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…

Wednesday, May 4

what happens in mexico...

...stays in Mexico. Screw that.

Apparently that rule is now ubiquitous: Just insert name of destination as applicable. I kinda don’t get it, that rule. I know why it exists, but even if nobody says anything, the participants still know, don’t they? Unless there was an actual blackout involved – a relatively rare phenomena – most of the claimed amnesia is voluntary. Denial by any other name and all that…

Anyway, that rule’s bullshit if you have a writer in the party. Everyone knows that, right? I hope everyone knows that. If they don’t, it’ll be okay because nobody that was there reads my blog anyway, and I had the only laptop.

We were, apparently, testing the “bad things come in three’s” rule of the universe last week. The rule held, and the rest of the week was utterly amazing or we’d have been in serious shit, because all three occurred in one day, on our first full day there.

First, the arrival festivities went full late on Friday night, starting with ridicu-cheap beer on the bus from the airport. The hard partiers had their full drink on before we even arrived at the resort 90-minutes later. By 2:00am, when the die-hards – including my middle brother, Troy, who became the first casualty – were leaving the on-site club, sound judgment and a basic understanding of physics had become entirely optional.

The story I got from a couple witnesses went something like this:

“So, Troy got on the shuttle in front of us, looked around as the shuttle started up, said something about somebody not being there – but without consonants – and then, as the shuttle reached top speed, jumped off.” The result was reportedly something akin to an ostrich diving into a full on cheese grater. Troy said he was going for a tuck and roll as he was falling. Instead he used his knee and elbows as brakes. When he stumbled into the room a little while later, kindly dropped off by one of the hotel staff, he was still lacking the power of consonants and had a really nice, deep abrasion on his knee that he bumped several times while trying to find his bed.

I made sure he wasn’t going to die, then put my earbuds in and turned up the tunes.

Even with the iPod, I have to say, nothing tests brotherly love like drunk snoring. Just for the record.

Silly me, I assumed that the general state of annihilation would result in a late start on Saturday for all those who made it to the end of the evening. I clearly underestimated the level of partying expertise assembled at this shindig, because the breakfast table was full. By lunch, we were all at the pool (the one with the swim-up bar, of course).

Bad thing number two happened when one of the lovely ladies stubbed her toe on the stump of a dead tree and kinda ripped most of the end of it off. There was blood and swearing, but she came back a little while later with a nice big bandage. We drew a happy face on it and had to carry her to the pool’s island so she could lounge. 

No pics of that one. Sorry. I'll make it up to you. Right. Now.

Bad thing number three is funny now, but could have been far, far worse. The resort has activities staff to keep us happy and, well, active. Around 5:00 or so, they decided that it was time for a belly flop competition. Five different guys, mostly in profound states of drunk-assedness, volunteered to compete. Number one was a guy with us: Koji. Koji moved a couple tables so he could get a massive run at the pool.

I know, you think you see it coming, but you don’t.

His first effort was a perfect, epic bellyflop, including about ten-feet of air. It was awesome. Then the other guys went. In my biased opinion, none of their flops matched Koji’s, but this was a crowd-judged event and one of the other guys had more friends there. Koji was relegated to second place. Koji is a bit competitive, so naturally he prepped up for a second attempt.

There was a run again, and then an attempted back flip, the idea being a reverse flop, a gainer. He made it about two thirds of the way through the flip and entered the pool.

I should clarify that this pool is three feet deep. It begs the question as to why they would ask drunk people to do silly jumps into it, and add the pressure of competition, but it is what it is. Koji’s trajectory took him straight to the bottom of the pool, top first. He was also in the layback position, arms at his sides, so the first thing that found the bottom of the pool was, naturally, his head.

Like I said, it could have been much, much worse. Instead of the worst case, Koji bounced up, hands in the air, screaming his barbaric yawp of victory. He might have noticed something wrong when there was no cheering to meet him. I think everyone watching was doing the McAuley Kaulkin, hands to face, mouth wide open. While Koji had fortuitously escaped a broken neck or fractured skull, he had managed to rip open a six-inch split that was bleeding the way only head wounds can bleed, and offering a fairly good view of a portion of his skull.

I know. Crazy.

There was a scream or two, and frantic calls for a medic, and a really expensive ambulance ride, and nineteen stitches, but we were all just happy that he could laugh about it when he got back.. Koji was happy that his alcohol imbibation proscription would be over before the next hockey game.

So yeah, bad things, in three’s, really glad that held true. There was plenty of drama as it was. And, you know, a wedding to take care of…

More on that next time. J