family trouble (still)-edited by joy castro

“He possessed us with his unfulfilled dreams.” (138, A Spell Against Sorrow, Judith Ortiz Cofer)

this book has obviously resonated with me, as i am s l o w l y writing an autobiographical performance piece, one that i’m not exactly sure what to do about since a large part of the family element revolves around a person with whom i am cultivating a relationship with for the first time.

life is full and we are blessed. i have learned a lot the last two nights that i’ve gone out back to back-at night, after full days of work. i’ve learned a lot about how people are in the streets and on public transit.

two nights ago, i had dinner at doomie‘s with some co-workers, and didn’t realize how close to my house this was. i’ve only actually seen the obnoxious neon sign that reads “what vegans eat” when i pass by, but hadn’t registered that this was the new hipster hotspot.

i haven’t had an actual big mac in forever and eight years, but i have to say that their vegan one tastes pretty identical. the portions are large, the atmosphere is fried, and the propaganda is thick for the proselytizing. a sign at the bar reads, “mix drinks, not morals”. i mean, there’s gotta be something about a super judge-y movement that promotes vegetable fibres when nary a fresh vegetable graces the plates-i’m just saying-at least give me the option of a salad if you’re going to force your agenda down my throat. but i know, it’s a vegan junk food place. but it just reminds me of my college roommate who was all rah-rah vegetarianism but subsisted on a diet of coke, ramen noodles and oreos and drove around town in a vw bus, burning fossil fuels like a mug.

that location is interesting, as i have seen it be (and die) many restaurants, including a vegan sushi takeout place, complete with fake schrimps and fish, but i don’t recall it ever having a liquor license, so maybe that’s the difference. there’s a “new” guu across the street too, but looking at the menu, it feels like an imposter. things don’t usually trickle down from the west coast, but i think in this case…they did.

i also learned a thing or two about the 47 bus, as i walked my coworker to the queen and landsdowne stop that was on neither queen nor landsdowne. shoutout to the woman who helped us out, though i need to extend that to all the public transit angels that i’ve encountered lately-from the lady cyclist who told us as she passed that the king car was stopped on saturday morning and prompted a ragtag cab with my downstairs neighbor to meth boo last night, but more about her later.

one of the things my dad always said was that he would “enjoy his life later”, as he was nothing but miserable, resent-full and tired of his job while he was working. it inspired me not to defer happiness and pursuing/supporting dreams, and also wish that he would get there, because there are no guarantees. i’m happy to report that he seems to be enjoying life after retirement.

on a related note, i started my jfl 42 with maria bamford last night. the evening started strong with a bonus jackie kashian, and lots of fascinating topics were discussed, but my favourite quotes of the set were:

“are people still doing that? THE WAR IS OVER! there’s plenty of pantyhose for everyone!”

“she’s like an old baby”

i was feeling tired around 1pm, but inspired by a coworker’s desk construction in the hallway and my friend brian‘s house of dead animals to stroke (latre) so i motored on to orisha lemanja‘s equinox art exhibit.

i got a bit lost on the way, as i discovered the difference between weston road and old weston road-shit! i knew i should’ve listened more closely to the drake song!

anyways, after some walking and wandering, i was saved by a woman with four teeth and braces.

visualize that for a second-four teeth, and braces. (yup, i’ll wait). she was so sweet and pulled out her phone to help me solve the mystery, and it’s a good thing that i still have my text messages from two christmases ago, because that’s when i figured it out, and she re-routed me and i gave up to go home, so boarded the 168 going to dundas west station with her.

but as i started to recognize my surroundings, and heard more of meth boo’s story, i realized that i had come too far to quit, so i walked across st.clair to keele and boarded the 89.

i heard a lot of interesting conversations on the assorted buses and streetcars i was riding including:

“he texted me that when i came home next i should give him head”

“ally-i thought you broke that off?”

