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The Most Gangster Vandalism I’ve Ever Seen

Friends,

Yesterday was Remembrance Day and I attended the campus ceremony here. I was wearing civvy clothes with my regimental headdress and Op Athena decorations, but there were a lot of active and former members in attendance wearing full dress uniform. I spoke with one of the guys, and he is putting together an on-campus group for student-vets. I think this is a great idea and I look forward to having coffee with these boys and building up the group into something special. In somewhat related news, a few girls told me how handsome I looked which is always nice to hear, and all in all it was a great success as far as days dedicated to remembering the fallen go.

But not everywhere. It seems that sometime overnight the cenotaph in Toronto got vandalized:

The text, YE BROKE FAITH WITH US, is obviously a reference to Colonel John McCrae’s World War One poem, In Flander’s Fields, although the source I read was reluctant to definitively make that connection…fuckin’ MSM!!

Some further context: This past weekend Don Cherry was fired from Sportsnet for obliquely suggesting that immigrants were not sufficiently grateful to the Canadian soldiers who (ostensibly) have made this country such a desirable place to live. Are these two events connected? I don’t know but there seems to be a common theme.

First, let me get the superficial out of the way; This is fucking badass. Ye broke faith with us sounds like the kind of biblical warning a supervillain would issue before beginning a campaign of terror. I got a slight chill when I saw it and it reminded me of the vandalized statue of Superman from the Batman v Superman teaser from a few years ago.

To a lesser extent I was reminded of Raoul Silva’s cryptic warming to M before blowing up MI6 in Skyfall:

I can’t help it -I love gangster shit, and there’s nothing more gangster than a cryptic warning. As much as I’m against desecration, I am (net) more in favour of artistic expression/detournement.

Also, I’m not convinced that this is disrespect for veterans. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a veteran who did this on behalf of disgruntled veterans as a criticism of the Trudeau government cutting benefits for veterans. Or perhaps it was a veteran who was troubled by what he perceived as excessive kowtowing to ‘immigrant norms’ or the way (again), the Trudeau government paid off Omar Khadr.  Add to the mix the Don Cherry controversy as a catalyst, and I could see a lot of moto soldier-types getting up like this.

Again, I’m not vouching for or co-signing the motivations or even the actions in an absolute sense. I’m simply speculating that this strikes me as an act on behalf of veterans by a veteran. And, as it was non-violent and subversive to a monument which is ostensibly for veterans in a climate where veterans feel they are being left out to dry, it strikes me as pretty badass and even poetic.

There is of course the possibility that it is a black op: Jussie Smollett for example, tried to defame the right by pretending he got attacked by them, and it’s possible that there are provocateurs who wish to turn public support away from white men by acting like a disgruntled veteran and doing something a disgruntled veteran would do. This strikes me as excessively complex though and perhaps ineffective, because if anything it would garner initial sympathy for veterans and that might not abate even if it were pinned on a veteran patsy. No, I don’t think this is a black op -too many competing sympathies.

Whomever did this, meant it.

Best,
-Dre

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6 Nov 2019 Lecture Review

Friends,
I attended a lecture this evening which I was very excited to see -a Muslim speaker from the UK defending the idea of faith from the irrationality of atheism. Lovely, as I feel most mafuccas need more Jesus (or one of his archetypal counterparts) in their lives.
I was disappointed.
Right from the get-go as one of the “lucky” 20 early arrivals I “won” a t-shirt but could only claim it if I signed some forms denoting how I could wear it and what purposes I could use it for. I realized that this was going to be a highly-politicized thing and not a good faith talk about reconciling faith and rationalism.
Needless to say I passed on the shirt for this reason and also because all my t-shirts say “Nicaragua” or “San Juan del Sur” on them and I wouldn’t wanna deviate from a working formula.
I listened intently to speaker when he came on and did my best to follow his arguments, but he chained together a lot of words whose meanings I know, but whose combined meanings I had to think about for a second. Now English is my first language and I know my way around some big words, but guy was tripping ME up at certain point with his verbose bombast and jargon, so I doubt that the broader audience – a lot of international students and people taking their first crack at post-secondary- were picking it all up. (Keep this in mind)
At halftime Q&A I asked him about his earlier assertion that there was no connection between “truth and survival”. First I asked if that was his contention or if it was something he said while laying out the position of his opponents. He said it was his contention.
SO I then asked him a specific question about his example, his example being: “If we were all dropped in the forest and I said ‘all mushrooms are poisonous’ and nobody ate them, we would have a better chance of survival, even though my statement is not true.”
I asked him if he thought that this was actually proof of the lack of connection between truth and survival or if it was a problem regarding the level of analysis -for example, was that little lie about all mushrooms being poisonous nested in a larger order truth about needing to make ‘one size fits all’ rules to ensure maximum survivability? He evaded this question and moved on. I was disappointed, but it was destined to get worse.
For part 2 of the talk he quoted a verse from the Quran which laid out four possibilities for creation:
You were created from:
1) Nothing
2) Yourself
3) Another creation (infinite regression as he termed it)
4) Uncreated creator
I asked him to clarify the importance of the word “Uncreated” in 4) and elaborate on how “Uncreated” differed from “Nothing.” It turns out that “nothing” is nothing and nothing can’t exist, whereas an “uncreated creator” is something and therefore can exist.
I can’t make this up, people.
The problem was not that his explanation was a purely semantical one (especially after he had condescended to an audience member for listening to his words and not his meaning), the problem for me was that he could have gone so many more interesting places with “Uncreated” -the threshold between being and not being where the rules bend and life is created; the “friction point” (no pun intended) where masculine leaves its impression on feminine and creation happens; a point on the cusp of being and not being.
But no. Uninspired, dogmatic, proselytizing semantics is what we got.
I also asked him to explain why we couldn’t have been created from another creator going back in perpetuity and why this eternal process of becoming and unbecoming couldn’t be considered God.
Well evidently because that was not what he had learned. No, God had to be a static thing.
Now remember I said to keep in mind that a lot of his ostentatiously sophomoric word combinations were beyond the reasonably expected level of comprehension? Well, the most avid of commenters, two older gentlemen up front who seemed to to be comprehending him as well as me, took him to task for his unfounded and recklessly-made claims. He not only evaded but also began condescending to them for their faith in the scientific method. I forget the term he used, but it was some slur for rationalism, “scientism”perhaps….
Then he took a moment to (and I fucking cannot stand this) read off the names of books that we the audience should all read, finishing with “and then come talk to me.”
Yes, he literally said that. He told us to go educate ourselves. The college paid money to bring this guy to speak. It was fucking embarrassing.
By this point my eyes were rolled into the back of my head and I’m pretty sure I had developed brain lesions for the stupidity of it all.
The piece de resistance though, and what made me finally walk out was that after giving us a reading list, he started ranting and condescending to us, repeating the phrase “Don’t believe what you see on youtube” and “Don’t believe the youtube philosophers”. There were other spontaneous utterances interspersed between these fallback slogans, but the whole thing seemed to me like he was trying to film a highlight sizzle reel for his own youtube intros. I walked out in disgust.
The whole thing seemed like a calculated attempt to polarize people against Muslims through smug, self-assuredness; there’s a lot of this polarization on yt because by rousing up the most ignorant of you intellectual opponents to be the most vocal, you can then classify all of your opponents thusly. Transparent as hell!
Oh, and I’m not big fan of Richard Dawkins, but this jokester spoke the man’s name as if he was on his level. He was not.
I’m glad I went, but I will never attend a talk by this guy again. Nor will I provide his name.
Dear Muslim Society of Georgian, please aim higher. There are so many great compassionate, humble, erudite Muslim speakers you could have invited, but you chose a smug, preening, psuedo-intellectual who covers for his ignorance with big words and who wears what his what he knows like an ill-fitting suit.
I invited a Christian couple to this event, and I would have been embarrassed if they had been able to attend.
Best,
-Dre
PS: Real conversation as I left
Organizer who had invited me: “Yo bro how was it”
Me: “Well I ‘m glad I came, but I decided to leave when he started insulting the audience.”
Org: “I can’t talk about it”
Me: “You just asked me, though”
Org: “I’m not allowed to talk about it.”
Me: “So you don’t want to know how it was?…”
Org: ……
Me: “Ok, well have a good night.”
Can’t make this shit up!

