This Is Getting Really Scary

Maybe you thought I was being histrionic when I posted this? Well……

Collapse in Ville-Marie Tunnel

As you can see from the above picture, a concrete slab fell to the ground in the tunnel portion of Autoroute Ville-Marie this morning. Fortunately — very fortunately — no one was hurt, and it probably helped that it happened on a Sunday morning when the Ville-Marie is not as busy. Repair work started in the tunnel last week and the collapse is being blamed on vibrations from that work.

This is one stretch of highway I know very well. If I don’t opt for the métro to go to the Village, this is where I drive to get there. Always. I’ve probably travelled that way hundreds of times since I’ve been living in Montréal. And although rare, I’ve been known to be at that very spot on a Sunday morning around the time this happened.

The same trip from my place to the Village through the city streets takes about 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes by the Ville-Marie. Today, for the sake of an experiment, I came back home from the Wal*Mart in Saint-Léonard by following Rue Jean-Talon instead of taking Autoroutes Métropolitaine and Décarie. It took me a few minutes shy of an hour …on a Sunday afternoon! I bet it would have taken half that time had I not opted for this little experiment.

It’s crazy! The city is THAT congested even WITH the network of expressways, and that network is literally falling apart. It’s infuriating to think that long-term maintenance has been ignored to this point.

It Feels So Good

So, yeah, I’m one of those suckers for high-energy anthems like this.

This was Day 1 of my 2011 summer vacation. To be blunt, this was one of those bad days …up until tonight’s fireworks, the last of this year’s annual competition in Montréal.

I know I’ll be going to the Maritimes, but I still haven’t decided the dates of my itinerary. When I got up late this morning, despite it being a beautiful summer’s day, my motivation to get anything done was sub-zero. I still have the winter tires on Junior and I would rather not do this long trip with them, plus he needs an oil change. What’s more, in the past month, the 10 Plagues of Egypt have nearly all played out in the apartment, and with only a few minutes’ warning, yet another workman — another one of the Irish super‘s sons — showed up at my door. I was civil with him, but barely. I just can’t take one more unwanted intrusion when I get in this mood. When he finally left, I mustered up the energy to go to the nearest WalMart to see about getting the work on Junior done. But “shoes” fitting Junior were out of stock and I found myself in the Saint-Léonard WalMart where, to make a long story short, I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon to get the job done.

Back home, my foul mood turned to nostalgia and I began looking up stuff on YouTube. Last weekend while out at Le Stud, I heard this song (posted above) that’s been haunting me for over a decade. I got lucky: I knew neither the title nor the singer, but after a few crafty searches, I found Sonique’s It Feels So Good. I don’t care if it’s not profound; it gets my spine all tingly each time I listen to it and, so, true to its title, it feels so good.

That wasn’t all that felt so good. So did my old standby, Michael Franks. This song brings me back to 1988 when one time at the Sacateria at Mount Saint Vincent University, I got Tina to listen to this tune on my Walkman. Indeed, I was remembering how she was floored by the lyrics and sound of Michael’s Innuendo.

Michael Franks — Innuendo (mp3, 8.45 MB, 5:52)
By the way, Torn, if you’re reading this, I suspect this might be completely up your alley…

And, of course, I also wandered to an earlier time with another Mike — Mike Oldfield, that is — alongside Sara during those odd times in the mid-’80s we spent together in Moncton. I realize Oldfield isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but for those of us he is, his masterworks like Crises can arouse the full range of emotions.

As late afternoon blended into early evening, I peeled myself from the computer to head to the métro to see the fireworks. I decided to go early to avoid the mad crunch and stay on the orange line to Berri-UQAM instead of transferring on the green line and going directly to Papineau. Being early afforded me the time to grab a few slices of pizza in the Village and call it supper before heading under the bridge to see the fireworks, which tonight were a tribute to the Beatles. But still early, I stopped in a park along Ste-Catherine for a smoke, whereupon a conversation was struck with me by he whom I shall henceforth dub in this blog Greco.

We ended up going to the fireworks together, and then returned to the Village for coffee, ostensibly to let the crowd dissipate before taking the métro back home. What I didn’t expect is that I would be returning home on the very last métro of the day, which fortunately is after 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, let alone the stuff he and I ended up talking about and could have talked about if I hadn’t been stuck on the idea of not taking night buses back home instead of the métro.

