It’s late on a Thursday night, and I should have known better. Too late. A generous amount of Ravenswood Chardonnay has completed its magic, and my head is doing that bob-bobbing thing it likes to do, as the bus trundles along on its merry way home.

I allow one foot to precariously follow the other as I weave my half-snapped way to an empty seat. There’s an attractive woman there, and she’s thoughtfully moved closer to the window, all the better to help me avoid having to climb over her to the only vacant spot left.

I plunk myself down in relief and prepare to slumber my way toward the final few miles to my home bus stop.

Only…. My nose twitches. And twitches again. Something is seriously amiss.

I look over at the woman next to me, who at this point is now obstinately staring face-forward. Desperate. Afraid. Anxious.

No. It can’t be.

But it is.

A more heinous ambience can’t be imagined.

This veritable tulip, this rose of the fairer sex has emitted a soulful and delicate silent backfire, no doubt hoping against hope for the gain of anonymity.

Yet it was not to be. For I, the seeker of lost passions and artifacts of renown, have found her out. She is but a ghost to most, but is to me she is as the stop sign to eternity’s perfume.

Still, gallant man that I am, I labour to keep her dread secret, if only to preserve my status as gentleman and appreciator of all that is good and right in the world. My nose has other ideas. My nose is offended.

I open my drunken mouth, and hesitate.

Then, “ew.”

oops_sorry

Cat Whisperer

Posted: June 13, 2016 in Life
Tags:

I last saw the two of them nine years ago. I wondered if they would remember me.

They didn’t. Not at first, anyway.

Niko – the younger but *much longer* black and white cat – hid himself right away. He immediately ran under the couch. And whenever he came into my daughter’s little apartment, he hid as soon as he saw me.

Leo – the gorgeous orange-haired kitty – didn’t hide, because as you know, alphas are fearless. But he didn’t come to me either. He looked my way, acknowledged my presence, and then wandered off to clean himself.

Leo was a cat that Angie and her then boyfriend rescued from the wilderness of a place near Tofino. There was a big parking lot, and behind that was an immense forest. They found him on the edge of the forest on a cold day during a rain and windstorm. The poor little guy was freezing, and his hair was all matted up. So they knew he’d been out there for a while.

Niko was a brother they got for him, just to keep him company – I think this happened just a few months after Leo’s rescue.

Leo’s muted tolerance of me lasted maybe a day. Being an intelligent feline, he must have noticed the loving energy between my daughter and myself, and found it acceptable, because he then adopted me.

Regal Leo

I know this because it didn’t take too much time at all for him to allow me to pet him, and scratch him under the chin (his favourite). I also took to talking to him very quietly. It was constant drone of affection and praise. I’m certain he paid attention.

Both are outdoor cats who *hate* staying inside after about 3:00 in the morning. I know this because every morning around that time, Niko would whine and beg to be let out. He’d give a little meow and then stop, and then just as soon as we fell back to sleep he’d whine again. Angie (my daughter) would sternly tell him “no, Niko! I’m not letting you out now. Go back to bed.”

Strangely enough, he’d listen, and we’d all fall back asleep.

By the way, this happened *every* *single* *night* while I was there. Angela figured it’s because the New Guy (me) was there, and he thought he could con me into letting him out.

My daughter’s place is quite small. Her bed is in a loft above the living space, and she climbs a ladder to get there. I slept on a fold-out couch in her living room. As far as I can tell, neither of us snore, so we didn’t irritate each other. A plus, for sure.

But…Niko remained afraid of me for some reason, so I wondered if he’d ever warm up.

The third night I was there, after Niko shied from me yet again, Leo jumped up on the couch and laid next to me, looking directly at his brother while I commenced petting him.

Niko took notice. There was communication between them, I swear it.

A short while afterward, Niko came close to me and allowed me to pet him. I felt victorious, and Angie was pleased, too.

Splayed Nico

And then, as the days went on, I noticed something else.

Whenever I pet Leo, he would close his eyes and then start purring. This was amazing, particularly for a furry lad who was used to being the dominant alpha in the place. This guy, who usually never lets his guard down, had done so with me.

