Sunday, November 20

some days are better than others

Yesterday was nearly a perfect day. As nearly as I’ve had in a while, anyway.

Today was pretty great too, full of late lingerings in bed and hikes in the snow, but there was a mishap on the other side of the bridge that backed up traffic for two hours, a retaining wall, a brand new one, collapsed at the sight of a new overpass. That meant that I couldn’t go to aikido this evening, which sucks. Of course, it also meant that I had time to come here, to a favorite haunt, get a pot of green tea, and write.

So see? That silver lining shit works sometimes.

Wednesday, November 16

not. goin’. anywhere.

Seems that the urban centers of North America got together and coordinated their own acts of uncivil disobedience this week, with evictions and threats of eviction popping up everywhere. Oakland evicted violently, New York evicted violently, Berkeley students and staff only wanted to have a two-day occupation and were squashed violently, threats in Toronto staid by court injunction, threats in Vancouver staid by injunction.

The common thread? The disobedience? It’s this: Where police act, heads and ribs get busted, and pepper spray is suddenly in short supply. Big, tough folks, those cops. Their parents must be so proud. Their uniforms should have advertising on them: “I Work for Wall Street.  I Serve and Protect the 1%. Sponsored by Goldman Sachs.”

Saturday, November 12

why so serious?

I want to learn how to play. I never did that, not the way I love to watch others play - un-self consciously, without concern, as if nobody was watching, as if it was mortally important to do so. Maybe it was the only-child thing - too many hours spent playing alone, or the way Mom taught me to be considerate and to not draw attention and to not do anything to offend anyone. 

I'm over some of that. I offend people all the time now, if not by being particularly inconsiderate then by expressing an opinion that they don't agree with. I can live with that. Actually, I consider it imperative to do so. 

But what I'm starting to think I can't live with is this internal aversion to dancing, to laughing too loudly in public, to oblivious play. I'm jealous of those that do it naturally, or that have learned to do it. I need to, learn that is.

Wednesday, November 9

via the rumpus, acculorber weather from occupy wall street

Found this today through Stephen Elliott's Daily Rumpus mail. The accompanying article is here, and you should absolutely go read it, but the poetry is riotous and couldn't wait...

Tuesday, November 8

zen and the art of intentional procrastination

* Updated at the bottom

It takes a lot of effort to prioritize. There’s the judging, and the weighing, and the balancing and contrasting. One must take into consideration scenarios both probable and im-, measure the potential consequences of each choice carefully, count the cost of each path not chosen, consider the ramifications.

It’s an awful lot of work.

Thursday, October 27

...just not that rich

Richard Wilkinson is a Public Health Researcher. He has a new book out, The Spirit Level, co-authored with Kate Pickett, in which he provides an exhaustive statistical analysis of the effects of income inequality in modern society. I could go on, but here - just watch this TED talk:

Tuesday, October 25

a dear john letter

Dear free market capitalism and first-past-the-post voting schemes,

We want you to know how hard this is for us. Even as we write to you, there’s a war going inside us pitting a desire for stability and fear of the unknown with a deep-seated passion for change and hope in something both dramatically better and dramatically different.

What we’re trying to say is that this shit ain’t easy. Part of us still loves you to bits and thinks that you can and want to treat us well. But part of us knows – just knows – that you can’t change. That you won’t change. If you won’t, then we have to.

Saturday, October 22

climbing... mostly (at Vie hebdomadaires)

Today was my last guest post at the Vie Hebdomadaires collaborative blogging experience. I wrote about climbing. And stuff. I can't help myself sometimes...

I had a blast blogging there this week. I think that maybe I even got my blog groove back a bit. ;)

Friday, October 21

another one bites the dust (on Vie Hebdomadaires)

My fourth Vie Hebdomadaires post. Gaddafi is dead and it's just not as simple as we'd like it to be.

Thursday, October 20

not the destination (at Vie Hebsomadaires)

Part three of my week at Vie Hebdomadaires is about the manuscript, and process, and stars. you can find it here. Hope to see you there...

Tuesday, October 18

life inversions on Vie Hebdomadaires

Another guest post at Vie Hebdomadaires, this time covering the basics of life inversions, tol-style. If you've been around a while, this will be oldish news. Still, I'd love to see you there. I always love to see you.

occupy this on Vie Hebdomaires

I'm juiced to have been given this week to fill up Vie Hebdomaires with words. Vie Hebdomaires is young, but such a cool idea, a new writer each week in a collaborative blogging effort. it will either be magic or fail beautifully. I started today with some ramblings on participating in the first few days of Occupy Vancouver.

Monday, September 26

we don't need no stinking plans...

Yesterday I posted the communiqué from the Occupy Wall Street non-group stating their one demand. Today I was thinking about what a ludicrous thing it is that the media was applying pressure for them to state what their demands were. I thought about it yesterday too, but there was no making sense of it, so I just had to let it lie.

But today I was thinking about it some more. I thought about it in the context of why that’s such a big deal, the idea of a list of demands. I thought about the meme of public consumption that encourages people to dismiss activism and dissent if it doesn’t have a set agenda – if there isn’t some stated premise or an alternate plan to “make things better”, an idea to change things to the way that the activists want things changed. I thought about how demands make activism seem like a hostage situation. How that also makes it easier to criminalize dissent the way we see that happening so much more in the “free” world.

