Tag Archives: friends

Personality: You are Who You Pretend to Be

As a child I was extremely shy and introverted. This doesn’t mean that I was weak or without personality. I was fairly strong willed but I wouldn’t talk or do anything to stand out in the crowd. The argument for nature vs nurture might play in here. My personality was imprinted at birth. My circumstances affected how my personality played out.

Growing up in a home rife with turmoil and many abuses probably made me into the shy and insecure child that I was. I was picked on, teased and remained in the background. I remember my passive aggressive act when one girl was bugging me in school. I didn’t confront her but as I walked home I spit on the sidewalk in front of her house.

In grade 7 I was still fairly shy but starting to flower in personality (as we are all wont to do in teenagerhood). I had a few friends, and was trying to fit in. However, my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas (or my birthday) that year and I said a purple dress/shirt/some item of clothing. I received a wardrobe of purple; pants, tops, dresses. Everything was purple. I could not wear purple again for about ten years but today it is a color I wear frequently.

With that geeky stigma of one color, I tended to cringe and become conscious of clothing. I also looked at Margaret Parsons in my class. She was shyer than me, had red ringlets (really gorgeous red hair actually) and wore a school uniform. In retrospect I have a lot of sympathy for Margaret and Morag, who both came from school systems with uniforms. They stuck out like sore thumbs and again, moving into a district wasn’t easy. They were definitely outsiders and looked at strangely. Kids are very cruel, not yet tempered with the social skills on how to stab someone nicely in the back.

Back to Margaret; she was very very shy and quiet and I decided then and there that I didn’t want to be like her, which meant I had to change. It was important for me to fit in. My family was different, with divorced parents, not going to church, fighting. All my friends had more “normal” families. First was the clothing. Jeans and T-shirts were much the norm for teenagers.

By late high school I upped the ante again. My clothing was mostly in shades of blue and brown. I decided that if I wore brighter colors it would make me more outgoing (and had read something to that effect). Basically it became a case of fake it till you make it. I did this again in art college.

Overall it was a long, slow transition, but little by little my clothes got brighter and my personality changed. I started to wear more jewellery (some would say I wear too much) and became a clothes horse, liking fashion and trying to find unique styles. But along the way I consciously challenged my boundaries. And sure enough, I went from being a shy introvert to and outgoing extrovert.

Few of us are 100% of anything. We all have introvert and extrovert in us. I can be quiet, even withdrawn, and sometimes prefer to sit back in the sidelines and watch. But I also enjoy being at a party or around people. Had I not pushed myself I would have probably remained an introvert. Would the switch have happened anyways? I don’t know. But I’m sure it would have taken much longer.

Wearing bright colors was a physical manifestation of how I wanted to change and I think it did work towards bringing me out of my shell. And shell it was, a protective coating from a tumultuous home life and the jibes and jeers of class mates. Interestingly enough, I grew a different shell, with bolder colors that stopped a lot of the teasing once I wore them with confidence. So yes, I think a leopard can change its spots.

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Writing: Writers in Need

Back when I did the Clarion writers workshop, we had a different instructor for each week. Ed Bryant was the first one. With his dry wit and wry attitude and no-nonsense ways, he broke the ice and got us into critiquing, in a gentle way.

Ed had been one of Harlan Ellison’s prodigies and typical of Ed, he can get along with a lot of people, even those as temperamental as Harlan. But that doesn’t mean Ed didn’t have anything interesting, witty or even sarcastic to say.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bryant

Somehow after Clarion, I either bumped into Ed at a few conventions or contacted him or both (more likely the former as Ed has always been notoriously a bad correspondent) we developed a slow friendship. One which often existed of us only seeing each other at conventions.

At one convention, I was walking through the art show with a friend. We stopped in front of an honest-to-god velvet painting. Yes, those cheap and tacky remnants of the 70s. Or was it 60s?

This was shortly after the Star Trek movie The Voyage Home and featured a couple of humpback whales in it as well as the Enterprise returning to Earth to save the day and the planet. So here we are staring at this painting, our mouths dropping open at the horribleness of it. I can’t remember it exactly but it had fat Elvis in his bright white suit spread across its velvet expanse and Spock and the Enterprise I believe over some skyline.

It was dreadful and Kij and I laughed at it. It was so bad I couldn’t believe anyone in their right mind would paint it. Then I noticed that it was not for sale and had the title of “Save the Whales.” And it had been commissioned by Ed Bryant which is when it all came clear. It was such a perfect piece of tongue-in-cheek kitsch.

