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~ The One Before 50 ~

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Snippets and general musings as I begin my 49th year.

Everyone who knows me well is aware of my severe phobia of bedbugs. That being said, I love hotels. Ever since I was a kid, I get excited when I walk into a beautiful hotel. I suppose it’s the anticipation of exploring everything new – city, country, lifestyle – and a dreamy home away from home that someone else cleans every day. Throw in a sexy lobby bar, and hello happy hour! I also have a thing for office buildings during Christmas, with the lights and the trees and the shiny marble floors…

On the other hand, motels have always made me feel sad. Something about being in a stale room, next to a remote highway with nothing to do but stay inside your stale room. That and the lonely plastic lawn chair outside the front door. Cue the Counting Crows’ Raining in Baltimore and pass the vodka.

~

The 49-year-old neck. Enough said.

~

Making all my connections on public transit is a great way to start the day. As an added bonus, it’s fantastic when I get a seat, the seat is clean, there are no inappropriately close-standers (especially when there’s plenty of room), and the door to the train, streetcar or bus stops directly in front of me.

Another great way to start the day is with a killer poop! Sorry, but it’s true and you know it. Especially the kind (and I’ll try not to get too graphic here), that is astoundingly voluminous and thoroughly purging. The kind that amazes me so much, I almost feel like calling M in to witness my dinasauric ever-loving feat! I’m lighter, less bloated and ready to kick up my heels! For a gal who gets backed up just by saying, “backed up,” these rare moments are golden.

~

Wheel-trans buses can be late; friends can get side-tracked; doctors can get swamped. But a sincere, “I’m sorry for being late,” really can buffer my irritation… as long as it doesn’t become habitual.

I’m genuinely perplexed by the perpetually late. I’ve read numerous theories and psychological profiles about the chronically late. Whatever the underlying reasons, the bottom line is absolutely, positively and without question NO ONE likes to be kept waiting, even the person who is (wait for it), ALWAYS LATE. What really chafes my ass is when there’s no apparent effort to remedy the lateness, no effort to find a solution. Because then it feels like you don’t give a shit about me, and that’s not cool at all. It’s like bad breath. If you have it, I’ll always think of you as the person with bad breath.

~

Any act of kindness genuinely moves me. Not to get all Kumbaya about it but seriously, when the customer service rep or the parking attendant or the receptionist for that perpetually late doctor is kind, I get tingly happy feelings. I was at the airport flying to the States awhile back and all of humanity seemed to be flying out the same day. Airport staff corralled us in a holding area and only let us line up for customs based on our departure times (so much for arriving 2.5 hours before my flight, thinking I could get through the rigmarole, then lollygag in book stores and duty-free).

Departure time 8:00am!” an agent called out. “Please line up now.” They continued this process every so often, in 5 minute increments. My departure time was 9:10am. No lollygagging for me!

When I finally reached security, there was a gem of a female security agent there to greet me. So friendly and easygoing, her smile and breeziness made the previous 1.5 hours a fading memory.

Despite my conscious effort to be a breezier person, I can turn on a fucking dime, and it’s all I can do to channel my inner peace and fucking calm. Like when M and I were crossing the street in front of the ACC before a Raptors game and it was insane with traffic (meaning cars were not moving), and there was a gap in front of a stopped cab that M and I walked through, and the cab driver randomly honked and scared the shit out of us! I mean where the hell was he in a hurry to go? One more inch forward? I lost my shit and after some erratic hand gestures indicating how pissed off I was, I went up to his window and yelled, “Shut up!” Nothing too serious or threatening, but it’s kind of scary how quickly I can go from breezy to fuck you!

How we cope when confronted with shit, really speaks to the kind of person we are, doesn’t it? I mean bad things can happen, and they can happen to even the best people. I know two people who have faced unimaginable, truly devastating shit, and yet they somehow persevere, maintain their light and positivity without blame, bitterness, fanfare or Facebook. They are my constant beacons of what I hope to be like, during and after, those epically shitty times.

