[Blog] Thresholding Fast

Threshold

Even though most of my traveling lately has been between one home (Brockville, Ontario) and another (Montreal, Quebec), I will still say that I am fond of the traveling I do. Even if I am only moving between two opposing spots of familiarity, I still find myself feeling content whenever I am riding on train-tracks or roads back home.  Montreal is as beautiful of a city to leave as it is to enter.  Whenever I‘m travelling on the train and see that familiar red glow of Montreal’s “Farine Five Roses” sign, I often come to imagine it as a friendly wave saying either hello or goodbye. Whereas Brockville—well…Brockville is a city that never really changes, rather it seems to stay as it is, it seems serenely contained. It is almost as though the city has become trapped in a memory of itself; perhaps a memory of my ownself: my whole memory, where contained is my childhood, my remorse, but more dominantly my own surreal nostalgia. I enjoy traveling then because it lets me traverse the spaces between these two thresholds, between the progressive present and the frozen past: photograph to film, film to photograph, and yet one is not so different from the other.

To get where I am right now, that is to say back home in Brockville (sort of), I took a 4 hour bus trip that was divided into two parts. The first half was to Ottawa (a city I had lived in during the summer between living in St. Catherines and living in Montreal; also the city where both of my brother’s live), whereas the second half was my actual trip back to Brockville. Because I took the bus, I did not to get to see the “Farine Five Roses” sign in my leaving, but if I had been looking for it I probably would have. Montreal’s like that—it’s visible. Somebody once told me that Montreal had a rule where you could not build a building higher than the mountains. I thank the gods every day I spend in Montreal for it is because of this rule that no matter where I am in Montreal, whenever I look up I will always be able to see the daytime sky or the nighttime stars (but only if you squint through the city lights). To me a home cannot be found in a city where the skyscrapers seem less like buildings and more like prison bars. I take this thought and realize now that cities are living, not because they are alive, but because they are life, or rather containers of life, a lot of life, life that needs to breathe, not to be stored away in file-cabinet residences.

(Obscurely I remember a bit of my dream last night but it seems to be only a toe-nail off the foot of the entire person my dream seems to be. I still don’t remember my dream but for a second, before I had focused on trying to remember my dream, it seemed like I almost did. Subconsciously, I realize that this writing comes from a lingering dream that I regrettably cannot remember; a memory I refuse to find? And yet where my dream had seemed to have once been the clog to block my mind before, it is now, either because of my writing or because of the boozeanated coffee that I am now drinking, that my mind’s flow has become unjammed. )

Even though I don’t always get to see the Farine Five Roses sign, it is impossible for me to miss the Riverie Du Nord as I pass over it. Or am I passing over Lak des Deux Montages?  Bodies of water rarely have borders and so frequently, when seemingly stirred all together, do I find that they become confusing.

As I passed over (a body of water) the summer solstice sun was preparing to set, casting over the surface of the dark water a gilded sheen. For a while the water did not seem as it was, which is to say liquid in nature, but instead was frozen solid, but not like ice, but rather like something much more precious; like gold.  In observing this Elysium scene before me, I then spied a canoe floating across the surface. A black little boat seemingly no larger than my pinky finger which in actuality must have been moving, but when compared against the speed of the bus appeared to be still.  Still like a photograph and yet compelling like a painting, as though I was not on a bus, but rather at a gallery and thus spying carefully the brushstrokes hidden across the canvas of reality.  I was neighbored by a lady, a stranger who had taken the window seat, and was now asleep with her hand contemplatively resting under her chin as though she had carried her thoughts into dreaming.

A man behind me then whipped out his camera and took a picture. I felt sorry for this man. I wanted to warn him. In our constant attempt to capture every mortal moment of this waking world on convenient disks and god-spoken digital clouds we lose the knowledge that some scenes cannot be re-captured again—physically perhaps, but spiritually never. The man had come to take that moment of natural beauty and left it to be nothing but a collection of pixels in an array of a possible thousand other pictures just like it. It was a moment of its own moment, a mythic moment in memory; not to be a digitally captured scene, but instead a deeply embedded psychic symbol (as moments like it often are).  I capture it now in writing so that perhaps it will survive as I think it should.

There’s a kind of transformation that happens when traveling between Montreal and Brockville. Each place seems to be a world of its own: Montreal like rapids carrying me quickly through events I sometimes fail to even recognize before they have already passed, and Brockville, like quarry water, still and resting, giving me so little to observe and yet forcing me to look until the familiar distorts, becoming something completely new to see; a faint Mona Lisa smile.

Later on the bus and the sun had become mostly set, the sky turning purple, a resilient orb now singeing the tips of trees below it. This was seen from outside my side of the bus. On the other side, there was an early moon, white and faded in the tide of the coming evening sky. Not only was I between one home and the other, but also was I now perfectly stuck between Moon and sun, stars and skies, night and day. And then I looked passed my sleeping neighbor and saw in the window’s reflection that I too had been cut in half by shadow and light. I thought for a while that perhaps this threshold world had come to absorb me, consuming me until I myself had become not one with Brockville, or Montreal, but rather with the space that divides the two.

After my day home, I spent the night with my town friends. Over the course of the night a fog had enveloped our small town, holding us captured within its dense and opaque cloud. We celebrated the occasion by walking to the docks and jumping into the freezing cold St. Lawrence. Of course, I was the one to do this nude, imagining that the paleness of my full-skin would disappear into the foggy veil as I youthfully leaped towards the world unseen beyond, off the dock, into the cold, black, and familiar.

The street lights, beacons in the fog, shined their vaporous auras around us like crowns on tall kings, making us the jesters of their court.  Later when seated on a bench on Blockhouse Island, I looked forward and saw only a gray screen, and thus knew of the water only by hearing its nightly calls of low splashing waves, and distant dipping fish. Behind me, there were only outlines and lights; figures obscured and glowing bulbs, a sky-shining portal, a lighthouse red and calling. I was not lost in this fog, but rather, as though it was more a blanket, comforted.

