Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Stoner Workout

Understand first of all that this is coming from a woman who’s despised almost any form of exercise (except dancing, swimming and sex) for most of her life. And sure, pas de problème when I was in my 20s and had the metabolism of a hummingbird.

These days, however, I need to make an effort in order to be the Papillon, and not the Planet. (This girl likes her pasta and wine!)

I enjoy walking just to chill, but in order to burn some serious calories (and stress), I get on my elliptical cross-trainer, choose a kicky playlist on the iPod and go like a crazed hamster for an hour. Oh, and on weekends, I smoke a little weed first – just a little, mind you. This be Vancouver weed, yo, and more than a couple of tokes could result in me falling off the machine. Not a very graceful scenario.

Gogol Bordello’s Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike album rates *high* on my list of Stoner Workout musical choices.

Amadou & Mariam’s album Dimanche à Bamako also works, but in an entirely different way. If you like Talking Timbuktu by Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder, these guys will rock your world.

Peace out & Happy Sweating. ;-)

The Playa Mafia, Part 1

G-man and I arrive in Playa del Carmen mid-afternoon on Saturday, just after Semana Santa. We prefer to travel in February (an excellent time to leave Vancouver), but business has been slow, so we assume we’re SOL as far as travel plans go.

Then I find a cheapo flight to Cancun from Seattle, so we take a shuttle bus down a few hours prior to flight time, enjoy dinner with a friend and catch a southbound red-eye that brings us to Cancun around noon the following day. We clear customs, grab our luggage, and high-tail it (as one does) out of Cancun on the first collectivo heading to Playa.

We check into our beachfront hotel, Costa del Mar, peel off our jeans and get into tropic-wear, although it’s actually kind of cold and windy out. Next stop, beach pallapa and several margaritas. Then we float around town a bit, soaking in the festive Saturday night vibe. There’s live music everywhere, and I’m all abuzz with a deliriously tired sort of excitement.

We hear intriguing reports of a reggae band that’s to play on the beach at our hotel, and being an irie sort of chick, I’m pretty stoked. And exhausted. And not exactly sober. Realizing suddenly that we’ve been up for about 36 hours, we go back to the room for “a little lie-down.” There goes Saturday night. We hear the reggae band start up outside, and they sound amazing, but I turn to G-Man with my eyes half-shut and say “Not if the room was on fire.” We fall asleep fully clothed and wake up that way the following morning.

Well-rested and showered, we go and scope out our situation at the reception desk. As is our habit, we’ve only booked a room for our first night, because it’s pretty reassuring to know for sure we’ll have a place to crash. We’ve stayed at C del M on a couple of previous visits, and found it charming and reasonably priced. It’s still charming.

Upon hearing what we owe for the night, G-man and I give each other the look unequivocally signifying “Fuck this”, pay up, and check out. Then we wonder a couple of blocks up and away from the beach and stumble across the quaintest place – La Iguanita. It’s perfect – big trees, beautiful little garden courtyard with a u-shaped, adobe-esque hotel set around it. There’s an outdoor communal kitchen and a really cute little bar. Hammocks everywhere. We’re intrigued and decide to check it out.

Standing behind the reception desk are a thin, ball cap-wearing English guy about my age (Keith, the hotel manager) and an even thinner blonde woman Hellga, the co-owner) who looks very chic, but also – I know instinctively – like someone you absolutely do not want to fuck with. She’s dressed all in white, which offsets her very dark tan.

We inquire about room availability. Keith and Hellga are both friendly (Keith especially), but they inform us all the rooms are full until this afternoon. A large group of people is checking out though, and if we’re interested, we should come back later.

Hmm… “How much per night?”

“Depends on what you want,” Keith explains. “Basic room with a ceiling fan is 400 pesos a night, with air-con it’s quite a bit more.”

“Oh, we’re fine with just a ceiling fan,” G-man says. “Other than that, all we really want is a comfortable bed and hot water.”

“No hot water. In fact no cold water, the plumbing is broken,” Keith says, winking. “And we have Attack Iguanas.”

Attack Iguanas? We’re sold!

Keith and Hellga tell us we can leave our luggage behind the desk, so G-man and I take them up on that and go off to Java Jack’s next door for some of the best coffee in town and a bite to eat. Then we go for a long walk down la playa.

We come back to the La Iguanita around 1 p.m., but our room isn’t ready. We’re okay with that. We sit around in the lobby playing Dice and Backgammon. There’s a gaggle of Mexican university kids waiting to check out. I don’t know what those ninas pack in their suitcases for a spring break trip, but this luggage is huuge! Eventually, the kids that had been staying in our room clear out, the maid cleans it, and we haul our stuff in. The room is just what we’d hoped for – high ceiling with a skylight and a kick-ass fan, colorful Mexican blankets and folk art. And hot water. No sign of iguanas. We get into our beach gear and head back down to the sea.