One night, Niko came down and crawled into bed with me. When I began petting him, he climbed right on top of me. I don’t know how long he stayed there because I fell asleep.

Slowly but surely, both lads wormed their way into my heart. I didn’t realize how much they had done so until it was time for me to leave and come back home to Toronto.

Before we left for our drive to the city, Angie had me give them one of those moist treats they love so much. As I opened the cans and they crowded around me, I felt my throat close. Angie asked me if I was okay. I nodded.

If Angie was the cake to my two week stay with her, Leo and Niko had to be the icing.

“What?”

He looked over at her. She frowned and hugged herself. He reached over and turned up the heater.

Her question filled the silence between them. He watched the streetlights flicker by, separating the moments of darkness. Light, dark, light, dark, light…. Not for the first time he wished he wasn’t driving.

He repeated himself. “I’m looking for magic.”

“Well what do you mean? What magic?” Despite her shivering, she had to know.

They were returning from a group coaching session, the first one he’d ever attended. They had done several group exercises, all designed to help everyone figure out exactly what they wanted out of life. The session had been illuminating, particularly for him. He’d been so restless for such a long time, not knowing why. The coaching exercises had helped.

“I’m not sure I can put it into words,” he began.

“Try.”

He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, staring out at the salt-stained roads, thinking.

“Ever have one of those moments when there’s sudden brightness? You can be looking at a light display in a busy downtown section. Or you notice the way the sun hits a particular tree in the spring…..You get this feeling, this sense of a world beyond this world, one where anything’s possible. There’s a mountain of treasure, a kind of…..” He thought hard. “Kind of like a never-ending orgasm, just out of reach.”

She snorted abruptly. “WHAT?”

They both laughed.

“I don’t know” he grinned. “I’m having a hard time trying to explain this…”

“Yeah, no kidding.”

“I’m pretty sure that when we were kids, we had a sense of wonder about the world, and about all of the possibilities. Long before we got taught about responsibilities, and our duty to the systems of employment, payments, mortgages, cars, gifts and taxes.”

“As we got older, and we took on all these burdens, that wonder got snuffed out. We forgot what it meant to explore.”

She stared straight ahead. He could tell she was processing.

He waited, silent.

After a while she looked back at him. “So tell me, what do you see when you envision this magic? As an adult, I mean.”

“I-”

“Wait. Is this what you were talking about tonight? California? Being around creative people?”

He smiled. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s part of it. I mean, I know I can get there and do everything I talked about: writing, performing improv comedy and maybe acting. But I know there are people who do that, who don’t connect to the magic. That’s the risk, I guess.”

She shook her head. “I don’t get you. I thought you wanted these things….”

“Oh I do, I do. And I’m going after them. No doubt about it. I just don’t want to fool myself into thinking any of it’s going to bring that elusive magic.”

He was grateful for the mostly empty street. It really was a beautiful night, despite the cold and the wind. The streetlights played over the road in a way that hinted at the sparkling existence of the magic for which he longed.

He had always had a love affair with light. As a kid, he recalled having a plastic game figure that lit up with a soft red glow. He remembered being mesmerized by it, as he played out on the street with it, in the twilight of a summer evening.

Later, he recalled taking his first trip to Toronto from Oshawa, and marvelling at the city skyline, with the thousands of building lights all creating their unique dance. Each one was so different, and each seemed to invite him.

“I’m not sure there’s a single point where I’ll say ‘this is it’. I think this magic requires me to keep moving, keep exploring.” He was onto something, he was sure of it.

“I need to keep creating. Keep experiencing. Whether it’s writing, or acting, or playing piano or whatever it is….I won’t be able to stop. I can’t stop. When I stop, I’m pretty sure the magic will be hidden again.”

She nodded.

“I know how cliché it sounds…”

“Don’t” she said. “Don’t apologize for this. For any of it.” She hesitated. “I mean, I can’t pretend to understand everything you said, but I get that it’s important to you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I haven’t heard you talk like this for a while. It’s definitely a good thing, this whatever it is you’re after. Not sure I’d call it magic but….it’s definitely something. How long have you been thinking about it?”