Sunday, September 25

this is our one demand

It was a busy, irresponsible summer full of visiting and hiking and revisions. But not much in the way of blogging. I’m not apologizing, I’m bragging. Just to be clear. There may or may not be in increase in posting now that the weather may or may not be getting less cooperative. Then again, there’s hockey to play.

Today, however, I came across the following - a creative, subversive, beautiful, and heart-breaking response to media complaints that the Occupy Wall Street movement has not stated specific goals. That they are just protesting, willy-nilly and all, and don’t have enough direction to their dissent. How dare they not have a published set of reasons! How dare they not have made a list!

This is their response, as copied and pasted from 

This is the fifth communiqué from the 99 percent. We are occupying Wall Street.

Tuesday, August 30

i don't know stephen elliott

I finished Stephen Eliot’s The Adderall Diaries tonight. I’ll probably say this again, but it’s amazing. And fucked up. I was reading the last couple chapters intermittently, sneaking a few pages in while my coffee partner was in the bathroom or manning the counter for the shop’s owner.

The book is like a drug, like Adderall itself, maybe. First I wanted to read it in 5 milligram doses, and later I wanted to crush it on a TP dispenser in a bathroom and snort it. That’s how I felt driving home with around ten pages left to read. Crush and snort.

My friend and I had this incredible, rambling conversation for almost four hours. We talked about my manuscript first, my “process”. She writes, or did and will again. We took a creative writing class once, long ago in (for me anyway) another lifetime. I think about my “process” in quotations marks because the term suggests an established methodology. I feel the same way thinking of it as my “process” as I do about calling the manuscript my “work in progress”. Both seem dishonest because, well, it’s my first time. I’m making this shit up as I go along. 

If I do stuff the same way next time then maybe I can say it’s part of a process. When I start the second book it’ll be a WIP. Maybe. This time though, it’s just “the work”. I’m involved in “a process” in the sense that I’m working through something, but there’s nothing established yet that I can say is “my process”. It technically is a work in progress, I admit, but talking about it as my WIP seems presumptuous. I’m the only one that actually knows there is or will be any other WIP. You can only take my word for it.

And we talked about artists, meeting them, how there’s a difference between meeting an artist to take their autograph away as a souvenir and actually meeting them, asking them about what they like in life, what matters to them. Having coffee with them (or just wanting to) instead of just wanting to get proof that you met them. She talked about the difference between meeting the band so that you can take a bit more from them after the show, and meeting the band so that you can give something back. Neither is wrong or right, but there's a difference.

There was other stuff too: self-discipline and how it isn’t discipline when we love to do it. How it can look like discipline to other people, maybe, but to the person loving it, it’s just good fun. And music. And the difference between literary fiction and genre fiction. And definitions of success. And how hard it is, when we assume a definition contrary to cultural norms, to express how we’re successful. And on and on and on. It was delicious.

I don’t know quite what to think of The Adderall Diaries beyond my belief that it’s amazing. I don’t want to try to figure Mr. Elliott out from it, or even have it inform my opinion of him as a person. I don’t think I want to have an opinion of him as a person, at least not from his writing. It’s a memoir, and a wonderful read. It’s ugly and beautiful and painful and tense. But it’s not him, you know? Even he says that he writes to figure shit out. Memoir is fun because it’s opinion, not autobiography. Factual accuracy isn’t the point, even if it is accurate. The point is not to take it as fact. The point is to enjoy the experience.

We all want to be known, maybe artists more than anyone. We metaphorically (or literally) bleed into whatever medium is relevant. There’s a cost we decide is worth paying at some point, and then we pay it. We say it’s just for us or for the art, but we want to be known, to share something. To express. But we only share a very little bit.

I love Pearl Jam, love Vedder’s lyrics, the passion and angst. I’d love to have coffee with him and pick his brain, to know him and be known by him. Truth is though, that even in the bizarro world that allowed me to have coffee with Eddie Vedder, we simply might not hit it off. At all. The hypothetical conversation might suck. I might not like him. He might not like me. Doesn’t matter though. I’d still like the music and the words and the voice. He is not his music. His music is not him.

When I got home there was a broken mouse dragging a trap across the kitchen floor. The roommates are away, camping. I showed it as much compassion as I could, imagining its fear, and the pain. It was trapped at the hip, broken on the same side I was. I had to euthanize the mouse, right? Right? I know of no non-violent way to do that with a mouse broken in a trap. So the climax of my evening sucked. Finishing Adderall ended up being massively anti-climactic.

Writing about it all works better as a denouement. It’s like using mouth wash.

Memoirs should not be read as biography. We are ridiculously incredible, fragile, strong, broken, ascendant bags of meat. I don’t know Stephen Elliott, not even now. Not at all.

p.s. Revisions on the WIP are going really well. I'm loving my process. ... ... ... uh, yeah.

Tuesday, August 23

yesterday today tomorrow

Jack Layton, leader of the NDP party, the Official Opposition in Canada’s Parliament, died yesterday, succumbing to cancer.

Even among much, much better company than the politicians that populate any House of Parliament (perhaps ours especially) I think he would have stood out as a person of integrity. That’s a rare thing.

He will be missed. Rest in Peace, Mr. Layton.

In Libya, the rebels have Gaddafi on the ropes. Matter of time, they say now, like Saddam while he hid in holes in the ground. The most telling headline I read was “Qaddafi loses, but who will emerge the winner?” The article talked about who would assume power, but the subtext was clear:

Here comes the new boss, probably same as the old boss.

