Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Things That Keep & Do Not Change

Art by Tim Okamura

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”--Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, November 16, 2015

When Paris Is Burning, We All Burn...

Photo by Gigi Stoll
Whenever someone from the tribe is murdered, we all feel it.

Whether it's someone you know "in real life" or not, you still feel it. 

All of a sudden, Paris - that romantic, beautiful white and gold city we've all been in love with at one time or another - is burning. Lives lost, increased heat. And the deaths are now the impetus for a necessary siege.  

We, the "fortunate ones" living in other parts of the world, wonder whether or not we have perhaps survived the apocalypse.

In my early years, I was raised in a dystopian, fundamentalist Christian religion with Armageddon and Satan's temptations being the greatest perceived threat imaginable. 

However terrifying and theoretical as the idea of this world possibly ending in my lifetime was, I knew that wasn't possible because I was extremely well-behaved and obeyed my parents to the Nth degree. This meant never wearing skirts with a hemline above the knee or shirking my responsibilities on "Cinderella Sundays" where I took great pride in my ability to render the entire house immaculate. 

And once I really connected with my Native origins, I realized that there are worse things than a vengeful, patriarchal god.  

Such as man's inhumanity to man.

# # # 

"Everybody Knows"
- Leonard Cohen

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded 
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed 
Everybody knows that the war is over 
Everybody knows the good guys lost 
Everybody knows the fight was fixed 
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich 
That's how it goes 
Everybody knows 
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking 
Everybody knows that the captain lied 
Everybody got this broken feeling 
Like their father or their dog just died 

Everybody talking to their pockets 
Everybody wants a box of chocolates 
And a long stem rose 
Everybody knows 

Everybody knows that you love me baby 
Everybody knows that you really do 
Everybody knows that you've been faithful 
Ah give or take a night or two 
Everybody knows you've been discreet 
But there were so many people you just had to meet 
Without your clothes 
And everybody knows 

Everybody knows, everybody knows 
That's how it goes 
Everybody knows 

And everybody knows that it's now or never 
Everybody knows that it's me or you 
And everybody knows that you live forever 
Ah when you've done a line or two 
Everybody knows the deal is rotten 
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton 
For your ribbons and bows 
And everybody knows 

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming 
Everybody knows that it's moving fast 
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman 
Are just a shining artifact of the past 
Everybody knows the scene is dead 
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed 
That will disclose 
What everybody knows 

And everybody knows that you're in trouble 
Everybody knows what you've been through 
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary 
To the beach of Malibu 
Everybody knows it's coming apart 
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart 
Before it blows 
And everybody knows... 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Relevance of Blog Posts in 2015

I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can.

- Jack Gilbert

Photo by Simon Thorpe

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dead Girls...

When someone from the tribe is murdered, we all feel it.

In early August, I was in the midst of a road trip through California when one of the chiefs of my tribe emailed me to say that a local girl had gone missing. My blood ran cold as he described the search process, with police and police dogs combing the Island, the divers not able to find anything in the water. The only clue they found were her glasses down by the wharf, and he asked me to say a prayer for her. As one who can't see without glasses or contact lenses, I knew in that instant that she was lost.

She's a stranger, but she's also a girl who was part of my tribe, and therefore connected.
The death of Delores Brown has just been confirmed. On an island of approximately 300 inhabitants, this is even more alarming than an obscure city statistic. And the Penalakut community stands still, with heavy hearts, silent and dignified. This is how Natives process grief. 
Every time a girl in my periphery is murdered, I post a poem I wrote called "Dead Girls" which is about those of us who managed to get out of potentially precarious situations and stay ALIVE.
I wrote it after I read the book "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold. That book haunted me, having grown up on an Island that bred too many serial killers. 

I've always quipped: "I grew up on an Island that bred serial killers and poets - and I became a poet."

But that's another story. The last time I posted it was in 2006, and today it's for Delores Brown. 

