Radio Waves

My grandfather received his teaching degree in the forties, but it was radio, and later television, that he forged his career in. That was three generations ago, and it’s now sort of the family business.

He passed away ten years ago but I can still remember his deep, warm speaking voice, and perfect diction (“It’s not ‘wat.’ It’s ‘hwat.’ Pronounce the ‘H.'”) He would tell me stories of cutting audio tape – a simple digital process now that once required canisters, razor blades and a special kind of Scotch tape to piece it back together again.

He had a love for reading and language he passed down to me, and I took to heart all the advice he gave me. He was the wise, sage Morgan Freeman character in my young life.

I’ve missed his voice over the years, as he’s pulled further in time away from me. I now have a few gray hairs of my own and can see the past and the future on either side of me. He’s not here anymore to help me through the decisions I need to make.

It only came as a small surprise to me when my father said recently that there’s still a radio station playing his old tapes. Pop’s last gig was a volunteer job at one of the oldest radio stations in the area – run out of a church, and kind of a ‘by seniors, for seniors’ station. In my teenaged opinion, they played old people music, so I didn’t tune in. But I loved that he did it. He said to me once, “I recorded the first set of tapes about twenty years ago, and some people are starting to catch on that they’re taped. So I’m recording a new set.”

We still have boxes of his tapes, somewhere. I never listen to them – I don’t have a cassette player. I’ve heard his voice on recordings over the last ten years, but never on the radio. You know how it’s different? When you turn on the radio and someone you like is on, announcing a song, or a band you love comes on, it’s a happy turn of chance. It’s the universe saying it’s thinking of you, in a way. When you pull into your driveway at the exact moment a song ends, you know someone is out there composing your life’s soundtrack. It feels good to be connected in that way. Radio feels very immediate. It’s cozy.

Now I tune in to the church station. He’s on at six in the evening, according to my father. Every now and then, when I’m driving home, I turn on the station and I wait. I haven’t heard him yet – I work a lot of nights. But when I can, I listen to The Platters or whoever happens to be playing, enjoying the quiet lilt of the music and waiting for the announcer to come on.

I know he’s still out there, light waves bouncing around in the dark, coming back to us through the decades. I know someday soon I’ll turn on the radio and he’ll be there, and no time will have passed at all.

Girl, Your Eyebrows Are Fine

I’ll be the first to admit I plucked my eyebrows into oblivion long before I had any business holding a pair of tweezers.

We all remember what the Spice Girls looked like in 1998. The eyebrows, along with the garishly loud pants and glittery animal prints were just part of The Look.

I’m sad to say now, I got the look. I came down to dinner one night and my father asked me why I had Geri Halliwell’s eyebrows. Then a friend at school told me that when me eyebrows went up in surprise I looked like a clown. You know. Like a harlequin doll with those tiny, pointed angles on its forehead.

I had largely ignored my father’s comment, because Geri Halliwell obviously had great eyebrows (pencil thin!) but I had to rethink it after my eighth-grade friend weighed in.

They’ve been grown in and plucked away more times than I care to remember, with long periods in between of the look we all refer to in hushed tones as “that hooked thing.”

And then sometime in the early twenty-tens, we all looked around at each other like cult survivors, staring at puddles of Kool-Aid and coming slowly back to our senses. It was time to regrow.

My teenage sister has magnificent, lush eyebrows, touched by neither time nor (much) tweezing. She is my goddamn inspiration, and I’m glad I left this brave new eyebrow world better for her than I found it. But after spending a lot of time on Instagram, I’ve realized something:

We’ve all gone completely batshit insane about the hair over our eyes. Any kind of old school arch is now disparaged as “spermy.” Anyone who’s interested in beauty or makeup (aside from contouring like the greatest drag queens on earth simply to go to class on a Thursday) is using nine kinds of eyebrow makeup. Powder, pencil, wax, dipbrow. I watched someone do it once. It’s a long process.

I love makeup. I did my own wedding makeup. I love how a nice, thick eyebrow makes me realize I did not have the ham face I always thought I did growing up. But it’s still okay to go outside with your blonde, skinny eyebrows. You don’t need stage makeup to go to the grocery store. That’s the problem. Makeup is supposed to be fun and empowering and it gives you a new look. But it’s not necessary. Microblading is cool but it’s like acrylic nails. You don’t need them to look great.

And I get it. It’s the in look, and we all want to look good. But can we not make fun of people who overtweezed in 2007, or who have a high-fashion, Sherilynn Fenn-Twin-Peaks-style arch? (A look that I’m still completely obsessed with, by the way.) The brow shaming needs to stop.

