hark! a prophecy!

1979738_10152198477557550_1451357022_nIn the hallowed halls of Main Street, in the aptly named Cottage Bistro, there shall be a gathering, and this gathering shall be called “The Launch! with PRISM, Event, poetry is dead, and Room Magazine.”

The date of this party shall be the seventeenth of April (a Thursday, methinks), in the year of 2014.

And the time of this event shall be seven in the evening.

And there one Ashleigh of House Rajala shall go forth and read aloud the words issued by her own hand.

Or, in the words of the event organizers:

Please join us as we celebrate our latest issues and the spirit of literary magazines in BC!! With special musical guests ‘Vocal Jazz Jam with Woolysock Band.’ Readers include: Billeh Nickerson, Dina Del Bucchia, Ashleigh Rajala, and Karen Lee. Our MC is Elizabeth Bachinsky!

In other news, I’m running out of creative ways to make simple announcements.

on the embarrassing act of coming home

Today we fly back to Vancouver. The great experiment – one might say – has failed.

I know that over the next week, the explanation will boil itself down to an easy deflection: one or two lines doing their best to contain both logic and pride.

It took us several days and a good dose of demoralization to finally come to the conclusion to come home. We weighed pros and cons, painted competing visions of the future, and tried to think it through in the most logical way possible. We gave ourselves time, and gave ourselves perspective. This was a decision we did not want clouded by such temporary factors as culture shock or bureaucratic annoyances, or faulty expectations.

In the end, all logic seemed on the side of going home. The only sincere mark in the stay column was embarrassment / wounded pride.

In the time we’ve been here, we found the plan shifting constantly, just as what’s-her-vampire-face’s visions shifting constantly in Twilight. (Ugh. I can’t believe I just used Twilight as a reference point.) The last – to sign a six-month lease in Hebden Bridge and keep looking for jobs – slowly crumbled as we started to think “What then?” What if we simply didn’t get jobs? Two months here and barely a bite. Sure, I got a job at a bookshop, but that was just not feasible with the cost of living in London. And I applied for about five or six bookshop jobs and was only called for interviews for two of them. Of those two, I only got the one job.

At the end of the six months, with no money coming in, our savings would be gone. We’d come back home with nothing: absolutely nothing.

Several factors might not make that seem such a difficult position to face. Perhaps if we were younger? At thirty, the world has a different expectation of you. Coming back broke and unemployed and likely stuck living with parents begins to look pathetic. We would not come to calls of “all hail the conquering travellers” but rather “why haven’t you sorted your life out yet?” At least that’s the implication you get in undertones and side-glances.

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Having spent most of the last ten years or so with this idea lodged in my mind that I would go work in England for a while, it actually feels something of a relief to be able to let that go. We can go home, and gone will be the feeling that everything is temporary. I can do those things I always wanted to do but didn’t because I never felt okay settling. I can sew cushions, paint furniture, get a cat. All those shitty kitchen utensils I had and never wanted to spend the money on replacing I can now replace.

There’s something of a weight gone. So, while things might not be the best case scenario we dreamed of when we left, we will still be in a better place than two months ago.

 

(greater) vancouver wanderings

2007-2013

In remembrance of all those places I found myself in this city, as I leave it behind.

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stripes and beards and young love

Photo by Roommate Claire
Photo by Roommate Claire

A walk through the alley off Fraser Street, back in The Commune days, when Husband was just Boy Roommate and looked like a hippie.

panic on the streets of london

I wanted to write about the London riots  but I’ll still trying to organize my thoughts. This is all I have to say right now.

I feel like London is a wizened old man: the kind who sits on a park bench, smoking a withered cigarette, old tattoos fading into oblivion along the forearms, sleeves pushed up on a cardigan, and a hairline that’s receding; you can see the liver spots beneath the wispy, grey strands.

London longs to tell you stories of the good old days. London has lived through so many generations. London has seen wars, but “good old wars,” you know, the kind that meant something.

London, the old man, is a fully realized character: he’s full of contradictions, fallacies, and hidden truths. He is not sure what defines his present; at times he feels that he is nothing but his memories. But these memories are perpetually rewritten as each day another layer of myth-making takes hold: another memory is gone, another memory is made, then remade, and remade again.

