free write

•May 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

what is it they say about beginnings nothing ever really starts not after birth that all moments lead from the first agonizing push outward we are set—on set—out set—free in the trap of time that carries forward like the drag of a net pulled tidily

surround us at first—kicking then—crawling then—stumbling towards the second salient fact hidden at the only end that matters, what only end is impermeable. I have been wrestling with this snare as others have

been trying to give the movement pause and each thrash a scar on the sea floor a start a new way a difference in the path towards the final ledge that chasm yawning so indifferent to the struggle that hauls towards the lip so full of the illusion of punctuation of—finishing and initiating of—hiding and emerging from one furrow to the other that drag still inexorable but almost a climate almost a constant that does not register change but are we obsessed with making—a change making—it better making—a difference what shows in the path towards the end they say, they say no two ways are the same. I, “I”, i have been trying to start again ignoring the sea floor the gill net the time the furrows have been focusing on the surface

what calls you out another illusion for it is all water floor to heaven sphere perfectly enclosed no air to—speak of no tale to—tell a fable a phantasm thrashing around stumbling on the floor looking up not forward or back. but all the same.

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on the road

•May 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My current obsession is David Lynch’s Interview Project.

new notebooks

•May 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So it’s started: crammed into a little basement room, with more than fifty students confined to their mobile, black plastic desks—everyone on wheels—our professor opened with an overview of what Literature of Our Time entails, the major themes and issues we will be covering in our condensed summer course, eight months of content squeezed into the upcoming four. It’s going to be fast and furious. Novels, short stories, plays, and poetry arrayed in chronological progression: all examples that exploded their forms, defied preconceptions; texts which will takes us from the modern, to the postmodern, to the postmillennial. (The postmillennial term is new to me—when I was at university before we were, just barely, pre-millennial. Ten years have truly past.)

It felt good to be sitting there. It felt good to have made it, after all the wrangling, the letter writing, the case making; and, in the end, I didn’t feel too disjointed being one of the older people in the room; I didn’t feel too conspicuous. (Not that I thought that I would, necessarily, but you never know, once you’re there, what might go on internally in media res.)

And it’s going to be unabashedly theoretical, which is why I’ve paid the price of admission, and why I’m coming all the way downtown to sit in a basement and take notes on my computer. I want the nuts and bolts of this thing we call literature strewn about. I want the questions and the quandaries of expression littering the cement of the floor. I want to talk about the how and why it all comes together.

I also want an “A.”

All this anticipation has taken its toll on my subconscious. After class I met up with Frantic F for a snack and a sip of water at Kalander in Little Italy, where we chewed on the nuances of academia between the bites of our modest appetizers, before I took my moderately exhausted self back to my apartment in Midtown. I put my new books away, pulled on my PJs and snuggled into bed.

I promptly dreamt of my former roommate S., a dropped thread from higher education, phase I. In this nightmare incarnation we were inexplicably cohabitating together again in a university residence, and everything that I did was driving her batty with rage. Whatever I said caused her to fume. The friends I made led her to disparage me openly, and criticize my choice to return to school at all. The straw that broke her was when I staid up late one night debating with other students on our floor, espousing views I didn’t necessarily believe in, but playing devil’s advocate, stirring the pot, “playing in the sand” as I told her later.

“You have to take these things more seriously if it’s going to work out for you at all this time. You wasted your last opportunity, and you can’t afford to make such egregious mistakes this time around.”

“By talking with people?” I asked her incredulously.

She flounced down on her bed on the other side of the room, seething with wrath and what I also took to be jealousy, primarily over me making friends so easily and coming off as smart, when compared to her I was so obviously an academic fuck up. I relented and went out to the common room where one of my new friends was washing the dishes, even though it wasn’t his turn on the rotation.

“Here, have a drink of this,” he said and poured me a tall glass of something limpid green and citrusy. I took a sip. It was almost 50% rum.

“It’s good to have you around, man,” he told me with a grin.

salty dogs

•May 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

First thunderstorm of the season. Flash. Crack. Boom. The onomatopoeia comes out to play. The brick of the low-rise apartment building across from my living room window is etched in moments of pure photo-genesis, and the clouds suffocate the last of evening’s light with a deep purple gloom. Storm energy glowers the rooftops. The anxious manes of the trees in the park across the street toss in the acid urban rain. Cars move like pinhole lanterns pulled along a wet ribbon towards the centre of the city.

I am waiting for AI to come over and watch movies. We have these plutonic cuddle dates on my couch. We watch sci-fi and talk about plot failures, re-cast our least favourite parts, and generally geek out while no one else is watching. I might drink a beer. I might drink two. All these elements in flux outside my door—my commitments, my targets, my sense of self—and inside I get these wonderful constants, the booty plundered from a thousand other stormy nights, roaming the channels of the vast metropolis. Avast, mates, we’ve found another gem!

The friends I’ve made are worth all the trouble I’ve been in and out of this past decade or more. What little I have to show for the effort of my twenties is manifest in my social circle, the people that mean the most to me. I wouldn’t trade them; they’re too rare; too special; too weird. Yes, others have laid the foundations of empires, but I, I have compiled a compendium of companions.

I think my effort has been more wisely spent.

t minus four days

•May 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Change is in the air. Four days now until I start classes and begin anew something that could or should have taken place before, but didn’t; give another go to a project that failed the first time attempted. I’m anxious, and I’m all contradictions: full and empty, excited and serene; the next part of my life is about to begin and I have no idea how I’m supposed to feel—not that meeting outside expectations has ever been high on my agenda—but I know that I’m ready. Let the transmogrification begin.

