Archive for July, 2009


Dan

I remember exactly how the sky looked at the moment that Dan told me that he had to leave.

The sun was beginning to set, but just barely. Thus, the brilliant shades of orange and red more often associated with sunsets had not appeared. Instead, the sky was golden.

It was 5 o’clock, but because Cuba is at a lower latitude than Canada, the sky looked similar to how it looks here at 6 o’clock on a midsummer’s day. Looking outside right now, that’s what I see: That golden sky which signalled the end of the greatest day of my life, one year ago today.

I am doomed to see that golden sky once per day, and feel a tide of sadness wash over me.

That’s what I’m looking at now. The golden sky.

…Or at least I would be, if the sky wasn’t obscured by grey clouds. But even though I can’t see it, I know that it’s there.

That’s sort of like Dan; I can’t see him, but I know that he’s out there.

Dan is different than Camilo in that you can’t see what he’s done for me. It’s all internalized. And I don’t really want to externalize it on a blog. You couldn’t possibly understand.

I don’t know where he is now. I don’t know what he’s doing.

But I know that I’ll never see him again, and I know that I’ll never hear him laugh again. And I haven’t been able to cope with that yet. I’ve tried, but it still hurts me very much. I pray every day that he’s happy, but at the same time I’m a little bit selfish: I pray for him to come back to me, even for a day. If he came back for a day, I wouldn’t allow myself to lose him again. I’d find some way to keep in touch with him.

In all likelihood, it isn’t going to happen. And that tears me apart in the worst way.

The closest I got to seeing him again was at the provincial competition for Destination Imagination. After hours of waiting, we were finally called up to the waiting room. And in this room
was another younger team, laughing and screwing
around. Nothing too new or interesting, right?

But then I saw one particular member of the other team.

God… He looked like Dan. He looked too much like Dan.

And there he was, smiling and laughing.

I don’t know what happened to me then. I couldn’t help
it. It made me so happy to see this boy who resembled Dan laughing, but
at the same time it hurt to know deep down that it wasn’t Dan. I
couldn’t take it. I just completely broke down, right in front of my team. The other members of my group asked if there was
something wrong with me. I told them that I was having chest pains caused by a medication. This was not a lie, per se, as the medication I was on did cause chest pains
occasionally. I just wasn’t experiencing one right then. I couldn’t
have explained Dan to them, after all.

There isn’t much more to say, so I’m going to finish this blog off because it’s hurting me.

Dan gave me the best day of my life. I remember a specific moment during
our day together when Dan left to fetch the pine cone that we had been
playing with, and I was alone for a moment. I was breathing heavily, because Dan was tiring me out. And I looked up, and saw a brilliant blue
sky up above, and I suddenly felt in awe of the wonder and majesty
of being alive. That’s the best way I can describe it. I felt so
thrilled to be alive. I had never felt like that before, and I’ve never
felt like that since. It was beyond happiness. It was pure elation.
Maybe you’ve felt that way before, and if you have, you know that it’s
the best feeling in the world. Better than love, even, because love is
just the feeling of being thrilled with one other person. I felt
thrilled with the entire universe.

Dan made me feel like that. No one else has ever been able to.

It
was the best day of my life. And all I have left of it are my memories,
a single photograph, and that golden sky. But none of those are nearly
as good as having a living, breathing Dan beside me. More than anything
I wish that the image of Dan in that photograph would come alive and
move, and wave to me, and say hello, and challenge me to a match of
ping pong (to ten), and laugh.

God… please bring him back to me. If not in this world, then in the next. Just don’t let me go on like this forever.

I didn’t think that I would have to write another blog on this issue. I definitely didn’t think that I would have to write another blog on this issue barely 48 hours after my so-called “Conclusion”. But here I am, doing just that.I recently said that the odds of someone else finding this space are ridiculously low. So what are the odds of Camilo finding this space a day after I posted the Wrigley Field blog? Millions to one, surely.

And yet, I came home today to find “Camilo Llano commented on Michael Danese’s blog post The Wrigley Field Incident – Conclusion

I was beyond shocked. I’m still beyond shocked, actually. And it’s very rare that anything I see on my own blog shocks me.

