venerdì, novembre 11, 2016

All our flesh was like a veil

There are some male artists who, as a woman and a feminist, I love. Not because of any feminist championing or thinking they've done or feminist content to their work. I don't fangirl; I spend a fair amount of energy trying to avoid knowing what my favourite artists think of things (and it does take effort these days) because I just want to enjoy them without having to face the fact that they're potentially unpleasant people.* But because of the interest that they show in women - in their situations and in their stories. And even when they're totally wrong-headed and totally off-base to me, and even when they're not terrifically great artists, there's something in me as a reader or spectator or listener that's satisfied by their reaching to understand or communicate that experience. There's not a lot. There's:

Jarvis Cocker
Tom Waits
Pedro Almodovar
Rainer Fassbinder
Thomas Hardy


Leonard Cohen. Especially Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen, most of all.

A bit different from the others, actually. Those other guys on my list - they struggled, sometimes with a striking lack of success and sometimes with seamless grace - to get into the heads of their women. But for his part, Cohen never once pretended he wasn't miles deep up his own ass. Meanwhile, from that vantage point looked at his women with such clarity about where he was looking from and what he could see from there.

And then - there was the fact of him being the best poet. Not just of my list of men that I like who had some time for women. He was just the best poet.

Leonard Cohen ☆ Last Year's Man from Sighting Leonard's Longing on Vimeo.

So my heart is breaking today. I guess it's a good break; I have so much admiration for his work, and so much joy for him that it continued right up until his death, without a break in quality. Despite trying not to fangirl I do know something about his work habits and the grind he poured into it, and I'm so glad for him that was sustainable until the end, and I'm glad for him and for us, who can enjoy his work, that he lived for so long to make so much of it, though I personally could have used a couple more novels.

His fairly notorious Buddhism helps too. They're just better at all this dying shit. I know I went over this when Carmen died a few weeks back, but I still get mad at how shitty Christianity is about death, scripturally and culturally. About that matter-of-fact inanity go-to comfort even non-practicing Christians fall back on - "they're in a better place now, they're at peace now, rest in peace" BLAH FUCKING BLAH HOW IS THAT SUPPOSED TO HELP THE ONES WITHOUT THEM NOW? I keep thinking of the comfort I was given by my closest Buddhist friend (not practicing - culturally, the same way I'm culturally Catholic) when my grandmother died - "of course, it's very sad, but that's what happens when you get older; everything falls away and you have to let go." In the same sympathetic but matter-of-fact way Christians try to comfort you with all that "peace and better place" dipshit shit. Except, after I picked up my dipshit Judeo-Christian jaw - fancy that, someone daring to tell a person in mourning that things suck and the losses are just going to keep coming -  it actually worked.

It sucks to lose him. It would have sucked to lose him 20 years from now, when he would have been the same age as my grandmother, who also sucked to lose.

* Leonard Cohen was an accessible person, though. Friends in Montreal would see him around; he was a bit of a park-bench-sitter, apparently. And a story got passed on to me once about an acquaintance-twice-removed having a night with him whose morning went like this:

 Acquaintance-twice-removed: (waking up as a fully-dressed Cohen is walking to the door): You're leaving? Just like that?

Cohen: Gotta go, baby. Rambling man. (Goes.)

giovedì, novembre 10, 2016

Attention website crashers

We don't fucking want you.

Stay home and put out your fucking trash fire. We have enough problems in Canada without importing you and yours, including the integration of more Syrian refugees in our tiny-by-population country than your enormous-by-population country has accepted (and that sickening parsimony, that should have had you out on the streets, was under the Democratic presidency you've been crying over).

The opposition to Trump and his supporters from Clinton on down has been based largely on contempt, and you know what, I feel contempt too. I don't understand how so many people have been culturally suicidal enough to have bought into a version of fascism that's even dumber than the 1930s version because the man at the head of it is a transparent rich-boy kleptocrat.

But now your shitty country is stuck with him, and it’s your job to figure out why 60 million of the people you live with thought the rich-boy kleptocrat was a good choice, and to figure out how to live with those people as your peers. And your job to figure out why other white people stayed home in droves this year when the stakes were so obviously high for their brown and black co-citizens. And your job to make sure your rich-boy kleptocrat ends up on the same figurative meathook that all fascist demagogues were born to end up on.

The 30s versions weren’t rich-boy kleptocrats, for all the other horrible things they were. They enacted policies that benefitted many of their fellow citizens, and enjoyed wild personal popularity for years and years. If you do your job right instead of whining and trying to run off to Canada, your new set of cunts will figuratively end up on their meathooks much faster and with much less chance to do horrible human damage. Not only because Trump won’t even cosmetically attempt the social improvement measures old school fascists used since he’ll be so busy asset-stripping, but also because history has taught you what to expect.

Or should fucking have taught you. But I’ve spent way too much time socializing with Clinton supporters over the last few months to have any fucking confidence at all that their grasp of history is any better than the jag-offs who just voted in the rich-boy kleptocrat. All I heard was name-calling and a baffling pretence that more of the same, in the shape of another Clinton presidency, was going to be good for people.

 Well, stay home, and do better. We don’t want you.

mercoledì, ottobre 19, 2016

Oversharing, on purpose

A person who's very close to me and who I love very much and who had been trying very, very hard to have a baby for many years just miscarried. She had made it to where I made it last year, and my miscarriage was detected the same way hers just was - 12 week scan, whoops sorry, I know you still feel pregnant, but there's no more baby there, diagnosis missed abortion.

But since she's in Australia, they just let her body get rid of it itself, instead of the curettage my gynecologist immediately packed me off to here. It's the second time I've heard that being standard in Australia, that they wait for the mother's body to do it itself when there's a missed abortion around that time, or at least that they don't rush to book in the curettage and the result is the mother's body doing it itself. And there's a rationale behind that. It makes uterine scarring a little less likely than it would be if you got a curettage from a doctor who wasn't competent, and I guess Australia is a pretty litigious society where the general assumption is that people aren't competent (and frankly, in the short time we were there, I did meet a fair few incompetent doctors).

And as the F-word cynically pointed out, it's probably cheaper on average to not intervene, which would make non-intervention more likely in a public health system like Oz, and an intervention more likely in an insurance-based system like the one here.

But - damn. It makes me realise - I had a really good miscarriage. Once you're on the level of discussing something as awful as miscarrying, that seems like an absurd or even offensive thing to believe. But there are good and bad ways of dying and there are good and bad ways of miscarrying, and maybe if we talked about both things a little bit more we'd be better at them.

 So. Here's me. 

Losing my baby was really emotional terrible. The physical process of the loss was NOT terrible. The missed abortion was picked up in the morning, and I spent that afternoon being upset at home and then processing through all the requisite checks and interviews at the nearest hospital. Because of the hours I spent being upset at home, there wasn't time to have the curettage the same day as the detection. But I was seen quickly by the gynecologists, who were kind and sympathetic, and gave me the choice of whether or not to watch the screen while they were checking the fetus for any unexpected signs of life. I went back to the hospital the morning after the missed abortion was detected for the curettage. All through this process, all I felt was pregnant. Still sick in the mornings, still tired, still that general physical sensation of the first trimester - and that's it. I lay in bed for a couple of hours waiting for the initial drugs to start the sloughing process while I thought about what had happened and said goodbye to the poor little body inside me, and then I went under sedation like I was slipping into some satin sheets. I woke up fantastically refreshed as my system flooded itself with whatever hormones you get flooded with when you're not pregnant anymore. I wasn't euphoric or anything, but I was in a really terrific physical mood, like when you've had a big sleep after an active day and you want to eat a couple of steaks for breakfast.

That's it. It took me a long time to not be terribly sad all the time, and I still am some of the time, and I'll always be more fearful and sad than I was before losing the baby. And I don't know what different emotional states I'd be dealing with if I didn't already have a living child, and if I didn't manage to get and stay pregnant again soon after the miscarriage. And I think I'll probably lose my mind permanently if anything happens to the baby I'm carrying now, which is almost full-term.

