Read Trev’s Books (not all of them) at Issuu

Once I shared this with my mother (and the art world), it was safe to share with the world! You can find my latest zine – Trev’s Books: Unpacking My Grandfather’s Library at Issuu.)

Without repeating the zine itself verbatim, this zine is an extremely personal one for me. When my grandfather passed away in January, I inherited his (extensive) book collection, as I was the only other one in the family who could describe themself as a “book person.”

Books were the only thing Grandpa and I had in common so of course unpacking his library was how I worked through a complicated grieving process (if you ever actually work through a thing like that). And, of course, I made a zine about it!

A Breach at Stronghold – now on Gumroad!

screen-shot-2020-06-05-at-11.15.34-1A Breach at Stronghold, the murder mystery party game I debuted amongst the privileged elite* back in February is now finally formatted and available for sale and download on Gumroad!

This thing was a precious labour of love and an amazing challenge. How do you write a compelling murder mystery, break it into nine, satisfying pieces, and do that all so everyone comes away feeling like you didn’t undermine the character they’ve taken to heart? 

The Gumroad download provides PDFs that print easily (if you need to print at all) on 8 1/2 x 11, but I’ve also included a Print variation for tactile beings like myself who love things like long-reach staplers for making booklets and staining paper with tea to fashion cryptic clues. (You can never really get the zinester fully into the digital age.)


*Nine of my most excellent friends who are always up for dinner theatre, gaming, overall shenanigans, or all of the above.

Museum of the Western World & Trev’s Books with BIBLIOCACHE

As a certain big-eyed ingenue once said, life moves pretty fast sometimes.

We’ve barely got Museum of the Western World printed and it’s already out in the world! So is Trev’s Books! (I’ve also sent them my old classic What I Did on a Saturday Afternoon!)

I was invited by Aaron Moran to contribute new zines to Poor Quality’s BIBLIOCACHE exhibit at the Vancouver Book Art Fair at Emily Carr University. The exhibit runs this weekend from October 18-20, 2019!

Be sure to check it out!

Museum of the Western World

This summer, Husband and took a jaunty road trip over to Vancouver Island and reveled in the warm vibe of hippies with rose-coloured colonial glasses. Victoria, especially, with its parliament buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and organic foods evokes a weird blend of the sunny side of several bygone eras.

Twice a graduate of UVIC, to Husband, a trip to Victoria always feels like coming home. Even though I’ve only ever visited there myself, I can’t deny it feels the same for me. I think I just identify deeply with that uncomfortable colonial British legacy jarring against a counter-culture optimism. There’s a layer of me painted all over that city.

The last time we were in Victoria was shortly after our wedding for Husband’s thirtieth birthday. Like that visit, this time we went back to UVIC, for Husband to retread the old stomping grounds. What is it with feeling the need to go back to places where we spent such crucial parts of our lives? If they’ve changed, we feel somehow betrayed; but if they’re exactly the same, we’re starkly reminded of how much we’ve changed.

But we went regardless and it was fine. We learned there’s perhaps nothing so steadfast as university campus culture. It’s locked forever in a perpetual 1993.

As a nice contrast to the easy-going university sprawl, we also went to the Royal BC Museum. Now, both of us are definitely museum people… and both of us have been here before. Many times. But it’s been long enough that everything is cast in a slightly different hue. That colonial legacy is less quaint and a bit more… what’s the word…? Enraging.

Husband pointed out that several of the plaques explaining an artifact were prefaced with some sort of phrase that amounts to “We have no idea what this is but…” and then a second phrase that sounds like it was completed by a first-year anthropology student’s Mad Lib. “… it was probably used for some sort of ritual,” is the most common.

For the rest of the trip, I started turning this over in my head. It felt like there was something there… something I could do to make fun of that fact without being disrespectful to the people whose culture these assumptions were made about.

So, like any someone badly in need of an outlet who is inherently dissatisfied with Twitter, I decided to make a zine. I reached out to my cousin, Amy Rajala, who is a pretty talented photographer (with a new roll of black and white film to burn). She photographed some pretty amazing objects around her house and I’m putting text to them.

I’m excited to see where this goes!

Reworking a Draft

when do you just have to let it go?

Everyone knows nothing’s perfect after the first draft.

But how many drafts are you supposed to write? Where is that fine line between honing a work and polishing a turd? When do you accept something as a failure–nay, a learning experience?

I think the answer is when it is holding you back.

Perhaps you’re too focused on that one piece that you’re neglecting to think of others. What you imagined was your opus is now your albatross. Something a colleague once said to me in the editing room, “You just have to let it go, man.”

Let it go.*

Sounds easy, sure. But, wow. It’s not.

Continue reading “Reworking a Draft”

A Thought Experiment for Time Travellers

Indulge me this: you’re a time traveller. It’s an ordinary day. The fate of the world is not in jeopardy. No damsels to save. No timelines to correct. To angst to stew over. Everything is perfectly fine. You can enjoy yourself.

So you go to a bar.

And who do you see in that bar, but yourself.

You don’t know if it’s past you or future you. But it is definitely you.

Oh no. You’ve made eye contact.

What do you do?

Do you talk to yourself? Do you run screaming?

What do you do?

Finding a Path through the RPG jungle.

I’ve finally done it. I’ve taken the RPG plunge.

In a way, it feels as if this has always been inevitable. I’ve been curious about playing D&D for a long time now; it’s been like this glowing ball of light off in the distance that I’ve only been able to catch glimpses of here and there. It started with scorn, then apathy, then curiosity, then interest, then regret – why had I waited so long?

Friends of mine played D&D in university and I used to tease them about the way a conversation would suddenly become peppered with anecdotes like, “Remember that time you were unconscious for three days and we had to carry you over the mountain into the next village? The tavern wenches were really worried about you.”

I know I was interested then, but it was easier to tease rather than engage. I was never invited to play with them; maybe they would have if I had been more sincerely interested. But the reality was, they were all guys and I was a girl. D&D was a guy thing.

It didn’t have to be expressed so explicitly (few things did*), but I knew implicitly, that this was for them. Not me.

D&D became one of those things that I thus just accepted would never be in my life. It lay behind one of those doors that simple closed as I aged. I’d closed the door and carried down the corridor. The hallway of life moves in one direction.

Or does it?

Continue reading “Finding a Path through the RPG jungle.”

On Keeping a Log-Line Book

I keep tiny notebooks of log-lines. These are brief kernels – nay, seeds – of a story. This something I picked up from film: the need to pitch a story in a single phrase. It has been an invaluable trick not just for getting to the heart of an otherwise complicated story, but for brainstorming writing prompts.Continue reading “On Keeping a Log-Line Book”

Triangulating the Text

So a while ago I started posting chapters of a genre mash-up, satirical novel online before I panicked and took them down after realizing that they (a) weren’t at the calibre I could achieve, and (b) were not going to be produced as expediently as I hoped.

I’ve since been working on it again.

I decided to shift the tone of the book (first in a series maybe?) when I stepped back and started examining what sort of genre satires and parodies I enjoyed myself. And I realized that I preferred riffs on genre that don’t make fun of the genre in as much as they exemplify it.Continue reading “Triangulating the Text”

The Importance of Just Getting it Done

After extensive note-taking and a few false starts, just over two months ago, I actually sat down and starting writing that young adult subterranean fiction piece I first thought of more than half my life ago. (it is now best described as *bracing myself* a dystopian YA novel-meets-Jane Austen.)

I’ve learned through this project the importance of persistence.

I learned how to effectively deal with something that’s not working. Rather than just giving up or sitting around waiting for it to get better I learned to change my approach.

I started writing this story just for fun, just to write and see what happens.Continue reading “The Importance of Just Getting it Done”

Reviews are in for Redwing!

The first review came in for Redwing: Speculative Fiction Takes Flight. It is a glowing review from fantasy magazine Black Gate that also includes an enlightening discussion about the increasing visibility of small presses and what that means for niche readers and writers.

Be sure to check it out and discover other amazing authors in Redwing!

Madrid, Before a Recession

a rare excursion into poetry

I’ve written a total of about four poems in the last seven years. Two are terrible. Another two, not so bad.

One of those not-so-bad two, Madrid, Before a Recession, appears in Ataraxia Vol. 4.

