Archive for August, 2009

You know why I can’t write fiction anymore?

It’s writer’s block.

Only it’s not your average Fuck-I-Really-Wish-I-Could-Think-Of-A-Topic-For-This-Essay type writer block. It’s more like Holy-Shit-I-Haven’t-Been-Able-To-Create-Fuck-All-With-My-Mind-In-Over-A-Year. In other words, this shit is severe.

I think I know why it’s happening, too.

See, I started writing the novel to try and improve my life. I’ve stated a lot of different reasons for writing it (meeting new people, being remembered in my school, etc) but the bottom line is that I was trying to improve my life. That was my main motivation.

But that motivation doesn’t exist anymore, because I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m content with what I have. Since I started writing the novel, I’ve met new people, and made new friends, and had a lot of fun. I’m content with who I am right now.

And so, my motivation is dead, and will continue to be dead until such a point when:

a) Life becomes crappy again.
b) I find another source of motivation.

Without motivation, I haven’t had the drive to get this thing published. I still have a 200-page stack on my desk, and I’ve done nothing with it for a few months now.

And honestly, that hasn’t bothered me until now. Before about a week ago, I had no available contacts in publishing. But then Brian asked me about my novel, and then his mom asked me about it, and then she spoke with Graham’s mom, who spoke to me and gave me a contact.

Now there’s a 10-digit phone number on my desk. If I dial that number, an editor might pick up the phone, and who knows where things might go from there? Maybe nowhere. Maybe somewhere.

This is the closest I’ve been to getting something published. And you know what? I still have no motivation. And suddenly I feel guilty about it.

I mean, there are other people who are more excited about getting this novel published than I am. Am I dumb? Why am I not motivated? I should be leaping out of my seat right now and dialing that number, but I haven’t yet.

You know what? A lot of people want me to do this. I won’t make a list, but I can rattle off a dozen names just off the top of my head, and the more I think about it, the more people I think of.

There’s a saying for times like these: "No matter how you feel, it’s what you do that matters." And I guess there’s some truth to that.

Fuck it, I’ve got a phone call to make.

I’m not a single-minded person.

I mean, I have my beliefs and my goals, but I doubt myself sometimes. Occasionally, something will happen that will make me question my course of action. And, though I’m generally opposed to change, I’m not dumb enough to remain on a path that I know is wrong.

The opposite happens too though. Occasionally, something will happen that will justify me, and thus make me more resolute. One such thing happened a few days ago, and I think that it’s important enough to blog about briefly.

Last year, my locker was beside that of a grade 8 boy named Brian. Brian was just an all-around decent human being. He was polite, he was intelligent, and he was enthusiastic. A fun person to be around.

Anyhow, a few days ago, Brian walked into the store with his mother, and I helped them pick out the uniform items that they needed. At some point, Brian called me by name, and his mom looked at him quizzically and said "Wait, is this Mike from the locker beside you?" Brian nodded.

And she shook my hand and said "It’s great to meet you. Brian has said so much about you."

That’s it. That’s my justification right there. A dozen words. I’m not going to explain why those twelve words made me feel so happy. If you know me well enough, you’ll already understand, and if you don’t, you won’t.

This story doesn’t end here though. It gets better.

The next day, a boy by the name of Graham popped into the room. I had met Graham a few months earlier, as my Destination Imagination team was on the same bus as his. Another all-around decent human being.

Graham’s mother knew Brian’s mother, and clearly the two had spoken overnight, because Graham’s mother said to me: "I understand you’ve written a children’s novel." I confirmed this. She asked me what it was about, and I told her. Then she told me that she has a close friend who works in editing and who knows a lot of publishers and who might be able to help me out. She gave me her number and told me to give her a call.

And just like that, another opportunity to become a published author has landed on my desk.

I respect people younger than me. I really think that I’m right to do so.

Just Deserts

I always thought that the "deserts" in "just deserts" was spelled like "desserts", but apparently that’s wrong. "Desert" (with the stress on the second syllable) is a rarely used noun meaning "that which one deserves". Thus, the phrase is "just deserts", as opposed to "just desserts".

Grammar lesson over.

A ridiculous storm hit Woodbridge last night, leaving a shitload of damage behind. The damage was largely caused by a freaking tornado, which ripped through an area about five kilometres north of where I live. About a dozen homes were destroyed, and 120 homes were evacuated in total. The city declared a state of emergency – the first that I can recall. On my street, the damage was limited to the destruction of three trees. Fortunately, the trees fell in a direction where they did not damage any vehicles or houses, though they did block the road.

