September blog
October 22, 2019
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From A Place

I am from a Place, but I have been around a lot, so maybe the truth is I am from lots of places. We all are. I am also not originally from a Place, in the way some people are from a Place. I am not from a Place in the same way my friend Jack, who is from New Jersey, is from a Place. I am not from a place in the same way my friend, Jan, who is from Europe, is from a place. Where I am from, are lots of places. If we are talking about childhood it was a different place, another continent, if we are talking about teenage-hood and University, it was a different place, also another continent. If we are talking about working, raising our children and living in my middle age, it was a different place and also another continent.

So you see, I have lived in many continents, so how can I say, that I am from a Place? I now live and write in a different continent, here we go again. So there is no Place where I am really from. For people who live in a Place, this distinction might not be important, because I am not from that Place. Now what about before birth? That’s a different conversation. A Higher Conversation, I would say, wouldn’t you? All my mum and dad could have done was to buy a house, in an area that really didn’t look all that different from everywhere, with its similarly large quota of cookie-cutter homes, tall condos, urban shopping malls and far-away cottages by the lake, and it would all be so much more clear cut. I would have looked like a normal North American but if I claimed to be this now, and say this, people around, here, they’d laugh me out of the room. It’s not the same Place. People everywhere like people who live in a Place. It’s easier to connect. We joke about accents in US & Canada but they are a more heated topic than we will admit. When we discuss them, we discover that we are essentially still the people we were two centuries ago, locked proudly into the culture of the Place and rarely leaving it. So we are all from a Place but not the place we now live in……. The world we now live in, is slowly moving out of a locked in frame of past culture and past traditions and forming a new way to live… Another way to live…..

I want to be a person who can admit that I was wrong, and something I can admit I was wrong about is Aerosmith. I was wrong about Aerosmith when I was 17 and briefly thought they were the most terrible band ever, but I was much more wrong about them in my mid to late 20s when I joined in with friends who claimed they were rubbish and that many others were better, like Bon Jovi and U2.  Aerosmith went on to become the best-selling American hard rock band of all time with more than 150 million records worldwide, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and were included among Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest artists of all time. The band’s principal songwriters Tyler and Perry were inducted into the songwriters Hall of Fame and the band will receive a star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 2019. Aerosmith had lots of hit songs like “What It Takes” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. They have at least ten brilliant songs* and I thought they were terrible, when you realize the brilliance of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water or Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Led Zeppelin. I’m not even sure I do any longer want to separate. If you banned people from being intermittently loud, we’d all be a lot more bored. What we judge, we become and what we become is not reality. I no longer create any value judgements – I simply say this is different and let it pass…….

The chasm between the thoughts and opinions of those who may never read my books and those who have is vast. I walk along the edge of the chasm every time I go online, careful not to fall in. I no longer ask permission to do what I’m doing, and enjoy the creative process more: the feedback I am getting from readers has more layers, is a more fulfilling connection, more moving. The feedback I can get from some of the universe is more and more flimsy and confused, scrabbling for a simple toehold. But I think a lot of us are experiencing the same process, to a greater or lesser extent. It’s a symptom of the internet in general, not just for creative people, but for people full stop. Social media’s very nature, the very way it encourages a shouty, oversimplistic vision, its penchant for commerce and money and the way it finds fuel from negativity, tends to create copies of humans who wander around in physical spaces. I for one consider myself non-corporeal with my interests, contradictions and anomalies. There’s always somebody on the internet who’s made no effort to find out who a person is or what the person does telling that person what they are and what they do. Doing more of what you do and being more of who you are doesn’t change that, because it doesn’t change the fact that a few select people take pride in being judgemental. But the fact that it happens and that the internet has given the judging, a voice adds extra meaning to the comments from people who find out who you are and what you do and appreciate it, and makes you even more glad of them, their moments of thought and kindness, and – if you work in a creative field – the fact that, out of all the great work that’s out there, they’ve taken time to check out yours. For this I remain eternally grateful.

