The overthinker

I've been lost in my own head for the last little while.

My thoughts start to crowd in on themselves, and block whatever part of my brain is supposed to control the rest of my body. I can't fully see or hear what's going on around me as my brain does a persistent running commentary or generates a number of imagined conversations. My arms become these two weights; I have some control over my fingers, but lifting them and getting them to hit the right keys quickly sometimes takes a conscious effort. Your words take a few more seconds than usual to reach through this haze. Maybe touch registers more quickly.

It's a little lonely in here, but I don't feel like I have the space for anyone else right now. I can't fully articulate what's on my mind because the sheer number of these thoughts have caused them to turn into a steady stream of white noise jamming whatever connection I'm trying to make. When this happens, I may furtively toss a few lines out but usually end up pulling back even further. Ideas and feelings don't seem real beyond the static.

This isn't permanent, but the exit seems to materialize as randomly as the trap that pulled me in.

Sweater weather

I'm at the library. The sun is out, but it's no longer warm enough to justify a T-shirt and shorts. I'm reluctant to wear the shorts anyway as my waist size is a little smaller than it was when I first bought them. I think I overestimated my girth at the time. The process of clothes shopping has never been my favorite and I end up relying on gifted shirts and pants. It's probably about time to get some new clothes either way. Nothing really seems to fit anymore.

My friend told me a little while ago that I'm always looking for others' advice on what I should do, instead of just doing what I want. Maybe I don't feel like a decision is justified unless I get enough positive feedback. Is this insecurity or conditioning? Am I a pet that's waiting for the command, then the "good boy" and treat afterward? It always feels like I'm waiting for something. It's hard to just do what you want when you don't know what that is anymore, and you're more concerned with keeping your life running than taking it anywhere.

I'm lost in a "Yacht Rock" playlist on Spotify right now, trying to follow my train of thought. I remember recording a lot of these songs from an AM radio station in Winnipeg. I had to sit through hours of Michael Bolton and Celine Dion to get to them, but the older songs always stood out. Maybe there was a melodic quality to them I enjoyed, or the smooth production that contrasted against the mid-90s hip-hop and grunge imitations. There was a lot of music that came out of that time I've grown to appreciate, but back then I stayed in smoother waters. The university students that descended on the city in the past week weren't even born when I made those tapes. But I wasn't born when a lot of these songs came out either.

The city feels too small sometimes. The familiarity is starting to drive a lot of the magic away; it becomes background noise. Maybe that's normal when a place becomes your home.

It's still hard to write about feelings

I relate so much to this comic that Kelly posted a few days ago. I relate to a lot of her work, but that one really depicts so many of my current struggles.

I've wanted to write a blog post for a little while. It would usually happen that a number of my friends would all update their blogs at the same time, and I would want to post something just so I would have fresh content to link to whenever I left a comment, but I'm going through another bit of a case of writer’s block. Writing SNL reviews is relatively easy, but the personal blog portion has been a challenge.

I don’t like it when my writing gets so vague and generalized that I’m doing a bad imitation of an academic paper, but I’m a little concerned about bleeding too much onto the page on a public space that’s marked with my real name. I wonder how Elan, AJ or Anne manage this balance. How far inside yourself do you need to reach to develop your voice, to be able to frame your personal experiences in a way that resonates with others? I love when a blogger writes things that I relate to on a deep level, but I'm too guarded to be able to achieve this in my own writing. 

I'm settling back into a regular routine. I'm still not getting enough sleep but I'm at least able to get to bed a little bit earlier than I had been. Money's still a little tight on the temp wages, but it at least gets me from month to month (for the most part), and an extra paycheque in August meant I was able to grab drinks with friends a couple of times while it was still patio beer season. I'm a little distrustful about posts that try to put a positive spin on every situation. Life is nowhere as pat as that, which is also why I hate so many cheery memes, but things are better than they were two months ago, at least on that front.

There are a few other changes I'm still trying to navigate, though. I'm no longer sure about a lot of things, least of all what I really want. About a year and a half ago, I realized I felt something that I wasn't ready to feel; as much as I consciously shied away from getting to that point, it caught me completely by surprise. I fought it, but to be honest, I think the resulting mental friction caused by my resistance made things worse. This whole experience has left me feeling vulnerable in a way I haven't been in the last 15 years, and tore through a lot of the definitions and defenses I've built for myself throughout my adult life.

Maybe I needed this to break me open, or maybe the heart is just dumb as shit. (A few of my friends will attest to the latter, usually with the curse "fucking feels."). I usually attempt to get through most things unscathed, even though anyone who tries as a life strategy generally doesn't get anywhere. I don't have any idea what this all means, though. It's hard to come up with conclusions when you're still trying to make sense of it all.

First week

I'm back among the ranks of the employed. It's another temp gig, but I'm glad to be earning money again instead of trying to make ends meet on EI (It's not fun). 

What I wasn't expecting was how exhausting it was to return to work after a long period of time unemployed. I tried to turn the job hunt into a little bit of a job in itself, complete with a frustratingly long bus commute, but I didn't really keep regular hours to search and apply. Without drastic consequences for not waking up early the next morning, my night owl tendencies took over, usually aided and abetted by a friend that normally chats with me online around midnight. 

