Kale Phone

Kale Phone

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Performative Grilled Cheese, by Erica J. Schmidt

Last week I got to translate several dramatic and prestigious sentences about a Burlesque show. It was all very sophisticated, and full of performative issues.

For example: Is art able to erase the performative nude body?

When and how does art render the body performative?

A collective conversation on a stage laid bare will allow artist and spectator to explore these performative issues.

Oh, Burlesque. All this made me long to do something performative. Perhaps not nude, but definitely performative.
I've decided the phrase "Performative Grilled Cheese" has quite an excellent ring to it. So does its acronym PGC. At Café L'Étincelle, the Bald Baristas make a thoroughly delightful and satisfying grilled cheese. Crinkled, cheesy, and lovingly assembled on substantial pieces of sourdough, it is every best thing a grilled cheese sandwich can be. And all for just $4.25.
Grilled cheese is an outing sort of event for me, for the reason that buying blocks of cheese is way too much of a commitment. Blocks of cheese, loaves of bread, forget it. Grocery shopping has been a disaster ever since the Boatman and I broke up and I moved to Montreal. There are way too many choices and I switch from store to store, wandering down the aisles in paralyzing vacillation. It can get a bit embarrassing. Hence the Bald Baristas.

(I hope they don’t mind that they have suddenly become the Bald Baristas on this highly famous and prestigious blog. My dear B.B.’s, you must know that I give nicknames to all of my favourites!)

I adore the Bald Baristas. If ever you come to Café L'Étincelle, you will see. They are totally adorable. What's more, their grilled cheese renders the body performative.

Before we get to the performance, I want to mention that I developed an extra special love for grilled cheese in India, when the thought of any sort of curry item caused and/or reminded me of liquid shits and/or the nauseous conviction that I should probably get a pregnancy test.

The triple decker grilled cheese, fresh from the streets of Bangalore.
60 rupees. (1.2 dollars)
All the vegetables come from a can.
For 10 extra rupees, you can request brown bread, but I do not recommend this.
One day I will consume turmeric again. Absolutely not now.

Now it is time for the performance. I wore a weird and confusing frilly corset-possessing shirt that my mother gave me. It is an incomprehensible shirt; however, I have a theory that I come across as the sort of person who does not understand shirts, and that this is part of my charm. Underneath the shirt, I was naked. Being naked underneath clothes is one of life’s most fascinating details. It can sometimes be difficult to think about anything else.
confusing frilly corset-possessing shirt from mom.
Can art provide a solution?
When? How?
Is art able to erase the performative nude body?

Very hard to say.

Performative Grilled Cheese, by Erica J. Schmidt:
This morning there was also a performative seaweed opportunity, but my I-phone ran out of storage.

The End.
Be sure to visit the Bald Baristas at Café L'Étincelle, 1991 rue Beaubien.
I can't wait for my next Grilled Cheese! Their coffee is also exceptional!
Bonus Performative Broccoli. Why hold back now?
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
2-3 dollar self-help book, I Let Go

This post was part of a five-day series called, "Five Days of Creative Recovery" during which I will try to post something creative every day, even though my priorities should almost certainly be looking for a new place to live on May 2.

Feel free to join in with your own creative pursuits!

Five Days of Creative Recovery (Introduction)
Day One: Kleenex (working Title)

Selfies with Brownies
Rideshare, Sterilization and Doughnuts
My name is Erica. I love coffee.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


(This is Day One of a Project called "Five Days of Creative Recovery." It is meant as an antidote to Deep Unyielding Depression and various Sources Of Grief. For the next five days, I will do my best to post something creative. Out of words or whatever is possible. Feel free to join me however you'd like!)

Kleenex (working title)

When I was seventeen years old, my father and I flew to Winnipeg, Manitoba to say goodbye to my grandmother before she died. My grandmother was in her late eighties, and I think she had pneumonia.  I know she had nine children, two of them twins, one of them born almost dead. Her husband, Julias had died a good half decade earlier. When he died, I’d sewed Grandma a simple cloth bag out of quilted patchwork. She’d used it to keep her Kleenexes. At one point, my grandmother had insisted on starching my grandfather’s cloth diapers. And then somehow, she’d made the switch from handkerchiefs to Kleenex. Is that what death does to you?

As with most nursing homes, the hallways of Fred Douglas Lodge smelled of urine and antiseptic cleaning supplies. Crowds of half-asleep people in wheelchairs gathered around a large t.v. that played Singing in the Rain. And some poor man in the Lazy Boy cried out for Jesus.

