Saw Prairie Nurse at the Prairie Theatre Exchange last week


(Photo via Leif Norman)

It's a weird, funny screwball comedy and if you're looking to have an excuse to forget all the weird, messed-up stuff happening in the world right now and have a couple of good belly laughs, then this is the play for you.

I typically try not to do any preliminary research before going to a play at the PTE so I can go in without any expectations, and to date I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the plays, storytelling, and acting brought to life onstage each season. 

The first thing that stood out to me when we sat down for Prairie Nurse was the set: usually plays at the Prairie Theatre Exchange (in my experience, anyway) tend to have more stripped-down sets, and rely on the audience's imagination to fill in the blanks.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I enjoyed the set a lot; in particular the lockers and the Formica table set gave everything a weird, home-y feeling. Even though the set was intended to represent the hospital staff room, it did a great job of conveying that this was the space were the characters "lived" when not working in the hospital. I loved it. 

The play starts with several of the staff at a hospital in rural Saskatchewan anxiously awaiting the arrival of two new nurses who are moving to Canada from The Philippines. 

The plot felt especially pertinent given than Winnipeg is home to one of the largest and most established Filipino populations in Canada, but even though the play tackles a lot of quirks and assumptions that can occur when different cultures clash for the first time, the play does a great job of speaking to anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, or out of place.

The plot of the play follows Puring (short for Purificacion) and Penny (for Indepencia), two women from the Philippines who come to a small-town Saskatchewan hospital to work as nurses during the 1960s.

The recurring problem that the hospital staff have, and what ultimately proves to be one of the major plot devices as well as one of the primary recurring jokes, can't tell the two nurses apart. 

Of course, this inability by the hospital staff to tell the new nurses apart results in a variety of silly hijinks 

(side note: so happy to finally have an excuse to use the word 'hijinks' in a written sentence on my blog)

which are only enhanced by the slapstick-style action of people entering through one door while someone exits another, jokes about how cold Canada is (of course), mispronunciations, and a variety of other jokes that I won't go into here for fear of spoilers.

One thing that stood out was how quietly the play addressed different, more subtle forms of racism. For example the hospital staff have a hard time telling the conservative and shy Puring, who comes from a rural community, apart from the outgoing Penny, who hails from Manila and has a decidedly more... shall we say, entitled personality.

One of the best characters was actually a supporting one: Dr. McGreggor, a Scottish doctor so obsessed with hunting and fishing that he'd pretty much rather be anywhere else than in the hospital delivering babies and tending to patients. 

Overall Prairie Nurse was a charming and touching story not just of overcoming cultural differences, but also of the very human experience of trying to fit into a new place, and or trying to adapt to a changing one.

Prairie Nurse was a really lovely way to kickoff the 2018/2019 play season. I'm excited to see what the Prairie Theatre Exchange does next!


 

It's been a weird, hard time lately


I don't know but whatever it is, it's been a weird few weeks and it's not just me. Everyone seems to be going through one thing or another. 

There's a weird crackle in the air, bad juju, bad luck, weird happenstance, odd off-putting stuff going on it seems. A conflict. A misunderstanding. Health issues. Mental problems.

Everything feels fucked in one way or another and it's hard not to let it eat at you. Wear you down. Make you feel like what's the fucking point

of anything at all.

Between politics and the planet and interpersonal bullshit I swear every person I know is struggling somehow and I'm not sure if this is what adulthood is supposed to be like

or if this is just the new normal we all get to deal with

or if this is just how we get to feel if we take the time to be a #wokebae in today's messed-up, backwards-slipping world

but whatever it is, it sucks. 

And I'm ready for a break.

But being a #wokebae (which is a joke, you guys) is realizing that - goddamn it - if nobody gives a meaningful shit then nothing will get better.

