bye bye, j.d.!

I came across some sad news today. Beloved author and incredibly influential person in my life has passed away, J.D. Salinger.

I remember reading “Catcher in the Rye” in English class at Schaumburg High School, and instantly falling in love with Salinger’s prose.  His insight and understanding of the bewildering hell that is adolescence was unparalleled by any other author I had ever read, or have since read.  Since then, I have made an effort to read every Salinger story I could get my hands on, digging through the New Yorker’s archives to find non-anthologized stories, scanning library shelves for books, all of which resounded deeply inside me.  I particularly loved “Raise High the Roof Beams”, and “Seymour, an Introduction”.  I re-read “Raise High…” recently, and found it just as touching, strangely disturbing, yet uplifting at the same time?  Having already read “Bananafish”, knowing Seymour would commit suicide, it was like seeing Wayne’s World 2, then the original Wayne’s World after.  I’ll always retain the mental image of Buddy mixing Tom Collinses in the kitchen, surreptitiously sipping the gin as he prepares the drink tray, as it would surely help take the edge off such cruel situation.   I’ve certainly wished I could do the same on many an occasion!

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more entanglements with bureaucracy

Well, I am nearly ready to send in my application for my New Zealand student visa. In addition to filling out a 20 page application, getting passport pictures taken, and photocopies of several official documents detailing my acceptance at Vic and my financial arrangements, I am also required to submit proof that I am a physically healthy individual, unlikely to put undue strain on the New Zealand health-care system, and provide the authorities with evidence of my good character.

In order to accomplish these 2 final steps, I have had to figuratively jump through a number of increasingly irritating hoops.

Step 0 – get fingerprints taken in Illinois last time I was home to send to the FBI for my “police certificate”, or essentially evidence that I do not have a police record and am not one of America’s Most Wanted.

Step 1 – Phone several doctors and clinics to find one that will see me and do the necessary tests. Go to the post office, get a $18 USD money order for $25 CAD, mail to the FBI, along with my finger prints.

Step 2 – Go to the St-Henri walk-in clinic, pay $50, wait 2 hours to see a doctor for all of about 5 minutes, while he looks at my documents, takes my blood pressure, and signs one page.

Step 3 – Walk up the mountain to the Montreal General Hospital, pay $260 to get my blood drawn, pee into a cup, and be given a large orange jug, which I am instructed to pee into for the next 24 hours, and return the following day with the full jug for further testing. They instructed me to keep the jug in my fridge during this time, where hopefully one of my roommates would mistake it for orange juice and drink it.

Step 4 – Ride my bike in the snow to the Montreal Chest Institute.  Pay $35, get my chest x-rayed.

Step 5 – Wait.

Step 6 – Call the clinic to see if my results have arrived. They have.  I prepare to pay another $50 to see the doctor for another 2 minutes.

Step 7 – Call the FBI to check up on my police certificate that I submitted 4 weeks ago.  Hey, guess what, the FBI is so backlogged they still don’t even have a record in their system that I’ve submitted a request.

“Wait a week or 2 and call back.”, they advise me.

“This is the final document I need to submit my student visa application.  I’m leaving the country in 5 weeks and don’t have a visa.  I requested expedited service.  Why does it take so long?”

“Sorry ma’am.  We have a huge backlog.  We can only guarantee 8-10 weeks processing time.”

ARGH!

Step 8 – Wait.  Panic.

Step 9 – Reflect on all of the documentation I’m submitted for this visa, and how money I have spent, now nearly $400, not including the actual application fee to the NZ consulate, and the courier fees for overnighting it to Ottawa and then back to Montreal. Worry that my application, when I do submit it, will be rejected for some inane reason.

Step 10 – Decide I can’t do anything about it, I’ve done everything in my power to take care of all these matters in a timely manner, using my best time & resource management skills (which, according to Susan Miller, Leo’s are great at), and leave it all in Buddha’s hands.

On my mind, throughout this entire process, I must admit I’ve been thinking”No way would Ticker go through with any of this.” And resigned myself to the thought that he probably will never apply for a 1 year working holiday visa.  Who knows, maybe he’ll prove me wrong? Again, this is all in big B’s hands.

beans beans, the magical fruit

My goal for the next 5 weeks, before I leave Montreal on March 3rd, is to eat all of the dried beans I have in my cupboard.  This includes large quantities of:

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Split peas
  • Brown Lentils
  • Red Lentils
  • Chick peas

And a few cans of other types of beans.  This is indeed a daunting task – how many beans can 1 girl eat, or feed to her friends?

