Natalie Zed: Defying Gravity

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Near Miss

One thing I genuinely like about this city are the drivers. I have been told that Calgary drivers are horrible by other drivers, but I am a pedestrian. As a pedestrian, I know that I am spoiled by the drivers of this city. Drivers who actually stop at crosswalks, who'll see me waiting to jaywalk and LET ME, who make a face and wave apologetically if they started to go through the same intersection I was crossing and didn't immediately see me, no matter how far away they are. This sort of coddling has made me an aggressive pedestrian, and I am sure my new-found confidence will end up getting my killed in Ontario where drivers are just ITCHING for a hit-and-run. Despite the dulling of my reflexes, I enjoy being spoiled.

Every now and again, though, you get one. I was walking to work the other day, s I walk to work every day, and I come to the Fateful Intersection of Doom. I have a walk signal, my way is clear, but sharing the intersection I have to walk through is a Cadillac Escalade. A cream-coloured, hand-detailed Escalade whose driver is currently talking on a cellphone and looking behind him. There is no way he can see me. I hesitate. Had I been in Detroit, I wouldn't have even tried it. But I've been spoiled. I shrugged and started walking through the intersection.

Inevitably, as soon as I get in front of the Escalade's bumper, the SUV suddenly lurches forward, almost hitting me. The driver has not yet once looked in front of him, despite beginning to move. Now, I could have been a jerk. I wasn't. I tapped on his hood to get his attention. In my experience, when a driver hasn't seen you, you just need to call attention to your presence. They look at you, get that Expression of Stark Terror that you only really see when the moment of holy-shit-i-almost-hit-that-pedestrian-and-ended-up-in-federal-pound-me-in-the-ass-prison blooms in their mind. That's what I was hoping to achieve: a little recognition, maybe a little fear. I'd have forgiven them completely then.

Instead, the driver looks at me furiously. He rolls down his window and starts SCREAMING at me for touching his car, insulting my intelligence, heritage, physical appearance, and sexual proclivities. He threatens to sue me for all the cents I've got for daring to lay a finger on his car.

I was holding, at this moment, a full extra-large Tiom Horton's coffee with sugar and cream. I let him go for maybe a good 45 seconds. Then I smiled and slowly, quite languidly in fact, poured the whole coffee over the hood of his car.

He had an aneurysm. He completely lost the ability to make sentences. He was still screaming, but it was completely unintelligible. I tipped my Nintendo ballcap at him and kept walking to work. I didn't wante to be late, and now I had to buy a whole new coffee.

I don't think I stopped smiling all day.
Natalie Zed updated @ 10:46 a.m.!! 10 comments

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Readings and Freebies

Last Thursday, January 4th, ryan fitzpatrick and I participated in the newest installment of the flywheel experiment. The first time I read in Calgary was at a flywheel way back in 2004. There was a greatm supportive crowd who actually laughed and responded at the right places and took me out to drink afterwards. Since then, I've managed to wriggle my way into reading at the series at least once a year, and moonlight as a co-organizer along with the incomparable Mark Hopkins (who really does all the work).

Twice, I have been to experiments where authors read each other's work. This time, things got shaken up all crazy like: all the readings were collaborations. ryan and I had had it in mind to collaborate for some time, so for the past month and a half, ever since that fateful and chilly night of November 18th/19th when we sat out in the cold for 13 hours waiting to get a Wii, we've been conducting SERIOUS RESEARCH into the particular cultural artifact. The results were presented,verbal wii tennis style, at the last flywheel. I survive on my serve; ryan has a wicked backhand.