So you wake up and swallow yr feelings and slap a smile on yr face and pretend like, yeah everything's great I'm just overwhelmed because a major world power just elected a guy who committed sexual assault to the highest court in the land

and yeah the president of that same country made fun of victims of sexual assault and people thought that was OK

and the planet continues to be fucked and we're making it worse and what am I supposed to tell my future child about how we messed the planet up for them

and yeah people in this city can't vote "yes" on what should be an easy "yes" and essentially a non-issue

and people continue to be the versions of themselves that they are instead of the ones you wish they were

and all the other ways I and so many other people around me have felt like we're failing ourselves, or others, or both. And pretend like

yeah it's fine. 

But it's not fucking fine, is it?

(Tell me it isn't.)


 

I've always liked being in charge


When I was a kid one of my summertime jobs was to wrangle all the kids that my mom babysat and walk them to the end of the street so we could all hang out at the playground for a few hours while the little kids had a nap.

I liked that job because I got to be in charge. Because this was pre-internet times I had a fancy watch on a leather strap that gave me the worst tan lines because I only ever took it off to go swimming.

I liked being the one in charge, even though it stressed me out sometimes when a kid would wander away from the playground toward the road or someone got hurt or some kids got into a dumb playground fight. 

I liked knowing what was going on. When we needed to be there, when we needed to go back. How much candy and water were left from the backpack I'd bring along. Who needed to go to the bathroom. 

Even though kids can be little shits and hate listening to anyone generally everything worked out just fine. A few bumps and scrapes, a few tears over unfair games of Tag and Grounders

(which is a game where everyone tries to stay off the ground while also avoiding whoever is 'It' who's walking around with their eyes closed. Super safe.)

but generally nothing a band-aid and a little talking-to couldn't resolve.

Adult problems are more difficult. 

Adults have to hold down jobs and pay taxes and watch out for yr bad knee or yr bad back and drive to the store and save for the future and pay student debt and this, that, and the other thing.

Life comes at you full-tilt and let me tell you it doesn't stop anytime soon, friend.

Sometimes I feel like being an adult is like steering a ship through choppy, unsafe waters. You're navigating the best you can but who knows if there's a big swell coming or a rainstorm or if that damn iceberg is actually way bigger on the underside than you thought it was and now your whole ship is sinking into the ocean and now over 1,500 people have died.

Okay, maybe not quite that bad.

But my point is that most of the adults I talk to feel like we're just trying to steer our boats around whatever unforeseen calamity comes next. Whatever is hidden beneath the waves on a night that looks calm.

The same summer that I was in charge of the kids at the playground was also around the same time that the movie Titanic came out, and my brothers became obsessed with it. They just about memorized the 'Inside The Titanic' book at the library and would list off facts at the dinner table to the point where I would tell them to shut up about it, already.

Did you know that the Titanic was originally was designed to carry 64 lifeboats, but they were so worried about appearances and the deck looking cluttered that they only brought 20?

Did you know that the Titanic's lookout wasn't equipped with binoculars to see icebergs in time to avoid hitting the iceberg?

Did you know that the Titanic held no passenger lifeboat drills to prepare passengers for an emergency evacuation?

Did you know that the final SOS position the Titanic sent out was incorrect?

As a kid all these facts annoyed me because it seemed as though a bunch of stupid mistakes and oversight and hubris led to the sinking of an "unsinkable" ship and a huge and tragic loss of life.

"Why didn't they plan better?" I'd think "why didn't anyone speak up, or think critically, or assess all the potential ways this could have gone wrong so that it didn't happen?"

Which goes to show you how little kids understand about how the world works.

Tags: Random

 

Changed a bunch of minds today


Never underestimate how much can be accomplished by having a positive, civil conversation with a stranger. I'm serious.

The VoteOpen storefront location opened up today at 201 Portage and so naturally yr girl was there to do interviews and hand out lawn signs and literature and tshirts, and also to talk to people walking by about what they thought about this polarizing issue.

