Friday, November 25, 2011


As the days get shorter and the nights darker and longer, I find myself pining for a place I spent three years trying to escape from. Ottawa is a lot of things; My Kind Of Place it is not. Most people who knew me when I called that town home remember what a misery I was during that time; I spent most of my National Capital tenure strategizing ways to get the hell out. When I finally barreled South down highway 416 one last Friday night in May, it was one of the finest road trips I've ever taken.

But that's not my point. My point is that when you spend three years somewhere, you get a feel for it. And regardless of how much you may hate it there, you usually manage to find a few things worth loving, too. Perversely, in light of my utter hatred of cold weather, the thing I miss about Ottawa today is winter. Not that February dump of forty centimetres of pain kind of winter, not the kind of winter where you can't even get your car into your driveway on account of the snow and you end up blocking the whole street and the driver of the OC Transpo bus you're obstructing has to help you push your way out. That kind of winter I can do without.

No, the best part of an Ottawa winter was always the beginning. The temperature would just drop one day in late November, the snow would start, the canal would ice over. My neighbourhood would get suddenly quiet as everyone went back inside, cozying up in those grand old brick houses. I'd walk past their bright windows on my way home to my own little attic haven and I'd feel so lucky, to be so cold and on my way to somewhere so warm and safe. It was a sort of honeymoon period at the beginning of December, a time of sudden burrowing, holing up. For a hermit like me, it was a dream come true.

My first December in Ottawa, I wasn't actually all that miserable. I was plugging away at my job and feeling pretty good about it, I had my handful of friends. I was seeing a boy who was so kind and cute and in possession of an excellent record collection. We spent our weekends doing the things you do when you're young and falling into something--eating dinner at restaurants, fooling around like teenagers (ie. while listening to Thrush Hermit), strolling around holding hands, feeling significant and needed.

One Friday night in December we went to look at the Christmas lights on the Parliament buildings. We ate burgers at my favourite bar in town and then went back to his place, where made out while watching Labyrinth and then stayed up too late. I had to work the next day, and he insisted on walking me home in the morning. He lived in Centretown, and I was in the Glebe, just a few blocks further south. It had snowed in the night and we trudged up Bank Street together, not a car in sight. The sky was that wicked, foreboding shade of gunmetal gray that held the promise of more snow to come, and the air was so still. When we got to my front porch, he kissed me goodbye, and I walked up three flights of stairs to my place. I turned on my own newly-acquired Christmas lights and laid on my living room floor, bathed in twinkling light, safe and sound.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Goodnight, moon.

Folks, I'm going to let you all in on a little secret: I actually love the month of November. I think there are a few reasons for this:

1. The fact that a lot of people hate this time of year coupled with the fact that on occasion I have an overwhelming need to be contrary.

2. I spend a significant chunk of the year wishing it was dark enough and quiet enough to justify my desire to bury myself in church lady-knitted afghans and re-read the books that made me cry when I was younger, and suddenly, oh so suddenly, it is.

2a. In case you were wondering, this year's list of weepies includes Looking at the Moon by Kit Pearson and Girl by Blake Nelson.

2b. SHIT MAN, Blake Nelson has a SEQUEL to Girl out this month! I feel as though my heart may burst.

3. That chill in the air, that wind that threatens to pick you up off your feet and drop you back down. It's the perfect environment in which to wrap yourself up in a pashmina and walk purposefully down the street, feeling hopeful and solitary and brave.

4. There's something so comforting and quiet about the bare trees and the cold ground. It's like the whole earth is breathing a sigh of relief.

5. The incredibly important annual tradition of watching When Harry Met Sally, a movie that only feels right to me in November. I have a not so secret love of this film. I recently read an article where Melissa McCarthy declared it her favourite romantic comedy because it gives the characters so much time and space to get to know each other, and I liked that. I'd even argue that it's not so much a romantic comedy as it is a slice of life comedy about two completely inept goofballs who finally decide to make out with each other and can hardly bear the awkwardness of it all. Which is my favourite kind of love story, really.

6. November strikes me as a time of year when things often fall apart. And when it comes, and the days pass, and lo and behold you find yourself still intact, it's like a nice little karmic pat on the head.

Here's my November Top Five. It's a Lullabye List, I think.

1. The Walkmen, Four Provinces.

2. David Bowie, Soul Love.

3. Sufjan Stevens, Jacksonville.

4. The Band, When I Paint My Masterpiece.

5. The Rolling Stones, Moonlight Mile.

Goodnight, children, everywhere.

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Friday, I'm in love (with my stereo).

A soundtrack for driving to work and trying not to cry at the first sub-zero morning of the near-winter.

1. Paul Simon: Obvious Child. You'll dance, you'll cry, you'll drum on your steering wheel till you accidentally honk your horn.

1a. Guys, I'm starting to get pretty frigging pumped about the Graceland 20th Anniversary Tour next year. PRETTY FRIGGING PUMPED.

2. M. Ward: Epistemology. I like songs that reference screwing up the words to the hymns.

3. Titus Andronicus: No Future Part III. Because it's comforting to remember that you really will always be a loser.

4. Billy Joel: Don't Ask Me Why. Three minutes of SMOOTH GOLD.

5. Elton John: Rocket Man. I don't know, I honestly can't think of a moment for which this song is NOT the best choice.

5a. Here's something I love: When a song takes six minutes to get to its incredible climax, and those last thirty seconds are so, so worth it. Example: Someone Saved My Life Tonight.

6. Beach House: Walk in the Park. This is more of a night driving song, in my humble opinion, all blissed out nostalgia and soothing keyboards. Mmmmm.

7. Belle And Sebastian: Lazy Line Painter Jane. Included as a tribute to all the music I would never have known about if it weren't for my various ex-boyfriends (or possibly just one in particular). Monica Queen's voice gets me every time. Basically an essential track for any mix tape produced in Oshawa between 1999 and 2002.

And, scene.