Thursday, October 31, 2013

Me, many a moon, a full moon, a bad moon, ago. Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed

Lou Reed died today. His album New York was the first cd ever bought. I have absolutely no idea how many times I've listened to it. Followed by his Magic and Loss and Velvet Underground, of course. I read once that Lou Reed had to write something like three songs a day when he was at The Factory, Andy Warhol insisted upon it. Art was work. I've always tried to approach my writing in that fashion.
I love the rawness of Lou Reed's lyrics and music. As he once said, he didn't believe in dressing-up reality. He also once famously said, "One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you're into jazz." That encouraged me to try writing songs when I only knew three chords. 
I was lucky enough to get to see Lou Reed live twice. Once at Massey Hall and once at the Hummingbird Centre, now the Sony Centre. The Massey Hall show was the first and most memorable. What I remember most of all is how much he seemed to be enjoying it. He was doing what he loved. He stayed true.  
I grew-up in rural Canada and somehow Lou Reed, David Bowie and Iggy Pop were three of my favourite singers. They opened me up to a much larger world, musically and otherwise. They gave it their all and cared more about creating something, and saying something, not worrying if, or who, it offended, but didn't go out of their way to offend just for the sake of it. Though they certainly pushed boundaries. They said what they felt and what they believed. And they showed that it's okay to experiment and to learn as you go. 
I used to have a shirt that I got at Lou Reed's concert at Massey Hall. It had a cartoon drawing of a little boxer on it who had a light bulb for a head. The caption read, "Fighting for an idea." I loved that shirt. Someone stole it. Bastard. 
I could go on about Lou's music and lyrics, how they influence me, and what they meant to me over the years, but not today. Today, I just wanted to say thank you, Lou. 
I leave you with three songs. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Painful Moments

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” 
James Baldwin

Write about your most painful moments. We share in laughter but feel our pain is unique, that no one has felt an ache like this before, which deepens the loneliness. You could be in a room filled with people and still feel alone, wanting to find a corner to hide in. Or you might try too hard to distract yourself, even become a distraction; you’re the centre of attention, but yet still feel disconnected. I know this of myself. I assume as much of other people. I’ve seen it on the page, heard it in the melody.

Studies have shown that the brain deals with physical and emotional pain in much the same way. When you’re hurting it’s difficult to focus on anything else but the pain and the isolation it brings. If you dismiss your own pain it can become easy to ignore the pain of others and apathy is a kind of death.

Your writing, like stories you've read and songs you've heard, can stand like an inukshuk on the barren tundra, letting a fellow traveller know that someone else has come this way. It reaffirms life, perhaps for someone who is about to give up. 

More than ten years into a seemingly endless war it sometimes feels like apathy, greed and indifference are
 the accepted norm even if you need meds to achieve it. I think it’s important to remain human and have the courage to show you care and that you still feel. Empathy and education fight against the apathy and ignorance, compassion and grace against desensitization and hate. We can call for a Jihad against the lack of humanity in our own soul.

One producer told me, in regards to Just J, "My step daughter loved it. She wished it was longer. However, you write from the heart. Most people aren’t interested in heart these days."

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, in this world, is like cutting yourself and then jumping in with sharks. When a predator smells blood, or anything they perceive as weakness, they will attack, they can't help themselves. They might not even recognize it as attacking; they are just doing what it is in their nature to do. Like the scorpion on the frogs back trying to cross the river. So, keep your wits about you. To put it another way, you're going out as a sheep among wolves, so be as cunning as the serpent and as innocent as the dove. You might be surprised to discover who the wolves are in your life. And surprised, too, at where you find shelter.  

Try to not take it personally. Christ was perfect and they crucified him. Expecting the world to treat you better than it did Jesus is just egotism. But we have the stories to comfort and they make us feel a little less alone. The more we share them, the more we listen and learn to relate to one another, the less alone we’ll be.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

It started before we were married. I didn’t find out for three years. We were standing in the kitchen. She was leaning against the wall. I was over near the window, by the stove.

“How long have you been in love with him for?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“What do you mean you don’t know? Was it before we were married?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Why did you go through with the wedding then?” I asked.

“What was I supposed to do? Everyone was already invited.”

