Reading the King: The Shining

The Shining has always been one of those Stephen King novels that was always on my radar but I never actually picked up when I saw it in bookstores (for similar examples, please see: Rose Madden, Misery, The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon). I think I may have read it when I was in my early teens, but I didn’t give it the time and attention that it deserved — there was a point when I was around 14 or 15 when I was reading to have said that I read the book, but not to actually enjoy the story or give it much thought afterwards. Glad I got out of that phase relatively early!

After going through Carrie and Salem’s Lot, I was really excited to sink my teeth into The Shining. I did some research into the adaptations that had been made. Carlton Cinema, which is my absolute favourite theatre in the downtown core, screened Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining for October 2017! It actually coincided quite nicely with this #readingtheKing challenge, with the added bonus of being able to watch it on a big screen as opposed to a tiny laptop screen. Alas, I was unable to find a copy of Stephen King’s The Shining miniseries, which is a shame as I had wanted to compare it to the Kubrick adaptation had I been able to find it.

Here we go with part 3 of the Stephen King reading challenge, The Shining!

The Shining, 1980, Stanley Kubrick | IMDB, Wikipedia

Original Movie Poster The Shining

This film. Ahh, this film. It was compelling and nerve-wracking, and while nowhere near as tense as certain moments in Misery, some scenes were taut to the point of breakage. The soundtrack, written and performed by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, was perfect: eerie and jarring at some moments, terrifying and skin-crawlingly creepy at others. The older I get, the more I appreciate the wonder of a well-timed soundtrack, and this was particularly beautiful.

I left the cinema afterwards feeling like I had seen a well-crafted movie, one that made deliberate choices in moving towards a specific end, and one which led me through a tedious slog to a satisfying finish. It’s evident that this iteration of the story is more Kubrick’s than King’s, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the directions that the director took both in casting and character development.

Kubrick lost something in act of moving Winnifred Torrance from page to screen, but the choices that he made in what carried over and what did not were very much intended to have the outcome of Wendy as an easily cowed person who deferred to Jack in many things. I later found out that King is not a fan of this movie, saying that Kubrick’s Wendy is “just presented as this screaming dishrag.” I don’t disagree, and it’s such a shame because Wendy on the page is a much stronger and more interesting person than the Wendy that Shelly Duvall was made to portray.

I don’t recall King writing a woman in any of his stories to be as much of a stereotype as Wendy was presented to the audience in Kubrick’s piece.  This Wendy had me cringing hard, into my seat at the theatre. Her weakness seemed to be tied specifically to her being a woman, and formulated as an overt foil to Jack’s brute manhood. Most scenes that had her in it were very difficult to watch, and it crosses over from a story with actual supernatural events in it to a story about domestic abuse.

I also believe that Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance lacks the nuance of Jack on the page. He begins as a man leaning towards emotional excess and ends it absolutely bonkers. For Kubrick’s purposes, Nicholson was perfectly cast for this role. The amplification of Jack’s mental instability is the focus of much of the film, with many of the film’s now-famous moments iconic in its glut of “crazy”: Here’s Johnny! as the axe smashes through the bathroom door with Wendy screaming in terror on the other side; “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”; the literal flood of blood coming in from the elevators. The viewers miss out on much of what fleshes out Jack Torrance in the novel: the conflict between what he knows to be his weakness, and his love of his family.

Altogether, while brilliant, Kubrick’s The Shining seems to be the story of a family, snowbound in the mountains, going crazy together. I don’t think it has what makes the novel an engrossing story, nor does it possess any of the warmth surrounding King’s telling of it. I would not watch this film again, although I am glad that I saw it. The film is beautiful, and such a cinematic experience, but I don’t feel good about devoting more time to it than necessary. Although I don’t think it will be on my list of favourite movies, I understand why this film is highly regarded and very polarizing.

The Shining, 1977, Stephen King | Goodreads, Wikipedia

The Shining First Ed cover

This novel was a beast to get through – but it was wonderfully written, giving the readers an intimate look at the interactions and relationships within a family already slightly wary of each other.

I don’t think it will be a surprise to anybody that I absolutely adore this book. I fell in love with much of what makes the struggle human, and therefore more frightening: Wendy Torrance as she grappled to understand how the signs of her husband’s alcoholism were present without any alcohol to be found in the hotel; Jack’s battle between his alcoholism and his love for his family; Danny’s absolute and almost desperate love for his father, to the very end. After having finished reading the novel, I have a better understanding of why King dislikes the Kubrick adaptation.