As I dreamed of travelling again, replacing the paths between homes with an ocean, I began to think again of the thresholds between spaces. I contemplated silently the idea that I no longer would be separated by provinces, but rather by nations. Waiting across the ocean was there to be for me an entirely new progressive present to be had and, if that was true then that meant that waiting here still, between the borders of this country, would there always be my frozen past: photograph to film, film to photograph, and yet one not so different from the other.

[Euro-Trip] My Arrival into The Netherlands

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When I was little I dreamed of a day when there would be no more school. In realizing early on that most adults in my life didn’t go to school, I too realized that one day I would become an adult and find myself free. Public school would become high school, high school would become university and then, after all those years, it would be end of the line. To credit my once younger self this is exactly as it happened. However, as I grew older I realized that schooling, once my prison, soon began to feel like the safer space, making approaching adulthood more like my condemnation.  The closer the end of the line came, the more uncertain life seemed.

When this end arrived, I had two choices. Either I could continue my education and ride the circuit again or I could get off at station unknown and see what else I could do.  After racking up enough debt already, I decided on the latter. So I graduated without any immediate intention to go back, and boy did it feel scary, that is, until my younger self began to speak to me. Without responsibility, without commitment, I was, despite my debts, finally free. It was this initial feeling that would later help me consider a yearlong Working Holiday visa in the Netherlands. Like all my friends graduated before me, it was time for my Euro-trip.

**

My first destination outside of Canada was Boston, en route to Reykjavík, Iceland. I had never been to Boston before but as I flew in that afternoon I was surprised to see how antique the city seemed.  I’ve always enjoyed vintage things and bird’s eye Boston was a real time capsule, like a miniaturized toy set from a collector’s shop. I’d regret for a moment not having a chance to visit it on the ground but I had then only a few hours till my next flight; there was farther to go yet.

As someone who seldom flies, Boston’s airport was the biggest airport I had ever been to.  My dad who is more experienced with flight had warned me about its size, advising me not to be intimidated. He would tell me that airports are easy, ensuring me that if I simply followed directions and went with the flow I’d be fine.  Despite this advice, I did not feel fine. Luckily, before exiting the plane I overheard a couple talking to an airport employee, “We are going to Reykjavík.” At a near breakneck speed I quickly interjected, “Me too! Mind if I follow?”

The couple, a pair of middle-aged Romanians from Montreal, were more than happy to let me shadow them.  They were frequent travelers going for a 2-week vacation in Iceland. The couple had been married for 11 years. When I asked why Iceland, they told me it was the husband’s dream, that he really wanted to see the Northern Lights. We talked a bit more about their plans before we were separated by customs.

When I first came up to my gate, the terminal was more sparsely populated than I had originally expected. This was to my disappointment as I had gotten it into my mind that I would find plenty of other backpackers at the airport. In truth, it was mostly suits. In seeing those suits I was thankful for my brother’s advice. “Wear your suit,” he told me. Obviously this was so I wouldn’t feel left out.

While eating at the terminal restaurant I would run into the Romanian couple again and would learn a little bit more about them. The wife was a notary, whereas the husband was some kind of academic consultant (there was some translation difficulty). After hearing this, I felt apprehensive when they asked me about myself. I also was tired, my words failing whenever I made an attempt at embellishment. I told them straightly that I had previously worked as a cook, that I had been last employed as technical support for an American cable company and now was looking for work in Europe. They were excited to hear I planned on staying in Europe a year. I then mentioned briefly my writing, but in feeling somewhat insecure, I did not go farther than I am currently writing for a local hometown magazine.

After dinner and a drink, I decided to try my luck at catching a nap. I was not able to sleep and chose to people watch instead. The airport at this point had started to become busy, filling up with more suits and even some younger crowd. Seeing them verified for me that our generation is a very socially difficult one as any young person I saw was nose deep in their cell-phones and thus completely unapproachable.  Sometimes when people watching I would occasionally match eyes with another observer. Oddly, this always caused an awkward effect, as though both of us had been caught guilty of something. People watching became for me a kind of game, the object of which was not to get caught, but catching someone else earned a point. For my tired mind, this game was amusing enough.

Flying with Icelandair was a pleasant enough experience. I sat in the middle of two younger women. One was from Boston, a student, while the other was from near New York, also a student. Strangely enough both women were headed to Scotland to study (Edinburgh and Glasgow, respectively). Having graduated I thought this would make me the odd one out. This was not the case.  Aside from briefly chatting with my neighbors, I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes while attempting to sleep. I did not sleep well on the plane and often when dozing off I would jolt back awake just as my head falls. If done repeatedly in succession this would make me seem convulsive. That being said, I arrived into Iceland feeling like a total zombie.

I had only about an hour in Iceland and did not get a chance to see much. All I know is that the people are tall there, taller than me and I’m pretty damn tall—for a Canadian anyways.

After transferring onto a plane to Amsterdam, I was once again in the middle seat. Beside me was an Icelandic (?) man who did not speak English, and a Mexican who spoke too much. In being friendly, I always try to say hello to whoever I sit beside. Somehow the Mexican took this as an invitation to tell me some more than personal facts. First, she immediately felt it appropriate to tell me she was currently in a custody battle for her kid.  She then told me about her friend who masturbates to Jennifer Lopez videos. She informed me this was because he likes her ass and because she’s a good dancer. This was followed by a rather loud laugh which turned most of the back section’s head. She then told me that she thinks Jennifer Lopez is a total cougar, before telling me that she think she’s going to become a cougar because she is turning 30 soon. I then learned that she has not made plans for her thirtieth birthday yet, but she wants to do something big. Turning to me she then asked what I did on my thirtieth birthday. I told her that I was 25. She laughed again. More heads turned. She then said she thought I was older because I was bald. I told her that I was born bald. She did not get the joke. She then wanted to talk about traveling in the Bahamas. I told her I went to Cuba once. She asked me if any Cuban women wanted to have sex with me. I told her I was 16 when I went. She then asked if I was Jewish and I said no. I also found out that she thinks all Cubans are good hustlers, that she does not like people from Boston, and that she hates going to the Netherlands because the people are arrogant but would move to the Netherlands if it meant she could be with her son.  If I was more awake I probably would have informed her that she probably shouldn’t speak poorly about the Dutch when on a plane to the Netherlands. Regrettably, I remained silent, and she remained loud, making sure most of the plane heard her.

