Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Leaving New York...

Whenever we crave a moment of swimming in the ocean, the taste of salt water may resonate more in the Pacific rather than the Atlantic. The taste of oysters from a certain region that remind us of home, if we are Island people. Some prefer the fresh-water of Lakes, or the sterile, stilted chlorine of Pools, where sea-creatures would never dare to live.

Photo by James Graham
I have watched my nephews swim with the same unabashed freedom that my brother and I experienced growing up on Vancouver Island, when the summers were endless. Swimming, whenever we were able to steal a moment in the sun, trying not to drown on hand-made rafts. We were fearless. Time had no meaning.

A certain restlessness to experience the world always accompanied my desire to swim, to be uncontained, to run as fast as possible, with nothing chasing me except for my own ambition.

Never traveling with an end result in mind, but with an ever-present feeling of wanting more than what the Island offered, or what an international city could teach me, whether Vancouver or Toronto or New York.

I've always been better at running than staying. "You have to know when to leave a sinking ship," they say. That's a cliche, sure.  But only water-people know what a sinking ship actually looks like, and it's quite a sight to behold.

Ultimately, we change, and what we want from life changes rapidly.

I moved to New York in 2004. And my lengthly love affair with the Big Apple was on it's way out in 2013.

I felt that I'd accomplished everything I dreamed of in terms of career and creative milestones.

I worked at Condé Nast, and often shared an elevator with Anna Wintour. I lived through Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy. My dream of the MINX comic became a reality...and I was awarded significant arts grants for my work in the Native American storytelling realm. I formed friendships with people who became family.

And I watched the city change abruptly, as all cities do.

All of a sudden, my beloved East Village / Alphabet City began to turn into a sea of "trust fund babies" whose parents paid their rent, and the neighborhood grit was vanishing as quickly as building developers were buying up entire blocks and local haunts were disappearing.

It was no longer the tough, artistic city I had conquered.

I was falling out of love with the harsh winters, which had me slipping on black ice now and then, no matter how carefully I walked...laying on the filthy concrete and staring up at the sky with bruised bones that were craving the realignment of change.

So I booked a plane ticket out West in December 2015, unsure of where I would end up.

Something had been calling me back to the West Coast for a while.

It's usually "New York versus LA" in terms of cities that offer opportunities to creative types, with the sidewalks paved in proverbial gold.

In the California realm, the hair and make-up is always 1950's-perfect.  I suppose the NY ghosts are different from the LA ghosts, a little more gangster grit than glamour, and the perfect shade of red lipstick that signals "Do or Die." I never particularly loved Los Angeles, a city that seems to echo of failed movie star dreams. Absolutely wonderful to visit, but living there didn't quite resonate.

And I was still unsure about what I wanted.  I craved a deeper silence in contrast to the ambulance sirens and people constantly yelling in the streets of New York, with entire conversations that were often held outside of my street-side apartment window at 3 a.m.

Enter "The OC"...the suburbs of South California, and Laguna Beach. Similar to Vancouver Island, with water just a stone's throw away.  The neatly manicured lawns and beach towns capture my heart the way that New York used to, but with hiking trails in the desert mountains and doves who have built a nest on a tree branch in the backyard. The only jarring sound is the occasional lawnmower.

Here, I am able to focus on my creative pursuits and career.

With the ocean right around the corner, I can swim in the Pacific, and somehow be reborn again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In the Suburbs, I Learned to Drive...

Portrait of Andrea Grant by James Graham, NYC
We change rapidly in the digital age. 

And yet, some things are so powerfully embedded in our memory that nostalgia can be triggered by the mere sound of a lackadaisical lawnmower on a weekend afternoon in "The Suburbs." 

The din of a motorized machine pulling you out of your lazy warm-weathered halcycon dreams, the scent of fresh cut grass and shorn tree trunks ripe in the atmosphere.  

Or a neighbor yelling like a maniac in the hallway of a New York building that should have thicker insulation within the walls...but it's too late once the authorities have approved urban development codes.

The Laws. 

Constantly changing, depending on geography.

The Suburbs vs. City Landscapes. 

I've inhabited urban settings as much as anything remotely resembling the symmetry of the suburbs, with a bit of Canadian wilderness thrown in for good measure. Wolves howling in the dark night of winter. And survival skills from my Native father. How to build a fire. How to fix a flat tire on a vehicle. We try to duplicate these memories with "campfire incense" and things that remind of us of where we come from and who we used to be.  

I used to be a die-hard New York gal, determined to conquer the harsh winters and walk faster than anyone else on the sidewalks so that I could be ahead of the curve. Then something began to shift. 

A series of events. A few romantic heartbreaks.  

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy affected my neighborhood, and I watched the East River stream down the streets of Avenue C as the city shut down in a state of emergency.

In 2015, a huge building on Second Avenue and 7th Street randomly blew up, and ashes were billowing around the streets for several days. 

