My CNF piece, Nic-an-t-saoir has been published in the latest issue (vol. 30-31) of The Nashwaak Review, a great little (scratch that, actually– it’s quite robust) lit mag out of St. Thomas University in New Brunswick. Sadly my piece cannot be found online, but the journal is worth checking out to enjoy a plethora of great Canadian writing.
My (very) short CNF piece, Son of a Carpenter, has been shortlisted for the CBC Canada Writes Bloodlines contest.
It’s being judged by Lawrence Hill, who wrote The Book of Negroes, which was awesome, so mostly I’m just excited that someone who is that awesome is actually going to read something I wrote. Even if he hates it? Perhaps.
Mine, and all of the other shortlisted entries can be found here.
This morning I woke up and immediately went downstairs to grab a can of Pepsi because I needed caffeine and was too lazy to make coffee.
I accidentally grabbed a can of Bud Light* instead, and did not notice until I took a sip. It was shocking. This was at approximately 8:30 a.m.
I believe it was a test.
I’ve been living in Nova Scotia for just over a week. I often joke about the province’s drinking culture. I can totally do a keg stand or four and then funnel a beer and then do three tequila shots and then drive home**. Totally. Because I’m from Nova Scotia, and that’s how we do’s.
It’s especially important to make that known while living in BC, because they have a strong drug culture and it makes me sound all tough and shit without having to actually smoke or inject anything.
Anyway, lately I’ve not been sleeping particularly well. Though in theory I should be relaxed and smiling and stress-free, that is not actually the case. Also, unpacking sucks and takes kind of a long time when you are unpacking absolutely everything you own. There’s also the concern that my books have been neglected. It’s been a week, and they are just… sitting. In a pile. They are not alphabetized. They have not been sorted by genre. Novels are mixed with memoirs and writing resources and textbooks and cultural criticisms and short stories and what am I supposed to do if I want to read a short piece by David Sedaris? How will I find it? Will I settle for something by Augusten Burroughs instead? If it’s Running With Scissors that might be okay, but I’m just not sure if I can make that type of time commitment right now, you know? And his short pieces, like the ones in Magical Thinking, kind of suck compared to David Sedaris and if that’s all I can find will I ever be satisfied?
These are the sorts of things that keep me up at night. Along with, you know, worrying about money and my sanity and world peace, I guess.
We’ve also been having people over pretty frequently. This is great, because people are fun and they usually bring alcohol. Sometimes they bring types of alcohol my male counterpart and I rarely consume, like Bud Light.
Now, though it may be true that I don’t drink Bud Light because it’s a girl beer and I’m from Nova Scotia and thus too hardcore for that shit, free booze is always appreciated. I also never drink Canadian, but make an exception when it is free. Right now, the middle rack of my fridge is completely filled with Keith’s, Canadian, Bud Light, Strongbow, and also several cans of Pepsi.
And, this brings us full circle to that time I grabbed a beer for breakfast.
So what did I do? Did I drink the beer?
Sadly, no. I considered it for approximately three milliseconds. People drink mimosas in the morning, after all, and is that really so different?*** But in the end I decided against both the Pepsi and the Bud, and figured it was a sign I needed more sleep. About three hours later, I enjoyed a satisfying can of Pepsi. About four hours after that, I (kind of) enjoyed a (somewhat flat) can of Bud Light.
Maybe I’ve been in Vancouver too long. Seven years ago would I have had the beer, kick started my day? Probably. But I do know that even though I enjoy a good Keith’s and a kitchen party, over the last couple of years I’ve been known to get a hangover after two beers. Really puts a damper on the whole keg stand**** beer funnel thing.
Is this what getting old feels like?
*If you’ve never looked at the two right next to each other, do it. They are the exact same colour.
**I can’t even drive home sober, as I do not have a driver’s license. You kind of need one of those when you live in Dartmouth. The good news? I do have a car. I just need to learn to drive it.
****I’ve only ever done a keg stand once and I’m pretty sure I puked.
I’m kinda busy. This is an unusual circumstance, at least since completing university.
I work in a store, full-time. Ordinarily that’s just the kind of job I would despise. But after working from home for a year and a half, I don’t mind occasionally conversing with other members of my species. It helps that it’s only occasional; I work alone, and customers are sparse. It also helps that I don’t have to work weekends. Most days I spend perched in a chair behind the cash register with my Kobo. I’m averaging 2-3 books per week.
Of course this job is only temporary, a two-month gig; that’s probably why I still like it. In a few weeks, I am making a 6000-kilometer, cross-country move. Moving is expensive. Hence, the job.
I am extremely busy, gone from 8:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m every weekday. ‘Cooking’ and ‘cleaning’ are no longer uttered by my lips (not that they held a prominent place in my vocabulary previously). I don’t do laundry anymore. My plants died. I do make the time to shower daily, but that’s largely because my job (and probably my relationship, though it has not been explicitly stated) depends on it.