Canada loses one of its very few politicians of integrity and the world watches Qaddafi fall only to question how much things will change. Sounds dark and pessimistic.

And yet I’m not pessimistic. Not in general. I am about Canadian politics, and about world politics, and the things that will rush in to fill the voids left by tyrants deposed by means of violence, but I also see more and more people choosing compassion, love, empathy.

Fighting from a position of integrity and compassion (say, like Mr. Layton mostly did) takes longer – there aren’t any of those frustrating short cuts that the power-hungry are so ready to exploit – but the gains, the change, will last when that time comes because we’ll have had to change as a civilization, a species, to achieve it.

I wish Mr. Layton could have seen that happen.

Saturday, August 20

not a list

I had the unusual urge tonight to write a list of things that I did this week, which is unusual because I don’t generally feel “list” urges. In fact, I have a thing about not writing lists. Like not writing them is a small rebellious victory every time I avoid making one.

I equate lists with “people who get shit done” a lot of the time, even though I know several wonderful people that swear by them, and even though I used to have to make them all the time so that I could “get shit done” back before the life inversion started. But when it did start – the inversion – list-making was one of the things near the top of the “things I’m not going to do anymore because they carry with it an association of losing my soul” list. Which didn’t actually exist because, well, I stopped making lists.

If I had created such a list, however, of those things that I wasn’t going to do to avoid having my soul sucked, list-making would have been up there with tie-wearing and all forms of non-organic, manufactured marketing (of self or anything external).

So, there cannot be, for the reasons mentioned above, a list of things that I did this week. However, if there were such a list, created for posterity because it felt a bit like a minor internal tectonic shift kind of week, it would have included some or all of the following:

I hiked a local (small, not really even a) mountain in the city where I live, and did it in the dark, which allowed me to see the twinkling fake lights of the remarkably boring-looking city below me and the far more brilliant lights of the clear, endless, indigo-dark sky above; I assembled a home gym and a treadmill (for money – a new thing that I hope will allow me to escape the infuriatingly stubborn gravitational pull of working in fucking casinos for a living); there were continued fifth revisions of THE NOVEL (too important not to highlight, but not ironic enough for quotation marks), which go well and are heading in new and exciting directions as I pour through the beta-feedback I’ve received while simultaneously remembering how I wanted to write something with a strong plot and action that still aspired to be faintly literary in scope and theme; I finished Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, which was delectable, invigorating, and heartbreaking all at the same time (and which was also the perfect novel to read as I embarked on THE NOVEL revisions, a reminder that great writing can and should sneak up on you at least as often as it hits you over the head; I also blew through The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield (the guy who wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance, [which I loved way before the movie] – who knew?), a book that will require subsequent readings to fully appreciate because it’s so simple and profound – profound in its simplicity and, not surprising, simple in its profundity; I spent an entire day doing maintenance on my POS Jeep (oil and filter changes, chassis lubing, and chasing down miscellaneous squeaks and rattles) during which I found a sizable rock partially lodged between my transfer case skid plate and the case itself, the removal of which resulted in a rattle-free Jeep – a minor miracle; I went climbing and did some trail jogging and some yoga as part of my effort to get back into decent enough shape so as not to die of a heart attack come the advent of hockey (playing) season in September; I dealt around 300-400 hands of poker, a fact that I find both continually amazing and slightly depressing.

If I’d have written that list (which I would, heaven forefend, nevereverever do on account of the aforementioned aversion to list making), it would have been an incomplete list – obviously – but still a list of marginally-yet-personally interesting things that coalesced into a pretty damned good week.

All I can say is, it’s a good thing that I didn’t (would never) write it, or it might have resulted in a self-indulgent, frivolous post that was more about having fun with complex-compound sentences and semi-colons than saying anything remotely worth saying.*

p.s. I’m going to start Stephen Elliott’s The Adderall Diaries next week. So. Stoked.

* Unless you really read between the lines AND read stuff into it that probably isn’t really there.

Sunday, August 14

almost a manifesto

Let me see if I can crystallize this…[1]

The path is not a competition, with others or self. It’s just a fucking path. Walk it or don’t, but don’t think there’s any kind of winning involved.

Accomplishment should be intensely personal. Those who will know about it by proximity are really the only ones that need to know.

If one listens to sycophants, one must give equal time to critics. Best, if possible, to ignore both (except for required civility).

If it’s hard and level and predictable, it’s not the path; it's a sidewalk. Turn left (metaphorically speaking) now.

Figure out what you’d bleed for and you’re on the way to figuring out your path. Besides, if you bleed, it’s a sport, and everything sporty is more fun.

Scars are tattoos that you earn.[2]

We do not fall so that we can learn how to get up. We fall because we trip, or drink too much, or get hit on the head. If you can learn to get up from falling, good on ya, but that’s not why you fell. Shit just happens sometimes.

Everything’s eventual, so don’t panic. A mountain in the way just means you have to switch to climbing shoes. Think of it as a great thing, like an unbirthday present.

The shortest distance between two points is fucking boring anyway.[3]

Climbing teaches us that falling doesn’t hurt. It’s the landing that does that. You’ll either survive the landing and get to quote Nietzsche for the rest of your life in an intensely personal way, or you won’t survive and, subsequently, won’t give a damn.

The journey means that mile markers are quaint novelties, not something to dance about. Mile markers just say “I’ve come this far”, but the truth is that they also mean there’s farther to go. The only one worth dancing about is the one that says “The End”.

