Friday, November 09, 2007

I remember keeping a promise, even though I wanted to break it...

One of the weirder jobs I ever had was co-host of a short-lived TV show here in Canada. It was called "Pilot 1", aimed at teens. We would film once a week in front of a live audience, and after the third week, we began to recognize many of the kids. We had regulars! It was a lot of fun, a live band once a week, skits, information pieces...a magazine-type show.

The thing is, the show only ran for 8 weeks. Toronto pulled the plug on the Vancouver-filmed show before we even got one season under our belts. That's life with the CBC.

Anyway, one of the boys had asked me on the last day of filming for my number. He was 14. I was impressed with his bravery, so I gave it to him. A little while later, I got a call. "Paula, would you like to get together and reminisce about the show?" How cute. I told him sure, and made plans to meet him in a public place in North Vancouver where he lived.

A few days later I got a phone call from my friend, Dennis. "Hey, Paula, the band is playing a gig in North Vancouver, right outside at the Lonsdale Quay. Come support us! You are our best fan!" It was the same day that I was meeting the kid. Rats and phooey. "I can't come, Dennis. I've...uh...got a date." A date with a kid, why should I bother keeping it, why can't I do what would be way more fun?

What ended up happening was obvious, looking back on the situation. I did both. After meeting the kid at the bus stop in North Van, I suggested we go sit in the sunshine and listen to the Jazzmanian Devils at the Quay. He thought that was an awesome idea. I kept my promise and got to do the fun thing, too! We danced on the deck and had a great time. I remember at one point the band was singing "I Want You to Be My Baby", and every time they would get to that line, they'd all shout my name in unison. It was so funny, and really impressed my date.

I'll bet he remembers that afternoon, too, wherever he is now.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I remember impressing boys in Junior High...

Most of my junior high years were spent hiding from boys. They either didn't notice me, or did and abused me. I found it was best to try and stay invisible, unnoticed.

But I had one talent that could not go unnoticed or unappreciated. My tongue was (and still is) as long and beautiful as Gene Simmons', and in 1978, that was saying something. Do you remember the rumor about Gene Simmons' tongue? In our school, we heard that his tongue was so long because he had a pig's tongue surgically implanted in his mouth. I was living proof of the error in that rumor.

I'd be at my locker, and some boy would come up to me and say, "Uh, I heard that you can do that Gene Simmons thing with your tongue." I'd unfurl my tongue in the appropriate shape, and the boy would get a look on his face of wonder and amazement. "Wow. Cool." The boy would walk away, and for that moment, I'd feel proud of myself.

I had so much more to offer than my long rock-and-roll tongue. None of those boys in junior high ever found that out. Their loss.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I remember a strange moving day....

I had been living in a bachelor apartment in the West End of Vancouver. It had been a great place to live, with a friend next door and a swimming pool in the basement, but all of a sudden it was costing too much. I had lost my job and had no money. My friend, Jezebel (remember her from this post?) said I could move in with her. Great!! I would save a bunch of money and move in with a white-skinned bat-cave chick, upping my "cool" rating considerably.

I didn't have much stuff. My apartment had been almost empty, with my clothes in little piles along one wall, my stereo in the living room with my records leaning against it, and the couch that I slept on. That was about it, except for the retro dining table and chairs I had bought at a second-hand store. I decided to nab a shopping cart and load all my earthly belongings into it. Everything fit, except the couch, the table, and chairs. I decided to leave them behind--life was transitory, right?

I pushed the shopping cart into the elevator and rode the six floors down to the main floor. I felt kind of guilty about leaving without giving notice, but figured the table and chairs were a good peace offering to the sweet old landlady.

It was a short six or seven blocks to my new apartment. The shopping cart rattled loudly in the evening darkness. I couldn't help but wonder how far removed was I from the bag lady I appeared to be at that moment? No money coming in, all my possessions in one shopping cart...it was a disturbing thought, no matter how far up the "cool" rating I was moving.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


I remember being seriously freaked out, and liking it...

I had a rare evening alone. My roommates, Don and Irwin, were both out and I had our place all to myself. I had just purchased a new "Tales from the Crypt"...it was a compilation with a whole bunch of old issues all in one edition, and I couldn't wait to read it. I took a bunch of beer upstairs, I rolled myself a few joints, and sat down in my room. It was too bright to read spooky comics! I lit some candles and turned out the overhead light...perfect.

I sat in the dim darkness and read creepy comics for a long time, a few hours at least. I finally finished the last story and put the book down. It was so dark! There were shadows in places I didn't even know my room had! It was so quiet!! I hugged my knees to my chest, freaked out good and proper. After a few moments of that, I had to laugh at myself: a young woman, not some silly teenager, full of fear after reading a comic book. It made me happy to realize I had enough imagination left to still get spooked. I cracked another beer and began to read the comic all over again, start to finish. I stayed up until at least 4 AM, relishing the delicious shivers of fear.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I remember trying on gloves....

I have a 13 year old daughter, and she is often looking at some new shirt I have and saying "No fair, how come you get all the cool clothes?" and we end up sharing sometimes. I start with this to contrast it with my mother's clothes. Never once in my childhood or teenage years did the thought of wanting to wear my mother's clothing ever occur to me. Her clothing was UGLY, all polyester and fortrel, just awful!!!

Except for the gloves. My mother had a box on the top shelf of her closet, and if my younger sister and I asked nicely, we could take it down. It was full of gloves. There were little white gloves with lace around the wrist. There were long black gloves that pulled up to our armpits. There were orange gloves, green gloves...so many gloves! We had never seen Mom wear these, but we knew that sometime in her past, she must have. This made her mysterious to us, because she didn't seem like the type of woman to wear something as fancy as gloves.

