Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
My mother, Stella Stickland.
It’s Mother’s Day and so our thoughts turn to our mothers and all they have done for us. My mother, Stella, was a real beauty, a true child of the prairie, she could run across a field and jump on a horse and ride it bare back, when she was a girl.
It wasn’t always easy to see that bright athletic girl in her when she grew older, when she grew old. Her final days were not easy ones, she was in physical agony on account of osteoarthritis, and then her mind was ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease. When she died, of course I was sad, but I was relieved as well. It really was a tough go for her at the end.
I’ve been watching the progress of my friend Michael Finner’s mother as she, now, enters into the endgame. It’s not easy for Michael or his brother Frank and sadly it sounds all too familiar to me.
After his visit with his mother today, Michael shared the following on Facebook, and kindly agreed to share it here on my blog. So here’s my best friend and publisher Michael J. Finner talking about visiting his mother on mother’s day:
To Whom It May Concern :
I went up to the extended care unit to see my Mother today. She was quietly sleeping and after I put a bouquet of flowers by her bed I sat down and watched her for a while. Like a dream within a dream, pushing well into her 90′s now, she reminds me of a little bird. And it seems like she grows smaller every day. No doubt, one of these days, she will just up and disappear.
I am very thankful that at this time of her life she is very peaceful as well as comfortable as she is. Oh, yeah, once and awhile she lets go with a verbal blast aimed at no one in particular. But I think that’s just to let you know she’s still very much alive. And although there’s always the pretended outraged expression of ” Oh, …. Mother! ” it is very hard to keep from laughing. In truth, sometimes we laugh together. Howl might be a better description. I think this is probably just her way of getting a rise out us and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity. Her sense of humour, if nothing else, is completely, or at least for the most part, intact.
Yes, there are days when she wonders who I am. Where she is. Who the nurse is. The one she was calling by name only a moment ago. She usually confuses me with my brother Frank. And vice versa. Her cognition and her eyesight are going but not yet completely. Finding out dementia was come on followed by the news she was going blind really took it out of me and I must say I sadly lacked in the stiff upper lip category when I learned the same. My Mother always was, and is, a far, far braver person than I. We usually close each visit with a little kiss. Then she tells me that she loves me and of course, just like some kind of prayer, I tell her the same. Dementia or no. It is as it always was and always will be. Unconditional love.
So here is to Mothers everywhere. The ones I know personally . The ones I don’t know at all. May God’s love (whichever one you believe in) shine down upon You and Yours. Each and every day of your lives. As for my previous mention of the disappearing act that comes to us all – in closing let me leave you with this thought that crossed my mind as I was leaving my Dear Mama today.
This observation was made by Chief Crowfoot of the Blackfeet Nation some time ago. Somehow it always leaves me at peace.
What is life?It is the flash of a firefly in the night.It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
Thank you, Michael.
Thanks for reading.
Dad and daughter back in the day, looking a tad preppy!
My daughter Hanna, aka to some of you as Johanna, was recently turned down in her application to study photography at one of our universities. Rejection is always hard, I know. I reminded her that I was rejected by UBC but then was accepted at York for my MFA.
So I know it’s not easy, no matter how much you have going for you. It’s a hit to the ego and it hurts.
The people at the university in question, trying to be competitive and fair, looked at Hanna’s high school grades which they felt were a little low.
What they didn’t know was that she had given up a promising and potentially lucrative modeling career which was taking place mostly in New York (and London and Paris) to return to Calgary to finish school in the first place.
That she finished high school at all was a bit of a miracle, and I know that when her mother and I watched her graduate we felt especially proud of the very mature decisions she made as a young teenager to get her to that point.
But now, the chickens have come home to roost, I suppose. She is disappointed, but I gently reminded her that she is currently working in the real world of photography, in some cases with artists whom her (not to be) professors have only read about, and so to keep moving forward and to never stop making her own way in the world.
And I shared with her my little metaphor about how a career in the arts is like riding on a train, and I as I know many artists read this blog, I wanted to share it here with you, with Hanna’s blessing.
I end up with her some of her thoughts on modeling along with some of her photos from a recent issue of INTERRUPT Magazine.
