Jul 2018 29

After not posting for awhile, this will be kind of a bummer post. But death is on my mind.

Two women I know died recently. Their stories are very different from each other, but both have me thinking about the struggles people go through in life. How are some people able to get through theirs, and others just can not? Is it luck? Is it a support system? Their lives, and deaths, will leave their impression on me for a long time. Both bright lights that I’ll miss.

My next door neighbour, Bronia, was 87. Reading her obituary, her age came as a bit of a surprise. It was always a topic on our street – ‘Just how old do you think Bronia is?’ was frequently discussed and guesses ranged from early 70s to her 90s. Always tending her front or back gardens, which were lovely and made me feel like a terrible neighbour for not following her street beautification example, Bronia didn’t speak much English but was always quick with a bright smile, or a pat for our dogs – which she encouraged to lick her face and she’d giggle with joy. We’d see her zipping up and down Roncesvalles, with her bundle buggy in tow talking to friends. She seemed to slow a bit lately, but it didn’t deter her from being out in her garden all the time.

At her visitation at the funeral home, we got to see photos of her as a young girl in another country. And then as a wife, and as a caring mother. And then into being a grandmother. Same smile. Same bright aura. A life well lived. And long lived.

And then there’s Renée.

Just 23 years old. Her whole life ahead of her. Many years ago, we first met her at a restaurant up the street that we frequent a lot where she was a server. Just like Bronia, always quick with a bright smile and eager to share a laugh. When she left the restaurant recently, we wondered what the circumstances were but people come and go in your life and as you get older, you tend to accept it. We ran into her recently on Roncesvalles and now that I think back, there was a sadness in her eyes, despite the smiles and quick superficial catch-up. She had plans for the future though, and I looked forward to running into her again and hearing how they were coming together.

But last week, we got word that she died suddenly. Her heart gave out from complications related to an eating disorder. It turns out she had been battling this and depression for quite a long time. And those of us who were just ‘customers’ are left wondering – What did we miss? Should we have spotted this? How could we have helped? Those are selfish things I suppose and puts far too much importance on ourselves. It’s her parents and those closest to her that I feel for now.

Bronia was blessed with a long life and leaves behind kids, grandkids, and neighbours who will all miss her presence. She left a large wake behind her. And Renée, well, it just feels like she was cheated. And we’re all cheated too for not seeing a young person so full of potential, realize it, and find her place in the world and her dreams fulfilled.

A reminder – Some people hide their internal struggles well.

I’m mad at life for Renée. And yet happy at life for Bronia’s story.

Death is never fair. Is our fate sometimes as random as a roll of the dice? Or is their more at work here?

 

 

Jul 2018 05

It has returned. Got an email from an industry friend informing me that ‘IKEA – Start the Car!’ is back on the air. My one-hit wonder. My ‘Barbie Girl’, ‘Mambo #5’. Like Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’.

I know I should be proud and happy that a spot I wrote is still effective, brings happiness to people, and has entered the pop-culture vernacular, but it’s always strange when it comes back.

So, for anyone stopping in here because they Googled the spot (you need to get out more, but who knows), here’s a tidbit about the spot:

As the writer, no, I do not get paid residuals every time it runs. That’s not the way it works in advertising. Which is too bad, cause it has run in so many countries and those USA residuals would add up to serious ka-ching. The director, film editor, set designer, etc don’t get paid again either. But you know who does? The actors and musicians. Yes, whoever played the Glockenspiel on the music track gets paid. How cool is that?

We tried many original music tracks on that spot before we hit the right tone. Nothing was quite working great and then I had a weird thought … Could we try something in the same vein as the old Star Trek ‘Captain Kirk’ fight music theme? It seemed to have the right zany, campy, anxiety-filled energy to it and so the music house (RMW) gave it a go.

The right cast. The right performances. And the right music. It may never happen again in my career, but it’s fun to see it come back every once in awhile. Like a rash that’s oddly satisfying to scratch.

 

Jun 2018 28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 2018 23

This year, I realize I’ve been looking at the Pride Flag the entirely wrong way for my whole life. I always saw it as a rainbow of colours, meaning that the world is made up of many types of people. And I guess, to an extent, that is what the meaning is. And I will just say before I go any further that what I am about to say doesn’t mean you have to share my perspective. That flag represents whatever it represents to you.

But for me this year, I look at the flag differently. When I was younger, I admit, I always saw sexuality as such a black and white thing. Either you were gay, or you’re straight. It was that simple. There was no inbetween when growing up in Rexdale of the 1980s. The straight guys played sports, listened to hard rock, and hung out with other guys that did the same and talked about ‘chicks’. And there was one openly gay guy in our high school. One. And there were whispers in the hallway. It was very black and white.

In my life, I’ve been lucky, very lucky, to have met people in the middle ground of this black and white spectrum. Some people that like boys, and girls. Some people that don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Some people that are polyamarous. Some people that are two-spirited. Some people that don’t know what they are but it’s fine cause labels are stupid. And people that I haven’t met yet that will open my eyes to other things, and I’m excited to meet them.

To know that I once looked at sexuality as such a binary thing is embarrassing. But I guess it’s part of my own growth. To look at it that way is to dismiss the reality that human beings are complex, amazing creatures.

I’m pretty sure I’m a CIS male, but I do admit that every time the trans Personal Trainer at my gym flirts with me, I get a little giggly. Her hypersexuality just turns me on regardless of what’s in her pants or how she was born.