There isn’t a mile marker that says “The End”. Not one we get to see anyway.

If you need a reason to dance, dance about the love you’ve given and received. It’s the best motivation anyway.

One of the best things about the no winning and no ending concepts is that you never lose and you always have more time to learn and grow. And that’s all that matters.[4]

[1] Just for me, of course. I’m not referencing anything specifically except the bumper sticker, but chances are I’m plagiarizing something because, frankly, it’s all been said. So I claim nothing as original here, at all. Read at your own risk.

[2] My favorite bumper sticker. Ever. Even more than the one on my laptop: Kill your television

[3] Very sure I read this somewhere. Just can’t remember for the life of me where.

[4] Just, of course, my opinion. What the fuck do I know… J

Saturday, August 13

random check-in

Wow, it’s been a while.

I’ve been a bit confounded by Mom lately, just making sure everything is up to date, chasing clarity and clarification. Truth is she’s doing okay right now. She’s settled since the last couple symptomatic episodes and we’re basking in the eye of the storm for the moment.

Also I was, I think, desperately missing the manuscript. I spent some down time, while I was waiting for beta advice to come in, working on a synopsis (I may actually hate them, synopses, for all the magic they take out of a story), starting the second volume of the saga, but they felt like cheating, like I was being unfaithful. Or maybe it just felt like hubris, as if I was presuming too much. Finishing the first one, making it as shiny (or gritty, as the case may be) as I can has become (appropriately?) a holy grail of sorts.

Anyway, I got the beta critiques back last weekend and started on revisions, possibly the final round before I actually consider it ready for agents to look at, and the clouds broke as I began. You’d think I’d learn.

About Mom, one of the things that got me down was the thought that diagnosis of degenerative dementia, probably like any degenerative disease diagnosis, is essentially a call to start grieving now. It’s a time bomb with no counter – it’s just going to go off, a bit at a time, until the final big boom. And there’s not much you can do about it. We can only work hard to try to stay in the moment. And sometimes, often even, that works, mostly when we’re together and laughing and talking. But there are the quiet times and, in the silence, sometimes, the idea of a clock ticking down feels a bit overwhelming.

It’s all the journey though, right? Good goes with bad, darkness with light, the bitter makes the sweet taste better.

I was thinking about how it’s our cultural nature to make things as difficult as possible. We create our society based on the square, fighting nature. We make things straight and hard, all roads and stairs and sidewalks, doors and walls and ceilings. Even when we absolutely have to bend to accommodate nature, the goal is still to minimize the incline, reduce the curves as much as possible, tame the topography.

And then I thought about hiking, being out past the manicured paths. Out there you follow the line that makes the most sense, often following in the footsteps of animals. The lines aren’t straight, nothing is manufactured – it’s organic, and logical in a way that only the wild can be. Intuitive.

And hey, when you find a pause on the path, whatever the reason, the view tends to be fucking awesome. Double rainbow awesome.

P.S. Don’t you love how rioters in the UK are either all stupid, selfish looters and hooligans, OR all politically marginalized and disenfranchised citizens expressing legitimate rage? Why don’t they use AND in that equation? How can they not use it? How stupid does one have to be to not see that there’s legitimate rage AND selfish violence in the dynamic? And why is the UK so goddamed different than Egypt or Tunisia where the frustration was lauded?

P.P.S. I’m reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad this week. And loving it. It’s as brilliant as a Pullitzer winner should be. I read Neil Gaman’s American Gods last week (AG was on recommendation from Judy Clement Wall – how did I miss that one?) and loved it too. It’s been a helluva good book month so far.

Sunday, July 24

zero sum

I was thinking about masks, how we wear them even when we’re trying hard not to. It’s an onion thing, I think, peeling them off one by one only to find another layer of them. When we peel the last one off, do we cease to exist?

The inversion was about getting rid of masks, or at least minimizing the number of them. I try not to have a work mask now, for the casino slavery, but I know there is one. Maybe, on the good days, it’s more translucent than any I’ve ever worn, but I still bite my tongue too much to think that I’m not wearing one.

Mom’s definitely receding. I saw her Community Care nurse and worker on Friday. They don’t make diagnoses or provide prognoses, of course. They concentrate on the now, on the care. An appointment with her psychiatrist will be next. He should be in a better position to provide insight into what to expect, what the timelines might be. I both want to know, and don’t. We’ll still be measuring in years, I think, but small numbers.

That led me to think about minimalism: What we need as opposed to what we want, or even what we think we need. My working theory suggests that the less we use, the more we have to give away. It’s the opposite of modern consumerism. For me, it’s still an ideal. I can trim more, perhaps actually develop enough self-discipline (a virtue I lack) to create more space for giving even when I am in a place where using much isn’t an issue.

One of the reasons that getting out of the casino is so crucial is just simply to not have to wear that work mask. I think maybe that I’ll be able to measure success, my version of it, by how few masks I have to own. None would be ideal, but that seems like a dream more than a goal. I’m not sure humans are meant to be mask-less. Or maybe capable is a better term for it, not capable of being mask-less. At least not in our culture. We can only strive to limit the number and make the ones we do wear as authentic to what we think our true selves are as possible.

When I die, I hope there’s no more onion left to peal. That’s a nice thought. For Mom, and for me, I need to remove myself from the equation of her care. She deserves something as selfless as possible, so I need to not be worrying about me. That will require some intense peeling which, in the end, will actually help me. And that’s how the universe works on the good days.