But as far as my physical experience of miscarriage goes, what happened above was it. I didn't even see any blood, except for a tiny bit after taking the sloughing drugs and before going into the operating theatre. I contrast that with what my friends in Australia told me about their experiences with nature being allowed to take its course after the missed abortion was detected at the 12 week scan. It hurt, terribly. It hemorrhaged, awfully. I think ultimately both of them ended up spending a lot more time in hospital than the eight-odd hours I was in for my checks, interview, and curettage, so if there is a money-factor in this sort of decision-making, it was a pretty false economy (though they were seen to mostly by nurses while I was seen to by nurses, an anaesthetist, and some gynecologists so the staff/specialist spend was certainly higher). And the process, in both their cases, lasted a week or more.

Do women who face this understand there are other choices that are or aren't being made for them? I'm sure they don't. I didn't. I was resentful when I researched it afterward that I'd been packed off for a curettage without any other option being presented, because I was scared of scarring and risks for future pregnancies. But then hearing how things went for my Australian friends . . . they certainly got scarred, if not physically; the whole process was simply much, much more traumatic for them, so much so that I can't understand their experiences, even though our tragedies were all the same. 

These are things we need to be able to talk about, as women. Not just because miscarriage is shitty and it helps to talk about shitty things or whatever the fuck, but because it's a matter of agency. Of control of our own bodies. I don't know why things are different here from Australia, but I'm pretty fucking sure it's not because of what women want here versus what they want in Australia.

martedì, ottobre 04, 2016


Carmen had a generic haircut. If you live in a place where the hairdressers have any nous at all you've seen it many times - perhaps many times today. A short, slanted bob; sharpish edges around the face, and generally some highlights or broader blonde colouring but hints of darker shades throughout. It's generic for a reason - it's a very flattering haircut. Almost a European uniform for stylish, slender women past the age of 40 whose hair isn't particularly thick or curly and who have the sort of lifestyle wherein they can afford monthly cuts-and-colours but don't want to spend ages fucking around with their hair every morning.

There are a lot of reasons I'm glad I dragged my massive pregnant ass to Paris this weekend for her funeral, and one of them is that I already feel half-mad walking around here and continually seeing women my stupid brain thinks are her from behind because they've got the same blonde bob. There is a big part of funerals that's about figuring out the person is actually dead, isn't there? Even as I was buying a train ticket and booking a hotel to go to her funeral my stupid brain kept thinking "I'd better call Carmen to let her know I'll be in Paris this weekend so we can get dinner or something."

During the religious ceremony the casket was open, which I wasn't expecting. I don't think that's a French thing - I think that's a Romanian thing. I was grateful. Her body hadn't been made up or dressed up so it had that relaxed expression that unretouched corpses have, which made the body of my 97 year old grandfather look younger than I'd ever seen him, and made her body look like a little girl's. And accordingly - not her anymore. She was gone.

That was a relief too. Carmen was a very punctual, organized person and the nonsense surrounding her last rites felt so not-her that I swang between feeling uncomfortable leaving her to the mercy of a bunch of French tehcnocrats and realizing that when it comes to your own funeral, it doesn't matter what sort of person you were; now you're just a prop. You're not there.

Everything started half an hour late because the funeral home was half an hour late opening; everybody had to wait out on the street. The ceremony was Eastern Orthodox and felt horribly disassociated from Carmen, who was a practicing Buddhist in life and who, apparently, the priest that spent the service spruiking Jesus and Heaven and whatnot had never met or learned anything about. I can't stand all that fucking Eternity talk at funerals, and I believe in Heaven and Eternity. But I don't know why you'd fucking talk about them at a fucking funeral, where everyone is trying to figure out how to go on living their lives, maybe for decades and decades, without this beautiful person in them anymore.

She was young, and lovely, so a lot of people came. More than 150, I'm guessing. But the ceremony was in a tiny room that could barely fit 20, so everybody was spilling into the atrium and even down the staircase leading to the atrium. The priest yelled at people to hurry up paying their last respects around the coffin just as I came to it to pay my last respects. I'd been holding it together pretty well up until then but burst into tears and rushed off - not too hysterical to not hear all the French-tutting at the priest; they're quite protective of the massively pregnant there. Good. Fucking crow. Though since he was Orthodox he was more bird-of-paradise coloured.

Ultimately I left early. Everything about the religious ceremony was so not-her that I transitioned quickly from tears to anger and annoyance. Also I know how slow I am now, and guessed that I'd need the extra time to make it to the crematorium in time for that ceremony, whatever it was going to be.

I did. The crematorium was up at the top of Pere Lachaise, which was hillier than I remembered. And more beautiful. It was a lovely autumn Saturday and I think the loveliest time of year for that cemetery, which I used to live down the street from. Trees still mostly green but dead leaves starting to swirl in the breeze down the cobbled paths and between the houses of the dead; ubiquitous horse chestnuts launching their shining fruits pell-mell.

As it was a lovely autumn Saturday, the cemetery was crawling with tourists, who asked me at various points during the day as I walked up and down from the crematorium where Serge Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison were, like any sensible person would a) give a flying fuck or b) ask someone wearing funereal black and with tear marks on their glasses in a fucking cemetery stupid fucking tourist questions.

Whatever. I didn't really mind. It was almost comic relief. Almost a relief to eyeball these people disbelievingly and wonder why you'd travel to a cemetery to look at somewhere the prop of a complete stranger had been abandoned 50-odd years ago when people you loved were dying all the time, so shouldn't you spend your time with them or remembering them instead of some fucking racist hebephile pervert or underweight warbler or bloated American lounge singer who liked cocaine and whipping his dick out at concerts?

After the cremation I saw a lot of people walking their dogs in the cemetery, or sitting down on one of the benches with nicer views to have a little snack. That felt actually nice. It felt good that Carmen had had her send-off in such a beautiful place, where people liked to come. She had chosen it. It was on almost the opposite side of town from where she lived and worked. Walking up to the crematorium was the first time I felt her hand in the manner of her send-off.

The ceremony at the crematorium reinforced that. Her friends spoke, very movingly, rather than any officiant except for a no-nonsense but warm guy who was obviously some sort of public servant running the place, telling everybody when to stand and sit and approach the coffin to leave rose petals on it and whatnot. One of them was another Romanian expat who talked about their friendship together in France, their "land of exile and dreams". That sounded so - Carmen.

And a Buddhist monk talked briefly too, with almost childlike simplicity, mentioning how maybe the pain of losing Carmen could serve to remind us to be more like her and "faire moins des betises." That was salutary to hear too. Carmen was a moral superhero. Her being part of your life made you a better person when she was alive; her memory could be a powerful force of good. It didn't make losing her okay. It didn't try to. 

mercoledì, settembre 28, 2016

She just didn't seem like the dying type.

Obviously, miscarrying last year was awful. With this pregnancy, I've been wondering from time to time if the universe is trying to reassure me that things will be like they were with Godzilla, and not like they were with the baby who died. Blood pressure up again, due date almost exactly identical, and now . . . universe, this is an odd way to go about it.

Almost exactly four years ago my grandmother died at 100. And a few days ago, my last good friend in Paris, Carmen, died. I didn't even know she was sick. She'd had ovarian cancer, and then hepatitis, and both seemed cured, but the older I get and the more I see, the more I realise that "cure" is a big word. Ultimately what got her was a fast and aggressive liver cancer that killed her in a matter of weeks, and considering what her body must have gone through during the treatment for the first cancer and the hepatitis - well, I'm not a doctor, but duh.

All morning I've been beating myself up over not having even told her I was pregnant again. Stupid fucking me. The last time I saw her was last December, when we were in Paris. The last baby had died a week or so before, but the death hadn't been detected yet and I was feeling great, so we were having a happy "oh you're pregnant let me drink that wine for you" weekend. And then of course having to tell her a few days later. . .