She stared at the floor when she said it. There was no tone of regret or apology; there was no emotion at all. Her eyes were dark, her mind elsewhere. Still wondering, I suppose, how he could have done that to her. She had asked me that early, after the man she cheated on me with blamed her for all of it, saying that she had chased him down the stairs to his bedroom.

“How could he do that to me?” she asked.

“Are you seriously asking your husband how your boyfriend could treat you that way?”

“Yes,” she replied. “How could he do that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe it’s because he’s an asshole.”

The future I dreamed of, the children I was preparing for, with the person I trusted and loved enough to vow the rest of my life to, was gone. My past had to be rewritten. I was living with a stranger and building a life around lies. All my most insecure and paranoid thoughts, the ones she made me feel guilty and crazy for having, were the ones I should have been listening to.

Who was this person? Who was I for trusting her?

Something broke in me. I tried for a long time, too long, to convince myself that she wasn’t herself, in the things she did and said. Convince myself that if I could just reach her, touch her heart, make her jealous, make her feel anything, it might, I don’t know. . . I just wanted to see the person I fell in love with one more time.

The person I knew was the one I laughed with and shared the most intimate moments:  memories, thoughts and touches. A friend I comforted when she cried or screamed over problems within her family; who stood by me when my father was dying and who was right there when I turned around after I put his coffin into the hearse. If that person, that caring person, could hear what this person was saying in her voice with her appearance, let me tell you, she wouldn’t be happy, either.

Perhaps, she was right when she said I’m na├»ve. Perhaps, one day I’ll have the emotional distance to see it clearly. Or, I’ll turn it into a book and find the answers that way. It does feel like a story that insists on being told. A male version of Eat, Pray, Love. Cook, Read, Empathize.

I felt sorry for the husband when I read Eat, Pray, Love. He seemed inconsequential to the main character. If a man wrote a book about leaving his wife because he was bored and wanted to sleep with another woman and live the life of a wealthy backpacker he’d be called . . . unpleasant things. Especially if he tried to make his wife out to be the nasty one for not being more understanding about it. And if he called it a spiritual journey . . . well.

Perhaps, I’ll just do a blog entry and end it with a video that is in some small way related to what I’ve written. Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Neil Gaiman

A lecture from Neil Gaiman on the importance of reading, libraries and using your imagination. I read it this morning and wanted to share it with you. He brings up some things about the imagination that I used to point out when teaching; discusses how reading develops empathy, which I talked about in the County and Quinte Living interview; and about kids being able to read what they enjoy, something the main character, Sean, talks about in Chill. Just sayin'. Great minds and all that.;)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

So Impressed

Malala Yousafzai on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This is the full extended interview and well worth a watch.  “We must not fight against war through war . . . education is the best way.” She goes on to say how it’s more than maths and science but about learning respect for different cultures and religions so that we can learn to live together. She’s a very bright young woman. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Feeling Strange

I've been feeling a little off since my last post about the emotional affair. It was so many years ago it shouldn’t matter, but it does. I know how alone I felt when going through it, so regardless of the difficulty it's important, as a writer, for me to share some of my experience—a little message in a bottle on a cyber sea. 

Still, I can hear my ex saying, "Why did you tell people about that? I don't want people to know about that." 

To which I would reply, "But you said there was nothing wrong with it and that it was my problem. So why would you care if anyone knew?" 

To which there would be no reply. 

Yes, we did have a similar conversation about another incident with another man and that's where I'm getting it from.

We all make mistakes and do things we would rather not have other people know about. That's normal. And when we do those things we admit our mistake and turn to our friends and say, "Don't say anything." And if it's a serious matter, and they're good friends, it will remain in confidence. If it's just something that is horrendously embarrassing, well, then you’re screwed. The better the friend, and the more embarrassing the incident, the faster the story will make the rounds. It keeps us humble. 

I also tend to agree with what John Travolta's character, Vincent, said to Samuel L. Jackson's character, Jules, in Pulp Fiction, "Jules, did you ever hear the philosophy that once a man admits that he's wrong that he is immediately forgiven for all wrong doings?"
Assuming, of course, that the admission is sincere and the penance is made. But that doesn't apply here, since, there was no admission of wrong doing. 

So, I think of what Anne Lamott said in her brilliant book on writing, Bird by Bird, "You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better."

I try to find the courage to do just that.