I stood in the underground concourse for over an hour and changed the minds of nine of the "no" votes and talked to at least two dozen people who were already voting "yes" in the referendum in October.

Some people were rude and mean, but at least nobody told me to fuck off like the people at the First Friday event over the weekend. 

Canvassing for a cause isn't for the thin-skinned, that's for sure.

I had a woman tell me that being assaulted in one of the stairwells when I was a teenager was "my fault" and that because she, personally, had never felt unsafe downtown then no woman should.

Which is an opinion she is entitled to.

Even if it's wrong.

But overwhelmingly the people I've spoken to have been open-minded and willing to engage in the discussion, which is rare and strange and to be honest not what I expected going into this campaign. 

I under-estimated a lot of the people in my city, and that's okay. 

Let's just hope the rest of the population proves to be as open-minded and progressive as the people I spoke to today.

Because those are the people who are going to move our city forward.

And, damn it, Winnipeg deserves to move forward.

Tags: Winnipeg

 

We saw a movie on the weekend

It was at the Cinématheque down in The Exchange District and it was the first movie I've seen there in a long time. We ordered popcorn and an Orange Jones Soda, which is my favourite, and a bag of Skittles which are also my favourite.

Luckily for me John's favourite is popcorn so going to the movies together is always an easy experience since we never disagree on what to get. We sat in the second row which didn't matter much since the cinema is so small that there's no bad seats, really. 

The movie was Won't You Be My Neighbor? and it was a documentary about Fred Rogers, who most people over 30 will recognize as Mister Rogers of the iconic children's program Mister Rogers Neighbourhood. 

He was the guy who talked to you about divorce when your parents were trying to keep you in the dark. He was the adult who explained what it meant to die when everyone around you was saying "Grandma went to sleep forever." He was the adult who said "I like you just the way you are" to a lot of kids who needed to hear it. Me included. 

I wore my glasses because I knew I was going to cry at least once, and I did but only a little. I heard a lot of other people sniffling though, so there were at least a few other misty-eyed viewers in the room.

It was weird to get emotional to clips of an old man telling us he liked us just the way we were.

Think about that: a whole room full of people, sniffling and trying to hold back tears, getting emotional about a man who went out of his way to tell them that they're special and deserve to be loved no matter what.

What an incredible impact to be able to have on people. 

And how heartbreaking that so many of us still needed to hear it. 

I still needed to hear it.

At the end of the film his wife and some of the other interviewees said that Mister Rogers struggled to believe that his show had made a meaningful impact on the world at large. 

How he spent his career trying to heal a broken world that seemed to be getting worse, not better, and doubted whether his voice and message had any value in modern society. 

Which was the most heartbreaking thing of all if you ask me.

Tags: Life

 

I was going to take an internet break


But maybe writing something here would be a better use of my time than laying on my side on the couch in this warm patch of sunlight and playing Final Fantasy VI on my OpenEmu emulator.

We'll see.

I was going to take an internet break because I just learned about a community in my city that appears to be intentionally self-contained. It's got a "Town Center" and sprawling lawns and enough driveways and garages for all the cars you'll ever need. 

And your household will need at least two cars, since you have to take a highway to get in and out of it. 

I spent some time on the website and frankly it depressed me. Not just the community itself, though I didn't get any joy from looking at the boring, cookie-cutter houses, sprawling unused front lawns, manufactured-looking meeting spaces, miles of paved street and sidewalk and more garages than I cared to count. 

The thing that depressed me was that people actively choose to live there, and probably think they like it.

They think they like it because we grow up believing that the best thing we can achieve in life is buying piece of property with a cheaply-made structure out of particleboard and stucco. And why wouldn't we? Our capitalist society forces everyone into a race to the bottom, so good craftsmanship and design go out the window in efforts to pump out as many replicas of the same house each quarter while still maximizing profits.

Did I ever tell you about my parents house? The one we moved into when I was in the sixth grade after living on Murray Avenue since before I was born?