Waking up's the easy part. I have the alarm clock set for 6, which gives me enough time to make breakfast, pack lunch, shower and get dressed before I head out to catch the bus. I usually try to get the first express route I can, since the quickest way downtown via bus still goes through two bottlenecks (the Windsor Street exchange and the part of Gottingen Street in front of the navy base); while the traffic's not bad during the summer, once the schools and universities are back in session for the fall, the extra cars on the road are going to slow things down, not to mention what usually happens once Halifax gets its winter weather. I get off at Scotia Square and walk all the way down Barrington Street to Spring Garden Road, then get a cheap cup of coffee from one of the merchants in the basement of my office building. The exercise and caffeine usually help me power through the day. 

By the time I get home, though, my lack of sleep from the previous night catches up with me, and I usually crash not too long after I get back to the apartment. When I wake up again, I have to think about making dinner and some of the things I want to accomplish that night, whether it's photo editing, watching something on Netflix or Shomi, finishing a reply to my friend's email, or writing a blog post. I sent a few texts and IM messages to friends this week, but didn't have the energy or mental focus for an extended conversation. I try to get myself to bed earlier, but I find it hard to go to sleep unless something in my to-do list has been accomplished, no matter how trivial, and if I sleep too long immediately after coming home, it's harder for me to sleep at night.

I have a few other things I want to balance besides working, eating and sleeping, so it's a little disconcerting for all my energy to be spent on the bare minimum effort required to do that. 


My new-found employment also means there's a narrower window in which I would be available to do the portrait shoots. I'm available all day during the weekends, but for obvious reasons my weekday shoots would be limited to after 4:30, with some travel time figured in from downtown Halifax to wherever the shoot is. For weekday shoots, I will also need to confirm the shoot the night before so I remember to bring my camera to work (otherwise, I lose at least an hour of time going home to get it and coming back).

In addition to my promised free shoots (five best photos edited), I'm offering discounts for the rest of the summer: full sessions (one hour or so of shooting time, five edited photos) are available for $60 (down from my usual fee of $100), while mini-sessions (1 edited head and shoulders shot) are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested payment of $25 (beer and food also accepted in lieu of money). If I don't know you that well, I also find it helps to spend about a half an hour talking beforehand to dispel some of the nervous energy that comes from meeting new people.

If you're interested in booking a shoot, send me a line and we'll work something out.

Portrait Shoot - Lucy (July 19)

I'm trying to get more practice with the camera before a gig in the fall, so I put out an offer for some free photo shoots to the first ten people that liked my status on social media. I'll eventually transition to more paid gigs, but these are a way for me to feel more comfortable with the process and get more proficient with the equipment I have.

I had the first of these freebie photo shoots yesterday with Lucy, who was a fantastic subject. Thank you for a fun shoot!

The aforementioned portrait shoots will be about an hour or so (not counting a bit of ice-breaking and getting to know each other beforehand, which I find helps the shoot overall), and I will edit and send the five best shots of the session. I'm also interested in doing simple "pay what you can" head and shoulders shots (one edited photo) and getting more practice with event and party photography. 

Rut

I'm in a little bit of a rut. Unemployment will do that to you, even when you're trying to keep busy with job applications and a weekly writing project, but the things that make for good stories are come second to making sure the rent and bills are paid, and there are only so many things you can do to spice up the job hunt process. My trips to the library were originally intended as an excuse to shower, dress and get out of the apartment, but I'm starting to get bored with this new routine, and the long bus trips back and forth just feel like more wasted time and energy.

I need some new adventures or ways to get myself out of my own head, at least for my writing's sake. 

A few things have broken the monotony. Spending time with friends helps. After the vigil for the Orlando shooting victims, my friend and I hung around downtown for a few hours and caught up. Another had me over for dinner and wine. When summer finally hit Halifax, I went with another to Point Pleasant and the waterfront. (I'm also easily plied with the promise of wine, craft beer or cider.) I'm afraid I'm going to dominate the conversation with depressing unemployment talk but we usually find more interesting things to discuss.

I got a letter in the mail from an old friend on Monday. I love getting snail mail. Social media is convenient but constrained, and as much as e-mail's better for being able to mold your thoughts and let them breathe, it still hasn't replaced the intimacy and tangibility of a hand-written letter, and it's such a rare thing for me to get real mail (that is, anything that isn't a bill or flyer) so I appreciate whenever someone takes the time, effort and money involved in using our postal system. I was relieved that it came before a potential Canada Post work stoppage froze anything that was in transit, but it was good to hear from her again. I want my reply to do the original letter justice.

I'm bored talking about myself, and the last week's worth of news just reveals how trivial my own complaints are. In those matters I'd rather cede the floor to voices that need to be amplified. 

If you have anything on your mind, drop me a line. The longer, the better. Distract me from my solipsism. 

Nighttime

It’s the middle of the night. I look through my idle Facebook conversations, trying to decide if it’s worth sending a message this late. I still haven’t fully embraced that feature, ever since it switched from an internal e-mail system to a real-time chat engine; unless I’m comfortable enough to drop random Simpsons references into conversation or just randomly send YouTube links, I tend to fret over my choice of words and hang nervously waiting for the response. It’s worse when it’s someone with whom I have an easier real-world rapport than normal.

I usually don’t bother, though. I assume you’re asleep anyway.

