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Daria Salamon
Monday
Nov242014

5 People You Need in Your Friendship Fridge



You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

-Jim Rohn-

If you tried grilled cheese when you were five (or, um, merlot when you were twenty) and fell in love, it doesn’t mean that’s the only food or booze you would consume for the rest of your life! Imagine all of the Malbecs and California Zinfandels and steak sandwiches you'd have missed out on! 

Diversify your friendship pool. Avoid surrounding yourself with a bunch of like-minded people with the exact same views and interests, who are in the exact same stage of life.  This might be one of the best pieces of advice I got when I was younger. 

I've spent years stocking my friendship fridge. Here are the 5 people I think everyone needs in their fridge:

1. The Can I Borrow A Cup of Flour and a Bottle of Merlot Friend. 

Some of best TV shows and characters are based on neighbour situations: Kramer & Seinfeld, Friends, Big Bang Theory, Melrose Place. There's a reason.  With a lot of your friends, happy hours and coffee dates have to be planned weeks in advance. But with neighbours, the hijinx just happens - organically and all the time.

I can’t even count the number of times a chat in the garden has turned into a BBQ, into a party, into sorry, I just puked in your hydrangeas—again, into can you break into my house and unplug my hair straightener. What? I changed the alarm code and forgot to tell you? You need me to come down to the police station?

Remember when you were a kid and you used to play with the other kids on the street all day, getting into all sorts of shit? It was so simple, so easy, so fun. It’s kind of like that for grown ups when your neighbours are your friends.

 

2. The Well Aged and Marbled Steak Friend. 

People who are ten, twenty, even thirty years older than you—who aren’t your parents (because nobody listens to their parents regardless how bloody and marbled they are)—might be the most important (and least stocked) friend in your fridge.

This is someone who has been where you are now and lived to tell about it. Their children are grown up, while yours are still shitting under the Christmas tree. They're mid-career or retiring when you've just realized six years into your degree and thirty grand into student loans, that you may have made the wrong career choice.

When you’re at a crossroads, agonizing over a decision, call up the The Well Aged and Marbled Steak friend. They’ve been there and they’ll get you all sorted out. They'll tell you to come over for some tea and say things like stop sweating the bloody small stuff, it's only money, no, you can't tie your kids up in the back yard until they're eighteen. More tea?

 

 

3. The Nouveau Beaujolais

These fresh, young, spirited, often drunk, friends get you out dancing or seeing bands when you might otherwise be lying in the tub with egg whites and wasabi mayonnaise slathered all over your face. If you have a baby or young kids, you’re suddenly a mommy-talk-magnet and you can get lured into hundred-hour conversations at the playground about pink eye and chaffed nipples. (And you secretly kind of like it.)

But The New Beaujolais alert you to the best new coffee shops and breakfast joints in the neighbourhood that don't count drooling, lice-afflicted toddlers amongst the regulars. Yes, there is hope and life outside of children.  And, as a bonus, you can sometimes offer perspective to The New Beaujolais, because somehow you survived your 20’s and all the bad boyfriends that come with it. Barely. 

 

4. The Stinky Blue Cheese Friend.

This is the cultured friend who challenges you on everything, tells you when you are fucking up. This is the hardest friend to find; we all tend to want to surround ourselves with gooey grilled cheese. Blue Cheese are politically and socially aware and an evening out can entail mindblowing conversation or an explosive argument. Either way, at the end of the night, you are both drunk and still friends.  Most of the time they’re your biggest supporter. But they will also tell you to go and apologize to someone when no one else will. This is one of the most rewarding friendships to sustain.



 

5. The Grilled Cheese Friend. These are your first friends. You met on playgrounds of elementary school. Or in the vicious halls of junior high. You backpacked through Europe together in white Birkenstocks. You bonded over getting your period, choking on pot, and dating all the wrong boys. Even if you go through bouts of losing touch, this is the person you call when you break up, get pregnant, get a promotion or just need a hug and a glass of wine. You could actually survive on grilled cheese alone because it's the staple that gets you through life - along with that cheap bottle of Merlot.

