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Monthly Archives: Oct 2014

I wrote/experienced this my last evening at the farm in August. I forgot it was sitting in my draft folder.

Scene of the incident:

IMG_3111I was washing dishes at the sink and could hear the steady buzz of a fly but stronger, louder, more frantic. I looked to my right on the stainless steel counter and there’s a big, furry grey/black jumping spider, pinning a fly on it’s back.The fly was- screaming. A second fly was watching from an inch away. I lazily continued cleaning plastic rehearsal cups, wondering why a fly would stand so close to a gruesome scene- is it like humans driving past an accident and why the spider’s poison hadn’t sedated the fly- I assume all spiders have that ability.

Suddenly, the fly standing watch attacked the spider once, then twice and on the third round the spider let go of the fly’s belly and it flew off. The fighter fly charged the spider one more time, made contact with the spider’s face and took off leaving the spider with nothing.

I lost my shit. Hands soapy and dripping I hollered “Kate! Kate! Oh my God! I can’t believe it! Kaaaate!!” I’d reverted to being six years old, too excited to find my words. I found her in the mudroom, standing in front of the commercial fridge holding a bunch of parsley, smiling but I could see in her eyes she was questioning my solidarity. Working in the kitchen at the farm, Kate, has zero tolerance for flies which have been rampant this summer. If I had to do her job, I would go crazy from flies landing on me every second too. Lisa walked in and I was only more worked up. I took her over to the counter where the fight had occurred and gave an in depth play by play, “And then it hit it in the face- in the eyes! Like fuck you take this too! and flew off to be with it’s buddy. The spider was stunned. Seriously!!” Lisa was impressed or amused, maybe both.

The dull sounds from the fly tape all over the kitchen took on a different meaning. I felt sick. I’m sorry Kate.

It’s made me question consciousness in insects. I’ve appreciated spiders ever since I was four years old and my nana in Australia took me out on her deck to show me the huge huntsman spider that had taken up residence in the top corner of a fisherman net she had decoratively hung. ‘See. It thinks this is it’s web.’ Huntsman are like tarantulas but the net made it look tiny. The absurdity of it, in my mind, gave the huntsman personality I could relate to. Whether or not the spider was actually surveying it’s impressive kingdom, I was smitten.

I have been bitten twice by black widows. Once on my lower abdomen. I was sick for weeks, as if I had the worst menstrual cramps. The scar from that spider bite was later covered by a larger scar left from a piece of plywood that kicked back on the table saw and cut me. I was alone, shaken up but it was just a flesh wound. That experience I consider myself lucky. When a table saw kicks back the projectile can move at 100 kms an hour. I was painting in a scene shop on the coast while one of the carpenters was using the table saw. I heard a high pitch machine shrill then a loud ping. When I looked up I saw Brad standing then drop like a stone. The wood had hit him right in the guts and caused internal bleeding. He was off work for six weeks.

The second time I was bit was on a construction site infested with black widows. It either crawled up my leg or down my pants when I used the outhouse. It must have panicked when it felt trapped against my thigh. By the afternoon, I had to take the rest of the day off. The nausea and cramping in my pelvis was so intense. I couldn’t stand straight much less function. Four years later the spot is about the size of a quarter and dull brown. I think it’s fortunate both times I was bit on fleshier parts of my body, possibly preventing the venom from circulating into my blood stream quickly. I never saw a doctor about it- though I don’t recommend that. I just rode it out with charcoal tablets, tons of water and pain suppressants. I’m fine with black widows. They’re not an aggressive spider. In both instances the bite was a defense before being inadvertently crushed. One of my old snowboards is a black widow Nitro. The design of it is fucking awesome, slick, great for big powder days.

I never want to encounter a brown recluse- it’s alleged a bite precipitated Jeff Hanneman’s tragic early death. There’s a guy in the Shuswap who lost his hand from a recluse bite. I never want to see a wolf spider crawling around with the babies on it’s back, eating away at it’s body- gahhh!- that’s a horror straight out of Lovecraft! A morbid metaphor for the sacrifice of parenthood.

Why did the fly rescue the fly? Were they family, lovers, comrades? Was it a game between the spider and the flies, is that why the spider hadn’t sunk it’s venom? I haven’t included any pictures of spiders cause my middle sister is arachnophobic. Spider in the title possibly prevented her from reading this anyway. If you got this far, Juliana, here’s your reward for being braver than your phobia:

IMG_3105The August full moon cabaret, my seventy-four year old friend wrote: Love Our Children with a sharpie on this dirty, kitchen saran wrap box, as part of his drag act. His show usually involves stumbling around in heels; throwing flour, water and glitter at the audience; teaching an incoherent lesson- I think this one had to do with taking care of each other; puppetry; cursing; scattering toys, marbles, feathers all over the stage- which sends the stage manager in me into an absolute safety panic. He always finishes with ripping his clothes off, then out of modesty puts a thong back on, or if it cools down a kimono for the rest of the night. I love him so much.