To try and end the conversation, I decided to put my headphones in. My first few attempts didn’t work as she had a habit of looking forward as she talked. Eventually I had to completely ignore her and then she got the picture. Obviously, my grumpier self, though attempting to remain friendly found her annoying and quite inappropriate. To remain pleasant I often reminded myself that she seemed nervous, and perhaps slightly intoxicated.

For the rest of the plane ride I attempted to sleep but failed, jolting up after each attempt. Of course doing so embarrassed me but no one made a comment. Same as when the Mexican woman was talking. Some looks for sure, but no comments. I suppose that when traveling most can expect that it will be uncomfortable, and that other people will be awkward and weird. After all, we are all flying together, we might as well show each other a stranger’s kindness. That, or, like the man beside me, other people may simply not speak English.

I arrived into the Netherlands where my aunt picked me up. Despite going into a panic as I started to imagine what would happen if they lost my luggage (they didn’t) my flight went relatively well. In the end, I was thankful to finally have a home to rest in. Though most of my family in Zaandam was sick or recovering with a cold, I did feel welcome there.  With much gratitude to my aunt, she gave me a house tour, made me a coffee and then let me rest, which is exactly what I needed. For the remainder of the day, I was with my uncle as we sat on the couch and watched History channel together. During this time, I managed to get some plans arranged with my aunt concerning this week.

For now, there are still some errands to be completed in the Netherlands and then I will be off to travel.

[BLOG] Fragments: A Traveller’s Discourse

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Roland Barthes – A Lover’s Discourse

After having read about in a Buzzfeed article, I just finished reading A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes. I rather enjoyed it. It was the kind of book that ran a scalpel across my skin, opened me up, and then forced me to observe my own autopsy. What I liked most about A Lover’s Discourse is that it wasn’t a love story. It was a love essay. It was a stream of conversation and philosophy about a topic impossibly intangible and frustratingly mystifying. I think it’s important that everyone reads it at least once in their life. I’m certainly glad I did because if I hadn’t I would have never discovered what I was missing…

After seeing it on my desk somebody at work once asked me about the book. I had said that my year of abstinence was done, that I was in the process of training myself to love again. This was meant to be a joke, and yet, having finished it only a few weeks before I leave home to go to the Netherlands, I came to realize that there was some truth in my initial jest.

My year spent at home has been a passive year. I was provided food and shelter, with my only concerns being towards working and saving for the trip. I’ve read more books this year than I think I have any other year, even when I was on a Piers Anthony binge during my younger days. This was because I had this image of “monkhood” in my head; that my year back home would be spent in quiet meditation, completely shut off from anything “real world.” Of course, this also included not indulging in anything related to matters of love. There is nobody in this town for me, I would say, so why even bother dreaming? Yet now, as my departure date comes closer, I feel myself rise again into realms of familiar, yet long withheld senses.

A few nights ago I went to go see RENT: The Musical, as my good friend was the show’s Musical Director. Having never seen the musical, as well as having fallen asleep during the movie multiple times, I was a bit apprehensive about going. That being said, I did enjoy the show quite a bit. As I write this, I still have songs stuck in my head. Given this period in my life I believe it was a good musical to see. In feeling attached to one particular song, La Vie Boheme, I was reminded of wine in Montreal’s parks, of group meals in a shabby apartment, of wandering busy streets on careless days till eventually always finding something to do.  La Vie Boheme, indeed. La Vie Boheme, I return.

Because it was closing night, after the musical we went out for drinks and then because I knew the Musical Director our group got invited to the after party.  I admit that I was quite past tipsy when we arrived at the house around 2 a.m., and had already been dancing with some hometown cougars at the bar. Though late our arrival was, the party was surprisingly still going; most of the cast was still hanging around.

It was the kind of party where everyone lounges around the living room, a series of micro-conversations scattered about. The air was tinged with a flavour of melancholy. Experience told me why. The company of RENT was coming together to face theatre’s most bittersweet tragedy: the last show.   I was on the couch, talking to a musician about Neil Young before convincing him to play Harvest Moon.  I’ve always had a particular fondness for that song. Come a little bit closer, the lyrics would then sing, and here what I have to say…

Sometime later that night, I went outside for fresh air [citation needed]. The air was chilly, yet not biting. The night dark save for a patio light above. There were three of the cast outside, one of which was smoking a cigar. On the window ledge behind, a collection of somewhat full cigars were left discarded. I asked for one, saying something about how celebratory cigars should never go to waste.   The actor, the show’s lead, was more than happy to oblige, confessing to me that the cheap cigars weren’t exactly being snatched up.

Suddenly it was just the two of us, standing outside talking about cheap cigars. At one point, my cigar remained lit while the actor’s own had extinguished. I didn’t think anything of it and offered to light the cigar with my own. I made an attempt but couldn’t get it to work. Admittedly, I never was much of a Bogart. As I accepted my defeat, returning back to where I stood, I came to see the actor again. Though this time there was no smoke and it became as though I were seeing the face for the first time. For the moment I became captivated. Though still intoxicated, a new, even dizzier spell had then taken me. There was a shift, cosmic yet swift. Suddenly I was not just talking to some actor about cheap cigars but rather was talking to someone I generally wanted to know further.