I’m letting go of my job in pieces. The money-maker, the time consumer, is coming untethered from my altering form as I reorient my direction, move to look a different way, and concentrate on another set of priorities. I was worried that it would be impossible to do this in increments. I felt sure that the powers-that-be would feel disobliged as I asked for accommodation for my new schedule, would perhaps be in some way offended that I was revealing a new devotion that lay outside the dedicated environment of our workplace; but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. They’ve been supportive. They’ve been positive. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Of course, I also have to say goodbye to the steady source of income. Goodbye fine, inspiriting numbers of the pay check. Goodbye dollars and cents of my day-to-day living. We may meet again in another life, in another forum, in another state. It would be nice if we could stay on speaking terms, even if we do become distant. There will always be a special place in my account for you, should you ever decide to return. I won’t grow bitter to your absence, just perhaps a little leaner. I might grow thin without your support.

green porno

•May 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Isabella Rossellini has been busy over at the Sundance Channel, producing very educational shorts like this:

paperwork

•April 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“You may not be ready for the administration,” Brown Owl said to me.

By this I took her to mean the endless forms, the labyrinthine traceries of pen strokes and signatures that are needed to fill them, the baffled questions queried through open windows to unapologetically dispassionate administrative guardians, the obtuse answers that follow, the redirections, the misdirections, and the dead ends that come along with navigating the process of getting anything done and formalized on a university campus. I had been telling her about getting my OSAP funding straightened out: there had been many trips to the registrar’s office. They were not all productive.

It’s a good thing that I’ve had the time on my hands to deal with it. In the end, after trying several permutations of the same plea for assistance, the right combination of words came out of my mouth and one of the guardians looked at me with recognition—the light in her eyes went on, she stepped forward to the counter—and there followed a flurry of activity. Voilà, your academic fees are deferred! Your enrolment is secure. Your money is en route.

Brown Owl may be right: maybe I’m not ready, but it’s not like I have a choice. I’ve not been forcibly involved with the paper machinery of a large organization for years; and the University of Toronto is large, you can give it that: massive; gargantuan. I’m still high enough on the fumes of acceptance that the urge to tear at the school’s inexorable parchment cogs hasn’t even entered into my lightened head; I’ve simply been keeping my eyes forward, my chin down, and doing whatever it is that seems to need to doing in order to navigate the gaps between the teeth of the wheels.

I’ve been waiting months now for a project. I’ve been waiting months for this project. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Climbing out of a depressive episode, spring in full bloom, my bicycle tuned up and ready for the road, it’s now or never.

I’ve been calling myself a failed academic for almost a decade. After dropping out of university the first time around—thinking myself incapable, thinking myself somehow wrong for the institution—I had resigned myself to keeping my scholarly ambitions in check. I went on to other things—active things like work, and socializing, and just living in general, all with very modest ambition. I still wanted to write, and I still wrote, but not formally. And I thought, I don’t need a degree to produce a novel. And that’s true enough. Many people write books without a recognized education. Many people are successful wordsmiths without a working knowledge of Chaucer, and Milton, and Shakespeare; but that’s not really the kind of writer I wanted to be, if I was honest; and there was never enough time, not with all that work, and living, and very modest ambition. Nor was there enough ability, as I constantly wondered what was wrong with me, where the disconnect between action and intent stemmed from, why my goals seemed so far out of reach no matter how determined I felt I was.

Some part of me knew that the answer was drugs. I just took the wrong ones to try and make my life work. I tuned out instead of tuning in.

“My attempt to be an autodidact polymath seems to have gone fairly awry,” I said to Cobra over coffee a few months ago.

“Well it’s worked alright for me,” she answered. But I looked around and there was no evidence of it: the trappings of our lives were those of intelligent dilettantes, with our piecemeal bookshelves, our undocumented theories and unaccredited intellectualism, and our days and days of wasted time with nothing to show for it but fuzzy logic and fuzzier memories. I wanted something more. I wanted to think for real, if that was possible. I wanted to imagine with intent and on record, and I wanted to write: intelligently, well, and with purpose. That wasn’t happening, even if I was getting well, even if I had switched my imbibed medication from a liquid lunch to sanctioned pharmaceuticals.

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, the first thought that coruscated my frontal lobes was, I can go back to school. I was finishing up training in a new field at the time, starting a job that, admittedly, there was nothing wrong with; but all I could think of was getting myself back into academia; getting back in and staying there.

“Turtle has always seen you turning out to be a grumpy old professor, anyway,” her best friend told me at Turtle’s birthday party a few weeks ago, just after I had gotten the news of my acceptance.

“It’s probably where you belong,” Kongo concurred.

What a relief to hear my nearest and dearest say things like that. How uplifting for the vote of confidence, where confidence is the one thing I’ve been lacking these past few years, as I know people have started to see me as wasted potential, rather than promise waiting to actualize. I was crossing that line, getting old enough that it looked like I might be stuck, unable to make it out of mediocrity. There’s nothing worse than knowing that are capable, and—for lack of a better term—called to be something better, yet choosing to stay mired in the place that proves least difficult.

It hasn’t worked out alright for me, playing at being an intellectual flouted by the establishment, unable to conform to the strictures of society. There are reams of oddballs that find a niche in the world. There are ways to actualize ambition without becoming part of a system you abhor. There can be a place for the discreetly talented thinker who wants to sit and ruminate in the corner professionally.

So administrative convolutions of the institution aside, there are many things I have not been ready for in my lifetime, but this, this is not going to be one of them. Bring it on. I’ve waited long enough. I’ve got thoughts to conceive, words to put to paper, and graduate school to get to. The next year of my life has already begun.