Monday, January 20, 2014


I'm still gathering steam for a few full-fledged reviews, mostly of Canadian poetry, though before February is out, I want to write my thoughts on Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy before they totally recede into the back of my mind.

I've made a decent start on getting my work visa application in order.  I think I may be able to get it in Tuesday.  That would be good timing, as the backlog is pretty low at the moment, and it's only taking about 10 working days for them to be processed.  Obviously, I am a bit nervous, but things actually went pretty smoothly the last time around (aside from just the long time involved in waiting at YVR) and there is no reason it should be denied.

At the last minute, I decided to go see part of the VSO New Music series on Sat.  The main piece was Brett Dean's Water Music, which I enjoyed.  I can actually stream it on Naxos, so I'll plan on doing that next week.  I also like Jocelyn Morlock's Aeromancy (for 2 cellos and orchestra), and it looks like there is a way for me to stream a recent recording of that as well.  I am a little disappointed that I missed out on what was apparently an awfully good performance of Dean's Sextet on Friday.  And that I can't make eighth blackbird doing the Chicago premiere of the piece in Feb. or their concert in LA (about two weeks after the Kronos Quartet concert).  I guess I'll just have to wait for them or Standing Wave (a similar Vancouver ensemble) to record it.  I do think I'll go back on Monday to see the Racher Saxophone Quartet play another new piece but will leave at intermission.

Today I saw the Szymanowski String Quartet play at the Vancouver Playhouse.  They did string quartets by Haydn, Szymanowski and Dvorak.  They did Dvorak's 13th String Quartet, which is considerably less famous than the American Quartet (number 12).  While the 12th resonates a lot with me (and I am so glad I saw the Emersons do it several years back), the 13th has some interesting features, particularly the fourth movement when the viola really picks up much of the melody, which is fairly unusual.  I think I'll wait a week or so, then listen to another recording of the 13th (I believe I do have the Emersons doing it as well).  It was a good concert, actually fairly unmarred by coughing, though I did struggle at times to stay awake.  It can just be so soothing letting the music wash over you, and I find I do tend to get drowsy during the slow sections.  They did an amusing encore by Shostakovich.  I'm really not entirely sure what it was, but possibly a few pieces from the Bedbug Suite transcribed for strings.

I am nearly done with Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.  I'll have a longer post fairly soon on literature and drugs (and drug addiction) where I will address this in more detail.  It's ok, though it has really turned from what I expected (a novel where a bunch of lotus eaters/opium addicts propound on the world) to one that is a bit more stereotypical about the consequences of getting in the crossfire of gang warfare.  What is particularly notable is that this is the last library book I have out, so theoretically I may be able to get back to my TBR pile.

However, there are still some notable diversions.  Usually when I read a book, my mind goes in different directions and I generally won't rest until I read a paired book.  So for instance, I want to read Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater, which I've been carting around since before my mother passed away.  Actually there is a sort of amusing, sort of sad anecdote related to this particular copy, but I'll save that for my post on literature and drugs.

While I can't recall if Proust writes much about drug addition in his opus, he does occasionally allude to the main character having some experience with opium.  So I'll try to at least get through one more book in Jan/Feb. before tackling those two books (Love in a Dead Language and Special Topics in Calamity Physics) that I had hoped Babyji would be.

Now there is no question Proust is still causing all kinds of back-ups and diversions because I just don't find it all that compelling, to be fair, I would have been reading a lot more Molly Keane and Barbara Comyns anyway, since it looks like I can check them out of the library here, but not in Toronto.  So I only have a few more to go before I am done (3 Keane's and 4 Comyns's that I need to borrow) and they generally are short, fast reads.  At that point, I may be more or less back on track for my official TBD list.  Of course, this may also be when I start doing more travel, especially travel between Vancouver and Toronto.  I'll probably favour longer books that I expect to donate when I am finished, so that may distort the list a bit.

As it happens, I just wrapped up Keane's Full House and didn't care much for this one.  It is the worst I've read so far.  She tried to be too serious, hiding this deep secret from the reader until the last 10 pages or so, and it just distorted the book too much.  Also, I was not nearly as taken by the children (two nearly adult children and a 7 year old younger brother) as Keane obviously was.  (The reader is supposed to be rooting for the children and against their kind of awful narcissistic mother, but I just didn't care for any of them that much, though the middle daughter wasn't too drippy.)

