Ephiphanies, 2017

On January 6, 2016, I sat in my favourite chair, staring out the window of my fifth floor studio in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver, depressed as heck, pondering life, and writing about it. Questioning my career and almost every other aspect of my life, I’d been toying with the idea of returning to school — something I’ve always loved and found mostly fulfilling — for the past few months, but for what, I wasn’t sure. As I sat, writing everything that came to mind on post-secondary potential, the most profound realization hit me square in the face. I was one hundred per cent going to return to UBC after a 10+ year hiatus, get admitted to its creative writing major no matter what, finish my undergrad where my community of like-minded creatives would mushroom, and proceed to be the best at creative writing I could possibly be forever and ever. I hadn’t been so excited and certain of something for ages and when I checked the date on my phone to time-stamp this momentous occasion, you can imagine my astonishment when I saw “Epiphany” scheduled. I said to myself, “Self, how many more signs do you need? This is it!”

2016, Actually

dominoes.gif

What does life look like one and a bit years later? Well, it’s come with almost as much mind-bending as Inland Empire, and as sure as I was that night in my chair, turns out that what I knew would be was not. I was wrong and/or changed my mind about everything. EVERYTHING. Here’s what actually happened.

I quit my coveted “adult” job as an editing and publishing specialist where I spent the last half-decade honing and using my communications skills and education, being compensated well, making regular RRSP contributions, and paying MSP on time for the first time in my life. A long-term live-in relationship with the one I thought was The One ended. I moved solo into my dream apartment in the heart of Vancouver (also a quick-fix that was way more than what a person like me should spend on rent) only to sublet it and move soon after, pulling the millennial’s signature move and shacked up with my mom in Victoria (one of the best decisions I’ve made, by the way).

I was accepted back to UBC to finish my bachelor’s. But because I got rejected from the creative writing program that I was one hundred per cent sure of, I was going to take the BA route instead and major in English. Then post-secondary life threw me yet another curveball when I got accepted into grad school in Victoria. So I skipped the undergrad altogether and started my master’s degree in communications.

Also, Epiphany is a Christian orthodox holiday, not a planned life moment I unknowingly scheduled for Future Laurel.

Embracing Chaos

If that A-ha! moment was so palpable and clear last year, why didn’t I commit to making my “creative writing dreams” come true, try harder, and apply until I got accepted? Because life happens and it’s ridiculous and unrealistic to think that moments of profound realization will always manifest, are worth exploring and pursuing to the end until they’re wrapped up in a neat little package. Life is chaotic. Things change and there are better options that we don’t know exist when we begin or continue any journey. In retrospect, I think I was more drawn to the packaged prestige and exclusivity of that creative writing program, not how it could be fulfilling and rewarding and lead to a more content Laurel in the big picture. And I found something better and more fitting for me, even if I did feel the sting of rejection initially.

Therein lies the challenge, because the question we’re inevitably asked when change abounds is “What are you going to do next?” or “What are you going to do with that?” over and over and over as though the chaos turned into order and we’ve got it figured out now, thanks for asking.

So I’m trying something new. I’m embracing the unknown, seeking comfort in the chaos, and declaring “I don’t know!” with confidence(ish). Because so many of these choices and changes were based on feelings in my metaphorical guts (and a lot of things beyond my control), it’s not always easy to articulate why we do something or what is at the end of it.

And whether you can articulate your reasoning or not, who cares. You don’t have to.

This Day in History: I Quit A Shit Job and Had a Lot of Momentum

I was reminiscing about the summer of 2010 today, which included a month when my Mom and I drove across Canada together from Vancouver to the Maritimes together and back. It was one of two best months of my life and I wrote a blog the whole way through.

I started that blog (which spanned months and topics before and after the trip) for a few reasons. I wanted to hold myself accountable for writing on a regular basis. I wanted to make people laugh. I wanted share experiences. Most of all, I just wanted to put my writing out into the world. I abandoned that blog a while ago for a few reasons. I went back to school, which took up a lot of time. I started to write and edit for work, which takes up a lot of time. And I guess I also just wanted to switch a more professional and portfolio-like, and less bloggy website because I don’t think anyone cares about blogs or what I have to say.

I’ve also lost momentum. I second guess almost everything I write to the point that just don’t write it, or put it off for so long that it’s irrelevant. So, in trying to be productive again, here’s the first instalment of This Day in History, wherein I share a post that I wrote on June 17, 2010. I had just quit a job slangin’ coffee in the community college, had been accepted to writing school, and was about to embark on the aforementioned adventure of a lifetime with my dear mother.