Cigar

Sadly, this isn’t a love story, and although there was a kiss, it had happened during a game of Spin the Bottle (yes, at age 25 I apparently still play Spin the Bottle) so in what reality would that count? I don’t even have a number, or a name, though truthfully there would be no point in pursuing the endeavor further. The actor’s show was done and I believe I remember talk of travel. Then of course there’s me, done as well, off in search of my own, other show.  What else was I supposed to do? We were merely two vagabonds passing through the same crossroad, our momentary conversation no more significant than a perfect meeting of eyes on the subway.

Still, though this moment was not grandly significant, I wouldn’t say it was completely insignificant either.  It was for me, rewarding: a momentary phenomenon to later become a chapter within my own re-awakening.  Stories like these never happen to me in my hometown, and rarely happen outside of it. That singular, momentary glimpse at something almost possible was benefited by its own sense of perfect innocence, and though the timing was off, the emotion was not. Awake, I was again awake, my once obscured view racking into soft-focus, an image of a face with daring eyes, a trail of smoke rising from the wrist (Ha! Bogart? no. But Wilder, maybe!).  If I was ever feeling lonely before, I suddenly was no longer, for the universe had sent me a great message. It was time to rise again.

It is time to rise again.  La Vie Boheme, indeed. La Vie Boheme, I shall return.

…Till then, I’ll continue with my last few weeks in Canada because come January I’m going to Europe.  Woo Woo!

[Onward!] Music You Can Stamp To! [To The Netherlands]

The tickets are booked. My bank account is filled. The New Year is coming closer. Back your bags young writer, it’ll soon be time to fly again! A year in the Netherlands, here I come.

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As I write this, I’m currently sitting in my living room with a pack of slumbering dogs surrounding me. Outside there is a full autumn moon hidden behind a veil of dark leaves. Currently I am listening to a playlist of music discovered while in Montreal. There are three names to mention: Ingrid Gatin (Though I knew her before), Eagle Lake Owls (Brought to me by Ingrid Gatin), and Motel Raphael (A true treasure of Montreal…perhaps even Canada).

I’ve been listening to this music a lot lately. In a strange way it helps me with envisioning my journey. Throughout my university experiences I had known a few travellers who had come from other countries. In meeting these people, I began to realize that travelling in a new land earns oneself a willingness to share. Most commonly I’d say people tend to carry with them their preferred foods, styles and, most rewarding of all: music. In meeting these people I learned that an entire history of a person can be found in the right album, playlist, or even song.

In one memory I remember eating at an African restaurant with my roommate from Cameroon and his friend. I remember greasy fingers as I ate strips of braised goat and drank beer. They’d talk about Cameroon the way anybody would talk about home: with nostalgia. Sometimes these conversations would end abruptly as a song is heard on the speakers. “This artist is from Cameroon!” the friend would tell me, “I grew up listening to him.” Suddenly there would be another story, another round of laughter. Sometimes I’d fall right out the conversation as the two argued about the facts concerning that particular artist. I never minded. Such dialogue was always fun to listen to.

When I look at my own mental playlist, I see with myself a mix of Perfume Genius, Folk, Classical, Classic Rock, EDM, and then a grab bag of Top 10s made memorable by dance floor inebriations and the hip swings that came with them. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Though as wide of a spectrum that my playlist is, when I break it all down I realize that not every song is a song I’d be willing to share to a stranger. When I dream of traveling, I dream of not only living experiences but giving them too. I dream of giving songs that haven’t been heard before or could not have been heard before because they are uniquely of my own blood. After all, I’ve adopted them—despite copyright laws they are mine. They can be yours too! In fact, I hope that you’ll adopt them. I want my experience to become your experience; I want to share and to mutually learn. You will remember that passing Canadian visitor and I’ll remember the stranger who sat me down and listened to my music. Is that too romantic of a notion? I would think not.

What I want most from my trip is to return different from the person that I am now. That being said, I also do not wish to completely change. If that seems contradictory it’s most likely because it is, although to those who travel it actually isn’t. In experiencing my own nomadic tendencies so far, I know that I can become reshaped by experiences. However I also know that though I may change, I will also always hold within some central sense of self. In excusing the grim notion, let’s say that I become a drug addict. Would I only be a drug addict? No, rather I’d become Phil, who is now (unfortunately) a drug addict. This is the magic of travel (referring to new experiences, not drugs). In travelling, we get our stamp, and then stamp back in return. This is what I’m looking forward to. Meeting people, sharing music, and leaving my stamp on every path I cross. Whether I succeed in my trip or fail (let’s not entertain THAT notion!), I know that it will be the very notion of unmolded, raw experience, of finding new music, that will prove my trip as ultimately rewarding.

[BLOG]: I Can Football And Now You Can Too!

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It started 4 years ago. I was living in Ottawa, Ontario for a summer while working as a cook in a corner steakhouse within the ByWard Market. Most of the cooks in that kitchen were young, though each of us came from diverse backgrounds. We had a French guy, and a Portuguese guy (who did a spot on Eric Bana impersonation), other guys, and then me, primarily Anglo-Canadian, though proud I was of my Dutch blood.