After a swim in the liquid silk known as the Caribbean and a couple of requisite cervezas, we return to La Iguanita at sunset. We shower, dress, come out of our room, and what do you know, the little bar is open! Not only that, it’s festooned with multi-colored balloons and the floor is covered in rose petals. (I later figured out they weren’t rose petals at all, but bits of flowers that had fallen from the Bougainvillea tree that canopies the bar.) G-man and I exchange the look meaning “Let’s go check it out” and proceed to sit ourselves down in a couple of comfy wicker chairs.

A long-haired, bearded man in a Panama hat (we’d noticed him wondering around earlier) walks over and introduces himself. This turns out to be Sven, Hellga’s business and life partner. He explains that there’s a going-away party tonight for Marta, his bar manager, who’s off to Europe within the next few days. “You must stay and meet her,” he says, “and sign her book. She’s coming in tonight expecting to work her last shift, but the new manager is here. So please, stay and enjoy yourselves – it’s gonna be a fun party.”

Understatement? Yeah, I would say. The bar starts to fill up with Marta’s friends, and eventually, the lady herself shows up. She’s breathtakingly gorgeous – I mean, this girl looks like (pre-pregnant) Salma Hayek. And she’s charming. Sven introduces us; we wish her bon voyage and ask if we can buy her a tequila shot. “Why not?” she laughs. “Everyone else is!”

She holds her nose as she downs the shot, and I can’t resist teasing her. “Holding your nose? What kind of Mexican girl are you, anyway?” Marta shrugs and smiles. “This is how my mother taught me to drink tequila.” BTW, the tequila in question, Sven informs us, is primo stuff. Clase Azul, the Cadillac of agave products. Nicer than any single-malt scotch I’ve ever had. Anyway…

G-man and I are getting our drink on, and Sven is spending most of his time hanging with us, despite the fact that it’s his bar and he knows everyone in the room. G-man is a drummer; we’re both music-loving freaks; Sven used to be a band manager back in Sweden, so the three of us have lots to talk about.

Hellga and her dazzling white smile make an entrance. Hellga is clearly the kind of woman who never just walks into a place – she makes an entrance. She’s looking very elegant in a white linen pantsuit and fedora. She comes over to say hello, chats pleasantly enough for a few minutes and then takes off to Work The Room. This may be Marta’s party, but it’s most definitely Hellga’s place. She holds court at the bar, glass of white wine in one hand, cigarette in the other, a group of adoring folk hanging on her every word.

Later it occurs to us that maybe Sven spent a great deal of time at our table partly because we were a Safe (read: Hellga-free) Zone. You’ll understand.

Meanwhile, Marta’s over in a corner of the bar, dancing with a group of her friends, blissed out as can be. But she’s a little girl, and she’s consumed a lot of tequila, so you can guess what’s coming next.

G-man comes back to our table from el bano at one point and tells me that Marta is no longer dancing in that corner, but rather, tossing her tacos all over the floor. Poor thing!

Marta’s friends carry her to the lobby to lay on the couch. I employ one of my best-developed skills – taking care of drunk people – and get a cold, wet hand towel from our room. I apply the towel to Marta’s forehead; she smiles gratefully, and then, a skinny, suntanned, manicured, jewel-encrusted hand reaches around me and takes the towel away.

“She doesn’t need that,” Hellga growls. “She’s gonna be fine.”

Okaaaay. (Here’s a good opportunity to share one of my favorite quotes: No good deed goes unpunished, Clare Booth Luce)

I shrug and go back to our table, where G-man and Sven are engaged in lively music-oriented conversation, and some of the regulars have joined us. Keith is there, as is Jack from Java Jack’s next door and his wife, Stella. Jack puts on a good tough-ass from Brooklyn kind of show, but he’s hilarious and friendly. Stella’s a chain-smoking sweetheart of a woman, the kind of person who wakes up smiling. Keith totally cracks me up – Attack Iguanas! He tells G-man and me that he and Hellga had instantly liked us when we’d first arrived that morning. I’m flattered. And drunk.

G-man seems to be feeling no pain either, but it’s nearly 9 p.m. and I realize we haven’t eaten since lunchtime at the beach. “Weesh’ g’get some food,” I suggest. “Yeshh,” my man agrees.

Sven recommends a nearby restaurant owned by his friend Kristoff and swears that if we’re disappointed, he’ll buy us drinks for the rest of the night.

“Order the Arrachera.” he says. “It’s fantastic!”

“Arra what?”

“It’s a type of marinated steak that melts in your mouth.”

“How do you say it again? Arra..”


“And the restaurant is where?”

“Oh come on, I’ll just take you guys.”

