For The Love

So tired today, guys. So so tired.

Struggling through this work day, but it’s okay. Getting there.

Went out to see my beloved Arden and the Tourists perform for the first time in years. First time in years for me seeing them, I mean, not for them performing. They just rarely do any public gigs these days. It’s all been private events lately. My lovely friends indulged me by driving to the venue and hanging out with me for a couple of hours, and then driving home.

But there have been a couple of things making it hard for my brain to settle down, and unfortunately neither is really resolved yet.

It’s all driving me crazy and making my animal-loving heart hurt.

First, it was discovered earlier this week that there were some baby raccoons trapped in the no-longer-used chimney at my work. Not sure how they got down to the bottom of it, or if their mom was with them and/or able to get in and out, but they could apparently be heard scratching around in there just above the flue. Debris was falling from inside as they were possibly trying to find a way out. I didn’t go investigate because, frankly, I have trouble listening to animals in distress right now. It’s too upsetting for me just knowing about them without having to hear it, as well.

So for the past few days, all I can think about is these poor critters, trapped, likely without food and water, basically dying a slow painful death in there while we stand around and listen. I was running through every possible scenario in my mind last night, and wondering if I would come in today and risk my job trying to get them out, or at least taking matters into my own hands and calling wildlife services to come and do it properly.

Much to my relief, the building manager called wildlife services, and they came in today to see what could be done.

One thing they discovered is that there are actually two chimneys, and at the bottom of the other one is a nest of baby squirrels. They aren’t worried about them, though, because mom can get in and out and eventually they’ll be big enough to get out, themselves. So that’s good. And cute.

The other thing they discovered is that there are no baby raccoons in this chimney. There is a single pigeon. Unfortunately, the chimney doesn’t go straight down – there is a bend in it and the pigeon is at the bottom where they can’t get to it, so there’s no way to retrieve it from the roof. The flue is stuck shut and no one has been able to get it open from the bottom, so for now, the poor thing is fully trapped in there. For at least three days and counting.

I went and had a look and discovered that there is a piece of brick jammed at the edge of the flue door thingy, which is likely what’s preventing it from opening. Again I’ve been toying with the thought of taking matters into my own hands and risking my employment to try and get the flue open…but so far I’ve remained mostly impotent. No one really cares about saving the pigeon, but they do care about how much decomposition can smell, so I emailed a couple of people to let them know about the piece of brick, and offered some ideas as to how to remove it, as well as a spare coat that we could wrap the bird in and get it outside safely.

I’ve received no response, and am not really sure if more is being done or if they are just kind of tossing around ideas or dismissing it all together.

So while I am glad it’s not baby raccoons dying in there, it’s still somebody dying in there, and it still bothers me. Will have to see how it all plays out, I guess, though that also makes me feel cowardly and almost as bad as someone who just doesn’t care.

I don’t know. We’ll see.

The other issue bothering me right now just arose yesterday evening. Brody and I were out for a walk when we came across a woman looking for a missing dog. Apparently while in someone else’s care for the day, a restaurant delivery guy accidentally allowed the dog to scamper into the apartment building’s hallway during the transaction. No one noticed, but it’s a big building. Pepper (the dog) wouldn’t really get past the end of the hallway. However, the delivery guy also apparently had no issue with the dog riding down in the elevator with him…and then the douche let the dog outside!

So little Pepper went for a bit of a run. He was spotted on Yonge street, on Mount Pleasant…they think he was basically running his regular walk route. He’s escaped once before and made his way home once he got tired, so everyone was hoping he’d turn up somewhere safe before too long. I went out, walked Brody again when I got home, and went to bed.

This morning, there were missing dog posters all over my street and surrounding area.

I’m hoping someone caught him and kept him inside overnight. He wasn’t wearing a collar (because he wasn’t supposed to be going outside), so it’s possible someone has him and wouldn’t know what to do with him until they saw the signs this morning. There are a million other horrible scenarios that also could have happened, but until I learn otherwise, I’m going to keep praying for Pepper’s safe return.

And if I can find out which restaurant that delivery guy was from, I’ll make sure never to give them my patronage.

Seriously, who let’s someone else’s pet just run outside? People I hate, obviously.