The train metaphor is about having a career as an artist. When you are young, you see the train going by and think, that looks cool, I think I’d like to be on that train. So you run after it a bit and catch up to the last car but it is totally packed and instead of people helping you up they seem to be pushing you away. There are even people hanging off the edges but you finally grab onto a piece of the railing or a ladder, you grab on and hang on for dear life and away you go.
Finally you get yourself pulled up into the back of the last car. It’s crowded and smelly and there’s hardly enough food and sometimes not even a clear space on the floor to sleep on and many times you think of jumping off because you see others jumping off, but you hang in there and the good thing about others jumping off is that it clears a little room for yourself and so gradually you are able to move forward in the car and even dream of what’s waiting in those cars ahead of you on the train.
And those others jump off at very nice places like law schools and accounting firms and marriages with lovely suburban houses and puppies and such, it’s all so tempting. Have a good look, because either you have that, or you stay on the train, it seems you can’t have it both ways.
So you stay on. At times the trip is tedious and monotonous and you wonder why you bother as do others, and they keep jumping off at the oddest places and yet there is more and more room, to the point it can get quite lonely at times. But you stay on the train and eventually make your way up to those cars ahead of you, where it gets a little better, a little easier.
After all your work and sacrifice, you might pass by those who jumped off and they will look at you with a mixture of admiration and loathing and think to themselves, “I was on that train once myself, I could still be on there too, but I jumped off . . .”
Well, say hello and wave good bye, you’re either on or off.
And the way is never easy or predictable. You say you should frame your rejection letters . . . Hemingway wallpapered his living room with rejection letters before he ever got published. I have a stack of them, and even at my age and with some reputation, I know that stack is growing.
That’s no reason to quit, though. All the more reason to carry on. It’s not easy, but you might find as the train continues on its course, eventually you will make it up to the front cars where you can actually get a seat and maybe they’ll bring you a drink and you can look out at the passing scenery and know there’s no place else on earth you would rather be.
And that’s my little metaphor of the train that has sustained me all these years and I hope it will you, too.
Here’s Hanna with the final word. Thanks for reading!
Shot on film, unretouched, I call it Waiting for Summer
If you know me at all, you know that I take aspects of old school to a heightened level of funk.
The most consistent and enduring example of this is my love of fountain pens and mechanical pencils and the fact that I write first drafts of almost everything I publish or produce long hand, in graph paper notebooks.
Some think this is a tad eccentric and they may be right but I hardly care. If you’re successful, you’re considered eccentric. If you’re a failure, you’re considered weird. So I’ll take eccentric, thank you very much.
Again, if you know me at all, you know I love to take photographs. Some of my photos have ended up on the covers of books and published elsewhere, hither and yon. Many of them grace the walls of friends, usually gifts from me, but from time to time a wealthy patron will actually pay me for my troubles.
And yet once again, if you know me at all, you know I have a daughter named Hanna, although professionally she is known as Johanna, and you may know that she has done some modeling in her time – nothing major, just the Dior show in Paris, par example – and is making her way in the world and finding her artistic expression on the other side of the camera as a photographer.
But here’s the thing. While I have always shot digital, Hanna who must have picked up her old school predisposition somewhere, I wonder where, prefers to shoot on film. And while I’m an old school gentleman myself, I never understood her desire to do so until a friend gave me a beautiful Minolta Dynex 500si this week and I shot, for the first time in decades, a roll of film.
Suddenly, brave new world, I discovered why Hanna is into film and not into digital.
It hits on so many levels. Putting in the film in the first place. Did it really get in there properly? Am I really taking photographs or is the film just bunched up inside? Will I be wasting my time for the next 24 or 36 shots?
And then – what I think I love the most – the sound and the feel of the click as the shutter opens and closes again. For a photographer, perhaps this is the most satisfying sensation in the world.
Then there is the care that you have to line your shot up with. You only have one chance, you can’t take ten like you do with a digital.
And so you take your shot, but then what? You can’t look at it. You can only hope, maybe pray, that it will turn out. And then you take a bunch of other shots, again hoping and praying, until your roll is done.
And then the film rewinds and you can only hope that the film isn’t all fucked up inside your camera. You open the back and take out the roll and you go to London Drugs or whatever and give it to them so they can develop it and make you some prints.
