[08/30] Of cities in dust

Day 08 – A moment, in great detail:

It was snowing now, light flakes betraying the morning sun’s promise of spring. I took a long moment in the doorway before I joined the crowd, fifty people moving in a hundred directions. To work. From work. To a friend’s home. To pick up the baby. To start a new job. To break up with their lover. To light the fireplace at home.

I feel insulated, now. The crowd protects me from the snow, the snow protects me from seeing anything too far away, and anything too far away doesn’t exist in any meaningful sense anyway.

I duck into a coffee shop for caffeine and quiet reading. I’ve spent so many hours of my life here, but it’s somehow different now, and there isn’t a flicker of recognition in the faces of anyone who looks up. I’m still insulated by the snow, by feeling like you’ve come home and found some other family watching your TV and eating off your plates.

I make my order and open the book to page one. It’s a beautiful place to be — fresh coffee, crisp pages, a new story in a familiar setting.

Toronto.

In the trenches

Just came back from PodCamp Toronto, where Audra and I gave a presentation on Social Media in the Public Service. It went over really well, and it’ll be up on SlideShare once the video/audio archives are up at PodCamp so I can stitch it all together.

I spent a fair amount of the trip feeling ill, and to my horror, I’ve realized that I always started feeling sick about twenty minutes after having a few cups of coffee. Caffeine is one of my most treasured addictions, and I don’t know how easily I would be able to function without it. I don’t think there has ever been a period in my life where I was caffeine-free.

I’d like to go back and spend some more time wandering the city once it warms up a bit. I think I’m slowly coming to terms with my relationship with Toronto. We’ll never be what we were, but I think we could learn how to be friends.

Things I need more of, in no particular order. (first in a series)

– science-fiction
– coffee
– Super Paper Mario
– Eric B & Rakim
– weird sex
– sun
– N2O
– time
– Amsterdam
– robots
– teeth
– teeth made from robots with smaller teeth inside them so that they chew my food for me when my mouth is closed
– lucid dreaming
– Strongbow
– the responsible abuse of pleasure

Exmas

Skip this post if you don’t like reading about religion.

I’m not a big fan of the holiday season, as I might’ve maybe mentioned. Once or twice.

I’m not religious. I’ll see my mom on Christmas Eve, but I don’t have a tree at home, and I don’t often give gifts. I do observe the winter solstice, but it’s much more of an observation than it is a celebration, and my head isn’t in the game as much as it was when I was younger and wiser. I was, however, raised Roman Catholic, and as a child I was deeply religious. I attended Catholic school, weekly mass, and received the sacraments; Confirmation, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance… I sang in the Church Choir, and I was an Altar Boy. (I hear they’re called Altar Servers now, but we didn’t let girls in the club back then.)

Anyway.

All of this to say that I have a fairly solid understanding of Catholicism, and although it seems I’m in the minority in this, my experiences with it were very positive.

To be clear, I’m not saying Catholicism itself is positive, or making any statement about religion proper, just my own experience with it.

I was lucky enough to have churches and schools full of priests and teachers who were mostly bright and caring. Most importantly, they placed a sharp focus on deriving moral direction from the bible itself, rather than any overarching Church dogma. It’s a cliche, but it almost always came down to the question, “what would Jesus do?”

…and the thing about JC (we go way back) is that he’s a really great person to draw lessons from, and if most Christians paid any attention to what he said, the world would be a much better place. None of the hot-topic religious issues in public debate today (abortion, ‘the gay’, etc) get more than a dozen lines in the bible. No one cares about them. Jesus certainly doesn’t care about them. There are thousands and thousands of verses and sermons on peacemaking, community and forgiveness, but the most clear message in all of the bible is on poverty. When a rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven, Jesus told him that rich people don’t go to heaven, so he needed to sell all his worldly shit and give the money to the homeless.

Anyway.

All of this to say that this is the only time of year in which the public celebration of a religious holiday actually makes me angry. You’ve got families spending thousands of dollars on themselves and their friends in the spirit of giving, hyperextended retail hours, credit limit raises and extra loans — millions of Canadians showing their holiday spirit by buying, buying, buying.

If you’re celebrating Christmas this year, try giving to the people you won’t see every day, who aren’t your family or coworkers or friends you get drunk with. There are a lot of very, very cold people downtown who could use a coffee, a hot meal, or some warm gloves and thermal socks.

It’s the Christian thing to do.

And if, like me, you’re not Christian, then you shouldn’t need a 2,000 year old dead guy to tell you it’s the right thing to do.

softer, lesser, slower, weaker

I took a sick day today. I’m feeling pretty icky, but mostly I’ve just got the winter blues, and I wasn’t up to a Monday morning.