I can’t remember where I put my earphones. It’s too late for me to listen to anything on my phone as background noise, and I don’t want my mind to start dissecting each song, but I want to know where they are. I look all over the apartment. They’re not on any of my bookshelves. They’re not by the laptop I’m still getting used to, nor by the aging desktop I still use despite my frustration with its no longer sufficient capacities. I wonder if this is another sign I’m losing my memory. I check my jeans pocket, then the other one. Bingo.

There are too many things that need to be done tomorrow, but I’m up way too late to bother setting the alarm.

I had a dream the other night where you were in my city, and for some reason you just released an album. You’re not a musician, at least not in a professional capacity, but I thought nothing of it in that reality; maybe I was just distracted by the way more mundane frustrations manifested themselves there. Lack of money. Shortage of time. Incomplete collections. Constant vigilance over whether I’m pulling my weight. Either way, it felt good to look into your eyes again. 

Still processing, still grieving

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, I'm reminded just how thankful I am for the lifeline that is the Internet and social media; seeing my friends express their personal feelings over the matter rather than reverting to some ready-made impersonal #prayfororlando. I'm grateful for the rage of the activist communities fighting back against attempts to downplay the queer and racial identities of those slaughtered, and denouncing those that express false solidarity and cynically use the LGBT community as a cudgel against Muslims and immigrants.

I'm still processing this tragedy. I suspect I will be for a long time.

I took part in a moment of screaming at a vigil on Monday. It doesn't feel like enough. Sometimes I think I'm putting too much noise out there as it is, but my throat goes raw before it all comes out.

I've been reading social media seemingly non-stop all week, trying to leave comments instead of a passive like and share, trying to articulate what it is I feel, trying to maintain a sense of connection. I have feelings that I don't really want to put in a public space or feel comfortable sending in a private e-mail unless I have that absolute sense of connection I feel with only a handful.

I need a rest from the constant noise, though, especially with all the news of barely-concealed hatred that's already seeping out. 

As much as I hate the job hunt, I hate the limbo of joblessness even more. My focus needs to be on that for a little while.

Horrifying reality

I'm still a bit numb and sad about the senseless shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. I'm angry too, but mostly at Donald Trump, who wasted no time in gloating about how this incident somehow justifies his racism.

I'm not surprised he did that.

I'm not surprised yet another mass shooting happened either.

I don't have the words to fully articulate what I'm feeling about this tragedy. Much of my commentary on social media has been limited to amplifying the sentiments of others who are better able to spell out why it's important never to forget that this was a targeted attack on LGBTQ people, how the "thoughts and prayers" offered by politicians are empty as long as they keep accepting donations from the NRA, and futile appeals to politicians to do something about it.

It's been said before, but if the dead children at Sandy Hook wasn't enough to counteract the bizarre fetishization of guns that pervades American culture, the murder of twice as many LGBTQ people certainly won't.

I don't want to generalize too broadly and tar all gun-owners and people of faith with the same brush as the people who ostentatiously claim either mantle, but I wonder how many of the same people both link their patriotism, piety and masculinity with owning a device explicitly designed to kill as many people as possible  and support religious exemption laws that allow discrimination as long as they cite sincerely held religious beliefs? How many think that their right to easily kill someone should the need arise is more important than an LGBTQ person's access to employment, housing, medical care or their own personal safety? 

Even expressions of love and solidarity sometimes come across as platitudes in the wake of horrifying reality.

Late May

It's one of those days where the light and atmosphere shifts from hour to hour, warm sun briefly giving way to dark clouds and the slight chill in the air that portends rain, especially when combined with humidity. A pregnancy of sorts. The sun's back, but from the window in the Hydrostone Starbucks,  it looks like there's a slight breeze. I love the quick moments when a cloud passes by the sun on otherwise clear days, creating brief shifts in the light and a quick reprieve from the intense brightness. Bright sun is overrated anyway.

I think about writing and photography a lot these days. I want to get my voice and eye back, or to finally find them in the first place, before I consider doing it for money again. Maybe I'm so far in my own head that I can't truly see or hear what's going on around me, and everything coming out of my own fingers is just a stilted imitation of what I think is going on, like someone making the sounds phonetically but not quite familiar with the intricacies and rules of the language.

What is it that brings me to photography? It could be that I want to learn how to preserve the fleeting moments for posterity. Joyous abandon, a fresh haircut, a shift in the light. It's a sort of power against the inevitable. There's a rigidity in my work; it gives away that I've been trying to stage these moments from flimsy preconceptions. 

I want to take the pictures of all the people I know who will be leaving Halifax this year. I don't know the specific number other than "too many."

I want to take the pictures of all the people whose company I don't get to experience enough.

I feel like this blog needs to have a greater purpose besides being a place to occasionally write oblique posts about my feelings. The best blogs give me a sense that I know the author and the world they inhabit, but I don't think I give the same impression, aside from that of a frustrated dilettante-ish thirtysomething who's afraid of commitment and knows way too much about a certain long-running TV show.

Maybe I need to start reviewing books, bars, albums, or restaurants. At the very least, I think I need some new adventures.

Writing the same things over and over again

I tell myself I need to update this blog more often than I do.