 

BONUS: THE NUTS FRIEND: If you can find someone who makes you laugh and is a little crazy- that’s gold! Keep them in your fridge. They don’t go bad, they never get stale. Humour is the secret weapon of friendship.

 

 

Monday
Nov032014

My Comments on that Globe Article: Swears & Humour Intact

1. First of all, I need everyone to know that it’s like stabbing myself in the eye with pins, or having a drill break off in my tooth in the middle of a root canal writing something that contains no humour whatsoever. Anybody who has followed my writing over the years knows that I sometimes write about some uncomfortable shit, but my secret weapon has always been to wrap it in funny, the same way you wrap asparagus in bacon. Humour and bacon can make the most unsavory things in life taste awesome.

But the nature of the Globe & Mail article, the audience and the subject matter dictated the serious tone. I think the fact that there was no BACON in this essay scared the crap out of some people. Including me. It’s okay. I’m back.

 

2. I have dealt with this situation on a personal level. Not sure if you’ve read that post about my love for Kirk McManus in the sixth grade and how I’ve kept 6 gazillion journals over the years—which are not all about Kirk McManus… but I could write myself out of a submarine stuck in seaweed, surrounded by sharks at the bottom of the ocean. When bad shit happens - as it does to ALL of us, get a journal and start writing. It really works. (And therapists are great too!) I’m good. Seriously.

I put readers in that room with me. I recreated the scenario for readers so that people could REALLY understand what many women go through. But, I have not been stuck there for the past 20 years. I am strong. Here is a picture of me doing CrossFit to prove it.

 

 

My emotional strength matches this and then some. To publically admit you were, or are, a victim is a pretty rough and raw - like steak tartare raw - thing to do. But if it somehow makes some small dent in supporting all human beings’ right to survive, thrive and kick ass – then I am always going to be “in”.

 

3. I wrote this piece because I was pretty irate and "throat punchy” mad about people blaming and faulting the "Jian women" for not coming forward, identifying themselves and pressing charges. It’s pretty easy to sit there in your SUV, eating your Big Mac, asking why they won’t identify themselves as secret sauce dribbles down your shirt. You have no idea.

I felt like, maybe, an experience outside the whole Jian Ghomeshi context might actually help people understand that all of this has very little to do with Ghomeshi and everything to do with our society still being sucky and squeamish and silent about assault.

4. The response to this article has come in two forms:

A) I have gotten more comments, emails, dm’s, messages from both friends and strangers from across the country than I will probably ever be able to respond to. Thank you for the messages. Here is an example of the simplest email that I got from some guy named Michael:


Thanks for your courageous statement in Saturday's Globe. You have made the silence of others so clearly understandable.

 

 

This comment alone has made writing the article worthwhile. He didn’t make me feel like a victim; he told me that I did my job as a writer. I fucking loved that. 

 

B) The other response I’ve gotten is the “Let’s Pretend This Didn’t Happen and That You Didn’t Write About This” silence and weird looks from people I know well. I get it. You're not ready to talk about this. You didn't want to know about it. Where’s the sand? You want to relocate your head there. And you probably liked me better before. But I ask you to remember that we once lived in a world where gay rights, transgender rights, black rights, women’s rights were sticky, icky, silent issues.

(Or, maybe you were just holding out for the funnier post-- in which case, I laude you.) Anyway, to those people— it’s okay. I will still drink wine with you as long as it’s not homemade or boxed.

 

 

I am a writer. The pen is my voice, my weapon. Occasionally, I use it to stab people.

 

“Keep me up till five because all your stars are out, and for no other reason…Oh dare to do it Buddy! Trust your heart. You’re a deserving craftsman. It would never betray you…I think I’d give almost anything on earth to see you writing a something, an anything, a poem, a tree, that was really and truly after your own heart.” J.D. Salinger

 

 

Wednesday
Oct082014

Body Modifications Gone Wrong


 

A drill bit wedged in my jaw. A huge chunk of cork hanging off my nipple. Body modifications that didn’t go as planned.

