August 2018

I was going to take an internet break

- by Alyson Shane


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

- by Alyson Shane


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

- by Alyson Shane

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

- by Alyson Shane


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 Ana├»s 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