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This Sinking Feeling

I been up and down in prison; I’ve lived inside this cell.
Surrounded by these demons and the fiery gates of hell.
I blame my Mother and my Father for the man that I’ve become.
-I was born into this family; I was born the Devil’s son.
No I ain’t gonna see my freedom … ’til the day …
… they lay me in the ground.
-Ryan Horne, Terrible Tommy

Friends,

There’s this nuanced aspect of a more generalized existential despair which I would like to explore. It has to do with my inheritance from my parents, and since parts of this line of inquiry really hurt me to think about, I know that is where I must look.

In Sterquiliniis Invenitur – In filth it will be found

To be clear, I am learning to love existential despair, but every new encroachment of it on my life does take some time to get used to. And the more it encroaches the more clearly I see what has kept it at bay for so long. In fact, I realize as  I write these words that there are two bulwarks which have held back the despair,-for better and worse-for most of my life: The Strength of my Father and The Dreams of my Mother.

The Dreams of My Mother

Having been estranged from my mother for almost 20 years now, you might say this bulwark has been in disrepair for some time, but it would be more accurate to say I  have been chipping away at it even as I have been protected (suffocated?) by it.

Still, my mother was a big dreamer, and the magnitude of her aspirations made a deep impression on me.. There was always something, not exactly upward striving about her, but rather upward-desiring. More precisely, she wanted deeply and she had a way of externalizing responsibility for the fulfilment of her desires upon other people, including her kids (I was always meant to be a doctor after all). Still, in fairness to her, the Joneses weren’t going to keep up with themselves…

Two incidents from my childhood really stand out as perfect examples of the gulf between her life and her desires.

1) There was an affluent development we used to drive by on the way to visit my grandparents. The houses were mansions -like proper fucking mansions. My step-dad was a small business owner and he did okay for for us -we lived comfortably and had a beautiful house in the country, never wanting for anything. This one mansion though; it must have driven my mother nuts seeing it often as we did. I guess she felt entitled to that life -that of affluent Italian immigrants instead of the blue collar family she came from (hold that thought). In any event, one time we were driving as a family and she drew all of our attention to that unnecessarily, ostentatiously large house, too big even for us as a family of 7, and said something to the effect of, “We’re going to live there one day,” and while I don’t remember her actual wording beyond that, there was a way in which it was clearly indicated as a challenge to my step-father to give her the life she deserved. He, for his part, simply kept driving.

2) In March ’95 we took our first and only plane trip together as a family -two weeks in that storied paradise we’d all grown up wanting to go to, Florida! We spent the first week hitting the theme parks -a day at Magic Kingdom, a day at Universal, and (my favourite) a day at Epcot. We stayed in motels and had a very lovely time of it. But my mother, like Malory Archer, had a Trudy Beekman of her own -a rival who had to be on-upped at all costs; Cheryl D____. And so it was, when we got back to Canada we were instructed to tell everyone that we stayed at the Disney All-Star Resort.

Maybe if we had stayed here everything would have been ok.

Nothing about her life was ever good enough, and I realize that that same attitude has been a detriment in my life as well.

Now let’s come back to that thought I told you to hold -the one about my mother’s shameful, Southern-Italian, blue collar origins. See, I never saw it that way. As a kid, I always thought being Italian was the coolest thing, because that was what I was always exposed to. I guess it was overcompensation and correction for the racism my mother and grandparents had been subjected to as an immigrant family in the 60s, but there was never any question about the superiority of my Italian blood, and this delusion dovetailed nicely into the Oedipal-Messiah monoculture I was at the centre of as the first-born of the new generation. This over-correction, the aforementioned dreams of my mother, really fucked me up for many years. Her dreams and expectations, which I internalized to a degree I didn’t even realize until my early 30s, were worn around me like a protective cocoon with walls so thick I struggled to break free, suffering many years of stunted growth in the process. In my early childhood, this barrier had the effect of giving me an infallible sense of self-worth; in adolescence I lagged behind the other kids in social development; and at 17 I realized for the first time that in social situations where noone was talking to me, I might be the problem. Case in point: I remember the house party I was at in Summer 2002, sitting alone on a seat talking to no one (which was common enough), but for the first time it occurred to me that it was up to me to make something happen here (at the party and in life); I stopped assuming that other people’s priorities weren’t messed up because they weren’t talking to me. At that point I had already been estranged from my mother for two years, but in that moment I feel I truly breached and poked my arm through the cocoon -though the suffocating dreams of my mother– for the first time.

The Strength of My Father

Jordan Peterson is fond of saying that a good thing to aim for is to be the strongest person at your father’s funeral; the person everyone goes to; the person everyone can lean on. There’s nobody I love more than my dad, and his passing will wreck me, but I have nonetheless thought a lot about it and what it means for my fractured family. I know I have it in me to be the strongest person, to deal with things level-headedly, and (most importantly) not get sucked into arguments with my step-mother, Anita. But therein lies the problem: Once my father passes I can have no expectation of civility from her. When he passes and his unwavering devotion to me and my sister (his kids from his first marriage) passes with him, the centre of gravity of his family with Anita and their kids together will slip away from me entirely and I anticipate her roundly rejecting any help I try and proffer with the funeral or anything else. I will be out in the cold. Still, I can comfort my relatives and siblings, and if that is all I can do then that is enough.  There has been a long cold war fought between me and her and I know how scared she must be to lose him even though to lose him would be to have me out of her life once and for all. It’s quite the Catch-22 for her and maybe for me as well.
I have really tried to put myself in my step-mother’s shoes in earnest over the last year. Though I didn’t formally articulate it at the time, I guess I started with the assumption that she hated me and had legitimate grounds for feeling that way. So, what were those grounds?
Well, best I could figure, I am a 35 year-old wastrel whose guilt-racked father was never judgmental enough. His resultant indulgent treatment of me contributed to an overall shortage of self-reliance, and I still enable this treatment from my father by asking him for help (doing my taxes & collecting my mail while I travel, etc.) because that relationship –having my dad be my dad– is the best memory I have from my childhood.
Still, I get it, it’s not charming to be a 35 year-old child and I’m working on it.
But even today, I had my dad on the phone while he was in his basement going through my boxes looking for stuff to bring up to Barrie for me. I don’t like having stuff in his basement as I feel it is a psychological provocation to Anita, but he insists its not a problem and since I’m just re-establishing myself in Canada, it stays there for the time being.

Just the same, I know he has had mobility problems over the past couple of years and that going down in the basement and looking through my boxes is not easy.
I know he’s coming up to Barrie to visit his parents whose health is failing and who are struggling much worse than I am.
I know he still works as many hours as ever, now shouldering the extra burden of paying for my little sister’s university.
And knowing all this I have the audacity to ask him for help?
It makes me feel like shit, honestly, but I do it nonetheless.

Why?

Well, the sad reality is that if he didn’t come up here and help me I simply wouldn’t see him. After all, if I went to visit him at his home it would get his wife in a mood and then he’d be left living with her which I think is overall worse, so maybe its better this way.

And that is the ultimate irony of mine and Anita’s cold war over my father: HE is the casualty and he suffers from our inability to reconcile. How much does he suffer? I don’t know but I have this image in my head of Anita and I standing across from each other at his funeral as they lower him into the ground, unable to look at each other, both full of guilt and shame for the role our mutual disdain played in depriving him of peace on this Earth.

The queen and the prince unwittingly conspiring to kill the king. It’s poetic and almost reassuring that we could work together toward a common purpose.

Epilogue

Looking at the ground around me, I see the sloughed-off bits of that maternal cocoon that I have been trying to shed for the latter half of my life with ever-growing consciousness and awareness. The torn, now useless bits of it, once my constrictive shell, represent the unfulfilled, unrealized dreams of my mother, and those vain aspirations seem shabby to me now where they once seemed sublimely influential -as does she.
I like the shabbiness though -she always wore humility well and in those moments where she took joy in her lot in life and appreciated what she had,  she could be the best mom in the world. So there’s value in these broken bits of cocoon I’ve shed if I accept them for what they are.

As I look up ahead of me I see the wall of my father, still standing, a veritable dam holding back the despair of the world as best it can. I can see the leaks though. Every year, more of the world’s ugliness makes it past him and pools toward me like a flowing tide. Eventually he too will crumble.
Can I brace the wall before it gives way? Maybe … to an extent. But maybe I’m not meant to.
Maybe the continuity of his strength –of his kind of strength– rests with my little brother; in some ways more like my dad than I will ever be. My little brother, Zach, had the one thing I always wanted more than anything in the world -to come home every day and see my dad. I don’t begrudge him this. It’s shaped him into a man of primary importance. A man like my father who takes care of the business of survival and keeps society running.
By comparison, I suppose I am a man of secondary importance: it is my lot to make things beautiful after men like my father and my brother (my brother especially as he’s an electrician) have made it habitable. I embrace that responsibility -secondary importance is still importance- and I have fierce respect for the people who make my work possible.

If I’m honest, I don’t think my dad ever wanted me to be like him. I often attribute his lack of fatherly judgment to his feelings of guilt for splitting up mine and my sister’s childhood home, but maybe it was more than that. Perhaps he had a vague idea of something I could strive toward but which he didn’t know how to guide me toward. Instead, he did what he could while I figured it out on my own.