He scratched his head. Sighed. “For a long long time.” He eased the car to the stoplight. “I think it’s why I haven’t been able to feel settled in my apartment. Or for that matter, my job.”

The light turned green. He gave it some gas. “What’s worse, I could feel myself starting to stagnate. It was starting to feel like hell. Like a living hell.”

“Yeah, I noticed you weren’t laughing as much. You seemed so serious all the time. Even when we went to comedy shows, you sat there just watching the stage, like you were lost in thought.”

He nodded.

“So what changed?”

“Well for one thing, I think I’ve recaptured some momentum. I’m signing up for improv comedy classes again. Just need to get my foot back in the door again, hang around creative types.”

He smiled, mostly to himself. “And then there was the coaching thing tonight. It really helped open my eyes. I was in danger of forgetting so much.”

He didn’t mention that he didn’t think he was out of danger, just yet. It’s one thing to talk about it, but he knew he had to act or would it all go away again.

He would get old. He would lose out to complacency, comfort, and rot.

No way. No fucking way. No.

Blue-City-Skyline-At-Night

The movie Trumbo is a dramatization of the events in the life of a screenwriter named Dalton Trumbo.

trumbo

The man was also famous for being an activist and (here’s where the closed fist meets the face) a Communist.

I don’t know if it was by design or merely coincidence, but this film came out at the most appropriate time ever.

The fight he fought, back in the 40s and 50s, is echoed today. Some of the arguments used against him back then are in force today.

It’s the old “you’re either for me (and my opinions) or against me.” People seem to gravitate to the extremes of the political spectrum, without giving much to nuance, if they bother to consider it at all.

Trumbo fought for the right to have an opinion. That’s it, that’s all. Whether his opinion on Communism was viable or not (I believe it’s not) was immaterial. He wanted to have a voice, have a belief, and not have people castigate him for that belief.

Despite his protest, he was lumped in with all Communists of that time and put on a blacklist. The powers back then sought to keep him from making a living in Hollywood, in his chosen profession. They were so very afraid his intent was to infect the minds of the movie-goer by using stories to persuade Americans of the good of Communism.

They had no proof of this, and they couldn’t point to any one of his many many accomplishments until that time as evidence of this supposed “plan”of his.

Yet they didn’t believe they needed proof. All they needed to know was whether he was a Communist or not. The perfect example of “painting with a wide brush.”

It reminds me vividly of a guy who attended my high school. I knew his father to be a card-carrying political activist and Communist. I remember that both he and his father were ostracized by pretty much everyone. We all knew about his Communist dealings, and we all despised him for it (the son bearing the stigma of his father, of course).

It never occurred to me back then that these were people, and that there was no evidence they were hurting anyone.

If the sentiment was that strong in MY childhood, how much more strong would it have been back right after World War II?

We don’t have to guess, do we? The House Un-American Activities Committee – the group that created the infamous blacklist – went to great pains to underline how avowed Communists, as well as friends and family of Communists, were out to destroy the American way of life.

The parallels to today are painful. If you’re a follower of Obama, you’re probably an unthinking parasite on society. Someone deserving of scorn and ridicule.

On the other hand, if you’re a Republican, or a declared Christian, you’re likely a war-monger who lacks a heart. Someone without compassion who probably resembles Donald Trump.

There’s just no room for reason or honest debate. There’s little room for discussion, or for being so open to evidence and logical persuasion that one can change one’s mind.

Instead, we’re setting up camp on our prized dogmas, secure in our beliefs. Everyone outside the camp is the enemy. Instead of seeking to persuade anyone, we look to find evidence to support our already entrenched positions, to the delight and captive applause of the grinning choir.

The alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m.

I live alone but still shouted “I’m up I’m up!” – like the stupid thing would shut off if it heard my voice.

fiveam

Reality slowly wound itself into my consciousness.  Today was the day. I was due in court for 9:00 a.m. to do my civic duty.

I was going for jury duty.

There was both curious anticipation and a heightened sense of anxiety warring for attention when I faced the day.

I wondered about the process, and whether or not I’d actually make it to the jury level.  There’s a requirement – if you’re picked – to face the accused and answer any of the questions the lawyers submit.

