Posts Tagged ‘living’

Sometimes you just have to speak up.

The oldest social rule is:  “never talk about politics or religion”.

There’s a reason, obviously.  Both topics tend to bring out the ogres in so many of us.

Never has that been more evident than in the recent American election.  Liberals and conservatives were both guilty of demonizing each other.  I don’t mean mild condemnation either.  I mean full-out balls-to-the-wall judgement and condemnation.

The bright spot in all of it was the number of undecideds who adamantly refused to be pigeon-holed into one mindset or the other.

I suppose at one point I was just as prone to demonizing those who disagreed with me as anyone else.  So it’s not like I can claim purity here.

Eventually you get to realize that the world maybe isn’t as black and white as you thought.  Kind of scary, isn’t it?  Undependable.  You want your villains to wear black hats, and your good guys to wear white.   You detest those guys with the multi-coloured hats (what?  You expected grey?  Grey is muddled and muddy and undefined.  Rainbow – besides being indicative of gay – is a little more invigorating and alive)

Recently someone close to me has introduced a thinker named Miguel Ruiz – in a book entitled “The Mastery of Love”.   He talks about the fact that we are subject to a hell of a lot of guilt.  Unnecessary guilt.  It comes from so many sources too.  Religion is a big one:  both Catholic and Jewish children are subject to it.   Fundamentalist Christians (Baptists, some Pentecostalists) believe that we are born depraved and icky and pretty stinking awful and that it’s only through the grace of a benevolent being that we have any worth at all.  And those who don’t believe in that benevolent being are utterly lost and depraved forever.

It doesn’t matter if they hold love in their hearts for others.  Or if they indulge in charity or look out for strangers.   They’re lost and depraved and so very very icky.  Probably beat up their cats too.

The dichotomy of atheists’ loving attitudes and what we were taught about unbelievers always bugged me on a subliminal level.  I learned not to question it though:  my mind decided that a lot of deception was involved and so I likely wasn’t seeing them as they truly were.

My mind was right:  there *was* deception.  It was an innocent one though, and one based upon a lot of wrong assumptions.

Assumption #1:  that any one man or religion has all of the answers.

So not true.  I think the universe, or God or whatever you want to call it, has indeed created a force for curiosity.  It’s how we grow at all.  It’s how we progress in the sciences.  Curiosity – the nemesis of the complacent and rigidly correct intelligentsia.

I think that a true appreciation of reality will result in a humble realization that it’s not possible to know everything.  Such paucity of assuredness fertilizes the ground of curiosity and questing.   When your feet sink deep into the sod of uncertainty there’s a heightened expectation of wonder.  A “what’s next?” that keeps your heart racing.

Assumption #2:  that those who think differently have a devilish agenda.

This assumption is born from a belief – not a fact – that one’s experience is normal, usual.  And so anyone who’s had the same experience as us necessarily must have evolved the same way.  It’s that core.  It seems to be visceral to a great number of people.

What if you met someone who didn’t have any of those preconceptions?  What if you met someone who had joy and not a whit of judgement toward anyone else?  Someone who was excited and joyfully apprehensive, looking for something great to happen?  What if that person infected you with his or her excitement?

You wouldn’t judge him or her.  Neither would I.

In fact, you’ve met such a person.  I’m positive that you have.  I know I have too.  At the time I didn’t know whether to believe she was real.  Maybe there was a screw loose.  Who goes around so happy all the time?   But then I realized she was real.  He was real.  He was curious, so he asked questions.   And he/she invited me to the party.

I remember sitting with such people, late at night, in a condo, with the music playing quietly as we drank and talked.  It’s so clear in my mind:  the moment was magical.  It felt like anything could happen.  There were zero prejudgments about anything.  Judgement wasn’t even on the radar.  We were, in effect:  People of the Moment.

That’s certainly my desired end state, for all time.  I have no tolerance for intolerance.  *grin*

I think it’s a worthy goal.   What do you think?

I rang the bell.  They keep the doors locked because of thieving opportunists: on more than one occasion the consultants have all been busy with clients, and someone has walked in, helping himself (or herself) to the contents of purses and shelved products.

I heard the buzzer and, just as I was going to open the door,  a smiling woman wearing a Mary Kay badge opened it and held it for me to enter.  I thanked her and we both sat down, while the receptionist said “your consultant will be with you in a moment.”

“Hi there!” said the Mary Kay lady.  “I’m here to showcase cosmetics to the ladies here.  But we have some products for men as well.”  She paused, smiling.  “Also, we’re giving out free hand treatments to everyone, including men.  Would you like one?”

I grinned.  “No, I don’t think so.  Thanks.”

Her eyes sparkled in amusement.  “Yeah, I know how it is with you guys.  Too tough for that kind of thing.”

I nodded.  “Yup.  Check out the freezer bags over there that this place is selling.  A little too flamboyant for guys.   A little too…..*fabulous* too.

She laughed.

She was delightfully unreadable.  And, as it turns out, married too.  Not so delightful, maybe.  Blue eyes, auburn hair, pretty much perfect.  I figured she was perhaps in her late forties.  An amazingly attractive woman.

“So what do you do?”

I answered and reciprocated the question, which she answered.  And then we got into it.

“I meet a lot of people who don’t work out the details of their financial grind.”  She thought for a second.  “Like, you know how it is when you spend all that money getting back and forth to the office and you spend all that money to make yourself presentable, and by the time you’re done, you’ve actually only made a few hundred dollars clear every month.”

I nodded.  She was speaking my language.

“I know what you mean.  You’re feeding The Machine.” The Machine is my favourite descriptor of the whole process.  “You spend money to buy a car and insurance so that you can get to your job so that you can afford the money to make car payments and insurance and gas so that you can get to the office….”

She agreed.  “It’s okay if you love what you’re doing but….you only go around once.”

“Exactly.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve regretted every moment doing something I have no interest in doing.  I know it’s a cliché but – damn it.  Life is too short.”

We sat in silence for a moment.  Then, I posed the question to her that I’d been asking a number of people.

“I’ve been thinking about starting something up.  It occurs to me that I’ll only do well if I create something of my own, which I control.  I’ve realized I can’t really be happy working for someone else.   It has to be something *I* do.

I want to create a place.  A forum.  Or an in-person group of some sort.  The attraction would be that this would be a place where self-aware people could gather, outside of The Machine.  Don’t know whether to call it ‘Missing Spokes’ or ‘Wayward Wheels’ or what.”

I felt the familiar frustration welling up in trying to explain it.  “I don’t even know what the thing looks like, and am hoping for some ideas here.”

Unexplained, because of lack of time, was the fact that in fact I hate most conversations.  I’m too easily bored.  And so, discussions about gossip or everyday stuff – what cute little thing Sally said today – make my eyes cross.   The easily distracted out there (present company included) are just too easily distracted, if you follow.

There are some conversations though which I find thrilling.  Discussions with people who see a little beyond the immediately apparent – like this Mary Kay woman, or like so many commenters on my blogs.  Folk who truly have a story to tell, or a truth to relate.  Meaty stuff that gets the blood boiling, and the thought processes pinging like pinball machines.    I know there’s an appetite for more of this, and there are people who are starving for this kind of compelling company.

Whenever I think of a vehicle to bring us together though – there’s a blank.  I’ve thought about creating a Facebook group, and I think that would be a good first step.  I don’t imagine it could end there though.  Maybe it could be a compilation of areas, like TheBloggess has:  she’s on Twitter, a number of other key sites, plus her own blog site. (P.S. If you haven’t already checked out her blog, do so. )

I believe there is a groundswell of thinkers and lovers of truth, many of whom have been disgusted by the pigeon-holing and demonization of the party politics in the U.S.  People who refuse to adopt common assumptions, preferring instead to examine each issue on its own.  They often refer to themselves as “independents”, and for good reason:  there is no one party which represents all of their values.

I see the same thing in the Christian religious community too: people who have abandoned settings which encourage traditionally immovable white/black dogma, preferring instead to examine thoughts about God on their own.  Seeking to reconcile what their hearts are saying with what logic tells them, and doing self-examination in an attempt to come to a conclusion that might not be church-sanctioned.