When I wrote the Wrigley Field blog, I never for a second dreamed that he might read it. But I’m not embarrassed or ashamed at all. In fact, I’m glad. I’m glad because everything that I wanted to tell him is in that blog. I just never had the chance to say most of it. I’m happy that he now knows how I feel. And I’m happy that I know a little bit more about how he feels.

But I don’t know everything, and that’s what this blog is for.

At this point, I need to ask anyone not named Camilo to click the red X in the top right corner of your screen. Please. No one’s going to force you to, but I would appreciate it if you did. Thanks. If your name is Camilo, read on.

Camilo, I don’t know if you’ll end up reading this, but I hope that you will, because I have a few final things to say and a few final questions to ask. I’ll make it quick, I promise.

First off, I’ve told you my thoughts on the last few years, so I’d like to ask you is this: What were things like from your point of view? How have you been feeling over these past two years in terms of what happened? I know it sounds a bit silly, but I never knew what you were thinking, and I really want to see things from your perspective.

Just because I think that I turned out better because of everything that happened doesn’t mean that I’m entirely happy about it. You were the best friend that I had for those first two years of high school, and I’ll never forget some of the times we had. I know that you remember those good times too.

What happened between us was a shame, to say the least. There’s no way to erase it now, but there’s no reason why things have to stay like this. I’ve been trying to find a way to get things back to how they used to be between us for more than two years. I was always willing and eager to start fresh. I just never had the guts to tell you to your face. I thought that you hated me. Whenever I saw you in the hallways in grade 11 and 12, I felt a mix of guilt, sadness, and fear. But in spite of what you might think, I always cared about how you were doing, even if it seemed like I had moved on and found new friends.

The bottom line is this: As I said, I’ve always been willing and eager to start fresh with you. And while I don’t know what your plans are in terms of returning to Colombia, I know this: There’s no reason why we can’t be friends again. If you can forgive me for everything that I’ve ever done to you, I’d like to start over.

What do you say, french horn guy?

If you’re uncomfortable with commenting, send me an email. Just respond somehow, and I promise that I’ll listen.

 

Tomorrow will mark 27 months since I fired that fateful punch in the direction of my then-friend’s face, and since then I’ve reflected on the cause and significance of that event many times, both on this blog and in my head. And I feel the need to do so again today. But this will be the last time that I blog about it, barring any unforeseen miracles. Though I’ll probably reflect on this event many more times in my head, this is the end as far as this blog is concerned. Maybe I’ll make an anniversary post, but that’s it. The matters at hand have finally been put to rest, and so there is nothing further to reflect upon beyond what I’ve posted here.
But, since I want to make this the definitive reflection, I need to begin at the beginning:
***
It was April 20th, 2007, around noon Central Time. My classmates and I had just finished a musical performance for an elementary school in the town of Woodridge, Illinois. I was fairly high spirits, because it was time to go to Wrigley Field to watch a baseball game. We got off of our bus about half a kilometre away from the stadium, and the teacher began handing out tickets. I snagged a set of two for me and my friend Camilo.We walked to the stadium and took our seats about half an hour before the game was scheduled to start. It was chilly for late April. I immediately regretted not bringing a jacket.

And then I felt a poke on my right shoulder. Instinctively, I turned around to see who was demanding my attention. I saw two people sitting behind me, looking away. I turned my attention back to the field and to the conversation that I had been having with Camilo. The two persons behind me laughed.

Then Camilo felt a poke on his shoulder and turned around, with the same result.

The pokings continued in excess of half an hour. Refusing to give them the satisfaction of seeing me pissed off, I stopped turning around after the first poke. Inside, however, I was becoming furious.

I then felt the need to use to washroom. I did so, but instead of using the buddy system like we had been instructed, I went alone, leaving Camilo at the mercy of the two fiends.

I returned a few minutes later, still fuming. Seconds after I sat down, I felt another poke.

It was the top of the second inning, I remember clearly. I told myself that the next person to touch me was getting clobbered in the face.

