Monthly Archives: April 2012


Have you ever felt different?  Not different simply as an individual, but as an entire class of person?

We had a “gifted” class back in middle school.  For homeroom, each class was assigned a number and a letter: 7A, 7B, 7C, 8A, 8B, 8C, etc.  But the gifted class was different.  They were “the kids with the sofa in the classroom”.

Luxurious, plush, brunt sienna brown.

A very nice sofa, nestled in a cozy corner of their spacious classroom. They had study centers with tables.  Dioramas and posters of Winston Churchill.  I believe they had wallpaper.  It had patterns;  flowers, math equations.  They had computers that they used in the classroom, which saved them a trip to the room we all used, the one down the hall.  The common room.

It was OK, though.

We probably weren’t going where they were going and, likely, to where they already had been.  All things being equal.

We knew it.

It helped that they were nice.  You know, gracious.

They let us sit on the couch sometimes!

One day one of the best of the brightest – no lie, she was a kind of god among gods among mortals – she was all this and more, and yet she failed to show up to her final exam.  No one knew where she was.

It was a mystery that lasted hours.

Later it was found that, on the day of the exam, the student’s mom had found her passed out on the bathroom floor.

She had put the Q-Tip in too deep.

The "Q" stands for...?

Buyer. Beware.

I like to imagine her, standing there in the harsh relief of the setting sun.  Standing just outside the bathroom door, agreeing with her mother that telling the school the truth would be the easiest Thing.[1]  Standing there and solemnly nodding her head, knowing that word would get out, eventually, inevitably.

Deep. Not that relative.

The instance you feel resistance, you’ve gone too far.

Human, after all.

[1] She was allowed to make up the exam.

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Filed under Education, THE PAST

An Open Letter To Cindy Phan

A few months ago, I posted this.  Today you have it, as well as what I wrote back yesterday.


April 17 1997

Dear Cindy,

Unless you’re totally absent-minded, you’ll remember that it’s me, Cindy!  And this is that letter that I wrote to you (or me, whatever), 15 years ago in english class in grade nine.

So how’s life?  I can tell you right now it’s not so great.  But there are a few things that I can stand about it.

First things first:  Lucky had her 7th birthday yesterday (April 16).  I hope that you’ve breed her because I’d like to have one of her puppies.  It’s hard to write about her knowing that she probably won’t be with me in 15 years.  God!  Let’s put that ugly thought aside.

I wonder what your favourite T.V shows are right now?  I know that I I’ve to watch The X-Files, Friends, Melrose Place, Caroline in the City, The Simpsons, Xena: Warrior Princess, and course, The Adventures of Sinbad!!!  Even though you and I both know that we don’t watch that show for its content.  We watch it for Zen Gesner!!  Gee, I wonder if he’s still hot?  Gross!!  He’ll be 43 when you open this!

You know what?  Time really sucks!

I wonder how life turned out for you.  I hope it worked out how I planned.

First, I’ll get a full scholarship.  I know that it sounds impossible, but I’d do anything to get away from home.  Then I’ll move into a dorm with my best friend, Kim.  I hope we’re still friends in the future.

During school (collage or university I haven’t decided yet), Kim and I will date all the hot guys we can handle.  Until I finally stick with one as my boyfriend.

After I graduate, Kim and I will find an apartment to live in as roomates for a little while longer.  Hopefully it’ll be in Toronto, Vancouver, or New York.  I’ll get my first job.

From there, I’ll just take life as it comes to me.

I just hope things turned out something like that.  But if they didn’t, at least you tried you best anyway.  But you make me sick!!

Anyway, I gotta go now.  The periods is almost over and my hand is stating to get all numb.

Sincerely, with love ( and surprisingly without a punch-line),

Cindy Phan

Even though I am so not in love with love, this is nice.

From Cindy to Cindy.


April 17 2012

Dear Cindy,

I remember that English class.  It was taught by someone fresh out of teacher’s college who believed she had been “called” to teaching.  Her words and big deal.  Lots of people get called to Things.  Cults, jury duty.  We had an uncle once that was “called” as a spirit medium, but at least he wasn’t hurting anybody with pointless busy work.  He wasn’t wasting anyone’s precious time, forcing them to eventually make the most of it.

