Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Hello Friends.

Fair warning. We’re about to go to Bragtown, USA. I'm sorry to self-promote, but I really can't help it. Two weeks ago, I flew back to the Big City for the coolest weekend of my life. After corresponding for a composer for about a year, sending him chunks of prose based on a vague idea, I got to see the text performed as a song cycle, a 20 minute operetta of sorts, by this composer at the piano and a fantastic baritone. I don’t want to overstate my involvement, here. I had nothing to do with writing any of the music and wasn't part of the rehearsal process in any way, but hearing the text that I wrote performed as a piece of music at a concert hall in front of a paying audience was an incredible feeling. On top of which, my parents travelled down to see it, as did one of my best friends who I hadn't seen in years. I also reconnected with some family and friends, saw the sights, generally had an excellent time.

I bring this up not just to boast, but to explain why I haven’t been able to write anything since. It happens every time I help create something that I’m especially proud of; everything I attempt afterwards seems pathetic and small. But if I were to give myself a big long holiday from any creative writing, I’d lose the ability. Writing is funny that way, or maybe I’m funny that way. If I don’t do any writing of any kind for more than a week, I forget how. I’ll string a bunch of words together that, when read back, sound like an ESL textbook (“It is hot out today. I am glad I am not wearing a jacket. What is the deal with jackets?).

So now, high off the experience of such a cool project, but fueled by the dread that I’ll never produce something as good again, I have to think of future projects to propel me forward, in the hope that something sticks.

Dream: Create a wealth of projects to pursue. Force creativity through opportunity.

Goal: Achievable. It’s hard to be a self-starter, but if I sat around waiting for people to ask me to write things, I’d be one of those super morbidly obese people who have to have their walls torn down in order to leave the house.

Plan: List some ideas for things I could write.

Idea: I write a sitcom where a slacker poses as his optometrist twin brother to give eye tests to sexy ladies. The optometrist brother is a big nerd and reluctantly agrees not to rat out his brother if his brother gives him advice on how to pick up women. The working title of the show is Seeing Double.

Idea: I write a passionate Huffington Post op-ed about how sweet potato fries turned me into a homosexual. Hopefully, it would gain the same viral traction as the equally ill-informed “vaccines will give my kid autism” movement. Sweet potato fries didn't make me gay, but I’m really sick of seeing them at restaurants. The other night I went for dinner and they served sweet potato fries INSTEAD OF French fries. Unacceptable. Let’s pull those out of some kitchens.

Idea: I write Christmas Letters for Hire. I love getting a Christmas letters; those generic, “This is what’s up with the (Surname)s!” communications that are both boring and boastful (for more, see the first two paragraphs of this entry). But so many of them are badly written because they are not honest. I will write you a brutally truthful, meaningful holiday letter for a small fee. “Denise was fired from her job at the hair salon and Doug’s taken a real interest in showing off his penis on the internet, so we've got high hopes for 2016!”

Idea: Inspired by the film Boyhood, I write and direct a film about the life of a goldfish in real time. It is infinitely more interesting than the film Boyhood.

Idea: I write headlines for Buzzfeed listicles. 10 Things Every South Asian With Restless Leg Syndrome is Tired of Hearing. Which Character from Hotel Rwanda is Your BFF? Americans Try Cat Food for the First Time.

Idea: I’ll write the interstitial singing bits between verses of a rap song. So far I have “AY!” and “Oooh”.

Idea: Write a terrible science fiction book about a dystopian future. Must remember to keep things dystopian. Turn the dystopia up to 11. Whenever I start to think, “Could I make this more dystopian?” My answer should be, “Yes.”

Idea: Write t-shirt slogans. I’m sure t-shirts with words on them are the last word in uncoolness, but maybe that’s just because nothing has been clever on a t-shirt since 1981. A girl at my gym routinely wears a shirt that reads, “I hope your day is as nice as my butt.” What the hell does that mean? She has a nice butt, I suppose, but I never want to have a day I would compare to anyone’s butt, good or bad. I could top that. I can’t think of any examples right now, but I could.

