Friday, 30 January 2015

Mad Elderly Around Town

Kamloops, BC is becoming a town of elderly folks! And they be craaaaaazy!

There were just TOO DAMN MANY Baby Boomers! That being said, my mom is one, and my dad was born even before that, and I still have them (a little stumbly, slightly less lucid at times, and occasionally grumpy...but mostly on the ball and funny), so I'm grateful as hell for that! Crazy as they are, I'll take 'em for however long I have 'em.

To meet this ever growing boom in old folks, Kamloops has taken it upon itself to build a LOT of 55+ buildings and facilities for the elderly. Often near extremely busy corners and streets. This makes things massively interesting come rush hour. Hell...any time of the day!

Now...before anyone accuses me of being ageist, I need to backtrack and state that I am NOT of the camp that decries the grey-haired set as instantly guilty of not being able to drive, not being courteous, not being "with it"...whatever the hell that means for anyone. I really do believe that as people age they have that wealth of experience, practice, and hard-won lessons that enable them to make decisions with a huge amount of research behind them. I try to practice patience with folks who walk a little slower in front of me, to listen in waiting rooms when anyone wants to talk, and to realize that even if someone is acting like a douche canoe, they may have just had a super bad day, lost someone they loved or be dealing with all kinds of things that I don't know about because I'm not in their head. I try and do this for everyone, elderly folks included!

That being said: there's something about being closer to death that makes older folks scary balls of insanity!

My mom is a pretty good driver, and even as she's become fairly forgetful and a bit fussy, she can still haul ass through snow (with no snow tires, by the way...dear god...) like a champ. Granted, she's decided that looking behind her is not quite as needed as before, thus slightly tapping a parked car . But see...there's those life lessons coming into play as she's now looking behind her half of the time! She rides around town with a rosary almost perpetually clutched in her hand, and every once in a while it catches on the turn signal or other knobs and it's then I realize that her priority is NOT to recover the car, but to not lose her place on the beads! She may be praying her way into heaven, but I'm more dubious about where I might end up, so would like a bit more time to do some good works or something!

Every Catholic church we pass she has to make the sign of the cross as we pass it, and this can also cause beads to catch...and I had to wind the rosary she keeps hanging from the rear-view mirror as tight as I could so it wouldn't whack me in the head when we took a corner.

My brother and I have a tendency to...well...fear for our lives from time to time when we drive with Mumsie, and this can lead to us doing--I'll fully admit-- a bit of "back seat driving." Now, I know this is annoying for any driver, and can sometimes lead to more problems, but it's hard not to be a bit naggy when you realize that your driver has whipped into a handicapped parking spot, and it more concerned with pulling her card from the pouch on her sun visor than putting the car in park, which then causes a soup├žon of concern when she goes to leave the car and takes her foot off the brake and you get that jerk forward as she then recovers by jamming her foot back ON the brake.

She also does that "nervous driver" thing at times where the attitude prevails that there is no such thing as "too slow" within cautious driving. Which of course there is. Like when cars are veering around you to pass because they're angry; or when you slowly meander into another lane (remember, no look backsies!!).

My dad is another case entirely. He really is an excellent driver, but as such completely has a "devil may care" 'tude about things like: turn signals, speed limits, no-parking allowed areas. Did I mention turn signals? I usually hear the "tick-tick-tick" of the turn signal for about three seconds AFTER we have already turned. Hey folks behind us: we like to keep the mystery alive and well! Where will we go next?? You'll never know----until it's happened! *magic hands*

When you mention to my dad, "Hey, my knuckles can't get any whiter here dude," it's usually just followed with laughter and eye rolling on his part. Keep your eyes on the road, dad, not rolling around your old head!

I remember my ex-father-in-law and some of the hurtling trips I took with him between Kamloops and Vancouver. If he saw something interesting, he had a habit of looking at the thing on the side of the road, then back to the road, then the thing, then the road, the thing, the road, the thing, the road...all the while the thing was getting further behind as we were zooming past, meaning every time he looked he would be swivelling his head and neck further and further...until you'd be doing 100kph on the highway and he'd be basically looking at me in the back seat and then back at the road in quick dashes. One time he told me I always had a startled look on my face when we went anywhere. No shit, dude. You can see it as you're completely turned around in the driver's seat looking at me behind you!

