October

We have a Friendsgiving feast that begins at 2 in the afternoon and concludes with singing and guitars at 3 in the morning, approximately twelve bottles of wine and several pies having been consumed by maybe twenty-five people in the interim. I have never been surrounded by such good people, or so happy at a party. 

Andy Shauf plays at The Needle downtown and I learn how difficult and nerve-wracking it is to make the first move re: putting your arm around a girl. 

Dylan and I drive to California with more IMAX film to be developed. I actually get to drive part of the way. At a gas station in Nevada I get an email saying that the Edmonton Arts Council is approving my grant request for money to finish my short story collection, Modular. I squeal and buy a box of Wheat Thins, the most immediate available form of celebration.

In LA we see Kelly Reichhardt's new film, Certain Women (when I get home I put the book of short stories it's based on, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy on hold at the library). We eat as many tacos as possible and drink as much juice as possible. We drive home up the coast and see the ornate row houses in San Francisco, where we also walk through Golden Gate Park, which smells like cinnamon, and eat a legendary cheese bun. We sleep in the back of Ingrid the Mazda 3 in a redwood forest.

We make a pilgrimage to Cannery Row in Monterey. I haven't read the book yet, but after Dylan gives me the summary, I'm able to participate in his religious experience when we discover that Doc's lab is still there, untouched, and so are a few small houses, a warehouse, some concrete ruins on the beach. Then we go to Salinas, to the John Steinbeck interpretive centre, and I blow two hundred dollars of grant money on two mugs for us and one for Laura, a new copy of Sweet Thursday for Ashleigh, a collection of letters, a biography, the journal from the writing of The Grapes of Wrath. I see a tower that says Salinas Ice Company, and also people harvesting cabbages in the fields outside the city.

We see a few Trump signs.

We see strippers in Portland. I experience what must be the female analogue to penis envy; I'm so overwhelmed by the beauty and confidence and athleticism of the women dancing that I start to panic. If they are women, then what am I? Why am I jealous of Dylan, but not turned on? What am I supposed to do in this scenario invented for men?

We go to Whole Foods before we leave for Vancouver the next morning and are awestruck. I buy a yellow hat and Icelandic yogurt. I wonder if Portland is real, or if it has an ugly underbelly. In Vancouver we visit Dylan's cousins and finally we come home.

While we're in America I write a horror story for Sprudge. They're commissioning original Halloween fiction, which I think is a v encouraging and exciting thing for a trade publication to be doing. 

Matthew announces he's put his furniture in storage, quit his job, and is moving to Victoria. His last open apartment is a good one. He reads from Kafka's The Trial and Les Mis. Hannah reads from Frankenstein. Elisia reads from Claudia Rankine's Citizen. I read my new story, which is called "The Siren and the Worm." 

I make a list of schools to apply to and ask my professors to write me reference letters.

After he insists for two years that he doesn't understand poetry, Dylan starts writing incredible poems. We write poems back and forth to each other. One of mine goes

 

on applying to MFA programs

 

I am stupid to apply to American schools

I am stupid to open our home

to this certain failure

 

to this slim chance

to adopt standards we've always rejected

that we try not to understand

 

Dylan's are better.

Back at the Empress, I wear a fur hat while I'm serving and tell the old men that I'm a Russian spy. On the 31st, we skip Halloween entirely. Now it's November and it's still not cold yet. Edmonton seems uglier and smaller than usual after California, but also honest in all its roughness, its squalor and bad architecture and bad transit. Right now we have both snow and green leaves, and flowers inside.