If you’re only as good as your next project, I’m clearly no good at the moment. But here’s the cool thing: for all the wonderful, supportive friends and family that came to see this thing a few weeks ago, there were also people in the audience I didn't know, and they also seemed to enjoy themselves. Those people will likely never read anything I've written, or remember my name in association with the project, but if they thought something I had a hand in creating was funny or moving, that proves that the project exists on its own merit.

I still feel like a 5 year old at a piano recital. The reason why children’s piano recitals are not attended by the public at large is that if you happened to overhear 5 year old playing piano, you wouldn't think, “Oh what a lovely tune”, you’d think, “That’s terrible, it must be a kid.” So any time something I helped make gets some validation from total strangers, that’s pretty cool. Combine that with the support of family and friends? Well that’s a feeling so perfect I don’t need to write another word.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

We're Living In A Society...

Hello Friends.

It’s common to say you miss a place because of the people you left behind. In the case of the Big City of my former residence, I mean that in both the specific and general sense. I miss family and friends, to be sure, but I also miss all the people. Hordes of them.

There’s an extremely comforting sense of safety in numbers when you find yourself in a big city. At least for me, I never felt like I was in danger if I found myself downtown late at night, or if I lost my bearings near a major thoroughfare, because there were just so many people around. The same is true of Vancouver, though some sections are truly dicey, but for the most part, I feel safe when walking down major streets.

This feeling is harder to come by in the city I live now, where they seem to roll up the streets after 5 pm, and aimless wandering seems like a reckless invitation. Stuck downtown one evening before an evening appointment, I ate a solitary dinner in a completely empty food court at 5:30 pm. Vendors were still open, but nobody visited them. I found out later that a man eating a late lunch alone the day earlier in the same food court was stabbed by a random assailant. The man survived the random attack, and his misfortune goes a long way to explain the emptiness of this particular food court. Not knowing the story at the time, I thought, “This is great! A McDonald’s with no line? I’m coming here every week!”

This attack and others like it, where the assailant and the assaulted have no pre-existing relationship, the scary randomness of it all, results in letters to the editor calling for an increase police presence. “With more officers, things like this wouldn’t happen!” the consensus seems to be. Sometimes I wonder if more people overall wouldn’t help solve the problem. The stabby loner has less opportunity to strike if he has to contend with hundreds of downtown diners. The purse-snatcher can’t risk the multiple witnesses of a crowded train platform. But Edmonton is unlikely to get sudden barrage of citizenry like Calgary to the south or Vancouver to the west. But what if there was a squad of people, low-level authority figures with no real power like Mall Cops or Transit Dorks whose job it was to police human behavior that was, if not illegal, at least highly undesirable? I would like to be part of that squad.

Dream: Organize a “WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY!!!” Society.

Goal: Achievable. The “WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY!!!” Society takes its name from Seinfeld, as “WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY” is something George Costanza shouts after a perceived affront. It’s a catch-all phrase that means, “Why are you behaving this way when we all must coexist?” I don’t know of any governing body that would give us the capital to hire full time staffers or build a cool headquarters, but I know if we kept a few rules in check, society would adapt over time thanks to our efforts.

Plan: Create rules that the “WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY!!!” Society would enforce at all times. Here are some rules.

1) Get off the phone. Take your cell and actually turn it off when you’re speaking with someone. And don’t do that thing where you’re texting while you’re speaking to someone else. This is a remarkable feat of multitasking, but nothing is worse than watching someone’s eyes slide down to their device while they’re speaking to you. This is especially important if you’re buying something at a store. Get off the fucking phone.