Ed has always had long hair and worn T-shirts and jeans. Except for when he dresses up and puts on a button shirt so that he can wear a special tie. Whereas David Hartwell is known for his god-awful ugliest ties since creation (and the eye-jarring contrasting stripe and check suits and shirts that don’t go with them) Ed is somehow subtler. His shirts aren’t too wild but his tie might be shaped like a fish or be plastic with a bunch of plastic bugs in it.

And Ed is of course, a writer. I read his collection of short stories Cinnabar a long time ago and, where his penchant for creepy shone through. Ed has never written a novel, which may be why the greater fan community does not know of him as well as the writing community does. He has written reviews for Locus for many years. He has also worked on screenplays, nonfiction and other forms of writing.

I consider Ed a good friend, even though I don’t know him super well or all of his problems. He once told me that in that land of the free but highly impoverished he paid $800 a month in medical insurance because of his diabetes. A month! I was aghast. How could anyone have a decent life like that?

Ed has had complications along the way, including not being able to get out of bed once because he had suffered hairline fractures through a bunch of his bones, which had immobilized his arms. I started calling him Tyrannosaurus Ed at that point.

I haven’t talked to Ed for a few years, though I tried but no answers to emails, which was kind of typical. Still I worried because Ed has had some major health issues. At the World Fantasy convention this last fall I asked another friend if he’d seen Ed and that I worried about him. It seems I had a right to.

Because the US has such a crippling, and I do mean crippling, health system, people must have a good job that has an insurance plan. This doesn’t always mean it’s a completely comprehensive plan and may have all sorts of restrictions on it. I know a couple that even though working, can only afford to put their two children on health insurance. Another person, an epileptic, could only afford to have her medication covered because she once worked as a coast guard. I have other American friends who suffer in pain because they cannot afford their health care.

Canada’s may not be perfect but at least everyone can get help. It may just take longer. We get the basics without being impoverished and on the street. It would never cost hundreds per month, and medications after a certain amount (less than a thousand but varies by income) are paid for or subsidized.

Now Ed seems to need some help as the health bills have become astronomical. Friends and associates have set up a website where donations can be made. Ed has always been involved in the SF community, from writing and doing panels to writing reviews and being a mentor to others. In Colorado he started a writers’ group and I consider Ed to be one of my mentors.

I’m not rich but I’ll be sending some money to Ed because he has given to the greater writing community in many ways. If you’re at all influenced by writers and SF, check out Ed’s Wiki page above and the link below for more information on Ed Bryant and where to donate.

http://www.friendsofed.org/

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Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, health care, horror, life, memories, people, Publishing, relationships, science fiction, Writing

Freakin’ Winter Wonderland Update

On Friday night I decided to completely close my bedroom window. It tends to be the warmest room in the house and although I like my climes warm I like to sleep slightly cool. So I usually have my window open a crack throughout the year. It got frikkin freezing enough on Friday that I closed it.

Or tried to. But the wood is warped with the cold. All that west coast moisture that seeps into everything has now expanded as it turned to ice and I could only, mostly, close the window. Likewise, I could only partly open the door under our front stairs where the garbage is stored. Luckily it was enough to get my head and arm in to toss the offending scraps.

This morning (Saturday though technically it’s 12:10 am) I washed my face and put clothes in the washer. All good, but when I went to rinse dishes in the kitchen there was no hot water. Not just water that’s gone cold but no water period, though I had the cold water well enough. My earlier fear of pipes freezing had come true.

My landlord and I put a heater in the cupboard and I walked up to the drive to meet a client and do some shopping. I now have a new appreciation for what it was like living on the farm in the 1900s and having to pile wood on the stove. You’d wear tights and socks and shirts and sweaters, and shawls, piling layer on layer to just keep warm. No care to how weirdly street person like you look.

If I’d been a guy, by the end of my walk today I would have been a woman because the proverbial brass balls had fallen off the monkey. I walked so quickly (uphill) to the Drive that I sweated and pulled off my cat paw mitts, unbuttoned the top button of my melton wool coat and loosened my woven silk scarf. I kept my hat on my head but when I met my client I took off my coat, unbuttoned the sweater and took off the hat.

By the end of the meeting, before we had even left I was putting on my hat, then buttoning my sweater, then putting on my coat. The sweat had cooled on my body by the time I walked to the bank, then to the post office. Not too bad…bearable if not freezing. But then I walked down to the market, carrying the parcel and the two bottles of wine from the liquor store (it may be an economic downturn but you can’t tell from the empty shelves in the store…or maybe you can). I bought veggies and began the trek home. Two blocks and my right foot was completely numb with cold.