And then Camilo tapped me on the side of my face. Not hard at all. I later found out that during the few minutes that I was away, the two demons had told Camilo that they would leave both of us alone if he hit me. Camilo, obviously not wanting to cause me any physical pain, had opted for a light tap. I barely felt it.

But I had been touched. And I reacted instantly, with zero thought process.

Technically, it wasn’t even a punch. Because he was sitting beside me, a direct punch would have been awkward, and would have hit him in the cheek as opposed to the nose. So instead I swung my arm around and drilled him with the side of my fist, right in the nose. I looked on in horror and awe as the blood poured from his nose. He spit blood out of his mouth as well.

And I became scared, then. It only took about five seconds for people to notice how badly he was bleeding and to ask me what the fuck I had done.

I knew perfectly well what I had done. There was easily enough blood coming out of Camilo’s nose to get me suspended from school for an extended period of time. Technically, it was also an assault. I knew that I could get in some serious trouble for this. So, fearful of the consequences, I began to plead self-defence. His light pat on my cheek was provokation enough for me to take a swing at him, or so I claimed.

And when the bleeding slowed down, and he was able to ask me why the fuck I just punched him in the face, I asked him why he had started it.

But the twenty or so eyewitnesses had not seen his slap, and so the crowd turned against me. As well they should have.

One person ordered me to go help him clean up. I realized that this was a good idea, since the dried blood on his face was pretty powerful evidence against me. Not that the twenty or so eyewitnesses wouldn’t have been enough to get me suspended.

Camilo had realized the same thing, and, probably due to how much of an asshole I was being, refused to wash away the evidence.

But for some reason he did so a little later, in the 5th inning. Probably because having dried blood on your face for an extended period of time is uncomfortable.

Anyhow, the game ended, and the Chicago trip continued. Things were awkward between me and Camilo right from the start. Obviously.

He refused to talk to me for the rest of the trip, and I didn’t blame him for this. But at the same time, I poked fun at the fact that he refused to talk to me in the blog that I wrote immediately after returning from the trip. I treated it like a joke.

And it was all a joke to me. I figured that he would be mad for a while, but eventually he would cool off, and we’d laugh about the incident later. That’s why I wasn’t sympathetic towards him afterwards. That’s why I accused him of provoking me as opposed to apologizing and helping him out. I figured that the immediate danger of getting suspended or worse was greater than the danger of losing him as a friend. And I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I went back to school the following week, I fully expected to be called down to the office to pay for my crimes. I mean, come on. I had punched someone in the face, and half of the grade had seen me do it. That sort of shit just doesn’t go unpunished. About a week later in history class, Camilo was called to go speak to the dean (A.K.A. the head disciplinarian), and I was sure that I was toast. But nothing came of the incident. And, though I jumped out of my seat every time a teacher used my name for the next month, nothing ever happened to me at all. As far as I know, no teacher was even made aware that I punched Camilo.

So, I got off scot-free in terms of discipline. That danger was averted.

But the other danger, the danger of losing him as a friend, came to fruition. He tried to avoid me after school, he refused to play our favourite video game on the computer, he moved his desk away from mine in history class… And still for a while I took it as a joke. “He’ll get over it eventually”, I figured.

Only he didn’t.

And it took a whole month for me to express any sort of remorse, and for me to even attempt an apology. Even then, I thought it would be a cakewalk. I figured that I would just waltz in, apologize, he would forgive me, and we’d be best friends again.

But it wasn’t that easy. I walked into the computer lab and he was there, checking a baseball pool. We had a short conversation. The blog I posted later was a dramatized version of what actually happened (because in those days I couldn’t be bothered to break character). Cutting out the superflulous bits, it went like this:

***

“What do you want?”, he said in a hostile tone.
 
Taken slightly aback by his tone, I nonetheless decided to continue.
 
“I just wanted to ask you something.” I replied. When he did not respond, I continued. “Why do you still hold this grudge against me? I don’t blame you or anything, because I did something incredibly stupid, and I am sorry for it, but can’t we just bury the hatchet?”
 
“I’m not holding any grudge.” he said.
 
“Clearly you are. Things between us were just fine until Wrigley Field. They haven’t been the same since.”
 
“Okay, so why does it matter to you?” He said, in an indifferent tone. He wasn’t even looking in my direction.
 
