Natalie Zed: Defying Gravity

Friday, May 30, 2008

Anchors Away

So I have a secret that really isn't a secret at all, but one that I didn't want to put in writing until it manifested fully. And manifest did it ever.

About two months ago, word came out that the Calgary branch of McNally Robinson was closing. I This meant that the city was losing a huge, great independent books store, and the literary community was losing a friendly, receptive, FREE venue for events. Specifically, McNally Robinson has always (since 2003) been the home of flywheel, the reading series I currently co-organize. And now we all needed to find new homes. Blech.

A few weeks ago, maybe 2 days after I got back from Paris, I was at the Talon launch at Art Gallery of Calgary, jetlageed out the wazoo. When everyone else was going to the Joyce to drink and schmooze, just wanted to go home. Simone, one of the Overlords of Pages Books, was heading out, and so I helped her load books into her car and asked for a ride home. She happily obliged, and while driving presented me with a truly ridiculously awesome offer:

She asked if I would take over her position as Pages' events coordinator.

After nearly having an aneurysm due to excess awesome, I accepted. There was an odd period where I couldn't tell anybody, because I still had to meet the other owner of Pages, Ben. That went incredibly well. Then there was an additional odd period because the reason I am taking over for Simone is a conbination of McNally's closing (which has caused the demand for Pages as both a venue and a bookseller to skyrocket) and the fact ythat Simone is pregnant and, at the time, was still in her first trimester and not telling anyone. Then there was about two weeks when my mom was here, and I had quit the old Print Shop job but not started the new job yet, so felt a bit like a fraud talking about it.

Wednesday, I worked my veyr first event: I sold books at the launch of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It was a great night busy but not overwhelming. Simone was kind, Katerina was a blast, my mom got to do something cool, and I had officially started my new life of awesome.

Last night was my first night in the store (the previous event was attended by around 700 people at Knox United Church), and it was another book launch: Rebecca Bradley's The Lateral Truth. Bradley has written a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, but this she described as "pure blasphemy." Bradley read to a packed house, circulated many hors d'euvres and poured a lot of wine while I leanred to work the cash machine and check things in the inventory (though I did manange to wrangle a smoken salmon canape). I also learned about a literary community in Calgary I'd had nearly no contact with at all: the sci-fi fantasy community. Apprently it's very active here in the city, which I suppose shouldn't be suprising considering all the conferences that come through town and the publisher, Edge Books, being based here. Still, it was something I really didn't know about, and it was really cool to be able to peek into that community and hopefully be more connected to it in the future.

I am wokring 6-9 again tonight. It will actually be my first night on the job that isn't working an event, but rather is just learning the ropes in the store. Simone is doing a great job of easing me in, letting me hang back when I need to or jump in when I feel confident. I am just beginning to see how immense, and how potentially excellent, this job actually is.

Ever sine The Rejection, I've felt lost. I've tried to stay busy, be as upbeat as possible, engage is positive self-talk. But when I really got quiet and listened, I had to admit I feld groundless. Working a job that was pleasant and easy for another year was actually a terrifying prospect. This, however, is going to be hard. I am going to flounder, and fuck up, and lay awake at night fretting. It's going to be wonderful.

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Natalie Zed updated @ 11:02 AM!! 0 comments

Sunday, May 11, 2008

10 reasons I almost stayed in Paris

1) It is impossible to find bad wine. The $5 it as worst mediocre; at best delicious. Also, it is cheaper to order a bottle of wine in a restaurant than it is to order a couple of cans of coke and some filtered water.

2) Boulangeries. I ate so many creme-angliase-and-apricot pastries (called Oranais) that I needed to buy new pants.

3) The museums and galleries. In the nine days we were there, not one went my that I didn't see something that caused my brain to short circuit and leak out of my ear. I still can't believe I saw Beuys' 'Peau,' Dali's 'Alice' bronze, and two late (from Arles) Van Gogh self portraits int he span of a week.

4) The museum attendance. I expected to have my mind blown at the Centre Pompidou; my expectations were met and exceeded. I did not expect that people would line up an hour before opening to get in to see the Lousie Bourgeouis exhibit. Every museum we went to was absolutely packed, even on a weekday morning.

5) The Opera House. It was nice to be home for an afternoon.

6) The markets. On our second-last day, we went to an open-air market that stretch for half a kilometer, starting at the Bastille station. There, I bought Chardonnay from the actual village of Chardonnay, a beautiful little bag of dried lavender, and half a kilo of strawberries that changed my life (and were eaten in one sitting).

7) The food in general. Every little cafe and brasserie serves food that puts anything in this country to shame. Our first full day, we walked into a brasseries and had onion soup with croƻtons and cheese, duck confit, and a creme brullee, all of which were mind-blowing.

8) Cemeteries. They're lovely, both solemn and friendly, and the workers look after feral cats that guard the dead.

9) The Metro. Speaking as someone who does not and never will drive, being able to get anywhere in minutes and never be farther than 500m from a metro station was incredible.

10) The architecture. It would be difficult not to find a place to live that wasn't in some refurbished Haussmann-era apartment building overlooking some stunning view.

These were just ten of the moments when I looked around me and wondered how, how I could stay, how I could make it happen. Come on, Calgary, remind me why I am here. It'd mid-May already -- would a *little* bit of green kill you?

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Natalie Zed updated @ 9:04 PM!! 0 comments