Oh mighty Lord! Help me!

My grandmother spent most of her time in her room. She had a meticulous soap opera schedule to keep up with. When my father and I arrived, the t.v. was on mute. Grandma was lying in bed, a few squares of Kleenex arranged across her chest. We both kissed her and then I helped myself to stale bridge mix. She nodded as I ate. Since we lived so far away, whenever we went to Winnipeg, my father dedicated most of his time to sitting with my grandmother. To make up for all the months he wasn’t there. All his other siblings came at least once a week. If ever anyone missed a visit, Grandma would not be impressed.

Every time I visited Grandma, I felt quite guilty because I had long ago lapsed as her personal correspondent. Between the ages of eight and ten, I’d devoted myself to sending my grandparents letters every single day.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa, How are you? I am fine.

Then I’d go on and on about my violin lessons, swim meets and sleepovers. Back then I was quite a comedian and would often include a few good jokes.
What goes ha ha ha, plop?

Somebody laughing their head off.

Ha. Plop. I feel like I have not said the word “plop” in quite some time.
I used to decorate the envelopes with Mr. Sketch Smelly markers. Then I got busy with my extensive academic, musical and athletic ambitions. The letters simply stopped.
They were the joy of my grandparents’ lives, and then they were over.

“What happened to all the beautiful letters you used to write?” my grandmother sobbed one summer as I kissed her goodbye. Thirteen years old, and now I was a big disappointment. Grandma also complained that my hair wasn’t as lovely and curly as it used to be. So many burdens.
I think I am eleven here. Still sporting the curls, as I try desperately to be photogenic.
But as people are dying, you are supposed to get over such things. On her death bed, every time my grandma had to blow her nose, she ripped off a tiny square of Kleenex. Instead of using the whole thing, she would separate the two-ply pieces in half and then rip them into tiny squares. Four squares for each flimsy half. Days to live and Kleenex still seemed worth saving.
I remember staring at the ripped up Kleenexes. In my seventeen year old head, I thought, “Wow. Life is so tragic. So profound.” I was super deep and wise. Perhaps not, but I was definitely sincere. I felt bewildered that all the people at Fred Douglas Lodge would die, and eventually everyone would forget that they’d bothered to squander Kleenexes all the way to the end. I had this clear thought, that writing was the only real chance for redemption. Otherwise what was the point.

My grandmother died the weekend after we left. It was Easter Sunday. Nobody ever told me whether or not during her final days, she’d branched out and let herself splurge on the whole piece of Kleenex.

The End.
Be Creative.
I love how tidy my bookshelves are. I don't have a bookshelf anymore.
I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt (2-3 bucks on Amazon)


Monday, 25 April 2016

Five Days of Creative Recovery

The Bald Baristas are closed on Mondays.

Soon I will need to dis-assemble The Erica Museum. I am quite sad about this. These days, I’ve been rather sad about a number of things. The sources of grief, they are easy to find. An obvious slogan on my Brain’s Brochure: “Her thoughts provide an excellent Source of Grief.”

Besides Sources of Grief, my brain also likes to concoct catchy acronyms. As you might already know, Deep Unyielding Depression equals DUD. Sources Of Grief equals SOG. What’s your brain’s favourite SOG?

SOGs often lead to self-deprecating tornados. Tornados and/or hurricanes. Once you get stuck in a tornado or hurricane, it can be hard to escape. SOG-inflicted natural disasters are powerful, fascinating and convincing. In my brain there is no shortage of such natural disasters. Although I have a talent for beating myself up about all sorts of failures, not writing well and/or enough seems to be one of my psyche’s favourite forms of self-torture. Unfortunately, the relentless and self-inflicted pressure is not original. Nor does it really help my cause.