London doesn’t know his own history better than any of us do. He clings to memories that he thinks mean something, but in the end, none of them do. There’s nothing but Now.

London has gone from rags to riches and back again so many times that he no longer knows what he is any more. It is all locked somewhere inside of him. He’s lived through civil war as well. It might seem like so long ago, but it’s not. Not really. Memory works in funny ways; time has no bearing on whether we remember certain things more clearly than others.

London sits, smoking his cigarette, saying something glib like “hot fecking summer, eh?”  The casual bitterness in his tone, and that brief way in which his eyes take to the sky as if to say I’m too old for this shit, betray the fact that perhaps his wars are not over after all.

As London sits on his park bench, I can’t help but think of Vancouver as an arrogant young kid. Vancouver: lacking history but full of self-importance.

Vancouver: if the world’s a condominium complex, you’re the show home, beautiful but emotionless. Your possessions lack context.

London, the bitter old man, eyes this cocky young kid with condescension. Vancouver, he says, You think you’re the first to think of this? You think you’re the first to get angry? The first to burn things, the first to loot? You think you have a reason for this?

Well, son, let me show you how it’s done.  

the commune begins

So this past week has been spent moving. As of today, we officially rent the entire sweet lil’ house of ours just off Fraser St. I now live with five other roommates: Dr. Roommate, Claire, Lorna, Jessica, and Gregg (the Y-Chromosome).
 
I’m going to let this post serve as a very brief introduction to The Commune: a mere footnote in the traveller’s guide to our lives, if you will.
 
The cast of characters will be introduced in more depth shortly, and I will add more photos documenting our adventure.
 
But for now, let’s get a sneak peek:

Athos, the eight-year-old goldfish. He is either immortal or a very clever zombie.
 

With rooms called “The Closet,” “The Hub,” and “The Bordello,” naturally a shuttle bus arrives hourly to take us between them all.

At The Commune, sharing is encouraged.

Moving Day. Can you spot the sasquatch?

this march’s latest hobo chic

If you’re in Vancouver right now, you know how ass-bitingly cold it is at the moment. And I don’t mean the normal Canadian cold, I mean “-8 and we start panicking and lining the walls of bedrooms with extra blankets because this is Vancouver and we are wusses” cold.

But still myself and Dr. Roommate & Friends persist in our nightly jogs through the graveyard.

But we bundle up because, you know, we’re not stupid.

Last night, I kind of half-assed it, because… well, Vancouverites, especially myself, are not your average Canadians.*

We can only try really, really hard to look the part.

I wore a touque that kind of looked like this, only with giant maple leafs everywhere:

 

Ears = warm and stylish

 

 

Unfortunately, I had lost my snowman-adorned, mother-purchased mittens earlier that day, so my little handsies were tucked into the sweatshirt.

This was truly a shame, as the mittens would have taken the attention away from my strikingly fashionable Vancouver Canucks pajama pants sweatpants. Before we ventured out, I actually ran them by the jogging commitee to see if they could indeed pass as sweatpants.

I was told by Dr. Roommate: “They look fine, but I’ll know.”

Where were my actual sweatpants, you may ask?

Now I could make up some story involving earthquakes and zombie plagues and cougar attacks and ninja-star-wielding hitmen whose powers combined somehow prevented me from doing my laundry, but the truth is… I simply don’t know what happened to my sweatpants.

Anyway, to make it worse, it was really, really cold and I was getting that irritating little breeze blowing up the cuffs of the pajama sweatpants.

So I did what any rational person would do.

I tucked them into my socks.

It looked amazing, kinda like this awesome person:

 

How many puns can you think if involving "sock"? My favourite: Sock me, Amadeus.

 

 

I’m not really sure what elaborate conclusion one can draw from this other than to serve as a future footnote on my psych ward application. Perhaps I was rocking the fur trapper look? A little courer de bois for the 21st century?

However, there was the possibility that I might have looked kind of drunk. Thus, with the overabundance of maple leafs on my ensemble, one could assume I was simply celebrating the Olympic anniversary.