Based on my breezy to fuck you acceleration, I have a ways to go.

Onward to 50.

 

~ IF ~

Mr. Michael Matsuda is a business associate of dad’s, and someone he speaks to often. As a matter of fact, dad is speaking to him right now. Mr. Matsuda just said something funny, which makes dad laugh out loud. Dad manages to say something like, “That’s right! That’s right!” through his guffaws, in response to the thing that Mr. Matsuda just said to make him laugh. Dad isn’t on the phone and Mr. Matsuda isn’t here in the room. If Mr. Matsuda did exist at some point in dad’s past, he’s certainly not here in this moment.

About a week into the new year, dad began talking to imaginary friends (IFs), much the way kids do. But when your 78 year-old dad, whose had cognitive challenges since his stroke almost four years ago, suddenly starts entertaining invisible friends and colleagues, you feel more alarmed than amused.

It started with some confusion about his wife’s son who passed away many years ago. Dad insisted that his step-son was on his way home. We delicately reminded him that our step-brother had long passed and was in a cemetery, to which dad responded, “I know honey,” and then, “but he’s coming home.”

For the most part, dad’s interactions with his IFs are lively and good-natured. A couple of times he’s had arguments with someone and has even seen a woman sitting on the windowsill. Obviously concerned, I researched and stumbled upon a number of theories, including this old chestnut: talking to spirits on the other side as one prepares to die.

During these past, at times, trying years of dad’s recovery, I’ve become the kind of person who can cry on a dime, be brutally protective of my dad and remarkably pragmatic in moments of great distress. So, when dad answered my inquiries about his new friends and colleagues with a knowing, “You’ll find out soon sweetheart,” I didn’t read too much into it. But when he invited me to a big party that all these people would be attending, where the reasons for these covert conversations would be revealed, on MARCH 2ND (the fourth anniversary of his stroke), I lost my shit a little.

I pulled myself together, gathered my shit and began paying closer attention to whom dad is talking to and how he’s feeling when he’s talking to them – engaged; energetic; happy. Is he creating IFs because he’s lonely? Bored? Does he have an underlying infection that’s fucking with his mind? Then again, aside from these IFs, he’s been otherwise cognitively clear and medically stable. Or, when he’s talking to his deceased mother and brother, is he ACTUALLY TALKING WITH THEM?

There’s definitely some cross-wiring going on. For instance, many of his IFs have the same first name, Michael. Their last names – Matsumoto, Stravinsky, Gilmour – change daily and can totally be tracked to something on the news or a piece of music he was listening to, etc. But I can’t deny that, but for a few agitated incidents, he’s been quite happy. And putting my own feelings of loss aside, I think about how cool and right it is that dad is taking charge of his own death, especially considering he’s had no control over anything else in his post-stroke life. And how awesome it is that all the people he loves and misses on the “other side” are helping him plan a big-ass welcome party to boot!

Getting back to this joy stuff that I’m such a fan of these days, I’m ready to embrace any theory that promotes more joy and less fear. Fear is fucking bullshit, and yet it still manages to weasle its way in there, in the most inconvenient moments.

Time will tell whether the reason for dad’s IFs is a urinary tract infection, increasing dementia, early stage of Alzheimer’s or an eager anticipation of a long-awaited reunion, but anything that brings him comfort, peace, a few laughs and a bit of joy is fine by me.

 

~ Speaking of joy… ~

A little while back, I was in the presence of joy.

I was at a music club that I hadn’t been to in more than 20 years, watching an indie band play to a full and very  supportive audience. The crowd was a mix of middle-agers (like the band), those who could have been the band’s parents and young hipsters. One of the lead singers is a friend of one of my friends. Years ago when they first met, the singer had an entirely different life – married, working in the corporate world and thinking about having a baby. She was already dabbling in music part-time, but wanted to try it full-time, so her husband gave her something like a year to give it a shot. If she couldn’t make a serious dent with it, they’d have a baby. Long story short, she’s no longer married to the guy, she came out as a lesbian and she’s a full-time, full-on musician, in a band with a very loyal following that includes my friend.