We'd put on the gloves, tie a scarf in our hair, and pretend we were rich. I'd put on the sparkly silver gloves, find some sunglasses, and pretend I was a movie star. Pam would put on the long black gloves and pretend to be a grieving widow....we would take them on and off for hours, pulling them off with our teeth like some vamp in an old movie.

I don't know where the outfits went that matched all of those glamorous gloves. I'll bet they weren't ugly. I'll bet I would have wanted to borrow them.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I remember being unable to look away...

One of my special treats is taking myself out for lunch. I love eating by myself. I bring a book, I bring my journal, I watch people. This is one of my favorite things to do.

One day I was at a little cafe that used to be above Scratch Records in Vancouver. I was seated in the window with a great view of the street below and the Cambie Hotel right across from me. I was drinking my coffee after my lunch, watching the people walk by, more interesting than waves on the beach. Because of the area, the mix of people was wonderfully strange, business men in expensive suits, drunks, punks...quite a mix of society ebbing and flowing past me.

I leaned back in my chair, and my eye was caught by what was happening in the top window of one room in the Cambie. There were two old looking men with greasy grey hair sitting at a rickety table right in the window. The one man rolled up his sleeve, nice and neat, way above his elbow. As he picked up a rubber tube and began tying it around his arm, the other man lit a match and held it to a spoon.

They were preparing to shoot heroin, right in plain view of me at my shiny table in the neat cafe with a third cup of strong coffee. There was nothing to do but watch or look away, and I found I could not look away. They both injected the drug, then sat at the table nodding. I watched for a long time.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I remember wondering if the smiles were real....

When I was 11, we went on a family vacation to Disneyland. All six of us piled in the car and we pulled the trailer all the way from Alberta. It was a grand trip, with lots of laughing and singing and goofing around. My older sisters were 21 and 19, so this was probably the last time all of us would spend a vacation together, and we all knew this, so we were milking it for all it was worth.

Disneyland was like an impossible dream come true. We were not a rich family, so my younger sister and I would have never pestered our parents to take us there. I remember the line-ups, I remember the heat, but it didn't matter...we were in the Magical Kingdom!

One thing struck me, though. All the people that worked there, they all had smiles plastered to their faces. The pimply teenager sweeping the grounds, the old lady in the gift shop, the man helping us climb into Captain Hook's ship...everyone in uniform had a big smile on their face. I found it eerie. I may have been 11, but I knew that nobody smiles all the time. I made a mental note to never apply for a job at Disneyland.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I remember the rain falling sideways....

Travel back with me to Nebraska, 1985. I am selling books. It is Sunday, the one day of the week where we don't have to knock on doors from 7:59 AM until 9:30 PM. It is the day where we meet at the local hotel for our business meeting, which lasts for hours.

We arrive in the parking lot, none of us too anxious to rush inside. It is hot, hotter than usual, and the air is completely still. We all notice it. "Glad I'm not knockin' on doors today!" We are herded inside to one of the windowless banquet rooms for the meeting, leaving the opressive stillness behind.

I don't know how long into the meeting we are, but sometime after the motivational songs are over and sometime before the weekly testimonials, there is a frantic knock at the door. It is a worried looking hotel employee. "Uh, everyone, there is some extreme weather outside, tornadoes or something, and everyone in the hotel has to move to a safer place NOW."

Tornado? I know where they'll lead us, I've read Little House on the Prairie, I've read Wizard of Oz, and I know we'll be taken to the basement where we'll be safe as the winds do their worst. "Which way to the basement?" we ask cheerily. We are booksellers, prepared for anything. We'll probably spend our time in the basement telling jokes and singing songs.

"This hotel doesn't have a basement."

I look to my right as this statement sinks into my mind for a glimpse out of the hotel doors. The first thing I see is rain, rain shooting by like bullets in completely horizontal lines. Then I notice the cars parked by the curb...the wind is scooting them, lifting them a little, then dropping them a few inches farther down the pavement, hop-hop-hop. The sideways rain is whipping by so thickly that I cannot see past the hopping cars. It is a sobering sight.

We are led, along with everyone else in the hotel, into the innermost hallway. This is apparently the most structurally sound part of the building, but none of us are convinced as we listen to the wind howling and raging outside. There are no jokes, and none of us sing. We all feel very small and powerless, and sit with our backs against the hallway wall, hugging our knees in silence.

---------------------------------------

I don't remember how long we sat there. Apparently there were five or six tornadoes fighting it out in the air, though none of them actually touched down. When the storm was over, everyone ran outside to survey the damage, which was amazing and extensive. All the proud American flags were hanging in shreds and tatters. The giant MacDonald's sign had been torn free from its thick metal post; we found shards of the yellow and red plastic embedded in car tires, having sliced through the rubber like razors; one of the inch-thick iron bolts that had held the sign up was bent in half like a noodle and thrust through the center of a car's windshield. We ran to and fro in the parking lot marveling at the destructive power of mere air.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I remember a nice woman on a rainy day...

During the summer of 1985, I sold books door-to-door with the Southwestern Book Company. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Instead of a boring summer job selling hamburgers or something, I would travel to Nashville for sales school, then they would send our team to some undetermined territory in the USA to sell books all summer. I had never been to Nashville! The adventure of the job grabbed my imagination.