I saw a series of pictures in which Hollywood celebrities from the silver screen had their eyebrows redone to the same look everyone has now. It was a funny little series and I liked it. But Louise Brooks, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn? The makeup they did was part of their individual look and representative of the time. The pencil-thin arch, the thin blonde points, the thick dark brows paired with doe eyes? You have to have your own look to be remembered, and even eyebrows are a part of that.

Besides, in five years we’re all just going to be obsessed with something else. Probably hairlines. Or neck wrinkles.

The next boy band song I want to hear is “Girl, Your Eyebrows are Fine.”

My Dumb Smartphone

The feeling of taking my first smartphone out of the box was a whooshing, joyful, beatific one.

Here it is. Now I can finally be up to date.

But much like a high school romance, the shine has worn off that sumbitch. It’s not that I don’t like it (and by it I mean the last four smartphones I’ve used and shattered). I like Netflix too. But I don’t want to pay a hundred bucks a month for Netflix ,either.

Here’s what I’m using my smartphone for right now: texts, calls, Snapchat, Google Play, and Sporcle. I deleted Facebook and Instagram because for some reason, they give me a low-level anxiety that hums around me at all times I’m using them. I found myself checking an Instagram post obsessively for likes, and thought “That can’t be healthy.” So I deactivated it for a while. A lovely friend said to me she finds it gives her constant cravings of validation, an “ugly hunger to be relevant.” I could relate and found it easier to be myself without the filter.

I found myself scrolling through Facebook, glassy-eyed and in some sort of pseudo-comatose state. So I deactivated that too (for the third or fourth time.)

My husband had already deactivated social media on his phone and found himself with a nervous phone tic that left him checking his weather app a lot. I found myself Snapchatting more because it was all I had left. (I mean, I have Twitter. But I don’t care what anyone says. Twitter is a toilet. I only use it when I have to. I don’t want to hang out there all day, because it’s not the most pleasant place to be. People are mean and shout at each other in short sentences all day long. I want to talk to you about politics. But I want to do it on a quiet Saturday afternoon, at a pub, and then move to a different topic after the second pint. No one is changing minds or the world on Twitter.)

Google Play is nice. I pay ten bucks a month to have all kinds of music travel with me sans wifi. But given how much I use it for just listening to free podcasts, I’m not sure how much longer I want to keep paying for it.

And then I have Sporcle. I started with the geography quizzes, because it’s nice if you’re bad at geography to start learning every country in the world and where it is. But the app doesn’t have maps, so you find yourself just remembering them in alphabetical order, which doesn’t help at all when a nice cab driver in Calgary says he’s originally from Djibouti and you can say, “Oh, on the west coast of Africa,” and he says, “You really know your geography.” That’s what the map is for.

And you might ask, “Well, why on earth are you paying over a hundred bucks for a phone every month?” And I’ll tell you why. Because I needed extra data for my job – because I kept going over my data. And then my job description changed and now I have a metric fuck tonne of data that I’m using to snapchat full-on conversations.

And look, I get it. It’s beautiful and exciting to have a smart phone in your pocket. I have a device greater and broader and considerably more portable than the library at Alexandria. But be honest. We’re using it for selfies and cat pics mostly. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just an expensive distraction, and I’m not finding a lot of added value in my own life.

There’s a nifty little feature phone in a shoebox in my closet. It has a slide open keyboard, which was the best feature when I bought it. I might take it out again one of these days. It just might be The One.

Good Old-Fashioned Murder Basement

After a very long, uphill battle with WORDS ON THINGS at every store I go to, reminding me to LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE, and of course, BREATHE (I swear to Jesus if one more throw pillow reminds me to breathe, I will set it on fire), comes the aptly-titled horror/thriller/jaw clencher Don’t Breathe. What a refreshing change of pace for the Indigo overkill, right? I already know how to breathe SO THIS SHOULD BE SCARY AND FUN, right?

WRONG.

To hell with this movie and the limping, emphysemic horse it rode in on.

The conversation to watch this movie went something like this:

 

Gentleman Friend: “Some of the guys are going to see a horror movie. Interested?”

Me: “I mean, yes if we can keep the lights on in the bedroom for the next three days.”

GF: “No, it’s more of a reverse home-invasion movie.”

Me: “?”

GF: “People break into this blind war vet’s house and he won’t let them leave.”

Me: “SOLD!”

 

And you know what guys? I am on board for whatever, as long as it’s not torture porn (SO HELP ME, guys who made Saw, get another idea. You’ve cut off all the parts and stitched them back together and no one needs any more of that.) But eff this movie RIGHT IN THE BALLS.

Anyway. Spoilers up ahead. And gross stuff. Maybe even triggery stuff (I never use that word but…*shudders)

Two guys (one with all the swagger and bravado, and the other guy a pasty, inoffensive, level-headed dude named something equally pasty and inoffensive), and a girl break into a house to steal the guy’s money.

