Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Only Ship Worth a Damn...

Hello Friends.

Friendship is such a weird thing. It occurs to me now that friendship is the one relationship that is constant throughout your life. I don't mean you have the same friends your whole lives, but rather that you always seek out and enjoy friendships from the time you are a child until you are very old. Sure, you have relationships with family members, but the dynamics are wholly different when you're five versus twenty-five. And no one, even the suavest among us, takes a lover at every turn from cradle to grave.

I've been thinking about friends a lot as they begin to spread out across the world and I see less and less of them. I am starting to make new ones here in my home, but it seems harder to do now than when I was a kid. A burgeoning friendship seems so loaded, somehow, so fraught. Who invites whom out first? How much do you reveal about yourself in a preliminary friend stage? And then, if things aren't developing to your liking, how do you get out of a friendship that you yourself may have initiated?

My clarinet took up room in my closet about a month after I started band. I was a vegetarian for one afternoon until I went to the grocery store and bought some carcasses, like a sane person. But being a friend is something I have done my whole life. It's time I start keeping a record of what I know.

Dream: Write the rulebook on Friendship.

Goal: Achievable. Like an online dating profile that lists the particulars of your IBS or a Christmas letter detailing the abuses suffered by Grandma at the Home, too much information is not helpful. So these guidelines might be short, and they might be vague, but they are essential.

Plan: List some do's and don't's about winning friends, keeping them, and being a good one yourself.

1) DO be mindful of context. If you have a friend who rides the same bus as your every day, don't suddenly invite them to your nephew's bris. Sometimes a work friend has to stay a work friend, sometimes a great couple you know become boring and stupid without their significant others around. Not everyone can be your bestie, so be aware of the environmental particulars that accompany this friend, and change your settings with caution.

2) DON'T star in The (Your Name Here) Show. Friends who are great listeners are fantastic, but good gracious, have some give and take. Not even your closest friend places a higher premium on your life than their own, so don't behave as if your life is more interesting, dramatic, or of greater importance, than theirs. If you must have a Me-related coffee, treat them to a You-related lunch.

3) DO develop a shorthand. My friend Shannon (who, for the purposes of this blog, we'll call Louise) has a way of instantly engaging in back-and-forth the instant she picks up the phone or starts up a chat. There are no vague pleasantries with Louise, just a ringing phone and then a, "I saw a spider in the elevator today" and we're off and running. This kind of thing reinforces our closeness and makes me glad that geographical distance has no bearing on the quality of our connection.

4) DON'T blend the worlds. It is incredibly tempting to believe that since you love Garfield and you love Odie, then Garfield and Odie together will surely be best friends. Not so. Blending social circles is great when it works, but it's a bit like the guy who never gets hangovers, or the couple who has a successful open relationship. It must work sometimes, but most of the time, nope.

5) DO indulge some delusion. Honesty is not always the best policy when it comes to friendship. I don't mean you should lie to your friends, but every friendship has those Danger Zones where you both intuitively know you shouldn't bring up x, y, or z. Or, when these issues are addressed, you can lie, your friend will agree with the lie and know that you are lying, and the next topic arrives safely. For me, I can't handle any follow-up beyond vague well-wishes about my career. Despite the fact that my income is low and my prospects are grim, I get to say, "Things are really coming together!" and "I've got some irons in the fire!" And you go, "Ohhh, that sounds great, James! Look at you!" In turn, I won't mention how your girlfriend belittles you at parties, or the fact that you're probably an alcoholic.

6) DON'T live with a friend. I don't even have my own evidence to support this, as I have always lived solo or with a gentleman caller, but nearly everyone I know who has lived with a friend has either kept the apartment or the friend, but not both. That said, I think the reverse can be true. A roommate can start out a roommate and become a friend, but that's because you know all of their weird, "This is how I live" stuff really early on.

7) DO put up with the one thing. Just as there are a finite number of mates for us in this world, the same is true for good friends. To that end, just put up with that one thing about your friend, whatever it is, that drives you nuts. Maybe so-and-so is a bit of a snob, or a pothead, or really cheap. So what? If this trait doesn't overwhelm them as a person, put up with it. I know that I am no goddamn picnic on the moon either, and I appreciate those of you that have stuck around.