“Are you aware of this case? Have you already made up your mind about what should happen to the defendant?” These are the questions I’d imagine being asked.

Having ADHD all of my life, I was deathly afraid of showing up late. (Being late once in a while is embarrassing. Being late all the time provokes a social indictment; one becomes known for being a failure)

Thus the early alarm. And thus the plan to get out the door no later than  7:30 a.m.

I even worked it out the night before. Google Maps told me the trip would take forty-five minutes. I took no chances and planned for ninety.

As it turned out, I left only fifteen minutes later than planned.

After double-locking the door, I got part way to the bus stop when I remembered that I had forgotten my bus pass. That sucker is worth $120 so it was worth it to go back through my double-locked door to get it. There’s always something I’d forgotten so there was no way I was going to start my journey with the planned ninety minutes anyway.

The plan worked! When I got out of the subway I discovered I was a half an hour early.

The short walk through sticky humid air did nothing to dampen my excitement. I looked around at the crowd of commuters, all resigned to their fate on their painful march to whatever jobs and appointments awaited their grumpy faces. Maybe the grey sky had something to do with it. There were no smiles or even half smiles or smirks.  Torontonians take their seriousness seriously.

Security guards greeted me at the front door of the court building. There was no lineup, so I got to empty my pockets and place my briefcase on the small conveyor right away while one of them did his wand thing.

“There’s something in your back pocket sir.”

I reached and pulled out my keys.  “Sorry”

“No worries. Please go ahead.”

I retrieved everything and made my way to the courtroom.

The doors were locked, which……..made sense as I was still about twenty minutes early. It seemed odd that I was the only one in the hallway though. Four empty chairs sat silently, all desperately hugging each other. I pulled one of them free from the rest before settling my butt down onto it.

I waited impatiently; way too keyed up to read anything on my iPad.

9:00 a.m. came and the door remained closed.

Maybe I was in the wrong place.  I opened up my briefcase and took out the summons again.

“6th floor”.  Yup. That’s where I was.  “Courtroom 6-1”. I looked up at the sign on the wall.  Courtroom 6-1

I was definitely in the right place.

I thought “maybe they’re a little relaxed on their schedule.”

I looked at the summons again.  Then I looked at the date.

Today was August 18.

The summons said September 18.

I rolled my eyes and then sat there laughing quietly to myself.

I quickly did a sprint around in my head, processing all that I needed to now do.

I had to inform not only my boss but my team and colleagues about my gaffe.

Plus I had to re-do the paperwork for the acting assignment for the guy who was supposed to replace me.

We all make mistakes from time to time but it’s rare that we get the opportunity to broadcast our mistakes to everyone we know.

Which is one reason I wrote this blog to follow-up the one from yesterday.  I figured I may as well go for broke and announce it to the world.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The other reason is that it seems like a good idea to write a series of blogs about the symptoms of ADHD.  Many non-ADHDers are under the assumption there’s only one or two. Say the term “ADHD” and some will think “someone who can’t sit still” or “someone who gets distracted easily”.

Did you know that according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are 18 symptoms of ADHD?

Anyway, let’s file this one under Symptom Number 1:

Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.

Everybody Into the Pool

Posted: August 17, 2015 in Life, living
Tags: , , ,

Most days my apartment mailbox is empty.

There are some days when I’ll look through the tiny window and notice a shadow. Usually that means I’m in for some heartfelt and needy love, usually from Canadian Tire or Sears or IKEA.

Most bills are sent electronically, so it’s rare that any requests for money hit my mailbox, unless it’s a charity – and most of those don’t even know I exist anymore.

So when I opened the box a few months ago, I was surprised to see an official envelope with the provincial government seal on it. My license and health card won’t expire for at least five years. I wondered….could it be….?

I tore open the envelope. It was exactly as I thought: a long overdue notice about jury duty. Only in this case, it was a questionnaire to see if I qualified to serve.

gavel

I answered their questions.  No, I hardly ever exhibit misogynist tendencies and almost always eschew homophobic or bigoted thoughts.  As for criminal records well, they never did catch me, so I was clear there.

Ergo, in the minds of the court, I would do just fine.

Skip to a few months later (last week actually), and the summons to appear for the jury pool showed up in that same mailbox.