This morning, after a friend of hers called me to tell me what had happened and where the funeral was, I thought I had hesitated to tell her about the new pregnancy - obviously, I thought, I had hesitated too long. I was expecting to see her in a couple of weeks when I went out west to visit my niece in Brittany. I just wished so much I had seen her - I wished so much that she had known about the new pregnancy. I couldn't fix her cancer, I couldn't make her not die, but I know she cared about me a lot, and I know how she felt about children and spirituality and the future, and I wished and wished and wished she had known.

Anyways, then I checked my phone records, and realized that I had told her, back in May. A couple of months before she was diagnosed. Wow. Thank fuck for technology. So now we just move on to garden variety heartbreak and grief.

When Granny died I couldn't do anything about it. I was in Australia, at the same stage of pregnancy I'm at now, and flying off to Yorkshire was not on the cards. But I guess now I can go. There's a hell of a difference between a 24 hour plane ride and three hours on a train.

I think I have to go, because I can't believe she's gone. There was something so steady and unchanging about her over the 15 years of our friendship. Something almost eternal. Even when she was at her sickest with the ovarian cancer - and she came to stay with us in Canada for a little while directly after the chemo had wrapped up, still frail and with fuzzy hair like a baby's coming in - I never dreamt she would die. Like Granny, to be honest. Granny was 100 and the last time I saw her she could barely move, and I still really didn't think she would ever die. I didn't think I was saying goodbye to her the last time I left her bedroom.

Oh, this fucking existence.

martedì, settembre 13, 2016

Mantras for the land that wasn't quite promised but will do

To hark back to something a cousin-by questionable-marriage said to us several years back, F-word and I indeed spent a good chunk of our lives looking for the Promised Land, and we didn't find it, and that's fine, and we're done looking, and that's fine too. Here is a good place to end up, with all its great schools and reasonably priced groceries and hospitals with low caesarian rates (BTW the German word for caesarian or c-section is "Kaiserschnitt". Isn't that awesome? I need to use "Kaiser Schnitt" as somebody or something's name in some work of fiction at some time). We aren't moving. Or at least, not until we're old, or until we have to.

All the same, once a week or more, I have to employ a specific calming mantra to reconcile me to life here, beyond my typical go-to of "two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it" (thank you, you beautiful woman, and goodbye):

People like you are the reason nobody likes Germans.

The mantra works because it's true. No one likes Germans. There are historical reasons for nobody liking Germans and those historical reasons all come back to the present reasons nobody likes Germans once they spend time with a certain type of German who seems to illustrate those historical reasons, because they do illustrate those historical reasons, and it has to do with a strange relationship to RULES.

And it's something that resonates with me as a Canadian, because Canadians have this reputation for really enjoying doing things by the rules, but almost everybody likes us (even though there are a lot of reasons they shouldn't). And the reason nobody likes Germans is because they really enjoy rules too, but perpetually seem to be using them as a stick to beat the people around them with.

It's on my mind today because usually I only have to pull out the mantra once a week, but just now I've had to do it three times in 24 hours, and in between those times I listened to part of Dan Carlin's "Blueprint for Armageddon" Hardcore History* podcast about the first World War. The bit in question is when he talks about how clueless the German state was about the brutal collective punishment of civilians during the 1914 invasion of Belgium affecting opinion in countries like Britain and the US that hadn't yet involved themselves in the war, and weren't obliged to by treaty. Carlin argues that since the idea of collective punishment was popularly accepted as a reasonable way to wage war within Germany, there was no serious thought given to what the rest of the world was going to think of it. That is, the Germans were obeying the rules, so no problem was envisaged.

Which would be fine - except rules are NOT. FUCKING. UNIVERSAL. They're applied as the powerful choose to apply them, and that means sometimes rules are transparently instruments of oppression. And you don't make something okay to everyone by making a rule about it. The Roma and Jewish genocides of the second world war were by the rules. The way the German political and business establishment has been choking the life out of Greece for the last several years is by the rules. Murder is "against the rules", and credit being extended with zero risk to the creditor is also "against the rules", but when the rules are enforced by the powerful - in these cases, the Germans - they can cherry-pick, and still feel like the are OBEYING THE MOTHERFUCKING RULES SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Anyways, nobody has been oppressing me that badly. I just have a bad cold and a massive, massive pregnant belly with all the attendant physical and mental discomforts, so the little things that happen get magnified and I need to pull out my mantra to calm down. In this case, the trifecta of "people like you are the reason nobody likes Germans" was:

a) trying to take my lightly-sick son to a local playground to get some fresh air (and myself some peace) but having to turn tail almost immediately, because there was a festival this weekend, complete with weird traditional shorts and oompa music and banners. That meant the playground was festooned with broken beer glasses and bottles. Even the sandboxes. Fuck knows how those pigs managed to break glass in a fucking sandbox.

My neighbourhood, statistically, is one of the most "German" in the city. And the amount of sheer fucking BITCHING I've heard from these true-blue Germans about how filthy Turks, Arabs and Roma people are in their public habits is what makes this particularly frustrating. There are RULES about public comportment, rules that don't apply if you're native German and having a good time, even when it means filling up a fucking PLAYGROUND with jagged glass.

b) taking the bus home late last night from a local hospital, where I plan to hatch the next baby, the driver blew past my requested stop. I'm sort of an absent-minded idiot at the moment, what with being seven months pregnant, so it took ten or fifteen seconds for me to realise what had happened. And then when I started yelling at the driver, he didn't pull over - instead, he continued on at speed for a good half-minute, yelling back at me that I should have reminded him to stop immediately.

If there weren't other people watching my pregnant belly sway around the bus, I'm sure the fucking bastard would have just continued on to where the fucking "rules" said there was another fucking bus stop.

c) this morning, I was biking Godzilla to school. On the route, there's a section of about 60 metres were the bike path disappears, the road narrows, and cars go fast around a roundabout as they anticipate the speed limit being about to rise. And at that point, at least when Godzilla is on the bike with me and I'm massively pregnant, I go on the sidewalk. The fuck I or anyone remotely sensible will do anything else. I've had too many near-misses there, and that strip of road is notorious for near-misses and not-misses not only of bikes but of pedestrians using zebra crossings. I go slow, watch out for pedestrians, and give them a wide berth, up to and including stopping for them, because I'm not an asshole.

This morning, I stopped for a pedestrian who was walking his dogs, to promptly get fucking jawed at from him about how I'm on a footpath. I gesture at the roundabout and start explaining why I'm on the footpath, but he interrupts, saying to me, my three year old on the back of the bike, and my big, pregnant belly, while we're stationary to let him pass - "you're on a footpath, and that's that."

It's one of those times where at the moment I deeply regret not knowing enough German to argue with him, but ultimately saying "okay, you don't want an explanation" and biking away from him was the best thing I could have done. He had the rules on his side, and I had my mantra on mine:

People like you are the reason nobody likes Germans.

People like you are the reason nobody likes Germans.

People like you are the reason nobody likes Germans.

*It's fun. Conversational, interesting, and I can follow it whilst pregnant and exhausted.

mercoledì, settembre 07, 2016

All these blow jobs will be lost in time, like tears in the rain

So I'm about 53 years late to this question but "Please Please Me" is totally about oral sex reciprocity, right? All these questions, answers lost to history, mouldering eventually in arts programmes in universities where strange pasty scholars spend whole, deeply unsatisfying and poorly paid careers speculating about the motives of the dead.

My undergrad college is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a couple of weeks with a big reunion do. It's funny; while I was there I was sure I was going to be a professional academic. There was a tug-of-war over me between the history section and the comparative lit section, over where I should go for my master's. Berkeley? U of T? And then - what? Lots of marijuana, a move to Europe - which at the time just felt like a way to put off a decision over the two to a clearer season - and then Spliffe's Wild Years, which I rounded off doing a master's in something completely different and much more . . . useful? That's arguable. But I'd probably be pretty good at taking over other people's countries now, compared to most people, which feels like a skillset that might be handy in these turbulent times.