8) DON'T be a fixer. Boy, this one is hard to abide. I like to think that I listen without judgement. I really hope that's true sometimes. But so often, I want to fix a problem that a friend is having that is absolutely not mine to fix. I always give advice that is not solicited, or offer solutions to a problem no one has articulated yet. I think it's only human nature to want to help a friend, especially when they are in pain, but sometimes all someone needs is for you to listen, and not fix.

9) DO forgive and forget. Fights and falling-outs are just dumb. If a friendship is worth saving, swallow your pride and say you're sorry, even if you're not. I really regret the way I handled some former friendships. Rather than face up to any wrongdoing, I became mean, snarky, and distant. I remember once making some stupid, tasteless jokes around a friend who was more religious than I knew. They said something like, "Just so you know, I thought some of that was offensive. I'd rather you didn't make those kinds of jokes around me." I'm embarrassed to report that I didn't say, "I'm really sorry. I didn't realize the effect my words were having. I'll be more mindful in the future. Let's go get nachos!" Instead, I became instantly defensive. "THAT'S JUST WHO I AM! YOU BETTER DEAL WITH IT!" and completely cut that friend out of my life. I'll always feel really, really stupid and sorry for that. Bearing that in mind...

10) DON'T let friendships slide. It's so easy, especially with Facebook, to leave certain friendships relatively dormant with the idea that you'll be able to pick up where you left off when next you see each other. That is true of some friends, sure, but not all. I hate that there are people I haven't seen in a really long time, and that something in me prevents from just expressing to them how much I miss them, and how sorry I am that we're not hanging out like we used to. Circumstances and geography count for a lot, but what is that piece of us, especially as we get older, that prevents us from truly expressing love to our friends, and real grief at the loss of time together?

I don't know why we spend so much of our time and energy obsessing over finding a mate, all the while taking our friendships for granted. I'm not saying the reverse should be true. It would just be weird if I left the Doctor at home every night to befriend a new person. Yet I hope that I treat my relationships with friends as seriously as they deserve to be treated. I've never understood the expression "Be your own best friend." How boring. How about, the next time you read that in a self-help book, greeting card, coffee mug, replace 'your own' with 'James'. Be James' best friend. Just call me up, name the time and place. I'll be there.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Hello Friends.

So Fallon's in for Leno, no one's in for Fallon yet, Kimmel's moving timeslots to compete. But you know what would really shake up late night tv? If they brought back sketches.

I love sketch comedy because it's so hard to do well, but when it is, there's nothing better. Consider that everyone in the world has a Saturday Night Live sketch that they love, by which they judge every other sketch on Saturday Night Live ("Well, it's no cowbell/Matt Foley/Bear City"). And apparently sketches used to be all over Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, where Johnny would play a variety of characters in little bits following a monologue but preceding the guests. Letterman has some absurd elements that border on sketch, but he never plays a character himself. For instance, Dave used to have "Man on Fire" who was an actual man on fire that would run out mid-monologue and yell stuff. Eventually, the gag was that sponsors could pay for a Man on Fire segment so Dave would be addressing the audience, then Man on Fire would run out and yell, "Subway! Eat fresh!" and then be extinguished. Maybe it's kind of stupid, but I loved it. Tonight Show heir apparent Jimmy Fallon comes from sketch, but barely does any on his show, and whenever he does, they are pre-taped pieces, which kinda ruins the spontaneity of it all.

Late night television is rarefied air, and the idea that someone new will take the reigns shortly in Jimmy Fallon's old spot is exciting. I don't think I could ever host a late night show because I think pretending to be interested in a bunch of Hollywood jerks every night is boring and stupid. However, I could help bring sketch back in a big way.

Dream: Write sketches for Late Night with Whomever the Fuck.

Goal: Achievable. Look, maybe I don't have any television experience. Maybe I don't have the comedy chops. Maybe I'm the last guy to be writing for a mass audience. But maybe blah blah blah (reasoning goes here).

Plan: Pitch sketch ideas here and now that are so awesome that it'll just be a matter of time before I'm stuck in an office with a bunch of Harvard comedy nerds, UCB superstars, and more of the whitest people you'll ever see in your life. Also, this may just be for ha-ha-ha's, but these sketch ideas are really mine and if any of you nerds steal them, at least have the courtesy to remove me from the Facebook Event listing for your shitty, awful revue. My ideas:

1) Schoolgirl Roleplay. In an attempt to spice up their sex life, a couple engages in some sexy schoolgirl roleplay that is quickly derailed when the man realizes the woman may have never actually received an education.

