Tag Archives: memories

Memories of the Peripheral Dead

A friend who keeps her Facebook locked down pretty tight shared about how a 31-year-old man was found dead of methadone overdose in his cell not too long ago, and how the man was once a boy whose file came across her desk when she worked in a law office. “He didn’t stand a chance,” she said.

I suddenly thought of a face I hadn’t pictured in a few years. For a few weeks, I taught ESL to an student staying with an Asian family in the mid-late ‘90s on a cul-de-sac in Surrey. Some years later, I saw a photo of that family on the front page of the paper. The father killed himself and his four family members in a murder-suicide.

I’d never liked being in that home. There wasn’t anything evil going on, but sometimes unhappiness is so thick it’s like trying to walk into a windstorm. It slows you down and defeats your balance. The gloom in that home was omnipresent, but I never imagined it could have that kind of outcome.

I don’t know why I felt like writing, and the words aren’t coming now. I’m lost thinking about how some people seem to both live and die in vain, and their legacies ripple further in death than they might have in life, but those legacies are more of how wrong things can go, and how many of us on the outskirts sense the trainwreck to come, but are defeated before we can even get involved.

I know I pushed my student, who seemed as depressed as the family she lived with, to step outside the language bounds, get creative, and try to find some kind of passion to write about, but the futility of it was crushing, and I was, in the end, dismissed of my tutoring duties because I was focusing more on ideas and communication than I was on nitpicking grammar and teaching an endless list of rules.

In those fleeting moments when worlds collide, one person on an upward trajectory while the other’s on the down, there’s no telling how long which of those influence plays out. Maybe years later, like the dozen years I have lived past that family, a shadow of our connection will linger.

Somewhere inside, I guess, the idea of that family dying in vain, for a stupid moment of complete despair and rage in the father’s mind, has long struck a sad chord inside, and the fact that I’ve even thought of them, though I can’t remember their name or locate a news story about them, is something I feel obligated to record.

Even that sense of obligation makes me a little sad right now. How many people forget about this family altogether? Like they were just vapours floating through a limited life?

But there you have it. Some people live in vain, die in vain, and are a struggle to remember after the fact. I suppose there’s a part of me feeling like I’d like to be anything but a struggle to remember.

I like to think I’m succeeding.

I’m sorry I can’t remember more of her, the family, or that sense of omnipresent gloom in their home, the memory of which gives me chills as I type.

Do not doubt the range of pathos and trial that some people live with. Don’t delude yourself into thinking the awful stories are uncommon.

And don’t think that you’re likely to change their stories either. We can’t make people change. All we can do is jump out of the way when the existential shrapnel starts to spray.

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A Christmas Candy Story, by Steff

This Christmas, people in my life are getting simple gifts. I’m making candy for most people. Fiscal Frugality is probably wise in my world — and in most worlds.

Look around, right? The economy’s fucked. I could overspend, but I’d rather use my time and efforts and put ME into my gifts than injecting concern into my life. Makes sense.

It’s probably why I’m having so much more fun this Christmas. I can afford what I’m doing. I’m having to do it from my heart, too, because I want the candy to be awesome, not just some phoned-in treat.

Candymaking is all about the temperatures, that controls texture.

Friday, I got to play Santa Steff as I took my first batch of candy around to people. Tonight, I’ll be making another 11–12 pounds of the convection, with a good chunk of it being used for charitable purposes–my small way of giving back to a valued member of Vancouver’s social media community. I figure elbow grease turns into a donation from someone else. The circle of good.

But this isn’t just any candy.

This is the kind of candy that comes with a story.

Isn’t that the BEST kind?

As a kid, my mom always made us this homemade brown sugar candy. She called it “fudge,” so we did, too. Supposedly it’s “brown sugar pralines,” but there ain’t never been a batch that had pecans in it at my house, man.

She died in 1999, and that’s when I learned that it’s not the big posthumous regrets that weigh down your soul — it’s the little shit. Like childhood recipes.

When I realised her death came and I’d never gotten the recipe for brown sugar candy from her, it broke my heart. No one in the family could find it, either. She’d kept it secret.

But then, 10 years later, a friend of mine, ZoeyJane, helped me “purge” my home. I was made to go through all the old papers, sort all my boxes.