“We’re ready for you, sir.”  My consultant stood there, smiling.  I looked at the Mary Kay lady and smiled sadly, disappointed that we couldn’t finish our conversation.

“Nice to meet you”, I said, shaking her hand before turning to follow.   I meant it.

“What the hell are you all doing?”

The assembly line had stopped, and about seven or eight men were standing around in a circle, watching while another man rolled back and forth in pain on the floor.

Mike spoke up:  “Tan, Jerry here just collapsed and we don’t know why.”

Tanner shook his head in disgust and stomped over to the control switch.   Abruptly, the assembly line jerked and then the products resumed their slow maddening journey.  “GET BACK TO WORK” he barked.

The guys all shook their heads in disbelief and scattered to their work areas, leaving Jerry writhing and alone.

——

I suppose my fascination with Tanner had its roots in the fact that he seemed an awful lot like my dad.  Both had big guts and slick-backed hair; both were angry, abrupt and rude.  They could have been brothers.   The differences were key though:  while dad was constantly drunk, morose and unwilling to engage, Tanner could talk – if you caught him at any other time than when he was doing his job as the assembly line general foreman.  Also, I don’t know if he was an alcoholic.  I doubt it.  If he was, he was a highly functional one.

I didn’t like him.   Tanner, that is.  He exuded a “don’t fuck with me” mien, full of scowling and menace.  His constant angry frown served to provoke diligence in the workplace, which is probably why he stayed in movement.  He knew full well that motivation through brutish fear meant greater productivity.  And the man was all about that.   Once, when we had a plant meeting, he asked “what is the goal of General Foods (*1)?”   I said “to make snacks.”  He shook his head.   “IT’S TO MAKE MONEY” he roared.    I got it.  We all got it.

He brooded over the plant like an angry storm.  Yet, for some inexplicable reason I felt the urge to talk with him whenever he came by my workstation.  At first, his responses (much like my dad’s) took the form of single-syllable grunts.   As the years droned on, they eventually became full sentences.

Then one night, he surprised me by asking for a ride home.  “Don’t have a car right now, and since we’re working overtime, my ride is leaving earlier than me.”    In hindsight, I suppose I was likely the only one there who didn’t fear him as much as the others seemed to.

“Sure” I said.

After the final bell blew at 2:30 a.m. I made my way to his office, and he grunted, turned and locked the door and we left.

Once on the road, Tanner opened up.

“You married?”

At the time I was, and said so.

“I used to be married.”  He stared straight ahead.  I glanced at him, then watched the road ahead of me, as the car zipped through the pools of light cast by the intermittent streetlights.   This was all new, and I had no idea what to say.  Just knew I needed to say something.

“How long ago, Tan?”

“We just split up a few months ago.   I took it pretty hard.  We were close, and I still don’t have any idea why she left.”

“Really?  None at all?”

He glanced over and I was sure he was going to hit me, or yell or something.   His look was one of sadness however.

“No.  None.   I’ve thought about it a lot too.   She was an angel and I adored her.   We used to do everything together.  We used to go out every weekend, dancing, partying, antiquing.  And we laughed a lot too.”

I could not for the life of me picture this guy laughing, ever.   Or going antiquing.  The dichotomous gap between Tanner the inhumane, angry general foreman, and Tanner the loving, laughing broken-hearted guy was too wide for easy comprehension.

“I never never understood it.  I guess maybe I didn’t understand her as much as I thought I did.  I mean, we talked quite a bit about everything.   We discussed our plans for the future, and we talked about politics, and we covered a lot of deep stuff too.”  He shook his head.  “It just doesn’t make sense.”

I cleared my throat.  “Is there any hope at all?  Can you talk to a marriage counsellor or something?  Would she be up for that?”

He shifted in his seat.   “I don’t know if I’ll ever find out.  I’d like to.  After getting over the shock of coming home and not seeing her there, I thought about that.”  He glanced at his watch.  “But I don’t know if it’ll ever happen.  I can’t ask her, because I have no idea where she is.  I don’t even have a phone number for her.”

“Wow” I blurted.

“Yeah.  ‘Wow’.   Unbelievable isn’t it?”

The whole conversation was surreal.  “Yeah, it really is.”

He went quiet.  I wondered:  why was he telling me all of this?  Why was he spilling his thoughts?  I had no idea.

We pulled up beside his apartment building and he got out.  Turned back around and leaned down.   “Listen” he said.   “Thanks a lot for the ride.”

I wanted to tell him how sorry I was. Wanted to say that if he ever wanted to talk again, or get a ride home or whatever, it’d be okay.

“No problem” I said.  “Take care.  See you tomorrow.”

He grunted again and shut the door.

——-

*1 – all names, including that of Tanner and General Foods, have been changed out of respect to him.

A month ago, a friend had challenged me to sit for an hour, just to concentrate – and maybe pray – about where I want to be, what I wanted to.   It was a goal that was fairly open-ended.   

I did.  I sat on the floor, on my yoga mat (shaddap) with a pillow behind my back.   I did this for an hour, at first in mediation, and then thinking/praying.   Just going over stuff.  

I came to a few realizations.

I’m an angry person.  Have been, ever since I was a teenager.   People generally didn’t know this, because it’s not obvious.   I am.  I’m angry.   So….this introspection….this navel-gazing, if you will…. sought to figure that out.  Why was I angry?

Years ago, my therapist suggested that anger is not a bad thing or a good thing.  It just is.  (What do you think?  Do you agree?  I’m really interested in your thoughts on that) .   Anyway – that’s the approach I took today.   I guess that anger, like pain, might be there for a reason.  It’s a messenger, a warning, that all is not right.   There’s an imbalance.  Something that needs correction.

So…..why was I angry?

I couldn’t approach it head-on as there were no answers there.  I just know that sometimes something will trigger me, and I’ll go off on a passionate rant.   Last night I ranted on a friend’s blog.   When I woke up this morning, I found myself ashamed and regretful.   I had told him the truth, but maybe it was overkill.  Maybe I didn’t need to show quite so much passion.   Truth-telling is enhanced by alcohol, in that booze relaxes your inhibitions.  The bad news is that it also inhibits your judgement – and I’m not sure my judgement was where it needed to be last night.   Anyway… spilt milk….water under the bridge.   Regrets are only good as lessons for the future.  They have zero effect on their origins.  You can’t take anything back or undo what you did.

So… Anger.   Anger happens when you find yourself limited from your potential.  Anger happens when you find yourself subject to fear – and once again, inhibited from doing what you know you should do.  

And I have been so very angry.  Sometimes it comes out as a reaction to whatever excuse will serve at the time.  I recognize its deceptiveness by virtue of its overkill – all out of proportion to its catalyst.  

I have dreams that I’ve let slide.   The time of reflection and meditation made that clear.  There’s a need to create.  To indulge some creativity.   To act.  To play music.  To write.   To – and this is kind of the crux of it all – help people.   

It’s tough, being so acutely aware of people who failingly struggle with expectations.   I see people who are bound – hogtied – to rules and restrictions that they thought were imposed on them, by their friends, their church, their friends or their workplace.  The brutal truth is that they’ve chosen to bind themselves.   Whatever the case, the end result is that they’re bound.  And they think they’re alone.  And I *need* to shine some light.

At the same time, I’ve become acutely aware of the fact that I have so many blind spots too.  So I can’t brag about any of this.  I can’t pretend I’m not deceived on occasion too.   Self-deception is the worst, isn’t’ it?  Mostly because you have no idea you’ve done it.   No clue that you’ve lied to yourself.   It doesn’t even cross your mind. 

I find that someone will say something and I’ll realize (hopefully immediately, if I’m lucky) that what they said just bumped me.   Like the universe pinched me hard on the bum.   And I realize, once again, that I’ve been fooling myself.   Damn it – I wish I could be more specific here, so that you had some idea of what I’m talking about.

That hour-long meditation is key:  especially in a world where stuff is happening all of the time, and you have no room to think.   It’s a time that you schedule, just like anything else, where you sit by yourself, quietly.   And listen.  And talk out loud too.