And then you wait. You’re aware of the exact time that you can go and pick up your prints. It seems to take forever. And when you do pick them up, there is a strange moment of truth when you first see the envelope and see that there are actually prints in there and so far so good, you now have something to look at.
You take your envelope to a special place and open it and look at your prints. What a moment! And then all those shots come back to you. Some suck, most suck. Some are ok. But a few of them, even one of them, might just be inspired.
It’s such a beautiful and prolonged process compared to the instant gratification of seeing what you just shot digitally.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and so I am content to imitate my daughter in this regard, as I think she is the most awesome person on the planet.
She was kind enough to share a recent photo of hers here on my little blog.
As you can see, while I take pictures, she’s actually an artist.
Thanks for reading!
A photo that has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
I was minding my own business this morning exploring lofty intellectual trains of thought and fascinating artistic paths leading my imagination to the most verdant pastures, mitigating against the April snow and sub-zero temperatures of the bovine city, when the little alarm (well-named) on my computer rang, informing me that I had mail and I had better attend to it right away, this being the age of frantic impatience after all.
It was from the thing – I really don’t know what to call it so let’s go with thing – called LinkedIn which I seem to participate in although I have no clear idea of why I do or what it even is.
The thing was asking me to “recommend” an acquaintance of mine whom I have never actually met but who is a theatre director and producer, who was charitable enough to produce a play of mine in a non-bovine city far away from here about a decade ago. To recommend him for what, exactly, is still a mystery, to me, at least.
Well, OK. Fair enough. He directed and produced my play, he is obviously a visionary, a genius, probably, and a decent fellow to put meat on my table once upon a time. (Note to self: send him another play!) So I had no trouble recommending or endorsing him, but of course you can’t just do that, you have to jump through the hoops of the thing and these hoops were not intended to accommodate the recommendation of a playwright for a director.
In fact, responding to the drop-down menuized categories with insane questions like “Did you answer to this person?” or conversely “Did this person answer to you?” made me realize just how far outside of the mainstream we are, my director friend and I, and so what the hell was I doing wasting my time going through this process anyway?
The simple answer to that is that I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by not recommending him. How terrible and bleak would that be if the thing sent him a message saying “Eugene Stickland has declined your recommendation request.” I don’t want to cause him that kind of anguish.
So I muddled through, and now I’m sure when he sees my ringing recommendation, which I managed to convey in spite of the thing’s bland categories, not because of them, he will be filled with a rush of pure joy and contentment and may even ask me for another one of my plays.
“Good old Eugene,” he may well think to himself, “I really ought to do another one of his plays!”
Well, never mind that the categories and questions of the thing make it seem like we were stock boys at Wal-Mart together in our awkward teen years. Or intermediate clerks in an insurance company, glue-sticking riders into policies in a windowless office – which you can probably tell I actually did once in my life, until I developed a case of shingles and was advised by my doctor to get out of the insurance game, to get out of the basement, to put down the glue stick, which I did, and the rest as they say is history . . .
Well, whatever. I’m sure many of my readers, especially those in the arts, can relate to that feeling of outsiderness as you search for some kind of connection from your own life to the categories and experiences that appear in these drop down menus. It’s probably not overstating the case to say that at such times, we realize we don’t really belong anywhere, there is no category for us, there is no experience the thing can drop down on us that even vaguely resembles our own experience on this planet.
Once more, out of step, out of rhythm, marching to the beat of your own damned drum.
But lest we forget, this is a good thing.
When you find they have a category for you, it’s probably time to change it up and move on.
Thanks for reading!
Sorry it’s not the greatest photo. The funny thing, in my mind he has always looked like this. Ageless!
I’ve written a few pieces on here about mentors of mine. Here’s the story of an unlikely mentor who came to mind after a serendipitous meeting in Calgary the other evening. It harkens back to events of my life almost thirty years ago.
I was (as usual) minding my own business the other evening, having a beer at Ric’s Grill on 15th Avenue, when I looked up I couldn’t believe my eyes. There as large as life was Canadian theatre icon Paul Thompson walking in. It had been a long time since we’d seen each other and so we did some catching up.
Paul mentored me almost in accidental fashion in Toronto almost 30 years ago. Damn, that’s how long I’m been doing the theatre thing. More than 30 years ago! Where the hell did the time go?!