The joy moment occurred during the encore, when the band stood at the edge of the stage, close to the audience, unplugged, no mics, just acoustic guitars and sweet harmonies. This singer, this gal with this story, had an expression on her face that struck me. It wasn’t a look of the performing pro that she’s clearly become; it was, very simply, joy.

I scanned the seedy club, with its eau d’urine stairway and dim lighting, and thought about this gal’s imaginary backstory: maybe she made more money in her other life; maybe she had a bigger house, a nicer car, more affluent colleagues; maybe her husband was a good guy and she could have continued to have a pleasant enough life. But this look of joy on her face, caused by the thing that changed everything, in this dingy club filled with friends and a bunch of strangers was something special. And I wondered if she would have ever known this in her other life.

What are you willing to struggle for?

I recently read an article by Mark Manson asking that question. Not, What do you want? Rather, What are you willing to slog through the shit for? Because we all want something – to be rich; to have a great relationship; an awesome body; a fabulous career – we just aren’t willing to deal with the shitty stuff that can go along with getting it.

So I thought about all of my wants and asked myself what was slog-through-shit-worthy. Dance has been that for me. At more than 30 years, the longest (and so far) ongoing love/hate relationship of my life. That’s a shitload of shit that I’ve tolerated, accepted, ignored and endured on the way to those gems, those rare moments of joy that somehow sustain me until the next joyful moment. These gems often occurred onstage when I was still performing. There’s really nothing like the sort of mash-up of control and abandonment that I sometimes felt as a performer. Not to mention the recognition. I don’t care how much a dancer denies it, if you want to be a dancer then you want to be SEEN and RESPECTED and RECOGNIZED. End of discussion.

Those feelings didn’t just vanish once I stopped performing. They were just rerouted, as I transitioned to other areas. Every now and then joy will strike me in a rehearsal, and I’ll think, Holy crap! This is good. And no one else gets to feel this. Same thing happens sometimes when I’m teaching class or when people respond to my writing or when I’m watching a rare phenomenal work that gets in there; right fucking in there!

Catch me on a good day, and I’ll bypass the shit and only talk about the good stuff in my artistic life. Admittedly, the good stuff is harder to come by as I get older and less patient, and the slog-through-shit-worthy criteria changes as the years go on.

But I’m still at it.

I’m still here.

~ The Road to “Deliverance” ~

“Did you do the Road to Hana?!”

“You have to do the Road to Hana!”

“The Road to Hana is awesome!”

“Hana, Hana, Hana!”

Of all the things M and I did in Maui, The Road to Hana was definitely one of the more popular. A breathtaking, scenic, sometimes harrowing road, the winding 52-mile drive could take up to 4 hours. That is if you’re not stopping at the numerous lookout points, waterfalls, fruit stands, etc. along the way. Throw in a few floral and cross memorials of those who weren’t lucky navigating the turns and mountain edges, and it’s a full-on adventure baby!

Most concerned with the twistiest section of the road, which M read was 20 miles long, he reset the odometer once we hit the curves and forward we drove, counting each mile marker!

Now, when M gets a goal, destination, end point in his head that’s it, eyes on the prize. Like, when we were in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris a few years ago, suddenly he was on the Amazing Race, speed-reading the map, divvying up each section of the museum, mentally noting how much time it would take to see everything. Rush to this painting, “Aha, lovely,” scurry to that sculpture, “Great, done!” quick to this room, “Bing, bang, boom, cocktails!” I finally told him to sit down and wait for me, because I just don’t do museums like that.

But with Hana, knowing he had 20 miles of sketchy driving helped prepare him for the twists ahead, and since I wasn’t the one driving, however M wanted to approach the journey was fine by me.

