So I'm totally sure I'll still post randomly generated thoughts here, but I've also moved over to Wordpress if you're so inclined. Find my favourite Futurama quips and more at https://whatifthatthingisaid.wordpress.com/.
"Randomly selected" is a lie. We both know I look about as instigating as a girl guide, so let's not pretend you're not just meeting your quota with me to make your job easier. Snap on the gloves and let's get this over with.
I started my journey by waking up at 3:30 a.m., and grateful to have woken up at all. Last night, my brain afloat with to-do's and did-not's, I cracked my skull on the dish towel rack in my kitchen and, convinced I was concussed, played out the slow discovery of my unconscious body, beginning with my missed flight. The single person's phone tree would've been activated, until someone figured out I never log out of Facebook, so my cousin (not my mom, she'd be too distressed) would post on my behalf: "It is with heavy hearts we..." No. "We regret..." No. "Tara's in a coma. We have little hope. She packed well."
My first thought after I heard either paint cracking as the metal nearly dislodged from the wall, or bits of my forehead squishing open, was, "My face, my precious face! I have TIFF! Photographs! Making words come out of my mouth in front of other people! DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!" A gel pack and delicate finger pressings later, I had a small bimp (bumps are always the domain of Inspector Clouseau), but still no mark as of this morning. Small miracles. Bangs are also small miracles.
We all clutch our Starbucks as we're jostled by the plane on the runway for takeoff. I can't help but picture the wreckage in-the-unlikely-event-of. So many lids.
My partner in crime, Kristine, texts to say she's gotten me into two parties. I have just entered Toronto for the first time in my life and I'm juggling all the things and my lungs are slowly filling up with humidity and I wonder if I've somehow managed to survive the smog of Shanghai and yet I'll be deathly betrayed by my own country but I don't care if I have to get there with an oxygen tank, I'm going. The subway jangles along and I hop aboard a charming streetcar (that's what Toronto is to me as I bumble along: charming), that warns passengers to look out for cars before deboarding BECAUSE THEY CAN'T STOP AT THE SIDEWALK. You have to cross a line of traffic. Again, I've crossed the wild, wild streets of Beijing and it's this that gets me.
7:43 p.m.: minor hair crisis pending.
8:05 p.m;: minor hair crisis averted.
8:30 p.m.: party #1. We climb a set of stairs into the bowels of a heated beast that boasts free drinks and a lot of canapés that are meaty but I don't complain because there are wee little desserts also and HOLY SHIT ALL THIS SHIT IS FREE.
8:50 p.m.: realize I forgot to put on deodorant.
10:00 p.m.: step outside to air out everything and ponder the walk to the nearest Shoppers to buy a travel-sized deo that I will apply exactly once and throw away because it won't fit into my clutch.
Roughly 10:30 p.m.: make our way to the TIFF opening night gala. Sorry. Opening Night Gala. I am given a tiny bottle of champagne with a straw and I giggle like an idiot and Kristine, bless her, still acts as though she knows me (but wait until she sees how I react to the pyramid of rainbow Rice Krispie squares because I lose. My. Shit.)
When time becomes relative: discussion of the relevance of the Power Lunge before our epic 180-ish moving picture, tartlet, champagne bottle, tartlet, rooftop, acquisition of our film producer, tartlet, and then it's a blur of going on my epic wander like I do when I'm drunk, "explore the floors", until I realize I've made the stupid mistake of leaving prime real estate at any party and now I can't get back up on the roof and no one seems to respond to the "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM" business because I have it on my badge and they still don't care, so I have to wait for an empty elevator with the plebeians.
Kristine calls an Uber for us and I tumble into my Airbnb bed and I can't get vertical the next day until 3:30 p.m. Oh, wait...
I can't get vertical until 3:30 p.m. My wristbands are like hospital tags and never in the history of TIFFing has someone been so happy and so nauseous at the same time. I wondered briefly if I had wasted half a day, but then I thought, no; this is exactly what the experience should be. I'll get my ass outta bed at 4, and until then my podcasts and feeling of hungover accomplishment will keep me company (as they usually do).
I walked down to Festival Street and booked some tickets (again, with Kristine's help. Who IS this woman? I'd be lost without her and my experience thus far would've been more sober, but I wouldn't have gotten into these parties so you can guess where I land on that), and caught two screenings. I saw a wee little Rachel McAdams, and I trotted home around midnight in the rain and nuked some leftover Indian food.