Let’s begin with Wendy, as I took such issue with her characterization in the Kubrick film, especially after I had finished reading the novel! Wendy as a wife is attuned to her husband’s moods and personality changes, and readily sees what he blocks out or is unwilling to see. As a mother, we see her beginning to be jealous of how Danny has taken to Jack so much more readily than to her, but this also allows for a much more intimate and nuanced framing of the Jack-Danny relationship. Wendy also recognizes and experiences that something beyond her comprehension has awoken in The Overlook – it is terrifying to imagine how Wendy must have felt when she started hearing Jack talk to the Overlook’s guests and realised that the Overlook spoke back to Jack.

Jack Torrance is a man who is tortured and torn between his deepest flaw (a once-indulged proclivity towards drinking, with disastrous consequences), and his love for his family. That he adores his son and wants nothing more than to do right by him (this time) is such a strong undercurrent in the book that you can taste it in all that he does. His last lucid moment, after all, was particularly heartbreaking:

But suddenly his daddy was there, looking at him in mortal agony, and a sorrow so great that Danny’s heart flamed within his chest. The mouth drew down in a quivering bow. 

“Doc,” Jack Torrance said. “Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you.”

The sense of love and adoration exhibited by Jack and Danny for each other at moments, and certainly at the very end, is not the type of fatherhood that Kubrick allows Jack to be epitomized by.

One thing I wish had made it into the movie was the wasp scene – that entire sequence, beginning with Jack on the roof being stung by a couple and through to Danny’s room being absolutely filled with wasps after Jack brought in the supposedly-empty nest, was harrowing in a manner that begins to raise the question in the reader’s mind of whether it is all supernatural or occurring in Jack’s head.

Honorable mentions: the Hedge Animals, Dick Halloran and the more nuanced character arc he gets in the book, the Scrapbook.

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Reading the King: Salem’s Lot

It’s now week eight of fourteen for us at the University of Toronto as this post goes up, and I am very keenly feeling the effects of the upcoming due dates, deadlines, papers, presentations, and the never-ending flood of emails that I need to respond to. I’m writing this on a Friday morning that I had to force myself to pencil in as a mental health day, as I really needed a break. I’ll be back to work on campus over the weekend, but for today at least, I get to think about fun little side projects!

Salem’s Lot took me a little while to get through because of how hectic my schedule currently is, not to mention the other responsibilities that I’m juggling. Although finding time to read the book was not a problem, it became difficult trying to schedule a block of time when I could watch the 1979 miniseries uninterrupted. For the record, I also did try to watch the 2004 miniseries, but after four attempts – none of which made it past the one-hour mark – it became clear that I wasn’t enjoying the experience, and I decided to nix that. Maybe some other time?

Here we are with entry number two in Reading the King: Salem’s Lot, the first edition of which now apparently goes for US$1750, at least according to LW Currey Inc.

Salem’s Lot, 1975 

Salem's Lot First Cover
Here’s the first edition’s cover!

Salem’s Lot combines two things that I’m very fond of in literature: vampires and small towns. I have very fond memories of this book, and when I reread it I was happily surprised to find that it holds up. Salem’s Lot delivered on the good, the unpleasant, and the downright terrifying aspects of what it means to live in a small town, plus vampires. It also figured heavily in my early encounters with Stephen King as a teenager – I vividly remember reading One for the Road in Night Shift and nervously huddling under my blankets, occasionally peering up at my open window hoping no vampires were outside.

The most striking character in this book, and my favourite in the re-read so far, is Father Callahan. As a person who was raised in a religious household, and was always surrounded by people of different religious beliefs, the question of what constitutes true faith was always present in my conversations growing up. Father Callahan was so real and raw, and true to the effects of alcoholism even as it is revealed as a symptom of his ongoing existential crisis. When his faith falters as he is facing off with Kurt Barlow, my heart sank – how can faith survive after a test such as this, especially with what Barlow does to him afterwards? I know that Father Callahan turns up again in The Dark Tower series, and I am looking forward to seeing how his character develops.

Another aspect of Salem’s Lot that I really enjoy is the idea of “evil” in Salem’s Lot – how it is insidious and inescapable, sticking like molasses to the town and all the people who come to it. I am also rather partial towards the idea that an evil person can corrupt the space that they live in, and that the Marsten House essentially became transformed into a beacon of evil because of the type of person that Hubie Marsten was, especially with his life being bookended by death.

I would probably not read this book again in the near future just because of the sheer volume of Stephen King works available to me, but when this reread is done? Who knows! I firmly believe that we get different lessons when we read the same books at different moments in our lives, and perhaps when I’m 37 I’ll approach Salem’s Lot with a different perspective.

Salem’s Lot, 1979 miniseries

Salem's Lot poster
I’m actually not sure if this is one of the original posters, but I like it because it shows Barlow hovering over the main cast even as it shows Ben slamming that stake into his chest.