Thursday, July 14

at the intersection of art, magic, and lotteries

I read Stephen Elliott’s Daily Rumpus e-mail today and a tuning fork exploded in my heart like a pyrotechnic out of Michael Bay movie. It was like Jerry Bruckheimer had just burst out of my chest, alien-like, having epiphanically converted to making art instead of money.

Especially exploding-tuning-fork-like for me were passages like this:
“(John Mayer) was talking about spending more time on your art and less time on your updates. He said, Don't worry about promotion, trust your creation to speak for itself.
…and this:
“We were talking about the intersection of commerce and art. No one knows where it is. There's no choice except to focus on making the best art you can, the rest is mysticism, a distraction.”
This is something that I’ve talked about here before (click on the art tag in the subject cloud way down to your right if you don’t remember), but I always love seeing someone else talk about it, especially someone important and everything, and especially when they say it better than I could.

No, wait, that part just annoys me. And makes me want to be better. But in an annoying, exploding-tuning-fork kind of way. Good on ya, Mr. Elliott.

P.S. If you don’t subscribe to Mr. Elliot’s Daily Rumpus mails, what the hell are you waiting for? There’s often sex  and sex trade talk, and I get that some may not appreciate everything he has to say, but there’s so much gold in them thar hills too. It’s worth any work you may or may not have to do finding it. 

interlude (or, a cat and two scary apples)

In the inevitable zombie apocalypse, I want this cat on my team. This cat and the two geniuses that did the music.

Am I right, or what?

(Thanks to Anita Mcfarlane for finding it first)

Tuesday, July 12


So, the story goes that Mirm went out to do a couple errands. While she was gone Mom became anxious because of the stranger that came into the condo. It was the stranger that Mom asked to leave last Wednesday, even though it was Mirm that asked, and Mirm that went for air, and Mirm that came back.

Today Mom called to ask if I’d come into the condo briefly this morning. She was sure that she saw me, but I was at home and Mirm confirmed that I didn’t, and Mom was disturbed by the dissonance. Hell yeah, it disturbs me too.

Depending on the online resource I tap into, these are symptoms of either late stage five or early six, but I’m no doctor, and it’s pretty obvious that the symptoms are a bit interchangeable depending on frequency, severity, etc. The bottom line is that it’s both as bad and not as bad as I’d thought. One of Mom’s medications was changed, or rather her schedule for taking it was changed, and there’s at least a reasonable probability that these symptoms are related to that change, to the affect the change had/is having on her stress levels. The rest of the time, most of the time, there’s little change and the treatments she’s on have mostly arrested the progression for the last year. It makes me more thankful than ever that the life inversion happened when it did.

Mom’s stress jumps now when Mirm has to go out; when she’s alone for any amount of time. It’s like she looses her tether to the now when she’s alone and, in the absence of the anchor that company provides, her anxiety rockets – the panic of sudden confusion, as if abandonment were perpetual and unavoidable.

I don’t know, maybe that’s part of it. Maybe I’m out to fucking lunch. Trying to imagine this stretches my somewhat considerable imagination, and I know that I’m simply not able to actually get it. Selfishly, I hope that I never do, not completely. I’m also in active denial regarding the stage descriptions that I read online, especially the timeline they provide for progression. I hate time today. Living in the now is the only strategy I can respect at the moment.

On the positive side, this all has nothing to do with Mirm. She remains a rock; a laconic, stoic one that I have to drag admissions of simple humanity from, but a rock nonetheless. So I‘ve scheduled an appointment with Mom’s outreach nurse for a week and a half from now. To talk about options, resources. They aren’t ready for me to move in to help, reluctant to give up the freedom they’ve carved out over the years, and I respect that. But Mirm, as tough as she is, is still 81. Hopefully there will be someone that can come in so that Mirm can do her errands, walk the dog, get some air, and still have someone there to provide that tether for Mom while Mirm is out.

I have to look out for Mirm seeing as she’s never been very good at choosing herself over Mom. If she’s not going to look out for herself, and she won’t, then someone has to look out for both of them. That only seems fair.

Or maybe nothing seems fair, but it is what it is.

Wednesday, July 6


Mom called this morning to tell me that she was having some problems with her memory. She wanted me to know. This happens once a week or so, and I can literally hear her blush like it’s a dirty secret. Every time. She’d just finished a big talk with Mirm, the kind that I think takes place more than I know but that Mirm simply doesn’t talk about, where Mirm explains the last couple years, and decades, to bring her up to speed.

This afternoon Mom called again to say that Mirm had left. Mirm had apparently walked into the bedroom where Mom was playing solitaire on the computer and asked if Mom wanted her to leave. And Mom said yes. She was calling me to tell me that she was okay. She thought I should know. That she’d stay at home. That everything would be fine.

In my head I was already making plans to get there, to move in right away. And at the same time I was spinning, trying to figure out what could have happened, what Mirm might have not been saying, wondering how it could have gotten so bad, mentally rearranging my life to make room for taking care of her full time.

The world receded a bit and my ears started ringing. Around fifteen minutes later, the gears not really meshing but the engine revving at high speed, Mom’s name popped up on my phone again.

