ed_rex: (1980)

Back in grades seven and eight, I was bullied in a pretty big way. Death threats (however rhetorical) were a more or less daily occurrence. Elbows in the hall happened regularly, and actual assaults on school property (inside the school itself, more than once) were, if not frequent, were not exactly rare.

And deciding which route to take home was a matter of balancing my desire to get home quickly vs the odds of being attacked by the thugs who had decided I was the one they would pick on.

Probably my biggest moment of shame and pride happened in (I think) grade eight, when the halls were full with students streaming from one class to another.

I was attacked by three or four guys, who took me to the floor and got in a few shots, then, laughing in triumph, took their leave. At which point I got to my feet and leapt upon the leader — Terry Scovron was his name, I'm pretty sure — and got in a few licks of my own.

Naturally, his thugs came to his aid and I was once again put down, but I felt a certain amount of satisfaction in having gotten in a few of my own.

What rankled, though, was hearing later, that word had gotten 'round that Scovron had beaten me up, no mention of his three or four henchmen.

Anyway, I digress.

I was actually friendly with one member of that gang. He was a nice enough kid, I guess. He hung with the bullies to protect himself, I think. They'd abuse him — mock him and hit him, but not too hard, and in exchange he had their protection and, presumably, some measure of prestige.

Anyway, one day after a test, when we had some free time in the same class-room, I asked him, "Why? Why don't they just leave me alone?"

"They're scared of you," he said. And when, baffled, I asked him how they could possibly be scared of me, he told me that it was because I didn't play their game. I just wanted to be left alone. He said (and I paraphrase; it's been a few years, and he didn't use the kind of vocabulary I'm gifting him with now) if I would just accept their dominance, they'd let me be. But because I kept fighting back, they had to keep putting me down. And because I didn't seem to care about their barnyard strutting, they had to keep putting me down. So that I would care about the grade seven, then eight, pecking order.

(This shit went on for two fucking years; and yes, the constant worry that I might be attacked for no good reason did do some long-term damage. Although, on the other hand, I think it's given me a little more empathy for how women feel when walking a dark street, or navigating a mostly-male workplace, than a lot of men have.)

Anyway, flash-forward to the present. The boss' mother (and titular owner) aside, my workplace is entirely male. Many of them immigrants, almost of us working class. Some, like me, with book-larnin, most without much of it.

I don't have a regular shift there, but get a new schedule every two weeks. And further, if I am going to be driving a crew out of town, I get an email with the specifics of time and (sometimes) of which vehicle I'll be driving.

A few days before Christmas I got one of those emails, with a note about the weather: you'd better come in at least 15 minutes early, so you can scrape the ice off the windows.

I texted back, "Thanks for the heads' up. And if [R] is fretting, tell him I'm already on the bus."

Fretting. I guess I should have known better.

R has made a point of using the word, fretting, every god damned time I've been in the office at the same time as him ever since.

Unlike grade school, it's okay. Instead of punches, my co-workers throw jokes. They tease, "the way men do".

One of the nice things about being a grown up, is that other people (usually) grow up too, at least to some extent. Where once my eccentricities elicited violence, now they are an identifying trait, not a threat. I'm weird, but I'm okay, I'm liked.

Which is a really nice change, even after all these years, let me tell you!

But even so, I think I'm going to get pretty damned sick of the word fretting before too long.

ed_rex: (Default)

Many years ago (I was a teenager, so we're talking circa 35 years godhelpme), I was hanging at a house-party, drinkin', probably tokin', and wandering about talking to this, that, and the other person.

At some point I opened a closed door, poked my head into a room lit only with a single candle. I'd heard music and been curious.

Inside, cross-legged on my friend Adam's futon, was Matt. Matt was a musician, a guitarist. In fact, he was the guitarist at my very small high school. In a way. He could play anything and sound like anyone.

You wanted Jimmy Hendrix? Matt could do Jimmy, note for fucking note. Or Jerry Garcia. Or Jimmy Page.

You get the idea.

I didn't really much like Matt. I didn't dislike him, but he always struck me as a poseur, as someone who was forever showing off his skills, instead of inhabiting them.

But that night (or morning), I opened that door and caught him unawares. And he stayed unawares. He didn't hear the door open, didn't know I was listening.

He was playing only for himself.

And he was fantastic. Just a young man really getting into his acoustic guitar and grooving. I don't know how long I listened, but it was long enough for a couple of my friends to notice me, half in and half out of the hallway and they too stopped when they heard the magic. The joy.

