A piece from the back catalogue - the below is a failed pitch to a lady blog from back in 2011 when Hurricane Irene ripped across the eastern Atlantic while I was living in Bahamas. My writing has seriously changed a lot since then… although the blog said they would have published it, if only they hadn’t instituted a hurricane-content embargo a few hours earlier. As today’s Hurricane Gonzalo moves into Newfoundland… a look back at Brianna writing circa 2011!
Come On, Irene: Romancing the hurricane in a few simple steps
There you are, frolicking in the waves, perfectly tucked and sucked into your newest and teeniest bathing suit. Aren’t you effortlessly adorable as you cavort in the ocean with your main squeeze!
Perhaps it’s a romantic summer holiday retreat. Perhaps it’s your honeymoon. Perhaps you are a B-list celebrity who’s recently lost a bunch of weight and is hoping the paparazzi will take some wicked snaps of you and your boy toy for the next edition of US Weekly. The specifics of your beach-centric occasion don’t really matter much, only the fact that you’re trying to get your mack on next to the water.
Then, as you hold each other and gaze into the sunset horizon, you notice an oncoming blur. A sort of fuzz. And then a shark goes flying through the air.
Welcome to hurricane season, girlfriend.
Yes, this oncoming weather event is most untimely. And since we are all selfish beasts, you will of course silently wish it could have occurred during someone else’s romantic getaway. Sigh.
But let’s get rizzle for a minute. It’s happening during yours.
No need to throw a gale-force hissy fit, rife with unflattering facial contortions that could alienate you from your sweetie. No need to sulk. No need to give in.
The thing about hurricanes is that they’re giant masses of power. Power that can certainly, tragically, be harmful.
But if you are fortunate enough to get yourself to high ground, to a place where the hatches are battened, the storm windows are reinforced, and there’s loads of bottled water and candles— then it’s also a power that can translate into a super-charged romantical energy. Cue sexy whistle here!
Imagine it: The winds rage, the ocean surf swells, the shark you saw earlier flies past your window… And yet there you two are, holding each other close and sipping a nice cab-sauv in the flickering candlelight as you deal yet another hand for strip-poker-a-deux. It’s only a matter of time until your respective desires are as rowdy as the weather event ripping across the Atlantic.
I think you can see where this is going.
And so as Hurricane Irene churns through the United States, and as we hope and pray for the safety of all those in its path, the following are a few ideas from a Caribbean travel veteran (who already weathered the storm) on how to turn up the romance when Mother Nature turns up the volume.
Do you have a chance to get to the grocery store?
If so, gather a generous selection of fine crackers, hard cured meats and antipasto items such as olives or sundried tomatoes. Keep an eye peeled for tins of smoked oysters and jars of high quality cornichons. This is the very height of Hurricane tapas.
Simple fruits that can be fed to one another with fingers and do not require refrigeration (grapes, cherries, particularly hearty strawberries) are a good idea.
Also, chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
And along with less sexy but useful items including a huge jar of peanut butter, a loaf/loaves of bread, and enough water to fill a tank that could comfortably accommodate the poor airborne shark you keep seeing fly through the wind gusts, a healthy array of wines and spirits (but nothing that should be chilled) will complete your menu for romance.
Once you’ve sparked the glow of candlelight and begun sippin’ on that room temperature bub’, even scribbling out a game of Hangman on a legal pad can seem like a sexy activity.
With just a little more effort, though, your hurricane itinerary can go from “meh”-grade fun to seriously seductive recreation.
Do you play an instrument?
If you have your guitar/banjo/sitar/kazoo handy, performing an intimate concert for your paramour is a great way to spend part of your hibernation and definitely escalates the mood of romance. If your instrument is not at hand, a little a-capella serenade goes a long way when looking in the eyes of a lover. Take requests. All kinds.
[Troubleshooting Tip: If you don’t know the song being asked of you, just perform anything from Bon Iver and throw in a few you-two-specific lyrical turns. Swish!]
If you aren’t musically inclined, try a sexy game of truth or dare.
Or, for the more cerebral Hurricaneer, perhaps a sensual debate on who was the superior second-wave feminist? The most inspiring 1980’s environmentalist? The sassiest designer on the latest season of Project Runway?
Find a way to talk about things that spark your passions.
Read to each other. By candlelight. Any text will do.
While you engage in these activities, it is likely that any room fans or air conditioning you once had will be long gone along with the power supply. Be sure to clothe yourself in an outfit that makes you feel both comfortable and sexy. A tank top and underpants are always a good standby. Although, at a certain point, if you truly say “Yes” to the torrid energy swirling about, you won’t have to worry about what you’re wearing at all. [Wink, wink! Get it? You can pass the time by having some sex!]
