Friday, March 23, 2012

the path to my good graces.

A by no means comprehensive list.

1. Mix me a cocktail and insist upon putting it in a nice glass.

2. Hate the Olympics as much as I do. (Honestly, there is no finer surge of sudden joy than that which occurs as you watch a dude you have a crush on give the finger to the television when those five rings of imperialist bullshit appear on screen.)

3. Call me Cait instead of Caitlin, unprompted.

4. Utter the phrase, "Well, we'll just have to watch Veronica Mars together."

4a. Also acceptable: "We should watch Ghostbusters. And Ghostbusters 2."

5. Send me a picture of a bird wearing a hoodie.

6. Dig my cooking, enthusiastically.

7. Dig my cat, inexplicably. (Bonus points for giving him a wrestler-esque name, such as, The Torso.)

8. Suggest we listen to some summer music, and when I put on Pen Pals by Sloan, say, "That's exactly the song I had in my head."

Folks, I think we might keep this one around for awhile.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

airport story redux.

This one's for Freya.

Dulles International, April 2008.

Freya and I flew to Washington DC to visit our friend Kat one spring. Over the course of the four days we were away, Freya went from being a little bit pregnant to uber pregnant. It was kind of awesome. Kat and I, on the other hand, went from being a little bit drunk to super drunk. It was the least we could do.

Anyway, here's something that I always do when travelling in a group: depend on others to handle the details for me. I've been an independent lady for a long time, and I love it, but when the opportunity to let someone else do the heavy lifting comes along, I seize the day. That's why I let Freya carry all the paperwork, memorize Kat's address and phone number in DC, and generally take charge. I was also doing it as a courtesy to her--she likes to plan. It was the least I could do.

Sadly, though, this approach backfired spectacularly. Freya and I were on separate flights home, since we'd booked at different times. And around the time Freya was cruising back into Ottawa without incident, I was glued to the departures board at Dulles, watching my flight get delayed, and delayed, and delayed. In a fit of boredom, I called my parents collect and talked their ears off for approximately an hour. When I got back to the lounge, I discovered that my flight had been completely cancelled. I spent the next couple of hours in rebooking purgatory. My sketchy-ass cellphone didn't work, other than to make insanely overpriced collect calls. The charmers at Air Canada booked me onto a flight two days later, and I begged, borrowed, and stole to get on one that was only slightly earlier. I waited in line next to the ponciest professor from SUNY Binghamton in the universe and willed myself to hold it together just so I wouldn't look like as much of a dick as he did. They told me to just leave my bag overnight at the airport, and I quietly said goodbye to all the beautiful clothes I'd bought in Georgetown, convinced I would never see them again.

When I finally sorted out my flight, I made the sobering realization that I would have to get myself back to Downtown DC for the night. Subsequent to this was the even more sobering realization that not only did I not know Kat's address, I didn't even have her phone number. So much for leaving all your eggs in one basket. Over the course of approximately three collect calls to Freya, I pieced together the information I needed. The last time I called, she was in the shower, and her husband Greg made fun of me for about five minutes before he finally got her on the line.

I took an exorbitantly priced taxi back to Kat's place in Foggy Bottom. I didn't know her buzzer number. I was sweaty and nauseous and nearly crying, and one of the many handsome preppy types in her neighbourhood took pity on me and let me into the building. That night we went out for drinks and got caught in the rain, soaking through the only clothes I had to wear the next day. I spent the next little while looking like a very stylish refugee.

The next morning I got on another bus to Dulles and miraculously made it home. So did my beautiful, beautiful clothes. Freya came and picked me up at the airport. I've always been a social smoker at most, but I'd brought a half pack of Marlboros back with me, and as I waited outside the terminal, I sat down on my suitcase to light up--I figured I deserved it. Just as my seat made contact with the suitcase, it tipped, and I fell ass over teakettle to the sidewalk.

I still owe a lot of people a lot of money for all those collect calls.

coming and going.

In my time, I've spent a lot of days stranded in airport lounges. There have been times I haven't minded, and times that made me question my very cursory grip on my own sanity. Right now, somewhere outside Philadelphia, I'm leaning toward the latter. Thank goodness for free wireless.

In no particular order, and in order to keep myself somehow rational as I pass the time, here are a couple of airport stories from my past.

Pearson International, October 2004.

It was Thanksgiving Monday, and I was heading back to Vancouver after my first trip home to Ontario. I was leaving behind the love of my life, again. On the redeye flight to Toronto a few days previous, the in-flight movie was Before Sunset, a sweet little love story starring my childhood fake boyfriend Ethan Hawke, and I had spent the dreamy, dazed trip looking forward to seeing my real boyfriend again, feeling so safe and so secure. When I got to the airport, practically stoned on exhaustion, there he was, at the bottom of the escalator, wearing a suit, holding up a sign that said Miss Fralick. I melted into his arms and I cried. Getting ready to say goodbye to him a few days later, I melted into him once more and cried once more and then had a breakdown when the woman at Starbucks gave me the wrong kind of tea. My parents were there with us, and my mom whispered to me to hold myself together, but I just couldn't do it. Red-faced and heaving, I said my farewells, a pattern that would become all too familiar over the next couple of years as I continued going back and forth forever. I stumbled through security and sobbed quietly until my flight was called. The in-flight movie for the trip west was The Notebook, through which I kept right on crying, both out of anger at being so emotionally manipulated by a film and utter dejectedness regarding the state of my own romantic affairs. There was a strange relief in finally getting back to my little room at Green College that night, quiet and alone and cried out at last.

Vancouver International, April 2006.