MAN: You've been very naughty today. Please stay after class for some...private tutoring.
WOMAN: Ooh, I hope I have enough apples for the teacher so I can apple teacher recess.
MAN: Um... what?
WOMAN: I filled my desk with pennies because no child left behind Pizza Day.
MAN: Honey, what do you think school is?

2) Dentist Do-Over. Nobody likes the monstrous dental hygienist who is never, ever satisfied with your brushing. Finally, a clever patient decides to visit the hygienist right after seeing another dentist across town and receiving a thorough cleaning. Even though the patient's teeth are gleaming, the hygienist remains dissatisfied with the patient's brushing technique and the patient flies into a rage and sets the building afire.

3) Charity Run. Helpful Steve has a post on the sidelines of the route in a charity run where he hands out paper cups of water to the runners. Steve wants to offer more than just water, and is pleased when his cups of Gatorade go over well with the passing athletes. He runs into trouble, then, when he hands out cups of hot tea, Bloody Marys, confectioner's sugar (for energy!), a bee ("WHY WOULD YOU GIVE A CUP WITH A BEE IN IT?" "That's for you to take home. That's your bee to keep"), and other miscellaneous non-water items that eventually ruin the race.

4) Dyson Commercial. That German Dyson guy introduces the Dyson Pubic Hair removal system. It eradicates hair from hard-to-reach places because of suction and, unlike other pubic hair removal systems, this one pivots on your balls.

5) Prank Problems. A Snake Husband pulls an April Fool's Day prank on his Snake Wife. He hands her what she thinks is a jar of peanut brittle, but when she opens it, it's actually some spring-loaded snakes! The surprised laughter quickly turns to rage, however, when the Snake Husband and Snake Wife realize the spring-loaded snakes in the jar are their three adult children.

SNAKE HUSBAND: What are you doing? You all left home years ago! Now you're doing this for a living?
SNAKE SON: Come on, Dad, relax! It's easy money.
SNAKE HUSBAND: Easy money! I sent you to Vasser! We scrimped and saved! You wanted to be a doctor! Now you're crouching in a can? Like WHORES?!
SNAKE WIFE: Look what you've done to your father!
SNAKE DAUGHTER: Mom, chill out! It's not like when you were a younger snake. It's hard to get a job now.
SNAKE WIFE: Where did we go wrong with you kids? I don't even feel like some peanut brittle anymore.
SNAKE DAUGHTER 2: There never was any peanut brittle, Mom. Obviously!

6) Brick Breakers. Jon and Laura Brickman are headed to a costume party, dressed as bricks. Jon becomes startled by something in the road (maybe a bee in a cup or one of the snakes from a previous sketch), stumbles, and crashes through the picture window of David and Lemar, an interracial, interfaith gay couple with an autistic dog and a child with a syndrome where he has no bones. Jon and Laura become pariahs after this honest mistake of a brick costume through a window looks like a terrible hate crime. A recurring bit in this sketch could be the no bones child squeezed into hard to reach places like folded piously in Lemar's man purse because he's pliable like that because he has no bones.

7) My Robot Buddy. Brother and sister Billy and Amy hate their dumb chores and all their stupid homework! So they build their very own pots and pans robot named Robotron! WOW! AWESOME! And guess what? He cleans their room! And does their homework! AMAZING! COOOOL! Billy and Amy's mom comes to check their progress so they quickly hide Robotron under a sheet, and Mom is very impressed to see that the bedroom clean and homework done! The only problem is that now Robotron wants to have sex with Mom and will not be stopped, even if it means killing Dad. WHUH-OH!

Okay, so all these turds need a little polishing, but there's good stuff here, am I right? Also, wouldn't it be great if a funny lady performed in these sketches? Late night is such a boys club, let's get a woman in there to shake things up a bit. She can play a Mom snake, or even a sex robot!

There's nothing like seeing the funniest thing you've seen all day at the very end of your day. I hope some day, as I tucked in to Man on Fire, people will able to fall asleep to something I've written. That's bound to ensure a good night, and pleasant tomorrow.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Sounds of Silence...

Hello Friends.

This article appears in the April issue of Saskatoon Well Being Magazine. Pick up a copy yourself, or read it here.

Is it me or is it really loud in here? I mean, I don’t know where you are as you read this, but chances are, something is making noise. You’ve got your iPod going, or the TV’s on, or your significant other is trying to explain to you that putting a fresh roll of toilet paper on top of the toilet tank is not the same as actually changing the roll and you’re like, “I’m trying to read this thing here.” Wherever you are, click off your devices (unless you’re reading this online, then by God, please continue), shut out whatever noise you can and sit with me a while, won’t you?