Writer’s block is hard to kick. What a drama. And the thing is, I don’t really even have writer’s block. I write all the time. Constantly. For my translation gigs, in my journals, for my pen pals, for my lucky texting friends. But the SOG story says, “You are not making anything official.  You are not Margaret Atwood. You suck.”
And well, as we’ve already established, I am not like Margaret Atwood. Everyone knows why.
There’s a quote about Margaret Atwood in my self-help book, I Let Go. Once again, I will say, it is rather hilarious that I wrote a book called “I Let Go” since I find it excruciating to let go of anything. I am thinking about writing a sequel, “I Don’t Let Go.” In any case, here’s the I Let Go quote:

“So you didn’t get to be Margaret Atwood this time around.  Neither did anybody else.  Margaret Atwood is Margaret Atwood.  Perhaps she saved time by not humping her duvet, but she still had to experience strenuous shits and sinus colds and mediocre sex.  Plus she’ll probably die before you will.  If not then you get to beat her at turning to worm shit.”
Me and the Hedgeclipper in I Let Go. Excellent Drawing by Sara E. Enquist
As an additional point, one might pity Margaret for having to be so coherent. Poor Marg.
Once my Magic Mushrooms Friend told me I was as smart as Margaret Atwood.
Oh, Marg
As smart as Marg. I find it extremely rewarding to write sentences and phrases that only use one vowel.

Bob throws socks on John’s hot dog.
Su’s ducks fuck up.
She sends tense sentences.

I miss his dick.
Is Dick sick?

The i sentences are the funnest. Is funnest a word? Apparently not.
“We’re not writing a book. We’re writing our lives.” This is one of my favourite quotes from Simon, my ex-ex boyfriend who jumped off a building last January 4th. The good news is, you’re allowed to write your life however you want. In text messages, postcards, or in exquisite copy for soothing skin creams.

Yesterday, I wrote an optimistic poem on Facebook. It came to me as I walked down an alley in my neighbourhood. I was on my way home after hours of fruitless and discouraging apartment hunting.

“Repress your hopeless thought.
Behold the optimistic clothesline.”

the optimistic clothesline
Clotheslines are super optimistic. So are white t.shirts.
behold the white t. shirts.
With great optimism, my friend Naomi once gave me a whitish jacket. On the weekend, during a visit to the Bald Baristas, I somehow managed to get a bunch of black ink all over it. I’m surprised this hadn’t happen much earlier. The incident provoked zero hopeless thoughts. In fact, I felt excitement as I imagined borrowing art supplies and transforming the jacket into something wild and exuberant. Something to wear or to put in my next museum. 
the optimistic jacket
By the way, a total of two people came to visit the Erica Museum. Admission fees were paid in chocolate chips, seaweed, tempeh and hazelnut pudding. Also, I am giving away the Threesome Tights. I do not think I will wear them again. If you think the tights might work for you, please be in touch.
Threesome Tights. Available for a Limited Time Only.
Anyways, all this is meant to introduce my project for this week: Five Days of Creative Recovery. It is meant as an antidote to the SOGs and the DUDs. For the next five days, I will do my best to post something creative. Out of words or whatever I can manage. This blog is often very silly, and I do not have a million readers. Even so, over the years, the process of sharing has brought me immense relief and sometimes joy.  

Thanks for being there.
Love, Erica.

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Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt (2-3 bucks on Amazon)

Creative Practice, Simon's Genies, and the Exuberant Bodhisattva's Big Exciting Blog News
Yours Til Ekam Inhales
Deep Unyielding Depression

The Erica Museum
Why I am Different from Margaret Atwood...

Monday, 11 April 2016

Deep Unyielding Depression

Deep Unyielding Depression.

I love this phrase, especially the word, Unyielding. As a second selling point, its acronym spells, DUD. How deep is your DUD?
My loving and thorough parents started sending me to therapy when I was eleven. Because of this and other theatrical tendencies, I believe I have the tendency to transform every un-exuberant moment into something unyielding and pathological.

And it has been awhile since we heard from Simon, my dead ex-boyfriend who jumped off a building on January 4th, 2016. What does Simon say this time?
Simon says: I wonder what I’d be like if, like you, I’d been sent to psychologists from the age of eleven. If a bunch of people had played around in my head the way children play in the bathtub-I think that by now I would have died ten times already. I’ve already died ten times anyways.

Ten times, or at least once. I’m not sure the bathtub analogy works in English. Simon and I used to fight extensively about translation.
Since I got back from India, I’ve been busy translating exciting phrases about soothing and luxurious skin creams and foams. My favourite is the foaming and emollient shower gel. You can use it in the bathtub or the shower.

Last week’s Catchphrase:
Do you want to be emollient and foaming?
I do.

This Week’s Catchphrase:
Deep Unyielding Depression.