It was a dump compared to the house I rent now, but at the time I didn't know any better. I thought we were getting a shiny, new house and was too young to realize that the fact that my father was going to the site after-hours to double-check the workmanship so he could follow up with the builders was probably a large warning sign that it wasn't going to be a winning specimen. It certainly won't be standing a hundred or more so years like the house I'm sitting in today, I'm sure.

But anyway back to the house. At the time I loved the house. New room! New basement! New backyard! New neighbourhood! But as it turns out the neighbourhood wasn't what I expected it to be and in fact it turned out to be a profound disappointment in a way that I didn't realize until years later.

When I was small the house on Murray Avenue had a tiny backyard compared to the new house that backed onto an unpaved back lane, but beyond it stretched a few miles of undeveloped field that acted as an extension of my back yard, and in fact the street itself was surrounded by undeveloped fields if I remember correctly. 

I spent god knows how many hours out there running around exploring the wild reeds in the spring when the field would flood and sometimes be too deep, and I'd soak my pants and socks and keep wandering around because there was no sense in putting dry clothes on just to go back out again, anyway.

In the wintertime the ploughs piled up snow at the end of the lane and we climbed over it and slid down it on toboggans and crazy carpets and sometimes old cardboard boxes if we were lazy.

There were parks nearby and a Tempo gas that I would walk to with my mom and brothers and the daycare kids so she could buy packs of Players Extra Light Regular and buy us pieces of hard Double Bubble gum if we didn't act up. 

There was a community center and baseball diamond and hockey rink nearby at the end of the road, and an old wooden playground with a tire swing that I accidentally launched myself from more than once.

The houses had variety and were close together and nobody had garages in the front so you could see people and interact with them and get to know the names, birthdays, and personal details about everyone on your block, at least, but often several blocks over because everyone knew everyone's business. It takes a tremendous effort to be private when you live within a few feet of your neighbours' house and have to leave the house to get into your car every day. 

And so we moved from this old street with its big fields and close-together houses with back lanes, and into a new stucco house with a garage in the front and a backyard that barely got used and nowhere to play unless it was a designated playground or recreational space. I liked it at first, and eventually it simply became the reality of where I lived, but I didn't like it as much as my old street and missed Murray Avenue.

One day not long after we'd moved into the new house my dad made a comment to me about the neighbours. He said that they'd gotten to know the people on Murray Avenue and was surprised that by moving into a "higher class neighbourhood" he wouldn't have "higher-class neighbours" who would be equally as friendly.

He had bought into the idea that buying a house in a new subdivision was the ultimate middle-class goal hook, line, and sinker, and couldn't figure out why he was unhappy with his new surroundings, which in hindsight was okay because at the time I didn't know why I was unhappy there, either. 

It took a few political science courses and reading some Jane Jacobs to help me realize what was wrong, but I doubt my dad has figured it how and I doubt the people in that pre-planned community have, either. 

At least that was the impression I got after I wound up on a couple of the Facebook Groups for the various neighbourhood associations there. So many people complaining about each other anonymously, shaming one another over how they parked their cars or how they don't mow their lawns often enough. Awful, petty stuff.

The saddest part of all of this is that eventually all the field surrounding my old house on Murray Avenue were filled in with the same cheaply-made cookie-cutter houses, street-facing garages, and wide car-centric streets as the neighbourhood my parents moved into. 

More people chasing the middle-class "dream" without stopping to think about what it means.

Now I need an internet break.


 

Sometimes you just need some kind words


I had a rough day today and I was carrying it around all night even though I didn't mean to. We went to the mall and I bought my foundation from Sephora and John shopped for shoes and even though usually I don't mind going shopping my head was in the clouds the whole time.

I kept forgetting where we were going and where we'd been and kept losing track of what John was saying and losing my train of thought as well. I stopped mid-sentence more than a few times because I'd lost what I was saying.

John even commented that I was quiet which, if you know me, is unusual.