“well, i was planning on ghosting him, but now he’s texting me this and i don’t know how to respond”

“i don’t think there is a response”

“well, i didn’t, then he texted me jk and monkey face and….”

huh. so that’s the proper usage of the monkey face emoji?! who knew.

on the pitch black and humid first day of fall, i left the bus victorious as church ladies were singing the high praises and mans was boarding with an arm-full of pomeranians. it was worth the trek to see the artist, her stunner of a mother, her gorgeous son, and her pieces lining the deck and yard. i picked out the one i wanted, not knowing that it wasn’t a piece that was available, so cast my net in for prints of that one, and bought an available piece instead.

i got a smile from baby boy, which was priceless.

my ride home was smooth sailing (since i knew where i was going), i just wasn’t expecting so many folks to be tore up on a thursday night on the bus. but hey-it’s a rollicking place, this town.

there’s a new popeye‘s at st.clair and dufferin, which means the library is flanked by popeye’s and church’s, which is a metaphor for my life on the east/west coast if i ever saw one.

my bed is going to feel so good after a long day of being someone who says what she does and does what she says, and dammit, am i ever great-full. for all of it.

(more) family trouble-edited joy castro

“At the end of the day I tell myself that I learned from my brother and my father, both lovers of music: that rest is the name for a particularly useful form of silence that comes between notes. Without the rest, music becomes an exercise in endurance. Without the music, there will be no rest.” (156, pre-ibid)

“I wanted my story to be one worth saving.” (150, Things We Don’t Talk About, Aaron Raz Link)

this was the quote in the collection that made me rethink this whole blog and how i’ve been cataloguing other people’s words for the past few years now. it made me want to tip the ratios and balances.

it’s how we go along until we go a different way.

my dear friend nadia said once that there’s only so long that we can watch other people do badly what we do well before we have to step up to the plate.

but how long can we witness other people doing what we do well before we’re inspired to do the same?

well, that shit could be our whole lives.

i know that in my personal case-i’ve never rushed a book or a poem or a performance because i have seen so many shitty poems and performances (the book is king, and there are so many great ones out there) that i try not to subject others to any of that mess.

i want to be a teacher in a few years when i’ve lived some more life and have something to teach. that being said, i teach every day and i don’t need a dais to do it because i never stop learning.

my apartment is a mess and i’m kind of proud that i’m writing my way out of procrastination, or perhaps power because i know that very quickly, i could transform it-i’m just wielding this “power” not to. just because.

but these are the little ways that we are shifting the focus in our own stories at every moment to create meaning or understand our narratives and get closer to the person we are at all times.

but especially when no one is paying any attention.

family trouble-edited by joy castro

“I am not criticizing a lack of imagination in the good, good people who attend literary readings.” (17, Chewing Band-Aids, Jill Christman)

i am, boo.

i know, i can a hatin’ ass hater sometimes.

and the point is that people are reading and showing up for authors and readers, right?

i just gotta be extra with my expectations for people to be original and better and ask engaging questions because that is the way to show a writer that you respect her time and energy and work and that having an original question means that you were inspired (maybe) to have an original thought, or at the very least-you have something better than the same old same old questions that everyone ever asks and hears.

but life isn’t like that-we have to keep going through the same things over and over until someone comes up with something different, and even that is not original. we don’t have that many moves as humans. there are only 12 notes. but damn isn’t it great when someone comes up with something fresh?

it’s possible. it’s necessary. and it’s yours to choose. every single moment.

i got to the end of my podcasts yesterday-i know. i mean, most of them will refresh soon, but i got to zero. because i blew through a lot of the philly free library podcasts in short succession, i noticed one gentleman who shows up to ask questions on the regular-his voice is distinct, but his agenda is more recognizeable.

i don’t know if they just can’t ban him or kick him out, but everyone always seems stressed that he always makes his way to the microphone, and his questions are always long and more statement than question followed by awkward silence.

if nothing else, this dedication to his cause, combined with the unintentional record of his attendance broadcast to millions in the podcastophere is a legacy that that guy has that others do not.

does he deserve it?

i don’t know. i don’t know who’s qualified to decide what legacy anyone deserves, but it’s something.