So obviously I'm not going to the reunion. I'm in my last trimester, in the wrong hemisphere, and I'm not sure I'd go even if it was around the corner. We were a tight-knit group in a college that had just been founded - we started in its second year - and we did about 40% of our classes together, mostly lived together, mostly hung out together. And some of my dearest enduring friendships are with other people in that college. Which is probably the main reason I don't want to go to the reunion. I didn't lose touch with or drift away from anybody I want to be in touch with. Except the professors, and the ones I'd want to see again are no longer there.

But while it's happening, I'll think about it. Raise some sort of mental toast to Spliffe That Was, a curious young poser who expected to be underpaid and precariously employed most of her adult life, and who thought that Petrarch's influence on John Donne was a burningly important question relative to whether or not John Lennon was yelling at some woman to actually go down on him, for a change. She was fine, that Spliffe. But I'm glad she turned into me. 

martedì, agosto 30, 2016

Tax time, fuck you time

I needed a tax receipt from Lufthansa for a business trip I made to China last year, so I called them up and asked for one. My son, who was two at the time, came with me as he was still breastfeeding. I explained to the people at Lufthansa - more than once - that I only needed the tax receipt for my portion of the trip, not for my son's, as he is a small child - whose age was apparent in the booking, not least because he was charged less as a small child.

When the receipt came, to my email address, which contains my full name in it just in case there was any lingering confusion who it was for, it was addressed to Herr Godzilla. My son. Who is now three. 

I needed a tax receipt for extra payments to my son's kindergarten - we pay a little more than the normal monthly city costs, since it's an outdoor kindergarten with one extra teacher, and a supplementary music programme. All of these payments have always been made from my personal bank account. 

I personally requested the receipt - a few times because they have been taking their sweet fucking time issuing it - and once again these requests came from my email address, which contains, once again, my full name in it just in case there was any lingering confusion who it was for.

It was not only addressed, but SOLELY addressed to Herr Baby Daddy.
In both cases, I was making these requests to other women. 

STOP. JUST FUCKING STOP. FUCK. You know? It would be one thing to be getting this bullshit from men. They have a hegemony to defend. I wouldn't accept it, but it wouldn't grind my gears nearly so badly, because at least there is something logically self-serving about unreconstructed, unthinking sexism when it comes from a man. 

But when these bits of absurdity float up while I'm dealing with other women - as though something as ridiculous as addressing a tax receipt to a toddler or to a man who did not request it and did not pay for it makes more sense than a woman having Financial Agency and Tax Things to Sort Out even to other women - I start suspecting society is this giant stupid cult we all need fucking interventionist, Scientology-level deprogramming to deal with. 

venerdì, agosto 19, 2016

When needs and convictions align

I always have stood up for more social attention to families - better access to better childcare, better parental leave - but because of the circumstances of my own charmed, work-from-home-with-flexible-hours life, my convictions have always been abstract. I took six weeks off when Godzilla hatched, and things never got too desperate even with the precisely zero family support we got in Australia (besides my mother flying in for a month), since by the time he was mobile we had the money to get a couple of lovely girls coming to the house to help us out during my work hours and since the F-word was working part time while we were there.

But now my convictions are frightfully concrete. I'm still a week shy of my third trimester, and wondering how the fuck I would manage, as the baby mamma of a man who is now holding down a full-time middle-school teaching job (which is a surprise to us; we thought he'd be on two-thirds time this year; the hours will be difficult for me, but the money will be fabulous), if my son - who wouldn't be starting kindergarten until next month in Canada or Australia and wouldn't have any affordable quality childcare options preceding that - wasn't in 35 hour kindergarten at an awesome public institution already. It would be so painful to start settling him in now, while I'm so big, and tired, and enamoured of naps.

And oh my god - the future would be so much more logistically frightening.

This past trip to Canada already nailed it down for me, TBH. To see people having to empty their pockets for summer daycare, and see people - usually women - put their careers on hold because it made more financial sense to spend the first few years of their kids' lives not working. To see bullshit between couples over how the woman should probably not work because "half her salary will go to childcare" - as if the childcare is something that benefits her personally, and her baby daddy has no particular stake in it because of course he'd be working anyways.* To see families just sort of gritting their teeth and dealing with generational childcare - a blessing in so many ways, yes, but NOT EASY for anyone. It is NOT THE EASY OPTION. Sometimes paying for services, or contracting them, makes them so much easier to enjoy . . .

Anyways. I'm reaching the stage of my Krautland experience where I've started complaining a lot, because that's just the sort of person I am. But knowing that the new baby will be able to be in a well-resourced kindergarten of my choice from the time it is two, and knowing my first child is already well-settled in such an institution, and knowing that there are subsidized childcare options before then for the new hatchling if we need them - besides just the experience of being middle-class with a middle-class income (which is what would make life possible, if not easy, in Canada or Oz) - this is all making me sigh with relief that all those years of abstract principles and convictions have really worked out for me, in that they helped us choose to live in this wonderful, WONDERFUL country.

And nap. Nap with relief. Which is what brought this word onslaught on. I just had the most delectable nap and when I woke up I reflected that in Australia or Canada I might not have been able to afford it.

The horror. The horror.

*And in defence of the Not All Men movement, I will say that nine times out of ten, when I heard that disgusting notion voiced, it was by women.

domenica, agosto 14, 2016

Oh hey there, cancer

Is this an age thing? I guess, but it feels weird how cancer has got to be like this fuckup but inevitable family member that I'm always having to think about and ask about. My father is doing really well, from all metrics. It looks like his treatment may be winding up with a great prognosis, which is all I could have asked for.

And about two weeks after getting that news, the F-word's lovely stepfather has told us he's got it all over. Last year his medical team found what they thought was a contained, if malignant, tumour in one of his kidneys, so, out came the kidney, but in, apparently, stayed the cancer.

I am tweaking about him in the same angrily political sense I tweaked about my father having to spend three hours a day travelling to his radiation appointments for months - furious over substandard regional resources and care in Australian, Canadian, etc., public healthcare systems. And my brain is doing a really great job focusing on that whole "one thing at a time" thing of "what can we do from here?" It is doing a great job of not imagining how my stepfather in law is actually feeling. It's doing an amazing job of ignoring mortality in general.

One thing it is not able to do, however, maybe because I've watched Blade Runner whilst high a few too many times (if such a thing is possible), maybe because my stepfather-in-law and I both got upset about David Bowie dying and it's so easy to imagine him, a gay working-class Catholic Irish kid in Buttfuck Nowhere Australia listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust when it first came out, seeing that skinny ginger freak on his television screen, and it being some sort of transcendent experience - anyways, my brain has been having a hard time not having these two things on constant repeat all day:

mercoledì, agosto 03, 2016

The racist descends

Back in Jolly Deutschland. The fetus, which hit the age of viability sometime while the plane was over the Atlantic, celebrated by kicking the shit out of me while I let Godzilla use me as a bed because the armrest between our crappy seats wouldn't rise. It was the only family member who wasn't absolutely buggered by the journey (the F-word had to leave to meet us at an obscenely early hour to help us hoik all our cheap-thanks-to-currencies-provisions-for-the-year-ahead); it's been a little ninja (or, according to my disapproving Frauenarztin, a ninja at the 96th percentile so I should eat less pasta) and wouldn't keep still this morning for its measurement ultrasound.

I'm enjoying being home, and enjoying feeling as though I've come home by coming back here, even though I've been sick as a dog and only feel fairly human for the first time in almost a week today. I'm really enjoying the shitty, cold German weather; it's such a pleasure to not be sweating whilst sitting still, which is what I spent most of my summer in Canada doing.