I just have a bad habit of letting small anxieties pile up and not knowing how to talk about them, I've realized. Some things aren't blog appropriate or public-facing appropriate because they're just wishy-washy stress things. Those up-and-down stresses that you know are fleeting but still eat you up inside anyway. 

I'm getting better at talking about big-picture stuff but those things are still a challenge and nowadays I have to pep talk myself so that I can do something as simple as open up to my partner, who I live with and share my life with and spill my guts to regularly.

Today I sat on the floor in my office and pep-talked myself when I heard John get home: "it's okay, he's not mad at you for being anxious."

And we talked and I got everything I was carrying around, big and small and stupid and dramatic and hurtful and upsetting and inconsequential and over-reactionary, off my chest but it was all still bouncing around like a tennis ball inside my head for the rest of the night.

But luckily I have a good man who loves me and takes care of me, so after a nice but quieter shop than usual he ordered some butter chicken and vegetable korma from my favourite Indian place and put on The Sopranos and made me a cozy spot on the couch. 

Then halfway through the episode he paused it and looked me in the eyes and told me that no matter what ever happens to both of us, no matter where our lives go, how stressed out or overwhelmed we may be, he's always proud of me for getting up and giving everything my best every day.

I cried then and it's hard not to cry now thinking about it, because sometimes you don't even know the words you needed to hear to start to feel better until someone says them.

Tags: Personal

 

Was in a video shoot today

It's going to be in the upcoming promo piece for VoteOpenWPG which I'm pumped about. 

I've been working with some really amazing and dedicated people on this project and I really want to see it succeed, so even though it was like +30C today I slapped some waterproof makeup on my face and sat in the blazing sun looking like I was having a good time in front of the camera and drinking free beer.

Life's tough, I know.

It's still stupid hot so we ordered Deluxe Vermicelli from Viva which is a place in the West End that John and I both really like. 

We even ordered spring rolls too omg. 

It's during these super-hot muggy days that people say things like 

"it's too hot" 

even though everyone already knows it's too hot, but it feels good to point it out anyway and have yr friends go "yeah totally, it's way too hot."

So everybody likes to do it.

But every time I want to say it, it I remember what Jon Snow said: 

"winter is coming"

and whenever I start to feel cranky because I'm sweaty or my hair starts to feel heavy and cumbersome or my forehead starts to feel sticky I try to remember

blizzards
and snow plows
and ice
and spending 10 minutes getting dressed to leave the damn house

and I stfu and sip my free beer and pretend like my skin isn't on fire in the blazing prairie sun.

God I love summer.

Tags: Winnipeg

 

Spence Street


I first moved into Spence St with Gordon. I needed a place to live that was closer to the University of Winnipeg and also that didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Until then I'd been living in a tiny and beautiful but wildly overpriced one-bedroom apartment in The Roslyn in Osborne Village, and I had to worry about putting myself through university so my gorgeous apartment had to go.

I moved in with Gordon and promptly realized that while he was a wonderful and charming human he was also a bit of a hot mess. Which isn't saying much, because I was also a hot mess at the time.

Inevitably our hot-mess-ness (especially me; I was a horrible, anxious mess at this point) spilled over and our brief, dramatic, sometimes wonderful but mostly stressful time together came to an end.

Then Ty moved in and the place I lived became my home. It was our home for a while and I made some of my best memories there.

I loved the gymnasium flooring that was beat to shit but still beautiful. Especially around the doorway to the living room where the wood had seen the most wear and tear. It showed the signs of lives lived there, moving in and out.

The vines grew over the bedroom window during the summertime and I loved how bright and green the room was on the weekend mornings when I'd sit in bed with a coffee and the front page of The Washington Post in my laptop.

The day we brought Toulouse home. He and our other cat, Ford, didn't get along at first, but his dopey and persistent personality won through and they became bros in the end. Eventually I wound up with T. and Ty took Ford when we split, but in the end I think it was for the best since Toulouse was always my baby, anyway.