Sven walks to the restaurant with us and introduces us to Kristoff, a genteel and hospitable man. Kristoff actually kisses my hand! You just don’t find that kind of old-world charm very often.

We’re seated at a table along the patio railing. Sven wishes us bon appetit and starts walking back to La Iguanita.

Halfway down the block, he turns around, walks back to our table and whispers, “Arrachera.”

G-man and I proceed to consume the best meal we’ve ever had. Kristoff gives us the royal treatment, and the Arrachera is arra-fucking-amazing! It really does melt in your mouth. My taste buds have an orgasm.

Tummies full and brain cells ready for killing, we return to La Iguanita for more drinks. The party’s still in full swing. Marta’s still passed out on the couch in the lobby.

Sven immediately wants to know how dinner was, and feeling like a bad little monkey, I can’t resist saying “Dude, that totally sucked. I’ll have a margarita, please.”

But the millisecond I see his face drop, I say “I’m joking, of course! Best meal we’ve ever had. Thank you so much for the recommendation.” And I hug him.

More people have joined our table (it’s a big round table), and Keith introduces us to another Englishman, his friend Mike. Mike seems like a decent guy, soft-spoken and kind. He warns us not to drink the tap water. (Thanks Mike, we’ve been to Mexico before!) G-man and I are both pleasantly buzzed, drifting in and out of different conversations with different people.

At one point, I overhear Mike talking about his wife, and it sounds as though some horrible accident has occurred, or even something as tragic as suicide. He’s talking to Keith, who looks all concerned and sympathetic.

I certainly don’t want to intrude though, so I get back to my conversation with whoever I was conversing with at the time. Memory’s a little foggy, you know?

Next thing I know, Hellga’s sitting next to Mike. She’s enraged. And she’s loud.

“Whatever, sorry about what happened, but fuck you, Mike.”

“But Hellga…”

“No, fuck you, Mike!”

“I’m really sorry.”

Fuck you, Mike!!”

Hellga waltzes off to the bar, and Mike is in tears.

He looks my way and knows that I’ve seen (and heard) what had gone down, so I go sit next to him and say something to the effect of “Wow, that seemed pretty harsh.”

“Oh, she’s a good lady. Just got a bit of a temper when she drinks.”

A bit?

Soon enough, we move on to light topics and I manage to cheer him up.

And this is my first mistake, I realize, as I see Hellga glaring at me from across the room...

Ready for Part 2?

Never Fails to Make Me Laugh 1

"Fetchez la vache."
"Fetchez la vache!"

(From Monty Python & The Holy Grail) Pauvre vache!

Can you guess who's actively procrasting writing a real post this morning? ;-)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hurricane Hellga

Swedish expat and enchanting co-owner of *La Iguanita* Hotel & Bar in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Just posting her as a little teaser for my upcoming story, THE PLAYA MAFIA, in which G-man and I fall in with the Iguanita denizens – locals, expats and occasional curious travelers looking for that "authentic" experience. Let me tell you, it just doesn't get any more authentic than Hellga.

Gogol Bordello to play Vancouver!

Yay! The “gypsy punks” are scheduled to play at Richard’s on Richards (fondly known in Vancouver as “Dicks on Dicks”) on September 2, 2007 – the night before G-man’s 40th birthday! AND it’s on the Sunday of Labour Day long weekend.

I see big-crazy-fun times ahead!

Plus, it’s probably a good idea for me to hear some live music I’m not so, shall I say, emotionally invested in. I don’t know enough about GB to consider them *muse material*, but I know I’m gonna DANCE MY ASS OFF!

Tix go on sale tomorrow. (Friday, June 29, 2007).

Who’s with me?


Keep the faith, baby

I often vacillate between hope and a kind of watered-down despair.

Gotta tell you, I highly recommend the hope option. It burns way more calories!

Scuba Whores

The G-man and I live to travel, but because our time and budget (like those of most people) are limited, it seems that every trip we plan has to include a coastal destination providing us with the opportunity to submerge. Not only do we both dream in colour, we dream in underwater colour.

So what prompted this little diversion, hot on the tail of a teaser like “I want to BE the muse”? Easy enough to explain, my friends.

When the sun refuses to come out here in Vancouver, I miss Mexico, and when I miss Mexico, part of what I miss is diving. There’s a stellar pic of a tortuga and me on our last dive. (My last dive, that is, not the tortuga’s.) I’ll find it and post it later.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cruising on Exhaustion and Martinis

A couple of my friends affectionately refer to this as The Groupie Story, but I have to say, I’m not a big fan of the term “groupie” – primarily because I’m not a slut. Then again, as my friend David points out, “It all depends on your definition of 'groupie'. For instance, I consider myself a huge Tina Turner groupie, but I wouldn’t *do* her.” (The fact that David is gay is immaterial, it really is.)

