Monday, November 28, 2005


My freckles will conceal my liver spots. I’ll worry less about a flat stomach, and more about my knees. I’ll have a nest egg and struggle to keep my teeth. I’ll have laugh lines.

But, in the meantime, I have to decide what to do with my womb.

You’re young. There is still time, say my parents.
I am nearing thirty, I remind them.

What is your plan? Where is your security? ask my parents-in-law.

What is my plan?

Mourning for the world, weighed down with a responsibility beyond choosing UNICEF greeting cards and buying fair trade coffee, I reasoned it would be irresponsible to procreate.

How, I asked myself, can I introduce another soul to the world in a time when the neighbouring superpower detains people without trial, when my own country is rumoured to do the same? How can I intentionally subject another child to global warming? As infants develop bed sores in group homes, how can I consciously decide to not choose one of them? How, when hordes of parentless children are placed in foster care, only to be subjected to further abuse, can I give my maternity to someone who doesn’t yet exist?

Besides, I might be infertile.

I have two sisters. The eldest once declared she'd never marry, and never have children. Her son came as a bit of a planned surprise, and is now a beautiful and agreeable eleven-year-old. The junior sister by one year, demonstrated far greater interest in reproduction: a degree in early childhood development, tolerance of me (the littlest sister by thirteen years) as her shadow, and a declared desire for several children. She had one, now also eleven. Two, if you count the amount of time she babysat me, now twenty-seven. Three, if you count her ex-husband, now forty. Today she battles, via lawyers, to do what she believes best for her daughter.

Where is her security?

If I were to have a child now, it would be a bastard. I would have no maternity or insurance benefits. It might bear my imperfections. But, I don’t think I am supposed to think about that.

I shortlist names. I don’t think my spouse likes any of them, but I’m not ready to compromise. I suppose with children I would learn. I suppose, if I did carry full-term, I would celebrate that 1970s medications administered to my mother to prevent miscarrying the foetus destined to be me, don't apply their now-known side effects to my particular reproductive organs.

But, first thing’s first.

On a strategic path to a career with maternity leave, keeping my options open, I sit on several committees with a particularly strong-minded, socially-conscious childless professional. Occasionally, she asks personal questions that can’t be answered without careful consideration.

What do you want? she asked.

Feeling particularly vulnerable, made sensitive by my in-laws’ prodding, I justified my decision to probably not have children by recounting the ongoing collapse of civilization and environmental ruin. She listened, entirely unconvinced.

When I was your age, she began (as many advice-givers do), I felt the same way. Her hand was nestled in her grey curls, absently scratching at her head.

Vietnam. Pol Pot. Agent Orange. Thalidomide. The Cold War. I was convinced, she said, as many were, that the world was ending; that it would be unfair to bring children into the world as it was. Thirty years later, and we are no better or worse off, but now I’m fifty. Had I known, my choices would have been different. Happiness for me now, is being a really good aunt.

I thought of my sisters’ children. And, of how we live a thousand kilometres apart. And, that there will always be drought in the Kalahari.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Good book times three

The bibles came into my possession by their own devices. Occasionally, small red testaments travelled home with me from school, delivered by nameless laymen spreading God's word to all the little children. Separation between church and state be damned.

My mother's advice, gospel at the time, rang in my ears. One must never destroy or defile a book of God, for fear of burning in Hell for all eternity. And so, I carried each little red albatross home, and cared for it.

The secretive black leather bible sealed shut, cover to cover. The zipper caught on the corners, and I cursed its design. I zipped and unzipped to alternately admire and protect the onion skin paper. I wondered what "begat" meant. That's as far as I'd gotten.

My God was a very large man with long grey hair, armed with a scowl and lightening bolts. My relationship with him was rooted in fear. I had somehow confused the Christian creator with Zeus. And, so it was.

I compensated for my lack of faith, trust and Jesus-love with rituals to help protect my family from God's wrath.

Perhaps for my mother it was merely an anecdote. Or, perhaps it wasn't her who told me at all. Maybe it was a movie or a book or my own terrified child mind, but for reasons that made sense at the time, I began hiding the bibles under the mattresses to protect the sleeping from evil and death and anything else God might have slated for them.

Under my parents' mattress, I slid the fancy leather bible. It seemed superior to the free versions and more suitable for the heads of the household. I imagined a force field surrounding the bed, and conducted tests to ensure the holy book wouldn't cause discomfort. The little red versions found resting places on my and my sister's box springs.

I felt sneaky, forcing religion on my father like that. He was never much of a theist. I rationalized that my actions were for the greater good, and I slept better, knowing that a force field protected my loved ones. That is, until my mother changed the sheets.

I hadn't thought that far ahead. Wide-eyed and embarrassed, I squeezed my arm between the mattress and the box spring of each bed, as far as it would go, all the way around. My mother had removed the bibles. Although she said nothing to me about the find, I suddenly felt powerless to protect my family from fires, robberies, murderers, ghosts or tidal waves---all things I worried about extensively.

If my mother didn't think it could work then perhaps it couldn't, I decided. There was only one way to find out. I held my breath knowing that I risked burning in Hell for all eternity and tore a page from the red book. To my surprise, I didn't burst into flames. The book was impotent. Felt that I was forced into it, I developed more effective means to protect all that was dear to me.

One. Two. Three. Four.
I started counting, silently and compulsively. Four was safe if my eyes were closed. Multiples of three were always bad. Thank God I knew my multiplication tables, and that my family survived my childhood without being involved in the battles between good and evil that were so very commonplace in my little pink bedroom.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

No, I don't want to coucher avec toi

University students flock to Quebec to benefit from the lowest rates in most of North America for quality post-secondary education. Quebec accommodates the seasonal migrants---from the US and adjacent Canadian provinces---with out-of-province and international student fees that are still lower than what awaited them at home. Backpacks, laptops, foreign license plates and economic benefits accompany the students, as do socio-cultural challenges.

The official language in all of Quebec is French, though that's easy to overlook in multicultural Montreal---especially during autumn, as a flood of new anglophone recruits flounder in their new surroundings.

Guilty myself, of not perfecting my French skills during university, I flush when I hear groups of English-speakers complain about people refusing to address them in their mother-tongue. I feel remorse for their ignorance and think of the language police.