So far the low-grade DUD has lasted 1.5 days. I think that the act of paying taxes has triggered Delayed Reverse Culture Shock. (DRCS.) Taxes, and a birthday party filled with babies. Everyone knows I don’t want babies. I don’t hate babies either. And yet, a great abundance of babies can make me feel lonely and empty, as though my life is unimportant and shallow.
Now is probably an excellent time to start making my own yogurt. Yogurt, or no-knead bread. Bacteria and/or yeast.

All your sadness is in your lungs.
I wish I was Miranda July.                               

Erica says to Simon: Aren't excessively self-indulgent, self-deprecating people irritating?
Simon says: Yes.

Erica: I hate people like me.
Simon says: Me too, but you’re not only self-deprecating. You also believe in yourself immensely. I have a theory on how this happens. Here it is: so one parent loves and cherishes their kid, but the other doesn’t believe she can do anything. You end up with a kid who turns into a half-shit, half-magnificent adult. Over time, one half swallows the other. Which half swallows what is yet to be determined.

Both of my parents thought I was magnificent.
There must be something clever to say about swallowing.
Me and My Sister, Being Magnificent.
I am not sure what is going on with the brown shit-like speckles.
Emollient foaming gels were not in the budget.
Certain skin creams produce a freshening effect upon application. Produce or procure. I googled “freshening effect” and everteen vaginal tightening gel natural intimate wash came up. In Montreal, it’s raining really hard.

Half Shit, Half Magnificent. This was the title of the poem Simon begged me to write. Simon didn’t like it very much. It’s true the poem was pretty terrible, but better than the one he wrote about my phosphorescent ass cheeks.

Hungry Halves. Contact Dermatitis. Another word I like is Unrelenting. Also, Unrivalled.
Are you seeking unrivalled comfort?

I wish to be captured within a meticulous formula.
What they mean by everteen, this only just occurred to me. Everteen and the Intimate Wash. Gross, and rather upsetting.

My eye contours feel uncomfortable on a daily basis. Not everyone is as happy as they look on the Internet.

The End.
Me and my uncomfortable eye contours.
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Self-Help Book: I Let Go

My name is Erica. I love coffee.
Hip Replacements and No-Knead Bread versus Chapped Nipples and Low Sex Drive
What a Beautiful Face.
The Erica Museum

Why I am Different from Margaret Atwood, and What I Don't Gain from Humping Duvets

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Erica Museum

It appears I have left the sub-continent.
Now I am in Canada. Montreal, as fate would have it.

I thought that India would involve more sex, and more blogging. But that’s okay. Now I have a whole bunch of extra condoms I can put in the Erica Museum I’m about to blog about.

The girl I am subletting from for April kindly emptied her plentiful shelves. I am curating the shelves with my suitcase and two backpacks full of stuff. Since returning from India, I have added an extra suitcase to my life. At first, this generated mixed feelings; however, I think that ultimately it expanded my curating options. Isn’t curating a delightful word?  One might also say, Curation, though I am not entirely sure about that.

Me and My Life with the Extra Suitcase
My room is large and sunny. It came with two beds, two sets of shelves, and a weird pale peach coloured dresser. Included on the biggest bed was a Canadian Version of the Ugly Polar Fleece Bedsheet. It reminded me of India, and this instilled unrivalled comfort. I have nicknamed the Canadian Version of the Ugly Polar Fleece Bedsheet (CV/UPFB), the Deer Duvet. As a source of sexual gratification, it is working reasonably well, as such polar fleece items generally do. These days I tend to leave the Deer Duvet rolled up.  
Deer Duvet
Palm Tree Wallpaper. The photo does not do it justice.
On the walls, there is absolutely nothing apart from three long strips of palm-tree covered wallpaper, framed together. I’ve never seen framed wallpaper before, not even in India. What good fortune. If I had tape, I would add to the walls a birthday/going away card from my sister. It is a picture of a photographer taking a photo of a whole bunch of people’s bums. Full Moon Portrait, it is called. My sister generously labelled some of the bums with names and initials of some folks whose bums I saw and/or came close to seeing this year. How nice that at the birthday dinner table, my father and his girlfriend got a sense of what I’ve been up to.
Full Moon Portrait. If you don’t see your name on a bum, blame my sister.
As it happens, I do not have any tape.
However, I am the very proud owner of scissors. And they made it into Exhibit One of 19. While I was in Delhi, I purchased a large pair of blue scissors for 90 rupees. Since then, I have been cutting my own hair and it is one of the greatest joys of my life. Travelling with scissors means that on airplanes, you no longer qualify for the prestigious Strictly Carry-On luggage status. But let me tell you, it is totally worth it.
Exhibit One of 19 + Scenes from a Haircutting Party, Bangalore
Exhibit One of 19 also features the Juno nominated children’s CD, “(name concealed due to the Dignity of my Somewhat Famous Relatives),” in addition to the intermittent presence of my I-pad mini, whose redness brings together a rewarding motif of primary colours.

