Like A Virgin

I’m back! And what a fantastic weekend I had in Fredericton! The bus ride over was pretty good Thursday afternoon. The driver was a non-smoker, no-nonsense, all business type of dude so he drove a pretty good clip and didn’t prolong the few stops along the way. We ended up getting into Freddy about 10 minutes early, but of course traffic was a nightmare going over the bridge so we arrived a few minutes late.

I cabbed up the hill to the Amsterdam Inn where all the writers were supposed to be staying, checked in and raced up to my room to get ready for the opening ceremony. I didn’t have much time. I was excited to wear my new black strappy sandals that I’ve had since Spring but have never had the opportunity to wear. 3 1/2 inch heels! They’re nice shoes, the kind where the strap double wraps around your ankle. I put them on and wobbled around my room a little debating whether I should wear them or go with the more sensibly heeled silver grey sandals with the 3/4 inch heels. Thinking the event would be mostly a sit-down show I went tall. Oops! Oh well, I’ll know better for next year.

About 6:45 I called a taxi to take me to Old Government House. In the lobby I met up with Shirley Bear, a poet I was looking forward to hearing read later in the weekend, and her sister. Since we were all headed the same place we shared the cab. The building was beautiful of course! Ancient stone covered with Ivy and clinging vines, some stained glass windows, cathedral ceilings, antique furnishings, lavish rugs, lots of portraits, paintings, statues, big vases, huge chandeliers, real china and silverware, velvet cushions, framed photos of visiting dignitaries like Prince Charles — everything that one would expect to find in the home of the Lieutenant Governor and more. There was plenty of wine, red and white, fruit punch, vegetable trays with dips, fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, and cream cheese, smoked salmon, and other tiny sandwich rolls. It was not exactly the sort of feast a starving woman required, but it did in a pinch.

Joe Ward from Eel Ground got the ceremony underway with his drumming. I was feeling too faint to stand in the circle and hold hands so I went out into the hall and sat down while they did that part. A group called The Raging Grannies performed. They were wonderfully funny and entertaining, dressed up in flouncy hats and shawls, keeping time with a wooden spoon and kazoo. They are political activists and write what I can only think to call protest songs. I had never seen or heard tell of them before but apparently they’ve been making quite a name for themselves with appearances on shows like Breakfast Television. They were there to tribute M. Travis Lane. Every year the festival honours a poet and this year it was her turn. I think Travis is a Raging Grannie. They shared a story about visiting a dying friend in hospital and singing them off. I liked that. Travis was celebrating her 70th birthday and what a happy energectic woman she seemed. She obviously comes from good blood because her 90-year-old mother was quite happy to have the house to herself for evening while Travis attended. She and the Grannies believe life should be celebrated until the very end with singing and poetry. There will be time enough for grieving after the dead have departed. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t fascinated by this woman, who seemed to effortlessly bring every conversation round to her pets. Jeannette Lynes and Liliane Welch also gave lovely tribute speeches to Travis and shared some of her poetry.

A personal highlight of the evening for me was meeting up again with Ed and Elaine Lemond from the Attic Owl bookstore in Moncton. They are lovely people, so down to earth and friendly. Elaine kept getting me confused with Kelly Cooper who was going to read later in the weekend and wishing me luck — very supportive πŸ™‚ Just running into them makes me excited to move to Sackville where I’ll be closer to these people and get to spend more time with them. Fredericton is a nice city . . . but I find it a little cold. Many Miramichiers live there but they seem to be the ones who think themselves a little bit too good to live on the river, not the proud Miramichiers. It’s like they haven’t grown past that stage so many of us go through right after high school where we want to be from anywhere but here. Funny, how most of those people go to Fredericton and never come back. But the people who go elsewhere come to realise what they’ve left behind and either move back or long to with every visit. Everyone in Fredericton seems a little too full of themselves. I don’t know, it’s kind of an odd thought I suppose and like anything else there are exceptions. I also know some very down to earth great former Miramichiers living in Fredericton. But Moncton does not have that feeling at all. People will talk to you in Moncton and not down their noses until they judge whether you’re worthy. There’s a different feeling about Moncton.

Anyway, after the tributes and more mingling, we headed back to the hotel and convened to have a glass of wine. Dorinda, Noeline, Elizabeth, Judy and I sat around talking for a little while. I learned that the Miramichi Writers’ Guild is thinking about publishing another little chapbook. While I’m sitting there thinking what I would want to contribute if anything, they sprung it upon me that they wanted me to do the editing, layout, design, etc. I was surprised but thought it would be cool. They would even pay me a little, even cooler! About midnight everyone went to their own rooms. I went to the lobby and grabbed snacks from the vending machine and a movie. It was the sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley with John Malkovich as Tom Ripley. It might have been good, but I was too looped to stay awake.

