Natalie Zed: Defying Gravity

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Day Before

So of course we run out of boxes and nearly run out of packing tape.

I am going to chew my own face off.


Natalie Zed updated @ 11:37 a.m.!! 0 comments

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Would you be willing to take part in a short survey?

Me: Hello?
Them: Hi there. I'm making phone calls on behalf of Ed Stelmach for the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party?
Me: I see.
Them: Might I ask if you intend to vote for Mr. Stelmach and the Progressive Conservative Party in the upcoming election?
Me: No. I plan to vote NDP.
Them: Alright, thank you for your time. Though might I ask why?
Me: Because my partner calls out Ed Stelmach's name at the moment of orgasm.

Me: Hello?
Them: Hello, is Mr. Schmutz home?
Me: Nope; he's at work. Can I take a message?
Them: Well, perhaps you can help us, Mrs. Schmutz. Would you be willing to take a short survey on behalf of the Progressive Conservative party?
Me: Sure.
Them: Will you be voting PC?
Me: Nah; I'm voting for whichever party's health care platform includes coverage for trepanation.

Me: Hello?
Them: Hi, I'm looking for the man of the house.
Me: He's currently slaving away under the yoke of capitalist oppression.
Them: I...see. Well, um, Mrs. Schmutz, I'm conducting a short survey on behalf of the Progressive Conservative party.
Me: Of course.
Them: Do you know if you and your husband are planning to vote PC?
Me: Indeed not; we're all fetus-eating socialists in this household.
Natalie Zed updated @ 11:49 p.m.!! 0 comments

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thumbscrews Roundup

ryan and I were most recently reviewed by Christian Bok on The Poetry Foundation website.

ryan and I had our book reviewed in the Herald .

Rob Mclennan just published two excellent reviews on his blog, one of Thumbscrews and one on Jill Hartman and Brea Burton's Booty. Check them out here.

The Norwegian online magazine nypoesi has published a selection from Thumbscrews as well as a review by derek beaulieu -- the same review that recently appeared in FFWD.

Sina Queyras conducted an interview with me and published a selection from Thumbscrews on her blog, Lemon Hound.

FFWD interviewed ryan and I about the tour.

Pearl Pirie reviewed our Ottawa performance.

The Edmonton Journal did an article on the tour.

The Calgary Herald did a feature on us and the tour.

Amanda Earl also reviewed our performance in Ottawa.

Here's a great pic of my tattoo by Charles Earl.

here's a thing about the Calgary Extravaganza.

We showed up in the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter.

I'll add to the list as I continue to google myself in a shameless display of narcissism.


Natalie Zed updated @ 9:30 p.m.!! 1 comments

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sideshow Skills

I was reading an article on Coney Island sideshows the other day. The Sideshow by the Seashore is, in fact, the last official sideshow left in the States. The article was about the phenomenon of self-made freaks. There was a point in the early 20th century when people started to get uncomfortable with the idea of staring at people with disabilities. The notion that these people were being exploited dawned upon the masses and most sideshows shut down.

Or, in the case of the Sideshow by the Seashore, transformed. The acts changed. Suddenly, the stages were populated by self-made freaks: geeks, blockheads, sword-swallowers and fire-eaters, escape artists, illustrated men and women -- people willing to do horrible, awesome things to themselves on stage. The Sideshow by the Seashore thrives.

The article was interesting, certainly feeding my long time interest in sideshow culture, but then I got to the end.

And my life may have just changed forever.

Traditionally, a sideshow performer teaches their skill to one person and one person only. Often a family member, this apprentice works with them, absorbs their skills, and eventually goes on to perform themselves. This system ensured that the skills did not die with the performer, but also protected said skills from becoming common knowledge. Not that most people would want to stick nails up their nose or set off a mousetrap with their tongue, but you get the drift.

But, like everything else about the sideshow, to survive this system had to change.

The Sideshow by the Seashore offers classes.

I found this and immediately wrote the professor. It is, indeed, absolutely true. I, too, can learn to be a blockhead. I have all the course info and registration information. It is really a question of when.

And I will. Oh, I will. Ed and I are going on our honeymoon this April, meaning that the Spring classes are probably out. However, I have been assured that the same curriculum will be offered this fall, most likely in the first week of November. I'll be gone for a week and come back with the most invaluable collection of skills ever.