Stagnating

Hot Docs (Toronto’s amazing documentary film festival) is getting underway tonight, and yesterday evening, Tim and I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing some of the ladies responsible for the opening night film, The League of Exotique Dancers – director Rama Rau, and Legends of Burlesque Camille 2000 and Judith Stein.

Now, let’s face it, as soon as we heard we’d gotten this interview, Tim and I both knew it would be a lot of fun. What we couldn’t have predicted was exactly how amazing it would be! You can see our ridiculous chat with those wonderful women here.

Our second interview of the evening was also fun and amazing, but in a different way. The thing is, though, it made both of us want more. We left the hotel last night on an absolute high, having just spent an hour or so doing something we both love, and meeting some incredible individuals in the meantime. You just can’t beat that – the energy, the laughter, the moments of connection, conversation and shared experiences.

The handshakes that turn to hugs.

I think I can say that, for both of us, the evening strengthened our resolve to get things moving forward with the Mind Reels again. Or even get them moving at all, at this point, as we’ve been pretty stagnant for much of 2016 so far. I mean, we’ve been doing things. Tim’s posting on the blog every day at least once, and we’ve done some on-location interviews, like the ones last night, but they are always for events – like Comicon, the CSA’s and now Hot Docs. We haven’t gotten back to doing regular studio interviews or anything like that for a long time, and we have yet to really strategize some of the other features we are hoping to add to our brand, let alone implement them.

In other words, every time I think it might be time to get off the pot, I realize that I still want to shit.

So, operating under the hope that this feeling of resolve lasts past, like, today, here are some of the things we have in the revised playbook:

  • regular weekly video content – at least once a week, and while not always interviews per se, the hope is to have as many guests as possible, and some different fun things rotated in once a month or so. The main goal, though, is to establish some sort of routine wherein we are posting video content at least once a week. We need to get that going and stabilize it a bit so that we can branch out more in the direction we want to go
  • build our reach and fanbase – we want to get our stuff out there more, and try to break out of our circle of friends to grab attention from strangers around the world. This all started in part because no one was really covering the things we liked in the way we would have liked, so we started doing it ourselves. For sure there are others out there who just don’t know about us yet, but who would appreciate some of the things we’re doing, and thee ways in which we are doing them
  • having gotten our feet wet moderating some celebrity panels at Hamilton Comic Con last year, we’re hoping to do the same this year, as well as branch out to other conventions in the area. The more we do it, the better we get at it, and having the addition of a live audience to interact with only heightens the fun, really! It definitely changes the dynamic each time, and that’s a challenge I want to keep taking on, for however long they let me!
  • If we can get some sort of regular show format going, and build our reach more, then the eventual goal is to launch a Patreon page and try to start bringing in a bit of cash each month, even if it’s just enough to cover some of our brand-related expenses which are currently all out-of-pocket. I mean, I’m not foolish enough to hope that we could be like the two teenaged boys on there who pull in over $10k per month by making silly YouTube videos of them eating various foods and rating them on a scale of sour-ness, for example. But at the same time, why couldn’t we create content that people want to see enough to throw $5 a month our way, in return for said content and some pretty excellent rewards? That being said, though, while it’d be wonderful to make a living wage doing something we enjoy (see my previous post about adulting), I certainly don’t expect to. But I would love to have a little help paying for some of the things we use regularly as it is, and upgrade some other things to make our passion project even better than it already is.

So we’ll see how things go. Once Hot Docs is over, I have a list of first steps to take, and we’re hoping to set up a meeting with our producer soon to go over a few ideas, as well. Once the flush of excitement from this week and next wears off, we might go back to stagnating again, I know.

But, then again, we might not.

Bankruptcy

I guess you could say my credit issues started right around the time I first got credit. Well, unless you count student loans, which I don’t. The first time I got credit by myself as an adult was after I was accepted to teacher’s college.

Prior to that, I’d moved out of my happy little home into the home of the person with whom I was in a relationship at the time. I gave away my bed and stored a bunch of my stuff in the spare bedroom, and chipped in what I could for rent and bills and the like for close to a year. When I was accepted to another year of full time education, though, I knew things had to change, as I wouldn’t be working for the majority of the year.

I was told not to worry about getting a student loan; I’d be taken care of.

