The summer's gone, but a lot goes on forever

Leonard Cohen is gone. It was an inevitability, telegraphed by the man himself in recent months, but seeing the official status at the top of my Facebook feed was an unwelcome surprise tonight. Right now, it doesn’t feel much like the big loss I expected to feel; in a year that already claimed David Bowie and Prince, where voters in the UK and US legitimized hatred and resentment of the other, Cohen’s death almost seems anticlimactic. Just another light gone out after our eyes already adjusted to the darkness.

My introduction to him came via a country music station out of Selkirk, MB in the early 90s. They mostly played new country (Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, etc.), but had a few weekly shows outside the regular format, including one that played a lot of folk and bluegrass. It was that show that exposed me to John Prine and Emmylou Harris, and long before I knew his name, I remember hearing a spare and muted synthesizer-based track where a gravelly voice man invoked Hank Williams, women cooed scat vocals, and a ghostly piano played after every few verses. By the time I heard the song again a few years later during a family camping trip to Hecla Island, I knew Cohen’s name but not his work, more familiar with the exaggeratedly dour impression Roger Abbott did on Royal Canadian Air Farce than his words and music until my first year at Mount Allison University.

A borrowed greatest hits compilation was my first conscious exposure to Cohen’s music. It took; I bought I’m Your Man before the school year was out, and Songs of Leonard Cohen and Recent Songs over the summer. My friends Scott and Jay helped fill in some of the gaps of my Cohen appreciation (they also developed my fondness for tea and good beer). By the time I finished my degree, Cohen became one of the cornerstones of my music taste, and a bonding point with many friends. I’m not always in the mood to listen to him, but there have been many times I sought solace by quickly losing myself in his words.

I’m glad to be able to say I saw him in concert. He played the Scotiabank Centre (then called the Halifax Metro Centre) about six months after I moved to Halifax. The tickets were a birthday present from my younger sister, who came with me to the concert; they were cheap seats so we were all the way up in the nosebleeds, our eyes going back and forth between the action happening below and the screens projecting the close-up camera feeds. He was 78 at the time, but spry, seemingly growing younger from the point he skipped on stage for the first time, still able to kneel and climb back up many times during a multi-hour set. For all his reputation as a depressing artist, he exuded a lot of joy that night.

31 in 31: Day 10

Nocturne is this weekend; I went pretty much every year since I moved here. but it really peaked for me about three years ago. I don't really want to go out by myself (or run into people on the street when alone), but I don't really feel up to making plans with other people this week. It's a free event, so budget isn't a problem, but I just have this overwhelming feeling that art really isn't my thing, no matter how much I want it to be. I guess that makes me a dilettante.

I'm sitting on raw photos I shot in August when I did a "free photoshoot" offer. I'm not especially thrilled that I haven't finished editing them, but when I see what I shot, so little of it is salvageable. Too many out of focus shots. Part of me thinks it's because I'm using a cheapo Opteka portrait lens that won't focus properly at 1.8, but the poor craftsman blames his tools. It could just be my own eyes. I had hoped to supplement my income with photography, but I really don't think I have hustle, skills or tools to make it work right now, nor can I really afford to invest in the latter two. I've been wondering whether I actually enjoy photography, or just the validation that I get when I share the pictures.

I recently read Truth Is Fragmentary by Gabrielle Bell; it's a graphic novel of her travelogues and diaries, including daily comics for the month of July in three different years. There's quite a lot I identified with, particularly her insecurities and anxieties; the tendency to pull away from other people and get lost in the mess of one's own thoughts.

I have more I want to talk about, but I need Tylenol and rest.

31 in 31: Day 9

I got back into Halifax at about 10 last night; despite a small delay in Moncton, my bus ride was for the most part uneventful. The power was out in a lot of the city, though; the north end looked positively eerie as my bus crossed over the MacDonald Bridge, and the neighborhood around the bus terminal was dark as well. From what I could tell, my neighborhood wasn't affected in the least (it rarely has been in the four years I've lived there), and I came home to the sound of CBC Radio One and an attention-starved cat.

I fell behind on this whole 31-in-31 thing fairly quickly; I still intend to make up the posts by months' end, but I don't want to fall into the trap of just posting one sentence and publishing. I know that's closer to the spirit of the exercise than only posting when you have something substantial to write about, but I feel like I've been so mute lately that I want to use this spot to get back in touch with a part of myself that's become lost in the fog, especially whenever I tend to withdraw from people in the real world (today was one of those days).