Back in 1980s Rexdale, this would not have played well. I didn’t play sports. I was in the band. I was on the Chess team and student newspaper. I listened to The Smiths. Some of my closest friends were girls. And yes, in addition to Heather Locklear, Chicks with Dicks turned me on.

Recently, I re-pierced both of my ears – just cause I wanted to. A cousin I visited in Saskatoon last weekend saw this and asked me “Are you gay?” and long ago I might have been defensive about this, but instead I answered “Maybe I’m whatever you think I am, but I think I’m just Andrew.” Not knowing what to do with this info, he retreated to his black or white spectrum to contemplate. (The things we associate with ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ is great fodder for another article for another time.)

Love is love. Lust is lust. People are who they are. It’s not a black and white thing. We’re all somewhere in that spectrum of colours that the flag represents to me now. There is no right colour to be.

Orange likes being orange. It’s all orange knows how to be, really, and it can’t pretend to be blue. Even if you want it to blue. And someone else out there thinks orange is the best thing ever.

Be who you are.

It’s not black and white. It’s a spectrum.

Happy Pride.

Orange it up.

Jun 2018 13

Forward

Posted In Blog,The world

Some thoughts on Anthony Bourdain and my general feelings about the world lately. It’s dark. But, like the dog who sits at the table with the inferno all around, I’ll say: (spoiler alert) I’m fine. 

Oh no, not me. We never lost control. You’re face to face with the man who sold the world.

It has taken days to write about but like many people, Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide last week has left a wound. Depressed me, even. Kicked up dust in dark forgotten corners. Which is unlike me, considering I’m always adamant when a celebrity dies that ‘we don’t really know them off camera or in real life, so who cares?’. And I move on with my day.

But there’s something about this one that spoke to me.

One can never know the true reasons someone took their own life. Or if there was a final breeze that pushed them over their edge to succumb to their monsters, willingly, without a fight even, glad to finally let go. There are rumours of ‘whys’ of course, and those that say it was not a surprise.

But rather than focus on the way he died, it’s the way he lived that resonated with me, and leaves an echo.

A traveller. A writer. An observer and reporter of life. A person with a seemingly unquenchable thirst and bottomless appetite for people, food, adventure, and just being ‘Anthony Bourdain’. I got it. Or thought I did. He achieved the pinnacle of more than one discipline that I aspire to even just attempt, nevermind achieving any success. Bold, brash, an ego to match, and what really got to me – what seemed like a sensitive, human heart. A person that had a capacity to love and care so much that it opened himself for potential, inevitable, wounding. But it seemed like a deal he had made with himself and he stuck with the ride. And we rode along.

Unlike other ‘celebrities’ and people ‘we don’t really know’, I felt like I did know him. As many did, reading his words, and seeing the world through his eyes.

Lately I find I’m angry at the world. And this has not helped.

Perhaps this is just part of getting older but I have wondered if I have come to a point where I no longer believe the world can get better. And I am no help. We seem to be on some inevitable slide towards a society where there is no turning back. It is hard to stay optimistic sometimes. And I’m tired of self-indulgent therapists’ couches. Rather than immerse myself in the distractions of the on-demand early 21st century, I want to alienate myself from these things, which leads to less connected-ness with people I spend everyday with. I hear people talking about an episode of some show, sport, or person-who-has-no-business being famous that I have no interest in, and I withdraw. This hopelessness and despair makes all my relationships harder lately. It makes my job in advertising harder.

It makes not feeling harder.

But to what am I withdrawing to, is the question. There seems to be only a dark void beyond this manufactured light of distractedness and entertainment we surround ourselves with. It’s easy to look at those shadows and think there’s nothing there.

Despite how he lived, in how he died, Bourdain did not help.

This is what I was feeling on Saturday, as I finally had time to reflect. A feeling of helplessness came over me. A wave of sorrow and panic. A realization that I have no control over anything. And I never really did, I suppose. None of us do.

I laughed and shook his hand. And made my way back home. I searched for form and land.

And then on this Saturday afternoon, I was strangely drawn to one of my bicycles. Not to ride it. But to tend to it for some reason. It had been sitting in the front hall for a couple of weeks, flipped over without mounted rims or tires, ready for some TLC that I hadn’t been interested in giving it. My other, commuter bike that takes me to work has been operating fine, so I’d left this second bike – the fun bike as I think of it, the one that’s single-gear, light, nimble, and too fast and has left me tumbled, bruised, and battered on the road more times that I can count – I left it to the wanting tentacles of entropy to dig in and slowly pull into the deep.

I decided to pull it back. I spent a few hours mounting new tires on it, cleaning and lubing it, and generally making it road-worthy for summer.

And slowly, I started to feel in control of something again. Depressed, emotional, and angry all at once – at the very least, I could control whether I felt safe on this bike. This machine, I can understand. And I can tend to it with my own mind and hands. No electronics. No batteries. Back to the basics and certainty of simple physics. Two wheels, a chain, one gear. Pedal and it will go. I will move forward. The most certain return on investment for me in our strange reality right now.

Who knows? Not me. We never lost control. You’re face to face with man who sold the world.

On this bicycle, the world – this fucking heartless, cruel, and beautiful world – it makes sense for as long as I keep pedalling. So that’s what I’ll do.

 

(‘The Man Who Sold The World’ lyrics by David Bowie)

 

 

 

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