Monday, 30 May 2011

It's All In The Eyes

Please note: The following is not about you or your children. Your children are beautiful, perfect, well behaved and in the top 2% of intelligence.

I have never wanted to have children. Even when I was a kid, I knew that I’d probably not grow up to be a mommy. There’s only room in my life for one screaming, whining thing, and that’s me. As the baby of the family, I did not relish the idea of having to take care of someone else. I was the one who needed attention. Children steal the spotlight from me, and I have a real problem with this.

While I value children as future taxpayers who will fund my outrageous, hypochondria-driven health care costs in my senior years, most of the time I would rather hang out with adults. I suppose it’s not really the children I have problems with, but rather the parenting that produces a certain type of child, the kind of child that does things that bug me. And that, my friends, is a total and unforgivable crime.

For example, at the airport, you are waiting to collect your baggage. It’s been a long flight and the plane was packed (I will not rag on about crying babies. There is nothing parents can do and I feel no ill will toward them). As the suitcases are flung willy-nilly down the baggage carousel, a child, maybe 8 or 9 and his parents stand exactly 2 inches away from you and the kid decides that he’s going to pat every single suitcase that going by. He will not stop. “Is it this one? Is it this one?”

Finally your bag trundles toward you and you heave it up (it’s full of so many shoes. So many). You inadvertently bump the kid who is still patting the bags that have gone around for the fourth time. The parents look at you like you did it on purpose, slapped him in the face and called him a “stupid, stupid pants” (which is what you’re thinking of calling him, actually).

Keep your damned kids away from the baggage carousel. No matter what your response, I don’t care. Keep your kids away from the baggage carousel.

And another thing, those scooter/skateboard things that kids love to use on city sidewalks – you can just say “no”, parents of the world. I have never once heard a parent/caregiver tell a child to “watch for people, now, Suzie” or “apologize for running over that nice man’s foot, Jimmy”. No. These kids are given the run of the sidewalk on these scooter things, and woe-betide any one or their dog who gets in their way. It doesn’t matter if they are wearing a helmet. It’s dangerous for everyone. 

You might ask, where else can they go, if not on the sidewalk. My simple answer is, I don’t give a rat’s ass, as long as it’s not within a one hundred yard radius of me.  By letting your child use one of these you are raising a future douche as it can only lead to skateboarding.

You need to know that I think kids are mostly pretty great. They make excellent fridge art, have adorable singing voices, and gosh if they don’t say the darndest things. I myself was a child once.

Sadly, there comes a point where children start to lose their cuteness and become hateful, sullen, irresponsible teenagers (every last one, no exceptions). At about seven years, I think. I have a theory as to why children become less tolerable as they get older.

It’s all in the eyes.

Small children have huge eyes. The larger their eyes in relation to their head, the cuter they are.


 If some babies have smaller eyes, as in the case with some groups of humans, they have an inordinately large, irresistible, pinchable cheek to head ratio, and cuteness is evaluated in that way.

Adorable, saucer-eyed children

As they get older, children’s eyes get smaller.

And smaller

Eventually that child is 45 and this is the peak of un-cuteness. Nothing is less cute than a middle aged person.


But then something miraculous happens.

As the person gets older and older, and the eyes continue to take up less and less of that persons skull, they become cute again.


What is cuter than an 85 year old apple doll of a grandmother, passing you a tin of her homemade chocolates? Maybe she’s wearing a hat, so that it makes her eyes look even more button like.

Adorable, tiny-eyed seniors

So cute do these tiny peepers become that old people can get away with anything and people just put it down to, well, she’s old, you can’t mind what she says. Doesn’t matter if granny rages on about the damned immigrants, perfectly appropriate taxation or the “Evil Homersekshuls”, no one calls them on it because of their pinpoint headlights.

Maybe this is why so many women wear those ridiculously large sunglasses that make them look like huge blind bugs. They want to hold to their cuteness until their eyes become tiny dots lost in folds of wrinkles and they are cute again. It isn’t working, sisters. You look like “The Fly”.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Face Horns and Religion. Or: How I Stopped Bitching and Learned to Love the Gaga.

I think it’s high time we discussed something pretty serious. Lady Gaga. I didn’t know what The Lady Gaga was until she’d been famous for a couple years already. People looked at me like I had never heard of The Rolling Stones, or Kleenex. I guess I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of what people are into these days. I rarely listen to music outside of the gym. I prefer quiet. And Lady Gaga is not quiet.

But that’s not why I have an issue her.