Plot-wise, I was into this movie. Structure, acting, characters, motivation, decent writing – so far we’re golden. Bear with me.

Halfway through the movie there’s a girl chained up in War Vet’s basement. Because PLOT DEVICE. Sure. Fine. Whatever. Keep the story moving.

Basically, chained-up girl was driving in a car with War Vet’s daughter, and said daughter was killed in some ensuing car accident. So he chains this other girl up in her basement because rationale: “She took my child and now she must give me another one.”

I’m still doing pretty okay until she dies and everyone is pretty much dead (or half dead) and then the main character, the girl who broke into the house, gets tied up in this basement to take the place of the newly-dead girl, who’s entire purpose in this movie is to act as a womb.

And War Vet says …now he has to make another child, and he’s not a rapist BUT THEN HE PULLS OUT A SOUP CAN OF FROZEN SEMEN AND HEATS IT UP ON THE STOVE.

 

Then he takes out a turkey baster and I grab my purse and get ready to leave.

But I don’t, because then the last image I’ll have in my mind of the movie is a chiselled, blind, PTSD-stricken (and also very much insane) dude trying to make our heroine into Baby Oven Number Two.

And can we all JUST take a second here? At any point in the making of this film did someone say, “You know guys, movie’s on point here and I know the blind guy needs to be a villain, but maybe we could just take a second and rethink the turkey baster rape scene, where she’s suspended by a harness in the basement? Yeah? Okay no, you wanna keep it? Alright. Keep rolling.”

Aside from the scene being dug from the well-spring of nightmare fuel, I’m just trying to wrap my head around this guy’s apparent resourcefulness when it comes to jerking off in a soup can (or maybe some sort of mason jar? Like…artisanal – never mind. Let’s move on) and then freezing it and keeping it in his rape basement? Don’t you need to have actual skills to do that? Or do you just need some gumption and a soup can?

Also when he says something like, “You’re young. You’ll make a good breeder.” Dude lost his eyes in Iraq, so why is he talking like a forest recluse from the 1820s?

I’m glad I stuck with the movie so the girl could get away, and the plot could develop and she could be a person and stuff, but give me a good old-fashioned murder basement any day.

Ugh.

I’m choosing the movie next week.

 

13: Or, why Stephen King is a master of horror.* Or, loneliness. Or, why I drank a lot of whiskey and scared the crap out of myself**

Note:

*The author of this blog shall not be held responsible for spoilers. Ergo, you, the Reader, shall have seen the movie 1408 before reading this blog post. In addition, you will have most certainly read the short story 1408 by Stephen King before reading this blog post.

**It came out five years ago. Seven years ago? Whiskey happened. I am not responsible for spoilers. Only for ‘splainin’ the horror genre a little bit.

 

Alright. Here’s what happened. The lovely roommates and I drank a large bottle of Spicebox brand Spiced Whiskey (if the owners of Spicebox would like to send me a bottle, or case, of said whiskey, I, the writer of this blog, would not be averse to that. You guys make a damn fine whiskey).

Then we watched a movie, and of course by now, you know that movie was 1408. You also know that this movie came out years ago, starred John Cusak (who, as far as I’m concerned, should win every acting and awesomeness award that hasn’t already been given to Steve Buscemi or Judy Dench), and has been largely forgotten, except by the good people at Netflix.

This isn’t a critique or review. It’s just that I was hopped up on whiskey and saw it for the second time and needed to TALK about this. Good lord.

A couple of weeks ago, I got myself a library card (and if you don’t have one, you need to ask yourself why you don’t – Answer: No good reason. Go now). I took out a copy of Room, by Emma Donaghue, and proceeded to scare the ever living shit out of myself.

What it did, this book, was make me realize how people live in solitary confinement. Particularly, women who are abducted off of the street and then locked in a room. For. years.

Mama didn’t raise no fool. I am aware of this shit, regardless of how often it does or doesn’t happen. And it made me more aware of small spaces and what it can do of the brain. But this post isn’t about real life dangers. Although, if a strange man asks you to come and take a look at a sick dog, kindly decline and send him to a vet. I never have trusted strangers. Sesame Street taught me well.

My point is that it’s put me in a bit of a freak-out mode, being afraid of lonesome horrors. I suppose I’ve always felt that with a terrific family (two huge brothers and a protective father, possibly a tougher and more protective mother), and an amazing partner, I’m pretty safe. We like to feel safe, don’t we? We like to feel so damn safe. And surrounding yourself with people who know what’s going on in your life are a pretty good start.

I read the story 1408 five or six years ago. Honestly, Everything’s Eventual, the whole book of short stories by Stephen King, wigged me out. 1408 wigged me out the most (along with a fabulous tale called “The Man in Black,” except the room in that story is the woods, in broad daylight, near a river).