Back home, I posted a new status on Facebook: “Sometimes you just have to wonder why fate places someone on your path while you must simultaneously suppress the other thought that’s roaming through your mind, namely ‘What a waste.'” Indeed, cue to this posting last year. At the same time, I feel bad for thinking that. I feel it’s a poisonous thought in many ways and on so many levels.

It’s forcing me to think about, if not reconsider, the uneasiness of my relationships with straight guys. The catch, however — and I don’t think Greco would be offended by my saying this — is that I would not have known that he is straight if he hadn’t told me. Tonight certainly was a great lesson in debunking identity politics, that’s for sure! And by this I’m referring not simply to stereotypes and conjuncture, but to legitimate narratives of the fluid nature of forging one’s identity.

Back in my 20s, I could hardly stand being around straight guys. For me back in the ’80s, there seemed to be only two speeds between me and a straight guy: rejection or unease from the straight guy toward the gay guy. Hence only a very few straight guys were “okay” if sometimes begrudgingly, namely the partners of straight female friends and some work colleagues. Despite evolving attitudes generally, mine clearly evolved very little. Furthermore, they have been kept from evolving whenever I would come upon straight guys who are my age or even younger and they would often strike me as so old and so boring compared to me. In other words, I simply couldn’t (and often still can’t) relate to them at any level.

Then, when you least expect it, someone comes along and promptly debunks these preconceived notions. Yet you feel bad because some of those notions persist, like the “what a waste” idea. In fact, it’s downright infuriating when it happens because they can get in the way of a delightful human contact.

That aside, however, I feel that this day has come full circle, back to “It Feels So Good.” No, I’m not getting stuck on the specifics of that song’s lyrics, as that would be ridiculous to the highest degree. But I am thinking about how it does feel so good to have so unexpectedly encountered something and someone at this precise time when I suppose I needed it most. For as BeeGoddessC is fond of saying, people are usually placed in your path for a reason, and I’m already sensing that this was not only one evening’s pleasant conversation. At least, I’m hoping that’s not all it was.

She Said No, No, No

Sadly, Amy Winehouse said, “No, No, No,” and look where it got her.

I’m often slightly behind the times when it comes to popular music, and I find out about what’s supposedly current and hot by accident. Thus, I first heard Winehouse’s “Rehab” in September 2007 — only a few months after it was released, as it turns out — from an online playlist posted by the NowEx. But from the first time I heard that song, I was disturbed by it, not just for what it literally says but also in the context of NowEx, whom I was just beginning to get to know. He very much liked the song and he would sing along with it quite enthusiastically when he would get in one of his manic states.

In the months and years that have followed, we all got to witness the Winehouse train wreck. While I’m certain that I am not alone, I, for one, felt that “Rebab” would be prophetic. I fully expected that it was only a matter of time before we would read the headline we all read yesterday: “Amy Winehouse, Dead at 27.”

“Lots of parties and lots and lots of drugs,” NowEx replied to me very calmly when I half-seriously, half-jokingly asked him at the beginning of our courtship what he wanted to do when he grows up. A part of me immediately thought that this was the signal I needed to back away gently after that weekend was over, but clearly a much larger part of me was unable to overlook everything else that seemed so promising. So, that larger part of me just figured NowEx, 13 years my junior, merely needed a soft landing into the realities of adulthood, and I thought that I could be the person to gently guide him there. In other words, hindsight indicates that, yet again, the “rescuer” part of me emerged.

Time passed and we were living in separate countries, but we kept in touch constantly through Skype. There was no secret about the soft and harder drugs to which he occasionally had access. The episodes with the latter worried me intensely, but I figured they would become fewer and less important over time, especially once we would be together. It was established very early on that I would not and could not touch any myself, both because I have no physical tolerance for them and I would not want to jeopardize my job.

I realize I nonchalantly threw at you the phrase “when he would get in one of his manic states” just a few lines earlier. Indeed, whether or not his mind was “altered,” he could go from buoyant to blue in the matter of only a few minutes. It was striking, and even though I’m not a clinician qualified to make such an assertion but having known other people who displayed the same kind of mood swings, I am pretty certain that, if he were professionally assessed, he would be deemed manic-depressive or suffering from some kind of personality disorder. Nothing suggests that there’s a causal relationship betwen this disorder and drugs, but my common sense tells me that they don’t help any if the condition is present.