And, despite having defended Woodbridge so adamantly last night, I can’t help but think that we’re getting our just deserts here. I can’t think of a more deserving suburb.

In Defence Of Woodbridge

I hate Woodbridge. You all know that.

It’s an awful place. As with most awful places, what makes is awful is the number of awful people living here.

All of the upper-middle class Italians with their hair gelled to the max leaning on their Honda Civics outside of Tim Hortons, night after night. Except on Friday nights, when they "reach ‘sus", and go to the local cinema and stand outside for three hours because actually seeing a movie at a movie theatre is for fags. And the girls all dress like sluts in the middle of February and then demand their boyfriends’ jackets. And the guys speak in monosyllabic vocabulary laden with words like "geeve" and "bro".

I mean, come on. We’re lucky enough to live in a somewhat wealthy area. We all have access to food, clean water, shelter, health services, and education, but we’re doing nothing with it. Are we retarded or just really lazy?

I’ve been through all of this before, and I don’t want to bore you. Simply put: Woodbridge sucks, and I’ve been waiting for a chance to get out for years and years.

And now that chance is here. University. I’m moving out in 17 days.

You’d think that I’d be overjoyed, but I’m not.

I mean, in defence of Woodbridge, it’s a safe place. We’ve had what? One murder in the last decade? And that was by a man from Toronto. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy being lazy to kill each other, but regardless of the reason, it’s a place you can walk around at night without feeling the least bit scared. And that’s comforting.

And in defence of Woodbridge, it’s a nice looking place. When the sun is shining at just the right angle, and you stand facing south, my street looks really nice. Every house is different. Some house individuals, most house families, and one or two house leaders in the international drug trade. But each one is different. And in a town where all the people look the same, different is good.

And in defence of Woodbridge, not everyone is as awful as I make them out to be. There are some really great people here, and I’ve made good friends out of a few of them. And while they’re all loyal people who would still be there for me even if I went to the moon for university, the idea of leaving them does not make me happy.

And in defence of Woodbridge, my whole family is nearby. My parents, who (though I’ll deny it if asked) have made some pretty good decisions for me in the past. My grandparents, who are a steady stream of love and support. My sister, who (though I’ll deny it if asked) I care about deeply, despite the somewhat frequent hiccups in our relationship. And my brother, who was one of the major reasons why I had such difficulty deciding to leave. He wanted me to stay, and I can’t help but feel that I’m letting him down in a big way. And I really don’t want to do that.

In defence of Woodbridge, it’s my home. And leaving home is never easy.

Three Parents

I love the park at St. Clair and Spadina. It’s become one of my favourite places to be lately. Every morning before work I spend an hour there and just walk around the track and watch the birds and the flowers and the dogs and the CN Tower and the people. Usually the people. The people make the place what it is.

It’s a great place, as I’ve mentioned before, but it’s not perfect. Every once in a while something happens that makes me frown just a little bit, and today I saw a few such things.

Normally I start work at 9:00 or so, which means that my walk ends at about that time. From 8:00 to 9:00, the park is inhabited by various runners, walkers, dog lovers, and tennis players, but no kids. Kids are still sleeping at that time.

Today my shift started at ten, and so as my walk progressed, a few kids started to trickle in with their parents. In total, I saw five kids belonging to three different parents.

The first parent I saw was a father. He was wearing athletic clothing and was carrying his daughter, who looked to be no more than five, in his arms in such a way that she was facing the same direction as him. He was doing squats with her in his arms.

The second parent was a mother, also wearing athletic clothing. She had two kids with her in a stroller: a girl who looked about two years old, and a boy who looked about three. The girl was asleep, but the boy was awake. And she was running with the stroller, while listening to her iPod.

The third parent was also a mother of two: a boy of about five, and a girl of about three. The boy had a tennis ball in his hand while the girl was on a swing. The boy would throw the ball, and the mother would run to get the ball, and toss it back. While the boy was retrieving the ball, the mother would dash over to the daughter and give her a push on the swing before returning in time to catch the ball when her son threw it to her, and the cycle would repeat.

The first parent was using his daughter as extra weight for his workout. I’m sure that the daughter enjoyed the jerky up-and-down motion, but
that doesn’t erase the main issue: He was using his daughter as a means
to an end. His goal was to get a good workout; his daughter’s joy was a side effect. She didn’t ask him to do squats with her in
his arms – he did that for himself.