And that was the first event. I’ll write more later and tell you the rest of the story. It gets better, I promise πŸ˜‰

Mood: Pleasantly exhausted

Drinking: tea

Listening To: Keep the Faith, Bon Jovi (This Left Feels Right)

Hair: newly dyed!

On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again . . .

Off to Fredericton again tomorrow and I’m really excited about it. Tomorrow night is the opening ceremony for the Alden Nowlan Literary Festival — EVERYBODY is going to be there. I get to get dressed up. There’s going to be lots of great food and wine and talented artists reading great poetry. It’s my first one and I’m stoked. There’s not much going on Friday until the evening so I think I’m going to go do a little shopping at the Regent Mall which is pretty close to my hotel. I need new running shoes for one thing and also could use some black printer ink. Ink is a hard thing to get in Miramichi, it’s pretty scarce. But now that I’m doing the WFNB newsletter I need ink to print it out and send for photocopies.

All day I’ve been jotting little notes to myself, so I don’t forget anything. Last week I forgot my anti-perspirant and had to get the front desk to bring me one. So, I’ve got all these little sticky notes around now and hopefully I’ll remember everything tomorrow.

I took a few minutes today and added my reading list to the blog. It’s over there to the side below my profile and stuff. If you don’t have a very big screen you’ll probably have to scroll to see it. At any given time I’m reading no less than two books, usually a mix of novels, short story collections, poetry, drama, memoir and biography. I don’t usually get into two novels at the same time, although right now I’m finishing one off while I’ve already started the next. I read everyday, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s the last thing I do before I go to sleep. I have trouble getting to sleep usually, so reading really helps. Anyway, I thought you might like to keep up with my reading habits and also that it would be cool to keep track of all the books. I’ll try to write little opinions about them to keep it interesting for you πŸ™‚

Anyway, I’m off with a ton of stuff to do still before I can go to bed. I will blog in my notebook while I’m away and post it here when I return. Later!

Mood: Buoyant

Drinking: Tea

Listening To: the hum of my computer

Hair: CLEAN!! Finally.

What drink are you?

Kinky and fun, you know how to scream and you sure know how to have one hell of a party!! And one hell of a night . . .

Congratulations! You’re a screaming orgasm!!

What Drink Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

I’m going freaking nuts!! I have to get out of this house and escape to my nice hotel room in Freddy Beach! The house is infested with bugs. And not the cute little bugs you saw in A Bug’s Life, NOOOO, I’m talking big mother fucking spiders! HUGE!!! And they’re everywhere. My skin is crawling just thinking about it.

The horror started about a week ago when we got our firewood in the basement. First it was just ants. Now, ants are kind of creepy but really they don’t bother me that much . . . I wouldn’t have a stroke if one got on me or anything. But now it is the spiders! And I just can’t deal with that crap. . . well maybe if they were puny little things, but these are long legged beasts, quick as a bunny and scary as old hell.

I go to put something in the garbage can and one runs out from underneath it. Dad is sitting in the kitchen (blind as a bat I might add) and sees one running across the floor in the living room! I’m sitting on the lazy boy chair watching tv and one runs across the wall right by my arm. They’re in the landing, the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the hall . . . they’re EVERYWHERE! Why God? WHY?!

So, we’re killing them off one by one and hoping to get the house back sometime before the snow flies. I k know I’m not supposed to kill anything with eyes, but a person can’t be expected to live in a nest of spiders, one or two is fine, but not the whole extended family. I shudder to think about how many of these buggers are being murdered in the basement every night when Dad is playing darts.

Maybe it’s this invasion that has me so freaked out I scared myself last night when I was trying to fall asleep and had to turn on the light. I was lying in bed, trying to drift off into happy dreamland, when all of a sudden I started thinking about this movie I had seen. I don’t know what it’s called, but maybe you’ve seen it. It’s a horror film based on a true story about a woman in the U.S. who keeps getting attacked and raped/ beat around by a demon spirit.

I saw it a long time ago, and have no idea what made me think about it. So, I’m lying there in the dark trying not to think about this movie that is supposedly based on true events because what if I somehow summon the thing here if I think about it too much. So, I’m trying to think about other more pleasant things and then I see the girl from The Ring climbing out of the well . . . Did you see The Ring? Man! Now, that’s a scary movie! That’s when I had to turn on the light and read a little bit longer to clear my head of terrible thoughts.