I enjoyed this adaptation a lot! However, I do think that it was quite long, clocking in as it does at three hours and seven minutes. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I realise that my mistake was in approaching the miniseries as if it were one long movie: I dedicated an entire Saturday afternoon to watching it, but had to stop in the middle and save it for another day when it began feeling like such a slog. I think that for future adaptations, if they’re also in the form of a miniseries, I’ll spread it out and watch it as it was intended to be seen.

I believe that for the most part, the miniseries captures much of the spirit of the book even with the character changes. The most visible of these changes was the character of Kurt Barlow and how it changed from what was a preternaturally intelligent and crafty vampire in the book, to the campier and more macabre thing that he was in the movie.

Barlow
Now isn’t that nightmare-inducing?

Not gonna lie, I screamed and jumped when Barlow swung into the Petrie’s kitchen for his face off with Father Callahan. I am such a fan of the vampire make-up! Cinematic Kurt Barlow was fantastically ghoulish, and apparently one of its Primetime Emmy nominations was for Outstanding Achievement in MakeupGo, make-up team!

According to Richard Kobritz, the reason that they opted to go this route for Barlow was a harkening back to old vampire lore: “We went back to the old German Nosferatu concept where he is the essence of evil, and not anything romantic or smarmy, or, you know, the rouge-cheeked, widow-peaked Dracula.” I think that for this particular miniseries, with the insidious and unstoppable creep of evil engulfing Salem’s Lot, it works so well! It casts Barlow in a very not-human light, which makes the terror that much more chilling. This is an evil that cannot be reasoned with, nor can it be fully understood.

Speaking of character changes, it was a shame how the movie decided to not fully explore the character of Father Callahan. I feel like that kind of internal conflict, especially when it comes to religion and religious authority figures, would have been really interesting to see onscreen. Although I also missed the good doctor Jimmy Cody, who was altogether not in the adaptation, a deeper exploration of religion and supernatural evil would have made it truer to the source material.

Also, bonus points for the way that they made the glass bottle containing holy water shine like Sting does in the presence of Orcs – that was enjoyably fantastical.

Holy water in Salem's Lot
See what I mean about it being like Sting?

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Turning 27

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Top, COS | Skirt, Banana Republic, thrifted

I turned 27 yesterday! Mikaius planned a lovely day for us, with the trip to the Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters exhibit at the AGO bookended by food – thank you, my love, for the effort that you put into this date!

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Breakfast was at Yonge and Wellesley, at a restaurant called The Coach House Restaurant. We’ve eaten here before and had a grand old time, so we decided to come back. Mikaius had pancakes (super fluffy and delicious, by the way) with sausage and bacon and a milkshake to wash it all down, and I had the spinach and feta omelette with a cup of coffee. A wonderful and hearty start to my birthday!

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We then walked to campus to visit the Trinity College Annual Book Sale, and on our way there, this adorable little ladybug decided to hang out with us for a little while. It particularly enjoyed Mikaius’ Misfits patch.

I got myself my first Ian Fleming book, an unabridged 1959 edition of From Russia with Love – it’s this exact one, although I only paid $3 for my copy! I’m going to hold off from reading it until December, but I’m pretty excited.

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Afterwards, we hit up the Krispy Kreme at the Kensington Market for a snack: a Pepperoni Pull-apart, a Pumpkin Spice donut, an Original Glazed donut, and a Triple Chocolate Frozzé that we couldn’t finish because it was so thick. We had to walk around Blue Banana for a bit to try and shake things down, we were so full of food.

We made our way to the AGO for the exhibit, fairly buzzing with excitement. IT WAS SO COOL. Photos will honestly not do it justice, so I only selected a few to show here, but I was so glad that this was what he had chosen to take me out to for my birthday. I adore Guillermo del Toro – Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favourite movies!

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We headed out to Mo Ramyun, a short walk from the AGO, after the exhibit. Mo Ramyun is a favourite of ours, and we both tried something new: Mikaius had a bowl of the Chicken Ramyun, while I tried the Don-Gol Ramyun. Both delicious and so very filling – we had plenty of leftovers to take home.

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All in all, a wonderfully relaxing day: I stayed off of my email and messages for the most part, and didn’t do any schoolwork. I’ll get back to it again tomorrow, but oh my goodness was it wonderful to not have to think about everything that I needed to submit and all my looming deadlines.

Grief, one year later.