I was out wandering the city yesterday. I deliberately left my camera and laptop at home because I wanted to explore a little and knew I was going to walk for an extended period of time. I had a library copy of Beautiful Losers and my phone with me; the latter's purpose was mainly to listen to music while I walked and to take the occasional picture. I don't know about you, but I find it hard to enjoy a leisurely walk while lugging an expensive, heavy and fragile piece of equipment around.

I've been trying to reacquaint myself with some of the music I bought a long time ago. Maybe it was all the buzz around the new album (which I haven't bought yet), but I had a strong urge to listen to Radiohead in the last week. I started with The Bends and went backwards to Pablo Honey before, but yesterday I listened to the next albums, OK Computer and Kid A.  Most recognize the former as their masterpiece, but the latter has always been my preference, for purely sentimental reasons.

While I listened, I thought about where I was mentally and physically in October 2000. I was a month into my first semester at Mount Allison University in Sackville. The week I first heard two of those songs, I had just come back from my first trip to Cape Breton in over a decade, wrote an e-mail where I laid long-simmering feelings to rest (with some post-"press send" remorse), and was still trying to moor myself in this wide-open future. This was all fifteen and a half years ago.

Sometimes I wonder whether I'm spending too much time revisiting the past. I've been going through old unlabelled VHS tapes, and while the nostalgia is nice, it hits me that I'm supposed to be living this adult life instead of going back in time. The target audience for the programming block emceed by beaver and dog puppets has already grown up. 1992 is as far back from now as 1968 was from then.

I always have the suspicion that I'm writing the same blog entries over and over again. Maybe it's a general fear that my life isn't moving forward, or a growing feeling that I'm not as open to new experiences as I think I am. I don't think it helps that I'm always looking at things that remind me of the past.

 

New York, June 2015

There was that time I went to New York for a weekend last year.

I had hoped to have this written and posted while the experiences and emotions were still fresh, but between a busier-than-normal July, some income-related chaos in August, a job change in October, and a job hunt since March, I haven't really been motivated to edit pictures or put words together. Unfortunately, my memories from the trip aren't quite as vivid as they would have been had I posted immediately after coming home from New York: the general impressions are there, but the details come and go, and every experience has an extra filter from everything I've experienced since the trip. Sometimes the specifics come back to me as I write them out, but right now, when I look back, everything's a bit gauzy and no longer as concrete in my head.

Trips to the States have always have had a slight novelty factor for me. I think a lot of it is the whole "almost the same but different" aspect that reflects itself in things as mundane as junk food selection and compact disc packaging. Some parts of Canada are more globalized/Americanized than others; the part of the country where I live (the Maritimes) is a bit more isolated from the American commercial influence than, say, southern Ontario. We're still aware of the products and chains, but only the most mainstream of the mainstream have made inroads here. As a transplanted Ontarian friend put it, a lot of gift cards she gets aren't much use here.

My flight out of Halifax Stanfield Airport was for early Saturday morning; airport security being what it is meant I had to be there about two hours before departure, and since the airport is some distance from the suburb where I live, I shelled out the extra money for a shuttle to pick me up at about 3 am. Navigating the world of international travel wasn't too daunting, though I had to give my sister Carrie a quick call to ask the name of the hotel she and my other sister had booked our room in before I could get through security.  When I landed in Newark at 7:30 Eastern time, I was running on very little sleep. 

I love arriving in unfamiliar places. I only began to notice this when I first flew to Toronto alone about seven years ago, but I'm exhilarated by the immediate disorientation that I experience whenever I fly somewhere: the discontinuity of two worlds separated by a period of time in a flying metal tube, the process of mapping out my new position in the world at large, and making sense of new surroundings. It could have been my sleep deprivation, but Newark Liberty airport had a bit of a surreal quality: aside from the massive throng that ran immediately to use the bathroom or grab something to eat, most of the terminal was quiet, and the stores outside the gates were not busy at all. Despite my exhaustion, I made my way to the AirTrain and hotel shuttle without issue, and took a brief nap as soon as I got to my sisters' room.

My younger sister Carrie and I took the shuttle into the city late in the morning, going from the outskirts of Newark and emerging into Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel. The first thing I saw as we emerged above ground in Manhattan was of a group of people outside a church in Hell's Kitchen; maybe it was the age of the building or the general run-down city atmosphere, but this scene reminded me a little of Uptown Saint John, NB. The shuttle let us out somewhere near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and we began to walk around around the city on foot.

I was surprised by how the crowds and the noise of the city really seemed to fade into the background. Maybe it's just because I was too focused on the task of finding breakfast, but the scale of New York wasn't a huge jolt to my small-city Canadian sensibilities. For all the noise, flash, and crowds at Times Square, for example, the impression I got was basically of Toronto's Dundas Square, except more so. We ended up walking about 8 blocks before getting a bite from Donna Bell's Bake Shop (they make a damn good breakfast sandwich) and stopping to people watch in Worldwide Plaza.

We impulsively tried our luck with the Book of Mormon ticket lotto; we didn't win, but the experience was entertaining anyway. Following a quick detour to a vendor on 6th Avenue to buy a new belt (which has since broken), we made it to NBC's New York headquarters in Rockefeller Centre. In some ways, visiting 30 Rock was a pilgrimage for the SNL nerd that I am, but it was the off-season and I wasn't actually in NYC to see the show, so our main motivation for this visit was the Top Of The Rock sightseeing tour and the chance to get some pictures of the city skyline from the building's observation deck. Even without actually bothering with the NBC tour, it was still interesting to see this place that loomed large in my cultural consumption over the past 20 years or so; if anything, seeing this grand old building humanized the cast, writers and crew of SNL a bit for me. Top Of The Rock was worth doing, but it's not the kind of thing I would do repeatedly. Getting the view from that height is a prerequisite for anyone's experience in the city, but once you've done that part, you're free to chase your interest. 