*shudder*

No. I think I’d rather go with “Hobo.”
*I’ve never skiied; I remember nearly killing someone the only time I tried snowboarding (and then spent the rest of the day drinking hot chocolate in the lodge); and I went snowshoeing once in Girl Guides. I remember badly needing to pee the entire time.

the olympics are an extravagant wedding you think will end in divorce

I’ve been experiencing a severe amount of cognitive dissonance regarding the Olympics. As a Vancouverite, for the last seven years I’ve dealt with the 2010 Winter Olympics by simply ignoring the situation, but then last Friday, it arrived on my doorstep like a an e-Bay purchase you forgot you made. Since then, I’ve just let it wash over me, while struggling to comprehend what is actually going on. It reminds me of a similar predicament I’ve borne witness to over the last year or so. A family friend is getting married in Disneyland in May, and while I care about her in the way you sorta care about people who are nearly relatives, I am sick to death with the drama and expense of her impending wedding. A crisis occurs, money is thrown at the crisis, words are said, protests are made, protesters are forced into silence. Repeat. Repeat again. Over and over again, until you just can’t take it anymore.

To further draw parallels to the olympics, if this Bridezilla is VANOC, her parents would be the IOC, while the rest of us drawn along are the poor residents and taxpayers of Vancouver forced to put up with the noise, construction, expense, and general hoopla all for the promise of a party and a photograph taken with Mickey Mouse. It’s somewhat fitting that visiting downtown Vancouver during the Olympics is like visiting a Disneyland version of Vancouver. It’s strange. It’s like seeing an elaborate simulacra of Vancouver: a combination of stereotypes and blatant facades. And a lot of people taking photographs… of everything. Fences. Street corners. Concrete. Everything.

Without delving into the details here of every pro and con about the Olympics, all I can add to the overwhelming amount of literature on that topic is that I am experiencing multiple conflicting emotional and intellectual responses. A small part of me feels a cliched pride at being Canadian. That’s the part of me that nearly wept at the opening ceremonies. Another part of me is fed up with everything. That’s the part that just wants to walk into a store downtown and not have to stare at multiple images of Miga and Quatchi, and whatever the hell the rest of their names are. Another part of me is excited and frantically checking the Official Vancouver 2010 website for updates and medal standings. That’s the part that spent the better half of yesterday learning everything I could about curling (quite the strategy game when you really get into it). Another part of me – the subversive side – relishes a little bit of “we told you so” every time something goes wrong. That’s the part that wants to violently choke Gordon Campbell to death every time I see him on screen in a red sweater waving a flag and grinning like a over-medicated mule. And the last little bit of me is feeling patriotic – in spite of myself – and really just wants to stick it to the Americans. That’s the part of me that is happy to be Canadian… despite however many times I’ve read Althusser. It’s mind-boggling, I know.

This last part of me, despite my love of things going wrong, is really quite angry with all the negative international press, especially in Britain. I consider The Guardian *my* paper, but I can’t yet forgive them for their “worst games ever” comment. As much as we here in Vancouver complain, it’s exactly the same as when you complain about your parents to your friends. You’re allowed to complain about your parents, but heaven forbid anyone else should. That’s just taboo. We Vancouverites can complain all we want about the Olympics. We can criticize the tackiness, the cost, the disrespect to BC residents and taxpayers, the lack of organization, and so on, and we are justified. Yet, as soon as anyone outside of BC or Canada does, then it’s personal. You insult our games, you insult us. As Canadians I just don’t think we’re used to that yet.

But we do love weddings, don’t we?

Q: what has two thumbs and is the leading candidate for first victim of the zombie apocalypse? A: this chick

Shannon and I have decided that we’re sick of being fat bastards and have implemented a fitness regime into our already pretty groggy lives. Shannon’s going to be a doctor one day, so I understand her desire for general health. Me, however, sometimes I feel like I’m a write-off, but sometimes I fantasize about being able to run for a minute straight without keeling over. (This fantasy is of similar only-in-a-parallel-universe status as my fantasy about singing with my imaginary band in some seedy club and doing it well enough to impress John Cusack – who just happens to be in the audience – so much that he invites me over for a drink and a marriage proposal. Yup. File it under “Not Only Never Going to Happen, But Also Probably a Sign of Mental Health Issues.” [Further subnote: Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’ just starting playing on the radio as I write this. Oooh, chills.]) So, Shannon and I started running a couple of weeks ago. We’re doing the Vancouver Sun Run training schedule, where you start running for thirty seconds, walking for four and a half minutes, then slowly work it up, so that in thirteen weeks, you’re running straight for almost an hour. We are currently on running for a minute, walking four minutes. Personal best. Go us. Roommate powers activate.