Then in early ’09, back in Mexico, a friend of his died — a friend with whom he had shared some crazy and magical moments, but with whom he had not been in touch much in the months (or perhaps even the years) prior to the sudden death. One such crazy and magical moments was a drive at breakneck speeds from downtown Mexico City to the beaches of Acapulco in a souped up convertible. Still, despite the recent lack of contact with this guy, NowEx was very fond of him. He was somewhere between my age and NowEx’s, and NowEx had spoken to me about him on several other occasions. I would even say that NowEx admired him in some ways — in fact, in many ways.

NowEx learned of his friend’s death in a social column in a paper. Apparently, this friend of his graviated in circles worthy of being written about in such columns — the “In” crowd. He died while NowEx and I were vacationing in Puerto Vallarta. The circumstances of his death were not clearly stated, but a drug overdose was widely assumed. Through many tears as he recalled his friend, NowEx, who knew this guy well, speculated that he probably reached a point where he just “let go.” This was someone, it seems, who was destined to live fast and die young.

One would think such a loss would turn someone off that “In” crowd, but not NowEx. One night as we were wandering the streets of downtown Montréal, he exclaimed, “¡Estoy aburrido!” (I’m bored!). He was thinking, on the one hand, about how he was missing the grand re-opening party at the “hottest gay club in Mexico City” which surely all his friends were attending and, on the other hand, the fact I felt too tired and not in the mood to go clubbing that night. As a concession to our different taste and age difference, I thought it only reasonable that he could go out to these places without me, but given that he had just switched to the opposite of manic mood a few minutes before his declaration of boredom, that merited me a clip that he needn’t the permission from anybody to do what he pleases.

I have just given you unprecedented insight into my mind-nubbing, crazy-making times with him, but that’s not the point of this post and the relation to Amy Winehouse. The point of this post was the first thought — no, sorry, the second thought — that crossed my mind upon reading the headline, “Amy Winehouse, Dead at 27.” The first thought, as I mentioned, went along the lines of “that’s sad but completely unsurprising.” But the second thought was about NowEx, and wondering if he, assuming he hasn’t changed, isn’t like his friend (and Winehouse): destined to live fast and die young.

It is a sad and troubling thought, although, I assure you, not enough to rekindle the fire of the “rescuer” in me. That fire, I fear, has burned me enough already. So, as Lady Gaga sings, “I’m not your babe, I’m not your babe, Fernando”. At least, not anymore.

Finally Took the First Step

The Doc is inI mentioned a little while back that my supervisor at work has been very supportive, to the point of offering to make that critical first call with me to get the ball rolling, as they say. But things got really busy at work, and at one point late last week I requested a meeting with her because I felt I wasn’t coping well due to the high volume of work as well as my state of mind. She addressed the first concern at the start of our meeting, but then gently but firmly reminded me that I had not followed up on her offer to make that important first call. So, looking at my schedule, we set aside more than an hour first thing this Friday morning for that.

We talked a little bit before making the call, and I admitted to having a big knot in my stomach in anticipation of the call we were going to make, as well as a case of the runs. “In my head I know this has to happen,” I explained, “but it’s as if my emotions want to stay inert within this rut I’m in.” She was both surprised and understanding: surprised because I make dozens of phone calls per day without thinking twice about it, but understanding because she knew this call was nothing like the calls I make throughout the day.

I mentioned in my previous post feeling some guilt, but what I don’t feel is shame. I am not ashamed in the least for seeking help. And I feel extremely fortunate that my employer provides free access to such help, albeit short term. Indeed, should my needs require longer-term care, I will be provided referrals and the expenses for that will be out of my pocket. But pay I will if I need to; I have paid for many things for others in the past, so the time has come for me to be generous with myself.

The consultant who answered our call took all the pertinent information and indicated that someone would be in touch with me within one to two business days. In stating my preferences, I mentioned that I didn’t care about the gender of the counsellor but thought I’d prefer a woman; that I didn’t mind if she was anglophone or francophone; that I would prefer meeting in person rather than doing the counselling by phone; that evenings or weekends were better for me, although I know I would have permission to take a few hours off work if that couldn’t be accommodated, and that my counsellor would have to be completely at ease (if not a specialist) with same-sex relationships. It turns out that Lucy (not her real name but per the image above) called me late this morning to make tentative arrangements for my first appointment with her, and I’ll hear back from her on Monday for a definitive first meeting time.

