This is my irreplaceable, beautiful, brilliant cousin Ruby.

05 Fuck you toffs

I will never forget the day in 1996 when my mother said, “I have big news – Aunt Boz is pregnant!” All I ever wanted, growing up, was a cousin – another human from my planet to add to my brood.

When I heard the news, I bawled. One of the happiest days of my youth, bar none. And I didn’t even know then that she would grow up into such a sweet, brilliant, beautiful creature.

She is now in her second year at the University of Edinburgh. Ruby grew up in New York City, but decided – wisely – not to be one of those Americans who never leaves America. Smart girl. And of course I was thrilled, given that I adore Scotland.

Last year she told me about the people in her student halls, including a big gang of (what else) weird boys who went to male-only boarding school (ugh). You know the type. The ones who treat women like another species because they have spent so little time around them. Who instantly assume a right to status and power because it’s been drilled into them that they are entitled to it. You know the type.

One of the boys had the audacity to mock her with the nickname “Fox News Girl”.

I nearly burst into flames in a bout of rage-induced spontaneous combustion.

“FOX NEWS GIRL?! How fucking DARE they?!”

“No, no, he was teasing but he wasn’t being THAT mean,” replied the Ruby, who is so good-natured and sweet-tempered that she couldn’t even begin to comprehend why somebody would be so vicious to her without good reason.

“No. Ruby. It’s not a friendly jibe. They are being vicious: they see your hair and hear your accent, and instantly presume they are more intelligent, because daddy paid for their schooling so therefore it must be worth something. I’ve dealt with that garbage from posh upper class boys since the moment I arrived – they see my hair and hear my voice and instantly presume intellectual superiority. Kelley will tell you the same about her time living in London. It’s incessant, and such a force of habit, it’s as though being mindlessly condescending and misogynistic is a reflex action. Often they don’t even realise they are doing it. Even worse, they are making fun of you in the most nasty, quintessentially English way possible: a manner they think is subtle, and which you might misconstrue as affectionate teasing, which therefore makes the put-down twice as funny. Where the fuck are these boys? I will come up there right now and slit their fucking throats. Nobody can speak to you like that.”

Ruby is a Walsh and therefore is not cursed with the burden of having a temper. Or the ability to readily spot bullies.

*I* however am a Cormier, have inherited the genes of boxers, gymnasts, death metal promoters, and a wide variety of maniacs. Once upon a time I was a baseball pitcher. I know how to throw a punch. I take pride in not losing my temper at my friends or lovers – but if provoked I know how to do it.

So I am more than happy to let loose explosive rage on an appropriate target in her defense. I would have gotten physically violent with any of those boys on her behalf, given the chance.

Three months later, in April 2016, in the middle of her exams:

“Oh my god, Zoe you were right. Those were the most horrible boys I have ever met. I knew they were kind of mean but I didn’t realise just how awful and heartless. I went to give money to a homeless guy and they told me not to, saying he ‘chose’ that lifestyle. They are HORRIBLE and I don’t speak to any of them any more.”

“It’s ok Ruby – you just didn’t realise how awful they are because you weren’t raised to be an asshole yourself. This just speaks to how good natured you are. Just remember to pity them: their punishment is they have to be themselves.”

So. Cherry on the cake: my irreplaceable, beautiful, brilliant cousin Ruby got a 1st, and crushed all those snobby creeps in the academic standings by a goddamned mile.

Take that you little snots.

I wanted her to give the middle finger with me in this pic, but she’s too sweet for that – so I’m more than happy to do it for the both of us.

Deepest love and respect, Ruby Walsh, you singular, spectacular you.

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For Don.

04 For Don

03 For Don

Deepest Love.

I thought about going back to my hotel, sleeping, and then crafting a new sign. With the only purpose being a new photo taken when I looked less tired and grief-stricken.

Naw.

If he would have wanted anything, it would have been brazen honesty. Fresh from crying a bit, sleep-deprived, and all.

And after crying a bit, he would have demanded I laugh at what he always called “the absurdity of the world”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pbTmXsfiYk

Yes sir.

So, I saw a house up in Highbury with a collection of gnomes in the front yard. (I’m sure the neighbours LOVE it.)

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Oh please. That’s nothing. Check out this house in my childhood neighbourhood in Toronto that is covered in an enormous stockpile of dolls.

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I know that North Americans tend to make everything ridiculously large compared to the Brits – cars, candy bars, highways, houses, waistlines – but frankly, these Islington gnome connoisseurs need to up their game.

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When I was 13, there was a band from Toronto called Zoebliss. I can’t remember what their music sounded like, but it must have been mediocre or nondescript, as I can’t find anything online for you to peruse.

In any case. 

Regardless of the quality or style of their music, I bought a few merch shirts. Why the fuck wouldn’t you? If a band named <YOUR NAME> < TERM FOR JOY> existed, you too would be pleased as punch, and want to have some historical record of their existence.

Right?

Anyhoo. During my spring cleaning, I re-discovered the band’s logo, imprinted on cotton, stored away 20 years ago.

Featuring – oh yes, indeed – a goddamned alien.

(Sidenote: I can’t stop laughing, every time I look at it.)

I asked my friends on Facebook,

What should I do with this?

1. Frame it.
2. Weave into a slutty top.
3. Other?

Suggestions, please. This is for posterity. Be honest.

Suggestions included “a patchwork stitch onto a pillow”, “Just don’t have it made into a tattoo, please please please” (from my mother), and “appliqué it onto a black denim jacket or canvas bag”.