Now we are going to skip the purse, shoes and broccoli t. shirt exhibits to get right to Shelf Nine of 19. Purple Combination Lock and Chain. Purple Combination Lock is from back in the days when cardiovascular fitness was still a concern and I used to go to Public Lap Swims. I took the combination lock all the way to India and used it to keep various beach house shacks secure. Somehow I remembered the combination which I wrote down in a cloth covered fushia journal in approximately 2009. The journal now exists in an unknown location. I really really really like purple. Same thing for fuschia, despite its elusive spelling.
Chain from Shelf Nine
The Chain from Shelf Nine was given to me by my Friend Franck. Franck is a rather spiritual and unusual fellow. In the winters, he hangs out in Rishikesh, writing, helping with a digeridoo factory and talking to God. In the summer, he builds boats in Montreal. Like a real Boatman, not just an arbitrary name I made up for blogging fairy tale purposes. Oh well. Anyways, when I went to Rishikesh, Franck took me up the mountains on his motorcycle. Everyone is dying to know what happened and so we are both going to write a story called, “No Garlic, No Onions, No Toilet Paper.” Franck’s version and Erica’s version. Franck gave me the chain after the motorcycle trip, for my eighteen-hour train ride to Varanasi. God is a big deal for Franck. He talks about God all the time. Even so, he thinks you should lock up your bags on the train. I wanted to leave my chain in Goa, but my Israeli friend convinced me to keep it, in case I ever want to be tied up.
Me and Franck on our way up the mountains.

Plus Me, In the Mountains
No Garlic, No Onions, No Toilet Paper
Exhibit 16: Books.

The Book of Stuff and Whatnot: I helped a bunch of teenagers put together this anthology of short stories, drawings and poems. Perhaps this in itself counts as a sort of curating. In any case, narrowing down my book collection to contain 50% teenage poetry and creative writing was not a terrible choice.  A few excerpts:

The Struggle:
My heart feels ever so heavy.
I’m about to stumble. I’m feeling unsteady.
I feel like I could forever fall. I just can’t stop hitting this hard, brick wall.
My head spins.
And I feel like I’m not going to win.

The Hardest Part:
Even though my mind knows it, my heart refuses to accept the truth.
That you are gone from me.

Curiosity Killed the Cat (A Sonnnet)
They say curiosity killed the cat.
Now and then, notice where your head is at. 

The Book of Stuff and Whatnot + a book about Ashtanga Yoga and Having Babies
Yoga Sadhana for Mothers: Shared experiences of Ashtanga Yoga, pregnancy, birth & motherhood: For someone who has no desire to bear her own child or be a mother and/or practice Ashtanga Yoga, I read this book incredibly quickly. I think I am going to pass it on to my Pregnant Friend, who is no longer pregnant, but who has remained my Pregnant Friend in my psyche. Maybe you have friends like that.
 Hazy Indian Currency/Condom/Bandaid/Broken Rock Mini Museum
Indian Currency/Condom/Bandaid/Broken Rock Mini Museum: Here we have the leftover Indian currency, the leftover Canadian condoms I took to India – there were more than two, but I gave some to friends, and selected these specially for my exhibit – and the broken brown rock that my friend Naomi gave me to heal my painful gushing periods. And bandaids. I smashed the menstrual rock in my seven-dollar hotel room in Rishikesh. From that point on, menstruation ceased for over four months.  The blood came back two and a half days after I curated this exhibit, and the morning before I went to visit Franck. Franck takes full responsibility.

Teenage Poetic Interlude:
The Serenity of a Journal Entry:
As you can see, I adore poetry.
Reading and writing are skills I carry.

(End of Interlude.)
May we all carry these skills all the time.