I was told not to bother getting a credit card; I’d be taken care of.

I was told a student line of credit was unnecessary; that I’d be taken care of.

I was assured that I could quit my job outright, rather than stay on for a day or two a week through the school year – because I’d be taken care of.

I decided that I would rather have all of those options and not really need them, then need them and not have them, so I applied for everything, and – being a student – I was approved. I figured I could at least build a great credit rating by making small purchases and then paying them off each month, and if anything came up over the year I was being edumacated, I had back-up.

Turned out something came up pretty quickly, before school even started. I’d quit smoking when I’d learned of my acceptance, and then the blatant cheating began, the relationship ended, and I moved into a spare room in the apartment a good friend shared with his girlfriend. I paid rent, chipped in for bills, bought my own groceries, and basically lived off credit for the entire year.

You know, since I wasn’t being taken care of.

I also worked 1-2 days a week at the job I didn’t quit, and went back to full time after I graduated.

Over the next several years, I continued to build my credit rating by making regular payments and carrying a balance. Most of my credit limits were raised occasionally, to the point where I had an absurd amount of credit to my name. Like, more than I make in a year. That worried me some, but I figured I was getting good at the whole system, and so long as I stayed responsible, I should be okay going forward.

Then I tried to move in with the next person I was in a relationship with – who was in the US – and maxed everything out over the course of two and a half months of not working at all. I couldn’t find a job quickly enough in the diving economy of the time, and in my desperate attempt to keep trying right up until the last minute (well, past the last minute, if we’re being honest here), I’d spent pretty much everything I had left by the time I returned to Toronto. I had been under the impression that my being here was a short term deal; that I would just couch surf and work for a month or two and then head back once things settled down, recession-wise. I knew that, so long as I could earn enough to make minimum payments, I could just cycle money around and still stay afloat until I got back to where I wanted to be.

However, I was informed two days after my return to TO that I had over-stayed my welcome, so to speak, and of the demise of that relationship, as well. There was no chance of me going back any time soon, if at all. And since I was now stuck where I most certainly didn’t want to be, I had to find a way to make a go of it somehow.

I went back to work in a different position from the one I’d left, and slept on a generous friend’s floor for a couple of months. I had the opportunity to stay rent-free in a house way out in the east end, so long as I could leave no sign of my having lived there. It was an amazing deal, but the house was also full of spiders, which was my own personal horror to live with, so I was just as happy to leave there when the time came.

Since I was failing so fully at life, I found one of the worst apartments ever to sublet, and kept the majority of the things I had with me still packed, while leaving everything else in storage until I lived somewhere that felt safer. I started seeing a therapist, and got my cat back (though I apologized to her for giving her such a cruddy place to come back to), so at least we were together again.

The main problem was that, since I was paying rent and bills again, I could no longer make even the minimum payments on my maxed-out credit. The calls started coming in regularly, and I felt worse and worse about my very existence with each one. I tried going to my bank to see if I could just consolidate everything into one payment, but they would only cover their own stuff, and I was on my own for the rest. Since I couldn’t even make that work out, I finally broke down and went to a trustee.

I filed for personal bankruptcy that summer. And the person I was subletting the shitty apartment from got evicted, so I had to move out or sign my own lease, meaning I was stuck in that hole for over a year, all told. 2009 – pretty much the worst year of my life, thus far.

It was humiliating, and difficult – I had to keep very close tabs on every single bit of income and every single expenditure. I’d under-estimated how much I’d need for food and other basics each month, so I juggled with the other areas of permitted spending and made it work out. It was super stressful, though, because I had to give the trustees everything else, and justify whatever I didn’t hand over.

At least the collection calls stopped, though.

I was eventually discharged, and the trustee told me she never wanted to see me in there again, to which I heartily agreed. I still had my student loan from teacher’s college to finish paying off, but I worked out a payment plan with them that I could afford, and made that my first priority – after finding a better apartment.

That would, of course, prove to be hella difficult, too, because no one wants to rent to a bankrupt person, even if they’ve recently been discharged. I couldn’t get accepted back into the building I’d left when I tried to move to the US – and it had a sweet pool. I couldn’t get accepted to any of the places I’d applied, and I was starting to get desperate when I tried a Hail Mary with a little 4-story building in the neighbourhood I most wanted to live. I knew walking down the street that there was no chance, but I kept the appointment, anyway, and as soon as I walked into the space, I was kind of in love.