And he channeled Victor Hugo.  Twice that I know of.

Ah, life.  It continues, unabated.  We count that as a plus.  Trust me.

Time to give you some bad news that you-don’t-already-do-in-fact-know.  Lucky died the day you had a midterm, hours before the midterm.  You wrote the midterm anyway and failed, magnificently.  Honestly, you thought “Narcanthropus” was a hominid.  It is not.  She never had puppies.

But, hey!  Pets can be cloned now!  There’s a show about on TLC.  Isn’t that wild?

You have a new dog, Louis, who is by coincidence turning 7.  So not so new.  It took a few years after Lucky died before you got another dog, but the strangeness of not having a dog ate at you till you gave in.  You do not have the money to clone Lou and he cannot have puppies.

Take the hint!

You were the only one in the free world who watched Caroline in the City with any regularity, with any sense or semblance of loyalty.  A true fan.  And now I have to live with it.

Did you also list Friends??  You little asshole.  You are ruining me.

Sex.  You’ve had it.  And it is so, so much better than Caroline in the City.   As for Zen Gesner, his show got cancelled due to crippling mediocrity but the man lives on.  In our heart(s).

But leave the rope. And the sword. But bring the sword back when I'm through with the man. Please?

A man. A rope. A sword. All I need.

Also: 40 is the new 30 now, at least for those who can afford the upkeep.  Let’s just hope Zenny’s done well for himself.

Despite what I’m reading in retrospect as perhaps an unhealthy obsession with television – or worse and better a shyness about finding the right Things to say, even to yourself (you’re over that now) – you made it to university, on a partial scholarship (negligible, really).  Turns out, you really like Anthropology and Political Science so that’s all you studied for years and years.  But academia wasn’t for you, at least not after a while, so now you’re kind of…sitting on them.

For now.

You and Kim are still best friends – a high achievement in your life and I mean it.  She unfortunately moved out West shortly after you wrote this letter.  You still keep in touch and have had rare visits back and forth.

I guess all the plans with Future Kim had a lot to due with the fact that you didn’t really connect with the other people you hung out with in high school.  You now know, more so than you kind of only knew then, that your aloofness was for Good Reason.

You’ll be pleased to know:  many of those people actually got exactly what they wanted out of life and now they have to live with it, even if they never quite figure out that’s exactly what’s happening to them.  I sometimes think it’s also exactly what they deserve, but I am not always so cruel.

We’re not sorry.

You still take life as it comes to you, you’ll be happy to know.  What else?  You find it distasteful when carrots are bigger than zucchinis because that unduly gives zucchinis carrot envy.  Tacos are still one of your top favourite foods and when you discovered that fish tacos were real (you were 23, shame) you almost died of innuendo.  Farts have never been more hilarious.

You’re in a relationship with a boy named Stephen and you both live with Lou in glorious Toronto.  Stephen gives you a spoon to stir the coffee he makes you in the morning because you complained about it on the Internet, which is, like, HUGE now.

You. Cannot. Even. Believe.

So.  Any of this making you “sick”?  If any of it does, just too fucking bad for you.  You’re in the ninth grade and haven’t figured out that 7 plus 15 equals more than “probably won’t”.  You have a lot to go before you’re me, Past Cindy.

But then again I have had the advantage of being you.

Call it even, I guess.

Anyway, to end.  15 years ago, you wrote this letter to me, and 15 years ago the Titanic sank 100 years ago.  Once in 3D.  The math’s all there. (This has nothing really to do with anything, except that we are still very amused by how things line up sometimes.  Like the other day at Honest Ed’s when all of our purchases, with tax, came to exactly $13.00.  We got $7.00 whole dollars back from a $20.00 bill!  Fucking.  Amazing.).

I love you too.

