Monday, July 27, 2009

things that happen in subways

Sitting and counting the names of subways while on a subway line, late at night I looked up to the discovery that I was the only one in the car. Peering through first one end window into the following car and then the other end window into the preceding car I determined I was the only one in three consecutive cars. Where else did this solitude extend? Could I be the only passenger in this worm-like metal beast? And if so, in this rare occurrence was some strange mantle passed to me?

What could happen in a subway with me the sole, lone passenger - what strange magic ekes its way from the subterrain and slithers shadowlike to me, with no other bright presence to distract it? For a moment I stood in indecision, a country full of contrary borders, before deciding to test the magic of the moment: I jumped, and didn't land.

In the subway line that was all my own in that instant I had no gravity to bound me and floated blissful through the shrieking air of the subway car, gripping the vertical bars and running my hands along the bright advertisements lining the tops of the subway walls. To go swimming through subway air! What a feat. I backpaddled and backflipped and backflopped until my encroaching stop was announced, an artificial voice carefully modulated repeating, "Downsview, Downsview subway station." Such disappointment! I hovered mid-air wondering desperately to myself what this arrival meant.

Always we are going places, leaving places, always we are departing. There are shores in each life, careful demarcations: lines we have drawn and lines we have crossed. Solitude means weightlessness, wonder, a type of wild joy.

These are the things that happen to me in subways:

- a man sits next to me and leans in close
- a man sits across from me and slurs, blurs his speech and gaze, yells
- a man stands in front of me so to stand I brush against him
- a man walks across from me and doesn't notice me at all
- a woman is crying and I see but don't offer comfort
- the dark shows my reflection in the window like a mirror, or a second face
- the subway screams and groans
- the subway stops mid-station, stutters and re-starts
- sometimes I am afraid
- sometimes I am comforted
- sometimes the distances of here to there are swallowed up and time fades into inconsequentiality and I surrender to momentum
- I step out, and step out, and am always stepping out, of this thing that moves me: and leave my surrender behind like the shell of a shed exoskeleton, husk drying in the winds of speed

Monday, March 30, 2009

a land called 'Toronto'

In Toronto I go for Ethiopian food, in Toronto I ride the subway, in Toronto I know the names of streets and major intersections, the man-made topography, in Toronto I stare at skyscrapers and sky and mourn for mountains, in Toronto, in Toronto, in Toronto I get lost in languages, in Toronto I hear Cantonese in the morning and Portuguese in the afternoon and Yiddish in the evening and French all the way home, in Toronto the city at night is a field of yellow lights and neon glitz -

in Toronto I grocery shop at Jane and Finch which is site of the infamous "Year of the Gun"

in Toronto I have a blister on my right foot

in Toronto I keep the windows of my twelfth floor apartment open

in Toronto I think about the distance between 'here' and 'home' and the likelihood of my survival in this concrete jungle in the event of a zombie attack

in Toronto I go to class

in Toronto I have nervous breakdowns about going to class

in Toronto I turned 21

in Toronto I will turn 22

in Toronto I cook food for my friends

in Toronto I have friends

in Toronto I listen to my friend Lisa talk about racial melancholia and nostalgia and the longing for home

in Toronto I long

in Toronto I am longing

in Toronto ----

Sunday, January 25, 2009

heart-shaped bread

I've done it - I've learned how to bake bread. After years upon years of my mom's nagging, hassling insistence that I apprentice to her bread-making art, I have finally succumbed. Granted, I didn't learn from her as she has always intended, but still. 

My mom has a weird history with bread. I think in her mind it's tied to being Canadian, since she didn't learn how to bake it until she came to Canada. She still doesn't eat it that often, despite baking it ALL the time. She has a reputation for baking really delicious bread, though - my dad's family visits for the sole purpose of eating her bread; visitors to our house go away with sacks full of buns and loaves. My entire childhood is full of the background smell of bread in the oven, yeasty and warm and delicious; bread dough rising in bowls covered with cloths; floured surfaces and my mom's hands kneading dough into the shape of loaves. When she and my dad were first married and she was learning the method of making bread, she would follow the recipes my dad brought home for her (this sounds so patriarchal, and it kind of is, in a way - but more on that later), and they would invariably result in disaster. It wasn't until she threw away the recipes and experimented with her own style that she managed to make awesome delicious bread. I think that's where her disdain for recipes first began. She's an improviser and a semi-copycat more than anything else. She has a habit of, when we're at restaurants, looking at a particularly tasty dish and announcing, "I could make that." Most often, she can't. Though she so likes to try

There's not much point to all of this except to say: making bread is a lot of fun. The heart-shape was wholly unintentional, but pretty cool. 

Here, to bring some measure of meaning to this blog post: 

to be followed with viewing this:

The first video is Nelly's original "Hot in Here"; the second is Jenny Owen Youngs' cover/reimagining, "Hot in Herre."

I have a bizarre love for covers, remixes, and mashups. I think they can cast a new light on the source music, change the interpretation, revise a message inherently demeaning  into one ironic and hilarious.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I miss this place, right here. Though right now it is kind of completely covered in snow.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I am fumbling at the bars of this academic cage, too weak from strike-stress to even rattle them.

York what have you done to me?!

In other news, I say screw this: I'm heading for law school as soon as the shackles of my MA loosen. Freedom's not yet in sight, but I know it will be... soon...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I read this and laughed, laughed, laughed. Because yes, I've lived it; and sometimes the only thing you can do besides rip off the heads of Men Who Explain Things and spit down their still bleeding stumps of necks is laugh. And I would say that the author of the article is speaking from another generation - that the current crop of Enlightened Educated Individuals Who Happen to be Gendered Male, they are not guilty of this crime. And some of them aren't. And some of them are.

I'm teetering on the edge of an insomnia related breakdown, though, so I'll save that rant for when I have more energy to do it justice. Possibly after a nap.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Er, so, I haven't written in this for a while!

The life of Petra is typically a boring affair, but I have some slightly awesome news: I am a graduate student! Like, officially and stuff. Or I will be in September.

Slightly contingent on the grad student front is moving to Toronto, as that is where the grad school (also known as York University) is located. So I'm mildly terrified! But less mildly excited! Pretty much all my academic geekery friends in Prince George have either graduated or are about to, so I like not being the only one left at the party. If you could call university a party. Which I guess a lot of students do, but then they spend the majority of their time getting drunk/drunk/getting over last night's drunkery. And I left that life of tomfoolery behind me back in my first year, because I get bored with things quickly, and puking? Not so hard to get bored of.

But more on all this graduate student (in English! Focusing on the hybridity in contemporary Canadian literature and cultural production! though not exclusively!) later. For now, the long overdue rantings/ravings of a girl unafraid to call herself 'feminist'.

Except I dislike ranting and raving, as the frothing at the mouth is so unattractive. So I figured I'd start this whole ranting/raving series with a transformative work by awesomesocks Canadian-American Alanis Morisette, who hilariously subverts contemporary representation of the 'sexy' female in music videos here: