ed_rex: Soccer (Soccer)

Back when I was a still a smoker, my father would regularly regale me with a litany of death in hopes of convincing me to give up the filthy weed. He was a journalist in the bad old days, starting in the 1950s, when booze and cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes were almost as mandatory as was the wearing of a fedora hat in the brim of which a card labelled PRESS was inserted.

And so it was that, around the time he turned 50, he started paying attention to the obituary columns. Former colleagues started dropping like flies, and almost always from heart attack or cancer.

And now it's started happening to me. Or rather, I'm observing the same phenomenon.

Not that most of the people I used to hang with are or were journalists, but the vast majority of the were smokers(and too many still are). In the past year or two I've learned of the following deaths: a cousin a couple of years my junior; Nik Beat, a long-time denizen of the indie writers' scene in Toronto; and Lura (no, not Laura!), a one-time friend and briefly a girl-friend. All within five years of my age, all dead of heart attacks.

I'll tell ya, nothin' says mortality like death, even at a distance.

And yet, life goes on. And so does coincidence.

Another death happened last week. Maureen Cassidy, whom I had known as a teenager better than most teenagers get to know the mothers of their friends (she and her husband Mike took me and another friend to see Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger once upon a time, not to mention giving me shelter for several weeks, among many other kindnesses), was preparing to head out to help out at Paul Dewar's campaign head-quarters the night of the election when she collapsed. It was a stroke and she died on Wednesday.

I learned of it via Facebook and another friend, who had similar memories of Maureen, will be coming up to Ottawa tomorrow for the visitation. I also reconnected with one of her sons on Facebook (we've been "friends" there for some years, but haven't really communicated much; you know how that goes).

But that's not the coincidence.

See, we've been having some maintenance issues at our apartment. In particular, and now a priority, with winter breathing down our necks, is our front door. It's warped and doesn't keep a lot of the cold air out; our vestibule is not at all far off the temperature on the far side of the door.

Anyway, CCOC's Maintenance Department has its issues and this morning I stopped into the office to make further inquiries as to the State of Repair. I was told that my last email had been forwarded up the line for a decision, but that That Guy was sick and maybe I'd hear something tomorrow. I made some frustrated but not-yelly noises and departed. I have the CEOs name and number in reserve and decided I would use it by Friday if Action Did Not Occur by then.

Image: Cover of The Dance of Lifey Death by Eddie Campbell. Click to buy at Amazon.ca
The Dance of Lifey Death, by Eddie Campbell. Click here to buy and support Young Geoffrey at the same time.

I guess my frustration got noticed. Because a half hour or so later, just as I got home, I got an email from the woman I'd been dealing with telling me she'd issued a work order and that a contractor should be calling me "soon".

I was in the middle of sending Raven a text reporting on that apparent success when my phone rang and the contractor himself asked for me.

"Speaking," I said, and he started to laugh, very unprofessionally. "You have a faulty door?" he asked, still laughing, and I said yes. "Geoff," he said, "I knew it was you! It's Ben, Ben Cassidy! I'm you're contractor!"

I was nonplussed to say the least. But pretty soon was offering condolences and then he asked if I would be around later on in the afternoon. I had the day off work and so, of course, I said yet. He came over later and we spent a couple of hours catching up on the last 15 or 20 years, sharing news of parents and siblings and kids and exes and ... well, you know. He even remembered, when he left (with his mother's ashes in his car; he's had one fuck of a roller-coaster of a week), to measure our door-frame so as to order a replacement for our damaged beyond repair number.

And of course I'll see him at the visitation tomorrow (if I can get off work) or at the celebration of life on Sunday (if I can't). And I rather suspect we'll get together in fact, not just in intention for a beer or six, sometimes soonish after that.

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)

The pollster's lament

Meditations on complexity and nuance

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story — from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

Over the years, I had a number of stints working for polling companies — you know, those people who call you at dinner-time and who want to ask you "just a few quick questions", from Statistics Canada on down through the food chain.

The most common frustration from those who chose to respond — and one of the reason I so seldom respond to polls of any kind, unless they're meant more to be fun than anything else — is that they almost invariably try to force the world (and the person answering the questions) to fit into a reductionist's dreamscape of either/or questions and answers.

This isn't so bad when the question is whether you prefer to the Montreal Canadiens to the Toronto Maple Leafs (hint: the correct answer to this question is "Yes"), but not so good when it has to do with morally complex questons about public privacy or private morality.

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story — from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)? )

Click to see all the questions )

July 2017

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