The second parent was just as bad as the first man, because she too was
blatantly using her children as a means to an end. She wasn’t running
around the track with them for their amusement – the kids were only
there to provide a little bit of resistance. The fact that one of her
kids wasn’t even awake is proof of that, as is the fact that she was
drowning out all other noise with her iPod. The kids didn’t ask her to go for a run with them in the stroller – she did that for her own benefit.

The third parent was the only one who I had any respect for. In her case, the
children were the end, not the means. If the woman got a good cardio
workout out of her actions, good for her, but what she intended was for
her kids to have fun. In other words, the workout was the means to the
end of her children having a good time.

Children are an end, not a means. 

It’s really that simple. Honestly, I’m baffled that some parents are still unclear on this.

I’m not saying that you need to dedicate 100% of your time to your
kids. That’s both impractical and impossible. What I’m saying is that
you can’t use your kids with the sole intent of benefitting yourself. If you can’t figure that out, don’t bother mating.

The Ex-Convict

I had just left work today when a black man who appeared to be in his late 40s or early 50s approached me. His hair was a complete mess, and his teeth were rotted.

"Excuse me," he said. "I’ve just gotten out of prison, and I’m going to be on the streets until tomorrow. Do you have two or three dollars in change that I could have? I’m trying to get about ten bucks, and I don’t want to have to rob anybody – I did eighteen months for that."

I reached into my pocket and realized that I only had a quarter. So I pulled out my wallet and gave him a five dollar bill.

And then he spoke to me about how he knew someone who had gone to my school and had ended up playing in the NHL. He asked where I lived. I said "North of here." He asked if I was Jewish, and I said no. Then he shook my hand, thanked me, and walked away.

Maybe I’m naive, but I think that this man was more deserving of my money than the average beggar.

He was probably telling the truth, first of all. If you were someone in need of money, you wouldn’t lead off your sales pitch with "I’ve just gotten out of prison." I respect honesty. And while I couldn’t relate to his situation, I could at least sympathize.

The difference between my beggar and others is that the others just sit on street corners with signs that say "Homeless. Please help. God bless."

And that’s nice and all, but it’s not going to get any money out of me. If I don’t know how you got to where you are, I don’t know where my money is going to.

The worst part is that most other beggars lead off with "Could you spare some change?" Those ones never get my money. But my beggar was polite, by starting off with "Excuse me." And then, instead of going straight to demanding money, he told me a small bit of his story. He placed human emotion in front of his need for money. It’s funny how people with very little can put money above emotion too. Greed isn’t only for the rich.

But as I said, maybe I’m naive. What would you have done?

Pay Attention

Whenever I watch baseball on T.V., I’m not focused solely on the game. I like to watch the actions of the fans in the front row too. They’re on screen just as long as the pitcher and batter, after all. The difference is that they aren’t programmed to do the same set of motions over and over again. Baseball might be boring, but baseball fans are not.

A few days ago I was watching the game, and two particular front row fans caught my attention. On the right side was a boy of about 12 or 13, decked out from head to toe in Jays gear. On the left side was his mother, chatting away on her cell phone.

After every play, the boy went nuts, cheering or booing depending on the situation.

After every play, the mother remained seated, occupied with whoever was on the other end of her call.

Every once in a while, the boy would say something to the mother, and the mother would turn to him, place her hand over the cell phone, say something back to him, and then resume her call.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on here.

The boy had wanted to go to a game, as he was a big Jays fan. The mother had been the only parent available to take him to a game, and she had agreed to take him, despite the fact that she found baseball boring.

And I get that. Honest, I do. I like playing baseball, and I like watching baseball, but I can see where people are coming from when they call it a boring sport.

But baseball isn’t what’s important here.

With her son at 12 or 13 years of age, how much more time does the mother have before her son decides that it’s no longer cool to hang out with his parents? Not very much at all. True, it varies from person to person. Some people have already outgrown the practice by 13, and some never outgrow it. But, playing the odds, the mother doesn’t have much time left. And how does she spend this precious time?

Talking to Aunt Genevieve on her Blackberry.

Again, I get it: Baseball is boring. But come on, lady. Surely you could pretend to be interested for a few hours, for your son’s sake. And for your sake, too. If you’ve got front row tickets to a Jays game, your son is going to be entertained regardless of what you do. But do you want him to remember the game because of the game itself, or because his mother was there with him at the game?

As far as I know, no parents read this thing, so I’m sort of talking to thin air here. But we’re all potential parents, so I’ll talk to the air regardless:

If you’re going to have a kid, you had better pay attention to them. Otherwise you’re going to be staring at a young man or woman in about 30 years and you’ll  be wondering where the years went, and how he or she grew up so fast.