" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

February 26, 2008


What is creativity? Maybe creativity is when all of the sensory input you receive during a day comes together in the wierdest way, (usually for me it happens when I'm standing in a shower), and it gets reincarnated mash-up style with very surprising elements that are kind of silly. I think that's creativity. One definition of it, anyway.

Today, I was watching this guest, Sebastian Horsley, on The Hour. He calls himself a Dandy. He's a British artist, born rich, never wanted to work, has spent more than 100,000 pounds on hookers and was even crucified because he wanted to experience it. That's right, he was nailed to a cross. He said it was the one day he wasn't on prescription drugs. What was he thinking? He's now not sure what to do with his 46 year old self in the next half of his life: Act 2. And, once you've been crucified, for the experience, I can see, can't you, how it could be just a tad challenging to find your next challenge.

He was sitting there being interviewed by George (my boyfriend) Stroumboulopoulos in the studio overlooking the Thames. He had on a top hat and his self deprecating armour and I thought to myself, look at that, here's a guy who has just created a persona. He is his persona. That's what he does. We're all pretending he said, we're all covering up something but some of us are blatant about who we are, and some of us are, well, lawyers! Or something like that.

Then Ricky Gervais was on and he was talking about fame and how ridiculous it is and how in a recent study when they asked 10 years olds what they wanted to be almost all of them said they wanted to be famous. It didn't matter what they did, they just wanted to be famous.

Then, lately I've been hearing those words "affordable housing" and those are two words that are really getting on my nerves. I hate it when the media latches onto a term even though the term is referring to a non-existant reality. There is NO affordable housing unless you're living as a squatter in the forest. Is paying $1,000/month for a 750 sq. ft. box affordable? No, it's a total rip off. Are houses that sell for more than a million affordable? Are mortgages amortized over 40 years really affordable?

So all of these thoughts were just seeping in barely consciously and I thought to myself instead of looking for a job, wouldn't it be an interesting exercise to create some personal art installation around that lie, that myth, that non existent reality referred to in the media as "affordable housing".

I was thinking that it would be so cool to get one of those big empty boxes that big motherf....ing fridges get delivered in and paint it up like a little house. Drag your little box in front of wherever Gordon Campbell lives (not on his property, on the sidewalk in front of it) and then get dressed up like you do when you're trying to find a job and sit there. Why is some middle-aged woman who looks like she's going to an interview sitting in front of a fridge box that's she's painted to look like a little playhouse?

The key is that you'd look really respectable and "normal" so it would really confuse people. Set up a video camera. And, have a little kid's chair beside you and see what people have to say to you around the term "affordable housing". Create a media event. And then invite people who have something to do with housing in Vancouver. Invite Vancouver realtor/developer Bob Rennie. Jim Green. Invite the head of Canada Mortgage and Housing. Invite the head of Cooperative Housing. Invite Rich Coleman, the guy who wants to build a city on Riverview lands. Invite that realtor, Spice Lucks, just because her name is nuts and courageous. Invite one of those people who live on old boats, squatting, in False Creek. And then don't bother talking to them about affordable housing. Talk to them about their own houses. Get them to talk about the houses they grew up in, the ones they live in now, the memorable ones.

Because even homeless people, must have some pretty distinct memories about the houses they once lived in.

Which brings me to the house I grew up in. But, that's tomorrow's story. Maybe.

February 25, 2008

Let's Just Call it Wasabi

I find it very interesting, (that's the word I'm choosing to use) that life has been so easy for me since about 2002 that I'd forgotten what it used to be like at times. Because it wasn't always like that (understatement) and I realize that I've been lulled into a false sense of security and well-being as a result of just how easy things had become in the last six years.

Now six years out of 47 is really nothing for anyone else to hate me for so give me a break especially since the relative calm was long overdue.

But, I have to say, lately it's as if the universe has decided that I needed a bit of reminding that maybe everything doesn't always go exactly the way I would like. What do you mean you didn't hire me? Are you a complete moron? Oh ya, people don't always get hired after just one interview at one place. Go figure? I'd forgotten that.

So in addition to it taking longer than I expected to get work, in addition to having a really bad haircut, in addition to not being able to get over this never ending cold in spite of Echinecea, Cat's Claw, Oreganum and sticking my head over a vat of boiling apple cider vinegar every morning, in addition to getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror and thinking, Did I have a stroke during the night? Is it possible that I have Down's Syndrome and I just slipped under the diagnostic radar for most of my life?