Weekends, too, are packed. With limited time remaining in this lovely city, every moment is carefully planned for optimal levels of fun. Many road trips have occurred. This all takes planning, thus time. Something else that takes planning: driving across Canada with a car full of things.
So of course, there’s packing.
Am I complaining? Well, yes, obviously. But I shouldn’t be. Because in about a month I will be back to having nothing to do, ever. I will wonder what happened to all the things. I will probably cook, and maybe pick up a sponge from time to time*. And this time, there will by no escaping to the beach, or Robson Street. Dartmouth, Nova Scotia doesn’t have a Robson Street. It should.
*But probably not.
For the past few months, I’ve been a bit of a crime TV junkie. It began with true crime; shows on Investigation Discovery like Stalked or Cold Blood or Deadly Women, for example. Eventually the obsession transitioned into hour-long dramas on Netflix. Specifically… CSI Miami. On evenings the boyfriend and I don’t feel like fighting over what movie to watch (most evenings), we share our time with David Caruso and his dramatic sunglasses.
Halfway through season two there’s an episode featuring a not-yet-famous Chris Pine. His girlfriend is looking for an “extreme thrill,” so he pays for her to be kidnapped by a company that excels in such matters. Unfortunately she ends up being chucked off a building, and David Caruso must find out who murdered her and save the day.
A few days later we were browsing through Netflix and came across The Game. This movie isn’t so much ‘kidnapping’ as being forced into a few high-speed chases and dealings with creepy clowns, but it’s a similar premise.
Both of these dramas happened at least a decade ago, which means enough time has passed for someone to attempt making this into a real-life business. Attempt, and succeed. Entrepreneur Adam Thick founded Extreme Kidnapping after being inspired by The Game.
GQ writer Drew Margary signed up, flew across the country, and spent a day being stun-gunned and waterboarded while duct taped to a chair. And, all for the low price of $1500!
$1500 is an all-inclusive trip to Cuba. Or a night of fear tailored specifically to you, based on your selections on a “torture menu.” Fire? Piranhas? Knives? I’ll probably stick with Pina Coladas and a lounger.
Things are cheap in America. Things like groceries, beer, gas, shoes, dinner, etc., etc. For this reason, we take a quick trip across the border once every month or two to pick up some necessities. This is usually extremely unexciting.
But once in a while the border wait is totally worth it because we end up doing something awesome and fun. Such was the case this past Easter weekend.
I’d wanted to go to Portland, Oregon for a while. All I knew about the city was that there was a pretty funny TV show set there, and they have an amazing bookstore. While I didn’t see Fred Armisen, the bookstore did not disappoint.
Portland was warm, clean, sunny, and quiet. Very, very quiet. I was surprised to learn that in terms of population it’s only a smidgen smaller than Vancouver, because the atmosphere would make you believe it’s half the size. It’s extremely laid back, there aren’t a whole lot of people milling about, and the people you do see hold doors open for you.
The highlight of the city, of course, is Powell’s City of Books. It claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, which I will not dispute. We went there three times. That may seem like overkill, but the average person could easily spend a few hours there, and when it comes to books, I am not exactly the average person. I could have spend an entire day there, maybe more. No, definitely more. It is four stories high and covers an entire city block. Even better: it sells both new and used books. Together. Like, there isn’t a separate “used book” section; no, they don’t have any of that nonsense. The new and old words live together in harmony, so you can easily search through a stack of the same book and choose the cheapest one. Which is, of course, exactly what I did. Eleven books and only $60 later, I decided to celebrate with a beer.
Oh, yes, the beer. We quickly learned why the streets were so quiet. Everyone was inside getting drunk. Portland is known for its breweries; we wanted to try them all out while we were there, but that turned out to be impossible because there were hour-long waits to get in no matter the time. I’m talking 3pm, or 5pm, or 8pm. But we did manage to get to a few; namely, Rogue, BridgePort, and Rock Bottom, and they were a delight. After the final bookstore trip we managed to get into Henry’s Tavern, where they had a very cool outdoor patio and an extensive beer list. It, too, was a delight.
But besides the beer and the books, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. We browsed through the Saturday Market. We would have gone to the International Rose Test Garden, but it wasn’t quite the right season. We spent a lot of time walking along the water. Drank some coffee. And ate some doughnuts.
There is a perma-line outside the downtown VooDoo doughnuts location, but we eventually sucked it up and soldiered through. High on the list of tourist traps, VooDoo was a must-try on our trip. At 8am the line was only a half hour long, and we left with a box of oddly-flavoured and hilariously named baked goods.
To sum it all up, Portland is a pretty cool place where people drink a lot of beer and read a lot of books. Thus, it gets my stamp of approval.
At present, I make a living writing.