Looking at the crumbling wall in front of me and the broken shell below me I think maybe I’m meant to pick up some of the pieces of each and fashion them into something new. Maybe not another wall to shield me or another armour-like cocoon to protect me, but perhaps a boat to buoy me.
This idea comforts me –and that makes me immediately suspicious of it– but it also makes sense and I can’t easily disprove it, so I will entertain it.

************************************************************************************************************************

So what are the gifts from my parents that I want to bring forward into the construction of my ark?
Well, wherever she happens to be, my mother acts as if she has a right to be there; she owns her presence in any situation (if not her actions).
My father does the things right there in from of him which need to be done. He takes responsibility.

I’ve been doing like my mother for most of my life: Confident and defiant at best; presumptuous and entitled at worst. I’m pretty good at this.
It’s only more recently that I’ve started to integrate the behaviours which have made my father the mountain of a man he is in my imagination: Staying humble, doing the thing right in front of me that needs doing, etc.

I guess if I had to put it in an easy to follow rule: “Walk around like you pay the bills in that motherfucker –but pay the bills, motherfucker!

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Love
-Andre

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From the Unconscious – 4 Nov 2019

Hello friends,

I stood holding the single action cowboy revolver. It carried six unjacketed, .45 rounds and I fired off all six without aiming very precisely -I simply wanted to see how fast I could fire off a whole cylinder while manually pulling the hammer back with my left hand. I did this three or four times and noticed quick improvement on the speed with which I reloaded six new rounds into the cylinder from my gun belt. I began adding adding flourishes like flicking the cylinder back in with a quick snap of my right wrist, and giving the cylinder a spin once it was seated, letting the rapid, consecutive clicks sound off like a hum; like an Islander fishing reel when a salmon goes for a run. It was an incredibly satisfying sound, although it would have been nice if there were a little less friction and the spin lasted longer.

I began taking aim. Slowly. I looked for targets which would stop the round so I could collect it, smushed and deformed afterward. Luckily There was a profusion of giant scrap-metal fabrications all around me like monuments of industrial decay, even though I seemed to be standing on a piece of ground near the Dairy Queen I grew up near -there are no scrap metal monstrosities there. I took aim at a piece of metal and closed one eye.. I almost fired. Instead I realized that I wasn’t accurately lining up the sights so I opened both eyes and lined up the sights perfectly and fired. 

My range was about 30m but I hit the piece of metal I was aiming at precisely how I wanted to hit it. However, upon inspection there was no smushed round to collect -it must have ricocheted or disintegrated. I took aim again. This time I took aim at the open hole at the end of a long metal tube pointed downward, though still about 6 feet off of the ground. Slowly I aimed with both eyes open, lining up the front and rear sight, and when everything was perfect, I fired between breaths.

The hole at the end of the tube changed. I realized that there was something transparent capping the end of that tube which I had just disturbed. I walked up (again, about 30m) and looked at the clear cap which now sat in the hole on an angle. I pulled it out. It was round and about 1.5 inches thick. The outer side was convex while the interior side was concave, and this made me think it was a lens. It was heavy, but since it hadn’t shattered (on the contrary, the round had gone clean through) it made me think it was some kind of advanced polymer. I looked inside the tube and even reached my arm inside, sweeping my arm around trying to locate the round. No luck; it was gone. 

There were two female presences although one seems vague and I am/was only cursorily aware of her; the other was Israeli and seemed to be something of an expert on the ‘thing’ I just shot. 

To the vague presence, I addressed my initial comments, almost as if I was addressing myself: “This seems like a lens”

The Israeli responded: “It is. This is a telescope. That’s a new advanced lens.” (Paraphrase)

“Is it glass?”

“No, it’s plastic. What glass would we use for a lens?” (Paraphrase)

“Quartz glass because of its low co-efficient for thermal expansion.”

“………”

Then I woke up.

Best,
-Dre

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Hidden Records Don’t Skip

Friends,

Fellow blogger, Finn Longman wrote this post today which prompted me to write the comment which I will now copy here as a unique and exciting, never before seen blog post.

As an aside, writer’s block comes periodically to me when it’s time to blog, but I never have a problem taking a position and commenting on someone else’s ideas (for better or worse). Gonna keep that in mind and maybe transplant more comments into posts…..

So, read this and then go read Finn’s post:

I think it’s good that you’re realistic about the impossibility of deleting something forever. Now that I am taking one foot out of freelance/backpacker/digital nomadry and dipping my toe into being part of society, I have thought a lot about how to separate myself from my antics of the past (and present). A nom de plume helps, but a cursory google search will quickly reveal my legal name -and I don’t try and keep it a secret either.

I guess I am against deleting or curating our past. Please don’t take this as me shitting on you, it’s just a personal choice, but I really think that I would do myself greater harm by going back to facebook circa 2010 and deleting comments like “gimme a call when you this, nigga!” from a friend’s wall.

I cringe when I go back looking for old photos and see comments like this but I also laugh at how carefree we were playing in the frontier that was social media before it got suburbanized.

But it’s more than memories, its this bad feeling in my gut I get when I even think about deleting comments; when I do something wrong by my own standards. It’s like I’m trying to change the past. Or better yet, reality.

A wise man at a party once told me about his trinary….. trinitarian?? -he viewed life as three thirds:

Actor: The discrete facts of your life.
Character: The narrative you create.
Performance: How you are received by society.

I can’t change the facts of my life, but I can control which character I am playing. My character spoke frivolously and carelessly when he was younger, and even today he maintains an irreverence and sense of mischief which he is convinced he must preserve to maintain the twinkle in his eye and the joy in his heart. It’s a good character I think -I’ve been researching it for years and I’m ready to lean into the role. EDIT: Even better, the character doesn’t incorporate facts that are untrue or omit facts that aren’t pretty. There’s less anxiety when you wear a character which is tailor-fitted to you; less chance of being called out as a pretender. Ultimately the best role you play is the one best suited to you. The reaction of the Philistines in the peanut gallery to our performance matters less than the punishment we receive for playing an untrue character; that punishment is reckoned in anguish of the soul.