The eighties had a depressing element of missing girls with their hair parted down the middle who would never come home. Anguished parents. I had the sort of parents who warned against getting into cars with strange men & wearing cosmetics too young, a come hither odor. Clifford Olsen a household name in horrific bedtime stories of strangled teens, don’t take candy from anyone, razorblade apples. The price for being a girl was to always look over one shoulder while riding your bike, to never go in the woods alone. Photographs of weeping women, shredded clothes & the bloodstain of rape in the air like metal. I saw their faces in my dreams at night – they whispered, “Be careful.” I grew eyes in the ridges of my shoulder blades, fine-tuned instinct. The dead girls gave me a mask of indifference, to hide the adrenaline scent of fear that I might be a crusader. It has made me hard. This archetype is dangerous to predators – the cold expression of the huntress before the weapon is fired.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Modern Native, Mixed Blood

At the Royal British Columbia Museum

MODERN NATIVE  (for the Penalakut Coast Salish tribe) 

- by Andrea Grant

The bones of my ancestors burned beneath my ankles, and there was a certain amount of regret. Their lost tales ignited the air: “Speak for us, for we have no voice”. All the things documented, but never written down. Their blackened eyes, cheekbones carved into the stone of forgotten prayers. Eyes. The eyes always tell the truth, and silence is also an answer.

I found a way out of cultural abandonment through a spell that would impress any Grimm brother…swift of foot, I drugged the guardsmen of our house with plum wine, so sweet, so adamant. He slept for years.

Dancing shoes threadbare (only the young & ambitious can stay out all night) and there were several handsome princes with flawless complexions lingering in the bliss-dream of those who have not yet learned cynicism. Trees with golden branches, silver, diamond flowers. The land itself seemed repaired and decadent.

Reality transformed into the dreams of a fairy tale that held more meaning than the illusions of daylight. Headdresses of golden eagles, patterns graffitied upon the walls of museums. It’s difficult to calculate the consequence of shed blood, but every horror requires redemption in the ambivalent dreams of elders, sparking through the eyes of the next generation. 

As for me, lulled, my viewpoint has altered:  colors are bathed in translucent hues.  My skin grew one-piece metal like a fish. I walk half in dreams.  So here I am, with holes in my heart, wearing feminine accoutrements as my armor.

Red lipstick.  Another kind of war paint. 

So tell me which one is fairest of face? 

Faces interest me now that I have one.

Girl transforms into woman, and a mask is required for that ritual. 

Sometimes it’s a case of spherical eyeliner, narrowing the eye-shape to resemble a wolf in an attempt to connect to animal origins. Feathers are woven into hairline by way of decoration, melting upon the edges of forehead, under pretext of a costume party or some other celebratory evening.  When a mystical feathered-girl exits a taxi, the ravens hover around the bearer of their talisman, winged shadows…and new myths are born.


The fairytale castle is an ornate illusion; the Park Avenue penthouse contains the same stone walls as any other prison. Kill me for a crown, the weight of gold & emeralds press against brain-edges like a migraine headache. Dollhouse, doll-girls; my friends and I could never sleep after sitting properly in the dollhouse all day, dreaming princesses, experimental eye make-up streaking as we suppressed our pre-teen heartaches.

Nowadays, people like to talk about nothing and dream of the things that used to be true. Where is the magic?

Dreams. Nightmares...where is the in-between?

My nightmares are vivid paroxysms of blood & death.  I don’t know how to draw the line between night-vision & reality. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and see the eyes of a wolf, and fire, fire, everywhere, as the city disappears.  But a castle I recall from the lands of the in-between stands firm against the skyscrapers. 

Fragmented. Redemptive.

Modern Native, mixed blood. 

Let’s not forget the men who took white women so that their children would be free.  For all the mothers who gave their offspring new names and whispered, “Hush, everything will be okay now…”  Those without soul, who don’t notice details, have tried to steal my ceremonial necklace and sell the beads.  They have tried to tear my drum skin. 

But the strength of my ancestors flows ever on. The undercurrents of moon and water flow in my timeline, & Raven speaks tricks through my mouth.

Listen to the Audio Recording HERE

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Penny Dreadful + The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper is a 6,000-word short story by the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in 1892 in The New England Magazine. It's regarded as an important piece of American feminist literature, illustrating attitudes in the 19th century towards women's physical and mental health.

The story is presented in the first person as a series of journal entries by a woman named Jane who has recently had a baby and is presumed to be suffering from post-partum depression. As a result, she is confined by her physician husband to the upstairs bedroom of a house he has rented for the summer. 