Before then I did not have much interest in sports, in any sports. I was living as a stereotype of myself. I had assumed that all sports belonged with realms inaccessible to likes of me. I just did not get it. Then one day the World Cup in South Africa began and everyone in our kitchen started getting excited. My co-workers started talking about Renaldo, whoever the hell he was and dives done by other players, whatever the hell that was, and refs yelling offside, a kind of divine punishment I’m sure? I suddenly became lost to my co-workers. I was outside of every conversation. I had no idea, had no opinion, a familiar sensation when it came to me and sports. But then during that year the Dutch had done well, really well, like almost (looking at you Spain) win the World Cup well. Suddenly people were talking about Robben, and Van Persie, and offensively orange kits—something good had been going on with the Netherlands! That’s when I got bit, I got the bug, I started to pay attention to that “voetbal” thing, after all everyone loves a winning team.
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Years then passed and once again I would crawl away from sports. On the odd occasion, I’d drink during a Montreal Canadiens game with friends or go to Toronto to see the Blue Jays play but none of it was like the World Cup, none of it had offensively orange kits; none of it was voetbal. Sure there were other sports and as far as I could tell every sport was pretty much the same: get that one thing into that place. But still it was not voetbal. There was no national pride. There was no spirit. There were no legions of countries holding their breaths during those last few seconds. There was no soul. Yes, soul, after all it is exactly as they say, Football is a religion.

Then Brazil happened, a full moon to the beast slumbering so long inside. The Flying Dutchmen were back! It was time to howl again. It was time to dust off the ole orange gear. It was once again time for voetbal.
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This year I was benefited greatly by following the New York Times World Cup Live Blog, an invaluable tool for a second-time World Cup viewer such as myself. Not only did they provide post-by-post relay to all that was going on, they also did a pretty good job in describing all the history and narratives associated to each game. Though I came to enjoy the sport, I think it’s the myths behind it all that made me love it. For example, before they played the Netherlands I cared for, actually cared for Costa Rica, the proven underdogs of the tournament.   The rivalries, the heroes, and, yes, even the villains, for me evolved the sport from just another thing-towards-that-other-thing game into a kind of operatic drama, where the entire pain of a country could be represented within the Swan Song that was Germany vs Brazil (sorry Brazil, really, I am).

I write this (and post this) in a hurry because in less than 4 hours Netherlands plays Argentina, a semi-final game that I am extremely nervous for – nervous, as in I-am-now-officially emotionally involved nervous. It’s strange for me. It’s even stranger for my family, who in watching Netherlands vs Costa Rica saw me swear at the TV screen for the first time ever outside of Game of Thrones (But honestly like, COME ON VAN PERSIE!). I find it funny, as I hurriedly rip around globes of social media during each game, that I’d become so involved within something that before I would have considered to be so silly. But then it’s really not that funny at all. As I talk to my cousin, or my brother in Ottawa, then message back my Aunt in the Netherlands, before sharing sorrow with my friend in Brazil, I realize just how big football is. It’s almost too big to ignore, too significant to let pass, there’s a spirit within football that the world needs. In all of its heartbreaks, near victories, cheats, and dives, the game itself can be a cruel mistress. But then also in all of those moments to cheer, to scream, or to feel relief, there is a kind of brotherhood defined only by which colour you wear. It makes you realize that as a country, our as some generational from a country, we are all in this together, that we are somehow connected by that ball going towards that place—but it’s not just nation that connects us, for not every fan lives in their country, but rather that we are connected by teams, our teams, as a team together.

So excuse this ex-bohemeic, would-be-rational, aspiring writer football fan when I say, Hup! Holland! Hup!
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[BLOG] A Guide Through an Odyssey Made Daily.

Bike

 

Imagine me and my bike, the noble vessel Unimatrix-0, atop our home’s hill. Poised for the moment, we face downwards towards the intersection below. You can imagine its sunny, or some variant of sunny, as I’m not keen on biking in the rain. There most likely is wind, a light wind—a brushstroke of spring wind, that shivers the brown hair of my beard. It probably is the morning, a cool morning. I am only half awake. I lift my shoe and place it onto the bike’s pedal. The decent downward begins, my hand lingering over the brake. I gain speed. My eyes widen. My heart accelerates. My body goes into warp speed—I am racing, and then somewhere from deep within my consciousness the theme from Star Trek: The Next Generation plays. To BOLDY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE! An introduction, there is a radio talk show beginning in my mind:

This is Inner Consciousness in the morning with nothing but the hits, presented by your host Id, Ego, and Superego. Today’s topic, the existential musings of a youth adult in liminal period, future topics for writing, and the merits of self identity in a existence split between diverging (and often conflicting) spheres of social influences. With special guest, Some Variant of a Fantasy Lover.

I rip past the intersection and find myself facing the journey’s first hill. My radio continues, turning itself on a dime: But first, from the archive of mundane but motivating pop music, we present you the perfect mash-up for getting up this hill:

I live for the applause, applause, better work bitch, put your hands up for Detroit, here comes the bass! Womp-womp-womp-womp…the radio rolls on as I roll on, passing this first hill easily enough.

A landmark follows that initial hill. It is my old public school that I pass by every time I go to town. In my eyes its lays in deep slumber, it feels like a living photograph. Sitting across is a cemetery, wherein countless possessions from the past also lay. My mind’s first commercial break plays: Nostalgia, when memory is just not enough.

I roll up my second hill, another mash-up begins:

You’re just a hideaway, there’s something about you—it’s hard to explain, take a chance on me, always I want to be with you—

The music abruptly ends, why are so many songs about love? I’m coasting along now, passing the egg farm where my mom used to work. The road flattens. The trip relaxes. An expository monologue begins,

Why are so many song about love? Out of all sentimental expressions, why is love always the most readily accessible? To want to hear about love, it’s a societal addiction. Why do my thoughts always feel so sophomoric?”

The third hill of this journey soon follows. Leaving home is an act of literal ascension; I have to climb out. The radio continues on, this hill is the biggest one so far. With their tanks, and their bombs, and their guns—and I say hay-yay-yay-yay what’s going on? Wikka-wikka wild, wikka-wikka wild, groove is in the hear-ear-eart…

This hill ends just as another hill begins, an ensuing decent that comes immediately after. After the climb there is pain in my legs. I stop pedaling. I gain speed, but then soon, all-too-soon, the speed is gone and I have to pedal again. No matter, the ride is easy here, it’s flat.