Read about it hear.

http://laurelborrow.blogspot.ca/2010/06/pedestrian-crossings-and-job-quitting.html

(All I want to do is tweaking this over and over and over but instead I’m just going to press Publish and not let it rot like so many other unfinished things as of late.)

Turn down for nothing. Except Sade.

turn-down-for-kq5lay

I went to a stagette in Seattle at the beginning of August and drove there from Vancouver with four other gals, three of who were joining from Victoria. The two of us living on the Vancouver side drove to pick the Vic trio up from the ferry so we’d all head south together. About 15 minutes from the ferry terminal, my Van cohort got a speeding ticket, mostly in light of my being 15 minutes late to leave. Upon arrival, team Vic were drinking El Jimadors in the pick-up lot at the terminal. It was 9:25 am on a Sunday and not a long weekend.

And so our story goes, as most of my favourites tend to: beginning with a bunch liquor, pals, and a road trip; ending with a list.

As a group of fairly responsible 30-year-olds who mostly “don’t party like we used to,” you can imagine we were indeed letting loose for this two-day trip. It didn’t mean everyone was about to eschew all responsibility on their respective home fronts for the party, though. We brought lots of water and a few snacks to accompany the duffle bags packed full of drinks. Our valiant driver stayed sober the trip down, across the border, a boozy Bellingham brunch, and a Bellis Fair-esque outlet malling. And when a cry for help came in from one’s boyfriend back home in Victoria, yes, it wasn’t ignored.

As said friend was texting frustratedly with her boyfriend about something to do with household chores, she got a bit impatient and decided to call him to clear it up. We were being loud as heck in the background, singing to golden nuggets of days present and past like *cringe* Ja Rule and Ludacris and Lil Jon when our pal tells us to just be quiet for just a sec.

So, turn down for what?

“Turn down because I’m on the phone with [boyfriend] and he doesn’t know where to put the recycling and it’s supposed to get picked up tomorrow and it’s like two weeks between pickups.” So turn down because nobody wants their kitchen to smell like old greasy cardboard piled under two previous weeks of greasy cardboard for the next two weeks.

This, of course, lead to our inevitable transforming of the song title from a statement to the undying question that has been pressing us all since the release of Lil Jon and DJ Snake’s absurdly popular track last December: Turn down for what?

Over the course of the trip, we pondered this question deeply over many conversations from Vancouver to Seattle, from laying on the hotel floor, to yelling over music in a dozen or so bars, to devouring crab risotto while overlooking Puget Sound, to throwing glowing balls all over an indoor bocce court, and concocted a list of things we thought Lil Jon would turn down for. I started a Note in my phone listing our witticisms. I continued to hone it with the idea that I’d submit it to McSweeney’s lists, because I love a good list (not you, Buzzfeed), and will someday have one published there.

Unfortunately, as witty as we may be, I can also be quite the procrastinator and a year behind pop culture sometimes. So imagine my surprise and dismay when I found this pop up in my newsfeed a few days before I felt like the master list was complete and ready for submission to the world of the internet.

This prompted me to google the subject for the first time, which lead me to realize that our question wasn’t only pressing the minds of me and the rest of the pre-wedding partying ladies. Not surprised.

Either way, I’m pretty impressed that we were right on one topic and close on a few others. But then again, you’d be an idiot to not turn down for Sade. See my following pre-Aux list, a collaborative effort by the five of us.

IMG_3096

The moral of the story? Don’t procrastinate. Just do it already. Don’t turn down. And maybe I’ll still submit to McSweeney’s.

#tbt: The McQueen Mixup From Last Week Has Been Resolved. Visual Reference Guide Included.

I was listening to a podcast last week in which the host, who typically discusses movies, music, creative process, and pop culture, spoke with the guest, this week a director, about the lack of really good movies in 2013. One that came up was 12 Years A Slave and its director, whose name is Steve McQueen. This confused me. I’m no expert on ’60s action movies, but I’m half-decent at recognizing an iconic name when I hear one.

I said to myself, “Self, isn’t Steve McQueen that bodaciously mondo-famous daredevil actor who died in 1980 and inspired track 19 on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming? Not a present day director winning accolades for a slave epic last year? On the other hand, said podcast host had also been discussing a McQueen with regard to artistic genius in the fashion world just a few days prior on a different episode. And on the other hand, who’s fronting that local psych band Vancouver digs so hard?