“Because, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth if things between us aren’t fine because of something I did.” I responded.
 
“Who cares? You’ve got other friends.”
 
“Yes Kid, but-” He cut me off.
 
“Don’t call me Kid!” he said, with a small flash of anger in his voice.
 
“Alright…” I started, a little more than a little surprised at his response. “I have other friends, but I don’t want to lose a friendship over something stupid like this.”
 
“Well, maybe I don’t want to hang out with you anymore.” He said, using that same indifferent tone of voice.
 
I felt a sharp pain in my heart as he said that. A weak “Why not?” was all I could manage in reply. I was quickly losing my control of the situation.
 
“Because… you’re weird.” he said. “Other people have made me see it, and I didn’t before, but now I do.”
 
“Well, I don’t want to lose this friendship. That’s all I have to say.” And I walked away, feeling sick to my stomach.

***

That was when I realized that piecing together our friendship wouldn’t be easy, and that it might not even be possible. That was also the point where I began having nightmares about that day at Wrigley Field, which would haunt me for the better part of a year. That’s also the point when Camilo started scaring the shit out of me. For the rest of our high school careers, I wouldn’t even be able to even look at him without my heart rate spiking.

I remember one day near the end of grade eleven when I happened to be in the library after school, and he was there too. And I decided that I would talk to him. I waited with my heart pounding for half an hour for him to get out of his seat so that I could talk to him without him being distracted by a computer screen.

When I finally approached him, I asked if I could talk to him for a moment. His reply was “I have to go to music now.”

What scared the shit out of me here was his voice. He’s not known for talking all that much, so this was actually the first time that I had heard his voice in over a year. And it was deep. Scary deep. I wouldn’t have recognized it if he hadn’t been standing right in front of me.

His music excuse was a valid one; it was time for band rehearsal (though he still had plenty of time to talk if he was thus inclined). I had dropped music after grade ten, in no small part to the fact that I didn’t want to have to deal with sitting near him for an entire year. I would have been too scared.

***

That was the last time that I tried to apologize to him for over a year.

June 25th was my formal graduation, i.e. the last time that I would be seeing some of my classmates. And just as things were wrapping up, I saw Camilo near the doorway. Part of me wanted to turn around, walk away, and leave things as they were. But a larger part of me knew that this would be the last time that I would ever see him, and that I had to say something.

So I said “Hey.”

And he said “Hey.” In that deep voice that gives me the chills.

And I asked him where he was going for university.

He said “U of T.”

And I said “Look, I’m sorry for what happened back at Wrigley Field. I was really stupid, and I shouldn’t have done it.”

And he said “Don’t worry man, that was years ago.”

I said “It’s really a shame that we didn’t stay friends after that.”

And he said “Yeah, it is.”

And nothing else. Our silence completed the conversation for us, for in being silent we mutually agreed that although it was a shame that we didn’t remain friends, keeping it that way was for the best.

I wanted to say something else, but I didn’t think that he wanted me to.

I was waiting for him to say something else. Maybe he was waiting for me to say something else too.

And so we both remained silent, and will for the rest of our lives.

But is it for the best?

I’ve analyzed the events of Friday, April 20th, 2007 about a million times in my head. All the “what-ifs” circle around in my head endlessly.

What if, when the teacher was handing out tickets, we had grabbed the next pair? Then we wouldn’t have sat in front of those faggots, and I wouldn’t have punched him.

What if I hadn’t returned from the washroom so quickly? Then maybe I would have been a little calmer before facing them again.

What if I had obeyed the buddy system, and gone with Camilo to the bathroom? We could have discussed how to best deal with them.

Or, plain and simple, what if I hadn’t done it? What if I hadn’t terminated my best friendship on that day? What if me and Camilo were still best friends?

And honestly, I don’t know if I would be better off. Camilo was the embodiment of the 8:30-2:30 club. He was never in the school for more than a few minutes after classes ended. He rarely spoke to anyone besides me, and I rarely spoke to anybody besides him. That’s not a healthy way to go through high school, but I had no reason to change.

But with him gone, I was forced to change, lest I go friendless. Adapt or become extinct, right?