The yellow wallpaper haunts her. Confined to bed rest, she is particularly disturbed by the strange, formless pattern, and initially describes it as “revolting.” Alone most of the time, Jane's attempt to figure out the pattern has become her primary entertainment. As the sub-pattern of the wallpaper becomes clearer, it begins to resemble a woman “stooping down and creeping” behind the main pattern, which look like the bars of a cage. 

You should read the story for yourself. I promise it's worth it!

Interestingly enough, in Penny Dreadful Season 2 - Episode 05, “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places,” there is a significant reference to this story. For the first time, we see a prominent yellow-papered wall in the Victorian mansion where characters such as Dr. Frankenstein frequently visit. The clairvoyant and supernatural characters pause to look at the wall, as though sensing something is awry (making damn sure that anyone who ever studied The Yellow Wallpaper notices the analogy). 

Later, we start to see faces moving behind the pattern, and that yellow wallpaper turns into a vulnerable vortex which allows terrifying creatures to enter the house.  

In 1887, Charlotte Perkins Gilman went to see a specialist in the hope of curing her recurring nervous breakdowns. The specialist recommended a "rest cure," which consisted of lying in bed all day and engaging in intellectual activity for only two hours a day. After three months, Gilman stated that she was "near the borderline of utter mental ruin." 

Eventually, Gilman disregarded the specialist’s advice and wrote The Yellow Wallpaper to demonstrate the kind of madness produced by the popular "rest cure." 

Since the 1960s, the story  has been anthologized as an important work. According to Gilman, the short story was never intended as a Gothic horror, but rather as a cautionary tale about what "rest cures" could do to mental stability. 

Gilman wrote: "It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked." She sent a copy to the physician who had recommended a rest cure, and he subsequently changed his medical practices.

I love that those behind Penny Dreadful were clever enough to visually reference such a profound literary work. Unfortunately, these days this kind of allegory is rare. But that's another story... 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Girls Who Wear Glasses...

Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe 

"I always think about what it means to wear eyeglasses. When you get used to glasses you don't know how far you could really see. I think about all the people before eyeglasses were invented. It must have been weird because everyone was seeing in different ways according to how bad their eyes were. Now, eyeglasses standardize everyone's vision to 20-20. That's an example of everyone becoming more alike. Everyone could be seeing at different levels if it weren't for glasses."

In the film How to Marry a Millionaire, Pola, the desperately nearsighted character played by Marilyn Monroe, declares, "Men aren't attentive to girls who wear glasses." Pola's insistence on leaving her glasses in her handbag provided Marilyn with opportunities to demonstrate her flair for physical comedy.

Personally, I have never liked wearing my glasses. But even though they don't always work that well and I worry about losing them in a futuristic apocalyptic scenario, I am used to the weight of those damn frames when my eyes are tired of the contact lenses. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What the Living Won't Let Go... (RIP Michael Nyuis)

I haven't written anything personal in a while, since I'm fortunate enough to be "leasing out my brain" these days. Writers are an increasingly rare commodity because it takes a lot of emotional energy, which is perhaps why we are a dying breed and increasingly coveted.  

Spring, and things creatively shift around. Things happen to strike you hard.

A friend of mine from Vancouver died last week. It hit me really hard (even though I have been gone for 11 years, I saw him on a recent visit and he was still the same).

It absolutely rocked absolutely everybody's world who ever knew him because he was a rare individual.

Michael Nyuis

How do you measure a life?

He burned bright as fire, and everyone loved him. Perhaps because there was never an agenda attached to his genuine interest in others. You could discuss the most random topics with him and he always had insight and a great sense of humor. Probably why we were friends was that I could talk about poetry with him or talk about what it meant to be mixed race, and he had a point of view and also understood what the hell I was talking about.

That all-accepting, kind energy is why 1,000 people were at his funeral last Sunday.

How do you measure a life?

There is a phrase that often goes through my head sometimes, which is "what the living won't let go."

Sometimes certain sorrows of death's loss hit you unexpectedly. You have a terrible fight with your significant other that you may have started out of a pain you cannot necessarily articulate. You weep unexpectedly while performing mundane household tasks that allow you too much time to think. Sad songs come on the radio and you read into every word. You fall onto the sidewalk after having drinks with a colleague, but laugh it off as mere clumsiness while your heart bleeds. You can't usually say that you are off-balance because your friend just died, and yet you say things you should never say to strangers because you are torn apart. Your eyes water, and your hands shake during austere business meetings you are supposed to be's how we process.  