That initial consultant mentioned that if, for any reason, I didn’t feel I would get along with (as it turns out) Lucy, I was to call her back and they would work to find someone else. On the phone, Lucy sounded a little shy and nervous, but that could simply be due to calling someone cold and talking about a delicate matter; she might be entirely different once we meet in person. I’ll see. I don’t want to pre-judge. But I talk on the phone with hundreds of people per month at my job, and had Lucy been one of my clients, I would have found her a bit odd.

Another interesting thing the initial consultant brought up is that, through my employer, I could also have access to some legal counselling. Now THAT definitely caught my attention. I know that things shouldn’t be too complicated on that front, but not knowing where and with whom to start hasn’t helped me one bit.

I called my mom last night to tell her all the latest developments. She seemed very pleased. This is only the beginning, but finally I AM beginning. I had worried so much about letting her in on all of this for fear of her wallowing in worry for me, but it turns out it was the right thing for me to do. At least I have a mother I can speak to; not everyone is so fortunate. The support I’ve been getting from family, friends and work has been overwhelming but good, and for that, I do remain extremely grateful.

For in my mind, I know it will get better. Now it’s a matter of getting the emotional side to align with the mind.

I Dream of [not Jeannie]

GhoulsI decided to have a little nap after I got off work on Thursday — just long enough to get through the evening without feeling like I was dragging my ass, I thought. But my “D-induced” short fuse ensured that it didn’t turn out to be a restful nap.

In addition to having my brother and sister-in-law visiting for a few days earlier in the week (that was the good part), I have had several repairmen come to my apartment to look after sundry problems (that was the bad part). Also, since July 1, I have new neighbours directly above me — an East Asian family with at least 2 if not 3 small kids. Plus, the beginning of the past week was hot and humid, so I kept the air conditioning running in my office despite it being noisy and leaving me feeling drained (with headache) by the end of the day, as somehow that’s still better than feeling drained from oppressive heat and humidity.

So, I went for my nap around 5:00 and fell asleep pretty quickly, which was a sure indicator that I needed it. However, clearly the sound of the kids running above me filtered into my dream and my frustration about being stuck with living in an apartment building. For at one point, I dreamt that I got up and went upstairs to try to reach a compromise with my neighbour. When I knocked on the door, it opened. Inside I saw the parents to my left, sitting on a couch in the living room, letting the kids go amuck, while to my right I saw the little demons kids running into a bedroom and jumping on the bed. Upon which I screamed, “Okay, that’s it for tonight. No more!” And then I ran back downstairs to my apartment and quickly slammed the door, as if I were being chased by someone.

But my apartment door wouldn’t close; it was being forced open by a bunch of male and female ghouls/goths, who finally stormed into my apartment and started telling me off for being out of line for what I had just done. Uncharacteristically for me, I started not only telling them off myself but also hitting them, dousing them with pitchers of water that mysterious got placed into my hands, then hitting them with the pitchers. However, they continued to talk back to me, insisting not only that I had been out of line earlier but also that my behaviour towards them was further evidence of my being out of control. What’s worse, their claims resonated in me; I felt that what they were saying was true, but that only made me angrier and more violent towards them.

I woke up abruptly from my dream, most likely the result of a particularly loud thud coming from upstairs, and I felt just disgusting and awful. I don’t hit people in real life, and only rarely do I fly off the handle. And if I do fly off the handle towards someone, it’s because I’ve been pushed beyond the edge. The reason I emphasize “towards someone,” it’s because I recognize that I do have a very short fuse these days but I don’t let anyone see it. That’s the reason why I avoid driving these days: for fear of engaging in road rage.

On the one hand, I’m no expert on dream analysis and, on the other, I don’t like reading too much into dreams. However, it seems rather transparent to me that I’m feeling locked in and powerless, not to mention guilty. I’ve come to understand that this feeling of guilt, though irrational, stems from the need to take care of myself before others. I know in my mind that it’s wrong to feel guilt about this need, but emotionally I feel that I’m being selfish — hence the guilt. It’s all very crazy-making to say the least.