30 June 2010

The Angry Itch

Handmade Tara statue at the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamsala, India.

So, lately as I embark upon a slightly more spiritual path in my life and explore Buddhism and Hinduism earnestly (that is, without calling myself a douchebag in my head) I have, along side a growing sense of calm and contentedness, an almost animalistic urge to go traveling again. I can barely prevent my quivering fingers from tapping out the web addresses to travel sites and spending the last unspent chunk of credit card limit on a ticket to India or Bali.

I have been dreaming of the smoke filled chaotic streets of Delhi, the train station that I would have to navigate and conquer to find my way back to Dharamsala, high in the Himalayas and home to the Dalai Lama. Dreaming of landing in Hong Kong for a few days and then rushing through the traffic choked lanes to find the bus to the airport, barely making it in time for my flight to Denpasar, Bali where I would settle in the hills of Ubud and drink tea and drink wine and pet stray cats and commune all barefoot with my Buddha nature. Sigh.

About to set flowers in the Ganges in Varanasi.

Do I have a right to complain, and I sit here at my Summer job that countless other students applied for, in the middle of the luxury of being an adult scholar? I have pretty things, happy cats, fresh make-up and clean fingernails - but I just want to cash all of that in for a seedy room in some nondescript guesthouse, dirty feet and grubby fingers; for shots of blinding rice alcohol and heart thumping motorcycle rides and those moments when you breathe in and you're just - free and young and the whole world is just everything it is in that one moment. Y'know?

Alas, my schooling is more important and has to, for once and for all, get finished. And then I need to knock off my Masters, all in pursuit of my dream job. But, I have a feeling that this itch, this squirming, howling angry itch will not go away. I need to get back to crazy India. I need to go and meditate in the hills of that magical volcanic island in Indonesia. I need to live my true Buddha nature - as a traveler.

Bells at a Kali temple in the Chamba Valley, Northern India.

(And maybe you could help me and click this link so I can win a trip? It takes two seconds and I would be oh so happy!)

24 June 2010

Cold, Damp and Productive?

Ahh, Beautiful late June skies behind some of my favourite neon...

When the weather is disappointing, as it so often is in dreary Vancouver, it can be a good time to do a mental inventory and get some of the intangible messy tasks in your life accomplished. Or at least started (after you draw pictures of dinosaurs, of course)...

I often think of myself as lazy, a notion that must have gotten stuck in my head as a child with a messy bedroom (it was epic. Until I was 20, cleaning my room took 2 days.) Like many ideas I have about myself (I am tall. I hate exercise.) it is actually really distorted and mostly false. As one of my best friends chortled as she nearly choked on her tea, "V, you are the least lazy person I know!"

And so maybe that is kind of true. I am a type A personality (although many only see my DD type personality, if y'know what I mean...) and I have a hard time relaxing if everything is not just so. That means, when I get home from work/yoga/school (and sometimes a combination of all three) I don't sit down - I cook, clean and do laundry first. Then, finally, when it is all done - I study. It's usually midnight at this point, and I last 20 minutes in front of an episode of "The Ugly Americans" before I fall asleep on the couch. (Even my facial cleansing/teeth brushing regime is long and complicated...)

BUT - there is always that annoying list of huge tasks lingering at the back of my brain somewhere - things that never get done because they are inconvenient and time-consuming and costly. And this fucking Summer? I am tackling them.

Perhaps it is the muggy, hazy, chilly weather we have been having that is filling me with ennui and making me push to get these un-doable tasks done. Vancouver is experiencing the worst Summer I can ever remember, with rain, clouds and cold breezes the daily norm so far in June. It's preventing me from the fun Summer things that I love: the beach, bike rides and BBQs - and giving me all of this free time to make appointments.

a) Mah Harr: Little known fact: my hair is actually not black. It is Clairol 121A "Natural Deep Brown" but on my shitty dishwater coloured hair it turns shiny jet black. For years I have been lamenting this fact, moaning that my hair was indeed "really dark brown! Look at me in the sun! Loooookkkk!" No one bought it. So now, tomorrow actually, I am having my hair stripped to a dark dark brown (think Zooey Deschanel), like I have always wanted it. Of course, now I am filled with nervous apprehension. Will it change my look too much? Will it be me? Will I lose my edge? ("Honey, you is like razors hidden in a candy apple, I wouldn't worry about that" - Inner Drag Queen.) It remains to be seen. I will let you know.

b) Sick Tribe: Yes, like most tattooed folks nearing thirty, I have a piece of tribal artwork on my back. And it is purple. Yep. Purple. I have an appointment to have it removed (well, at least lightened so that it can be covered prettily with this) on Saturday. Thank God for lasers.

