American Sophist in Canada

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I really should not be let out of the house unattended. Part of the issue is that I so rarely interact with people who do not intimately know and love me that I forget – while basking in their love and understanding of my undeniably quirky way of looking at life – that the things I say, the things I laugh at, the things I just think and allow to tumble out of my mouth with no filter to sift out the odder and nonsensical meanings – those things may just not be socially acceptable.

It is as if I am Jaberwocky, come to life.

A meaning unto myself, ascribed characteristics and qualities that I do not define – but absorb, per the viewer.

Here are a few of the latest samples:

“Old Yeller? He had rabies! Of course they had to shoot him!”

“Will you be paying for a single pet cremation? I didn't. It was like an extra 300 bucks. I was 24. 300 bucks was a lot of drinking – so I think I have most of my own pet, but it's possible that other pets are mixed in there too.”

“My cat – the one whose ashes I have in my closet...Yeah, he looks down at me and laughs everyday when he sees the devil spawn I produced.”

I have rendered my new colleagues speechless. And perhaps offended. And often a bit horrified.

Oh, and attempted jokes about my Computer's “Slave name” of “dawn's computer” versus DF32G72 bring NO laughs in Canada. Especially when paired with an explanation of the whole rejection of “last names” as a part of the Black Muslim experience. Really kills the joke.


A few months have passed and while my new colleagues seem to be tolerating me a bit better, I still have the uniquely Un-Canadian ability to step over the line of propriety. They are a wholly polite people.

When being teased about being American, an episode of Rick Mercer was discussed. For non-Canadians, Rick Mercer is the Northern equivalent of Jon Stewart. He produced a television special a few years ago designed to make Americans look ridiculous - something we hardly need assistance with on a good day. There are copious shots of Americans signing petitions to stop the "Canadian tradition of setting their elderly on ice drifts and sending them out to sea", or congratulating Canada for getting the 24 hour clock. It IS funny, in a "Dear God, Americans know almost nothing about what goes on right next to them" kind of way.

So, after they were all done laughing at the silly Americans, one hearty fellow asked,
"Well Dawn, I suppose you must think the same kinds of things about Canadians"

and I responded - deadpan and serious, "Actually we don't think about them at all" - which wasn't meant to be as funny as it ended up being.

Herpes is a volkswagon right? The love bug?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Overhead today in the Graduate Students Lounge:

Anon student 1: "And then I thought I had the CLAP!"

Anon student 2: "What? Did you say the Clap?"

Anon student 1: "Yeah, the CLAP."

Anon student 3: "What is that? Is that some disease?"

Anon student 2: "Is it like chlamydia or something?"

Anon student 1: "Yeah, I think it is like chlamydia...or something like that..."

I sipped my drink and rolled my eyes and thought it was a sad, sad day when graduate students didn't know what a good old fashioned STD was.

I waited then for the discussion on crabs - and how delicious they were with butter.

Lice ain't nice

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Two weeks ago Friday, we went to lovely party.

There was wine and Wii and children running about. There was laughing and hummus and delicious cupcakes.

All good and wonderful things.

On Monday morning, I was in the office while the host of that party received a phone call from the school of his children.

He, not being a native English or French speaker, turned to the office after he hung up with the school.

"Is your daughter OK?", I asked solicitously.

"She has fleas?", he stated - somewhat puzzled.

I stared at him. My teacher instinct kicked in. "Lice?", I offered. "She has lice?"

"Yeah, thats it - Lice"

My head began to itch. Instantaneously. In fact, I suspect some of you are itching simply READING this.

Then, I recalled my impossibly curly haired child rolling on the floor with his long blonde straight haired child. The same long blonde straight hair child who spent quite a bit of time in my lap as we giggled and watched her brother and Emily play Wii.

Then I thought about my spouse. With his dreadlocks. And his natural hypochondria.

Oh, Shit.

I offered to check his daughter at the office. I have expertise in this area. Years of teaching and living in child care centers makes you a savvy lice spotter. I have calmed many a parent down as I showed them what they were looking for, what to do, what to use, how to comb the eggs out. Reassuring them that it was not do to a dirty home or dirty child - quite the opposite, in fact. Lice LOVE nice clean heads - best real estate around, and WHO doesn't want to build their home on the best real estate available?

Sure enough - there they were. In full, lice-esque glory. Doing their lice thing.

And theres me. Staying calm. Trying not to itch my head. Trying to think of how I am going to break this news to my husband who is perpetually coming up with new diseases what he is sure he has. Trying to figure out a way to let him KNOW ( since I have my late class and won't be home until 7:30 or 8) but not make him lose his shit and begin some kind of bleaching extravaganza.