The reality of the job was somewhat different. All I saw of Nashville was the inside of the sales school. Our "undetermined territory" was Nebraska, not at all as romantic as I was hoping. And our schedule...we would start knocking on doors at 7:59 AM, and we wouldn't stop knocking on doors until 9:30 PM, six days a week. On the seventh day God rested, but we had a sales meeting. This grueling schedule was exhausting and monotonous. Our bodies did as our brains told them, but they revolted in any way they could...none of us girls on the team menstruated all summer long. There was no energy to spare.

On one horrible day that will forever remain branded in my memory, the rain poured down in sheets. I kept walking from door to door, knocking like an automaton, droning in a monotone: "Hello, I'm talking to all the folks in the neighborhood with school-age kids, showing them these educational tools..." I was soaking wet, from my head to my book bag to my squishy shoes. Nobody let me in. Nobody. I just kept walking and knocking, walking and knocking for hours in the rain.

It was about four in the afternoon. I had been fruitlessly knocking for eight hours. I knocked on the door in front of me. A woman with a round face and square glasses answered the door. Before I could even begin droning my introduction, she began talking with exclamation marks. "I don't know what you are selling, but you look like a drowned rat! Get in here and dry off!!" and she swept me into her entry way, had me in a fluffy bathrobe with my clothes in the dryer and a mug of hot chocolate in my hand before I even realized what was happening.

Her home was decorated in dark wood and leather, and there was a massive cage in the living room with two very colorful macaws. "My husband is away on a photo safari in Africa, so I'm tending the fort right now!" There were tribal masks on the wall, trinkets from all over the world sitting on shelves and coffee tables. "We don't have any children, but these dumb birds keep me from getting lonely!" she beamed with obvious good nature. "So, show me what you are selling!"

It was the last thing I wanted to do. She was so nice, and I did not want to hit her with the sales pitch, which seemed so fake and rehearsed to me. I just wanted to talk. "I can show you the books, but they are for people with kids, so I don't think you'll want them."

"Show me anyway! You can practice your sales talk!"

I went through the sales presentation, feeling kind of silly as I sat there in her bathrobe. When I was done, she said, "Well, I'll take four sets of the Volume Library, and I need six sets of those Learning to Read books, and you might as well throw in a few of those cookbooks, too!"

My jaw dropped. I mean it. My mouth hung open in utter shock. "Really?" I squeaked.

"Yeah! I have batches of nieces and nephews, and they all have birthdays, and these books look good! Write it up!"

I had to borrow a calculator. I had never made such a big sale. I hadn't even sold that much in a week before, and here I was making the sale in one rainy afternoon.

Once my clothes were dry, I put them back on and headed back out into the rainy day, but it didn't matter anymore. The rain didn't affect me! I had just experienced a true miracle, and I knew it. I kept knocking on doors until 9:30 that night, knocking in the rain, thanking God for that nice lady who talked in exclamation marks and had such a big heart.

Thursday, June 07, 2007



I remember realizing that radios play songs more than once...

I was sitting in my sister's bedroom, probably 6 or 7 years old. I don't know exactly what I was doing there, but she hadn't kicked me out yet--let's say I was watching her brush her long, black hair. She had her little transistor radio turned to one of the stations that Dad thought was stupid (he never actually forbade us from much, but he'd let us know his opinion of our activities at every opportunity).

A song began that I'd heard before! I remembered it because it was about my favourite boxer, Mohammed Ali. Dad would let me watch the boxing matches on TV with him, and everybody knew Mohammed Ali was the King! "Mohammed, Mohammed Ali, floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee..."

"Carol!! I've heard this song before!! I am such a lucky duck!!"

"Yeah, they play it all the time."

"They play songs more than once?"

Carol threw back her head and laughed her teen-age laugh. "Oh, Paula, you crack me up!"

I sat on her bed listening to the rest of the song, marvelling at how much there was about the world that I still didn't know.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I remember making my own flip books....

My mother just got back from a vacation, and she gave my daughter a really cool flip book that uses actual photographs of sea lions, so when you flip the pages, it's like you are watching a wee movie. The book is awesome, and it sparked a memory for me.

I was bored in many classes in junior high and high school. I would take my pencil, start on the first page of whatever textbook I was using for the class I was in, and I would draw a stick man. On the second page, the stick man would be moved very slightly, the third page a little more...you know how flip book animation works, right? I never knew what would happen to the little man until I drew it. Sometimes his head would pop off and he'd have to chase it, sometimes he'd fall off the bottom of the page and have to climb back up, sometimes he'd meet a stick woman...every text book was a different story.

It was perfect. I could still listen to the teacher, and as far as they could tell, I was absorbed in making notes or something. Once the drawings were all laboriously completed, I'd sit back in my seat and flip through the pages of my text and feel very pleased with myself as the little man would come to life. I don't think I showed these animations to anyone else. I had learned early on in junior high that any creative impulse must be hidden or you would be tortured for it. The little men were my little secret.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I remember a friend with amnesia....

Anyone who has lived through secondary education knows what a pressure cooker school can be. Every professor thinks their class is the only one, and there are papers and exams and assignments until you sometimes can't remember if you are coming or going. If you are a music student, you also have hours of practice on your instruments of choice as well.

My friend, Rob, was a music major. He was so talented musically, had a disarming and charming sense of humor, and somehow managed to be completely suave and totally geeky both at the same time. One night he was giving an informal concert in the student lounge. He pulled a stool up on the stage and asked for a volunteer, then walked straight up to me and dragged me up there. He sang "Ain't Misbehavin'" to me, making me blush twelve shades of red when he'd look into my eyes and sing "I'm savin' my love for you!". It was a fun evening.

