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Thursday, September 28, 2006

if I only had a brain

I strut past the Ukrainian deli, music in my ears, and up to the subway station.

My feet dance down the stairs, and pull me into the subway car, where I spend the next half an hour, switching once to get to school.

At school I spend hours in a computer lab doing research on why seaweed is good for you. I find myself loving feature writing, learning to find articles, and the magical world of the library. I spend another hour with my head in nutrition books, until it's time to head to another class.

I'm not scholarly. And although I'm not stupid, I'm not brilliant either. I have poor concentration and find it hard to sit down. I find it hard to grasp anything involving terminology, numbers or heavy facts.

When I sit through my Philosophy of Rights and Justice class I feel as if my teacher is speaking German. It should be easy to understand human rights and duties, but it's all muddled in my mind, and the essay due in days seems like a hurdle I can't quite jump.

Part of me enjoys the challenge. I like to feel my brain in knots, working to untangle itself. And part of me wonders why the hell I'm here.

I'm a student. Yes, a student. I may not be wearing a backpack or drinking beer, but most people around me are. I'm a student with chapters and chapters to read, pages and pages to write, and an overwhelmed mind.

Today I stood up infront of my English class, and did a presentation on Sharon Old's poetry. I talked about sex, rape, and the menstrual cycle. I'll give any place credit that lets me talk about such things.

At the end of the day, when I shove myself back into the subway with the rest of Toronto, I feel good about myself. Even if I didn't grasp everything, I went to class, took down notes, listened and made a contribution.

Every day I learn to push my mind a little more. I learn to speak up and use my voice.

That's why I'm here.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

i've never known real love

Seated in a plastic blue chair, front row, bright lights beaming down on me, I listen to my French teacher complain about customer service in France.

She talks about stores not keeping their hours; people being rude at the grocery store; standing in the rain for hours outside museums.

I miss Paris. I miss the abrupt manner in which people speak. The way conversations often sounded like arguments. I miss the serious attitude towards food. I miss beautiful pastries. I miss watching women walk by in beautiful outfits, every detail dealt with before she left the house.

Sometimes I'm hit with longing for the days spent walking, when I'd roam the streets for hours, and strangers would yell out to me, and I'd watch the sky change and the sun finally set over the Seine.

I don't miss the cold feeling that comes with being completely alone and out of my element.

I like Toronto. I like that I have a busy schedule, that people speak my language and get my sense of humour.

I like sneaking behind the bar at work so I can ask the bartender about making cocktails. Or eating free meals in the staff room and getting to know what goes on in the kitchen from the chefs.

I like going to Honest Ed's, a giant discount store, and trying on ridiculous clothing. Then going to Little Italy to buy parmesan from a smiling vendor who says "Ciao," as I walk out the door. I like the men that make noodles in Chinatown, and the vendors that scream at each other, and the customers, trying to sell 10 cobs of corn for 2 dollars.

Even this city has it's romance, and it's women who fly by on bicycles, scarves around their heads, vintage skirts flapping in the wind.

I like riding the street car, and people watching in the subway, which is somehow friendlier than the Parisian metro.

If Paris was a love affair, maybe this will bud into a real relationship. Because with school, work, an apartment and bills, this is where I'm settling. For now.

honest eddie's
fat gill in funny mirror
this way you lucky people

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

tap your ruby slippers

My head is lying somewhere between a heavy psychology textbook, my bank account slips and a book full of restaurant reservations.

At the end of the day, trying to be a student, hostess, friend, artist trying to get her photos on display and also a human being, is an effort.

I miss walking, daydreaming, and living a scattered romantic lifestyle.

And yet, amongst all the madness, I've discovered the beauty of coming home.

This is where I reside, with two beautiful girls, and find a sense of peace at the end of the day:

high park
walking into the livingroom
granny sofas
our kitchen
female fridge
my room
my wee desk

There's no place like home.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Alice in Wonderland

innocent as Alice
three blind mice
subway seduction
Subway Gill
sweet nothings
red light
the team
queen of hearts
mad hatter and rabbit
Sleepy Gill

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

a funny little thing called love

It's a funny world where you can have food without pleasure, money without charity, and sex without love. It's all pretty overwhelming sometimes. Even the simplest things can seem so complex. I found this poem by Sharon Olds and was slapped in the face with love for her. Sometimes I do feel like a single body alone in the universe, but I keep running anyways.

Sex Without Love

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

-Sharon Olds

man walking

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

take a deep breath

My kitchen glows under yellow lighting. Leaning against the counter, my roommates talk and laugh with each other, but I can’t keep track of the conversation. My mind is elsewhere, I’m not sure where.

I grab a candle, break open the kitchen door, and step outside. The air’s cool tonight, and I lean back on the railing of the old steel balcony. Stairs and balconies creep up the side of the building and the red brick building across the alley. The sky is dark navy and the moon glows somewhere behind the building. I have nerves crawling up and down my spine, and light a cigarette with the small candle in my hand. I inhale to find myself flooded with memories.

Suddenly he’s back in my bed, tipping ashes into my ashtray, smiling at me. I worry he’s going to spill on my pristine white sheets. I smile back, but my stomach is in knots. I can’t help but wish our relationship had more substance. It’s obvious I don’t love him, and even though his eyes are sinking into me, I know he doesn’t love me either. We’re too young to be in love. And yet still, I can’t stand the thought of his body being away from mine. I crave him, need him, and keep wanting him closer. He finishes his cigarette, kisses me, grabs his clothes from the floor and heads out the door. I watch him walk down the street from my window.

It hurts to think about certain people. Some memories hold too much emotion, and it all comes back at once: the love, sex, laughter, nervousness, tears, words, and of course, the pain that comes with it. It makes me weak. I want to be stronger than all of that. I want to need myself, and only myself. But at the end of the day I’m human. It’s human to want to be held, to feel weak, and to crave the comfort of another’s arms. Life isn’t gentle enough to be able to walk through alone.

