Category Archives: Citizen of the World

Sometimes…

…I look at groups of friends.  They might not be identical, not even all that Stepford-y, really.  But there are similarities.  A’s hair is pulled back in the same way as B’s.  C’s earrings are a different color, but the same style as A’s.  A, B and C are all the same height, within a couple of inches.  They all drive cars whose worth is within a couple hundred bucks of each other. 

(An aside:  Are we drawn to people like us, or do we become who we’re with?)

And I think, “It’d be really nice to have a group of friends that I looked like and sounded like and thought like.  It’d just be so easy.”

(Image from here.)

And in the same moment, a second thought:  “If I found a group of people just like me, I’d walk away within 5 minutes, muttering under my breath, ‘What a bunch of assholes!'”

Advertisements

I’m sorry, Mr. & Mrs. Kumaritashvili.

(Image from here.)

The Winter Olympics hadn’t even begun, when they ended for one man.

Today, twenty-one year old Nodar Kumaritashvili died when he flew off the luge track in Whistler, while training before the games.  It is simply awful, terrible, tragic, gut-wrenching.

And, unfortunately, interesting.

There are so many questions: What happened?  How fast was he going?  Was it driver error?  Was the track unsafe?    Who’s to blame?

This isn’t something that happens a lot.  Despite the dangers involved in shooting down a track of ice, at speeds 40 miles per hour over the speed limit with basically no protection, there are relatively few deaths in the sport.  And I’m as curious as the next guy.  I got home, turned on the news, and looked for answers.

But I got more than that.

The special, Olympics-dedicated anchors came on, giving the latest details.  Then, the male anchor lowered his voice, looked directly into the camera.

“We struggled with the decision to air this next piece of footage.  Please note that it may disturb some…”

Eight years ago, I lost my uncle and cousin in a car accident. It happened on a rural stretch of road, far away from any large urban centre or news gathering agencies.

And yet…

When I opened the morning paper the next day at work, in a city hundreds of miles away from where the accident had happened, there were the pictures.  Pictures of what was left of the front end of their min-van, laying in jagged pieces.  A wheel from my cousin’s wheelchair, laying half-in, half-out of the snow.  And the “money-shot”- a small stuffed toy, surrounded by broken glass.

Did those images offer any insight into what could only tangentially be considered a news story?  Did they give anyone a better understanding of how they might prevent future accidents?

No, they didn’t.

They were salacious and exploitative and gratuitous.

They were there for the express purpose of pulling people’s heartstrings, satisfying their morbid curiosity, which had been heightened by the media in the first place.  And I felt like those pictures were there at my family’s expense.

So when the anchor told me the footage of this man’s death was going to be shown, I didn’t watch.  I couldn’t.

What was the point of actually witnessing this man’s death?

I don’t know where this athlete’s parents and siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends are.  I don’t know if they had to see this.

But I want them to know that I didn’t.

I didn’t look.

Me & the Boys

Just because I’m not making eye contact doesn’t mean I don’t see you.

I see you.

I’ve been seeing you since I walked in, and my heart gave an involuntary lurch when I realized we were seated near you.

You and all your ball cap, spray tan, white sneaker friends. I’m not old enough to be any of your mothers, barring a freak-of-nature situation. But I could have been your babysitter. Your older sister’s friend. Your camp counsellor.

One of you is wearing Ed Hardy, so I’m going to assume he’s the Captain of this Douche Platoon. I think there’s five of you, I don’t want to look at you long enough to count. Don’t want to encourage you; don’t want you to think I care. Because I don’t. And because if I don’t care, you can’t reject. Plus, I don’t care.

My table fills up. You notice. You want us to notice you. The laughs get louder, deeper, shifting from funny to dirty joke funny. Elbows in your friends ribs, and what you can get girls to do with you funny. The kind of laughs that start with silence then explode, and make me nervous, made me nervous before I knew what they meant. Pack of hyena laughs. Laughs of beasts who anticipate tearing apart fresh meat.

I give my head an internal, imperceptible shake. I am thirty fucking four. I have ten years on the oldest of you. I have seen enough, been through enough, lost enough, found enough, cried enough and risen above enough that you and your oozing testosterone should mean sweet bugger all to me.

And yet…

There is a piece. A small, insecure, half a lifetime ago piece of me, who wants to know. How I measure up. If I measure up. How far short I fall. Could the blue eyes, the smile, the laughter that shows I’m funny and carefree, and that I am surrounded by people who find me that way, could these things make you consider me? If I sit up straight enough, will you notice the lumpy stomach (the result of 2 huge babies and a 90 pound weight loss, but you won’t care about that)? What about the bags under my eyes, my I-give-up ponytail? The uber-sensible, opposite of sexy shoes?

And an even smaller piece is scared you won’t notice any of it, won’t notice me at all. That I missed my time to get noticed.

