And Then The Lights Went Out
I was having just another crazy day at work. A client had stood me up for an appointment, so I was taking advantage of the time I would have spent training the client to catch up on my follow-up calls with other clients. My progress was being slowed down by two particularly complicated files, but finally I was ready to make one or two more follow-ups before my next appointment (of four) when ZAP! …the power went out. The truck you see in the picture in the post had hit that poll on Barrington Street, about one city block downhill from my place.
My next appointment was slated to start some 20 minutes later. Fortunately, I don’t rely on our online database or Outlook calendar, choosing to keep a paper trail as well. I always worried that something like this might happen, and there it was happening! It turns out my appointment 20 minutes later also stood me up, but the power still wasn’t back on by the next appointment, so I actually managed to provide training on a computer application completely by memory — at once a scary and comforting thought.
When the power came back in time for my fourth appointment of the day, Dr. Snake Oil Salesman thought it an appropriate time to crank up his music, which earned him hearing a few firm taps of my broomstick against my ceiling. Thankfully he immediately turned it down. I really, REALLY can’t stand him and his heavy-footed main squeeze.
An exhausting day at the end of a short but exhausting week…
I Laughed, I Cried
I never delete e-mails (except spam, of course). I keep them all — incoming and outgoing — and, for the most part, sort them in folders. I’ve been using different versions of the same e-mail program since the mid-1990s; consequently, I still have messages from 1996. You might be wondering what’s the point of keeping all these messages. But last night, I rediscovered why.
Before e-mail, I used to be a prolific letter-writer, and my friends who’ve received those letters could attest that my letters were not only long, but unconventional. I would narrate my thoughts and what was happening to and around me as little stories — stories that were sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes silly, sometimes banal, sometime irreverent, sometimes sentimental. It was before the time I was addicted to word-processing for writing, when my handwriting was still legible and my prose, if I can dare call it that, would flow easily from one paragraph to another, unlike today when I can’t write worth shit with pen and paper and jump all over the place to edit and cut-and-paste as I write (as I’m doing right now).
However, when e-mail came along, I made the deliberate choice of viewing the keyboard and computer screen as a modern form of pen and paper, and the Send button as a stamp and envelope. I didn’t see it as giving me license to be telegraphic and sloppy, but at the same time I got off on the idea that, unlike old-fashioned letters, my missives would be received instantly. I kept my voice and continued to write the tales of my life as I had always done, and much to my delight, many to whom I wrote adopted the same candour when writing back to me.
Thus it really isn’t that surprising that I took to blogging nearly five years ago; it was an extension — a natural evolution — of what I had always done. But there are significant differences between my letters of old and this blog. The most notable difference is that, because letters and e-mails were one-on-one, my correspondents and I allowed ourselves to be a lot more coarse and politically incorrect because we knew each other well enough to recognize that we were indulging in hyperboles and that we could divulge raunchy details with the knowledge that they would remain between us. Writing in a blog, however, requires more tact and discretion, unless, of course, I as a writer chose not to care an iota that readers might misconstrue my musings due to their lack of context about me and knowing that I’m merely being flip.
Take, for example, a passage of an e-mail to my oldest friend, who happens to be quadraplegic. Although I’m able-bodied, I’d call him “The Crip” or “The Quad” in the same vein as gay guys might refer to themselves as faggot or how some Black guys might use the N word among themselves even though no one including myself would ever consider that very same word as being acceptable coming out of my mouth. Someone with no knowledge of my long friendship with him and the fact I was his attendant for several years — not to mention that he’d often call me a slut and a cocksucker — wouldn’t understand how anyone could write:
Speaking of people with that monicker, remember the crip who’s been studying at our alma mater since the Year Dot? Well, her wheels drove her into the ground so she’s six feet under now. She was a pain in the ass but no one wished her dead.
All this to say that last night, I started reading e-mails dating back more than 11 years. I don’t know what brought me to doing that, but it was an experience that, at various times, brought me to laugh out loud or get a bit misty-eyed. Moreover, these e-mails now stand as a detailed journal of countless happenings which, at the time, were incredibly consuming but that, until last night, didn’t even register as a memory anymore.
One set of three extremely long messages I wrote for the benefit of two of my closest friends at the time (as well as myself, I suppose) recounts, in the present tense, the days of my father’s open-heart surgery in 1996. I can’t tell you how glad I am to still have such a detailed journal of that difficult period of my family’s history. Many of the details are mundane while others are not; however, I was amazed last night to realize how many significant details I had long forgotten.