He mentored me in such a fashion to make me examine the word itself and the nature of the activity. We usually think of it as something sustained, the master passing down the wisdom of the ages and the secrets of the craft to the apprentice over time. Often enough this is the case.
But in other circumstances, it may be that the more experienced person comes along and through some act, or something he or she says, maybe even accidentally, confers some honour on the neophyte, providing a boost of confidence that allows the recipient of this largess to carry on.
You know, the art thing is lonely and we artists are often beset with insecurities and self-doubt. Sometimes a very simple, even random, act of kindness can lift us up and keep us going. That’s what Paul did for me. I have never forgotten. Here’s how it went down . . .
After graduating from the MFA Program in Theatre at York University way back when in 1984, some of my fellow grads and I put together a small, alternative, experimental, avant garde, like-nothing-you’ve-ever-seen-before-anywhere-ever theatre company called ACT IV. (We said is like the letters, not the number.) My partners in crime were actors Anthony Dunn and Sally Singal and the late and beautiful Larry Lewis, our director.
We formed the company around a small, alternative, experimental, avant garde, like-nothing-you’ve-ever-seen-before-anywhere-ever script of mine called The Family, which we produced at the back space at Theatre Passe Muraille.
One could argue about the merits of that script or the real artistic value of that production, but what fun we had putting it on! It was the magical time one can only dream of. Of course the first night all of our friends and classmates and family came and the place was full and everyone loved it and we thought to ourselves, “This isn’t so hard after all.”
The second night, 4 people. And we plumbed the depths of despair. And on through the run. What the hell? It’s the show we cut our teeth on. All good.
After the show had closed, months after, I received a phone call from Paul Thompson, which in Toronto at the time, if you were an aspiring theatre artist like myself, was rather like receiving a phone call from God. He had seen the play at Passe Muraille (a theatre which he helped to found, in the same way I suppose that I was helping to found ACT IV) and we had chatted after one of the performances and talked about getting together . . . but I never in my wildest dreams thought he would actually call me.
But he did. He invited me to go to a movie with him. “Sure, Paul,” I replied, nonchalantly, “I think I can make that.”
Of course, I had no money, but I did have a fat little leather wallet full of change, mostly quarters and dimes, for the laundry. I figured it would be enough to get me into the movie and so on the big day I shoved it into my pocket and went off to meet Paul at the University Theatre.
I did not decline his offer to buy the tickets. I don’t remember much about the movie other than constantly thinking to myself, “Why would a famous guy like Paul Thompson want to take me to a movie? Maybe he has me confused with someone else?!?!”
When the movie ended Paul suggested we go for a beer. I explained the situation with the little change purse and he said “Don’t worry it’s on me,” and so we were on our way for a beer together when he saw a man and woman he knew and said to me, “I just have to say hi to these people. Give me a minute.”
So I stood there while he talked to them, and then after a bit they looked over at me and Paul said, “Let me introduce you to Eugene Stickland. He’s a great young writer. Did you see his play at Passe Muraille? No? You missed it? Too bad. It was great. You’re going to be hearing a lot about this guy.”
And so these two people were lucky enough to be introduced to the great young writer.
And who were they? They were a couple of writers, too, as it turned out: Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood. And they were both so gracious.
I believe that my sense of my own identity, of seeing myself as a writer, and in believing that I could actually do it, came from that precise moment.
And so you can see why I have rather fond feelings for Paul Thompson. And you see what I mean about mentorship. There’s no finer example that I can think of.
The challenge, my friends, is to find such opportunities to make a difference in the lives and careers of the next generation.
As Paul did for me.
Thanks for reading.
By the way. I’ve been back on the ginkgo biloba the last month or so – not the drug store shit, you have to go to Chinatown and get the vials! – and I magically remembered that the movie we saw back in early 1985 was Ornette: Made in America. Here’s the trailer . . .
It’s hard to imagine but it’s almost a year and a half since I decided to live life in Calgary, a car-centric city if ever there was one, with no car. It seemed like a major decision at the time, and for a while I couldn’t help but remark on how things were different as a result of my decision, harder in some cases, surprisingly not harder in others.
I may have gone through a holier-than-thou phase when I felt myself to be morally superior to all drivers anywhere in the world, not unlike how many of my friends come off when they have managed to quit smoking. By and large, that has subsided and I don’t really even think about it much anymore.