That April day when I spent a spring day in-between university exams listening to NPR and painting the kitchen. Those old walls were so beat-up and stained. I must have painted for over eight hours to get it all done.

One time during a horrible winter blizzard we spent the weekend huddled inside playing Final Fantasy IX, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and drinking spiked hot chocolate.

I miss how the street looked as the seasons changed. The way the canopy of leaves looked over the street in the summertime. I loved learning the patterns of the neighbours, the cars, the people. 

I had a raised bed in the community garden behind my building. I gardened there the first summer John and I were together and he biked over from his house in Wolseley with a bunch of gardening supplies hanging from his handlebars for me.  

I remember putting together IKEA furniture on the floor in the living room. John and I drank caesars and listened to Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect by The Decemberists and I think I cried.

I must have cried.

Because just like the neighbourhood, my apartment on Spence Street changed.

Ty moved out and I went back to having a roommate. Jamie moved into our old bedroom and I moved into our old office down the hall; my old room when Gordon and I had lived together. I felt like I'd come "full circle" in my strange, old little space.

At this point my memories of Spence Street started to change.

What stands out to me most now is the way the wind blew through the window next to the bed, and how it smelled at night before we went to sleep. 

John read to me before we went to sleep at night and we read a devastating book called Reunion by Alan Lightman. I started re-reading Cities of the Interior by Anaïs Nin, but got weary with her flowery prose and started reading Hemingway instead. 

Jamie and I had opposite schedules so most of our interactions were comings and goings. A wave in the hallway. A "good morning" as I left for work. A few sessions spent binge-watching The Knick on the couch in the living room. 

I gardened throughout the summer, had friends over as usual, and ate too many samosas from the Rubbermaid Tote that usually sat on the checkout counter at the sketchy corner store. 

But I didn't live on Spence Street much longer after that. 

Eventually it became apparent that the amount of time we were spending together didn't warrant the commute between our homes, so I moved in with John and we've lived together here ever since. 

I love living here in our hippy neighbourhood, with our garden and our bedroom and our sunroom and our mornings spent singing songs and cooking breakfast together in the kitchen on the weekends. I wouldn't trade this for the world.

Yet every time I walk by Spence Street I feel a tug in my heart. Sometimes I walk by my old building just to feel the familiar pull of home.

It's still a little strange to look up to see the living room light on and know it's not mine.

Tags: Personal Life

 

I guess you could say I read a lot


I'm finishing up The Geography of Nowhere by James Kunstler which is a history of urban design and development in America from the time of the first settlers. 

I've just started Garden of Eden which is Hemingway's final, unfinished novel and spoiler alert it's amazing.

I recently finished reading Ubik by Philip K. Dick for our scifi book club.

John and I are reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH as our bedtime book.

I regularly read census documents, stats, peer-reviewed papers, and annual general reports as part of my efforts to understand policy and build well-informed opinions on the topics I'm passionate about.

I just finished reading an amazing manifesto called The Great CEO Within (formerly 'Founder to CEO') which is a terrific read for anyone running a company. 

I'm about to start a new business book called Crossing the Chasm that I'm pumped about.

I review our client's content and proofread major pieces of copywriting, contracts, and internal documentation.

I have Feedly lists of articles and resources from businesses websites relating to Starling's industry, tools, and platforms, as well as business and professional development feeds.

I read articles from HackerNews several times a day.

I review articles in other neurotically-organized Feedly folders for all our clients' industries for new content ideas and trends.

It can be hard to find enough time to read all this stuff, especially things that aren't related to clients or running my business. But I carve out the time because being informed is important, dammit, and there's no sense in having an opinion if it's not going to be a well-developed one.

You guys already know how I feel about that.

Oh, and I still read the only blog that truly matters.

Because you gotta stick with the classics.

Tags: Personal

 

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