Writing this now, in the year following his death, I am discovering that the ferocity of grief that comes to define your life after someone you love passes away can be terrifying. It takes so little for the angry sobbing to begin, and the incidents that cause the pent-up grief to crackle through my shields are, more than anything, mundane. Those incidents render me utterly helpless with weeping. Once it was the sight of a car that looked like the Jeep he used to drive. Another time it was when I glanced up from stir-frying bok choy and saw the photo of his that I’d stuck to my fridge door. There was a particularly harsh moment last year when I smelled Filipino food in the air and I started crying because I’d never taste his cooking again.

I walked out after the first few songs at his viewing, unwilling to look at the people, at the body that wasn’t him anymore, at the flowers that were flanking the fucking coffin. He was wearing something that I knew he would never have chosen for himself, and the anger that swept through me over the choice of clothing for a dead man’s body is like nothing that I have ever felt before or since. It felt like madness. Perhaps it was.

I did my weeping downstairs in the chapel, alone and angry. I tried to keep the pain contained, but it was, and still is, too unwieldy to hold in any container. It spilled out in my tears, and in the words flying out of my mouth as I tried to cope with the enormity of this loss. I flung my anger and my grief at nobody and at everybody, and it stained everything it touched. My brother found me a few minutes later, and he stood behind me, letting me be. Ultimately, Luis was who calmed me down.

The funeral was horrifying. There is nothing like having to bury a man while the sky is blue, a man who stepped up in every sense of the word to be your father. The sky was blue, my friend. That was a cruel joke. Couldn’t it have been raining? Couldn’t the sky be an expression of my grief? That was the cruelest thing, I think, that it was such a beautiful, ordinary day.

I will never set foot in that cemetery ever again. I can’t do it.

The week he died, I barricaded myself in my apartment, rolling around in my grief. I don’t remember what I ate. I don’t remember what I did. I remember attempting to plow through my readings. I remember seriously considering jumping onto the train tracks at Wellesley Station, and to be honest, up until quite recently it was constantly in the back of my mind. The week he died, I didn’t wash my hair for seven days; when I finally did because I had to attend classes, my hair was so thick with grease I had to shampoo twice before I got a lather.

I remember Mikaius practically living at my place – washing my dishes, doing my laundry, keeping me company. I remember Yvonne sending me an entire package of chocolate from Berlin – “to help fight the Dementors,” she wrote, in a card so full of kindness and love my heart broke even more. I remember friends sending me messages – and I remember vividly how it felt to not want to be physically touched and to not want to see anybody, but to feel secure in the knowledge that if I wanted company, I only needed to call. If you were one of the people who sent me love and light, I want you to know that I screencapped your message. They’re all in a folder buried somewhere deep in my phone, little flotation devices that I hold on to whenever I feel like drowning.

I feel so cheated, I honestly do. I feel cheated of a future we were supposed to have with him: all the missed birthdays, the graduations, long summer days roadtripping to one of the many apple orchards and pumpkin patches within an hour or two of the city. I miss him, painfully so. I still instinctively scan the parking lot for his damn Jeep whenever I’m at Mom’s.

All this to say that I wish he was still here, and there’s a lot I would give up in a heartbeat to have him back.

 

Reading the King: Carrie

This is a very exciting reading challenge! Grad school is taking up most of my time, and the next few months up until graduation will be hectic, I can tell you that much. Choosing to read Stephen King is a deliberate choice in self-care because the man has been one of my favourite authors for over a decade now, and doing this feels less like a chore and more about me attempting to schedule some me-time, as well as being just a fun little side-thing.

And so, we begin this long journey with Carrie, Stephen King’s first published novel, which came out in 1974, marking the beginning of his career. While I’ve personally not read the novel prior to this challenge, Carrie has such a ubiquitous presence that I was basically aware of most of the pivotal moments in the story, even if I didn’t know the details. Already knowing these in advance, though, did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel and the movies! While I don’t think that Carrie will break into my list of Top 5 Favourite King Stories, it was still a fun, quick read. I think I finished it over two days during my lunch breaks at the office.

(For the record, here is my current Top 5, in no particular order: Pet Sematary, The Jaunt, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, and 11/22/63. This might change the deeper I get into his work, although I do have a particularly strong fondness for Jaunt.)

Let’s begin! This post will talk about the 1974 novel, and the 1976 and 2013 movie adaptations. I made a deliberate choice to skip the 2002 movie due to time constraints – but also, the trailer was not very interesting.

Carrie, 1974

Ahh, the quintessential Stephen King classic. King presents the story through a variety of means: letters, Sue Snell’s book, newspaper headlines, and other methods, placing the tragedy firmly at the centre of the narrative. As per his style, he has crafted riveting characters who are characterized by deep inner conflicts of various forms, in this book mostly centred around sex and authority (I’m collapsing religion into authority in this context). Carrie also already features that Stephen King hallmark of writing: the stream of consciousness.