If that's not enough, let's just throw in some hot flashes to spice things up. This is a new experience for me and I've decided that instead of calling what I'm now going through the proper term - Menopause - I'm going to refer to it as Wasabi. Are you having a hot flash? No. No. I'm just having a wee bit of Wasabi. You know what I mean? It's the double-sided pain and pleasure that's a lot like when you ingest too big a clump of Wasabi. It's a love hate experience. I love wasabi. I love to hate how it feels going right up my nose into my sinuses. I love the shock of it because I must be a masochist at heart. I love to love the taste of the wasabi mixing with the soy sauce and the sushi. Yum.

And, while we're getting used to Wasabi let's add in a few other condiments. How about some Sake? It seems that I get to drink that every morning at 4 am. I'm not sure what other reason I have to be awake then,but I am, so I'm going to call it the Sake hour. Because it's time to get out of the sack, just because, perhaps I'm anticipating Sake, even though I've never tasted a drop of Sake in my entire life.

Then, a few hours later, at 6:00 am, it's time to get back in the sack because that's when it feels like I've had way too much Sake and i'm tired. If I actually had a job, there is no way I could possibly get up, get dressed, fix the monster hair and look like a normal human being with a functioning brain at 9 am. When I put it like that, I've just realized that I've now become my biggest liability. I'm like that teenage kid that can't function because they were up all night. But, I don't have a mom to get me out of bed.

The only saving grace that I can come up with at this point is that it could be worse. I could have teenagers in addition to all this. I could have a gorgeous, high maintenance teenaged daughter who was driving me nuts with her make-up and her brand name jeans and her skinniness and her high school dramas and her PMS and the never ending phone calls from me to her and her hating me and me hating her.

I could have a husband going through a mid-life crisis. Geez. He'd be taking his life in his hands. That actually brings a smile to my face just thinking about that. I'll give you something to have a crisis over sweetheart! Just stick around! It's the Wasabi talking.

When I put it like that, maybe things aren't so bad afterall. I just have to put up with my big whopping Wasabi self. I'll try not to beat myself with chopsticks or use them against anyone. Help me out here. Try not to give me even the teensiest little reason!

February 24, 2008

Thank God for Friends

Turned a year older on the 15th and was struck down by the worst cold/flu I've had in a long time.Couldn't care a less about the Blog or anything else for that matter. It has been 10 days of barely able to breathe, barely able to do anything without having to lie down for hour upon hour. It has screwed up my running since we've now reached 3 6 minute runs with a minute walk in between. Lisa and Karen had been planning this outing to celebrate Lisa's birthday which was on the 21st and then Heather and I get sick. She didn't make it.

But, I just knew that if I didn't get out of this apartment this weekend, I was going to totally lose it and slide into a dark place that would take way too much work to overcome given everything else that's going on.

So yesterday morning, I managed to get it together and pick up Lisa and Karen. We drove to Sunshine Valley which is about 30 minutes west of Manning Park where the cabin is. We just hung out, drank Lisa's special sweet Manhanttan's, watched videos, made food, ate key lime pie and went for a walk or two.

There is nothing like a change of scenery. It was beautiful up there and today we drove to Manning Park. There was so much snow that we walked across Lightening Lake which was frozen and piled with snow. It was totally silent and white and peaceful and snowing lightly. It was just so good to be somewhere so quiet, no cell phone service, nothing but the birds and the trees.

I have to say that by the time I'd dropped everybody off tonight and came back home it was as if the horrible black mountain that had been descending the past week because of feeling so badly is now just gone. Thank god for friends.

February 19, 2008

A Garden

Heard this quote (wish I knew who said it)

If you wish to be happy for a day, get drunk
If you wish to be happy for a week, eat a pig
If you wish to be happy for a month, get married
If you wish to be happy for ever and ever, make a garden!

February 13, 2008

Rabindranath Tagore

Today was a really hard day. The monkey mind is an arch enemy that needs befriending and that's how today felt.

In spite of the beautiful sunshine, in spite of spending time with a friend whose company I really enjoy, in spite of a long walk on Ambleside and being near the ocean which always calms my nerves, I have been fighting with the monkey mind, and losing.

When I left my job, my manager whom I really liked took me out for lunch one day before I left. And, I don't know how but we got into a conversation about faith. I recall the conversation very distinctly because it was very honest and unguarded; not a typical manager-employee conversation.

When I left she gave me a journal and in the journal she wrote,"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark" It's a quote by someone named Rabindranath Tagore.