I've always been a freak. I've hidden, I've fought against it, I've camouflaged myself. Dying my hair and getting a tattoo was the first step to embracing my ugliness, my oddness, and it was one of the most freeing things I've ever done. The time for me to burst out of my little human cocoon may finally have come. And hilariously, I'll be able to do it in a classroom, my natural habitat.

I'm going to Sideshow School.


Natalie Zed updated @ 11:59 a.m.!! 0 comments

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Other Move

When you relocate, you actually move twice: first, you move out of the old place, and then you move into the new place. These can actually be regarded as two separate moves that happen to occur at the same time, often on the very same day. I, foolishly, thought that the moving out process would be the easy part, as we had time to pack and organize and go through stuff. Looking for apartment and then actually acquiring the apartment I wanted seemed like the hardest part of the process, and then it was all a lovely denoument until the moving truck arrived.

You may all laugh at me now.

In order to take the Dream Apartment, we had to give our current landlords short notice of our departure. When I first relayed the happy news, they dismayed. They were really counting on the income from our continued occupation of the suite to help them get through the very involved process of selling their house. Us giving short notice meant we were still on the hook here for March, and it briefly seemed that we were going to have to pay rent for two separate apartments that month. And they wouldn't take it out of our damage deposit. But we'd get our damage deposit back, so it might be a wash. Well, if there weren't any repairs they had to make. So maybe.

As it turned out, this most recent kick in the financial ballsack has turned out to be a bit gentler than originally advertised. Our landlords have agreed to split March's rent with us, and if I clean as I have never cleaned before to get this place in shape before the inspection, we might just get our damage deposit back. Once again, our landlords are awesome. We will miss them.

Only a gigantic kitchen with a dishwasher and a new island can assuage the loss. =)


Natalie Zed updated @ 11:38 a.m.!! 0 comments

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Pre-Brokening

Yesterday, Ed and I went to Ikea to figure out exactly how we're going to spend a sizable chunk of our life savings the weekend after we move. There's a lot of furniture that is old, second- or third-hand when we got it, and is just not worth moving. This is because we're certain some will fall apart in transit or we're just flat our not willing to lift and carry a, say, shelving unit that wobbles like a drunk with vertigo or a dresser that sheds sawdust onto your underpants every time you open a damn drawer. We're freecycling the vast majority of it, and throwing out what can't be salvaged or even given away in good conscience.

So we need to replace some crap furniture with some decent furniture. We also need some more shelving to accommodate the ever-expanding book collection (taking into account I am starting my PhD in the fall, so we need some room for growth), some kitchen storage, and maybe a bedspread that doesn't have a hole in it.

We'd gone through the outdated catalogue we had, made a few notes, flagged some pages with stickies, and consulted the website. However, in the end, there was no getting around it: a visit to Ikea was necessary to complete the planning. So Ed and I grabbed out clipboards and measuring tape and various writing instruments and headed to Ikea.

After our fabulous $1 breakfasts, we hit the store.

We didn't buy anything.

Somehow we managed to avoid the hypnotic gas that usually floods Ikea, rendering all shoppers within unable to sense either the passage of time or the passage of money out of their chequing accounts. We kept moving, made meticulous notes, and fled before the fumes overcame us.

In the end, we've decided to pick up an Udden, a Beddinge Lovas, a Leksvik, a Molgar, a Norden, an Expedit, and a laundry bun whose name escapes me. And maybe some extra sheets. =)

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Natalie Zed updated @ 11:39 a.m.!! 0 comments

Friday, February 15, 2008

Stupid Cats

The first suck thing about the new apartment has surfaced.

When we were first filling out our application, I was very honest about the fact that we have 2 cats. We knew that pets were allowed in the building, and so had no problem declaring the fact that two felines would be occupying the space as well. We filled out the initial paperwork, signed the preliminary agreement, and paid the deposit, all without incident.

Today, I get a call from our new landlord, D, who sounds jumpy. Apparently she missed the line of the application where I stated that we had two cats. She assures me cats are allowed, but that there are certain provisions that need to be built into the lease.

Provisions like a $250 deposit. That's NONREFUNDABLE. Per animal.