I owe Camilo a lot. My friends. My novel. The direction I’m taking in university. All of those were caused either directly or indirectly by Camilo.

With Camilo gone, I was generally alone. So, I began seeking out other people, and I began getting to know them better. I made many new friends. Everyone I met and became friends with in grade twelve is because of him. Joining the Cross Country team was another way that I thought I could make friends, and my decision to do so was largely due to Camilo.

I decided to write a novel because of him too. See, I felt as though no one in the school knew me, and I wanted to do something to be remembered by. The novel was started as a means to that end. The novel itself served a few other purposes as well – most importantly, the purpose of helping me to meet some of the younger students at my school. A lot of them couldn’t help themselves when they saw that nearly 200 page stack on my desk, and had to ask me what I was doing. More than one friendship was forged in that way. While I don’t want to give Camilo full credit for my relationships with the younger students (as Dan certainly played a large role in that too), I can’t deny that he was a factor.

Camilo is even responsible for the direction that I’m taking in my life. Remember how I mentioned that I dropped music after grade ten because he scared the shit out of me? Well, in place of music, I took history, and was taught by the brilliant Mr. Barry, the man who reignited my interest in history, and who inspired me to take history as my major in university. Had I not lost Camilo, I would probably be doing a major in one of the sciences, and be far less content.

All of that is because I lost Camilo. I seriously doubt that I would have done any of the above if we were still friends.

So, am I better off the way things turned out?

Yes.

It’s ironic how I gained so much joy in life from losing one of my best friends; how the biggest mistake of my life ended up changing me for the better.

***

And yet, I’m not exactly happy with the outcome, even if it has made me a better person. Because regardless of how things turned out, I still punched one of my best friends in the face. I still did a terrible, terrible thing. And I got away with it. That’s not right. That’s a huge violation of the First Law of Karma.

What’s up with that? Karma never lets me get away with anything. But it let me get away with this, the worst thing that I’ve ever done.

Oh, there are a few things that have happened to me that could be seen as retribution. Like when I had that surgery in March 2008, and afterwards my nose bled profusely for well over ten minutes. Somehow, I didn’t pass out. Though I did manage to fill a small tupperware with blood.

And those bad dreams that I had could have been caused by Karma too. But for the most part, I got off the hook.

But maybe the fact that, even though he’s gone, I can never forget what I did is its own punishment. Instead of giving me a quick slap in the face, maybe Karma has decided that letting me have the guilt of what I’ve done follow me eternally is a far better reward. Karma isn’t stupid, you know.

***

I’m a little sad now though. Writing this blog has brought to mind the many good times that we had.

I remember the first day that we became friends. And that’s a rare thing. I can’t remember much about the first day that I met most of my other friends. But with him, it’s fairly clear. It was music class, and we were in the gym, preparing to set up for a concert. And I remember being very interested in him from early on in the year. Camilo was such an interesting name, after all. And the fact that he was so terrible at playing the french horn was amusing. So, I decided that I would become friends with him. And I approached him during that music class and spoke with him. We discussed some hockey (he liked the Senators), some music (Guns ‘n Roses), and how awesome it would be to play a game of paintball in the gym.

When class was over, he couldn’t remember my name (I don’t blame him. Mike is a name that just melts into the crowd), so he just said “See ya later, clarinet dude!”

Obviously, I remembered his name. But nonetheless, I replied “See ya, french horn guy!”

Thus was a friendship forged.

And as luck would have it, he was so terrible at the french horn that the music teacher made a rare move, exempting him from the Christmas exam and allowing him to switch instruments. And he became a clarinetist. I remember how excited he was to tell me the news. And I remember how excited I was hearing the news. And we sat beside one another for all of grade nine music class and most of grade ten.

And on the first day of grade ten, he was the only person who actually seeked me out and said hello. I was roaming the halls, looking for people to say hello to (because no one knew me well enough to say hello to me), and he tapped me on the shoulder and said “hey!” And he looked genuinely happy to see me.

He always looked genuinely happy to see me. And I was always genuinely happy to see him. In a school that I hated, he was a rare bright spot. I spoke to other people, sure, but never as much as I spoke to him. And he almost never spoke to anyone besides me. When we were no longer friends, he almost never spoke at all.