What I'm not enjoying is how much cultural panic over European terrorism in Canada rubbed off on me, in a very unpleasant, racist way. Everybody wanted to know how I felt about all the recent news items and if I was scared, which I wasn't. There are horrible people everywhere who think their great ideas about things are more important than other people's desire to fucking continue breathing. Out of all the news headlines this summer the one that caught at me the most along those lines were those people living in a residential home in Japan who were knifed to death because they were too disabled for the tastes of their murderer. It's a terrible thing to be at each other's mercy, sometimes, when so many of "each other" are repulsive young men in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties who have ideas.

What has happened in Germany, I said to the enquirers, was not so frightening, and what has happened has happened on the other side of the country, not counting those sexual assaults and robberies on New Year's, which I can't help but see primarily as the system following a well-trodden path of utterly failing women (ahem).

But then I got off the plane, and Brussels Airport was crawling with fellas with machine guns, which I'm still not used to in a Belgian context, and I started - hmm. Not tweaking, but certainly I started racially profiling people. And I don't think I've quite stopped yet. I'm not sure what to do about that except noticing myself doing it and waiting for it to stop. But I'm sure not enjoying it. 

martedì, luglio 12, 2016

How's this for a positive affirmation, asshole

I am not responsible, and will not pretend to be, try to be, or allow myself to feel to be responsible for the idiocy or duplicity of my elders.

I am not responsible, and will not pretend to be, try to be, or allow myself to feel to be responsible for the idiocy or duplicity of my elders.

I am not responsible, and will not pretend to be, try to be, or allow myself to feel to be responsible for the idiocy or duplicity of my elders.

I am not responsible, and will not pretend to be, try to be, or allow myself to feel to be responsible for the idiocy or duplicity of my elders.

I am not responsible, and will not pretend to be, try to be, or allow myself to feel to be responsible for the idiocy or duplicity of my elders.

Repeat as needed.

I'm in Canada, and I really, really, really want to go home. 

mercoledì, luglio 06, 2016


I'm having a hard time not blaming the British working class for what has happened there with the vote, even though it's effectively victim-blaming as they'll be the ones most screwed by it.

I understand people are angry, marginalised, hopeless, and feel profoundly stuck - but goddamn it, every leading political voice calling for a Leave vote belonged to some piece of soulless public school vermin from the oligarchy that has been the British working class's natural enemy since the Normans ponced over from France, and they fell for it because, I don't know, darkies and Poles?

Whatever. Besides Scotland and Ireland, may they be operating separately soon, let the fucker burn. It'll make for cheaper vacations when I take the kid(s) to the fossil beaches in the south and northeast.

sabato, giugno 25, 2016

International pain and gain

Big week, in Shanghai and now Tokyo.

It's the first time I've been away from Godzilla and I was wondering what to expect there. It turns out that I was dreadfully sad to leave him and then pretty much okay, and he was very happy to say goodbye while he played with his cousin and then dreadfully sad every time he saw me on Skype. All the maternal worry and guilt I was worrying about feeling didn't get felt, though that might have been different if I wasn't getting frequent reports of what a great time he's having in Canada, or if what I was doing here wasn't important for A) work and B) me.

Shanghai was a conference, a more or less mandatory one, and Tokyo has been a rather personal form of mizuko kuyo for the baby that died in December, who was due to be born yesterday or the day before. I visited some jizo shrines and decided to create one myself in my home; it was very moving to visit them, but I couldn't bear the idea of a little statue representing my child in a place I'll only ever be able to visit again a few times in my life. So many of the little jizo statues I saw were totally untended. And of course the Zojo-ji temple was crawling with tourists ignoring instructions about where not to walk and not to take photographs - walking along the rows and rows of jizo statues click-clicking away. Considering my dream funeral is getting chopped into pieces and fed to birds, such a cold and public thing wasn't the memorial I wanted for my child.

And there's another thing, which is that as far as I can tell the mizuko kuyo ceremony is weirdly wrapped up with guilt over terminating pregnancies, which happens a lot here. Birth control pills were illegal until 1999, the range available now is small, and sometimes doctors refuse to prescribe them. And like everywhere, men are fucking assholes about wearing condoms. Meanwhile, abortion up to five months is legal, readily available, and not socially stigmatized. But of course lots of the women who get them feel awful, and get scared over stories about angry or despairing ghost babies, and pay for the mizuko kuyo ceremony. There are accusations that the temples are taking advantage of emotionally vulnerable women; accusations I was willing to overlook because the ceremony seems like such a beautiful, necessary idea, until I asked at the temple about the price of the ceremony, which was about Euro 9,000.

And at that point, or rather price, it struck me: yes, mizuko kuyo is a beautiful idea. Yes, women need to be able to access some sort of formalized emotional release over losing or terminating a potential child. And yes, this is a fucking scam to extort women who are feeling guilty or scared. There's something reassuring about travelling and learning about other religions and realizing that scammy bullshit isn't limited to the religion I was raised in.

Anyways. I spent yesterday mostly in contemplation of what happened and was very moved by the shrine visits, moved to tears, but it was a form of what happened already a month and a half ago, when I had the eleven/twelve week checkup for the baby I'm pregnant with now, and overheard what I wasn't supposed to overhear about another woman's loss. The walls holding my pain in and other people's pain out coming crashing down again. Not a great feeling, but the right one.

Otherwise, Tokyo is pretty awesome. Post-Brexit I'm tempted to just stay. 

venerdì, giugno 03, 2016

The Conversation

I feel good about it, because it took a year and a half, but finally the Conversation was had the other night.



"Have you noticed . . . how ugly German children are?"

"It's not just the children. There are a lot of plain-looking people here."

"There's about three cute children at Godzilla's kindergarten, and he's one of them."


"I don't get it. The kids are all cute in the Netherlands and Belgium, and mostly in France, and in Italy."

"Well, I can't explain it. Germans just sort of look like that."

"I mean there are ugly people everywhere, like there are some Italians who are like monster bog people, and you don't see a lot of super-ugly people here like that, but . . ."

"They don't look good."

"No." Pause. "Remember that Nosferatu-looking kid at Godzilla's old daycare? The one who looked 500 years old?"

"I'll never forget. Starting straight into the darkest places of your soul."

"I miss that kid."

mercoledì, maggio 11, 2016

Well, that was a strange day.

I went to see my gynecologist this afternoon, and given this was around, by our estimates, 11 weeks - which is the age where the last fetus died - I was feeling odd in the lead-up. Nerves, I guess. So far as I feel nerves, which when it doesn't come to public speaking just comes out as a sort of carefully suspended existential numbness.

And, lately, the manic and somehow comforting repetition of a strange version I'd recently read in some weird corner of the internet of the five remembrances (a skittled version of this, and yes, it is striking me that my brain is insisting on a version which doesn't mention being the heir of my actions; maybe I'm not ready for that yet):

I will lose my youth, my health, my loved ones, all I hold dear, and finally life itself, by the very nature of being human. 

So I went in, and waited. Then peeing in the cup, seeing that my blood pressure has climbed back up to the dizzy heights it hit when I was pregnant with Godzilla - fine, I thought, finally a problem I reckon I know how to manage - and then getting vaginally wanded by the gynecologist.

Almost as soon as the stick went in, she got this fucking look on her face. German words tell you everything; German faces tell you nothing. The last gynecologist, as soon as he got a look at the fetus that had died, hardly changed expression at all and immediately said "it's not okay"; I knew, immediately, it was dead. This one said nothing and just got a look on her face like she'd been expecting chocolate and got lemony dogshit. I waited.

"It's so big," she said.

Fuck, I thought, in a mighty rush of relief and annoyance with the inscrutability of German Resting Face. "Is it okay?"

"Oh yes. Moving around a lot, good heartbeat. But I think we need to revise the due date," she said, looking about as perturbed by that as the last gynecologist had looked at having to tell me my baby was dead.