 

I was sitting in the dentist’s chair, gripping the leather arm rests, my jaw cranked open, enduring, as best I could, a root canal.

And then things went wrong.

“Uh, oh. That’s not good,” the dentist said, examining the end of his drill as he pulled it out of my mouth. 

The MISSING end of the drill.

 “ut?” I asked, drool and blood drizzling down my frozen chin onto the paper bib.

“Seems the end of the file has broke off.”

“Huh!!!??”

“It’s rare, but it happens. You’re the unlucky one.”

“I ‘ont ant ooh ee de unwucky one!!!!!”

 

He took x-rays. I craned my neck and stared at the pictures over his shoulder in disbelief.

There it was. The drill bit was lodged way down the cavity of my tooth.  

 

He kept digging with various tools. But it wasn’t coming out. I was sent home with a prescription for drugs and an appointment to see a specialist.

I had a hunk of metal down my tooth that I couldn’t see; I might as well get some metal in me that I could see.

Still sort of hopped up on mouth sedatives, a prescription for T3s in my fist, now seemed as good as any to go and get that nipple piercing I’d been meaning to get. 

Years of giving birth and nursing babies had put my piercing plans on hold. My tooth would be setting off the metal detectors at airports anyway. I headed over to the piercing shop to reclaim sovereignty of my nipples with a metal flag.

I sat in another leather chair as the woman clamped my nipple. I stared at the fat, gleaming needle as it went in one side and came out the other. Yeooooow.  Just because my face was numb didn’t mean I couldn’t feel this in my nipple. That was poor logic.

The irony of all this is not lost on me. The dentist trying to get one hunk of metal out; the piercer putting another piece of metal in.

The woman who pierced me explained that if I took it out, the piercing would close up in a matter of hours. She screwed the bead onto the end of the barbell and gave me some sea salt spray. When I got home I sprayed the shit out of my throbbing jaw and nipple, and popped a T3. I was good to go.

A few days later, with all my new hardware installed, we headed off on vacation to a remote cabin in Northwestern Ontario.

Two days into the vacation I stepped out of the shower and saw that one of the beads had fallen off the end of barbell; a bead on either end was necessary to hold the piercing in place. I crawled around the floor looking for it, but I was pretty sure it had gone swimming down the drain.

Great, now what? This thing is going to fall out and close up. The metal that I don’t want in my tooth is still there, and the metal that I do want in my nipple is going to fall out.

I went to the kitchen, poured myself a glass of wine and contemplated the situation. As I popped the cork out of the bottle, a solution hit me! I hacked off a chunk of cork and fastened it to the end of the metal rod in my nipple. It split, too small. Again, another piece. Still too small.  I hacked off a big chunk of cork and stabbed onto the post. It stayed.

Voila, problem solved. Except that there was a giant hunk of cork hanging off my nipple for the better part of a week and a half until I could get back to the piercing shop to replace the bead.

I actually have a picture of this, but I’m concerned about the kind of traffic it’ll draw to my site if I post it.

I’d say between the tooth with the drill bit rammed into my jaw, and my cork nipple, it was a round of body modifications gone wrong.

I did eventually get back to the piercing shop to get the bead replaced, but to be honest, I’d grown kind of fond of the cork.

I did visit the dental specialist and he’s been unable to get the drill bit out. At the next appointment he’s going to seal it in and we'll hope for the best.

Maybe, in time, like the cork, I’ll grow fond of the drill bit too. People live with bullets lodged in them. This is my own dental warfare souvenir.  

Wednesday
Sep242014

World Tour Planning 101: Who Needs a Map When There's Malbec?

 


Seriously? You’re ordering spring rolls? That’s your research plan for Asia?

My New Zealand travel planning isn't much better; I rented the TV show Flight of the Conchords. (I think Brett and Jemaine are giving me a pretty good sense of what Kiwis are like.) I also picked up a couple of bottles of New Zealand malbec. 