and that’s what’s interesting about this collections of musings of people who have had (to) fight their own families for their parts of their stories. once again, this came off the branch of the meghan daum tree, as one of the contributors of the selfish writers compilation also shows up here.

albums on repeat (that i wish were longer): wayne tennant-songs in a minor key, gabriel teodros-lentil soup ep
album that i’m keeping because it’s signed to me: jeff spec-rhythm and blues (homie hella sounding like jay on the last few tracks, and it’s always nice to hear ishkan‘s voice)
album that i almost gave up because of the misogyny: blackstreet (but the harmonies tho, damn!)

power lunch

“they say real recognize real but i don’t recognize you”

derin falana is adorable and we’re all insane.

on my second monday as saturday, i took advantage of that to check out the manifesTO lunchtime concert 7/10.

i can honestly say that in the seven years that i’ve lived here, i have never been to yonge-dundas square on a monday at 12:30. because the trade show is always the same time as the festival, i usually miss most events, but i wager a fairly safe guess that this afternoon’s crowd was a bit different from last night’s.

it was a perfect day to be sleeveless in the sun, loving this guy’s energy, pacing and jodeci sample. beauty and talent must run in the family.

“pumped up like some reeboks, with her tongue out like michael”

you can tell that he is so pleased with this line that he delights in saying it twice-just to make sure we didn’t miss it. i can’t be mad at that-it’s a phenomenal line. the audience was made up of middle-aged men on the spectrum of mental illness, but they were totally feeling it. i know i’m on at least one video grimacing at a gentleman who was doing handstands and stripper splits-concrete is awfully hard and he was rubbing his head through his green hoody on his way up every time.

it was intimate enough and in full daylight, so i felt bad that i just couldn’t put my hands up, as we all know my block with that when people tell me to (sorry, boos!), but people were clapping at their own rhythms (as per usual) and singing their own songs. i saw enough here to smile very big and know for sure that i will be seeing this guy years from now with the fine memory of “seeing him when…”, just like when i saw k-os 15 years ago at the lucky bar in victoria doing a solo acoustic guitar set. hopefully i will keep remembering him fondly, and he doesn’t slowly erode my trust and play with my emotions by releasing brilliant studio albums followed by ridiculous live performances where he forgets his lyrics and throws keyboards at people.

“i’m coming up like a ski lift, only to come down like an avalanche”

i’m happy that i witnessed this, and love that the artists in this city are finally starting to be sure of how great they are. not to be outdone by the men dancing in front of the stage, bb busted out his own moves and awed us all.

just before his last song though, green hoody muttered beside me:

“put on the dream warriors


“whatchu know about that?”

changing my mind-margaret trudeau

“having more babies than lauryn, she started showing early”

“Like pregnancy, the adrenaline of love was and is a powerful antidote to depression.” (177)

“diamonds deserve diamonds but he convinced me that i was worth/less”

“I never believed that I had been properly thanked (real thanks would have meant a meaningful job), and I felt that I had been used by the Liberal Party machine. Here I was, fresh out of university. I was adversarial. I knew how to question and I demanded the right to ask what was going on. I had all these tools, and nowhere to use them.” (109-110)

i knew which lauryn i wanted to see and i didn’t see her.

but that’s ok, because i can always return to this video of her in japan in ’99 whenever i need to.

the truth is, i didn’t even know which lauryn i was looking for, and i couldn’t have known until i saw her on friday in her hunchback couture at massey hall. all i knew was that i was glad to be there with my girl gillian, whom i am glad captured some videos that i tried not to ruin with my weeping and/or jumping and/or gasping, i was excited to see the homie jordan (who got fine, by the by), and that the bluelight ambiance to the isley brothers (and perfect transition into that biggie track) was perfect.