There was an SNL exhibit going on, but I didn't really want to use up my limited time and money looking at props and costumes divorced from the context of the mad week long rush to a 90-minute chunk of network air when I could see more of the city. 

A trip to Barnes and Noble was originally a practical move: we were looking for a place to eat, although the lack of available seating in the cafe made us decide to go elsewhere. I found myself entertained by the vast number of deep catalogue CDs available for $5 US (seriously, get me anywhere that sells a better selection of music than your standard-issue HMV and I'll browse for hours). After we finally managed to eat, we took the subway down to Union Square and checked out The Strand and Forbidden Planet. I spotted Kate Beaton's The Princess and the Pony on sale and picked it up without hesitation.

Continuing our journey on foot, it was beginning to spit a light rain as we walked along West 16th Street; my friend Dennis gave the address of a brownstone where the late founding SNL writer Michael O'Donoghue lived long ago, so I wanted to see for myself before we had to head back to the theatre district for dinner and our show. I wish my impressions of that walk were a little fresher in my mind, but from the place of hindsight that's now coloring my memories, I think having that quieter moment near the former home of a writer dead for over 20 years was more of a revelation than 30 Rock or any exhibit would have been.

After another subway ride back to our starting point and dinner at Mother Burger, we headed to see Fun Homewhich had just won the Tony for Best Musical a few weeks before. I knew the story and songs as I had read the graphic novel on which it was based several years ago (and loved it), and had the original Off Broadway cast recording, but this was my first actual Broadway experience. I could not have been more fortunate to have seen such an amazing show; I knew it would be somewhat emotionally harrowing, but what really caught me off-guard was how funny it was at times, particularly the kids' "commercial" for the funeral home, or the awkward, newly out Middle Allison's declaration that she's "Changing my major to Joan." Listening to a cast recording doesn't fully prepare you for how much of a gut-punch it is to experience the performers fully embodying their characters.

When the play let out, it had started to rain, and our main concern was catching the train back to New Jersey. After a quick stop at a drug store in Times Square, we navigated Penn Station to find our gate. By this time, our exhaustion had caught up with us; there was also a bit of time until our train was supposed to leave, so we just sat and watched some of the other people in the station; several seemed to have visible mental illness or addiction problems. I wonder if they were homeless, or if they've survived for long since then. Our train came; the ride back to Newark seemed quite a bit longer than the shuttle to the city, and I was ready to finally get to bed.


The next morning, Carrie and I another shuttle back to Hell's Kitchen. We quickly flagged a cab and rode to the Flatiron district, where people were already gathering around the barricades to setting up for the LGBT Pride March. 

I've been to a number of Pride parades over the last ten years in Moncton and Halifax and had a good time each year. Halifax in particular has a particularly vibrant Pride, and there's the added bonus of seeing so many people I know marching each year. Obviously, the festivities in New York are on a considerably more massive scale, but I still didn't expect the parade to last anywhere as long as it did. The mood was especially jubilant US Supreme Court's ruling on same sex marriage came only days before, but after the third hour, and what seemed like an endless stream of corporate entities' floats, we were both more interested in finding a place to eat and sit down than sticking out the rest of the parade. We already got to see Sirs Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, Mayor DeBlasio and his family, Chuck Schumer and Lea DeLaria pass by, so we figured we could leave.

It's a bit of a cliche to mock tourists for going to The Olive Garden when they visit New York, but I'm just going to admit that's where we went. I'm under no pretense that it's anything but a merely OK chain restaurant, but to be fair, I hadn't been to one since I moved to New Brunswick from Winnipeg almost 16 years before. Again, that whole insulation from the American chains thing. I didn't mind what I had, although the next time I'm down in the city, I'll probably go for some more adventurous fare. At other times in the day, we also stopped in at a Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme; I mainly wanted to see how their fare compared to the ubiquitous Canadian Tim Hortons chain. I found the Dunkin donut a little too sweet and cakey for my tastes, but Krispy Kreme lived up to the hype.

Without much else on our must-do list, Carrie and I just decided to walk around the city for a little while. We walked west, passing by an apartment building on West 21st Street with someone's proudly-displayed Emmy in their third-floor window, as if it were just some knick-knack. Turning south on 8th Avenue, we headed toward Greenwich Village. Our feet were starting to get sore, so we stopped for a bit in Jackson Square Park to rest and people-watch.

We went down 8th Avenue, down to Hudson, looping from West 11th to Bleecker to Charles, then going up 7th Avenue back to Jackson Square via Greenwich Avenue; the crowds from the parade had already hit this part of the city, so the streets were filled with people, including so many more people of color and visibly queer people than you would find in Atlantic Canada. As much as I love the sense of community within Halifax, the anonymity of a big city's always had an appeal to me, especially when I want to go out but don't necessarily want to run into anyone I know. 