Meanwhile, Rob, has been feverishly booking flights, accommodations, hikes, camping, car rentals and activities all over New Zealand — the first leg of our family's year-long trek around the world. 

 

He’s a researcher, a mapper, a Guidebook Guy.

I prefer flying by the seat of my ass.

I’m in charge of planning the South East Asia part of our tour. (I know, I know – I wouldn’t trust me as far as I could throw a map either.) Most of my information about Vietnam, Laos, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Tibet, Myanmar comes from novels. And spring rolls.  But I hear the beaches are nice, the food is good and they adore children. Good enough for me. Let’s go.

I’ve traveled a lot and one of the things I love most about travel is the unexpected adventure that unfolds when you throw yourself into new situations, embrace people, and sink your teeth into authentic experiences (as opposed to other people's experiences that are written about in guide books).

Map, shmap, I say.

Here is a random page out of my travel journal that illustrates what I'm talking about when you ditch the Lonely Planet and Fodor's.

I once signed up to volunteer with an organization in Ghana, West Africa where I would be one of several international volunteers, along with locals, helping to build a school. I found the organization on the Internet and it seemed legit enough. (This was long before organizations like Free the Children made International Volunteerism trendy.) 

When I arrived in Accra, Phillip, the administrator from VOLU was supposed to be at the airport holding a placard with my name on it. I was so excited as I stepped off the plane!

But then I wandered aimlessly inside and outside the airport for what seemed like hours looking for that Daria placard. It didn’t exist.

It was dark and late, I was alone, in a city of 2 million people in Africa. I didn’t know a soul. And there wasn’t exactly a Holiday Inn next to the airport. There also seemed to be a rolling power supply, because the lights kept going out all over the city.

It was starting to occur to me that maybe this organization that I’d found on the Internet to which I’d paid some money to cover my living expenses while at the volunteer camp, might not actually exist.


Now what?
 
The one thing my “minimal planning” approach to life and travel has taught me— you have to be resourceful, embrace the moment – even if you’re scared shitless because you’ve inevitably landed yourself in another sketchy situation.

There was a man from another organization holding up a sign that read Ariana. Should I just say that I'm her?A girl then de-planed and they greeted one another. Damn, there goes that plan.

I asked him if he’d heard of VOLU. He hadn’t, but he said there was room at their hostel, I could stay there for the night and we’d sort it out in the morning. Sounds good to me. I wouldn’t be sleeping in the dark streets of Accra. Yahoo.

In the morning, we found out that VOLU did in fact exist and they were on their way to pick me up. Phillip said I’d given him the wrong arrival date, even though I was pretty sure I’d forwarded him my airline itinerary.

 

 My Voluntary WorkCamps of Ghana Identity Card.

 

When we arrived at VOLU – it turned out that I was the only international volunteer.

When I signed on, they claimed that projects were a 50/50 split of locals and internationals from places like North America, South America and Europe.


Okay, so, it’s just me then?


Phillip said he was hopeful that there would be a few more volunteers coming in from France. But they hadn’t shown up yet. Maybe he lost their itineraries too? Regardless, I’d be shipped out the next day to a remote, rural area with no electricity or running water to start construction on a school where apparently, I’d be the only white woman. Some people might have bailed at this point. But, not me.

I spent the day by myself, wandering around Accra, a bustling hub of a city with markets and people everywhere. About a thousand different people asked me if I’d sponsor them into Canada. Sure, why not?

 

 

I returned back to VOLU that evening; it doubled as a hostel where volunteers stayed until they are sent off their volunteer camp. Phillip told me he was going home for the night and that the man in the shack out front would take care of anything that I needed; he was a security guard. See you in the morning.


What? You’re leaving me here? By myself?


(Again, you can’t really linger on these details too much when you don’t spend a whole of a lot of time researching the organization with which you’re be volunteering.)