D does apologize, and says that if it means we're no longer interested in the place, she completely understands, we can cancel everything without penalty. Ed and I talk it over and decide that looking for a new place is not an option either. We love the apartment, we have no desire to look at other horrible places, and we've already given our current landlords notice, so we have to be out by the end of the month. So we're planning to suck it up and pay.

This is coming 2 days after all 4 of our brakes had to either be replaced or retooled, which came in at a mere $502. There's also all the boxes and moving supplies, and we still have to pay for the move itself. Oh, and make that trip to Ikea where we blow all our savings.

Damn stupid cats. First they break a limb and max out your debt, then they add untold hundreds to your damage deposit. Seriously folks: get a fish.

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Natalie Zed updated @ 5:15 p.m.!! 0 comments

Thursday, February 14, 2008


About 6 months ago, we got rid of our very old futon. It had served us long and well, been there for may friends and guests who stayed with us, but it was time to move on. I freecycled it and started looking for something new. I promptly came across a plaid, tweedy little pull-out couch that looked like it might just be the thing. When Ed picked the couch up and brough it home, though, I was dismayed to discover it was in far worse condition than advertised. It was clean, but very old. The mattress was poky, the cushions very worn. It was also just uglier than I'd hoped. We put up with is until we could find another solution.

And oh, did another solution ever present itself.

When Ed and I went to PAX last year, we discovered a company called Sumo. Sumo does one thing: make huge, ultra comfy, ultra durable...things. They're like enormous bean bag chairs, 4.5' by 5.5'. Ed may have mentioned these things in his post--PAX post here. Every hallway, every gaming room at PAX was filled with the things.

I napped on them twice, and spent untold hours crashed out on them playing multiplayer Picross. We always joked about getting some for our own place, but we really didn't have room for them. Also, we were still pretending to be grown-ups.

Now we're moving. We are not moving the couch; it is either being donated or going to the dumpster. We talked about it, gave in to our own ridiculous, and purchased 3 Sumo Omni super-pillows to serve as our living room set in the new place.

They just arrived.

We were going to wait until we were proper moved to unpack them. Instead, we tossed the couch in the garage, opened them immediately and dove on them.

Holy crap are these things comfortable. First of all, they're huge. I can fit all on me into one if it's laying flat. They also completely suck out all the tension and energy from your limbs, which might make you too weak with comfort to even reach for the remote or properly work a controller. As well, they offer a surprising amount of support, do to their infinitely reconfigurable properties.

They also appear to be indestructible. Liquid just slides off, repelled. Lydia, Princess of the Pointy Feet, hasn't been able to so much pull a thread, let alone rip it.
We've unpacked the orange and brown pillows, but don't yet have room for the red one. Soon, though, very soon, on our new place, all three will be displayed in all their ridiculous glory. We are considering making some sort of gesture toward being adults and getting a Normal Chair for the room as well.

Probably not though.

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Natalie Zed updated @ 10:51 a.m.!! 0 comments

Monday, February 11, 2008

You're Just My Type

On Saturday, I participated in the "You're Just My Type!" event and Arts Central, hosted and organized by the lovely Janine Van Gool of Uppercase gallery. At 2pm, there was a reading in the Pallette coffee shop. The reading was attended by a modest but very enthusiastic audience. It was particularly interesting for me to hear Paulina Constancia read -- I was completely unfamiliar with her work, and the bilingual pieces she performed were lovely to listen to. This was also the first time I'd heard ryan fitzpatrick read from his newest series, and I was very pleased by how well they can off. I've been reading them as they've appeared on facebook, and I expected them to go over well, but the vulnerability that ryan infused them with -- or perhaps that the pieces infused ryan with -- was unexpected and extremely effective. I think he's really got something here, and I can't wait to see where they go.

After the reading, for the rest of the afternoon the readers milled bout as poets for hire. The idea was that we were to write poems for anyone who asked, which they could then turn in to cards with all the awesome stationary Janine supplied. However, it seems our potential hirers were typewriter-shy, so most of us began to make our own cards and poems and other poetic doohickies for each other. I was particularly proud of the card I made for Ed, which has crushed pieces of potato chips glued to the cover that soaked ominously through the envelope on the way home.


Natalie Zed updated @ 10:20 a.m.!! 0 comments

Friday, February 08, 2008


So we went to see the 5th potential apartment on Tuesday night, and it was a big fat no. It was new, had hardwood floor in the kitchen, all new appliances and ensuite laundry, just as advertised.