Several weeks ago, G-man, two dear friends and I saw Manu Chao and Radio Bemba Sound System at the Sasquatch Festival in central Washington. The band had played here in Vancouver the previous night, but we (much to my dismay) hadn’t been able to get tickets, so off to the south we drove. The band’s set at the festival began around sunset, and in some barely explicable way, the experience changed my life.

I knew that Manu – compassionate, warm, energetic and FUN – was my muse and I had to see him again.

To that end, I managed to contact some people – people I can’t name out of respect for their privacy. Long story short, I got put on the guest list for the band’s upcoming show at Koolhaus in Toronto. (BTW, the short part refers exlusively to this paragraph. The full story is a bit of a commitment, so go pour yourself a stiff one, smoke if you got 'em, and settle in comfortably.)

Once assured I was on the Toronto guestlist, I went on to do the most impulsive (some would say stupidest) thing I’ve ever done in my life:


Most of the names in my story have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty.

I was to fly out at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. on Thursday, June 21, 2007, the day of the gig. Found out, however, after having made my travel arrangements, that my good friends Blair and David were flying out at 11 p.m. on the previous evening. They were heading to TO to celebrate Gay Pride with some friends out there.

When fortune smiles upon me, it smiles big. I manage to switch flights (with a penalty fee, but who cares) and travel with the boys.

We arrive in TO around about, oh, the crack of dawn, but the boys’ friend Robert comes to pick us up, the dear man. Blair, David and I had all taken a chill pill at the start of the flight, and although they’d slept, the best I’d managed was a state of semi-consciousness.

Robert drops us off at his boyfriend Kevin’s apartment, right smack in the middle of the vibrant and colourful Gay Village. I fall in buddy-love with Kevin instantly, and how could I not? He hugs me hello and welcome, and has a fresh pot of coffee waiting. Robert goes off to work at a Gay Archives facility he oversees, while the four of us hang around Kevin’s apartment, drink coffee and visit. The check-in time for my nearby hotel is at 4 pm. 4 p.m., for God’s sake! I have all day to kill, and I’m comatose.

Eventually we make our way out for breakfast, and I treat, by way of saying thank you. Anyway, it’s cheap – Blair and I both have a bit of nervous tummy and all I can manage is toast. Dry toast.

After breakfast, we walk around the village for a while, check out some funky little shops, admire the architecture, and that kind of thing. Just before lunchtime, we visit Robert at the Gay Archives and are graciously offered a tour. Truly fascinating stuff, everything from artwork to personal correspondence to journalism.

Robert goes back to work, so we leave him to it and make our way to – where else? – a pub. We sit out on the deck, chat, smoke and drink several girlie martinis. My 18th wind kicks in, fatigue no longer an issue. Kevin and I hit it off like the proverbial house on fire. He says the best thing a gay man (or maybe anyone) has ever said to me:

I love a woman with a potty mouth and a great rack.
(Thanks, Kev-man! I like that type of woman too.)

(Papillon & Kevin. The slogan on Kevin's T-shirt didn't even make a blip on my radar that day. It certainly does now.)

Eventually, my exhaustion returns, and David is by now feeling it too, so Kevin gives us his apartment keys. We walk back there and both lay down for a nap. I set my travel alarm to wake me in time to go check in, but I manage to fuck up the am/pm thing, so it doesn’t go off and I sleep till 4:30. Bleary-eyed, I chug down a Red Bull and pull myself together. David gets up about the same time and walks me over to the hotel.

Once there, I enjoy a very long and much-needed shower, and then proceed to get myself ready. And I mean, I go to town! The hair, the makeup – I even cut the power-chain off my wretched braces. If there’s the remotest possibility I’ll meet my muse tonight, I’m pretty fucking determined to look as fetching as I possibly can. Little do I know how much this effort will pay off later tonight – I’ve never flirted with so many security guys!

Although the doors at Koolhaus aren’t to open until 8 pm, I taxi my way there by 7:30, having anticipated (correctly) that there’d be a line-up of keeners well in advance of the actual event. I wasn’t about to take any chances!

The queue itself is quite enjoyable. The promoter (I assume) has set up a sound system outside, and everyone’s groovin’ to recorded Manu. Because this is an all-ages gig, a security guard bearing white wrist bands announces to people that we’ll need to wear these in order to drink inside. He asks me for ID. I thank him.

About 15 minutes into the wait, I notice an attractive blond man walking around the periphery, talking to security guards and other gig-related folks. He’s wearing an appealingly rumpled linen pants n’ shirt outfit, and appears to be someone very much involved with the show. Click! I’m convinced that this is my contact, Joe Blow – I’d google-imaged him, and the look was right. I manage to flag the guy down and motion him over to where I’m waiting in line. “Hey,” I venture, my face no doubt all abeam, “Are you Joe?” The attractive man smiles warmly “Yes, I am,” he says.