We also run through a graveyard. Exciting, I know. Mountainview Cemetary is only a few blocks from our place, and runs for several city blocks. It’s fantastic. I love it. Is that creepy? It is, I know. We spend our runs going through the cemetary, zig-zagging around the small roads that section off the graveyard. It’s quiet. Peaceful. Lacking in other (living) people and creepy drivers who leer at you as they drive past you jogging. I know they leer. Every one of them. I know when I’m driving past a jogger, I always look at them. I find that far creepier than a cemetary, thank you. I mean, it’s not like we’re running over top of the graves…. right? On Wednesday, we were finishing off some work, so we ended up going for our run at about eight o’clock at night. The sun was just setting as we came over the crest of the hill into the cemetary, which goes on for several blocks – far past your line of sight. A lovely endless field, full of… I don’t know how to end that sentence without feeling I’m disrespecting the dead. And it was dark. From a distance it looked as if the sprinklers might be on. I asked this question aloud, to which Shannon so aptly replied: “If they put a sprinkler system in here, wouldn’t that mean they would have to, er, dig things up?” As we got closer we realized that we were running through a fog-cloaked graveyard. In the dark. We were two giggly twenty-something females, with our iPods plugged into our ears in what would be a perfect commentary on the ironic juxtaposition between literal zombie attackers and figurative zombie victims.

Since I am so precariously located on the precipice of disaster when the Zombie Apocalypse engulfs humanity, I promise I will post a Twitter update from my mobile as the first horde of zombies closes in. My last action before joining the Legion of the Undead will be to warn you all:

ashleighrajala OMFG! #zombieapocalypse RT @kanyedouchebag i’m gonna let you get right back to eating my brains but i just wanted to let you know, beyonce is way better at jogging through graveyards
2:06 AM Sep 18th from mobile

Okay, why did I reference that stupid Kanye West thing? I’m getting so sick of reading ridiculous parodies of that crap. Get over it, people. I guess it was just too easy. Also, it’s quarter-to-four on a Friday afternoon and I’m tired, damn it. Too tired to think of anything original.

tv on the radio in the park

With their latest album, Dear Science, having been hailed as the best album of 2008 by a plethora of music giants (Rolling Stone, Spin, and MTV among them), the Brooklyn-based TV on the Radio brought their genre-defying act to Vancouver on Monday night. The eclectic, high-energy performance proved perfectly set within the Malkin Bowl at Stanley Park, complete with sea planes flying overhead, eagles circling, hippies, hipsters, and even small toddlers on their parents’ shoulders.

While a few songs from previous albums lent some depth to the show, the majority of the set was comprised of their latest offerings, including the two singles, “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose” (the latter of which signalled a brilliant change in lighting from bright red to monochrome, which theme-obsessed nerds like me love). Even when lingering beautifully through one of their slower songs (“soul-grabbing mood music,” as my friend called it), TVotR exploded with an intense energy that instantly propelled them into a place in my top ten live acts list. TVotR can best be described as “experimental rock,” because there really isn’t any nice, round hole in which you can fit this polygonal peg. They combine all forms of rock, roll, rhythm, blues, with a nice veneer of funk. And what else do you expect from a band such as this, with wind chimes hanging off the end of guitar, and the last number played with cymbals, bells, and a Blue Man Group-style hammers and drum? It was quite simply fantastic.

As eclectically wonderful as TVotR are, they have perhaps been rivalled in Unique Snowflake Status by opening band, The Dirty Projectors, also from Brooklyn. With three—nay, four—outstanding vocalists, The Dirty Projectors quickly shed their first impression of emo, hippie types who used to hang around the back steps of the high school playing their experimental music and generally being weird. Alas, no, they were quite impressive, showing a musical range and an energetic command of their songs that made everyone restlessly lying on the grass sit up and listen.

TVotR: certainly one of the loudest shows I’ve ever been to. However, I might just be getting old. Or I was standing right next to the speaker. It was worth a week’s hard-hearing.