If the audience doesn’t like my masterful performance, I’ll seek a stage elsewhere.

Thanks for the inspiration to write, Finn

-Dre

Best,

-Dre (lol, redundant)

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I Will Never Allow Myself to Feel Guilty for Picking up a Guitar

Friends,

I got a lot of shit on my plate.

So do we all I guess -well, at least those of us who are adults. Except I have been living in a state of deferred adulthood for some time and now having moved back to Canada and enrolled in school, etc. I am trying to reintegrate back into civil society, and its rather like a game of double-dutch. Granted its easier jumping into Canadian society than it was to jump in to German society -For one, the language is the same, but also I suppose I am more motivated to be here than I was to be there.

I don’t know, but look: I’ve gotten sidetracked.

In the midst of all this stuff to do, I have purchased a new guitar.

Nothing fancy, it is simply a workhorse electric which I can quietly play either unplugged or with headphones so as not to disturb my housemates. With school costs and initial move-in costs all adding up in my first month back, the wisdom of buying an axe might seem questionable but I know myself well enough to know that nothing is better for my psychological state than having something meaningful and productive to do with my hands.

So I bought it, and having now had it for two days I noticed slight pangs of guilt when I would pick it up and start looking up chord transpositions.

I should be doing something else” I would think to myself. “I should finish my tax return or look up new writing jobs or at the very least worry impotently about the future.”

Yesterday though, like a lightning bolt to my brain I realized that I was being self-defeating. This is exactly why I bought the guitar -that is, to assuage feelings of guilt about idleness when I felt overwhelmed by life. Playing over the last two years has brought me so much focus and clarity of purpose that I would be silly to abandon this pursuit thinking I had derived all benefit from it. I have only gotten better and I can intensify my skills now, fulfilling a promise made to myself to graduate from school in two years not only wealthier than when I went in, but also more skilled at performance and playing.

While it is true that I probably need to establish more of a schedule as classes approach, setting aside certain practice hours during the day, it is also true that I should trust my inclinations and not feel bad if I am strongly drawn toward creating something beautiful. The constant state of existential despair and worry has utility insofar as it motivates us to take action in life, but beyond a certain threshold it has the detrimental effect of robbing us (ME) of the joy of the moment.

So yesterday I told myself, “I will never feel guilty for picking up a guitar,” and I repeated it over and over again like a mantra; like it was some profound truth which I was happily arrived at after years of deliberation.

************

There’s so much joy and good I have deprived myself of in insidious ways throughout my life and I am only realizing that now: The joy of family, the joy of a social circle, the joy of hoping for my own family one day, and the joy of having coworkers. I have felt sub-consciously that I didn’t deserve these joys, even though outwardly I seemed happy and well-resigned to the romantic fate I had chosen for myself. Perhaps by allowing this one meaningful, joyful pursuit into my life guilt-free, I can help along the process of peeling away that internalized guilt which makes me stifle and stultify myself because I don’t feel I deserve better.

I don’t know -it’s all very speculative. But at least I can ponder it while practicing my scales.

Best,
-Dre

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Lying on the Couch

Written on 20 OCT 2019

Friends,

I’m lying on her couch.

She’s in the next room, her bedroom, lying in her bed.

Her bedroom is a private space -that’s what she told me the first day.

Our flirtations -nuzzling, hand-holding in the streets, cuddling on this couch- have grown bolder at deliberate, steady pace, but never in her room.

I like the slow, deliberate pace of things. The slow, deliberate way in which we are re-learning each other after years apart; the way we aren’t putting the cart of intimacy before the horse of connection. Violent delights of course have violent ends, and I don’t want to relive past mistakes which sprang from impetuousness and recklessness. I don’t think she does either.

No. This time I’m thinking more seriously. I sat with her today -all afternoon in fact because it was raining- while she watched her shows and fretted about how to arrange her living room for a party next week. I sat there, not quite sombre, but pensive, thinking to myself, “could I sit here with her every Sunday for the rest of my life?

Maybe. Maybe even probably.

But I’m cautious, at least I’m trying to be. I’m really looking at how I feel in the moment and seeing if the feelings that come to me are shaded by guilt for how I treated her in the past. I want to make sure that whatever I do is righteous in the moment, and not short-sightedly satisfying nostalgia for the warm, agape love she once showed me.

I kissed her today. I was really happy afterward. I was happy because she was happy of course, but I was also happy that I recognized the right time to do it: I was lying beside her on the living room floor and she was talking about something excitedly. Her eyes, always bright and wide as their default setting, were somehow brighter and wider, and the faded black accents on her off-white t-shirt seemed as bold and vibrant as the ebony keys on a piano against the ivory ones. It was a sign. I recognized it. I acted on it. It was perfection.

************************************

In the intervening years since I broke her heart she has learned to set boundaries; no men -no me– in her bed is but one. I respect it, I understand it. Still, it hurts my heart a little when, in the evenings, she has left our cuddling on the couch to go to her room. I have asked her to stay, but she has said no, and that’s honestly what I probably need from her.

Tonight though played out a little differently: anticipating the hurt of her leaving me here on the couch I didn’t get invested emotionally when she started making overtures toward going to bed. I pulled out my laptop and switched on Mad Men as she brushed her teeth and didn’t get up to say goodnight.

I laid there for a few minutes after she retired and then realized that this behaviour on my part was just the kind of passive-aggressive, ego-based game bordering on dishonesty that has gotten me into such bullshitty situations in the past.

