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Cheat on your taxes, misrepresent your qualifications and even your name, brand someone a socialist with no cause, and agree publicly with someone who says an Obama victory means death to Israel and, hey, fame and fortune await you. That’s the moral of the story of Joe the Plumber, who now has an agent and a potential career in country western music.
This is not the American Dream at all. This is the reverse. It shows that hard work, qualifications, honesty and respect finish a distant second place to being a shameless self promoter.
Thankfully, it looks like Obama — someone who truly did lift himself out of humble beginnings — will not be laid low by redneck reactionaries like Joe the Plumber. Indeed, it looks like he is about to become one of the most powerful men on the planet. And I couldn’t be happier. For all that some on the left may say that Obama can’t deliver the real change America needs — i.e. a total overthrow of the current system — I would answer that Obama is about the best person one could possibly imagine in the White House at this time.
For the first time in my life, a major western democracy will be led by somebody who is genuinely inspirational. Also, it goes without saying, that a black president signals a sea change in politics. It won’t mean another Hurricane Katrina fiasco can’t or won’t happen, but it will represent such powerful hope, such a powerful promise, that I think America and the world might never be quite the same again.
Let’s not forget that Obama is also an academic. When was the last time an academic was sitting in the White House? He was president of the Harvard Law Review, for God’s sakes, and was a university instructor for many years. If elected, he is going to be a leader who is equipped to think seriously and grasp the complexity of the problems he faces. By all accounts, he is not someone who acts rashly. He takes wise counsel, can see multiple sides to arguments, and has the eloquence to convince people once his mind is made up. In short, he represents the polar opposite of the black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us, divisive and horribly ill-considered approach of the current administration.
I am inspired by Obama! I do believe those that say that this is a man who seeks to bring out the best in people. As hard as he’s fought this campaign (and the one against Clinton), as much mud as he has thrown, he has nevetheless observed a certain level of decorum that his opponents neither expected or deserved. Obama retained his respectful and positive message because he knew it was what was so sorely needed in America.
I will be watching next Tuesday’s election from beginning to end. I don’t care that I need to hustle for more work and can hardly afford the time off. There’s plenty more time for hustling between now and then, and after then. For once, there is a great moment in history coming, and it’s not going to be a tragedy.
After a self-pitying post like yesterday’s, I think it behooves me to report on things a little more upbeat. Today I announced to my girlfiend that I would be walking from my apartment to Old Montreal, a walk that I estimated would take two hours. She reminded me that I should buy some maple syrup-filled chocolate from the maple syrup store while there.
I think there’s nothing better than making a two-hour trek with no goal besides buying $3 worth of chocolate. Although, for the record, the walk actually took only an hour and a half. And once at the store, I actually spent more than $3, because I treated myself to a hot chocolate. Something to sip while walking in the last of today’s sunshine!
At home, sitting at the computer, I am reminded that kittens have quite different priorities from us members of the so-called dominant species. Often, my kitten, now named Banchi, will flagrantly walk across my computer keyboard, sometimes going so far as shutting it down completely. Other times, she likes to walk across the printer, and given that the buttons are all on top, she is liable to set off the scanner or the mechanism that, to test all systems are working, spits out sheets of blank paper. These noisy emissions startle little Banchi. She stops and stares at the printer, sniffing suspiciously — keeping a tentative distance. Maybe she is worried that one day the printer will attack her.
Needless to say, kittens such as Banchi care about only five things. Playing, eating, excreting, sleeping, and cuddling. If only we could all make our lists of priorities as elegantly simple.
After three years of working on a novel, and about one year of effort of trying to get it published, I am still no nearer to my elusive goal. Thus far I’ve put in about $1000 of my own money and about 2000 hours of time on this project. I am not qualified to write a “how-to” on this elusive subject. Nevertheless, am I qualified to write about the struggles? Perhaps.
A few weeks ago, I reported with breathless excitement about how I had finally found an agent. Well, I have now almost definitely lost this agent, because she quit her LA-based agency. This is a setback. I’ve now sent the manuscript to another LA agent in the hopes that things will turn out better. But in this game, you always have to expect that it won’t turn out better.
You really have to not only love writing, but be pathologically driven to do it, to keep taking these setbacks. When you send a short story to a magazine, the chances of getting it accepted are about as close to zero as mathematically possible. When the rejection is emailed to you, it will be generic. It will not mention the story, nor discuss its strengths or weaknesses. There is therefore no way of gauging your publishability through exposure to the publishing industry. You have to rely on friends — and thank God I’ve got some pretty astute ones — and sheer self-belief, in order to feel that your efforts aren’t totally wasted.
