Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It’s NaNo Eve…

Tomorrow is July 1st. A special holiday. It is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo edition two. The second opportunity of the year to set a writing volume goal and have a community rally around it; the virtual accountability structure that helps motivate us normally-solitary discipline-lacking writers to remember that we are writers and to keep up with our work.

In the April session I started a very heavy project; probably the most important book I will ever write – if I can write it, and became overwhelmed by the outrageous scope of it fairly quickly. The object though, was to go in unprepared and wing it – to see if I could actually learn how to do it. And by that I mean, how to simply approach it.

I learned a few things in the attempt, both good and bad, but still not enough to actually know what I’m doing. And I haven’t touched the project since mid-April. And now, with my head slightly more prepared than last time, and again with no real preparation, I shall take my second stab at writing the book that I believe the world absolutely needs to hear.

And I vow that I will keep taking as many tries at this as I need to.

Monday, June 29, 2015

abuse /əˈbyo͞oz/

I see all through the workplace, bosses treating non-bosses like children; demanding inflexible punctuality in the morning but flexibility in return at the end of the day. I see labour codes ignored and safety overlooked; thorough acquiescence expected. I see workers baited to go to extra effort to grow the business, induced by imaginary rewards while the executives and managers reap all the tangible rewards. I see mandatory vacations amount to a farce, with no relief from work—only the option to adjust one’s schedule and work twice as long and hard before and after. I see workers suddenly expected to cover two jobs at once. I see executives deifying competition and sacrifice entirely for self-serving reasons…

All because they can.

Because we believe the fantasy that hard work gets you the promotion, the retirement, the reward of long-awaited happiness well before you are dead or decrepit, and sometimes it almost works out that way. For most people it does not even come close. Most people leave the workforce dead, disabled or poor.

And because we fear unemployment.

Unemployment is a myth. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is the occasional isolated fall-out from drastic systematic over-employment.

And yet I have witnessed the rare exceptions. I have seen people enter the workplace with integrity and knowledge of their value and without fear! Without coveting their job… and demand respect. And in each case, they have received it.

abulia /əˈbo͞olēə/

Saturday, June 27, 2015

abubble /əˈbəbəl/

Oh but he said something insensitive and it hurts me! Oh but I’m not getting a raise! Oh my oh my I need a car repair! Oh but it's going to rain! Oh but she won’t do what I say! Oh but our quarterly profits are down! Oh but my fender is scratched! Oh but if he does that, it means he doesn’t love me! Oh but the water is taking too long to heat up!

Oh my oh my oh toil and trouble…! What…? What, the race shall not sustain?

Oh don’t bother me with that! Can’t you see I have troubles of my own!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

absurd /əbˈzərd/

We judge everyone based on the scarcest of evidence, take offense at unqualified criticism, cherry-pick factoids and consider it logic. We drive cars, eat animals and think we are not killers. We lawfulize slavery and call it a job. We hunt down our wants and think them our needs. We accept answers we can’t possibly consolidate rather than observe and contemplate the genuine answers from our genuine living experience. We think we’re alright. We think that we can just go on living this way indefinitely. We think the clock is not ticking.

Monday, June 22, 2015

abstract /abˈstrakt/

It puts my one foot in front of the other.

It blurts unwise words from my lips.

It demands respect, demands hungers sated and speaks to me in dreams, unknowingly perhaps.

It is the captain of the ship; the devil; the superpower. It is the man I once mistook for myself. I cannot know him directly but only by watching carefully and knowing who I am not.

Image snoozled from crystalinks.com

Sunday, June 21, 2015

absence /ˈabsəns/

“Call me. Let’s get together,” he said to me; to the man he considered his son, I suppose. My pick-up was loaded with the third and final load.

“Of course,” I replied, and under my breath: but not anytime soon…

Two years flew by. I heard of his problems. I knew that his health was in decline.

His close friend called me. “He wants me to give him your number. He wants to call you.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “My number is no secret. He’s welcome to call me anytime.”