Cindy Phan

P.S.  If Mom ever: 1) learns to properly use the Internet and 2) Finds this blog, she will kill you like you’ve never been killed before by her and she’s killed you A LOT over the years.  All that broken English?  Smoke and mirrors, girl.  Smoke and mirrors.

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That Big Magnificent O

In his fun and wonderfully probing book, Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto (2010), Shawn Micallef describes the University of Toronto’s Grad House as “the architectural equivalent of a loud and bold grad student elbowing his or her way into a conversation” (2010: 160).

My Other O is a Q.

University of TorontO.

Ah, grad students!  I remember them.  I was a one of them.  For a spell.

Loud?  YES.  Bold?  YES.  Pushy, even, demanding, even, infused with the kind of brazen that only that odd mix of inexperience and entitlement can create?

And nurture.

Oh, YES.

Not all.  But enough.  Too many?  Well.  So many elbowed conversations!

“Look at me!  Look at me!  I’m relevant!

And if relevance is presence, some standard of admission – of being counted for something – then, yes.  Yes, U of T Grad House, you are relevant.

You have something to say – at least while you’re filling the space of your place.

Yet, even the most insufferable grad student has at least ONE redeeming quality.

Rich, clueless parents.  A car.  An insecurity rooted in contrived ability and manifested in an overwhelming (if ultimately self-nullifying) desire to please.

For the U of T Grad House, it is that Big Magnificent O that helps with the redeeming.

Worth it.

All that effort for all that O.

Look at that O!

***~~~The Bing! The Cherry! The Silver Lining!~~~***

Granted, the Grad House has all the aesthetic grandeur and visual delight of one radiator fused onto yet another, kind of different radiator.  Granted, grad students are the biological equivalent of barnacles, forced to eke out a space for their own miserable existence on the underbelly of the university.

But, damn!  If the O almost makes it all worth it.

Very almost.

Micallef, Shawn. (2010).  Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto. Coach House Books.


Filed under Places

Smiley-Face Joe

There is this one person who I cannot stand and the only tangible I can come up with is “he smiles too much.”  That’s it!

Am I horrible? 

*Postmodern shrug*

I don’t smile that much myself, but I don’t do a lot of Things that other people enjoy and that seem, actually, quite enjoyable.  Like singing.  Or dancing.

Or paragliding.

Smiles light up faces!  They illuminate entire rooms!  They are as contagious as colds and as infectious as syphilis!

They transcend.  

A worthy contender for The Big Book of British Smiles.

"When is a croquet mallet like a billy club?"

Helen of Troy had a face that launched a thousand ships.  Do you think she was smiling?

But this guy. Everything is a smile!  I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye once, and there he stood, staring at us while we talked, not talking, just smiling. Patiently – magnanimously – waiting for us to please to stop talking so that he could once again hear himself talk, with an audience. And a smile.

I can’t help but wonder if – without that smile – whether what he says as he smiles means anything, and if he means it.  But I just can’t get past it!

That smile.

Of course, it’s not just him.  Of course.

It’s me.

I have been told – often, repeatedly – that I need to smile more.  It happens among acquaintances, at customs, in the library.  Once in India.  It happens so much and so often that I’m beginning to think that I may, in fact, be violating some unspoken agreement simply by leaving my face on the wrong setting.

It takes 17,978.523[1] muscles to frown and only 2.5[2] to smile.

Not that I even frown that much, but I suppose when you’re comparing light and dark – that’s it!

That’s the show.

Who is the Mona Lisa without her smile?

Probably just some lady who may or may not be Da Vinci, who never smiled anyway and never got shit for it like I am!

I’ve been told that I’d feel better about Things if I smiled more.  But I’m fine.

As for Smiley-Face Joe.  I think if he didn’t smile – so much or at all – he’d be more than fine.

That smile.

It’s the same but completely different!  Like the way an image, totally reversed, looks identical from the other side.  And suddenly, that happy, beautiful, charming, lovely smile is that self-satisfied, vacant, patronizing, stupid smile.

At least it can be.

Hope for the worst so things turn out better, right?

Turn that frown upside-down.

[1] Rounded down.

[2] Rounded up.

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Filed under Politics