Monday, July 29, 1996 (the day before my father’s surgery)
Eight thirty comes too soon. Dad will have a big day tomorrow and he still has some pre-op prep to do before going to bed. He gets up from his chair, ties the belt of his housecoat and escorts us out the ward. He and Mom stop in the hallway so that my oldest niece can snap a picture. When we reach the entrance to the ward, we look out the large windows overlooking the parking lot and Dad points out our cars. He has few interests, but cars have always been one of them. Then we start saying goodnight and that’s when his tears come back. All choked up, he echoes our goodnight and, gripping his IV poll, he turns around and starts walking away from us, back to his room.
I break my own rule. I look back. But he does not.
Not only had I forgotten that moment; upon reading the whole series, I realized I had forgotten the long days of waiting for his surgery and the longer days of worries afterwards when the hospital was intent on shipping him out five days after the surgery even though he clearly wasn’t ready to be discharged. It was in those five days I figured out in my heart that the system had irreparably broken my father, and indeed, the remaining seven-and-a-half years of his life turned out ghastly when they weren’t wretched.
But not all the stories I’d e-mail at the time were of sadness and heartbreak, as evidenced in the first quote. The early/mid-1990s was the period I was bestowed the nickname “Whore of Babylon.” And I really played into that character both in writing and in action, whether to recount tales of whoredom or non-sexual incidents, like when I e-mailed a good friend about my then-car Homomobile blowing up on the way to the airport.
This here Whore resolutely gave up his spot in the fast lane a week ago yesterday when Homomobile decided that life wasn’t worth living.
Homomobile, you must understand, is the most ungrateful of creatures. He doesn’t care that this here Whore spent two grand on him less than three months ago to prolong his life by a few years. Nor does he care that, on any other four-wheeled motorized device like himself, the repair he received would work like a charm. And he certainly doesn’t give a sweet flying fuck that this here Whore is officially on the verge of unemployment.
Picture it: May 17, 1996, and the Whore of Babylon is driving the Queen of Sheba and Colonel Snodgrass to the airport so that they can catch their plane for Helsinki. At precisely 1.5 km from the exit to Halifax International, the Whore feels Homomobile lurch back and his gas pedal stiffen. The Whore’s losing speed. Without alarming his passengers, he starts moving into the slow lane. As he does, he notices through the rearview mirror that he’s leaving behind the thickest trail of oily blue smoke you could ever imagine. The cars behind him are not only peeping their horns; they’re keeping away in case the thing in front of them (to wit, *us*) blows up. Maintaining control of Homomobile, the Whore manages to get to the airport exit and crawl to the garage near the exit ramp, where, upon turning in the parking lot, all of Homomobile’s lights go on and he not only stalls, but seizes. As the Whore’s sexy neighbour commented a few days later, the Whore has a way of getting cars that are real drama queens.
So the Whore has managed to get the duo to the airport, although certainly not without incident, and he must then return to the city by shuttle bus. This is the beginning of the long weekend; therefore, no one deigns do anything with Homomobile before Tuesday. Already, the Whore figures that Homomobile is toast — not even worth the space he occupies. So a disgusted Whore finds his way to Stonehenge, where he drowns his sorrows in five DOUBLE gin and tonics, and gets the bartender to call him a cab home some two hours later.
Of course, I never forgot when Homomobile blew up; that story remains a fixture in the narrative of the days of the Queen of Sheba and the Whore of Babylon. But I had forgotten that it happened a week before my job at the time was ending and that I got drunk out of my mind that night.
When I was teaching, I/the Whore had no qualms in describing my colleagues as hot if hot they were, as in this passage I wrote to a dear friend with whom I studied in the late 1980s.
You wouldn’t know Gorgeous either; he completed his degree at our alma mater a few years ago, did a Master’s out West, and is currently considering a PhD overseas. But Gorgeous, who’s definitely (even defiantly) “family,” is nothing less than a Greek god: prematurely (short) grey hair; strong, angular Germanic features, pale blue eyes that make mine look like shit, and (based on my beach experience, although I regrettably have never partaken in the pleasure up close) a dick that grows hard and big and shoots like a freakin’ revolver. Gorgeous is generally extremely well liked by the students because he’s as challenging to them as was our own mentor in the program, with the added bonus that, unlike our mentor, he’s really not hard to look at.