Not very long after that, Rob collapsed in his room, unable to breathe, a complete breakdown. He was rushed to Emergency, and we were all very concerned. Word came back to the school over the next few days that Rob had lost his memory, and once he was up to it, would probably benefit from visits from some of his friends.

A small group of us traveled to the hospital as soon as we were allowed. Rob was sitting up in his hospital bed. He looked at us all quizzically, and we introduced ourselves. He was still completely himself, charming and geeky, but he did not know who we were, he did not know his own name, he did not remember how to read...he couldn't remember ANYTHING! It was the oddest thing.

His roommate stuck in a cassette tape of some Beethoven symphony. Rob perked up. "What is that?"

"That's Beethoven. That's music."

"I like it! I like music!"

I felt like crying.

"Do you hear that da-da-da thing with the interesting tone? What is that?"

"That's the trumpet, Rob. You play the trumpet."

"I do?"

"Yes, you do."

"Well, listen to it. Can you hear it? There are four of them playing different tones...it's pretty. I like it."

Even though he didn't know what he was listening to, he was listening to it better than any of us could. His talent, his humour, the things that made him Rob were all still there. He just couldn't remember anything.

Over the next few weeks he began to regain his memory, bit by bit. The prognosis: stress. The treatment: take it slow. He didn't finish the school year, though he did come to visit a few times. It made me sad to see him, he seemed so tired and fragile. I found myself wondering how close to the line I was, how close to a breakdown, and what parts of me would be left if I got total amnesia.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I remember the longest line of cocaine I ever saw....

I was living with Theresa. People would ask me, when they'd found out I'd moved in with her, how I could stand living with her...she was always talking fifty miles over the speed limit, she was intense and loud, her hands were always moving and fidgeting and pulling on her long red hair....and I'd reply that I didn't need a TV, I could just sit back and watch T. I got a kick out of her and her vibrating energy.

One day her old boyfriend, Seppo, got back from a fishing trip. This translates to "loaded with money and needs to burn it". He came over with Kelly, a quirky young punk-rocker we all knew, and a big bag of cocaine. We closed the curtains, put on Led Zeppelin II, cracked some beer and began to party, just the four of us.

The party itself is rather unmemorable; we didn't terrorize the neighbours, we didn't bust a hole in the wall. We just hung out listening to loud music. The reason I tell this story is because of this one image in my mind. Seppo, T. and I are all sitting on her bed, looking at records and liner notes in the dusty dimness. We look up, and Kelly is quietly sitting on the floor. He has taken the full length mirror off our wall, and has proceeded to cut the longest line of cocaine I have ever seen, snaking from one end of the mirror to the other and back again three times. We have no idea how long this has taken him. I can see him quietly bending over the mirror making little tiny chops...he looks up as he realizes we are watching him, and kind of giggles. "I just wanted to do one more line."

The line must have been 15 feet long! Silly boy.

I thought to myself at that moment..."This should be a scene in a movie. My life is like a movie."

Monday, April 23, 2007

I remember being given a free burrito...

My best friends lived in Seattle, and it was one of those wonderful weekends when I was down visiting Sheri and the gang. Ed worked with stained glass, Sheri made beautiful collages, Nathan was sure he used to be a scribe in Ancient Egypt...something crazy and creative was always happening when we'd all get together. We'd smoke pot, drink Celestial Seasonings tea, and think of artistic things to do.

We were making our regular trip to Pike's Place Market (had to go to Tenzing Momo for fresh incense and stuff!). I was low on cash, but in high spirits. We were strolling along the street across from the market...well, they were strolling, I was skipping....and I was happily proclaiming to Sheri that I was hungry and I didn't care, when the young man behind the counter of a burrito stand called me over.

"Hey, come here!"

"Me?"

"Yeah. Here. I made one too many and I can't sell it. You can have it." He shyly handed me a huge burrito.

"Uh...thanks!!" I gave him a big smile and skipped off to join Sheri and the others. "Look what this guy just gave me..."

My friends shook their heads. Presents from heaven for Paula again. Now that I think about it, I may have been wearing my orange paisley shirt.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I remember my father's hands...

They were huge.

I can picture my hand going up to hold his as we are walking when I am very young, and all I grab onto is his little finger, and it fills my fist. I feel very safe.

Or as an older child, sitting at the kitchen table eating grapefruit. Mom has cut the sections, and we have eaten all we can scoop out with our spoons, and then we try to squeeze the rest of the juice out into our bowl. We pick up the empty grapefruit shell and squish it with two hands, using all our might, our elbows and shoulders trembling from the effort. Then when we are done, our energy spent, we pass the shell to Dad and with one hand he squeezes out more juice than we could with two. It is our favourite breakfast game.

Or when we eat soup. The crackers are on the table, and we are allowed to put as many crackers in our soup as we want. I take a stack of four crackers and hand them to Dad. He puts the crackers in the palm of one hand, puts the other hand on top and, presto, with one little squeeze, the crackers have been pulverized into perfect cracker powder which he lets fall into my bowl. I try with one cracker, but am left with unsatisfying, irregular chunks. We laugh.

Strong, safe hands.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I remember being given a free shirt....

It was a sunny summer day in Vancouver, BC. There was a big all-day concert at Stanley Park, they called it a "Be-In", I guess trying to re-create the glory days of the hippy movement in the late '60's. There was a whole line-up of local bands, and my friends and I were excited to go.