And yeah, I know these guys (presumably) knew there was a camera on them, but that's the feeling I get from this lovely piece of music.


ed_rex: (Default)

Moving isn't just about carrying your things from one place to another, but rather, almost a form of personal archaeology. In setting up anew, you find yourself opening files long closed and, instead of putting them quickly away, glancing through them, one name leading to another, like a late-night session with Youtube, watching videos of half-forgotten bands that once were favourites.

image: Photo of my desk and shelves in new office.

Putting my office into some sort of temporary order (I need a couple of more bookshelves!) really brought it home: sweet Jesus, but what a lot of people come and go through one's life! Or at least, have come and gone through mine. (And also: I used to write a lot of emails! Even more: There is value to have printed copies of correspondence; electronic archives seem much less likely to be serendipitously re-viewed. I digress.)

To cut to the proverbial chase, I ran into more than a few names belonging to people who had been pretty important parts of my life at times. Some for a season, some for years; some virtually, some in the flesh (carnally and otherwise).

What struck first was the number of people who simply aren't alive anymore. I still haven't lost many people to disease (I can't think of any, off the top of my head), but I've known far more than my share of suicides. Still others are to lunacy of one kind or another — unreasonable, alcohol-fuelled bitterness to out-and-out delusional insanity. Others simply to the bumps and bruises that see friendships end in mutual anger or disappointment.

But what struck strongest, were the names of people who had simply (or not so simply) slipped away. Wither Sonia P? We were friends for years, in Toronto and then in Ottawa, had a falling out and then — as confirmed by her file — reconnected a few years after that at a party and vowed to stay connected. And yet ...? Or Meri P. We hung out a lot for a year and a half or so. The file shows no break, no accrimony, but only an invitation to a party.

Did I go? I don't remember one way or the other. In truth, I have no memory at all of that friendship's ending, only that it was there and then ... not. I have only good memories of Meri and so, a mystery to go along with the nostalgia.

Enter Facebook.

I am almost certain I've found both women (but not absolutely certain: people are much more careful with their privacy settings than was once the case, and 20 years combined with my memory's visual limitations, makes identification from photographs problematic). One still lives in the Ottawa area, the other in Toronto.

Neither is an ex, nor even a person towards whom I had romantic feelings, yet I am strangely hesitant to click that "Friend Request" button, or to send a note. Considering how few people I know anymore — especially here in Ottawa — it seems a no-brainer to say "Hi" — doesn't it?

I dunno ...

ed_rex: (Default)
Was it 1970 or 1971? Nearly 40 years later, I don't know for certain — nor does it much matter. It was a long time ago and I, if not the world, was young and already strangely happy in my own company.

That June 21st of whatever year it was, I was for the first time aware of the summer solstice; awed by the implications that tonight marked the longest day of the year, counterintuitively also marking the start of winter.

I was determined to experience this, "first", solstice in all its glory.

We lived in a small town then, Two Mountains, outside of Montreal. Our house was a small one perhaps six or seven blocks from a small commuter railway station and an accompanying strip-mall.

As the sun neared the horizon, I left the house and hoped on my bicycle to cycle down to the tracks. I don't know if it was simply the sound of the passing trains or the sense of unbounded possibilities of their little-known origins and destinations, or simply that most of the kids I knew were forbidden to cross those tracks, but — whatever the reason(s) — I also felt a sort of solitary comfort when near the iron rails.

And so I stopped my bike, propped it against a tree and walked along the deserted platform until I reached its end and so stood, alone, by the tracks and waited for the sun to fall.

God alone knows the specifics of what went through my six (or seven) year-old mind as I tracked old Sol's course towards the horizon. What I can remember now is inchoate, words attempting to fix feeling, to name sensation. But I do recall finding a strange comfort in my sensation that, not despite but because I was so small, aware (to some extent) of the great size of my world and the even greater universe of which it was a part, that I was nevertheless a part of that majestic, uncreated creation.

Silent, I gazed at the sky, listened to the evening breeze rustle through green spring leaves, and wondered ...

I said I don't remember the specifics, and it's true, I don't.

But I feel morally certain that I contemplate my past, that I fantasized about my future, and that I achieved one of my first real intimations of the simultaneous antinomies that (at least in part) define the human condition. That we are all, ultimately, alone; and that, at the same time, we are intimately bound not only to one another but to the whole of creation.

No wonder I don't remember what words went through my mind.