I don’t know how it would work for you but here’s how it worked for me:  I sat on the yoga mat and closed my eyes.   The first thing I did was concentrate on my breathing.  I slowed it down and took deep breaths, which I held for a few seconds before letting out.   As I did this, I noted the rest of my body:  where my limbs were, what they were touching, whether there was any pain or twitches or anything at all.   I didn’t judge any of it or try to make anything better.  I just accepted it.  I also noted the noises from outside of my apartment:  not in an irritated way, but just acknowledging that they were there, and accepting them.   

After a few minutes of that, once there was a rhythm going, I started deliberately thinking about all of the above.  Digging down deep into my motivations.  Figuring out what it was that caused me anger.  I don’t know why anger was the focus, but once again – I didn’t judge.  I accepted it.  It might be different for you though:  you’ll know if you try this.

Then, I decided that since anger was a signal, I needed to pay attention and figure out what it was telling me.   I found a few things:  I wasn’t creating.  I wasn’t playing piano.  I wasn’t writing as much as I needed to do.   I was resentful of my job, which takes up so much of my time.  I need money to live – and my job was the surest way to do that.  I wasn’t physically fit.

There’s an awareness of a need to reach out to people too.  That’s the main thing.  I thought of how many times I’ve been lifted up by music.  Pretty much catapulted out of a threatened depression and dropped into joy – because of music.  I’ve done the same thing when I’ve created and played music too.   The clearest example was at the death of my father:  a man that I truthfully hated for much of my life.  Yet, my emotions were ambivalent.  He wasn’t a total asshole.  He did some things right.  He likely did (as we all do) the best he could with what he had.   He was limited (as we all are) by so many things, some of which were obvious, and others of which were hidden.  At his funeral, some of these truths made themselves apparent.  It wasn’t completely conscious though.   On the eve of his funeral – for some strange reason – I decided to compose a musical eulogy to him.   There were no words – just music.   I remember setting up the electric piano at the Catholic altar of the church, and playing the piece.   It was a bittersweet number:  grounded in pain but interspersed with streaks of joy.   I couldn’t articulate it in words at all.   

The best thing:  it fit, and not just with me.

It was the first time I was conscious of the powerful effects of music.  

I need to do that again.  There’s a need to meet the mark of the joy, the potential, of music.  And of writing.  And of being in the best health possible. And of so much more.

Do you dream?  Are there things you wish you’d done?  Do you find yourself irritated for no apparent reason?  Or apathetic?   

Are you where you want to be?  Are you satisfied?   If so – how did you get there?   Did it come easy, or did you need to do a lot of introspection?  Did you have to make some deliberate choices?  How so?  How did you do it?

If not – have you accepted your “station in life” as inevitable?   If so, why?  Is there fear?  Of what?   

Or are you truly happy with your choices?

There was a time when ….

We were limited to our interactions with just a handful of friends.

When the sum of what we “knew for sure!”  consisted of what our teachers said at school, and what our parents said at home, and what our priests said at church.

We unknowingly carried prejudices, and assumptions.   We were arrogant and obstinate in our ignorance, and we were sure we knew it all.

The fact that our immediate circle of friends and acquaintances shared so many of the same beliefs reinforced our assurance of exhaustive knowledge.   The passion of our parents and teachers put an exclamation point on our dogma.  And we were fine with it.

“Catholics go to heaven.  If they confess before they die.  All others probably go to Purgatory if they’re lucky”

“Eat fish only on Fridays.   Go to Mass every Sunday.   Confess your sins on Saturday.  Take communion on Sunday”.  These were the building blocks for salvation.

There were variations on that theme in other churches, involving the “Four Spiritual Laws” et al.

Not to worry though:  I have no intention of wandering down those paths.  There is no intention to complain about them or brag.   This is all just background.

The internet did not yet exist.   We had no reason to even imagine there was more.  We played outside until it was dark, and our mothers called us in for bed.  We laughed, and played and we felt comfortable.

It’s an amazing thing – how this paucity of awareness seems so real and true.  It was innocent too:   how can you know that you’re missing anything, when you have no point of reference?   When the gas gauge always reads FULL, only because the gauge doesn’t know the capacity of the tank itself?

Then, to coincide with college and university courses,  the internet came along.  We were shocked.  Appalled.  Amazed.

Some of us realized we had a wick, and a limitless well of kerosene that looked suspiciously like curiosity.  And we had a match.

We struck the match – and like THAT – Pandora’s box was opened.   Eve bit deeply into the apple.   New thoughts flooded in – and we discovered we could never go back to our innocent ignorance.

But then, we didn’t want to, did we?

We looked up into the sky of knowledge and found we couldn’t see the end of it.   Just when we thought we saw the boundary  – marked by a flicker of light that we assumed was the northern star – we realized that *just beyond it* was another star.  No, a bunch of stars.

No.

A galaxy.

——–

Like many of you reading this, I really and truly believed that movies and television were mostly there just for entertainment.   I would never in a million years imagine that any TV program or movie would have an element of the spiritual to it.  A meaningfulness that went beyond ratings.   I guess that was part of my prejudice, which was born of cynicism.   TV shows – like major corporations – existed solely to make money.

I remember being in a meeting in a car factory.  I remember when the general foreman – who was probably the biggest bigwig the factory grunts would ever see – stood at the front of the room and asked “why is our company in business?  What’s our purpose?”

Several hands shot up, and one guy proclaimed “to make cars!”

The general foreman shook his head.   Then said “no!  We’re not here to make cars.”

He waited while we looked at each other.   Then he added “we’re here to MAKE MONEY”.  He shouted that last part, just to be sure we got it.

We did.

I have long assumed that was true for the entertainment industry too.

Until one day when I saw a completely irreverent film, by Kevin Smith, called “Dogma”

Up until the film came out, various religious groups campaigned and complained about it.  They thought that he – Kevin Smith – was being sacrilegious and disrespectful.  And they had come to that conclusion long before the film even played in a single theatre.   I went anyway – I was a bit of a film nut.  Plus I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

I *never* expected to get blown away by it.

The film was crass, and it was filled with swearing and adult situations and ……

God was in it.   God had several forms though.  In one scene, God was an old man.  In other, He was Alanis Morissette.

I squirmed, a little uncomfortable with the idea of God as a woman.

But then she – God – noticed a bunch of flowers near a tree.  And She went over and sniffed them.  And then she got down and balanced Herself into a handstand, feet up against a tree.

And I fell apart.  Completely overwhelmed and done in.  I sat in the theatre, tears streaming down.

Kevin Smith (the guy who wrote this film), in my opinion, had been touched by God.  He freaking *knew*.

God is not a construct of dogma (despite the film’s name), nor is He/She limited by what our pastors had to say.  He/She is beyond our imagination.  Yet He/She is right there, mixed up in the little things that make our lives so joyful.   He/She is inextricable from those things that bring us joy.  He/She defines our tears and laughter.

I realized that we don’t have to go to astounding lengths to get His/Her notice.   The things that bring us laughter do the same to Him.

It took me years to figure out that the DNA that comprises our makeup is the same as His/Hers.   “We are wonderfully and fearfully made” goes the verse.   “We are made in His image” goes another.

It takes time, energy and effort to throw off the chains of our ignorant assumptions about Him/Her.   (Let’s just leave it at Him for now, shall we?  It’s easier, and traditional and I don’t want to distract from the thoughts here)

If we throw out everything we thought we knew about God and started with just the basics – that we are made in His image – where does that take us?

When we throw a baseball and our son hits it – or doesn’t – is that Him?   Sure it is.  I think He laughs when we swing and miss.  And I think He sorrows when our beloved cat dies. And I think He sits there with us, when we struggle over a science problem.

And I fucking well KNOW He sits and closes His eyes and drinks in the notes we play when we soulfully strum our guitars or play our piano.   I think He smiles when we dance, all alone in our living room, when an awesome, driving song comes up on the playlist.    I think He covers his ears, laughing, when we hit a wrong note while singing as we drive down the freeway.

He’s not offended when we have sex.  Alone or with someone else.  He’s not shocked.  And He shakes his head ruefully when we tell jokes.  I imagine Him chuckling when we bite our lips to keep from laughing when something awkward happens at a funeral.

That’s the God I know and love.

I think that questions of sexual preference (gay or straight) or politics, or a host of other things doesn’t matter at all to Him.   I think He looks deeply at our souls.   When we decide to live life instead of just enduring it, putting in time until we die, I think He pumps His fist in the air.   He knows we GOT IT.  We freaking well GOT IT.