I also just finished Jeremy Thrane by Kate Christensen.  One small mercy is that this novel was published in 2001, and Christensen didn't attempt to rewrite the novel after 9/11 to make it more profound.  It basically is the story of a gay writer who mostly makes his living as a copy editor for a trashy downtown magazine but occasionally writes gay porn on the side.  However, he has a script produced and is writing a novel on the side.  It was fairly light-hearted, which was a nice change.  AIDS is relegated to the deep background.  I think the one bit about the novel I liked the most was the idea that people who seem like minor characters to the main character have their own agendas and can surprise the main character (or the reader).  Or suddenly they become a lot more interesting, often because they have these hidden facets (still waters running deep and all that).  In my own life, I managed that a couple of times.  This horrible manager blocked my merit pay increase and then was positively gleeful when he managed to transfer me out of his division (I guess inadvertently doing me a favour).  However, I had my own plans up my sleeve and within a month announced that I had a job overseas, which certainly took a number of people by surprise.  As far as my current job, it is somewhat analogous in that all the really technical people, i.e. those with more meaningful choices, have decided not to accept the poor working conditions forced on us by the move to Sapperton, and we have all upped and left, one after another.  It sucks for those left behind, but there is so much satisfaction in managing to escape from the box that others try to stick you in.

Ok, so I have now shifted to an interim reading list, which looks roughly like this:
Jeet Thayil Narcopolis 
Thomas de Quincey Confessions of an English Opium Eater
Proust The Guermantes Way
Robin Sloan Mr. Penumbra's 24Hour Bookstore
Lee Seigel Love in a Dead Language
Marisha Pessl Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Barbara Comyns The Skin Chairs
Molly Keane The Rising Tide
Proust Sodom and Gomorrah
Tremblay The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant 
Barbara Comyns A Touch of Mistletoe
Molly Keane Two Days in Aragon
Garcia Marquez The General in His Labyrinth
Teju Cole Every Day is for the Thief
Proust The Captive
Barbara Comyns Mr. Fox 
Molly Keane Loving Without Tears
Barbara Comyns The House of Dolls 
Elizabeth Jane Howard Falling
Proust The Fugitive
Molly Keane Treasure Hunt 
Proust Time Regained 
Iris Murdoch Under the Net 
Lau How Does A Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?
Dickner Apocalypse for Beginners 
Douglas Coupland Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
Martin Amis Other People 
Hugh MacLennan Two Solitudes*
Gabrielle Roy The Tin Flute
George Eliot Silas Marner (last-minute substitution for Middlemarch**)
John A. Williams The Man Who Cried I Am

And then I would officially be back on track.  Now whether I can actually stick to this is a bit unclear, and I may well just read the library books in a mad rush in May (to say nothing of getting in the last couple of Canadian books to review by July 1), but I'll try to follow this for the time being.

Mid-May update: I'm actually doing well and have all the ILL books crossed off.  I should easily get through the last two Molly Keane books from the Burnaby Library by the first week of June.  After the move to Toronto is completed (and we're back on-line), I'll restructure the TBR post.  I should finally be done with Proust, who so badly distorted the list the last time around, and try to stick with it.  I may even have a short post on books that I left behind that are (or should be) available in Toronto libraries.

* In going through some old notes, I learned that I have already read Two Solitudes (and some other Can Lit) but it had completely slipped my mind.  I think I'll leave it on the list, since it will be basically the same as reading for the first time and certainly it will be the first time I review it.

** Now Kate Christensen kept name-checking Middlemarch in Jeremy Thrane, and I did seriously consider reading it back in December, but too many other things intervened.  I think I probably should relegate it to the end of this interim list, which is already too ambitious, if I am being honest with myself.  It is also potentially a concern that this may be Eliot's best novel, and perhaps I really ought to wait to tackle until after reading Adam Bede and/or Silas Marner.  The counter-argument is that we just don't know how much time is left to us and why always put the best for last.  I'm just not sure what to do here.  It is true that I am a bit weary of long books, so maybe substituting (the quite short) Silas Marner for now and then attempting to return to Middlemarch by next Dec. is an acceptable plan.