 

Interview with Polygon for ‘Archie out of Context’

Yes, oh, yes. We all have “side hustles.” There’s a strange implication in that phrase that distinguishes it from “hobby.” And Archie Out of Context is a tad too strange to pass for a hobby. It’s a bit more of an afterthought, really. Certainly not someone I put any work into. But alas. Only seems fitting that it should be so wildly popular.

Read the interview here.

Not a DIY Expert

Consider this an appendices to the milestone 2.

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A shoddily photographed “before.”

Our kitchen was boring. At least after we stripped the children’s wallpaper and metallic faux-tile adhesive back-splash. I mean, that was a tad more exciting, but still… the interior design equivalent of a six-year-old’s sticker collection.

For the better part of the last year, we’ve been starting at blank plain cupboards, desperate to do something about it. What is your home supposed to be but a reflection of yourself, if you so wish? I’m so sick of the idea of keeping everything in this chrysalis of beige just in case you decide to sell soon.

Continue reading “Not a DIY Expert”

Home Ownership

This is part two of my re-capping of the last year or so.

2016 was all-around a year of horrors. It is known. Somewhere in the middle of it, Husband and I found out that the apartment we were renting in New Westminster was being sold. This was the second time that had happened to us in less than two years.

This is hardly the worst story anyone who is a renter in the Greater Vancouver area had, but it’s probably about par for the course. In a nutshell, the housing situation in Vancouver has always been terrible for everyone for anyone below upper middle class.*

Continue reading “Home Ownership”

Blood of my Blood

Since I’ve been out for a while, I thought I’d recap a few things that have happened in this last year or so of radio silence.

This is the biggest one.*

I have another nephew! He is my third nephew, the second one named Benjamin, and the first borne by my only sister.

He is an adorable mound of cuddliness. His likes include almost all foods, his doting grandparents, and the family dog.

Continue reading “Blood of my Blood”

Waking from my Writing Coma

So I’ve just finished a draft (final?) of something and the feeling is always like finally arriving at your hotel after an incredibly long, grueling, farcical series of misadventures.

It’s over. It’s done. You’re not dreaming.

There’s a tired, weighted sigh of relief… the feeling that holy-sh*t-I-really-need-a-drink

Continue reading “Waking from my Writing Coma”

My Three Dads

There is a line in a movie that I am not ashamed to admit I have seen way too many times* which goes:

“Typical isn’t it? You wait twenty years for a dad and then three come along at once.”

I feel a little like this right now. I’ve had several months of plugging away at a project with all the diligence of an AP English student (which is to say, very little diligence, but we fake it well), and now everything has kind of exploded in my face.

Continue reading “My Three Dads”

Accepting my Slytherinness

I didn’t join Pottermore for the longest time. My relationship with Harry Potter was intense, but troubled. It oscillated between shameless joy and celebration to cheek-biting scrutiny and critique.

In one past life, I’d enthusiastically dressed up in costume and painted signs, windows, and children’s faces for the midnight releases at the bookstore. In another, I’d spent two semesters engrossed in academic study as I wrote a dissertation critiquing Rowling’s implicit versus explicit ideologies. (Seems pointless now. Ten years later and Tumblr has my thesis covered.)

Continue reading “Accepting my Slytherinness”

Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling

Each writer has a different approach to rules. For some, they’re made to be broken, others they are mere guidelines, and even others, they are cliches to be avoided like the plague (guess which one I’m not). 

Anyway, advice in general is like excerpts from the bible: people cherrypick what works for them and ignore the rest.

But when you get stuck, you never know what it is that might help get you unstuck. So it’s good to have something to go to. Who knows? Therein may lie your answer.

Continue reading “Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling”

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: VIII. Broken Down Somewhere in Belgium

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.

I can’t remember how it was I found out that the bus had broken down. What I definitely remember is that it was extremely cold.

The bus breaking down did come several hours into a long bus trip from London. From there, we went across on a ferry from Dover to France and into Belgium. From here, the intent was to pass into Germany and then head all the way down to Munich.Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: VIII. Broken Down Somewhere in Belgium”

The Hiatus and Moving On

It seems like every time I return to regular posting after something of a hiatus, I have nothing but complaints about what kept me in hiatus.

And I feel like I’ve come out of one of the most stressful times of my life. There are two kinds of stress I experience: time-related stress, where a million things need to be done ohmygodlikerightnow; and, the deeper, more existential stress… the stress that keeps you up at night and never really goes away, only morphs and mutates as you age.

Continue reading “The Hiatus and Moving On”

The Granny Square Approach

Momentum, like Mr. Darcy’s good opinion, once lost is lost forever.

Or so it seems.

Something like a particularly nasty cold that lasts a week (especially when it is followed by Husband spending the whole next week sick with said cold) can wreak havoc on my momentum.

Like coming back from vacation, or from an illness, or from a mental rabbit hole of writing on one project, returning to the status quo is difficult. You feel like the Campbellian hero, returning to find the world the same but himself drastically different.

Continue reading “The Granny Square Approach”

State of the Union

Since about 2010, I’ve been keeping writing notes in Blueline notebooks. I go through two or three a year. I’ve just started my fifteenth.

It’s remarkably arbitrary when I finish a notebook; I simply run out of pages. From there, I have to plan a trip to Staples, select a notebook. Sometimes they’re all out of my usual model, so I adapt.

blueline notebooks

Continue reading “State of the Union”

Nothing in Moderation

Perhaps you have noticed (or not noticed, I haven’t the wherewithal to keep tabs on these things, alas), but I’ve posted the full-text of “Working Title,” my short fiction piece that recently won the Quarter Castle Short Fiction context.

I think I’ve gone on about this before, but this is a piece I’d been sitting on for nearly five years. For me, sometimes I hit a wall with a project where I just don’t know what else to do on it, and so I set it aside. I think it still needs work, but I’ve lost perspective and can no longer look at it objectively. Other times, I finish something and know it’s perfect. I don’t want to change a thing. But then no one else will publish it.

Continue reading “Nothing in Moderation”

“Every day takes figuring out all over again how to f***ing live.”

The above quote comes from the marvellous Deadwood, out of the mouth of the marvellous Calamity Jane.

And I’m really feeling it right now.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted much of anything. Life is like that. Peaks and valleys. Hills and troughs. I feel like this is a lesson I’ve figured out before. Subsequently forgotten. And then had to learn all over again.

I was remembering how elated I was a year ago, nine months ago, six months ago. I was in a huge writing groove. I was feeling especially prolific. I thought I’d finally figured it out.

Continue reading ““Every day takes figuring out all over again how to f***ing live.””

Interview with Quarter Castle Publishing

Another shameless plug. This time an interview with Quarter Castle Publishing. Behold, my majesty!

I have to admit that I love talking about my writing process.

It forces a level of self-reflexivity that I think is healthy, as well as provides a valuable time to reflect on the effectiveness of my process.

Also, I am vain.

(Also also… that picture of me had a plate of pierogis artfully cropped out.)

Quarter Castle Publishing

Author InterviewAshleigh Rajala of New Westminster, British Columbia, is the author of Working Title, the winning submission in Quarter Castle Publishing’s first short story writing contest.

Recently Quarter Castle Publishing interviewed Ashleigh.

QCP: When did you decide to become a writer?

Ashleigh: I remember a moment as a book-obsessed child where I realized that someone created those books and that I too could do that. The first story I wrote was about a dinosaur, and my mum sewed a cover onto it and everything. Sadly, this opus has been lost to history. So I never really decided, it was just something I have always done.

QCP: Do you write every day? If not, how many days do you dedicate to writing?

Ashleigh: I write every day. Sometimes life gets in the way, but that’s okay. But I try to never let myself stop if I’m feeling blocked or less than…

View original post 1,178 more words

Quarter Castle Chronicles… chronicled

I am extremely thrilled and humbled to share that Quarter Castle Chronicles, Volume One, is now available in print and e-book!

Quarter Castle Chronicles ~ Volume One showcases 13 short stories by 12 Canadian authors. They take place in settings across the country, both in the present and the past. From the rugged coast of Newfoundland to the streets of Vancouver, we are flung to far off places like Romania and Swaffham Prior. The authors spin tales of life, survival, death and the realm beyond.

The Chronicles include the winners and honourable mentions of the 2014 Quarter Castle Short Story contest. My piece, Working Title, was the winning story, which humbles me so greatly I’m sitting on the ground as I write.*

Please, check it out and be still my pride.