By the time we got there, more than half of the outdoor space was already filled with blankets and music lovers. It was too nice out to care about being close to the stage, so we happily set up our blanket slightly to the left, two-thirds of the way back. The breeze from the ocean was a bit cool, so I left my long-fringed buckskin jacket on over my tank top.

I was in heaven. I love live music, and I love being with friends, and I love being outdoors...so there wasn't much ruining my day. I felt like dancing, so up I stood, dancing like Stevie Nicks, fringes a-flying in the sunshine. It didn't matter to me one bit that I was the only person in a crowd over one thousand people that was dancing. I danced for the rest of the band's set, totally happy, totally alone.

I noticed up near the front of the stage one particular group of people. Most of them were engrossed in the music, but one man was staring at me the whole time I was dancing. He had on the most remarkable shirt. He was too far away for me to tell how old he was or even what his features were, but his shirt was impossible to ignore...bright day-glo orange, with some pattern that I couldn't make out. I determined to go talk to him once the band was done, and I headed towards him as soon as the music stopped.

"Hey, enjoying the music?"

"Oh, yeah, sister. I was totally grooving on your fringes while you were dancing."

The man had short, curly dark hair and looked to be in his forties. He also looked to be completely under the influence of LSD...I took him for an old hippy who was trying to relive his glory days some twenty years ago.

"Oh, cool. I wondered why you kept staring. Hey, man, that is one crazy shirt!"

Up close it was even better than I had imagined. It was day-glo orange paisley, with bits of day-glo lime, yellow, green...all on a black swirly background. It looked like some crazy black-light poster!

"You like it? Here, you can have it."

He began undoing the buttons.

"What? No, man, I was just admiring it, you keep it!!"

"It's OK, sister, I've got another shirt..."

He handed me the technicolor shirt and reached into his duffle bag for a plain white t-shirt, smiling like a lazy Bhudda the whole while. I thanked him and headed back to my friends and our blanket. They couldn't believe how cool the shirt was, and just shook their heads. Magical stuff like that was always happening to me.

This is a scan of the shirt. It doesn't do it justice. The orange is so bright that it almost hurts your eyes to look at it! But I thought I should include the scan for posterity's sake.

Friday, March 30, 2007


I remember hanging out with the Beatnigs....

For years I had a radio show at CiTR, a university radio station. One of my favorite perks of working there was interviewing bands that would come to town. I'd set them up in their booth with mikes and headphones, then head back to my booth, wave through the window, and off we'd go. I often didn't know more than ten minutes ahead of time if a band would be coming, so there were no rehearsed questions. We'd just start talking about music and see what happened.

I was expecting the Beatnigs to come, but I didn't know when they'd be arriving. I had been playing quite a heavy set, some Throbbing Gristle, some Coil, some Test Department, and it was time for a station break. I opened the mike and began talking, when all of a sudden I began receiving a back massage. "Ladies and Gentlemen of Vancouver, you may not believe me, but I am at this moment receiving a very impressive back rub from a tall, black man that I have never met before. No, don't stop, sir, we're on the air!" Good radio fun, I loved random radio! The Beatnigs had arrived, and Michael Franti was giving me a back rub.

I started the next song, some Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, which really impressed Michael and Rono. I knew they liked industrial music, that's why I was playing it, duh! I ran a good show, I wasn't some dumb air-head playing pop tunes!! I'd done my research...after all, I'd known they were coming for at least an hour.

The interview went very well. Michael is a very intelligent man, and has opinions on just about everything, so I hardly had to say anything. In fact, for the rest of my shift, I didn't really have to do anything at all. I let loose Michael and Rono on the turntables and they mixed music for over half an hour while I stood there and soaked it up. That's good random radio!

Michael Franti is the driving force behind "Michael Franti & Spearhead". You should check them out. Michael is not only a great musician with a lively social conscience, he gives a great back-rub.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I remember finding stuff in my locker....

One of the perks of Junior High at our school was getting a locker in the hallway instead of just stashing your stuff in your desk like in the kiddie grades. I liked having a locker. It was my little space.

I opened the door of my locker one day and found that all my stuff...my books, my jacket, everything...was covered in cigarette butts and ashes. Someone had taken the time to cram the entire contents of their ashtray through the little air holes at the top of my locker. I sighed and began picking the dirt and soot out of all my belongings. I could hear other kids laughing as they walked by.

Apparently I was not allowed to have even the tiniest of spaces to myself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I remember trying on clothes from the missionary box...

As the pastor's family, it was our privilege to have first dibs on the clothes that were donated for the missionaries. I never knew what missionaries these clothes were designated for, I don't know if anyone did. I just knew that if Mom came home with a big cardboard box, we were going to have to spend about an hour trying on clothes.

This was always fun at first. I'd pick out the old lady dress and put it on, then mince around the room like Carol Burnett as the old lady. If there was a hat, I'd put it on and pretend to be French. Mom would laugh hysterically, but soon she settled down to business. She wanted us to try on anything that looked like it might fit. Anything. Everything. Even the ugly things. And there were lots of ugly things!

Mom would spend a lot of time trying to convince us how great an outfit looked if she liked it. I distinctly remember the sinking feeling of futile stubbornness in my gut that arose as she oohed and ahed over a seer-sucker pantsuit. It was so out of fashion that I had never even HEARD of seer-sucker, but Mom was determined that it looked fabulous on me, and so it went into my closet.

I tried not to wear it, but one day there were no clean clothes and the bus was coming, so on it went. All day long at school, people laughed at me. I tried to defend myself, explaining that it was seer-sucker, but that term is nothing but cannon fodder to cruel junior high students. It was a long day, and I never wore the outfit to school again.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I remember an adventure at the bus stop....