Friday, January 17, 2014

7th Challenge - 7th Review - Lives of Girls and Women

While it is well-known that Alice Muno stuck to short stories, it is almost as well known that her second book, Lives of Girls and Women is essentially a novel, as the stories are all about the same family, focused on the daughter, Del Jordan.  The stories actually track her life from very young childhood to the brink of young womanhood when she has to decide her fate, since it no longer appears she will go to university.  Furthermore, Lives of Girls and Women has an epilogue,* which normally is only tacked onto a novel and not a short story collection.

As I was reading Lives, I became convinced that I had read this back in my Canadian fiction class in the mid 90s, though I am not sure I could prove it in a court of law.  I am, however, fairly sure that this was the last Munro book I did read, and the rest will all be virgin territory.  While my suburban childhood was vastly different from Del's small-town childhood in Ontario in the 1940s, there are some eternal aspects of childhood that resonated with me.  My parents were both a bit unconventional, being fervent Democrats in a Republican stronghold (though at the time it was largely filled with the country-club moderate Republican types that have somewhat sadly been chased out of power).  Still, they never worried too much about keeping this under wraps (somewhat analogous to Del's mother who seems very out of place in Jubilee by actually taking a job selling encyclopedias in "Princess Ida").  I can't speak for them, but I got into numerous arguments over "Saint Reagan" and more bog-standard religious topics while growing up.  (I don't recall ever trying to get into an argument over religion, but I also wouldn't back down when I felt I was being proselytized, though now I do vaguely recall that my mother was put out once that I brought a copy of the Koran to some meeting and was (silently) reading from it.  I don't think she ever said anything about me reading from Mao's Red Book, but it was a smaller more discrete book that easily fit into one's pocket.  Maybe I was always trying to start something after all...)  Indeed in this era when there is actually far less tolerance between red staters and blue staters than there was in the 80s, I would almost certainly been kicked out of the Boy Scouts for not towing the line on being religious.  Del in general seems far more conventional than her mother, not wanting to draw too much attention to herself, whereas this never concerned me too much.

She struggles mightily with the big questions, particularly the idea of a caring, personal God in "Age of Faith," and I recall this desire to make sense of religion.  In my case, I gave up on organized religion quite early on, right around 3rd grade when I read The Book of Job and rejected the arguments therein as sophomoric.  While Del doesn't make quite as permanent or profound a break, she clearly undergoes a crisis of conscience.  I thought it very believable how her brother starts out more skeptical than Del but then tries to "bargain with God" to save a pet, whereas this seems to be the moment where faith leaves her for good, or at least at that time in her life.  I too bargained with God, when my mother was dying, though I knew it was a hopeless case.  Anyway, I well understand that searching for "Truth" that Del goes through; it obsessed me beginning at a very early age and lasted all through my undergraduate years.  Of all the stories/chapters in the book, "Age of Faith" was my favourite. 

However, "Changes and Ceremonies" also offered some profundities as it delved into high school cliques.  Del found herself interested in boys.  She shared some of her secrets with a friend, who then turned out to be somewhat untrue (at least at that time in their lives).  That resonates with me as well; no matter how well you think you know a school friend, betrayal is almost inevitable, maybe just due to the massive hormonal changes that affect all teenagers.  She soon grows apart from that friend (definitely shades of Atwood's Cat's Eye in there) but because their town is so small, it isn't that unusual that they reconnect.  In a more urban setting, they would have drifted apart and probably never come back into each others' circuit.


I think the chapter that was, for me, the hardest to read and to digest is "Baptizing."  Del is talented, one of the most talented students in Jubilee in years.  Yet she picks a terrible time to rebel (consciously or subconsciously) against these expectations placed upon her by her mother and the broader town.  She falls in love with a young man who is basically a backwoods hick.  Given that she had been in an odd relationship with the other smartest kid in town (Jerry Storey), this seems like a real come-down.  The reader worries that she is throwing her life away as the young man is insistent on her fitting in with his extended family, which she seems willing to do, and to get baptized, which she is not.  Things get pretty hot and heavy, and she manages to mess up her college entrance exams royally.  Or rather she passes them, but with such average marks that she will not get a scholarship and thus cannot attend university.  It is cold comfort to the reader that she does stick to her guns regarding baptism and the young man drops her before too long.  Del says that now she would "get started on her life," though of course she has thrown away her best chance at a "good life."  Still, she has seen enough that she knows there are at least some options open for women in the city, and the chapter hints that she will move to the city and become a telephone operator or engage herself with some other practical skill (the ones that her former friend Naomi learned).  It isn't completely bleak, but it is definitely a case where the reader wishes that the young would take heed of what their elders are trying to impart to them.