When you’re a child, silence is a kind of punishment. Teachers demand a silent classroom, parents “don’t want to hear another word” around the dinner table and after a certain point in the day, kids are permitted an activity “only if it’s quiet.” It seems like we rebel against this restriction when we grow up by filling our adulthood with as much noise as possible. We get in a good conversation while watching bad TV. We listen to the radio in the car while we drive to the concert. We play our Sounds of the Ocean CD to help us fall asleep (which works for me up until track five when the oil tanker rolls into the Pacific).

I work in a retail store that plays upbeat, if a little repetitive, house music that surely subliminally encourages people to buy things (“Untz. Untz. Untz. You need another sweater. Untz. Untz. Untz.”) Our speaker system recently broke down, meaning that dead time in the store was eerily quiet. Funnily enough, my fellow employees and I complain about the banal music pumping through our store all the time, but we were far more upset in its absence. I wondered why having no background noise was so significant to me and just what our environment of constant noise is keeping us from hearing.

Dream: Experience true silence.

Goal: Unachievable. Silence, as it is literally defined, is the complete absence of sound. If you live in a major city in 2013, good luck finding that.

When I went in search of silence, it was impossible to find. I turned off the TV, shut down my computer, unplugged the stereo and hid the cell phone. Then I started hearing the hum of the refrigerator, the traffic outside and my next-door neighbours arguing with each other. I live in an apartment, so noise is virtually inescapable. I wear earplugs to bed every night, but they only succeed in muffling sounds like the downstairs neighbours’ dogs barking, the elevators wheezing and clanking and the helicopters. I live in a high rise near a hospital and sometimes hear and see a helicopter landing on the roof. It’s hard to be mad about that because it means that most likely, someone from a nearby rural community is so badly ill or injured that their only option is to be airlifted to hospital. I can’t really watch them be loaded off on a gurney and think, “Aw geez, I’m trying to read my Garfields in peace, here!”

Plan: Find my version of silence.

Unless you live out on a farm somehow (and have only mute livestock/chickens), chances are that achieving true silence, without any aural interruption, is impossible. You can approximate it with earplugs and white noise and attempting to deafen yourself, but why waste the time? I think the secret of experiencing quiet comes in finding your version of peace.

For me, one of the occasions when I experience silence is when I swim. No matter how busy the pool is, no matter how short my sojourn in the shallow end, there are always a few blessed moments when I plunge deep into the water and my awareness seems to heighten and disappear, all at once. I feel my body anew, as it moves through space, achieving a kind of watery weightlessness as my arms and legs propel me forward. As long as I know I have a clear path to the other end of the pool, what I hear and even what I see barely registers. Coming up for an extended period after swimming a few lengths is always a bit of a shock to the system. I suddenly hear how much splashing goes on and how the lifeguard’s nasal voice just carries across the pool. I see how pale and vulnerable and lumpy most of our bodies are. The fact that we’re so self-conscious about these sacks of bony flesh that move us through life is a bit ridiculous when you consider how most of us look in bathing suits. But anyway, it may not be technically a calm oasis of quiet contemplation, but give me a public pool and my blue trunks and I’ll give you some quiet time.

I also think one can experience a kind of silence in the loudest of places. When the sound around you reaches a kind of indistinguishable cacophony, there’s a moment when you realize that you’re completely, comfortably in your own head. Don’t believe me? Go for a walk, alone, on a busy Saturday through downtown Saskatoon. Maybe bands are playing down by the river. Maybe Second Avenue has one of their sidewalk sales going on. Maybe that transit hub where all the buses gather is blasting classical music to discourage loitering. In any case, there is sound all around you, but it is not directed at you specifically. I love that state because I find it absorbs me into my own thoughts. “What shall I have for dinner?” I wonder, or, “Would it be cooler to be able to fly or be invisible?” (I’m inclined to pick invisibility because wouldn’t it be so interesting to sneak into your friends’ homes and see how they live when they’re by themselves? I’m convinced more people just eat Pop Tarts in the tub for dinner than will admit it to me).