"What the Living Won't Let Go" is the title of a book by the Canadian poet Lorna Crozier, who teaches writing at UVIC and whose work I read in college. There is a section entitled "Names of Loss and Beauty" that's quite lovely and haunting.

This poem seems to represent Mike, somehow. He died in nature, and let's face it - that's the best way to go. Surrounded by trees and beauty.


I died once, in the water.
I could hear my father's boat
till he cut the motor,
then I saw its shadow large and flat -
a manta ray above my head -
a strange drumming all around me.

Everything was loud -
sound and echo inseparable.
They met where I hung suspended.

My father pounded the side of the boat
with the heels of his hands,
cast lures baited with his flesh,
a spur of bone.

There was a point where light
no longer reached me.
Mouths, muscular and cold,
bumped my legs, something
ran its beak down my vertebrae
like a stick striking pickets.

When I rose, eyes wide open,
water poured from my nose and mouth,
my bones ran liquid.
It was the same inside and out.

I drifted in bed for days,
my heart another drumming,
its rivers cold as water
from the bottom of the sea.
Every morning it seemed to be raining;
fish flared and glided on the ceiling
in constant streams of light.

Even in dreams I heard
my father weeping,
his body dark and grieving.
Across the blankets fell the shadow
I knew I must kick towards
to live. It did not feel
like being born again.

- Lorna Crozier

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fighting With the Wolves

I have been delinquent with maintaining this diary since I started a digital agency.

A business needs to be nurtured, but part of that is creativity, so I'm still compiling a plethora of essays in my mind, some of which will be revealed. 

In the meantime, be inspired by this song: 

Although this band have 'lost their patience with the Lord',  hopefully you do not lose patience with my radio silence.  Certain projects need to simmer before they are ready... 

"The Wolves"

- Ben Howard

Falling from high places, falling through lost spaces,
Now that we're lonely, now that there's nowhere to go.
Watching from both sides, these clock towers burning up,
I lost my time here, I lost my patience with it all.

And we lost faith, in the arms of love.

Where you been hiding lately, where you been hiding from the news?
Cause we've been fighting lately, we've been fighting with the wolves.
With the wolves. With the wolves.
Red tongues and hands.

Falling from high places, falling through lost spaces,
Now that we're lonely, now that we're so far from home.
Watching from both sides, these towers been tumbling down,
I lost my mind here, I lost my patience with the lord.
Oh, with the lord

And we lost faith, oh in the arms of love
(Love love love)

Where you been hiding lately, where you been hiding from the news?
Cause we've been fighting lately, we've been fighting with the wolves.
With the wolves. With the wolves.
Red tongues and hands.

Oh, we lost faith in the arms of love.
(Love love love love love love)

Red tongues and hands.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Why Don't You...Take a Risk

Diana Vreeland helmed the stylish pages of HARPER'S BAZAAR for 25 years before moving on to Vogue. During that time she penned an advice column with chic, extravagant ideas for the modern woman.

Why Don't You... 

- Find one dress that you like and have it copied many times? You will be much more successful than if you try to produce the same effects each evening.

- Have an elk-hide trunk for the back of your car? Hermes of Paris will make this.

- Order Schiaparelli's cellophane belt with your name and telephone number on it?

- Have your bed made in China—the most beautiful bed imaginable, the head board and spread of yellow satin embroidered in butterflies, alighting and flying, in every size and in exquisite colors?

- Rinse your blond child's hair in flat champagne to keep it gold, as they do in France?

- Paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys' nursery so they won't grow up with a provincial point of view?

- Cover a big cork bulletin board in bright pink felt banded with bamboo, and pin with colored thumb-tacks all your various enthusiasms as your life varies from week to week?

- Have every room done up in every color green? This will take months, years, to collect, but it will be delightful—a melange of plants, green glass, green porcelains, and furniture covered in sad greens, clear, faded and poisoned.

It's imperative to frequently question our day-to-day existence and seek new challenges.

This might mean revamping a closet, deciding which relationships to pursue versus which to abandon, or wearing white vintage gloves with an afternoon tea dress. 

As Ms. Vreeland said, "Don’t think you were born too late.

Everyone has that illusion.

But you weren’t. The only problem is if you think too late.

Everything is new. At least, everything is new the first time around.”

Words to live by, certainly.