*That’s a lie. It’s an office chair. But I’m on the setting closest to the ground. You’ll just have to trust me on that.

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: II. Madrid, the Arrival

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.

the arrival

I was supposed to take the train from Paris to Madrid. It was one of those things that I had planned out well in advance like the responsible adult I had thought I was. I bought my Eurail pass and everything.

If I remember correctly, it was an overnight train. In the planning stages, this was a good thing because it meant a night I didn’t have to pay for a hostel.

But then, as Paris wound to a close, all the ephemeral friends I had made in my hostel there were starting to drift away… some back to their everyday lives, some onto their next adventure. The loneliness was creeping back in. The tide was coming in again.

Suddenly, an overnight train journey was starting to feel a bit too much like claustrophobia. As if the train would trap me with myself and the bleak possibility of unwanted social interaction. Loneliness is strange sometimes in that you know social interaction should be good for you, but you fear it ever-the-more intensely.

This was the beginning of a pattern that would repeat over and over while I travelled, in one of those unearthly hybrids of art and mathematics.

So I looked up Ryanair. It was something absolutely absurd (like only 20 Euros) to fly from Paris to Madrid. So I booked it. I get irresponsible with money when faced with potentially anxiety-ridden situations. Anything to avoid it. Take my money. I booked a flight leaving that night. It would get into Madrid at about midnight.

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I took the Metro to the dying embers of central Paris where I had to catch a coach to this tiny little airport, the name of which eludes me. It was one big room lined with vending machines on one side, and windows on the other. You could watch the rickety planes come in and airport staff push the staircases up to them. For someone who grew up in a city with a major airport, this felt like time travel. As it I would see The Beatles descend at any moment. A pretentious, privileged thought, but one I had all the same.

Ryanair doesn’t book seats. It’s a free-for-all. I would come to learn the best entrance strategy (always go for the back set of stairs; most people rush the first), but at this point, I just went with the crowd.

I had my Lonely Planet travel guide and I spent the flight plotting my route from the airport to the hostel in Madrid. Easy peasy, it looked. Just one metro line, with one change. Doneskis.

But by about one in the morning, I discovered that part of the Madrid Metro was down for maintenance. I had to find the surface and find a shuttle bus. I got on the wrong one.

When I realized something was wrong (which took an embarrassingly long time), I got off the bus, and hailed a cab. I handed the address to a hostel over to the driver and he took one look at it and gave me a long, tired look. Without a word, he started driving.

Madrid in the middle of the night is an odd place. It is funny to compare it to other cities, especially my own, Vancouver, which shuts down at about one-thirty am, just after the last Skytrain pulls out of downtown.

Madrid is one of those cities that goes all night. Sure, it’s quieter than during the day. But there’s still stuff going on. It feels like an underground of sorts. Like you’re somehow complicit in this secret world.

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By two-thirty am, the cab pulled up at the end of a long alley. It was wide enough to know that it was a viable walkway, but narrow enough that the cab driver silently said no fucking way.

I gave the cab driver a look as if to ask where the hell am I supposed to go?

He pointed down this Spanish Knockturn Alley and said, “Down. Just little. On left.”

“Thanks.”

He looked solemn. By now, I had assumed this was his natural state of being, solemnity, but as I opened the cab door, he said, “Careful. Bad town. Very bad.”

I had sincerely wished he’d not said that. How could this have helped? Like now I could watched out for maniacs but before I would have embraced them with open arms? Did he think I was expecting the residents of Spanish Knockturn Alley to break out into a rendition of the Lollipop Guild at my arrival?

I side-stepped a few leering types, but I made it to the hostel unscathed. I managed to get a room and snuck up to it quietly, tiptoeing amongst the already asleep. So as not to cause unnecessary noise, I slipped off my shoes and slid into the bed fully clothed.

As tired as I was after such a long day, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even close my eyes. I pulled the blanket up to my chin and stared at the underside of the bunk above me. My heart was pounding. I could feel my pulse in my ears.

Holy shit! How had I taken the events of the evening in such stride? I had been stranded in the middle of the night in a foreign city I had not even seen in the daylight. And I had been alone. Completely alone. No one had known I was even in the country.

How stupid could I have been?

Once I replayed everything over in my mind, it was impossible to calm myself down. I had to repeat over and over: You’re safe now. Calm the hell down. It’s over.

It was a strange day, but an important one. I realized I could handle it. Things would be thrown at me and I only had myself to rely on. But I could handle it.

And maybe I needed to be a little bit more responsible with myself… and my money. But I wouldn’t learn that lesson until years later.

Consider the Working Title Worked

I’m happy to share that one of my works has been included in the latest issue of WomenArts Quarterly Journal.

Based out of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, WomenArts Quarterly Journal (WAG) is:

an initiative of Women in the Arts, aspires to nurture, provide support, and challenge women of all cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and abilities in their role in the arts and seeks to heighten the awareness and understanding of the achievements of women creators, by providing audiences with historical and contemporary examples of the work of women writers, composers, and artists.

And thus I am really proud to be included in their ranks.

Continue reading “Consider the Working Title Worked”

Obligatory July Post

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while. I have no real excuse other than I have been writing, just not any blog posts. The body of one book is barely cold and I’ve already started on another.

This one is a comedy, which is a nice change. It certainly makes life lighter.

I am finding a slight frustration, however, in the fact that I seem to keep jumping all over the place in terms of genre and style. I find I switch modes for each project and sort of adopt a different voice for each piece. Perhaps the differences are only really apparent to me, but it makes me feel reluctant to pick one and run with it, lest I find myself tied to that genre or style.

Continue reading “Obligatory July Post”

On the End of Mad Men

(aka: What the hell am I gonna do with my life now? Overanalyze Game of Thrones? Yeah, right. Okay, whatever.)

So that took a few days to digest. I’ve been drinking heavily ever since. I’m glad Monday was a holiday here in Canada.

Naturally, I’ve been pouring over reviews of the finale, unable to really let it go. It’s been a bitch of a hangover. I still have the Coke jingle in my head.

Continue reading “On the End of Mad Men”

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: I. Paris, Versailles

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.

Versailles

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A few days into Paris—before the Australians, the honeymooners, the college kids, and the life-traveller; after the three asshole partiers, Matthieu from Montreal, and the nameless guy from Newport Beach—I decided to check out the Palace of Versailles. It was outside of the city and I was told to set aside a whole day. I took an RER train, nervously, I might add. This was still my first experience in navigating a non-English speaking public transit system that wasn’t as easily colour-coded as the Métro. I had been nervous about following the map from the train station to the palace, even if it was only a few blocks.

I didn’t have to be.

Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: I. Paris, Versailles”

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: IV. Casablanca

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.

morocco 2

I was exhausted and burnt out. For short trips, you rally. But backpacking is a marathon.

I dyed my hair from blonde to brown before I left Vancouver because I knew I was going to Morocco, and I’d heard warnings—mostly I’d ignored them, but my mother also heard those warnings. If she felt better, I could deal. However, it faded back into a dark blonde by the time I arrived in North Africa.

Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: IV. Casablanca”

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: I. Paris, the Five Types of Travellers

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.

the five types of travellers

paris

My first week in Paris was a crash course in backpacking. The first day, wandering from my hostel along Rue Moufftard down to Place St. Michel, took me onto the Ile de la Cite, towards Notre Dame.

I’d been expecting a cathedral, damn it.

And that’s what I got.

Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: I. Paris, the Five Types of Travellers”

The Commencement of Commencement Advice Commences

There’s nothing more useless than unsolicited advice. 

I was going to preface that with When you’re young, but it’s really applicable to all ages. Unsolicited advice simply comes at a much greater frequency when you’re young.

As I age (like a slowly ripening then rotting apple; that is the metaphor I’ve chosen to age by), I understand this frequency. You get very caught up in feeling that you’ve finally figured somethings out. You feel wise at last. You’ve deconstructed the follies of your youth and learned from them. And thus the desire to share that wisdom is strong.

But don’t. Just… don’t. You cannot really be wise with your advice unless you know whether or not people want it. Do not forget when you were young and people tried to give you advice. There’s a fine line between advice and decree.

Continue reading “The Commencement of Commencement Advice Commences”

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: Introduction

This is the introduction of what I hope will become a series / retrospective project / diary-after-the-fact / examination of memory-and-place-and-all-that-jazz. All the links to other posts about specific adventures and places are/will be below.