I got to looking forward to the call. It was time to lay it on the line and tell him honestly why it had been no priority of mine to see him; why I judged that we were pretty much useless to each other. Why I’d yet to call or come around for two years. Then two weeks passed and I decided that he was not likely to call after all. He didn’t have the nerve. Or maybe he was just giving me a poke to see if I would call him. I was thinking this as I drove past the healthcare centre where he’d recently been a resident and I decidedly firmly that when I arrived home I would call him.

Just minutes later I arrived home with that task still in mind. The phone was ringing as I unlocked the door. It’s him, I thought. Good. I rushed to the phone and it was not him after all. But it was very much about him. It was my cousin on the line; the one who seems permanently delegated the task of calling me when there is bad news in the family.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Miracle of miracles…

... I seem to actually be getting my shit together.

I pretty much completed the vision/mandate/goals exercise and discovered that I required an additional layer (I’ll call them directives) between mandate and goals. I just need to finish making the goals measurable and to such a degree that I can actually measure my productivity on a daily basis and hold myself to a sort of performance standard.

I’m still technically in migration mode into this new approach to living/prioritizing but the migration has been aggressive. I’d say I’m at 90% or more, daily, and have been for more than a month. I’ve been very productive since mid-May and consistently exercising and eating right since June 1st and 3rd respectively and feeling very confident about it. And feeling healthier, thinner and more limber. I have not weighed myself at all and I really don’t think I need to. For now I plan to trust how I feel in essence. I can hike farther without needing a rest and there is actually some clearance between my belly and the steering wheel again!

The vision-through-goals exercise was very revealing. The emergent goals look suspiciously much like what I was already doing in my own inconsistent way, which arouses the spectre of self-fulfilling prophecy but there is some new stuff, and more significantly, the procedure has revealed precisely how to prioritize everything.

Unfortunately it also demonstrated that giving up the reading/writing volunteer work in favor of the justice/rehabilitation work was very much the wrong decision. And I’m not sure yet how to handle that. I feel like I’ve made a pretty firm commitment to Grandpa Munster and the Circles community.

Image borrowed from University of Toronto Living Leadership blog - or whoever they borrowed it from.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

abscond /əbˈskänd/

I hastened my exit strategy, disposing of my career prematurely and creating more financial dysfunction than originally planned, moving in with Biodad and the semi-separated wife, interpreting that I would assist them in restructuring their side-swiped lives.  Unbeknownst to me, they had been interpreting that I would be a great roomie to party with. They then spent my difficultly-acquired money on booze, cigarettes and party supplies while I hid in my room, surviving a soundtrack to madness and biding my time.

Monday, June 15, 2015

abridge /əˈbrij/

Oops. I accidently shortened the previous vacation summary piece by passing this one over:

Walking around all afternoon in the tiny village of L’Anse Fourmi, a gaggle of curious children following us around, waiting for the rental company to deliver a replacement vehicle after we were forced to cook a lovely chowder in the first vehicle’s radiator. Weird but true.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

abroad /əˈbrôd/

Getting lost in Costa Rica in a remote village where no one spoke English or probably ever saw a tourist before.

Taking daily Spanish lessons from the liquor store proprietor while quaffing Cerveza Imperial.

Sneaking down to the beach in Cuba for a midnight dalliance with a cute young local and running smack into armed police.

Waiting in the car while my Trinidadian host hops a fence to poach limes for my vodka and tonics.

Receiving ice cold French fries right out of the fridge at a misguided chip truck operation in Tobago.

Climbing a Mayan pyramid externally and then again internally at Chichen Itza. They don’t allow that anymore.

Watching the brother score four goals in his first pro lacrosse appearance—at USAir Arena, Washington D.C. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

abrasive /əˈbrāsiv/

I love the feel of sand as it trickles from my clenched fist, held vertically. It funnels out as if from an hourglass. It is one of those intriguing sensations: ticklish, alive, impossible.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

abrade /əˈbrād/

When I was very young, Alf was very old; a friend of my grandmother. “Alf has given you a gift,” she said to me one day. “You won’t appreciate it now. But you’ll have to take good care of it and you will appreciate it later when you’re older.”