I think that my favourite character in the novel is Margaret White, which I did not expect. Margaret White read like an eerie exposition into how one of my deeply religious Pentecostal aunts would have become if they were a character in King’s universe. So much of her, even her speech, was hauntingly familiar and had parallels I could observe in my Pentecostal upbringing: the deep shaming of anything remotely sexual, deep religiosity, the distrust of Carrie.

The build-up to the prom scene, especially when Carrie was getting ready for prom, was also reminiscent of some of my feelings as a former religious girl, especially this line: “Wearing it gave her a weird, dreamy feeling that was half shame and half defiant excitement.” That intense dichotomy of half-shame/half-defiance was definitive of me from 16 to 20. I was actually forced to think back and confront some of my own (already-wrestled and buried) demons while I was reading it, emotions which I had not anticipated dealing with again, but hey. Stephen King gives me ~feels~.

All in all, I think Carrie is an okay book. Not the one I would recommend to a person just coming to Stephen King, but definitely recommendation should his writing become a favourite.

Carrie, 1976

Watching this movie was something that I was very much looking forward to! A few years ago, Mikaius had bought me a whole slew of Stephen King movies as part of my Christmas present, and since we both got so busy we hadn’t really had time to watch any of them. We did watch Misery and The Shining, but we’re both wimps and we finished neither. I mean, have you seen Kathy Bates in Misery? Terrifying, my friend.

I finished reading the novel mid-week, and was supposed to hang out with Mikaius at his place the weekend after that since he has the DVD for Carrie and we were supposed to watch it together but I couldn’t wait. I rented the movie on Google Play and saw it alone. Oh lordy, what a fantastic ride this De Palma movie was.

Overall, I feel like the De Palma version is an honest adaptation – the changes that were implemented made sense, and I don’t think that it changed the spirit of the book or altered Carrie in such a way as to render her unrecognizable. I think that this movie will be one of my favourite horror movies, it’s just so fantastically done. The entire time I was watching it I felt so uneasy – like I was being allowed a peek into this girl’s life that I shouldn’t have, but I could not for the life of me look away. The juxtaposition of the almost erotic shower sequence transitioning into the period freakout and being backended by the “plug it up” scene had me on edge from start to finish. I also did not expect that ending with Sue Snell, and I will be honest, I shrieked and just about dropped my mug that was still half-full of Kawartha ice cream.

I now really understand why Sissy Spacek is widely considered iconic in this role. The way she portrayed Carrie was beautifully nuanced: timid at times, trembling and terrified at others, but still with a defiant agency against her mother and her circumstances. While I get why her dress is not red in this movie – “It’s pink, momma!” – it would have been interesting to see Carrie in a red dress crushing an entire prom hall as a subversion of the Lady in Red trope.

The other standout in this film really was Piper Laurie as Margaret White. She gave me all of the heebie-jeebies possible: her intonation, her costumes, even the way she moved her hands when she was stroking her daughter’s hair was terrifying! For me, her interactions with Carrie were some of the best parts of the movie – the way that her fundamentalism seeped into every single part of her life and changed her behavious was too real.

Runner up: I was pleasantly surprised by Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen, who I had just seen a couple of weeks ago in Robocop (our local movie theatre screens a lot of old movies)! I think that her portrayal of the spoiled high school senior was aptly disturbing, and she was absolutely fantastic in this role.

Carrie, 2013

The 2013 remake by Kimberly Peirce was charming, but I think that the right word to describe it is adequate. It wasn’t disappointing, but neither did it cross the line to being a really good movie. In this one, we see an update in the time when Carrie was set: we hear the kids talking about 2010s-relevant pop culture references; Carrie’s freakout while covered in blood, pads, and tampons is uploaded to the internet by Chris Hargensen; and Sue Snell receives a text message that sends her frantically driving to the prom. While Chlöe Grace Moretz’s Carrie is sweet and shy, I feel as if she lacks the bite beneath the surface that was evident in Sissy Spacek’s portrayal. She wasn’t horrible, but she wasn’t as good.

To be quite honest, the only times that I was riveted was when Julianne Moore as Margaret White was on-screen, and even her portrayal came nowhere close to how deeply unsettling Piper Laurie was in the 1976 version of the film.

Final words:

Of the two adaptations to Carrie that I saw, the 1976 one is absolutely the winner.

Of E-readers and Personal Reading Challenges

I can’t tell you how long I hesitated over purchasing a Kindle! I bought myself an iPad Mini 2 a couple of years ago thinking that it could be my dedicated e-reader, but it really didn’t work for me: the glare coming off of the screen was (a) distracting, and (b) hurt my light-sensitive little eyes. Eventually, I realised that with the way I studied and did my readings, I could use the iPad as a tool to complement my Mac, especially with the Notability app. This became how I mainly used the iPad – well, that and Tapped Out, which is my favourite mobile game because it literally lets me play god as an urban planner. While the iPad didn’t become my primary e-reader, it did help me in other ways and I don’t regret the purchase.

