A Taller Kind of Eddie

I am on the subway and there is Eddie. But not Eddie. A taller version of Eddie, obvs much younger than what Eddie would be now. Late twenties, same hair, same jaw, same energy; just…younger.

I remember my version of Eddie. He loved to sing, good dancer. He shook his fist at the moon and swore he would stay in the arts his whole life and pursue his dreams instead of swallowing anothers’. But practicality, bitches. The older he got, the more he changed his tune. Around twenty-five, he took a job at a bank. That usually means security for the rest of your life. People complain about banks but they do take care of their employees if you can get hired full time and not get laid off.

This taller kind of Eddie seems to be about the age of reckoning. He wears a suit, clutches a briefcase, looks a little like a little kid playing dress up. Wonder if this version of Eddie will take that middle management corporate job and move to Cincinnati? Almost sounds like a joke now. Or sort of cliche.

I’m on the subway when I see this taller kind of Eddie. I am off home after seeing the doctor. She bemoaned my little ear canals, the nurse bemoaned my wee veins. Nothing new. It’s a wonder I am here and can hear at all.

Thirty years gone, I look back at my twenties and I have a lot of friends like Eddie. I am pretty sure I could have made the choices those folks did. My own crossroads came just a few years later, at twenty-nine. I went a very different way and am only now looking back, when my position is so precarious, and my future still so foggy. Eddie is thriving, actually. Almost retired, he travels every year with his partner. They are really happy. He transferred back to Toronto a few years back. Unlike me, he rides the subway ironically, complaining about the dirt and the bums. That kind of privilege is bred of a security I have only had for short periods of my life. And not right now. Now? Now, I say, “yessir” a lot.

The taller kind of Eddie exits the train to his Associate level job somewhere. I am gonna assume he’s given up dancing.  But me? I go home and write this. No idea who has it better.

Ennui. Lifted.

I am looking out the window this morning and I am relieved to see the sun burning off the haze that was covering a subdued landscape. Sadly, my photo does not capture the real change from grey up to a clean blue but that’s what I see.

Not gonna say I am my old self but I am feeling pretty good today. Right on cue (according to my frantic googling about four days ago), I woke to a monochromatic world washed in gloom. And, after almost a week of a dragging ennui, I can see why people drink. My heart really goes out to folks with depression cause, I wanna say, this week almost killed me.

I can take adversity. Many of you know that I have dealt with my fair share. I usually have this ability to soldier through (sometimes with a sense of humour) and also keep my eye on that wee point in the horizon: I can pretty much always see where I am going. These are super-powers. Run of the mill, boring — but super-powers nonetheless.

WTF when the super-powers disappear! It’s the utter pointlessness of it all.

Enjoying your coffee?

The why is usually pretty easy for me. Not being religious, I tend away from needing an external source to justify my existence and instead put my hand on my chest and, feeling the beating of my heart, I am reminded what a gift life is. Well, that’s normally  enough. Otherwise, I just look at my daughter’s face. That clinches the thing. I know why I am here.

For about a week there, nothing was working and I figure that’s gotta be something like what depression is like. My heart, my head, my hugs go to the folks for whom the world has frosted and the sun’s light thin. I only had a week of this.

Oddly, I feel like the world is new. (This feeling is pretty much right on cue as well, apparently. I say this because taking a break from alcohol is a quantifiable process – everybody has to go through the things.) Even though all the problems from yesterday still dog me today (and there are some number, let me tell you), I am looking out the window this morning and seeing a brighter sky.

I would like this re-birth to find me standing on solid ground. I would like this re-birth to light my path as I launch my daughter and I prepare for my own quiet years.

Wait. Who the f*** am I kidding? I will never be quiet.

 

So. I Went To A Party.

So, I went to a party and I’m not drinking and I’m not smoking. I figured I could do a couple of hours without feeling too, well, grown up and so, I decided to arrive around 11. Yeah, I’m a night owl. Wasn’t too long ago, I wouldn’t go anywhere before 11, bitches; so, deal with it. (I am no where near as cool as that makes me sound. Seriously. I’m just a night owl.)

Anyway, I take the TTC and walk into this neighbourhood in North York. It’s like walking onto another planet, for me. No buses dare trundle along these streets. Lots of manicured lawns. The more than occasional Big Renovated House. Almost no traffic on these roads at 11 pm. The sidewalk inexplicably dries up and even more inexplicably returns. It’s empty. Deserted. Most houses dark. Sheesh. I feel safer downtown.

And as I am two streets in, there are noises, uh, I wanna say about a block behind me. At first, I rankle a little but refuse to look back because to do so would admit fear or apprehension – so, if it is some creepy guy, he might be emboldened. Dudes, I have read How to Stay Safe for Night Owls. Rule 1? Don’t walk on quiet streets alone at night. Jeepers.