He took a long slow slip of his Chardonnay.  It was a great night – he couldn’t think of a single thing to make it better.  Well maybe one thing.  A girl he’d been seeing.   He loved her smile, and her unpredictable thoughts.  And her long long legs.  He realized that he missed her.  Missed her laughter, her teasing.  He smiled, realizing that now, after so many years of friendship, he still felt uncertain around her.  Off of his balance.  She still intrigued him.  He wondered if his curiosity about her would ever be sated.   He doubted it.

They’d been friends for years.  She’d commiserated with him when he went through his divorce.  He in turn had been there when she’d gone through her trials.   He shook his head.  Tonight wasn’t about her, or them together.   His buddy was due to arrive shortly at their favourite bar, and he needed to be on target for him.  Darryl was going through a hard time at home, and it looked as though his marriage was in trouble.  For now, he’d have to relegate the girl to the back of his mind, knowing that she’d lurk there, ready to tease him.  God.  Could he just stop thinking about her, for even a few minutes?

A blast of cold winter air blew in, and he looked over, to see his friend standing inside, brushing the snow off of his shoulders.  He raised his glass.  “Darryl!  Over here!”

Darryl looked over.  Nodded.  Made his way through the crowded tables and patrons standing around at the bar.  Plunked himself down on the bar chair. Looked around for the bartender.   Ordered a draft.   Stared sullenly ahead.

“Hey.  What’s going on?”

“It’s over, man.  She told me she got a lawyer today.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

He looked at his friend.  “Yeah you do.  You have to get a lawyer too.  You need counsel buddy.”

“I know.  I know.   Look.” He sighed.  “Let’s talk about something else okay?”

He nodded, and took another sip of wine.  “Sure.”

They sat in friendly silence for a moment, watching the light dance off of the parade of bottles at the bar.   The rocky music was loud enough to hear, but not overpowering.  It was one of the reasons he liked the place.  That, and the lighting and the friendly atmosphere.  He looked over at his friend, nudged him with his elbow.

“Look – in about six months this will all be behind you.”

Darryl took a swig of his beer.  “Yeah, so?”

“So….have you thought about what you want to do?”

“What’s to think about?  I’ll just go to work, come home and probably get drunk on a regular basis.   I’m good at that.”  He flourished his bottle with false drama.  “‘s what I do”

He could hear the bitterness in his friend’s voice.

“Yes.  You could do that I guess.”   He looked forward and kept quiet.  Waiting.

Darryl lifted his head up.  “Or what?”

He shrugged.  Said nothing.

“Well what would you do?”  He hesitated.  “What did you do after your split?”

“Lots of things.”

“Like what?”

“Like improv comedy”

Darryl laughed bitterly and turned back to the bar.  “Yeah, right.”

“What?”

“Dude you know me.  I’m too ….backward.  I could never do what you do.”

“Says who?”

“Says me.  I’m not comfortable in front of people.”

“Uh huh.”

Silence again.  Except for the music.  A blues rendition of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” was playing now.

“Say what you’re thinking.  You’re driving me nuts here.  You’re acting like my wife.”  He frowned.   “Ex-wife.”

He looked at him.   “Okay.”

He played with his napkin.  Thinking.

“I think you’re like me.  Quite a bit like me actually.”

“Doubtful”

“Hear me out.”  He paused.   “You like feeling safe don’t you?”

“Well who doesn’t?”

He nodded.  “Not many.” He sat back.  “Most people look for safety.  It’s natural.   We’re all about survival.  We like things to stay the same.  All of us.  Almost all of the time.  It’s why the end of marriage, or of a job, makes us miserable.   It’s change.  It’s not fun.   It’s like…..”  He looked at his wine. “It’s like we’re cats, and we hate having people ruffle our fur the wrong way.  It irritates us, and makes us feel like we’re in danger.”

“Yeah”   Darryl nodded.  Took another gulp of his beer.

“So…who’d be stupid enough to deliberately go and seek change, right?”  He stopped, wanting to think some more.

Darryl frowned.  “Look – are you going to preach all night?  Or are you going to get to the point?”

He grinned.  “I’m getting there.”  He sipped his wine.  “After my marriage ended, I realized there was a lot of stuff I’d never done.   Before we split, someone dared me to go skydiving once, and I remember being so relieved when the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to postpone our jump.   When the same gang decided to try again – and this was after my split – I decided to go for it.”

“Geeze”  Darryl shook his head.  “You’ve got to be crazy to jump out of a perfectly good plane.”

He laughed – it wasn’t the first time he’d heard someone say this.  “Yeah, but….I decided to do it.  I had to.  I’ve always had dreams of flying.  This wouldn’t be the same but at least it would be a step in that direction.  I was as scared as hell, and there were a few times I thought about backing out.   But I went for it anyway.”

“So how was it?”

“Terrifying.  I didn’t like it at all.”

Darryl laughed.   “Yeah.  Sounds about right.”

“But I don’t regret it.  And I’ll do it again.”

Darryl chuckled.  “That’s because you’re nuts.”

“Probably.”  He sat back and looked up at the hockey game on the flat panel TV over the bar.

“So that’s it?  I should go skydiving?”

He shook his head.  “No.  It’s like….”   He struggled for the right words.  “It’s like while I was falling from the plane, I really felt alive.   LIke I was doing something important.  And it was the same with doing improv comedy.  Only for that, it was more gradual, because I got lots of practice before ever getting up in front of an audience.”

“Okay look – I’m not you.  I’m not going to go skydiving and I’m sure as hell not doing improv comedy.  For one thing I don’t have much of a sense of humour.”

He nodded, thinking.   “Darryl, I’m not saying you should do either of those things.   It’s about……it’s about finding something that makes you live.  Maybe for you it’s…I don’t know…doing accounting”

Darryl snorted.

“Or it’s about doing something else.  I don’t know what.  Something.  Anything that gets your blood flowing.”

They said nothing for a bit, listening to Ben E. King singing “Stand by Me”.   The music was compelling.   A woman near the end of the bar was swaying in time with the tune.

Darryl spoke up.  “So what else got your blood flowing?”

“Well there was this actress who kind of got under my skin.   I met her at an actors’ dinner.  She kind of showed up on the scene a little out of the blue.  I never expected to meet her that night.”

Darryl grinned.  “Tell me about her.”

“Well, she was dark-skinned, with long dark hair and she said she was Persian.  And she was younger than me.   She kind of messed me up badly.”

Darryl nodded and grinned.  “Why?  Because you’re such a cracker?”

He laughed.   “No – it’s just…I’ve never had such a strong spark with someone.   I mean, ever.  Not when I met my wife, not when I met any other girlfriend.    And it was almost instant.  We flirted with each other on the dance floor on the night we met, and then we….well, we made out like crazy, there on the dance floor.  We just stopped while everyone else was still dancing around us, and we made out.”

“So this was a one night stand?”

“No.  Oh God no!  It was anything but that.   It was a true attraction on every level.  I’m not a one night stand kind of guy anyway – and she was the furthest from that too.  She told me she split from her last boyfriend a couple of years before then.”

“So?   What happened that night?  You obviously didn’t take her home.”

“No, I didn’t.   We walked all around Toronto for many hours.  Holding hands, and occasionally stopping on the sidewalk to make out.  I know it wasn’t just me who thought it was pretty wild, because at one point she said ‘you know, I’ve never kissed a boy like that before.’   And I said ‘yeah.  Me neither.  I’ve never kissed a boy like that either.'”

Darryl laughed.   “But she’s not with you now.”

“No she’s not.  Last I heard she had moved out west and got married to someone.”

Darryl looked closely at him.  “Yet she left an impression.”

“She left me with an addiction.”

“An addiction?”

“Well maybe she didn’t cause the addiction but she sure as hell contributed to it.”  He paused.  “I’m kind of addicted to taking chances, risks. To anything that makes my heart race.   I can’t tolerate ‘normal’ anymore.  Can’t stand the thought of being stagnant in any way.”

“Really.”  There was a curious note in Darryl’s voice.

“Yup.”   He finished his wine glass.  The bartender came over with the bottle, one eyebrow raised.  He nodded, and the bartender poured.