’nuff respect to the opening artists, and to the ignoramus behind me-emmanuel jal looks nothing like latrell sprewell-but there’s something about having a limited capacity for new music when you’re dead tired-and how an oldie but goldie just gives you new life.

on a related note-no matter how many very loud very fast arrangements of classic songs happen-there’s nothing like jumping straight out of your chair (in a tutu) when the queen says, “it’s funny how money can change a situation”, and how long you can be wondering about “how many mics”….

in some ways, i am glad that it took 12 years for me to see this woman live. i feel like i got her at the height of whatever she’s doing now-youtube videos be damned, i got context. and i got my life.

vocally-she’s perfect. her voice just filled up all that space in that theatre that seems to have only recently become open to acts that are not pavarotti and the tragically hip. i got many a shiver, and felt nothing but shame for whomever was responsible for casting zoe saldana as nina simone in the biopic.

birds flying high……

i love that i believe that lauryn is feeling good. i love that although i didn’t get my favourite “ex-factor”, i did get two versions-original and updated. i love that the back vocalists and brass section were basically running clinics that i will be thinking for for at least the next three years. i love that despite the fact that she’s been put through the ringer, and that the patriarchy is real-i mean how much more room do we give male artists to evolve and be unapologetic about their style/sound/presentation? i’m sad at how quickly people have been to cast her out and call her crazy-especially when mental health issues are real.

i feel that pairing this concert with this book makes sense for all of the above reasons, and perhaps there is a link that can be made between maggie‘s feelings about being pregnant and the fact that miz hill is a mother six times over. shoutout to all the moms who make it possible for me to experience the joys of motherhood without being pregnant and all the mothers who share their artistic babies with me and inspire me to birth my own.

over breakfast at the ritz,  i reminisced on the reasons that i missed this concert, but am so happy that i got to witness her making good on this promise:

many happy returns to the re/education of MLH.

birdie-tracey lindberg

“And when you are attractive and chasing in Vancouver, eventually you get caught yourself. She was caught by Stanley Manklow. A completely beautiful specimen of man. She hadn’t learned to read tarot cards or mean eyes yet.” (113-4)

“She had thought it was love and had given in to that part of herself that wanted to be hurt. And that piece of the hope of something bigger, something loving, turned into a kernel of something indescribably hard. She wonders now how desperate she must have ben to accept that ugly gift and return it. To have felt aroused at the near-beating. At that moment, she began to reject and loathe that thing in her that needed to be hit, hard. And she knew within that fury that she hated him, too. For introducing it so glibly. For making her a one-time offer.” (194-5)

this little beaut was part of canada reads, but i didn’t get to it then. i got to it because of the librarians (ola), but i love the double-charters. that reminds me, i kind of fell off this year, with my worst showing ever, at 30%, but i still have a couple of weeks (i’m probably not going to get to any more of them, and that might be ok this year). i am reading through my holds…and that will definitely be done this year.

i love that this book is about love(s), skin, and literal and figurative homes. all the good themes.

“As the blisters spread she feels, instead of alienated from her skin, more at home in it. Like it is starting to look like she feels inside of it.” (6)

as someone who has had many run-ins with eczema over the years, some of the times with it being completely out of control, this is a completely different way of approaching the situation. i mean-i am always great-full (when it’s gone) for it’s existence as a reminder that things have to change-NOW, but i don’t think i’ve ever embraced it as such.

“Then, she could not afford the luxury of disdain.” (69)

i often wish this for people at work-i mean, i don’t, but i do. i don’t wish hardship on anyone, but i do wish the experience that comes from hardship-namely the one that results in gratitude and personal responsibility and ownership of how we contribute to our own situations.

today-pastor walrus made me cry because he told me that my positive energy lights up the house and that i should keep it up because it makes people happy-leave it to pastor walrus to be the only one to tell me-rather than the pile of complaints that are usually thrown my way by people who can’t and don’t want to fix their faces.

then, maria bought me my lasagna and i was invited over for an impromptu carb fest, baby sangria, and a dance performance that got me home searching for glitter glue and garbage pail kids.

