Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

“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.

I used to love computer technology.  Ended up with a dream job working with computers for a living.

One year at Thanksgiving, my boss called her staff into her office (it was a small gang), and we had a Thanksgiving meeting.  She asked each of us to talk about what we were thankful for.  Two of the girls rolled their eyes.

I said “I’m thankful for my job”.  One of the girls barely stifled a snicker as they grinned at each other.

“I’m serious.  You don’t know the kind of hellish job I came from.  For the first time in my working life it’s a treat to get up in the morning.  I actually look forward to coming to work.”

The point was lost.  These girls had it great, and didn’t appear to know it.

It wasn’t the computers so much, I now realize.  It was the fact that I’d found something interesting that made me curious.  This job was all of that.  I got to be the lone computer guy for the office (among other things).  I managed a consultant and soaked in all of the knowledge that I could.

I think maybe it was the shiny buttons and lights that attracted me.  Press a button and something happens.  Press another combination and something else happens.  I loved exploring that world.

shiny

Eventually I moved out of that job and into another one, again involving computers – only more so.  Once again I had an excellent boss, who believed in letting his people stretch the limits of their understanding.  He encouraged us to work with servers.  At first, we spent time learning about them.  Then they became our responsibility.  We spent many long nights in the server room trying to figure out why one or the other server wasn’t working.  Long nights talking long distance with the server manufacturers, jointly troubleshooting problems.  While we had lots of frustration, it was coupled with bouts of joking and laughter.

There was the time that four of us were stuck in a tiny room, working on a server.  There was a guy about my age, and a vendor rep around the same age, a younger woman, and then of course me.

The vendor guy said “I don’t know.  This isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.  Do you know anyone who specializes in this server type?

My older colleague said “Oh I know.  I’ll give Dave a call.  He works with these all the time.  He’ll know just what to do.”  He got his cell out.

“Can I speak with Dave?”

While waiting, the vendor blurted “Dave’s not here”.

Three of us burst out laughing.  The poor younger girl looked confused.  Never had I seen such a clear barrier between one generation and the next.  Someone should make it a rule that as part of their education everyone gets exposed to the material of “The Beatles”, “Cheech and Chong” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.  Make it mandatory.  I guarantee you very few would complain – those are all classics.

For the past number of years, the number of new and innovative applied computer technologies has diminished, as have the opportunities for late night struggles with workmates.  This all mirrors my level of engagement and interest.  If there’s nothing new, there’s little to be curious about.  No new shiny lights and buttons.

Getting up in the morning has become more of a chore than a joy.  In fact, over the past couple of years, there’s been a new interest to take its place during my off-work hours, a new shiny bauble.

Writing – something I used to do as a hobby – has become something a little more.  I now write freelance critiques of a couple of TV shows.  The challenge is to make them interesting and readable. To have an opinion and to articulate it in such a way as to invite comment and conversation.  Luckily, the shows themselves are so well-written that they provoke emotions in our readers.  This helps.

Seems a little ironic that the one subject that bores me is being used to indulge another passion.  The computer, far from being a fascinating innovation, is now serving as a tool to enable the expressing of my ideas in writing.

There are a ton of questions I’ve yet to answer, and a bunch I’ve yet to ask or figure out.  Like, what’s next?  Where can I take this writing thing?  I mean, beyond the obvious (e.g. a novel).  If I’m to escape the “golden shackles” of computer-related employment, how do I leverage this love of writing?

(That’s an open question, by the way.  Any of your ideas would be gratefully received.)

The bottom line is that Dave is most certainly here.  Keep knocking.  He’ll get there eventually.

A friend of mine just posted this cartoon on her Facebook wall:

Funwithwords

So I responded that we should not forget the other replacements for “said”.  Like “go”, for example.  I illustrated my point with the following:

————————

Jim goes “so I buried the dead hooker, like you asked”.

And Pete’s like “hold up. Not near the petunias!  Dude, I *just* planted those things.”

And Jim’s all “nah, bro. She’s, like, interred and stuff, in your neighbour’s yard.”

And Pete goes “righteous!”

————————

A walk in the mall or a ride on the subway allows you to hear many conversations like the above (minus the dead hooker of course).  Proving, I think, that today’s vernacular has taken a kind of colourful turn.  Would you agree? I’m not at all convinced it’s a bad thing.  My belief is that a word or the usage of a word becomes evident and valid when one person says it, and his listener understands it.   Webster would likely grunt and do his best to turn over in his grave at that notion; however, he would hardly be in a position to object openly.  Therefore my point remains unchallenged.