I shake his hand and introduce myself “I’m Papillon,” I practically sing, “and I’m so happy to meet you. If you do have a few seconds later, I would love to buy you a drink.” “Ohh, absolutely,” Joe replies, clearly delighted. This is going so well! “Later then, Joe – you rock!” I wave as he heads back to his crew.

Right about here, however, things start to run a little less smoothly. It’s nearly 8 pm, and all of us waiting outside are becoming oh-so-eager to get into the venue. The line-up (as they often do) wends along an infrastructure of walls and fences.

Security guards mill about, and eventually, of course, the brusque directing begins. “Ticket holders – everyone with a ticket in hand, line up along the railing and head to the doors. The rest of you – will-calls, box office ticket buyers, and guest list people, line up against the wall and wait.” And wait. And wait. And wait.

It’s nothing short of painful to watch as every single last one of the people with tickets in hand waltz their way into the club before I can get in there and stake out my coveted spot – center, front, mosh pit.

Eventually it’s my turn at the box office window. I hand the lady my passport and announce, with utmost aplomb, “Here you go. I’m on the guest list.” Flippita, flippita, flippita, goes the lady through her stack of papers. She’s wearing that squinty expression – the one that never means good news – and she says the dreaded words “I’m sorry, m’am. I can’t find you on any of the lists here.” (Lists, like plural?) “Whose list are you on?,” she asks. “Joe Blow’s.” I say, a little bit of confidence regained.

“Who’s Joe Blow?”

“You know, Joe Blow of Joe Blow & Associates. Listen, he’s just there in the parking lot. If I bring him back to vouch for me, would that be okay?”

“Sure, that would be fine.”

I approach the fence separating me from the parking lot and Joe. So many walls and fences to negotiate that night! I attempt, in vain, to wave Joe over; he’s occupied and doesn’t see me. There’s a security guard standing near me though, and he kindly agrees to go get Joe for me and bring him over.

Joe comes to the fence where I’m standing, and he’s charming as charming can be. Gentle smile. “Joe,” I say, “I don’t want to be a pain in the butt, but there seems to have been a bit of a mix-up. The lady at the box office says I’m not on the guest list.”

Joe puzzles for a second. “Hmm… who put you on the guest list?”

“Well, you did, Joe. We emailed back and forth several times, and you confirmed that I’d be on.”

Now Joe really puzzles. “No…” he shakes his head slowly, “That wasn’t me.”

My first thought, as I stand there chain-smoking and fighting back tears, is “Why are you fucking with me, Joe? You seemed like such a nice guy when we were emailing.”

And then… click. “You are, “ I posit, “Joe Blow of Joe Blow & Associates?”

And I see “Joe” experience a click of his own. “No, no I’m not. My first name is Joe, but I’m not the guy you’re looking for.”

What he must have been thinking 20 minutes prior! Woman in a low-cut dress approaches him, introduces herself, gushes, and offers to buy him a drink later. “Absolutely,” indeed! So, Joe-not-Joe and I take our leave, and back I go to the lady at the box office window – oh no, of course I mean to the back of the line again to wait for another chance to plead my case.

And it’s finally my turn again. “Hey,” I say to Box Office Lady, “can you please try to contact Joe Blow backstage so he can vouch for me?”

(*Lady looking a tad annoyed*) “I thought you said you’d bring him back here.”

“Yeah, sorry about that – turned out to be the wrong Joe. So can you please contact backstage? Take my passport with you if you want.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t leave here.”

“Can you please send someone else back then? Please. I’ve flown all the way out here from Vancouver. Can you please do that for me?”

Box Office Lady softens. “Okay. Just go wait over by the fence and we’ll do what we can for you.”

I thank her, breathe deeply, and go stand by the fence.

At this point, I meet a girl in a blue Manu Chao T-shirt. She too appears to be on her own and ticketless. We strike up a conversation, and I tell her all about the screwy guest list situation. She asks (poor dear thing) if they’d set me up so I could bring in a guest. Just me, I reply apologetically. And even that isn’t looking too promising at the moment.

A few minutes later, I hear someone call my name from the box office window. I leap back over there, and sure enough, Box Office Lady hands me my passport with a ticket tucked inside. Yes! I thank her again and head to the doors.

No trouble getting in. Now, the only slightly worrisome issue peeing on my proverbial Cornflakes is this: Upon examining the ticket I’d been given, I see no mention of words like “guest” or “backstage” or “after-event.” Rather, I see the painfully banal and non-inspiring words “General Admission.”

I firmly insist, however, that I will not screw myself out of enjoying the gig. I hit the bar immediately and inhale a double gin & soda. Thus fortified, I make my way – against all odds – to the very front of the mosh pit, just slightly right of center stage, eye-contact distance from band members. There are only a few tiny Latinas around me and in front of me, and I’m poised to have a really, really, really good time.

