24 January, 2017

toxic masculinity

i'm currently both watching and reading the expanse. it's a very good series, finally something sci-fi i can sink my teeth into. when you read and watch simultaneously, it can bring out problems all too clearly but the tv show seems like a solid adaptation of the books except for one thing: the male characters in the tv show are continually whipping out their dicks and waving them about (figuratively, not literally - that would make it an entirely different sort of tv show). there is constant testosterone-fuelled posturing and if not outright violence then at least the threat of violence is never too far removed. in the book, the same characters cooperate; in the book they act as if they were living precariously, one wall between them and the vacuum; in the book they talk things out, carry out orders, and might, at worst, mutter under their breath. but in the show each move forward is accompanied by such rich outpourings of testosterone it's a wonder anyone can breathe. i started watching the series before starting the book but even then i found the men's attitudes puzzling - why this bristling barely-suppressed rage at anyone and anything? why this inability to work together towards a common goal? is this really the way human beings would act in space?

i have written here before about the way television portrays feminine strength as essentially humourless bitchiness. think PMS all in extra big capital letters and you've got what tv execs think a strong woman is like. i'm glad to see that more and more television shows have gotten over this - think good wife, where female characters are shown as strong and funny and kind and confused and sometimes bitchy and sometimes emotional: all the things that make one human (imagine that! a woman who is also a human!) it's not perfect, but there does seem to be more writing that catches many of the nuances of full personhood.

i haven't really noticed the male portion of the equation until recently - if ever you think feminism is irrelevant, think of the ways that popular culture teaches both young men and young women to act. at its most 50's nuclear family basic women are to be coy, quiet, uninterested in sex, interested in relationships, caring etc. etc. men are to be aggressive, sexually and otherwise, uninterested in cooperation and all about their ego. sure, this is a gross oversimplification, but watch enough television and you will see these stereotypes play out again and again. if feminism is partly about letting women be all that they actually are (complicated humans!), it is about letting men do exactly the same. i do wish the writers of this really rather excellent show had taken a page out of the book, and let the men focus on getting the job done, rather than having to prove, again and again, just how macho and tough they are, while the world around them falls apart.

21 January, 2017


i can pickle that:
i know i'm finally home because on my kitchen counter i have a jar of red cabbage sauerkraut, a jar of lacto-fermenting pickling cucumbers*, and a jar of homemade yogurt. these, as much as the curtains and the art on the walls, are clear indicators of my nesting instinct. together we put up a storm door that had been waiting for some TLC for months (it took some pretty nifty engineering solutions from mr. monkey - thank god we each have our own talents, because putting things together in ways that are superior to their original design is definitely not something i am capable of.) mr. monkey reorganized the garage and i've been airing out feather pillows that had gotten musty. i only wish we could have a laundry line out back, but i'm pretty certain it's outlawed here - disgusting and shameful behaviour of the poors and the immigrants. don't want none of that here!

we had friends over last night helping us move the last of our (very heavy) polish stuff from tb's house to ours. the night ended close to midnight for me (already past my bedtime) but it ended much later for mr. monkey. i came down at 4 am ready to tell the guests to go the hell home, but they'd beat me by no more than an hour and all i found was mr. monkey sleeping sweetly on a quilt, covered by a sheepskin rug. he was convinced (and thus tried to convince me) that when he lied down it was the opposite, and far more logical, set up: lying ON fur, and UNDER a quilt but i remain unconvinced, especially in light of his inability to take the stairs up to bed. this sort of thing happens rarely, thank god, though it does tend to happen whenever these particular friends come over. god love them, they're very nice, but they are good neither for the liver nor for the old circadian rhythms. i've said it before: my ideal social event starts right after work hours, and ends by 8-9pm at the latest. anything beyond that and i get resentful and cranky. still, it's nice to be able to say goodnight and know that nobody will be offended.