Our favourite game to play on the computer was Slime Soccer. Every day at lunch we would go to the library and play for a good half hour. I once went on a 27 game winning streak, and when he finally broke that streak, he looked like he had won a million bucks. That was a good time.

And what about the walkathon? Our school decided that it would be a good idea to let us spend an entire school day walking around a 12km course through the city streets and nearby ravines. And he walked the entire route with me. All three and a half hours of it. We never ran out of things to talk about in those three and a half hours, either. He made that a very good day for me.

Yeah, we had some good times. And we never fought, except for that one time…

***

April 20th, 2007 is one of the three most significant days of my life thus far.

I’m sad about what happened that day. And I regret my actions. It was the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made.

But there is no denying that I am a better person because of what happened on that day.

I’m worried about Camilo though, because after the Wrigley Field incident, he didn’t seem to adapt as well as I did. I found new friends, but he didn’t seem to do the same. At the very least, I never saw him with other people. As I mentioned, I went over a year without even hearing him speak. But ever since our ties were severed, I never learned much about his life besides what I observed. For all I know, he’s written a novel too. I really hope that what happened that day changed him for the better like it did for me.

There is no denying that I owe Camilo a lot. I know that I won’t ever see him again, but I hope that wherever he is, whatever he’s doing, he’s happy.

He deserves it for all that he’s done for me.

Four Down

In general, I love anniversaries, with the notable exception of birthdays.

Anniversaries celebrate the amount of time since something happened, or the amount of time that something has been happening for. That strikes me as a very positive thing, unless the event in question is a tragedy.

But yesterday was a joyous anniversary, marking four years of the existence of this space.

And I’m proud of that. Really, I am.

Not because anything I’ve written here is particularily good, or because my life is more interesting than anyone else’s, but because I’ve been honest here.

True, I haven’t put up every minute detail about my life here. Plenty has happened over the past four years that I’ve opted not to post. But this is the Internet, and there’s a thin line between bravery and stupidity, and I feel that putting your whole life up on a wall crosses that line, especially since anyone could potentially see this space with two well-placed left clicks. Not that such a thing is likely to happen. But it’s happened once, maybe twice, and could happen again. So for that reason, I keep certain things off of here.

But when I’ve spoken, I’ve been honest. I’ve told the world (i.e. three people) how I feel about particular issues, and what I think about the events in my day-to-day life. I’ve told you what’s important to me, what makes me smile, what makes my angry, what scares me to death, what makes me sad, and what I don’t really give a shit about. I’ve written about some good times and some bad times, but mostly good times. And I’ve written about my friends, the fantastic people who I’ve shared some good times and some bad times with, but mostly good times.

And I’ve been honest. Which is a little strange, because it would be so easy to lie on here.

I mean, how do you tell if someone’s lying? Their body language, stalling a few seconds before replying, maybe a little bit of stuttering in the voice, that sort of thing. Even on MSN you can sort of tell whether or not someone is lying by asking them a bunch of questions and seeing how they respond. You can’t do that to me here. It’s just text, so you can’t tell if I’m laughing maniacally while typing this. I’m not very likely to stutter, either. And you can’t question me directly (unless you hound me on MSN later on) since all you have the power to do is reply with a few sentences in the comment box below, which I’ll always read but usually won’t respond to.

But I don’t think that I’ve told a single lie on here in all of four years. That’s incredible.

And I’ve been around for all four of those years, too. I haven’t taken a single hiatus. I think that there was one twenty day gap between blogs because I couldn’t think of anything to write, and a couple of two week gaps due to vacations and a lack of ideas in the period immediately thereafter. But I’ve never written less than three blogs in a month, and I’ve never gone more than two days without checking to see if someone has left me a comment (except for those instances where I’ve been out of town).

I think that the main reason that I’ve been so honest and so active when posting here is because I want to have a record of Who I Once Was for myself in the future. That can’t happen if a) I don’t post, or b) I don’t tell the truth.