I AM SOBER AND UNSTOPPABLE. I go for a little jog in the morning all tough and shit because YEAH it's raining but I'm from Vancouver, mofos, and I turn around about twenty minutes later because my ears burn because it's chilly.
My first of three movies of the day was up at 11:30 (Un Plus Une with the enchanting Jean Dujardin, and a wonderful director whose translator said, "Some people want to save the world...I want to save love"), and then I went to book some more tickets because HOLY SHIT ALL THIS SHIT IS FREE, but then I realized my premature excitement got the better of me and I swiftly used up all of my free pre-bookings (HOLY SHIT THIS SHIT COMES AT A PRICE AND I SHOULD'VE KNOWN AND CURSE MY HUBRIS), but that's okay because I saw two more movies today including "About Ray" where I saw wee little Susan Sarandon and Naomi Watts (but they were mostly wee because I was so goddamn far away in the balcony) and went for a lovely dinner with the lovelier Kristine and saw a bit more of the city and heard people being wacky and cute trying to see Johnny Depp. I did not see him. Some guy in a tree did, though.
I have to say that I wouldn't even be here and enjoying myself like this if it wasn't for the support of my amazing friends and family (you dear ones that are especially going above and beyond, thank you from the bottom of my heart), and for the hard-working people that got some amazingness together for our film that will premiere in mere days. There. That's my speech and I hope you heard it, because this ain't the Oscars and no one else cares about what I have to say. YET.
Tomorrow: Tara attempts alcohol again.
Travelling makes me think of dying. Granted, an oddly-shaped potato can make me think of dying, but travelling does it to me especially. And I do so with morbid hunger, rolling delicious thoughts of death in my head and storing them away for a time when I feel depleted of the ability to feel anything of substance or meaning. I think I have a low tolerance for that sort of thing.
I think of dying and I wonder if and when the big revelations will come. All of the chunks of travel that would feel like tumbled stones if I could hold them, carried in my pockets like clues as to who I am (everything is a clue to the eternal detective). They are won with each swollen toe from long plane rides, every coin in foreign currency, every road sign in another language. I know a little more of me, and the bigger tokens come when I feel closer to knowing whatever my purpose might be; I'm aware that the last great parting gift I won't be able to get my hands on is the answer to why I'm here at all and how I arrived and where I'll go when this whole trip is over.
I had two days to prepare to go to Mexico City. I bought a new suitcase and shoes and pre-ripped jeans and kleenex. I pretended I was used to being escorted to the airport by a car service and I saw a small Remembrance Day ceremony after buying a lock for my luggage but before I paid to replace the earphones I left at home. The day was cloudless and I drank my coffee.
An observant man located me and two of the three other actors and up into the sky we went. I tasked myself with identifying elements of Cormac McCarthy's writing style in the vain hope of replicating it, having little patience for flowery descriptives in narratives but wanting to attempt a narrative all the same (how am I doing?) I listened to Tom Petty and read and sat patiently before the questions about my trip while they tumbled and settled and presented themselves for my judgement. We glided down in Dallas, found our fifth Beatle, and laid sky tracks for Mexico.
It all seems full to me now. In that magical way time has, moments went from hollow uncertainty to the knowledge now that I am changed for how those moments were fated. It all seems full.
The hollow uncertainty of a boutique hotel that was dark upon our arrival and knowing we were chosen few but didn't know what was expected of us, not really. But in a day I will have found a rhythm for placing a towel by the errant shower door to keep the floor dry and will remember which drawer I'd stored my ripped jeans in.
The bizarre sort of dis/connect I feel when I'm on another piece of the planet without having had to move my body much myself. That I'm suddenly walking down a street that could be in my city but for the taco stand and 7-11 full of goods that are mysteries to me and candle vigils on the street's median whose purpose I didn't understand at the time, but I wonder now if it was for the poor souls of those disappeared students. I feel it all the first morning there on an adventure with a new friend to the National Museum of Anthropology, all receptacles for the hearts of human sacrifices and a statue of a snake goddess that gave birth to the being that would annihilate her; skulls and suns and the universe laid in stone, carved by people like me that needed to believe in their importance beyond their impermanence, and also that there is a message we are not receiving but is there like a map to our origin. These were people who practiced death; who distributed it and found meaning and purpose in it. That comforted me.