2) Take off your hat. I went out to dinner the other night and, while this was not a fancy eatery by any means, it was still a restaurant. From the small section where I was sitting, I counted six men sitting at different tables wearing their stupid ballcaps while eating. Look, you’re not a movie star or the son of an oil baron. You don’t need to be incognito and you expect to be so blatantly impolite. Hat goes off, sir.

3) Let other people get off before you get on. This applies to busses, subways, even elevators. I can’t believe I’m having to type this, it should be so obvious. Don’t just charge on there, idiot, wait your turn. Also, small digression, what’s your big goddamn hurry to get on the plane? Do you think the plane will take off with just you on it because you were clever enough to skip all boarding protocol and run on there? I hate these idiots. The ones who, when they make the pre-boarding only announcement for the elderly, the very young, the differently abled and that person “who may need a little bit of extra help” that I always wonder about, these jerks start standing and hovering, like they’re waiting for the bathroom. “Is it time yet? Can’t I just get on?” And THEN, these same stupid morons, stand like cattle once the plane lands. They get up and stare dumbly ahead, waiting until the last possible moment to struggle with their stupid 50 pound bag and hold everybody up. FUCKING GO! Okay, sorry.

4) Moms, feel free to breastfeed in public. I don’t know why this is even an issue, y’alls gotta feed your babies. However, Moms, be mindful of where and how your child is discovering the world around them. By this I mean, don’t let Junior just walk around a store unaccompanied. Don’t let Caydence run up and down the aisle of the bus or wail at the top of her lungs at the mall. Reign your kid in. Also, vaccinate them.

5) Adults, kids movies are for kids. Yeah, here I go again! But COME ON! Challenge your minds! Expose yourself to culture. Film is a wonderful medium, but just leave children’s entertainment to children! Parents of young children, you get a pass. Grown ass childless people? Look at yourselves!

6) Careful runners. Look, I have nothing against running as a sport, an exercise, or a way to catch the ice cream man. However, on a recent outing with my friend Shannon, who is a runner, I learned something deeply disturbing. Runners, when they run, just puke. They just vomit while they run. They run so hard they wear out their bodies and the food in their bellies comes up and they vomit. Just throw it all up. WHAT? This cannot be acceptable. I don’t want to see a group of willowy lycra-clad do-gooders take up all the space on my walking path so they can do fast-trotting stopping only to PUKE. Nope.

7) Put whatever you want into your body and I’ll do the same. Ironic, isn’t it? Puke is unacceptable in my Society, but putting waste inside your body is met with no judgement. I don’t know if I will change this stance over time but right now, today, I feel like people can eat or choose not to eat whatever they want. I’m sick of the vegans judging the vegetarians, the paleo’s judging the organics, everyone judging fat people. I’m sure there are healthier choices we could all be making, I don’t think anyone has the definitive answer. I’m also sure that something is going to kill every single one of us sooner or later, so why don’t we just lay off?

8) This is the grossest one and requires a preamble. Out for dinner (the dinner of the hatted gentlemen from earlier), one of our dining companions told this story:

“So I’m on a flight and I see this guy I recognize and give him a nod hello and he sticks his nose in the air, which I found kind of obnoxious. Anyway, we start to take off and I hear this ‘click, click, click’ as the plane moves down the runway. I look over and the guy is clipping his toenails.”
CLIPPING HIS TOENAILS? ARE YOU EVEN SERIOUS? COME ON! If there’s one rule I have, it’s that I live by several rules, number ONE of which is DO NOT CLIP YOUR TOENAILS IN A PUBLIC PLACE. WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY!

In reality, there’s no force that can police less-than-desirable behavior that is not illegal. But it shouldn’t be too hard to take inventory of the people around us and call out the rude nonsense. No matter where we’re from, or whether we’re navigating busy streets or empty food courts, most of us are just trying to get by. We’re all on the same team here. Let’s act like it.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Third Man...

Hello Friends.