I've found myself looking at that quote more than a couple of times in the months since I've left there because it is only in having faith is it possible, I believe, for your body to maintain a vibrational level that will in fact attract into your life something positive even when circumstances are making it very easy to get very anxious and question everything that faith is. This is especially true when you can feel yourself slipping into a place that you know is not where you need to be spending time; one that is only harming you and affecting you physiologically.

It's about being able to believe when there is no evidence or when the evidence is making it easy to begin to have fear associated with the exact opposite. That of course is the test. Of course it requires action, you can't just sit back and blindly believe everything will be okay.

I've been thinking a lot these past few days about having the discipline and the strength to act in a way that is the exact opposite of how I'm feeling to get to the place that is right for me at this time.

To get back to a place of kindness; a gentler place.

Sun Reporter Escapes Croc Attack

February 11, 2008

The Icelandic

Today is Hilda's birthday. Happy birthday Hilda! I can't even remember Hilda's last name but I can remember her birthday because it's close to mine and there's a lot of people I know whose birthdays are in February. Aquarians like Aquarians. And Pisces.

She was Icelandic and she had the whitest, finest, baby blonde duck hair. She drove around in a red Carmen Ghia with a black soft top which was down as much as Vancouver's weather would permit.It was a really noisy little car but it was really fun to drive around in especially in the summer. We worked at an ICBC Bodily Injury Claim Center together in the year of Expo 86.

She worked in the mailroom and I was having every ounce of my soul and my brain sucked out of me doing dictatyping as part of a typing pool. We used typewriters. Can you believe it? I don't care what anyone says, there's still something to be said about the sound of a typewriter.

I was part of a pool of women typing the dictation of ICBC adjusters who were commenting on people who were putting in claims as a result of car accidents or fake car accidents or staged car accidents. I can remember this much older woman, Shirley, who was in the pool and when we got new typewriters, the kind that had some automated functionality, that change in technology just about pushed her over the edge. She was very funny. And, she did her work and kept to herself probably because she was about 25 years older than the rest of us. Poor Shirley.

My favorite part was when we got to watch the video surveillance footage of someone claiming to be completely disabled. A private investigator would videotape the "suspect". First, the tape would show some guy barely able to move hobbling out of the claim center and then later the same day, he'd be playing tennis. Serving. Rallying. Running. Jumping. Sweet! I guess it was our little treat. Little break of humour in the day. Seems a little warped in hindsight.

I was deeply infatuated with someone there and vice versa and at that time he was wooing me and I would get invited to accompany him and his friend, a fellow adjuster, out to lunch at nice restaurants. Because he was in the position to do whatever the hell he wanted as a result of his lofty position, our lunches would sometimes be 2 hours long. We'd have wine. A lot of wine. I remember once coming back to the office after lots of wine and barely being able to sit at my desk. I remember looking at the floor and thinking would anyone notice if I just layed down for a bit on the rug beside my desk. Would it really matter? Could I? Should I?

One of my other friends from there at the time, Cheryl, whose last name I also can't recall, kept coming by and asking with alarm, Gayle, are you okay? Gayle, do you want some coffee? I could barely speak at that point. I'd just giggle. That would be my response.

It gives me great pleasure now to think of this time just because none of that would happen now. Not only would I not end up having an affair with someone 18 years older than me, on purpose (god - that would be REALLY, REALLY old now!) but I don't know too many workplaces (not even newspapers) where people now go out together during the day and get completely wasted.

This was the same place where I just lost it one day and simply left. It wouldn't have really mattered, nobody would have really noticed, except I was on the main switchboard at the time and I remember my poor friend Cheryl having to cover for me, running between her desk and then back to the main switchboard so a tag team of clerical friends took turns pretending to be getting a file, going to the washroom all the while taking turns for me on switchboard while Cheryl was frantically calling me at home saying, Gayle, where the hell are you? Get back here. What are you doing? Are you sick?

Ya, I'm sick. I'm really sick. I'm having a nervous breakdown. I quit a couple of days later.

That job is the number one reason I love the television show, The Office.

And, I would just like to say, as another year of my own life is soon to turn over, I have come a long way since then, Baby!

February 08, 2008


Hey, I just came up with a new word: Consumerbalism!

You might want to drop by the Winsor Gallery on South Granville before March 2nd to check out the work of Chris Jordan.

His premise? We can't grasp what it means when we keep hearing these huge numbers that we have no reference to grasp meaning from. How much is a Billion? How far would a Trillion stretch? I don't know. I've never even seen a one thousand dollar bill! Are there such things?