sometimes you know your mind is entering a place that is one smidgeon removed from full on madness. it's good to catch yourself and step back before you plunge into that abyss. thursday i found myself standing at the back door, talking to the squirrel. it's been coming around daily and rummaging in my flower pots which are already pretty precarious because of the recent frost, and to distract it i threw down some peanuts for it. peanuts it just ignored like the dumb little furkin it is. so here i was, standing on the back stoop, talking to the squirrel (slowly and clearly, so that it might understand me):

moi: look, you moron! i gave you some peanuts! PEA-NUTS. RIGHT. OVER. HERE. don't you want them? listen, dumdum! PEEEEEA - NUTS. HERE!!!

then i realised what i was doing and i went sheepishly inside. the damn critter continued to ignore them and, with my track record with squirrels, i really can't blame it. but this batch is most certainly not poisoned, and i want it to leave my poor plants alone. but how do you reason with a squirrel?

march on:
on the topic of politics i will only say that i am so proud of all the women (and honorary women) who walked out today and spoke out with a big beautiful united roar. you go, ladies!

*yes, it's cucumber season in texas. go figger!

20 January, 2017


while driving today i turned the radio on to my usual station (NPR, no surprise there) only to be greeted by the unctuous voice of the incoming commender-in-cheeto. i quickly smacked the off button and resigned myself to radio silence. if the united states has gone mad and i have to live here, i refuse to be exposed to the mouth-breathing diatribes of the millionaire vulgarian any more than necessary. when his voice graces ALL the radio waves and the secret police knock on my door, only then will i "voluntarily" turn my eardrums to what comes out of his tiny cat's anus of a mouth. enough about that.


searching through the airwaves for something else to listen to, i realised that the smorgasbord of radio stations around houston is really rather limited. what you have is this, in descending order of frequency:

1. the jesus stations. these occasionally play music that initially seems normal, but i have developed a hypersensitivity to content: i can scent "our lord and saviour" in 3 seconds or less.

2. the spanish stations. no problem with these, but there's only so much mexican polka music that i can listen to before i throw in my sombrero.

3. country. no, just no.

4. classic rock. not my kettle of fish. never was a fan, never will be. will stop on occasion when something nostalgic comes on.

5. rap. i'm not dismissive of rap as a whole - while i might not appreciate all of it, i don't make the mistake of an old person hollering, THAT'S NOT REAL MUSIC! and HEY, YOU KIDS, GET OFFA MY LAWN!!!  however, i'm not a fan of this particular sub-genre (don't ask me what it is, but it seems... i dunno... extra rappy?)

5. 80's music. when it's the stuff i love, it's great; when it's the stuff i hate, it's another channel i get to skip. seems about 30/70 not in my favour.

6. NPR, my beloved public radio. sadly, all too often of late they talk politics and my tolerance is low. i keep waiting for the secret police to shut them down. that day might be coming soon. i don't know. i don't wanna think about it.

when i do turn the radio on, i drive nervously jumping from station to station, knowing the pay-off is limited and unlikely, but hope keeps me alive.

oops! i totally forgot the ubiquitous pop music station, brought to you by anonymous hook-ups,  a growing lack of respect for a solid arts education, and autotune!

13 January, 2017

genius of the wee hours

the night before last i couldn't sleep. unlike my typical insomnia* nightbrain™ was running full tilt on the hamster wheel. i tried to think calm soothing thoughts but instead, nightbrain™ kept whispering housekeeping suggestions to me: "pssst! the cereal shouldn't be in the laundry room**, why not do a little switcheroo and put the cereal in the pantry, where it belongs?" or "if you stack the metal boxes, you'll free up some shelf space in the office!" and so on. i eventually fell asleep some time before 3am, but it sure was worth it because the next morning i got up and implemented all of nightbrain's™ suggestions and you know what? nightbrain™ is fucking genius! i have spare booze in the laundry room now and cereal in the pantry! i have liberated 3 shelves in the office! we installed a lamp! i'm working on cafe curtains in the kitchen! granted, not all of the above is nightbrain™, but the fact is, i'm totally nesting.

what's cool is that i haven't really thought about these things. nightbrain™ came up with them all on its own, which means that i hadn't been thinking about them overtly, but somewhere under all the junk mail and dryer lint that constitutes my mind of late, there were plans being made. decisions decided upon. organization considered. now let's hope nightbrain™ can help me find a job.