We took the subway back up to Penn Station (we had to get the box of Krispy Kremes to take back to our hotel room), in a state where we were hungry but not really sure what to have. The sun was starting to go down, and we needed to rest again, so Carrie and I sat down in Herald Square, watching people go by. Despite the constant pulse of the city, it was actually a pretty tranquil moment, but it could also have been our exhaustion filtering out the noise and stress. It didn't matter; it just felt right to be sitting in that spot on an early summer evening. Eventually we decided to get something to eat close to where we had to catch the shuttle, but weren't in the mood for anything in particular, so Scallywag's ended up being our dinner spot by default, and we were able to catch a bit of the night's entertainment before we headed back to Newark.


My flight was around noon on Monday; instead of a direct flight back to Halifax, I was booked on a plane to Toronto, with a brief layover at Pearson before I boarded an Air Canada back to Halifax. Security wasn't a hassle, but the departure gate from Newark no longer had that weird alien quality it had when I was there on Saturday morning, all exhausted and disoriented; it was more mundane than surreal. The flight to Toronto was uneventful, though I did get a nice view of the city as the plane approached it from Lake Ontario; customs was a little bit of a slog, but more for the lineup than anything else. I was surprised how little time I actually had to spend at Pearson waiting; between customs and boarding, I barely had enough time to scarf down a burger and fries. I watched Looking on the plane and tried to pinpoint what part of Nova Scotia I was passing over. By the time I was back at Stanfield, it was late in the afternoon, and the shuttle took me back to the city on highways that were decidedly less busy than any I had been on the last two days.

I would have liked to get this out sooner, but I made the mistake of shooting the parade in RAW format, so every shot would have to be run through Photoshop before I can share them. Maybe this was a subconscious way to postpone doing much in terms of photography for a while, but as much as I tried to capture what this trip was like here, trying to construct the narrative a year later through photographs and other souvenirs has rendered my recollections a bit cold and sterile. Trying to interpret a memory isn't the same as being able to share fresh experience. I know this trip happened, yet it feels a little less real to me as time goes on and my world shrinks back into Halifax.

I want to be able to come down to the city again, preferably for more than two days, and with a little more open-ended time than I had down there. I didn't even touch Central Park or Brooklyn this time out.

Side gig

I'm currently looking for work, so the photography thing hasn't been a big priority for the past few weeks. I haven't really felt motivated to write either, although sometimes I get the urge in the middle of the night, which I usually try to extinguish because my sleeping patterns are messed up enough as it is. Pay-what-you-can photo shoots are still on the table indefinitely, but it's definitely a side-gig for me at best; to be honest, even that doesn't seem like much of a priority compared to finding full-time employment. Maybe this is because everything is up in the air until I'm working again, but I think I've come to the realization that I would rather be working a stable, if boring, job with benefits than to try to eke together a living from my creative endeavors. I'm actually fine with this epiphany. I won't sell my camera or give up the blog, but the more I think about it, I don't see either playing a big part in my long-term goals except as ill-defined self-improvement. 

With all this free time, you would think I would throw my effort into getting better at either as soon as I didn't have big chunks of my schedule earmarked for my day job, but that's not how it's playing out. When I take my computer out, it's usually to go to the Halifax Central Library to a) force myself to get showered, shaved, dressed and out of the house and b) apply for jobs without my cat protesting my lack of attention by walking across the keyboard. (Side note: technically, the Keshen Goodman library is closer to my neighborhood, but I like the excuse to go downtown). Job hunting is supposed to be a full-time job in itself, anyway, so if I don't feel like I put in enough applications for the day, writing something like this almost feels like slacking.

I don't mean to trivialize the work of anyone who makes their living in the arts; far from it. To be able to survive as a writer, photographer, actor, or musician requires a reserve of hustle, an openness to rejection, and a level of self-sacrifice in addition to the innate talent or skill that makes this pursuit possible in the first place. I just don't feel like this was the path I was meant to take.

Surrender

I'm usually not that comfortable around people until I know them well enough. I love good conversation, but I have to be past that awkward get-to-know-you stage in order for my guard to fall; unless I'm completely relaxed around a person and completely familiar with their energy, face-to-face conversation is a stilted chore. Complicating things further, I actually have mixed feelings about even getting to that stage of comfort: my sociability tends to drain easily, and if I'm particularly tired or under the weather, I tend to keep my interactions to a minimum until I feel better able to handle them.

I'm content to be the listener and not have much to add to the dialogue as long as the other person can manage to fill the silences. That said, I also need to be able to reach that occasional state where I'm comfortable enough to open up to them without feeling exposed or that I'm imposing. I just hope that my silent stretches aren't taken as a sign I don't value their company. 

Every now and then, though, I get to know someone with whom I'm relaxed to the point of free-flowing conversation. It's rare enough to make me take notice whenever it happen; I may be ascribing some sort of non-existent meaning here, but I have to wonder whether some other form of chemistry's beginning to seep in, threatening to change something enjoyable into a loaded question.

I'm single; I decided long ago that looking for a partner isn't that high on my list of priorities, especially while I'm doing short term contract work. I can think of a million things on a neglected "to do" list that I should get on top of before making this kind of leap, and still a fair bit confused about who I am or where I'm going; a serious relationship would require a lot of investment that I'm not prepared to make right now. I'm also a little selfish and impulsive, with a strong need for my personal space; there are days when I would rather make sure I can buy a burrito for lunch than worry about being able to afford a coffee to facilitate awkward conversation with a stranger. Oh, who am I kidding? Burritos win every time, but that's not the point. 