I wondered about that. How did they know I’d get it for sure? There was nothing special about the mail – I didn’t have to sign for it. As far as they knew, I could have been away on holiday. Or I could have been on a three-day bender, and was now suffering in a hospital bed, trying to recover.

Anyway, tomorrow I have to show up for the jury pool.

It’s funny: when you’re younger you tend to judge people quickly. If the waitress doesn’t pay enough attention to you, it’s because she’s an out-and-out bitch – and you tip her accordingly. If someone frowns at you it’s because they’re just stupid.

It never occurs to you that most of the seemingly negative behaviours people exhibit rarely have anything to do with you. That waitress could be worried about a sick child at home. The guy who just frowned at you was probably thinking about a phone call from a creditor he’d received that morning. It’s just your bad luck that you were on the receiving end of his thousand-yard stare.

It takes a while – and some maturing – to realize that we’re all in this struggle together, and that some of us are just better than others at handling it.

You learn, eventually, to grant people some space, and to give them the benefit of the doubt. You learn not to take things so personally, and to be graceful when you can.

Instead of insisting on drama, you learn how to relax. You stop yelling at drivers on the road when you’re in your car. You let them scramble to get in front of you, because the place your going is still going to be there, whether you arrive 30 seconds early or late.  (Anyway, they’re all only racing to see who can get to the red light first).

You learn to laugh. Your tendency now is to hear all sides of a story before making a judgement. That alone makes you probably an ideal candidate for jury duty.I’m looking forward to playing my part in whatever trial awaits.

Though I don’t know who the defendant will be or what they’re saying he’s done, I’m pretty sure the dirty rotten bastard did it anyway.

If I enlighten the judge with this important information early, maybe I’ll be home before dinner.

Have you ever been in a place where you hear every noise, and every one of them bothers you to the point of rage?

No? Just me then? Well okay.

I’m sure many (most) people get irritated by the noise of someone chewing something crunchy with their mouth open. Or the widely acknowledged favourite: the sound of someone drawing their nails down a chalkboard.

I remember a time when I was working at my cubicle at the office. The guy in a nearby cubicle was eating something crunchy. It was housed in a ceramic bowl, and he was using a metal spoon to scoop it up, after which he deposited it into his gaping maw, whereupon he chewed it with his mouth wide open.

This was no gentle scooping; there was an element of frantic panic about it. He clanged that spoon against the sides of the bowl like it owed him money. No way was he going to allow a single Cheerio to escape.

I heard another person talking animatedly on his phone. There was heat to his discussion, a passion that could not be ignored (try as I might). Every time I tried to look at my monitor, he erupted with another valiant point and my thoughts were cockroaches scurrying away.

Yet someone else stood up at his cubicle and laughed about something over the baffle wall with his neighbour.

When I heard that metal spoon begin to scrape the ceramic bowl in its final hunt for the least tiny crumb of errant cereal, my anger reached its zenith. I stood up and looked around….and then noticed these noises were affecting only me. Everyone else could filter all of this out, but I couldn’t.

I wanted to throw my keyboard across the room. Instead, I stood there in helpless and impotent rage, wondering what the heck was wrong with me.

—–

The other day I saw the movie “Age of Adeline”.

BlakeLively_AgeOfAdaline

I picked the film because of its interesting premise: it’s about a woman who, for some strange reason, stops aging at the age of 29. As the decades flow by, she finds she has to hide herself, move and change her name frequently so that she doesn’t come under scrutiny.

As movies go I have no idea whether it’s great or awful. I mean, I have an opinion about it, but freely acknowledge that it’s skewed by something that may seem inconsequential to others.

Namely, Blake Lively.

I’m not a fan of hers. I’ve seen in her in other films, but was not impressed or depressed by her presence in them.

The thing that stood out in “Adeline” was Blake’s voice. It is the most sweetest, calm and soothing voice I’ve ever heard.

I sat there in the dark, just blissing out on her melodious phrases, couched in the poetic rhythms of speech from elder eras.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so amazed by vocal sounds as much as hers, before the movie or since.

This affected me so much that I plan to see the movie again. It’s like a spa for the ears.