But with that said, I don’t know if I would continue writing here if no one read these blogs. Having a record of Who I Once Was will be great, of course, but I need some immediate gratification as well, and that comes in the form of people commenting on these blogs. Seriously, it’s one of the best moments of my day when I go to check my space and I see the message "______ commented on Michael Danese’s (that’s pronounced Dah-neh-zeh. "Dah-nay-zay" was actually closer than "Dan-eese", thank you very much.) blog post __________." I talk about myself a lot, but I try to write in such a way that my dull life seems at least somewhat entertaining, and when someone comments it makes me feel like I’m succeeding in that. Either that, or all of my friends live equally dull lives and have nothing better to do than read about my dull life.

So, that’s four down. And really, I’m not all that far from where I started. Four years ago, it was summer ’05, and I was a nervous kid going into high school without much idea of what I was doing. Today, it’s summer ’09, and I’m a nervous kid going into university without much idea of what I’m doing.

The main difference is that I’m a little bit smarter this time around. In no small part due to this blog, I know where I messed up in high school, and I know what I did very well in high school. I can only hope that I correct my mistakes and duplicate my successes this time around.

Four years from now, I’ll be done with my undergraduate program. I don’t know what I’ll be doing after that. Law school, probably, but I don’t know for sure. It’s all a great mystery, and one which I’ll slowly piece together on this blog while you all read and give me your thoughts.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Four years down, countless more to go.

Always Do Good

The title for this blog isn’t poor grammar. I mean exactly what it says. Always do good. Be a good person all the time, even when you think that no one is watching.

I’ll explain to you how I figured this out.

A few weeks ago (June the 23rd or 24th, it was), I was speaking with my good friend Kelsey via MSN. The conversation eventually turned to the subject of dramatic performances. Having been part of two performances at my school, I gave my (somewhat pessimistic) two cents: School plays are fun, but the stage crew gets no respect whatsoever. Half of the cast won’t even know your name.

And that was all true, to a certain extent. Half the cast didn’t know my name, after all.

But then again, what was I? A lowly spotlight operator. I turned on the spotlight, I followed the lead actors with the spotlight, and I turned off the spotlight. That’s about it. Did I do anything deserving of special mention or respect? Not really. I just showed up everyday, and when I was asked to do something, I did it to the best of my ability without complaining. I tried to do good. I didn’t think that anyone cared, but I tried anyhow.

A day or two after my conversation with my good friend Kelsey was my school’s graduation ceremony, and along with the graduation ceremony came the awards ceremony. Valedictorian, athlete of the year… that sort of thing. I knew that I didn’t have a shot at either of those two awards, but I was gunning for the history award, seeing as history was both my favourite subject and my highest mark.

Alas, the history award came and went, and I was not the winner. And so the night went on, with me growing more and more despondent as more and more awards were announced, and I wasn’t the winner of any of them.

I shouldn’t have felt sad every time one of my peers stood up to receive an award, but I couldn’t help it, especially since some of the award winners were way below me in terms of both academic and extracurriculars, but were winning awards that I didn’t qualify for. For example, the Latin award. All of five people took Latin, and as such one of those five had to win the Latin award, despite the fact that none of those five were particularily good students.

Anyhow, the awards kept coming and coming. And eventually, the emcee came to the Father Norman Fitzpatrick Exit Scholarship, which was "to be presented to two students who have made a significant contribution to the dramatic performances at the school."

Having heard that, I immediately tuned the emcee out. I hadn’t been an actor.

The emcee announced the names. "Michael Bazzocchi and Michael Dan…"

I didn’t hear the last part of the name. The emcee spoke it quietly, possibly to avoid mispronouncing it. People are never sure what to do with that last name. Daneese? Dansay? Danace? Daness? Daneasy? Danayzay? Daneezay?

Anyhow, I didn’t hear him at first, so I remained seated for about ten seconds. And people around me started whispering "Dude! Get up!", to which I replied "Huh? I won?"