* I should mention that I found the "Epilogue" somewhat unsatisfying, as it actually seems to move slightly earlier in time to a midway point during "Baptizing" before her mediocre exam results are revealed and is not a proper epilogue at all.  Thus, we have no idea just what Del is able to do with her life or even her next steps.  Her future remains opaque.

One other note of possible interest is that I had planned on replacing my yellowing copy of the book with one of the new editions with Nobel Prize winner splashed across the cover.  However, another used copy came into my hands with some photos of a CBC production of the book.  I wasn't even aware that the book had been turned into a TV movie, all the way back in 1994.  I'm a bit curious about how this was handled/filmed, but not enough to make a major effort to track down a copy.  It doesn't look like it is readily available.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

More thoughts on "Art"

Last weekend I managed to squeeze in a performance of Uncle Vanya over at the Cultch.  And I do mean squeezed in.  I had the last seat in the balcony advertised as having a non-obscured view.  There were two or so seats in the same row that were blocked quite badly by a pillar or the lights.  I had to lean forward to see one of the chairs on stage.  But for all that, I probably still had a better view than the folks placed to the rear of the stage.  Note to directors: just because you place chairs all around the action and call it theatre-in-the-round, you still need to think a lot more seriously about staging.  As far as I can recall, they still employed complete traditional staging with all action directed stage-front and the folks in the back got completely screwed.

I'm going to be honest -- I thought this was a weak performance.  I saw a much better version of Vanya in Chicago in 2010 (Strawdog).  I should have gone with my instincts and not gone, but the reviews were generally quite positive, though upon rereading I saw some warnings that the actor playing the title character was not up to snuff.  Indeed he was not.  I couldn't for a minute believe that this whining playboy had managed to keep the country estate going for all these years, whereas at Strawdog, he was a more substantial character, though one deeply unsatisfied with his life.  I thought Strawdog really centred the play around the Vanya-Sonya axis in a way that didn't happen enough here.  I also thought the doctor here was a bit too over-the-top.  And the way they (Blackbird) made the attempted shooting into a kind of slapstick action really pissed me off.  Now in both versions, I thought the last speech given to Sonya is very trite and basically unsalvagable: it's our duty to work hard for others without rest, but we'll get our reward in the next life.  It's a shame, as it really undermines the play.  I may well never go see the play again just because I think the ending is so weak (the same way I may well never watch Kurosawa's One Wonderful Sunday all the way to the end -- I would just lop off the last 5 minutes as being dopey and unworthy of the rest of the film).  I do think Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard are a bit better in not having such a lame ending.  In many ways, my deeper regret is not catching Strawdog doing Three Sisters (I was in England at the time).  I'm quite sure they would have done a better job than the version I saw at the Cultch.  That said, that version of Three Sisters was still considerably better than this staging of Vanya.

That is probably going to be my last experience at the Cultch, which of course is disappointing.  I've very mixed feelings about the institution as a whole.  I think they are in a terrible location, and I still have not entirely forgiven them for the way I missed a play because their on-line map and directions were so terrible at the time.  Indeed, I almost got lost again this weekend.  I thought Three Sisters was ok, and actually I liked Penelope quite a bit (more than I expected) and that positive experience was probably enough to push me over the edge to giving Vanya a try.  Now, this bad experience will probably dissuade me from going again, even if anything in the line-up through June interested me, which it does not.  Perhaps ironically, I found the art on the walls a lot more interesting than what was on stage, and might actually pick up one of the smaller pieces as a tangible reminder of the art scene in Vancouver.