It was Mirm. The aforementioned conversation apparently took place, although I still think I must be missing part of the context, but Mom had told her that she’d called me and Mirm wanted me to know that she’d just gone for a walk with the dog. Just for a bit of air. She said that everything was fine, that she would never, ever just leave like that. That everything would be okay, but Mom was having a bit of trouble this week. Maybe with some changes to her medication. Maybe.

The truth: It might not be a thing that we can fix with an adjustment. It’s a degenerative disease. There’s a progression that we can’t avoid and this… this might be that and not a reaction to a change in regimen.

We are such fragile things, and yet so tough, sewn together from bits and pieces, scenes and fragments of scenes, scents and colors, faces and eyes and the brushing of finger tips. I often despair a little bit, sometimes more, at the thought of Mom drifting away until she doesn’t remember me, doesn’t remember herself. That is the decline that most terrifies me. If I was deaf and dumb and blind I know that I could still tell myself stories in my head. But to lose that… That scares me shitless. I don’t know how she does it.

When Mom called to say Mirm had left, completely convinced that it was forever, she sounded so settled and sure. She reminded me of the woman who made the strong choice to send my Dad away so he could (or could not – they couldn’t know what would happen then, after all) get his own shit together, and so that she could keep herself and the little boy I was safe. There was no tremor in her voice, and I could only hear the fear way back behind the words she was saying.

For that moment I saw her face young again, as I imagine she expects to see herself in the mirror many days; a younger her, resigned and yet girded, prepared to survive whatever came next no matter what. What must it be like to receive that shock every day, to look expecting a face that matches the memories she has left  and find, instead, this woman that has seen so many more years.

I can’t help but wonder when the moment will come that I tell her I love her and it’s the last time she knows what that means. I’m not sure I’ll be strong enough for that moment.

There are new conversations to have now. There is Mirm to consider too, after all. It’s time for more honest talk and, perhaps now or maybe soon but unavoidably, hard decisions. And this too is love.

Fragile things, and yet tough. Everyday miracles, every one of us.

Sunday, July 3


Writers, good ones, ones that whisper things in the ears of our hearts and minds that wake us up for moments and hours and sometimes even days, tend to be somewhat to completely broken. Notice that? Functionally broken, perhaps, but broken nonetheless. They tend to see things that shouldn't be meant for human eyes, stuff between the lines, just outside the margins, behind the curtain. (Or, at the very least, they're sure that they do.) And the seeing breaks them in ways that never truly heal. They learn to walk and dialog and create and hope in spite of the perpetually open sores. At least for a while. Sometimes for long enough.

I've said before, but again: In psych 201 the prof mentioned studies that show that people prone to depression tend to see the world more realistically; they see no veils. Many people prone to depression seem to lack the ability to ignore what's right in front of their face in favor of the pretty lies that let us eat and drink and amass and horde ourselves into oblivion. 

There might be a correlation between those two paragraphs, but I'll leave that to you to decide.

And: At least I have that going for me. (Or, at the very least, I'm pretty sure that I do.)


Thursday, June 23

chrysalis... or gas

Ever notice how sometimes life seems to throw up these undeniable lines of demarcation? These chasms that are invisible as you approach, and then, one day, you look back and notice that you've crossed a great divide, one that can't be re-crossed – there's no going back – and that you couldn't have seen to avoid even if you'd wanted to? And they're only obvious in hindsight?

Well, I think I'm in the middle of one. And from here, being even digitally social feels really hard.

Not that there isn't a lot to talk about going on out there. Part of me is still in shock in the wake of the Canadian federal election. I feel like I don't know where I live anymore. My country feels bi-polar in the bad ways. And then people rioted in Vancouver, people that called themselves fans of a game played by adults but were really just idiots, or alcohol-induced idiots at very least, and watching that play out in the media has been worth talking about too. And there's Syria, and a new Gaza flotilla, and a new illegal war in Libya complete with assassination attempts that fly in the face of international law. Even if I was just taking a break from politics, I'm still loosing sleep thinking about the oil and vinegar symbiosis of art and capitalism; how the oil involved doesn't feel very edible to me, and how I think vinegar is a crappy metaphor for art. Seriously... losing sleep. So it's not like there isn't plenty to talk about...

I just don't have the will to talk. I feel like my hands are pretty full right here at home.

I went through one of these chrysalis periods a couple years ago when the life-inversion started. I guess, to be honest, I sort of felt that one coming too, but I wasn't aware of feeling it until I was past it and had one of those, “Oh, that's what that was” moments. In a sense, maybe, this is still the same process of change that I'm in the middle of. Or maybe, like glissading down a mountain side, there are times when you start something, it gathers its own momentum and takes on a life of its own, and we just have to ride the slope until we stop and hope an avalanche isn't on our heels.

I won't know, of course, until I'm through it, so I could be wrong. I might actually be in that weird space, mid-leap, with gravity pulling at me, fighting the momentum that should carry me over the gap, my arms and legs swinging as if I wish I had something to hold onto. I might have actually noticed this time, in situ as it were, instead of only realizing from the perspective of twenty-twenty hindsight.

Or I might just have eaten something weird and it has me all discombobulated.

I honestly don't know, but everything feels weird, as if I'm in a movie and the DVD is skipping on a frame with a CG scene-to-scene bleed effect. The cat keeps walking by, if you know what I mean...

And even if I'm right, I'm not exactly sure what the feeling signifies; what the chasm is; what the change will be or mean. Which makes being aware of it kind of frustrating. It's a hurry up and wait scenario. I feel like the dog named Stay.