Lady Gaga said she is opposed to plastic surgery. To be clear, I don’t really care if she is for it or against it. She’s, what, 25? Wait til she’s 50. Wait til her cheek horns turn into wobbly jowls. Then I’d be interested in her feminist perspective on facelifts. And I’m not sure why facial and shoulder horn implants are somehow different than a facelift or boob job.

And then, 6 weeks later, she said she might be in to having plastic surgery some day, after she’s “popped out a few Gaga babies”.  Maybe she should have her uterus installed on the outside of her body so that we could all watch her gestation as a bit of performance art. It’s really only a matter of time. And actually, kind of a cool, if icky, idea.

She refers to herself as an artist. I can’t even comment on this it’s so ridiculous. If she’s an artist because she’s made something then anyone who has ever made toast is an artist.
She wears a bra that shoots flames.

That doesn’t make her an artist. It makes her a potentially lethal stripper.

Lyrics to one of her songs:

                    Rah-rah- ah ah ah
                    Roma, Rhumba- Ma
                    Gaga Oh la la
                    Want your bad romance
                    Walk walk fashion baby
                    Work it move that crazy bitch

Why? Please, why?

On principle I do not like songs in which “the artist” announces him or herself. Eminem, Kid Rock, are you listening?

If anything she is a walking social commentary on how painfully bored we all are. We’ve seen it all and need more and more spectacle and  she has to pour on all the weird wigs and glitter and tinfoil clothing to cover the fact that she’s really not much to write home about. In the music business we call that “polishing a turd”. I mean, come on. She refers to herself in the third person. She’s more of a drag queen than a drag queen.

A serious artist.

Actually, what do I know?  Maybe she is an “artist”. Maybe she really is on the cutting edge of music and is doing something Madonna hasn’t already been doing for years but in slightly less weird clothes. Maybe she’s the love child of Madonna and a Transformer. Wouldn’t be impossible, Madonna probably had sex with a Transformer.

And then ate it.

But seriously, maybe I should give Lady Gaga a chance. I mean, she is so mega-hugely successful can 12 million-billion people be wrong? Of course not. What she is doing appeals on some level. Very hooky tunes, irresistible rhythms  and simple, if incomprehensible,  lyrics. It’s not “art”, but it is well crafted. It’s asinine, but sometimes that’s just what you need. You can’t always eat vegetables. Sometimes you really want Marshmallow Circus Peanuts filled with the contents of Pixie Stix. Who wants to listen to music with a “message” anymore? Yawn.

So maybe I shouldn’t rag on Lady Gaga. As much as I don’t like her “schtick” I’d way rather listen to her than, say, Billy Bragg. At least Lady Gaga isn’t all preachy and doesn’t make me feel ashamed of my shopping habits. Billy Bragg is kinda like Christianity in that he makes you feel self righteous if you follow the message in his music, but super guilty if you do the opposite.  If you tell someone you’re going to the Billy Bragg concert, you can feel pretty smug about it. Tell someone you’re going to see The Gaga, and it’s as if you are  admitting you’ve spent the whole day in your pyjamas.

We're not worrrrrrrthy, we're not worrrrrthy.

Lady Gaga, then, might be the musical equivalent of the Church of Spiritual Humanism. It’s more like “Hey do whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Anything goes, here, there’s no deity to answer to (other than The Gaga), so act according to your conscience. Revel in your humanness! Concerts are sermons. Dressing up like Gaga for the concert is ritual for supplicants.

I also need to give myself a shake. Just because Lady G is not my cup o’ tea, it doesn’t mean that she’s not good or that she’s not an artist. She’s clearly had an impact on peoples’ lives if they are willing to camp outside in the rain for 4 days for a chance to see her on Saturday Night Live. 

I mean, it’s not as much of a sacrifice as, say, blowing oneself up in a train station, or moving your whole family to a new country and then forcing a bunch of the indigenous peoples to worship your god (and then kill them all), but it still is hardship endured for the sake of one’s spiritual leader. She has supported some good causes.  And if I were in her place I would wear EXACTLY that amount of sequins at all times. I’m just jealous.

So forgive me Great Gaga. I was a small, cranky whine in a sea of smiles and glo sticks (do people still use glo sticks?). But I’ve seen the light and if I wasn’t so middle aged and jaded, I’d just dance, too.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


It is no secret that I am big fat ol’ bag of anxiety. I’ve had more therapists than you’ve had hot meals and could do endorsements for SSRI’s  and be completely and totally sincere. 
In 1984 I had just turned 18, graduated from high school and had my whole life ahead of me. I was a total mess.
My poor parents didn’t know what to do with me. I had been chosen to go as a Rotary club exchange student to The Phillipines for a year but had to bail at the last minute because I was having more and more trouble just leaving the house, let alone going to live in a Southeast Asian island village where, as I heard later, they ate a lot of their food on sticks. 