I got up and knocked on her door. She said “come in” but I asked her to come out on account of her bedroom being a sacred space. I explained why I didn’t say goodnight to her (protecting my feelings) and how that wasn’t right, and for a moment I guess she thought I was asking to come in and invited me in. I declined reflexively because I was already in that headspace of letting her have her space, and re-explained that I wanted to say a proper goodnight. I hugged her and we shared another lovely kiss.

I couldn’t sleep after that and instead watched another episode of Mad Men.

Speaking of which: There’s a great episode of the show where Roger Sterling seduces his young ex-wife, Jane and they make love in the apartment he bought for her after their divorce. The next morning she is upset with him and crying because she had a place that was just hers and now it was contaminated by him- even though she wanted him in the moment.

I bore that scene in mind the last few days while here, and it was certainly in my mind when I closed my laptop and laid on the couch thinking how nice it would be to be curled up in bed with her. She had invited me in after all and there is a point in the evenings, in the darkness, where noone can see us breaking the rules we have set for ourselves.

But I haven’t been able to bring myself to knock on the door. That would be a critical dose of impetuousness at a time when substance needs greater exploration, as flash has been well-demonstrated.

So I’m lying here on the couch, being the strong one tonight because she can’t be. I want to go knock on the door in a short-term fulfilment kind of way, but I’m playing a longer game now, and I’m not yet convinced that me knocking on that door is the best long-term move. Put more superstitiously: I didn’t get signs and a flash of vibrant colours like I did just before I kissed her.

There might be something there that is righteous and well-intentioned, but right now -tonight- I couldn’t hear it over nostalgia for times past and the desire to no be alone.

There is a time to act and a time to observe. Now is the latter.

Best,
-Dre

 

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It’s a Lonely Night

Friends,

It’s been a good day, a long day, but a good one. I signed a lease today and will be moving into my own place tomorrow. This will be good for me as I have been living the hobo fabulous lifestylre too long, living on the largesse of others. Aside from that I completed some work project, paid my school deposit, got a lead on a new side hustle, made friends with just about everyone I spoke with and ate pretty healty.

But there was one dark cloud today: Since I can’t move I to my flat until tomorrow, I called my grandma to see if I could crash at hers on the south side of town.. There was no answer. No worry, I was in no rush. After all, I had a series of buses to take and a 90 minute trip with which to reach her. Just then, my new landlord, good samaritan that he is, offered me a ride to the southside as he had to go the depot for my new bedroom door anyhow.

We shot the shit for the drive and I like him and his integrity quite a bit. A few years older than me, he had taken his time finding a wife and starting a family -partying and such. We parted amicably, and I liad my backpack against the door and rang.

My grandfather answered the door and just looked at me and said, “Now you’re moving in?” Before I could explain he lost his shit and started yelling mostly incoherently about how he didn’t want to take care of anyone else and how his house wasn’t for rent.

Perhaps I should have known better -lat3ely he has been suffering from dementia (but I actually think there was a clarity to his words that I had never heard before…more on that in a sec), and between my invalid uncle and my cousin with his live-in fiance, my grandpa has a lot on his shoulders. I should have known better.

The fact that he is mostly deaf made explanations no easier and my grandma struggled to explain that I had just signed a lease and needex one night, even though I could tell she had he apprehensions about taking on a new dependant.

Here’s the thing -my] grandfather has never said an ill word to me, let alone raised his voice at me so I compltely taken aback, when later in the kitchen he unloaded on me with a lucidity I had never heard from this man who I always assumed was fairly unassuming:

“You’re a bum! You’re no good. I know what kind of guy you are! Why don’t you go to your father’s place? I’m not your father! I don’t want bums in my house. You don’t work!”

The whole time my grandma was getting upset but I implored her gently to let him keep going. I was upset by this, but also fascinated because from a certain perspective I agreed with him -there was truth in his words and it is a truth which I have been mostly isulated from my whole life and had to learn myself: I have not been making the most of my potential. But people have only just started telling me this and its a feeling like doors are closing as I get older.

It’s not a wholly bad thing -it’s motivated be to get my shit together, but again, it was pretty surprising coming so lucidly from from this man who is usually in his own world, mostly deaf, suffering from dementia and who usually calls me the wrong name.

My grandma tried to soften the blow, telling me didn’t mean it, but when I pressed her on the specificity of his word she said, “He used to love you so much. He wanted so much for you. ”

Even writing this I have to laugh. It’s so sad and its like being the last to find out what everyone thinks about you, even tho0ugh you know it about yourself and suspect they think it too.

But again, insulation; I feel like I have been lied to.

I lef tthe house to come here to this cafe and work on my computer and for a moment I got mad at my grandfather -I do work after all. When it copmes down to it he doesn’t know fuck all about me or my struggle. But that’s not the point -his truth, no matter how tangential and uninformed of the broader picture, IS STILL TRUE. I know its true because that’s how he sees it. There is something correct in his estimation that cares little for rationalizations, plans, non-traditional jobs, etc. His opinion is no the be-all, end-all but it is valid because it is ancestral, and on some levelhe must be worried that I have broken faith with him and everyone who came before.

Fair enough. I intend to make good on his faith and redeem the struggles him and those before him went through to bring me here. I don’t know that he’ll live to see it, but he does’t have to. The message has been communicated; maybe the last gift from this ancestor.

I won’t squander it.

In closing I will say this: Over the last year I haev really connected with the song No Eyes by Claptone. The chorus, “…no eyes…..no eyes on meeeeeee…” connects with me because as the first-born grandson I was the golden boy my whole life and everyone’s eyes were on me. Now, at 35 people have stopped giving a shit and are divesting. No eyes on me.

It fills me with foreboding and existential dread that I am alone. But its alrite because its also freedom.

And that’s what happens when you get past the breakers of ancestral pressure -the waves upon waves of “get married” and “start a family” which rash into your dinghy, wearing you down and pushing you back to the familiar shores of how it has always been done.