Another friend came over and we were goofing off, and I showed him my big purge-find of the day: My 1983 Girl Guides & Brownies Cookbook.

My friend starting flipping through the pages–thwap-thwap-thwap– “CRANBERRY JELL-O MOLD? This is totally 1983! Oh, hey, here’s yours–Brown sugar pralines.”

WHATWHATWHAT? LEMMESEETHATLEMMESEETHAT.

I snatched the flimsy recipe book from him, and lo and behold, there it was. Mom’s candy.

My eyes watered and my heart pounded. There was a piece of my childhood, RIGHT THERE. It DIDN’T die with her.

I was elated. Over the damn moon. I planned to make it soon. I’d need a candy thermometer. Duly NOTED.

A couple days later, I’m walking to work. Looking down on the sidewalk in Yaletown, there’s a candy thermometer in its package–$2.49. A fissure crack made it useless trash, but I picked it up and fell deep into thought as I found a bin to toss it in.

Later that day, I bought one myself.

That Friday, I took a deep breath and set about rekindling a part of my childhood. It was time to make some candy.

Immediately after I pour my first batch into trays to cool, the phone rings. It’s my brother. He’s with my dad. They wanna pop by.

I’d lived here 10 years, then. It was the first time ever they just “popped” by.

So, they came over, happy to know the “fudge” awaited. The candy was made of fail. I didn’t hit the right temperatures. It’s not cooking, it’s alchemy–and I had much to learn. My candy that day turned into a taffy-like chewtoy one could spend hours nom-nom-nomming but never melting down.

But it took us all back to a place that spoke of Monopoly nights with candy and a fire in the hearth, pizza delivery, pajamas and goofing off.

When my folks’ marriage started truly failing, the candy stopped making appearances. It became increasingly rare. Mother always made a double batch and put half away, hording it for herself. She had false teeth. (Obviously.)

In the 16 months since I found that recipe, I’ve really made it my own. I never make it plain as Mom did. Now it’s a vehicle for great flavours. I’ve made it with bacon and whiskey–a small circuit of the American deep-South barbecue circuit speaks of it like a barbecue urban legend, thanks to a friend who bragged about my work in competitions down there. But it’s the peanut butter-vanilla one that’s really popular with friends and family.

This Christmas is a new version and is my favourite. I think Mom would have loved it: Browned butter, toasted walnuts, and Butter Ripple Schnapps. It’s toasted and carmelized goodness that’ll make you understand the value of a good dental plan.

There were a few things I could’ve made to gift this year, with much less work, but my brown sugar candy is closer to my heart than any of ‘em.

Don’t ask for the recipe. The Next Generation Cameron will carry it on: Nephew knows now what’s involved in making it. One day, Nephew too will be a Candymaking Ninja. But, for now, the alchemy eludes my little grasshopper.

Mother would be pleased. She’d love knowing her candy made Christmas special in two provinces last year, since I sent it to other family too, but she’d be more thrilled to know she played a part in candy-for-kindness and other Christmas goodness this year. She liked it simple-but-generous, life.

My folks went the extra mile to make Christmas memorable when I was little. One day, I grew up and the season became shrouded in the cynicism that makes stories like A Christmas Carol resonate 170 years on.

This year, being frugal, using my time and energy to make old-fashioned candy, is the first time I’ve really felt seasonal “joy” in a good 15-plus years. There’s something about returning to the simplicity of the traditions.

Being single and childless, that’s more easily accomplished than it’d be for others, but what a fantastic choice I made. I’m so glad.

Well, then… girl’s got some candy to make. Today’s most-epic-batch-ever requires a 20″ whisk, 24-quart stockpot, and a 24x18” bun roll sheet with 1.5″ high walls. And, you know, 90 minutes of whisking.

Pray for me.

Ho, ho, ho.

If you can’t attend the fundraiser here in Vancouver tomorrow and you’d like to do a random act of kindness to support a couple good folks financially-felled by health crises for months in the past year, here’s a great place to drop five bucks and do just that.

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10 Years On: Rembering My Dead Mother

I haven’t been funny in days.

I’m moody and full of vitamin-Cunt tonight.

I couldn’t figure it out.