It was a sparkling day in Vancouver, the kind of day where you can't imagine being anywhere else but in the middle of the city, right where you are. I was riding the bus home from somewhere, and I felt like breaking up my usual routine--the people filling the sidewalks all looked so beautiful and interesting! I got off at Granville and Broadway. There was a little cigarette shop there, and I wanted to see if they carried any unusual cigarettes. They did, and I bought some.

I headed out of the shop and sat on the bench at the bus stop, waiting for the next bus. I opened the pack of French smokes and lit up. A bus pulled up, but I didn't want to get on it yet, so I just stayed seated. The door opened. I was about to wave the driver on, when two of my friends got off the bus, Scooter and Olly!! (I'm not making up these names. Isn't that great?) They jumped over to the bench and squished me in a sandwich.

"Paula!! You're beautiful!! What are you doing here? Wanna come with us to an art opening?"

Yippee!! I knew this was a sparkling day! Scooter's dad was a fairly successful artist, and was having an opening at an exclusive little gallery right across the street! Of course I wanted to go! We hooked our arms together and sashayed across the street, sweeping into the gallery like three goofy rejects from "The Wild One". Scooter introduced me to his father, who was very busy schmoozing with the people in suits who had lots of money. We spent some time looking at the paintings, but mostly we hung out at the free bar.

Scooter dragged another older gentleman over..."Paula, I'd like you to meet one of my art instructors." The old fella seemed bored with the proceedings and was happy to hang with us three young ones. In fact, stealing the bottles of scotch and red wine from the bar and heading to my place was his idea!! Ha!! We each discreetly snatched a bottle of booze, hid it in our respective leather jackets, then headed back to the bus stop.

Scooter's art teacher was hilarious, with an opinion and a joke about everything. Scooter sat there watching him, a crinkly grin on his face, obviously deeply respecting the man. We sat in my living room listening to music and finishing those bottles, putting a lovely bow on the sparkling day.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I remember when I was a mechanic....

I was 6 or 7, I'm not sure. A lady in our church was getting married to a nice man, a mechanic. As was the custom, all the other ladies in the church planned a big wedding shower for her in the church basement. Someone had the cute idea to have the presents brought in on a wagon pulled by me, dressed as a mechanic, driving my little push-pedal station wagon. (Mine was a cool gold colour, not the sissy pink in the picture here.)

Mom left me pretty much to myself to pull my outfit together. I put on jeans with holes in them and an old sweatshirt. I asked Dad if I could borrow his tool belt and some wrenches and stuff, and I also asked for a shop beanie, the kind with a little brim. I tucked my hair into the hat, brim backwards, rubbed a bit of grease off the floor of the garage onto my face and hands, buckled on the tool belt and headed over to the church. I think Dad must have carried over the pedal car for me.

In the basement of the church, I ducked out of sight of all the ladies gushing over their little ladies games and tea and fussy little sandwiches. We tied the wagon onto the car in the hallway just outside their meeting room, and I climbed in to wait for my cue.

The door opened and one of the ladies beckoned to me. My stomach lurched a bit, but I composed my face into bored nuetral and drove the car into the room, heading for the table where I was supposed to drop off my wagon load...I could feel every eye on me. There was whispering and giggling, and all those women looking just at me...and I LOVED it! I decided that if I was a mechanic, maybe I should probably fix my car a little. I turned my head to the side to listen to the engine as I had seen my dad doing, then got out of the car, grabbed a wrench and stuck my head as far under as I could. More laughter and whispering! I tinkered for a few minutes, then got up, wiped my hands together in satisfaction, and finished my drive to the gift table, all decorated with pink streamers and pompoms. Could this be my first ever round of applause? I know I loved it.

I didn't stick around for long. Us mechanics feel kind of uncomfortable in the presence of all those ladies...we get worried that we will get them dirty or something. I seem to recall eating a bit of white cake with pink frosting and then heading back to the garage.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I remember seeing a white guy that played guitar like Jimi Hendrix....

Because of my radio show at a college station (CiTR), I was exposed to all kinds of music that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. One of my favorite guitar players was Roy Buchanan, mainly because he sounded just like Jimi Hendrix, all bendy and trippy....yet plain as day on the cover of his album, he was a grey haired white man. I loved the paradox this presented to me!

When I heard he was coming to town, I bought a ticket right away. I figured when I got there, I'd run into all the other people I knew...but as I entered the main area of the Commodore, I realized I was wrong. The club was full, but not of my scenester friends. I was surrounded by a club full of men, men with short-cropped beards, men with jean jackets, men who had no fashion sense at all. I was surrounded by blues fans! It was quite funny! I think there were about 800 men, and maybe 6 women. I had entered the blues universe.

It was an amazing show. Roy Buchanan played guitar in some other dimension, he was a complete master of his instrument. I never noticed anything else until the lights came on at the end of the show, he really took me somewhere, I tell you. Once the show was over, I hightailed it out of there...too much testosterone for me to handle, even though apparently I was man enough for the blues.

The next year, I heard that Mr. Buchanan had hung himself in his jail cell. I felt very sad about that, he had seemed so happy when he was playing guitar on stage...it made me wonder about happiness and the things that bring it, and why is it so fleeting? Why is happiness unable to penetrate to the dark parts of our soul? It didn't seem fair to me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I remember Valentine's Days in elementary school...