31 in 31: Day 8

I didn't get around to writing a second post as I had expected yesterday. My first bus (from Halifax to Moncton) had wi-fi and outlets, but I was so cramped in my seat that it was very uncomfortable to have my laptop open, and I didn't want to accidentally jam my elbow in my seatmate's face. My second bus (Moncton to Fredericton) was roomier, but didn't have the wi-fi or the outlets. I rarely go west of Moncton anyway, so I wanted to see the unfamiliar stretches of the route.

I moved a lot when I was a kid, and when I was 8, my family moved from Nova Scotia to Manitoba. The second day of our trip ended with us in Fredericton, and to my younger self, that part of the trip seemed interminable. Some of the highways were realigned and renumbered in the past quarter century; the Trans-Canada is now a four-lane expressway all the way through New Brunswick, though the bus still has to go on the old alignment for part of the leg between Sussex and Fredericton. It's a beautiful country drive, but It's weird to think of that stretch as part of the main artery through the province until fifteen years ago.

I got into Fredericton at about 7:30, had dinner with my sisters, then we went to my friends' place. I've known Andrew since I moved to New Brunswick in 1999, and we've been in touch pretty much constantly since high school; he and I have a very similar sense of humor and a mutual appreciation for "second golden age" SNL (1986-91 or so). I hadn't seen him in person in about a year, and I don't think I had seen Christine (his partner) in about five. It was a good night, full of homemade wine, unconsecrated host cuttings, cheese, and a homemade adaptation of Cards Against Humanity with even more offensive and Canadian content. We ended up staying to watch SNL and didn't get back to my sisters' apartment until about 3 am.

My parents came down for Thanksgiving dinner today and after they left, my sisters and I watched the debate. It was an interesting contrast in body language between the two candidates; the way both handled the undecided voters' questions told volumes. Either way, I have a headache after watching the whole thing.

31 in 31: Day 7

This post is a little late. It could have been the two beers I had after work (which I needed this week). It could have been the news about Donald Trump that consumed my social media feed like a giant car wreck which everyone witnessed.

I may compensate for this short "marking time" post with another one later today, but I'll be travelling for most of of the day and have plans after I get to my destination.

31 in 31: Day 6

I've been up way too late all week. I've been napping more after work, and then trying to reclaim some of the lost productivity afterward; it's a bit of a backslide from being able to get to bed at around 11 pm for the last few weeks. I have to wake up at 6 in the morning to catch an early bus that I don't really need to take, and by the end of the day I'm usually in this fog of exhaustion.

I had a little more money than usual this week and have been spending too much on eating out. It may be a byproduct of my exhaustion, or I'm sick of what I can cook on my otherwise limited budget and culinary skills. I sometimes stop off at the liquor store to buy a single beer or cider; if I'm going to just have one, I don't really want to spend the money at a bar unless I'm there with another person. Of course, I end up not making plans with people because I don't think I can afford to, likely because I spent the money on the food and beer already. The cycle continues.

I've been having hypothetical conversations in my head. I catch myself making the gestures that go along with these conversations and wonder if some of the words are spilling out of my mouth.

31 in 31: Day 5

I try to dodge the ghosts whenever I can. It's nothing personal, but they raise too many questions with no right answers. I always have to be on guard for them; there are some spaces I'm certain they never inhabit, and there are some places where I won't go anymore whenever possible. It takes a lot of work and strain to always rejig travel arrangements to minimize run-ins, probably more than it's worth.

The encounters aren't so bad, but the lingering haunting is the rough part.

31 in 31: Day 4

Today started with a headache; I can't remember if I was on my usual vibrating bus on my commute, but I felt exhausted and gross pretty much all day. I wasn't really up to making small talk or anything like that (even less so than usual), and to be honest I kind of tried to move around undetected by acquaintances whenever I could (which is not really an option on one of the two floors I work on). Even the post work nap didn't have me feeling 100% tonight, though I managed to make it to vote in the municipal election online and watch the vice-presidential debate.

I downloaded Tinder, but I don't swipe right on anybody. I rarely swipe at all. It's mainly a curiosity thing at this point; dating's not really on the table until the other fronts stabilize. We'll see where this goes. 