I realized yesterday that there are subtle changes that I could not have imagined when I became a pedestrian and a cyclist and a rider of the C Train, and the most significant of these are the changes in my habits as a consumer.
There was a flurry of snazzy pimped-up sayings on my Facebook page around Christmas encouraging me and everyone else to shop locally and to support independent locally owned businesses. I don’t know if anyone really pays attention to those things, it seems to me we click “Like” on things we already believe anyway and then happily ignore the rest.
For my part, though, I have always tried to support local businesses.
Sandwiched between my two favourite playwrights at Shelf Life Books.
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a fixture at Caffe Beano – in part because I like the coffee and the people there, but also because it isn’t a national or international chain. I have known all the owners over the years and I am happy to support them with my patronage.
On any account, yesterday (which was a Saturday) I found I had a few extra dollars in my pocket and felt like engaging in a bit of retail therapy. Back when I was a driver, at such times I would get into my car and drive out to West Hills (or some such) and relieve the retail itch in big box stores, almost always with the result of spending far more than I had intended on things that I didn’t really need.
But yesterday, I did the same thing on foot, starting out at my favourite Calgary bookstore, Shelf Life Books. Recently, my brother, Tom, turned me onto the novels of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I had read The Prisoner of Heaven and there at Shelf Life they had The Shadow of the Wind, and so now it’s mine.
When I bought it, they gave me my customary writer’s discount, and if you are a published writer and you tell them that at Shelf Life, you can get the writer’s discount as well. It only amounted to a few dollars, but it’s a nice touch and who doesn’t like saving money?
From Shelf Life I went to my favourite store on the planet, Reid’s Stationers. While I have had a fetish for fountain pens (and now mechanical pencils) almost since I could walk, I am now developing a serious ink problem. They have some Japanese stuff at Reid’s (pictured here) but it’s so expensive (even with my preferred customer discount) that I have been trying out several of them before I commit myself. I bought a plastic binder for $1.50, but I came away with a pen full of the precious Japanese ink.
There’s a clothing store I like a block west of Reid’s on 17th Avenue called Dick and Jane. Last time I was in they had a coat I liked, a Warrior Brand jacket from Great Britain with fabulous red tartan lining. I felt that I needed a little spring spruce up, something other than the drab black thing that I’ve been wearing for at least three years now. So in I went and out I came with a fabulous spring jacket. They even gave me a discount at Dick and Jane – “just for being who you are,” said the lady at the till – so it clearly doesn’t suck to be me.
I don’t begrudge the money I spend at the store of a local merchant. I somehow think it comes back to me. I paid less for all of these items than I would have, had I driven 5 miles in my car to a big box outlet mall. They all mean more to me, because of the process I went through in buying them.
Cars do nothing towards fostering community. Setting out on foot, supporting local merchants, interacting with one’s friends and neighbours is what community is all about. I encourage you to try it sometime, you just might like it.
Thanks for reading!
PS. I believe Divine is having their big annual sale next weekend and it’s time for a new pair of Chucks. (Please see my post from April 21 of last year.) Anyone want to join me in the afternoon of Saturday March 30 to go on a Chuck-hunting expedition? Leave a comment if you do and we’ll make it happen!
The fabulous tartan lining of my new jacket!
Certain events of my life last fall colluded and conspired to make me think it might be a good idea for a novel. and so since late November I have been trying to write 500 words a day or so to keep it going. Come hell or high water, I have taken my little notebooks to Caffe Beano in the late afternoon and written. This process has taken me into new and wonderful territory.
You don’t know what it will be, exactly, until you start writing it. You can plan and think about it till the cows come home, but it will do you no good. Only through actual writing does it begin to emerge.
It’s a question of voice, isn’t it? I heard my narrator’s voice truly emerge the other day (and diverge from my own voice) and I had that creeping sense of excitement that maybe I was actually getting somewhere. At this point, I believe I’m about 20,000 words in and I feel I’m a little more than half way through.
The novel is titled The Piano Teacher and it is told in the first person journal entries of an unnamed concert pianist. This selection is entry number 64.