Actorly and directorly and costumely things happened later that day. Something stops me from talking about that portion of things, even though that's the reason I was there at all. Maybe I can't talk about it without feeling pretentious. Maybe I don't want to talk about it because I like to keep that part of the trip in a sacred little bubble that remains treasured for how I came to feel close to a few, for the childlike way I didn't want to let them go only hours after meeting them. I'm too goddamn sentimental. And it all bled into the next day when we actually got to work; it was long and it was precious to me. And I love that I know that most of the people there would laugh about how it was precious to me. They would laugh and so would I for my simpleness, but I can't feel any other way about it.
I had a blessed day to tour the city, and thanks to my new friends I saw and understood parts of it that I never would have had I been on my own. On my own, I may have circled my hotel block, felt intimidated by how I couldn't order off the menu in the cafe down the street, made do with some ichiban from the 7-11. But my friends were my shield and my password and my experience subway tokens, and I can't believe my fortune in finding them. I doubt sometimes, but I found a cathedral that had no room for it; it diminished uncertainty before the evidence of hours and hours and hours of people who were sure about something. I learned some Mexican Spanish slang (outside of the church, come on), and I repeated it at loud, appropriately-timed intervals to my Mexican friend, and he still never left the side of this socially inept foreigner.
I had an impromptu salsa lesson and I hugged and heard and held people whose smiles and faces warmed me and I wondered if I would see them again. I shortened that thought because it made me sad and I didn't want that then.
The next day I joined new friends yet again for breakfast, we were whisked away for the last time, and I shook my fists violently and clenched my teeth and my face kept spouting the words of sentimentality and preciousness and sheer luck and gratitude. Our first flight was delayed enough that we pumped our weary little legs for the connecting gate to the plane to take us home. We barely made the closing doors, and I landed in a place whose temperature had dropped while I was away, both actually and relative to the Mexican warmth.
I have a porcelain skull and Mexican chocolate and coffee and pictures that my incredibly thoughtful friend took with my phone. I have another experience that I get to think about, however consciously, if I get a deathbed. I have songs and smells that have new meaning for me now, and my boundless little heart has the memory of more smiles locked inside of it. Maybe my interpretation of all of this seems terribly morbid to some, but I really don't intend it that way; I've just got new memories that were created of the stuff that can't be destroyed when my body is, and that'll hopefully go with my little soul nugget onto the next plane.
Prologue: Hey, Jealousy
When my cousin and I were about five (I have no concept of children's ages; they’re all mysterious and manipulative fast things to me, and even I was to myself), we were given oversized rainbow lollipops and parked in an equally oversized recliner, all bowl cuts and pull-on jeans and Care Bear sweaters. As was our M.O., we faked a momentary détente for a Polaroid, our smiles an unidentifiable shade of mauve-blue and legs kicked neatly out in front of us. We loved each other very much, and in that magical way that only little girls are capable of, that love could turn to a piercing, hateful jealousy in the time it takes to rip off the head of a Barbie doll.
In my demented little bowl-cut head, after our picture was taken I was struck with the sudden realization that her lollipop was a hair breadth larger than mine, sporting an extra round of pink around the edge. In that moment, I became painfully aware of the tragic discrepancies in my own family: my grandmother clearly favoured Tracey, determining her to be prettier, smarter, wiser (being seven months older than me), and therefore more deserving of her love which, in this case, manifested in the form of a bigger piece of candy.
Obviously, I would not stand for this.
I eye-balled Tracey and her lollipop, and persuaded her to trade me, charmingly extolling the virtues of my own and why she’d prefer it (did I mention I’d grow up to be an actor?) Being seven months older and wise to used car salesmen like me, she held tighter to hers and sagely posited that I should be happy with what I've got (did I mention she’d grow up to be a mother?) I think at that point I’d gotten a sore neck from looking up at her and her horse, so I decided to resort to brute force. If I wouldn't get to have her lollipop that was representative of being a better person, then she wouldn't get to, either. (I was a child and had yet to understand irony. I think I STILL have yet to understand irony.) I drove my ginormous piece of hardened sugar straight into hers, intending to smash it to pieces. But protected by the force of righteousness, her lollipop held firm. And mine, rotten to the core for its evil intent, shattered and fell in my lap. I started wailing immediately, and Tracey launched into a practiced version of “I told you so”.