Lonesome horror. It takes something terrifying that could happen (as in real life, as in Room. Scary stuff, to be locked away, only kilometres from your actual life, no on aware you’re still alive. I don’t want to do this story injustice by mentioning it in a horror genre post, only mention that it has scared me in recent weeks), and intensifies it – supernaturally. The things none of us are afraid of with our safety nets.

My partner, a filmmaker, watched the movie with me and would cut in occasionally.

“This is Stephen King’s dialogue to the audience. He is terrified of hotel rooms.”

This got me thinking. King has written myriad stories about hotel rooms (okay, at least three I can think of). They are all creepy, even when nothing supernatural happens. They are creepy because when you’re alone in a hotel room, you don’t really exist. You walk into a hotel, give them your name, and get in the elevator. And when you do, you effectively cease to exist. You’re in a strange city, a strange building, a very strange room (don’t turn on the blacklight. Seriously). Whatever happens in this room now, no one is going to rush in to save you…or even call to check up on you, provided we’re talking about pre-iPhone times.

You’re sleeping in strange sheets, where hundreds of bodies have slept before, hundreds of lives have paused. At least some of those lives have ended since. The sounds are creepy, the smells are unfamiliar, and if the phone does ring, it shatters a silence and somehow makes you more aware of it, makes the silence creepier.

And you hang up the phone, and you’re more alone.

The whole thing is just weird. You’re in self-imposed isolation, yet as soon as the door closes, it’s not self-imposed. It’s a trap.

You’re not leaving…Are you?

Nope.

Isolation. It terrifies human beings because we’re creatures of contact. We lust, we love,  we touch and kiss and hug. We hit and slap and beat the living shit out of each other. It’s contact, whatever way you look at it.

When you are alone, truly alone, even your worst enemy cannot (even if he/she would) show up to help you fight that battle.

Ergo, John Cusack in a hotel room…is pretty much f*cked. No one is coming to save him. And as the eerie lady on the phone says to him, even if you leave 1408, you can never leave 1408.

Horror is isolation.

In the real world and in supernatural fiction, our biggest fear isn’t loneliness, or anything so simple. It’s being truly and really alone.

So stay wary of strangers. Don’t trust them. And if Samuel L. Jackson tells you to stay out of a room, stay the eff out.

Sleep well.

The shopkeeper

I just met the most amazing man.
I didn’t really meet him – I don’t know his name or anything.

Today is one of my off days: some days I freelance, some days I don’t. I’m lounging around my house today until a dinner date and my six o’clock shift at the local theatre.
I wanted a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli, and needed a carton of milk, so I trotted up to the convenience store. It’s a narrow slip of a store at the top of Long’s Hill, and the back was crammed because of the milk delivery. There was an older man behind the counter, chatting with the lady who usually serves me.
I brought my milk and ravioli to the counter, a can of tuna as an afterthought.
“How are you today?” he asked me. He had a kind face, and more genuine interest than most people.
“Good, thank you,” I said, smiling back at him. I asked how he was doing, but he didn’t answer me. He seemed surprised.
“Only good, not great?”
I smiled again. “It’s a slow, lazy day.”
“Well,” he said, enunciating carefully, “we only have about twenty-seven thousand days to enjoy.”
This was something I’d failed to really consider. I have a fear of numbers. Someone once told me to consider that a woman deserves more than twelve years between 28 and 40, and that thought put my head in a spin for days.
If I have a child now, say, at 26, I’ll be in my fifties by the time he or she reaches the age I am today.
But the way the man, with his neat white shirt and soft smile, told me I only get 27, 000 days the whole of my life didn’t make me panic or make my head spin.
Before I could ponder it much further, he said, “How’s your mother?”
“She’s well, thank you. She’s away in Montana at the moment.”
“Oh really? What’s she doing there?”
“She’s on business,” I said as I punched my PIN into the machine.
“She must be a very busy young woman,” said the shopkeeper. At this point I’d started thinking of him as a shopkeeper, and not a convenience store clerk. He seemed to have come from somewhere else. Not exactly another time, but rather a nicer place, where convenience store clerks wear collared shirts and ask after one’s mother.
I barely had time to consider the youth of my mother before he asked, “And does she worry about you?”
“No,” I replied, laughing a little. “My mother never worries about me.” And it’s true, in a way. I don’t think I’ve ever given her much to worry about. I have two university degrees, love to travel, and I’m learning to carve my own path in the world. These were the things she imprinted on my consciousness when I was growing up.
But the shopkeeper said, “I don’t think that’s true. Mother’s always worry about their children, no matter how mature they become.”
And with that, I took my small bag of groceries, and the shopkeeper was telling me to have a nice day.
“I hope your mother has a safe flight home,” he said.