In contrast, I have found the Honest Fishmongers to do a real bang-up job when they have tackled Shakespeare, and I probably will go see them in a week or two in Measure for Measure, even though this is a problematic play that I have mixed feelings about.  But there is not much else that is of interest in the theatre scene here.  I was totally bummed when the Ensemble Theatre Company decided to not produce The Changling in favour of The Dutchess of Malfi (which I've seen and don't think is a particularly good play).  So that is one less thing to look forward to.  I'll probably see Ubu Roi at UBC in the spring and then a couple of productions at Bard on the Beach, and that is basically it as far as theatre here goes.

Classical music has been surprisingly good here, though not up to Chicago Symphony standards of course.  I may be in for a bit of a shock in Toronto.  While the Toronto Symphony has a pretty good reputation, I was not impressed when I looked at the number of concerts they put on nor the repertoire.  There happens to be a good concert when we are visiting, and I did get tickets for that, but they were shockingly expensive.  I suspect this is because the concert hall is actually too small and they can't offer cheap seats up in the balcony the way that CSO does.  Well, this means that few people actually go.  My understanding is that the musicians were shocked to find out that the public basically didn't care that they were on strike (in 1999).  There just isn't a deep connection between the symphony and Toronto residents.  Maybe this is completely off-base, but it just doesn't seem as integral part of the arts landscape as the symphonies of New York or Chicago or even Cleveland are in their respective cities.  I know that if I can't get a much deeper discount as a subscriber, I won't be going, and I'll have to satisfy my musical urges with chamber music groups and perhaps the University of Toronto and its symphony and various musical ensembles.

After giving it quite some thought, I think my artistic interests (and rankings of cities) are as follows:
Theatre -- Toronto is very, very good, though still behind Chicago.  Both are better than NYC.  All three are vastly better than Vancouver.
Visual arts -- the core collection at AGO is not as good as Chicago's Art Institute.  The two are comparable in terms of touring exhibitions.  Both are pretty far behind NYC and Washington DC, but both are far ahead of Vancouver.  I'm not as sure about the gallery scene, which was fairly healthy in Chicago.
Classical music -- Toronto seems behind Chicago and New York, and may actually be slightly behind Vancouver when cost is factored into the equation.
Jazz music -- New York is by far the best, with Chicago a distant second.  Toronto is a bit behind Chicago, and Vancouver is far behind Toronto.*
Films and second-run movie theatres -- Toronto pulls a bit ahead of Chicago, particularly when factoring in second-run movie houses. I also like TIFF Lightbox more than the Gene Siskel Film Center in the Chicago Loop.
Other types of museums -- Toronto is a bit behind Chicago and both are far behind New York and Washington DC.

I don't go to opera or dance, so there is no point ranking them.

The bottom line is that for things that interest me the most, I should have no problem keeping myself occupied in Toronto, especially if a summer trip to Chicago is on tap each year.  Toronto definitely suits me a lot more than Vancouver, which has its strengths in things that don't particularly interest me and is weak on the things that do interest me (particularly art museums and theatre).  So it is an upgrade pretty much all the way around, though I may not go to the symphony quite as much as I did here.

* Edit (Feb. 2017) -- I have to revise this.  Given the closure of key jazz clubs in Toronto, the Toronto jazz scene is terrible and actually now somewhat worse than Vancouver's!

Double dealing

In some ways, the most stressful aspect of choosing between two job offers is that, from the outside, it can certainly look as if I were playing one against the other.  In other words, one company was made aware of the other offer, and thus "got off the pot" and raised their offer.  But in my mind, that wasn't how it happened at all.  I actually didn't go into any details with the second company, though I did mention to them in passing that I was about to sign with the other firm.  I really only thought about this as a professional courtesy and was actually a bit annoyed at first that they kept messing with my mind and trying to change my decision.  Indeed, if the first firm had pushed through the job offer in a reasonable time frame, then I would have almost certainly just signed.  It would essentially have been a point of honour to do so.