The last and best kind of silence I can think of is the shared kind. That scenario where you lapse into a prolonged silence when you’re with someone you love, be it a friend or a mate. Instead of being weird or tense, this silence is one of deep contentment and connection. Where you realize that sometimes all it takes to enjoy someone’s company is to simply be with them. The next time that happens, try not to hear the noise. It’s so tempting to fill those voids with chatter, with nervous laughter, with activity. But if you can live in that companionable silence, strain to listen to your heart. Moments like these are special and they needn’t be scored with any soundtrack. Sometimes our silence can speak volumes.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Watered Down...

Hello Friends.

Last weekend was particularly lovely, as far as long weekends go. I enjoyed an unprecedented three days off in a row thanks to kindly coworkers taking shifts they wouldn't normally work, just so I could visit with my Mom, who came to visit me from home. Mom and I had a great time catching up and seeing the city, and Doc and I enjoyed a Sunday and Monday together after seeing her off. We both had to work Tuesday morning and so tucked ourselves in fairly early on Monday night.

The nights before days I have to get up early leave me fraught with anxiety so I was still awake worrying about everyone I had ever met in my life when Jon woke up about 1.30 to get a drink of water. The tap in our kitchen had been dripping sporadically all weekend, but the apartment offices were closed due to the holiday and so we hadn't been able to put in a maintenance request. So when I heard Jon cussin' and fussin', I figured the dripping was worse and got out of bed to join him in the kitchen. The dripping was worse. What was once intermittent droplets was now almost a continuous dribble. Turning the tap this way and that didn't help much and Jon threw up his hands and let me in to give the tap a final firm twist. I figured a fast, clean jerk would somehow stun the tap into submission. Like it would think, "Oh shit, what was that? These guys are serious. I had better cut it out." So I gave the tap a mighty turn and the knob came off in my hand.

I was stunned into momentary silence that quickly turned to girlish shrieks as water started coming out of the vacant spot where the knob used to be at full blast. A water pressure heretofore only used in firehoses came out of our sink fixture and water started pooling everywhere. It was 1:30 in the morning, I was frantically trying to stem the blast with my fingers while Jon was grabbing his wet phone and the building's emergency contact list off of the fridge as we both stood, desperate, in an inch of water with a continually rising tide. Jon had to scream into the phone, both to be heard over the blast, but also as an appropriate conveyance of his frustration. Somehow, in the wee hours of the morning after a statutory holiday, we had a maintenance man removing the appropriate fixtures with the appropriate tools and turning off the water from beneath our kitchen sink in less than four minutes.

Dream: Live in an apartment forever.

Goal: Achievable. It is white middle-class privilege that saw me picturing myself in a house of my own one day. But, like having children or developing a taste for wine, the idea that I could just opt out of that supposed rite of passage looks more attractive every day.

Plan: List all the pros I can think of in apartment living versus all the cons of house ownership, so the next time I sit on a friend's back deck or have drunken sex on a basement pool table, I won't look around and think, "I might really like to live in a house like this someday."

Apartments are cheap and houses are expensive. I realize rents are ridiculously high and one doesn't build up any equity the way one does with home ownership, but buying a house and getting a mortgage seems to basically imprison people, from a financial standpoint. I know a couple who each have full time jobs, and trade off the night shift of a third job, all to pay for their home. Every second week, either he or she works all night stocking shelves, then goes to their day job, sleeps for a few hours, then heads back out. I'm sure from a fiscal perspective, this is responsible. I'm sure they will get their home paid off faster, but what's the point of owning a home you're not around to enjoy? How could the stress of that lifestyle possibly be worth it?

Apartments are small, houses are big. Unless you have children or a collection of antique bean bag chairs from the Civil War, space is not the virtue it's cracked up to be. Every Sunday, Jon and I split a chore list down the middle and clean the apartment. If we're both on our game, it takes about half an hour, after which we reward ourselves by making it messy again. I'd much rather clean our cozy space from top to bottom on a lazy Sunday than spend hours Swiffering the rumpus room only to have Brayedon and Tracedence spill their organic juice boxes the second I'm done. I'm not saying that we wouldn't love a second bedroom. Too bad they don't make apartments with two bedrooms OH WAIT! We could totally get one of those!