Fucking Germany, I love you, you socially retarded ass of a country.

The baby looks beautiful. It has toes, and it was darting around as far as it could, already being big enough to seem a bit crowded.

So she reckoned I was at week 12, and we chatted about how useful testing would be for Down's Syndrome. I was of the mind that though I'd decided not to terminate the pregnancy in any case it would be good to know how it was going to come out; she was of the opinion that if I was determined not to get an abortion I might as well not bother with the tests, since the range of health issues and abilities or lack thereof in Down's kids was so huge that even a sure positive wasn't going to usefully prepare me for what would come out.


This is May, in case you haven't noticed. Which in Europe is almost as useless a month for trying to get things done in as August, because of all the holidays. The French know it and admit it with all sorts of sayings and proverbs. Le mois de mai, on se rigolait. En mai fais ce qu'il te plait. Putain, abruti parasseux, fais pas comme c'est le mois de mai.  Germans don't have a proverb about how little they work in May, but they don't work that much in May. They really don't work that much at all, I'm realizing. This place is at least as half-assed as Italy. It's just better organized about it. Which I appreciate.

And on top of May being rotten with holidays, my new gynecologist is going on holiday the week before I go to Canada, and on top of that, it's a busy practice; I guess this city is full of women who'd rather see a lady gynecologist, and there aren't enough of them. Which is a long way to say that the clerk and I were having a hard time finding an appointment.

Finally, she decided that I'd better see the other gynecologist at the practice. She told that gynecologist's assistant, who was passing, to ask the other gynecologist to call her and check in that that was okay. The other gynecologist was seeing a different woman - one, I realized later, who had come into the practice at the same time as me, and who I had waved ahead of me at the desk because she looked so wiped out.

The clerk and I waited, and waited, and the other gynecologist's assistant came back out, looking perturbed, but her being German, for all I knew she could have been planning her fucking wedding dinner or something.

"What gives?" asked the clerk who was helping me. "Why hasn't the doctor called back?"

The assistant looked at me, and said something about her being busy.

"Busy with what?" asked my clerk, annoyed.

"The kid -" she said, and I saw her mime out of the corner of my eye - she held her hand over her stomach, and made a quick crossing motion, which in its eloquence was about as good as this. And it hit me about as profoundly as it had when I looked up the ASL for "miscarriage" in a crossover moment of mourning and interest in gestural language back in January. "Now do you understand?" she asked my clerk roughly.

I think I made some sort of sound; at any rate, they saw that I had seen. It was a very odd moment, and got a little odder. The clerk asked me to call in the morning to make the appointment, since the doctor couldn't talk then, and at that moment the other gynecologist called her to tell her she couldn't talk then, and then I remembered my old gynecologist making an almost exactly similar call to his front desk while he was in the middle of explaining the death of my baby to me.

So, I left. Muttering something about how I was sorry about the other lady's situation. And I left, and nearly burst into tears.

To suddenly realize that a woman, in the next room maybe ten feet from where I had been lying down with an ultrasound wand up my twat and being reassured over what had been my uttermost fear that morning, was living that nightmare I lived four or five months ago - this emotion, if it even is an emotion and not something bigger than an emotion, is a whole new emotion to me.

As far as I understand, there is no word for it. It's like some wall came tumbling down between me and the universe. A wall that kept my pain in, and other people's pain out.

And as I stood at the tram stop, and looked at all the babies and little kids there in their prams with their mothers hovering over them - all these little babies and little kids who hadn't died on a crowded tram stop of people who hadn't died - all that pain and all those beautiful creature and all the ways that we were all still alive and how utterly random it was that we had ever existed at all - something fundamental and unnameable about existence as a shared or at least universal experience came crashing in on me in a way that was beyond pleasant or unpleasant.

All it's left me with at this point is the conviction that we have to be kind to each other.

martedì, aprile 26, 2016

Week 8 of terrification

Oh goodness, you guys, I can't stop watching this:


I wasn't a Prince fan, by any stretch of the imagination. He was just another musician I was aware was really talented in a way that I didn't have the time or inclination to appreciate. Seriously, there's about five bands or acts I actually listen to over any given year. But this is just so perfect and naughty. You can even imagine him getting dressed before the show: "Hmm, what would a Travelling Wilbury wear . . . this . . .  bright red cowboy hat. Perfect." And that little fella son of Harrison's - I bet he's the one who actually wanted Prince there. "Make me stand in the background and mime, will they? Fine. I'll get Prince in and make everyone look like an aging bar band."

So, I'm still pregnant and a little terrified. This is all pretty strange. I doubt it would have been less strange if we decided to wait a few more months after the miscarriage to try again. Maybe even more strange. Anyways, this is where we are. I calm myself down by reminding myself I'm doing what I can, and the baby will do what it has to. That mostly works.

What do women do when this happens and they don't have an explanation? How would I be coping now if the last one had just suddenly come out, instead of showing up dead on an ultrasound while my body merrily went on being pregnant around it?

Because to be honest, before the miscarriage happened, I didn't understand how miscarriages or stillbirths worked. For some reason, I assumed that the mother's body shut it down and the baby got ejected. I didn't understand that most of the time the baby gets ejected because it shuts itself down and the mother's body can only tolerate the dead tissue for so long. Of course once I took that on board, it makes a lot more sense. It's a much more complicated process for a mother's body to recognize a catastrophic problem with a fetus and shut down being pregnant than it is for a fetus to have catastrophic problems that it can't survive. I question why I held that first belief now, and I think it has something to do with over-buying into some sort of Freudian hyper-powerful motherhood concept.

Anyways, it's all still weird and terrifying, but I am as sick as a fucking dog and choosing to be reassured by that. Last time I wasn't that sick. With Godzilla I was sick. You take reassurance where you can find it - even riding the porcelain bus every morning. 

martedì, aprile 05, 2016

Back in Aspromonte, and this time more or less in the thick of it as we've decided to stay in Gambarie. Gambarie is a whole other species of depressing from the rest of Calabria. It's as beautiful as anywhere in the world, I daresay, and the fact it isn't crawling with German tourists - I can see them eating this place up with a spoon, with its hiking and history and "off the beaten track" qualities and what have you - is a real testament to the awful, retarded power of local organized crime and corrupt officials to shit their guts out where they live.

We're in a national park, in fact in the area most of the scouts are based, and the town square is still crawling with wild dogs that the restauranteurs keep fed so they won't threaten the few tourists who actually make it here, up the horrifically bad road that was meant to be replaced with a highway about thirty years ago. . . the picnic areas closest to the town are festooned with years of garbage and the maintenance of the paths looks close to nil; they're only still visible because of the number of people who tramp them to score mushrooms in the autumn.

Villas and hotels crumbling not just from neglect but from the seismic qualities of the area; it's as trembly as Japan here, but things are not Japanese quality. One day everything will just collapse again, like it does every hundred years or so. Abandoned houses, I guess held on to in the speculative hope that someday the highway will be built - it's not even halfway up the mountain yet, thirty years on - and that in any case tourists will be able to get to Reggio, which is a massive pain in the ass to fly into from anywhere else in Europe.

There's an airport there, with daily flights to Rome and Milan, but just Alitalia - none of the cheap European charters that are the lifeblood of tourism in Southern Europe now, which means that if I had flown here from a hub like Frankfurt, it would have cost more than a flight to Canada. And considering the awesomeness of the local beaches, the potential tourists attractions and historical sites stretching from the Neolithic to the Baroque, and the number of people from Reggio and this part of Calabria living elsewhere in Europe who come back often, there's no good reason for that lack of service relative to a place like Bari or Lamezia besides somebody not wanting it to happen; my guess is the families who control the ferries to Sicily.