I flat out told the guy I’d recently been discharged from bankruptcy, and that I had a cat, and he said he’d seen people with worse credit move in, and that many people in the building had cats, so hope suddenly came alive.

Days later, I got the apartment. I still live there now, and I am staying as long as I can afford to, because I know how difficult it can be for me to find a new place now. And I still kinda love it there. It’s still home for now, a place for me to heal.

Plus, Kate the Kitten died not long after we moved in (she barely got to enjoy the non-shittiness of it, unfortunately), and now I live with three cats and a dog. It might be even more difficult to be accepted in a new place now, in some ways.

I was discharged from my bankruptcy on April 22, 2010. At just over 6 years ago, it should be purged from my credit report for one agency, and has just under a year left on my report for the other. I have a secured credit card, upon which I continue to make regular payments and carry a balance and, at $500, it’s low enough to not be a huge worry in comparison to my salary. It reports to both credit agencies, too, so I am already re-building my credit rating, albeit very slowly. It’s still better than nothing.

Am I gun-shy about ever having to file for personal bankruptcy again? Absolutely. When I was already feeling most worthless, that was the nail in my proverbial coffin. My failure at life was complete. I don’t ever want to feel that way again, if I can help it, especially since it’s never really gone away. I carry my failure around more than my successes, in part because I don’t think much of myself, but in part so I can hope to learn from them. I still can’t pinpoint exactly where I went wrong, but I think it might have been a series of mistakes on my part, and I am terrified of making any of them again, lest I lead myself back down that same self-destructive path. I can’t fool around with this stuff anymore. There are now 3 little lives depending entirely on me – and a 4th who depends mostly on me – for their survival and for the quality of their lives.

And then there’s me. I depend on me for all of that, as well.

If I can help it, I don’t intend to let myself down so completely again.

Adulting

Some of the things about the documentary I watched the other day have stayed with me. That’s usually a sign of a good film, but in this case it’s also a sign of an interesting person. The film is called Wizard Mode, and its protagonist, Robert Gagno, is a young man living on the Autism spectrum, who also happens to be a world class pinball champion. As a child, he went from struggling to communicate at all, to discovering pinball, to now having a ton to say. That alone is pretty remarkable, seeing the changes from footage of Robert as a youngster to watching him navigate the world as a young adult. He expresses himself very well in the film – better than many of us who aren’t on the spectrum, actually – and some of the thoughts and ideas he puts out there are fascinating to me, mostly because they mirror so many of my own thought processes.

Robert is quite self-aware, and constantly questioning things – his feelings, his dreams, his reactions to the world around him. Why he thinks and does and feels the things he does, and which things he would like to change in order to achieve something he wants. That someone who has so much else on his plate to deal with – the expression of emotion, for example, is something we often take for granted, but that he is constantly thinking about and working to improve – he appears to have a better handle on how to human than most of us. Robert is always analyzing things – himself, other people, and the world around him. I felt so drawn to him watching the film that I found some of the things he talked about to be eerily uncanny, as the same things have passed through my mind, and yet I’m been unable to express them as well as he does, thus far.

One such comment could have been almost easily laughed off, had it not been for the way he worded it. I mean, how many times have my friends and I joked about how “adulting is hard” and not wanting to grow up because not having responsibilities is way more fun. I still collect toys, for pete’s sake. I prefer movies and TV shows that skew younger than I am. And I still enjoy reading books I read as a child and young adult, often more than I enjoy reading books written for grown-ups.

It sort of even explains why I also have a hard time writing books for grown-ups. I have so very little experience actually being one, and you’re supposed to write what you know, after all. In my head, I am nowhere near as old as I am in my body.

And while many of my friends have gotten married and had kids and careers, many as well have not. Those are the ones I hang out with most often, because they still can. Marriage and kids and careers looks like it takes a toll on social time, really, and while I’ve never been a partier, I still like to spend quality time with certain key people.