Intercultural understanding, tolerance when understanding is not possible, and a willingness to learn is essential to happy living in Quebec, as anywhere.

I watch young students stumble over themselves and declare in defiance---knowing that upon graduation they'll be moving somewhere a little more uni-lingual---"I don't speak French!"

But, last night, at the grocery store...

Two young women in the bulk foods aisle, arms full of chips and snack foods, inquired about local brands of cola. In English, they addressed a man who was stocking shelves. He responded in French with a smile, his speech clearly affected by a severe hearing impairment, "I am deaf. Please move your mouth slowly so I can read your lips."

Annoyed, and not listening, the young woman retorted, "I don't speak French."

No less familiar with her kind, than she was with reacting defensively to anything said in French, he read her lips and responded politely in English instead.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Getting in my own way

"Don't you think she's one of the prettiest girls you've ever seen?" he prompted the bouncer, squeezing me to his side. I smiled like the child he treated me as, and inhaled for my sanity. This bouncer, well-versed in lust and drugs, avoided collusion. He recognized the undertone and was respectful enough to remain silent. I threw him a glance of appreciation.

The monologue preceding the declaration set a tone worth considering. The man, clearly on amphetamines had insisted on supplying my friend with cigarettes and both of us with drinks. He was a near stranger; familiar with other acquaintances. Her budget led her to accept, and I considered mine irrelevant after a stressful day at the office. I'd arrived at the bar in a suit and heels, readied for a cold beer by hours of mental struggle in my new workplace. He insisted on purchasing my beer as he'd done for my casually-dressed friend, but not wanting to feel obligated to him, I made my way to the bar and thanked him anyway. Diluted metaphysics meandered into the conversation, and I meandered out of it, occasionally drawn back in by conversational cycles and shifts in seating.

I stayed on at the bar as others came and went, feeling my stress beginning to return through a flush in my cheeks, a slight fever and heavy head. My companion cozied in with a new acquaintance, and I harnessed the opportunity to exit. I needed to adorn my feet with flat shoes, and my legs with softer fabric. I needed fresh air and hot tea; relief from social pressures. I gathered my things, said good-bye to a chosen few, and headed for the exit.

Thinking I was in the clear, I stepped form the smoky establishment, and found myself in the arms of the synthetically enthusiastic drug user.

"You aren't leaving already are you?" he asked, looking sincerely bothered.

"Yes, I have a bit of a cold and it's time to go home," I shrugged. "But, it was nice meeting you," I ventured, not wanting to cause this man any undue stress in his compromised state.

"Well, before you go..." he started, and then directed his attention the bouncer. "This girl has the prettiest," drawing out the word 'prettiest' as long as his breath could hold, and finished abruptly with, "friend."

The cringe I'd maintained since he first squeezed me to his size escaped my lips in a huff.

Stumbling through the fog of his high, he realized what he'd done. Directing his next comment to the bouncer once again and hoping for collaboration, he added, "Don't you think she's one of the prettiest girls you've ever seen?"

And, thinking I couldn't be more offended by his tactlessness, he grandly finished with, "She doesn't know it, but she's pretty, too."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Costumed cover up

I felt a little shafted when my new acquaintance "Sarah" didn't take time to chat me up at the raging party we crashed last weekend. Still, I took the context into account: loud music, costumes, and a motley crew of old and new hipsters employing a mixed treat bag of substances. I supposed it was just too chaotic.

The day I'd initially met Sarah, I found her delightfully abrasive. Laughing within the first few minutes and not stopping until she left, I plugged her in on my get-to-know roster.

Happy to see her at this pre-Halloween bash, which occupied all three levels of a triplex, I introduced to her to everyone I knew. I wanted her to have a good time. She'd shown up as "pregnant Britney Spears" and I - bloodied by a flock of birds -was Tippi Hedren from Hitchcock's The Birds. She looked so unlike herself, in terrible hoochie clothes, that I really hadn't recognized her at first, not until I saw our mutual friend arrive with her.

The last time we'd chatted, we expressed appreciation for people who stay in character while costumed for Halloween. She claimed to never falter.

This night, while dressed as Ms. Spears, she faked a flaky accent and adopted the pseudonym: Alison. Not understanding why, dressed as Ms. Spears, she'd call herself Alison, I rationalized the concept with her. I agreed that choosing a slightly trashy name to be a more believable character would confuse people more - and, that is the fun of Halloween.

Dedicated to her new persona, Sarah insisted her name was "Alison" each time I introduced her. Her outfit was convincing, too. A friend of mine, laughing at her bubble gum pink New York Yankees hat, asked her where she got it.

"In New York," she snarled, almost convincingly.

All night, I chuckled as she stayed in character, arguing with people about her name and insisting the clothes were her own, that she always dressed like that. Even her roommate got involved, as Britney's trashy-naive little sister. "Why do you keep calling her Sarah?" she joked. This dedication to humour, I thought, is why I think Sarah is so genuinely hilarious. Her roommate didn't look like someone I would normally befriend, but nor did my own costumed troupe of girls at this all-out, over-the-top party. I chatted with them here and there during the course of the chaotic mash.

The night went on and on. Taking the hint from the rising sun, we eventually left. Some with jackets, some without. Some staggering, some laughing, some better than others.

Overall, it was a delightfully debaucherous evening. Regardless of costume, we all resurrected our roles as irresponsible university students, though the official titles were retired 5-10 years ago.

But, one mystery remains. The next afternoon I reluctantly dragged my swollen brain from my pillow to the phone. During a laughter-filled recap of the evening, my friend asked me who the girl was that I'd been talking to all night. I said I was surprised she hadn't recognized Sarah. Then, I had my first moment of clarity since I cracked my first cold one: Sarah wasn't at the party.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Young pro(con)fessional

It was my first. In Quebec we call them "5 à 7", known to the rest of North America as "Happy Hour". The grand gathering of suits, a young professional association, had an air that was anything but professional.

The invitation I'd accepted from my supervisor was supposed to enable networking and introduce me to likeminded start-ups with similar goals. Hosted in a section of the city I prefer to mock than mingle with, the evening left me foreign in my own land. As the Anglophone minority, the rift was further complicated by my status as an "assistant", which my supervisor mistakenly replaced with the title "intern". My cringe was surely visible to the naked eye, but she, a young professional herself, was blinded by newly acquired status and several glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.

The bouchées were mildly appetizing and provided a welcome reprieve from actively averting my eyes from sex-starved twenty- and thirty-somethings. My co-worker and officemate, a charismatic woman in her very early forties, claimed to be starving and so sampled many a bouchée. On the advice of her homeopath, or perhaps it was her naturopath---the two are at odds---who diagnosed her with a gluten allergy, she gracefully selected small crackers from the server's tray, licked off the topping and stashed the wet crackers on an abandoned table. I giggled in delight at her fantastic lack of giving-a-shit.

The only man I engaged at the schmooze-fest was introduced to me as an "up-and-coming business journalist". I realized the pun when his girlfriend rang his cell phone to check on him, and he promptly reassured me that she is "very open-minded". The conversation droned with his business terminology and my feigned interest.

The dinner to follow featured a motley crew of personalities at the table, all belonging to women from my department. All beautiful, all blonde, none as I'd expected. The inexperienced waitress assigned to us opened our wine in a manner that made me fear for her safety. Slipping twice as she sliced the foil, I wondered if it was her first or third time opening for an audience. She strangled the neck of the bottle, twisting as she drilled in the corkscrew, then hauled the cork with a deafening "pop!" like someone's drunk cousin at a wedding.

As the Shiraz women distinguished themselves from the Sauvignon Blanc women, confessions began to roll from red carpet tongues. Gossip and opinions flitted about like the women at the Dior promo booth. Sex dominated, and professionalism never entered the room.

As bottles were drained, the evening came to a close. I kissed-kissed my companions and clicked away in my heels, still feeling like a foreigner in my own city. As it was early enough, I promptly exchanged my satin-sashed pants and strappy shoes for jeans and Converse, and headed to my friend's home for a beer, bearing perfumed gifts from Dior.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Migration patterns of Canadian youth

I landed in this city unannounced. Nothing was remarkable about my arrival, and no one awaited me---a singular party caught in a mass departure---a wayward bird caught in a hurricane, and just as prepared. Children of small towns are economic migrants, even in Canada.

Reared in a rural coastal village, I threw myself from the nest with wet feathers. Maladjusted and armed only with certificates of insignificance, I bought my ticket out of all I knew well, for the uncertain unknown, for the urban existence of rape and murder, for narcotics and homosexuality. For fear-after-dark and beasts less recognizable than the chubby and misunderstood man up the street. I traded in the rattle of sea stones, the night sky, feral eyes in bushes, and sadly, my family. I traded the loneliness of a socially awkward adolescent in a small hamlet, for awe. And, here I am, still awed.

Surrounded by mechanisms barely understood, I very slowly created a new personal culture, within which I developed new belief systems, new approaches to supply and demand, new ideas about cause and effect. Several years later, I developed comfortable patterns. I learned to function effectively in my new urban environment as an entirely new species.

No longer can people can see sand on my scalp, or in my shoes. I regularly return to my loosely laid roots by the sea. This is my new migration. I am no longer unwittingly blown off-course, but still maladjusted.

When I return to my home by the sea and in the woods, I dust off the silt of the urban landscape. The local species recognize me as a fraud, an impostor. They ask me how I like living in the city, but they are really asking: "What are you and what are you doing here?" Locals have always been suspicious of my intentions. As I have come of age, so have presumptions about my nature. First, I was a "lesbian", now, I am a foreigner. I capitalize on the nature of my hometown. The handicrafts are cheap. I know the good beaches. The seafood is fresh and can be purchased straight from the boat. The people will at least pretend to like you, at first.

I can't explain to them why I return so often. I miss my family. I love tasting the ocean in the air, and smelling the beached, decaying seaweed. And, sometimes I miss the gangly child I used to be, who greets me there with a horse-toothed grin. That, is how I know I am home.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

My life in costume

It's been at least 90 days since I've picked up something I've dropped, between the hours of nine and five. In my past life, I was accustomed to picking up my own dropped quarters, pens and such. In my new life, this is no longer necessary. My new life came equipped with gentlemen in suits who quicken their pace to retrieve items for me.

I try not to let it go to my head. I know they are only doing their gentlemanly duty, but still, it is fun to let things drop.

The passage into my new life occurred the day I picked up my security pass for the firm that hired me. It came with the realization that I would need to build a new wardrobe, suitable for a highly visible and serious organization. My freelancer ways were to be shelved. No more late rising or long nights. I would exist in this new life between nine and five in skirt suits and heels. I would hum the inspired Dolly Parton song to myself, alone in my large, windowless office---but, I would never bend over again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fish and sore thumbs

Perhaps the only way I feel "in my element" is when I am undeniably out of it. I find social awkwardness amusing. This is clearly a coping tactic. "Sticking out like a sore thumb" and being "a fish out of water", I can flop and throb without reservation, comfortably. It's expected. It's honest.

As long as there is a sufficient and distinct divide between what I am and what I am not, mixing with new groups is a breeze. It's when differences are subtle that things can get complicated.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Some people don't get my As

Why, exactly, are you thinking about my breasts right now?

Clearly you appreciate my slender physique, but why are you compelled to tell me not to "change a thing", while you knowingly, or perhaps sym-pathetically nod at my chest. You think you are a respectful, modern-minded male, but here you are exposing your ignorance, tactlessly baring it for all the world to see---caught with your pants down.

There really is no right thing to say in response to a comment that is so very wrong, except maybe: Your fly is open.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


In so many ways, I feel like such a child. My insecurities, though muted or muffled, are the same as they were when I was very young - when I first experienced judgement and criticism. The little Pavlovian paths are difficult to reroute. Every now and again, I meet someone who makes me more self-aware, validates my emotions. Someone who demonstrates twisted behaviours similar to my own. These people are irresistible to me. The kinship I feel, my willingness to expose my emotional guts to them is deeply connected to the fact that I can anticipate their response. I adopt these people immediately. I can recognize you from a distance, and I'll tell you when I do.

Sign the papers, share in my drama and Sunday afternoons.