It was a very old wooden music box. It played four old songs. I don’t know what songs they are. There was an image on its top. A girl, I think, and a Christmas tree. And possibly a cat. The image had paled, wearing away; a ghost of itself.

I am somewhat unnerved to realize that I don’t know the current whereabouts of my music box. I hope my mother has it. My grandmother was not often mistaken, I think, but she was wrong about the music box. I appreciated it immediately.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

abracadabra /abrəkəˈdabrə/

Magician/entertainer Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller fame) tells a story of his meeting prestigious pick-pocket Apollo Robbins for the first time. He concedes that pick-pockets are considered low on the trickster totem pole, maybe a step up from ventriloquists but that Robbins is possibly the best ever.

At a magicians convention they were seated at the same table and Penn repeatedly tried to goad Robbins into performing a trick for them. Finally Robbins conceded and told Penn to sign his signature on a napkin. Penn pulled out his pen, put it to the napkin and immediately blurted, “Fuck you!” and slammed his pen on the table.

Robbins then pulled a small cylindrical object from his pocket and passed it over to Penn. It was, of course, his ink cartridge.

Monday, June 08, 2015

above /əˈbəv/

“What’s up?” they say to me. What’s up. I’ve never understood the point of this question. I think perhaps it means, “Hey there. I see you and feel the need to acknowledge you but I can’t think of an intelligent question, so… what’s up?”

I glance upward on this occasion. “Ceiling tiles,” I say. “and lighting tubes… wires and pipes. The third floor...”

“I see,” says the dull man.

“Clouds, helicopters, man-made satellites…”

“Okay, I get it.”

“The moon, asteroids, Pluto, the starship Enterprise, Chewbacca… Hey, where you going?”

Sunday, June 07, 2015

about-face /əˌboutˈfās/

I was perhaps seven or eight years old; Eddie significantly older. He was our leader. The two of us left the stairwell on an arbitrary floor and immediately the posse appeared ahead of us coming around the corner at the end of the long hallway: the dark-skinned girl and her sister and her mother who held a page in her hands. It was Eddie’s note with the F-word scrawled in extra big letters. I didn’t know what all the small writing said. We spun 180 degrees and fled back to the stairwell to try another floor.

But the rouse was in vain. I had to go home and face the music. We had earlier spied our pursuers at my apartment door, speaking with my parents.

At my bedside, my parents had a talk with me. “No,” I said. “It wasn’t my writing. Eddie wrote it. I don’t know what it said.”

The next day I apologized to the Indian girl and her family. She remained fond of me, and I never played with Eddie again.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

abound /əˈbound/

Cars and cows and cars and cows and cars and cows and cars and cows and cars and cows and cars and cows and cars and cows and cars and cows and cars and cows and cars and cows. Say it ten times quickly.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

abort /əˈbôrt/

It’s largely accepted that the young people who concocted my creation were foolish enough to attempt marriage for the solitary reason that was me.

I have never asked what the runner-up option was. I’m not sure I want to know.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

aboriginal /ˌabəˈrijənl/

Long long ago in a galaxy way too close for comfort, one of the douchiest douchebags in human history – I think his name was Christopher Columbus – paid a visit to the Americas, bringing its indigenous peoples the gifts of smallpox, patriarchal greed, the grooviest ever gender-ambiguous Spanish fashions and, last but not least, a new name: Indians.

Indians, he called them because he didn’t realize what hemisphere he was in. Nice try Chris.

More than 560 years later I still cannot say the word Indians without knowing if I've been understood. Have we still not figured out the difference between First Nations peoples (or Native Americans if you’re south of the 49th parallel) and people from the nation of India? Do we need to sit down and get this sorted out once and for all?

I've got a job, I explore
I follow every little whiff
And I want my life to smell like this:
To find a place, an ancient race
The kind you'd like to gamble with
Where they'd stamp on burning bags of shit

-The Tragically Hip (song: Looking For a Place to Happen)