Sunday morning. A brief break in what has felt like six or seven years of rain. The city is still buzzing, despite the rain. A walk to the University Of Toronto: a place where a brave future that has always happened still looks so architecturally thrilling you start to believe in it all over again. A place where concrete is a solid, redoubtable promise, where you just want to get inside the concrete and lose yourself in learning forever and forget the rest. Hungover students milling about in kitchens, striving to locate cheddar, coffee and aspirin. Water cascading efficiently down the eaves gutter, also known as eavestrough in Canada and eaves channel in Scotland. The word gutter derives from Latin gutta meaning a droplet. Some of them poke out of the homes like guns from a robot outlaw’s hideout. I, never properly noticed the gutter pipes “I never realised it at the time, but it really hits home a lot more, now that I’m living in a house with very ordinary and unimaginative gutters, that those on my old student digs were really amazing and enhanced my aesthetic life. All of this won’t matter in 2045, where my new Sci-Fi book begins. At that time a home is a wonderful new concept beyond imagination and the rainwater gutter will certainly not exist. I sometimes am amazed at my own imagination, conjuring up life in 2045.

I remember, when my neighbour Jack and his wife collected their brilliant cat Paddle, who was then just a kitten, from her original home, the cat’s mum came tumbling into the room, and Jack’s wife nodding towards the older cat and whispering to Jack, myself, and my wife, “I hope she doesn’t end up looking like that, with a tiny head and a big round body.” I sometimes find myself thinking about that now, when Paddle walks into my house, with her tiny head and her big round body. I don’t know where Paddle’s mum is now. Jack’s wife and my wife keep telling Jack and myself – Honey, we told you so. Jack and I laugh it out. Paddle does not even bother to ask or purr.

Is the utter appallingness of my short term memory a price I pay of the weird, random brilliance of my long term memory? I am starting to think so. As my short term memory becomes increasingly haywire, my long term memory only strengthens: one day, I fear, I will misplace my smart phone, my keys and my wallet and not remember to text any friends back at all, but recall what happened in 1970 to include Concorde first supersonic flight, Jumbo Jet goes into service, Isle of Wight Festival, Chicago Seven found guilty, Aswan High Dam completed, US and the UK lowers the voting age to 18, 100,000 demonstrate in Washington DC against the Vietnam War, First Earth Day and Beatles disband, in their entirety. Short term memory and long term memory are so different in their motives. One always remembers the glorious successes in the long term memory and the failures in the short term memory. I wonder why?  Long term memory has conveniently removed from the picture fortnight-long head colds, speeding tickets, a painful blood clot, the person I liked who didn’t like me back, the person who liked me who I didn’t like back, a spell of creative block, Internet trolls, money terror. Long term memory is a snob, a perfectionist. Short term memory on the other hand is a realist and so I don’t like it. We are beings that are obsessed with material success, instant gratification and very high ego and so short term memory is not our friend because everything good happened in our long term memory. It’s almost like we lost our soul and believe in our body only. Like a broken conversation and like a broken relationship.

You get older, and your body hurts a bit more, but because you’re more used to it hurting, it doesn’t hurt as much. You get drunk on an eighth glass of beer and the ensuing hangover lasts six or seven months. You suddenly develop a greater awareness of the crap most people are going through, all the time, and all of what you should be thankful for. You want to swear when you sneeze, but in a good way. All this is true, and people might tell you about it. What people don’t tell you about as often is the limitations that maturity places on spontaneity, even when you don’t want it to. People have children to look after, mortgages and stupidly high rents to pay, health problems to manage; they’re tired from working too hard, they are starting to wonder if it was the right decision after all to adopt dogs, but now are limited to the sole choice of living with the consequences. Just to survive, time must be blocked out carefully, far into the future.  I have loads of friends, I can arrange to meet for a coffee or a beer or a film or a walk, in a fortnight’s time but nobody who is ready to talk about the year 2045 and a wonderful new way to live, which is a situation I constantly lament, but also implicitly understand. Our filter is still very thick and new ways to live is hard to pass through this thick filter. But one day it will. Our filter will get thinner in time, I am convinced that it will.  Then everyone will huddle up and talk. Till then …..

My new non-fiction book –   “A Higher Conversation” is in the pre-print mode, getting ready to be published.

I am also writing another book- a Sci-Fi fiction. A new book cover will shortly appear on my website. Keep a look out for this.          And winter is coming!

Image credits:

http://prehistoricperak.blogspot.com/2010/12/angelo-chinese-school-ipoh.html

By Selbymay – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60259199