What was at first thought of as the simple nervousness associated with drama club membership was soon upgraded to potential nutbar status when I had a major panic attack and melt down in the parking garage near the Metropolitan movie theatre in Winnipeg. I won’t bore you with the details, but it involved me leaving the movie theatre (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and my friends (Melinda and her sister Margot) to go and collect myself by sitting in the car and waiting for them. I ended up freaking out and calling an adult to drive me home to Selkirk (30 miles). I was hysterical. He thought I was having a nervous breakdown.

No one really knew what was going on. One doctor said I was just “abnormally sensitive to my biological functions” by which he meant I panicked if I had to poop. This was not the case at all. We all know that there’s nothing better than a good poop and I celebrate this essential part of my day (or week, if I’m on the road). 

See? Not a problem for me.

It got to the point where I could barely get to the grocery store without starting to panic. I lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks. Even I knew that wasn’t proper. My family doctor was put on the case and he was able to figure out that this business was best nipped in the bud. I got a referral to a psychiatrist. Imagine.

I was starting at University that fall, and my appointment with The Shrink was on the 3rd day of classes. For the first three days of university, when most young people are celebrating their debut into the somewhat adult world of academia, I was being accompanied to my classes by my mother. It was totally and completely humiliating, but it was the only way I was going to get there and I was determined not to miss out on getting a degree.

Finally saw the shrink. I was formally diagnosed as having agoraphobia with panic disorder.  Shrink Doctor put me on a program of pills and talk therapy and within 6 months I was a high functioning, happy, 18 year old. Over the years I’d have the occasional rough patch where my anxiety problems would rear their oddly shaped heads, but for the most part, with the help of pharmaceuticals and soft speaking therapists, I’ve managed pretty well.

Don’t bother writing in the comment section on how people shouldn’t have to use drugs to be happy. It pisses me off so much when characters on TV say “No, no drugs, doctor. I’ve got to beat this on my own”. Whatever. Good for you, Pollyanna. I wear makeup to look pretty, I use Spanx to suck my gut in, I use Celexa to keep me from becoming a total cellar dweller. Some things you just can’t do without a little help. If it makes you feel better, let’s just say I have psychological diabetes.

I’m not ashamed of being a nervous, panic prone, twitchy girl. But I’m not what I would say proud of it, either. Which is why it strikes me as somewhat odd that agoraphobia seems to have become the “it” brand of crazy lately. Agoraphobia is the go-to diagnosis for a lot of popular culture creations today, from Adrian Monk’s reclusive brother in the show Monk, to the Marvel comic character The Sentry,  Joan Cusack’s character on the show “Shameless”, and more recently, the lead in the TV show “End Game”, chess genius and mystery sleuth, Arkady Balagan. Agoraphobia is crazy enough to be interesting, but not so out-there that you can’t feel sympathy for the character. Few agoraphobics are serial killers. 

I promise not to write very often about this. I understand that this kind of personal disclosure can make people feel uncomfortable. I come across blogs such as “My Journey to Wellness” or “My Life with Aggressive, Inoperable Cancer”, or “My Life Without Arms, Legs or a Fully Functioning Bowel”.  Heartwrenching, honest and, not in the least bit funny. However, this bit about me is essential to understanding the other, more fabulous and sparkly things about me. To me, my issues with anxiety are more embarrassing than, say, my chin hair and less embarrassing than a superfluous nipple. I do not have a superfluous nipple.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming on Poopies, Vector cereal and Things I am Outraged By.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Post-Rapture Debriefing

Ok. I know we’ve all heard enough about The Rapture and now it’s come and gone and nothing’s happened. We all knew it would be ok. Except for the poor sots who sold all their belongings and drained their bank accounts in preparation for lift off. 

I mean, why would you drain your bank account anyway? Why make that effort? You’re going to Heaven. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got an account with $432 left in it. Just think of the interest that would accrue in case The Rapture is just a temporary evacuation thing, while Jesus, you know, cleans up around here. And now these gullible folks are all sad, as if their parents had been saying for months “We are for sure taking you kids to Disneyland on May 21, without a doubt. The Bible tells us we have to” and then on Sunday morning they’re all, “Oops, sorry kids”.

I think if the kids murdered their parents at that point, no court of law could convict them.

Still it got me to thinking, what would I do if I knew the world was going to end.