I wonder if, in that last moment before they wake up to their new life, zombies feel like this.

Or maybe they think that it was just some bad brains they ate...

So, yeah, I'm holding my figurative breath. Call it an involuntary hiatus. Or maybe the calm before the storm. Or indigestion. I'm still around though. Miss you guys and all that.

P.S. The manuscript is still with my beta readers. Early returns are good and remarkably helpful. One day I'll have to take a long trip and buy a bunch of dinners.

Friday, May 27

...yeah, i'm not done yet

There seem to be all these lists of things that MUST BE DONE in order to BUILD PLATFORM and BECOME ATTRACTIVE TO AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS.

I choose to believe that the best thing is to write a good fucking story, and write it well. The good news is that, occasionally, a sane voice calls out from the publishing ether and says exactly the same fucking thing.

If I write the story I wanted to write, if it’s as good as I can make it, then that’s success. Any other definition has to be considered suspect. Selling books is mostly a crapshoot anyway. It’s bingo, at least if you’re talking about Rowling-like sales. We need to get over it and live in the real world.

Don't get me wrong - I’ll be happier than a pig in shit if I can pay bills off of royalties one day. That’s the dream, something I hope for but is largely beyond my control. In the mean time, I’ll be only`as happy as a pig in shit just to write the stories, even if the only people that read them are the ones that I talk to directly or e-mail regularly.

Seems to me that following a whole bunch of other people’s lists and ideas on how to succeed at being original is more than slightly oxymoronic. Seems to me that originality is found off the beaten path.

The life inversion was/is about not keeping score in the standard ways anyway. It was/is supposed to be the opposite of that. The inversion is about letting go of all of those social measurements, all that cultural bullshit, and just being, just loving the process, just living the adventure, just writing and telling the story as honestly as I can.

I was listening to CBC radio the other day and Jion Gomeshi asked Chris Murphy of the Sloans what he thought of the great reviews their latest disc was getting, perhaps the best in their twenty-year career. Murphy said, “We don’t pay attention. If we did, we’d have to believe the bad ones too.”

So I’ll keep score in other ways, like I said a couple weeks ago: by how many days I spend in flip flops instead of suits and ties; by how often I can write something that breaks through my own sense of cool; by how honest and vulnerable I can be in front of the keyboard; by how uncomfortable I can be hitting “publish”; by how “wrong” an action is according to the lists and rule books.

That’s what being an artist is supposed to be about, right? Rebellion? Counter-culture? Targeted subversive behavior? Punk rock and revolution? Isn’t it? Isn't it?

Wednesday, May 25 be clear...

Someone I adore, someone I respect and admire, thought that when I said I was thinking about balance and careers last week, I was actually saying that I’d decided writing wasn’t as important as I’d thought and that I was dropping the gig, at least as far as doing it for the rest of my life to the exclusion of most other things went.

So, obviously, I wasn’t very clear.

What I meant to say clearly then: What I am abjuring is the clutter that is so often conflated with writing these days, or being any kind of artist for that matter. I told a friend the other day, “I’m a writer. If I wanted to be a marketer,” I said, “I’d get into fucking marketing.”

I don’t want to be an ad-man. I want to tell stories. I want to live them too, but that’s me. Adventure is as much a reason for the life inversion as the writing and story telling is, so for me there has to be a balance of living and writing and imagining. For me, if there isn’t that trichotomy, I’m wasting oxygen.

To be clear then, I hope I die either writing a novel (preferably something really great and at the end) or climbing (preferably something really high and at the top). One or the other; I’d be happy with either.

Friday, May 20

poetry #7 - when it counts (for Kate and Trav)

(one of the joys of being a poor (but not starving) wannabe artist is that you never have to shop for gifts. instead, one makes one's gifts (mostly). for Kate and Trav I had some prints made of pictures I took and bought a couple sale frames. and wrote a poem...)

did it hurt
that first time in the moment after the pregnant silence     somewhere      paused
in time
was there a sharp pain     did it feel like losing something precious
letting go in an irreversible way that meant one thing would never come back
and another would never leave
was there a moment of acute precise
like losing a tooth 
or autonomy        
or yourself
like you were splitting open in the most complete and wonderful ways
was it a surrender to you
a loss     of     you

or was it     like me     
for me     to be clear     it didn’t hurt at all
it was dawn over the ocean the universe giving birth to a star an eagle falling out of the nest into 
that first time
a warm summer moon or the harsh cold light of a winter sun or a blanket of watching stars
or the covers     maybe     in the hush     after
it was a perfect nova a kissed orchid opening the first smile of the child   
we’ll have one day

it was that easy that free that sharp that utterly complete     
that perfect
and there was no pain no matter how completely i was torn apart
and remade

there have been times     of course     since
when it hurt     
there always are 
to say it to feel it to fear that it might
just as there will be again
when life pins us down shoves us against the wall kneels on our heads pressing us into the hard 
     concrete of reality
and then     in those moments     
saying it feeling it meaning it
has/will hurt has/will come with a cost has/will bleed has/will weep tears that burn
that’s life     we know this     that’s the way it is must cant not be

but when those times
knock down our door invade through the patio window crash in like a thief
i’ll remember     
as you have and will
there will be reminders remembrances tattoos carved deeper than skin into our hearts of that first 
and all the others since
when it didn’t hurt at all when we didn’t even notice when it was
running into the surf escaping the confines of walls and ceilings to dance on rooftops in the summer 
when it was these things because
it was/is real was/is pure was/is hot as a newborn star and cool as a perfect breeze
as forever as the universe and its birthing and killing of suns
as clean as our future child’s first word first step first smile first hug first love

that’s the promise
no matter the cost the hurt the fear the hate the shock
the weighty enormity of what it all might mean
when it counts most
i’ll/you’ll say and mean and feel and know and own the words

Tuesday, May 17

love in mexico…

I was thinking about balance and careers yesterday. About how I could learn to hate something I love if I fell into treating it like a career.