My cat has taken to hopping onto the bookcase shelves whenever I sit at the laptop and don't pay enough attention to her. She does something similar whenever I'm asleep and she wants something from me. It's either that or she starts tearing apart anything on paper. Magazines, notebooks, flyers, that kind of stuff. I have to take precautions to make sure she doesn't wreck letters from friends or important documents. She's a little needy.

31 in 31: Day 3

I keep thinking back to a conversation I had a few years ago. I was visiting a friend in Moncton, and we both wistfully reminisced about some of the people from our university days; special relationships that just eventually faded, like our lives were individual orbits that came together at a specific time to provide something each needed, only to diverge again. I wish the detail and emotion of that whole night weren't as fuzzy as they are now, but I'm always going to remember how intimate and piercing that whole discussion was, and how fortunate I am to have had it.

The people who take me to that point are the ones I want to keep in my life.

31 in 31: Day 2

It's grey and rainy here in Halifax. Not really the kind of weather that has me wanting to go out with the camera or do much of anything. I also have to do laundry tonight, so in all likelihood today's going to be spent here in the apartment. 

There's nothing wrong with a day in by yourself. I seem to need this more often than others. My main problem is that social media tends to accentuate the whole "fear of missing out" thing, so lately I've been taking breaks from logging in, even going so far as to delete the apps from my phone. These periods don't last long, though. It just feels like I have very little to add to the conversation, and most of my posts seem to be YouTube links to songs I like, or things posted for attention and validation.

Today is my fourth anniversary of moving to Halifax. I'm not going out or having people here to celebrate the occasion this year. I'm grateful for the friends I've made here and would rather be here than in New Brunswick, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm ever going to get out of this precarious work "real life on hold" zone I've been in pretty much since I came here. I see all these pictures and posts from friends who packed up their lives and started afresh and wonder if I should I follow their lead, or if this is the highest level I'd be able to get to no matter where I live. I'd like to be able to experience this city from a place of stability before giving up on it.

I miss the version of myself that I was when I first moved here: a little less apprehensive, a little more open to experiences and exploration. I wonder how I can get back to that place again.

31 in 31: Day 1

Last year, I did an exercise where I forced myself to write a blog post every day for 30 days. There were days when I struggled to come up with content, but on the whole I was glad to have done it. I don't know what egged me on this time, but I figured I might as well force myself to post once a day for every day this month. Last year's run was "30 in 30"; since October has 31 days, this is going to be "31 in 31".

I didn't like September. August was exhausting, but I could at least blame the new job, and I managed to get a few photo shoots and social outings in during that month. September was considerably tighter, both in terms of finances and sociability. I was stuck in my head, couldn't really focus, and felt myself growing more distant from a lot of people over the last few weeks. Friends. Co-workers. I had the overwhelming feeling that I was working to prolong a status quo that stopped working for me two years ago instead of building the kind of life I wanted.

This feeling started almost as soon as the month began. I think I sensed it the day I reached out to my friend Laura and ended up going to her place for dinner, beer and a movie. We discussed the need for risk and willingness to let one's self get hurt in order to find happiness, but my margins are too thin for that right now. When I went to a housewarming on Labour Day, my thoughts distracted me too much to give myself over to the spirit of the party. I had patio beer, went to a food truck rally, and saw George Elliott Clarke speak at the Word On The Street festival, but I was preoccupied with career frustrations and overthinking the connection I felt with someone a while back. This drained me.

I had won tickets to the Atlantic Film Festival closing night party, but almost immediately after winning them, I had second thoughts about going; combined with a lack of money for drinks and the 40-minute bus rides each way, it became less appealing the more I thought about it. Whatever half-assed attempt I made at finding a taker for the extra ticket was more along the lines of "someone needs to drag me out of my apartment" than genuine interest in going. In retrospect I probably should have refused them, but I picked them up just in case I were to change my mind. I eventually tried to find takers for both tickets, but eventually just tore them up and threw them in the garbage. If I had gone to some of the screenings, had something decent to wear, and didn't have to take practical matters into consideration, it may have been fun, but I just had the feeling I would have felt awkward and out-of-place all night.

If September's theme was my thoughts crowding things, activities and people out of my life, I hope October's involves making space for them again.

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.