Attraction is scary. It develops by chance and circumstance, and the only control you have over it is whether you act on it. The potential rewards are amazing, but it requires making yourself vulnerable to potentially getting hurt. It may fundamentally and irrevocably alter how you and the other person feel about each other. To fully connect with another person, you have to strip off the facades you build to the world; if you know you're not prepared to do that, or are aware that a potential relationship would be a bad idea, these feelings suddenly coming along get more complicated.

Maybe part of the issue is that for me, the emotional attraction comes before the sexual attraction, and the rarity of that level of comfort I feel with someone to get to that point. I don't want to risk spoiling that, but by not letting myself appreciate a good thing for what it is, I wonder if I already have. Suddenly, I find myself monitoring what I say around them, second-guessing whether I've inadvertently tipped my hand. I don't want to get hurt, but am also afraid that I will be the one who inflicts pain. My instinct is to run. 

A friend told me that there really is no such thing as the perfect time to deal with this, that it's something that you just have to allow to happen.

Someday I will.

Portrait shoot: Laura (February 7)

My friend Laura and I had been meaning to do a shoot for a few weeks; the weather in Halifax was actually quite mild and gorgeous on Sunday, so we headed downtown. We did the first part of the shoot in Victoria Park, then went behind the library for the rest.

Laura then got a few shots of me before we headed off:

If you live in the Halifax, NS area, like what you see here, and want to do a shoot with me, I'm offering pay-what-you-can pricing for anyone who books a sitting for the month of  February. Granted, I won't shoot in the middle of a blizzard like the one we had yesterday, but as long as the weather cooperates, we should be good to go.

Pay-what-you-can photo shoots are back!

After a few months laying low, I'm offering pay-what-you-can portrait shoots in the Halifax area for anyone who books a sitting for the month of February. I will give you five (5) edited portraits for whatever amount you're willing to offer me.

Three things to keep in mind:
1) Weekends are best for me, but I'm available anytime after 4 on weekdays.
2) I usually prefer to shoot in available light so outdoor or well-lit indoor spaces are best, but I have a flash attachment.
3) I prefer to meet up beforehand and discuss any ideas or locations for the shoot over coffee/tea, especially if I don't know you that well in person. (Don't want awkwardness to translate to the pictures)

Some of my work is already on my website, but I'm always looking to get more experience and develop my skills, and hope to branch out into some conceptual projects in the future. If you're in the market for a new profile picture for social media or your website, or you just want some nice photos of yourself, use the contact form on the website to get in touch.

Some changes

When I first moved my blogs over to Squarespace about two years ago, my plan was to make an all-in-one website for my writing, photography and various blogs. I've been blogging in some shape or form for about 15 years now; the novelty of having some corner of the internet to spout opinions or share whatever details of your life you're willing to divulge isn't quite was it was then, but I've always admired the craft and candor that blogging allows for, especially in this age of clickbait and instant gratification social media posts. I also wanted to finally claim authorship on my Classic SNL reviews, which generated considerably higher traffic than any of my other blogging endeavors; by rolling them into this site, I figured that I'd at least lure people in with the reviews, and if they were curious enough, they'd find the other parts. I bristle a little at being pigeonholed as the "SNL guy", but I know other fans of the show appreciate the work I put into my reviews, and this project has put me into contact with a few people connected with the show. Writing these reviews also helps me get around spells of writer's block.

I had been dissatisfied with how the site looked for some time, though. I love Squarespace, and the template options seem to fit my intentions for this page better than the ones on Wordpress, but the particular template I had been using for the last few years didn't quite do it for me.  Maybe part of it was that I don't have the custom coding or design knowledge to make everything look amazing. In any case, the site just felt like I had made a tiny bit of effort at the beginning, but stopped bothering once I learned the most rudimentary aspects of design. I never really liked how the banner on this blog looked either.  After doing a little research, I finally found another template that brought me closer to what I had hoped to do all that time ago. 

I'm still playing around with a few elements of this site. My bio is still very slim, the personal blog needs a better title than "main blog", and the photography portfolio needs updating. I don't want to promise a rigid schedule for new content on the blogs, but expect more frequent updates on both; I now have RSS feeds for both blogs that you can access by clicking "subscribe". I hope to eventually get back to non-SNL posts on Existentialist Weightlifting, but I'm committed to reviewing the rest of the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons; there could be other types of reviews in the future. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I hope you like the new look.

Brief thoughts on Bowie's death, almost two weeks later

I'm a little late to add to the David Bowie remembrance train, nor do I have any good stories about how Bowie inspired or saved me when I was young. I remember seeing the rerun of his 1979 SNL appearance with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias when I was 16, and had somewhat of an awareness of his importance to music, but my appreciation didn't really flower until adulthood. Since his passing, I've listened to the three Bowie albums I own copies of (Ziggy Stardust, Station To Station, "Heroes"), as well as the rest of his discography on Spotify; I didn't give Blackstar a play until after he died, but wonder what it would have felt like to have those early impressions of the album suddenly change shape as Bowie's true intentions for the work revealed themselves. As I said before, I don't really have much else to add to the conversation, but I strongly recommend Jacqueline Valencia's moving and nuanced look at how important his music was in her life

Bowie's death has me wondering whether I would mourn any musician's death on that same level. About ten years ago, when my friend Wilson was starting to get into Bob Dylan, we had a discussion about whether his inevitable passing would be one of those events that spawns a massive collective mourning: Wilson didn't think so; he theorized that Dylan had so long ago become a mythical figure that news of his death would almost be anti-climactic.  It would still be a bummer, but I can't really disagree with that assessment.