In hindsight, I shouldn't have left the message on his cell phone. But oh well.

The good news? We seem to have been spared.

The bad news? Terrance keeps checking my hair. Because he doesn't know what he is looking for, he spends the whole time making dire air sucking in noises as he pulls out lint and other NOT LICE stuff from my hair. And let me tell you - nothing makes you randomly itch your head than the suggestion that you Could have lice.

In fact, you are all scratching right now - admit it.

That's Good! That's Bad!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

* Getting your period after waiting for two months - knowing that you aren't pregnant (cause the tests keep saying no AND that would indicate a massive failure of a vasectomy). Hurrah! Ugh! The massive cramping!

* Finally figuring out one of your paying gigs is Up and missing (in advance), deeply, the dollars it brought it each month. Hoping someone is going to hire you for your witty caustic observations. Realizing that most likely won't happen.

* Not having to cook Thanksgiving dinner cause you live in Canada. Figuring out how to bribe your kid about not having a traditional American Thanksgiving cause you live in Canada and have to go to work tomorrow ( and she has school).

* Referring to the Brownie leader as "Brown Eye", instead of "Brown Owl". Hoping Scary Brownie leader never catches you, or she will most likely smack you with her cane.

* Living with La Chatte who has your sorry meat puppet ass in her zombie cat eye cross hairs.

It's the Aliens Fault, apparently

Monday, November 19, 2007

Can someone explain the holiday significance of the alien trapped in an electric tower, surrounded by sawblades?

Furthermore, this was the beginning of the float for the War and Child Amputees, which made it all the more puzzling.

Americans! Be on the lookout for this new "blame" strategy - It was the Aliens who TOOK the WMD's.

Fear of Failing

Saturday, November 17, 2007

This time of year makes me feel a bit twitchy, I think.

I go from being agitated to bored to hyper anxious, in the span of a few minutes.

Now, what some of you do know and all of you are about to learn is that I have a stupendous fear of failure.

"Oh Dawn", I hear you say, "We ALL have a fear of failure! That's normal."

Well, imaginary internet audience, I agree. In fact, as a human species we tend to use this to our advantage. We move forward. A little fear keeps us on our toes.

That's not what I am talking about. Tonight, as the fear creeps up on me, my heart starts to pound. I begin to wish for an Ativan which will disconnect the fight or flight response which is beginning to flood my brain.

My ability to be avoidant when confronted with Fear can be legendary. Just ask my PhD adviser, as she tries to get me to commit to meeting with her. I drop off the proverbial radar. I become the invisible lady.

Or, I stuff it so deeply in my subconscious that I cope with it through dreams for YEARS following the event.

I referenced in an earlier posting that I have been lucidly dreaming as of late. Where I KNOW I am dreaming, and yet I choose to continue with the storyline, albeit in a more controlled fashion. I am not a dream analyst or even a dream Anal-rapist, like Tobias Fucke (Analyst and Therapist) but I do know that the things I have been doing in these dreams are different.

In 2001, I was fired. More precisely, because my employer didn't have legitimate means for terminating me, they "eliminated my position" . Of course, I was the Director of the Child Care for a Housing Authority in Southern New Hampshire.

To say that this event scarred me is a little under stating the enormity of it.

In August 2001, I called for treatment of my post-partum depression. Emily was three and my depression had grown so deep that I wasn't sure that I could ever climb out. It was during this time that I started fearing talking to the staff at the center. I feared everything. I couldn't cope with decision making about anything, let alone budgetary matters. And the budget, at that point, was in shambles.

I got my work evaluation in August of 2001. It was very positive - as the copies I kept tell me.

In September 2001, I entered therapy. I started medication for my depression. I started taking days off,as my therapy would leave me exhausted and we were in a heavy ( twice a week) schedule until I stabilized.

I told my Assistant Director about the situation, but I was loathe to tell my Executive Director. Meetings with him felt tenuous since he had once lay into me in the office of the child care - asking my book keeper and secretary to offer their criticisms of me then and there. It was demoralizing and brutal. When I look back into my personal journal entries of the time, I was devastated. I was a new Mom of a fussy infant. I was running a child care with 30 plus staff and 120 children. My husband had quit his job to start his own business the month before I delivered Emily, so I had to go back to work at 11 weeks post partum, as I was carrying the health insurance for the whole family.

I approached my Asst Director in October, 2001 about me dropping to four days a week for the upcoming year. I wanted her buy in before we presented this to the Executive Director. It would help some of the budget issues, as I would take a cut in pay - and give me time to heal myself.