And I do!! Manu and Radio Bemba Sound System open with El Hoyo, as they’d done at Sasquatch, as they’d done, I imagine, for all the preceding shows. They put on a high-energy, dance-your-ass-off, grin-till-your-face-hurts set that must have been close to three hours long.

Gotta tell you, as someone who’s always envied cute little women, tonight I’m glad to be tall and in reasonably good physical shape. For most of the show, the crowd is pretty gentle, but inevitably, a couple of big wasted guys begin to slam their way to the front, and then the Domino effect takes hold. Girls are glaring at each other and at me, wearing “WTF?” expressions, and those of us at the receiving end are shrugging and gesturing towards the assholes, as if to say “Sorry, dude – I didn’t start the shoving. It was them.”

Then, to add insult to injury, some little chick behind me taps me on the shoulder, and when I turn around, she’s all pissy because my hair is flicking beads of sweat on her. Fine, I admit that’s kind of disgusting, but look, princess, it’s a hot, sweaty mosh pit. What do you want me to do? I guess you want me to stand dead fucking still.

At this point, my mind goes to dark places and I nearly cry. The vibe has turned ugly for me once again. “Look how close you’ve come to getting fucked over tonight!” I despair. “And you imagine there’s a snowball’s chance in hell you’ll get to meet him?!”

Eventually the crowd around me thins out a bit (after the second encore?), so I’m able to breathe and move again. I feel better and re-focus my energy on the rest of the show. Manu talks about the futility of fighting violence with violence and does the whole pounding-on-his-heart thing that made me fall in a platonic sort of love with him at Sasquatch. Actually, I’m relieved to see that it is, after all, a bit of a routine. A beautiful routine, but a routine nonetheless. And that’s okay, because no one can be original all the time, and I need to learn that the guy is no more, and no less, than human.

The boys finally play their last song, and I have to admit, that’s kind of a relief. I’m so spent at this point, I’m about ready to puke up the tuna sandwich I’d barely managed to force down myself a few hours earlier.

The lights go on. People start milling towards the exit, security guards at the ready to herd them (us) like cattle. I’m milling slower than anyone. Doggedly holding on to hope, I approach a slit in the curtains, off to the left side of the stage, en route to the exit. Mais naturellement, there’s a security guard standing there, shaking his head “no” at me. “Look,” I say, holding out my passport, “can I just give this to one of the guys backstage to see if he can contact Joe Blow for me? I just want to thank him for putting me on the guest list.” Amazingly, the guy allows it, and I manage to plead my case and hand my passport to one of the roadies. This guy is nice enough to go look for Joe, who is, d’accord, nowhere to be found.

At this point, I notice a small group of people hanging around off to one side. There’s a security guard standing next to them. I approach him and ask “If I understand correctly, there IS an after-event that people on the guest list can attend?” He replies (and I love this), “If you understand correctly, you should stay right here.” Best words I’ve heard all evening. I don’t leave the man’s side for a second.

Meanwhile, there’s a female security guard doing the whole “ROUST!” bit, trying to get everyone to fuck off and go outside. She’s all in “How many times do I have to tell you people?!” mode, and although she’s mostly addressing the main crowd, she eventually starts in on our little side group. Some brave white guy with dreadlocks (Jeff, I later learned) pipes up with “But this security guard told us to wait here.”

Eventually the staff works out its miscommunications, and we (I’m feeling all warm and part of the little group now) are left in peace. And suddenly there’s this unassuming looking guy walking around, and people are hugging him! And then it’s MY TURN. “Manu,” I say, “I just want to thank you for being my muse.” Because I just want to thank him for being my muse.

Manu looks a tiny bit puzzled, but smiles warmly and hugs me. As I back away (and didn’t that take some effort) within a respectful few seconds, I say, “By the way, I’m Papillon. Did you get my letter?” Now his face lights up with smiling recognition and he says “Yeah!” I’m completely blissed out, but it’s time to let others connect, so that’s that. For now.

I overhear people wishing him a happy birthday – I hadn’t known about that.

There’s still the question of, the logistics of, the after-party. I notice, with growing unease, that the Little Group with whom I’d come to identify are all wearing Day-glo green wrist bands. Fuck.This can’t be good.

But I’ve come so far and I have nothing to lose but a little more pride and some sleep. I stick with my buddy the security guard and The Little Group until another security guard hits the scene and explains that we’re all to follow him outside, around the building, and to another entrance leading to the separate venue where the after-party would be held.

Exuding a self-assurance I definitely didn’t feel, I walk along with the Little Group, discreetly draping a silk shawl over my green-free wrist.

We reach this other entrance, and there’s the usual line-up rope and, you guessed it… a great big bouncer at the door.

