Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Memorium

"Life isn't fair."

I remember hearing this phrase often in my childhood and while I have almost always known the truth of it, I wonder now if it wasn't so much a way to chide us into silence as it was a warning.

Life isn't fair. It will not always wait for you to get back up again to kick you once more,  it will not always punish the bad when or how you think they should be punished and it will not always let you hold onto the things you hold dear.

I think, on some level, we should be telling our children that every day.

Life isn't fair. It doesn't play by the rules and you need to be ready to deal with what that means. Or as much as one can.

Joel Nelson (1985 - 2013)
For my brother, "Life isn't fair" meant so many things we didn't even know and can only wish we understood.

For my family, it means losing a son and brother and never having a proper reason why.

For me, it means rekindling an old friendship only to lose him in a way that cannot be repaired.

Last night, on January 30th, my brother took his own life.

I don't think I will ever  be able to wrap my mind around that--certainly not now. Death has always been something that perplexed me and more than ever, I know I will never understand it.

Now those of us left behind are charged with spreading the word and preparing for the funeral--which in itself is... I hope we can think of everyone... I would hate to leave someone out who would want to know he's gone... even if they weren't close anymore.

I don't know everything about the death (I have the feeling my father did not want to relay everything over the phone)--and what I do know I don't know if it's appropriate to share... or that I want to. All in all, I suppose the details of it are hardly important. The point is he is gone... and I have quite literally lost the voice to speak on it.

I suppose that's what happens when you cry too much with a recovering sore throat. I don't much recommend grieving when you're sick.

I have no words about Joel's death--not yet, not really. But I can speak to his life.

We didn't always get along--I realize that's fairly usual for siblings but our troubles ran a little deeper than most--doesn't seem very important now. It's interesting what we're able to forgive and forget when it's put into the bigger perspective.

I'm very lucky, I think, that I reached a peace with our fights before his death.

When we were very young, he was my best friend. We didn't like to admit it to our school friends--society had taught us that we were supposed to bicker constantly and so while in the public eye, we did.

But at home where the word "cool" was foreign, he was the best at making me laugh.

His room was next to mine and on sleepless nights we'd often stay up talking--from excitement about Christmas morning to uncertainty about school or friends.

We'd pile our family of stuffed animals into laundry baskets and drive them around the carpet or push them down the stairs into the wall in a crash test dummy-like experiment (much to our mother's irritation). You won if none of your animals fell out. This required a great deal of packing with pillows and blankets. Sort of a soft-cushiony alternative to the seat belt.

We slid down the steep stairs at our grandparent's old house until our stomachs were red with rug burn. We would use notebooks to write line-by-line stories when we should have been listening in church.

He is responsible for my love of Ninja Turtles--or really any 80's cartoon not directly target at girls. I wanted to be just like him. I looked up to him completely... I don't think I ever told him that. I'm hoping, at some point when we were younger, he knew that.

I really hope he knew that.

We drifted apart sometime at the start of high school and never really fully reconnected until after I graduated from college.

He thought I was spoiled and I thought he was self-centered. We were both wrong.

Joel had a passion for music--he introduced me to Punk when the girls in my school were shouting praises to Spice Girls.

He taught me how to spit or burp from the diaphragm. He was the reason I ever saw any John Hughes movie or grew up with a crush on John Cusack.

He loved film and would often recommend movies I'd never even heard of but were all cinematically astounding in one aspect or another.

He would often do things simply just for the laughs--he'd thrive on entertaining those around him. He seemed to stand outside of life and be the running commentary more often than seemingly like he was a part of it. He wore his facial hair--Mario mustache and all without a touch of irony.

His gift for humor overflowed into his writing and creative endeavors and as we got to know each other again, we toyed with the idea of collaborating on some kind of film project at some point in our lives. I would like to find a way to still, in some way, make that happen.