So there we were. What a drive! Spectacular! Up and down mountain edges, weather changing, ears popping, ocean blues far and wide, green rain forests, just stunning. We decided to keep driving to Hana without stopping, and then do any lookout points on our way back. But as each mile marker passed, we noticed that the dodgy twists never ended and neither did the road. It went on and on, mile after unending, ass-numbing, urine-accumulating mile. Though the postcard views continued, we just wanted to get there already. And, of course, because the information M had about the 20 miles was clearly bullshit, he was getting irritable. With every hopeful approach to anything resembling a town, we inevitably continued on the same twisty assholey road. Suddenly our “Mahalos,” and neighbourly hang-loose hand gestures disintegrated into bitter scowls and “Where the fuck is this place!”

Finally, we arrived at Hana! Ahhhhh… angels sing! There was a beach and a snack place and some people. We got out of our car and the first thing I heard was a woman swearing at the top of her lungs. I have to say, up until that moment, I hadn’t heard anyone swear in glorious Maui, or yell, for that matter, so I was a tad alarmed. I turned to look at who was yelling, and there were a few people gathered under a brick gazebo type thing, with, what looked like, stray dogs and puppies milling about. I walked towards the snack place and passed a plastic port-a-potty. M opened the door to investigate and reluctantly stepped in. I continued walking and saw that the men’s washroom was out of order (hence the potties), but luckily the ladies’ was open. The entire time I was thinking, Hmm… Hana. Not exactly what I was expecting. I met M outside and we walked towards the beach. When I say beach, I mean water and a patch of sand and one middle-aged couple. They looked like they were thinking the same thing as us, This is it? But they were determined, damn it, and they lay their hotel towel on the patch of sand that no one else was on and took a dip in the water.

M and I couldn’t eat our gas station sandwiches fast enough.

“If we leave now, we can make happy hour,” he said.

On our way back to the car we passed a parked black pick-up truck surrounded by a few guys – a very athletic looking guy in a wheelchair, wearing black jeans, no shirt, leather vest; and two other guys not in wheelchairs, wearing black jeans, no shirts, leather vests. One of them may have been missing teeth, and I may have heard a banjo playing. We got in the car and locked the doors.

Later at the resort, I Googled Hana and, as I suspected, we hadn’t driven far enough. We’d made it to “Deliverance,” but not quite to Hana.

~ Spray a light coating over the entire area to be used. DO NOT OVERSPRAY! ~

When I moved in with M he had a lot of glassware, in particular, mugs and cups with logos on them and a curious amount of delicate, long-stemmed liqueur glasses. For a bachelor who was on the road a lot, it was excessive.

I soon realized the logo cups were more like collectables and, though it’s never really been my thing, as a sports fan I can wrap my head around saving something with my team’s emblem on it. But a shot glass from a bar, or a beer mug from a pizza joint? Not so much. I did ask him about the liqueur glasses, and they were a gift. More like re-gift because really, there’s nothing about M that screams rainbow-hued liqueur glasses.

When we moved into our new condo, I conveniently left the boxes with collegiate glassware in our storage locker, mostly because we had less kitchen storage, but also because I wanted to purge our home of certain kinds of stuff. M claimed the office as a hands-off zone, meaning that was the one room that could be messy, and where he could display his stuff. Since he spends 90% of his weekdays working in there, I thought it was a fair compromise.

Top shelf 2

Since I’ve known him, he’s worn cowboy boots but not the hat… small blessings.

This is the room whose shelves adorn M’s humidor with his beloved cigars, multiple baseball caps, cowboy hats, bobble head, giant plastic playoff cups, 100th Grey Cup commemorative Bailey’s Irish cream glasses, balls (basket, football, golf), vintage video game, Canadian flag and, of course, beer stein of International coins, amongst other things.

Video game controller

Note the layer of dust!

On our way to an Argos game last Sunday, M noticed a ticket in our season’s ticket booklets for free drinking glasses! Huzzah!