But Gambarie is a little different from my father's hometown and from Reggio not only because it's exquisitely, almost painfully beautiful, with its mountains and old forests and views over the Straits of Messina to Sicily, but also because people are fucking trying here. They are trying to make things really nice. Italian culture being what it is, that doesn't extend to trash pickups or general community efforts - fuck, do I detest this macho insouciance bred into the culture that makes you coolly pretend nothing is a problem until it's suddenly punching you in the face - but people here are doing what they can to build businesses, and restaurants, and to find a way to share their beautiful home.

So I'm enjoying it, in my bitchy way, and enjoying the time with my parents - after three and a half weeks together, I've moved from the joy of reunion through being so frigging annoyed with them in some sort of adolescent throwback to coming to some sort of loving equilbirum again - and enjoying Godzilla, who is enjoying the beaches and the forest playground, and enjoying the rest of my extended family here, although they will never not drive me nuts.

Also I'm pregnant again and happy about it, in a pukey way. After the loss last time I wasn't too sure about sharing here so early (about a month in, I reckon), but then my parents started blabbing to everyone even after I fucking told them not to, which was part of the earlier annoyance I was feeling with them (I might not have even done the test so early if they weren't such frequent tipplers and I wasn't concerned about whether or not I should join in; in the course of a normal week, I might have three beers, and around my family, that consumption tends to increase exponentially just because they're always at it). So no matter what, if things go wrong again there will be no choice except some sort of public-dealing-with-it.

I feel hopeful. I'm incredibly fucking sick, which is much more remniscent of the pregnancy that worked, with Godzilla, than the pregnancy that didn't, which was just sort of generalized discomfort. And I'm also a little encouraged to hope by how fast it happened after we decided to try again, like maybe this kid really wants to be born. But we'll see. I keep reminding myself: I'm not bulletproof, and my love won't make anything bulletproof. The universe isn't making any plans to do things to or for me; I'm a part of the universe and the events of my life are a drop of water in its flow. This new child has its own destiny, like Godzilla and like the one who only lived 11 weeks. I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, I should be so lucky in love. Que sera, sera. Et cetera. 

lunedì, marzo 21, 2016

We didn't really explain it to him but he's a good figuring-outter

"What number is that?" he asked, as we walked down the road and he indicated a street number.

"It's a three."

"What's a three?"

"It's the number after two and before four. One, two, three, four. And you're three years old."

"No, I'm two."

"You're a silly monkey and you're three."

"I want to be two though."

"Sorry. You'll never be two again. You can be four next year though."

"But I want to be two next year."

"You can't be. I can try to make you a brother or sister who will be two sometime, though."

"Yeah!" Happy capering. And then, from him:

"The last one won't be two."


"The last one won't be two. It was broken, and you went to the hospital, and we had to get it taken out."

"Yes, that's right, and we were very sad."

"Yes. We were very sad."

A moment's silence.

"I want to be a monster truck."


mercoledì, marzo 16, 2016

We'll always have Christchurch

Went into the old town for dinner with parents (who are visiting), man and boy this evening, and the boy wanted to try on some merino wrist warmers I bought myself in New Zealand with dear friend who was living there a few years back. "Don't lose them," I said, "it's not like I can go to New Zealand and buy more."
"Yes you can," said the F-word. "But I won't," I said. And I realized, for the first time, I guess, that there's a place I love - I can safely say I really loved New Zealand - that I will almost certainly never see again. 

My dear friend who was living there is safely back in Canada again. And now that Elvis is no longer living in Vancouver, 14 hour diagonal-Pacific flights - thank heaven! - are something necessity is unlikely to compel me to do again. And diagonal-Pacific is pretty much where New Zealand is.  

Any future visits to Australia will be grudging and probably brief as they can be, and then New Zealand is in the wrong direction to get back home. Unless home becomes Ontario again some day, but if that happens I'm going to assume it would be because of some global or personal cataclysm that would leave little time, money or airspace security for visits to Australia, let alone side-jaunts to New Zealand. For the first time that the two things happened at the same time, the world felt too big for me and my life felt too short.

sabato, gennaio 23, 2016

Speaking of shitful accumulations

My father, cancer, he has it.

I'm not very worried about the cancer itself (except OF COURSE I'm fucking worried) because it was caught very early, and it's a very common, treatable, slow-growing one in men his age. I am worried about where he is - in Canada, and in a rural part of Canada. On both counts, medical care is not all it could or should be. Public universal health care on the Australian, British, or Canadian model looks good on paper - looks best on paper - but my experience is definitely that when it comes to anything even a little complicated or in terms to access to specialists, outcomes and doctor quality are better in European countries with mandatory insurance schemes. Maybe less political footballing. I don't know why.

So I wish he was here, or in France - I would feel a lot more confident in whatever treatment plan gets came up with for him. Anyways. He's not. So, no use fretting about it. By the end of the month we'll have a clearer idea of how serious it is, and how it will be treated.

But the big takeaway, so far, as we wait, is this sort of slap across the face that there's not so much time left. He's probably fine - this carcinoma is probably just a symptom of his being in his late 70s - just a symptom of him being of an age where, if we're lucky, we have ten really good years and then - fuck, just fuck, fuck, fuck.

And yes, I know, I'm lucky to still have him, and my mother, still in such good health, as so many people lose their parents so much earlier. But that doesn't make me feel better, frankly. Just worse for those other people who lost their parents so early. I won't be ready when he goes - when they go. I will not be ready at all. The idea of being ready is absurd. How could people who lose their parents young bear it? Surely something in them must just die out of sheer self-protection? I don't know.

lunedì, gennaio 18, 2016

The new tyrannosaurus

Well . . . how are you doing this week? I'm in the middle of some questions of myself, and creativity, and mortality, and things . . . but they are not bad. I know it doesn't sound frightfully cheerful. But I've always been a pretty gloomy person and I see no reason to panic or worry over or try to change being a little gloomy now that I've actually got some things to be gloomy about from time to time.

Just to add to the cacophony of mourning voices out there - David Bowie - he's one of my favourite pop musicians, and about 15 of his songs occupy my top 30, if I have one. But his talent wasn't boundless, and he knew it. And he decided to be David Bowie anyways. I can say and acknowledge until the cows stumble home trying to mask their rummy breath that the work is more important than the result, but somehow it took David Bowie dying a couple of days after his millionth album came out, with this massive body of occasionally brilliant work behind him, for me to understand it. That is a profound gift to give people. Almost as good a gift as the music itself. Maybe better. It's quite a thing to get a Buddhist levelling-up handed to you like that from a man you've never met.

And I feel like a slightly better mother these days because I bought Godzilla a new tyrannosaurus that he can cuddle in bed, and he fell asleep with it as soon as he opened the package.  

martedì, gennaio 12, 2016


People who are smarter and more emotionally experienced than me have warned me that I need to be ready, after losing the baby, to pick up on signs of PTSD. I wanted to scoff, but choked back those scoffs, because of that whole "smarter and more emotionally experienced" thing, and decided - okay. Let's see how things go. Let's look for help if I need it.

I still don't think I need it - I think the points where I'm not doing okay are not running away with me. But the points where I'm not doing okay are surprising me a little. At first it was just a generalized anxiety - that something would happen to Godzilla, or me, or the F-word, or all sorts of other things, but that passed - partly from the distractions of going on holiday, and partly from coming to terms - to a point - with life being out of my fucking control.

Last night, I realized the point at which I had and have not accepted that.

During a side trip to Padova during the vacation, the boy's favourite stuffed animal got lost, which I internalized like assuming accountability was the fucking Olympic sport I was the fucking Serena Williams of. I'm still super-pissed at myself for it, and sorry for the boy, who still misses it. So that's one thing. And then getting back into the work world yesterday, the F-word had a meltdown over an appointment he'd forgotten and nearly missed, and then I heard David Bowie died, and then while I was parking the boy in front of the television, cooking and washing dishes in the afternoon, I glanced over at him, saw he'd got his little pocket flashlight open, was chewing on the pieces, and OH FUCK THE BATTERIES WEREN'T ANYWHERE.