Apparently I had. So I stood up, very confused, and made my way to the stage. Before I climbed the stage I made sure that there wasn’t someone else getting up as well. What a nightmare it would have been to get to the stage only to have the presenter say "Sorry, I called Michael De Santis." But Michael De Santis did not come up to the stage, nor did any other Michael besides Michael Bazzocchi, my co-winner. So, very confused, I climbed the steps to the stage, shook the presenter’s hand, and accepted my award. The presenter, seeing the confused expression on my face, said "There are two awards, Michael. One is for acting, the other is for the technical aspects.

Wow. I got an award for shining a spotlight on people.

I later opened up the envelope that came along with the award, and found a cheque for $1,000 inside.

Double wow. I got $1,000 for shining a spotlight on people. (The history award was worth a whopping $0. All you got was a plaque.)

Thinking back, I was the only grade 12 crew member who showed up for every single rehersal where I required. And I was the only grade 12 crew member who never left early. And I was one of the few crew members who ever volunteered to do extra work, such as walking around the stage in a set pattern for two hours so that the lighting crew could test the lights.

I just didn’t think that anyone was watching. Or that anyone really cared. But someone was. And they did.

Always do good. Be a good person all the time, even when you think that no one is watching, because someone always is.

I should have seen it coming.

I mean, it’s July, right? Anyone who knows me knows that
weird things just tend to happen to me in July. I don’t know why. They just do.

Last night, I began reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower,
by Stephen Chbosky. After about thirty or so pages, I put the book down, turned
off the light, and tried to sleep.

Only I was wide awake. I couldn’t sleep. And after fifteen
minutes of tossing and turning, I turned my light back on and picked up the
book again, deciding to continue reading until I became tired.

Only I never became tired. I just stayed wide awake. All night long.

I don’t know why this happened. It’s never happened to me
before. The only time I’ve ever pulled an all-nighter was when I was forced to
for Destination Imagination, but even then I wasn’t wide awake all night long.
This time I was. I have no clue why. I didn’t drink a Red Bull beforehand. I
didn’t sleep 15 hours the previous night. I wasn’t feeling sick. I can only
chalk it up to the fact that it was the night of July the first, and weird
things just tend to happen to me in July.

The bottom line is that five hours later, I finished the
book. And what a great book it was.

It’s about a boy named Charlie (at least that’s what he
calls himself. We never learn his real name.) who is about to enter high school
and is somewhat apprehensive about this. The entire book is written in the form
of letters which Charlie addresses to an anonymous friend. It’s sort of like a
diary. We learn quickly that Charlie is one of those people who tend to be
passive about life. He never calls his friends to make plans, he waits for
them to call him. He tends to observe life rather than participate in it.

He’s kind of like me in that sense, which was the first
thing that drew me in to the book. I think that’s the most important thing in a book: The main character needs to be someone who you can relate to. By a quarter of the way through the novel, I felt connected with the characters in a way that doesn’t usually happen.

You know how some people yell at the characters on TV? That’s what I was doing with this book. Only quietly, because it was 4 am. I actually had to put the book down for a minute on several occasions in order to compose myself when a new plot twist was thrown in. Like when Charlie’s love interest tells him to fuck off. I had to close the book for a moment and exclaim in a whisper. "No!" before reading on. Not many books can make me do that. 

Another great thing about the book is that Charlie’s English teacher often gives Charlie extra books to read, and the books Bill gives Charlie essentially comprise an anthology of the books I’ve read over the last few years (and I’m sure many others have read these too). The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, Hamlet, To Kill a Mockingbird, and of course, Peter Pan. They’re all there. Maybe it’s a minor point, but I’m a sucker for familiar references, and seeing my personal library referenced here certainly didn’t work against Perks.

But the biggest draw about The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that it features two of my favourite themes: passivity vs. passion, and Innocence vs. experience. I already touched on the former, and I don’t want to ruin the latter too much, because it’s the best part of the book. Let me just offer a brief quote as an example:


"I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled.
There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and
having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up
someday. And all those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And
they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it
would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn’t."

How great is that? I think that has to be one of the top five things I’ve ever read. And it sounds a bit like me, doesn’t it? Simply amazing.

My final word is this: The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn’t The Little Prince. And it’s not Peter Pan. But it’s on the level right below, along with books such as The Giver, and that’s some of the highest praise a book will ever get from me. Buy it right now. That is all.