After the Storm
Then, as quickly as that pauvre shark blasted out of the water, the hurricane will be gone. You will have your memories of a seductive and spine-tingling evening of intimacy with your sweetheart. And the cleanup will begin.
A little-considered fact of hurricane messes is that they are extremely smelly. All that humid air, all those sharks being swept out of the water, all that seepage from your creepy upstairs neighbour’s antique Gatorade collection… These result in a funky aroma that can really put a damper on morning-after romance.
Unfortunately, unless you or your significant other has a thang for French maid outfits or some sort of ‘cleaning woman’ fetish, there are very few ways to sexify this and other unpleasant leftovers of a hurricane.
But after that romantic night you spent— as the elements swarmed about and you shared your innermost secrets with your lover whilst playing sensual sitar by candlelight— seeing him or her display their real, raw, everyday selves hunkered down with some Pine Sol and a mop might be a whole new kind of turn on.
Happy hurricane, everyone. Be prepared and stay safe.
A few years ago I was riding the bus home from a weekend in Ottawa in the depths of the iciest February… while there was major construction on the highway… and I had a massive head cold. The ride that was supposed to take something around four hours ended up taking about seven and a half and thank GOODNESS I had a good buddy sitting next to me for it. Although I do remember I was losing my mind trying to figure out how not to infect her with my stupid cold even though she was two inches from me in an enclosed space for several hours, now that I think of it. Anyway, you can imagine the long journey plus the loopy-head-making cold pills resulting in what my man-friend would call severe ‘punchiness.’
We had run out of all the top-of-mind things to talk about on the journey TO Ottawa, and now, seven hours in after a weekend there, we were really riffing. Joking, singing - SINGING! THEME SONG SINGING!
It was then as we belted out “It’s a rare condition, in this day and age…” and I drifted into some words that Cara definitely didn’t, I realized a lifetime-long mistake I’d made, somehow conflating the themes of Full House with Family Matters. We Googled to get to the bottom of it and I discovered a wonderful, gift of a gem: Jesse Frederick, the man behind alllll the best music of the TGIF shows.
I knew at that moment that this was something others like me would want to know about. But for some mysterious reason I sat on it for a few months… months turned to years… I got busy with life stuff… and then one day I woke up and somehow JESSE FREDERICK flashed through my brain and when I checked the Wikipedia entry, LOW AND BEHOLD THE 25th ANNIVERSARY OF TGIF WAS COMING UP - NOW IT WAS TIME TO PITCH THE STORY!!!
It was obvious that this was a fit for the Hairpin and I think the editor there was almost as excited about the story as I was. She suggested: could I try to get in touch with Jesse Frederick for comment? SHIVERS! ANXIETY HEADACHE! OMG, the very thought of TALKING TO the man who wrote the songs etched in my brain? It was too much. But it was also tantalizing. And so I began my journey.
The first stop was the website of the company where Frederick now works, a poultry processing outfit (obviously), and in his bio he proudly states his past as a composer. That was where I began, biting my lip, forging ahead. It seemed simple enough but I cast a wide net… requesting interviews through him, the info line, about three other employees who happened to have their contact info available. Nada.
"That’s okay," I told myself, "I’ll just have to work a little harder." I thought back to my investigative journalism class in j-school and laughed with glee that this TGIF wild Jesse chase was possibly the first and only application of the skills it taught me - perfect. With every interview request the anxiety grew- what would it be like to hear THAT VOICE on the phone? And what would I say?
I tried to reach him through his former writing partner, Bennett Salvay. I tried through a musician whose band spoke on the phone with Frederick when they sought rights to re-record their song. I asked Warner Bros. Television - and got a response - but no info about Jesse.
And then it was time to file the story and the flash of a dream had fizzled. But part of me is okay with it.
First of all, because I think I would have been a blathering crazy-sounding crazy-head if I had got on the phone with this man. I mean, I’ve interviewed Iman, people. Iman. In person! And I managed to keep it together. But when I think in my head about hearing the voice of “Everywhere you look” on the phone line, I just revert into a 12-year-old playing with Barbies and desperately hoping for more juice.
But I was also relieved because I think that the invisibility is such a key part of the Jesse Frederick story. No one really knows who he is and yet he had such an impact on SO MANY lives of my generation. So the fact that he remains dust in the wind… it’s just the best symbol of all.
