Tuesday, December 24, 2019

P is for Pyramid

Lately when pals ask me how I’m doing I have been a little stumped to answer this over-simple question which is understandably appropriate to ask. I ask it myself very often.

But I like to speak truthfully and thoughtfully and the truth is that things are good and other things are not so good, so… how to answer?

I think like this:

I am standing on the second or third lowest step of a great pyramid. There are many steps to get to the top. None of them are particularly easy but most are not particularly hard either. And every step is either one that I know how to climb or one that I will know how when the time comes.

At the top of the pyramid is improved health and improved productivity and the accumulation of accomplishment goals. The next few steps feel daunting though I know for sure I am capable. Inertia has been a beast but of late I have a little momentum. The main hurdle I think, through all of this, is that when I look around from down here on step two-or-three, I see nothing particularly worth looking at. And I am not convinced the view will be any better from the top.

Monday, December 23, 2019

O is for Outsider

I found myself listening to the Grinch song on the radio. Have you ever listened to it? It’s the bible of name-calling. “You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!”

Really? Savage. Bullying at its worst.

I would like a T-shirt created that goes like this:

Friday, December 20, 2019

N is for Nature

I was surprised when Mom announced she was writing a story. She’s a regular book reader but… wow.

It’s an easy reader; a picture book, so far without pictures.

I digged the idea. The story mom lives on a farm and takes her three young kids on a nature hike pointing out all the signs that the seasons are on the cusp of change.

I was later surprised when she asked me to partner with her; to give the piece an edit or a re-write. I said sure.

My take on it is that the elder boy (still very young) is impatient for the wet snowy weather to depart so that he can ride his new bike without such hindrances. He despairs that winter might never go away. Mom and older sis wish to prove that it will, by demonstrating that the transformation has already begun.

I needed there to be a problem to solve. Though I know, academically that most of my adult fiction priorities hold little weight in a kids’ environment, it’s hard to deny my artist instincts. And in similar regard, I’m likely employing too much subtlety.

It’s a surprisingly slow process. As the family navigates the evidence of hibernation rituals, bird migration, river flows and even Grandpa’s maple syrup production, I find myself immersed in research at every step. I want all the science (and there’s a lot of it) to stand up.

I don’t presume to be a competent kids writer or that I ever will be. I just don’t know. I hope Mom will not be overly deferential toward my robust rewrite.

Friday, December 06, 2019

M is for Middling

In the last 36 hours I have:
  • Lost my wallet and $190.
  • Negotiated with burdened outdoor renovation workers to access my own driveway.
  • Attended the 8th or 9th annual Wafflepalooza of which I was a founding father.
  • Hugged friends.
  • Reminisced with my dear writer pals concerning the inspiring ascent of The Liaison, who departed oh so young on the verge of a writing career breakthrough.
  • Hugged more friends.
  • Tinkered with yet another indulgent mindcrack lair.
  • Found the wallet!
  • Barely -- barely -- endured the 45-minute torture of an ultrasound session in which the tech sweated buckets trying to push holes through me (drawing blood even but not much).
  • Butted heads politely with a senior bank associate trying to smother Gramps and I in a blanket of red tape and liability paranoia leaving me exhausted and almost hopeless before a wonderful junior associate, a young black man with brilliant instincts, wisdom and kindness gave us everything we needed as soon as the former departed.
  • Parked strategically so Gramps could piss in a parking lot.
  • Talked about life and literature with Earth Writer and remembered how we used to be closer (I think).
  • Attended Scooterville NaNo Thank God Its Over celebration.
  • Won nice little prizes.
  • Hugged friends I’m very glad to find are still friends.
  • Sat in the car hoping that a young person I will always care for will come to understand I would never ever want to hurt his feelings and that I only want his life to be better and him to be happy. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
I’m in the middle of things.


Thursday, December 05, 2019

L is for Lights

Grandpa Munster called me on my new cell-o-phone that my new employer made me accept. I admit it is a convenience at times, though at a great cost, and often too much of a convenience.

He was looking at another bill; a phone bill from Koodo which was chock-full of extra penalty dollars because he was running behind. I have let him run his little financial picture into the ground again while I’ve been blind to his account details since getting the new laptop and losing some login codes including that for his bank account. Careless of me I know but at the time I thought things were under control.

“I don’t have enough money for this,” he said, and his voice became unstable as he tried to find his way through a jumble of words: Trillium, GST, Pin money…

“Okay well I’m at work but I’ll tell you what. I’ll call your bank and make an appointment for us. We’ll get your account back on my laptop and we’ll sort it all out... Gramps…? Gramps are you upset right now?”

“It’s going to be a terrible Christmas,” he choked out. I knew he was crying now.

“Hey hey! Listen up. I’ll make the appointment right now. We’ll get your finances all sorted out within a week. I’ll do another study like last time. We’ll find out where all your money goes and how to get it under control. And I’m gonna be free Christmas day. We’ll find something fun to do.”

My own family gathers on Boxing Day. My own finances are looking up. I can loan him funds short-term when necessary. He doesn’t even have to know about it. I’ll find a restaurant that’s open through the holidays. The house will give him one good turkey dinner - either Christmas day or eve. I’ll take him out for dinner on the other evening. I’ll figure out some modest gift for him. We’ll play some Crazy 8’s. And I’ll do some research with regards to the more spectacular Christmas lights displays. He likes that. We’ll take a tour.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

K is for Kenny (and Joe)

This is the true story of Kenny and Joe: They were best friends since childhood; best friends for life it seemed. They were at the centre of one of the circles of friends which I inhabited. A sports crowd. We played hockey weekly and sometimes golfed or what-not. Kenny and Joe were always near the centres of attention. They were the biggest personalities; informal leaders. Beneath their party personas Kenny was quietly the smart one; Joe quietly the big-hearted one.