It’s no small thing for me to admit that nearly thirty years later, not much has changed: I'm still eyeing up peoples’ proverbial lollipops and wanting to destroy them in an envious, childish fit. I've just gotten better at hiding it.
My annual winter pilgrimage through the Rockies was supplemented this year with a summer trip, and I learned that, at this time, I have not many tears stashed away for something I can't name or put my finger on. I sometimes travel through there and the Three Sisters to the only child give me a little talk and I have a little cry, mourning for an emotional thing that I didn't know existed. But this time around I only felt an easy warmth, when you're with yourself and there's no thing to feel angry about or resentful about or to grieve for not being worthy enough to receive or noble enough to give. It was all smooth and restless, as I'm not small enough to fold myself up and sleep on the Greyhound like the Filipino woman beside me. I slept the next night in a smooth bed that was all mine, next to a remote to cable TV that was all mine, a small coffee maker and whiteners and stir sticks and shampoo bottles that were all mine.
The next morning it rained and it was fat, and my large mountains slept in their little blankets and I've never seen them so peaceful. We were all calm, all of us, and I walked and walked and talked to no one. I bought some chocolates for the aunt and uncle I would be staying with in Calgary and boarded that beastly thing again that evening. I've come to love the long trip. People look at me like I'm crazy but I love being in between places sometimes; the in-between places give me the time to formulate thoughts and let them mature before they come spewing out of my mouth, the way they do when I'm stationary. That's not always for the best.
My aunt and uncle were smaller than when I'd last seen them but their faces were the same to me. Over the weekend more faces that I knew over fifteen years ago smiled at me and I screamed back and I hugged these people that were of the same people I was. But not actually, not biologically. But I love them so because they ARE my family. I met so many new ones, these new faces and precious voices and THOUGHTS coming out of thoughtful people, thoughtful YOUNG people and I can't believe I'm related to them.
Auntie Elinor asked me if I knew how dad came to be a Pratt. I said I knew he was adopted when he was six. She said that was right, but that he was in the family from the time he was a baby, and I'm sure that was a bit of information I heard over the years but had been garbled amongst more unimportant things that my brain stubbornly holds onto. This is what I recorded.
"(Aunt E: I have to try to keep my language...) (Me: Why?) (laughter)...
As you might know or not, my mom used to board children, mostly babies. And some were government wards and some were private citizens, you know...
..Ronnie's mom, Doris Salahub was her last name, somehow she got my mom's name and asked if she could look after her baby. Which my mother did...and he was a cute little baby, dark hair. Anyway, he stayed with us, and she used to come see him. Then, I guess I can tell you this, her visits got farther and farther apart, and she didn't come as often as she might have. And then she stopped giving us...she used to pay us once a month and then she wouldn't come for months on end. So anyways, as it happened she moved to Edmonton, and by the time Ronnie was 6, he was going to school...didn't have kindergarten in those days. So mom and dad decided they'd like to adopt him because she didn't seem to have interest. So my dad worked on the CPR so he had a pass, and to get her permission we had to go to Edmonton to find her. So mom, Alan and I got on the overnight train to Edmonton. Overnight to Edmonton? Can you imagine? We thought it was a big adventure. As soon as we got to Edmonton--I don't remember all the details--I remember we went to this house and she came to the door and I don't recall whether we even went inside. Mom had the papers all filled out, and she asked if she'd be willing to give him up for adoption. She said that she wanted to adopt him. So [Doris] agreed, she signed the papers, so then we went back to the train station and got on the train and came back home again.
So when they told him that his name was now going to be Ronald Pratt, he went around with his little eraser--and it was so cute, I'll always remember this--and he took all his little books and rubbed out 'Salahub' and put 'Pratt'. Isn't that so cute? It's touching. He put 'Ronnie Pratt'."
My father was given the gift of having people want him when someone else didn't. Because a handful of people, angels really, wanted him, he knew love and could give this to his daughter, certainly. He wasn't perfect and his life wasn't either and I'll never know what some of his biology was because even the adoption papers say little. But his heart found the place where he was wanted, and then mine did too when I was born to him and to them, and I also got to know love.
To be where you're wanted is your right place. Your blanket mountains and your family and your loves, your friends and romantic hand-holders and the people who look at you and smile, your own coffee maker in fat rain. I know these things and I hope the people that I love know these things. I don't know what to say about the rest of the world, but this is mine and I could cry for it.
So for the next pilgrimage, then.