My Mom stayed in a hotel nearby during her visit, as my parents have always done when visiting, which makes me feel guilty, but only for a moment. But my folks certainly don't visit often and I'm sure a lot of the appeal for them is staying in a hotel and not with us. We bought Mom some wine in anticipation of her arrival and, after picking her up from the airport, dropped her off at her hotel, with her luggage, magazines from the airport, and bottle of white in tow. While she checked in, Jon and I went home to get changed and pick her back up again for dinner. I called to tell her we'd be leaving soon and heard the Food Network on in the background. "Well don't hurry," she said. Similarly, and maybe this is complete immaturity, but when Jon is away, I love having a friend come sleep over, and share my bed. Sure, if I had a big house, I could put them in the guest bedroom in the east wing, but how else could we literally talk until we fall asleep? I remember once, years ago, hosting my friend Shelene when she was in town for a workshop. Shelene gets me particularly giggly, but one night we both had early wake-up times the next day and were determined just to fall asleep with no chatter. In the darkness I could hear this weird sound like maybe she was grinding her teeth but she couldn't have been so deeply asleep so fast. I whispered, "Shelene, what are you doing?" and she whispered back, "I'm eating some granola bars." I don't know what was funnier: the fact that she was lulling herself to sleep eating in total darkness, or that she was eating "some" granola bars, like she'd brought a selection into bed with her. We both laughed so hard, I'm confident we slept better.

Apartment buildings are full of people, houses might just house you. I know, on the face of it, this looks like a point to houses, and I'm sure that it probably is. I've had several neighbour issues over the years, from the girl next door who plays her music well into the night, to the arguing couple downstairs who ought to just get a divorce already, but there's an upswing to this I'm sure most people don't realize until they are sleeping solo in big houses for the first time: in an apartment building, you're never really alone. Right now, as I'm writing this by myself in the apartment, I'm also no more than ten feet from another human. I can smell whatever the Lebanese couple is cooking for dinner across the hall (I think it's tires?) and the Chinese girl next door is playing "I knew you were trouble when you walked in (trouble, trouble, trouble)" on repeat. These are annoyances, sure, but also oddly comforting. I don't know any of my neighbours very well in this building, but I have to believe our casual nodding in the elevator means that we're not strangers and that if anything happened to one of us, the others would be right there to help.

I once lived in a walk up full of grumpy adults. This wasn't the nicest building and was really only built for single people, and nobody had a thing to say to each other. One of the units belonged to an old couple who occasionally got visits from their two young granddaughters. There was no space for them to play inside and so they ran around outside, yelling and screaming, and more than one tenant would roll her eyes at me if we met in the lobby, picking up our mail. "They're back!" we would say, conspiratorially, mad that our peaceful grumpiness was being interrupted. But one day as I could hear the girls playing from outside my window, the screaming suddenly stopped. I heard a kind of thud, and then a low, guttural cry from one of the girls. I ran downstairs and out the door to find her. Turns out she had tripped and just gotten the wind knocked right out of her. Grandpa was soothing her through her tears and she was none the worse for wear. What almost made me teary though, was seeing nearly all of us grumpy tenants crowded on the front stoop, or leaning out of our windows, checking on the welfare of this little girl. Don't tell me there's no community as a result of proximity. We weren't friends, but we certainly came together that day, and you might not get that kind of instant support in your own backyard.

Apartments you rent don't belong to you. Your house stands alone in your name. Sure it's a pain in the ass not being able to paint my walls or install a skylight, but I'm surely glad the rising water levels in my apartment weren't my responsibility. After the emergency maintenance man shut the water off, he mopped up our kitchen and living room, and brought in the industrial wet/dry vacuum to keep the water from leaking downstairs or from warping our floor. All we had to replace really was a toaster on the counter and most of our towels. He replaced our tap that night. Before he left, we madly scrounged for change and gave him the pathetic five dollars we could muster. If the exact same scenario played out in a home that we owned, if we had to contact one of those 24 plumbing agencies to send a guy over in the middle of the night, driving in from God-knows-where, how much more would we have lost due to damage, and how much money would it have cost? A few hundred dollars? A few thousand dollars? I shudder to think.

I was about ten years old when we moved to a house where my brother and I had our own bedrooms. I was fiercely protective of my private space and dreamed that becoming a grown-up meant that you could have everything in your own space all the time: your meals, your own television, all your friends. Now, I ostensibly have exactly that. My home is not a financial burden or even a solid anchor. If, for instance, we decide we really must have that second bedroom, or more closet space, or a balcony, we can simply up and move to a bigger castle in the sky. I wake up every morning in a place that is just exactly how I want it, noisy neighbours, random fire alarms, and exploding faucets notwithstanding, and there's no monthly rent that can approximate just how rich that makes me feel.