So, now, I am that chick in a horror film. Unbeknownst to me, scary music has started to creep around the edges of my audience’s hearing, the camera angles become a little skewed and focused on the determination on my face, with some breaks to a shadowy figure or worse an apparently empty street behind. I am not that Vacuous Monster-Fodder unaware of her possible fate. Oh no. I am the Independent and Plucky One, guilty of thinking she can handle herself. We all have our tragic flaws.

Noises increase. There’s more than one person behind me which can be good and bad news. Noises increase. I recognize the sound of a woman’s voice and I relax completely. As I listen, I am aware that the woman is talking patiently. She could only be talking to a, I wanna say, six or seven year old with lots of opinions.  So a child.

Moments later, I feel a little swarmed. First passing me is a man in a dark suit and wide brimmed hat, hands gripping (almost white knuckling) the stroller of a sleeping two or three year old in front of him. His face resigned. He does not seem happy. Next another stroller; this child is wee. Fresh, tiny. But I only get a glance in the dark.

The woman’s voice has so entered the background noise of my head that I don’t recognize that she is talking to me until her hand and head positions make me realize she made a greeting. She wears glasses, has an almost child-like round face. Here head is kerchief-ed but I can see a few curls peeking through at her forehead. A second or two too late, I nod and acknowledge and say hello. She is relieved. I am not sure why.

She pushes the stroller with the wee baby. She wears a patterned blouse and long skirt. Running shoes. Beside her walks that child I knew had to be there in full body pj’s, tossled hair, a stuffy animal of some description in her right hand. She asks questions. My guess is she asks them only to hear her mother talk. They are walking because this child will not sleep, it dawns on me. An interesting strategy. At this point in my parenting journey, I would highly recommend children’s Gravol for their predicament but that would be drugging your child and unethical. So, I never wrote that. You never saw it.

They pull away from me fairly quickly, matching the pace of the man’s deliberate step. I get to my street, turn right, and am relieved to see a bunch of cars still there. As is usual with this crowd, there is someone in their car. Lights are on, though I don’t hear anything. I dutifully do not look inside.

I get to the house and walk in.

I go from this desolate, quiet, deep blue to a vibrant, golden atmosphere, full of chatter and bright, happy faces. There is an array of munchies, tons of bottles of booze, lights dancing on the ceiling. The room is warm and engaging but for the moment (for whatever reason), has lost its urban country feel and just seems urban, welcoming, convivial. My friend ND puts on a good party. I hug and am hugged. Thoroughly content, my only problem is what to drink, something I never used to ponder. I choose water from this cool jug. Not sure where to land, I see a group of women who do not have cups in front of them and I go settle. I have a great conversation with JC about women and stress and being alone and drinking a fuck ton every day.

I talk to various lovely peeps. I recognize that I am probably using too intricate a vocabulary and too dry a delivery for the noise level and the alcohol because none of my jokes are landing. I choose to smile and nod a lot instead and answer questions about how I am doing (with the not smoking, not drinking thing). Not long after I arrive, though, I feel the party losing focus and am thinking about leaving when the host starts the group sing thing.

This is one of the parts of this crowd that I love that most. They adore singing. They raise their voices together. It’s unlike any other group of folks I know. I sing with them a bit but never take the microphone. Not because I am worried about my voice (I can carry a tune) but because I do not and have never been able to remember lyrics unless I practice and practice. There are some lovely voices in the room. And some crazy antics that would take me too long to describe here but, surely, have to make it into my next play.

Before I know it, it’s 12:30. I want to catch the last train from York Mills because, right at that moment, I am pretty sure my idea of hell would be the Vomit Comet. I decide to leave. I hug and am hugged. I step out into the quiet blue. I am walking out and I realize the car I thought was occupied when I arrived, has merely left his lights on. I go back to tell them  and meet a wave, almost literally, of folks leaving, including the woman whose car it is.

I say good-bye again and walk out, doggedly, toward the lights, the traffic, and civilization, wondering how people live like this. Two streets out, I am picked up by a party goer, who drops me at Wilson and Bathurst. There are lights and traffic and lots of people on the streets. I notice a sweet text from one of the party goers (whom I adore) giving me props for quitting the things. I answer with hearts. The bus comes smartly. I am home in half an hour. Amazing.

There are tons of people on my street when I come up from the subway. The vibe is a little off, though. A couple is having a loud enough fight across the road, the man being so belligerent that I stop and pretend to check my phone until I see a couple of guys intervene, jollying up the man. I move on.

There is a lot of traffic because the bars are starting to let out and because people are still cruising the streets. A group of very drunk early twenty-somethings pass, their voices echoing on the buildings like the sounds of bedlam. But they are happy. There are a lot of people getting food. Even the Golden Griddle (never go there) looks like it’s getting business.

I think back on the quiet streets of North York. I am sure they wonder how I could live like this.