For me, it is quite important to be seen as upright, and specifically to not engage in double dealing.  Again, I can think of things that I have done that perhaps would seem that way to an outsider, like building up external support to force an internal decision.  Though of course I only would do such a thing if I really thought it were the best interest of the firm.  But of course, nearly all of us find ways to justify nearly everything that we do.  (And it is not a total coincidence that the strategy I have mentioned, stage directing things so that one's fingerprints are not on the revolver as it were, is one employed by Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost.)  There are certainly things that we justify to ourselves that may not be completely on the level.  I actually do wonder about people that engage in outright criminal activity (particularly burglary) and how they square that away, other than they probably don't think it is fair that they don't have the nice things that other people do because they never got the right breaks in life.

On a more mundane level, I vividly recall how upset I was when I learned that the outsider view of the literary magazine where I was managing editor was that we were seen as a clique where we only published ourselves.  That was manifestly not true.  All submissions were treated as blind submissions, and the editorial staff was not allowed to publish in the magazine.  Very few of the other volunteers ever were published, and as I said, their pieces were published on their merits.  As I was starting to feel the pressures of graduation (and not sure what I was going to do after university), I resigned and let others take the helm.  It seemed like a reasonable response at the time (to being baselessly accused).  I would surely handle it differently now.  Anyway, it is good to see that the Yawp survived my editorial stint for another 3 years or so and then morphed into Xylem.

Part and parcel of this need to be seen as upfront and honest was that I rarely and perhaps never lied through my early teen years.  I did begin to strategically omit information, but said to myself that I would spill the beans if asked the right question in the right way (oh how I chortled when I heard Rob Ford put forth the same formulation).  It is still quite easy to get me to vent on any number of topics, though I have gotten a bit better of not allowing them to get brought up in the first place and/or changing the subject.  Later, of course, I learned to tell white lies.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mid-Jan. blues/blahs

I'm not sure why I am feeling so lethargic.  I suppose the most likely reason is that I took almost no time off at all around the holidays and am just run down.  Also, I have been keeping things together while trying to decide between two job offers, and now that it has been decided, there is a bit of a let-down, particularly since I have to wait a bit before gearing up for the next steps of dealing with updating my visa.  And it is also fair to say that work is now in a kind of boring phase where I am not expected to do much that is innovative, but rather need to document everything that has been done over the past 2.5 years!  As it happens, I am sure that won't really last, and they will drag me into all kinds of other things, but ostensibly I am supposed to shift over to hand-over mode.  I suppose if I take a month or so to step back and think of all that I accomplished up here (and then write it all down), then that isn't such a bad thing. 

Ok, I will list just a few disappointing things, then will turn to more positive events.  It is part of a plan to focus more on the upside of things.

I was very disappointed with the novel Babyji by Abha Dawesar.  Maybe the worst example of "Mary Jane-ing" I've seen ever.  The narrator is super smart (fine) and Head Prefect for her high school and once she decides to investigate her sexuality rather than just mathematics and physics, everyone falls madly in love with her within minutes of meeting her.  It would have been at least somewhat interesting if it turns out she was the reincarnation of some Hindu love goddess, but no such luck.  On top of the total implausibility of this, the ending is completely inconclusive with nothing about her future decided at all (will she reform the bad boy at school, will she go to university in America or go to IIT, will her parents ever catch her doing all this sneaking around).  Worst of all, the narrator is just 16, so anytime sex comes up it just feels icky* and not fun at all to read.  At least Sonia Singh's Goddess for Hire which I read a few years back is a true guilty pleasure.  I should have just stopped Babyji after 50 pages and reread Singh's book instead.  A word to the wise and all that.

I'm not even enjoying Molly Keane's Full House all that much either.  It seems I like only every second novel by her.  Now if turns out to be an immutable pattern, then I can save myself quite a bit of time... But it looks like it will be a fairly quick read, so I won't have to live with it for too long.  I keep moving other books into the list ahead of Proust, and I think I'll next read two books about intelligent people in love, including unsuitable love, which is what I hoped I would get out of Babyji.  Anyway, the books are Lee Siegel's Love in a Dead Language and Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics.  I figure I'll be getting around to them right around Valentine's Day, which seems apropos.

I ordered a DV cable to transfer my camcorder tapes over, and it doesn't work at all.  I think it may just be poor quality control, so I'll try to order one more of these cables (annoyingly, it doesn't look like you can just buy them in stores anymore).