Darryl held his beer bottle in his hand, looking at it.  Flicked his fingernail at the edge of the label.

“So I kind of made a deal with myself.”

Darryl looked up.

“I’m always going to find a way to capture that excitement, that passion.  In romance, or in what I do for a living, or whatever else.  I have to.  It’s what keeps me alive.”

“I don’t know.- that all sounds good, but maybe a little impractical?”

He nodded.   “Really impractical.”

“So how do you plan to do it?”

“When I’ve gone through really bad times in the past, or when I’ve had to make a hard decision or put myself at risk, I’ve always asked myself ‘what’s the absolute worst that can happen?’   And generally – it’s not that bad.”

“What about when it’s really bad?  Wait…”  Darryl paused.  “What’s the worst you’ve faced?”

“Well, the finances got really bad one time.   I had creditors crawling right up my ass – and it was getting pretty damned crowded up there.”

“What did you do?”

“I worked it out.”  Darryl snorted abruptly at the unintended joke.  But he continued: “Even though it was onerous, I kept thinking ‘in a year’s time, this will be over’.  And you know what else?   I’d go to the movies to escape life for a while.  And when the previews came on, I’d note the date that the movies would show up – which in some cases was six months away or more – and I’d think ‘by the time this movie comes out, I’ll be through this’   It was pretty comforting.”

Darryl looked at him.  “You know, you’ve always struck me as a pretty staid, upstanding guy.  I can’t ever picture you doing anything out of the ordinary.”

He laughed.  “You’ve only seen me at work.   Back when I was doing improv comedy, I got in with a gang of friends and we all sparked off of each other.  Often, we’d stay at someone’s place and drink and talk all night long.  About pretty much everything.  I remember so many mornings, having to work the next day – and leaving someone’s house at  7:00 in the morning and going to work without any sleep at all.   I remember one night staying over, and we all decided to bunk down.  I got the couch.  I remember one girl coming down from her room and rummaging around for something.  I woke up and we talked for a bit – and it seemed like something amazing was going to happen but it didn’t.  But the magic of it was there, the possibility – and for me, having just gone through a divorce, it was enough.”

“You’re smiling”

He grinned.  “Yeah, I guess I am.  Back then I was in the moment, not even thinking about how great an experience it was.  So much of this became a kind of cool thing – after the fact.”

“Have you done anything else out of the ordinary?”

“You mean risky?”

“Yeah.  Risky.”

“Well I don’t know if this counts or not, but that same girl stayed over at my place one night, because we were going to an all-day multi-performer concert the next day in Toronto.”

“Oh so you did sleep with her!”

“No.  We didn’t.  She was just a friend.”

“Oh.   Right.  I forgot.  You’re dependable.”

“No, just recently divorced.   ANYWAY….” he raised his voice, determined to cut off any more jabs.  “We got on the bus to Toronto, but we found it was so packed that we couldn’t sit next to each other.  We were lucky to get seats at all.  She ended up sitting behind me.  So anyway, as the bus got going, I noticed there was an old lady behind me, sitting next to my friend.  So I turned to my friend and said ‘where’s my money, bitch?'”

“What?”

“Yeah.  We were both in improv comedy, and one of the things we’d always talked about was doing a punk-type live performance on an unsuspecting public.”

“Oh.  So what did the old lady do?”

“Well she was certainly listening.   It took my friend a moment to realize what I was doing, but she quickly started playing along.   By the time our impromptu routine was done, it turned out that she was a prostitute/dancer, and I was her boyfriend/pimp, and we had a four year old child that we left at home before waiting for the babysitter to arrive, because we wanted to go this concert so badly.”

Darryl laughed.   “So….the old lady?”

“Totally pissed.  She scrunched up her little face in such a frown.”   And with that, he mimicked the frown, pulling his mouth inward as tightly as he could, with his eyebrows pulled down.

And Darryl laughed even harder, with no trace of the marriage stress in his eyes.

Which was kind of the point.  Or at least, part of it.

—————————————

So let me ask:  is there a risky adventure that you think you’d like to do?  Something that would make your heart race, but you feel you could “never do” – because of unforeseen consequences?   Or is there something you’ve done – where you’ve deliberately thrown caution to the wind?   I’d like to hear about it.

Whirling and whirling

Posted: January 24, 2012 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

*thinking*  “Shoot, I’m late.  Better call a cab.”

“Wait.  I’m not nearly ready and if I rush I’m going to forget something.  Better get everything together first, then when I’m about five minutes from being ready – THEN call.”

“Good.”  I nodded to myself.  “Smart thinking”

I ignored the brightly coloured fairy lights flitting around in my brain and set to work. 

Lunch?  “Don’t need it – I’m buying a sandwich when meeting with a friend today.  So… check.”

Boots?  “It’s cold out.  Got ’em right here”  *Slips boots on.*

Coat? “Right here”

Gloves? “Check”

Hat?  “Check”

Anything else?  “Wait.  iPad.  Can’t forget the love of my life.”

Laptop for work?  “Got it in the laptop bag.  I’ll put the iPad in with it.”

iPhone?  “Got it.”

Call the cab.  “Ok.  I’ll connect up with my bluetooth earpiece and talk to them while doing a last minute check around the place.”

*Calls cab.*

I go out.  Lock both locks on the door and walk down the hallway to the elevator.  An older woman smiles at me.  I nod back and say “hi there.”

I hear the elevator.  *Ding!*

The door opens.  Something twigs in my brain – so I ignore the elevator and go back to my apartment.   Unlock both locks and walk through the apartment with my boots on.  Grab the new combination lock so I can head to the gym today.  (Lost my last one on my trip to Tofino).

Re-lock the apartment and, as the elevator opens, my phone rings.  I tap the bluetooth earpiece and hear “hi there.  You called for a taxi?”

“Yup.  On my way down now.”

I jump in the cab and,  just as it leaves the on-ramp and hits the highway, I realize that I forgot my security card for work.   So I think “nevermind.   I’ll just have to find a public washroom if I need it, and make sure that I don’t leave the building after 4:30 (unless going home) because I won’t be able to get back in.”   Good.  It sucks, but at least it’s a plan.  I’m not spending the money to tell the cab to go back.

And…just as I get in the door at work I realize that my security card is safe in my laptop back.  I forgot it was there.   “Oh good.” I think.  ” Serendipity.  Thank God for small blessings.”

I get to my desk, plug in the laptop, secure it to the locking cable and turn it on.

I sit back and, after waiting for it to boot up, I finally see the login screen. 

Sort of.  It’s kind of hard to read.

Ah.  I need my glasses.   I reach into my pocket.  Earphones, iPhone….. no glasses.   “I wonder where they are?”   

They’re sitting on the counter at home.  Right where I left them.

I think “what the fuck is WRONG with me?” 

“Why is my brain such a massive blur today?

“Did I take my ADHD meds?”

I did.  It was almost the first thing I did today.

Good thing I have an doctor appointment for tomorrow – because it looks as though they’re not working anymore.

I think “well, I’ll have to buy some reading glasses from the pharmacy across the street.” 

So I do.  Bring them back and sit back down to the computer. 

Uh oh.  There’s a plastic thing securing them – I’ll have to cut it off. 

I get the scissors,  cut the tag and put them on. 

My vision is blurry. 

So I take them off, clean them, put them back on. 

Still blurry. 

Take them off and look at them.  There’s a big scratch across one of the lens.  Apparently when I cut the tag, I was way too impatient.  Pretty much madly assaulted the $35.00 glasses during my haste to use them – and now they’re worth nothing.

Put them back on and decide to use them for the rest of the day.

Later, I meet my friend for lunch.  She says about seven things in the space of a paragraph, and as she says EACH.INDIVIDUAL.THING – my brain captures a relating thought, all of which I want to say to her.  When she stops speaking, I can’t remember a single one of them.

Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

“I DON’T BELIEVE YOU ALVIN!!!”  Teacher barked in clear frustration.  “You’re acting.  Stop it!”

Teacher sat back in his chair, face all red, incensed.   “Bob, sit down.  Let me work with him.”

Bobby quickly made his way to his seat and Teacher stood up at the front of the room and faced Alvin.

“You’re acting”, said Teacher.