Contrast the above conversation to this:

————————

James encountered Peter on his morning tour of the neighbourhood. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, James raised an unpleasant topic. “Peter” he said “I have taken care of that matter we discussed yesterday.”

Peter furrowed his brows in confusion. “I’m at a loss as to the meaning of what you just referenced. What matter?”

James replied “oh you know – I have dealt with the recently deceased ‘working girl’ who suffered the misfortune of having a heart attack while in your employ.”

Peter sighed. “In what manner did you – ahem – take care of her?”

James smiled. “Well, I simply dug a shallow hole and planted her in it.”

Peter gasped in surprise. “Oh dear Lord. You didn’t bury her near the petunias did you?”

Scratching his head, James replied “are you truly concerned about your flowers, and not the recently deceased? I am frankly surprised at your glaring coldness, my friend. Are you perhaps an untested psychopath? Do you feel the need to study others’ emotions, so as to mimic them as best you can?”

Peter laughed. “By no means. It’s just that those petunias were chosen by my wife. If they died before their time, I envision my poor wife attempting to dig them up, only to encounter some part of a dead woman’s hand or leg at their roots.”

James sighed with relief. “Worry no more, my good man. I have interred her remains in the garden of your neighbour.”

Peter smiled. “Indeed you are a prince among friends.”

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Given the subject  – a deceased prostitute – I would find the above conversation as colourful and as entertaining as the first, albeit for a different reason.

I think this is one of the reasons I love the English language so much.  There are so many different ways to arrive at the same meaning, each method providing a nuance and shade of meaning that differs from the other.

Peer review time:  what are your thoughts on the above?  Are you disgusted by the slaughtering of the English verbal language or are you amused by it, as I am?  Be honest: has some of it crept into your lexicon?

ADHD Drugs.  Tried them.  Worked as advertised but also had some interesting side effects.  I’m not sure I can ever get used to the second head that grew out of my shoulders, but whatever….

I think I went a little nuts when the doctor sat me down, showed me a chart and announced that his findings of my symptoms were almost off of the charts.   “Here’s where normal people are” he said (or words to that effect) as he pointed to a line across a graph.   Then he pointed to a line near the top of the page that went from left to right in a kind of a zigzag pattern “and here’s where you are.”   I was more than pleased; I was ecstatic.

squirrel-dog

There are so many more symptoms to ADHD than just the propensity toward distraction.  Many of us – especially ones with a more severe case of ADHD – become debilitated throughout our lives.  A great many can’t hold a job, a marriage or maintain our health.  Many of us have addiction problems.  I don’t mean just drugs; I mean anything under the sun: sexual addictions, problems with booze, problems with almost anything.  And so many of us hop from one addiction to another.  My dad was an alcoholic, so I was fortunate enough (long before the diagnosis) to recognize that I may have inherited his fascination with booze.  So although I enjoy wine, I was smart enough to occasionally go through dry periods “just to make sure”.   Then I realized that I was beginning to enjoy pot too much (this was years ago, officer), so I stopped taking any of that for a while.  There were a number of other ones – I won’t bother to list them here.

Many of us become adrenaline junkies, often taking horrible chances with our lives while looking for that “high”.   Scratch the skin of a person who gets into way too many car accidents and you may find a person with ADHD.

Socially, we are often just a bunch of misfits.  I never realized it until my daughter and I started comparing notes.  “Dad” she would say “I feel guilty about getting so bored with conversations sometimes”.  I would reply “I KNOW, RIGHT?  It’s like they’re all ‘blah blah my vacation blah blah” and I’m like ‘what time is it? Oh I’ve got to go'”.

Sometimes I even blogged about it.   Like the blog I posted about a guy who was into some of the same types of books I was interested in – only in a kind of steroidal way:  it was all he could talk about, and it bored me to tears.   I eventually realized that the problem wasn’t him, it was me.  (“Sure it was” I hear you say.  “That’s so cliché, man”.  And okay – so it is.  Happens to be true).  Normal people – however “normal” is defined – can carry on linear conversations that have beginning, middle and conclusion points.   I realized that wasn’t the case with me or my daughter:  our conversations were more like exploring birds, hopping from tree branch to tree branch, never landing on the same one twice.   A bouquet of non sequiturs, if you will.   We eventually realized that we were annoying others who wanted to get in on the conversation but felt they couldn’t.   “Can you not stay on the point???” they’d exclaim, exasperated.   “What point?” would be our innocent response.