Kenny and I took a little trip together, to see a big game in another city far away. We were both fans of that team. This was before the cell phone days. Kenny would have to step aside to make a phone call at an appointed time to get an update from a girl he was sleeping with. Not a girlfriend. Just one he was sleeping with. He needed an update.

I drank alone until he returned to the bar table. “I talked to her,” he said, “and yeah… she’s pregnant.”

I could tell he was pretty blown away. He had already resigned to becoming a father. Ready or not.

They skipped the girlfriend phase and went straight to fiance. She was younger and a little wild and frankly had scored pretty good with Kenny. He was a responsible dude with a good income and lots of his shit together.

She… liked to have a good time. I started hearing troubling stories from guys in the group when Kenny wasn’t around.

Finally I drove Joe home one night when he’d drank way too much. I was surprised that Kenny didn’t take him. I knew something was wrong. We sat in his driveway and talked.

“She tried to sleep with me,” said Joe. “And it wasn’t just flirting either. She practically tried to rape me. He told me all the sordid drunken details. Joe had gone to Kenny, determined not to let him get blindsided by this girl. But Kenny had cut him off almost at once and threatened him: Don’t ever say any bullshit about my girl again or we are through. I’ll never see you again.

“I can’t let this marriage happen,” Joe told me. “Kenny has no idea. He would never go through with this if he knew. Why is he trusting her instead of his lifelong best friend?”

With the wedding just days away, Joe had a terrible decision to make. He could have played it safe and shut his mouth. Or he could risk losing his best friend by telling the truth, in order to save him. He felt he had to speak up. It was the right thing to do; the honourable thing. I supported his decision.

But Joe didn’t go about it the best way possible. He could not summon the courage until the night before the wedding. He was very drunk. This thing was weighing on him; killing him. Kenny was not taking his calls. Joe went to Kenny’s parents home. He needed their alliance. And he was almost like a second son to them.

He showed up at their place, drunk, blurted out the story and said, “We gotta stop this wedding.”

Kenny’s parents were enraged. They kicked him out of their house, told him not to attend the wedding and to never let them see his face again.

Game Over.

After the wedding Joe and Kenny were sometimes in the same dressing room together or on the same bench, or at the same bar but different tables. Everyone knew that something was wrong. The group wasn’t the same after that and not long after I parted ways but more so for other reasons.

The marriage ended in divorce very quickly to no one’s surprise but Kenny and his parents. Yet no reconciliation came out of it for Kenny and Joe.

I’ve been thinking about Joe the last couple days and how he tried to do the right thing; tried to avert what he feared would become a disaster - at the risk of losing a friend and how he went about it badly and the friendship ended for good. It’s a sad story but… I’ve been through something of late and what I think now is that Joe probably feels okay about everything because he knows he tried to do the right thing. It is a great comfort to know such a thing.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

J is for Jackass

So Daphne… we’ll call her Daphne. She works with me and is by far the most gregarious of the staff here, and typical of any “class clown” type in an office environment, she targets me as someone to have fun with. And we do. The jokes fly back and forth on a daily basis.

Over this last year and a half it does dawn on me that she probably does not have similar views as me, politically for instance, but I don’t let that concern me. She’s my client and thus I must be respectful, and on top of that, many people in my life wouldn’t score well on my personal subjective personality test - but so what? We’re all human and all have flaws. Mine are different than other peoples. No reason we can’t make the best of things together.

But yesterday there was a large immigrant family in the waiting room where I am situated (by the main entrance). So Daphne comes through on her way to lunch (and probably a quick trip to the liquor store nearby) and as she passes she flashes me her cell phone and says, “What do you think of this? You get it, right?”

On her phone is the image of the Canadian flag but it has been altered to contain the words: FIT IN or FUCK OFF.

Very disappointing.

I look her in the eye without expression and shrug my shoulders.

“You get it,” she says. “I know you do.”

“It doesn’t resonate with me,” I say. She smirks and departs.

I don’t know if she knows what resonate means. I’m realizing that she might be an even duller tool in the shed than I’d assumed.

It’s rather sad how many cowering racists see me and imagine I must be a safe audience to reach out to for… kinship.

But it only ever happens when I’m in uniform. I must look vaguely military or something, and thus a real Canadian. In fact I had just had my hair cut quite short before this happened.

Fit in… or Fuck off…

I wish the instructions had been clearer. Fit in to what? Our culture? We have many cultures here. My own is nothing like Daphne’s. I presume she means her culture and not mine.

So what she’s saying is… Either get a job you hate and watch the clock all day and then rush home and get drunk every night and raise a kid to be a dull and lazy non-contributor in regular trouble with the police - and oh yeah - be a non-creative unthinking pea-brained racist… or else… I will insist that you must “fuck off” using an anonymous rudimentary internet picture-page that Uncle Jesse crafted between reality show binges.  

What must I do to ward off these morbid unwelcome advances? An “I’m a security guard, not a moron” sign would surely be ineffective not to mention unsavory from the client’s perspective.

You know - some guards wear their little military pins and medals on their breast pocket. Maybe I should get some pins and wear them. Pins that represent diversity? Like multiple religious icons, a rainbow… It’s a thought.