The brreakers will knock you back and leave you stranded in the same cycles of behaviour of everyione who came before if you give up. But if you persist, and keep fighting and paddling past the good-advice and well-intentioed interventions, you make it out to the open water.

But all that happens then is that you are in the middle of the ocean, left to your own devices with no eyes on you.

Act accordingly.

Best,
-Dre

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(Prime) M(in)ister Dressup

Friends,

Canada has an inferiority complex. If the nation could be anthropomorphized as a person, it would be a person who is incredibly jealous of its best friend and neighbour to the south, the United States of America.

And rightly so, as America is the best goddamn country in the world. And yes, I can support this claim.

But I digress.

While the character of a nation isn’t wholly the reflection of its head of state (if anything the reverse is true), the head of state does perhaps have more influence on said character than the average individual citizen. If we can accept this premise, all we need to know about Canada can be gleaned from studying its Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

I’m gonna be honest, I don’t like this guy. That said, I’m gonna try and give him (and the country) a fair shake herein.

As the son of a former Prime Minister, the argument could be made that a big part of Trudeau’s success was the strength of his name. While I think there is truth in that appraisal, it actually doesn’t bother me. I recognize the importsance of dynasties for political stability, even if they are interrupted by the span of a couple decades (it’s called an interregnum). And if I objected on any level Trudeau leveraging his name, it would strike me as inconsistent with my other view that Donald Trump was in the right when he promoted his children to positions of power in his administration. Properly bounded and advised, I think that an underqualified individual in a stable situation can keep an even keel much more easily than a qualified person can weather a storm. So, no: I don’t have a problem with dynastic continuity. Even nepotism -I get it! I have gotten jobs and positions based on who I know, and if it’s okay at my low level and the patterns of power repeat upward and and downward at all levels to infinity, then I can’t criticize it on principle.

The above photo. It lambasts our weiner-kid PM for his penchant for dress-up. Again, this doesn’t bother me. It does make me cringe insofar as wearing traditional cultural garb seems like blatant pandering, but it just makes me wish that he would use greater discretion, not refrain from trying.

On this penchant for dress-up, the following image came out today:

Yep, that’s him in blackface (well, brownface) at a theme party in 2001. Naturally, the memes have already been fire:

But here’s thing: While the internet is losing its shit, and while conservative friends whom I have a lot of political overlap with are lambasting him, I find myself not caring.

Two reason really:

1) Blackface has never bothered me. It’s overblown and stupid to consider “completing” a costume racist.
2) We need to stop diggind up a person’s past and sacrifing them in the present because of it.

I don’t like Trudeau. He is a sanctimonious, incompetent and a hypocrite. That should be the crux of objections against him. Instead his detractors look at this blast from the past and get excited, acting like they don’t cry ‘foul’ when their political opponents resort to this same shit. It’s equivocal and silly.

Trudeau did nothing wrong back in 2001. He did a lot wrong in subsequent years when he set himself up for a bigger fall by portraying a standard of virtue which was impossible to live up to. But sweet, young Justin in 2001 was well within the grounds of acceptability.

***********************

What does this have to do with Canada?

Like its PM, Canada has to decide who it wants to be because its obviously not working. We’ve successfully alienated our closest ally in the US and now instead of the US’s best friend, we are 5th or 6th somewhere after Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and the UK.

Canada has to decide what it wants to be known for. It’s a country of mediocrity; its never excelled at anything for a long enough time to be known for that thing. I know what I’m talking about here because I have fallen into the same rut in my own life. In my tim, I have been an okay soldier, an okay, student, and okay labourer, an okay home stager, an okay writer, an okay yoga teacher, an okay jeweler, an okay actor, etc. Okay isn’t good enough. Be bold. Pick something and focus on it. Stop keeping all of your costumes in your closet. Pick one and stick to it and throw all the rest out.

I am mad at my country but maybe I am more mad at me. We do tend to hate the things about others that we hate most about ourselves. Call it Canada Syndrome or whatever, but I need to mature and focus, and so does my stupid country.

And Justin Trudeau? I don’t hate this guy. I love this guy because I AM this guy.

Am I gonna vote for him in the next election? No…but then I wouldn’t vote for my own non-committal ass either.

And if I had to pick one country to be reborn in? Well, I wouldn’t pick Canada either.

I guess I picked a good time to return home and go back to school: I need it and evidently my country does too.

Best,
-Dre

 

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Weak Men

Friends,

Everything is relative, and in my experience, nowhere is this more true than in the realm of male-male friendships. There is something of a classic model of male relationships which classes men as either the Alpha or the Beta. Whatever you may think of this model and its applicability, I am going to be building upon it here.

You’ve been warned.

In theory, the Alpha-Beta (AB) model manifests in every male friend group; even a group of two, and it is the group of two I want to focus on. I/we can be part of many two person friendships, and our status as Alpha or Beta is subject to change depending on the friend we are hanging out with, and to a lesser extent, the specific circumstance we find ourselves in.

I have spent the last two months living with my friend, Archie, and I am the Alpha in the relationship…by a large margin (as you’ll see, it’s not as impressive as it sounds). I want to focus less on why this is and the specific details of our friendship, and more on how it (frustratingly) manifests.

Before continuing, it must be said that my expertise derives from the fact that I have been both Alpha and Beta at various times, and I have been Beta by the same wide, crippling, pathetic margin (relative to more Alpha friends) that Archie currently is relative to me. I see now how I must have been a chore for my indulgent friends to deal with.

Scarcity Mentality

I have had and lost many women….definitely more of the latter. I don’t care. That’s the point. Stop caring! Archie cares too goddamn much. He tells me so. He wants to claim women, regardless of who they are more interested in. Lately he won’t go to a local coffee shop with me anymore because I flirt with the barista and she flirts back. He admits this but justifies it by saying that he is worried about it getting awkward and not being able to go there again. I asked him if he had designs on her. He said he didn’t know, but that since I started flirting with her I didn’t give him a chance to decide.
Here’s the thing: I would love for him to make a bold move with her and catch her interest. Play on, Playa! That’s my mentality; pure abundance But he doesn’t want to do that because then he would have to reciprocate my magnanimity. And he doesn’t want to do that because of Jenny.