I come to the most scenic part of my journey. The road cuts through a forest. I become surrounded by green. For the sake of imagination, I give you a clear sky above, the sound of morning birds chirping along. A stretch of blooming trilliums comes up on my side, a garden of grey boulders behind them. Their collective whites remind me of snow, but only in its most wonderful form—my poetic inertia stops. No matter. It was time to stop anyways. I just passed the shooting range, which means another hill is to follow.

Taking care of business, keep on rocking in the free world, please allow me to introduce myself, dance magic dance, magic dance, magic dance…

I pass a few houses; friends of the present and past live among them. Memories of these friends pass through me, lingering dreams of sleep-over’s and Pokémon cards, of late night parties and of basement video-gaming. I pass by a stream and think about a younger self playing within similar currents. I pass the city dump and think about my dogs getting excited for their trips there. I pass by the golf course and think of my dad whacking balls across the manicured grass. I pass all of this and then I come up to my final hill.

My mind turns off as I roll over the hill, the city expanding before me. I can see all the way to the movie-theatre, maybe even a bit further beyond. You have now arrived at your destination. I then roll forward, downward, my final descent.

 

 

[Blog] A Moment of Reflection: On Finishing my First Draft

 

Winter has passed for another year and I feel awakened from my prior slumber had in those slow and frozen days. My dreamscape of snow and white, of ice and cold, is all gone, replacing all deathly pales with lively green. Returning is both the sun and my optimism. My own life now seems less like a dream.

I feel as though I have been absent from my own blog for quite some time. This is mostly due to the fact that I have been burning my oils elsewhere in other projects. On one hand there is my minimally paying work, my articles for the magazine and other assignments, and on the other hand, there is my novel, to which I have completed my first physical draft, a draft that now sits on my dresser in physical presence. In real form it feels momentous. After all, represented in those words, pages…chapters in an entire year of my life; it too has travelled with me from Montreal to here.

Creating that first draft was no easy task. Though there were others who impacted my work, no battle was worse than the battles I fought with myself. Often in writing my novel I was swirling within pools of my own self-doubt, within my own fears of inadequacy, or within the sudden strikes of heartfelt failure that comes from seeing entire paragraphs redlined by your co-writer with added comment such as, “What the hell were you thinking?” I now know that writing a novel is a psychological battle, the difference between my novel and ‘the novel that got away’ defined only by moments of brief personal triumphs. I can do this. I would have to tell myself, the first step is merely only getting it done.

In order to keep working I would look towards Neil Gaiman, with his attitude of “just get it done,” and my co-writer Tamara, a re-enforcer of the same philosophy. No matter how much I hated, resented, or felt defeated by my own work, I would never let myself believe that I was ever allowed to give up. Mostly because my co-writer, a veterinarian, liked to inform me that she has particular practise in castration of large mammals. The funny thing is, I don’t think my first draft was completed with the phrase, “I think I can, I think I can,” but more likely, “I must, I must, I must.”

When I first started writing my novel, I often felt plagued by the question, “What if it goes nowhere? What if I do all this work and no one even cares to enjoy it? Or even read it?” To battle these questions I would play games of logic with myself. First, I would say, is there ever such a thing as an experience wasted? Does an expected result unmet ruin the potency of all other results? To merely write a novel, to just finish the task, could be enough, not perfect, but enough. After all, I would then ask, how many people could say they have actually written a novel?

This question would lead me further. I would then start to wonder, how many people actually want to write a novel? Well quite a few billion, I’d answer. How many people actually have a story in mind? Perhaps a little less. How many people have the ability, skills or determination to actually start writing? The number gets smaller. Then finally, how many people actually finish their novel? Once again, the number is reduced. At the end of the day, I’m sure I could go on, (how many people write in my genre, write with my themes, in my style etc…) and the number would get smaller and smaller and although I could eventually get down to one (how many people are me?), in reality, it would be most effective to reduce the sum of people to a feasible, graspable amount, an amount that may still be tremendous, but not as tremendous as it could be.

There still is quite a road ahead of me, and the task of writing this novel is far from done. This is only a milestone, and whereas the little boy in me is kicking his feet and growing impatient, every experience within me says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and, “The most rewarding things in life are gained through only hard work.” I’m really not sure if what I created will be seen as good, important, or enjoyable, though in my heart it feels like my own child, but for now I won’t worry about that. I’ll merely appreciate the milestone. I’ll merely stop for a breath and take a moment to appreciate the path behind me.

[STORY] The Endless Track

Something I wrote for something else. 

train

        The Endless Track

He had always been fond of traveling by train. This was because ever since he was a child he had thought himself in tune with the many forms of movement that existed within his life.  Always one with a romantic mind, it was through this born sensitivity that he thought himself blessed by an innate way of seeing the world: beautiful and yet always passing. In his later years he had learned that scientifically this was because every moment is recognized in mind only after it has already initially passed by the eyes.  Reality was a kind of movement, a neurologic movement of information and although some people might feel dismayed by this, he never was.  To him it meant that his memory must be the lens to which he sees his world and so, with memory kept inside the mind, it was his own mind that made reality. If this were true, then he reasoned himself free to see the world as he wanted to remember it: Beautiful and yet passing.

It was thoughts like these that he mused on as he stared out the train window on his way back home after a long and yet ultimately conclusive summer in Montreal.  He had surrendered two years of his academic life to the city and in return was granted an Eden where paradise was unbounded as long as he never bit into the knowledge that come his graduation from Concordia University he would have to leave. Only when he had studied Milton that previous semester had he learned how he would come to eat that knowledge anyways, not because he was tempted, but rather because by the will of manifestations higher than his own he had to. Or at least that was his excuse for the while.  Unable to read his book that lay lifelessly in his lap like an autumn leaf, he continued to stare out the window, considering the scenes as they passed.