Whenever you get back from a long bout of travelling, the world always feels different (at least for a little while, until reality sets in again). For me, however, the world really was different. I was gone from August to November 2008. I have always meant to write more meaningfully about this trip. I’ve touched on bits and pieces here and there, but alas… I’ve never put together something huge.

I imagined that one day it would all be complete, as if I was filling in the pieces on a puzzle that would one day reveal the big picture. It seemed so easy, when I thought of it. That I would be able to simply sit and write. I would start at day one and then it would unfurl from there like a pulling the thread on a sweater.

Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: Introduction”

Why do I binge watch seven seasons of a tv show, but can’t force myself to watch a two-hour movie?

This post started as a note in my journal: one of those things that starts crawling out from your head while you’re in the shower, like a worm on the sidewalk in the rain. I meant to write it before the Oscars, because that makes it seem topical rather than tangential.

But alas.

Every year, Husband and I make of game of trying to get through all the Oscar nominees. Usually, some of the films we saw earlier in the year of our accord. These, ultimately and often, end up being my favourites. And, praise be to me, the Academy’s favourites, too. Of the last seven years, the only two “Best Pictures” I didn’t see in theatre way before hand were The Hurt Locker (wasn’t playing nearby) and The King’s Speech (meh).

Continue reading “Why do I binge watch seven seasons of a tv show, but can’t force myself to watch a two-hour movie?”

Unmasked with Crab Fat!

A short story of mine – a slightly awkward New Journalism-inspired piece – is up online at Crab Fat Literary Magazine.

Unmasked! is an expose of the long-since retired superhero as he at long last reveals his true identity to the world.

I’m quite pleased with this piece, but I’ve been sitting on it for a while. It’s such an odd little number that it’s been hard to place with a publication. (Naturally, a magazine called Crab Fat seemed the logical solution.)

The Winter Months

Sometimes I feel like an asshole for complaining about the winter when I live in Vancouver. I see photos posted by friends who live elsewhere in Canada and they deal with Real Winter.

Real Winter, to me, is snow and toques and leaving for work half-an-hour early to navigate the ice. Real Winter only really lasts a day or two – a week, tops – in Vancouver. The rest of the season is characterized by grey skies, rain, and just… darkness.

Continue reading “The Winter Months”

The Review is in!

The first review came in for Redwing: Speculative Fiction Takes Flight. It is a glowing review from fantasy magazine Black Gate that also includes an enlightening discussion about the increasing visibility of small presses and what that means for niche readers and writers.

“Ticker Tape Kings” by Ashleigh Rajala is next, a time travel story unlike any I’ve read. It plays around with tenses and with conventions — not so much conventions of time travel, but of time travel stories. Elegantly written, it gives the protagonist a difficult character-based choice to make, and follows her as she makes it.

Thank you so much, Black Gate!

The Rubbermaid Tub of Broken Dreams

In a fit of nostalgia-fueled panic, I dug with gusto into this blue tub I keep in the closet that houses all the old poetry and scripts and stories I wrote in my teenage years.

This is not a metaphor. I hope.

That blue tub contains horrors and treasures in equal measure. Like some kind of acne-speckled Cave of Wonders.

But the reason for this spelunking expedition seemed straight-forward enough at the time. My ambition for my own work was starting to frustrate me. I felt like I couldn’t start to plot something out or brainstorm without trying to add complicating layers. I’d come up with a plot-point or character tic and then my mind would spiral off into a million tangents, like light through a prism. But it was neither that beautiful nor that cliche; my mind just felt… overwhelmed.

Continue reading “The Rubbermaid Tub of Broken Dreams”

Presenting Redwing

2aceedf2-c678-4d53-9ed0-bfac020cbad0Ah ha! The much awaited publication of Redwing is here!

Redwing: Speculative Fiction Takes Flight is available as an e-book for Kindle and Kobo. With ten stories for $2.99, that’s mere pennies per mind-blowing experience!

Somewhere within that epic of majesty is my piece, Ticker Tape Kings… a strange meditation on time travel and the realities of the past. I hope you enjoy it; I’m rather proud.

Lost in the Supermarket

a musical education in the early internet era

I first began listening to The Clash in high school. The internet was far past its infancy, but one could say it was an awkward teenager. It was the days before Youtube and Wikipedia and no one else I knew listened to old punk. If you even said “old punk,” kids thought you meant Green Day. It was a badge of pride if you even owned Dookie. These were the days of Blink 182 and Sum 41 and other quantified nouns. Sad times, indeed.

I had a boyband phase in kindergarten, younger than most. New Kids on the Block it was for me then. But most of the kids I grew up with continued to listen to pop music (cited as the culture), while others took to the post-grunge spectrum (cited as the counter to this culture… the alternative, if you will).

Continue reading “Lost in the Supermarket”

Negatively Fourth Street is No More

Last weekend we handed over the keys. This followed a night of sweeping and polishing a floor that – no matter how much we SWIFFERED HARDER, DAMN IT – still could not be freed of all cat fluff. Those stray hairs and random popcorn kernels are a part of our tenancy that the apartment clung to, like a serial killer who keeps trophies of each victim.

It is hard to know that you’ve cleaned out every nook and cranny when the building has spent the last 86 years making nooks and crannies the primary characteristic of its uniquely vintage facade.

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It’s also hard to decide what I will miss most: the crooked everything, from walls, to door frames, to windows, to floors; the fact that only one plug in the entire apartment is three-pronged; the ever-present pot smell in the hallway; the constant dub-step emanating from the bro downstairs; the trip into the horror film basement every time a fuse needs replacing; the windows that rattle in the wind, leak in the rain, won’t open in the blistering heat, or (if you’re talking about the window in the shower stall) won’t close at all; or the leaky radiator, which, when you list all the others, now seems such a minor complaint that we totally forgot about it until the radiator kicked back into operation mid-September and left a puddle of water that ran directly across the living room because the building is sinking on one side.

Goodbye, Negatively Fourth Street. Goodbye New West Egg. Goodbye Slanty Shanty. Whatever we decided to call you, good riddance.

The Cultural Exchange

My husband knows he married a Harry Potter enthusiast. And he, himself, long ago admitted that he once-upon-a-time had been something of a Star Trek fan. “When I was a kid,” he said with emphasis, as if awaiting judgment. But what judgment was I to pass? I was well into my twenties when I spent an entire semester solely on Harry Potter and class ideology. If the internet age has given anything to the western world, it’s the ability to admit to being a fan of Star Trek without fear of wedgies, swirlies or a state of general social outcast-ery.

Then it happened, by complete accident, that Husband had just begun reading the Harry Potter series when I noticed Star Trek: The Next Generation appeared on Netflix. Whether it was a new acquisition or whether it had been there all along, only to magically reveal itself when I truly needed it, I will never know. But alas: I started watching.

Continue reading “The Cultural Exchange”

The Indolent Muse

It always seems the way.

After months – nay, years! – of complaining that I just don’t have enough time to write, that I have to struggle to make time, that I have to make hard choices like not going to that social gathering and not keeping the house clean and not, you know, having children, I find myself with plenty of time but no creative urges.

Continue reading “The Indolent Muse”

Black Paintings in a White Wing

Sometime in the late summer of 2008 – right before the crash – I was in Madrid. Madrid is home to one of my bucket list items (if I actually had a bucket list): Picasso’s Guernica.

Housed in the Museo Reina Sofia, Guernica is an absolutely astonishing sight to behold. The impact of such a piece comes not only from its imagery – rendered starkly in monochrome – but also in its sheer size.

I truly thought no other work of art would ever provoke such an emotional and visceral reaction from me. I actually gasped, my breath catching in my throat the moment I stepped into the gallery space. “Nothing will top this,” I thought, “Ever.”

But Madrid had a lesson in wait: checking items off a bucket list is one thing, but the moments that truly take us by surprise are often far more rare, and far more valuable.

Continue reading “Black Paintings in a White Wing”

Half of All T-Rexes were Girls

My aunt was twenty years old when I – the first in the family of my generation – was born. She was mid-liberal arts degree and wore it on her sleeve. The blue onesie she bought me for my first Christmas quickly became a family joke.

But I always resented the idea that a baby girl in a blue onesie was a thing to laugh about. I despised the mandate that girls had to look pretty while boys wore something you could “get muddy in.”