What was not advertised was that the washer and dryer and been hooked up incorrectly and didn't work yet, that the bedrooms were small and shaped badly and one DIDN'T HAVE HEAT, and that there was no living room. No. Living. Room. Just a kitchen, tiny bathroom, and 2 weird bedrooms. Once again, deeply disappointed, we fled.

With every disappointment, the stakes for us getting the Dream Apartment got higher in my mind. It increasingly felt like if that fell through, we were doomed to live in discomfort or squalor or both. As far as I knew, our application was being processed, and with each hour and day that crept by without us hearing anything, my stress level grew. I got the occasional bit of news from A, the current tenant who showed us the apartment, but it was all vague and second hand. I was starting to get genuinely worried.

This morning, I got an odd message from A, who seemed concerned, asking if we'd ever gotten an email from D, our prospective new landlord. I hadn't, and even scanned my trash and span folders to check. Nada. Befuddled and worried, I asked Ed.

Me: Did you get an email from D?
Ed: Today? No.
Me: Um...ever?
Ed: I got something Wednesday, but it didn't look important.

Turns out the email that Ed barely glanced at and summarily dismissed was, in fact, directly from D. Not only did it clarify our position and answer many of the questions I'd been fretting about, it contained EXPLICIT INSTRUCTIONS telling us how to drop off the deposit and finish the application process. Things that could have been done DAYS AGO and saved me untold hours of stress.

Needless to say, I considered beating my husband to death with a rolling pin. I am better now.

We frantically contacted D, apologized, and made arrangements to make the deposit and complete the necessary paperwork. I took the World's Fastest Shower and hightailed it downtown in -30. I met Ed and threatened him with many horrible things if he ever did this to me again. We got a money order and sprinted in the direction of the rental office.

It was at this point that I nearly killed myself.

I spotted a #2 bus pulling in to a stop across the street. Catching it would shave precious minutes off travel time and increase our likelihood of being there on time. Traffic seemed to have stopped, so I took a chance and ran. As it turns out, traffic had not completely stopped. The car missed me by a good margin, but it came a bit closer to Ed, as he was behind me. He yipped in alarm, and I turned to see if he was okay.

Looking behind me, I didn't see the patch of ice I hit at a dead run. My feet flew up so that for one instant I was perfectly parallel to the ground, then fall flat on my back. I took all the impact on my lower back and the back of my head, which ricocheted off the pavement. There was a very strange yelping sound which I learned later was Ed, convinced I had just fractured my skull.

A very nice and very alarmed bystander helped me up. I was a bit wobbly, but felt completely fine. Not even...sore. Just a bit shaken. We could the bus and Ed stared at me for the duration of the ride to make sure I wasn't going to start bleeding out my ears. Then he giggled and commented on how awesome the fall was. Sigh.

D was waiting for us, and very sympathetic. We signed the lease, handed over a deposit, got our move in date, and shook hands. Everything was checking out fine. Less than half an hour after we left, the last of the background check was completed and I got a call saying that we do, indeed, have the Dream Apartment for sure by March 1st, maybe even earlier if we can arrange it with the current tenants.


The saga of the Walschmutz Housing Crisis is far from over. We just informed the current landlords, who were surprisingly dismayed at our early departure. We have to actually move into the place. This is going to be a huge and expensive and ridiculous process, if what has happened so far in any indication. But at the very least, we are moving in to an excellent place in 3 weeks.

Holy shit. I am moving in 3 weeks. Should I, like, maybe get some boxes or something?

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Natalie Zed updated @ 3:05 p.m.!! 1 comments

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tour Retrospective: phrases most commonly uttered in my direction

I hate you so much.

I am going to punch you in the face, kick him in the balls, say goodbye to Gennie, and fly away.

Shut your filthy mouth.

Don't make me get the belt.

I am going to hit you in the face with this phonebook.

Come here.

Now I am going to punch you in the throat, because I don't want to kill you, and you have to perform tonight, but I want you to stop talking.

That's one.

I am going to kick you until you stop moving.

Screw writing. Your feet alone are freakish enough to make me rich. Rich! I'll take you down to the Southern Sates and display you. I'll make a fortune!
*rubs hands together gleefully*

With my bare hands.

Just wait until we get home.