To the Internet!

In the time between becoming perplexed by McQueens and consulting the web, the conundrum hydra’d and I thought of several more celebrity names I may have conflated with personalities. Have I been obliviously spewing misinformation about alleged celebrity slashies who I’ve fabricated in my head? For example:

<me, at a fancy dinner party, joining a conversation wherein I’ve overheard the name McQueen> “Well, you know, it is pretty impressive that the guy directs Best Picture at the Oscars last year, but even more so that he could just as easily have starred as the daredevil lead in another, design the outfits to take Best Costume, and score the whole damn thing. Talk about jack-of-all-trades, am I right?” <nods head, clinks champagne glass with gusto.>

That is clearly not the case. Turns out I am thinking of five very different talented creative famous people (plus one extra, who’s just good to remember) and now that I’ve removed my foot from my mouth, I’ve created a visual reference guide so you can avoid this (what I’m sure is extremely common) awkward social slip in the future. Enjoy your Thursday.

Steve McQueen: “King of Cool,” American actor (1930-80)

Alexander McQueen: British fashion designer (1969-2010)

Steve McQueen: British director, 12 Years A Slave, Shame (1969- )

Steve McBean: Canadian musician, Black Mountain, Pink Mountaintops (1970ish- )

Steve Albini: American musician, music journalist, producer (1962- )

Roger Rabbit: Zany animated star of 1988 hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Now listening to Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw & The Cooked

Semi-Pro Tip: Just Remember It

I’ve been praising, criticizing, listening to, writing about, talking about, going to, buying, and selling all types of music my whole life for work and for fun. The majority of my friends are musicians in bands that I adore. Most of my social activities involve live music in some way. But aside from the half-assed one-year stint playing the saxophone in my grade 4 elementary school band where the height of my success culminated at the Winter Assembly performing Claire de Lune for a gymnasium of bored parents, I’ve never actually played music.

19 years later, a very thoughtful human named Ian heard my pathetic passive cries pining to become more hands-on with the craft and got me the perfect gateway instrument for Christmas 2012 to accommodate an anxious wannabe like me: a glockenspiel.

Glockenspiel

Contrary to popular belief, a glockenspiel is not a large twisty brass instrument played by the citizens of Whoville. Myth, dispelled.

It collected dust until September 2013 when Adam’s (my good friend who drums in basically every band in Vancouver) friend Natasha (a singer/songwriter whose band is called Catlow) was looking to fill a song for a video out with two extra instruments: violin and glockenspiel. Emily (soul-roommate) plays violin and I own a glockenspiel. You do the math.

My dialogue with Natasha began with a disclaimer. “I don’t know much about how to play music, but I like it a lot, I learn quickly, and I’m quite keen.” At our first practice, I sweated heaps and my hands shook and I asked an annoyingly large number of questions about whether I’m hitting the right note or if I’m sucking or if I am on time and what the heck “hitting it on the one” means and so on. But listen, Natasha was stoked, and we’re all gelling so well together, and who knows what comes next but I’m kiiind of in a band now!

I played my first show evaaar on January 4 to a lively crowd at the Media Club. We hung out in the green room before and had witty onstage banter and sweated so much and barely breathed and it was SO FUN. Then we got contacted to play another show and we decided I should give keys a try because glock keys are black and white and so are synth keys, so Natasha taught me some songs on a Juno-6 (it arpeggiates!) and I played my second show evaaar with the band at the Astoria on January 31 for Discorder mag’s annual fundraiser. It was packed and people danced and drank and went “WOOOOOO!” and I sweated at least twice as much and breathed half as much but I didn’t mess up and I didn’t make the band sound worse. I finally see why all my pals in bands are all uppity and ecstatic about being in a band because being in a band is like being in the best top secret club ever but you play instruments and people want to come watch you and listen to you do it and it’s SO FUN!

Playing the glock/Juno-6 combo with Catlow, January 31. Not breathing much.

Playing the glock/Juno-6 combo with Catlow, January 31. Not breathing much. Thanks for the shot, Rommy.