Now, I’ve been starting to get back into reading again as a hobby, especially over the summer. Goodreads says I’m on track to finish 12 books for 2017, which is great! With my 27th birthday coming up, and also as a reward for making it out of year 1 of this program alive, I bit the bullet and bought a Kindle Paperwhite three weeks ago. Amazon Prime Student and their discounts can be very convincing.

Was the Paperwhite worth the purchase? For me and my lifestyle, absolutely! First, it is conveniently-sized. I am that person who buys outerwear based solely on whether the biggest pocket can fit a standard-sized paperback comfortably and the Kindle slides right in where my book would usually go – taking up less space, and being a fraction of the weight of your usual paperback. I also specifically chose the Paperwhite because I wanted the built-in light, and let me tell you, it works like a dream. One time last week, I woke up at 2 in the morning unable to get back to sleep so I picked up the Paperwhite and started reading Martina McAtee‘s Dark Dreams and Dead Things (book 2 of the series!). I finished the book, fell asleep, and then woke up without a headache because there was no glare from the screen. It has been absolutely fantastic.

This purchase also inspired me to come up with a personal reading challenge: I’ve compiled a chronological list of Stephen King’s oeuvre, and I want to make my way through it. Honestly, that should take me a good chunk of time. While King is one of my favourite writers, there are works of his that I haven’t read, like the Bachman books and the Dark Tower series.

Here’s the plan, which of course will see some change over the course of this reading challenge: I will read one book of his every two weeks, then publish a post with a short synopsis. If the work in question is a collection of short stories, I will pick favourites. If it is a book in a series, I will rank the work with the others in the series. If there is a movie and I can access it, I will compare the book and movie(s) – and this, my friend, is a big maybe because I just found out that there is not one, not two, but three Carrie movies.

The only real restriction in this challenge is that I will not watch the associated TV series, if there is one. I am still in grad school, after all, and only have so much time to spare on fun things like this. I am very excited! The first one up is Carrie, which should be interesting as I’ve never read the novel before, nor have I seen the movies. I mean, I know what’s going to happen because Carrie is ubiquitous, but it should still be an interesting reading and watching experience.

Let’s dive into this, and I hope I make it to the end of the list!

 

Thoughts on my first week back

It has been an interesting week “back,” even though I technically didn’t have the summer off as I was doing a reading course plus a TA-ship. My first few classes have brought into stark view just how lost and mentally checked out I was last year.

I am much calmer this time around, and my mind in a much better place. I have no desire to hide behind a computer screen – I genuinely want to engage with my classmates and my professors in class discussions. I know that this year’s enthusiasm has nothing to do with the classes I took last year, because even in the ones that I thoroughly enjoyed and loved writing for, I was never this invested.

Another thing I noticed was that my style has changed – last term, I was most definitively the Girl in the Loud Button-Ups. Now I’m leaning more towards solid colours with one interesting piece – you know, accenting the outfit instead of having my entire outfit be the accent. My fall/winter uniform was button-ups with leggings and knee-high boots, and looking back, I think it was because I never wanted to engage with anybody. With a loud shirt, the starting conversation often would be “hey, nice shirt!” which often didn’t require more than “thanks!” in return. I would then hide at my desk or at the library somewhere. Without the loud clothing acting as a shield, the starting conversation might be the terrifying “how was your weekend?” and I was not in any fit state of mind to talk about how I was drowning in grief most days.

The path I want to take this year is clearer to me, and to be honest, I am relieved that I’m no longer under the cloud of misery I was living with last year. I walked into class last Monday with a sense of purpose that just wasn’t there the year before. I know now that I want this always, I want this consistently: this sense of purpose that colours my stride in the mornings when I head out to campus.

Prince Edward County Day Trip

Mikaius and I went to PEC for our first proper road trip together this week, and it was a beautiful cap to this summer. We got to explore an antique market, take a nap on the beach, drive around the county roads, finding lookout points every so often. There were so many little antique stores, cheese places, and fresh produce stalls that we missed out on because we forgot to factor in the 5pm closing times – which just means that we have to go back for another round, and soon! IMG_7058IMG_7087IMG_712120170906_14103320170906_14024420170906_153608IMG_7151IMG_714320170906_140858

Summer Favourites: Food!

As has been tradition since Summer 2014, Mikaius and I went exploring for more food places that we can add to our favourites list! While our busy schedules don’t allow us to write detailed reviews of each place like we used to in years past, here is a list of the new favourites that we discovered during our walks around the city. Forgive my food photography, I never did quite learn how to take fantastic pictures of food.