* i'm tired. i'm NOT thinking about stuff. i can't fall asleep. my off switch is clearly broken.

** as i've said before, for a big ass house, this place sucks at storage. i keep one cabinet in the laundry room filled with pickling jars and lids, cereal, flour and sugar, as well as a big bottle of alcoholic plums***

*** the plums aren't alcoholics; they've been sitting in booze for so long they have now become one with it. boozy, boozy plums! come to think of it, they might very well be alcoholics by now...

12 January, 2017


on monday i had an endoscopy. i felt calm and relaxed about the whole thing right up until sunday night when it hit me that, hey! someone's gonna be sticking a very long tube with a camera at the end right into my giblets and rummaging around. then i got over it and slept.

when i got to the medical clinic and got presented with the nearly 1k bill, i almost decided, right then and there, that i could very simply stick an elongated selfie stick down my own throat, with similar effect but for far far less money. alas, common sense prevailed. having said that, i'm still not used to being billed for medical procedures and find it an absolutely odious way to run a country.

i was told to take off my wedding/engagement rings and because i so seldom do it, it took a whole packet of medical lubricant and some heavy duty contortions to get them removed. i told the nurses it clearly showed i don't pop into bars and pretend to be single on a regular basis. they had a chuckle over this (although it might have been the sight of red-faced me, grunting and twisting into bizarre postures to get those damn rings off).

in the pre-op room, i changed into a fetching butt-flapping robe, got fitted with a stylish hospital bracelet, and hooked up to IV. once in the operating room, i was told to gargle something vile-tasting, nearly impossible to gargle because of its viscosity. when i half-gagged, half-gargled as much as i could, dreaming of spitting the whole mess out, the nurse told me to swallow. low point of the day for damn sure.

in went an oxygen tube and a bite block. by then the drugs hit me because the last thing i remember is the gastroenterologist sticking a black thing in my mouth and then i woke up in the post op area, mr. monkey sitting beside me, stroking my head. i'd had full anesthesia before, and waking up from that is pure hell. whatever they gave me this time (some gorgeous thing ending in "ol", i think) was a down duvet of a drug. all the way home i went back and forth between slipping into a glorious semiconsciousness and talking ceaselessly. it was a strange combination, albeit a pleasant one.

i slept the rest of the day away and the following night. the verdict? my giblets are lovely to look at with the notable exception of my stomach lining which is the wrong colour apparently. funny how all these years nobody thought to mention that to me. too polite, i guess.

08 January, 2017


i don't know if it's the living out of a suitcase for 3 months that did it. or the glorious relief of the return to some semblance of mental health. or maybe it was the twinkling christmas tree that greeted me in my living room upon my return. perhaps it's simply a switch in the way i think about things. all i know is that this place is starting to feel like home. a proper MY home. i sit on the couch and take in my surroundings with pleasure. i'm filled with desire to tweak things, put up the remaining art, switch out a lamp - all indicators of nesting.

when i left, this place felt temporary and, in some small measure, hateful. i had little desire to do anything other than leave and make my home elsewhere. once again i'm surprised at the power of attitude, because i do think that above all else it is my decision to come back and make this my home that contributed the most to it starting to feel that way. sure, driving along the highways plastered with advertisements for medical procedures and gun shops still unnerves me, but i'm not going to let it get in my way of embracing the good. after all, edmonton has its own wealth of hateful ugliness to it, and since it's home i simply chose not to dwell on it. surely i can do the same here.

when i packed up my stuff for the move back south i wondered if i'd ever get a chance to wear my cozy scarves again. two days ago i got my wish - it went down to -4°C and we had to put our lemon and lime trees in the garage. for good measure we took in the potted rosemary too. yesterday morning we awoke to carnage: the ginger plants, the elephant's ears, the gorgeous huge bird of paradise by the pool, and many others seem to have taken a beating. i was surveying the front yard with a friend who said they would likely come back, but i've seen frost damage and this looked pretty serious to me. sigh... the first world problems of living in a sub-tropical region. we walked out and saw that the neighbour down the street did the right thing and covered nearly everything in his front yard with multicoloured sheets and fabric.

looks like laundry day, i laughed.
yeah - in africa! my friend, who is from south africa, answered.

fair enough. people aren't very likely to put their laundry out for display in north america, are they? still, next time these types of temperatures hit, i'll be sure to take my own load of laundry and scatter it about.

who'd have thought that -4°C would ever freak me out?