Then I hear the quiet, and realize you’ve gone. I pay real and good attention to my group, not the one ear, one eye stuff I’ve been giving them all evening. I relax.

I kind of hate you. It’s nothing personal. Really, it’s not you, it’s me. It’s the effect your presence, your existence, the idea of you has on me. It’s the feeling that time is sliding away, doors are closing. It’s the fact that sometimes, I’m failing to transcend.

Yes Santa Claus, There is a Virginia. And She Believes, a Little.

(Image from here.)

Have I ever told you that Ginny is actually short for Virginia?

When I was a kid, Virginia seemed like a big, long name, and a neighbour suggested shortening it to Ginny, and it stuck.

There are some tough names to have this time of year.

Holly.  Carol.  Noel.

Virginia has its moments, too.

People who relentlessly remind me that “Yes, there is a Santa Claus.”  Then laugh, like they’re the first person to ever say that to me.  (Wankers.)

(If you’re not sure what the hell I’m talking about, read this explanation of the tale of Virginia and her doubts.)

As a kid, I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus.

Really.

My parents just never made a big swinging deal out of it, and I was an extremely logical kid.  Who snooped.  And figured it out.

So sometimes it can be hard to buy into the whole ethos.

My blog friend Mark was talking about how necessary, in the face of evil and evil-mongers, it is to remember that people are, essentially, good.

Which at this time of year, when we are supposed to be at our best, and we rarely are, it can be tough to remember.  Or even recognize the good.

But I have.

I saw the good this week, over and over.

I saw it in the homeless woman, who came to my door, hoping to earn money by shovelling my walk.  And the smile never left her face, even as my husband told her we couldn’t pay her, we don’t keep cash in the house.  Then she handed him the mail that the mailwoman had deposited in the snow leading up to my house, rather than the mail slot, giving me the Christmas card from a beloved relative that would have been lost to the elements otherwise.

I saw it in The Girl.  Who used all the wisdom and goodness in her heart to come to me at bedtime last night, unprompted, to tell me that if Santa is out of Easy Bake Ovens (an item she’s been requesting daily for two months), that it would be OK, it wouldn’t matter.

I saw it in the man who stopped traffic in a busy street, ignoring honks and rude gestures, to help a disabled man back up onto his feet, from the icy cross walk where he’d fallen into the path of oncoming cars.  And I saw it in the people who realized what was going on, and quickly banded together to make sure no traffic got through while this rescue effort took place.

The good is there.  We just have to keep looking for it.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Maybe a Girl’s Best Friend. Just Not This Girl.

I accept some things about this time of year.

Religious folk are going to get up in arms when you wish them a Happy Holiday, insisting on “Puttin’ the Christ back in Christmas.” (All the while, ignoring the fact that they totally co-opted Yule from the Pagans, but whatever.)

Small children will exhibit sickening greed and extremely touching acts of altruism.  All at the same time.

And the stores are going to play hardball.

I know that I’m going to be bombarded with advertising.  I know that stores are counting on this month to bring them anywhere close to being profitable, especially in a recession.  I get it.

But there was an ad on the radio the other night, one that literally made my jaw drop, and (although I didn’t see it, I’m pretty sure it happened) steam come out of my ears.

(Image from here.)

A diamond company here in town started their radio spot acknowledging that 2009 sucked the hind one.  Then, in a twist of logic that was waaaay past 360 degrees of twist, they proceeded to say that the horrible economy meant that as a man, you needed to spend more money on your woman than ever before.  And I quote:

“Be the hero she needs you to be.”

Oh nameless diamond store, I know you were aiming this ad at men.  Poor, delusional, led by their penises men.  You were trying to let them in on the “inside info”, let them know what us broads are really thinking.

Men, this is horseshit.

I’m a woman.  I know how some, maybe a lot, of women think.  So please listen.

Because do you know what my hero would do?

My hero would make sure the mortgage gets paid.  My hero would read “Goodnight Moon” for the thousandth time because it’s a little girl’s favorite.  My hero would step in, speak up if he saw someone being hurt.  My hero would check out strange noises in the night.  My hero would leave his ego out when making decisions that affect his family.  My hero would open doors for ladies, and teach his son to do the same.  My hero would be a decent, stand up guy, even when that’s the hard way.

You know what my hero wouldn’t do?

Piss away thousands of dollars on a damned piece of jewellery.

Don’t believe the hype, men.

A Tree Grows in the Psych Ward

She hadn’t really noticed Christmas happening.

Wrapped up in her own mind, some days barely even cognizant of the other person, the one growing inside of her.  It wasn’t until she was settled into a room in the hospital’s psych ward that she looked out into the dark, noticed the blinking lights on the side of the building, realized it was that time of year.