It's not just the folks in cars, though. Other...vehicles...can be quite dangerous in the hands of certain folks. My new apartment is behind an old folk's home, and there is a chain link fence separating our property border from a long sidewalk that leads to the home. A few times now I've heard a strange clown-type horn honking and almost been run over by a motor scooter with a red flag, and an old man with a blue toque, barrelling down the sidewalk to swerve--so fast it sometimes turns the scooter up on two wheels like the General Lee*--and then careens down toward the local mall. He is driving fast. REALLY fast. Like, if he hit me, I would definitely be transported post haste to the neighbours balcony across the street!

[*PS: the General Lee...from the Dukes of Hazard. Get with the TV trivia, people!]

There's a scooter gang that sometimes circles the local park: four old men who have a lot of "regalia" or "flair" on their scooters and burn around there like unruly teens! If you're walking the park you can sometimes here cackling then the sound of four whirring zooms as they whiz past! Terrifying.

And then you have just the regular crazy in the daily world. Again, not the complete domain of the elderly by a long shot, but in a town filled with predominantly elderly folks, you get your fair share. Today I took my mom to the sleep apnea clinic to adjust her machine: an elderly couple came in just to get a new piece for the husband's gear. They went to the counter in front of us, as we were waiting for the technician to get the readings from the machine's sd card, and suddenly the woman turned and said, "Oh god!! OH GOD! We went in front of you! How rude! OH GOD!" And did that Macaulay Culkin face from Home Alone.

Mumsie and I looked at each other searchingly: "Um, no, you're good. We're just waiting for the readings."

Mad Elderly Lady--now looming over my mom as she flips through some magazines near the chair: "OH GOD! I HATE it when people do it to me, but I HATE it even more when I do it to someone else!" Then she starts pulling weird faces: it was like watching a French Mime (is there really any other kind?) doing face-caricatures: I'm so sad-face; Oops-face; Grrr, I'm angry-face; Hee hee--SORRY-face. Truly bizarre.

She ate about 6 candies from this jar in the 10 minutes they were there, and I started to wonder if she was a heroin addict. As they left she turned to us again, pulling that strange mime face and dramatically smacked her hand to her head and shout-talked, "OH GOD! Crazy lady! Comin' through, right??!! I'm SO SORRY! Again...SO RUDE! I just HATE it when that happens!"

My mom trying to rally assured her it was ok, but as soon as she left we almost died laughing. On the way to the car later, Mumsie says, "That was one strange lady, hey?" I agreed, then watched her whip out her rosary and get in the car.

We then headed to the eye clinic for my mom's next appointment, and as she was getting her eyeballs checked I realized we were in the ophthalmologist's office, FILLED with elderly folks. One old codger came swanning in, and as he was filling in his form regaled several elderly ladies about his prowess in the bedroom. Seriously. One lady was obviously disgusted, a few were amused, and one was, dare I say, interested? After his drops were in to dilate his pupils, he came swanning out again and told loud stories about his ice trucking career. When one slightly annoyed man (I think it was the brother of the elderly lady who seemed a tad caught by this fellow's swagger) said, "Aren't you retired yet?" To which the blustery fellow blustered out in an even louder voice, "I've got too many women to take to dinner, and too much laundry to do! Get it, fella! Sheets! Too many sheets to wash!"

Yup.

Think I'm going to watch the Superbowl with Daddikins, and he just had his eyes drained (I kid you not) as they were "weepy," so it will be like watching the Superbowl with a gnome who had been punched in the face a few times. His wife, when she gets home from making 8000 perogies at the Ukrainian Catholic church, will come home and her and my dad will make weird "joke" sarcastic comments at each other until my father fakes a stroke, face going slack, gaze towards the ceiling, some drool slightly forming at one corner of his mouth. This is his latest thing, which he also does in public sometimes. He's like a Ukrainian Redd Foxx.

My mom will go to the Roman Catholic church, then head to coffee with her cronies at McDonald's, then probably find 800 reasons to zoom around in her car for things, rosary clutched in her hand, or occasionally her new-ish cell phone which she sometimes answers while driving "in case of emergency."

Welcome to Kamloops. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for grey-hair and don't think they're going straight just because you don't see a turn signal!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bluffing My Way Across the Bluffs to Blufferdom



So, I've made it through two grueling weeks at my new, temporary teaching gig. I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing, but I'm bluffing my way through, and pretending to be very authoritative on subjects I know little about. I've discovered this is the way of academe, and hell, life in general.

