Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Driving with Dad.

Its been a while since I have driven in a snowstorm, having spent the last few winters in the Caribbean on a working vacation. 

Faced with the first snowfall of the season, I feel ill-equipped in my bright yellow VW Beetle, (who I have appropriately named Sunny), with no winter tires or snow-brush. After using my mitt-less hand to brush the snow off Sunny's back, I make it out of the back alley onto to the main road, cautiously maneuvering through the snow. At the first red light, I panic at the idea of having to stop on the unfamiliarly icy street. But memory kicks in and I pull Sunny up out of the grooves of the road onto the snow to stop. It worked: the traction on the snow is greater than on the icy road.
It was a trick my dad had once taught me.
I learned to drive in my parents 1989 Mercury Sable, Dad was my teacher. My very first driving lesson had nothing to do with actually driving, but punctuality. He was a believer in always being early (or at the very least on time) for everything. He told me that it was important to always allow plenty of time to get somewhere, to never be rushing when on the road. He taught me to factor in time in case there was a train, or if I had the misfortune of catching every single red light. When he would pick up my brothers and I up from our (many) activities, he would give a time that he would be there, and if we were more than three minutes late, (his only acceptable variance of time) he left without us. It only took one 10 block walk home from swimming lessons with wet hair in the freezing Winnipeg winter to learn that lesson.
He and I had quite the history in that Sable. When I was just five years old, Dad and I took the train from Saskatoon to Ottawa to buy the car from my grandparents and we drove it all the way back, across the country, just the two of us. At the time I thought it was so cool getting to miss a week of school to go on a road-trip just me and Dad, while my brothers were stuck at home. On the road, we had bubble gum blowing contests and played endless games of hangman & 20 questions. We ate at roadside diners, and he had no aversions to letting me order spaghetti and a rootbeer float for breakfast. He was the coolest.
The light turns from red to green, and I shift Sunny from neutral into first gear, popping the clutch is second nature to me now...
It was another snowy Winnipeg day when I learnt to drive a stick shift, I was 18. Dad and I were car shopping; he drove the car off the lot and on a nearby residential street, he taught me how to operate the manual transmission. He explained how to maneuver the pedals like an accordion, finding that exact balance, the "tipping point" he called it, that would get the car going. It took me numerous attempts, I finally got it when I wasn’t expecting and the car roared up and away… straight into a snow bank. As we were digging and pushing the car out of the snow, he couldn’t stop smiling and encouraging me that I had finally gotten it!
The snow falling outside is of the fluffy and romantic kind that makes me think of my ghosts of Christmases past and Jolly Old Saint Nick.
I was eight, and the whole family was piled into the Sable on Christmas Eve, Dad driving us all to my great aunt’s place on the other side of town. We we already running late and halfway there when I realized that we had forgotten to leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus. I insisted that we needed to turn around and go all the way home; only to turn around and come all the way back. He reluctantly obliged, but halfway home, he lost it. He turned around to the backseat and said, “Rachelle, there is no Santa Claus, no Easter bunny and there is no Tooth Fairy!!” It was a big moment in my life. He taught me that adults, will lie in the attempt of sugar coating the world to a child. This was a big lesson at eight years old.
Sunny and I make our way through the snowy downtown streets, and in the dark or morning, I notice that the Christmas lights are up at the intersection of Portage & Main and I smile. My dad had spent his career working o the 31st floor of one of these high rises there on the windest corner in the world, as a financial broker.
Following the Santa Claus fiasco of 1991, dad apologized profusely for the harsh lesson I learnt too soon. He did this every single Christmas up until I was 22 years, which would be his last. He died of a rapid acting, rare cancer shortly after the holidays. The holiday lesson I learned that time around was of true heartbreak. In death, he was somehow able to see the positive: he cherished those final months, when we just talked and talked, like we did on the many road trips he and I had taken across the country, in between Double Bubble blowing. The cancer gave us the time to say all the things we wanted to say. He reminded us to be thankful for that gift of time, albeit it wasn’t much.

All the lessons he had taught me on those long drives, those were what I needed to take from his death: to live a full and wonderful life pursuing my passion; to always stand up for what I believe in; and to most importantly to be my most authentic self.

