May 7, 2010
I am massively excited to photograph Scarborough, though I haven’t figured out what of yet exactly. Maybe the people. This place somehow makes me a little light-headed with joy.
In the meantime, here is a photograph from Vancouver. It was taken outside a coffeeshop so hip its washroom mirrors were broken panes.
Apr 27, 2010
This is what comes of moving and bare cupboards.
With under a week to go, the kitchen is devolving into a patchwork of missing foods. The ketchup’s all done, as are nearly all manner of vegetables — except broccoli. On the other hand, there is a whole block of butter and a huge ziploc bag of frozen dumplings. And we went through the last teabag last night. So today I finally made a pot of tea with the looseleaf tea I bought in Gampola a year ago this week.
I could tell you that the tea stings with the taste of home and history and truth and belonging and all those other things. But it tastes like none of those things. I added too much ginger, the magic is skewed.
Apr 19, 2010
A very dark-skinned Indian man walks in and orders a chicken plate for after salat. For a moment we stare at each other, and then I look away.
“For after salat?” says the proprietor. I’m not used to hearing it as salat, instead of salah. “Friend, I’ll make it for you after salat. It’s not so good otherwise.”
And the customer walks to the back of the store, to where the washrooom is.
The halal shawarma place down the street, besides the best falafels I’ve ever had, also sells kafiyyehs and Puck and Vimto and tiny glass bottles of Arabic shatta. All of them terribly overpriced, but regardless.
And tonight, with two weeks to go in this strange city, I learned they also have a musallah.
Mar 22, 2010
Sunday morning neo-Nazi counterprotest in New Westminster;
Saturday night quasi-Khalistani concert in Surrey;
impromptu dinner and dessert with family friends of friends in Richmond, “you sound so nice when you say aunty and uncle;”
telling highschool students about lawschool;
listening to lawyers tell lawstudents that the legal aid cuts make them want to stop being lawyers;
jail support twice in one month;
running through unfamiliar alleys, looking for one specific copcar;
learning the difference between undercover and plain clothes police, and wishing they’d teach me this in school, so I wouldn’t look a fool at protests;
signing off as emergency contact after the fingerprinting;
emailing an instructor to tell him his pedagogy in the last class had been problematic;
next class he was great about addressing it;
mooting while my partner absented himself to vomit in the washroom two minutes before his turn;
meeting my friends’ parents when they were drunk;
missing the funeral of someone I’d never met;
essentially becoming a secondhand smoker;
forgetting I’d left a bowl of yellow split peas to soak for a week on the kitchen window sill and wondering what that awful stench was;
washing and washing and washing said lentils to make dahl, but gagging;
a return to grilled cheese sandwiches with red pepper flakes and too much ketchup;
brunch in some hipster diner, unwashed and hair uncombed, this morning mouthwash stood in for toothpaste;
jugs and jugs of ginger tea, cookies;
more free sushi than I can remember, daily cravings for wasabi;
allegedly forthcoming salsa;
“one of these days someone is going to buy you chocolate;”
buttondown shirts and hightops;
vs. skinnyjeans and construction shoes;
these mountains and this sky;
the kinds of hugs you feel tight around your shoulders for days after, that memory imprinted into your bones;
one poetry reading of the names of killed Arabs, and then their ages;
I didn’t know that was what she’d be reading, or who she was, and was unprepared, so I froze;
astonishment at the quality and quantity of things that can be shared via text message;
one doctor advising me to drop out of lawschool and recommending a counsellor;
another doctor’s hand soft on the scar on my shoulder, indistinguishable from a caress on that deep hollow, my body tensing under the irrelevance of his touch there;
being the only girl in a group of straight brown boys after the show, these musicians and performers hopped up on adolescent adulation, hearing how our every word becomes reduced to trope, watching how bodies move differently backstage behind the curtains, and again shrinking from the touch of strangers, someone’s hand on my arm, the tips of someone else’s fingers on the small of my back, fleetingly marked territory;
late nights in coffeeshops, later nights in libraries;
waiting and waiting and waiting for hypersaturated summer days, waiting until I can almost feel the sun on my naked skin, until the longing is palpable and painful.
The answer is always the same to the question howareyou: busywithschool. There are so many things I could be doing if I weren’t in school.
Feb 17, 2010
February 14 2010 marked the 19th annual Women’s Memorial March, organised by the residents of Vancover’s Downtown Eastside to commemorate the lives of murdered or missing women from the neighborhood. Approximately 2,000 people attended the march this year.
Much love and respect to the elders and the bereaved, and to everyone who has suffered not only the loss of loved ones, but the wilful erasure by state institutions of that violence from mainstream consciousness.
About midway through the march, the procession paused in front of the Vancouver Police Department, where elders spoke about police complicity in violence against Aboriginal women in Canada.
There are over 500 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada. Except for a mere handful, those cases remain open, triggering a demand for a public inquiry into the policing of crimes against Aboriginal women. The violence and policy apathy is especially pronounced in British Columbia — 15 women were murdered by Robert Pickton after the police officially began investigating him.
Even the UN has demanded Stephen Harper investigate why the deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women remain unsolved (Nov 2008). To date, the Canadian government has not responded.
Feb 10, 2010
The other night I went to the world’s worst hip hop show. I need to believe it was the worst, though it likely wasn’t, because if this city can do worse than this, I’m giving up on all hope right here and right now.