I moved home from Vancouver in a state of complete emotional insanity. I was single and ambivalently done school and still somewhat uncertain about returning to Ontario for good. All I wanted to do was disappear, and I felt like I was going about it all wrong. I packed in fits and spurts in the middle of the night and during breaks between paper writing and beach walks. Pretty well everything was labelled "Miscellaneous"--a shoe, several books and a necklace in once box, half-burnt candles and some grad school notes in another. I mailed a lot of my stuff home in advance, but that last morning, I still had four giant suitcases and a Rubbermaid container the size of a small apartment to drag up to the airport. The sun was shining and it was one of those perfect Vancouver spring mornings when it feels more like July than April, when you feel so incredibly smug and self-satisfied about your decision to go for broke in the prettiest city in the country. My Best West Coast Friend Tara and I took one last walk together down to Kits Beach and smoked one last roach on the rocks, for luck. When we got back up to our apartment, we called a taxi, I loaded up, and said goodbye.

When I got to the airport, I was mildly buzzed and wholly out of it. I had to stand in a special lineup because of all my extra bags, and there was a dog behind me. I convinced myself I was about to be arrested, but instead, the wonderful people at WestJet cut me a deal on my extra baggage fees. Things are looking up, I thought to myself.

So I sat and sat in the departures lounge, daydreaming, till out of nowhere, a WestJet staffer ran up to me and said, "Oh, it's you!"

"Excuse me?" I replied, convinced my days of freedom were numbered. I must have done something wrong, I thought. They must have found pot in my luggage. In my head I started writing the Hamilton Spectator article about the incident: Local High Achiever Gets High on Something Else, Lets Entire Community Down.

"I recognized you from your pictures!" he cried. He looked like he had just won the lottery.

This was getting weirder and weirder. Luckily, he noticed how freaked out I was, and quickly explained: When one of my mammoth suitcases was getting loaded onto the rack, the bag tag had somehow gotten torn off. It ended up on an arrivals carousel, where apparently it just spun around and around in circles for ages, all alone (somehow fitting, I thought). This guy had finally retrieved it and brought it back up to departures, hoping to reunite it with its owner, and in an attempt to figure out who it belonged to, he opened it up. Lucky for him, it was filled, at least partially, with photo albums and yearbooks ( I am not one for travelling light).

"So I just looked through and tried to pick out some of the faces that were in most of the pictures," he said, "and hoped I'd see one of them up here." He paused, and squinted, looking at me with sudden scrutiny. "Did you dye your hair?"

Oh, I thought, this is a sign.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

might as well be spring.

This weird mild winter is really throwing off my reading habits. Normally I spend the frigid months diving into deep, challenging books, the kind of books that are a perfect accompaniment to curling up in the fetal position for hours on end with a cat sleeping at your feet. Books that help ward off the malaise and moping of dark days and snowy nights by throwing you into an intellectual and/or psychological firestorm. Books like The Waves, by Virginia Woolf. Or the collected poems of pretty much anyone in the twentieth century.

But so far this winter, I've only gotten through one of those--Blue Nights by Joan Didion, which broke my heart and blew my mind. If I can ever craft a sentence as finely as she can, I will die a happy woman. Other than that, I can't seem to wrap my head around anything too complicated. These mild days and unseasonable temperatures have thrown me into an early spell of spring fever.

Here's the thing, though: I love spring fever. The dizzying exhilaration of going out without a coat, the short attention span that accompanies longer days, the sight of the first snowdrops, the vaguely melancholic transition into a season of first blooms and first kisses. I wholeheartedly welcome the chance to basically moon about and flake out for longer than usual. I don't feel obligated to learn anything new right now, because I know I'm not going to retain it anyway. So as far as my reading goes, I like to take this time of year to re-read books that I love, books that make me feel happy and sad at the same time, books about confusing and consuming crushes. Books for smart girls.

Here's what I like to read when the fever sets in.

Girl by Blake Nelson. Blake Nelson is pretty much my teen novel hero--I've written before about how significant his short stories in Sassy magazine were for my own writing, and some of these stories were in fact excerpts from Girl. It's the story of a teenage girl in Portland in the mid-90s, of the blossoming indie-grunge scene in the Pacific Northwest, of the fragile and tender and hilarious ways we fall in love when we're too young to know what we're doing. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Here is one of my favourite passages, from the part when Andrea is on a long bus ride home from camp after the summer she lost her virginity to a random metalhead at camp with whom she might be in love (but probably isn't):

Even with millions of boys to choose from it was so complicated and there was so much politics about cliques and who your friends were and who was your type. And as we pulled into Portland I had this horrible feeling of wanting to go back to Brad because what if that's all there was? What if that was as close as you got? And I called my dad from the station and he was freaking out because I hadn't called. So then I just sat there waiting for him, staring at my dirty tennis shoes and thinking how incredibly stupid I was if I expected life to be anything else but failed love and mindless sex and crying all night in bus stations.

It's an empowering heartbreaker in the sweetest way.

The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank. Another one I've probably written and talked about more times than is healthy or relevant, but shit, man, this book is just incredible. Fans of dry humour, episodic and memoiristic novels, making fun of the term "bildungsroman," New York City, and ill-fated yet strangely optimistic entanglements will die of happiness. It is also the book that contains what I think is the best-placed literary reference in modern fiction, to Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville. You kind of have to read it to get it. And you don't have to be a Melville fan, I promise.

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton. This isn't a full-on re-read per se, since the book just came out, but since I'd already read many of her strips online, I'm allowing it. Kate Beaton is a nerdy intellectual hipster's dream come true. Here is one of my favourite strips.

So that's your reading list. And this song is your soundtrack.