Thursday, June 25, 2009


Over the past month I have read more books than I have in the first 28 years of my life. Yesterday I read three book, cover to cover. (For the record, they were The Picture of Dorian Gray, Gulliver’s’Travels, and Breakfast of Champions. I didn’t read any of these for school either. I just wanted to read on my first day off in awhile, then couldn’t stop.) This is a new record that surprises even me. I was even surprised when I read two in one day two weeks ago. (They were Of Mice and Men and Slaughterhouse-Five. Incidentally, I’ve become quite the Vonnegut fan.) It turns out that the trick to getting myself to read, was to admit that I hate it, and I stopped trying. I hate reading, but I love literature. I hate history, but I love learning about the past. I love women, but I hate dating them. And so on.

Incidentally, I also spoke to Rose a few days ago. You remember Rose, the woman who stood me up two weeks ago, right? Well, we spoke on the phone, and I really like talking to her. We must have spoken for 40 minutes before I had to let her go and get back to an essay I was writing. (The essay was titled “Why do babies have to die?” and it was a 4000-word monster about how A Farewell to Arms, Catch-22, and Slaughterhouse-Five deconstruct the old American myths of patriotism and war, and create new myths of their own. Frankly I think it’s one of the best damn essays I’ve ever written – possibly because I actually read all of the texts this time.) Well, the day before yesterday, Rose stood me up again. I remember sitting there at the pub, alone, nursing the pint of beer I wouldn’t finish, watching some well-to-do middle ages man stroke the legs of some young, attractive, blonde, while I kept staring at my phone, then around the pub, knowing full well that she wasn’t coming. Why was I such an idiot for letting her do this to me twice. I’m ashamed of myself for that. She’s made no attempt to contact me since then, and I’ve no desire to contact her. I think she’s gorgeous, but I’m so cross about this. So yesterday, I took to reading. Maybe that was part of why I did three in one day too; I needed to keep my mind off Rose.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Every Rose has a Thorn

I spoke to Rose over the phone yesterday and arranged to have a date with her tonight, over the phone – and I must say she seems fun and has a very cut voice. However, today I got an e-mail to her in the early afternoon asking if we could have it earlier and relocated to a more convenient place. I didn’t get the e-mail until the evening, so I replied saying that was fine, and that she should call me to reschedule. When I did not hear back from her, I decided it might be prudent to show up for the date anyway, in the event that she did show up, since it’s only a five minute walk from home anyway, and since I just bought myself a copy of Dispatches by Michael Herr, which I brought along to keep me entertained in the event that she did not show up. When I got there, I immediately ordered a beer as big as me, and began reading. 45 minutes later, I paid for my drink and left, feeling a little dejected. I don’t like feeling like I’ve been stood up, even though it isn’t clear to me whether or not I was stood up, as the line of communication is a little fuzzy now. I know that she doesn’t have a cell phone of her own, and I’ve surmised that she probably lives with her mother. I figured this out yesterday when her mother answered the telephone when I called yesterday, but would not disclose who she was. But Rose told me, and really, I thought it was rather cute that she and I would be in similar living situations among other things, and that her mother would try her best not to disclose that. Anyway, I don’t think she needs to know that I sat there and drank alone, waiting for her like some lovesick pussy. I’ve resolved to wait until she contacts me and tell me when we can reschedule.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Yet another Lunch with Depressia

I had lunch with my dear old grandma Depressia today, and as per usual, she was obsessed with death.

“The woman across the street died.” She meant the women across the hall from her room. Why she’s been consistently confusing “street” with “hall” is not entirely clear to me. “She was young.”

“What do you mean she was young?”

“Well, she was a young grandmother. Her daughter was young and her grandchildren were babies.”

“Right. Okay.”

She handed me a handwritten list of news headlines that she said she copied down from the TV. Most of them were about death. My grandmother is obsessed with death.

“I copied this out so that you could read the news.”

Wow, that’s really crazy, I thought.

“My handwriting is terrible now. It’s because my hands shake. It’s just dreadful, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. I’m ashamed to be called your grandson.”

She laughed at my joke. I was pleased that she got it.

“I think it’s your parents’ fault that you don’t read the news.”

“Sure, if you say so.”

When it was time to go, she insisted I take her handwritten headlines with me so that I could read them. I obliged, and as soon as I was out of sight, I threw the paper in the garbage. It’s a shame she felt compelled to do so much pointless busy work, but there’s no reason for her to know that.