Some of my clothing made it onto the shelf, including a somewhat fuschia and multi-coloured dress I bought in Goa for 500 rupees, the Threesome Tights, and a fancy frilly shirt my mother game me.
Threesome Tights on Legs, with Birkenstocks
Other exciting exhibits feature Tarot Cards, the Fanny Pack Museum, Generic Spiritual Objects A, B and Others, Burgundy Doc Martens and A Letter from Cambodia. The Erica Museum will be on display for the month of April. That is to say, it is a limited edition. Also, I will need a new apartment come May. And/or another country to live in.
To learn the Secret and Exciting Location of the Erica Museum, please get in touch. Curating/Curation Workshops are also available. The fees are not exorbitant.  But if you’re super short on cash, in lieu of money, I could sort of use a decent sized book for balancing on my head during meditation. I gave, Not That Kind of Girl to some rickshaw drivers in Agra.
Not That Kind of Girl, passed on to young rickshaw drivers in Agra
Not That Kind of Girl, on my head
And it seems the teen poets are winning the day.

At the end of The Book of Stuff and Whatnot, they generously wrote me a bio. Whoever taught them how to write bios was an okay teacher. I am pretty happy with this:

Erica Schmidt (Coordinator)
A woman of character and just a touch of both serious and childish nature. An altogether fearless mentor to the writing club, she is fearless in her writing, as well as in real life.

Book: The Book of Stuff and Whatnot
Genre: Murder, Mystery and Imagination

The End.
See you at the museum!

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Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
2-3 Dollar Self-Help Book: I Let Go

Not That Kind of Girl, The Blogpost
Business Ideas, On a Tuesday
Mother's Bunion

God Box

Friday, 8 January 2016

Who's Standing On Your Financial Hose?

In Auroville, I am about to move all my shit to the room around the corner from me. Instead of tiles on the floor, there is cement. I will switch from a double to a single bed. And the neutral odour in my current place will morph into the faint smell of mildew.  In all, I will save 150 rupees per night. After two nights, this means 300 rupees. So like just over 6 bucks Canadian. Do I feel smug? A little bit. And also maybe pathetically frugal. 

Internet in Auroville has demonstrated selective fatigue and is unfortunately unable to upload photos of my mildewed and un-mildewed room. And so instead, here is Matrimindir, Auroville's pride and Golden Ball. Rather a symbol of Wealth...
Amazingly quickly, I have adapted to thinking in Indian currency. The other day I was considering buying some guava fruit from a fruit lady.

“Oh no, too expensive,” I said, learning that two small pieces cost 30 rupees. At the time, it seemed scandalizing to pay more than 20 rupees for two larger ones. I walked away. In India, the Canadian dollar gets you about 48 rupees. For my daily budget, I aim for 1500 rupees or less. Accommodation and most often transportation included. This works out to around 1000 Canadian dollars per month. You’d be hard pressed to live so cheaply in Canada, even in Montreal. I hate doing this, but for the month of December, I kept track of all the money I spent. It was a total pain in the ass; however, I was able to observe that most days I spent less than 1000 rupees, and some days my total was as low as 297, 400 and 430. Yay me.

Oh money. What a relationship. I have always had a sort of superstitious view of money. Like you shouldn’t worry too much about it, or you’ll go broke. And I am afraid to look at how much I actually have, or how much I’m spending, for fear I’ll discover I’ve totally fucked up. And yet, the reality is, I am exceptionally responsible and resourceful when it comes to money. Having just inched across the poverty line, these days, I am set up so that I can live in India with minimal income until around April. And although I am not being super proactive about getting translation and writing contracts, most likely something will come my way. Despite all my doubts and fretting, I will almost certainly be okay.

“Always pay your credit card bill on time.” My father once told me this. It was the only financial advice he ever gave me. And except for during a year of poverty post-university, I have always paid my bills in full, usually weeks in advance. I’ve had the good fortune of being on the receiving end of generosity. To help me out while I was starving after graduation, a dear friend gave me a gift of 2000 dollars. Soon afterwards, I met the Boatman and he invited me to live in his home rent free for more than a year. Sometimes this is kind of embarrassing to admit. Like I am a charity case and can’t pull off shit on my own. And well, I really truly hope I can pay forward all this kindness someday soon.