Our conversations often frustrated ourselves as well, but only for brief moments.  It kind of went like this:  “um, what was I talking about?”  “I dunno” *shrug*   Whatever it was seemed important; it was a point I was trying to get to, only I was too excited by the process of the conversation and so, as usual, the conversational car left the track and flipped end over end into a field of much more interesting thoughts.  Crash and burn.

“Were you aware that there’s an eclipse of the moon tonight?”

“Oh really?  I’d love to see that.  I can’t stay up late though, I have a test in the morning.”

“Well maybe you don’t have to stay up to watch it.  Maybe you could….”

“Oh my God Dad.  I remember the last time I saw the Northern Lights.  They were so beautiful…”

“Was that when you were on that camping trip?”

“With Pete?”

“How is Pete?”

“He’s married now and he’s running his own shoe store.”

(Then I’d think: shoes, running, Nike, “just do it”)

“Hey I’m going to finish the next chapter of my book tonight.”

“Really?  That’s so good, Dad.”

(And she would think “books, Kindle, Amazon”)

“Do you know that Amazon delivers to Canada?”

(And I would think “old news, news, newspaper, columnists, Conrad Black)

“I knew that.  Hey have you ever read any of Conrad Black’s stuff?  The man’s a wordsmith!”

(And she would think “wordsmith, clowns, elephants, circus”)

“No I never have.   That reminds me: Cirque du Soleil is coming to town.  I’ve got tickets!”

And on it would go.  You can just picture other “normal” people saying “okay – just what the FUCK are you guys talking about?”

We’d both look at each other and smile.

I think even my writing gets affected and infected by this type of meandering.  For example: I meant to tell you about my foray into the ADHD drug world.

So the first one was a long-term drug that you have to take every day.  It’s supposed to get into your bloodstream as a constant presence and affect what’s called “executive function” – whereby you retain the ability to not only focus, but keep all of the balls in the air at the same time.  Most people aren’t aware of it: they put their current thought on a shelf – NOT FORGOTTEN, just placed aside for a moment – while they deal with a more pressing thought.  Then when they’re done, they go back to the shelf, bring down the thought and work with it again.  With ADHD folk it’s more like we hoof that thought into the outer stratosphere, completely forgotten and rarely ever seen again.  It’s not deliberate; it’s just the way our minds tend to work and process.   This drug was designed to help patients gain a measure of control.

I have no idea whether it worked or not; I didn’t stay on it long enough.  Just a week.  Just long enough to notice that I was having a very hard time trying to pee (among other things).  It was horrible.  I got worried that maybe my body was going through an unwanted change, until I got onto the net and started reading about the side effects.   So I dropped that drug like it was a flaming bag of dog poop – and I felt better almost immediately.

I went back to the doc who prescribed another ADHD medication that he promised wouldn’t mess me up so badly.  The side effects were minimal and as long as my blood pressure remained under control there wouldn’t be any problem.  I went on it for a few weeks and didn’t notice any change in my ADHD symptoms so went back to him.  He increased the dosage.  I tried it for a few more weeks; still no change.  I went back – and this can get boring so let me just say it took a few more visits until we got the dosage right.   And then, presto!  The required effects kicked in.

I was able to focus; I was able to complete projects; I was able to go places and not leave my iPhone or iPad sitting somewhere for someone to pick up and adopt as their own.  (Can’t tell you how many times I’d done that before).

There were other noticeable effects too.   I started boring the hell out of myself.  Anything I wrote was tedious and long – and complete.   I hated my writing.  My creativity took a noticeable hit.  I figured it was worth the price of being able to be just a little bit linear in thinking again.

Then one day I started having pains in my chest.  Severe pains.  I went to a walk-in clinic and the doctor said my blood pressure was through the roof.  She ordered an EKG (my heart was fine), and then prescribed some nitro.  I quickly realized the culprit:  the high doses of the ADHD drug was affecting my blood pressure.

So I went off it.  Completely.  Cold-turkey.

My blood pressure’s back to normal, and my creativity is back.

In talking with a good friend of mine who is also an MD, we seemed to agree that maybe, just maybe, people are designed to be different from each other, and maybe there’s no real need to alter our behaviour (or as we called it, get into “social engineering”).

I only know I’m enjoying the crap out of life right now, and it’s doubtful that I’ll ever seek help for my ADHD again.  (Never say never though).

Final note:  I hear you saying “dude, your creativity can’t be all that great.  You rarely write a new blog.”   You would be correct:  my blogs are too few and far between and I’m planning to change that.   But – and this is a huge thing – I’m still writing.  I’ve been employed for a few months as a critic for the popular site TVFanatic.com – and I write a weekly review of two shows:  Criminal Minds and NCIS.   Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to interview two of the Criminal Minds stars too:  Matthew Gray Gubler (who plays Dr. Reid) and Joe Mantegna (who plays Agent Rossi).   If you want to check it out – no pressure! – you’ll find the reviews at Criminal Minds and NCIS.  (My name on there is Douglas Wolfe.)