We went to him together. The Asst Director and I sat with my proposal. I would go to four days a week. I needed a more flexible schedule for awhile, but I remained committed to the child care. I just needed time.

Later on, he emailed me. He asked me to tell him what was really going on. I made, in hindsight, a fatal error. I was so relieved that my plan seemed to be working, I admitted that I had started Prozac, and needed some time to get myself on an even keel. He quickly responded that he understood and that everything would be fine.

So stupid of me to believe that.

Later that month, I got sick. Super, super sick. While my brain was starting to re-boot and regain normalcy, my body had given up the ghost. What started as strep throat, moved into my ears and sinuses..then into my lungs. Pneumonia. And Shingles.

The day I made it into my doctors office from work ( as I was already on antibiotics for the strep and ear infections), I was at a stunning 70% oxygen saturation. I was an odd grayish color. I mentioned that I came from work, right?

I was out - as demanded by my doctor - for a month. Not shockingly, I had that time and much more in accrued sick time. As a person who had invested her entire entity into her work persona, I NEVER missed work. Never.

When I got back to my desk, it was after Thanksgiving. On my chair was a letter stamped confidential. In the letter, aside from telling me that the organization was "eliminating" my job as Director, were not-so veiled threats that I should resign so a positive recommendation for any future employment would be insured. If I recall correctly, I think there were some other things about me being a lousy employee and a bad manager.

I always wondered how much my admission of being on Prozac factored into the decision. It was also much later that I began to wonder about my Assistant Directors role in this bloodless coup. She, who I had defended countless times in meetings with this same Executive Director, may well have been hand in hand with the ousting of me. He liked to threaten to get rid of her when he was feeling like he needed to punish me.

I was at my weakest point. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. Actually, I had no choice, as my body had made the decision for me. I was the wounded antelope. After I finished crying, I just gave my resignation. I folded.

From then on, whenever I felt insecure or upset I would dream of the child care. I would dream of sneaking in through the back door. I would encounter people that I did not know, although I would insist that I was the Director of this place. I would wander lost and scared and angry through this dream child care center. I would wake from these dreams feeling the same way. Scared. Angry. Lost. Reliving my failure over and over.

In the last weeks, I have dreamed of the child care. These dreams are different, however. In these dreams, I am opening drawers in my former office. Drawers that are sealed with packing tape in my dream. I am opening them, stripping off the tape and sorting things out. I am giving things away in my dreams. I am emptying these drawers and saying goodbye to the people that I still recognize. The people I don't recognize I no longer chase after them insisting that I am the Director of this place.

I am still sorting these dreams out. I am still sorting through my feelings of failure - feelings which have kept me in relationships with old boyfriends, or old work places and old bosses far too long. Feelings which keep me running from PhD advisers. Feelings which make me hold onto past successes so tightly that I can miss new successes waiting for me.

Ira Glass, Bitches!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

WHAT? No comments on the Wild Fuck Reserve being worn by a European Nation's youth?
Can I no longer shock you people? Do I need to show up with one boob hanging out of a tube top, talking about how I am carrying Vlad the Impalers love child?

Cause I can. I am not afraid to totally GO there....

Here is another entry into the

"Youth of today are all going to hell in a hand basket"
"Why I am becoming that cranky old woman who mutters about todays youth all going to hell in a hand basket"

Lecture in class on Monday night - I am giving a co-lecture on GRAPHIC NOVELS!!! How fucking cool is that? Graphic Novels, People!! The Sandman, Stardust, Batman: Dark Knight Returns, Maus, Persepholis......

My colleague reads a quote from Ira Glass. She intros the piece and says "You know Ira Glass? This American Life?"

Nothing. Not one flicker of interest.

Although I outed myself as a blog writer to these same students that night as a Blogger and later, when I watched the stats meter, I could see all of them hitting the sites from class. If you are still reading, I say STOP and read your book for class. You don't want me to bring Vlad to class.

Someone needs a new translator

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A work colleague of mine recently went back to his European country of origin for a holiday.

He was shopping for clothing for his children in a chi-chi boutique when he came across this logo, emblazoned on the clothing.

Aside from the bear looking as if he is experiencing anal rape AND calling your mother a whore, this can only serve as a warning to not wear the logos of things you can't read.....

Mackin ain't easy

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday night, 12:30 a.m.

Dawn and Terrance, laying in bed in the dark - back to back, having just watched SuperBad...

Dawn: You know Fancypants called her baby McLovin on her blog. It is such an awesome nickname that I wonder if she'll be able to stop once he's born.

Terrance: It was an awesome name.