Call me in the early evening while you have an anxiety attack on a busy city street. Sneak into the bathroom with me at a party, just to have a moment. You, me and the toilet. Confess that you are heartbroken about the girl standing next to us. Make me curry while I sleep, and laugh a tired laugh, saying you cried while you made it. Make me birthday cake. Drink too much and worry none. Laugh at how trashy we look in our little dresses. Give me a long hug, even though you don't usually like to do that. Ask, very politely, if you can kiss my cheek, and then continue to brood. Offer to kick that guy's ass, while in your hot pink tights, if he gives me any more trouble. Explain that you are incapable of being mad at me, but that you're "sad at me" because I failed to respect a passion of yours. Run away with me to the comforts of our friend's bedroom, two duvets, a terrible TV movie and fantasize about coffee with me. Hide under the covers with me, giggling, when she gets home. Become annoyed with me when I consider self-restraint. Assume that they probably deserved it, whatever it was. I can sleep comfortably beside you, in our underwear, make-up smudged around our eyes, with morning breath and bad hair. We're beautiful - even with bleeding, broken hearts, bruises on our calves, and blisters on our feet.

No wonder it took me so long to find you.

There are so many little pieces.

Monday, May 09, 2005


While the black-flies were thick enough to drive any sane person to twitching, we still really wanted to go outside. Not only was I trapped in a classroom for most of my childhood, that classroom was trapped in a tiny school in the woods away from the ocean breeze. One spring hits, there is no respite from the blood-sucking insects. Even the males, the ones that don't bite, will land in your eyes, and crawl into any uncovered orifice. Still, we wanted to go outside. It was a beautiful day, a spring fair. The sun shone and the local volunteer firemen brought their trucks to the school to show us how they honk their horns and engage their sirens.

As is often the case, however, a minority of students ruined it for the rest of us. They were acting up, and after the third warning, we were banished to the classroom, heads down on the desk for the rest of the fair. I was livid. It is the earliest injustice I can recall.

Last night, with visitors in town and ale in our veins, we made our way to a peeler bar. We were four giggling girls, one tough-looking-only lesbian (who passed as a boy to get us inside) and a boy with long hair, the designated driver.

It wasn't 2 minutes before the first set of men approached my friend and me. Full nudity on stage, and guys are vying for our attention? They wanted to shake my hand. I smiled, and said, "No offense, but look at where we are. I know where your hands have been." My hands remained folded on my lap. One of the men agreed I had a point.

Positive that nothing they could say wouldn't annoy me, I completely ignored them. I chatted instead with my neighbour, who'd never before visited such a seedy establishment. The strange men were drunk, and clearly "American-males-on-vacation (AMOV)" ---a particularly belligerent breed.

I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"You are all whores. And, I hope you die of AIDS," said the AMOV, attempting to punish us for ignoring him. My friend's jaw dropped, and I responded calmly to his friend, "Your friend is the reason women aren't usually allowed to visit these places alone."

The less drunk of the two insisted on over-explaining, apologizing, while the AMOV sneered over his shoulder. Chicago and Boston, respectively. Sure, it was the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me, ever, but people who allow words like that to spew from their face have deeper, darker goings-on. I am sure it is mucky in their heads, full with general contempt for humanity.

People like this punctuate life events, and make me glad I don't harbour resentment. Not even for AMOVs which swarm like blackflies, or whores, which I believe are mythical creatures, like mermaids. People think they've seen them, but really they're just surfacing fish.

The AMOV punctuated his own vacation with prickly harshness, no doubt bringing the sentiment back to his hotel room, where he'd sleep, uncomfortably, on it all night - his lone companion.

Looking back on the night's events, I prefer to remember the story told to me by the club's balding DJ, originally hailing from Cole Harbour, NS, about the lobstermen who'd import pails of crustaceans to the club and and holler: "Who'll dance fer lobstah?" And, I will think about how the dancer beside laughed at that until she snorted. I'll recall that we have mutual friends, and that she also hailed from NS. She, like many women, is kin, not a mythical creature.

I'll go on to think about how my friend allowed a man to ogle her as he left, just to stick her foot out and trip him. I'll think about how the girls and I paused at the exit, looked back, winked and made rude gestures at the already irate jerks inside. I'll think about how the male friend was the coolest guy within a 20 miles radius of the club, and that is why we not only shake his hand, we kiss-kiss him good-bye.

It will eventually occur to me that I was the misbehaving minority.

And, then I will will justify my actions by explaining that we are just trying to reinvent the reason why women aren't usually allowed to visit peeler bars. It is no longer because the men can't behave themselves. It's because girls just aren't very nice.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Wait. Did I say sex?

I tore the package apart, slowly uncovering its hot pink contents. I knew I was to be published, but what I didn't know was that it would be in the sort of publication I can't show my parents. The book features excerpts from my blog. This one. The one you are reading. And, as a reader, I would like you to think back about all the entries on the topic of sex. Need a minute? Yeah, didn't think so.

I'm quite certain that if you read my words to arouse anything other than your mind, you'd be sorely disappointed. You might shrug and move along to something more suiting to your mood. I imagine that is exactly what all the Googlers, who happen upon this site by searching for: "little+girl+models", do. I would prefer that they burst into flames, but alas, the world is not fair.

I was sure that the kind editor was confused, and had sent me the wrong book. My stories have nothing to do with sex. The only connection I have to the more sultry side of blogging are my links to others, like
The Wandering Webwhore and Fuzzybunny's Disjointed Thoughts.

But, I opened to the contents page, and there it was, listed as: You Silly Little Girl: Little Exorcisms.

Which, if you've paid attention is technically not the name of my blog. I would never refer to myself as a silly little girl. I am nearing 30. And, frankly, "little girl" is far too loaded a term for a place as sketchy as the Internet. Nevertheless, there were my words, a chapter dedicated to me.

It's exciting to be published. I liked it. I just wish that the representation of my writing was a little more accurate, palatable, polite. I suppose that is why I couldn't quite find the words for the kind editor,
Maxim Jakubowski, when he asked for my reaction. That, and because I am currently participating in the production of a history book, and I know how nit-picky people can be about the most insignificant things - like getting a name or title wrong. I know what it is like for people to entirely overlook everything you did right, because all they can see is that "Katherine" should be spelled with a "C", even if their nickname is "Kay".

And, contrary to what you may have thought, the reason I can't show my parents this book is that the address of my journal is at the beginning of my chapter, not because it's too raunchy. In fact, I am certain my mother could spend hours reading about swingers and gay sex, but if she starts reading my journal, I won't be able to write about her anymore.