Which brings me to the 300 rupees I am about to save. Back in Delhi, I found a financial book in my friend Fern’s fancy apartment. A small bright pink paperback, it was called, “The Naked Accountant Asks, Who’s Standing on Your Financial Hose?” The Naked Accountant’s name is Jean Backus. Like the title, the book is somewhat abominably written, although it begins with an interesting story about a car accident. The book costs about 13 dollars but once you are done with it, you are encouraged to pass it on, which I imagine decreases the overall profits.
Who's Standing On Your Financial Hose?
My self-help book only costs $2.99, including the excellent pictures. So far, Amazon hasn’t given me any money for it since I haven’t hit 100 bucks in royalties. I wonder how much money Amazon is banking from aspiring authors who earn nineteen dollars each. Oh well. Perhaps it is my act of generosity. To Amazon, and to the Universe.
Naked Accountant Jean Backus compares the journey towards financial freedom to a road trip from Austin, Texas to Boulder, Colorado. Creative analogy. She recommends replacing the Scared Small Fretting Child and Ego Bully into the respective Wonder Child and Co-Creator. The Small Fretting Child and the Ego Bully have deep and paralyzing doubts about their ability to thrive financially. They are afraid they will never have enough and constantly criticize your higher and/or deeper self for your seemingly poor financial choices. Unlike the Small Fretting Child and Ego Bully, the Wonder Child and Co-Creator view the universe as an abundant place of great wealth. (It seems they have never been to India…) They approach the world with awe, and are committed to figuring out exciting solutions to all your financial issues.  I’m afraid I may not have the concepts or terminology exactly right since I left my copy of Who’s Standing on Your Financial Hose in Rishakesh, in a dusty, mildewed room that cost 200 rupees per night.

One thing I do remember is the importance of envisioning your chequing account as a living, breathing organism. I have been giving this a try.

“Chequing account,” I say. “You Are Alive.” So far I have made 400 bucks.

In any case, it is time for me to switch over to my cheap and mildewed room. I wonder what exciting thing I will do with the extra 300 rupees.

If you would like to hire me for exceptional financial advice, do let me know. Naked or not, I would love to discover who’s  standing on your financial hose.

The End.
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

You No Look Back: Farewell to 2015.

On Sunday, January 4, 2015, infused with alcohol, my ex-ex boyfriend Simon Girard climbed from his eighth floor apartment all the way up to the 23rd. From there, he made his way to the rooftop, walked to the north-east corner of the building and without pausing, threw himself into the air. Since he was eight years old, he had imagined throwing himself from a great height. I think of him whenever I stand before a vast cliff, or waterfall, or building. His suicide has permeated my mind and my writing. But he got he wanted, and it’s time to move on.

Other things that died this year: my romantic relationship with the Boatman, which I thought was supposed to last forever. My life in Halifax, which had been a strain for some time. My Ashtanga Yoga Practice, something else that despite long-term arthritic like symptoms in my joints, I believed I’d be best to continue for my whole life. Likely losing my legs or breaking my spine, or pushing one to three small humans out of my vagina would have been more disruptive than 2015’s series of events. Still, I feel it has been a pretty thorough ride.

“You no look back, you look future.”

On a trip to Udaipur, India, I ended up at a cooking class, despite the fact that I have absolutely no desire to improve my pitifully minimalist culinary skills. To my surprise, it turned out to be a major highlight. The teacher was a gem of a woman named Shashi.
“My English, no perfect,” she told us as she passed out a 12-page hand-out of recipes that some Australians had helped her put together. Even so, she candidly told us her story. When she was 32 years old, her husband died. She didn’t tell us how, but it seemed like it was sudden. Because she belonged to the Brahman caste, Shashi was sentenced to being a widow for the rest of her life. In accordance with the traditional grieving process, for 45 days, she wasn’t allowed to leave the house. With her face covered, she had to sit in the corner of her living room.

“All day, people coming. People going. Crying, crying. Me no talking,” she said. At five o’clock, she was finally allowed to take off her veil and cook. But she was still all alone. For an entire year afterwards, whenever she left the house, she had to cover her face. 32 years old. No husband, no money, and it seemed, no future. Many years later, when her son was closer to college age, he would bring his friends home from school to study. Shashi decided to cook for them.

“Chapathi, paratha, dahl, gobi masala…” As it turned out, her food was quite delicious. One of her son’s friends suggested she start cooking classes for tourists. The only problem was she only spoke Rajasthani. “No English speaking.” This however, did not kill the idea, and Shashi took enough classes to learn the basics. Before long, it was time for her first cooking class.

“Big shaky, big, nervous,” she said as she described standing in front of the table of tourists for the first time. Now Shashi has been giving classes for over six years. Her classes are so outstanding that she made it into the Lonely Planet.  With no skipped beats, she instructed us on how to prepare an unthinkable number of tantalizing dishes. Chai, pakora, chapathi, nan, three kinds of paratha, how to make paneer, how to use it in two different curries, dahl, gobi masala, rice pulao… As she guided us from dish to dish, it seemed like she had her entire handout memorized.  What was also  impressive and very touching was her ability to translate many of the ingredients and recipe terms into other languages.