On my way home, I ran into my scriptwriting teacher from a few years back. I’ve always referred to him as “The Beast.” The Beast asked what I’m up to these days, and I told him I’m back in university, taking English. Apparently his daughter is doing the exact same thing, and when I asked her name, I realized that she’s in my class, and that I’d already talked to her. Small world. When I had spoken to her, I found out she worked at Stinky Wrinkles, a place that used to employ me, and the place where Ema currently works. It is a small, small world. His daughter’s hot, too, but I think she’s taken. I think she has a baby on the way, too, but that’s only something I think I overheard. Anyway, I was happy to see his face again.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Myth and the Hollywood Hero

You may all think I’m incredibly foolish for this, but for the first time in my life, I finally feel like I actually understand myth. It’s not that I never knew about it at all, it’s just that I didn’t quite understand its gravity on modern life – on my life – even though I’ve never really believed in the myths. Not since I was a child, anyway. At least I didn’t think I’d believed in any myths, until I started that American lit class a few weeks ago. Ever since the first class, when Professor B started in on her overall thesis of the course (or its focus, if that’s more accurate), which is myth, the American dream, and the male ego, I’ve had something of an awakening.

You see, the American dream isn’t actually everyone’s dream. It was concocted by a bunch of white, male slaver-owners who claimed they wanted justice, liberty, and that pursuit of happiness (or property) for all. It’s been fed to me at every turn, and I believed it.

Ever since World War II – Everybody’s wanted to be American, the Japanese, the French, the Russians, even the Canadians, and especially me. Why? Because they’ve established this dream. Why? Because they’ve had more success. Why? Because they stayed out of a war they felt was none of their business for three years while the rest of the world had a complete breakdown. Because let’s face it, that’s what war is – a complete breakdown of civilization. In war everything is backwards – instead of instinctively avoiding pain, men are trained to seek it. In most of the countries involved – its people didn’t want to fight. No one really wants to fight – not unless they’re insane, or buying into a myth of patriotism.

So the Americans became a super power, with the only surviving large economy in the world. All the while, Hollywood became stronger, and stronger, and stronger, and for years it’s become this odd kind of mythical standard, to which we all aspire. For years I wanted to get to Hollywood. I wanted to live the dream. I wanted to be among those who made the dream strong.

Why is that coming out of me now? I don’t know. Nine years ago, an old film prof gave a class on myth and ideology, but I didn’t get it back then. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it. To be honest, I didn’t get most of what was taught to me by my Film studies BA, and I think it’s because my mind was too isolated from the proper contexts to truly understand. Or maybe when I was 20, I was just really stupid, but I don’t think so. Maybe I was too caught up in my dreams of becoming a Hollywood Hero to want to break it down.

A few days ago, my mother told me, “I didn’t get my appointment again.” I didn’t ever know she was still trying to become a judge again, but I was sorry just the same. They got their woman judge for now, from among the defenders. And she’s really waspy and tough. The next appointment might not be for years, and then they’ll want a crown attorney. I’m paraphrasing somewhat, of course.

Now the US has a black president, and the myth is stronger than ever. Now more than ever, people seem to believe that if you work hard, you can persevere, and achieve your goal. But for every success story, there must be at least a thousand failures, or at least, a thousand tales of compromise and acceptance of something far less that you’d originally dreamed. Perhaps my mother and I are realizing this at the same time, or perhaps we already knew – but we were happier in denial.

My dream has been shrinking every year. When I was ten, I figured I’d be something awesome, like the prime minister or maybe a movie star or something, and then I got to be the lead in my school musical. Big deal, so what, who cares? In my teens, I decided I wanted to write, direct and star in movies. And I really did make a few, but once my Film BA finished, I was still a nobody, and I was still in Canada. At 23, I figured I could write the next great screenplay, and dash off to Hollywood and woo them all with my brilliant plots and witty dialogue. I studied screenwriting for a year, and I really did get good at the form, but I didn’t know anything of real substance – so I moved to Toronto, wrote a few mediocre screenplays, made very little money, and my worthlessness continued. But at least I had a girlfriend, and she believed in me. And I still had this dream of having children.