Not to mention I’d been cold in the liquour store and never warmed up. I stopped in the chocolate store, partially to thaw. My foot was hurting by then. But I didn’t mind the wait in the store. I depopsiclized. I got home and it was positively balmy in comparison. And hooray, the water was working again.

Tonight I drove to a friend’s yule party in New West. Fine weather but freakin’ freezing. I left at 8:30 to go to a party in Kits and it had warmed up enought to not need mitts in the car. I picked up my friends along the way and we were there by about 9:15. Just as it began to snow. That’s snow on top of snow and ice, with below freezing temperatures, that we’ve had for a week, in Vancouver. Where it never or just barely every snows!

Guess what? Coldest day ever! in one hundred years! That means since they start recording temperatures and I guess hell has frozen over because this sure feels like hell. So now it’s 12:20. I made reasonably good time though all, and I mean ALL the roads are coated with snow. Anyone driving had windows covered with snow because it was falling faster than a heater could melt it. But I made it without incident.

Hunkered down. Grinchly grumpy about the stuff I moved away from Alberta to avoid. Sad that I won’t be making it to my friend’s memorial tomorrow because I won’t be able to get through the snow. But grateful we’re whole and we all made it in one piece and that everyone was driving sanely.

Addendum: It’s Sunday noon, and it’s still snowing! There must be a foot by now and no end in site. I didn’t order this. Waaaaaah!

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Neighbors

Vancouver has neighborhoods set up with market areas. It’s not all neighborhoods but some of the better known ones are Kerrisdale, Kitsilano, the West End, Champlain Heights, Commercial, Fraser/Kingsway, Main St., etc. We have a few malls outside of downtown but not a lot. What these community shopping areas do is keep people local and able to shop within walking distance.

I live near Commercial, which has many shops and numerous restaurants/bars. We have several fresh produce markets that are cheaper and better quality than Safeway’s, which I rarely ever go to (and it’s farther). Some of the places have live music and there are a variety of funky shops from clothing to futons. Other cities have different styled areas. Calgary is so spread out that they have big box shopping centers everywhere and you have to drive around the center as it’s not set up for walking. Of course, they sometimes get real winter too.

I do remember being in Montreal, and like Vancouver there were shopping districts. These tended to be much larger but then so is the population of Montreal. What these areas do though, is give a better sense of community and culture, as each place takes on a particular flavor. Kerrisdale has wealthy older people and part of the Jewish community. Kitsilano is trendy with a lot of young (yuppy) couples and families.

Commercial Drive has the old Italian community and a lot of artists. We’re considered the bohemian part of town and there are a fair number of artist studios in the vicinity, which spawned the East Van Culture Crawl. This happens once a year (this year it’s Nov. 21-23) where studios are opened to the public to wander through. Some have demonstrations and some have items for sale. Thousands of people now go through the Crawl.

Even more than community of shops, I have found a community with my neighbors. Our street is not very long and partly blue collar industrial. Our particular block is the only one with houses on both sides of the street (about six per side). That’s pretty small and most of us have lived there for years. I’m not a homeowner but a long-term renter. I know my neighbors and through my landlords the people across the street. We nod to each other, stop and talk as someone is raking the leaves, or knock on a door to drop off a jar of jam.

My neighbors have a key to my place. If I’m stuck somewhere I can call them to feed the cat. We watch each others’ homes and cars and we’re aware if there are unfamiliar people in yards.The part I like best is just being able to say hi to my neighbors, to recognize them and their pets. On our little street, I like this sense of familiarity. When I was young I don’t remember it being this strong but then I was a kid. My mother knew the neighbors and I was long-term enemies with my neighbor two doors down, while my brother and hers were best friends.

So I’m glad I have that community sense in my neighborhood. It makes it real, and borrowing an egg or a cup of sugar are things that happen often enough, as well as stopping in for a glass of wine or to watch a show. And we have a lower crime rate because we know each other, and better understanding of any happenings. Here’s to my neighbors.

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Remembering

As befits the day, I’m remembering those who I knew who have passed on.

First was Lydia Langstaff, so delicate that she befitted the ideal of a medieval woman. Slender, blond hair, translucent skin with a blue tracery of veins showing beneath. In fact her nails were blue as well. Born with a congenital heart defect, no one thought she would live past infanthood. She could not fly nor even walk up stairs, so fragile was her heart.