We'd spend the week preceding Valentine's Day making little mailboxes to put on our desk. Then on the big day, everyone would walk around and drop Valentine's into all the mailboxes. It was expected that you'd just give a card to everybody, but I always had a hard time dropping a Valentine into Walter P.'s mail box. I really didn't like him. Near the end of the day, there'd be a little party where we could open our mail boxes and read all our Valentines.

Every year, from Grade 1 until Grade 5, my mother would make heart-shaped sugar cookies. She'd spread the hearts with pink frosting, then with white frosting she'd write the name of everyone in my class (AND my sister's class) on their own special cookie. Each heart would get a white piped edging of icing, and maybe a sprinkle of pink sugar. They were beautiful, true works of art.

On Valentine's Day, my sister and I would carefully carry our own Tupperware container onto the school bus, guarding it with our lives. "What do you have?" "Is there one with my name on it?" "Those look so good, can I have one?" As soon as we got to school, we'd give the container to our teacher, and she could guard it until the right time. I remember feeling very proud as the teacher would announce each year, "Paula's mother has prepared us a special treat!" and then she'd call up each person by name to get their very own cookie. It used to bother me, though, that Walter P. got a pretty cookie...I didn't think he deserved one at all.

Is that what they mean when they say "It rains on the just and the unjust"? Even the unworthy get pretty cookies? I guess that's good. I've been unworthy of most of the blessings in my life, too, if you come right down to it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I don't remember writing this letter....

"Dear Roger: You don't need to apologize for writing a depressing letter. Depression is a normal human emotion. I love you even when you don't tell jokes. (God, how I need someone to tell me that now.)

Is loneliness an evil under the sun? If it is, then I am a very evil person. But I don't think being lonely is evil; it aches almost the same as love.

I will read 'Waiting for Godot.' When you become a famous director you may cast me as Vladimir.

Funny thing -- just yesterday I was full of joy and very happy. Now I feel awful. This too shall pass. I had been wearing my hair forward. Today I brushed it backwards. Everyone said they like it. This too shall pass. I was very popular in high school. Now I sit alone at dinner. This too shall pass. Oh God, I pray that it will . Consider yourself privileged, Roger. Rarely do I get so personal in a letter. (Perhaps that is why it is so short?)

From one brave new lonely wave,

Paula"

My friend, roger, called me yesterday. He had been cleaning out old boxes in the garage, and there was this letter from me. I had written it on the wrapping of a McDonald's Apple Pie, slapped a stamp on it, and mailed it to him. I didn't date the letter, but it was probably from 1985 when I was a student at Trinity Western University. I don't remember sitting and writing this letter specifically, but I do remember the general malaise of my youth.

Looks like I was emo before any of these young kids with their hair falling in their face were even a tear-drop in their fathers' eyes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I remember realizing I was claustrophobic...

Another winter day in Alberta, another day my sister and I were kicked outside by Mom to play in the snow. Bundled up in our warmest coats and snow-pants and boots and hats and scarves and mittens, we were exploring the back yard...again. We had explored the yard countless times already, but we had no choice but to explore it again. Mom said.

We noticed that the latest blow of snow had covered over the white picnic table. One of us decided it would be cool to dig a tunnel under the table, and it would be safe because the table couldn't collapse on us like snow could. We began shoveling the snow out by the mitt-full, and soon we had a neat little cave. I began crawling in to explore the space, which would have been fine, but then Pam came in close behind me, wanting to explore, too. As she pushed against me from behind, I realized there was no way out, no quick way out at any rate, and I began to panic. "Get out! Pam, back up, let me out!" She didn't respond, wanting to come in. "Get out NOW!!!" I screamed.

"What is your problem?" she asked as she backed out, injured that I'd yelled at her.

"I didn't like that. I didn't like feeling trapped in there." I answered shortly, embarrassed at my weakness.

Pam spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the cave. I never went in it again. I'm still no good with small, enclosed spaces.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I've been immortalized. Check it out here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I remember going to see Jason and the Scorchers....

If you know me at all, you know that I have a penchant for roots-type music...rockabilly, old-timey, bluegrass...I love it. Even when I was a dyed-black punk rocker, I loved it. One of the bands that I would play on my show at CiTR was the cowpunk group, Jason and the Scorchers. They could really rip their way through a Hank Williams tune! When I heard that they were coming to town, I was very excited! My friend, Li'l Debbie, and I agreed to go together. We both wore lots of black, lots of leather, fishnet stockings with black boots, red lipstick, thick black eyeliner, sheriff badges...everything cowboy and punk that we could think of! We looked great!

As we walked into 86 Street, excited to see who else was there that we knew, every eye turned to look at us--we were the only freaks there, and we stuck out like leather-clad thumbs. Apparently we were the only cowpunks in Vancouver!! The club was packed, but not with scenesters like us...with people who looked like they actually listened to country music radio, people with feathered hair and flannel plaid shirts and big belt buckles and tight Wranglers...it looked like a cowboy bar in Alberta, for Pete's sake!!! We headed straight for the front of the stage, not really feeling up to mingling.

When the band hit the stage, it was guns a-blazing! The guitar player, Warner E. Hodges, planted himself right in front of us and played the whole show just for us, it seemed. He was probably wondering where all the cowpunks were, too! After the show, it was a matter of mere moments before Li'l Debbie and I were asked by Warner if we wanted to come back-stage. Well, yes! Introductions all 'round, beer from the band's supply...we couldn't have felt more cool.