Suddenly, feeling "trapped" on the island of Manhattan was daunting. 

And it's not like the suburbs don't have their own challenges, because of course every place has its pros and cons. It's just that there is something reassuring about being able to jump in a car and drive away if there is a catastrophe. 

East Village Photo Collage by Andrea Grant


In 2012, I wrote about how the Arcade Fire song entitled "The Suburbs" moved me (their 2010 video that included a "new technology" called geo-tracking was also ahead of the curve). 

Now that we are living in 2016, the music video is as creepy and apocalyptic as anything else in modern pop culture. And it's absolutely brilliant. Directed by Spike Jonze.

"The Suburbs" 

In the suburbs
I learned to drive
And you told me we'd never survive
Grab your mother's keys we're leaving

You always seemed so sure
That one day we'd be fighting
A suburban war
Your part of town against mine
I saw you standing on the opposite shore

But by the time the first bombs fell
We were already bored
Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm moving past the feeling again

Kids wanna be so hard
But in my dreams we're still screaming and running through the yard
And all of the houses they built in the seventies finally fall
Meant nothing at all

Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm movin' past the feeling and into the night

So can you understand?
Why I want a daughter while I'm still young
I wanna hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before all this damage is done
But if it's too much to ask, it's too much to ask
Then send me a son

Under the overpass
In the parking lot we're still waiting
It's already passed
So move your feet from hot pavement and into the grass
Cause it's already passed

Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm moving past the feeling
Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm moving past the feeling again
In my dreams we're still screaming... 

Photo by Gigi Stoll

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A Digital Eulogy : RIP McLean Greaves

Illustration by David Mack
How do you say goodbye to a dear friend who has been severely ill with a heart condition for a couple of years, and then passes away suddenly?

Other friends keep you in the know.

Tonight I am wrestling with my grief upon learning McLean Greaves is dead.

Also wresting with the spellcheck function on this newly updated WordPress blog, and how to convey language when there are not enough words for sorrow in the English language.

And write something appropriate that  acknowledges a great friendship & suffices as a digital eulogy.

Four directions, an Eagle feather, or perhaps a Dream Catcher..

Death for Natives is a vital tool in the cycle of life. Death is like ascending to the top of a mountain. It is a point where all knowledge gathers. Where all knowledge can be drawn to.

RIP, my friend.

McLean Greaves, you left a legacy behind as one of the greatest intellectual minds of our generation, and your work speaks for itself.

Thanks for being a part of my tribe.

It was an honor to have counted you as one of my dearest friends.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Guns N' Roses "November Rain" VIDEO : Wedding Dresses + What Forms Your Aesthetic

Stephanie Seymour 
One of the first music videos I ever watched was November Rain by Guns N' Roses.

90's Supermodel Stephanie Seymour had a starring role as a fashionable bride marrying a rock star in a wedding dress that showed off her stellar legs.

This was epic in a time when music videos were mini-films that clung to the last fragments of the analog age. These things inform your aesthetic as an artist when you are just a kid trying to find your own voice.

As a burgeoning writer from an Island in Canada, I took in every single shard of classic literature I could possibly access. I pored over every issue of Vogue magazine and dreamed of moving to New York City some day (dreams are goals which usually come true, but that's another story).

I watched music videos for inspiration long before I had the skill set to create short films...And November Rain stands the test of time. Musically, there is an orchestral crescendo in the music that's akin to classic opera. Visually, the music video is a short film that's ahead of the curve, with a nod to Kabuki theater.

A lot of people either remember the song as something they once heard "on the radio" or the visual imagery of Stephanie Seymour in that dress, or Slash playing the guitar - once they are reminded of the context. That's the legacy of impactful art.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Returning to Origins...

There have been so many shifts within my creative landscape over the past few months that I have had to go deeply inward and process the evolution.

Throughout 2014-2015, I have questioned everything. How do I feel about my accomplishments as a whole? Where do I draw the balance between producing compelling work for clients and conserving enough creative energy for my own projects? What should I do with the MINX Comic intellectual property now that my goal of having a graphic novel in mainstream bookstores has been achieved? When did I stop making art with my hands (instead using the tactile satisfaction of home repairs to curb that need)? And where are all those fragments of poems in the midst of love, heartbreak, or clarity that have been scribbled in forgotten notebooks?

No matter how much I traveled, seeking answers in different cities, in ocean and forests and freeways, in the advice of friends who have stood by me through times of angst and water-calm, I wasn't able to come to any definite conclusions. Whenever someone would ask what's next, my response was always, "I don't know yet. I'm at a crossroads."

I've always been 5-8 years ahead of the curve, and watching things shift in pop culture to where I now see other artists succeeding through creative projects that are similar to what I did a long time ago is both validating and heartbreaking.

The way to combat this is to re-visit my origins and change my own timeline.

I've decided to return to my first love, which is poetry. Although I published The Pin-Up Poet, I have an extensive body of work that I've never released.

It's time to put it out there...


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