Taking the step from pre-band to in-band is pretty logical on paper, given my involvement in so many other areas of the musical sphere. But I’m also saying to myself, “Self, you went from not playing an instrument to playing shows in a band on two instruments within the span of a few months, and it wasn’t that hard. How did that happen?” What happened is I learned these two things:

1. Own an instrument that nobody else plays and understand how it makes sounds.

You don’t even know how to play it at first. By having an instrument nobody else does, you have no competition and a unique sound. Kids these days like that.

2. Just remember it.

The music, that is. When the band leader teaches you a part to play in a song, listen very carefully, record it, make up whatever shorthand or pneumonic or annotation or acronym or rhyme you need to make up to remember the song and then remember how to play it.

That’s it, gang. Play on.

I’ll shut up in a minute #1: 1075’s Top 9 Albums of 2013. Context, people.

2013. A year of a lot of things, but we are focussing on the music realm here. Most notably? I got over myself and fell in love with a ton of pop music. I’m not sure if that means I’m maturing or the opposite, but who cares.  At the least, I hope some interesting conversation can be generated from what follows.

I love year-end music lists, whether I think their contents are great or awful. Even with the Internet’s tendency now to publish almost everything in list format all year, I still love year-end music lists. And now that the Pitchforks and Faders and Exclaims have all saturated your ears with their lists and the best-of dust has settled, here’s the 2013 musical conclusions from laurelborrowman.com in collaboration with the humble dwelling and home of the affectionately named Club 1075, aka 1075. We are two discerning roommates, BFFs, and music players/performers/critiquers/writers/lovers who are immersed in the music community, and we don’t let a day pass without the aforementioned being the centrifugal force in our lives. In short, we music all the time. We’ve debated and discussed this past year in music and have come up with this list.

While most of these albums came out in 2013, this isn’t a list of 2013’s best albums. Why? Because sometimes an album doesn’t resonate unless the context for it to resonate in is there. I listened to Yeezus twice and to me, it was less than meh, but more importantly probably one of the most polarizing albums of the year. Thank goodness for people still expressing emotions over music! While it didn’t hit home for me this year, but maybe it will in 2023. The conditions in 2013 were perfect for these albums to be perfect, no matter how new or old.

This is a list of albums that were in heavy rotation on our turntable, iPods, car stereo, and computers all year because they fit. Sure, some criteria of an album’s list-rank can be its production value, its place on other year-end lists, the star-studded collaborations, the songwriting prowess, or its ranking on Billboard’s Top 100—or intentional lack thereof of all those things. But here at 1075 we’ve decided that the best indicator of  an album’s quality is  how many times you listen to it in a specified time frame. It’s about context, people.

And so, here are our top nine albums of 2013, with few details on each intentionally not provided. Listen and decide for yourself. The key with each of these is that the entire album is solid from first to last track, and with each listen something new emerged that made it richer and more interesting. The links take you to highlights from each. They’re listed in no particular order. A few honourable mentions follow.

Random Access Memories, Daft Punk (2013)

Overgrown, James Blake (2013)

The 20/20 Experience – 1 of 2, Justin Timberlake (2013)

Hot Rocks 1964-1971, Rolling Stones (1971)

Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, Godspeed You! Black Emperor (2012)

Push the Sky Away, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2013)

Astral Weeks, Van Morrison (1968)

Nothing Was the Same, Drake (2013)

Milky Disco 2: Let’s Go Freak Out, Hatchback (2009)

Honourable Mentions

Long. Live. A$AP., A$AP Rocky (2013)

The Courtneys, The Courtneys (2013)

Local Natives, Hummingbird (2013)

2, Mac DeMarco (2012)

An Awesome Wave, Alt-J (2012)

Mixed Emotions, Tanlines (2012)

Internet Botox

Oh hi there! Thanks for stopping by my portfolio website. It’s undergoing some maintenance.

Turns out I haven’t updated it since ICQ was booming. I don’t want you to visit, find it useless, and say to yourself, “Self? Why waste another minute here? Back to Facebook, we go!” because it will be worth your time soon. Also, I’d rather not subject you to a buncha stale material that you’re going to flee from, clicking and screaming. Hence, there isn’t a ton of content here at the moment.

So for now, here’s a brief disclaimer, and no further excuses, that me-dot-com is getting a facelift. In the meantime , you can read smatterings of creative fodder on my Twitter feed to your right, and links to some editing and writing samples under Editing and Writing.

And if you’re feeling antsy pants and would like to contact me about editing and writing work and whatnot and just simply cannot wait any longer at all no sir, then contact me. Okay?

Thanks and see you soon,
LB