Anyway, it’s been a running joke for, like, 20 years or so. In fact, I’m pretty sure that, at larger family gatherings, at least, I’d still be seated at the kids’ table, simply because I don’t have any children of my own, and am therefore not viewed even by family as any kind of actual adult.

And that is mostly okay with me, because many of the things I associate with being an adult are not things I want for myself, anyway. The times it bothers me most, I think, is when I can’t be an equal to a friend I want to be there more for. I don’t drive, so I’m zero help to someone who needs a ride somewhere. I can’t get you home safe when you need me to, and that bothers me.

But I make an amazing passenger, because I will never criticise your driving. I may have asked my brother to slow down on hills and such once in awhile, but that was because I was getting nauseous, and not because I felt he wasn’t in control of the vehicle. I’ve never felt like -I- was in control of the vehicle, though, so I think it’s best for all of us if I remain a passenger. Plus, my reflexes are not dependable at all. Stupid body/brain disconnect.

So, this kid, Robert, this young guy – he’s sifting through the job market, as we all do, and at one point muses, “Does growing up mean you have to stop having fun and doing the things you love?”

And I thought, “Yeah, kid, I guess it kinda does.”

It made me a little sad. A tad sad, you might say.

Obviously, growing up doesn’t mean you have to completely give up doing things you love. You’ll even find new things you don’t even know you love yet. But in terms of global adult population, the vast majority of us aren’t doing what we love as much as we wish we could. Many of us don’t even know what we love, not with the same degree of passion that Robert has for pinball.

Many people have jobs that they love, but most of those aren’t even a person’s absolute first choice for what they want to be doing with their days. It’s fantastic as far as jobs go, but that’s not the same as having a passion for something. Many people have jobs that they enjoy okay, and they pay their bills, and still make time for passion projects on the side. If staying home and spending time with your family could be a job, many would do that. Many wouldn’t, but that’s a different situation.

The simple fact, though, is that life slips by, and most of us aren’t spending the majority of it pursuing things we are passionate about. Sometimes when you do, the passion dies, and then you’re stuck looking for something else you can love just as much. But I think for most people, there’s just never enough time to focus on what you love, and that’s kind of sad, in a way.

The good news is that, when you do find that thing or those things, and you make time for them, that time becomes more precious. It becomes time well spent, and best spent, and contributes to your growth as a person. You value it more, because you know you’ll never get enough of it, let alone too much. It becomes something you share with others, be it people with the same passion for it, or people with a passion for seeing you passionate about something. Either way, it connects you to the world a little more.

I guess I just think it’s sad that the adults who came before us made a world wherein there is so little place for passion, and excitement and fun. Growing up may not mean you have to give those things up for good, but it does usually mean you have to curb it back and save it for special occasions.

Growing up usually means that has to be enough.

Birthdays

Today is my mom and brother’s birthday! Mom is turning 75 years young, and my brother is still younger than me, so we’ll leave his age alone! Haha

Or whatever – he’s 41 today, I’ll be 44 in September. So there.

Anyway. Growing up, I was always pretty jealous of their joint birthday celebrations. This was especially true when my grandfather was around, as it was also his birthday, so there’d always be a big deal made for the whole thing. I thought for many years how cool it’d be to share a birthday with someone in my family. How nice it wuld be to celebrate together. I mean, celebrations are usually more fun with others, anyway, so I always believed it’d be essentially double the fun, if there were two of us being celebrated.

Add to that the fact that I was never in school for my birthday – that it instead fell at the end of summer so not only had I not seen my friends for months, but most of them were not around to celebrate with me, and then by the time school started up again, my special day was already old news. In contrast to the triple treat that was my brother, mother and grandfather’s birthday, my own often felt like kind of a lonely affair.

Or rather, I often felt kind of lonely, and that just added to the sensation.

When I got older, it obviously became less important, and by the time I was in my 20’s, the school year was no longer a factor. I’d party with my work friends and whoever else was around. Sometimes my birthday falls on the last long weekend of summer, which is great in a way, but also crappy because my now-adult friends are often out of town. But still, I have much better luck finding someone to go for a drink with me now than I ever had available to come to a party then.