USE YOUR AUTHORITY VOICE!

All will be well.

Be very careful though. "Authority Voice" can easily slip, teeter, creep, and inch it's way into "Crazy Voice," "Angry Voice," or "I REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING BUT I'M BLUFFING BUT TALKING IN THIS MANNER TO TRY AND TRICK YOU INTO THINKING I'M ACTUALLY ON THE BALL Voice" very quickly.

I still remember my first "grad"-ish presentation, and how terribly it went. "Authority Voice" very quickly turned to "Heh heh...jazz hands!" and things got ugly.

I was in one of my first MA classes, and only one other gal and I were newly minted grad students in a room of four PhD classmates. All of whom were lovely as hell, but also QUITE intelligent, and slightly competitive with one another (if any of you are reading this...you know who you are!). We were asked by our illustrious professor, Dr. Diane Goldstein, who is also quite intelligent and also has the disarming habit of staring, eyes peering over the top rim of her glasses, with almost no expression on her face, deeply into your soul as you try and talk to her, letting nothing slip as to her feelings on whatever blither blather you happen to be going on about.

We were asked to do an hour presentation. AN HOUR! Previous to this I had only done roughly five or ten minute class presentations, and one twenty minute conference presentation. We needed to choose an area to look at, go and study it, and come back with an hour "lecture" on our chosen areas, effectively teaching the class something.

I went to the library and spend hours pulling books, printing articles, finding blurbs and gathering materials on the subject. I glanced at them, and started writing notes several times, but would instantly become overwhelmed and quit. Finally, my day had arrived. I decided to bluff.

In the sea of bluffing I have done before and since, I can only say that this was the worst choice of my life.

I took my time, trying to eat up any amount of my "hour" talk, setting up my books, all of which had some sort of sticky note sticking out of pages, and sorting through some piles of articles and placing them in three separate piles in front of me. I took out some scratch notes, and one typed sheet that had very little typing on it. I sat at the head of the conference table where we had our classes and looked out at four PhDs, all of whom were lovely as hell, and apparently ready to take notes. I looked at my fellow MA newbie, who nodded encouragingly, and also had a pen poised to take notes. I looked at Dr. Diane Goldstein, who had a pen sitting in front of her, and her glasses drawn partially down her nose, and her eyes boring holes into my soul. I knew then...I knew she knew and that she knew I knew and that we both knew that I didn't know what was going on. It was happening. My bluff was called before I started, but the whole point of bluffing is...well...to bluff. So we also knew I had to start anyway.

I introduced my topic, then started to introduce some of the books and articles I had read, really just rambling off a few titles and authors. I said I thought it was an interesting subject, and that if anyone wanted to look at my materials after, feel free! Big smile! I rambled a few facts from the very little I had gleaned--they were rambly and weird, in no particular order, and thus created no particular sense.

I looked up and saw pitying looks and pens slowly slipping to sit alongside blank notebooks. I then, in my best bluffy voice, said, "Hey, I'm a bit nervous, so maybe if someone wanted to ask me some questions about this topic to start, it would get me going! Anyone?"

As a body we all looked at Diane, who looked only at me over the rim of her glasses. She said, "Do you have anything prepared to talk about?" I said, in admittedly the absolute worst choice in voice, cheerfully, "No, I sort of don't."

Diane - "I think I'll stop you here then."
Me - "Ok. Sounds good."
Diane - "See me after class."
Me - "Definitely!"
Fellow MA Newbie - *sharp intake of breath*
Fellow PhD Classmates - *worried and concerned glances at one another*

I'm exceedingly grateful that Diane did, in kindness, give me a second chance, which I did very well on. But hooooo boy. Life lesson taught that there's "Bluffing" and then there's "Bluffing with nothing to really bluff about."

So far in these new classes I'm going to admit I can see the haunting image of eyes staring over glasses with no expression to them from time to time, but I'm ensuring I prepare SOMETHING to say...whether it's the "right" something, who the hell knows. They, my students, stare at me with their dead doll eyes sometimes, but since I make up the tests, at least the weird "something" I tell them counts for "something" later on.

And, of course, I say my SOMETHING in my best AUTHORITY VOICE as I teach in my classroom on the Bluffs of Kamloops.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Snowpocalypse

So, as it snows...and snows...and snows...AND SNOWS outside, I have about 5000 (almost exactly) things to do, and no time to do them, but am TAKING time (out of snow-rage) to write a blog entry. Going to try the ol' "Sunday" blog day again, and see if that sparks me to keep writing. I have TONS of writing to do, but sometimes I find a bit of fun writing is necessary to keep the ol' brain alive!