As you may have noticed, my family is a great source of inspiration for me. Not sex. I don't like writing about sex. Erotica usually sounds ridiculously rehearsed, contrived, dishonest. If I were to write about it, I would get into the politics of it. I would make it academic. I would make you lose your sex drive. And, I can't say I wouldn't do it on purpose. I will leave the honest writing to The Wandering Webwhore, who somehow avoids all the typical traps, and comes across simply as a fascinating adventurer.

To me, the Sex Diaries book is more of a mystery than a collection of erotic journals. I think the kind editor may just wanted to give me a chance to be published. And, I sincerely thank him for that. It is very cool to read aloud to my friends, stories of events they'd experienced with me, from a bound book, published in New York and London.

I will, however, forever be confused.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

When trouble calls

My home town offered nothing to keep kids out of trouble, so they were forced to be as creative with their trouble as possible. Some was more benign than others. I recall skinny-dipping in the Atlantic ocean - not a soul within kilometres, save for the bones of the dead that had been washed into the bay by a notorious hurricane decades ago. My imagination created an element of risk where there was none.

Other kids weren't so easily amused, so they took advantage of what natural resources were available. Muddy boys caught fish each summer evening to watch them flop until their inevitable end. A slow death is anticlimactic, though, so they soon upped the ante by chanting an age-old children's song usually reserved for dandelions. When they arrived at the final line: "Momma had a baby and its head popped off!", they stomped the fish. The dull squishing sound of its decapitation was mercifully smothered by their laughter.

A sensitive child, I'd observe from the sidelines, a witness to fish death after fish death, and scream through my tears, "How would you like it if I did that to you!?" Many, many years passed before I realized I was part of their game.

The kids in the adjacent town had more resources for self-entertaining than the kids in my little village: a pay phone. This was during the golden age, when pay phones not only received calls, but the number was posted on the dial. Installed just outside the only convenience store, the pay phone offered kids purpose and anonymous guidance - a ringing oracle in the night.

They gathered around the battered, lighter-burnt oracle, amused themselves and, on parting, spit in the change return dip for the first poor, unsuccessful caller the next day. The simple tool of communication provided lasting amusement for both loiterers and prank callers. It is a sad reality that now that I live in a city of millions, with thousands of pay phones, the golden age of receiving calls on public phones has passed. Except for this one...

Like a beacon in the night, it rings, summoning passers-by to lift its lighter-burnt receiver to hear the words of a chosen few. We don't share the number. We argue about who gets to do the calling.

The pay phone is downtown, near a park. There are several stores across the street from which the respondents may be observed. The same person never answers twice.

It is surprising how many people are willing to look in the garbage for something a strange old man or junkie on the phone claims to have "accidentally lost". How kind of them to sully their hands and return to the phone to apologize for not having found "it".

It makes me happy for all the good that still exists in the world. People are still kind. Even when I am not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Could've been the whiskey...

I desperately want to explain what prompted the powder junkie at the party on Saturday to scream, "Get her out of here" when he saw me peek in the door to summon my friends to leave. I want to explain why I thought I could wrestle him into the refridgerator in the first place. But, for it to make any sense at all, I'd have to get into the progressive degeneration of the evening, from the first cheers at 5 p.m., until the hair-of-the-dog the next afternoon.

I'd mention something about hauling band gear in the rain, dancing with umbrellas, thieving antlers, wet-willying and attempting a wedgie on a stranger who, to my great disgust, was not wearing underwear. I'd justify why I thought playing truth-or-dare was a good idea. And, express surpise that people were so kind when I crawled on their backs or chugged their drinks while looking them in the eye - why my friend screamed "Duck!" when I vaulted the soda bottle at the junkie. But then, you see, we'd just be back where we started...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


As a little girl...

(Yes, I realize a lot of my stories begin this way. But, I believe in history repeating, in patterns and themes and formative years, so please, bear with me.)

As a little girl, I was personally haunted. The ghosts in my house would follow me to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Fear of them, more than once, led to my peeing of the bed. The trap door to the attic was located in the ceiling directly outside my bedroom, and the threat this posed trumped even the security of having my parents' bedroom right across the hall.

Under my bed lived an arm attached to a horrible hand that would blindly sweep from the darkness to grab my ankles. My closet was prime habitat for a number of beasts and was host ongoing paranormal activities. My drafty window, from which I could watch the wind rock the fishing vessels tied to the dock, provided only a thin shield of warped glass from the spirits of those lost at sea. Past residents of the house had scratched their names into the glass, somehow managing smooth cursive letters, and I was certain they'd never left.

As an adult, I am still a little haunted. Late at night, sometimes I still get spooked, although I no longer pee the bed. I swear. These days I have a new set of ghosts that get me out of bed more often than they keep me in.

Are the curtains too close to the electric heaters? Is the door locked? What's that noise? Did I set the alarm properly? Did you turn the heat down? What is that shadow through the curtains? Are people fighting outside again?

In the middle of one night, not long ago, I had one of those feelings. Something wasn't quite right. Despite the city cacophony, I detected unfamiliar sounds, rustling and dull, hollow bumps-in-the-night. I pulled back the covers and moved from window to window to discreetly observe nocturnal urban dwellers under the glow of yellow streetlights from the darkness in my home.

I saw a junkie desperately digging through his bag, and scavenging the ground around him for something imagined or lost. Assured that this was the cause of my uneasiness, I walked back to my bedroom, outside of which there is a large second-story balcony.
My reflection in the glass of the patio door was most unflattering, I mused.

Immediately following that thought, I realized it wasn't my image moving behind the blinds. I dropped to the floor not wanting this ghostly urban dweller to see me. I shook my significant other, who'd been snoring while I'd been ghost-hunting, to scare the trespasser away. While he rose in panicked confusion, I watched the man outside consider stealing a candle holder my sister gave me. Faced with the angry eyes of my elected protector, the trespasser dropped the item and jumped to the ground.

By the time we opened the window and ventured outside to take stock of what had happened, he was gone, and my heart was pounding. I didn't sleep well that night, which is unfortunate, because I had to get up early the next morning for work. I checked to make sure the alarm was set properly and tossed until daylight.