Good Lord! Why am I telling you all this and thinking about that crap again tonight?! I need to go play a video game or read a funny story or something before I turn out the light.

Mood: Creeped Out!

Drinking: Diet Pepsi

Listening To: Nothing 😦 I don’t have enough RAM to blog, listen to music, get email and download tunes

Hair: . . . Ummm, I’d rather not say

Freddy Play by Play

My overnight excursion to Fredericton was fabulous and now I’m really looking forward to going back this week. The bus got in on time but Mary was not waiting to pick me up. I found out later that she went to pick me up on Wednesday, but even if I had arrived on Wednesday she would have missed me because she went an hour too late, lol. So, I grabbed a cab and headed off to the hotel on my own. Since it was rush hour traffic was hell and it took about 25 minutes to get up over the hill. I was freaked out, thought for sure the cab would cost 20 bucks. But I soon discovered that cabs are super cheap in Fredericton. It only cost $5 for that ride.

The lobby of the hotel was really nice with a fireplace and sofas and an area with tables set up so you could sit and have coffee (24 hr complimentary coffee service — two thumbs up for that!) or enjoy the continental breakfast in the morning.

I forgot to bring Mom’s credit card I used to reserve the room so I had to leave a $100 security deposit at the front desk just in case I trashed the room or took off with the TV or something. That left me a little concerned about whether I had brought enough cash or not. They put me in a room on the ground floor with an exit to the outside (motel style) as well as an inside entrance/exit.

I wasn’t really comfortable there . . . you know, girl traveling alone, ground floor . . . I don’t know, I didn’t like it much. So, when my door wouldn’t catch to close I seized the opportunity to get a different room upstairs and requested an upstairs room for this week also.

By the time I got settled there wasn’t any time left to eat or anything so I just changed my clothes, freshened up and grabbed a cab to the university. My driver had no idea where the building I wanted was located so that was a bit of a challenge and took a little longer than I expected but still I arrived in one piece (only $4!).

I found Mary freaking out in the auditorium. Apparently, anything that could go wrong, had gone wrong. But things were basically under control by the time I arrived. I got to sit in the front row reserved seating and all I had to do was run around like mad and find a table, carry it downstairs, and endure the snotty ladies from the CBC who were quite put-out that we hadn’t arranged water for them. HELLO! You’re journalists (debatable), not celebrities! If I did voice work all the time I think I’d have water with me. Anyway, they rubbed me the wrong way with all their juvenile eye rolling and snickering.

Ann-Marie’s people sent the standard famous person list of demands which Mary was going a bit nuts trying to fulfill. But Ann-Marie herself was very personable and not at all diva-esque.

Beth Powning read first from her novel The Hatbox Letters. I was blown away by the beauty of the sound of the book. WOW! The story really hadn’t interested me much when I read the synopsis, but after hearing Beth’s reading I knew I had to buy this book.

Ann-Marie went second. Of course, I had already read The Way the Crow Flies and had all the books in a bag under my seat to get signed after. Ann-Marie started as an actress and this was obvious from her reading. DOUBLE WOW!! This was the best reading I’ve ever been to, not that I’ve been to many, but still. It was as if she were acting out all the characters. She had all the voices down, from the little girl to the father, the psychiatrist to Bugs Bunny. I was particularly impressed with her use of silence. At one point she stared off into the distance as if the character were pondering and she held that silence for a good 20-25 seconds. That’s tough to do. It’s tough to take your time when you’re reading or doing any sort of public speaking and just let the silence speak for itself.

After the readings the floor opened for questions. This was an insightful part of the evening for me. The audience was mostly university students from the drama or English departments, so they had lots of great questions. The girl from the CBC did not! You could totally tell that she hadn’t read any of their books or maybe ANY book in a really long time. She asked them where they got their inspiration for Christ’s sake. That’s like asking the parents of the murdered child how they feel or leading with “It’s every parents worst nightmare.” How does the woman keep her job? To top things off she sat in the chair designated for Beth Powning and spoke at length with her own response to one of the questions the students asked the authors. What’s up with that?

But enough hating on the CBC chick and her publicist or agent or whoever that was with her.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the authors discussion of writers block. Ann-Marie said she saw it more as a void than a block, which I totally agreed with. The standard response about writers block is usually to get away from it, take a break, go back at it later. But she wanted to stress something else as well — first, you must suffer. That really struck me. She stressed that you had to suffer through the agony of the void in order to get through it and not to be so quick to take a break. Only after you’ve suffered and still you have the void, then you should take a break and get some distance. I thought that was pretty interesting. I think I’m often too quick to give up.