Yet Lydia never complained in the few years I knew her. She wrote, a good craft for someone barred from all physical elements. Traveling, of course was out. Lydia was starting to get somewhere with her writing career, having sold a speculative story and a few poems. She had written a novel, which took place in Scotland with an heiress who goes back to the time of her ancestors. Lydia was part of our writers’ group and I was just getting to know her a bit more (we were working on poems together I think) when she died, unexpectedly (though always expected) in the arms of her husband one night.

At 28 she had done much, a flame burning brightly but having to fight a strong wind the whole time. I remember Lydia and the lesson she taught. Don’t give up your dreams, don’t complain. Just do.

Jay Herrington was a friend I worked with in ritual plays. He was beautiful and gay and married to the love of his life, a woman. He and Deb had been school friends and married before he realized his penchant was for men. They knew though, that they did love each other, deeply, and worked around the issues. Jay was known for dressing drag once in a while as High Joan the Conqueror.

He was a talented priest and ritualist, a great artist and just starting to shine even brighter, a rising star. He and Deb made a trip back to their native Florida to bring his younger brother Josh out to Seattle. On the drive back a wheel flew off the car. Jay was sleeping in the back and never woke up. Deb was in a coma for several weeks. Josh walked away with only a scratch but with no brother. They kept Jay’s body alive long enough so that his parents could come and say goodbye. The only blessing was that Jay never woke from his injuries. He was just past 30, and burned so brightly we knew he could have done a lot. I remember Jay and the talent he and humor he brought to us.

Bear (John) Curtis, my friend of many years, was truly a bear of a man at 6’7″. He was much like his ursine namesake, grumpy and short on patience, and liked his darkish cave and backyard full of greenery and trees. But Bear was also generous and creative and deeply spiritual. Part Cherokee, he was a pipe carrier and introduced me to Native sweats and healing circles. People respected his respect of traditions.

He was an actor and had often played mountain men and bad guys in historic westerns. He was very much like a dragon in his hoard. There wasn’t a speck of wall or any surface in his home that didn’t have some trinket or treasure or image upon it. Bear collected bones, which I shared, shiny glass, Beatles paraphernalia and many other things. His greatest treasure was his wife Louise, efferevescent, loving and always joyous. There has never been a couple who balanced each other so well.

But Bear had to go for cancer surgery, which was successful. However, the state of our hospitals meant that he ended up with infections and then C-Defecil. His stubbornness and grumpiness scared some people. The damage to his body was great and Bear was scared himself, though he didn’t talk about except to Louise. He lingered and fought for fourteen months, a testament to the stubbornness he did have. He died last year, a week before Christmas. He was 59, young for his age, but the infection aged him greatly. The hardest thing was seeing his great spirit waste away over those months. I remember Bear for all that he gave me: friendship, creativity, spiritual perspectives.

There have been others, close enough to call friend and having left this life too soon. Gerry Stevens, a creative, strong minded man who was so gentle in his dying. He made it easier on everyone to deal with his dying. Having done chemo for awhile he finally decided to stop it as he was sick from it more than he was healthy. He died with dignity at home with relatively little pain. He always said, if it’s not fun, don’t do it and he had great fun.

Geoffery MacLean and Mischka Ravensfury, whose real names I didn’t know (Gordon [has told me Mischka’s was John Booth. I think I knew he was John but forgot with the Misch personality that I saw so much of). They were men I met in the SCA. Geoffery a humble bear of a man, always willing to help and maybe sometimes lacking in finesse. But he was gentle. He saved me from hypothermia one camping event, keeping me warm in bed, never being ungentlemanly. After years of health issues they diagnosed him with cancer and he had very few months after that diagnosis.

Mischka, was often a troubled man, but a big teddy bear. He tried hard, was a talented metal smith and opened his arms for anyone. Many misfits found welcome in Mischka’s camp. He was killed in a driving accident, never waking from his injuries.

These people, each and every one a bright spark, left their marks on many lives. We sometimes don’t know, indeed often have no idea, of the impact we make on someone. Everyone was human, flawed and perfect. They had good days and bad, pissed people off yet gave their love and attention. Their deaths always teach me a lesson. Live life to the fullest, go for your dreams and tell those who matter that you do indeed care for them. Better late than never.

This day was set aside, originally to mark the passing of those who had died in war. But each of us has our own war to fight and our own way to remember. I think of all the needless deaths, the lives gone far too soon and wonder if there is a better way. And I remember those I knew, keeping something of them alive in my heart.

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