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.

The Draft Folder

I've been trying to write something here for the last few weeks; the beginning of a post languished in my drafts folder for the last three weeks or so while I tried to come up with a topic that I felt enough about to write something worth reading. I don't feel like I have anything to add to the various conversations that have been dominating the news cycle over the last month, and I'm pretty sure I've already given my take on Facebook, either in my own words or implicitly by sharing someone else's. I have a similar fight happening with my e-mail draft folder. I've been able to pare it down somewhat, but for a long time, I was struggling to fill attempts at letters to over ten different people. 

I want to know about what people are going through and see their faces. This connection is still there on social media, but it's been diluted by too much noise: of the news, trite platitudes attached to pictures of sunsets or Minions. What people share on social media is a reflection of who they are, or at least the image they want to present to their peers, but there's a superficiality to it all that just drains me. I've never really liked the limbo of small talk, especially with people I don't know well enough to be sufficiently comfortable around. 


I've mentioned before about how bad I am at making plans with friends; this hasn't really changed, but I still managed to fill my social calendar over the last couple of weeks. Beers with out-of-town friends. A birthday party. An old (and unfortunately casually misogynistic) movie. Cathartic venting and lunch. I think I'm paying for it now, though, because I'm a bit more tired than usual (then again, it's probably my bad sleep habits catching up with me).  If I don't feel like I'm at optimum energy, I'm not really up to the give-and-take of conversation and don't feel like subjecting others to one of my taciturn spells.

It's dark and cold again, though. I'm not much of a flâneur; if I'm out, I need to have a purpose. It could just be a sign of getting older, but I don't have the energy (or cash flow) to just take myself out of the apartment and see where the night leads me anymore. This is why I need to get better at plan-making: as soon as the ice and snow makes getting to and from work a chore, I'll be less likely to find excuses to go somewhere unless I get paid for it.

I tend to take my friends in the city for granted, though.


There are other things I want to write about, but don't have sufficient words at this time. The scary vulnerability of chemistry with another person. The casual realization of your adulthood. The unique joys and frustrations of life in the Maritimes. The words may come, or my interest in these subjects may wane. You may be able to articulate my feelings a little better than I can at the moment.

I leave you with a Joni Mitchell song (yes, the album art is a little problematic, but that's another conversation).

 

Defaults

My draft about New York continues to grow. I'm still struggling to find the words that do the experience justice, and the motivation to lose myself in this search when there are so many other things that I want or have to do every day. Having to catch an earlier bus than I used to means that I also have to get to bed earlier, so I'm aware of the limited window I have to accomplish something, but I often find myself staying up too late when I don't feel like I managed to write that e-mail, edit those pictures, work on the blog post, or even read the book or watch that movie or TV show that I've been wanting to forever. 

I was thinking of writing another post about how I spend a lot of time on social media, but don't really do much reach out or connect aside from the most passive means possible, but I've already drawn from that well in the "30 in 30" exercise. It's not like I'm completely apartment-bound: in the last two weeks I went to a theatre workshop and my friends' annual joint birthday party, but I feel like I'm not as bold about forcing myself to go out and meet new people as I was when I first came to Halifax. The familiarity of places and faces sometimes feels a little oppressive.

I sometimes feel like I've been trained to accept what is instead of actively striving for the life and self I truly want, just in case I can't recover from a false move. I don't trust my judgement, lean on other's expectations and weigh my decisions based on what would get me some sort of pain-free validation. I try to do what's expected, and don't have much energy to reach beyond that.

I'm 33 now. I've been acutely aware of my advancing age. There's a part of me that knows I should be striving towards some semblance of Responsible Adulthood, but have I just boxed myself into this comfortable post-adolescence? Would I be able to gather enough momentum to drastically change my path if it was necessary?

What would it take to break out of "default" mode?