As I grew older and asserted myself more strongly, I fought against wearing frilly dresses and sought out clothes my parents Santa had to scour Vancouver comic book stores to find (namely the one-size-fits-all Batman t-shirt I spent ages five to six wearing).

So, with that troubling childhood memory, I would like to share a great Kickstarter launching today: Jack and Jill Kids. This “gender-neutral kids’ clothing company [aims] to inspire the next generation of leaders to think beyond pink and blue.”

Continue reading “Half of All T-Rexes were Girls”

A Proustian Spit in the Face

In an attempt to block out the chatter of the workplace, I popped in my earbuds and opened Youtube. Something made me play London Calling, the full album.

After cringing at the oil pipeline ad that preceded it*, it was proven yet again that I can’t get through a bout of Spanish Bombs without remembering this one time back in my bookstore days. A guy came in carrying a vague familiarity. He might have either gone to my high school or showed up at a lot of the same parties. He asked for a book of some type I can’t remember. It was likely music-related, as I can’t imagine what else could have provided a more reasonable segueway into a discussion of The Clash.

Continue reading “A Proustian Spit in the Face”

I was bound to waste a whole post on a cat sooner or later

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Suffocation warning in effect.

As we promised ourselves upon our return from England, Husband and I got a cat. The more appropriate term might be inherited – nay – took in… as if she was the ragamuffin who charmed her way into our hearts in an 88-minute running time.

It’s actually nothing of the sort.

She is the cat my mother adopted in a Chardonnay-fueled panic over suddenly becoming an empty-nester when my sister and I took off to Europe six years ago.

She is fluffy and cute and occasionally bitey.

Mum’s been trying to pawn her off in a PR-friendly way ever since.Continue reading “I was bound to waste a whole post on a cat sooner or later”

When I was Thirteen a Thesaurus Lied to Me

ataraxiaContrary to the alleged wisdom of Roget’s Super Thesaurus 1995 edition (what deemed it “super” the tome never explained): “poetry” and “prose” are NOT synonyms. Thirteen-year-old me did not realize this. I trusted the almighty power of the printed word. Old notebooks now hold embarrassing hand-lettered titlepages. Of course, by “hand-lettered,” I mean letters cut from Seventeen magazine like a ransom note.

I digress.

Full disclosure: I don’t write poetry very often.

Continue reading “When I was Thirteen a Thesaurus Lied to Me”

Hark! A Prophecy!

1979738_10152198477557550_1451357022_nIn the hallowed halls of Main Street, in the aptly named Cottage Bistro, there shall be a gathering, and this gathering shall be called “The Launch! with PRISM, Event, poetry is dead, and Room Magazine.”

The date of this party shall be the seventeenth of April (a Thursday, methinks), in the year of 2014.

And the time of this event shall be seven in the evening.

And there one Ashleigh of House Rajala shall go forth and read aloud the words issued by her own hand.

Or, in the words of the event organizers:

Please join us as we celebrate our latest issues and the spirit of literary magazines in BC!! With special musical guests ‘Vocal Jazz Jam with Woolysock Band.’ Readers include: Billeh Nickerson, Dina Del Bucchia, Ashleigh Rajala, and Karen Lee. Our MC is Elizabeth Bachinsky!

In other news, I’m running out of creative ways to make simple announcements.

A ROOM of My Own… Bad Puns

37.1-web (1)I have a short story in the latest issue of Room, Canada’s oldest literary journal by and about women! This print journal is available at bookstores around Canada (if you’re lucky enough to a.) live in Canada, and b.) frequent bookstores, and c.) be capable of reading things undeliverable via an electronic device).

The piece is called Kings Cross, a short segment I had been working on for a while, and seemed perfectly at home in this issue about Fashion, Trend, and Personal Style 37.1.

Please check it out as there are many other great pieces by other exciting writers, such as the lovely and talented Taryn Hubbard!

Random Train of Thought Departing from The Grand Budapest Hotel

When The Grand Budapest Hotel opened last weekend, Husband and I missed it. It was only playing in one theatre and it sold out. (Get your shit together, Vancouver.)

One week on, even with a wider release, we barely squeezed into the theatre.

Casting glances around to our fellow movie-goers, I realized that the stereotype of the bespectacled, cardigan-ed Wes Anderson fan isn’t true at all. Every demographic was there: from child to senior, with every Millenial, Gen-X, and Boomer in between. My parents even like Wes Anderson movies even though I suspect they’ve never discovered they are all by the same guy.

Last night’s viewing of The Grand Budapest Hotel wasn’t the usual Friday night blockbuster experience. This film managed to have the varied population of Coquitlam in the palm of its hand. You could hear and feel the audience’s presence the whole time: not just laughter, but gasps, cheers, held breath, and the absence of muttering, talking, and rustling.

Continue reading “Random Train of Thought Departing from The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Resolutions and Pattern Recognition

I’ve never much been one for resolutions but sometimes circumstances arise, flailing their fists, demanding action be taken. It’s never anything so banal as the ticking of the clock from one year to the next that does it; no, for me, it’s something drastic.

Often, these resolutions end badly. Why? Because I suffer from the horrible conflation of three horrible characteristics: impulsiveness, laziness, and hopeless romanticism. This means that I have the rationality of a Disney character and the ennui of the French New Wave.

Continue reading “Resolutions and Pattern Recognition”

Chiselling Away at Genre Expectations

steelchisellogoOver at The Steel Chisel, you can find a short story of mine, “Scenes from a Road Movie.” This is a piece I’d been sculpting away at for a while, so it seems only appropriate that it be published somewhere with “chisel” in the name.

The Road Movie is one of my favourite film genres. I wrote a paper on the Canadian Road Movie in university and the first “novel” (I use the word novel here so loosely it doesn’t even have grasp on itself) I wrote – when I was twelve – was called Road Trip. I’ve always found something fascinating about a journey rendered literal. Perhaps this comes from a similar well as my love of travel.

Continue reading “Chiselling Away at Genre Expectations”

Your Daily Hate

After emerging from post-holiday hibernation, during which I did little else besides crocheting whilst binge-watching Netflix and eating bon-bons, I returned to the internet, that great information highway (or by-pass).

For most of my news, I read the Guardian,* supplemented (cautiously) by the Globe and Mail for Canadian content, the New York Times for essays, and the Gawker pantheon for entertainment (mostly science and feminism). Occasionally, though, one needs to hate-read. Hate-reading is not so one is reminded that the world is a terrible place full of terrible events, the news covers that just fine. No: hate-reading is to be reminded that people are THE WORST.

Continue reading “Your Daily Hate”

The Anniversary of a Our First Not-a-Date

The first date Husband and I went on was not actually a date but rather more like a premise for a terrible Christmas movie.

It was two years ago. We were roommates at the time and still referred to one another, “My roommate, Gregg–” or “Me and Boy Roommate–.” We never quite reached the “My friend, Ashleigh–” phase.

The not-a-date was a couple of weeks before Christmas and took place on a Saturday. Neither of us can recall who first came up with the idea to go Christmas shopping downtown, but onwards we went, bundled up in toques and scarves and gloves. All afternoon, we wandered in and out of shops, cracking jokes in the comic book store, making rude gestures with nutcrackers in Cookworks, railing against the establishment outside department store windows, and lingering a bit too long in the bookstore. We didn’t buy a thing.

Continue reading “The Anniversary of a Our First Not-a-Date”

Fiction and Festivities with Sassafras Literary Magazine

The pleasure is mine to announce – imaginary megaphone in hand – that I have a piece published in the most recent issue of Sassafras Literary Magazine.

In their sixth issue, Sassafras, have gathered an excellent collection of other short works of art, poetry, fiction and non-fiction that I am proud to be in the company of. They are all far too talented to end sentences with prepositions, as I have just done.

skc3a4rmavbild-2013-11-25-kl-16-15-19The piece is the first page of a novel that I completed a first draft on almost two years ago and have left to quietly simmer in the distance ever since.

Coal Dust is narrated by a recently deceased teenager, Jamie. But it is not a fantasy. Jamie is not in heaven, is not a ghost, is not anything of the sort. He is simply dead. This is also not Jamie’s story. It is the story of Jamie’s two half-siblings, Caroline and Stuart (step-siblings to each other), and how they struggle to redefine themselves after the death of the one person who might have made them a family.

Jamie as narrator began as an experiment. Is it possible to have a narrator simultaneously omniscient and first person? I think it turned out quite well, but as a writer, I have that horrible affliction where I am completely unable to be objective.