I played checkers and War with the 8 year-old daughter of the security guard. At about 9 p.m. he told me to go inside because they were heading home and he needed to lock up.


What do you mean, heading home? You’re locking me up in here? Alone?


The building could only be locked from the outside, he explained.  So as I went inside and I could hear the lock clacking behind me. I lied down in my bunk, read a little and then tried to sleep. What if there was a fire? How would I get out? This is crazy. After hours of hypothesizing about worst case scenearios, I realized there was nothing I could do, so I finally drifted off to sleep.

At 1 am I awoke to the lock opening and flashlights flickering on the floors and walls. (Speaking of worst case scenarios.) 

 Nobody knows I’m here! I practically don’t even know where I am! How will anyone back home be able to find me? Or my body!

I wondered if it’d be better to lie still and be quiet, or start screaming, trying to locate necks with my teeth. Okay, maybe a little planning and research wouldn’t have hurt. So far this volunteer experience in Africa has been a bit harrowing.

 

“Allo, Daria? Allo?” It was the French volunteers. I’ve never been so happy to see French people in my life!

 

Maude and Etienne, my fellow French volunteers, in front of the Volu office.

The rest of this Ghana volunteer experience was just as comic and epic and insane as the start. The camp was run by a certified lunatic who effectively made the French volunteer Etienne his servant; he wore a bedsheet most of the time, talked about himself in the third person and was effectively high as a kite for 3 full weeks.  I was sent into the village twice to see the District Chief to beg for food for our camp. I walked 3 miles through a snake-infested field bought a pig, slaughtered it, and then carted it three miles back to camp in a wheelbarrow. 

I gradually realized as I got acclimatized to my new environment that all of this was simply the way things worked. You can't apply your cushy North American systems and expectations to a developing West African country. What seemed a little nuts to me was standard operating procedure over there.

By the time I left, we had a school under construction and I'd worked side by side with locals, 7 hours a day, for three weeks. I can't really imagine a better way to get to know a country and it's people. 

After my volunteer term was finished, I visited all of the historical and tourist places that were written about in the guidebooks. They were interesting, but they were effectively a checklist of things to see and do. They weren't the experiences that would change me, that would define my time in Ghana.  

 

 On our last day the entire village held this incredible ceremony for us.  We had to wear tradtional cotumes, sing, eat and drink weird stuff. But they named me their village's honourary Queen! I tried to rock that title back home, but everyone told me to fuck off. 

 

So, as we plan this year-long adventure, for the sake of my family’s sanity, maybe I’ll tuck a guidebook into my backpack. But I sure hope we stumble off the beaten path and embrace some good old fashioned adventure -- the kind you'd never find in a guidebook!

Bring on the spring rolls and Flight of the Conchords. With a side of Syrah.

 Not all those who wander are lost.  -J. R. R. Tolkien -Inspirational Reading Quotes

 

Monday
Sep012014

The First Day

 You wore your brother’s underwear all summer. Kindergarten starts tomorrow and suddenly you insist on wearing those pink panties in the back of your drawer, the ones with the Hello Kitties stamped on the ass.

 

 

Third grade recess pecking order and whether or not you’ll be invited to Eli’s birthday party replace the decisions of whether to do a cannonball or a dive off the dock, whether we should spend a rainy morning playing Battleship or Lego, whether turning your sister's Elsa doll into a Sith Lord was a good idea.

 

You will both come home exhausted those first days. And then as the year goes on—you'll come home excited, in tears, in smiles. And even though I ask you the cause of those salty, wet tears or that mischievous little smile, I won’t be there experiencing it with you – like we did all summer.

 

Yeah, yeah, I get it. This is all part of growing up. You must fight your own battles and celebrate your own triumphs – but it still breaks my heart. Just a little.

Know this. As I send you off to face what I like to call the institutions of the world, I love you. And I will always be your landing pad, your “home free”, that place where you get unconditional hugs (and really annoying questions about your day). And I will stick out my foot and face plant that kid who made you cry.

Have a great first day. Have a great year.