I’m not going to get into how fucked it is for a hip hop show to consist of white boys in dreadlocks rapping to an almost exclusively white audience (including one guy in a do-rag), because others have written about that phenomenon more intelligently and less crassly than I could. But there were some details specific to the show that I’d like to believe were unique.
One of the rappers wore a fur tail (fake, I’m hoping) pinned to his bottom; he never explained why. He and his partner performed a song about how they got his sister off pads and onto menstrual cups; he used the word “temple” at one point, but I can’t remember the exact reference because I’m mostly suppressing the memory.
During the intermission the MC said, “I don’t know why anarchists haven’t taken over hip hop,” which made me swallow my drink the wrong way, setting my trachea on fire. I nearly hacked to death.
Perhaps less surprising (given the show was billed to an activist community), but no less gagworthy, was when the rappers called on their soundcheck person to do an impromptu performance — only because she was female. That kind of unselfconscious tokenism around gender dovetails beautifully with how resistance in hip hop music and cultures gets co-opted by white anarchists who think screeching “Fuck the system!” ten times makes for an acceptable hook.
There’s a lot of discussion around the larger phenomenon of young white men co-opting rap and adopting its assumed culture (no matter that that stereotype gets constantly teased by current mainstream black musicians), but there’s something more specific to how white activists co-opt these things. My sense is that their self-identification as “activists” is precisely the mechanism by which they allow themselves to be this ludicrously oblivious to the racial politics that they’re fooling around with. In other words, the problems of entitlement and self-awareness not only do not become less pressing within activist and/or anarchist communities, but in fact are re-entrenched through this notion that by being activist we’re all necessarily beyond this kind of petty squabbling over the ever-fraught intersections of art and history.
So it’s nice to come home to songs and videos like The Remnant’s “Know This“. The lyrics are cheesy as hell (will boys ever, ever get off the woman-as-muse hack), but the boys are pretty and have style, and the filming is so cute (I wish I’d filmed it). And, for the P&P aficionados among you, there’s a Jane Austen reference in there (or so he says, someone else run a check).
I want to get old, grow a gut that I suck in when I’m next to you. Sixty odd years old and still trying to impress you.
Feb 8, 2010
It’s just past midnight on Saturday outside Commercial Station. Two white police officers are ticketing a young black man — one of five in Vancouver — for skateboarding on the wrong side of the pavement.
“But I already got ticketed twice!” he protests.
And so they give him a third.
They turn around after he leaves and watch my friends and me watching them. One of them locks eyes with me and I look away.
This morning I woke to the sound of helicopters overheard, a roar that’s been a mainstay for the week over the city’s less yuppie sections. But now this air security spreads westward, encroaching onto the carefully hedged peaces of Vancouver’s richest neighbourhoods, bringing with it hoards of drunken middle-aged men who clump these streets at night. I start to become cautious about where I go when I go out.
There’s still a week to go to the games. Welcome to Vancouver 2010.
Jan 8, 2010
But it’s also good to return to the loner lifestyle.
Jan 7, 2010
Everything’s forgettable. Strange how that is. I had the loveliest, most exhilarating three weeks in Toronto, which ended only last night, but it’s a struggle now to remember the specific incidents that made it so wonderful. This bothers me.
And this makes being here, being in Vancouver that much more difficult.
Oh well, it’s still early days. I’ll get over this, and start remembering again.
Dec 9, 2009
Kitsilano is one of Vancouver’s most expensive neighbourhoods. It’s where I live here.
And I have felt safer in innercity Toronto in the dark hours before sunrise than I do walking here after the sun has set. I’ve loitered on my own in empty playgrounds in Flemo at midnight and had lone men watch me swing on the swings and felt no fear, while here I sometimes steel myself before walking through these leafy streets, past these quiet and polite houses.
It’s 11PM and I go out for a walk. I stay close to the main street, try to force myself to avoid the alleyways, to stick where the lights are, try to force myself to trust this city, the way it goes dead still with the night. And here, where there are five pet salons in the space of two blocks, the insides of the entrances to the clothing boutiques are people’s homes. You always see the shopping carts first. Then you see the rugs encasing legs, except at first sight, the form is unformed, so you could mistake them for dogs curled up under blankets, and you still often do. And tonight I see the shopping cart and I see the blanket and I’m hoping, as I draw nearer, that he’s asleep, but he’s not. He’s awake, eyes open and mouth closed, sitting up with his back against the door, toque pulled low over his forehead and scarf up tight below his chin. And his hands — why must this one detail, above all the others, hurt most — are folded over his chest, like at the end of prayer, after you’re done asking for impossible things, in resignation or patience, surrender or hope. It’s grown colder in Vancouver than in Toronto, and it’s a deep physical hurt.
So I keep walking, trying to pretend like he doesn’t matter, like the fact of my seeing doesn’t matter, and I shoulder my way through a crowd of drunk boys, and there isn’t a single car on this street, but the stoplights blink green yellow red anyway, diligent and irrelevant. And I think against my will of yesterday, of being in court, under-dressed and over-invested. I think in colours, of the white walls and the brown benches and the orange jumpsuit.
In the daytime, the men — in this neighbourhood, the homeless are always male — mostly disappear, or else they stick to the back streets, like the one I walk through to get home. So we stay close to the thinnest capillaries of this place, away from the surface, where we conflict with the decor.
This neighbourhood is eerie. I do not trust it. I can never put my guard down here. It is too clean, too calm. It is artificial; no one can smile this steadily and this constantly without being a liar. Continue reading this entry »