Alas, I ramble. Such is my right and my shame.

Please do not judge Sassafras because of my arrogance. They are awesome.

That’s so Cliché

After a discussion we had this morning, Husband posted the following quote to Tumblr:

My friend Martin Amis wrote a book called the War on Cliché, saying that all of us who write and think and speak try to remind ourselves that there’s nothing worse than borrowed phrases, and that using someone else’s words is part of literary intellectual death. Now, when I went to Czechoslovakia under the old communist regime, I thought to myself, whatever I do, whatever happens to me in Prague, I’m not going to use the name Kafka. I’m just not going to do it. I won’t do it. Everyone else does, I’m not going to. I’ll write the first non-Kafka mentioning piece. I went to this meeting of the then unknown dissident Vaclav Havel and several of his Czech and Slovak friends in an apartment in Prague. We thought that no one knew that he had these visitors coming from America; but someone must have given us away because it wasn’t long before the door fell in and in came police dogs, and guys in leather coats, carrying heavy electric torches and truncheons. They slammed me up against a wall and said ‘you’re under arrest and you’ve got to come with us’. I said, “Well what’s the charge?”, and they said “We don’t have to tell you the charge.” And I thought fuck. Now I do have to mention Kafka.

– Christopher Hitchens (via hitch-22)

To which I reply:

Oh, Martin Amis: there are definitely things worse than borrowed phrases. One can use a cliché well. One can use a cliché to remind the reader of the baggage that cliché carries. The cliché does not exist in a void, but is the product of a long tradition of intertextuality. A smart writer must not avoid cliché, a smart writer must engage cliché in a dialogue.

I was reading a review this morning in The Atlantic of a book about hot air balloons (Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes). The reviewer mentions the author’s brief mention of the Icarus cliché, as if the author could not simply ignore such an obvious allusion, but did not want to engage in it. As a substitute for similar classical weight, the author brought up Perdix the partridge. But not all clichés are interchangeable. When discussing the pioneers of ballooning, comparing them to Perdix is just not the same as comparing them to Icarus.

To rally against clichés itself is now a cliché. Celebrate them. They have a purpose.

So We’ve Yet to Find a Decent World Map with South Sudan

For my sixth birthday, my grandparents bought me globe. It sat on the desk, tilted at that attractive, precarious angle. I loved that the mountain ranges were palpable beneath my fingertips. Their intention with this gift was to aid my transition into the realm of proper education. I had just begun the first grade.

This was late September 1989.

Within two months, the globe was out of date in the most drastic way possible. (Until global warming inevitably creates Waterworld: The Sequel.) The Berlin Wall fell and half the Soviet Union descended into capital-R Revolution.

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But we never got another globe. That was the one we had in our house for years. Just this little piece of history, rotating slowly, collecting dust.

Continue reading “So We’ve Yet to Find a Decent World Map with South Sudan”

Plug Away, You Shameless Plug

I’m not even going to try for the humblebrag. I straight-up won the Sad Magazine Fantasy Fiction Contest. *cheers*

I’ve known about this for a month, where I received the news first thing in the morning whilst unshowered and annoyed in a terrible London hostel. It made my day then and it still makes my day, which, I guess, means it made my month.

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Part of why we flew back into town when we did was so I could do an interview for them, so, in turn, I could look doughy and uncouth.

Anyway, I shall continue to strive for modesty ever after, but tonight I dine on something that takes more than one pan to cook* because tonight we celebrate!

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*We just moved a week ago and haven’t bought new pots and pans yet. It sucks.

Which Drunken Story to Tell…?

The good people at The Round Up Writer’s Zine have published a piece of mine of great intellectual snobbery…

… namely the story of time I got really drunk on Sambuca while camping.

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This was for The Moonshine Edition, which was seeking embarrassing drunken stories. With the piece entitled “Always the Sambuca,” I have to admit that I don’t know if this is actually the most embarrassing drunken story of mine, but it’s definitely top three.*

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*The other two would have to be “The Night of the Mustard” and “The Incident With the Kiddie Pool,” if you have to know.

Positively – Well, Almost Certainly – 4th Street

This past weekend, Husband and I rented an apartment on 4th Street in New Westminster. This three-storey walk-up was built oh-so optimistically one year before the crash (1928). With views of apartment blocks, a cobbled road and a slice of an industry-laded river, it makes us feel like we’re living in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

We’ve even nicknamed the place “New West Egg.”*

Not-so-Beautiful-but-certainly-Damned, our first night in New West Egg was capped off by a trip to Walmart in search of fuses. We’re still working on figuring out how to work a radiator.

Yes: the floor runs at an angle along one wall. The windows are cold and single pane. But it has character. It has tall ceilings, hardwood floors, a toilet from “Simpsons Sears,” and kitchen cupboards painted like zebra stripes. Yes, this character most definitely would wear flapper dresses, dangle cigarette holders from her fingertips, and be prone to drunken public meltdowns.

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*A great joke for humourless fans of Gatsby and/or puns.

An Eventful Week (or, “a week full of events”)

Last Thursday we returned on the train from York to Doncaster, enjoying one last chance to experience the UK with the carefree attitude of souvenir-shopping tourists. No longer was there a life to plan.

Friday we enjoyed one last dinner with my aunt and uncle, our gracious hosts during this two month stint of ego, pride and ambition.

Saturday we flew. (Highlights of said flight included, as always: 1. watching terrible movies you normally have too must self-respect to consider, and 2. walking the tightrope that is the threat of deep-vein thrombosis.)

Sunday I awoke at four-thirty in the morning because jet lag will fuck you up so bad that were I a luchador, I would seriously consider the name “El Jet Lag.” Later, I public-transited my ass downtown with a new-found respect for a metro system that allows you scenic views of something other than centuries-old coal dust-blackened tunnels. There, I was interviewed by Sad Magazine for fantasy fiction contest-related reasons that will become apparent in the next week or so when they go to print.

Monday it was back to work. My routine returned quickly although my confidence did not. I spent the better part of the day fielding questions, simpering at surprised faces, and feeling like a twat everytime I said words like “loo” or “trousers” (or “twat”). Meanwhile, Husband was on the apartment hunt!

Tuesday we viewed a flat an apartment. (See? I did it again! I honestly typed out “flat” because apparently I am an asshole now.) We were back in New West because, as we learned by unexpectedly comparing everywhere we went in Britain to it, New West was that girl next door we never knew we were in love with until she went off and married the high school quarterback.

Wednesday we signed the lease because Vancouver kicks Britain’s arse ass in the rental world. No bureaucracy, just a landlord who took a shine to our wholesome visage. The same day, we bought our new car and welcomed a new nephew into the world.

Which brings us full-circle to Thursday.

That’s all I’ve got. How’ve you been?

On the Embarrassing Act of Coming Home

Today we fly back to Vancouver. The great experiment – one might say – has failed.

I know that over the next week, the explanation will boil itself down to an easy deflection: one or two lines doing their best to contain both logic and pride.

It took us several days and a good dose of demoralization to finally come to the conclusion to come home. We weighed pros and cons, painted competing visions of the future, and tried to think it through in the most logical way possible. We gave ourselves time, and gave ourselves perspective. This was a decision we did not want clouded by such temporary factors as culture shock or bureaucratic annoyances, or faulty expectations.

Continue reading “On the Embarrassing Act of Coming Home”

To Read or Not to Read: Morrissey’s Autobiography

One of the things I am going to miss about Britain (more on that later) is the fact that Morrissey releasing an autobiography warrants not just mentions on the news but also hardcore, “man-on-the-street” journalism. Truly, the public needed to know what the average Mancunian thought of Morrissey. We needed to know, I tell you!

I knew the autobiography existed beforehand, but never gave it that much thought. I like The Smiths, but I’m rather agnostic when it comes to Morrissey himself. It’s not that I don’t know whether he’s a genius or a douchebag, but I accept the fact that it is impossible for meagre human beings to actually know whether he’s a genius or a douchebag. (And most of what one considers post-punk proves the two are not mutually exclusive.)

Continue reading “To Read or Not to Read: Morrissey’s Autobiography”

Plot Twist: We Flee from London

As my first day of being thirty years old passes, we find ourselves having forsaken London. We went out flat hunting, paperwork in hand like rifles, the tube like horses and hounds. After several false starts, I had to admit to myself that London just wasn’t worth it. Paying a thousand pounds for a small flat (bed bugs likely included) in a part of town I would be scared to walk in at night, spending an hour on the tube just to get to a part-time job at a fabulous bookshop just didn’t add up.