64. November something . . .
I am happy for Pablo Cassals that into his 90’s he managed to find 3 hours a day to practice without interruption (remembering now that when someone asked him why he still did this well into his 90’s, he replied, “I think it’s starting to make a difference”) and there was a time in my own life not so very long ago when I lived a quiet and one might even say serene existence, almost monastic, in fact, which didn’t just happen, oh no, it was all part of a planned and resolute process of alienating friends, estranging lovers, pissing off colleagues and keeping family at bay, studiously developing a system of misanthropy, the end result being that I was able to go through long and glorious stretches of not having to deal with, and indeed for the most part not even having to encounter, the various agents and representatives of the human race who, from time to time, make it their dedicated business to insinuate themselves into my consciousness, disrupting the delicate rhythms of my existence. But those days of glorious and harmonious solitude would seem to be behind me now, and for all intents and purposes I may as well be a rough beast slouching in a cage at the zoo where the great teaming swell of the great unwashed can flow past me, pointing their fingers and taking photos with their little plastic boxes and making snotty observations in whiny reedy voices along the lines of “I didn’t realize he was a smoker” and “I wonder how man G and T’s he knocks back in an evening” and so on and so on etcetera etcetera ad nauseum.
Well, I liked that paragraph and thought I would share it.
I hope to be done with it by the end of summer. And that’s about all I know for sure.
Thanks for reading!
Leaving you with Horowitz making them cry in Moscow. I refer to this piece in the novel, I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed and I can actually play it! (Maybe not quite as well as Horowitz.) Enjoy . . . .
Caylan at Caffe Beano.
Years ago – decades ago now, actually, well back in the last century before this one – I worked for an organization in Toronto called Frontier College. Its mission was (and still is) to provide literacy opportunities for adult Canadians. Those of whom it can truly be said, “They slipped through the cracks.”
They slip through for a number of reasons. To make a very long story short, way back then when I was working there, the system slowly started to come around. Thanks to a number of important books (and their authors) that lent themselves to progressive new movements in education, we stopped blaming the victim and started to realize, or admit, even, that some people have special needs when it comes to learning.
As you can well imagine, this became a very political and charged revolution. One of the areas that I became involved in was working with people with physical disabilities, trying to get them access to the various school systems in Toronto. Honestly, it’s hard to believe it now, but 30 years ago, just getting a ramp built or a washroom door widened to accommodate a kid in a wheel chair was often seen as a major inconvenience.
Well, that was then and this is now, I guess. Late last year, a young man named Caylan Boyse came into my life. Caylan suffered a serious spinal cord injury in a car accident in Saskatchewan a few years ago. As a result, he is now in a wheel chair, and dealing with kinds of issues that surprisingly, to me at least, haven’t gone away, haven’t been taken care of in the time I’ve been away from the issue, in particular housing and transportation,
Caylan’s mother, Helen McPhaden, and I were working on another project (see my post Attention Must Be Paid, December, 2012) and she expressed her frustration about the many issues that arise regarding Caylan’s situation.
And so I listened first to Helen and then to Caylan with a stunned sense of disbelief. Although some thirty years have passed since I was involved with people with disabilities and their frustrations, I was astonished to discover that during that time, very little has changed. Housing is still an issue. Accessibility is still in issue. Beyond the dramatic impact of the injury and the difficult rehabilitation, the peripheral things, the day to day things, are still difficult, and those are the things that will grind you down and cause a mother to wring her hands: the van door that is never fixed properly, the insurance settlement that never covers the things you need it to cover, a million little things that most of us never have to think about that collectively create a barrier to any kind of easy experience for people in Caylan’s position.
I have written again and again that the measure of a society’s success can be gauged by its art, and how it values (or doesn’t value) its artists. But it must be at least as true that our success must also be seen in the care and compassion that we show for people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in difficult and extraordinary circumstances.
30 years have passed, and still so very little progress. It’s disheartening and frustrating and it makes you wonder just what has to happen for things to change in any significant manner.
I met Caylan on a warm winter’s evening at my favourite coffee shop in Calgary, Caffe Beano. I go there practically every day, and suddenly realized – for the first time – that there are steps leading up from the front counter, and back down again to the seating area at the back. For the first time, I actually paid attention and noticed that in my coffee shop, it’s impossible for Caylan or anyone else in a wheel chair to order their coffee and find a table, something the rest of us simply take for granted.