He shows us, especially in association with things we consume and then discard: cell phones, plastic bottles, tins, cigarette packages.

I'm still grappling with the metric system. Anything that ends in "illion" might as well end in alien.

His art seems worth consuming with our eyes. Nothing to discard. Not even our guilt.

February 06, 2008

Prayer Flag Laundry

pile of
Made in China
jeans and socks
grows higher
on my bedroom floor

Prayer flag laundry
Blessings to yesterday

February 03, 2008

Story and Ownership

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling. How to tell a story? What makes a good story? Timing? Description? Pauses? Crescendo? Suspense? Conflict? The elements of surprise. And, coincidentally, I’ve just seen some plays and a couple of movies that have helped stir the plots on those thoughts so to speak.

I’ve seen a play called The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead in which the actress, a woman, plays seven characters as part of a monologue. The actress, Lucy Peacock, does a convincing job even when she plays a man and a small boy as two of the characters.

I saw another play that’s part of the See Seven and PUSH festival called Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut based on the experience of James Long, a writer/actor who was walking in his back lane in Vancouver and discovered a mouldy, old suitcase in which the contents were 7 photo albums. The albums captured snapshots of an extended family’s lives between 1957 and 1987.

The play makes use of monologue and video, refers to cannibalism, and involves a bunny suit. The cannibalism seemed gratuitous and was offputting, as cannabilism is, I think, except where apparently in Japan some cannibal named Sagawa has become a minor celebrity which is too sick for words, except I just used words.

The bunny suit seemed way too gimmicky. It was one of those plays that made me think so this is what the Canada Council gives out money for? Who decides?
Except, because of the real story that was unfolding in parallel to the making of the play as a result of the photos being used, the play was actually becoming bigger than it would have ever been had the issue of copyright and legality never surfaced.

A family was told by accident that their story was being “cannibalized” by some actor for the sake of so called “art”. He was using their real photos which he had found and was writing a play. They decided to make it clear that they didn’t want their faces used in any way as part of a made up story because in fact they had real stories that were worthy in their own right and an imaginary story by some actor/playwright in Vancouver was not necessary or desired, especially if he was going to be using their photos from photo albums that he had found in a back lane. FindersKeepers?

I found the question, not the play, really interesting. Not that it’s a new question. It’s a very old question actually. It began to make me think about how the content for stories and art always come from life, not directly but so often indirectly. Is it ever really possible to separate the experience of the actor or the writer from the bits of flotsam and jetsam of their memory that end up in their own writing or the emotion recaptured in playing a character?

Then my friend, Gwen, lent me the film Swimming to Cambodia which is a monologue performed by the late Spalding Gray, an American actor who had a bit part in the film The Killing Fields in which he created a mesmerizing monologue performance of his experiences around the making of that movie, his small role in it, and his trip to Cambodia and Thailand.

I’ve heard writers deny that any story they write is autobiographical and I always think they are deluding themselves. How can you separate who you are from what you have experienced and even when you make up a story, all you have to bring to it is what you know or can learn, conversations you’ve had or overheard, emotions, scenes that you know have existed for others and your interpretation of that can only be translated through your own lense. What you think you know or believe then takes on a life of its own in which a single kernel of truth based on reality turns into a journey of the imagination.

And I have to ask myself are there times when it’s not okay to use a specific personal experience since almost always those experiences were shared by someone else who may not wish or agree that your interpretation of what was previously a shared experience should be contained and judged and described, packaged and presented as a commodity to be consumed by audiences who will then decide, after it’s over, whether anything about it contributed to their own experience of reality?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling.

February 02, 2008

Cultural Olympiad?

Last night, in addition to inadvertently torturing my friend Lisa who I thought was going to have a meltdown in the pew beside me at Christ Church Cathedral, I got a good reminder as someone who has done publicity for organizations why overhyping an event is always a really bad idea.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii Concert was overhyped. In hindsight, would I expect anything else given that it is part of what is being called the Cultural Olympiad.

Could we come up with a more pretentious name for Arts events that have come to fruition because of an infusion of cash tied to the 2010 Olympics? Give me a break! If that means you go to an event and you have to endure too many people thanking too many other people in the name of God only knows what, and refusing to use a mic in a venue where the sound isn't really that good, I'll pass next time.

Why, I ask myself would you have an opening letting people in to a space that will be the Bill Reid Gallery in what used to be the Canadian Craft Museum on Hornby Street when it's under construction and there's nothing happening there?