The other collaborators were Bronwyn Haslam/Samuel Garrigo Meza and Jason Christie/Wayman Chan. Jason and Wayman made us all feel like slackers in that they took the stage with *74 pages* they'd written together. They'd begun by trading a few poems they'd written individually, then responding to the other poet's work, and back and forth until the thing gre and became a pile of loose white pages on the table in from of them. The idea behind the reading was all the pages were face-down and Wayman and Jason were to draw, and read, from them at ramdom; Jason, however, kept discarding pages until he found something he wanted to read, while Wayman seemed more content to trust chance. Their reading was not competitive, despite, the back-and-forth aspect; The work felt very unified, but also very broad, so when they both read they were drawing from a large, connected body of work that felt right in both of their mouths. I'd love to see this project appear as a set of unbound pieces that could be reshuffled and read in any order.

Bronwyn and Samuel read from a stomach ache suite that had a strong performance aspect to it. I always love watching Bronwyn and Samuel. The last image I have burnt into my retinas was of them at the Blow Out, Bronwyn in a body cast holding a shot gun while Samuel, looking terrified, wore a tu tu. This time, it was Bronwyn slowly, painfully near the end, eating four bananas whenever Sanuel read. I don't think I COULD eat four bananas in one sitting. It was distracting, and made listening to Samuel almost difficult, which is saying something because Samuel has an understated way of reading that always make me lean closer and want more of his voice. When Bronwyn read, it was reasy to get lost in the cvadence without hearing the words; when Samuel read, it was easy to forget he was reading be -- my god she's picking up ANOTHER BANANA. And then I was doubling over in sympathy at the gastrointentinal distress.

The very next day was the Great filling Staion/Nod Launch. With everyone busy, out of town, and generally to holiday-bloated, derek really ran himself ragged to get this off the ground, and I think his work really paid off. We had one heck of a line up -- Frances Kruk, Garry Morse, Jaqueline Turner, Reg Johanson, and Natalie Simpson, followed by HOTLITTLEROCKET. I'd only ever heard Frances and Natalie read before, so it was a very cool event for me just to hear Garry and Jaqueline and Reg read for the first time. It was an absolute pleasure to share the stage with them and introduce them in Calgary. All of them had gorgeous books that had just come out or, in Frances' case, small press stuff to share. All of the readers were spectacular, and I came away with absolutely no money and a whole bunch of beautiful swag. HOTLITTLEROCKET was/were also amazing -- I had heard them before, but never seen them perform live. Despite a lightinh issue that had the band mostly in the dark, they put on a great show. I rocked out like a teenager and told Ed I want to be a groupie when I grow up.

The next morning, ryan, Frances, Ed and I had breakfast at the Galaxie. While discussing realdolls and the way employees become conditioned to absue like a fron in a slowly heating pan, I realized it was days like the past 48 hours that make it worth it to stay in this city. Despite the -25 weather that is threatening to descend again this week, despite the fact that I am young and relocatable and could be on the beach right now. Thanks, Calgary writing community, for being so cool that I stay hear and buy thicker socks. I hope you're happy.

* * *

Ed and I don't do New Year's resolutions. This year, however, we're trying an experiment: not buying anything. Well, not buying anything new. We don't need stuff. Anyone why has been to our apartment knows we have plenty of stuff. Things like food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and underwear must be bought new, of course. There are exceptions: books, for instance. Particularly small press, and particularly people I know, are still going to be supported. The Mall, which I loathe, does not need any more of my money, however. Any things we need, from electronics to clothing, is perfectly available used.

Doing research to accompany the Scmutzes Curbing Their Consumption Experiment of 2007 led us to freecycle . It's a worldwide group of mailing lists and groups all about giving away free stuff. You list something you have to offer or something you want, and people respond. In droves. In calgary alone there are 5000 people on the list. Monday, after a fit of cleaning, I tried an experiment and listed some old kitchen stuff, clothing, and household doodads that I'd never trhow hout but wasn't using anymore. In an hour, it was all gone. Very nice people now only wanted it, but CAME OVER AND PICKED IT ALL UP. It was amazing.

I was thinking, at first, freecycle would primarily be a way to acquire neat things that we were no longer willing to shell out for. Now, the potential for cleaning has opened up before me. I have a storage room full of perfectly usable stuff that we don't have room for or are simply never going to use again. It can be gome this very same day. I am indescribeably excited by the prospect, and watching the clutter disappear instead of just being moved around or shut away makes my OCD very happy.