It’s those little things that we don’t notice that we need to start to notice if there’s ever going to be any meaningful change.
As a writer, knowing I wanted to write this piece, I could envision our discussion proceeding in an orderly fashion. In the tried and true journalistic style, I would ask the questions and Caylan would answer them, with me writing down some pithy quotes to reinforce my thesis. But our conversation turned out to be nothing like that. Nothing at all.
Caylan Boyse is a force to be reckoned with, make no mistake. He has a brilliant mind that runs fast and leaps high and you might as well put your little notebook away because you can’t write it down fast enough to keep up with him.
We talk about his billion dollar idea and his plans for his company, Live Entertainment Productions. (He’s not kidding.) If all goes according to plan, I just might have a job some day doing some writing for him. Before long we have touched upon his extended punk rock family across the country (it’s all about community!) not to mention his dream of going to India to seek treatment, to fly an airplane to the high arctic to really see the northern lights, to visit Machu Picchu. And on and on and on.
If you think a wheel chair is confining, you haven’t met Caylan Boyse who has one of the most unfettered minds you are likely to encounter.
But wait a minute, what about the Caylan Boyse Foundation? It’s hard to bring him down to talk about this foundation and what it hopes to accomplish. On one hand, the dream does exist to create a practical and even elegant living space for people in wheel chairs. On the other, there is the sincere desire to simply provide resources for people with spinal cord injuries. There is nothing very complicated about that, and it is so necessary, now as much as ever.
Calgary is one of the wealthiest cities in the world. If this can’t happen here, where else would we think it would happen?
And despite Caylan’s reluctance to talk much about the Foundation, it seems to me like an extremely important initiative, and with the well-meaning people behind it, one that could make a difference and enhance the quality of many people’s lives.
You can find out more and even show your support in the best way possible at caylanboysefoundation.ca.
Finally, after all these years, don’t you think it’s about time we did something? At least by now?
I’m leaving you with a cool rendition of one of my favourite songs that in some way seems to capture Caylan’s counter-culture vitality . . .
Thanks for reading!
York Apartments, photo taken around 2005, I think.
When I was only five years old or so, back in the early 1960’s in Regina, Saskatchewan, my mother would help me pack a little plaid suitcase and walk with me up to Dewdney Avenue where we would wait for the #1 bus to take me to my grandma’s (mom’s mom) apartment for the weekend.
My mom would give the driver a nickel for my fare, tell him where to drop me off (and only if grandma was at the stop waiting for me) and I would be off on my great adventure.
The bus’s route took us through downtown, those gigantic buildings like the Hotel Saskatchewan that must be 10 stories high or so, and up towards the General Hospital. And there would be my grandma, waiting for me at the stop in front of her apartment building.
The photo above is what her apartment, The York Apartments, looked like I believe about ten years ago. While it looks quite charming, her apartment was not fancy. My grandma was in some ways a rather austere individual, a teetotaler who had survived the Great Depression in Saskatchewan raising a family of four. She was not given to frills or luxury.
But that was just how she lived. She had a very generous and vivacious spirit and an infectious laugh. She was an extremely kind individual, and kindness, I find, is often underrated. I looked forward to these excursions to her place with great anticipation.
Our first order of business always was to get me fish and chips and an Orange Crush from the Crescent Tea Room down the street, and then we were on for the weekend.
More than anything else that she did for me, she read to me. Not little children’s books, either. We read Longfellow, Shakespeare and I know it’s hard to believe, but also some Thackeray. She had a small library of leather-bound books which she would read to me from. I still have her Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
The inscription reads:
Wm. A. Hunter (my grandpa, who died before I was born)
Xmas 1914 with best wishes from Dad and Mother Arthur (my grandma’s maiden name).
Well, isn’t that something, that book is almost 100 years old.
We also played cribbage and canasta (a popular card game in the last century) and Go Fish and that memory game where you have to remember what the cards are to make pairs. Amazingly, I think I managed to win every game we ever played. I guess grandma wasn’t very good at cards.
Actually, come to think of it, I don’t believe I ever won a game of cribbage against her. Ever. Even when I was much older.
Simple as it may have been, her apartment was exotic to me, and those visits must have provided me with my first sense of independence from my own family.
There’s so much to say about grandma that I will come back to her story another time. I really just scanned in this photo to try out my new scanner. I posted it on Facebook and received a lot of comments and so here we are.
