In which our hero misses his train home

I am very tired.

I’m also in Ottawa! I came down Saturday for the Ottawa Industrial League festival, and stayed a few extra days so that I could DJ at my old industrial night. The festival was a blast. I got to play live with good friends, and I got to see a ton of new talent perform. Two of the acts had never played live before. And they were great! My first show was a disaster.

DJing last night was even more fun than the OIL festival. A ton of people came out to see me play that I haven’t seen in forever. People who haven’t been to Zaphods in years. Years! I played a ton of new music, and somehow also a ton of old music. Is there anything I enjoy doing as much as DJing?

It’s actually quite emotional to go back and be the guest DJ in a place you spun weekly at for close to ten years, which I’m sure is surprising to no one but me. The place seems nicer. When I saw my old book of CDs — my book! — it seemed so surreal that I didn’t live there anymore, that I left all my music behind, that I wasn’t there every week. It wasn’t an “oh my god what have I done” moment; it was more like looking at home movies and thinking it’s so insane that you used to be seven years old and lived in that house and now you’re a grownup with grey beard hairs who has to file taxes and consider intersectionality and whatever else grownups do.

I miss Zaphods a lot. I miss the venue and the community and the everything. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a music community like that again. Probably not, right? It took almost ten years to build that one, even if you ignore everything I did before I started DJing there. If I started a weekly night tomorrow I’d be forty-five before I’d have ten years of history behind me. And the idea of starting a new weekly night in Toronto that lasts ten years is hilarious.

I miss Toronto too. I miss my house, and Josh, and Audra, and Blinky and Mothra, and the Jamaican woman who sells me my beef patties and everything else. I should be home right now, in fact. Except I ended up trapped in Orleans and wasn’t able to make my train home. So now it’s the 1 AM greyhound for me, which completely fucks everything up because there was a ton of work I wanted to get done on the train before I ran out of steam. And I’ve got Things To Do tomorrow from 10 AM onwards, including a job interview that I am going to be wiped for. Not to mention buying the extra ticket wipes out all the cash I made from selling merch, which is depressing. The only saving grace of the whole fiasco is that a May Day protest rolled past the bus station when I was buying my ticket, and I got to spend the next couple hours marching and chanting with young punks and old commies.

Aside from missing my train, which has resulted in me being that weird guy in a sports bar wearing nail polish and writing journal entries at midnight, it was a fantastic trip.

I’m looking forward to coming home.

I don’t believe bad things come in threes (except when they do)

(…or, Why I Haven’t Answered Your Email Yet.)

1: Leslie

Leslie, with whom I spent almost a decade attached at the hip, nearly died a couple of years ago when a couple of her vertebrae collapsed. She was in the hospital for a long time, and surgeries and months of intravenous antibiotics left her severely immunocompromised. A couple of weeks ago I got a call saying that she contracted an infection which went septic. Her heart valves were infected, her liver and kidneys were in serious trouble, and she was in a coma, on life support.

After a couple of days of her getting worse, I packed a suit, made a few phone calls to people who needed to know, and headed to Ottawa. The first few days were brutal. A lot of sitting around with other friends of hers and talking. A lot of thinking about what the funeral would look like. Much to everyone’s surprise and great relief (including the doctors), things slowly started getting better.

Leslie’s illness (and my visit) also coincided with the Zaphod Beeblebrox 20th anniversary week, which means that I filled in for Leslie as a guest DJ for the 20th anniversary edition of Industrial Strength Tuesdays. I’ve been part of Tuesdays for about ten of those 20 years, but it was really fucking tough to be in that booth without Leslie.

All told, I was in Ottawa about a week before I headed back home.

2: Graham

A few days after I got back to Toronto, I got the call that Graham had died. (My bag from Ottawa was still packed, suit untouched.)

I don’t even know how long I’ve known Graham. I met him at the first couple of 2600 meetings I ever went to, which means it was a loooong time ago. Mid to late 90s. We were teenagers. Not only does the cafe we had them at (Cafe Wim) not exist any more, but neither do the next two cafes it moved to after the first one closed.

The meeting I remember most vividly from those early 2600s (aside from the meeting where I was congratulated by Graham and Mike on how my ‘Hack of the Year’ had hit CNN and thinking “CNN. Well, I’m going to jail.”) is when we ran a telephone line from our table at Cafe Wim down to the payphone in the basement. We stripped the payphone wiring with a lighter, got some alligator clips, and one hastily assembled beige box later we were ringing up the payphones at the 2600 meetings happening in California or wherever the fuck it was we called. They couldn’t understand Paul’s accent (“No, I said Canada. CANADA! WE’RE CALLING FROM CANADA! WHERE SANTA LIVES!”) and Graham took the handset and became our ambassador for the rest of the meeting.

But the reason losing Graham is excruciating isn’t because we were hackers. It isn’t because we were going to the same raves as teenagers, or DJing the same raves a few years later. It isn’t because of the roadtrips we took, or the terrible movies we watched, or the fact that we always had each other’s backs when one of us was calling someone out for sexism/racism.

This is why losing Graham is excruciating: When you put all of those things together, when you’ve shared so many important and formative environments, you end up with the rarest of friends — someone who understands you. Not just someone who understands what’s important to you, but someone with an intuitive sense of who you are, someone shaped by the same things that shaped you.

I don’t have much in my experience to compare that feeling to. It’s a bit like how I feel about my siblings. It’s more like when I read about people who have been through a disaster (or a war, or a cult, or…) and they describe the experience of running into someone who has been through the same disaster/war/cult/whatever. They’re a kind of family, because they understand so much about each other.

Graham was that kind of family. We understood so much about each other. And I’m having a hard time coping with the idea of a world where I don’t share with someone the experiences that Graham and I shared.

3: Jairus and Joshua

I don’t believe bad things come in threes. Still, I said to Audra when I got back from Graham’s funeral that even though I didn’t believe bad things came in threes, I was still anxious, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A couple of days later, it did:

Please consider this your notice to Terminate the Tenancy at the End of the Term for Landlord’s Own Use as per the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act. Once you vacate the premises, we will be renovating the property and moving in after the work is complete.

Now I get that it may seem weird for me to post about having to move in the same category as people dying and almost dying, but if I’m going to be honest here, I actually find moving more stressful than people dying and/or almost dying. I’m not being hyperbolic, either. I can’t deal with things that threaten the security of my living situation. All of my life’s most-stressful-events involve my living situation being threatened. (I was going to add an exception for ‘being kidnapped as a child’ before I realized I should probably pencil that in under ‘security of living situation’ anyway.)

So now we’re looking for somewhere new to live.

Postscript

I don’t want to write an entry that is all doom and gloom, so I’ll end with this:

Every day this week, I have eaten my lunch outside in the sun, reading. Spring is here.

613 + 416

Announcement.

I am leaving the fair city of Ottawa at the end of May.

I was born here, I spent my formative years here, and I’ve been back eight years or so now. I’ve been here more than anywhere else in the world, and I live about a ten minute walk from where I was born. I’m returning to Toronto, in the hopes of being closer to rare family members I want to spend time with, and in search of web communications work that doesn’t require bilingualism.

I’ve parted ways with my employer, given my notice to my landlord, and have started the search for a June home base in Toronto while looking for work and a July 1st apartment.

I love this city, and I will be back eventually. It might be five years, ten years, or twenty years — in the meantime there are streets to explore, and adventure to be had.

Forward.