I go home and am told to go bed by my daughter who wants to chat with her friends online. It’s 1:30 am. I do not argue. She will be 18 in mere days. I have done what I have done raising her. I am proud of her. Bursting. I go to bed.

Waking up in the morning is still tough for whatever reason. I used to feel clearer when I woke up hung over. My body seems unaccustomed to so much sleep and either desires more or is a bit pissed off with me. Not sure which.

However, waking up in the morning, I remember the whole night and can record some of its details for you. Something I haven’t been able to do in some time. It’s a good thing.

 

The Thread Across The Ocean

I have become more and more flummoxed recently with the alt-left and the alt-right literally changing the meaning of words either purposefully or out of ignorance; so that they can seem to “win” or so that their point will be accepted by more folks.  Makes consensus a little difficult when everyone is confused.

It would be easy to go all intellectually superior and say that there are too many ignorant people out there who will fall victim to this tactic (I mean, we all have, over and over again). But if that’s true, then what is the point? Can democracy function even if the general populace is not extremely well educated – cause when are we going to be? Why are we arguing the same stuff over and over again? Do we really only want to “win” the debate and do we not really care about our fellow humans?

The first thing I am going to say is most people who debate politics give a f**king shit. They care. At their core, they are loving humans who passionately believe there is a right and wrong way to live. There, take that right wing friends! Caught you caring!

The second thing that comes to mind is language (especially and mostly English) is all wriggly and squirrel-y. Humans like to play and language is one thing we adore playing with: with sound, with meaning. It’s fun. (Kind-a irritating when marketers get their sticky little fingers on it but, that’s just me. And I am guilty as any snake-y little marketing pro.) As a result, language morphs and changes, small groups adopt their own slang to keep out the rest of the world, words take on and then lose meaning over time; we’re all swimming in the same ocean, eh? Mostly, we understand each other.

And to crash and burn the idea that a ton of book learnin’ solves the problem of language and imprecise meaning, remember that many essays in university (especially, you know, in the squirmy-wormy world of English criticism) start with a definition of terms. A section in which the writer proposes a bunch of words as base concepts in the essay and explains their meaning as they see it, so that the gentle reader is more likely to understand it. Note, I said, ‘more likely’ not guaranteed.

Take the term ‘income equality’. I used that term just recently in conversation and one of the folks I was talking to decided that he thought I meant that everybody aughta have the same income. That’s not what I was talking about cause I just don’t think equal incomes would work at all. We are all selfish enough to need a bit of incentive to get out there and get shit done. Here’s what I was talking about (video from Polizane on Youtube) and, because it’s such a standard item in discussion of wealth generation, mobility, and fairness in society, I figured my very passionate friend knew about it. Nope. Not even a little.

So, here’s the thing. Our squirmy-wormy language can actually be a barrier to our consensus. The alt-left and the alt-right are never going to agree. Boo hoo. Dudes, the alt-left and the alt-right are never going to agree. Never. Never ever. Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever.  There is no thread across this ocean except our own humanity that binds us.

Okay, so now what?

I would guess that most folks in the world are not alt anything. They don’t like the edge of the cliff. They don’t stick their necks out and they do not take risks. Ever. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever.

Soooooo, we never hear from them. They are at home and (from what I hear from my friends) reading all the things but they aren’t commenting. They aren’t saying anything. What if there is a reasonable consensus and we just don’t know it. What if we think there’s a problem BECAUSE WE ARE THE ONES SHOUTING!!!!

And perhaps there maybe needs to be no consensus between the extremes because the extremes are necessary to allow the rest of the population to make up its own damn mind, thank you very much. I include me. I am left wing but about as alt as a white picket fence (well, maybe my fence is fuschia) and I would like to make up my own damn mind.

So we get back to my point about language. I guess I am not as worried about folks who make mistakes but, more, about folks who will say anything to get people to believe them.  People who should know better and deliberately manipulate. Falsify scientific findings, exaggerate events. There’s probably a place in a hell I don’t believe in for folks like Kellyanne Conway who carefully, carefully lie through their teeth. Maybe there should be repercussions. A black belt in karate might be considered a deadly weapon and the individual responsible for their own restraint, so, too, should the sophists be recognized as extreme manipulators of language and be held responsible for their own transgressions. Could that even be a thing? How long did Andrew Wakefield spend in jail.

Now, before you all lose your minds, I am not against free speech. Quite the opposite! Fill yer boots! I am just thinking that with free speech comes responsibility and if one regularly lies like, oh, prezo-presto-forty-five does, then there should be repercussions.

Debaters could leave the language alone, leave the theatrics to the theatre (where we are the professional liars, I will have you know; get off my lawn)  and just explain their position on any given issue. I am not saying that all alts are sophists, mind. I am just saying that if you have to intentionally twist the language so your point looks better to the world, then maybe your position isn’t really that strong and you should stfu.