I cannot watch Star Wars without thinking of him--he introduced me to the extended universe. He taught me how to wrestle (not fairly, mind you) and how to speed through Mario 3 with warp whistles. I was the player 2 to every co-op game created for early game consoles--or his opponent in Street Fighter and Tekken. We spent hours on Golden eye for the N64 (which frankly is still, in my opinion, the best multi-player FPS to play against your friends).

I would never have watched James Bond without him. I would never have understood that there's a difference between mayonnaise and miracle whip. I would never have roller bladed or climbed trees.

I want it to be some dumb joke--like Tom Sawyer where he'll just fall out of the rafters any moment and after yelling "How could you do that", we'll all laugh and continue on.

They had a lot in common, come to think of it...

But my brother, my friend, will not be attending his own funeral just to hear what others say about him. He will not be blasting music from his room when I get home. He will not be eating strawberry rhubarb pie from the dish with a fork or insisting that there was no good cheese other than 'cheddar'. I will not be able to talk to him about the absurdity of our family, or play a game of pool, or drive him home to make sure he got there safely after we'd been out.

I have our last conversation on my cellphone--it's brief because he had a new phone so there isn't much history... but I've taken pictures of them and emailed them to myself fearing that somehow I will lose them.

We texted on his birthday, January 4th. I thanked him for being my friend again, not just my brother. I said I wanted to hang out again just the two of us the next time I was in town.

And then four days later I recommended some comics I'd come across because he and I had started bonding over getting back into mainstream comics. I recommended the new Marvel Now: Avenger's Assemble, he told me I might like Saga.

I wish I'd finished it in time to talk with him about it.

I wish so many stupid things.

But now really I'm rambling and have already fallen to far too many cliches for this to be a proper tribute.

Maybe there is no proper tribute for him and I will end up trying for years to make something feel right that frankly never will... and it's not meant to.

I'm told the French phrase for "I miss you" translates more accurately to "You are missing from me." I feel when someone dies, that seems more accurate.

A part of me is missing. And I will spend the rest of my life trying to fill it.

I'm not unique in this case and that is both comforting and heartbreaking...

Joel, wherever you are, I hope you know you are so loved. I wish there was something I could have done to help. I wish I'd known you were feeling so lost. Whenever we spoke, you seemed like you were doing so much better and I'm sorry I didn't see through that.

Thank you for being my brother, and thank you for being my friend. I'm so glad I got to have you in my life, regardless how brief it was.

I love you. Forever and always.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Great Power =/= The Right To Be A Douche

Have you heard of the Reviewer Card?


Let me break it down for you. One day Brad Newman, founder of Reviewer Card, decided that all those self-important Yelp! reviewers really didn't have the power that he felt they should. Because giving self-entitled internet trolls really couldn't have any negative results, right?

As Gawker so lovingly put it:

"With this sleek black membership card you can finally exert some actual force on restaurants that were heretofore ignorant of your reviewing prowess.

No longer will you be treated by businesses like some non-reviewer whose opinions aren't even on the Internet. With this sleek black membership card you can finally exert some actual force on restaurants that were heretofore ignorant of your reviewing prowess.