Cue our first family trip to the emergency room - two of them, actually, as the first hospital we went to didn't handle children - and an X-ray that drove a hitherto unplussed but quite tired Godzilla into hysterics, and showed he had not swallowed any batteries. Okay. All so far so good. I think potential battery swallowing warrants the physical response we gave it. So far my actions are all making sense.

But my brain is fucking clobbering me, man.

There's the accountability for accidents thing, making me feel like a really shitty mother, and you know what, I think that might just be a sort of core condition of motherhood, particularly in its early years, so I'm not too worried about it; I'll just feel it and let it pass. But it's just shocking me the way the bad things that happen are stacking up like an almightily huge and sticky pile of ratshit that is blocking my view of the motherfucking sun.

Last night waiting in the first emergency room (no waiting at the second, thank goodness and thank Germany) I wasn't particularly worried - nobody dies or even gets particularly hurt from swallowing a battery as long as something is done about it in good time. But I just felt so fucking victimized. No - not even victimized. That would suggest that I felt like the universe had some sort of plan for me, and I didn't feel like that.

I just felt fucking clobbered. By my own incompetence as a caregiver, by human mortality, by the fucking inexorable and cruel logic of the miscarriage clobbering us as a family leading to me weaning Godzilla all of a sudden, leading to him re-entering an oral fixation that hadn't been active for the last two years, leading to us sitting in a fucking emergency room where the best-case scenario would be exposing my little boy to fucking radioactivity the day after the man who first made me interested in music and genitalia, two rather fucking important things, died of fucking cancer.

The past month just swept the fuck over me like a stinking tidal wave of sewage while I thought a bunch of other shitty things - big things like about how my parents are older than David Bowie was and I'm living so far away, and little things like some bills I'd meant to pay that evening - and fuck me. I felt old. And suddenly - after finding out there were no batteries in Godzilla and all my tension could shrivel up - I felt myself feeling old. And started questioning.

Why are bad things so accumulative? Why do they stack up like that? And in a life as full of blessings as mine is, why the fuck aren't the good things accumulative like that? Why aren't I occasionally overwhelmed with the feeling of "wow, I have a partner I love who I'm still sexually interested in, a wonderful son, a great kitchen, a loving and pretty healthy and reasonably happy extended family who I get to see a lot, a good job, enough money for sensible purposes - life is pretty fucking awesome"?

And I think it's back to those twin Buddhist bugbears of fear and hope. The fear, as I deal with one shitty thing after another, that more shitty things are coming. The fear all my blessings will be taken from me. And the hope that these blessings will last, and last, and last beyond a point where I intellectually know they can't last anymore - and that knowing breaks my heart and fills me with fear and makes the blessings taste bitter.

Fuck, that is a stupid way to live. I've been acutely conscious of it since the miscarriage. But not because the miscarriage did it to me - but because I've been living that way all my life.

I'm not sure what to do about this. I'm hoping realizing it is doing something about it, somehow. I guess we'll see. 

domenica, gennaio 10, 2016

Floating away

We spent the last two weeks in Venice. I guess on several levels I'm glad to be back (electric toothbrush! Lovely kitchen! Dirt, trees, grass and birds besides pigeons!) but on a few others, I think I left my heart there. Got back yesterday and been dreaming about it all night. Funny how much cleaner the water was in my dreams. 

Post-miscarriage there are all sorts of mental and emotional things this trip meant to me. But the way I'm feeling now is, for me and I think for most people, the mark of a successful vacation. The really, really good trips I go on make my brain race ahead to a parallel universe where I set up shop permanently wherever I'm visiting - don't you? There are theoretical Spliffes living out their lives in Shanghai, Barcelona, Vancouver, Pori, Berlin, etc. etc. . . . and now there's one in Venice too. 

Which is odd, because besides one in Rome and one in Padova that's pretty much the only theoretical Italian Spliffe despite me having spent a lot of pleasant time in the country. (Besides a few nightmare visions of what would have happened to me if I had somehow been born and/or raised in my father's home province, or if that really hot construction worker I used to have unsettlingly wonderful sex with had knocked me up when I was young and stupid.) 

But Venice isn't really Italy. Even less so than Calabria and Sicily aren't really Italy, to me, anyways, as a non-Italian; Southern Italian identity is so key to how the world sees Italy in terms of food, customs, look, etc., that weird as the South is in general Italian terms it's inescapably Italian - the way New York is so weird relative to the rest of the States but, if you aren't American, is an inescapable vision of the States. 

I know that's a weird thought to Northern Italians. But let's face it: for the last 100 years, all the North has exported is fascism, smog, and cars that are really hard to repair. Versus the South: pizza, semolina pasta, the least retarded fashion houses, three of the best New Hollywood directors in the 1970s, Bruce Springsteen's maternal ancestors, three seperate and extremely powerful organized crime communities, about a kabillion people, etc. . . .  

Anyways, Venice isn't Italy. Venice is an island of about 50,000 permanent residents, who all know each other, I think, and most of whom are pretty old, and all of whom speak a language whose relationship with Italian, as far as I could tell, is about as close as Spanish, and their intonation makes them sound like Peter Lorre, which is fucking adorable. 

Venice is a ranch whose cash crop is tourists, where the vastly outnumbered locals herd them onto a few main corrals and then enjoy the serenity and much greater beauty of the rest of the place, generally ignoring the few cattle who wander off course; it is an island, after all, or a bunch of islands; it's not like they're going to run away. They ignore the Italian tourists in exactly the same way they ignore everybody else - they just do it in Italian instead of in English. They were nice to us; I think because they liked Godzilla.

Much to the annoyance of Venetians, Anglophone and German authors have leaned heavily on Venice as some sort of death metaphor for the past century or two, and it works pretty well in that sense. Venice started dying when the patrician class decided that all the other snotty aristocratic pieces of shit in Europe were right and trade was beneath them as patricians, despite that trade having built their own and their city's fortunes (maybe they had a point though, considering what enthusiastic slave traders they'd been). 

Infected with an invasive snobbery virus, they locked 80% of their daughters up in convents, retired to estates in the Veneto to exploit their tenants, and got so feeble and etoliated Napoleon hardly had to push to invade and fire a bolt into the city's forehead; the place was already slipping back into the lagoon then. 

In 1570 the population was 190,000. Considering there are not 140,000 tourists there on a busy day, an emotional resentment of their tourist cash crop is obvious when they blame them for being so numerous they're helping the city sink (the main culprit, besides rising sea levels, seems to have been the nearby industrial town of Marghera, where apparently my grandfather had an awesome time in his 20s, drawing groundwater from beneath Venice). 

And I sympathize. A big fight now among the locals is against massive cruise ships going between the main islands and Giudecca to dock near the tourist centre. On a good day they stink and tear the hell out of the lagoon's ecosytem, and inevitably there will be a bad day when they seriously leak something, or hit something, or - something - and that will be a fucking catastrophe. 

Still, at a certain point I say humph. Venice is dying. But it has had the longest funeral in the history of funerals. The most mourners filing in to pay their respects, even if shatteringly clumsily at times (Dude. What is with Americans abroad? Some of them are just so fucking . . . ugh.) And it's certainly been the most lucrative funeral that has ever been held, even if the effect of the influx of mourners has ended up seeing Venetians head elsewhere in the Veneto in droves to make room for hotels and AirBNB apartments. 

If I sound cynical I don't mean to. Or maybe I do, but I still love Venice. Love it to the point where the only things standing between me making Theoretical Spliffe in Venice into Actual Spliffe in Venice is that I don't think the conditions are good enough for Godzilla and for any other sprogs I may be able to whelp in the future (see comment above re. dirt, trees, grass and birds besides pigeons) and that considering people in my family habitually see triple digits I'm not confident the city will outlast me.