05 January, 2017

squirrel in the attic

mental health

the drugs seem to have kicked in. i'm in that sweet spot of not really feeling much of anything most of the time, and while i've heard people complain about this particular aspect of taking antidepressants, i'll take numb over miserable any day, thankyouverymuch.

i've gone off facebook and twitter. i've stayed away from the news. i'm working hard on maintaining my equanimity and separating myself from the shitstorm of "out there" seems to be a good start.

one thing that this whole adventure exposed is how far i am from real self knowledge. it knocked me off my smug complacency and it continues to do so in small after-shocks. but that's good, innit? it's good, sometimes, to be shown the limit of one's self-awareness. it just means i'll keep pushing ahead... in a while. in a little while. right now i'm taking a wee break.


one of the benefits of giving up social media and making a conscious effort to focus my energies on one thing at a time is that i'm back to reading books. it seemed for a while there that i was no longer able to sit and read for longer than mere minutes before i started itching to see what else was happening out there (an anxiety-promoting electronic FOMO). thankfully reading is back. phew! now i'm ready for the apocalypse.*

auto-complete is the window to your soul

i was texting sanity salad the other day and when i typed "talked about," one of the phone's autocomplete options was "vaginas" which made me super happy. apparently i type "talk about vaginas" often enough that my phone recognizes it as a pattern. sanity salad and i were tickled pink.

the eponymous squirrel

i'm assuming it's a squirrel. it might be an entirely different texan beast. a possum, perhaps? at any rate, something's up there and it's making a racket. might be time to revisit my old days of squirrel huntin'. this here's the country for it, that's for darn sure.

*it may be argued that i am always/never ready for the apocalypse. depends on the day.

01 January, 2017

happy new guy

2016 was an interesting year. i'll give it that. here's hoping 2017 is less interesting, and more given to peace and joy than the wanton decimation of democracy and beloved icons like its predecessor. let's all raise a glass to that, shall we?

we spent new year's eve with friends: eating, drinking, soaking in a hot tub, enjoying the balminess of the night, and generally being low key. after the last several years of hosting large new year's eve gatherings, it was lovely to simply sit on a couch and be.

when it came time to ring in the new year, we sort of missed the boat because PBS inexplicably played commercials at the very moment of midnight and by the time we got back to a commercial station, it was already after the fact, so we awkwardly clinked glasses of bubbly, hugged and kissed and then sat down again to watch a movie.

perhaps because i've been so... ahem... excessively mobile in the last year or so, i feel like all the usual trappings of tradition have become loosened, as evidenced by our unconventional christmas celebrations. with the socio-political changes in the world, too, it seems that tradition for its own sake is something to perhaps view with a degree of suspicion, or at the very least hold up to the light and question: why are we doing this? is there anything meaningful for us in this? what aspects are important enough to keep? what can be relinquished?

i see now that without the whole family around, i really feel very little need to have a traditional polish christmas celebration. it's definitely more about the people than the food, and when the people aren't there, it becomes stripped of meaning. grocery store sushi will do just fine, thank you.

i am reminded of our first few christmases in canada, just my parents and i: there was a poignancy to the fact that after all the preparations we would sit down to a meal of 3 just like any other day, that without the bustling noisy atmosphere, it never really felt proper, despite my mom's best culinary efforts. very quickly we started sharing our christmas eve supper with other polish families who were in the same boat, and having 10 people around the table made it seem festive, special, even without any blood ties.

it's quiet here, peaceful. green and warm and pleasant, and i'm working on getting the best out of it, and out of the new year.

dearest poultries, may this year bring you relief from ailments, anxieties, and uncertainty; may it bring you health and hope and joy; may you be loved and understood; and most of all, may you be at peace!