New Favourites:

  1. Beachside Grill | Website
    Mikaius and I both fell in love with the Beaches neighbourhood last year and we made it sort of a mini-mission this summer to wander around the area a little bit more. One day in early June he took me out on a date to explore the area and we started our day with brunch at the Beachside Grill. It was lovely! The lobster mac and cheese was so rich and creamy, and the corned beef hash with the poached eggs, while not as good as the pasta, was delicious! We still talk about that mac and cheese and how tasty it was. Mmm, lobster, pasta, and cheese.
  2. Frankie’s Diner | Website
    We came upon this place in a state of real hunger, and even with that in mind, Mikaius almost couldn’t finish the pulled pork sandwich that he ordered and I also wasn’t quite able to finish my breakfast plate. The servings are massive, delicious and very filling. The service was a bit slow, though, so I was glad that we didn’t have anything urgent to hit up after that late lunch.
  3. The Rec Room | Website
    It was a rainy day in the city when we decided to finally check out The Rec Room, and since it was so rainy out, we spent quite a bit of time in the arcade (playing, yes, but also trying to figure out how to work those bracelets). We had a light lunch at Three10, since we weren’t that hungry, and to be honest it is probably what we should be doing anyway because our eyes often want more than what our stomachs can hold. We split a pizza (the Butcher’s Daughter) and a dessert (chocolate cream pie), both of which were omg-mmm-inducing servings of deliciousness. The pizza was delightful, with all the ingredients playing in harmony together, and the dessert was something I could probably have eaten five of but shouldn’t. I would definitely go back again!
  4. Bang Bang Ice Cream | Website
    Bang Bang is close enough to my place of work that it is dangerous to my wallet. I love ice cream, and I love that they have flavours like Totaro and Soursop, which are definitely not flavours that I see in regular ice cream places!
  5. Tinuno | Website
    Tinuno is within a comfortable walking distance from my flat, and while we were having brunch there I was repeatedly asking myself why we hadn’t made that walk earlier in the year. Their Kamayan feast is so good, and a steal at only $15 per head! We were so full, and we even had delicious leftovers to take home from the restaurant. Oh goodness, I haven’t had squid and shrimp that good in years – it really and truly did taste like home.
  6. Sunnyside Café and Pavilion | Website
    We came across Sunnyside when we were having a wander. We had started our day with High Park, enjoying the sun, the breeze, and Grenadier Pond. It was our second time at High Park, first time alone together, so when we inadvertently came out on the other side of the park and saw how close we were to the beaches, we just kept walking. We ordered a pizza and drinks at Sunnyside – we split the Chicken Supreme pizza, he had the Arctic Mudslide, and I ordered a piña colada smoothie. While I wasn’t too impressed with the smoothie, the pizza and the Mudslide were both big wins – we are already planning on going back to enjoy the beach with our friends!

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The Summer of 1999 and the Pixie Cut of 2017

(*Originally posted on Facebook, March 22, 2017)

I received such overwhelmingly positive reactions to my hair that I feel the need to speak about why I was moved to tears by those lovely comments, multiple times. If you’d like, come along and let me tell you why for the past few years, I have always cut my hair when it gets long enough to put up in a bun.

 

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Photo taken at Graffiti Alley. I found that bright yellow coat at my neighbourhood Value Village, and I love it so much!

 

The Summer of 1999, the Philippines:
My little family was on a ship bound for Bacolod City from Metro Manila, my mother, my brother, and I. I remember looking at Manila getting smaller as we sailed further out, wondering where my bioDad was and why he didn’t say goodbye that day. Many years later, I would hear conflicting things from my parents: my Mom says he knew what time we were leaving but he never showed up, my bioDad says he missed it because of the famed Manila traffic. I mean, hey, they’re both right. But as a little kid, all I remember is that he didn’t make it on time to say goodbye.

My family and I were in the ship’s economy class, which at the time consisted of a hall of bunk beds spaced a few feet apart on one of the ship’s upper decks. I remember loving those accommodations because you could see and hear the ocean constantly, and I could look down into the water and daydream. One of our fellow passengers told me that the patches of darker water that we occasionally spotted in the lighter green sea meant that those parts were deeper than others, and I could never make sense of that.

My hair on that trip was already long – from old photos, it looks as if it draped a few inches below my shoulders – and I was blissfully unaware that my arrival in the city I would eventually call home heralded a twelve-year period in my life when that hair would go uncut. Why would I be thinking of my hair back then, you know? I was nine, moving from Manila to a city located in Western Visayas, starting a new school that June. There were other things to think about, other things to be excited for.