“He was only part Phil, because he was Metis. She wasn’t sure about that, though, because he pronounced it ‘Met-iss’.” (134)

“So Jesus did not weep and Jesus did not save.” (209)

i’m going to burn some more of my new gratitude mix incense and call it a night. goodnight.

cds donated: reflect-for those who wait, manu-voix de fait
cds kept: sekoya-dalawa, eternia-where i’m at (the setup), eternia-where i’ve been (the collection)

fearless-a cartoonist’s guide to life-robb armstrong

“Nothing in nature is constant.” (39)

biscotti is getting soft.

i’ve noticed this over the years, and i’m wondering if it’s because people’s teeth are getting weaker in proportion to how their spirits are getting sharp.

from the woman who demanded my seat on the bus (i usually offer but biiiiiitch…) to the children who were bouncing our free fruit for kids apples like basketballs after i repeatedly asked them to stop and consider that they were there for everyone to eat and not play with (if these are your children, i judge you for not teaching them to respect produce and humans, and i will come for them if i see them in the streets), to the woman who refused to accept that we wouldn’t be bullied to put her gluten-free needs before that of all others in our store-the pissy sense of entitlement has been coming through very strong lately.

yesterday, i got one step closer to finishing my indie coffee passport, returning to golden cafe-a not so easily accessible cafe that did not post on their facebook when they went on vacation a few weeks back. the americano was pretty good, but the fact that i got no smiles or thank yous, was charged $1 for three slivers of ice, and told with scorn that the cream (which was empty) was behind me made me wonder about repeating the voyage next year. it’s true-we’re not paying customers on the passport (except that we did pay), but we took the time to come to your cafe that we probably didn’t know about, and if you’re nice-we might come back. i guess it’s like winter/summerlicious-people feel like prix fixe is a reason to skimp on service, or basic humanity. well-just don’t do it, then. because either you do, and you’re great-full for the opportunity to serve people who may never come back, or you don’t and turn down the customers that you don’t even know that you may get. i know tipping is a controversial topic, and i’m not going to get into it, but basically-tip or don’t-i’m sure you have your reasons/service standards, and hopefully your message will be understood. but don’t tip a penny-that’s just a jerk move. this truth stands for those on the other side of the counter.

i went in way too many circles around the city yesterday due to tiff and the general downtown nonsense, but on my very last leg home, i crossed paths with a 7″+ older black man dressed in flowing white garments. i looked waaaaay up to make eye contact and say hello. he beamed back down at me and said, “hi darling”. the woman in front of me who had slowed down as i passed her, seemingly intentionally to tell me, “he was scary”. “what was scary about him?” “the way he was, he didn’t look at me”. “oh, well, he just smiled and greeted me very nicely” “oh, not me”. well-how did you greet him? what the fuck energy did you put out-suspicious and cunty? he probably didn’t even register your bullshit as it was aimed as his knees. had you made an effort to look into his eyes, you probably would’ve had a different experience.

and that’s the lesson-we need to be accountable for what we get out of this life because nobody owes us shit.

“One thing I’ve learned: art, love and wisdom are worth nothing unless you give them away. Never hold back your best stuff for later. You might not have a later. Give it all away-every bit of it-to your readers, your audience, your partner and your kids. Give the world your all, and the world will reward you, often in the most unexpected ways.” (5)

there are always going to be people in this life who try really hard not to be assholes. and then there are others who just see all that space to fill up with their assholedom and take it the fuck up. just because i know that’s true, i’m not going to pull that basic bitch shit and “get mine”. i won’t be swayed from my path to do the right thing, even if i have to get off the streetcar two stops early in poor footwear because the church lady is judging too loudly in my ear the people that she refuses to talk to anymore because all they do is talk about other people.

(kisses teeth).

i love how robb armstrong structured this book, and even though i didn’t do any of the drawing challenges, i’m thinking about them. this came to me on some library synergy, as i heard him talk on the philly free library podcast, and then i came upon the book right on the shelf at parkdale after one of my self-directed piano lessons.

i’m still thinking about that “all lives matter” that he slipped in there…btw.