ALIIIIIIIIIVE!!!

I'm back in Kamloops again, after eight lovely, strange, amazing, work-filled months in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Brodie-McDavid Mission Home for Wayward Folklorists was a wonderful respite from the chaos of no job, living with family (like, rooms next to each other!!), and trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with my life. I wasn't sure what living with a 6-year-old would be like, but must say I enjoyed it immensely! I hope like hell the brain of a highly intelligent grade-one-r remembers me over time, as I'd like to keep up my friendship with this amazing little dude, and my good buddy. Jackson taught me a lot about Mario Bros, and how to make up a fast "young Minecraft Steve" story, and I laughed a lot. He was definitely a huge balm to my raw nerves.

Jodi and Ian were peaches, keeping me generally fed and alive, as well as helping me find great work teaching and researching and interviewing, and Ian helped get me set for thesis writing. Hope and the thought of actually being able to do the thing you had been terrified you could never in a million years do is an amazing thing. Who needs drugs when you've got the high of the graduate-student thought: "I think I might be able to pull this out of my ass!" You know it's a graduate student 'cause you still put that "I think" in there, as you're never really sure until it's done.

Had some great time with my pals in Halifax, and thanks again to Anya for putting me up a few times, and Steve for some delicious waffles and game time, and Whitney for a great movie, and Anne for a delicious lunch convo! I also went to Saskatchewan in August and got to meet some fantastic researchers there with the project I was working on, and that was amazing. Hard work and a lot of head filling stuff at a workshop, and yet still really fun.

The AFS 2014 conference in Santa Fe was a hoot, and I saw some great papers, and got to meet/reconnect with some wonderful folks. It's super great that 2015 will be in Long Beach, CA, meaning it's on my precious West Coast when I'm on this side of the country! Boo yeah!

I've been speaking with a few people, and it's funny how sometimes things seem to really BE happening all over at the same damn time! Like, everyone feeling kind of zippy, or down, or broke, all over the place, all in the same month or week. 2015, for whatever reason, seems to be the year of "realism." I've had a few years in the recent past where I said to myself, "This will be the year of ME! I will do amazing things! The planets will align and I will do everything I set my mind to!" And then...well...I don't know WHOSE year it was, but it certainly wasn't mine!

Now, this doesn't mean good things didn't happen in these years! Of course there were the usually ups and downs and sideways and below-stairs and garrets and all manner of "ways" that went on. But in general...things were not the grandiose years they honestly and truly felt they were going to be in my fat head.

And it's not just me! Several pals and family have stated the same thing: thoughts of grandeur and high hopes at the start of the past few years slowly fizzling to wading slowly through the slog of poop that was seeping through the foundation by the end of the year. Perhaps that's WHY we all kept making these grand statements. "Ok, my shoes are filled with some pretty disgusting poop here, so I guess I'm as low as I'm going to get, so hey, it's got to be better next year, right? Yeah...of course! No where to go but up! Yeah...YAH!!! Up we go! THIS is going to be the year of ME!"

Finally, so many people I've spoken to are in the same boat this year: "Well...I was slogging through some pretty disgusting poop this year, and my shoes all got pretty ruined. But hey, I guess my pants didn't get TOO saturated, and that's pretty good. I think this year I'm going to just manage things, and ensure the poop just gently kisses the floor, making it a bit sticky, and yeah, I'm not going to want to walk around with socks on, but I'll get those good rubber-soled shoes, and it's going to be ok! Yep! Just some small puddles of poop, and it will all be well."

Yes, I do have hope that not only will there be NO POOP (I mean, GAWD! It's a pretty gross metaphor, already!), but also lots of wonderful sunshine-y rainbow kitten kisses! However, if the poop leaks in and just kisses the floor, and I can pull on some good rubber-soled shoes, and still keep trodding along ok, I'm going to be just fine with that!

Realism wins. Good thing I'm a Virgo and we thrive on realism and highly critical expectations! Especially during a bloody Winter Snowpocolypse Storm that's not supposed to end for DAYS!

Happy New Year, everyone, and here's to Poop! Small, manageable amounts of poop.
And good shoes.