And I certainly had no trouble telling friends of my escapades in the crudest words imaginable, like:
Yes, the Whore is back in Halifax after a dirty couple of days in Montreal!
Just got back tonight, actually. Fornicated with my rendition of a minor deity, a semi-Atom Egoyan lookalike, and then three guys sucked me off simulatenously in a dark hallway. I’m really tired today. Go figure.
I bumped into this guy at Infections, whom I did for a while in early ’97. To make a long story short, I found out that night that he just got a Nissan Sentra (same year as mine) and, later, I spotted it on the Hill. I waited around for him to return to his car and, no more than two minutes later, he “confessed” needing to be fucked in the worst way. So, what’s a whore boy like me to do but to oblige… There are plenty of guys who like to fool around, but fewer are those who want it up their ass — a particular delight for me to fulfill — pun definitely intended.
It’s with a considerable amount of shame that I admit now that reading some of these old e-mails reminded me of fuckbuddies and boyfriends about whom today I keep only an abridged and highly redacted recollection. That’s despite the fact that, at the time, moving on had been extremely difficult, but clearly when I finally did move on, I really did move on. And invariably, it was through writing and then shelving what I wrote that I was eventually able to escape from the pain. But reading some of this stuff many years later, I’m reminded of how long I’ve intrinsically known that I’m an “either/or” kind of guy in the sentimentality department: either a true whore, or a guy who, when he falls, falls completely.
Turning to Rachmaninoff. Seeing a carefully crafted sense of strength and self-reliance fall prey to so little. Heart pounding in my throat. An inexplicable sense of fatigue. No reproach; only a wish onto which I must hold, at least for now, to prevent myself from sinking into that pit I’ve once known. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered.
Alone in bed, deliberately lying on my back, fighting the urge to assume the fetal position I’d instinctually want to assume. Three sentences forming perfectly in my mind, with a sudden, irrepressible urge to send him flowers in the hope of expressing the different pains — his and mine — and the knowledge that our dilemma speaks more of our simplistic, adolescent immaturity …but that’s okay.
“You’re killing me,” he said to me as he was trying to leave my apartment that last night, his eyes locked into mine, and I echoed those words to him. And there stands the ellipsis.
Indeed, there it stands, amidst flashbacks and a few regrets, leaving a trail from intimate moments during which I committed the sin of sparing words for fear of irritating that unease within him that I sensed very soon after I first met him.
That afternoon the phone rings: it’s him, calling to thank me for the flowers. I can still sense that unease in him, even over the phone, just as I suspect that I might be adding another dimension to it. “Really nice card…” I hear him say. And then, neither knowing what more to say, what to do, if only, perhaps, speaking as though nothing more ever was. “What are you doing tomorrow night?” A play with a cast too large for the stage.
Looking back at this sampling of my writing from a decade or more ago, I find myself in awe of how much has changed and how much hasn’t changed, and how committing such raw thoughts and emotions in the moment not only allowed me to forge ahead, but quite literally forged who I’ve become. I both am and am not that person from 10+ years ago.
While I miss — or at least look back nostalgically at — that guy who wrote so constantly and so vividly, the last thing I want is to rebecome that guy. That guy was restless, never quite content, and very vulnerable. In fact, “vulnerable” is a word a then-friend of the Queen of Sheba used to describe that guy after she met him, and he took considerable offense to that description at the time. Today, however, the guy I am agrees that that guy was vulnerable because, for whatever reason, he refused to own and vehemently rejected his “or” part. To cut that guy some slack, perhaps it matters to recall he was bearly 30 at the time. But that hardly excuses the viciousness with which he would cut down others who aspired for the “or” he expended so much energy deriding, as when he wrote a friend about how quickly a guy he’d just dumped had moved on.