Another thing that came out of the Q & A was a comment from one of the students. The reading Ann-Marie gave was identical to one she gave there earlier this year or last fall and this student had attended that reading as well. She said she hadn’t read the book before the first reading and found herself laughing as many in the audience had laughed at this reading. But since the first reading she read the book and this time she found the reading more somber and sad now that she knew the context. I had the opposite happen to me. I read the book before the reading . . . but I missed a lot of the humour in my reading, I was overwhelmed by the sadness and seriousness of the story. But I laughed when she read and I knew the context. I thought that was an interesting contrast, that I found the humour in her oral reading and the university student found the sorrow.

After the reading I bought Beth’s book and got all my books signed. I told Ann-Marie that I worked a Sunday matinee at the Annex theatre back in 1988 and had been a fan of her work ever since. She was thrilled and flattered and very gracious. She’s much smaller in real life than what I expected. On Life & Times she looks taller, more substantial. She’s really a wisp of a woman.

After the readings Mary drove me back to the hotel. She thanked me for coming and helping her out and for all the press releases I’ve written. She said she’s been getting lots of compliments about the press releases since I started writing them, which was nice to hear. It was about 10:30 when I went into the lobby. I got a cup of coffee to take up to my room and signed out a dvd to watch in case I couldn’t find anything on television — Calendar Girls (not as good as I had hoped).

I got back in my room just in time to catch the tail end of Canadian Idol and ordered pizza from Pizza Delight which came around 11 . . . pretty late to be eating supper, but I was starved! I tossed and turned all night and then got up at 8 and went down for breakfast.

The breakfast actually really impressed me. There was a lot more variety than what I thought there would be — various kinds of muffins, bagels and pastries, homemade bread for toast, English muffins, four different kinds of cold cereal, one hot cereal, coffee, various kinds of tea, orange juice, apple juice, milk — there was lots to pick from and a good crowd chowing down. I had a bagel with cream cheese and coffee and then went back up to my room to shower and get ready to go home.

I checked out an hour before the bus was scheduled to leave. I thought that would be plenty of time because it was mid-morning so the cab ride shouldn’t have taken that long. My driver decided to take the scenic route or something and the cab ride went on forever!! But I wasn’t worried because I had given myself lots of time . . . or so I thought. I was horrified to finally reach the station and realise that every kid in the university was lined up for bus tickets home for the weekend. The line-up was all the way out on the sidewalk!! I don’t know why I didn’t buy a return ticket to begin with . . . I just got in line and hoped for the best, started strategizing what I would do if i missed the bus, did I have enough cash to get a room and try again on Saturday and so on. Luckily, the line up moved pretty quickly and I got out of there in lots of time to catch my bus.

The ride home was uneventful and I got picked up by Jen and the kids without a hitch. Sherry couldn’t pick me up because Paulina was sick . . . wouldn’t you know it, now I’m feeling sick too. Sore throat, pain around my eyes, achy body, BLECH! Just in time for my big trip to Freddy this week, when everyone will be there, when all the events are happening. Hopefully I’ll recover in time.

So, I had a great time and the reading was everything I expected and more.

Mood: sluggish

Drinking: Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Listening To: Virgin Radio Classic Rock live from the UK (Paul McCartney & Wings)

Hair: Dirty, with a capital D

From the Road . . .

As I stare out the bus window, it occurs to me how simply I could just disappear. What if I got on another bus in Fredericton headed to Montreal or Maine? Nobody would notice me missing until tomorrow. What would they think when I didn’t get off the bus? Would they immediately start to worry? Or would they laugh and think I had missed the bus home? Or would they get angry at my stupidity? When would they start looking for me? How easy would I be to find?

Bus tickets are uniform items, no names, no identification. The girls at the Irving in Blackville would surely remember me purchasing a ticket if for no other reason than there were only two of us. But in Fredericton they must see lots of faces, many people passing through, I’m sure I would blend in.

I’m a pretty inconspicuous wallflower these days. I’ve fallen off the radar screen. I remember being younger and strangers speaking to me in the street, following me, chasing me even — there was something about me I guess. I was very approachable and non-threatening. I drew the crazies. Not so much anymore. In a way I miss all the attention . . . but mostly I’m happy not to have to deal with all those people anymore. People don’t notice me much now. I’m older of course and heavier, but I’m also more . . . I don’t know, cynical? I’ve become my mother. I’m too old and thick through the middle to be of interest to men or women as either a possible conquest or a potential threat. I’ve become a kind of sexless blob. (Ironic this should come as I close in on my sexual peak πŸ˜‰ But I don’t mind. I can get on another bus, board a train, catch a flight to destination unknown, slip away in the night unnoticed and unmissed.