So what you will read today on The Hairpin may not be filled with juicy deets straight from the composer’s mouth about what went through his mind when writing the songs that have made the soundtrack of our young adult-hood… but I’d like to think that maybe it’s better that way.
Though Virginia Woolf breezily dismissed her contemporaries, her work owes a debt to authors including Edith Wharton, John Colapinto writes:
"Something from ‘The Age of Innocence’ seems to have reverberated in Woolf’s mind when she sat down to write her own most famous novel, even if it was only the central image of the lighthouse, which, as readers of ‘The Age of Innocence’ know, is a key symbol on which Wharton’s novel also turns.
Above: Virginia Woolf, 1925. Photograph from Hulton Archive / Getty
So you’re working on a novel, a short story or a memoir or, I don’t know, a tweet. You have a story arc in your head or at least a basic premise you’re looking to bring to life. You come to the computer to dig into this thing you’ve been talking about or dreaming about and then—the blank page. It is freaking the crap out of you. The cursor blinks with ire or the journal page looks just too creamy white or you can’t quite find the right words for that image or person or scene that’s been glowing in your head.
Then you are writing the wrong thing. I’m sorry, my friend, but it’s true. Because the right thing is ‘something.’ And the wrong thing is ‘nothing.’
Due to a surprising and sleepy-making ‘Brianna-in-her-mid-20s’ confluence of of events this week, I stepped back into the shoes of younger me: on a weeknight, I had THREE separate social events. THREE! To be clear, this was probably more structured fun than I’d enjoyed in the past three MONTHS. But, due to a coffee hangout with a work colleague, a publishing industry party (with beer and free hot dogs) that I felt I had to go to (did I mention the hot dogs?) AND the club date of a musician friend at one of my favourite and revered places – the Rivoli - all occurring on the same night, I mustered my energy… I may or may not have napped briefly on the floor of my office… and went forth into the cultural happenings of Toronto.
The first two events went off delightfully. I enjoyed a tasty iced coffee on one of the few remaining temperate and sunny summer-ish afternoons along with a lovely chat; the book party was pleasant and stocked my favourite beer; and, I even had time to stop at home for a moment to drop off my lunch tupperwares before heading down to the Rivoli. #Stylin.
Now, during my undergraduate degree at U of T, I spent many a weeknight at the Riv. One of my good friends was working for a record label at the time, and I was fortunate to score free tickets to a variety of shows for musicians I really, really liked, many of them showcasing there. So for that and whatever other reasons, The Rivoli has always had a special place for me as an audience member, and in my mind it can only be topped by the Horseshoe when it comes to bar-sized venues in the city. So when I heard that my buddy Hannah Shira Naiman was doing a show there, I knew it was one I couldn’t miss.
Two friends and I arrived early and had a nice and chilled-out drink at the bar. One of the servers at the Rivoli was an old friend, and it was a great surprise to catch up with her. And when I was such a sleepy idiot that I knocked over my drinking buddy’s glass of wine, the bartender even gave her a bit of a top-up. So sweet.
Then my performer friend came out from the stage space where they were setting up. She was extremely distressed at having just learned that the booking company who put her in the Rivoli showcase- a company called Wingspan – only then let her know right then and there that due to unspecified ‘expenses’ they had as part of their services, she would be given a much smaller fraction of the cover charge per audience member than had been part of the deal when she signed up with them or during the confirmation phone call with the promoter’s management. Bluhhh. As a former director of live radio, I can tell you this is not the best way to pep up a performer before a show.
"When breaking the ice with someone you’ve just met, you might hesitate to bring up sex (creepy!) or death (morbid!). Food, on the other hand, provides an instant topic of conversation that anyone can join, inoffensive without being boring."
Bee Wilson discusses the allure of food writing in her review of Sandra Gilbert’s “The Culinary Imagination.”
Photograph by Emmanuel Pierrot/Agence Vu
Something I’ve found interesting, the more I work in the writing space, is how surprised people tend to be when I am open to and eager for edits and critiques. I’m not sure how I got this way. Maybe my skin was a bit thick to begin with (B reminds self to make an appointment with dermatologist), but regardless, it seems to me the most powerful motivation for anyone- even those afraid of critique- to just brace themselves and ask for feedback is the proof: my work is almost always better after having considered the edits, whether they’re from an agent, an editor or even just my mum. And I’m guessing other peeps’ work is too.
Sure, it stings the pride to sit through something you’ve toiled away on being picked apart but, in the end, why wouldn’t I want my writing to be the best it can be? And so, if you too are ready to get real with your writing and make it as excellent as possible, the following are a few tips on how to gracefully, efficiently, creatively accept an edit.