He watched as urban Montreal slowly transformed into rural Ontario and saw within the face of each passing scene, other scenes that had passed as well.  Sad faces, of which there were plenty, of the people he had considered friends and of the others he had considered as so much more. Infatuation was another movement, something that would leave his eyes often before he even knew it was there. He spread a breath across the glass before him and re-created somebody’s face with his finger. But when the face ended up unrecognizable he realized that the story he had been recounting could then only be fictional, made-up, and yet at the same time not so falsely told.

“You’ll come and visit, won’t you?” they said with their many faces, a look of sadness stretched across each.  Each of his friends left behind seemed to live within the lyrics of that one Vitamin C song they had all grew up on.

“Of course, no doubt, I’m certain, how can I ever not return?” he said back, with intention to keep each of the promises spoken. And if he could not to do that, if he could not be the kind of man who lived by his own intentions, then he’d keep a second promise slipped in whisper under the first, “And at the very least I’ll never forget you.”    That was a promise he could keep.

The sky was becoming dark. In the window of the train he could see himself reflected and it become almost as though he was staring out past outer-dimensional distances and seeing another self staring back. Who was that man in the window, he thought, what will become of him without Montreal? He stirred in his seat, rolled his head and began to look at the other passengers on the train: an old lady, a child drawing circles on the window, a young girl texting, smiling, and then turning to also look out at her own reflection. Who were these people? Who were they in this time of passing?

In each of them he wanted to find significance, he wanted his last train home to be full of allegory, meaning, but found instead a different kind of beauty within their own enigma. He found beauty not in the stories he knew, but rather in the stories he did not know. Their trailing pasts and extending dreams were to remain unspoken. He knew nothing of them except for whatever fragments of personal history could be seen within each pair of eyes. Even if in the worst of times, all those eyes only ever seemed to stare forward, only ever able to look at the track railing on before them.

Train travel was life’s most ultimate form of movement, he decided. When he had been at the station, he saw how the waltz of the everyday played out its steps for each individual, interceding only ever so often at the odd chance one could see a familiar face. A chance made less likely according to the number of screens one had accompanying them. But on the train, did these chaotic paths seem to settle for the while, did the players of life’s great ballroom seem to stop their dance and all look forward at the great ballroom clock and wait for it to strike midnight. When traveling on a train, all other movements seem inert, because for the moment one could only sit between then and the coming now, between departure and destination. He came to believe that time, as infinitely complex as it were, seemed to only ever move forward, leaving behind trails of memories in its past. That is how train travel felt to him he decided. Like a life determined to roll on, like a motionless dance floor anticipating the seconds till the end, like couples hugging one last time before each track would come to take them elsewhere.  Train travel as it were was both the start and the finish of life’s only dance.

But was that pessimistic to believe? He looked down at the book that lay across his lap. He had not finished reading the page but by an impulse seemingly higher than his own, he thought that he should turn it.  As his fingers came to grab the corner of the page before flipping it over he feared that from then on would he see every coming chapter as only blank. He feared that somehow the book in mutinous fashion would say to him, “you’ve read enough.” But this was not to be so. As he turned the pages over and over again he only saw more words to read, words that formed into sentences that constructed paragraphs, which would later build pages until all-together coming to create chapters and then finally the book. And even when he shut the book, finishing it for good, could it not become part of a series, part of a writer’s legacy, a single addition to an entire library? If he had never turned the page, then of this lesson he would have never known: that in the defeat of one chapter endings was there always another chapter somewhere in its wake. Life was never about any single page in its book, but rather about the turning of each page so that more important would always become the page behind it.

The train rolled in, slowing down till stopping. The stars above the station were brilliant and numerous, the stories within them beyond a million. Among that array of endless voices, he shared another. A story of a train that kept rolling on, that kept driving down its rail. At the time he knew that story well. It was after all, his story, the story of the endless track.

[Blog] Hibernation

Coffee
I think I’ve been sleep working. I think I’ve been sleeping through those moments. I’ll drink coffee to keep awake. I’ll drink coffee in the morning, a cup for breakfast and I’ll drink coffee when I get to work, a cup to follow. In this battle, caffeine does not help; caffeine does not keep me awake. It’s a hypnotic brew. Somehow it makes dreaming easier. I think I’ve been sleep working. Dreaming along through moments repeated, waiting for auto-pilot to turn on:

“Sure I can help you with that, and I’d be more than happy to. First thing, can I get the phone number associated to your account?”

“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

Cue laugh-track; I’m laughing to myself.  I’m a living reference to the IT crowd. Joke doesn’t get old, can’t get old, because I’ll say it again. I’ll say it again, and then I’ll say it without even thinking. Sweet auto-pilot! Set on cruise-control, I’ll be dreaming.  Coffee helps, an open window helps, the drifting snow flakes help.  I’ll be dreaming again. I’ll be far away into impossible fantasies, dreaming of wonderful things and of my memories fleeting.

Every moment that happens is already a moment passed. Every moment passed is a memory. Every memory is a time to be visited again, lived in again, and recreated again; life in the DVR (You don’t know how lucky you are!).  Sending a signal hit to the box will reboot it after a while. Does it display the time? Turn the box back on.  Does that solve your problem? Thanks for calling.  

BEEP.

I’ll sip my coffee. I’ll slide deeper. I’ll stare away. I’ll get caught starring, and then I’ll look elsewhere. Dream flakes fall in clumps outside the window beside me, white on white, on white. I’ll be seeing white. It’s just a slow fade till I’ll be dreaming again. Dreaming again of wonderful things and of memories…fleeting…falling, like flakes outside the window, white on white, on white.

BEEP.