In the meantime, maybe I’ll just keep playing at life and forget about the ADHD meds.  Frankly I’m having too much fun without them.

“You need to pay more attention to your Chi.”

I heard those words while sitting in a diner in Tofino, B.C. today. Seemed to resonate soundly, fitting completely with the laid back young atmosphere of this rainy little resort town.

Tofino is a beautiful anomaly. It hardly rarely gets any warmer than 15 degrees during the summer (59 Fahrenheit) or cooler than 8 degrees (43 Fahrenheit) during the day in winter. Since it exists in a rain forest, the predominant weather is….rain. Lots and lots of rain. The cheerful residents wander around town in rain boots and rain coats. You can spot the city folk (raising hand) by the fact that they’re sporting umbrellas.

Yet, for all of that, the place consists of people in their 20’s. They’re attracted to this place. I asked my host why that was.

He said “like attracts like. There are young people here, and that attracts more of the same.”

Seeing my half-accepting nod, he continued. “Plus, there aren’t that many full time jobs here. They’re all seasonal. So it’s rare that families choose to settle here.”

He thought some more. “And they really like the great surfing here too.”

This completed a picture. Yesterday, at the same little diner, I shared a table with a long-time middle-aged resident who mentioned he just bought another property.

“Must be hard getting decent tenants” I offered, drawing upon my extensive knowledge of landlord-tenant dynamics from my home in Toronto.

He sipped his coffee. Nodded. “Yeah, they only seem to want to rent for a short time. There’s a constant turnover of residents.”

The air around this town is thick with the ambience of one word: wellness. The people are fit, alive and above all, friendly. Torontonians are generally left a little pole-axed by the redolent joy of this place. There is no rushing, about anything. You don’t meet anyone while walking and not at least nod at them. What normally would be a five minute trip to the grocery store in the big city turns out to be a fifteen minute joyful experience in Tofino: residents just love to talk and meet new people. Before you walk out with your milk and bread, you’ll know a heck of a lot more about those who work in the store: where they came from, how long they’ve been there, and how cool the surfing is.

There is a surfeit of massage practitioners. Most of them offer a range of therapies including aromatherapy and Reiki. And lots of advice on how to live a healthier lifestyle. There are no fast food places here. It’s all very very healthy. If you don’t feel like visiting one of the little restaurants, you can always purchase some organic foods to bring back to wherever you’re staying.

All of the gorgeous little (and big) resorts outside of town are connected by two things: a small highway for the cars, and a paved walkway for pedestrians and cyclists. Both see lots of use. Certainly the latter is a dog walker’s paradise. All of this is surrounded by greenery, trees.

Bears and cougars have been sighted here from time to time, too. My host mentioned that one time, his guests were pretty much confined to their suite for a while because there was a mother bear and her cub hanging out, just outside their door.

On my last visit to this town, I was playing a board game with my hosts when I spotted movement outside their plate glass dining room window. I looked closer. It was a big lumbering bear, calmly making his way from the front yard to the back yard. My eyes must have been bugging out, because my host laughed. He was used to it, whereas the only dangerous wildlife this Toronto boy had ever encountered before was a slightly gassy beggar asking for change on a dim street corner.

You don’t lock your doors in this town. There’s no point. Everyone knows everyone. It’s just that kind of place. (Plus, bears and cougars don’t have opposable thumbs. So it’s all good.)

Yesterday, we took a long walk down to the ocean and saw this:

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In spite of all of this beauty, there are a few things I miss.

A decent internet connection.
My PVR. (Yeah, I’m addicted to my TV. Sue me.)
The night life of the big city.
A movie theatre on every corner. (Well not quite on every corner. Enough of them though).
Transit. Being able to get from A-B relatively quickly.
Sunshine. That’s a big one.

When I get back to Toronto, there is one major aspect of Tofino that I know I’ll miss.

The amazing and endearing friendliness. You can’t smile and wave at someone in Toronto without them scrambling to press the 911 speed dial on their iPhones.

(This blog is lovingly dedicated with thanks to my hosts: Miche and Angie. The latter is my daughter. The former is not my daughter.) :)

How much electronic pain must be suffered at the delighted hands of masochistic fairy muses, who flit about teasing the writer with half-formed ideas?   All day long this one has been continually dive-bombed by brilliant sparkling thoughts, only to see them fade away as soon as the mental hand reaches out to grasp.