Jenny
Jenny is….was Archie’s friend and I met her once in passing over a year ago in Berlin outside a bar I was at with Archie. They were talking. Jenny and I shared a look and a rapport, and when you know, you just know. But alas, I had a fiance (and so did Archie) and so nothing never happened [sic].  Fast forward a year to now and I have moved back to Berlin into a spare room in Archie’s flat for a temporary stay. Being newly-single, I asked Archie early on about Jenny. He clammed up and expressed doubt that I had this connection (yeah, okay…), then came out with the truth that he was into her. Recently divorced, he had designs on her and was being territorial.

Well, I had no access to her aside from him connecting us, and I didn’t even remember her name. These two facts coupled with the literal millions of fish in the sea gave me a play on, playa outlook on the whole situation, even though I was dubious about his ability to make it work.

So a few nights ago he gives me an update on Jenny (whose name I had forgotten again and which he took as further evidence of the absence of connection). He tells me he “fired her as a friend” (his exact words) due to numerous scheduling snafus (her blowing him off). He had reached a critical threshold I guess and told her he didn’t want to be her friend and then blocked her. He Scorched the Earth! He fucked it up and if he couldn’t have her, noone could (at least noone who would need him to make the introduction). I felt anger well up inside me (not sure yet if the anger is justifiable or not) but all I said was, “And nothing of value was lost.” He enthusiastically, unironically agreed.

Liat

Same aforementioned coffee shop. Last week we go out to the back patio for our (at that point, at least) daily coffee and smoke. I walked out there first and saw a cute girl, Liat, sitting with a friend. We made eye contact and when you know, you just know. Archie joined me shorly after at our table and I initiated conversation with Liat and her friend as they were seated next to us. She was really bubbly and regaled us with a story about her broken arm and the cast she was currently wearing. Liat’s friend left, then Archie left, and Liat and I walked out of the coffee shop together (which visibly intrigued and upset aforementioned barista). We walked back to mine and started playing some music in my room. Archie joined and we had a jam and sing-along. I eventually went back to Liat’s place nearby and we spent the afternoon together and made love.

Later I found out that Archie was a bit resentful about this because I had moved so quick that he hadn’t had a chance to decide of he was interested. This was doubly frustrating because the very next day he had some chick over whom I assume he didn’t introduce me to because he was worried I would, I don’t know –steal her or something.

Which brings me to Lana…

Lana

A couple nights later, me, George, Archie, and Archie’s black friend, Lana, all headed out to a local bar that had a weekly open jam. Lana seemed cold to me at first, which Archie later suggested was a possible result of my surplus multi-cam jacket with velcro flashers on the sleeves from my time in Afghanistan. In retrospect, I suspect that perhaps he had also told her unflattering things about me being a prejudiced person (more on that in the next section). In any event, I care a lot less these days about what a rando feels about me and so I just went back in the bar content to watch the jam without playing. In the dearth of a vocalist, Archie got on the mic and asked if I wanted to come up and freestyle. I enthusiastically obliged and proceeded to lyrically assassinate, dropping my trademark, “Rest in Peace, Tupac Shakur” at the end.

Lana gave me props when I rejoined them on the couch and seemed to have warmed up to me. Classic black chick!

On the walk home, I ushered George away toward our direction to give Archie a chance to close with Lana. He did not and instead rejoined me and George. Soon after George split off in his direction and me and Archie headed back the flat we were sharing. I asked him, “So what’s the deal with you and Lana?” -Big mistake.

“What do you mean by that?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Um, are into her? How’s it going?”

“Damn, man, do I gotta worry that you’re trying to go after her?”

Jesus Christ! This is the kind of insecurity I was living with. I explained that I wasn’t interested, but the damage was already done.

Ugh, it makes me mad just remembering it.

Racism/Sexism/Homophobia

I don’t know if I’m racist. I don’t know if Archie is. All I know is that if I say a slur, I’ll say it with deliberate intention or not at all. If I say a slur, there will be an elaborate, oblique set-up, well-wrought build, and an emphatic delivery for the purpose of shock and humour. Otherwise there is no point and I feel like a dishonest coward. My whole thing goes back to the Patrice O’Neal school of “Say it with belief!”
Archie does not subscribe to this school of thought and says slurs frivolously because he feels he can vent his latent racism to me while maintaining the outward appearance of being progressive. He has admittedly gotten better about this (saying things with belief or not at all), but at the outset…Jesus Christ. He would say some slur and then immediately laugh and and look at me to gauge my response. I felt put upon to laugh or respond in a very awkward, cringey way.
At one point early on in our two months of living together I called him out for this, encouraging him to make offensive jokes, but to mean it; not just to do it seeking my validation (because that’s fucked and bespeaks pretty shittily of me). He got so offended and said some shit like “I thought I could make jokes with you without you getting offended” (which is more fucked up the more you think about it), and I simply explained that I wasn’t offended, but I felt embarrassed for him.
Looking back, this conversation was a line in the sand that I drew early on, and I feel like I have been paying for it ever since. Thankfully, all things come to an end.

****************

Thanks for indulging my venting. Since writing this post a few weeks ago I have moved on to Portugal and found a happy place. My closest male friend here is a young kid from the UK named Charlie. With him, its how it should be: We big each other up and don’t let trifling shit like women get between us. Ditto for my other close male friend here Ricardo, but he’s a big, gay Portuguese body-builder so competition for women really isn’t so much of a thing. I was very frustrated when I wrote this post, and looking back brough up some of the old feelings, but the further it is in my rear-view, ther easier it gets.

Best,
-Dre

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