“I’m acting” replied Alvin.

“No.  You’re acting.”

“I’m acting” said Alvin, puzzled.

“You need to stop acting”

“I need to stop acting”

Teacher exploded.  “YOU NEED TO STOP ACTING”

Alvin mildly replied “I need to stop acting”

“GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD!’  Teacher blasted the words right in his face, spittle flying.

“Get out of my head” replied Alvin, still mild.  Still controlled.

Teacher was anything but controlled.  “GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD!!!”

This acting exercise, of repetition back and forth between the two, went on for some time.  The rest of the students watched the two, entirely rapt, tense.

Teacher was getting angrier by the moment.  His fists clenched, the veins in his neck were bulging.   Alvin remained a shining example of control.

“YOU NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CLASS”

“I need to get the fuck out of your class”

“YES I WANT YOU TO GO, NOW!!” he barked.

‘Yes you want me to go now.” Alvin replied, seemingly obvious to the dangerous rage.

“GET THE FUCK OUT ALVIN!!!”

“I….”  Alvin faltered.

One of the students jumped up, walked over to Alvin.  “Dude, the exercise is over.  You need to leave.”

Alvin finally realized the Teacher was serious.  It was apparent to everyone in the class except Alvin that he was not cut out for this work.  He was somehow blocked, and there was no way around it.  He could not express emotion, which was what the exercise was all about.  Teacher sat back down, face still red, while Alvin got his stuff together and made his way out.

I sat there, a little stunned.  My problem was similar to Alvin’s though not so acute.  I’d been able to express true emotion in this class, except for one:  anger.  Every time I tried, Teacher called me on it.  “Stop.  You’re acting.  Stop acting.  Now, try again.”

The difference between a good actor and a bad one is that the good one is telling the truth.  The bad one is lying, but trying to convince that he’s being sincere.

Truth-telling truth-tellers.

It took me a long time to realize what that means, or to find the label to something I knew to be true.

For the longest time I wondered why I was so irritated with phone calls.  Maybe I was being snobby?   That didn’t ring true.  If anything I was more accommodating than the average guy.  Or the average Canadian for that matter.  (And you KNOW Canadians are pretty damned accommodating, often bending over backward to help you out.  It’s not a wild stereotype when I say that many of us will say “sorry” when you step on our foot.)

Yet, when I received a phone call, I couldn’t wait to put the phone down.  What was that about?  It really bothered me.  Some of the people I loved and respected would call, and almost always I couldn’t wait to get off of the phone.  There have been times when I gave serious thought to getting rid of all of the phones in my life.  There’s a phone at my workplace.  Maybe I could make do with that, or with pay phones.

Yet, this revulsion for phone calls wasn’t universal.  There were maybe two people who would brighten my day when they called.  And I knew I could spend hours on the phone with them without giving thought to ending their call.

Finally I realized what it was.

Truth-telling.

Any guy who’s in a relationship with a woman, will attest to the fact that the lazy practice of apologizing to his woman in order to get back into her good graces (especially when we don’t know what wrong we’ve done) doesn’t work.  Invariable, our women will ask “what are you sorry for, exactly?”    They are looking for specificity.  They want to know that we know exactly what we’ve done wrong, that we recognize it, and will attempt to change our behaviour in the future.

Truth-telling.  They’re interested in our truths, more than our blanket apologies.

Phone calls, or conversations in the office that revolve around trivial stuff might be of interest to some people.  Not to me though.  I could give a rat’s ass about so many trivial things.  I have no interest in polite and pointless discussion.  Pretending interest is the opposite of truth-telling.   For me, it is creative suicide.  Hanging from the patter until dead.

Hence the hated phone calls.  Except for ones received from a few people .   The difference with them?   They delved deep into things.  They were curious, and alive and passionate.  We didn’t talk about the obvious.  Not about the weather (unless it was stormy, and a tree fell down, and an adventure ensued).   Nor about what we ate that day (unless it was monkey brains, and it tasted just like squid, and was delicious, particularly with tartar sauce).

We compared notes on discoveries.  The warp and woof of universal truths.  Things we’d observed – in each other, and in other people.  We were people watchers.  We were empaths.  Anything that threatened to take us down the path of the verbal rut was jettisoned quickly, with relief.

It’s an extension of our takes on life – whether the intent is to grow, to find freedom from expectation, with the ultimate intent of flight.

Truth-telling.

It removes you from social niceties.  It gives you an appearance of danger.  Truth-tellers are generally not that predictable.   They don’t fit into the expected, the norm.  You don’t know what they’re going to say, or do.   Henry Rollins – truth-teller.  Unpredictable, dangerous.   Clint Eastwood.  Another truth-teller.   I think Bono is one too.

My acting teacher – the one I mentioned at the start of this blog.  He was a definite truth-teller.

I remember one bright shining moment of truth-telling at one of his classes.

It was my turn to get to the front of the class.   Whenever it was our turn, Teacher would pair us up with another student.  The only direction was to say something.  Anything.  And the other guy had to repeat and reflect it back.  The intent was to tap into real emotion.  So we never knew where it would go.  It was exhilarating, exciting and just a little bit scary, because it meant being vulnerable.

This time, Teacher paired me up with…..his girlfriend.

I shook my head, startled.  And then I settled in.

The first thing I noticed was that she was beautiful.   It crossed my mind that if I said my truth, Teacher might not like it.   Teacher was unpredictable, and could switch on real emotion at the drop of a hat.   One real scary dude.   Still, I thought, it’s risky but I have to do it.  I have to be real.  I can’t pretend.

So …..I smiled at her.   Teacher’s girlfriend.   She smiled back.

I gulped, because her smile affected me so much.

She started the exercise.   “You gulped.”

“I gulped” I said, nodding.

“You gulped”, she said, teasing.

“Yes, I gulped” Now I was grinning, from ear to ear.

“You’re happy” she said.

“Yes, I’m happy” I said.

Then before she could reply, I inserted a new phrase.  “You make me feel silly.”

“I make you feel silly”

“Yes” I was smiling so hard I could feel a tear of joy starting at my eyes.  It freaked me out a bit, but I had to let it go. “You make me feel silly”

“I make you feel silly” now she was grinning hard.

We went back and forth for a while, venturing a new phrase now and then, as the passion slowly built.  It took a while.

Eventually, I got to:  “you’re so bright”

“I’m so…..bright?” she asked, a slight frown at her forehead.

I corrected myself.  “Your eyes are so bright”   And so help me God – they really were.  Her eyes were shining.  I can still see them, even now.

“My eyes are bright”  she smiled, hearing the truth.

“Your eyes are bright”

She smiled and said nothing.   Teacher jumped in immediately.  “Continue!”

She cocked her head, and, still smiling, said “you’re messed up”.

Wham.  Truth.

“YES.  I’m completely messed up.”

“You’re completely messed up”

I took the next step.  “You’re messing me up”

Her face gained colour.  “I’m messing you up.”

The room was completely quiet.  Every student was leaning forward on their chairs.  I didn’t look at them, but knew exactly what was going on.  Except for Teacher.  I had no idea what he was doing.  I didn’t even want to think about him.

“Yeah, you’re messing me up.”

“Yes I’m messing you up”.  She smiled so sweetly.  (And when she did that – it *completely* messed me up)

“I want to get close to you”

I heard the class gasp.

She repeated it back, a little more quietly.  “You want to get close to me.”

“I really want to get close to you.”

“You—”   Teacher jumped up, interrupting.  “Wait a minute”

I thought “ok this is it.  He’s putting us out of our misery”  Only, he wasn’t.   He grabbed two chairs and brought them to the front of the room, facing them to each other, only a few inches apart.

“Ok” said Teacher.   “Sit there.  And continue.”

We sat.

I looked closely into her eyes.  We weren’t smiling anymore.

“We’re close to each other”

She said “we’re close to each other”

“So close” I almost breathed the words.

“So close” she murmured.

Back and forth, looking deeply into each other’s eyes.  We repeated and repeated.  It was all truth.

Finally, I whispered “I want to kiss you”

She stayed close, looking deeply into my eyes.  “You want to kiss me.”

“I want to kiss you.”

We stayed there, silent.  And we let the silence take over.  The class was silent.  I’ve never felt such stillness.