It was all myth, and it was my myth that I’d written for myself, but now I feel like everybody knew it was a myth, except for me. Now I’m 29, I live with my parents, and I know I’m a big joke to everyone – because that’s what we all do, isn’t it. That’s also part of the myth. We make our failures feel bad about themselves. We teach our children to fear failure. I still have a haunting memory, at age eight, of my dad telling me that if I didn’t do my homework, I’d be a loser with a shitty job, or no job, married to “a fat mattress of a woman.” On one hand, I can appreciate he was trying to help push me toward success, like his scary dad did to him, but that again, I never responded well to scare tactics. Their effect was always the same. As a child, I’d shut down, and now, as an adult, I retaliate. The homework kept piling up, and I was still expected to do it all, and it became terribly daunting. “Everyone else did theirs,” they told me. “Everyone else has a job. I got one.” they tell me now, and of course, if you really look around, it isn’t true at all. It’s a myth. I know lots of people who don’t work, can’t find work, and/or settle for low-wage jobs they can’t even retire from. The homework assignments were stupid and meaningless, and we all knew it. It’s easy for those with government jobs to criticize the rest in this town. They think guys like me are lazy, stupid, and a drain on the economy, and funnily enough, that’s exactly how I feel about them too. They’re actually paid to sit around and do nothing. I’m not.

We were all born indentured to our ancestors – to the extent that our entire reality is constructed to keep us from really understanding that. I’m not saying we shouldn’t work. I’m not saying I shouldn’t work either, but given the current structure of society, simply putting on an apron and going out to a job I hate, making minimum wage to prepare food for lazy investors who do nothing all day, and civil servants who do nothing of particular value to society all day, who spit on me, or call me lazy, is no way to live. Now it’s no longer whites doing it to blacks, or men to women, but we’re still doing it to each other. Now we perpetuate the myth that if you work hard, you can change that, but it’s a lie – and those who profit need you to believe that lie, so they can continue to collect their dividends, and their pensions, and so that people like me, can’t. And they’ll lie to you as long as they can, because they’re callous, ignorant, lazy, and satisfied, as long as you keep calling them sir, bringing them a plate, and cleaning the toilet after they’ve pissed all over the seat. (And yes, I’ve had jobs just like this.) And they say “If you don’t like it, go to college.” I’ve been to college. It’ll be three times when I finish this English degree. It’s a lie.

The other day, my folks told me that more years spent in school only translates to marginal increases in salary, statistically speaking, and that a Masters and PhD actually loses money in the long run. Of course, this isn’t exactly true – I mean, it may well be technically true – but it isn’t the correct way to think about it. You see, today, I really feel like I’m on the verge of something with this degree, but it has nothing to do with my personal success, and I think that’s okay. I’m tired of it all being about money. I am tired of people telling me to succeed, without really knowing how – just trying to get me to be neurotic about my current state, by telling me their own stupid story about how they essentially lucked into a job, thirty years ago, or fifty years ago, as if these tale bore any resemblance to useful information.

What I’m getting from this is knowledge, not money. But really, what got us all to where we are today is knowledge, not money. Well, money had its hand in it I suppose, but for the first time, I’m in university actually enjoying what I’m learning. I’m actually interested in what I’m learning. I’m enjoying studying the American authors who spoke out about the myth, even if they may not have fully understood it themselves – the implications are all there, in their writing.

Ironically, in becoming the mouthpieces of dissent in their respective generations, they too, became part of the myth. That’s okay. That doesn’t make them wrong, and it doesn’t make them hypocrites. It just makes them pragmatists and opportunists. And that’s okay. Maybe Professor B, the woman who opened my eyes to this myth, is also part of it. She’s got a sweet job, and she can skip off to Florida for a week and have a PhD student fill in for her, while she gets a sweet tan. And that’s okay. And maybe I’ll even find a cozy position someday, and succumb to the dream, and that will be okay. Heck, that’s what everyone else around me insists they want for me too. But I mustn’t ever forget this responsibility that we all have, to deconstruct this dream – and if I do, I’m going to need someone to remind me, or the cycle will never be broken. Until it’s a dream all people have a fighting chance at sharing, it’s nothing. It’s false hope, and I’ve never had any patience for false hope. Not when I know that there’s real hope.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

To Wait, of not to Wait, for Rose

I originally wrote an extremely long entry today, but I’m going to sit on it for now – because it needs work. My American lit class has opened my eyes to something.

For now, I just thought I’d share that I just gave my cell number to Rose in an e-mail, and I asked for hers too, so we could arrange something, but this time, she read it, deleted it (which is usual), but didn’t reply (which is unusual.) She already said she wanted meet me for a drink, but now I’m left wondering if she changed her mind at the last second. I’m having a WTF moment, but somehow I wonder what else I expected, as this kind of things has happened so many times before – girls that I seem to connect with, but never bother to meet me – and for no apparent reason. Actually, sometimes they say it’s because someone died. I don’t even know what to say to that. I would think they’d reject me after meeting me in person. You can’t really know until you spend time with someone, right – and this is after we’ve already established we can carry on decent conversations without anything getting weird. Anyway, this doesn’t always happen, but it is frustrating when it does.

Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe she’ll call me tomorrow after all, and we’ll meet. And then maybe it will be great, or maybe one of us will feel compelled to spill our drink on ourselves and use it as an excuse to bolt. But I really don’t feel like waiting by the phone, just to see if she calls. Of course, it’s a cell phone, so really, it waits by me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Not Your Problem

I tried to save a bird today. I think.

But first, a little update.

I had last week off school, and with all that spare time, naturally, I did no work. I’m now weeks behind on my readings, and as terrible as it sounds, I’m going to try to catch up on them by watching the movie version, and reading what Wikipedia has to say about them, which usually, isn’t much. I know it seems like I’m cheating, but, well, the only person I’m really cheating is myself, and anyway, at least I’m being honest.

It’s not like I did nothing at all. I participated in two gaming sessions with Ema, and as a result, am chipping away on a post-apocalyptic fantasy story, that so far, I’m actually rather pleased with. It’s being written according to what we do on the campaign, but it isn’t simply a journal of our adventures. It’s a gothic tale about light and dark characters grappling with the demons of the world, and their own demons too.

I’ve also been a little more proactive on the dating circuit. I’ve been in touch with a few women in the last little while who seem quite nice, and oddly, find me quite nice too. I’ve only had one actual date recently, but I’m hoping on two more soon. One of these women I’m waiting on is a PSW who works with kids with autism. I’m going to call her Rose because of a charming little photo she has on her profile, of her smiling, with a rose in her mouth. And for the past week or so, I’ve just been gushing over her. I’ve also been thinking about doing some volunteer work, but not for companies, and not with the hope of finding work either. That’s not part of my dream – it’s part of the typified American dream, that my parents, uncles, etc. have been trying to ram down my throat. I know I don’t fit in, but I’ve been working on it. Anyway, I’m interested in volunteer somewhere where I can actually help people. That’s it. I don’t fancy working for low wages at a company that shells out toys to already spoiled children. I want to be on the other side of that. And I have a few ideas, but I’m not going to get into them right now either.

I saw Parasite Eve for the first time in about two weeks. To be honest I’ve been trying to distance myself since she disappeared from my facebook list. Completely. I thought for awhile that she may have somehow found my blog, read it, and become thoroughly creeped out. Then again, maybe that was a very egotistical assumption on my part. Her account resurfaced the other day with her saying “I hate facebook!” and promptly disappearing again perhaps a day later. So I gather there’s a larger issue at hand than just me. When I spoke to her today she seemed distant – sad. I asked what she’d been up to over the break and she said. “nothing.” As stimulating as the following conversation might have been, I opted to lag behind in the hall, getting a drink of water, and go talk to a girl that was cuter and a little more upbeat anyway. It’s not like she waited anyway. I spoke to that other girl for about ten minutes about, you know, the usual absurdity of not knowing what the hell to do with our lives, and studying English, of all things.

Then I passed Parasite Eve again, just sitting on a bench outside. She looked like she was on the verge of tears. And that’s when it hit me. Whenever I see a sight like that, there’s a little voice in my head that says “not your problem.” But I hate that voice. So I asked if she was all right. I asked if she wanted company, but she said it was okay, and I just left. I was somehow reminded of Nurse Betty, and how as much as I wanted to help with, whatever it was, that what she probably just wanted was for me to go away. So I did. After all, it wasn’t really my problem.

Then after class, I found a small sparrow fluttering around the main foyer of the building. As the other students just ignored it, and as the voice in my head once again said “not your problem,” I peered around to try to solve this little puzzle before me. Another sparrow fluttered around outside (the foyer is completely surrounded by glass doors, which seemed terribly confusing for the trapped bird,) as if it were also trying to solve the problem to get its friend out. The doors don’t hold themselves open, so I looked around to prop one of them open. The only thing available was a large trash can, so I dragged that over to hold one of the doors open and then tried to usher the bird over, but then I gave up and left. I figured it was likelier to leave without me there anyway, (again, just waiting for me to leave), and I said to myself, “well, I did my part.”

Well, that’s my anecdote for the day. I’m not entirely sure I can give you a definitive point, but if you want to derive one from it yourself, by all means, feel free, because now, it’s not my problem.