“Mélangez!” she told my Quebecois buddy Hugo, who stood before the magic masala sauce with a wooden spoon. She knew all the words for the vegetables in French. I found this to be both lovely and inspiring. So much can be gained when you open yourself up to learning something new, without the fear of not being perfect. 
Hugo stunningly stirs. Perhaps next I could use a photography course!
“You no look back, you look future,” Shashi said as she reflected on how her life had changed since her husband had died. Surely, as a young woman, Shashi would never have imagined that she’d become a widow and wind up teaching world famous cooking classes to foreigners. But that is how her life turned out. You no look back.

Although I will probably never become an excellent cook, Shashi was an excellent teacher. Her words and presence and spirit will remain with me a long time. A year ago, I would never have imagined that I’d have given up Ashtanga Yoga, that I’d have become single and nomadic and taken to prancing around India with no real itinerary. And yet, this is my life right now.

Having always struggled with making decisions and with changes in routine, I have been amazed at my ability to be adaptable and somewhat chill.  To bathe, I squat under faucets of cold water and to shit, over holes in the ground. I have also had to observe myself through periods during which I am rather embarrassingly shrill and obnoxious. As though my intense preferences might possess the capacity to change some of India’s most frustrating attributes. And perhaps the most amazing part is my body’s ability to shit liquid for such an extended period of time. Luckily, things have solidified since I arrived further south. Oh Varanasi, I will never ever forget you…

Varanasi, The Land of Limitless Boatmen and Liquid Shits.
I fluctuate between viewing myself and my life as a hopeless disaster and then realizing that I might be on the verge of becoming super strong.

After bailing on Day Two of a Ten-day vipassana meditation retreat, I found myself in Pondicherry for New Year’s Eve.  Though aimless, I was craving some sort of symbolic ritual that would help me move on from this crazy year. Pondicherry was noisier than I’d imagined, and my travelling companions were somewhat into beer and cigarettes. As midnight approached, I could feel myself becoming disappointed and angsty. Surrounded by smelly hungover boys, I would wake up in 2016 and everything would be messy and the same. Well, isn’t that always the case.  Every morning, still Erica.

But beer and cigarettes don’t always rule out depth. An Australian friend shared his family’s New Year’s custom. On one piece of paper, you were supposed to write down something from the year before that you wanted to let go of. On the other, you wrote something you wanted to chase after. Right around midnight, you were supposed to burn the paper with the thing you wanted to let go of, and let the other paper fly into the wind.

Without overthinking it, I picked WORRY for the thing to burn. The beach was windy and crowded. I had to get some Indian dudes to help light my worries with matches.

“It is taking too long to burn all your worry,” one dude said. Luckily, it all burned away. At midnight, everyone wanted a Happy New Year selfie. It seemed like Happy New Year in India was an occasion for handshakes and hugs. I started to decline after someone tried to grope my now devastatingly tiny eternal right tit. The scene reminded me of New Year’s 2011 in Montreal. Simon and I walked down Prince Arthur Street towards the building that Simon would one day jump off. Both of us drunk, but Simon, drunker than I, insisted on shaking everyone’s hand. “Happy New Year!” he’d wish to everyone, almost compulsively. I remember feeling super embarrassed as everyone looked at him weirdly. Too bad we hadn’t been in Pondicherry. Simon would have fit right in.
For the thing to chase after in 2016, I picked Self-Love. As I threw the paper out into the wind, I knew I would have to chase after it fast.
But you no look back.



One Morning in Rishakesh

The End.

Happy New Year to All. Much love.  
Whatever your struggle, you are not alone.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook: I've been posting a bunch of photos and updates there! We'll see about more blogging... I may need some coaxing from my fan club!

Twitter: @mypelvicfloor ...

More On Shashi's Cooking Classes. Come one! Come all! Highly recommended.

Most viewed new post of 2015: The Where is Emma Fillipoff Series And we still don't know where she is.

Some of my favourite posts of the year:

The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice, Part Two
Guillaume, Part Two (Asking People About Their Lives)
Why You Are a Hermaphrodite (Asking People About Their Lives)
What a Beautiful Face
Not Separate From All That Is
How I am violent, by Erica J. Schmidt