Feeling a little violated, a little less safe all day, I decided to treat myself to some comfort food on the way home. And, there he was. The ghost was sleeping on a bench in front of the cafe. The warm sun fell on his bronze, matted hair and further weathered his leathery skin. His pores were black and his clothes smelled of urine and alcohol. He was old. Seeing him so vulnerable, I realized I shouldn't be frightened of him. Instead I wondered how he managed to jump from such a height without hurting himself.

Nevertheless, I didn't want him trying it again, so I wrote him a note. Because he looked crazy, I thought it best to give the message a blasphemous higher-power slant (in both French and English of course, this is Quebec):

"I watched you last night my child. I know what you stole. You must repent and take your evil elsewhere, or I will never forgive you.

--Sincerely, God."

I taped the note to his chest, and walked a little lighter all the way home, glad to have the "exorcise".

Friday, April 01, 2005


On damp grey mornings, I feel as though the whole world is sleeping, and that I have been granted a respite from my duties---that no one will notice I am daydreaming about spring, and doing little else.

Monday, March 21, 2005


The clipping was yellowed, naturally. Fifty years had passed since it was first published, but the ink hadn't faded. Surely this clipping was, somewhere, preserved on microfilm and will outlast all those it mentions. It will outlast me.

My mother showed it to me, my grandmother's obituary. Her cousin had found it in his own late mother's scrapbook, my great-aunt, the sister of the victim. He brought this clipping and two bottles of white wine for dinner. My mother, who is turning sixty next year, laid her own mother to rest five decades ago.

The deceased was a stylish young mother of three, sister to several, wife to one and lover to another. She expired in a car accident with a man she may have loved, not my grandfather. The obituary said the driver of the car was unharmed, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

I thought about my mother as a child, hearing adults debate her own mother's death, and all their questions and suspicions. I think about my grandmother's life on public record. Her marriage, the birth of her children and her death, all dates without detail. And, I wonder why my mother's cousin brought the clipping. Is it because my mother had so little opportunity to share my grandmother's life that she must resort to preserving her death?

The driver who killed my grandmother, whether by accident or intention, is likely to still, every so often, think of her. I am sure he's thought of her, his young mistress. The mandolin player. The beauty. If he is guilty, I wonder if his failing memory has offered him peace in his final days.

I've heard he still drinks tea in the town we have all since left, the town with the public records of my family's births and deaths. The same files that have, or will, inevitably record his own.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Angst and the male model

When I think of my childhood bedroom, I don't think of my first one. Not the small one with the haunted closet. When I think of that room, I think of the terrifying attic hatch in the ceiling, just outside the door. I think of the Michael Jackson poster that came alive every night after Thriller was released - until my mom took it down because I was driving her crazy. I think of the face that surely hovered just outside my second story window. This was my first bedroom in the old, wooden sea captain's house my parents bought when we moved to the Maritimes.

When I think of my childhood bedroom, I think of the second. The one with baby blue and pink floral wallpaper and the white four-poster bed. The wallpaper I peeled from the walls, to paint them a deep burgundy red, and the bed was destined to be burnt in a house fire.

A stack of dog-eared teen magazines leaned against my night table. I flipped through the pages, imagining the lives models lived. I read articles about anorexia, and advertisements for feminine hygiene products. This was before I learned to resent the term, "feminine hygiene".

Most of my time, however, was spent pouring over relationship columns and sighing at pictures of young couples flirting and pillow-fighting in highly fashionable clothes.

"Would I ever have a boyfriend?" I asked myself every odd day, alternating with "Maybe I am a lesbian..." every other.

Either way, I was certain I would never land a mate like the dreamboat, bedroom pillow-fighter. I would never drive a jeep to the beach with my best girlfriend to pick up sun-kissed surfers for soda dates. I concluded that it just wasn't in the stars for me - though the magazine horoscopes continued to insist that it was.

By my sweet sixteen, I realized I wasn't a lost cause. That was right about the time I also realized that I had shapely legs. The same legs all the women in my family have - possibly the only thing we all have in common - which they'd referred to as "chicken legs". Male attention and its messengers came and drifted, and I finally felt deserving of the dreamboat of my destiny.

As it turned out, I waited another 8 years.

There he was, in a smoky bar, in a foreign city. His friend snatched me from the dance floor and introduced me. He offered to buy me a drink. I accepted, even though I didn't think he was good-looking or charismatic enough. I followed him to the bar to make sure he didn't add anything to my cocktail, because I didn't think he looked trustworthy enough either. Nevertheless, it was my first night in a strange city, and we enjoyed talking over the loud, and terrible, music. He gave me his cell number, and my friends giggled. He said he was a model. This did not work in his favour. My friends, however, insisted that I call him.

I didn't.

Several weeks later, I bumped into him at PS1, an arty party in NYC. I made a lame excuse about why I hadn't dialed him, and gave him my number, to take the edge off an uncomfortable interaction.

He called.
I didn't call him back.
He called again.
And, again.

Each message was sillier than the last. He was humble and persistent, and funny. If it wasn't the humour that finally suckered me in, it was his persistence.

We dated for a few weeks. Partied. After a while, he wasn't funny anymore. He was actually a little boring. He didn't clean up after himself. He wouldn't allow me to engage him in debates. He didn't read. I'm not saying he was illiterate, but there were no books in his house - just magazines.

But, he was hot. I discovered that not only was he not lying about being a model, he was actually quite successful for a stint. After weeks of my pestering, he showed me his portfolio, and the leather suitcase full with magazines bearing his pretty face. There were high fashion mags, par-for-the-course fashion mags, underwear shoots and...oh my gawd...oh my magazines.

Teen magazines.

There he was, immortalized in a teen magazine, pillow-fighting with another model.

There, in a mediocre apartment in Spanish Harlem with a retired 20-something model, the destiny the teen magazines of my youth foretold, was fulfilled. My adolescent life flashed before me.

Had I known this truly was my destiny, countless embarassingly angsty poems would never have been composed. Had I known, I'd have been able to read YM magazine without 5 lbs (of self pity) to lose in a weekend.

He broke my thoughts with the question, "So, what do you think?"

I wasn't on his page. I didn't know what he was asking. So, I just stared at him.

He took the cue and popped the question, "I guess what I am asking is, do you mind dating someone who is not university educated?"

This was not a question I expected. I looked at the carpet of magazines that blanketed his livingroom floor. It was clear he'd spent much of his life looking pretty. This had not been my experience.