Natalie Zed updated @ 5:01 p.m.!! 2 comments

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Walschmutz Housing Crisis of 2008

So Ed and I love our little basement apartment. We've been here a smidge over 3 1/2 years now and never had any reason to move. The place it cute, we love our landlords, and the location has always been awesome. The place isn't flawless by any means. The insulation is horrible, which means our heating bills are always high and the apartment is always cold. In the bathroom, the tile is placed directly over the cinder block, so that if the temperature drops below -20, we get a shower full of ice in the morning. It's also wee -- we finally measured it and discovered we had just a hair over 500 square feet of living space. But all in all, we love it here. Also, the rent has never gone up. EVER. Anyone familiar with how rent prices in Calgary have changed over the past few years knows how rare such a situation is. I often joked that I would move when our landlords pried me out with a crowbar.

Our landlords had talked to us in the fall, and mentioned that with one of them going back to school, they were thinking of maybe selling their current home and moving into the house we occupy. But it was abstract, and vague, and full of maybes. We were unconcerned, though I did start keeping and eye out for places in Kensington.

A week and a half ago, right after I got back from Ontario, we finally got The Letter. Our landlords had decided to sell the house we currently live in. Within 12 hours of the announcement there was a sign out front announcing the house's availability. They gave us mas much time as they could: 3 full months. We have to be out by April 30th. This is a lot of time. However, with Calgary's housing market as it is, it's also not much time at all. It took my brother over 3 months to find his apartment when he first moved to the city. With that in mind, Ed and I started looking for a place to live -- if not frantically, then with a healthy sense or urgency.

We've seen 4 places so far, and have a 5th appointment tonight.

Hoo boy.

The second place that we saw was horrifying. It smelled weird, the kitchen was a poorly lit tile island surrounded by a sea of moist, dingy carpet. The "living room" was in fact a strip or carpeting that ran around the kitchen, a useless space that could hold no furniture or tv. All the appliances looked to be on their last legs and Ed was certain he saw blood stains. We looked briefly in each room to be polite, then fled.

The third apartment, under other circumstances, could have been lovely. The house was new and really beautiful, the people upstairs who owned the place were super cool, and it was spitting distance form the LRT. However, that LRT was the Andersen stop, and it was just too far. Also, while most of the apartment was excellent, there wasn't a stove, just a cook top and a toaster oven, and even with permission to use the upstairs kitchen I don't think it would have worked for me. And, finally, Ed managed to offend the landlords with a joke about George being gay for him. It just wasn't a good fit.

The fourth apartment we saw was...iffy. There were good things: gorgeous location in Parkdale, main floor, lots of light, hardwood in the bedrooms, big kitchen. Nothing was well maintained, though. The rug was very stained, the walls scuffed and peeling, the cabinets all askew and handles broken. There was also lots of visible mold in the bathroom, which we were assured would be painted over. We agreed it might have done is a desperate situation, but we're a long way off that.

The first place we saw, though.

Oh, the first place.

It's right downtown. The kitchen is huge and beautiful, all lovely warm tile, with new appliances and a DISHWASHER. The living room is big and bright, almost all of one wall taken up by sliding glass doors that let out onto the balcony. There's a ton of storage space in the form of a discreet storage room with lots of built-in shelves in the hallway. Both bedrooms are huge and bright with enormous closets. The bathroom is lovely, same very light tile as the kitchen, the colour of tea with too much milk, and a huge soaker tub. The previous occupants, who we met, were lovely, one being a self-affirmed neat freak who has kept the place absolutely immaculate. They also had nothing but nice things to say about the landlord.

And it's within our price range. Somehow, miraculously, not even the very high end of our price range.

I want it so bad I've been a tense sniveling wreak for a day and a half already.

We're seeing another place tonight that might compete, just because it's brand-new, never been lived in, and also has a dishwasher (which Ed loves, of course). It's also an easy walk from the U or transit, which is a huge bonus.

However, MOMENTS AGO, I got a message that the landlord of Dream Apartment favours our application, and if our references check out when she follows up on Thursday, the place is ours.

I have to wait until THURSDAY or FRIDAY to know for sure.

I am going to be one open sore of nerves by then.

So if someone happens to call you, asking you personal questions about Ed and I, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD say nice things.


Natalie Zed updated @ 9:58 a.m.!! 0 comments