On the positive side, I have tracked down a lot of old tapes and gotten them in one place.  I'm slowly getting through the VHS tapes and usually can toss out one or two a day.  I should be through the whole batch of them by the summer, so we won't have to move them.

While not that big a deal, I did cook a couple of Ethiopian dishes and they came out reasonably well.  I'm trying to do a bit more cooking, though it wasn't a New Year's resolution or anything like that.

I managed to book quite a bit of travel to Chicago and Toronto for mid-March, and I am looking forward to that, including a concert that we snuck in.  I think we'll also visit the AGO and just possibly see a play if there is anything worth catching.  Of course, I will probably spend at least some time with my new boss as well as a friend from grad. school I've managed to stay in touch with after all this time.  So I'm sure the time will fly by.

In general, I am excited about the new job (certainly the location and the salary), and this visit is one more major step in getting back to Toronto (and determining where we will live).  It feels like a lot of things came together to bring me back to Toronto, and I am really excited over that, though obviously a little nervous that the family won't like it as much.  For that matter, living in Toronto as a middle-aged family man is totally different from living there as a student, but I am not too worried.  On my last trip, I really did feel almost like I was coming home.  I will have to work on maintaining that level of enthusiasm over the long haul.  Maybe it really is time to set aside some time to work on that novel -- even 30 minutes a day (instead of frittering the time away on the internet) would make a difference.

There are other things I hope will happen (get in shape after I start biking again, get more organized, take work just a bit less seriously) but I also know better than to put too many expectations on myself.  I am generally hard enough on myself that I don't really need more pressure.

* Dawesar keeps name-checking Nabokov's Lolita.  Well, I wasn't that impressed by Lolita after I finally read it.  That said, putting Babyji next to Lolita does Babyji no favors at all...

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year's -- New start

 First off, Happy New Year and best wishes for 2014!!!

So I am happy to report that the hard work has paid off, and I have found a position in Toronto and will be relocating there in the summer.  In the meantime, I will shortly transfer to their downtown Vancouver location, which will be a pleasant change from my current remote location.

While it would be no easier to bike all the way to that downtown office as to my current office, I should be able to get a bike locker at 29th Street, then shower when I get to the office.  There are many, many reasons I don't like my current location, but the fact that it cut out a major form of exercise for me is in the top 5.  While technically, I could ride to the bike locker and ride in to where I am now, it would be 35+ minutes of sitting on the train in sweaty garments vs. roughly 15 to go downtown.

I certainly hope I will be able to figure out how to bike at least a portion of the work journey in Toronto, but that is a problem for another day.

I am not going to suddenly change my mind about Vancouver, now that an exit plan is in sight, but there are a few things I will try to do to take advantage of what is here:

  • Do the Grouse Grind one more time, presumably in late May or early June, depending on when the trail opens.
  • Take a ferry to somewhere a bit more remote than Victoria, but that may not happen.
  • Get to Bard on the Beach one last summer.  I am intending to see Midsummer Night's Dream with my son and possibly The Tempest with him (but certainly on my own).
  • Take the kids to the beach in the summer and to Stanley Park for a long walk in the woods.
  • Make it to all the VSO concerts and Friends of Chamber Music concerts I have on the calendar.  This might get particularly tricky as I have to start traveling more for my new job, but I'll see what I can do.
  • Go to the Vancouver Art Gallery in March or April for the Lawren Harris exhibit and perhaps in June for some exhibit based around the works of Douglas Coupland.
Ranging a bit further afield, I'd like to take the whole family to Seattle (in Feb.?) for the Miro exhibit at SAM.  I'm definitely concerned that my daughter has a spot of travel sickness, but think she probably can make it.  She actually made it there in the past, as well as a super long bus ride to get to the ferry to Victoria.

I'd like to make it to Portland one more time, but that might be a solo trip.  Hard to know at this point.

As far as Toronto, there are definitely many unknowns, but a few things to look forward to.  We'll almost certainly get a car.  I would have gotten one this spring or summer, but the thought of driving it across the Rockies was just too much to contemplate.  As much as I do try to take transit (even for grocery shopping), it is becoming infeasible with a family of increasingly active and restless kids.  There are a few other things that at this point, I would just rather wait until we resettle rather than buy them now and ship them.  Shipping costs will be expensive enough...