And then I found this little gem of me out front of the same building before its renovation. This photo was likely taken on one of my trips to her place. As you can see, I have always had interesting hair.
Same building with yours truly on the stairs, in the early 1960′s. As I don’t look very happy here, it was obviously time to go back home.
Thanks for reading!
This is the door to my apartment. 507. Sometimes I wonder when I shut the door if another entity identical to myself takes over and lives his life in there. What if I open the door suddenly and see myself sitting at my table drinking a coffee and working on my computer? What then? Best to move on . . .
I take the elevator down to the ground floor although I often take the stairs. I have mild claustrophobia so I don’t love elevators. If there’s going to be a ghost in a building, that ghost won’t be a stranger to the elevator. Sometimes you might be on it and it will stop at a floor and the doors will open. What then? Well, any reasonable person would get off at that point and take the stairs. Now you know.
Caffe Beano, where I like to start my day. I write a daily journal or I work on the novel I am writing, usually in here. Sometimes I talk to friends. Today I talked to a few friends and got about 450 words written in my novel. I don’t know why I do that here anymore. It’s not like I’m waiting for anything to happen to me, like meeting a perfect stranger or whatever. Maybe it was about that at one point in time. Now I just find it’s a place I can create which is good enough for me.
I ought to quit smoking. I ought to do a lot of things.
Is this what I look like? Is this really me? When did I start looking like this? When did I grow so old and severe? Who is this man? He’s me but he’s not me. When I close my eyes at night and think of me, I don’t see this man.
Came home (507) to make sure my parallel persona was not trashing my place and to check on my blog stats. 18 for the day. 18?!?! It doesn’t matter because it’s not attached to anything, it’s not like some dripping rich oil company is paying me to write this blog, it’s pure, it’s just a number, and the number is 18. 18?! What’s with that??
The C Train. Because I don’t have a car. I don’t have a car because I can’t afford one, really. But now that I don’t have one, I realize it’s better for me personally and presumably for the planet not to have one, so even if I came into say $800,000,000.00 tomorrow I probably wouldn’t buy a car. I would buy all the readers of my blog a car, all 18 of you, but I’m OK on the C Train.
I worked out on machines similar to this. Ouch. Oooooo. Eeeee. Eeeek. Why? WTF? Actually it feels good. I lost 4 pounds this week! At this rate, in a few months I will have disappeared entirely! Will I think I look good then?
While I was working out, aliens as big as fir trees descended to the earth. Although they could crush us like ugly bugs, they choose instead to play and dance all day. They are here to remind us to be gentle and kind.
I looked up at this big beautiful building where the geniuses congregate to figure out how to get oil out of the ground and further poison the planet. They all drive nice cars. Something is wrong!!
I picked up my dry cleaning. The Indian woman in there, Shulli, comes from Tanzania. She was a school teacher but when she got married, she had to work for her husband’s company. They sold salt in a small village. Salt, in 100 pound bags. She had to keep track of the bags as they got loaded onto trucks. So dry cleaning doesn’t seem so bad to her. She thinks that teaching was the hardest job she has ever had which probably means she was a good teacher. I like her, and she likes me, although she thinks that I am a bit lax in attending to my dry cleaning. Now I have my favourite shirt to wear again. It is light blue and is made by a company in Amsterdam called Scotch and Soda. I got the shirt for $22.00 at Winners. Life is good.
I went for a quick beer and talked about everything under the sun with some friends for 44 minutes. I guess I’m an old school 50′s guy, I like that happy hour transition from day to evening. Sometimes you are sitting next to a thug, sometimes a saint. You never know, though you may often be deceived.
The entrance to my apartment building. Sometimes coming home depresses me, some nights I am extremely lonely. But other nights I am relieved to get back here to my own space and have some time to myself. You can’t have it both ways, I guess. For the most part, I can live with myself.
This is Hobbes waiting for me to come to bed. Got a problem with that?
This is the book I am currently reading. At first I wasn’t sure, but the more I read, the more I like it. It’s really very good. I’ll read for a bit then I’ll sleep, never enough, and then I’ll get up and have a another day quite like this one.
And so good night. Thanks for reading. Here’s that Van Morrison song I mentioned . . . .