What’s eating me? Why am I spiralling into a darker and darker place? Why do I hate the idea of attending any of the 3 parties to which I was invited tonight? Why does the idea of just being civil to others fill me with a questionable revulsion I can’t fathom?

Why? Why? Why? Continue reading

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Great Moments in Movies: The Rocky Kiss

I’m feeling a little like an underdog today, like the odds are stacked against me, so I thought I’d have some quality time to myself this morning before I head into the world for the sixth day of work this week. I’m feeling like I’m losing my leisure a bit, and Virginia Wolf states that to be akin to losing one’s soul, so I’m taking it back by force. I’m watching Rocky. My coffee’s almost cold, but it’s still strong and good.

Rocky has just kissed Adrien for the first time. I think this should really go down as one of the finer cinematic kisses ever done. It’s all so unlikely, like a kiss between Harold and Maude. She’s pushing 30 and she’s never been kissed. The absolute vulnerability portrayed by Talia Shire in that scene’s just as sexy as any of the va-va-va-voom shown by Hollywood’s vixens non-pareil.

It’s pretty easy to go too long without being kissed. It’s awful to be in the middle of the kissless times of life, but there it is. There’s something about a kiss that always makes you miss it.

This scene is how a great kiss feels after you’ve been stuck in a dryspell of Saharan proportions. Whatever’s wrong in the world, the naive part of me believes it could be fixed by great sessions of smooching. I’m such a fool, I know, but it’s a nice belief to keep in the back pocket. I’m not a dreamer, but I have my lapses.

I’m at the point where I no longer miss the recent relationship, but I’m certainly wishing I could break up all the tension that is my present life-status with the odd makeout session. I wonder why I’m not thinking about sex? Maybe sex, for me right now, symbolizes far too many complications and struggles. I really don’t want the complication, I want the carefree abandon that making out on the sofa symbolizes for me. Days with the parents out at a card game and the boyfriend sneaking over. The good old days. Yes, we’ve hit nostalgia. How can you tell another birthday is looming? I feel like I’m devolving, but my vital stats are continuing to argue that assessment. Damn them anyway.

And this is what that one kiss brought up for me. And yet I’ll continue watching the film.

Okay, wait a second: I’m specifically remembering being at a party in my teens, and sneaking out back with a boy who thought I was hot ‘cos I was wearing ox’s-blood Doc Marten 9-hole boots. We sat on the stairs, lit from above, as we necked and necked and necked for what seemed like hours. Every time his hand would try to cup my breast, I’d bat it away again. Later, he spread the rumour that it was he and I who’d been making the camper rock’n’sway. I assure you, I made his life hell. But the kissing, man, at that moment, there was noplace better to be.

Sadly, I gave the boots as planters to a chick I once loved who totally flaked out on me. Now I have the tattered remains of my Aussie Boot Co. boots.

This girl needs some boots fer walkin’ all over some boys. That’s what she needs. I should start a boot fund, then go on a shopping quest and keep a photographic record for blogging about my quest for the boots and the fall-out of owning said boots. I mean, really, I’m a eurotrash girl on a scooter. I need a cool new coat for winter scooting and boots. If you want me to get the Walkin’-All-Over-You punk-rock eurotrash girl boots and keep a record, then PayPal me and put “boot fund” in the subject field. We shall stomp together.

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Stumbling Through Sunday

Do you ever have those days when something hits you and you begin to think that, this day, for whatever reason, will come to be an important one in some grand scheme of things?

I’m having one of those days. I feel like it’s a day on which my mindset’s going to shift in a new direction. I don’t know why, but I just feel like I’m learning something new about myself this weekend. It’s not really hitting just yet but it’s there.

See, it’s one of those days I’m going to remember for good or bad, anyhow, ‘cos it’s the seventh anniversary of Mom’s passing. I’m in a pretty good mood today, though. It’s not like I’m down at all, I’m not. I’m feeling pretty good about things. I’m thinking a lot, though. I was out all night last night and fell asleep on a couch, made my way home at 5:30 in the morning, timed to catch the sunrise, then I slept another four hours at home. I think riding home on a quiet Sunday morning with a late summer sunrise was a pretty contemplative start to my day, and sleeping on it a bit wasn’t such a bad thing, either.

