Obama’s Cairo Speech

I watched Obama’s Cairo speech this morning. It was a hope-inspiring way to start my day. As many of them did, this passage moved me deeply:

“Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.”

Spring Forward

I seem to be coming out of my ... I seem to be coming out of my winter!

Thanks, in part, to Twyla Tharp, who I hopefully will discuss in a later post.

Connor has posted two amazing new demos ("Be the One" - with his amazing new band, and "Brother's and Sisters" - on his own in the studio) here at his MySpace page. He's finishing up a third demo, "Give it a Name", right now. I can hear him mixing it upstairs. I went to see him at the Media Club in Vancouver last night *playing drums!!* with his good buddy Dylan Hossack. Turns out he's a great drummer too!

I'm now a Twitterer.

For adventurous movie fans I recommend the totally ridiculous, over the top, goofily romantic and completely unforgettable Pola X.

Ken - Some Thoughts on Politics

It seems as though Ken never stops walking. We see him every time we walk the beach - and we walk at all hours of the day.

Tall, tanned, well-groomed and always wearing shorts despite the weather, he strides along the 2.2 kilometer promenade with the air of a man on his way to somewhere important. As the ever-present gulls hover overhead, we say “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” and Ken returns the greeting briskly in a british-tinged accent. Sometimes we just nod. Sometimes we raise a hand in a casual, regular-beachwalker salute.

This morning was cool, grey and threatening rain. Debbie and I wore sweaters, jackets and, in my case, a knit hat. Ken was wearing his shorts, as usual. We never talk, but each time I see him I’m reminded, as I was this morning, of the night the three of us sat, as strangers, in the White Rock city council chambers with a group of concerned and angry citizens.

The council chambers room is not large. It can seat a sell-out crowd of about fifty. Ken sat behind us, against the back wall, as the mayor and council members debated the merits of a cluster of four high-rise towers being proposed for our small seaside community. Many of us were there to speak out against the development and, in an effort to be seen as unquestionably civil, we were waiting, patiently and quietly, for question period.

By this point my passionately penned “Height and Density” letter-to-the-editor had been re-cast as an article, accompanied by my picture, in the local paper. I had been interviewed by the Globe and Mail about small town development and had faced off against White Rock’s mayor on the CBC. At the public meeting unveiling the towers, Debbie and I had asked two city council members what it would take to stop construction, or at least alter the plan. They advised us, solemn-faced, that if we could convince one thousand people to attend a public meeting and oppose the development, council would “have to turn it down”. So, after falling in with some like-minded old-hand White Rock shit-disturbers, a grassroots campaign began.

The council meeting was not going well. White Rock’s then and current mayor often delivers her surprisingly fragile understanding of the facts with the conviction of a bombastic middle-aged cheerleader. Many residents see this as charming, but her enthusiasm is often coupled with a self-servingly short memory. Promises made at one meeting, opportunistically timed to douse criticism, are (infuriatingly, to the promisees) forgotten by the next. As we sat biting our tongues, a strong baritone voice, with a british accent, broke the silence.

“You’re just full of it. Give it a rest.”

A gavel was hammered and the small crowd was admonished to be more respectful. In the intervening years I have forgotten the details of Ken’s continued loud and disrespectful outbursts, but, had I been in a different frame of mind, I’d like to believe I would have found them funny. At the time, though, I was the one who eventually turned, looked Ken in the eye and said:

“Your not helping us here. Could you please be quiet.”

I do remember that he replied, obviously offended:

“And who asked you for your opinion?”

The next day on the beach as Ken approached us, his perfectly combed hair unruffled by the wind, I decided to say hello. He smiled charmingly and returned the greeting. He either didn’t recognize me or had completely forgiven me overnight. I’m still not sure which.

Our group of concerned citizens succeeded in motivating the community to speak out. Over a thousand people spoke against the Bosa development at two public meetings and by emails to city council. Less than two hundred spoke in favour. Months of painstaking work had brought us a hard-fought victory but, despite this clear message to our elected representatives, we ultimately had no impact at all. Council voted in favor of the development. Two of the four towers now stand at the top of the White Rock hill, and, according to my friend Dave, units are selling slowly.

Debbie and I squandered large chunks of our already precious time trying to influence those in power in our little town. Even though only a few of them had earned our respect, we had risked becoming like them. We had begun speaking their language and using some of their tactics in an attempt to persuade them. We ended our involvement with local politics the day after council voted on the towers. Our friends and former comrades seem to understand.

For two weeks I’ve been glued to the computer screen, reading Huffington Post, Politico and CNN - obsessively following the 2008 US Presidential election. This is the first time I’ve shown an interest in national politics. I think the US election might be the most important political decision made in my lifetime and, as a result I have been careening between elation, when Obama moves forward, and a gut-wrenching disgust when his opponents slash again at my new hero.