Did you know that most new TVs come with something called an HDMI cord that connects your TV to your cable box, and that you can use that same cord to disconnect your cable box and plug your TV to your laptop and what’s playing on your laptop will play on your TV screen? After having all of this technology at our disposal for years, Jon and I recently figured out how to do this and spent a quiet evening at home watching old American Justice from YouTube on our tube.

American Justice is an old documentary series about horrific crimes hosted by a crusty old man named Bill Curtis who records voiceover for the show and also introduces segments standing outside in a trench coat. He’s sometimes on the steps of a courthouse or in a dark alley, but my favourite location is when he steps beyond police tape and around investigators to deliver his intros. We, the viewers, are supposed to believe he’s disrupting an ACTUAL CRIME SCENE to tell us about the show we’re going to watch. It’s ludicrous, but he has such phony newsman gravitas that I sometimes believe police and investigators were like, “Don’t mind us, Bill! You do your segments wherever you like, we’ll move the bloody corpse.” This was a long digression that has nothing to do with what I’m talking about, so if you reread this blog entry, feel free to skip the preceding paragraph.

Anyway, this episode of American Justice was about this married couple, both lawyers, who were accused of criminal negligence causing death. Compounding suspicions heaped upon the couple was the fact that they were presently in the process of adopting a violent prisoner in the hopes that he would be remanded into their custody if paroled. When questioned why this couple would want to “adopt” a full grown violent man, they admitted that it was the only way they could legally take part in a kind of three way couplehood. Both the husband and wife loved this scary prisoner and wanted to take him to their marriage bed. We never did find out what happened to them because our wireless connection was suddenly lost and we rung our hands, cursed our internet provider, and sulked until it was bedtime.

Dream: Invite a third person into our relationship.

Goal: Achievable. Before you all start worrying or picturing a disgusting bedroom closet filled with candle wax and feather boas, rest assured that this would not be a sex or love thing. We’re fine. The reason we need a third person in our relationship is that we need a guy or gal who knows how to fix the wireless, hook the computer up to the TV, tell the neighbors to shut up after 11 pm, and make a goddamn palatable curry. I know there are people out there who can do these things because every time I whine, “I wish I could watch the internet on my TV…” or, “I wish I could drain my tub faster…”, people seem to have a million suggestions on how these thing get accomplished! So I just need to encourage them to basically be on call for me and the Doc in exchange for… what exactly?

Plan: Hire a Work Experience Husband.

When I worked in a restaurant and in various retail jobs, my various employers would occasionally hire on Work Experience students. As I understood it, Work Experience was a course one could take in high school that put a student into a job for a few hours a week to get a feel for the work environment. The student got course credit, the employer got cheap labour and someone to take care of the menial tasks. It was really win-win.

We need such a thing for our relationship for those times when we both, unfortunately, are incompetent to the same degree in the same arena. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often. I can unclog a drain and Jon can file an insurance claim, for instance. But nothing feels worse than that those moments when both of us throw our hands up and admit that we don’t know what to do. It is in those scenarios that I feel like there will be a knock at the door and members of some council will strip me of my status as a grown-up. “You obviously aren’t prepared for adulthood,” they will say. “We’ll get you on a bus to your parents’ house immediately.”

That hopeless feeling is particularly crushing when we idly contemplate the Someday Kid (the kid we might have someday). How will we care for a child when we can’t darn a sock, use the broiler, hang a picture?

Our Work Experience Husband would be able to do all that and more, but disappear when we needed him to, allowing us to preserve the idea that we’ve got it all figured out. Maybe we should all be each other’s Interim Spouse, from time to time. Jon could file legal and government paperwork for that couple that instinctively throws all legal-looking letters in the fireplace. I could tie neckties and pan fry steaks for the couple hosting work colleagues for dinner. Another friend of mine can rig up electronics, another could reorganize kitchens and closets for maximum efficiency. I guess the key is not expanding your team, necessarily, but being available to pinch-hit when required and hope that others return the favour. That’s a form of justice I completely understand.