I feel like shit whining about how I feel like shit, especially since I’m well aware how heavily the season is weighing on my mood. I know that it’s exaggerated, and that if it were bright and sunny I wouldn’t really feel this way, but that doesn’t change what it’s like inside my own skin.

I’m not going to be heading out on the Chemlab tour with Cyanotic. The details of why aren’t really important, but mostly it just didn’t make for good logistics.

I’d like to take some of my vacation time and travel somewhere, commitment-free. Nowhere fancy or far away, just somewhere where I won’t be DJing, playing, working, or doing anything out of obligation. A week in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, to drink coffee, explore the streets at night, and wrap myself in the anonymity that comes with being a stranger in a big city.

I do have friends and family in all of these places, but I’m not sure that my navel-gazing would make for good company. I’m also not sure where I stand with a lot of these people — not for any reason other than the erosion that silence and distance work on relationships — and I don’t want to impose my yearly existential crisis on anyone else.

I don’t talk much about why this time of year upsets me so much, or about the place that it puts me in.

A year or three ago, I wrote my excessively wordy LJ bio:

“I would tell you of my childhood, but I remember very little. I lived with my mother, and I was sixteen before I saw both of my parents in the same room together. I remember moving, always moving. I remember being kidnapped when I was eight, and a Christmas that the Hell’s Angels gave us a tree and gifts when we didn’t have money for food, much less toys […]

Mostly I remember a sense of profound sadness; A feeling that above all, life is about survival, and little else.”

That’s what Christmas reminds me of, and that’s how winter makes me feel. I was always profoundly aware every Christmas just how poor we were, and how hard my mother worked to bring my brother and I that single day of toys, smiles, and happiness. She’d do everything she could to get us whatever it was we’d been dreaming of all year (which was almost certainly video games), and more often than not she’d succeed — but it wasn’t what she gave us that was depressing, it was the struggle itself. It brought into sharp focus just how little life cares for fairness, how naive the idea of karma really was.

When I was a very, very young child, it was Kelvin, my grandfather, who would take me fishing, or to a new movie, or to the arcade. He wasn’t related to me by blood, but he was my grandfather, and I loved him as much as I loved my mother.

He died on Christmas day when I was eight. My mother didn’t tell me until Boxing Day, and I vividly remember how numbing the news was. I didn’t feel shocked, or sad, or much of anything at all. I didn’t cry when she told me, or at his funeral, and in all truth and honesty I don’t remember crying again until I was fourteen and I found a hidden folder of stories and comics on a friend’s computer, each one making fun of me in a different way: My hair, my nose, my teeth, my voice, my everything.

I do have good memories of Christmas — staying up all night and all day with Josh playing our new Nintendo 64, seeing the little furry ball of kitten that my mother surprised me with, sitting on the porch with Tracy Page and smoking cigarettes, watching the snow fall — but they’re few, far between, and hopelessly outnumbered.

Now I try to spend Christmas with friends, in a quiet, safe space; but Christmas is just one day in a long winter.

This is why I travel so much during winter, in spite of how unhappy the cold makes me. When I’m writing in an empty Toronto cafe with the wind pounding at the door, or walking down St. Catherine between giant snowflakes, that’s my insulation. My quiet, safe space. It’s not fair to expect my friends and family to shore me up emotionally every day until the sun comes back.

Entactogen/Integrity

Saturday was well-spent; in excellent company, listening to music and trading stories.

…or at least, that’s how I should feel about it, rather than this blanket of anxiety that’s settled around me since.

Here’s the thing: If I met you for coffee tomorrow, and you said to me the same things I said to her on Saturday, I don’t know if I’d believe a word of it.

I’m not sure which is more upsetting, the realization my friends might think I’m full of shit, or that my experiences have been so divergent that they sound like fantasy when spoken aloud.

heh heh… tool…

An interview with Maynard James Keenan:

Q: Do you feel out of touch with your audience?

MJK: For the most part, I have no idea who those people are—especially when we’re traveling through Europe. And it’s not all our fault; it’s a whole series of events. [You play] heavy music, and your record company, which has never owned an album anything like what you’re doing, immediately markets you to the obvious stinky kid with the dreadlocks and the B.O. and the urine on his shoes because he’s been sleeping in his own filth in a festival in the middle of the rain. They basically market right to that guy. And then you realize the only people showing up to your shows are those primates—these weird, cretin people… Then, let’s say you’re at a coffee shop, and you’ve got a friend sitting next to you, and you’ve been reading some Noam Chomsky, or you’re reading The Onion, and you look over and see a bunch of kids [who] look like they could be made of cheese, because there are flies everywhere. And you go, “Hey, you want to go where they’re going?” and everybody goes, “Fuck no.” And they’re wearing Tool shirts. Why would you want to go there? Why would anybody other than those kids wanna go see Tool if that’s our representative in that area?