Of course, some would argue that getting published should only be a secondary benefit of writing. If you love it, isn’t that enough? Well, to me, writing is rather like making an argument, and like any born debater, I want to win. I write in a way that I believe is true, and I write because I want my own interests to be taken up by as many readers as possible. I write about things that I think deserve attention; things that warrant a closer look than, say, Britney Spears’ new video. I write because I want people to pay attention to love, life, death, happiness, tragedy, instead of paying attention to Britney Spears. So while the audience is never in mind when I sit down and write, it is always in my mind after I have created a piece of work that I feel is worthwhile. And I don’t feel that’s a shallow goal at all.
Art is subject to whims, fashions, and matters of taste. It is not as concrete as a bridge, and so an artist cannot argue for his right to a living with the same immediacy as an engineer. But still, I firmly believe that we are shells of beings if we live without art. It seems pretty clear to me that humankind has instinctively chosen art since the inception of our existence. We painted on caves earlier than we invented the wheel.
But I love to read, too, and there is one of the biggest consolations of life. Ever since I started to seriously read magazines — The Believer, Harper’s, The New Yorker — I have come to see that North America has no shortage of talent in the field of short fiction. I’ve read stories that have accompanied me on lonely nights, that have thrilled me with their ingenuity, that have amazed me with their powers of perception.
Coming to the end of a great story, I think, “There is someone who understands life. He/She has lived it, observed it, and survived to tell the tale.”
The experience of living fiction humanizes us. Sometimes it can help make life a little more bearable, to remind you that you are not alone. But above all, it simply gives us more of life. Because I read, I have tasted more of life than I would were I to refrain from reading at all.
One day in the future, I might want to remember what it feels like to be turning thirty-three. If the Internet still exists and my blog hasn’t been wiped out by then – by me or a virus – this little post will remind me!
Let’s start with the negatives of turning thirty three. Well, unless you’ve heard otherwise, I am not yet rich and famous – and at this time of life, the amount of time remaining to reverse this state of affairs starts to wane. Oh sure, there’s still time. But it’s safe to say that, practically speaking, I’m a little too late for starting a rock band. Or becoming a hockey star. Some windows have already closed.
Also, I have more aches and pains. I’ll concede that I’m still more or less in the prime of my health, but I’ve already had two root canals and countless fillings; plus if I’m not careful, sometimes my back will seize up and incapacitate me. I’ve had to observe a careful stretching regimen that a fancy Edmonton physiotherapist laid down for me about 18 months ago. Not to mention that colds afflict me about six times more often than they did when I was in my early twenties. Sometimes I blame this on having become a vegetarian. I dream of gorging myself on steak and sausages and bursting with manly, wholesome health once more. But I think of cruelty to animals… I also think of factory farming: all the hormones injected into animals, as well as countless antibiotics to ward off the diseases that would normally kill livestock kept in such close quarters. And listeriosis… Eventually I conclude that eating meat may not be so healthy after all.
More worrisomely, turning thirty three makes me wonder if certain character traits might be here to stay. Such as cynicism, bitterness, resentment, self doubt, and anger. Those aforementioned qualities might intensify – it would just take a few more crushing disappointments and misfortunes. Or perhaps they’ll dissipate. But it does seem clear that no matter what my fortunes are, I’ll have to wrestle with keeping all those traits at bay for the rest of my life.
There are, of course, some very good things about turning thirty three. Let’s see now… I am a safer and more skilful motorist. With confidence and ease, I can perform parallel parking without breaking sweat. I do not even lose my nerve if someone is waiting impatiently behind me.
What else? Having accumulated a few more life experiences than my ten or twenty-year juniors, I have an easier time gauging certain life situations. Say, for example, I see a job posting online that seems too good to be true. I know now, with the wisdom of previous disappointments, that it certainly is too good to be true. Or let’s say I meet someone who is an asshole to me. I can more easily make a character indictment and plan how to reduce the asshole’s potential threat to me, rather than wonder – as I might have done in my greener days – whether it’s me who is at fault.
Because I am rarely at fault! I’m thirty-three, goddam it. I know some shit!
I also have the solace of knowing that most of the crap that life throws my way, I’ll get through it. I won’t buckle or break. I might get a wobbly lip for a moment or two, I might lose my cool for a few minutes, I might take an hour to get to sleep instead of five minutes, but I know that the sun will still rise in the morning and that after an invigorating shower, I’ll be ready to eat another mouthful of dust – or honey – or whatever flavour the new day is serving up.
I suppose, then, that the saving grace of turning thirty-three is resilience. Perhaps for others it has been something different, but for me, that’s what I’m most grateful for.
…And I still haven’t sold out.
And I continue to hate the neo-conservative agenda more than ever!
And I refuse to relinquish my dreams!
And I love, and am loved!
And every day brings at least one moment of pleasure! Even if it’s just a cup of coffee! Or a chuckle at the antics of a kitten!
And I predicted months ago on this blog that Obama would be the next president of the United States of America, and it looks like I might be right!
And I maintain that Stephen Harper has all the charisma of a gutted fish!
And riding a bicycle is rejuvenating!
And nobody can tell me not to overuse exclamation marks on my own blog!