Bollocks and poppycock

I'm trying to make good on my intention to update this thing more often, but it's hard to be motivated to write when you're so exhausted. I'm not sure whether this is just a byproduct of a wonky sleep schedule trying to re-adapt to the 9-to-5 working world, my body being affected by winter's late but vengeful arrival, or continued lingering effects from my exhausting week in Miramichi, but the last five nights or so have fit a certain pattern:

  • get home
  • lie in bed and look at my phone until I nod off
  • wake up (with occasional panic that I've overslept for work before realizing the time on my alarm clock is PM, which is more common now that it's dark when I normally wake up)
  • cook dinner
  • realize it's time I should try to get to bed, but since my nap and late dinner have thrown off my internal clock, I'm not tired, and I watch DVDs until I'm sufficiently tired again
  • head to bed
  • stay awake for another hour because I think too much, or have random snippets of things playing back mentally (latest offender: the Rugrats "I've Lost Control Of My Life" clip redubbed with computer voices speaking flowery language)

Based on when I wake up for work, a 10 p.m. bedtime should be the latest I turn in; it's so hard, though, because years of late nights have hard-wired my internal clock. I was making progress last month (to the point where staying up for SNL on the weekends was becoming more difficult), but I regressed hard during my two-week Christmas vacation. Now that I'm back into a normal schedule from Monday to Friday, I want to see if getting enough sleep will solve my exhaustion problem, or if I need to consider whether it has another underlying cause.

I've been thinking about my future in Halifax lately. Local activist Allison Sparling posted a blog entry about her impending move to Toronto; despite being born and raised here and fighting not only to stay in the city but make it that much better, she conceded that she too would have to join the many other young people that have fled this economically depressed region in order to build their lives. Her post nails a lot of the problems and frustrations I've experienced in this city, and the Maritimes in general. Don't get me wrong, I would love to stay here, but as Sparling notes, it takes a lot of hard work to cobble together a happy life here, to the point that you can't be present because you have to always be planning ahead. Maybe this bit of reflection comes because I need to think about my next step soon, but even if my next job is a stable, well-paying job with good benefits, I wonder what will be left of this city's vibrancy by the time I can fully enjoy it, let alone try to share a life with someone else.

Another new year

The beginning of the year always brings reflection, especially on social media; I've seen a lot of posts reflecting on the previous 12 months and tentatively mapping out future plans. I've done posts like that in the past, but I didn't really feel like trying to itemize and summarize (or even make sense of) all that I've done and felt in the last year, at least not in the space of one Facebook post lost among many.

I didn't bother going out for New Year's Eve; while I enjoyed myself when I did last year, I didn't want to spend the money and energy that a night out usually requires. Maybe it's just another sign that I'm getting older, but unless I'm heading out to see people I know or do something I particularly want to do, I'd rather stay in the quiet of my apartment with my cat.  By midnight my stomach was full of wine, Hawkins cheezies and poutine-flavoured Ruffles, and I was less concerned with lofty plans for the future than trying to get myself to sleep soon enough to not have the next day be a total write-off.

In a vague way, I know I have things I want to accomplish in the near future, but I don't really want to tie my goals to the Gregorian calendar so much as aim for incremental progress here and there. Speaking generally, I hope to get back to approaching the idea of writing as a source of income, developing my photography skills, paying down debts, travelling and generally being a bit more social; as for a concrete way to do all of these, I'm still working that part out. All I can do right now is recognize where I am, identify the habits and circumstances that stand in the way of these goals, and figure out how to work around them.

One thing I figured out in the last few days is that I spend way too much money on eating out. I live alone, am not an especially skilled cook, and have a few days where I don't feel like putting much of an effort into cooking dinner. On top of that, there are times where I may want to be somewhere in the city that isn't close to where I live (I live about a 40-minute bus ride away from downtown), or I just decided to eat while running errands. A few days ago, I had to get a few things to make pulled chicken, and on my way to the store I decided to get a bite at the food court. As I bit into my large donair, I just kept thinking that the whole thing cost me money I could have used on something I actually wanted or needed, and that I often rationalize not doing something mainly because of the money it costs, only to blow a lot on a pile of delicious grease and a bottle of pop. If I'm going to eat out or drink, I'd rather spend time with someone else while doing it.

I took a lot of pictures in the last year, but I'm still not satisfied with my skill set; I still want to focus on portraiture, but I think the shoots are a little too tense and awkward, especially with people I don't know well, and that reflects in the pictures. Is this something I can get over? I may just lay low with the photography thing for a while.

Now that I have a new laptop, I'm going to post here more often, since I'm no longer housebound if I want to write something (I suppose I could have always written things out longhand, but I digress). Maybe this will help with the whole "coming up with content" question: I don't know if this is the case for the rest of you. but I find my mind always locks into a certain pattern whenever I'm in the apartment as opposed to out in the world.