For my 30th, I was away at a softball tournament, but didn’t get to play at all on my actual birthday. Just rode the bench the whole time. Kinda depressing. For 35, I remember being at my go-to bar and many of my friends were there, anyway, so it was pretty awesome. I posted 35 pictures from my 35th birthday on Facebook, if I recall. Good times. And there was one spectacular year wherein I attended my very first Jays game. My friend and, at the time, roomie, Guy had incredible seats right behind home plate, and when he found out it was not only my birthday but also my very first big league game, he went all out to give me the perfect ballpark experience. Hot dogs, peanuts in the shell, giant beer that gets warm too fast – it was perfection. I’ve been hooked on that ever since, too! #LetsGoBlueJays

I kind of stopped celebrating not long after that, though. At least, I stopped trying to plan anything for myself. It’s not like I need an occasion to go for a drink, after all. When 40 rolled around, I wanted to do something a little special, so I went to the zoo and then headed to Jungle Cat World the following day so I could pet an Arctic Wolf, feed blueberries to ring-tailed lemurs, and snuggle a baby skunk. My goal had been to pet a tiger, but I’d wait another few years for that mind-blowing experience! Still, of all the people who’d initially planned to be a part of either day with me, only one actually showed up. Which was good, because you need at least two in order to do the behind-the-scenes experience at JCW. I would have been gutted if I’d had to cancel due to lack of attendance.

That’s partly why I don’t really plan anything anymore, I think. It’s depressing when no one shows up, and as I get older, I prefer one-on-one time or small groups to big loud fiasco’s. So if the one doesn’t show up to the one-on-one, then it’s just me, anyway. And it’s both cheaper as well as less humiliating to drink at home with the cats and dog, you know? Haha

Besides, when I can’t spend it with the particular souls I most want to spend it with, it feels less like a celebration to me. It makes me more sad, usually, because the thing I want most from those few individuals is time. Good, quality time, just being ourselves. And when it can’t happen, part of me feels like I’m just not worth it, not the way they are to me. Or when it happens but not with the people I want – the rare people who like me for me, regardless of who that is at the time – I feel emptier inside. All of which is are silly little things, but they contribute to the sadness, regardless.

It really is much easier to focus on doing the things I want to do, and if those people can make it, too, great. But if not, I’m still just doing my thing. For me – lately, at least – that’s what celebrating my birth is all about.

Right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Note: How narcissistic does one have to be to make a blog post about someone else’s birthday all about themselves, instead?

Sunday

Today was a bit different from my days off in recent weeks.  Everything has been so busy – and it still is – but I’ve been so focused on getting to yesterday, and giving my mom her present, that suddenly not having that to do meant that I could re-focus on other things.

And I did.

It’s weird because I kind of feel like I got nothing done, yet I know I’ve done quite a bit.  And either way, for the first time in a while, I’m okay with it.

I went back to sleep after taking the dog out in the morning, I had weird dreams, I made breakfast when I got up, and started watching stuff off my PVR.  I also fit in one of the Hot Docs screeners I’ve been sent.  Brody and I went for a longer walk because it wasn’t too hot out, but not remotely cold, either.  I got groceries, made lunches for the next three work days, washed the dishes and the cats’ water fountain, brushed Brody’s handsome hair, talked to my wonderful friend on the phone, reconnected with a few ideas I’ve been wanting to start into, and had a pretty amazing dinner.

It’s still light out but I am back in pj’s watching TV. I’m tired but not overly so, which is also different from recent weeks.  And thanks to my awesome little bro, I’m starting to research laptops, which is kinda fun, I must admit.

All in all, not a bad Sunday.

Sundown

Listening to George Michael and Elton John sing “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” while watching the sun go down can be kind of powerfully overwhelming when you’re already kinda emo.

Maybe even when you’re not.  I don’t know.  It was my first time.

So, today’s big news is that my super secret project is done, the gift given, the surprise sprung.  Finally.

But it did not go as planned.  At all.

Which, really, should just be my plan – to have things not go the way I try to make them go.  Nothing ever really does, so it’s not like I’m surprised anymore.  Just continually disappointed.

The end goal – to make Mom cry – still happened, though, so thanks to everyone who helped make that transpire.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  Well, not in a good way.  😉

Anyway, I’m pretty beat.  I want to talk, but I don’t want to talk.  Just sad and tired for now.

Plus, let’s be real.  The sun went down awhile ago…  😉

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