By the way, Dumped is head-over-heels in love with a shoe saleman in the town where they live who’s even younger than I am and who’s extremely eager to spit toothpaste every morning down the drain of Dumped’s bathroom sink. What a fuckin’ relief for me, but then JESUS! I get just a bit angry, to tell you the truth. Here I was worried about shattering someone, namely Dumped, and he had a Plan B all along. I’m now brought to admit that, in many respects, Dumped is about as deep as a puddle of two-day-old rain. Funny how I glossed over the shortcomings when I was in the thick of things…
Today when I read what that guy wrote more than 10 years ago, I think, “What a fucking, petulant bitch!” But then I think about how it was all just a façade and, worse, an elaborate (nor maybe not so elaborate) mechanism to make himself believe that he was right. And then, when I realize that I hardly recognize the guy who wrote that nasty passage even though that guy was me, I can’t help but conclude that I have changed. However, I have to own up — and am owning up — to the fact that the bitchy façade of old contributed to the change in some way. The passage of time and the acquiring of more experiences not only proved me wrong, but it helped transform me from someone who’s “restless, never quite content, and very vulnerable” to someone who’s basically happy, optimistic, and at ease with the notion of not being able to control everything.
Some of you might think that I’m saying that now because of the entry of El Poema in my life — a kind of distancing. However, with all honesty, I think that’s reversing the cause and the effect. It’s not that I met El Poema and that’s forcing me to deny positions I once took. Rather, it’s that I have been changing my positions well before meeting El Poema and it was that slowly evolving and more receptive person El Poema met in that park in Montréal in August. I truly believe that, and that belief is supported by an offhand remark BeeGoddessM made, coincidentally, just days before I left for Montréal: “I sense that you’ve changed in the time I’ve known you,” referring to her feeling that I wasn’t destined to be a lifelong bachelor.
I remember my reflex kicking in and receiving her remark with only a mild degree of skepticism, whereas before it would have been met with flat denial. But shortly before, I had written in this blog in reference to the Town of Truro’s refusal to fly the gay pride flag in front of town hall:
The thing I envy the most of heterosexual couples is how they can walk down any street hand-in-hand without it being noticed and without them feeling they’re making a public statement of any kind. I despise the fact that if two men hold hands while in a restaurant, they still stand the chance of being accused of “flaunting their sexuality” when the same would not be said of a man and woman.
Actually, that last statement just made me swell up a little. I’m realizing how, at nearly 42, I’m yearning for that little something that has nothing to do with appendages and orifices. All of this because the mayor of Armpit …I mean, Truro, NS, decided not to recognize my existence?
Just as this blog provides me points of reference in my past, so do my e-mails from so very long ago. Many think it strange when I tell them I still have e-mails from 1996. But what they don’t realize is that, for me, e-mail was my way of keeping a journal well before blogs came into existence.
Hence, after reading samplings of those e-mails last night, I indeed did laugh and cry a little. And then I spent this afternoon writing this blog entry. Because the whole experience hit me like a ton of bricks.
Can It Get More Exciting?
Oh. My. God.
El Poema and I have pretty well settled on where and when we’ll be going for our Pacific beach getaway. Fittingly, we made these plans on the first snowy day in Halifax.
The dates: December 21st to the 26th. Yup! How appropriate that I, who longs all year for time on the beach, will be spending Christmas on the beach! If we can make reservations, we hope to get a cabana at this place, in Zipolite, Oaxaca State.
There might be cheaper, more modest places in Zipolite. But like I told El Poema, we have to spend so much time apart, we should do everything we can to make our time together the fucking best — pun not intended, but I suppose appropriate.
As I write this, it is 0C in Halifax, 22C in Mexico City, and 28C in Puerto Escondido where we’d fly to get to Zipolite.
A Grab Bag to Catch Up
So, I haven’t blogged much lately, have I! There’s definitely a correlation between that and being awfully busy. But let me try to catch up a little.
The Incorrigible Asshole
It’s 10:00 am as I start this post, and the music has started already from Dr. Snake Oil Salesman (a.k.a. Pig Fucker). Last night was a treat: music coming from upstairs and rumbling sounds coming from the new neighbour downstairs who was watching some action movie DVD with his kickass surround-sound system. It bugs me that the sound proofing in this building is so poor, and after working 10+ hours each day, all I want is quiet and not feel like I live in a university dorm.
Incidentally, the stomping from upstairs I reported recently may not be Dr. SOS as much as his new live-in cow girlfriend whom I doubt is the mother of the 4-year-old who stays part-time. With only four-and-a-half months left before I move to Montréal, I’m starting to wonder if my approach should be one of “Let’s Make a Deal”: Give me peace for the short time I have left and you can resume being your normal inconsiderate asshole self after I’m gone. I pity those who’ll replace me, though, and I worry that I’m an old fart who’s just not suited for apartment living.