It was hot but breezy, and the pier was chaotic and bustling. My family finally arrived at Bacolod City after a three-day trip by a passenger ship.

A few weeks later, when we were settled in at my aunt’s place, my Mom left for Hong Kong to continue her work as a nanny for a wealthy family, and my brother and I, ages 5 and 9 respectively, were left in the care of our aunt with the agreement that she would take care of us. In return, my Mom would send money to cover living expenses, tuition fees, and some extra leftover.

My tita and her family were religious, their lives deeply embedded in the fabric of the church. Their particular brand of Christianity is called Pentecostalism. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s a sect of Christianity where women are not allowed to cut their hair, amongst other restrictions, and Acts 2:38 was the defining Bible verse of the organization. I was never asked if I wanted to attend this church. I was made to, by dint of being young, and more importantly, because I was living under her roof – and so, by her and the church she worshipped at, my life was shaped and moulded.

::Please keep in mind that I am speaking to my own experience. Your encounter with religion might have been different – and I certainly know people who are happy in it, who find comfort in the community, and who are good people. I am not writing this to defame or criticize religious beliefs or practices, but to speak about how my upbringing has led to my complicated relationship with my hair.::

So for years, from when I was 9 to when I was 21, I was made to grow my hair out as a sign of obedience to God’s will. I often kept it pulled back in a bun. But as I got older, and began to read more, I began to notice that I was part of a community that didn’t encourage critical thinking beyond parsing what Bible stories meant, nor did the people in charge take critique easily. One of my favourite little anecdotes to illustrate this is how my pastor used “humans use 10% of their brain” in his preaching one Sunday, and when I went to speak to him after the service (I was a student nurse at the time) about how that’s just not true biologically, he shrugged it off and said, in a very lofty tone, “if we all used 100% of our brains, we would have accomplished more as a church.”

I need you to understand this from my perspective – for the entirety of my youth, I belonged to a church of fewer than 100 people. My life, both socially and spiritually, was caught up in a net of restrictions, of disapproval, of people who were distrustful of my love of books that weren’t biblical.

Simultaneously, for twelve years, I was in a household where the matriarch doled out emotional and psychological abuse almost on the daily. I was repeatedly told I would get pregnant early and never become successful, in a voice intentionally raised so that the next-door neighbours heard it. The situation exploded to the point that the church elders attempted to stage an intervention – and the pastor did not believe me when I expressed how bad my aunt was behind closed doors. Perhaps it had to do with the rumours she had spread amongst the congregation saying that I was a liar and not to be trusted. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that she and the pastor were close friends, and he was among the first people she would gift things to whenever my mother send home balikbayan boxes. But my aunt, dear reader, was manipulative in ways I can’t even begin to describe, and perhaps in ways I can’t really imagine. All I know is that I felt so alone and so helpless. I began to question how godly my pastor really was, and how genuine his relationship with God could be, if he couldn’t even tell that I was telling the truth.

This is not to say that there weren’t good people in that church. I know there were at least four to six people who believed me. But all of them were women – who did not really have positions of authority within that church’s hierarchy – and while some of them were willing to listen, none of them stood up for myself and my younger brother.

It was hell.

I hope you see where I’m going with this.

The Winter of 2017, Toronto:
When I turned twenty-three, I decided, this is it. I’m in Canada now, and I have no reason to keep this charade going. I am going to cut my hair. I am going to cut it, and it is going to feel so good. I am going to feel so free. And so I did. I cut it to shoulder length, having it cut shorter and shorter every few months until I finally took the plunge and got a super short pixie in March 2017.

There is a photo on my Instagram account somewhere that shows me with my head tilted to one side, my hair tied up in a bun. I’m in my McDonald’s crew uniform in that photo, and I took it while I was on break. It’s captioned, “This is the last week I’ll be wearing a bun.”

Hair, for me, is never just about my hair. My hair is a symbol: of a past life that I loved and lost, of emotional abuse by an authority figure, of being in a church where life was controlled in more ways than just spiritually. I tried living what was their biblical interpretation of an “acceptable” woman – non-confrontational, submissive, not too ambitious. It is a problematic environment when the highest position a man can aspire to is a pastor, and a woman, a pastor’s wife.

My twenties have been a whirlwind of self-discovery. It’s still happening. I’m still changing. For the better, I hope. But right now, as a young woman of twenty-six – I’ve made conscious decisions to change, drastically. I am ambitious, and as the people who know me will say, I am so fucking stubborn. I have a tendency to choose life paths I know are going to be difficult adventures. It’s been great fun, this whole figuring-out-who-I-am thing, especially with the love and guidance of friends and family.

And I will never wear a bun again.