Dawn: Yeah. It would have ruined it kind of if he had a first name (in the movie)...

Terrance: Unless it was Mick

Dawn: Mick McLovin.....Yeah thats good

Terrance: Or Mack'n McLovin

(Dawn hears this as black slang Mack'n - as in pimpin', which we all know ain't easy)

Dawn: I suppose they could call him Mackin McLovin. I think that might be a Scottish name.

Terrance: That's what I just said.

Dawn: No you didn't. You said "Mack'n"

Terrance: Yes, I said Mack-in.

Dawn: That isn't what I said. I mean M-A-C-K-I-N, as in a Scottish name. YOU said "Mack'n" in the black colloquial manner meaning pimping.

Terrance: No I did not. I said Mackin as in the Scottish name. I was not using a Black colloquial phrase.

Dawn: Yes you were! You are even SAYING it different now.

Terrance: Dawn - of course I know what I meant, and I meant the Scottish derivative.
I would KNOW if I meant the black colloquial slang.

Dawn: I can't believe we are having a heated discussion about McLovin (breaking up into hysterical laughter)

Terrance: Do you plan on laughing like that all night?

Dawn: (giggling) I hope the cat jumps on your head just as you fall asleep.

Desperately Seeking Smart Alecks

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Seeking: Smart ass people who enjoy mocking others. Successful applicants will not be easily offended, have no issue with seeing nudity, and revel in passing snarky judgment.

Format is loose - come as you are, or use a pseudonym, your choice. Commitment is loose too, the more the merrier, I say.

Apply within at


Echo and Narcissus

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Over the past year, my blogging has been stripped down to the bare bones.

Of course, one could look at my collection of bloggy bloggedness and think...This is bare bones? She IS crazy.

No, no. I mean here. Baleful. This is my blog home. The place I can come home, take off my very pretty heels. Put on my comfy jammies and just be me. This is the home where I know where everything is, hidden in the cupboards. Even that old tin of dusty saffron, way in the back, or the mysterious jar of mint jelly. And honestly...why do I have this many cans of broth? Is there an impending broth shortage?

For a little while, I felt what other bloggers have described. I started to write for other people. I dressed up my home. I put out the special hand towels in the bathroom. I served some fancy dishes. Not because I liked them, but because OTHERS seemed to like th em and I wanted to be liked. I, like Harvey Fierstein, just want to be loved. Is that so wrooooooonnnnnng?

No, it isn't wrong - but it isn't really me.

I had a rage yesterday. This rage sent me into the bathtub for a long soak. I covered my face in mud and lay in the steaming water trying to filter through the different levels of anger and disappointment that moved through my body in rapid electrical shocks.

Part of this rage is figuring out my place in this world - this odd, ethereal blog world. Let me be clear - this isn't a rage at any one person - but within myself. There are things that I have left undone - goodbyes to former friends that I have let go unsaid, or simply faded away into the nothingness of the internet. That is easier for me, certainly. I, who sneak out of parties when I can not take the social aspect anymore. I like lack of fuss. I like quiet endings. I am a very low maintenance friend.

However, those endings do not tend to be soul satisfying. This had led to my dreaming as of late. Dreaming in which the landscapes which have dominated my dreams for years are subtlety changing. This is very disconcerting, as it is like walking into your bathroom and finding all of your toiletries gone. These places have a purpose and the purpose has changed and you are trying to piece it all together through a foggy filter of dreaming.

Do I sound a little crazy?

Sigh. Sadly, I am not. I am the most lucid I have been in two long years.

The dreams tell me that I am moving on. Literally. I am packing things up in dream worlds that I have occupied for over ten years. I am announcing to the people who live in those places that I am leaving. I am not sneaking out. This is , of course, scary. And liberating. It means I will be able to tell those stories soon and that my telling will be as objective as I can be. Maybe even funny.

And here, in this waking blog world I am saying goodbye to the people to whom I failed to say good bye. This might seem silly as they no longer walk by here on their way to work, but it needs to be done. I will miss you, friend. I enjoyed our time together. I liked the person I knew at the time I knew that person. I accept that it is not you, and it is not me. We did not fail at anything. There is no blame to be assigned. The friendship lived its life for the season it was meant to live. You made me laugh - maybe more, but that the beauty of the shared emotion is enough. I release you from your obligations, and me from any of mine.

And that includes any of you lingering here for any other reason but choice and enjoyment. You don't have to stay, and I am grateful if you do, but I am no longer writing for anyone else. I am turning off the comments for this blog, as I know myself and I will be tempted to see who is visiting and who is commenting and who, who, who.....

No, I write for me.

This is how my voice will come back to me.
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