Carvers were carving two totem poles, but they weren't there. They left their tools and their bottle of wine. Maybe the organizers should have gone to FUSE the last Friday of every month at the Vancouver Art Gallery so they could see how to organize an event properly. You can't make something out of nothing. People notice!

The only parts of the evening I really enjoyed, besides admiring the clothing that Dorothy Grant designed for the choir and the opera singers was when the composer Bruce Ruddell shared a story about how Bill Reid had been really worried when he'd completed his sculpture,The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, and he was going to the opening/unveiling of it in Washington DC. He didn't know what he was going to say.

Then, a short time before he was leaving for the event - a couple of days perhaps - he was in his garden and he told his wife to grab a pen and paper at which point a fully realized poem came to him. Apparently, not a single word was changed. His wife, Martine, described it as witnessing the most amazing outpouring of creative inspiration. When you read the poem, especially if you've ever tried to write a poem through many iterations, you understand why it is amazing.

Perhaps in the act of creating his masterpiece he had been absorbing Haida history and consciousness to such a degree that it was only a matter of time before the personas came tumbling back out of him in that fully realized poem that speaks of each character in the boat.

I can imagine this concert working in the middle of a forest, the audience seated on the ground all around a circular stage, smoke from the sweat lodge mixing with the smell of cedar in the air and the recitation of The Spirit of Haida Gwaii poem by someone with an amazing oratorial style interspered between a small orchestra playing and a choir and the drumming of traditional dancers in the distant background.

No introductions required.

February 01, 2008

Pat Benatar Hair

So I got my hair cut yesterday and now it looks like I have Pat Benatar hair. What year is it? That's what I ask myself when I look in the mirror.

It's not a big deal really because my hair grows so fast that it doesn't really matter but the thing is don't you find it weird how you can just look perfectly normal for months and months at a time and then one bad haircut can just screw everything up and it sets you on this mission of finding the right stylist, again, and in the process it's as if you're reliving every bad hair cut you've ever had.

I had found the perfect stylist. Johhny. Gay of course. Philippino. Excellent. Funny. Smart. Easy to talk to. He always made me look way better than I normally look in real life. Then one day. He just disappears. I go to make an appointment. Johnny no longer works here they say. It's as if the hairstylin' mafia got to him. No, they say, I'm sorry. I can't tell you where he is now! Like he's in the witness protection program or something.

It started at Sukis. That's where it all went down hill this time. Take out a loan before you go. They ask me if I want a junior stylist or a senior. I"m thinking it's Sukis. They're all trained right? I'll take the junior, I say. I should have asked, Does that mean they've actually ever cut anyone's hair, before,ever?

I get this sweet, cute, young little thing who's from Russia. And, that's the part I hate most about haircuts. I don't like making small talk at the best of times and to have to go sit in a chair, have some stranger with scissors prancing around me, having to make conversation with them, and then having to pay for that annoys me. It's too close. It's like why don't I just walk into a restaurant, take off all my clothes, lay on top of the table and start chit chatting with my neighbor, a stranger, whom I've never met. That's what it feels like to me.

So, I say to this sweet little thing, don't be afraid to cut it, it grows fast. I don't know if she was daydreaming or just afraid but at no point did she ever ask me, is this what you had in mind? At which point I would have said, No. You can actually use the scissors to cut it. But, she didn't ask and I didn't have the heart to say, when she was done, so when are you going to cut my hair? I come out of there looking like I had about a centimetre removed. Oh well. At least the colour looked good. She curled the ends to flip up. I looked like a member of one of those girl groups from the '60s. And, THAT doesn't match who I am. Not by a long shot. It's amusing though.

So, sure enough, less than a month goes by and my hair is now even longer than when I first went to get a haircut. So, out of desperation, having reached that point where I must get haircut now, immediately, right this second, I just randomly pick this place. It's empty. There's Iranian music playing. The woman seems nice enough.

I sit in the chair and I tell this woman about my experience at Sukis at which point she gets out whatever they use, a razor, and starts layering it. When I leave, it's 1979 all over again. Really. I look like Pat Benatar -or at least I have her hair. Why don't I just buy myself some leather while I'm at it.

I wouldn't really care if I didn't have some interviews coming up. But, you know what they say. People decide in less than 3 seconds whether they like you. If they don't like Pat Benatar, I'm screwed. And the thing is, I keep forgetting how old I am now. It's more likely they won't even know who she is.

Johnny where are you?

By the way, according to Wikipedia Pat Benatar lives with her family on Maui in a small isolated community and does organic farming.

Come to think of it,I wish I WAS Pat Benatar!