This is what I think about on the bus ride to Fredericton. Outside my window I see —

. . . a field with one, two, three, four deer, possibly more. But I’ve gone past.

. . . a lifesized carving of a moose wears a hunters orange vest so he won’t get shot at during the hunting season.

. . . a flock of at least a dozen ducks float by a pillar on an old stone train bridge.

. . . every house in this small town has a wreath of dried flowers hanging in the window of the front door.

. . . a small rack of antlers left outside on an old washing machine. Exposed to the elements, enduring all types of weather, the antlers have aged to a dirty grey. Why keep them at all if they’re not a valued prize to be mounted in the living room? I wonder if the family at least ate the meat or if the deer died for no good reason at all.

We stop at a gas station but this is no Mainway. This place is like J.D.’s bastard son — flaking paint, walls browning with dirt, grimy windows — the station is like an aging relative, abandoned in this decrepit town, left to rot.

I’ve forgotten how high up you are in an SMT bus. I can see things from here that I can’t from car level. A road winds through a forest gully and into a tiny bridge. Hills roll off into the distance. This province is nothing but woods.

Suddenly I noticed I’m sitting at the Emergency Exit — Pull up bar. Push out window. I repeat this silent mantra and worry. Can I do it? I don’t want this responsibility and glance around nervously to see the faces of those I must save.

I wonder about the houses outside the window. Beautiful new homes on perfectly landscaped lots with lovely gardens and trees. These people care about their homes. This is obvious. Yet, right in the middle of them an old abandoned house falls into the ground surrounded by weeds. Why? Who owns this monstrosity? And why have they not torn it down?

Mood: Contemplative

Drinking: Water

Listening To: The sigh of air conditioning, the drone of road sounds and the tinny beat of faraway music playing on another passenger’s stereo headphones

Hair: Fly-Away

And I’m Off!

Well, today’s the day. Gotta pack! I’m leaving for Fredericton at 3 this afternoon, get there a little before 5pm. Mary might be there to pick me up. Busy evening planned and I’ll be back here by early tomorrow afternoon. Such a flying trip! I’ll probably end up buying Beth Powning’s book. She’s reading with Ann-Marie MacDonald. I think I’ve got everything Ann-Marie might be selling, so I’ll just get them signed (NOTE TO SELF – Remember to pack your books to get signed)Beth Powning is an artist as well as writer. She takes some pretty amazing photographs. I saw some of her work at a gallery in Sackville earlier this summer. I think she lives in Shediac. Anyway, her novel called The Hat Boxes sounds pretty interesting and once I’ve heard her read from it I’m sure I’ll have a hard time NOT buying the book.

I watched Canadian Idol last night even though I’m still devastated by the loss of my boy Jacob. I even voted a few times (maybe 20) for Theresa. There’s no way in hell that Kalan won’t win this thing, he doesn’t need my vote to secure that position. I’ve always really liked Theresa anyway and I think it would be cool if we had an Idol that was a little more smoky around the edges. I’m probably going to miss the results show but Mom’s going to tape it I think.

I also watched a little bit of a new CTV show that came on after. I think it’s called Rising Star or something like that, basically about a 15 year old girl dealing with the instant fame of winning one of those talent contests like Idol. It wasn’t bad, I suppose. But geared toward a much younger audience. Maybe it’ll be the next Degrassi.

I see there’s some new stories up on the Bread ‘n Molasses website. And now I’m off to have pancakes. I’m on this pancake kick again (NEVER a good thing, loads of carbs in those suckers!) I’ve been experimenting with making them from scratch without a mix. Yesterday I made some using whole wheat flour with a touch of cinnamon and they were really good . . . so yeah, I’m going back for more. I mightn’t get to eat much today with being in transit and having so much stuff to do. There probably won’t be any refreshments at the reading . . . I’m not sure if there’s a restaurant in my hotel. It could be breakfast tomorrow before I see any more food. So, I’m going to enjoy my pancake creations for the time being and hope they keep me from starving later.

Mood: Upbeat

Drinking: Tea

Listening To: Sk8er Boie, Avril Lavigne

Hair: Can’t believe I never had time to dye it!!