I feel terrible about it, but I turned down the job at the bookshop. As much as I would have loved to work there (and the fact that job-hunting in this country has been as futile and depressing as hell, but that’s the subject of another post), the part-time hours and level of pay just didn’t rationalise the ridiculous London rent. After crunching numbers, I calculated that the difference in price to live in a shitty London flat versus a decent flat anywhere else was more than I would make. In essence, living outside London unemployed would be cheaper than living in London and working part-time minimum wage.

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Site of the fabled London Tim Horton’s.

Continue reading “Plot Twist: We Flee from London”

All Hail the New Backpacking Generation

Aviary Photo_130301705171357253Another difference between backpacking now and backpacking five years ago: the millenials have become the dominant backpacker demographic. Five years ago, I was one of the only people with a laptop—and this was pre-smartphone, pre-iPad.

I only had my laptop because I held illusions of sitting in French cafes typing out a masterpiece. But most days would pass with my computer abandoned in the canvas depths of my bag. I would only dig it out to watch a DVD in the rare event that I was alone and bored. All actual writing was done full-Hemingway in a Moleskine notebook.

Continue reading “All Hail the New Backpacking Generation”

Stephen Fry – a Fortuitous Symbol?

It seems quite ironic (or perhaps not ironic at all) that after discovering at long last the unencumbered joy of QI and the limitless glee of Stephen Fry’s memoirs that we should spot him strolling along Piccadilly as we sip our organic coffee.

I do not believe in signs or fate or anything of the sort. They are a trick of psychology: a confirmation bias wherein we see what we want in order to justify our desires or decisions. Thus, seeing Stephen Fry in London is not a sign that we have made the right decision in moving here, or that everything will turn out fine. Yet it seems so obvious a sign. Prior to the sighting, did I not just post not-one-but-two Stephen Fry quotes (as some allegedly nuanced depiction of my inner self)?

Continue reading “Stephen Fry – a Fortuitous Symbol?”

Doncaster Minster Wandering

Wandering through Doncaster today, we noticed that the Minster was open to the public. As we stepped inside, a kindly woman handed us some xeroxed pamphlets and launched into a practiced spiel on the history of the church. All was quite interesting; we nodded politely, punctuating her words with Oh really?s whenever felt appropriate. The church seemed to us, avowed atheists, and to her, with such a prepared presentation, but a museum, a piece of history, an “excellent example of Victorian gothic” set between a motorway and a Tesco’s.

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But as we were leaving her to begin taking in the sun through the stained glass and memorial plaques affixed to stone, a young man snuck in behind us. He was in his early twenties, in a black t-shirt and ballcap. He had spots and seemed tired. He looked a stereotypical “youth” one might cross the street to avoid were it after dark and no one else were around.

At the sight of him, the woman lost interest in us. He looked abashedly to her. He asked quietly: “Am I allowed in to pray?” Her rigid countenance immediately softened. “Of course,” she murmured, “Of course.” She ushered him through like a mother bringing all her children to the dinner table.

Later, as Husband and I wandered through the church, we saw him, sitting quietly in one of the back pews, head down in his lap.

Land of the the Bone-Grinders

Still we linger in Doncaster. Things, however, have taken an interesting turn. In his ongoing efforts to delve deeper into the eccentricities of British history, Husband stumbled across an interesting fact about the town in which we are currently staying. In 1822, it was reported in the London Observer that “more than a million bushels of human and inhuman bones” were imported into England (via Hull, because of course Hull), from towns that harboured the sites of Napoleonic battles and were thus littered with the bodies of soldiers and their horses.  From Hull, these bodies were sent chiefly to Doncaster, where they were “[reduced] to a granularly state.” Why? Because dead bodies make good fertilizer and Doncaster was the seat of agricultural trade in Yorkshire. As this 1822 reporter said: “The good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread.” Firstly, this explains all the French-speaking ghosts. Secondly, this has given me a great title for a work of historical fiction: The Bone-Grinder’s Wife. With a sepia-tinged photo on the cover, cropped so as to just cut out the eyes, the title in italicized serif type, a blurb telling you what Ann-Marie MacDonald thought, and a purple sticker, Heather’s Pick, it’s what everyone’s mom is getting for Christmas.

The Anglo Job Search Begins

It hardly seems right that we’ve been in England almost ten days. It’s been something of a fog, like we’re stuck on a transatlantic cruise liner with nothing to eat but chips and tea and nothing to do all day but watch the BBC and apply for jobs.

I am at the point where I can now only describe myself in the glorious veneer of management-speak. I can only use phrases like “hard-working,” and “skill-set.” It’s an odd frame of mind to feel trapped by. Husband and I have discussed it when we can, but it’s tough to escape. It’s a roller coaster of viewpoint. At the peak you’re optimistic and the world looks like an employment buffet. At the trough, however…. The trough is a demoralising bastard.

Suddenly it feels as though everything I’ve learned means nothing just because I never bothered to figure out Adobe Illustrator or because I can’t quite articulate how running endless film sets qualifies me to set someone’s datebook. But it does. I know it. I know I can do so much.

I did receive one cold call after putting my CV on the “public” setting through the Job Centre. It was for a call centre. In a fit of optimism, I turned them down.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

The Last Scene of The Graduate

This is dizzying, this running away to England. The excitement! The anxiety! The rollercoaster of emotion!

Aviary Photo_130301718723210837As Husband said, it probably won’t feel like we actually live there until months from now when suddenly one moment we realize somewhere along the way we adopted a new routine. Our alarm clock will have a regular setting, our morning a usual commute. The newness will have worn off.

Aviary Photo_130301719021520017Until then, it will feel like a vacation. But a stressful one. Like some madcap mid-1980s National Lampoon’s movie where every step is fraught with adventure: everything goes wrong and the stakes have never been higher! Will we make it to Wally World? WILL WE?!

Aviary Photo_130301719522840724There’s always a lingering sensation: when the exhilaration fades what will remain? As scary as it seems when I let the overwhelming feeling in, the real answer is: “so much.”

The Turning Point

By virtue of waking up early to get everything out of our apartment, I am at work a whole fifty minutes early. The near-silence is astounding. I say “near” because a diligent few chatter on phones in the distance and the barista at the coffee stand is organizing her till. But the usual din of ringing phones, insolent queries, and idle gossip has yet to cycle in.

Patches of darkness cling to corners of the office: lights not yet turned on because there is not yet anyone to illuminate. It’s a strange feeling, something of a parallel and/or flip-side to leaving our home this morning and staring one last time at the blank walls and swept floors. From here I will spent one more day at this job: one more day of holding all this information in my mind. At 4.30 I will let it go.

From there we drive my rattling, old car (and its backseat of miscellaneous furniture and throw pillows) to my parents’ house. The adventure will have not begun yet (because that takes place next Thursday) but it will be limbo. Purgatory even. What else could it be? Husband and I will be awaiting a judgment to be handed down by… well, ourselves, really. Do we have what it takes to cash in and run away?

I guess we’ll find out.

Mad Men is the Story of an Addict

Perhaps it is rather ironic that the AMC website uses cocktail recipes to market Mad Men, because, when viewed correctly, Mad Men is about the devastating effects of a life lived for alcohol.

Aviary Photo_130301726507582024But it’s subtle, as addiction often is at first. I never noticed it as much on the first viewing. The sheer normalisation of wanton alcohol consumption on Matthew Weiner’s Madison Avenue is what strikes you first. “I’d love to have a bar in my office,” you think. It seems so glamorous and Romantic. These are the kind of people who tip back half a bottle of Canadian Club then smash a glass in a fireplace and make love to Elizabeth Taylor.

But on the second viewing, it takes on a different colour. The fates of Freddy Rumsen and Duck Phillips (the former losing his job after drunkenly wetting his pants and the latter fallen so far from the wagon as to get kicked out of the Clios) are far less humorous when you watch it again. These are two men whose personal and professional lives were ruined by alcohol but are so carelessly brushed aside by those who can still conceal their disease.

Continue reading “Mad Men is the Story of an Addict”

Ashleigh’s Taco Salad Recipe – by Request

This was originally requested by Amanda alone, but then I thought, “it is not my place to hold back genius from the larger world.” So here it is: on the internet.