ME ME ME

I’m redoing my friends filters, because they’re in a state of disarray that precludes me writing anything of note or worth. So, if you’d like to see any future friends-only entries, let me know. I’m going to have three filters:

– Random personal day-to-day entries (Phone numbers, where I’m going for coffee)
– Private journal/writing/etc (Personal life, ‘real’ entries, bad poetry)
– Ultra-personal (This is the “I did not need to know that about you” TMI filter. Also, overly depressing/angry melodramatic nonsense.)

If you’d like to be on any of them, leave me a comment.

HAPPY HO HO


Anyone who wants to avoid the holidays/malls/family is more than welcome at our house tomorrow. Movies, food, games, coffee.

Also I have been informed that Yann “Busy Hands” McManno may be giving out fondles to all attendees. Further details as I get them.

(Just let me know if you’re coming by, so we know how many people to expect.)

Manifestus

I used to think it was that I was getting older. I thought that, with the ‘gift’ of age and experience, came a certain hardening of the skin, a lessening of tolerance for seemingly juvenile actions, and so on.

Today, however, I learned something.

I was sitting in a car that would not start. Inside the house next to the car were two people who I had given a place to stay, free food, furniture, and much more. Both of these people had quite literally moved out under cover of night — from different houses, in different cities — to avoid paying me rent. One of them had snuck out leaving a phone bill of close to two thousand dollars in collect long-distance calls from prison, in addition to spraypainted walls, and many more gifts in kind.

In this car which would not start, outside a house of people who collectively owe me thousands upon thousands of dollars, to return to a home where I do not have heat or hot water; this is where I learned something.

I will never be able to surround myself with people who will do for me what I would do for them.

I used to believe differently, that the people I had chosen to spend my time with had the same views on friendship and community that I do. That they, too, believed in social responsibility, trust, respect.

They don’t.

Or rather, if they do believe in these things, these beliefs are not nearly important enough for them to be able to act in line with them. The two possibilities are functionally identical, and I’m not going to bother drawing a distinction between them.

After our heat was shut off here a few weeks ago, I had a very good conversation with my very good friend Charles. The conversation can be summed up very simply:

“How can I make significantly more money and accrue significantly less expenses than I am making and accruing now?”

During the course of this conversation, we realized that we had been having conversations on this topic, off and on, for about seven years; it seems plain to me that if you’re continuing to have financial issues of this caliber after seven years and several significant increases in workload and pay, chances are that the problem has to do with you.

With this in mind, I have taken a lot of time lately to think about my financial situation over the years, and why I keep ending up where I am. In this time, I’ve been increasingly distant to my friends and family — for this, I apologize, but it needed to be done — but after spending a lot of time examining things, I discovered something very alarming.

Without exception, every single time that I have had significant income and reduced financially to the point where I literally cannot afford a cup of coffee, I have been fucked over by someone. From the first time in 1998 to the last two years of nearly constant abuse and non-payment from the people we’ve been renting the upstairs to (The greater part of $10K).

I can count the number of people I have lived with on one hand who have always paid their share in full on time, or made alternative arrangements before money was due.

I wish this were an entry regarding rent and roommates. Then, the solution would be simple: get out of the landlord business. And I have. But the landlord business isn’t what this post is about, and it isn’t what the problems I’m having are about.

The landlord business is a not a problem, it is a symptom. The treatment I have received by the people I have been living with is symptomatic of the treatment I have received by the people in my life.

With very nearly no exceptions, every single person that I have spent a lot of my life with has betrayed my trust, or crossed a mutually-understood boundary of responsibility and/or respect. The only names I have been able to come up with are Leslie, Venk, Suzanne, Charles, and Tony Christofaro. Five people, two of which I have not spent significant time with in a while. If we’ve spent a lot of time together, and your name isn’t on the list, it’s not by omission.

These aren’t small things I’m overreacting to, either. These are things like hanging out with someone who has beaten the shit out of my girlfriend, or neglecting to mention to me that the person I live with is going to skip out on rent and leave me holding a lease.

I’m going somewhere with all of this.

Given that there is a strong pool of evidence to suggest that many of my financial woes would be cured by not trusting anyone with or allowing anyone access to my living space, and given that even my closest friends and family have done and continue to do things that I have a great deal of difficulty reconciling with a working relationship, the logical conclusion is that I should live (mostly) alone, and not involve myself in friendly relations. (There is a second option — lowering my standards — but I have tried this, ending only in resentment and misery.)