I Can Spread the Good News Now
I’ve made several allusions recently to the fact something good was afoot at the day job but that I couldn’t talk about it just yet. Well, now I can, and when I tell you, you’ll probably wonder why I had to be so secretive. But that’s just the way it goes when things aren’t official yet.
I am now a permanent, full-time employee at the day job. For my first 18 months, I was contractual. I suppose the writing was on the wall: one of the assignments I’ve been given (which, as it turns out, has yet to start) clearly didn’t have an end date, unlike a project that has a finite definition like calling a gazillion clients and doing this, this and that with them, and once that’s done in so many months, the project is over. However, although I saw this as a good sign, I didn’t want to assume — and thus I didn’t assume — that permanence was around the corner.
This new status is opening up a lot of opportunities and giving me access to some great benefits. But again, that only reinforces the notion in my mind that this job is an enabler — the means to an end rather than the end in itself. Yes, I now hold a corporate job, but I’m still not a corporate creature.
Time and Snow Flying
Great. The first wintry nor’easter is heading towards the Maritimes. We’re not expecting much more than 10 cm of heavy, wet snow by the end of it, but it’s still awfully early to be getting snow. I’m glad El Poema and I are planning to spend a few days at the beach in late December.
But it’s not just snow that’s flying; so is time. What is it about that? It seems that everybody I speak to is finding that time is flying by faster than ever before. The only segment of time that seems to be dragging a little bit for me is the “Countdown to El Poema,” and even that isn’t so bad. We started it when it was just shy of 100 days, and we’re now in the 30s — just a shade more than one month. In other words, we’ve been waiting much more than we have left to wait.
For me, the wait is harder some days than others. Some days, like yesterday, I wish that time would go by even faster so that we can really figure out where we’re heading. Other days I’m perfectly at peace with the wait. But invariably, all I want is …well …us.
Not Another Replay!
You’ll recall how I wrote not long ago that I have a terrible memory for movies I’ve seen. Well, it happened again last night with Amores Perroes (Life’s a Bitch) …except again only partially. This time it was the middle part of the movie, namely the portion that focuses on Valeria and Daniel. It’s probably a consequence of my days as a night owl, when I’d work through the night and take breaks in front of the TV or watch a bit before heading to bed. The moment Valeria’s high-heel shoe punched a hole in the hardwood floor, I said to myself, “Here we go again!” But I definitely hadn’t seen the first portion, and I know now that I never saw the ending before. At any rate, yes, what that imdb reviewer wrote is correct: Amores Perros is “far better and more complex” than Y Tu Mamá También.
Unrelated to the film itself: Because I have an ancient TV set, when I bought my cheap DVD player two years ago, I had to get some kind of adapter to plug the latter to the former. The problem with that setup is that some DVDs with super-surround sound, the voice track is missing; I only hear the ambient sound but do see the subtitles. Even though I need the subtitles for a film like Amores Perros, it’s discombobulating not to hear what’s spoken. When I looked at the DVD settings, I had a choice of that or dubbing in French with English subtitles, so obviously I chose the French even though I hate dubbing.
Now you should understand why I don’t plan to move some of my stuff to Montréal, like my ugly and heavy sofa and that old TV set. Better to save the hassle of moving such junk and simply get new stuff once I’m settled into my new place. For many apartments in Montréal, that could include big-ticket items like a fridge, a stove, and a washer and dryer. But if I’m choosing to go to Rome, I have to accept to do as the Romans…
Well, That Wasn’t So Bad!
So, I have canned goods in the cupboard that I can heat up if I don’t feel like cooking. Although some 100,000 Nova Scotia households may have had (and might still have) a power disruption, mine wasn’t one of them. The power may have flashed just enough to turn off two of my three computers, but that’s it.
A huge gust of wind woke me up at what I thought was 5:00 am. I got up for a bit, and that’s when I remembered that time was going back one hour overnight. So this is the time of year for us that we get back that hour we lost last April. Anyway, I eventually went back to bed, and it was a bit difficult to fall back asleep with the wind blowing so hard, as the wind was coming from the southwest and my bedroom is on the southwest corner of the building. I definitely felt a few jolts, but hey, if it’s going to blow down the house, what difference does it make if I’m sleeping or awake? So I finally just fell asleep.