No. 23 >> The New Year Issue: How we spend our days.

MAKING THE WORK // A Letter to the Voice Inside My Head    

Dear Roommate,

My friend Tiger calls the voice inside her head her roommate—as in, “Oh, that’s just my roommate talking. She’s not as smart as me.” So that’s what I’m going to start calling you. I find dissociative self-propaganda so helpful, don’t you?

So, it’s a new year and I was thinking we should have a little tête-dans-tête about the year ahead to help us get along, capisce? (And I don’t need any lip for using French and Italian in the same sentence; it's cosmopolitan.) 

Let’s start by talking about that thing I said to A. last month (last year!). I was extremely sleep deprived, after a night of tossing and turning like a rotisserie chicken, when I complained that I was bummed about not writing.

“But you are writing,” A. said. “Every week. You’re writing the mini-mag.”

“But that’s not capital-‘R’ writing!” I lamented, slumping down in my chair.

“Not to make too fine a point of it,” he said, “but it’s capital-‘W’... and I don’t really see a distinction.” 

I’m thinking that you, Roomie, are responsible for the whole it’s not capital-‘R’ writing thing because: 1) I know how to spell “writing” and 2) you’re the negative nelly, not me. Just because I’m writing something that is not fully in line with my ultimate ambition (to write a—the— book), doesn’t mean it’s not real writing. You know who gravitates toward that kind of elitism? Snobs. We stopped being snobs about A.’s science fiction club, so we can stop being snobs about this too. Writing is writing. I want to feel good about all of it this year, okay?

I really don’t want to have a Mean Girls relationship with you so I’m sorry if I got all blamey there and basically called you stupid. It’s just that I need to start calling you out for making a mess up there in my head. I’d rather you be interestingly benign, like the roommate I once had who wore a Speedo and rubber boots while playing his tuba on the front lawn. 

You’ve actually been quite good lately, so let’s try to keep getting along this year and keep the lines of communication open. I’ve got all sorts of writing to do—mini-mags, essays for the book, website copy, and a couple of other side projects too. I want to be a happy workhorse, because, as Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” 

Let’s make the days count, shall we?

Yrs. Ever,

J
 

PROJECTS // YearCompass

I love planning the way some people love bacon. I’ve always believed in the old adage, “fail to plan, plan to fail” so I got pretty excited when I learned about YearCompass, “a global movement that mobilises people to sort out their last year and plan their next year to have a greater awareness of their lives.” For that purpose, YearCompass offers—in nine different languages and free to download—a 28-page workbook. How great is that?

There's a short video on the website in which people talk about having done YearCompass. One person says that looking back gave them closure on the previous year. Another person says it made them realize that they did a “whole bunch of awesome things” the year before. Others say that it gave a sense of purpose to the new year and helped them move toward their goals. 

The seven creators of YearCompass identify themselves only minimally: “Ádám, Andris, Bogár, László, Mesi, Raszpi, Vadas—the staff of Invisible Publishing.” People are encouraged to do the YearCompass solo or to gather their friends and make tea and cookies. Instagram shots are encouraged. My favourite features the booklet, along with a couple of marshmallows on bamboo skewers that have been elegantly roasted by tea lights. I’m going to try and replicate the experience—marshmallows and all—this weekend. 

 

SOCIETY // NYE with Old Yeller at the Urban Crow Bungalow

We arrive at the New Year’s Eve party wearing the best outfits we’ve brought with us on our trip and with most of a 26er of gin. I’m not crazy about New Year’s Eve. It might be because in the 80s my mother horrifyingly declared that Dick Clark was sexy—Dick Clark being synonymous with New Year’s Eve because of his ball dropping gig in Times Square. Or, it could be that it’s just one of those holidays that brings out the dickheads and pukers, so it’s more civilized to stay in rather than risk running into them while travelling to and fro. A. feels the same way. We’ve made an exception twice in our relationship for parties at the Urban Crow Bungalow though. This year's one of them, seeing as we’re in town.

The bungalow is an urban homestead in east Vancouver belonging to our friends Megan and Brian who've mastered the art of hosting. They're both short and we're both tall so we bend down a bit to hug them. Sometimes we wonder if we’d be fiercer and louder, like they are, if we were short.

We’re tired from being away from home for two weeks already and I am stricken by family drama. My job at Megan and Brian's parties is usually to say inappropriate things, but I'm fresh out of smart-ass. I visit nicely and nibble on the nut brittle. Megan offers us homemade tonic syrup to mix with our gin.

After my fourth drink, I’m ready to pick up my friend Mel. I mean this literally. She is also short (and fierce) and lets me pick her up at parties. It makes me feels strong.

Then the band is ready to play in the living room so we beeline for the couch. The band’s called Old Yeller. Megan plays fiddle and Brian plays guitar. There are a couple of other guitars, banjo, accordion, and piano. The band members all sing. The music really gets the party going. 

On a break between sets I make friends with Zed, an artist who cuts hair. We talk about hair and art and I tell her about the artist who once exhibited shadowboxes full of clumps of her ex-lover’s hair at the contemporary art gallery where I used to work. We joke about things that she could do with her clients’ hair.

When the band goes up for the second set, we once again make for the couch area. I get the rocking chair next to a woman named Sarah, which pleases me because I liked the looks of her when she first walked into the party. The music starts doing something to me, loosening me up, stretching my insides. Between songs I yell out things like “Freebird!” and “Take off your clothes!” By the time the band plays "Wagon Wheel" I sing along and stomp my feet like everyone else.

It’s almost midnight and the champagne is being poured and A. and I stand next to each other, puckers ready. Then people are all shouting "Happy New Year!" and it’s done, and someone slips onto the piano bench and pounds out "Auld Lang Syne". It’s lovely. The singing, the smooching, the arms around each other, the special ordinariness of it all.