30 in 30: Day 30

This exercise winds down with one last entry. It's a relief to not have to worry about my daily posting quota or feel guilt over marking the day with a one-sentence post, and there's some bit of satisfaction to take in posting every day for 30 days, but the thing I worry about is that I'm going to squander this momentum. Maybe it will channel itself into my renewed focus on the SNL reviews, but what I really want is to regularly update the two streams of my blog. I aspire to the level of writing I see regularly on The Belle Jar and Trans Canada (My Way), and want to have something more to say than what I thought of a 30-year-old episode of a television show. For someone who's been trying to write for years, I'm still searching for my voice. 

I started a new job last week; it's in Dartmouth, so the commute is a bit longer than it was to my old job. This means I have to wake up earlier, which technically means I should be getting to bed earlier than I have been. Old habits die hard. Wil Wheaton just posted an entry on his blog about seven things he did to reboot his life that gave me pause, but do I need a reboot of my life, or do I need to figure out what I want before I can do that?

I'm giving myself two weeks until my friends' party to pare down the growing backlog of photos I still need to edit from this summer (going back to June). I don't know what the penalty will be aside from feeling like I can't stay on top of things, but it has to be done or it will either grow bigger with every event I shoot, or hold me back from wanting to take more pictures.

That's 30.

30 in 30: Day 29

Another year of skipping the Halifax Pop Explosion; the fourth in a row. I keep telling myself that I'm going to go to the next one, but just like Sappyfest, I don't even bother. Maybe I'm being needlessly frugal or maybe I've reached the age where I can't be bothered to get excited about live music. When my friend was in town last week, he suggested just going out to random shows with no regard as to whether I was familiar with the band or knew anyone else that was attending. Sometimes I just prefer to spend the money on a burrito.

There are nights where it hits me that I live in this amazing harbourfront city, and taking advantage of what it has to offer is just a matter of me willing myself to take a bus out of suburbia. And yet, when I do, I'm at a loss as to what to do, or I realize that I spent the time and effort to do something I didn't exactly want to do, and now have to spend even more to make it back home. If I take my camera, it suddenly becomes a load I wish I didn't have to carry or worry about. If I don't, I come across a scene that I wish I could take a good picture of. I have to justify everything to myself.

Random scenes come to me when I'm out and about, but they dissipate by the time I sit down to put pen to paper. I have an idea for a mood I want to create and some of the people that come to mind as the basis for characters, but nothing much in terms of plotting.

I leave you tonight with a 30 year old Prefab Sprout song.


30 in 30: Day 27

I keep thinking I need to make plans to go for coffee or drinks with people, but by the time I'm back home from work, I'm back into hermit mode and come up with a litany of excuses for not sending the message. It's late. It's early. I just saw them. I haven't seen them in a long time. We're not really that close. I can't afford it. Et cetera, et cetera. (I keep hearing the voice of one of my freshman year Poli Sci profs at Mount Allison saying the "et cetera" part.)

I've always felt that in the unlikely case that I manage to become famous for something, I would handle it poorly. As much as I would like to be able to do something that gives me respect and recognition, or create something of lasting value, I have a feeling all these insecurities I have would only magnify under the spotlight. Would I seclude myself like Jan Hooks did in her last years? Possibly. 

30 in 30: Day 26

There are only a few more days left in this exercise. All things considered, I think I did pretty well so far, even if the daily quota was occasionally filled by short "posts for the sake of themselves" entries. I think the main purpose behind this was to get back into a space where I can write more regularly; sometimes at length, sometimes in terse little one-sentence updates. It's also opening me up to writing at length again and playing around with word placement, something that I felt got away from me in the last little while.

I hope I still have a few longer entries in me for the next few posts. 

30 in 30: Day 25

I could speak at length about the federal election, but I used all my good stuff on social media, and I don't really want this space to get bogged down with my own political leanings. My main hope is that Atlantic Canada is on the receiving end of some major investments: I want economic opportunity, but more than that I want this place to not feel as cut off (in various respects) from the rest of Canada as it often does.