Wednesday, April 23, 2008

And she was sure they'd be robbed, killed, and poisoned.

My parents are in the middle of a month long vacation, which started with a week in Mexico at a cousin's wedding. Never has the change in my Mom's outlook on life been more evident, than in the first email that came out of that visit. With it, I learned that:

1. She went crazy enough at the wedding to take off her pantyhose and dance in bare feet (In 30 C heat. But still! Scandal!);

2. Boys in Mariachi bands wear very tight pants;

3. Tequila is good if you have it with a lime.

You go, Mom.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just don't touch the barrel.

If you knew my family, you would understand why it warmed my heart to listen to my oldest brother describing in detail, with relish, the love his llama harbours for its feed barrel, as expressed through its ceaseless, energetic humping.

This tale was shared over dinner last Thursday night, with his wife, Lucky and I, plus a friend from PEI, and my Dad and Mom. We were in a medium to high-end restaurant in my parents' neighbourhood, and my brother is not quiet. Supplemented by his wife's helpful sound effects, we got a great lesson in the language of llama love, and my brother and I got the chance to make sure we've still got it: that back and forth rhythm, that complimentary wit, that way of winding a theme through a whole meal, and picking up where the other left off. More than that, we've still got that ability to make our mother laugh at our badness, even as she's kicking him under the table, telling me to stop encouraging, and invoking the name of my other butter-wouldn't-melt brother. Even with all that, her real thoughts are transparent. She was just thrilled to see us doing what we do when things are at their best. When we're on, we're really on.

Even as we bantered back and forth about the neighbour's grandchildren getting a graphic lesson in the birds and the bees ("When a llama and a barrel love each other very much...") and I laughed so hard I thought I would choke on my stuffed prawns, something in the back of my head kept interrupting the revelry to remind me to grab on, enjoy this, file it all away, keep it for a rainy day.

My brother is a study in extremes. His life, for at least the last 15 years, has been full of very high highs, and very devastating lows. The relationships of all the people who love him the most (a high percentage of whom were at that dinner table) have been tested and twisted in more ways than should be allowed. There have been many times over these years when I have not wanted to see his face, hear his tales, deal with his crap, or pick up the pieces when my parents needed me. He evokes my strongest emotions, and I've always said that it was due to our differences: red neck and feminist, oldest and youngest, lawbreaker and social worker, musket owner and non-musket owner. In truth, times like last Thursday make it hard for me to deny that all those flare ups and fights have a lot more to do with what we have in common, than what we don't share.

It may seem cynical or petty of me to have those wary thoughts in the back of my head, even as I was enjoying his company, but this is what making peace with the situation looks like for me. I love my brother, I love that he's in a good place right now, and I am comforted by the fact that this doesn't seem to be the kind of manic high that normally precedes a crushing blow. As much as time and experience warn me to proceed with caution, I can't help but hope that he's finally through those woods, and out of that cycle, even though I know some things are hard to change. For one, I will always be there to pick up the pieces. After all, we've got a lot in common. If I tell a good story, it's all because of him.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pining for Podcasts

My ipod and I, like any healthy couple, are always on the look out for fresh ideas and activities that we can share, bringing new depth to our relationship, and keeping the fire alive. Since there are no key-parties for the portable mp3 community (YET) we fill the void in other ways. One of the best *ahem* plugs I've found in a long time (earplugs, you sicko) comes in the form of all the awesomely free podcasts on iTunes.

Don't worry, I am aware that the podcast things have been around for an internet eon, but short of a few CBC radio 3 shows, which are unavoidable if you are a faithful Canadian indie-lover, I've never been too swept up.

Before we left for Japan, since we had only two weeks notice, I didn't exactly have time to take any classes, or study any books on tape. Instead, I frantically downloaded a ton of ten minute lessons on the basics: oeeshee means delicious! sumi masan means excuse me! And those two phrases got us surprisingly far. Since I was in that department, I also downloaded a few other podcasts for the sake of layovers and long flights. I immediately set upon This American Life, by NPR, entirely because David Sedaris writes about contributing to the program. As far as I'm concerned, there can be no better endorsement. I am happy to say, it has not disappointed. Ira Glass is an astute and engaging host, actually more of a guide, or editor, I suppose. The themes are the right mix of poignant and flippant, and the essays chosen to flesh out the ideas are surprisingly successful at doing justice to themes like "No One's Family is Going to Change." Wow, right? Right.

So, check it out. It makes for a good commute. Also, check out Great Speeches in American History. I've never had such a meaningful bus ride as my Monday morning trip down 25th, listening to Martin Luther King's Dream.

On a (much) less inspirational front, I've also been known to peruse the Midwest Teen Sex Show, but before you judge, remember: good relationships are about compromise, and my ipod just loves that shit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'm a survivor.

So, the move happened. I owe some big ups to the sweet baby Buddha, or someone. The packing was pretty well finished by Friday night, and final touches were in place Saturday morning, before our loyal band of moving buddies showed up. There were a few glitches (Like that time when Lucky insisted on wearing sandals on moving day, and he wouldn't listen to me about that being a bad idea, and someone rolled a dresser over his foot and bent his toenail back all the way, and I vomited a little? That was awesome.) but over all, it was a good day, as much as that kind of labour and orchestration can be good. I was reminded that our friends are fantastic, and that it's always exciting to watch a group of engineering buddies get way too jazzed about lowering a massive hide-a-bed couch over a second floor balcony. It wasn't quite as suspenseful as when they moved it in, which involved stepping up on chairs while they bench pressed the behemoth up to more guys who leaned precariously over the railing, the strength of which was untested, but we'll always have the memories. This time, they used ropes and a ladder, and blah blah blah safety precautions, and it took some of the spice away. Anyhoodle, the couch was moved, and I am sitting on it right now. Shout out!

So now, the major job is unpacking, and figuring out where the hell my Mom put things in the kitchen when she was "helping" by bopping around in there while the rest of us were moaning a little and eating pizza. I love her, but why would you stack all of the heavy pots together on the bottom shelf so that my already damaged back dies a little more when I haul them out?

Nevertheless, this is the (relatively) fun part. I can find some enjoyment in setting up our new home, and exploring our new neighbourhood. As for Lucky, he is content to cuddle with the dishwasher and whisper sweet nothings in its detergent space. Thankfully, I'm not the jealous type.