“Hmm, do you really think we need those?” I asked, unenthusiastically.

“Sure, we do!” He said, excitedly.

Turns out they are pretty decent glasses. With giant Argos logos. Just what our home needs.

~

M is a creature of habit. He likes things the way he likes them. I’ve documented his simple food tastes in the past, but he’s also particular about how he prepares the food in his limited cooking repertoire. He likes eating pancakes or French toast on the weekends. He likes cutting the bread for the French toast with the same dull serrated knife. We have several other sharp serrated knives, but he always uses this dull knife, and lays it flat on top of the loaf to measure the thickness of each slice, then cuts and, essentially, squishes the bread down to half its thickness with each effortful saw (don’t get me started on the crumb shrapnel!).

He likes mixing the eggs and milk in the same shallow bowl, the one with the white flowers and gold lining. He likes flipping the pancakes or French toast with the same spatula, the third one I bought when the first two I bought trying to replace the old one from the 1970’s that had broken, didn’t feel quite right.

He likes using the same frying pan. He used the same “non-stick” frying pan for years, until the coating was so burnt that everything stuck to it, despite the fact that we have another perfectly good (but slightly larger) non-stick frying pan. With each (probably) toxic mouthful, I vowed to find a replica pan.  I finally did, and all was right with our insides.

French toast tools

Ceramic stove-tops are bullshit!

He likes holding the frying pan over the ceramic stove, and spraying it with non-stick oil (Pam, not the generic stuff), in a large circular fashion from a distance, ensuring the entire surfaces of the pan and stove are coated with speckles of grease. Let’s not forget that anything sprayed from an aerosol can eventually falls. Downward. To the kitchen floor.

M likes making me breakfast. I’m not as crazy about pancakes or French toast as he is, but…

M likes making me breakfast.

~ m ~

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With my 1-year wedding anniversary on the horizon, I thought I’d dedicate this post to my husband, M. After all (as M so humbly reminds me), my blog is called emmandbee, and M was (how can I forget), why I started writing it in the first place.

The Coles’ Notes version of our story is this: I threw M away; pulled him out of the garbage; we met; fell in love; moved in together; got married.

The slightly expanded version is this: M and I were matched on my 42nd birthday on eHarmony. Yup, that eHarmony. I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning, excited to see my matches. I mean, come on! What a story! Matched with the man of my dreams on my birthday?!

M got in touch right away. I looked at his profile—IT nerd, cute, nice smile, grey hair, kind of chubby. Not the type of guy I usually went with (though I’ve always had a soft spot for nerds). I thought about it then closed him.

Two months later, I was stuck in a one-date-with-no-spark cycle, so I decided something needed to change. I needed to change. I waded through my pool of literally hundreds (can’t say e-Harmony doesn’t send you some) of deleted matches, and stopped on M. I thought, maybe just maybe, if I took a chance on someone outside of my usual, maybe my unusual would surprise me.

My first date with M lasted about 13 hours. We’ve basically been together ever since.

A few months after that epic first date, M confided that after he dropped me off he farted for about 5 minutes straight. That’s right ladies, he’s all mine!

engagement ring!

M has a penchant for embellishing stories—an hour becomes three, a drizzle becomes a storm, you get the idea. Those of us closest to him know that with each re-telling, the details of a story will amplify to some degree. I’m not entirely sure why. Probably an offshoot of the same thing that takes us to Emerge! on a regular basis—a tendency towards the dramatic.

Apparently, M’s dad was a storyteller too, and loved holding court at his regular breakfast gatherings. After we met, M spun this idea off into “PatioFridays,” where all our friends have an open invitation to gather for end-of-week drinks. In spite of a childhood spent mostly alone because he was teased incessantly for stuttering, M has become the most social, affable fellow. While I tend to keep my worlds separate, M’s more like, everyone in the pool! because he knows what it feels like to be left out.