I had just never thought that I would have it to put lessons in place without him there to guide me.
I pull into the parking lot at school, and Sunny and I get stuck in a deep, sticky snow drift. Luckily there is a man in a big 4 x 4 truck who pulls up offering me a hand. He is wearing Sorel boots and big mitts, fully prepared to dig me out of the snow. It's as though he’s been driving around just to help those of us unprepared.

I remember my dad and brothers doing the same after a blizzard, friendly Manitobans in their finest moment.
With a couple of strong pushes from the good Samaritan, I manage to park Sunny, and I head to school. I walk into class with a sigh of relief, 8:53 am. Heck, I even have a couple of minutes to spare. I hear dad’s voiice,
“Now aren’t you happy you gave yourself plenty of time?”
Yes Dad, you taught me well

Taylor's Cookies & Milk
-2 freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (cut into quarters)
-2 scoops vanilla ice cream
-2 oz Bailey Irish Cream

-In a bowl add 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream, and pour the baileys on top.
-Top with fresh baked cookies.

Leave next to your fireplace on Christmas Eve for St-Nick.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cocktails & Dreams

Time flies when you are having fun. Time also flies when you are constantly working under deadline, doing streeters in the freezing cold, and losing sleep over the fear of auto-failing. As the first semester of CreComm is coming to a close, I cannot help but reflect on what has been an incredible and challenging few months, it's been a true learning experience. I not only have a basic knowledge of the CreComm areas of study, but I can see myself becoming a better writer, and most surprisingly in this short period of time, I have learnt so much about myself. I guess you discover all that you are capable of when put under extreme pressure.

Everyone I talk to from back “home” (Cayman) is surprised at how much I am enjoying the whole student experience. I guess they thought I would have called it quits and come back to the island after my first F (for not capitalizing blue bomber) in journalism, or at least after the first day the temperature dropped to -20˚. I can’t blame them…I thought so too.

I remember the Public Relations class when started blogging. I decided on the Cocktails & Dreams portion of the title as a reference to the 80’s movie Cocktail. I thought there were some similarities in the movie to my life, as Tom Cruise spent a few years bartending in the Caribbean to make some coin before coming back home to pursue his dreams. I didn’t meet a sugar-daddy while on-island or knock-up Elizabeth Shue, and my dream was pursuring a creative career...but still. The youngin’ sitting next to me looked over at my screen and asked, “What’s with your title? Cocktails and Dreams? I don’t get it….” I guess it may be a little before his time.

Chap-man, this stellar video clip of one of the greatest bartending movies of all time is for you! Your star-burns and yellow sweater have made this first semester of CreComm sunnier ;)

Bloggers, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more cocktails & dreams.

Here is the recipe for a Red-Eye, the hangover-cure that Doug Coughlin (played by Aussie Bryan Brown) taught a young Cruise at the start of his bartending career.

-1 can/bottle beer
-1/2 cup of tomato juice (refrigerated)
-1 egg

-Pour tomato juice into a frosted beer glass, over the tomato juice, pour in cold beer. Crack the egg and add contents into glass. Do NOT stir.

Happy holiday hangovers!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Review of The New Yorker story: The Yellow

As part of my creative writing course, I have read quite a few stories in The New Yorker, which is now one of my favorite magazines. The Yellow written by Samantha Hunt, author of The Invention of Everything Else (2009,) is a fictional short story published in the November 29 issue.

Roy suffers from a mid-life crisis of sorts, after he and his wife break up and he is living in his parents basement
at 42 years old. While his parents are away for the weekend, he has a mild breakdown: he first paints his room a bright yellow, and when that isn't enough, he goes on a drive to clear his head. Distracted in an attempt to find a good song on the radio, Roy hits a dog on the road, killing it. Roy takes the dead dog to the house it came from, a lonely housewife answers the door, and in an emotional moment, things get a little bit spicy between the two.

I quite enjoyed the story that has brilliant pacing and description. The hookup between Roy and the housewife was a well-written love scene, giving the reader just even juicy details to get a bit fired up, but not going into the realms of soft-core.

The twist at the end (not to worry, I will not spoil it for you, bloggers) leaves the reader shocked and wanting more.

Give it a read!