And then Teacher stood up and walked over to us.   “Well done.”

I heard the class let go of its breath.  And then they applauded.

Truth-telling.

There was an emotional after-glow to that truth exercise.   I could tell she felt it, because I saw it in her quick smiles and glances in my direction.  I could still feel my heart pounding too.   Teacher knew it to be truth, and he knew that’s as far as it went.

Once you dive into the ocean of truth-telling, anything less is a rip-off.  A facile and pointless exercise.   A spiritual hotdog when you’re craving a thick juicy peppercorn steak.

Have to admit:  since moving in to the new place I find I’m falling more and more in heavy like with it.  Not yet willing to pilot the boat to the end of the Tunnel of “Love” just yet.  Give it time.

Oh there are a few little annoyances.  Like the fact that the laundry room has “hours of operation”.  In the Old Place, there was no time restriction.  In the New Place – well you have to check your watch, and schedule the time properly or you may not be able to grab your freshly dried tightey-whiteys at the end of the dryer cycle.  Which means any old early bird can get in there when it opens in the morning and abscond with them before you can rub the sleep out of your eyes.

Gauchie theft is a growing crime problem, you know.   There are just too many guys out there, in poverty, who’ve never had gauchies of their own.  They’ve looked at the Sears catalogue with longing for so many years, always turning to the men’s underwear section, dreaming of the day they can slip one of these bad boys onto their privates, and smile with contentment, knowing that their junk is finally contained.

But I digress.

Oh P.S.  I don’t use tightey-whiteys.  I’m strictly a boxers adherent.  The reason for the use of the other term:  artistic license.

Seems to me you can say almost anything, as long as you follow up with that all-encompassing justification.

“I think you and your family are descendants of feudal peasants who never washed, because it never occurred to them to do so.  They’ve passed their penchant for soap-avoidance onto their progeny so really it’s not your fault that you smell.  JUST KIDDING.  Artistic license.”

Maybe it wouldn’t work.  The only way to know for sure is to test it.  If you can say the above and then walk away afterward without having to wipe blood from your nose – YOU WIN.

Getting back on topic:  there is much to love about the New Place: I don’t just have air conditioning.  The place has “climate control” – which is about a ton better than air conditioning.  Air conditioning involves a machine that you have to spend hours trying to fit in an abnormal-sized window.  You have to measure it, grab some plywood or plexiglass, and then cut it so that it fits with the air conditioner.  Plus you have to find a way to anchor it in the window so that it doesn’t fall fifteen stories down right on top of that Nightmare Litigator who will sue your ass for everything you’ve got (providing that they live).

No, I have climate control, which means there is venting throughout the apartment.  We each have our own controls, too.  I have *never* enjoyed summer so much, ever.  With climate control, there is no worry about water leaking (in my last place, water leaked onto the floor when I wasn’t home, resulting in the tiles becoming engorged and lifting.  Had to get someone in to re-do the floors), and it pipes the air into all parts of the apartment.  So cool, in both senses of the word.

The water pressure is great too.   In the Old Place, that was a real issue, and was the cause of an unending barrage of swearing in the morning.  Not only did the water dribble out of the shower-head like an old man with a football-sized prostate, but the temperature fluctuated just a little bit too.  Back and forth, from frightened-testicles-hurry-up-and-scurry-back-up-into-your-body-cavity ice cold to immediately-peel-your-skin-off-down-to-the-bone red lava hot.  So a five-minute shower usually took about twenty minutes to a half hour.   I started out hating it, but ended up loathing it with a passion.

And washing dishes was a fall-on-your-face joke.   That tap too trickled like the cutest little babbling brook.   You could get suds only if, after letting the tap water fill the sink (generally about ten to fifteen minutes) and depositing about a half a cup of dish soap, you then swished it around violently with your hand.

Yes, it was definitely time for a change.   Now, I have to really watch how much dish soap I put in, because too much will cause a soap volcano in the sink.   And showers now take five minutes.  Awesome.

What really kind of made this place cool was something I hadn’t expected, in socially cold Toronto:  I have some pretty neat neighbours.

Most of them welcomed me when I moved in.  The general welcome was something like “good luck in your new place.”   I’ve never had that kind of greeting before.   Most of the residents in this building are Jewish, too.  Some are orthodox and many are not.   There’s are three elevators here, one of which is designated as the Sabbath elevator from Friday evening to Saturday evening.   For those who don’t know, the Sabbath elevator allows folk to ride without having to push any buttons.  It stops automatically at every floor.

This morning when I went down to do my laundry, a couple of older women – both Jewish – introduced themselves to me.  We got talking pleasantly about the building, and about life in general.  It was pretty cool, especially since this never happened at my other building.

“So did you just move in?”

“Yes, I did.  In the middle of June.”

“What apartment are you in?”

(I wondered at that question.  But I told her)

“Oh, it’s one of the one-bedrooms then.”

(Evidently they knew the building floor plans.  Interesting.)

“And so are you by yourself then?”

To be honest, I get the feeling the older women here are trying to size me up – since I seem to be getting the same questions.  Maybe I’m a possible candidate as a mate for their daughters.  I can imagine the conversation.

“He’s probably making good money, since he can afford to live here by himself.”

“So pleasant too.  And good-looking.  He might be a professional man.”

“You think so?   Maybe my Marly will catch his eye.”

“Oh you know – Marly catches everyone’s eye.”

“What are you saying?  Are you saying Marly gets around?”

“No, no dear.   I’m just saying she’s good-looking too.”

“Oh.  I’m sorry.  Didn’t mean to get all meshugah on you dear.”

“Ah!  Think nothing of it.   You know, she’s probably too good for him anyway.”

“You think so?”

“I do.  And besides, he’s probably Goy anyway.”

“That’s true.  I didn’t see a yarmulke.  Oy, I’m going to plotz before I find an eligible man for my Marly.”

I love this place.

Release

Posted: June 24, 2011 in humor, Life, living, writing
Tags: , , , ,

The capricious breeze sauntered carelessly through his stubborn hair, pushing this way and that until the dogged gel that was holding everything together finally sighed, shrugged its shoulders and gave up.  Whereupon, the follicle company, mimicking the primordial warrior dance of the galaxies, began its mad performance.

The hair’s owner, oblivious to the upper level drama, scanned the street carefully, as he watched for a car with a lighted roof extension;  a kind of hands up “here I am!” indicator of a vehicle that would serve to transport anyone almost anywhere, for the right price.

Eventually, a taxi appeared and the tight-lipped guy with the day-old facial stubble raised his hand urgently, eyes flashing a message to stop; and so, duly warned, stop it did.

“Take me to 25 Blaker Drive please”.

The driver, who was sporting a ridiculous porno moustache nodded, as he reached forward and started the meter.

The moustache twitched a little bit; a hairy snake trying to rouse from slumber.   “So.  All done for the day?”

The passenger looked down at his black leather knapsack.  This was no ordinary taxi passenger.  This was a man who deduced things, and did so quickly.  He realized that the cabbie had leapt to a quick conclusion.  There was the knapsack.  Ergo, his passenger was coming home.  It was a little presumptuous, he thought.  He could have easily been wrong.   Maybe he was heading out somewhere.  Maybe he was on his way to a coffee shop, there to write the greatest Canadian novel ever.

But wait.  No, this cabbie obviously was aware of the city.  He knew 25 Blaker Drive was nowhere near a coffee shop.  Further, he likely realized it was an apartment building.  Apartments generally serve the purpose of providing homes for people.  Except for those who use them to grow drugs.  Maybe the knapsack was used to transport drugs, he thought to himself.   But no, the cabbie had likely seen many drugstore afficionados in his day, and so he knew his passenger looked nothing like any of them.

Ergo, the cabbie had guessed correctly and knew his passenger was heading home.

All of this passed through the passenger’s mind in less than 2/10 of a second.  Finally, in grudging acknowledgement of the cabbie’s deductive reasoning, he rewarded him.

He sighed, looked out the window and mumbled “yup”.

Below the hairy snake there suddenly appeared a satisfied smile.  “Well now you have the weekend at least.  Got some big plans for the next few days?”

The passenger shrugged.  “It’s kind of a long weekend for me.  A ten-day weekend actually.”