Warner had us one at each hip for the rest of the evening. He was a gentleman, didn't try anything untoward...I think he was just lonely and bored and wanted somebody to talk to. The band was heading out that night, so we rode back to the hotel where they had been staying to send them off. Warner, with one arm around each of us, declared he wanted to buy us a drink. The three of us walked into the sleepy hotel bar, pretending it was an old-time saloon, and loudly ordered the barkeep to give us three shots of Jack Daniels and "keep 'em comin'!". It was fun, goofing around in the presence of the bored business men, talking with southern drawls about barroom brawls. When Jason stuck his head in the bar and hollered that it was time to leave, Warner gave us each a kiss on the cheek and disappeared into the tour bus.

I've thought about that kiss on the cheek. I've thought about what a gift a little kiss can be, how it communicates so much in such a short time...it says "Thank you" and "You were worth spending time with" and "You are beautiful" and "Good bye forever". Li'l Debbie and I staggered out of that bar feeling like the two most beautiful women in the world. It was a good night.

Thanks to papaherman for sparking this latest memory!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I remember learning what shame feels like...

Early in the morning, 5:30 or 6 am, I would rise and go downstairs into the living room before anyone else woke up. This was my favorite part of the day. It was just me and my books. I was 6 years old, and I would sit on the brown couch with a volume of the Childcraft library and read until Mom woke up to get our day rolling. The volume I read the most was called "Look Again", and it was full of works of art, from Jasper Johns to Picasso to daVinci and Rembrandt. I loved it. I'd pour over the pictures again and again.

I discovered that if I held the book just right, the hard part of the spine made me feel...well...very good. I had no idea why it made me feel good, but it did, so I'd sit there with the book between my legs. It was as mindless as wrapping your hair around your finger or sucking your thumb.

One morning my mother came out of her bedroom and discovered me sitting in this way. She erupted in disgust. "Shame on you, you dirty girl! That's disgusting!! I don't ever want to see you doing that again!" The book was ripped out of my hands and I was marched to the bathroom to wash. Reading was wrong? Or was feeling good wrong? I was very confused. I felt a hot burning on my cheeks, and guilt that was unattached to any action, as far as I could tell. This was shame--an embarrassed confusion covered with anger...I had finally discovered an activity that I had to hide from my mother.

Over the next years, I continued to find ways to "feel good", and felt dirtier and dirtier. I was very good at hiding it. It wasn't until I was in Grade 5 and read a book by Judy Blume that I discovered I wasn't the only person in the world who enjoyed the feeling I got from rubbing my genitals. I nearly cried as I read that book. I had thought I was some kind of freak, that I was broken in some way...and here I was normal. It was a shocking thing to realize.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I remember dancing with old men....

There was a little bar in downtown Vancouver called the Marine Club. It was the kind of bar with a big jar of pickled eggs on the counter and a ratty old pool table in the back. The old-timers that sat on the stools around the counter were such permanent fixtures that the yellow-gray smoke haze that coloured the wall coloured them as well. It became the place that us undergrounders would go to escape for a cheap, quiet beer.

A few nights a week, a tall old black man named Frank would carry his keyboard up the stairs, set up in the corner and play music. He was incredible!! You could ask for any request, and if he didn't know it that night, he would know it next time he came. He'd turn on the drum track, start noodling away on songs like "Fly Me to the Moon" or "The Girl From Ipanema", and the old men and women would peel themselves off their bar stools and dance. I would call out requests for even older songs, songs my mother used to sing as she swept the floor, songs like "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree", "Night and Day", or "Beat Me Daddy(Eight to the Bar)", and Frank would shake his head and laugh and ask me how a girl so young knew such old songs.

The old drunks would saunter over and ask for a dance. I always said yes. I remember these men as perfect gentlemen, polite, charming, and quite good at dancing, considering the amount of alcohol in their systems. Grey hair combed into place, stubborn grey stubble poking through jowly jaws, faded and stained polyester suits....they smelled of beer and cigarettes and Bryl-creem as I danced with them, and I loved it. I loved every minute of it.

Friday, January 05, 2007


I remember finding Blue on the road...

Blue was our dog, a beautiful little blue merle Shetland sheepdog that looked just like the one in the picture here. We had bought her from a breeder in Calgary. She had such a sad beginning in life. The breeder had sold her to a man, then months later was driving along a busy Calgary street and saw a bedraggled dog at the side of the road. She picked up the starving pup, and after checking tattoos, realized it was Blue! She called the man, and he was unapologetic..."She was a pain, so I let her out of the car to fend for herself." At the tender age of 11, I couldn't imagine a man being so cruel and evil. We bought Blue and brought her home, the fanciest dog we had ever owned, with papers and a pedigree and everything!

She was so smart! My little sister and I would make up tricks, and we'd only have to show her two or three times, and she'd know the trick forever. We'd point our finger at her, say "Bang!", and she'd fall down dead. We'd say "Slip me some skin" just like Huggy Bear from "Starsky and Hutch", and she'd put up her paw to shake. She was one groovy dog, certainly not a pain in any way! I felt proud that we had rescued her.

One hot, dusty summer day I was out in the garden grazing on the raspberries. After I'd had my fill, I began meandering back to the house, when I saw a kind of heap on the gravel road. I walked a bit closer to investigate, and realized it was Blue--not a good place for her to be napping! "Blue, come on! Get off the road!" The heap of blue-grey fur did not move. As the realization of what I was looking at slowly dawned on me, I froze. "Blue?" I could barely do it, but I walked two steps closer. There was no life there, none at all.

I ran to the house, crying. I told Mom what I had found, and she ran out to investigate. She came back to the house. "Oh, honey" she said, and pulled me into her arms. We cried and cried. I cried not just for the pain of losing such a sweet pet, but at the futility of our attempt to rescue her.