I am very seriously considering doing just this. Living (mostly) alone, and not spending time with anyone at all. Just writing, designing, working, playing games, spending time with the woman I’m going to marry. It sounds like a very nice life. Especially the having-hot-water-to-take-a-shower-with part.

I recognize that we’re all human, and we all have faults. I, having more than most, understand this. I know that a lot of people try their best to be a good friend/roommate/whatever, and that any failings they may have are being addressed in some personal discipline of self-improvement or whatever. I, too, try to be a better person each day than I was the last – but I do not have the emotional (or financial) fortitude to spend any more of my time being fucked by people who’re trying and failing to get their shit together.

I will not live for friends, family, or community that does not return – at the very least – their mutually agreed obligations. This is no hyperbole; when I take home $3500 in a month and spend $3200 on other people’s rent and bills, I am literally living for other people, and with that said, I don’t consider social and personal obligations any less important or binding than financial ones. The inverse is true, if anything.

So if we don’t talk again anytime soon, or I turn down that coffee date, you know why. It’s nothing personal, but it’s time for me to stop pretending that the people around me are something that they’re not.

I think you left a noseprint in my shoulder….

CHARLES SUZANNE AND I WERE IN THE COMPUTER ROOM. WE MENTIONED THAT WE WERE A BIT HUNGRY… PERHAPS -TOO- HUNGRY…

BEFORE WE KNEW WHAT WAS HAPPENING, LESLIE HAD PREPARED A FEAST

AND I MEAN AN ACTUAL FEAST:

  • SCRAMBLED EGGS
  • PANCAKES
  • BAGUETTE FRENCH TOAST
  • CRISPY BACON
  • SAUSAGE ROUNDS
  • ENGLISH MUFFINS
  • OLD-FASHIONED HASH BROWNS
  • GOURMET COFFEE

THE MORAL OF THIS STORY: I HAVE THE BEST GIRLFRIEND EVER. FURTHERMORE, CHARLES AND SUZANNE HAVE THE BEST GIRLFRIEND EVER BY PROXY.

I LOVE YOU DJ LESLIE!

(IF YOU TRY TO WOO HER I WILL CUT YOU. THEM’S THE RULES. I DON’T MAKE THE RULES.)

Trying to find some light

I’m having a terrible week, and I’ve been trying to write about it for a very long time now. The only things that are coming out are sad, angsty, angry, and depressing. 100% LiveJournal, in other words.

So, rather than add more gothic poetry to the internets, I decided to say a few nice things about the people I don’t often talk to. In alphabetical order:

amandarochelle: You’ve always known what’s important. Thank you, and please — take care of yourself.

cephalopod: Do you remember the conversation we had over coffee, where you shared with me your infrared photography, and we gave each other secret advice? I do.

dem: Don’t get caught in the middle of scene politics. You’re too good for that. Do what’s best for you.

dharmasatya: I wish I had known you better when I was younger and wiser — I think we could’ve had some wicked ESD time.

essinem: The stars burn brighter when they know you’re watching; they, like us, are hoping to inspire you.

prox2: Y’know, if you came with us, we’d be un-fucking-stoppable. Just sayin’.

siksyko: If I won the lottery or otherwise inherited a business tomorrow, you would be the first person I’d hire.

substance_p: Sometimes I think it’d be a good idea to rent a van, drive to Toronto, and literally fucking kidnap you. I think that might be best for everyone involved.

t0yb0x: We love you, you know.

zeewhiteninja: Do you remember when there was only one set of footprints? That’s when I was carrying you.

There were many more, but the words on my screen are starting to blur. One more, for someone more familiar:

Leslie — you’re my partner in all things, and the most beautiful girl I’ve ever known. You and me, okay?

I love you.

halfway to fifty

I’m about to head out for my traditional birthday coffee. Leslie’s hanging in the living room, Zanne’s on the computer, and Charles and Yann are playing old arcade games on the XBox. X-Men, to be specific.

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes. I wish I had been feeling up to throwing a birthday party, but it just wasn’t in me this year. (My birthday snuck up on me, actually. I got one of those ‘free stuff on your birthday’ emails from a site I’m a member of, and I thought that I the site must have my address confused with another account.)

I think I’ll have to make up for it with a bash this summer, after things finish settling down here at The Geekhaus.

Thanks again, everyone. I must go drink coffee now.

Re:

Despite my sleeping adventures, I feel it important to note that I was woken up with juice, coffee, and a fantastic three-piece slow-cooked breakfast.

I’m not sure what it is I did to deserve someone like her, but I figured I had better marry her before she figures out that I’m secretly a robot I’m not a very good dancer.

Her dreams of being a ballroom dancing princess will be dashed.