It would not be standing on corners with signs telling everyone about it, that’s for sure.

Let’s assume that I have one week, but I have to stay in my general area, so no life changing, spiritually pertinent trips to India or Scotland or Edmonton. And say I’d already said perfectly satisfactory goodbyes to all my family and friends so I didn’t have to do all that. “Love you mom, see you after The Rapture. I’ll meet you at Jesus’s Coffee Shoppe. We still have time for a few more games of Scrabble, right?”.  Or “I’ll sure miss you after The Rapture when you’re left behind, Brian. Too bad you did all that sinning and stuff”.

That kind of thing.

I think I would start with eating a lot of Vector. I mean, a LOT. And then I’d have bread and cheese and cake. And I wouldn’t exercise at all. I’d read Fantasy novels with tons of wizards and stuff. I’d adopt more cats. I’d needlepoint. I would wear my best dresses and perfume each day, even if I was just hanging around the house gorging on Vector. (“if” she says. Ha!).  I would paint murals on my living room walls (only if I was totally totally sure that The Rapture was for sure coming). I’d send flowers to Brian at work with cards signed from men. I’d eat more Thai food and get a manicure. I’d throw out all the crap in the office closet that I’m so worried I’ll want to look at one day but secretly know I never will. I’d make dinners that we eat in the dining room. I’d shave our dog Jack so that my last days on Earth were as fur-free and hilarious as possible.

In truth I don’t have to wait for The End of Days to do any of that stuff. A lot of it I already do (Vector and Rapture go together, methinks). There’s nothing like imposed restraint to ruin your day, I say. I seriously would eat an entire baker’s dozen of muffins if I thought there would be no repercussions. Vanity is a harsh mistress.

But what if I only had one hour?

 If I only had one hour, but I could spend it anywhere with anyone, I think I’d want to be on a deck overlooking a lake or ocean. Brian would be there, too. He’d tell me in his own way that I looked pretty...

It would be 28 degrees celcius, there’d be a slight breeze and it would be magic hour. Seagulls calling. We’d talk about all the things we’d miss about earth (TV, shake and bake night, The Gull and Firkin,  Facebook), and about all the things we wouldn’t miss (January, people calling us on the phone,  Don Cherry, olives). We’d have a beautiful bottle of chardonnay. In the background we’d be able to hear a recording of The National playing Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. And then a waiter would bring us huge bows of Vector.

Huge bowls.

And then, I’d look up and the guy from Nickelback would appear in the sky and call us to him. We’d float up from our chairs, leaving our Vector and our chardonnay and The National behind (because all of those things are the Devil’s business).

I'm already looking forward to the next Rapture.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Why I am not a Social Worker

In 2002, I took a break from the band and went back to university. I spent five years getting my Masters degree in Social Work. I worked very hard. I felt it was important for me to do something where I would be able to contribute to society in some way. Afterall, society had been pretty good to me. I’ll scratch your back, etc…

By the time I graduated in 2007 I had pretty much figured out that I didn’t want to be a social worker. Thank you, Ontario Taxpayer. Social work is really effing hard. People have real problems that, frankly, can’t be solved. It was a humbling process. No amount of paperwork, sympathetic looks and pep-talks can do anything to erase years of poverty, abuse, mental illness and invisibility. No amount of free stuff stuffed under the chairs on Oprah is going to make being an unemployed bi-polar single mother with chronic pain any better off in the long run. Unless Oprah happens to have stuffed an efficient and equitable social safety net under those seats. I don't think that's going to happen - especially now that the show's over. You'll have to take your chances on The Price in Right.

So Social Work to me seemed like an unfathomable sea of need. And not a fun job. Not like being a DJ or an International Art Thief. Not only that but social workers are underpaid, are not respected, get yelled at by people they are trying to help, get death threats from people who they are trying to help, have to work in buildings with fluorescent lighting and enjoy few job perks. Free coffee is not a job perk. The job wears people down, man,

So I decided not to use my hard earned education.

And let’s face it. I’m into boys and make-up, not saving the world.

Also, I have the exact opposite attitude that a social worker should have. In school we used to say “That’s not very social worky” when someone had an inappropriate attitude. Like me.  Just the facts:

I AM just better than some people.

You can’t think like that if you’re going to be a social worker. I mean, someone has to work with super nasty people: rapists, murderers, skateboarders. And if you do, you can’t be all smug. You have to be understanding and try to see their side of the story. I do my best and for the most part I can be relatively detatched.

 Well, it’s not those people, the murderers, the criminals, what have you, that rile me up, that I am clearly better than.