But the best suggestion of all:

“Knickers.”

Last night my mate Kier and I enjoyed the spectacular pleasure of seeing Jarvis Cocker and a man who is increasingly becoming one of my personal favourite humans of all time – Chilly Gonzales – in conversation at Rough Trade discussing their new collaboration.

If you know nothing of Chilly, this is an excellent summary.

Hometown boy done good. Cannot help but gush with pride that a piece he scored was included in the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music’s Grade 9 Repertoire (which I studied from).

From his Master Classes to his Guinness World Record, there’s no shortage of eclectic joy to be found in his work.

But this. THIS. Chilly explaining something piano-related on German Sesame Street. This leaves them all behind.

I don’t speak a word of German and I think I enjoy it all the more for it.

Of note: Five days of drinking tap water in New Orleans in July, and I spent five months infested with the horrid parasite giardia, which reared its head and made my life a misery on and off all autumn.

I spent almost a whole month in Brazil in January where I was exposed to a wide array of infectious and/or toxic agents, including (but not limited to)
– mosquitoes (likely laden with viruses)
– questionable plumbing infrastructure
– the occasional overflowing toilet
– coagulated cheese
– Brazilian beer
– Peter

… two months later and I’m still totally fine.

Make conclusions about tropical hygeine / American urban decay at your leisure.

My grandmother turned 90 today. Snap.

Here she is in 1967.

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Some people have different recipes for longevity. For some, “cigars and brandy”. Others, ascetic self-denial. And for far too many, being “too mean to die”. 

For both my maternal grandfather (who lived to be 90) and grandmother, I’d say it was the same diet: An irrepressible desire to learn more. About everything. All the time.

“Too curious to give up” is an excellent motto, and one I always endeavour to live by.

Gloria Vizinczey: I salute thee. 

Obnoxious spam email from Victoria Milan’s PR dept:

“Dear Zoe,

A revealing study into the deep, dark secrets of cheaters has revealed which excuses will be used most commonly on Valentine’s Day, as more than one-third of active female cheaters in UK plan to spend time with both their lover and their long-term partner on the most romantic day of the year while only 11% of male cheaters intend to do same.

The survey, conducted by Victoria Milan – a dating site for married and attached people looking to cheat – asked 5907 of its active male and female members from 19 countries to put down the chocolates, fluffy handcuffs and champagne and answer some questions about who takes priority on Valentine’s Day, and why.”

Etc etc. Then they lay out the stats on what excuses cheaters use and so forth, mined from surveys of their users.

I kind of just want to email the schleck back with something like,

“You have sullied my laptop with this email. Find something better to do with your life. There are other ways to make a living in PR.”

Today, boys and girls, Sly Stone will get a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys.

It’s hard to put into words how important this is. Especially considering how horribly fucked over he was.

I might just stay up to watch it live.

In the meantime, here’s my thoughts on his significance – a bit from the first draft of my book that had to be left on the cutting room floor:

An instructive example is written in the story of Sly Stone, lead singer of the unparalleled Sly & The Family Stone. There has never really been a band quite like them, before or since. Black and white, male and female, the San Francisco funk progenitors embodied the sexual and racial liberation that the 1960s were supposed to unleash. A woman played the trumpet. The drummer was white.

If you haven’t seen their set from the Woodstock documentary (1970), watch it the next time you hear nondescript anodyne swill issuing from the radio (Read: Mumford & Sons) to remind you what music is supposed to sound like.

They took the stage in the middle of the night, set to play to 450,000 soggy, tired hippies crammed into a field built to accommodate just 50,000 people. And they set the place on fire.

“We would like to do a sing along together,” intoned Sly to the addled, exhausted crowd. “And what usually happens when you get a group of people together who might sing, for reasons that are not known anymore, most of us seem to feel we need approval… Now, it might do you some good.”

Sly was good with the uplifting one-liners. One of his best:

“You don’t have to die before you live.”

Tiresome misanthrope Richard Dawkins grumbles ineffectively today for hundreds of pages on the redeeming qualities of atheism, while Sly managed to express the life-affirming power of secularism in just eight inspiring words.

I know it’s annoying when people post images of their lunch on social media. But this was by leaps and bounds, the WORST pizza I have ever had.

Brazil features some of the most spectacularly awful food, it borders on sublime. And I’M from NORTH AMERICA. I grew up surrounded by terrible food. I’ve tasted Arby’s. It should be impossible to shock me.

But shock me the Brazilians can. They seem to have embraced the worst of American cuisine – awful bread, processed cheese and excess sugar – and taken it to the next level. (Which is as hilarous as it is lamentable, considering it is also a lush land of plenty, where it shouldn’t be hard to order a salad.)

Anyways, this is the worst pizza I have ever experienced. All the more amusing because it was in Sao Paulo airport, at what I believed to be the least bad restaurant in the terminal. I thought I could be safe ordering the “Portuguese” pizza, as I had eaten one with an identical title three days earlier in Itacare, and it featured capers and olives. What could go wrong?

But nay. NAY. This version came with:
– chopped up egg
– an entire layer of “ham” (as in an entire circle of ham)
– three layers of cheese
– overcooked wonderbread-like “crust”
– and, inexplicably, peas

I had to dissect it first, just to be certain I was brave enough to try it.

When frozen peas are the best thing about your pizza, you know it’s one for the ages.

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