The moustache twitched, and the yawning maw beneath it opened long enough to suck in a breath before expelling its next particle of thought.   But the passenger preempted it with “and no, I have no real plans.”

With the that, the maw snapped shut.   Other forces were now at work, diligently determining yet another course of discourse.   Wheels within wheels turned and jerked, mixing just the right combination of reasoning and query.

Small talk was no easy endeavour.

Eventually, the only thing it could arrive at came forward.   “Really?  No plans?”   It was a pathetic attempt.  The cabbie, along with his moustache and maw knew this.  All three of them shivered in unified embarrassment, while waiting patiently for the contemptuous reply.

The reply came, but left contempt at the curb.  Contempt would have to find another cab to sit in.  This one was going to have two riders, and no baggage.

“Well I’m glad you asked, actually.”

The moustache began to move upward, just a bit, while the maw clamped down fiercely, determined not to display its sudden joy.

The passenger continued.  “I’m just really happy we’re going to have warm weather, because I want to walk as much as possible.  I’ll play each day by ear, and see what happens.  I might go away, but right now I’m not going to plan for anything in particular.”

The maw opened, which surprised the moustache and the cabbie both, who were not expecting it.  “So is this your only holiday for the year?”

The passenger shook his head.  “No, I have a few more weeks coming to me.  Not sure when I’m going to use them.”

The maw opened again.  It was obviously on a roll.  The moustache and cabbie both decided to sit back and just watch.  “Maybe you’ll use them at the end of the year.  Maybe at Christmas”.  This wasn’t a question, so much as a statement of fact.   One that was rewarded with a nod.

“Yes, I think I want to head out west during the winter.”

The maw was silent, so the moustache churned and rolled over, thinking.  The cabbie cleared his throat, the maw took notice and the moustache went along for the ride.

“Out west?  Oh that’s good.  How far out west?”

“Vancouver Island.  I have some family out there.”

The maw had gotten its second wind.  Before the moustache knew what was happening, it creaked open yet again.  “Are you married?”

The passenger looked at his watch, and then glanced out the window.  They were still a long way from his apartment.  There was time.

“No, divorced.”

The maw barged forward, determined to see this thing to its end.  “I hear you my friend.  I’m still married, but things are not going well.  I’m hoping we’ll end it soon.”   The moustache had no idea whether this was a good thing to admit or not.  The cabbie was sure it wasn’t.

The passenger, oblivious to the conflicted emotions of the cabbie, found himself in ignorant agreement with the moustache.  He felt his face starting to glow.  “Yeah, well.  I wish you good luck with that.”

The maw knew no embarrassment or sense of appropriateness. Moustache and cabbie both were horrified and helpless before the wave of thought.   “Well, for the past seven years I’ve wanted out.  They say seven is the number for release.’

“Um”  said the passenger.

“Oh yes.  I’m really hopeful that we will have The Talk soon.  I’ve had quite enough.  We both have, actually.  Every time either of us opens our mouths, the other rolls their eyes, and I say to myself ‘here we go’.   Was it like that for you, before the end?”

The passenger’s eyes looked up and to the right, pulling down some dusty irritated memories.  Memories who just wanted to be left alone.

“Yes, it was.  I ended up working later than I had to….”

The maw jumped open quickly.  “Yes, yes!  I know exactly what you mean.  So that you don’t have to face another argument when going home.  So you put off the conflict as long as you can.”

The passenger sighed.   “Yes, that’s it exactly.”

“Oh, I hear you my friend.”

The cab turned into the driveway, having arrived at last.

The passenger opened his wallet and took out a twenty, deciding then and there to overtip the cabbie.   Perhaps it was because of an unconscious sympathy.  Or maybe it was because he had enjoyed the scintillating conversation.  Quite possibly it was because he recognized a kindred spirit; he saw himself in the cabbie, only a few years earlier, while still in a tremendous state of despair.

The passenger twisted his mental arm behind his back and finally gave up the truth to himself:  he just wanted to get out of the cab as quickly as possible.

As he stepped out of the door, the moustache turned itself up in a grin, dragging the maw with it.   “Remember:   seven is the number of release!”

The passenger was certain that today, the number was twenty.

The average looking girl, with her dirty blond hair in ponytail and harried face slips into the subway car and into her seat without anyone giving her notice.  She’s not participating in the collective consciousness of the riders.  She may as well not even be there.

At the next stop, a guy walks in, clad in jeans and ripped t-shirt.  The terrestrial horror of his multitude of pimples war with the rings in his nose and upper lip in their dance of pain, and it’s all the passengers can do not to stare.  His belligerent look causes them to look away, as his questing gaze scans the car.

His swiveled gaze stops once he sees the girl.

“Becky”

The girl looks up, her frown disappearing.   A shine glows in her eyes, as she erupts into a wide open smile and hops off her seat, to grab him in a hug.  For his part, the belligerence is gone and he grins down at her.

For a brief moment, the busy riders forget about their pressing appointments, their bills, the stressful presentations they have to give, and what they’re going to tell their wives about why they couldn’t go on holidays this year.  Instead, they see a couple living in a moment, unaware of the past or future, or troubles.   The display admonishes them about misplaced priorities. 

It is to be expected that, not long after the couple leave the car, those priorities and issues will come crashing back.  Some will pop anti-stress pills, otherwise will drown themselves in coffee, and still others will eat more fat-enhancing food, all in an effort to avoid feeling bad. 

The observant soul will notice that this scenario happens more often than not.  It is only evident to those who are aware and watchful.

One artist saw an abandoned house down in New Orleans and decided to experiment.  She took a piece of chalk and in bold letters wrote “BEFORE I DIE”.   And then she scratched out a whole wall of empty lines with the words “Before I die, I want to……..”.   Then she sat back and waited to see what people would do.

The artist’s instinct was dead-on.  Give people an open and unjudging chance to talk about themselves, and they’ll gladly oblige.  Some, even joyfully.

Many wrote jokes.  Most took the exercise seriously though.

Frankly, I was a little surprised to see one particular wish stated over and over.

“Before I die, I want to live”.

That wish makes me almost speechless.  An explosion of thoughts careen around, begging for release.

Why would they say that?  What’s stopping them?  Do they feel they’re not living now?  If so, why is that?

The persistent grinding poverty of desire and passion seems overwhelming.  People (including this writer) talk about The Machine as if it’s a sentient, purposeful, sadistic thing.  The Machine swallows dreamers whole, and spits out robotic uninterested (and therefore uninteresting) sheep who do their Master’s bidding.   The question comes up:  is it possible to dream and still be part of the system?

There aren’t any perfect answers to that one.  The dream is not the achievement is it?   Dreamers are often considered whiners, not content to appreciate what they have.  To a certain degree, that’s true of many of us.   Yet, those who dream often provoke change.  

You have to consider: maybe advancement isn’t possible without dreamers who consider what yet isn’t, and should be.

I dreamt of changes.  After years of playing the living martyr, content to put up with angst and depression until I died, confident that the hereafter would be my reward, I elected, finally, to escape the grind.   There was a severe financial and living conditions price to pay, which I thought about carefully before making my choice.   You know – the notion that I had a choice at all was pretty compelling.   After closing my eyes and pinching my nose shut, I jumped.

It was very hard, at first.   After a few years of plodding with mud-covered boots through a miasma of difficulties and obstacles, the dream stayed in front, smiling and encouraging.  Eventually, there was a point where the mud sloughed away, and the difficulties stayed behind.

Without The Dream, none of that would have happened.

Then I read a book.  And after reading it, another dream took shape.

This new dream  provoked even more change.   Travelling and sky-diving and acting the fool on a stage in a theatre and in a few bars happened.   Years of stress, and of biting my tongue, went away.  In their place came the smiles of youth.   My God this was good.

“Before I die, I want to live”

Amazing.   It’s personally frustrating to know that so many don’t feel they have options and choices, and that they must put up with *this* before they die.   The question for those who say they want to live is this:   “how long do you plan to wait before making that happen?”

Someone else wrote “Before I die, I want to be published”

Yeah, that’s my current dream.

But the dream that intrigues me most, the one that was written on the wall, without explanation, was this one:

“Before I die, I want to evaporate into the light.”