I thought, "Yes. I do. I know university isn't for everyone, but you could at least pretend to read the newspaper, or pick up a book. You could talk about something worth debating. You could maybe clean up the kitchen, it's disgusting. Can you just disagree with me sometimes? I'll like it. Gawd, being the smart one in the relationship is soooooo underwhelming."

I said, "Do you mind dating someone who isn't a model?"

There we sat. My horoscope, the photo spreads, they didn't tell me what would happen next. I looked to the cosmos for an answer. Nothing.

Then, I thought of Neil Armstrong. He realized his dream when he first stepped onto the moon. He knew he couldn't stay there forever, nor did he want to - it would surely kill him. He also knew that he'd never return. But, at least he can say he's been there. And now, so can I.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Lack-of-substance abuse

I don't chit-chat. Perhaps that has become obvious to you, my dear readers, through my long absences, punctuated by proportionately long essays. I'm a ponderer and a writer, not a chit-chatter.

It's not that I don't like to chitter, but my time for recreational thinking is scarce these days - and the only chitter I have is that from too much coffee, too late at night to be productive.

Wish me luck. I'll be back later this week to chatter. Promise.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

One girl’s shimmy to the left

It’s just not fair when one girl (or one group of girls) gets all the attention. It’s especially unfair when there is a stockpile of attention to be had, and none is slated specifically for me. That’s par for the course, being close friends with burlesque performers. Such associations have their perks, though, and instead of nurturing jealousy I'm pleased to play cheerleader.

I have a straight job. I conduct myself in a respectable manner, usually. I buy fair trade goods and free-range chickens. They are still dead animals, I know, but for chickens, being dead just means slightly less cerebral activity than they're used to. Try to make me feel guilty. You can't. I recycle and reuse. I ride a bicycle. I do things by the book---I won't specify which. I am very open-minded and there is little you could say that would shock me. If you do shock me, I’ll ask you for more.

I’ve sown wild oats. I know what the birds and the bees are doing. I've spanked monkeys. But, I won’t jostle my A-cups or make my behind jiggle for a crowd of hundreds. If anything of the sort is to happen, it’s to happen in the privacy of my own home for a significantly smaller audience. (You know who you are.)

When talking “-vert”, I’m a healthy average mix of intro-, extro- and per-. My intro- side reigns when it comes to topless dancing, even if it is “arty” and legal, "political" and in support of the "burlesque movement"---even if it is “feminist” *. You won’t see me on stage, but I will be mingling in the dressing room before the show, complimenting women on homemade pasties, tacking fringe to underpants, and ultimately, at the front of the crowd cheering and bursting with pride for the performers, my friends. I am a burlesquer by association, in the same way that a window shopper is still a shopper---just not a consumer per se. I am a verifiable burlesque poseur.

In recent months, as a much anticipated burlesque event loomed near, I still hadn’t seen my friends practice their act. I did know that the chorus of their chosen song was: “Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it!” And, in recent weeks, I've witnessed more shimmies than you can shake your stick at.

Shimmy to the left..."

With all this shimmying, I knew I’d be hard pressed to eke out attention of my own at the event. I did my best, while trying not to seem too desperate. I was determined to beat the "pretty girl's friend" stigma. I refused to be the bookish companion.

I donned a long, sleek black skirt with subtle bows and Cuban stockings. I modified a halter top and stacked my hair atop my head. With one last glance in the mirror, I confirmed that I was wearing way too much eye makeup and my companion, a fellow poseur, looked like a harlot. Perfect!

We unleashed ourselves onto the city and hailed a taxi to the club. The venue was large and the line up was long. My poseur status enacted fully as I was whisked past the ticket booth, declaring, “I’m with the performers.” Inside, we mingled and waited and pranced.

Once inside, a gentleman acquaintance caught my eye and abruptly beelined to my side to make nervous conversation. I'd first met him a week earlier, during the season’s inaugural snowfall. Having just swallowed three pints of beer, I thought he was very handsome---tall, broad and brown. We chatted. I pretended to be interested in his analysis of electronica. That's apparently when I'd invited him to the burlesque show. When the bar closed, and following a playful, yet savage snow-battle among strangers in the street, Eastside vs. Westside, I left. I didn’t expect him to actually come to the show, and I certainly didn’t think he’d arrive alone.

Mr. Dull-dark-and-handsome chortled through the opening act. He didn’t even acknowledge the topless opera singer on the twelve-foot stage. I made an escape to the front of the crowd with my harlot by my side, and enjoyed the show, minus asinine chatter. During intermission, and at several other points, he engaged me in more witless wordage, all the while gazing at me with big, brown puppy-dog eyes. It was then that I recalled why I don’t like dogs.

As the night passed, the acts became more outrageous, ranging from raucous to raunchy. The shimmying was smooth and deliberate. Wonder Woman chugged beer she'd snatched from strangers' hands. Crinolines clogged the dressing room. Men revealed themselves to be women. Cancan! Tango! Milkshakes! Trampolines! Frilly underpants! Seventeen sets of pasties!

The show was a mad success. The performers and poseurs were having such a grand time together that we nearly forgot men were present at all. The night was memorable and fulfilling, and I'd succeeded in getting all the attention I never really wanted anyway.

*Don't ask me to define "feminist". I won't go there.

Friday, February 04, 2005

And all was well with the world...

As I know I have mentioned before, games play major bonding and educational roles in my family. And, as I have also already mentioned, so does gambling. These activities are equally important to my family’s culture - and so intertwined, so symbiotic, so complementary, that it’s hard to convince my family to do one that doesn’t involve the other.

In fact, currently all the rage in my parents’ homestead is: Horse Race. A homemade game that not only involves horses, but cards, dice and a money pot, as well. Combine that with the opportunity to lose the contents of your change purse in 30 minutes flat, and you’ve got a winner!


It took nearly a week of subtle hinting, and finally guilt-tripping to get these people to play my newest non-betting board game. It covers all the bases: charades, celebrity impersonations, drawing, sculpting, trivia and puzzles - oh, and sufficient opportunity for heckling between teams. We gathered around the table - my sisters, their two children, my mother and I. Players ranged in age from 10 to 58, one child per team.

We decided which tasks were “kid-worthy” and which weren’t, and assigned turns accordingly. For example, my mother, the eldest player, was required to hum Rod Stewart’s song “Do ya think I’m sexy?” While this game task was clearly inappropriate for the younger members of the team, after watching my mother act it out (even though that’s against the rules), well, it was clearly inappropriate for her as well.