Our experiment has become two-fold: 1) try not to buy anything we don't directly support for a year, and 2) make a mighty effort to get rid of everything we don't need. I wonder what we'll have left in 2008.
Natalie Zed updated @ 10:33 a.m.!! 0 comments

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Death of Pinchy

In the middle of December, Neil came back into town to visit for Christmas. When Neil is not around, I miss him. We got very close in the months leading up to his departure to spend a year in Vancouver. We saw each other several times a week, often on consecutive days, often with him not bothering to go home in between and just sleeping on the futon. It was a big change to go from wondering if I should put him as a part-time resident of the apartment on my census form to only occaisionally talking on the phone. I miss him when he's gone. I realize exactly how much I've missed him whenever I see him again.

While on prior visits Neil has all but moved in with us, this time I only saw him a bit, largely due to the fact that I was working ALL THE TIME and Neil was finishing his book ALL THE TIME. We did manage to have some breakfasts and nights out at the KP, and, when Tara got back from Ontario and Neil was about to go back to B.C., I had the chance to cook the four of us dinner. For this important occaision, I decided to try and make something I'd always wanted to try, but never managed to pull off: spaghetti with lobster sauce, a la Gordon Ramsay. It was a challenigng recipe, but really very simple: a fresh tomato sauce with cream and lobster meat. Surely I could handle that.

Ed and I went to the superstore for supplies. I was pumped. I blithely asked the man behind the counter for a 2/12 - 3 lb lobster, turning one away because it was limp and almost dead already. Then, I met Pinchy. This lobster thrashed around when pulled out of the tank and looked at me with pure hatred, as if it was thinking "So you're the one who things she's going to eat me, eh ho-bag?" My heart sank. It was perfect. I said so. Pinchy was loaded into a bag with holes and given to me. It was still now, so still I tapped it between the eyes to make sure it was still alive when we got to the check out. Oh, he was alive alright. He was just biding his time, it seemed. I started to ger really worried.

I carried the lobster top and from the car very carefully. I fretted over him being in the plastic bag, wondering if a bowl with some water would make him more comfortable.

Ed: "Didn't we just buy the lobster to eat it?"
Me: "Yeah, but shouldn'y his last hours be comfortable?"
Ed: "What, it's a POW now? Just imagine it's a big bug."
Me: "But...I like bugs. I don't want to kill a bug."
Ed: "Hoo boy."
Me: "I just think Pinchy deserves better than this."
Ed: "Please don't name dinner."

My problem, really, was the fact that there was NO WAY I could put a living, vigorous creature, one so clearly insulting my parentage inside it's head, inside a pot of boiling water. I had to kill it first. But I'd ahve to KILL IT FIRST. In the end, it was Neil who rescued me. Neil has no problem killing things that aren't mammals, so he neatly cut through the crosspiece on the lobster's head before I popped it in the water. Strangely, as soon as it was no longer moving, I had no problem cooking it, segmenting the body, extracing the meat, etc. Neil, however, was freaked out by the "dismemberment" portion of the cooking process. But as long as he does the killing, I'll do the body disposal. Because that's teamwork.

So I lost my lobster virginity, and I was really, really happy with the way dinner turned out. I bought fresh pasta as oppossed to making it myself, which made me feel a little guilty, but the texture was still right. The sauce was awesome and so easy, barring the lobster part, I am beginning to wonder if I should just buy fresh tomatoes and make the damn stuff myself more often. Tomato sauce has been one of the last things I have kept buying pre-prepared. I bought into believing it was really hard. This sauce had maybe six ingredients and took maybe 15-20 minutes to make. And was AWESOME. Oh, Evil Food Industry, you're hold over me is depleted every day.
Natalie Zed updated @ 10:32 a.m.!! 1 comments