I may never be the book-smartest person anyone ever knows, but when it comes to just thinking, I’m a great thinker. I love to ponder my life and the things that go down in it. There’s that saying, A life unexamined is a life unlived. I cannot tell you how profoundly I associate with that sentiment. It’s in reliving my life through my thoughts and recollections that I really glean the meaning of it all. I guess it’s why I’m most saddened when I see people scouring the newsmedia for interviews with their idols or gossip on the stars because I just feel there’s so much more each of us can learn from our own lives that we choose to bypass simply because the western world feels it’s best to “move on” after any life experience had. Why in God’s name anyone should feel the need to live vicariously through others is something I’ll never, ever understand. Fucking weird.

And moving on, that’s just silly. I mean, hell, people come and go all the time, but no matter how impermanent we feel things to be, it’s only that way when we choose to have it be that way. I reflect on my mom from time to time, though she’s falling further away with every passing year. There’s an echo to memories now as if they’re almost due to fade away. Slippage, that’s what it is. One little bit more, and poof! Gone they’ll be.

But at least I’ve had another dance with them, you know? And it’s all written down now. I feel good about that. I wrote this on Friday and it really tripped my head. I have been so angry — so angry, so long — at the amount of writer’s block I had. I still am, too. For six years! And look, LOOK at all I’ve written in just 21 months! More than a thousand postings, probably a couple hundreds drafts, and hundreds more private writings. My GOD, imagine what I’ve missed out on recording! Six– six years, all that block!

I just never realized why the loss of that was so important to me, but this weekend, I get it. I understand. I’m angrier about the writer’s block that I am my mother’s death. How strange is that? But I guess it’s just that I realize what it is I’ve lost of my mom, but I’ll never know what I lost in writing. Know what I mean?

Strange realization, that.I have book ideas, you know. A movie idea, children’s books… So much to write, and all that time lost.

Still, I’m glad. I’m still in a good mood. Now I’ve got a reminder of why I write. For awhile there, I was beginning to wonder why I bother. I was bitter. I was a little too caught up in depression and in turn was realizing that I simply didn’t feel like having a record. The thing is, that’s only in the moment. For a moment, I feel like this shouldn’t be recorded for posterity, but down the line, now I know how much I wish I’d been recording more… You know? Life passes so quickly. It’s a shame to have wasted any. It’s tragic to forget any.

You see. I have to start podcasting now. That is my Sunday night. I’ll be heading in for about 3 hours work today, and when I do, I’m buying an expensive steak, then a bunch of quality veggies, and I’ll make a nice supper later, but in between all that will be finally playing with my podcasting stuff. I’ve cancelled everything I had going. It’s podcasting time.

I’ve been avoiding it. I’m scared, truth be told. Feeling a little shy, am I.Yes, I get performance anxiety, too. A lot. I’m also having a “Gee, I mean, what have I really got to say after all?” moment. I’m just some girl who grew up in a big black seaside house throwing her two cents into the cosmic mix. I ain’t all that, baby. It’s hard to reconcile who you are on the inside to what the world sees of you. So what have I really got to say? God, all I have to do is go back and read some then, haven’t I?

Anyhow, I don’t want to do the podcasting, but I know how much I’ll hate myself if I don’t, and I also know it’s nothing more than fear, so I gotta just kick my own ass and get it down. Tonight, like I say, it’s gonna go down. No, that still doesn’t mean there’s a firm airdate. Soon. But hopefully all the problems I’ve had with Dell and my new computer have run their circle and now there’ll be no more external delays. If it’s all on me, then it’s gonna come together quick. It’s like fucking for the first time — there’s that heavy mix of anticipation and fear of failure. When you’re finally done, the orgasms’s not awesome because the sex was great, but because it’s done, it’s over, and from now on, you know each other and you don’t have to worry about the unknown element causing any grief. The dance has been danced, and the game is on. I wanna get myself to that stage: fuck and be done with it, and then the cherry’s popped and the game’s in play.

Like I sez — soon. (I’ve been moaning about my Dell grief on the other blog for weeks now. Seems I’ve been explicit enough with Dell about HOW MUCH I FUCKING HATE THEM RIGHT NOW that they’ve become a lover with something to prove: I’ve just received an email saying that should I be running into anymore technical problems, I’m to notify them with my case number and a tech will be sent ASAP. Right, okay then. We’ll see.)

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