The children got tired of us filtering their turns, though, and lobbied for us to allow them to read their own clue for the next set of charades. We told them that as long as they understood the word, they would have to act it out. If they had any trouble, however, they could consult our older uncle for help, since he saw no point in playing a non-betting game and opted to sit this one out.

Surely enough, the kids read the card and said they didn’t know what to do.

“Well”, said my niece, “I know what the word is, but, ummmmmm…”

And, since the golden rule of games in is “no mercy for persons over the age of five” - we all yelled in unison: “If you know the word, you have to act it out!”

“But…but…but,” stalled the children, their eyes widening in embarrassment already.

Our elderly uncle took the children to the adjacent room to confer. When they emerged, it was revealed that he didn’t know how to do it either.

“Just give it a try”, my sister told the children encouragingly, “It’s just a game.” And so, we turned the timer over and waited.

The children stood, their arms straight by their sides, staring ahead blankly - frozen.

“A statue?” I guessed. No, that wasn’t it.
“A Mountie?” my mother guessed. No, that wasn’t it.
“A tree?” my sister guessed. No, not it either.

“Why aren’t either of you moving?” we asked. “We can’t guess if you don’t act it out! Come on guys. Move around or something! Give us a hint!”

The children shifted nervously. Arms hanging straight, looking slightly terrified and very confused. Time was running out.

“Come on guys!”

At this point, the children were getting frustrated. My nephew’s eyes began rolling into the back of his head. His jaw was slack and I was certain my first guess - zombie - must have been right. He probably just didn’t hear me. I yelled it again.


The kids shook their heads “no”.

My mother and my sisters and I looked at each other, squinting, thoroughly confused as to what the kids were “acting out”. They were so unusually awkward. Standing more still than we even thought was possible at their age.

Much to the relief of the ten-year-olds, the last grain of sand dropped to the bottom of the timer - their eyes fixed on it - knowing that this would let them off the hook.

“What the heck was it?” we all yelled.

The kids - both of them - looked at us, the adults, as if we were stupid, and yelled:

“We were FLIRTING!!”


We - all the adults - laughed until we cried. We laughed because children are exposed to so much questionable media content - so much sex and violence and American Idol; because of the things they are exposed to at school - like sex and violence and underfunded education systems and junk food - and because of our fear that our children are just growing up too fast for anyone’s good. We laughed because we were relieved.

My niece and nephew are right at the stage ten-going-on-eleven-year-olds should be: Absolutely freakin’ clueless about dating.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Memoir of a son who wasn't ours

Having recently taken a CPR refresher course, my father diagnosed him with epilepsy. Junie claimed he had insulin 'fits', but it soon became clear that his condition was far more complicated than that. The whole of his simple life, spent in a plywood shack, was complicated.

Everyone called him Junie. Junie was short for Les Junior. He carried the namesake of his hardened relation, a man rumoured to be rough with his wife and kids. Junie lived alone with Charlie Pride, a kitten named after a man he respected, in a house barely large enough for its litter box. The plywood walls and floors were permeated with years of pipe puffing, and the fog inside the house was nearly as thick as the misty brine which blew in from the ocean.

In my memory, Junie wears the same outfit daily - and I did see him daily - in a white sleeveless undershirt and blue standard-issue workpants. I was almost eleven when he died, but I remember his suspenders as clearly as I remember the shape of his face - a small pumpkin carved into a smiling caricature of itself. His underarms are stained yellow and his hair shines with pomade, combed just so, deceiving me into thinking it was always freshly washed.

Jesus Christ, he would say. Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, God damn!

Usually my mother would request that people avoid cursing in my presence, but we all knew it was just his Tourette's talking. He jerked his head to the side with every proclamation. He always said it with a smile anyway.

Junie made people uncomfortable. You never knew when he would have a seizure, and they were always quite violent. Though they lasted less than a minute, he risked falling, breaking glassware and scaring the children. None of this discouraged my parents. They understood the signs, and would pry mugs of hot coffee, or his pipe from his hand to ensure he wouldn't hurt himself, or any of us. And, then we'd wait. Junie would eventually ask what had happened and my mother would get him a glass of water, knowing the fit was over. My parents also understood that what Junie needed was for people to cope with him, to gladly endure. Although my parents were only a decade his senoir, Junior began to call them "Mom" and "Dad".

Lacking any sort of formal education - probably due to his multiple conditions in an era, and in a region, that didn't lend itself to tolerance - this self-designated brother of mine read fewer words than I.

He rigged a bicycle with bells and horns and rode 1km every evening to my family's home.
Every. Single. Night.
We could always hear him coming before we could see him.

Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, God damn! Hee! Hee!

When the doctor told him he had gangrene, Junie's regular cursing lost its lilt. He returned from the hospital without his leg - I remember him crying. I remember when the doctor told him the other leg would have to go, too. He was in mourning, and my eyes alternately peered over the top of the table to observe his sadness, and peeked underneath to marvel at his stumps.

It was many months before we'd hear him round the bend again. He exchanged his bicycle for a 4-wheeled electric chariot. Instead of bells and horns, we'd hear the whir of chair's motor maxed out, and the comfortingly familiar: God damn! Hee! Hee! as he neared the driveway and rumbled over the lawn. He'd hop out of his wheelchair and walk on his hands to the front door, let himself in, climb onto his usual perch at the kitchen table and say, God damn! with a broad toothless smile.

Junie complained that he couldn't do anything in the absense of his legs, so my father taught him to carve wood. This is far more complicated than it sounds, because first, my father had to teach himself. In the early stages, Junie's crude carvings looked astoundingly similar to the original chunks of wood my father gave him for practice. Soon though - and no doubt because he had so much free time - he became a master. His likenesses of loons, mallards and piping plovers became so popular among locals and tourists that he had to take orders. He barely had any time for us anymore. Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, God damn! Hee! Hee!

Junie whittled away - physically smaller than when I'd first met him, but full to the brim with joyful profanities. Junie had found a family that suited him and realized his talent, which allowed for his independence. And he never stopped yelping, God damn! Hee! Hee!

Until, one day, suddenly, in his early thirties, he did.

But, God damn! still rings joyfully in our ears.