I do remember the sky growing dark, then darker. When the stars began to multiply I found my bicycle, said a wordless good night to the train station, to the long-closed shops, and to the sun itself, then began my ride up the hill towards home.
ed_rex: (Default)
Easter Monday. The day of that Resurrection. Well, call me Geoffrey Magdalene if you will, but this past Easter Sunday I saw my own resurrection.

Back when I was a kid - roughly aged 10 to 14 - my Saturday evenings were spoken for. Yes, the Montreal Canadiens were part of it, but at 7:30, there was Doctor Who, as presented on TVO by a woman who would later become a friend, Judy Merril (but that relationship is another story).

Already on air for over 15 years, Doctor Who was a British "sci-fi" program that looked like it was shot on a budget that would have made Ed Wood more than happy. The "special" effects were anything but special. Its aliens made do with make-up rather than rubber suits and its space-ships were obviously made of painted cardboard, even when seen on a 12" black-and-white screen.

But it didn't matter. What the BBC didn't spend on special effects, it clearly spent on its actors and, especially, on its writers.

Doctor Who was the kind of fantasy that was exciting and comforting at the same time. It's plots were serious (as how could the "end of all life in the universe" not be?), but it's characters - without insulting its younger democraphic with camp - made it clear to its older, that it was, well, just supposed to be fun.

And fun it was.

The Doctor himself, the 900 year-old lone survivor of a race known as Time Lords, was a classic pulp-hero, a being who loved being in the thick of things. He would save the world every week, the universe itself every second fortnight.

Yes, it sounds silly. It was silly. It was that rare entertainment beast: "fun for the whole family".

The plots were fast-moving and playing to the highest possible stakes. But the Doctor himself was having fun - no tragic hero, he sought out adventure and lived to perform good deeds, and no matter that he was seldom thanked for them.

If not quite fearless, he was bold, he was kind and he loved his life. He was pert and saucy and had no time for for social pretensions. He offered as much (and as little) respect to peasants or small children as he did to generals or super-villains.

The best comparisons I can come up with are to Herge's magnicent series of comics, The Adventures of Tintin and C.C. Beck's delightful Captain Marvel. All three managed the very difficult trick of providing suspense and good-natured humour at the same time, with plots intricate and engaging enough for an adult's sensibilities, while being simple and reassuring enough to excite a child without terrifying them.

As can easily happen, I lost track of Doctor Who not long after I moved to Toronto, back in 1979. The show itself carried on for another 10 years, but I saw none of the episodes, nor any reruns. Doctor Who remained only a fond childhood memory.

And as time went on, I grew afraid to revisit that happy place. So many childhood joys prove, on encountering them as an adult, to be a pale shadow of the memory.

But between my brilliant neice and the equally-brilliant sabotabby's recommendations (among others), when I stumbled across it on Sunday, I thought it was time to take my chance on viewing the Resurrection.

Well, what can I say?

The new Doctor (Time Lords, it seems change bodies roughly as often as actors leave television roles to try for the big time) is no Tom Baker - but thank god, he doesn't try. Nevertheless, he is impish and impetuous, witty and adventurous and in general a delight to watch and listen to.

He is a marvellous Doctor and his latest side-kick, Rose, is just as spunky and more than occasionally helpful than you can ask a sidekick to be. (A North American aside: Rose's boyfriend is black and it - from this side of the pond - it seems just a trifle strange, in a good way, that absolutely nothing is made of that fact.)

In the first episode of the revival, Rose is saved by The Doctor when the mannikens in her department store come to life (never mind - I told you you're not meant to take the plot seriously) and ends up joining him (as what 19 year-old wouldn't at least hope he or she would do when offered the chance to fly through both time and space?) on his adventures.

"Is it always this dangerous?"

[Maniacal grin] "Oh yes!"

And they're off.

Though twice as long as the original episodes, the new Doctor Who (well, I'm behind the times. Ecclesone quit after the "first" season and I have yet to explore the "second") is every bit as engaging as the original. The plots as convoluted, the Doctor as charming, and the supporting players as interesting.

If you loved Doctor Who as a kid, you'll love the revival. It you are a kid, then by god, you're in for a treat!

The special effects are better than they once were, but this show still puts its emphasis on the writing. Dialogue carries the plot, not body-counts or 100-decibel screaming.

But for now, I have to watch more. After four episodes, the Daleks (not to mention Davros) have yet to make an appearance.

July 2017

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