Think about that instead of arachnids and I’ll think of this instead of coming to terms with how much I still loathe stink bugs… they’re just gross. It would take a profound incident to feel compassion for stink bugs. Hear that universe? Pro-fou-nd!

IMG_3003Kim and I were standing in the yard at the end of strike talking about the upcoming winter show, when the conversation was over-powered by noises Luka was making on the ground between us. “Uhh, hold that thought Kim.” I pulled out my ipod and took a picture.

Luka licks her butt a lot, particularly if there’s good leverage, this grass is a good example. She does not appreciate the hardwood floors at home. When we stop at the bookshop she expects a biscuit from the jar behind the desk, then lays down right in front of the till and throws a long elegant leg over her shoulder using the carpets traction to her advantage. She works up a loud slobbery suction that bewilders and disgusts anyone in earshot. Stopping her momentum takes a bit of force and she’s glassy eyed, out of breath, panting from her frothy jowls. It’s almost as off putting as just letting her finish.

When we brought her home a couple years ago from the SPCA, googling “My dog licks her butt all-the-time” didn’t answer my query. In a check up I asked the older male vet, in all seriousness, if she was masturbating. He stared at me. I stared back waiting for a response. He changed the subject.

On a later check up with a female vet about my age I asked again. She looked up at me and said  “Luka’s probably expressing her anal glands”

“Everyday?”

She shrugged “Probably likes the taste of it.”

My dog companion has no modesty but she takes really good care of herself. I can live with that… except she gives herself pink eye. I guess the point of this is: never let her lick your face. Ever. You have been warned. You’re welcome.

IMG_3684Post apocalyptic fetish wear and what appears to be a therma-rest attached to his back. Thou shall not be without comfort in Dystopia!

IMG_3686At the rate I’m going, I will be cleaning up the science fiction/fantasy section for weeks. I fell asleep thinking of separating it into hard sci-fi on one side and fantasy on the other. I might run with this tomorrow.

IMG_3698Nice Red Sonja/Barbarella inspired cover.

IMG_3691What is this giant satchel wearing, peeping tom turkey up to? It almost compels me to read and find out. Almost.

I got back to town on the last day of August. Thomas called wanting me on one of his jobs. “It’ll be so fun.The time line is tight. I realize you’ll be leaving again in November. We just need to get the roof on before the snow starts to hit.” It was tempting but I’d made a commitment to my family’s used bookshop and the door was still open on the previous carpentry job that I sort of bailed on at the start of 2014. To take up Thomas’s offer, I think, would be irresponsible to that previous obligation.

I ran into Thomas at the farmers market last weekend and asked how the job was going. Standing there with two bags of vegetables; a paper bag of Hedy’s zongzi and steam buns; hood up; sun in my eyes, I listened as he recounted what went well and what went wrong with the foundation pour. Maybe it was a nostalgic effect of the brisk sunny morning but I felt a strong desire to pull my belt and steel shank boots back on.

*The rest of this I’d started to write at the farm back in August. Trying to make sense of what I’m doing. I get asked at least a few times a week if I’ve quit carpentry or am I just taking a break.*

IMG_1268Six years ago after leaving the city I took up carpentry in my hometown, filling gaps between shows in the theatre’s season. I would have liked to continue working in the arts full time but didn’t want to live in the city’s fury, noise and grime. I figured the skills I’d pick up in the trade would help me in the scene shop, undoubtedly it did.

I leave town half the year, divided between summer, fall and winter to stage manage and build -paint, props, set- for one outdoor theatre company. The day after each show closed I’d hit the ground running as a carpenter till the next contract.The small construction company I worked for stayed busy through the worst of the recession. Foundation to finish work. New construction, renovations. My experience as a theatre scenic made me the fastest at applying stains and lacquers. I spent a lot of time wearing my respirator when I really should have been in a fully air controlled booth. Asbestos and vermiculite; fine particulate dust; sexual harassment; super close calls, I was hit by the chute of a concrete truck and almost impaled by re-bar. Fell off ladders. Fell into forming walls. Over exposed to chemicals too many times. Played teeter totter with scaffold planks. Power tools; blood, scars, muscle injuries that never seemed to heal. Drove a three inch nail into my thumb. Emergency rooms; physio.