c) Wonky Jaw: I have a wonky jaw (yes, that is the correct medical term.) It is simply a bit too small for my face, resulting in headaches, ringing in my ears and even causing me to bite my poor tongue on a semi-regular basis. Hard. Enough to draw blood. And as I get older, I am even developing a wee slight lisp as my muscles are having a hard time correcting the problem (especially when wine is involved....) I choose to find it endearing, but c'mon... thirty year old lisping woman is not so cute. The solution? My jaw needs to be broken, with an actual hammer, and somehow soldered back together in a hopefully kickass bionic way. It also means braces first, and even if they are clear I can't shake the terrible vain feeling that I will be a hideous freak. Le Sigh. Pain vs Beauty? I'm torn.... (or more like broken with a hammer.)

d) Framing - Last but not least - I know this one seems mundane at best, but since I began traveling at the age of 18 I have collected prints and posters and photos from around the world. And like, 2 of them are framed (and my mum did those ones for me.) I am the world's WORST procrastinator when it comes to framing - I think it intimidates me a little bit, all of those choices and colours, and it has less instant gratification than say, a pair of pretty heels, or a tattoo. I have a beautiful Egon Schiele print, a lovely Francis Bacon and a Marc Chagall gallery poster from Cesky Krumlov and goddamnit - by September 1st they will all be framed. And hung. Just do me a favour. Remind me?

So is this dull, drab weather a blessing in disguise? I'll let you know by August - if I'm not down on the beach, procrastinating....

Violet Dear

09 June 2010

Stuff I Like - June 2010

You'll see a woman/hanging upside down/her features covered by her fallen gown

Leonard Cohen - The Future
I really remember this being the first album that I bought, back in grade eight, that transcended the genres I was listening to: punk, grunge, riot grrrl and psychobilly. I also remember my mother being suitably impressed that my music tastes were expanding, which was true - to a point. Though I had secretly enjoyed the country-esque swing of "Closing Time" when it had been a hit on Muchmusic the year earlier, it was in grade eight that Trent Reznor included three of Mr Cohen's tracks (along with my girlhood fave L7) on the Natural Born Killers Soundtrack. This was enough of an endorsement for me at the time, and I'm glad it was, because I still treasure this album (and am in fact listening tonight on this lovely tranquil evening.) The dirty, racy lyrics and Cohen's wistful, raw growling voice turned me on to his poetry and for that I am forever grateful. It has changed me as a writer - and a thinker.

Plus, look at 'im dance!

Look at the good Canuck go!

Yoga tattoo - a gentle reminder to myself to enjoy and contemplate every moment as it happens.

2) Yoga

My friends, my family, my colleagues, my neighbours - I think that everyone in my life is pretty used to (or sick of) me talking incessantly about yoga. Since January 4th I have gone to 4 or 5 classes a week and it has changed my life. Like, for realsies. See, I've always rolled my eyes at hippies, and so when I used to hear people wax rhapsodic about their third eye I would dismiss them as navel-gazing assholes. So how do you think I feel now that I am one of those assholes!?

All kidding aside, yoga has made me a stronger (seriously, these muscles are getting impressive, for l'il ole me) happier (by an immeasurable amount) and healthier person. I feel softer, lighter and more easily filled with joy. Fewer things get me stressed, other people's actions don't affect me as much and I no longer feel compelled to participate in bad vibes or gossip (except about celebs. I mean, c'mon. ) In my yoga practice, I can consistently set goals and achieve them (I recently learned to do headstands with no support - here is my next goal.) Plus - my ass looks great. Seriously.

I have always believed that socially unacceptable men make much better lovers because they are more sensitive. - Candy Darling

3) Candy Darling on Her Deathbed
Candy Darling
, one of Andy Warhol's "superstars" was a drag queen, actor and muse. She was perfection - a true sexual renegade in the late sixties when queer culture didn't yet look fondly on transgendered folk. Days before her life was cut tragically short (she was 29) by leukemia in 1974, this haunting portrait, titled "Candy Darling on her deathbed," was shot by Peter Hujar. I have wanted a framed print of this for years and can not find one anywhere! Coincidentally, one of my favourite bands, Antony and the Johnsons, used the image on the cover of their second LP "I Am A Bird Now", so the reasons to love it are layered. I just can't get her frailty, her sensuous acceptance of death and her languid pose out of my mind. RIP Candy, dear.

Bon Temps? Sunnydale? It should all make sense now, thanks to this.

4) Thinking about how Buffy and Sookie are the same character
, pretty much
I love both Buffy and True Blood (and I know I'm not the only one to notice this) so this isn't meant to disparage either, but Sook is really starting to remind me of Ms. Summers. "Scooby Gang" of helpful pals, some of whom are kind of magic-y? Check. Love triangle between human girl, altruistic vampire and evil vampire? Check. Pretty blonde who is not quite human and is drawn to said vampires? "Big Bad" main source of evil in each season, fought in the final episode? Check. Hmmm. A little derivative?