Let me tell you, I’ve not been at an airport where I’ve whipped out my passport more than I did on this night. When it’s my turn at the door, I sigh, but by now my spiel is so well-rehearsed, it takes no time at all to work it for my newest pal, ImAn:

“So, do you think you could please go back there and find Joe Blow for me?”

“Well, first of all, I can’t leave here. And second of all, I don’t know who he is or what he looks like.”

(*Paplllon experiencing moment of brilliance*) “Wait, you could ask Manu. He knows my name as well.”

“Look, the band isn’t even in there yet. You’ll just have to wait and we’ll see what we can do for you.”

I thank ImAn for his patience and flirt with him shamelessly. I offer him a cigarette. He says, thanks, he doesn’t smoke. I say “Good for you, ImAn.” And I chain-smoke.

Meanwhile, there’s a small group of young girls, wearing green wristbands, but one of them is SOL, poor thing, cuz it’s a 19+ event and she’s only 18. I lean over to ImAn and whisper, jokingly yet not, “Can I have her wrist band?” Sweet ImAn, I can see him trying not to laugh and he gives me this stern-but-friendly “Smarten up, you!” kind of look.

Finally, finally, finally… word comes that Manu insists “Let them all in. Doesn’t matter about the green wristbands.”

I beam irrepressibly at my big pal ImAn. “I guess that would mean me too?”

ImAn smiles and nods. I limbo under the velvet rope, and I’m standing in front of him. “May I hug you?” I ask. ImAn obliges. I offer to buy him a drink, and he says he’ll take me up on that later, when he’s off shift.

So I’m in! I’m in! I’m in! I’m in!

And the first person I see is the blue Manu T-shirt girl I’d met outside earlier. Turns out she’d JUST managed to buy a ticket from someone after the box office had sold out. “Hey,” I say, giving her the thumbs-up, “you got in too!”

We’re glowing with happiness, the two of us, so I introduce myself and buy her a beer. She’s also on her own, and we pretty much hang out for the evening.

Tanya, it turns out, is a lovely girl from Mexico City, currently living in Toronto to study English. So the two of us are sitting on a comfy couch, drinking beer, marveling at our good fortune, and keeping our eyes on the door for obvious reasons.

A sudden chorus of Happy Birthday, however, alerts us to the fact that Manu is, in fact, in the room. Tanya and I beeline our way over to where a small crowd is gathered. And there’s the man, smiling, warm and modest as you could possibly imagine. He’s happily accepting birthday wishes and hugs from anyone dispensing them, so I, being the huggy person I am anyway, and being in the presence of my muse, gingerly approach.

“Happy birthday, Manu.” (Hug.)

“Thank you, Papillon.”

“Aww, you remembered my name!”

“Of course.”

“You’re so sweet.”

He really is. And so is his birthday cake. A rich, dark chocolate mousse kind of thing. (*Drooling*)

That day a few weeks back, when I first saw Manu on stage at the Sasquatch festival, his energy, humour, compassion and total lack of artifice affected me in a way I still can’t explain rationally. Manu’s spirit got into my heart and released something long-neglected that it had found there.

I thought to myself, “Okay, Mr. Chao. You’re either The Real Thing, or you’re the most gifted bullshitter I’ve ever seen.” Well, Manu really didn’t strike me as a bullshitter, and I spent several weeks after Sasquatch jonesing to see him again.

Fast-forwward to Toronto.

I’m lucky enough to speak with Manu a few more times the night of his birthday. He writes something incredibly sweet on my Esperanza CD liner and kindly allows Tanya to take some pictures of us together – I may post them if I can PhotoShop the me out of me.

So that’s the story, boys and girls. I’ve written, at least in journal form, every day since then, sustained by the knowledge that my muse is very much FOR REAL.

Coming soon: I want to be a muse in my own right. Is that too much to hope for?

Pics of The Muse & Me

Go, Scheherazade!

I’m writing to save my own life. Relax darlings, I don’t mean that literally. I’ve been to some pretty dark places, but I’m not suicidal. Au contraire.

Right now, my cup of coffee is reason enough to celebrate la vida. What the hell am I doing up at 5:30 in the morning, though?! I guess after all those years of being set on *Mute*, now I just can’t seem to STFU.

Working on a piece titled "Cruising on Exhaustion and Martinis." Will post ASAP. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Amadou and Mariam

These two are an amazing blind couple from Mali who do just about the funkiest fusiony stuff I've ever heard. They sing and play guitar. Check out the album *Dimanche a Bamako*, produced by Manu Chao. (OKAY, the first person to use the word *obsessed* gets an e-slap, I swear. Denial? That would be a river in Egypt, no?) Anyway, absolute phenomenon of an album; it's been making me very happy.