With half of my cigarette gone I put it out. I don’t need a whole one. All I really needed was to breathe.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

he comes from afar

He arrived on a horse drawn carriage. Except the horse was in the carriage, and the carriage was being drawn by three worn looking women with dirty faces and headscarves.

It was a grand entrance for Borat, a character from Kazakhstan played by Sacha Baron Cohen, also known as our beloved Ali G.

It was a full crowd at the Ryerson theatre Thursday night, and even Micheal Moore made an appearance on the red carpet, dashing in his khaki shorts and navy hoodie sweatshirt. "Who are you wearing?!" Yelled an abnoxious young man beside me. "Salvation Army," joked another.

The crowds went crazy, and in full character, Borat ran around giving high fives and thumbs up to everyone in the crowd.

His character is funny, if not extremely offensive, and makes vulgar jokes about sleeping with his sister while poking fun at the poverty of Kazakhstan.

With no ticket to get in, I quickly left the scene, only to read the next day that the projector broke after 15 minutes.

Borat's response?

"It is a very great honour to make a visit to the minor nation of Canadas. Our countries are very similar, and not only because of the projector system."

in the subway
everybody loves you

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Friday, September 08, 2006

where would you like to sit?

I'm sweating.

I don't normally sweat, but the combination of nerves and running to work in an unpractical-although proffesional-pencil skirt and heels has me immitating the Niagra Falls.

Within moments I'm told a million important things to remember. I'm shown my hostess desk, the phone I'll answer for two restaurants, the seating, the kitchens and the bathrooms.

The first time I answer the phone I press a button and fail to answer the call. Shit, shit, shit.

The next time I smile through the phone, "Gillian speaking, how may I help you?"

I get the hang of things, although the rushed atmosphere all around still has me sweating. Did I mention I rarely sweat? I'm either nervous or I've hit menopause early.

Luckily I still prove myself to be competent. Yes, I did give the dessert menu to a table still on their appetizers, but I charmed the hell out of some other customers.

I like the rush. Time goes by quickly with the busy pace and I have fun trying to keep up. I like the smell of food in the air, the sight of plentiful plates sweeping past me, and the setting of the tables. I like that I have my own desk, my own candle, and a job that allows me to talk to everyone.

It's a year of new beginnings and commitments. Breaking into the restaurant industry has been on my to-do list for a while, and I'm happy to start anywhere.

Now if I can manage to balance school, work, money, play, and hopefully some sort of twisted love life, I'll take myself out to dinner.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

facing that funky music

If I'm as afraid of commitment as I thought I was, then I guess I'm facing my fears.

Today I walked nervously into a beautifully furnished restaurant with a seductive Italian menu, and sat down with the manager. He looked over my resume, exchanged words with me, and told me I was hired as a hostess. If I show I'm capable, I can later be trained as a waitress.

Not only have I signed a year-long lease, I have a three year commitment to my cell phone, a landline, cable, internet, bills to pay, three years of school left, and now, thank god, a job.

I've always worked in retail, and thought I found my calling, but these days it's food that calls my name, not fashion.

And so I'll dress pretty, smile and seat customers, and take notes from what goes on in the big open kitchen, centered in the restaurant.

What's the secret to a perfect steak with a green peppercorn demi-glaze? I hope to soon find out.

My roomate and I celebrated with dinner in Chinatown and drinks in the theatre district.

She is working as a hostess at another restaurant, and, as of tomorrow, we will have no free time. When we're not scribbling in our notebooks, we'll be flashing our teeth and greeting the hungry.

Let the games begin.

emo glamour
i was ready to pay
noodle restaurant in chinatown
why not?
god's in charge

God I love this city.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

my life en rose

It's 2 a.m. and I'm pressing my fork through the cheesecake infront of me.

The fork breaks apart the thick white filling, which crumbles to the side, and I glide it over the top to pick up some caramel.

I'm at a bar/bakery in the Annex, catching up with a girl I met in Paris, and filling a late night craving for cake. Her brother sits beside her, delicately spoons a few mouthfulls, and lets us finish off the rest of his. His friend, to my left, talks on his cell phone at high speed and polishes off his pie.

I love Toronto. From the moment I arrived, I knew I was home.

Slowly our big, dirty, 3 bedroom apartment is taking form. My small room suits me. It leads out into the giant den, where a TV sits on our new IKEA TV set-which I put together the wrong way, an attempt to be productive when I should have been sleeping- and a big table from my aunt sits on the other side of the room. We're still waiting for a big floral beast of a sofa from my grandma.

Boxes are everywhere. Yesterday we started at Value Village, picking up cheap home furnishings at student prices. Next we stuffed ourselves into a U-Haul, drove to a prison-like storage building, picked up one of my roomates' things, and lugged her heavy furniture up into our humble abode. Wanting to take advantage of the U-Haul, we were soon at IKEA, filling up on the bare necessities, and running around like headless chickens with our carts before closing.

Deep breath. We've been busy. I've already acquired a subway pass, a student card, a cell phone, a wok and an ironing board. I'm on the road to success baby.

And all the while Toronto sits there: colourful, edgy, dirty, alive and cultural.

I bought baskets in Chinatown, met a stripper named Hugo, then walked down to the metro, where two buskers played "La Vie en Rose".

It is la vie en rose. Even lugging furniture in the rain I couldn't help but smile. This is life, freedom, happiness. I have room to grow here.

Tonight a friend comes over to make cocktails and help me write cover letters for restaurants that may never hire me. Except for I like to think I'd be wanted anywhere.

Toronto. If I can make it here, as a journalist, I guess I may make it anywhere. But it's up to me.