This isn’t nearly as glamourous and elegant as it sounds. A year ago, when I quit my full-time, almost well-paying job, I thought I would be spending my days sipping whisky with a cigar in my mouth, possibly while wearing a top hat. If this doesn’t sound elegant or glamourous to you, ‘tis clear you have not seen Midnight in Paris. But alas, I’ve not yet acquired a taste for whisky, though I could probably get down with the cigars… and, come to think of it, I have been wearing hats a lot more lately.
But can beer be elegant?
Perhaps instead, I can begin a downward spiral into despair, ending with my head in the oven. Probably not ideal, but there is definitely some glamour there.
I’ve never been much of a poet anyway.
Anyway, the point is, I spend most days at my desk, which is maybe, maybe two inches from my bed, in my pajamas, eating Mr. Noodles or frozen mini pizzas, while writing about car insurance or pharmaceuticals or the health benefits of water.
And as I spend 20 minutes shaking the pizza crumbs from between the keys (while I procrastinate writing an article called Benefits of Accutane) (hint: there aren’t really any) I can’t help but wonder… how did this happen?
Well, it happened because nobody cares about my short stories or witty anecdotes, and a lot of people care about online pharmacy scams.
This wouldn’t matter because at least I’m getting paid and it’s not like I’m “above” writing about Viagra, but the thing is, I think I forgot how to actually write.
See, when you’re writing SEO-friendly articles called Propecia and Hair Loss Myths or Car Rental Companies’ Hidden Fees or Cialis: Don’t Be Afraid of Treatment, you kind of lose any passion you might have once had for your, ahem, craft. You no longer care if you used 10 words to say what could have been said in two; in fact, you appreciate the higher word count. Cliches are not frowned upon; they make it easier for the average pharmacy-scam reader to understand the content.
Should I feel like a bad person for writing these websites? Well, I don’t, because they’ve paid me thousands of dollars.
I don’t feel like a bad person, but I do feel like a bad writer. I’ve dabbled in writing about relationships and fashion and found myself using the phrase “cringe-worthy,” straight from Cosmo, on more than one occasion. For an online dating website targeting religious senior citizens, I included sentences like, “Once you submit the application, let God connect your spirit with the spirit of your soulmate.”
None of this is okay.
Is there a point to this rambling? Well, yes. I’ve decided to stop. No more. Or at least, much less. I will now attempt to find part-time or seasonal work, and will continue writing only for regular clients whom I have not mocked in this post. The rest of the time? I’ll spend learning how to actually write again.
There are a lot of great videos on the internet.
If you want to listen to a smart person say funny things, you can laugh along with Jenna Marbles.
And if you’re looking for something new to do with an avocado, a washed up 90′s rapper is more than happy to help out.
Wait, what? Cookin’ With Coolio? How did I miss this?
It looks like this was a thing about 5 years ago, but this new-to-me web series features Coolio, of Gangsta’s Paradise fame, who will “teach yo ass how to cook… Sucka!”
To find out more, you can check out his YouTube channel. There are all sorts of handy recipes, including a stir-fry you should be high when you try.
… How did this happen?
There are countless ways to lose a day; some, admittedly, better than others. Some days, I actually have to work. Usually something super fun, like writing articles on cancer or vascular diseases or producing marketing copy to sell diet scams. Some days it can seem like I’m wasting my life in a tiny apartment eating crackers and researching angioplasty. I try to convince myself it’s not really a waste; crackers are cheap, and the angioplasty thing is a paycheck.
When I’m using words to craft careful paragraphs that give me no pleasure (besides enabling me to purchase those crackers) (that’s a lie, the boyfriend probably bought them) it can be difficult to find the motivation to push those creative portions of my brain. Those parts that allow me to use those carefully crafted words to express well-thought-out ideas or humorous anecdotes or anything at all that forces me to think for myself rather than rewrite extremely common information in a way that is different enough from everyone else’s that I’m not accused of plagiarism. Trust: if you google “angioplasty” or “leukemia” or “onychomycosis” every webpage you find will have the exact same information with the sentences rearranged and choice words skillfully replaced with the aid of a thesaurus. Except for this one, of course.
The point is, such monotonous work is draining and it’s hard to pick ones self up to work on that latest short story after spending a morning researching toenail fungus. Most writers need a boost. Many turn to drugs and alcohol, but I’ve not yet given myself permission to down a bottle of wine at 9:00 a.m. (check back after 10 years of writing about blood and fungi and DNA and we’ll see where we stand). For the time being, I rely on the occasional motivational speech, usually given by a successful self-deprecating writer who can make me laugh. TEDtalks may be saving me from a life of creativity forced by mood-altering substances. Thanks, Ted**. I’ve decided to share a few of my favourite speeches.
And, these last two aren’t TED talks, but they are fabulous.
**Ted isn’t a real person, but it’s easier to pretend he is.