No longer will you be treated by businesses like some non-reviewer whose opinions aren't even on the Internet."
Actually, I highly recommend you read the Gawker l article (and watch the video) linked at the top of the page because frankly it says it way better than I can. I'd like to say Gawker made the video as a joke, but no,it's a genuine ad for Reviewer Card. And it makes my skin absolutely crawl.
There's no real vetting system for who can have a card--if you have opinions on the internet, poof, you may have one! I mean, really, who has opinions on the internet? Only the most fair and just, obviously. Certainly no one could use this card for evil...
Oh wait except that's exactly what it's being used for.
And frankly it's the reason I can't stand most review sites--like Yelp!
Yelp! is an absolutely terrible service and frankly I'm a little surprised that they weren't the ones to come up with this card themselves. Why am I so anti-Yelp!?
I have quite a few friends who own small businesses, and have learned not only will Yelp! remove ANY review if you pay them enough money... but they will actually WITHHOLD good reviews if you don't pay them what they think you should.
So now we have people throwing down their Reviewer Card so they bully businesses for free stuff, who are really just writing for sites like Yelp! who bully businesses into giving them money so that the people who actually write good reviews are actually seen.
Now you may be saying, "Uh, Kiri, you write reviews, who are you to get grumpy about this?"
First, let me explain how I work as a reviewer:
If I am reviewing for my blog, I don't mention I'm going to review it. Frankly, I usually don't decide I'm even going to review a place until I get there. On top of this, my typical reason for reviewing on my blog is because I had an awesome experience and want to share it.
The Founders of Yelp!
It is incredibly easy to write a bad review--for one, humor is always on your side and for another, there will always be at least one person who wants to gripe about something as much as you do.
Misery, as they say, loves company, whether that misery be valid or not.
Now if I am reviewing for Crave Local, it's a slightly different story. I will let people know who I am out of respect for their business. This is so I can ask if they mind if I take pictures (ALWAYS ASK THIS) of the food/establishment or if I can record our conversation for my notes. That whole legal thing, you know? Also, if I'm reviewing a particular service (spa, hair stylist etc) I want to be able to give credit to the right person. Most beauty services are heavily commission based--so the more love I can get them from the review, the better.
Now let me explain how Crave Local works as a review site:
Our job is to connect brands with consumers (and brands with brands but that's a whole different blog post) and the way we do this is through testing product and giving honest answers about the experience. If the product is awesome, we review it, it goes up on the site and we recommend it. If the product is NOT awesome, we will write a list of bullet points explaining the issues we had and will privately send it to the brand. This way we are able to honestly communicate issues with a brand/company/business without humiliating them. They don't have to listen to our advice and we aren't obligated to recommend them to our readers. It's a nice balance.
I'm not going to quote Spider-Man at you, but I'm hoping you get the point. Just because you post on the internet, does not make you important. And regardless of your importance (self or otherwise) it does not give you the right to bully--especially with the intention of self-benefit.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Creative Types"

I was sitting outside a dressing room at Old Navy, waiting for a friend when a clerk, an Asian woman in her mid-50's decided to strike up a conversation with me.

Clerk: I like your hair. (This is a common opener, I hear it about once a day.)

Me: Thanks. (I know this is an opener and I'm not in a talking mood)

Clerk: You must be a creative type.

Me: Uh.

Clerk: You'd have to be with that hair. (I would like to note, I know some creatively bankrupt technicolor-ed people. It is not defined by hair. Their hair dresser, for instance, is likely the creative one.)

Me: Well--

Clerk: Can I pick your brain for something?

Me: Sure?

Clerk: Tomorrow is my mother's 80th birthday and I really want to do something different this year.

Me: Like what?

Clerk: Normally we just do cake, presents--but I want to do something fun. I took her to a club last time.

Me: A club?

Clerk: Yeah. So something fun and different like that. Exciting. I'll let you think on it.

Me: *Asks Twitter for Advice*

Clerk: (Returning far too quickly for twitter to answer) So what do you think?

Me: Uh... Well, there's a S&M coffee shop called Wicked Grounds in the downtown area?

Clerk: Wicked Grounds?

Me: Yup.

Clerk: I'll look it up.

(+50 Renegade pts)


It occurred to me five minutes later when twitter answered with either,

A) "NO, DON'T!"
B)"YES, 80 YEAR OLD WOMEN LOVE S&M COFFEE SHOPS!" (Mostly this one. I have good friends)

I realized the clerk may have thought I meant M&M coffee shop.

And then I realized she probably meant something more like the "Let's meet Mitsy for tea and cucumber sandwiches" club rather than the "It's cage night and drinks are 3.00 for ladies" club.

San Francisco is My Lesbian Girlfriend

I have this weird love for San Francisco. Like... indie-film movie love. I totally get that "I Left my Heart in San Francisco" thing.

And you may be saying, "Why? What's so great about it?"