Some recipes I’ve used/invented/modified to use these beans include:

Black bean burritos with refried pinto beans

Salad composée with kidney beans

Minestrone soup (I usually make this without the pork, cabbage, or kale, though of course it’s up to you!).

Tuscan-ish navy bean soup

Harira chick pea soup

Lentil burgers

Black bean salsa

etc.

Some tips for preparing beans:

  • Soak them in water for a few hours before you want to cook them.  Alton Brown says to use cold water and let them sit for 8 hours.  This apparently makes the beans more tender or delicious or something.  If you have a life and don’t plan out your meals a week in advance, you can just add boiling water to your beans and let them soak for 1 hour.  Throw in some salt or stock to make them yummier.
  • After they have soaked a bit you boil them with enough water (and salt or stock) to make sure they are completely submerged for about 1 hour.
  • Keep the heat low and check on them every once in a while to make sure the beans aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and the liquid hasn’t all evaporated.
  • Lentils and black eyed peas don’t really need to soak and don’t need to cook as long.
  • Just taste your beans to see if they are soft enough.
  • If you want to make hummus with chick peas, you really have to boil the sh*t out of them until they are very soft and mushy.
  • Apparently the water the you boil kidney beans in is poisonous or gives you stomach cramps or something, so you should soak them, drain them, and then boil them in fresh water, and then be sure to cook them thoroughly, and then completely drain them and rinse them before serving them in something like a salad.

 

I welcome recipes that will help me use these beans!

I have to admit, eating all these beans has had some negative consequences… they don’t call me “Gassy Gaston” for nothing!

Montreal Children’s Library

Tomorrow I’m beginning a creative writing project with the kids from the Richmond Square Branch of the Montreal Children’s Library.  I’m totally stoked about this project!  It’s called “A Community of Words” and is in collaboration with the Blue Metropolis Foundation, and of course, the Tyndale St- Georges Centre, where my branch is located.

As the project leader, I’ve been organizing a group of 9 kids to participate in this 6 week creative writing workshop.  A Canadian Author, Claire Rothman will be visiting the library to help teach the kids about the creative writing process.

I’m really excited to see the ideas the kids come up with.  They have some wild imaginations and are constantly surprising me.  Working with them has been so unbelievably mind-opening to me I feel like I’ll really miss their influence when I leave.  These kids totally have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in Canada, and all over the world.  They’re not afraid to tell you what they like and don’t like, tell you your clothes look dorky, if Lady Gaga is cool, and try and cheat when you play checkers with them.   They know things you’d never expect kids to know about.  Most of them think reading is boring, though I’m slowing trying to change their minds about that.  One of them was telling me today about how Zac Efron is gay.

Most of the kids who use my library are black, and from the Little Burgundy neighborhood.  I also have a lot Bengali, North African, and South Asian kids.  Most of them speak English and French, in addition to their native language.  A lot of them have siblings who use the library, and I get to know their entire families.  Some of them are cuties and sweeties, while others are headaches and troublemakers.  After doing storytime at 3 different daycares, and seeing maybe 50 babies, then dealing with the wild animals in the library in the afternoon, I still manage to enjoy myself and find energy to play Uno, watch puppets hows, and read comic books with them.

Yesterday 3 of the boys did a puppet show for me – the first act went roughly something like this:

*curtains*

3 headed dragon enters stage left.

Skunk enters stage right.

Skunk: Hey dragon!  You have 3 ugly heads!

Dragon: Shut up or I’m going to melt your face off!

Skunk: I’m going to spray you!

*Sound of skunk spraying dragon*

Dragon:  AHHHH!!!

Narrator: The dragon shoots flames out of it’s heads and melts the skunk’s face off.  Then, he eats the skunk.

Skunk: AHHHHHHHHHH!!!! (as he’s being eaten)

Narrator: But the skunk smelled so bad the dragon died after he ate him.

Skunk and Dragon exit.

*Curtains*

The end.

Overall, amazingly believable acting and truly great puppetry from these young geniuses!

I’m looking forward to this project and hope to feel inspired yet again by these awesome kids.