There’s also the glory of a job completed no matter how big, or small. Success over adversity. Finding smooth rhythm in repetitious motion. Camaraderie. Like outdoor theatre, we worked through extreme heat and rainstorms or minus 25 and wind howling off the lake. Our fifteen minute breaks huddled around an industrial heater in the tool sea-can. Frostbite; deep fatigue but also the satisfaction that comes with physical labor, of pushing beyond perceived limits and strength.

IMG_1269I never thought I had to “prove myself” or work harder like I’ve heard other women in trades say but I recognized I had to keep up and I am as independent and stubborn as Capricorns come. Female carpenters still only make up two percent of the trade. Outside my crew there were constant stares, jeers, insinuations or outright confusion why a woman was on the job site. My boss defended me every step of the way. He pulled me from a job when a project manager got predatory and filed a complaint to the head office. He would check in with me how things were going, if I was having any issues. He confronted anyone who stepped out of line. He was the kind of contractor I wish a lot of other women in the trades could have.

Despite that I’d look around the construction site all the time and think, “What am I doing here?” I made money, made friends and had weird and wild experiences but a depression slowly seeped deep in my psyche. I pulled away from my self. Life felt heavy and every single guy I worked with talked about how long he’d been ‘quitting’ the trade. Moral generally sucked. It was distant from the pride, drive and passion my theatre family expressed.

When I returned from the winter show last January I was expected back at the job I was working before I’d left town. A full interior gut and modernization of an old stone house on the lake. The amount of money being spent baffled me. It was a nauseating glimpse into what people who own multiple homes around the world do with their money.

IMG_1531Instead circumstance found me at my family’s bookstore. It was only meant to be for a week or two, help out with the short staffing then I could head out to the stone house but I just fell into the rhythm of it like I had never left. Despite only being away six years from the shop, long time customers who had watched me grow up, confused me with my sisters. I felt a little forgotten and realized how being out on the remote job sites opened me up to one world and shut me off from another. Too tired, or crippled at the end of each work day to go out. My life became insular. All I started to know in town were other trades and what interested them. A small few had any leaning towards the arts and those shone to me like water in a desert.Thomas was a goddamn oasis.The only thing I really had in common with the crew was the job and snowboarding- though they were all skiers and sledders- they embraced me nonetheless. Good guys. I adored them all.

IMG_3727A couple years back Cole and I were fixing deficiency’s on a winery we’d built. Cole -my water filled cactus- and I had spent a day cutting out the concrete floor in one of the storage rooms. The plumbers came in and corrected the pipes. We set to work laying down vapor barrier, cutting, drilling, epoxying and tying a new grid of rebar for the fresh cement to connect with the old concrete. It was a Friday afternoon in late spring. Cement pours are ideally planned for Fridays so it can be left to cure undisturbed over the weekend. When the driver showed up we recognized him as one of us. There was something softer about him than most cement truck drivers and he looked like he’d just walked out of band practice with Graveyard. Long brown hair under his hard hat, full groomed beard, aviators, everything about his work clothes was subtly deliberate and considered. We paused while the truck drum spun to re-mix the cement. Cole in his tight, dusty black jeans, hard hat backwards over his toque, Punisher skull t-shirt; who goes to his studio every night and paints huge frenzied canvases; chatted casually to the driver about the trade, “How long.. I use to… work for …you know?” Over the loud hum of the rotating machine I caught trails but the words that rang out clear were “It’s honest work”. The driver looked him in the eye, nodded earnestly and cement started pouring down the chute into our wheel barrow. It is honest work.

I saw two middle age men hobbling across the street and immediately recognized them as tradesmen. Bodies wrecked; knees gone; backs herniated; wrists arthritic and more than likely, still showing up on the job. It’s rough.There is a degree of self care and preservation one can choose. Many of the guys I worked with could have lived healthier day to day lives but when the job starts moving fast, safety protocol is the first to fall aside. Driving home, absolutely physically exhausted from the day, doing it all over again at sun rise, stretching, eating well and going to bed early might not be priority. A lot of the trades I know head straight to the pub after work.

IMG_1521I left Thomas at the market and headed for the shop to, as my co-worker puts it, “find new homes for old books”. After talking about the trials and tribulations of an always stressful, no matter how prepared you are cement pour, I found myself in a state of I still don’t know, maybe I will go back. It’s been almost a year since I left the last carpentry job. I’m still processing it. Nothing is absolute.

For now the book shop is busy. I’m there six days -sometimes more- a week. There’s not a lot of time to think about what I’m doing and the thoughts I have –if this is any indication– are disjointed. Mid-November I leave town for the theatre’s winter show and continue working six days a week. When I get back in January… who knows. Maybe the call of roaring air compressors and screaming skill saws will lure me back… or maybe just the sense of adventure it brings.