So I'm going to try to explain. San Francisco is like... the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of cities. And regardless who you are--you're that "I'm looking for meaning in my life" love interest. And then you meet. And it's quirky and awkwardly beautiful.

And at first you're completely charmed by her free spirit, the architecture, the fact that no one gives you weird looks because they're all a little weird too.

You're even a little amused by her liberal and unashamed pot smoking and thrill for the night life.

But then you notice you're almost breathing in the marijuana perfumed air almost every tenth breath in the more urban areas and you can't quite tell if those distant yells are cheers or angry shouting.

You stroll past sleeping homeless who practically sprawl across the side walk and find yourself mentally praying they are in fact sleeping.

You find those rolling curves you once admired are quickly the bane of your existence as you scale what feels like a vertical climb and just as sweat is dripping down your temples and you're about to break the whole thing off, you catch sight of something absolutely breath taking--like Huntington Park back lit by Grace Cathedral.

And in those moments, you completely forget why you were fighting. You make up while some Belle and Sebastian song plays in the background and credits roll...

And the next morning it starts all over again because the street smelled like piss when you woke up.

It's not really a healthy relationship, but it's there and weirdly hard to shake and twenty-something self-proclaimed intellectuals will philosophize on and idealize it for years after--never fully understanding what actually happened... You know, like every other indie movie romance.

And eventually you leave, and you tell yourself you're glad to get away... but you find yourself missing the way the fog rolls in from the bay and realizing a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee or La Boulange croissants cannot be replaced by Starbucks.

It's not really healthy... but it's there.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Incoming Writing Explosion?

So as I've mentioned on twitter, tomorrow night I'll be flying out to San Francisco and will be there for about a week's time.

There are a few reasons for the trip, but we'll focus on the visiting friends and doing some work for Crave Local.

However, while I'm there I will be exploring and plan on writing up anything that strikes me that may not be Crave Local related and that will end up here.

I imagine there will be plenty of crazy shenanigans worth sharing that aren't appropriate for a professional setting. =D

If you know of anything you want to see/want me to see, let me know! I'll be trying to fit in as much viewing the city as possible.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Fly In the Eyelash

So as you may know, I had the awesome opportunity of reviewing Wink Lash Extensions this month for Crave Local.

If you didn't know, here's the article I wrote on it.

They are lovely and beautiful and fine and I would highly recommend them if you're looking for extensions because quite frankly, they made me look rather chic.

But we know I'm really a far less than graceful person.

So I'm walking around Freemont with Jessica Tupper (the badass food ninja of Seattle) and it was chilly that day but not quite so chilly that living things were hiding apparently.

You know how once in a blue moon a bug will try to fly directly INTO YOUR FREAKING EYE?

Well one such bug attempted this, but I saw it coming so I tried to close my eyes very quickly hoping it would bounce off and fly away.

The funny thing... about eyelashes. They're meant to catch dust and hair etc--anything that would fall in your eye basically.

Apparently if your lashes are long enough, this includes tiny flies.

I then completely ruined my poised facade and proceeded to flail as I could see it writhing about in my peripheral, caught between the lashes.

And you're not supposed to rub your eyes a lot with lash extensions so I had to carefully brush it out--which wasn't that hard, I just couldn't see anything but a wriggling blur so...

Ew ew ew ew ew.

My name is Kiri Callaghan... and I am not a graceful person.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Silent Hoo

Holy crap you guys...

So I should be in bed (I get up at 3am these days) but if I don't write this now I probably never will, so here it goes.

I drove up last night for an impromptu visit with the Canadian and it was awesome and fun and totally worth the hour wait at the border on New Years Eve. The visit itself was for less than 24hrs and I had to work for a good 10 of it but he's one of my closest friends and the only guy I've dated who's ever vowed to carry me through the zombie apocalypse if it ever came to it so even if we'd just had an hour, I still would have done it.

Anyway... So I was up in Canada land and heading out around 6pm, well fed but in need of coffee, and that's when an entire flock of clouds decided to take a freaking nap on the entire area.