ASHLEIGH’S TACO SALAD*

Makes 1 big, potluck-ready bowl. You can adjust these amounts as you see fit. I pretty much eyeball it every time.

1 lb lean or extra-lean ground beef
Head of iceberg lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tomato, diced
3 green onions, sliced
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
½ bag Nacho cheese-flavoured Doritos, broken into small pieces
½ bottle of Kraft Catalina™ dressing (or “California” if you’re me and bought the no-name brand)
Other taco-related ingredients as you might so desire, such as black olives. (This is your canvas; make it your masterpiece.)

Look, Amanda! Just ask and Google Images provides.
Look, Amanda! Just ask and Google Images provides.

Cook the ground beef in a pan and season with however much taco seasoning as your senses can allow, which—if you’re like me—is a lot. (The salad is best if you let the meat cool in the fridge, but you might only want to do that if you’re working with extra lean meat. Otherwise, a little part of you will die when you see the cold, hardened, taco-seasoned fat in the bottom of the container. Appetizing, I know.)

After that, you can follow the basic logic that this is, indeed, a tossed salad. Which means you just mix everything together in a bowl.

You will probably want to serve it right away otherwise the crunchiness of the Doritos is comprised faster than a Bond girl.

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*I feel like a bum taking credit for this. I didn’t make it up. But I don’t know who did, but I should at least get credit for bringing it to the masses.

A Not-So-Polite Rant About The Great Gatsby

As I remember fondly from working at a bookstore, every time a movie adaptation of a book comes out (especially one starring a quote – heartthrob – endquote) it creates a certain rush of readers: people who only pick up books with movie posters for a cover.

No judgment. Really. Whatever gets you reading. I guess. Sure. Whatevs. Anyway.

It bothers me, however, when people miss the point. If the best you get from The Great Gatsby is “Daisy was such a bitch to him, ohmygod. But those parties! Squee!” then you better be a teenage girl because otherwise you are a giant waste of literacy.

"Can you believe this fuckery?"
“Can you believe this fuckery?”

Anyway.

Continue reading “A Not-So-Polite Rant About The Great Gatsby”

Versailles vs Disneyland Paris

Aviary Photo_130201089856328061They are both a short train ride from the centre of Paris. They are really one and the same, just two ends of a spectrum that strikes a balance in the middle. And that middle is the French Republic.Aviary Photo_130201089679887718

Some Dreamers of the Manhattan Dream

I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I like to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1924)

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Don Draper’s New York City is Nick Carraway’s New York City (not Jay Gatsby’s… that would be too obvious).

Discuss.

(Presented as a companion piece to this.)

The Etiquette of Facebook, or, “Please don’t bring up those elementary school pictures I was tagged in in front of all our co-workers.”

Even if Emily Post hasn’t quite got round to adding a chapter on it, there are unspoken rules to social media. They boil down to Wil Wheaton’s motto: “Don’t be a dick.”

Here are a few:

Aviary Photo_1303017340043412251. Don’t tag unflattering pictures.

2. Don’t start comment wars over something irrelevant.

3. Don’t invite me to play Candy Crush.

4. And definitely don’t invite me to your friend’s nephew’s private school fundraiser.

5. Don’t trick yourself into believing passive-aggressive comments somehow give you depth.

6. Don’t carry on conversations that really should be private in a place where they clog up a feed.

7. And definitely, DEFINITELY don’t bring up non-work-related Facebook information in a crowded workplace environment.

That is what Facebook has become. It is no longer that small enclave of the internet where you can connect with new genuine friends and reconnect with old genuine friends. That now seems to be Tumblr. Is is no longer that place where you can expose your immense wit and intelligence (or lack thereof) through the sheer power of typing then pressing enter. That is now Twitter.

Facebook is now the place where we try to put our best selves. It’s so carefully curated that to expect a Facebook page to be an accurate representation of a person is to expect the Louvre to be an accurate representation of history. No one’s life is as awesome as they make it seem. They’ve edited out the long, boring nights they spend watching television.

Continue reading “The Etiquette of Facebook, or, “Please don’t bring up those elementary school pictures I was tagged in in front of all our co-workers.””

Forgotten Projects

 

Aviary Photo_130301740208687773As other projects eroded away under the weight of my own disinterest, I’ve decided to cut my losses and not let a withered vine waste internet space. I’ve amalgamated Celluloid Heroes posts into this blog. And after a bit of bushwacking, I found my old Livejournal account from 2005. I’ve also brought some of those posts over. Even if they do not amount to nothing more than “Yay! The semester is Ov-vah!” they are still a mark of who I once was… in a terrifying version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Packing my Library

After spending the majority of the years 2001 through to 2007 going to university and working in two different bookstores, I managed to accumulate several hundred books. I counted once mid-2005 and it was about 350. More gathered since, both before and after the Grand Library Merger with Husband’s collection in 2011. Even after the Moving House Purges of 2006, 2009, and 2012, I would reckon that we entered July 2013 with about 400-500 books.

Aviary Photo_130301644011113815Continue reading “Packing my Library”

We Hardly Knew Ye

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So long, New Westminster.

As I pack up the last year and a half of my life (a nightmare of Rubbermaid tubs and grovelling to used bookstores), I just want to say, your Downtown was better than your Uptown (although Uptown was better than I thought it would be), your restaurants are delightfully sole proprietary, but your hills are steep and I will never – ever – miss the soot from traffic along Royal.

So long, fare thee well. Keep in touch.

A Logical Proposal

This week a colleague got engaged. We used to work side-by-side and were once upon a time better friends. I was there the night a few of us went out and she ran into an old friend who is now her fiance.

Her proposal was classically adorable: a bended knee at a Bruno Mars concert. As she told me the story, she was lost in that wonderful fog of elation: a rare moment without the stress of an overwhelming life decision.

Only a couple of times have I been asked how Gregg proposed. The truth is, Gregg didn’t propose. Neither did I. But if you had to blame someone, it was probably me.

Continue reading “A Logical Proposal”

Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream

This is the California where it is possible to live and die without ever eating an artichoke, without ever meeting a Catholic or a Jew. This is the California where it is easy to Dial-A-Devotion, but hard to buy a book. This is the country in which a belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis has slipped imperceptibly into a belief in the literal interpretation of Double Indemnity, the country of the teased hair and the Capris and the girls for whom all life’s promise comes down to a waltz-length white wedding dress and the birth of a Kimberly or a Sherry or a Debbi and a Tijuana divorce and return to hairdressers’ school. “We were just crazy kids” they say without regret, and look to the future. The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.

Joan Didion, Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream, 1966

Aviary Photo_130301753491543841

Don Draper’s California is Joan Didion’s California.

Discuss.

The Coolest I Have ever Been: a Story About Anxiety

The coolest I have ever been is the day I had eye surgery on my left eye. When I left the hospital with one pupil normal and one dilated, I looked the closest to David Bowie as I ever am likely too unless Tilda Swinton and I are in a horrible accident together and the only way to save one of us is to put my brain in her body.

But I digress.

I bring this up because the follow-up make-sure-you’re-healing-and-not-going-blind-instead appointment was tentatively dated to a time when I was immersed in the heavy production period of a film school would-be masterpiece. I cancelled the appointment and never remembered to reschedule.

Four years later it’s been something of a nagging itch. Did my eye heal? Or am I slowly going blind? Will Pirates in Space be the closest I’ll ever get to my Paradise Lost?*Continue reading “The Coolest I Have ever Been: a Story About Anxiety”

Flowers and Canneries and New Spouses

Photo by Fara Winestock
Photo by Fara Winestock

The most common question heard by newlyweds: “How’s married life?” Answer: “Good.”

The second-most-common: “How does it feel to be married?” That one is a little harder to respond to. Usually, I will say, “Just the same as before.” But that’s not necessarily true. There is a difference I was not expecting. Mostly, it’s in how the rest of the world views us, as though we’re taken more seriously or something, but there’s an element I found indefinable.

But then a co-worker asked this question, and when I struggled to reply she just smiled and said: “It’s just nice knowing that somebody loves you that much, isn’t it?”

Stripes and Beards and Young Love

Photo by Roommate Claire
Photo by Roommate Claire

A walk through the alley off Fraser Street, back in The Commune days, when Husband was just Boy Roommate and looked like a hippie.