The People the Internet Forgot

For people of my generation or younger, basically anyone born in the mid-60s or later, it is expected that we all have some level of internet presence. Whether it’s a Twitter or Facebook account, or a history of posts made back in the days of usenet, our activity, our lives, has all been documented. Facebook’s Timeline even encourages people to go back and add photos and events from their pre-Facebook years to create a full picture. Pretty much everything we do is documented in some way.

But the generations before us, from the Boomers back, do not really exist online unless someone else puts them there. Either through genealogy resources, or someone who has taken the time to post old stories and photos, unless people are really famous (and thus deserving of continued adoration), we have no recollection of them other than our own memories.

I’ve been thinking of this recently because I’ve been trying to track down anything I can find about someone I used to know – someone who should, by rights, be famous enough to warrant some historical respect – but the internet continually tells me No.

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The Places We Inhabit

Something happened last week that has weirded me out and I can’t seem to shake it. Greg and I ran into an acquaintance on the streetcar who happens to live in the basement apartment of the house we lived in for 12 years, up until 2006 when, due to the negligence of the landlord, I fell in the front walkway and broke my arm.

Despite eventually moving to a smaller place in a highrise building and no longer having a big old Edwardian mansion (with a huge back yard) to call home, we ended up much happier, if only because we no longer had to deal with said landlord and his utter refusal to fix anything unless absolutely necessary. While the house was cosmetically beautiful, there were rotten joists, no insulation, century-old single-pane windows, squirrels in the attic, and because the landlord converted a cellar to a basement apartment illegally (as in, he never got a building permit, and paid a bunch of illegal immigrants less than minimum wage to do the work that wasn’t up to code… not to mention that he’s never paid property tax on the basement unit), some serious issues with black mold that had spread through the crumbling walls.

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Stress Cooking

If there is one phrase, one turn of words that is guaranteed to drive me insane, it is the well-intentioned but patronizing assurance that “there’s nothing you can do about it, so there’s no point in worrying”. Again, I know that this is meant with good intentions, as a way to help the person in question stop worrying and calm down. But in a genuinely dire or horrific situation, who among us is able to quiet our minds and turn our attention to something else? It’s possible, but not easy, and if you’re a type A control freak, damned near impossible. Situations where there is nothing I can do are exactly when I worry the most, because I am helpless to create a positive outcome. It’s why people are sent off to boil water when a woman goes into labour – gives them something to do to keep them from being underfoot and lets them think they’re helping in some way.

In the stressful situations where there is nothing I can do to achieve a positive outcome (which, by the above theory, makes me even more stressed), I cook. Lots. Mass quantities of things – restaurant quantities – just to keep my hands and mind busy, so that I might, for a short while, stop worrying. It seldom does stop the worrying completely, the issue is still there at the back of my head, throbbing like a migraine dulled by pain medicine but not completely cured. But at least I’m not just sitting there fussing. At least there’s something to show for my nervous energy.

Back in my concert production days, I’d manage my way through the lead-up to shows by cooking. In 1998, when we presented Convergence and had 500 people from all over the world coming in to Toronto for the weekend, Greg and I threw a BBQ in our backyard as a pre-festival party for the bands and selected guests. This was less of a huge gesture of hospitality and more of a way to find people to eat the mass quantities of food that I was churning out in the days before the event as I waited to see who cleared customs, whether the venues were able to meet our technical specs or if I was going to have to find a legal pyrotechnic set-up at the 11th hour (and does our insurance even cover pyrotechnics??)?

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Stuff It


It’s almost like a secret shame but I’m ready to admit it to the world. I’m addicted to those “hoarding” TV shows.

First it was Hoarders on A&E, and now Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC. Yes, I know TLC is often totally exploitative – both hoarding shows are, to be fair, but I can’t stop watching. It’s like rubbernecking while driving past a car crash.

I think my fascination with the shows is that they terrify me so much. Especially the ones where people who were formerly neat and tidy suffer some huge emotional loss and then are inclined to surround themselves with stuff – and not just good stuff, but piles of old newspapers and soft drink cups. The people who were already happy to live in clutter – you expect that they’ll live in their own sloth – but when the neatfreaks have their brains snap, that’s some scary shit.

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Old Punk Rockers Never Die

Okay, well, technically they do, eventually.

Last night, Greg and I attended a photo exhibit called Toronto Calling, of photos of concerts that took place in the early 80s in Toronto featuring bands like the Clash and the Ramones. We didn’t actually stick around to see the photos, though, as the gallery space was packed solid with old punk rockers, so much so that we couldn’t get in to see the photos.

The era in question took place before my time in Toronto, with most of the gigs featured taking place between 1979 -1981. I arrived in Toronto in late ’87, so this was not my scene per se, although I was listening to all of these bands back home in Halifax, a no-man’s land when it came to international tours. Hats off to Billy Idol for not forgetting about us in 1984.