~

A selection of M-isms…

“Under the shirt! Under the shirt! For God’s sake, we’re married!”

  • What M said, when I scratched his back on top of his T-shirt.

“I had a bad day, and vegetables will just make it worse.”

  • What M said, when I suggested a salad with dinner.

 “Chinks-ican?”

  • What M said, when I tried to remember the BMO commercial where the couple can’t decide between Chinese and Mexican food. The actual answer was Chexican.

“kl%y ahk;d uetque, bla:atlllliugn .Naeufnfdooo.”

  • What M sounds like when he’s speaking French to his French colleagues.

 “I love your face.”

  • What M says to me every day.

~ in a nutshell ~

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Another thing about getting older is how much easier it is to laugh at myself and own up to things. In my younger years, I spent so much time and energy wanting to look, or be perceived, a certain way it’s amazing I even knew myself at all. I think one of the more attractive qualities about a person is when they are who they are, even when they’re trying to be someone else. Self-awareness, self-deprecation, accountability for their actions—how people deal with the choices they make is hugely revealing, isn’t it? And when they can call themselves out on own their shit? What’s more endearing than that?

Inevitably, when I’m packing to go somewhere, I’ll try on different outfits that I never wear in everyday life, because I think I’ll want to wear them somewhere else. Like somehow I’ll be a different person just because I’m drinking different water and saying, “Excuse me, where’s the restroom?” in a different language. Curiously, I’m still me anywhere I go, and I end up looking the same as I usually do. I do have a photo of myself wearing a particular outfit that I never wore before or again after. I look like an idiot.

During my “New Wave” years, I was all about being edgy and a bit mysterious in an I’m-not-trying-this-is-just-the-way-I-am kind of way. My entire closet was black and mostly second-hand, and I tended towards accents like skull and cross bone earrings, buckles, zippers, safety pins, and shearing the hair on the sides of my head. I suppose I wanted to come across as a tough, urban chick who hung out in seedy downtown clubs with nefarious characters. While there was a degree of that behaviour, I was ultimately still a suburban girl, whose dad left money on the stairs by the door, to pay for my cab fare home from the subway.

Before my “Black Period” were my early dancer years. I loved walking around the halls of my performing arts high school in my dancer persona—ripped, off-the-shoulder t-shirts à la Flashdance, tights, oversized slouchy bag and, of course, leg warmers. Once, I had a huge zit in the middle of my forehead, so I wore a sparkly headband for a week as camouflage. Hey, it was the early 80’s! I was young, doing exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and I wanted everyone to know it. Oh, how I adore that kind of clarity and confidence!

Movies, books and other interests contributed to my “Contemporary Dancer” vibe. I’d read an artsy book like Milan Kundera’s Immortality when I was around dancers, so I’d look, well, artsy. If pressed, I wouldn’t have denied that I also read US Weekly magazine, I’d simply have enjoyed it later. TV shows seemed especially shallow and not befitting of my serious artist persona, especially when talking with dancers who didn’t watch TV. I’d instead engage in furrowed-brow discussions about this art-house film or that new art exhibition, totally aware that Melrose Place was starting in an hour.

For me, the freeing thing about getting older is that I’m more transparent about who I am, and what I like and don’t. It has something to do with being less patient, wanting to be more efficient… oh hell, I just don’t fucking care as much what people think.

Amongst so many other things, I like art galleries and sports and cooking shows and 9-hour theatrical events and love stories and movies that are so bad they’re good and music that gets under my skin and poetic things that make me cry and reality TV and gathering with a bunch of people to cheer on our team and gorgeous dancing and playing charades and thinking about why people are the way they are and why stuff is and being with people who make me laugh and eating potato chips and drinking big bold red wine and oohing and awing at fireworks and travelling to places I’ve never been and being home.

My friend, S, once freely admitted that when he was travelling in Europe, he slung a guitar across his shoulder because he liked the way it made him look. He doesn’t play guitar. I love him for that.

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