She spent the days trying to avoid everyone else, playing the pregnancy card to get out of group therapy sessions.  Watching TV, not concentrating on crossword puzzles, flipping through out of date magazines, she would wait for the suitable amount of hours to go by, so that she could lie in bed and not sleep.  At first, the security guard flicking on the lights hourly, to ensure all was well, was annoying.  But then it was comforting, and she almost welcomed it.

On Day 3, a new woman,  Nancy, came onto the ward.  Quiet, so quiet, hair and eyes tired, she was busy avoiding people, too.

But while the others laid in bed not sleeping, Nancy couldn’t even try.

The OCD was worst for her at night, when everyone else could escape into sleep, or some version of it.  For the first couple of nights, the staff kept her busy, or sedated her, or something, because there were no signs.

But one morning, when the ward woke up, Christmas had happened all over the common area.

Nancy had somehow gotten into the hospital’s decorations.  She’d erected the fake tree, putting it on top of one of the dining tables to give it added drama.  Festooned it with garland so that barely any green showed.  Then she’d gone to work on the walls.  But of course, this being a psych ward, none of the usual ways of affixing decorations (nails, staples, thumbtacks) to walls were available to her.

So she’d found some scotch tape.

And bound the entire common area in a sticky mess of tape and tinsel and paper snow flakes.  And scotch tape, of course, is only so sticky and can only hold for so long.  So that by the time everyone else woke up, half of the decorations were hanging in various states of disrepair.

It was horrible and beautiful.  Grotesque and reverent.

The whole ward stood there, staring.  The pregnant woman, the girls who were sneaking back in after having signed out on passes and gotten drunk the night before, the guy whose arm was in a cast after he’d tried to hack it off, the ten-year old with the dead eyes, they all stood and stared.

And Nancy.

She slumped in an uncomfortable chair.  Utterly exhausted.  Looking around her, just as shocked as the rest of them.

(Image is A Classic Still Life, Holiday in the Hospital)

Jasper Ave, 5:05 pm

5:05 p.m.  At the top of the hill, two girls wait to cross Jasper.  Both pacing, both with the swagger of the chemically altered.  Sensible enough to wear jackets, but not jackets meant for the season.  Those impossibly tight faded jeans can’t be helping them keep warm, either.  A pickup truck, Ford, mid-80’s, rusty, pulls up, to wait for the same light.  The girls stare down the middle-aged man inside, taking in the grey hair resting on his shoulders, the mustache-beard combo.  Does he have money?  Will he party?  One girl yells.  Not at him, necessarily.  Just yells.  The other thrusts her pelvis, grabs her crotch, by way of advertisement.  His jaw tightens, he stares ahead with self-imposed blinders.  The girls laugh, the pitch too high.  They missed their light, but they cross, anyway.

5:09 p.m.  Columns of glass and steel rise, meeting the sky, choking out what little sunlight lingers.  Three men, two in trench coats step quickly onto the curb.  Then, turn to cross again, doing their best to ignore the gentleman with the matted hair, who is engaged with a tree planted in the middle of the sidewalk.  As the man, whose jacket and fingernails match his hair in filth, approaches the trio, they tense, but only slightly.  Even a homeless man should know that these are men of purpose.  Men who do not hand out nickels to other men.  Knowing he’ll be rebuffed, he perseveres, asks the Important Men for help, hand held out in the universal gesture of supplication.  And in return they give him the universal shake of the head, the refusal to acknowledge that both types of people exist, are necessary.  But men who talk to trees are not always easily rebuffed.  He advances.  They close ranks, Armani shoulder to Armani shoulder, and turn their collective back.  A small woman, black hair tied at the nape of her neck, business-suited, silently presses a bill into his hand.  And they stand together, staring at the wall of Armani.

5:12 p.m.  A man and a woman come up out of the underground tunnels.  The man leads, pace brisk, focused.  The woman runs to catch up.  Briefcases in both their hands confuse, initially.  Co-workers, rushing to catch the same bus?  Or a couple, meeting up at the end of the workday?  The confusion clears as the woman talks, talks ahead, saying twice as many words as she needs to, in the vain hope that some of them will stick to him.  He hears the words, the irritation and resignation on his face showing that he does.  But he’s not listening.

5:17 p.m.  A pink snowsuited girl, curly brown hair sneaking out from under a toque, extends her hand above her head, in order to hold the hand her mother offers.  A flashing Do Not Walk hand is failing to enthrall her.  She jumps, as high as a small child in winter boots can.  And then higher.  And higher.  Her mother, same curly brown hair, is loaded down with shopping bags, purse, messenger bag, and a My Little Pony backpack.  Any trace of sunlight is now completely absent.  A fiery ball of pure energy is attempting to tear her already overloaded arm out of its socket.  And the mother looks down at the ball.  And she grins.

(Image is On my way to work by Nelson_77)