It’s my birthday, goddamit, and I’ll use as many exclamation marks as I like!
Today is the day of the Canadian election. I voted earlier today, hoping that my support for the Liberals will cost the Bloc Quebecois their seat, which they’ve held since 2006. Overall, though, it looks as though the Conservatives will win again, albeit with a minority. I find Canadians’ choice bizarre, since Stephen Harper’s Bush-lite administration has turned its back on many things that I thought were widely supported. For example, affordable daycare. When they were in government, the Liberals got almost universal support from the provinces for their national daycare program; the Conservatives scrapped it and replaced it with a measly $100 monthly credit that is a drop in the bucket compared to what it actually costs to send a kid to daycare.
And Stephen Harper’s conservatives do next to nothing on one of Canadians’ top priority: the environment. If re-elected, they will preside over yet more Big Oil tax holidays and further increases in carbon emissions. Plus, without rhyme or reason, they cut arts funding, and favour direct ministerial interference in determining which arts projects get supported. Since when did Conservatives became the community standards police?
Closer to home, I have a new bicyle. I purchased it from a rough-looking dude on St. Laurent yesterday. It’s a great bike. Only $25 — probably stolen — but it goes like a racehorse. Yesterday, I took it all the way from Villeray to NDG and back. Beautiful ride.
And today, I continued my trend of buying from dodgy people, and purchased a black kitten from some apparent drug fiends in a basement apartment — again on St. Laurent. The woman answered the door in a skirt-thing that stopped well short of her knobbly knees. Her shoulder was plastered with band aids. A remedy for needle-induced track marks, I wonder? The squalid pit, which was a third of the size of my own apartment, was nevertheless currently serving as digs to the aforementioned woman as well as two men who were content to laze around in their undies. The healthiest critters in there were the kitties. My kittie was reportedly born August 30. She’s tiny. She is now settling into her new abode nicely, and is currently enjoying a well-deserved sleep on my bed.
Meanwhile, work continues apace on scheming of how to make money. I already make a bit of money, but I need to make a lot more in order to be solvent on a month-to-month basis. There could be good news on the horizon, or there could be yet more depressing news. Luck has not been plentiful, lately. I guess I have to go make my own damn luck.
This afternoon, I met Justin Trudeau, the Liberal candidate for my riding, Montreal-Papineau, and the son of a fairly well known former prime minister. He was campaigning on my street with a few aides, followed by a City-TV camera crew. I walked up to him and said, “You’re Justin Trudeau.” Sometimes in social situations I have a habit of pointing out the obvious. “I’m voting for you,” I continued. We shook hands. I asked him how the campaign was going. “Oh, pretty good,” he said. “A little tougher here, what with the separatists.” I proceeded to tell him that I used to work for the Alberta Liberals.
“So you know what it’s like to fight for lost causes,” he said.
Not without a sense of humour, this Justin Trudeau!
Let’s hope Justin’s cause in Papineau is not lost. Somebody must keep those pesky separatists at bay.
Waiting until your best buddy is in town is a good idea. Then plug in the Beer Fridge — a fridge that waits patiently for weeks and weeks for an event such as this, and lives only for the thrill of being inhabited by alchoholic beverages. Prepare some food — something to warm the crowd on a cold autumn night. Chili is a good idea. Welcome each guest with a hug, and in the case of your wonderful girlfriend, a long kiss on the lips.
Press play on the CD player. Crack a joke. Laugh, mingle, get drunk, pass out at 3:30 in the morning! Success!
In other events in the last few days, I indulged fully in Pop Montreal — with help from Matt and Monika. Saw The Dears and The World Provider on Thursday night. The former was sabotaged by poor sound, the latter — which was only the opening act — saved the night. Their merry antics made me laugh harder than almost any comedy show on TV. I highly recommend The World Provider for music lovers who are tired of the apathetic sulk feigned by most hipster bands.
Saturday night, despite the lingering effects of my hangover (I had five bowel movements in one day — FIVE!) Matt and I went to see a gig at Sala Rosa. I forget the name of the first band. But they were good. Then the next two bands were downright brilliant! AU was a two-piece driven by mad drumming and complex keyboard melodies. The Dodos were equally strong percussively — maybe even more so — and can boast one of the best guitarists in indie rock today. Having either one of The Dodos or AU on a setlist would be quite the coup, but having both… Well, nothing short of an amazing evening.
Last night I slept for twelve hours straight, recovering from it all. Now it’s back to the grindstone and wondering why holidays can’t last forever. At the very least, the weather is ensuring my spirits can’t sink too low. It’s a sunny, mild day, and the leaves are brilliantly illuminated. Will be nice to go down to Little Burgundy for my final interview of the article I’m doing, as well as fire off a few photos to go along with it.
I think autumn is my favourite season of all. When it’s beautiful here, it’s really really beautiful, and nothing makes me feel more alive than the smell of decay.