At the heart of the exercise is the certainty that such grasping is not in vain.  The hope stretches beyond wishing, to the point of clarity:  gems are meant to be mined, not left in the walls of rock, forever ignored, forgotten.

The analogy searches beyond the immediate:  while the gem is the goal, it goes beyond just writing, or just ideas.  The gem reflects the natural light of value, inherent in those lights who have perceived it.  The woman whose flashing eyes reveal far more spirit turmoil and joy than most in her company.  Hidden to most, she is accessible to the seeker who somehow just can’t stop perceiving.   Like the ephemeral muse, her quick quirks of dangerous laughter upsets the apple cart of decency and “the norm”.  The writer understands and yet knows that he doesn’t get it all.   His self-awareness understands the depths of his own ignorance, and the intrigue tickles his mental taste buds.  A flavour, filling the mouth with ambiguous fire.

It’s not often this happens – this departure from every day mundane musings, and when it does, it’s certainly welcome.  I was reading “Jitterbug Perfume” (once again, probably for the tenth time, but who knows – and more importantly who’s counting?), when a new pre-ordered book slipped into the e-bookshelf of my iPad Kindle application.   The dangerous world of espionage had always intrigued me, and so I flipped over from “Jitterbug” to read the first chapter.   In normal mundane times, I would start such a book but wouldn’t stop until it was finished.  My appetite for reading has always been like that:  voracious and hungry, and unable to stop until full.  I’ve missed meetings and have been late for doctors’ appointments because of it.  There’s no shame there, really.  I revel in the fact that brilliant ideas, written painstakingly by good authors are so greatly appreciated on this side of the internet.

Yet, this time, I only made it to the first couple of paragraphs before the compulsion to jump back to “Jitterbug” irritated me mercilessly.  I knew why, too.   Robbins’ writing – at least in this work – does not lend itself to distraction.   Literary vortexes are like that.   This one is anyway.  It tends to consume concentration, with the promise of reward.  His dark maelström of lightening beneath bitter clouds floods the consciousness with meaning and soulish rapture.  It instigates and enables so many epiphanic ideas and thoughts.   I suppose it’s why I read the book so many times.   There’s an old commercial about the snack food “Bits and Bites” – where the cartoon narrator reaches into a box and pulls out some content while saying “something different in every handful”.   “Jitterbug Perfume” is just like that, with every reading.

It’s an unceasing drill sergeant too, demanding, obstinate and blunt.   The bright thoughts demand action and reaction, and doesn’t seem to know what “tolerate” means.  I suppose the contrast becomes too apparent:   the world “Machine” wants everyone to take a seat and settle down.  We are cajoled and advised to be content, to watch our favourite TV programs, to eat our fatty foods and be quiet.  To be precise:  the Machine would rather we shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down, and don’t stir up any shit.

Following that advise is what gets you old.  It’s an intricate preparation for disease and death.  Many of us are cool with that, and plan accordingly.   When we question that direction, and ask why it is, the only response is “well it’s complicated”.   Truth-speak for “not only wouldn’t you understand – we don’t want you to get it.”

The Machine keeps stepping on my chi, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had enough of it.  The best defence is a good offence, and the best offence is to be offensive.  Challenging my own direction is scary and a little invigorating.  It pleases me to be displeasing to conventional wisdom.

One has to suppose that the grown adult’s self-imposed rut comes from a lifetime of digging and creating a nest.  Even the most creative of us gets used to the idea of comfort wherever we can find it, or create it.  Stability is the goal, and at least for me, stagnation is the result.  So there’s a trade-off isn’t there?   If you want security, be prepared to be bored.   If you want excitement, know that your life won’t be all that stable, and it certainly won’t be predictable.

Deep in historical awareness – the same awareness that exists within our DNA – is the exhilarating knowledge that steps into uncertainty and risk have their own reward.  Joy, excitement, and even a measure of a type of security.  It knows that the plush fruit of its acts will shine attractively to those who don’t yet have it.

Ever wonder about the state of the economy and where it will all end?  I have.   Some things seem certain:  those who invest themselves in artistic directions always have willing buyers.  People who – like me for so long in my life – have become art voyeurs, the Hansel and Gretel of life’s forest, excited by the new trail, but lulled to a certain undignified grave.

The choice becomes simple.  On one hand, we can concentrate on consuming (and become consumed), and on the other we can concentrate on creating, bringing new life and enlarging our perceived horizon, constantly growing and finding room for more growth.

Voyeur or voyager.