I think my vacation metamorphosized into an open yet sub-conscious rebellion, one that is tempting me away from getting back into a blogging routine, from committed Twitter sessions, from freelance contracts, and absolutely, without equivocation, from dealing stupid cards at the stupid casino.

And then I remembered that I still hadn’t finished blogging about Mexico and the wedding. The wedding deserves a post of its own, as do the amazing people that made the trek to be there, but I’ve been lolly-gagging for a whole week now, laying back, enjoying the slow current, not worrying about where exactly it was taking me. Languishing. Happily…

Yesterday, driving into to Kelowna to meet an old friend for coffee, I realized this was happening – this sub-conscious resistance – and allowed myself to explore it, feel it, probe it  with my mind’s tongue, as if it were a cavity or a chipped tooth. I found a photo-album in a crevice and opened a mental folder full of those things I’d promised myself when the life inversion started: that this was about creativity, about creating; that success would be measured in days wearing flip-flops, not by counts of commas and zeroes; that victory would be measured in sighs and smiles; that I would not miss the ties or ever be sucked into thinking they were important, at all, ever again…

If you’ve seen the pictures on Facebook (and if not, why aren’t we friends yet? See below and to the right), you already know that the wedding was amazing. Beautiful. Awe-inspiring. Travis, my brother, and Kate, his bride (my new sister) have a unique love. They’re both thirty-ish, so they waited long enough to know. They’ve been together for six years, so they made sure. And they’ve already weathered storms, so they know how to find their way out/hold on/let go when those hurricanes inevitably hit.

I think that they have the real thing, found it and grabbed on and made it their own. They awe me, did I mention that? But I knew that going in. Their love is wonderful to watch, and it does awe me, but it doesn’t surprise me any more. 

Here’s what did: Their friends. Thirty-six of us made the trip to Mexico. Eleven of us were family. That  means that twenty-five friends – co-workers, buddies, amigos, bff’s, what have you – took the time off and forked out the money to travel and stay so that they could be there for a wedding. Consider that six of the people all work at the same salon in West Van, including the owner, and that she actually closed the salon down for the whole week, and an image begins to form of a very tight group.

I was never one to belong to large groups of friends, at least not with any aplomb. I was a fringe-er, a hanger-on at best. Mostly, I was just a loner. Loners, no matter how imagined, rationalized, or real their comfort with solitude, still have moments when they envy those idealized group dynamics. Mostly we tell ourselves that those perfect group moments only exist in ‘90’s sit-coms and movies.

Subsequently, I spent a week in Mexico in blissful envy, happily a fringe-er again, on the fringe of something unique.

I once wrote a post about a Japanese proverb regarding gauging the character of a person by the quality of their friends and I was reminded of it again and again. I wrote then that I have amazing friends, and I stand by it. But I have those friends in ones and twos, scattered across a wide geography.

To see that depth and quality of friendship concentrated among friends that live a work together daily was, well, weird in a beautiful way. That shit’s not supposed to happen in real life. My brother Troy, who acted as best man, noticed it and mentioned it in his speech. The parents all see it. I’m not hallucinating, not alone. It’s abnormal in the best ways.

So this is a toast, sort of, to Trav and Kate who are indescribably beautiful to me, and to their friends, whom I hope (and believe) appreciate how rare and precious is their love for one another…

And I thought, yesterday, maybe it was the quality of that time away that was making me reluctant to get back into the swing, to lean into the yoke, to bend to the plow. And, of course, it was, at least in part. But if I’m doing what I love then why would I resist at all? And I thought; maybe I’m just not quite doing it right. Maybe I’m off mission again, just a bit. Or worse: Maybe I’m trying to turn it into a mission.

I’ve been dancing around this concept for months now, rebelling against concepts of efficient utilization of social media, against the idea that writing is a career, or even a vocation (which is ostensibly better, like it involves a calling or something). But I think that I rebel against the idea that something I do could or would ever define me. That’s absolutely not what the inversion was about.

Writing was and is a facet of that, telling stories, reaching out – absolutely a part and, hopefully, one that funds the rest of it – but it doesn’t define me. I don’t ever want to work that hard at it, devote so much time to it that anything else has to suffer.

The inversion was about searching for an authentic life, a creative one, full of adventure and markedly lacking in the kind of focused self-discipline that results in dynamic careers. That kind of thing works fine for many people, and I’m not knocking it, but it’s not for me. At. All.

No more ties. No posting schedules. No worrying. Flip-flops always unless the activity requires something technical or the snow is deeper than a three centimeters. Zero pretense. Heavy on the adventure.

The inversion was and is supposed to be about no reserve, no retreat, and no regret. Good choices, no monopolies, all variation, always looking for the next adventure, perpetually learning. No rules. Living it, not achieving it.

I may need a new tattoo to remember this.

So here's to life and love. And let the cards fall where they may…