But the remarkable thing was that here was a group of people in their late 40s – early 50s… and there was a still a solid punk vibe going on. Piercings, tattoos, oddly-coloured hair. These folks were still flying the freak flag.

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The End of the Desperate Season, or What I Didn’t Do on My Summer Vacation

Counting down the days, hours, minutes. Summer doesn’t officially end for a few weeks, but the psychological end of summer will happen tomorrow afternoon, when the CNE closes, when the last stupid air show plane buzzes the neighbourhood, and when kids head home to pack their pencils and books and return to school.

The leaves are already beginning to change on a few trees, and there’s a crispness to the air most mornings that wasn’t noticeable before I went to Halifax a few weeks ago.

Autumn is my favourite season; it’s not too hot or too cold; it’s sunny but you usually need a jacket (I like jackets); and the eating is especially good as the harvest reaches its peak. I don’t even mind winter especially – except maybe those days when there’s freezing rain, or where the sidewalks are slippery because people don’t shovel.

But I’m delighted to see the end of summer.

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Out of the Closet

Some people are naturally pack-rats, saving everything, dragging it with them from home to home throughout their lives. Others though, are purgers, overcome with the need to be free of the stuff they no longer use, need or love.

I’ve never seen the point of keeping “stuff”. Sure, I have a few items that I keep for sentimental reasons, but the overall quantity is small, and the pieces have real meaning. When we moved a few years ago, I took the opportunity to get rid of piles of things I knew I’d never use again – moving to a significantly smaller space, I didn’t have much choice – but I got rid of furniture and CDs and books without regret.

The only thing I sometimes regret purging with such strident rules is clothing.

Moreso than any other item we own, clothing has the power to tug at heartstrings and provoke memories. The dress you wore on a first date, a boyfriend’s favourite comfy sweater. I assume this is why brides spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding dress they’ll wear for a few hours and then save it in a special box, long after the marriage has dissolved.

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Number 5

I haven’t worn perfume for years. Nothing scented really, if I can help it, unless it’s of the all-natural essential oil variety. Allergies and chemical sensitivity see to it that pretty much anything with fragrance gives me a splitting headache.

I don’t mind this especially, as I think most people who wear scent wear far too much of it, but there are a few perfumes that I love and would love to be able to wear again.

At the top of this list would be Chanel No° 5.

I wore Chanel when I first moved to Toronto in the late 80s. Chanel was huge in the club scene then and the perfume was the closest I was ever going to get to a suit or a bag. It was a glamorous scent, not overwhelming, pretty but also mysterious.

I went through perfume phases and had a few favourites after I abandoned Chanel up until I had to stop wearing all fragrances or risk making myself sick. I hadn’t thought about that lovely square-cut bottle for years.

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Do Coincidences Travel in Packs of Three?

There’s a book called The Celestine Prophecy, a novel based on some new age spirituality, mostly rooted in some old spirituality. This post is not about that book, which has a number of detractors, as well as a number of fans, although having read the book, it’s what I tend to think of when coincidences occur.

Basically the premise of the book is based on 9 spiritual insights. The Third Insight – A Matter of Energy – is based on the theory that there are no coincidences, that things or people come to us because of a draw of energy, and the more times a theme occurs, the more attention, or energy, we need to focus on it.

No doubt every person has had the experience where something will come up in conversation, and then a day or so later, it will come up again. The phrase “speak of the devil” works on the same premise – you can be having a conversation about someone and then they’ll unexpectedly appear. These things happen all the time, but when they start happening in groupings, then it begins to get a little weird.

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Getting Up There

Yesterday, I moved into a new marketing demographic. Now in the void known as the 40 – 49 market, I no longer hold the cachet of youth, but have not yet achieved the financial stability or respect of the baby boom. Essentially, I’m supposed to stop caring about being cool and hip and be fully ensconced in paying off my home in the suburbs, while contributing to a RESP for my 2.5 kids. I’m hoping this means advertising agencies will stop co-opting the music of my youth and will move on to early 90s bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana so I can go back to listening to the Cult and Modern English without picturing automobiles or cheeseburgers.

I’m not hung up about being 40. I spent the last year working up to it. “I’m almost 40!!” I’d declare when required to admit my age, instead of just saying “39″ and being done with it. I’ve had lots of practice getting it out there. Nor am I self-consciously starting to refuse to admit my age. That’s the one benefit to being festively plump – I look a good 5 to 10 years younger than I am.

No, as usual, my issues are more with where society says I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. At 20, being “alternative”, or “marching to your own drummer” is considered to be a phase of growing up. At 30, it’s a little odd, but there’s still time for you to settle down. However at 40, continuing to be a bit of a freak tends to take on new meaning, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever “settle down”, and be “normal”.