I am better than people who blow snot out of their nose on to the street.

I’ve seen people from every walk of life do this. And I just want them to know that they are awful people and I look down on them. From elite athletes to grandmothers in Kensington Market, people seem to think it’s ok to blast their mucus onto the street. The kid across the street was standing on his front porch once when he fired one off. There was probably a box of Kleenex 10 feet away, but no, he must have figured it was good for the environment or something. Good for making me vomit is more like. Watch these people, and they’ll cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough. It makes no sense. Just idiots. Utter douchery.

Runner’s World endorses the practice in this article on running etiquette.
This is why I let my subscription lapse.

I also hate spitting. It’s rude and makes you look like you have a grade 8 education. This is ok if you are in grade 8, but you still shouldn’t spit because it makes you get pimples. Guys in the NHL spit. A lot. Brian says it’s because of the cold and ice and so forth. Still. All they do on the bench is spit and drink Gatorade. At what point do they just spit Gatorade and expedite the process?

I am better than all of those people. So, suck it.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Truck Stops

I won’t complain about my job. I’ll tell you it’s relatively decent money for the actual amount of work I have to do. Some things about it are difficult, as is the case with any job. The actual thing I am paid to do, get up on stage and sing songs, is easy and fun. It’s all the stuff in between that can be a bit of a grind.

For example, I am currently sitting in a van with my colleagues, hurtling down the highway toward some place in North Carolina. Our trip will take 5 hours or so in total today. Then we’ll arrive at the venue, do sound check, eat something iffy and then get ready to do the show. The weather has been decent, except for one stretch where the rain was so heavy we had to slow to a snail’s pace  - couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us. I tend to look at my shoes during those kinds of moments and let the person driving do all the worrying. I never drive. Weird how I’m never asked to.

Being in the van, waiting at airports, being shuttled around – it’s pretty mind numbingly boring.

So with so much van time and so much waiting around until show time, it ends up being that snack time becomes the highlight of our day.

Truck stops have become, to me, oases in a desert of dull, a just-around-the-bend beacon of hope. Even if I don’t need anything, I still go in if we stop. Truck stops are good, and here is why:

Truck stops have bathrooms. I need to pee. A lot.

Truck stops have coffee. I like coffee, even though it makes me have to pee. So coffee and pee and truck stops become this self perpetuating trifecta or coffee-drive-pee-coffee-drive-pee.

There are always, always women at truck stops who are rather unattractive and that helps with my super super super super super low self esteem.

Truck stops have an inordinate amount of candy. It’s like the big room full of gold and jewels and riches that Indiana Jones finds in the Temple of Whatnot. I am simply dazzled by it all. I tend to stand in front of the rows of neon packages, stupefied, not even sure if I’m dreaming, let alone where to begin. I usually get a Tootsie Pop. I like those.

One row of 4 rows of candy

One row of 3 rows of salty snack treats

Some have beer, which is not smart, I don’t think.

Beer and driving, together.

Truck Stops provide us with entertainment and excellent reading material.

Sometimes Brad will do yoga at truck stops. I’m not sure why this is a good thing, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing, so I’ll put it in the list. It certainly gives me something to wonder at and gives me an excuse to use one of my favourite phrases:  Godamned Hippy.

Our tour manager, Wayne, has been on the road so long that he actually has favourite truck stops throughout North America.
            -Loves (Western US)
            -Flying J (US National chain)
            -MTO (sandwich shop at Sheetz, Gas Stations in Pennsylvania, recently sighted in North Carolina. Oh the rejoicing in the van when we made THAT discovery)
            -Baja Fresh – a west coast chain, recently showing up on Interstate 95 (Stuart says it’s not that good).

Wayne likes stopping at truck stops because it gives him a chance to have a smoke. He usually lights up further away from the gas pumps. I guess he was just feeling a bit adventurous that day.

The larger truck stops usually have decent coffee with a bit of choice. However, we have been known to drive 20 minutes out of our way to hit a Starbucks, affectionately called “Fourbucks”.  We like their oatmeal.

So you can see how super awesome truck stops can be. It's kind of hard to forage for a decent meal at a truck stop that doesn't have a diner attached. So sometimes I just have M&Ms and tootsie pops for lunch. I always gain weight every time I go on tour. Even though I make a pretty solid effort to get to hotel gyms almost every day, I still end up putting on about 5 pounds a trip. It’s pretty disheartening. I just can’t resist the lure of the truck stop candy aisle.

Me, at start of tour:

Me at end of tour: 

God help me.