And who cares!? Too much of a good thing? Wonderful. Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

From a small cafe in Melbourne. Those eggs are a thing of beauty.

5) Eggs

Probably my favourite single food ingredient, I eat about 2 eggs a day. I love them, and after the strange and gag-inducing ways they often came served in Asia, I really appreciate how wonderful they can be. They come in their own little package, you can prepare them a hundred ways, they are fastfastfast for supper and they are delicious. My favourite? Poached runny, so that even the white are jiggly and the yolk goes everywhere, preferably covered in hollandaise sauce. It's midnight now, and frankly, I am excited for 8am so I can fry me up some of nature's perfect food. Hey Chickens? You're allllllright.

Til' next time

04 June 2010

Say Fromage!

Like a fat French kid in a candyshop. Le Yay!
How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese? - Charles de Gaulle

Oh, Paris. There is something there that captivates the mind, sweeps into the heart and tickles the soul - and stinks up your fingers. Cheese, almost everyone's favourite food (I say almost because some people are assholes who claim not to like it) is at its best, most decadent, pungent and exhilarating in France, and I left my heart in its Fromageries.

On our second day in Paris, S and I decided to forgo a restaurant lunch and live the typical cliche- we strolled to the market, bought bread and cheese and wine and sat in a park (we couldn't find a church nearby and we had cheese burning a hole in our pocket!) rather than dine on steaming hot moules et frites and soupe aux poissons. I am glad we did.

It was a learning experience, to say the least.

I'll take this bad boy over a doughnut any day...

We headed to a small farmer's market in the Latin Quarter and entered what can only be described as a cheese mecca. Displayed on the shelves were hundreds of varieties of cheese, most of them unwrapped and displayed in the open air. It was an agonizing process.

We perused the selection, breathing in the fierce goat-y smell and letting it waft over our faces. I stared at the huge wheels of rinded cheeses, their gooey centres bulging out slightly and debated over which goat cheese to choose. I peered into big vats of soft Mascarpone, drooled over veiny blue Roquefort and compared the firm butter coloured Raclette and Emmenthal. It was an intensive procedure.

Finally, after about twenty minutes we decided on a small round cylinder of hard goat cheese, a big creamy slab of Morbier and a round orange rinded cheese wrapped in plastic. We popped next door for some bread, thin crusty wands filled with salty olives, grabbed some wine and headed to the Square Michel Foucault for some serious lactose.

Tonight....I celebrate my love for you....

The Morbier was dreamy - a slice of Brie-like soft cow's cheese with a vein of mold running up the middle. It was smooth with just a hint of blue flavour, spreading easily over the bread and reminding me of a glass of fresh farm milk. The hard goat's cheese was almost like a parmesan, nutty and tiny bit acrid at the back of the soft palate, nice to chip off and eat in small bites. And then... then there was the wrapped cheese.

I have done some research and found out that this particular kind of cheese is called Epoisses and is considered by the French to be one of the stinkiest cheeses in the world - so much so that it is actually banned from public transport. This information would have come in handy (perhaps the shopkeep could have shouted "Interdit! Interdit!" when we tried to buy it) as we greedily tore into the cheese. With our hands. Instantly I knew something was awry. Being a lover of rank cheese, I bravely scooped the sample into my mouth.

Demon cheese. This is actually the plot of next season's True Blood.

Everything went blurry for a few moments as I faded in and out of consciousness. The taste, somewhere between rotting flesh and clabbered milk and something even more inexplicable and ghastly, seemed to hit me at the base of my skull and I nearly wretched. S, being the brave foodie, soldiered on to have a second bite in the "Anthony Bourdain/adventurous traveler/intrepid eater" tradition while I frantically crammed Morbier, bread and wine into my mouth to try to erase the flavour.

It was less a cheese than an angry god that needed appeasing - and I was fresh out of slaughtered fowl to burn and present. Not since durian have I tasted - or smelled - something filled with so much otherworldly hate. S decided that he too could not bear it and we guiltily threw it away.

After eating, walking through the Latin Quartier past the Sorbonne on our way to the Catacombs I could not get the taste out of my mouth- or the smell from my fingers. The oils in the Epoisses seemed to have penetrated my skin, and no matter how many times I washed my hands and scrubbed my nails with strong soap over the next few days, it was futile. The smell pervaded. I never got used to it.

Paris Picnic. Just watch out for Yogi Ours.

So my idea of a dream lunch is still intact - cheese, fine wine and delicious bread amidst a soft Parisian Spring breeze. But next time I will leave out the Epoisses - unless, of course, I am prepared to bow down to its evil god.