Fog. Was. Everywhere.

I'm talking Silent Hill here, people.

Also? My GPS decided to be a dick and just couldn't find the servers, even when connected to wifi.

But I have to work tomorrow followed by a meeting AND I'm doing a salon review right after that--so staying another night was sadly out of the question.

Thankfully, I'd driven it enough times that I was fairly certain I knew where I was going and the Canadian (Who really should be named but I don't know how comfortable he is with me naming him in a public blog so to respect his privacy I'll just call him Hugh Jackman from now on.) showed me the route to get to the nearest Tim Horton's drive through off highway 99.

After helping me scrape frost off my windows and headlights, Hugh Jackman and I said our goodbyes and I vanished into what must have looked like a only partially rendered game world.

I. HATE. FOG.

I didn't get lost but fog always makes me second guess where I'm going. I wanted to stay extra concentrated so I turned my music off so I wouldn't go into an auto-pilot induced state because I was too distracted belting out show tunes.

It's been known to happen.

So as I'm making my way to highway 99 (which if you aren't familiar with the Vancouver, BC area, it's the highway most often used to get back to the USA border to Seattle) I get to this bridge near the Ladner Trunk Road turn off.

I know it was this turn off because I initially turned right, thinking it was the on ramp for 99 south because NOTHING LOOKS THE SAME IN FOG.

This mistake is crucial because if I hadn't made it, what happened next would have happened to somebody else.

The bridge/overpass thingy is currently undergoing construction of some kind and I'm always wary of going under construction sites because who knows what was left just sitting on the edge or whatever.

I realize this is probably an irrational paranoia.

Except tonight it totally wasn't... for all the wrong reasons.

So I turn back onto the road, wary of impending sirens or the appearance of Pyramid Head and as I'm about to go under this bridge, I see something fall (but by the trajectory, I almost think it was tossed) over the side. I tried to swerve so it didn't hit my car, but of course it landed right on my hood/windshield because I'm not James Bond.

That something? Was a dead. Snowy. Owl.
At least, I was pretty sure it was an owl? It was fluffy and white and didn't seem to have a neck and one wing stuck straight up in this disturbing rigor mortis kind of way and it had those dark stripes you see in pictures?

(PS, just looked up Snowy owls and discovered those stripes likely mean it was female and/or pretty young.  Now I'm depressed...)

And then it fell off my car and onto the road and I had no idea what to do so I made my way to the Tim Hortons' Hugh Jackman had indicated and pretty much swallowed an entire medium French Vanilla in one go because it occurred to me it may have been a sleep-deprived hallucination sent to wake me up so I could drive safely home.

Considering it had made me scream like that girl who gets stabbed in the shower in that movie with the psycho (take your pick of which one I mean), I'd say it did the trick.

Oddly the caffeine helped calm my nerves.

I got across the border and was oddly relieved there were no wildlife hit and run questions because I'm not sure if they can detain you if a dead bird hits your car but I didn't want to take that risk.

By then the fog was gone until I had to pull over at a rest stop... because I'd downed an entire coffee in one gulp. This is the last thing I ever want to do on night road trips but when you gotta go, you gotta go, you know? And somehow then the fog came back. For that one rest stop. I shit you not. No pun intended.

High way rest stops always make nervous because they seem like the perfect setting for Freddy Kruger to kill and rape you... and yes in that order because those places are THAT sketchy.

So I texted the whole owl story to Hugh Jackman while I was there because he'd know that if I stopped texting mid-story that I'd been attacked and he could call the police... Or the X-men.

He confirmed that yes, there were a lot of owls in that area and asked if I was okay.

And I was. To be honest, the trauma of having a dead owl take a nosedive on your car is quickly over written by the "What the fuck" factor.

And I checked Serenity (my car) while I was stopped and she also seemed okay--which is a relief because I have no idea how I'd explain possible owl suicide to my insurance company.