Chek out their official site, complete with track samples:

I'd love for them to come to Vancouver, but I'm not holding my breath.

Muses: They're not just for ancient Greek poets any more!

And they don't have to be preternaturally beautiful 13-year old waif chicks.

More on this later...

Ilsa the Grammar Nazi

That bitch must DIE. She's been on my ass since university years, and I need for her to fuck off now.

So don't be whinin' to me about dangling modifiers or excessive use of passive verbs. This ain't that kind of blog, yo!

My Life as Metal Mouth

For two and a half years now, I've been wearing braces on my teeth to correct an overbite. I am beyond ready for the mofos to get out of my face.

Other people have sexual fantasies (okay, I have those too, but you'll have to get me drunk before I talk about them); me, I fantasize about a bottle of Stoli and a pair of needle-nosed pliers...

Introducing my Alter-Ego...

I orginally named him Furious George, but I was Googling recently and discovered – to my horror – that *Furious George* is a popular nickname for none other than GW Bush. Eeeuuw! So for now, the monkey's name is FRITZ.

Deny Me and Be Doomed

First things first – I acknowledge and thank John Cameron, brilliant creator of Hedwig & The Angry Inch for the line "Deny me and be doomed", which appears in the film as a piece of graffiti on the Berlin wall and is open to about a million interpretations. I choose to see it as being about the need to follow one's own path to wholeness.

And now, with absolutely no transitional device between paragraphs, here we go:

My younger brother, a Buddhist with a hearty appetite (both literal and metaphoric) was diagnosed 2 years ago with a chronic form of leukemia. In cancer-speak, acute is bad, chronic is good – it means that he’s not gonna die, except eventually like we all will. Thank God (Goddess, Buddha, Universe – whatever that entity greater than me prefers to call itself) that we live in a country with socialized medicine, as it enables my brother (and thousands like him) to access the treatment he needs to stay alive and well.

My mother recently had what’s known as a Mini Stroke (gosh, isn’t that just so cute), which scared the shit out of all of us, but turned out to be nothing more than a warning. She now takes much better care of herself and won’t hesitate, for instance, to tell her hiking buddies to “Slow the fuck down, please.” Okay, my mom would never use the F word, but you know what I’m saying.

Me, I’ve dealt with depression issues all my life. The important point here (you knew there’d be one, didn’t you?) is that all three of us have learned how essential it is to meet one’s own needs. We’ve all been taught to be compassionate and nurturing, which I think is great, but I’ve also come to believe that one can’t do much good for others if one’s self is fucked. These days, top at the list of my own needs is the need to do this – to journal and get myself out there. I don’t give a flying fuck about money or fame. Wait. I’m lying about the money part. G-man (husband) and I don’t aspire to be fabulously wealthy, but we are travel junkies, so gotta make a few bucks beyond what it takes to pay our mortgage and, you know, eat.

BTW, yes, I have a father too. He is without a doubt the most passionate, joyous and optimistic person I know. He has a beautiful singing voice and absolutely loves to talk. Sometimes he just won't STFU, but I love him anyway. ;-)


Monday, June 11, 2007

Hello, good evening & welcome

My name is... shared on a strictly need-to-know basis. You can call me Papillon. It's not really in my nature to be this secretive, but if a client stumbles upon this site and recognizes me, I'm fucked.

It's been a long and decidedly shitty Monday, so I'm ready for the numbing comfort of my couch and some substance-free TV, but I hope to be here again soon and often, revealing perhaps inappropriately intimate details to nameless, faceless strangers. Nameless, faceless strangers intrigue me. There, you know something about me already.

I'm a 44-year old happily married woman and self-described urban hippy. I love wine, spicy food, music, travel and warped comedy. I live for summer. I've been struggling for years to *get my voice on*. Prone to bouts of depression and flights of fancy, I also have a tendency to develop, every few years or so, bothersome infatuations. These are totally harmless, though – I absolutely DO NOT fuck around on my husband, so get that thought out of your head, you dirty little monkey. ;-)

Currently I've got this *thing* for a Franco-Spanish worldbeat/reggae/ska/punk (pretty much genre-defying) musician. Okay, okay – it's Manu Chao, if you must know. Nosey! Anyway, it's not really that I'm infatuated with Manu; it's that the man is my muse. (More on that later.) I give him credit for the fact that I'm sitting here writing now. See, like my father, I'm a very passionate individual (and a big flirt), but I sometimes find it difficult to recognize my own feelings for what they're really all about. I figure it out though, occasionally with the help of my amazing therapist, who I love for treating me like a person and not a disorder.

Here's my little dog, Stella, exuding bliss. It's what she does. Stella (named after the beer, not the Streetcar Named Desire character) is half Papillon, and her capacity for making people happy inspired, at least in part, my use of Papillon as a blog handle.