My alarm goes off and its morning again. It’s the next day.  I am in my kitchen.  The cat is purring at my feet. There’s a cup in my hand and I see coffee inside. I’ll sip it. I’ll slide deeper. I’ll stare away. And then I’ll dream again.

I think I’ve been sleep working.

[Story] Escher

Something I wrote sometime long ago. Posting it now for good measure. 

Alfred clutched onto the railing of a staircase, his hand contrastingly pallid against the lightless black, Alfred’s grip tight as he slowly continued his descent. Before him, the old antique stairs stretched unfathomably deep into the arcane void of the night’s sinister shade.  In Alfred’s other hand he held a loaded revolver which he pointed precariously towards the opposing nothingness before him. With finger frozen on the trigger, he was prepared to squeeze at the first sign of trouble.

It was a loud bang that had originally ripped Alfred away from his slumber, but now as he slowly descended down each step had only silence come out from the unseen dimensions in front. Overtime, the deadened muteness of the surrounding shade had started to feel predatory as though Alfred knew that a beast was stalking him from somewhere within the dark.

Despite the hushed scene before him, there were other sounds around Alfred to keep him company. Like the traces of haunting winds that crept through the unseen cracks of the home’s windows. Or the hints of scuttling feet that came from the various creatures who lived behind the floral wallpaper.  Or the betraying noise of the occasional creaking step that sang out loudly, breaking Alfred’s sense of stealth and giving him away to whatever was waiting in the beyond. But most terrifying of all was there the sound of Alfred’s breathing, heavy, uneven, and petrified.

His heart would cease to beat whenever he took his next guarded move towards the following step below.  Only when the tip of his tallest toe came to touch the hardness of the upcoming wood panel would he feel his heart start to beat. Then as the rest of his barefoot rolled its way down to flatten itself onto the step’s surface would he feel the passing of time start again as well. But when he swung his foot forward, sending it flying once again towards the continuous unknown, would it all stop, recommencing only after his feet again felt solid ground. This pattern would recur for as long as Alfred perpetuated his descent: step, after step, after step.

For a while, Alfred had tried to keep himself alert by trying to imagine what had come to invade his home. At first, he thought perhaps it would be nothing; perhaps just his imagination. But then that made him feel unprepared. So then he imagined that it was only just a burglar; he pictured someone he could shoot in a legal act of self-defence. But that image did not last either.  Eventually his fear started to take over.   It soon became logical that there was the evilest of demon waiting downstairs for him.  But that image was lost as well. The image continued to change in his mind. It changed, and changed until it reached its final transformation. It was then that the image was of nothing but darkness, for whatever Alfred was about to face had become unimaginable. Yet still he walked downward, step, by step, by step,

[BLOG] Daze Passed


Lately my days have been marked by conversations concerning the weather. A while back, I remember my mom striking up a conversation related to this during a family drive into town. She said, after a sudden coming breath that broke the silence had between us before, “You know what? It seems that the radio only talks about the weather lately.” My father, the driver, chuckled, as he often does when mom says such things, and I, in the backseat, stayed silent, falling into a state of deepening contemplation. Within that suddenly said whimsical statement, I found a great metaphor for how my life had seemed up until (and beyond) that moment. As I look back now, I see my days marked by conversations about snow and the cold, the days seeming in memory as though they were mended together, broken only by the weekends in between, and even then, it was only because on those days I did not go outside, I did not talk. On those days I only wrote.

It’s because of this that I consider my past days in memory as rather dreamy. Back in university, during a film class I had come across the term “ONEIRIC,” which describes something as related to dreams. I had fallen in love with both that term and any film subscribed to it. Of my top most directors, I still hold Fellini dearly, of my top films I consider Last Year and Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961) highly, and despite her over-dramatics, have enjoyed myself a few films by Maya Deren.

Oneiric films are usually seen as slow, yet disjointed, psycho-analytical, poetic and of course, very surreal. Using the same adjectives, this is how my winter has seemed so far.  Am I dreaming? I’m sure I have been. Between the times of when I wake up, till the time when I have my first morning coffee, I am sure I am dreaming. Later, when I sit at my desk and stare at the snow falling down between calls, I am sure I am dreaming. When a hopeful fantasy walks before my sleepy eyes, I know I am dreaming.  Despite the English speakers around me, I am quite certain Fellini has taken directorial control of my life here back home. Perhaps I am just unknowingly reading life’s subtitles.

In this dreaming life I am living outside a fairy tale. I say I am outside the fairy tale as my life for now seems written as the unspoken prequel before any story ever beings. I am trapped in a magic garden, put under a spell, kept up high, stored until the story needs me. During my training for my new campaign at work (now I do cable, phone and internet services), I came across a most curious term: “Kept in a Walled garden.” When someone is “Kept in a Walled Garden” it is because their internet has acted against the Terms of Use Agreement and now their internet services are restricted. One can still have the internet, but not the entire internet. Go into the wrong corner of the web and a wagging finger will remind you, “nuh uh uh,” and then you’ll know your being kept in a walled garden.

I don’t mean to sound as though I am despairing. After the rush of life thrown at me during my years in Montreal, I consider it only natural that I would have down time to recalculate. As a writer, I am strengthened by living two lives, the extrovert mutated by the public eye, and the introvert hidden within jester’s clothes.  Life has become easy for the while, and so it is because of this that I may rest for now and find within myself the ability to dream away these sleepy days. I sleep because I know I’ll wake again, and then I will be rested.

Often at work, clients from the South will call in and ask us about all the snow they hear on the news.

“Isn’t it cold? Isn’t all that snow so horrible?” they ask.

“Yes, well it is quite bothersome, but in another way it is also kind of pretty at times.” I reply, laughing awkwardly to myself. But then as I look out the window and watch the snow pass by flake by flake, I suddenly come to agree with myself.

It really is all quite pretty, isn’t it?