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Wish You Were Here

When my Grandfather died, way back in the early 80s, my Grandmother spent the better part of a year continuing to make his tea every day, laying out his work uniform, and even calling to him from another room. We thought for a time that she was losing it, or just wasn’t coming to terms with the fact that he was gone, but in reality, she was just having trouble changing her routine. She knew he wouldn’t be sitting in his chair when she walked into the room, that the tea would go cold, that the fireman’s shirt and pants would get placed back in the closet when she went to bed. But she couldn’t stop herself from doing all the things she had always done, or of expecting to see him in his usual spots.

A few years ago, we had to put down one of the cats Greg had brought with him when he moved in many years before. She had been very sick for a long time, and it was a decision for the best. Despite my not being especially close to this particular cat, I continued to “see” her as I went about my day, especially in one spot on the stairs where she would sit and look at us in the living room, but was able to get away from the dogs if they gave chase. I continued to see her there in that spot until the day we moved out, where she appeared, round-eyed and bewildered as I was leaving with the remaining two cats in carriers, as if to say, “Hey, you’re not leaving me here, are you?” I’ve been tempted to drop by and ask the current tenants of that place if they ever happen to see a grey cat, sitting on the stairs.

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Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

I seldom sit at the front of the bus or streetcar. Part of it may still stem from a rebellious youth where the cool kids all gravitated to the back of the bus, although it’s likely more from an innate politeness, since the front seats are generally meant to be reserved or given up to elderly or infirm passengers.

So it was an atypical decision the other day when I got on the streetcar and took the seat two spots behind the driver. I looked down and there was sand all over the floor.

While Torontonians are devoted to their Red Rocket, the things are not particularly modern in design. To create extra traction for the brakes, each vehicle distributes sand onto the tracks as it drives along. The sand is located in a large box underneath the seat directly behind the driver. It is kept in large storage boxes at the turning loops at the ends of the line, where the driver scoops up a bucket of sand, then brings it onboard and lifts up the seat to dump it into the holder. The driver has a lever that will open the sand container from the bottom, allowing them to distribute the sand in small quantities, not dump huge mountains of it in the middle of the road.

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One Small Square of Fabric

I did a double-take this afternoon. Walking the dogs past the hair salon on the corner, I watched one of the stylists step outside for a smoke. This particular girl has curly purple hair and enough gear to make it obvious that she’s fairly alternative in her lifestyle.

What threw me off was that she had a bandana tied around the ankle of her knee-high leather boot. A white one, with a black pattern.

Flash back to 1985 or so, when the scarf around the ankle was all the rage. I had a vast collection of scarves and bandanas in every colour. I have no idea why it started, but it was one of those things that seemed to have come from the New Romantic movement. I’ve always associated it with Duran Duran, but can find no photographic evidence to support that thesis. Rockers picked it up soon after, and every hair metal band seems to have at least one member sporting an ankle bandana.

Like most silly fashion trends, it was a point of teasing, just as those drop-crotch pants a few years later would warrant passing comments about shoplifting or bodily functions. I had an English teacher who joked that I’d never manage to hold up a stagecoach with the bandana tied around my ankle instead of over my face. The French teacher tried to ban the fashion statement from his classroom, but backed off when he couldn’t give a decent reason as to why. It was an era of lots of stuff, accessory-wise, and bandanas were just one item in a vast selection of everything from jelly bracelets to lace gloves and neon shoelaces.

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Why the Internet Needs Smell-O-Vision

This is really one of those posts that I’m creating for myself as a future surprise. Four or five months from now, in the dark, grey, depressing days of late winter, when everything is covered in that layer of crusty road salt and the promise of spring in not yet in the air, I will be sitting here at my computer, listlessly killing time while I’m supposed to be doing something productive, and I will come across this post, and I will remember.

The last bouquet of summer sweet peas, bought at the farmer’s market from the sweet family who run the apiary and primarily sell honey. I nestled the small bouquet into a bag containing a bunch of basil to protect them from getting bumped and bruised by things like apples and potatoes.

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The High School Reunion

A friend sent me a link to photos of my high school reunion last year. I didn’t attend, didn’t even know about it until months after the fact, but it’s still left me feeling very uneasy and odd. I’m not sure I would have attended, to tell the truth, even if I had known.

I was a bit of an outcast in high school; the fat girl, the punk freak. I didn’t really fit in anywhere, and spent more time hanging out with friends from another local high school than I did my own. The day they handed me that diploma was the last I saw of my high school friends. When I got on a plane a year later and moved a thousand miles away, that was pretty much the last I heard from anyone.

Twenty years later, Facebook has allowed people to find each other very easily and I’ve been in contact with a couple of people who I genuinely liked back then. It’s been fun to reconnect, learn about each others’ lives and make plans to meet up the next time I’m home.

But these were the few people I liked and trusted. I’m not sure how I feel about my own personal “mean girls”.

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