Sunday I woke up and decided it was so nice out I had to stay in bed.. First off, so I could try and forget about all the weekends I’ve been shut inside because of terrible weather and all I wanted to do was go out and secondly, to shake off the exhausting combo of two stagette parties in one weekend. I just wanted to lie there with no phones or doorbells ringing, nowhere to be, nothing to do, no emails to return and just stare at the ceiling fan and smile. In some circles I could reach and call it meditating but we all know it’s really called being a lazy bum and truth be told there aren’t many things I’d rather do. At around noon I heard my cat meow, which is a rare occurrence as her preferred method of getting our attention is to hide out under the dining room table and jump out and attack us as we pass by unsuspectingly. So when I heard her coming down the hall I tensed up in fear something was wrong with her as the last time I heard her meow she had both paws stuck in her collar. I did realize she had to be hungry as she’s used to being fed in the morning, but when she popped into our room with a fork in her mouth and jumped up on the bed, I almost passed out, I immediately thought dear Lord, my cat is a genius. After about five minutes of basking in the glow of my feline’s superior intelligence, I realized that not only is my cat not a genius, there is a seventy percent chance I am an idiot. It is a good thing to figure this out now before I have kids, before I am the annoying parent who waxes on about how their child actually ran before they walked and quoted Neruda before learning the alphabet. Let’s also not forget the parent who stands in the kitchen drinking a glass of crisp white wine as they say how their child’s teacher went on and on about what an exceptional sharer their kid is as said child rips the head off of their cousin’s Tickle Me Elmo Doll in the next room. Thank God I have a cat to save me from that fate and it doesn’t hurt she’s the smartest cat I’ve ever met….
Everyone’s stress carries the same weight, there is no barometer, no set landmark of events or feelings that says someone deserves to be more stressed out than someone else . It doesn’t matter if you are a surgeon saving lives or going to school to study the art of making marzipan candies, when the blood courses through your veins with stress it seems like the world is hanging by your toenails. Today as I sit at the kitchen table and feel a cool breeze running through the front door I might as well be on a Carolina homestead with nothing to do all day but make lemonade and till the soil for the green peas, and it feels amazing. It’s a pretty marked contrast from how I felt last week when I literally thought I’d tear my own hair out from frantically trying to learn guitar and mandolin for ten tunes I’ve never played or sang before. Sounds easy enough for a musician, but I am the person at the kitchen party who is dying for a song circle but doesn’t know any songs to play, I simply don’t retain any chords or lyrics, absolutely nothing. Even when I write a song , it leaps from my fingers, out of my mouth and onto the page and unless I rehearse it , it’s pretty much gone from my memory ( as are people’s names, even my best friends I’ll be like, hmmm is your name Betsy?- I don’t know any Betsy’s), anyway you get the drift-I have a bad, bad memory. It’s one thing if I bungle a tune at three in the morning in someone’s kitchen, quite another to butcher Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” which is like a religion to some people, as is the Hip’s ” Courage”. So as the time drew closer for my band ” The Heartbroken” to play the Luminato festival’s Great Canadian Tune in Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Square in front of seven or eight thousand people, I became very, very afraid. Trying to avert a lynching by overzealous Blue Rodeo fans I practiced everyday for weeks, some days getting everything spot on note for note and other days making Sarah Harmer sound like Bachman Turner Overdrive. So when Saturday came and I looked up during the last tune and there were 1600 people in the summer sunshine playing along on guitar to Neil Young’s “Helpless ” with me, I thought I had died and gone to heaven, a heaven where I know how to play all the songs.
I admit I was one of the ten million people who watched the season premiere of TLC’ s reality show Jon and Kate + 8 last week after a media firestorm of who cheated on whom. I would go into an explanation of who these people are and what they are famous for doing except that if you have successfully avoided them on the cover of every magazine in the grocery store, headlines in every paper and the lead off joke on the late night talk show circuit for over a month now, you probably aren’t reading this article. Most likely you are living under a rock counting chicken scratches in the sand or living in Thailand evading the tax authorities because it is simply impossible to get away from these people, Jon and Kate ( let’s not forget the real star here- her HAIR) are everywhere. I would occasionally watch the show when the sextuplets were babies and learning how to walk and talk and it appeared to be a really human look at child rearing, yes it was definitely voyeuristic but it seemed like the parents really did have the best interests of the children at heart. It was also very obvious that the parents didn’t care how they came off as the cameras documented the beautiful and ugly sides of having eight kids under five ( can I say stomach flu people?) and they were just their unaffected everyday selves. Now it’s like watching a cat fight with the big bully ( Kate) crying trying to gain sympathy with her fake tan, french manicure and bodyguard in an attempt to throw her long suffering husband under the bus of public opinion. What I don’t understand is why didn’t they pull the plug on the show when their family started to disintegrate? They didn’t have to continue, they could have said let’s stop, we have enough money, the world doesn’t need to see this. Instead, their kids will be confronted with the images of their parents fighting on TV and the internet for the rest of their lives. They should just start stockpiling the money away for the therapy their eight kids are going to need when they figure out what happened to them. I guess it will be a benefit that instead of explaining their issues in therapy sessions they can just bring in season highlights and point out where things started to go wrong, like when Mom got a tummy tuck and Dad got a hair transplant and they clearly started caring more about themselves than the + eight.
Occasionally when I am out and about I’ll write down an idea for a song or a column on a scrap of paper, napkin or on the back of a receipt, and now I know it works much better for songs than for columns. I just cleared out my purse from the weekend and was about to toss out a crumpled up napkin until I saw a hint of ink and tried my best to straighten it out. At first I couldn’t make out my own writing, which is not unusual, but the fact that it took me a second to figure out what language it was in, is. Whenever I am in a foreign speaking country, I always try to pick up a few phrases as a sign of politeness, but rarely make it past ” hello, my name is damhnait, it rhymes with nothing, so it’s not your fault” and ” very nice to meet you, you are the most incredible person living on the earth wearing red shoes” . I find a little effort is always appreciated and even though I always say I am going to go home and learn Japanese, Italian or Urdu I never do, but every once in a while a random phrase pops out- like on the napkin. Somehow I managed to write in Italian / French- ” The bathrooms of Casinos are made of marble, the bells sing so sweetly and it smells like pizza- column idea!”, but clearly what I should have written was ” Why have I dragged my mother to a casino in Niagara Falls? Why are we still here at three thirty in the morning when the only other people that are here are unmoving, hunched over the same slot machine they’ve been feeding for twenty four hours? Just because the only two other times I have gambled, I have won- a lot (considering what I put in) doesn’t mean I will win again , so go home out of it. They are milking you and probably only let you win before so they could have you hooked for life.”. I think that’s what I meant because shortly after I wrote my Italian/ french poem I cashed in all my tickets, tried to figure out how much I actually lost ( I believe it was under a hundred, but one never “really” knows) , went back to the hotel and said “never again”. Though sadly I am starting to suspect they do have me hooked because it just took me over ten minutes to type the phrase ” never again” and just a few seconds to write “Hey did you happen to hear the one about the bank tellers in Alberta?”.