balloon was under my skin. a friend told me this was an "almost but not quite pinched nerve", which seemed like a reasonable idea, but i didn't really believe him. by the time i finally asked a professional, six or seven years later, when this had gone from occasional to nearly constant, i was surprised to find out he was right. so i did my stretches, hot and cold compresses and, over some months, the problem gradually started to subside.

except that then there was a numb spot under my left shoulder blade that no one could explain. sometimes, the same thing would happen under my right shoulder blade. these "hot spots" seem to have the effect of making all the muscles around them so tense that my shoulders look strangely "bulked up" despite my never having done any form of muscle building for that area in my life. literally, these muscles are tensed all the time. sometimes, the tension spreads up to my neck, which makes me feel like i'm choking, or into my arms, which makes me lose sensation on the afflicted side of my body, or, rarely, into my chest muscles, which restricts my ability to breathe. sound fun?

my frustration doesn't just come from the fact that this is happening, because once you've lived with it for a while, you're aware of it, but it just becomes like background noise. my problem is that no medical professional seems to know what causes it and nothing that i'm told will alleviate the pain actually works. here's a sampling:

- i was told that i might have fibromyalgia. except that i don't have many flashpoints for pain, i have only a couple of very specific ones. plus i don't have any of the comorbid conditions that go with fibromyalgia.

- many people try to tell me that this sort of tension is a common affliction that comes from sitting at a desk, working on a computer all the time. i don't argue that this might be an exacerbating factor, but the fact remains i've had these problems consistently since long before i had a computer or a desk job.

- one doctor insisted that i must have had some traumatic kind of injury. i guess it must have been very traumatic, because not only do i have no memory of such a thing, but no one in my family does either.

and now let's move on to the cures:

- stretching: i can certainly see where this would work and i've tried every type of stretch that's been recommended to me, but the problem is that it just has no discernible effect. nada. i'm sure it works in combination with something else, but that's kind of the key thing: what else?

- strength training: tried it for several months. absolutely no difference whatsoever. no better, no worse. next.

- anti-inflammatories: at the best of times, over-the-counter ones have almost no effect on me, even for the things they're supposed to work on, like headaches. i make a point of taking them sparingly, in the hopes that this will increase their efficacy when i do take them. no such luck. prescription ones, as far as i can tell, are no different.

- muscle relaxants: for most other muscle pain, these do work on me, but on the back/ neck area, the difference is negligible. since i rarely take them, they do tend to have more of an effect on me, so the best i can hope for is that they'll knock me out, so at least i can sleep through my discomfort.

- heat/ cold: can sometimes give me a little bit of relief, but it never lasts more than about 30 minutes.

this represents everything that medical science has been able to tell me thus far. even the internet seems to be devoid of ideas. i don't have any kind of degenerative disease and i've never sustained an injury that would explain my symptoms.

so since the sensible way has failed, let's open this up to the wild world of human opinion: any theories? any advice?

07 February 2010

you're doing it wrong

my accomplishments this weekend include:

- pouring cereal into a glass of water

- throwing clothing on one of my cats because i thought he was laundry

- accidentally dosing myself with another cat's highly potent medicine.

yeah, i wrote a few pages, but that hardly seems relevant.

01 February 2010

desert island albums


this is an old game, but i figured i'd give it a try... the premise is that you have to choose albums that you would keep with you if you were stranded on a desert island- those albums that you really couldn't live without.

i've always been a little suspicious of the concept, since it assumes that this desert island has a stereo system and a functioning power grid of some sort. (in fact, even the concept of a "desert island" is kind of weird if you think about it. deserts are not generally surrounded by water, whereas that is what defines an island. sure, australia is mostly desert, but even they have a pretty lush coastline. besides, no one really talks about being "stranded" in australia.)

and even if i were to accept this specious beginning, it seems to me that the only album i would really want with me would be one with detailed instructions on how to escape from an abandoned desert island.

nonetheless... since i can admit that it is just possible that i'm thinking too hard about the concept, it does make for sort of a fun way to pass the time and makes you think about your musical tastes and collection.

so let's try a really limited number:

pick five albums you would want with you on our strange island. you can only have five. they can come in any format (hey, if it has a sound system, we can at least make it a good one). you can choose double, triple or other multiple albums, but they count as multiples (i.e., a double album would count as two choices).

would you choose things that have particular associations?

things that you remember from your youth?

are there any that don't fit with your usual musical choices?

it's just an exercise. i'm not actually arranging for you to be dropped off on a desert island next thursday. really, i'm not.
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