Seeing Ken on the beach this morning made me smile. Why today’s encounter was different than others is unclear. Maybe because he reminded me that I’m an observer now, not a participant. Maybe it’s simply because Debbie and I are regular beach walkers again. I made a note to think about this today. What I found myself thinking about, maybe for the first time since that city council meeting, was Ken’s heckling. It was funny, and after all I learned during my political adventure, maybe not such an inappropriate response.

A Change is Gonna Come

I started writing online in 1996. Those initial years helped to get my confidence up.

The next installment of my online adventure led me into the 2000’s and eventually attracted the interest of a real-world brick and mortar publisher who ultimately helped me create and release the book I’d often dreamed of but never for a moment expected.

What followed was an exciting but often overwhelming concentration of attention on me and my personal life that has only just lately died down. Marginally shaken, I have nonetheless continued writing online - but the spectre of an imagined second book appears to have squatted unceremoniously on my weakling creative impulse and choked its out-take valve.

A change is in order - but I don’t know what to do next. Evolution is important to me. If I work at this unselfconsciously I think it can become something of value, but I need to flail for a while in hopes that a clear path will reveal itself. Whatever I do should be different in some, as yet undefined, way.

So, valued readers, take this as a warning. And … wish me luck.

The Airstream

I don’t want the responsibility or the expense of an Airstream. I don’t want to learn how to back one into a campsite, or have to perform regular trailer maintenance or be the guy holding up a two mile line of traffic on the highway. I would just like for Debbie and I to wake up together in our own place and be the only ones in the world who know for sure where we are. 

They’re unreasonably expensive and it’s not like we need the Rolls Royce of trailers, but I think it has to be an Airstream. It’s a romantic notion that’s worked its way deep into my mythology. I’d like to “fix it up”, whatever that means.

There’s nowhere in particular I’d like to take it. Lord knows I’ve traveled enough and seen enough. I think a WalMart parking lot would be fine - or someone’s back yard. I’d want the retractable awning. Here’s the picture:

It’s raining but warm. We’ve got the awning deployed and we’re sitting under it in folding chairs. We’ve just returned from a long walk and beat the rain. Maybe we have Coronas. We’re watching the WalMart shoppers going to and from their cars and we’re discussing their purchases.

Random Acts …

I woke up this morning in a hotel room deep in the concrete heart of downtown Toronto. I swung from bed to chair and cautiously cracked open the tall thick blackout curtains. Outside my second-floor window, the corner of Jarvis and Gerrard was pulsing with humanity. Street people and office workers bumped shoulders on the crowded pavement. I rubbed sleep from my eyes and squinted into the bright morning sunlight.

Across the intersection, in the middle of the sidewalk, sat a lone wheelchair. Its occupant, a man in his eighties, put me in mind of my Dad. He was casually smoking a cigarette and seemed more than comfortable relaxing, stationary, in the midst of the morning hustle. As I watched, a younger man, long hair spilling from under a backwards army hat, stepped up holding a white two litre container of Tropicana Orange juice. He leaned close and spoke to the man, smiling as he offered him the juice, which was accepted and quickly maneuvered to a spot behind the old man’s back.

I recognized the red star on the green army hat. Gogo had bought the hat in Kingston at the surplus store on Princess Street. Once I had identified the hat, his familiar smile came into focus. I watched as he then produced what looked like a can of pop, which he also gave to the grateful wheelchair occupant.

Gogo’s brief random act of kindness lasted only a few moments. As he turned and walked towards our hotel, the wheelchair made its way along the sidewalk. As it rolled, the large plastic bottle slipped out of the chair unnoticed and landed on the pavement twenty feet behind where the chair again stopped.

A tall, silver-haired and bearded man in a well-cut grey suit appeared, smoking a pipe and walking briskly. He stopped at the orange juice and picked it up. He held it for a moment, and then turned and walked down Gerrard street, swinging the the bottle in the warm morning air.

Ready to Make Something New

I’m in a creative holding pattern, cycling through a daily regimen of familiar themes and experiences - phoning ahead to next week’s cities to discuss last year’s adventures. I feel like a snake that’s eating it’s tail. The perpetual Escher-esque self-reference that the book’s promotion necessitates has stolen my ‘now’.

I shouldn’t complain. I’m getting great reviews and sales are brisk. I’ve been offered daily interviews with press, radio and TV all over Canada. There were two this morning here in Kingston, and I have four tomorrow.

On Thursday I’m appearing on ‘Canada AM’ and, later that afternoon, ‘Entertainment Tonight’ wants to talk to me about “the sex, drugs and rock and roll aspect of the book”. I’ll also be having lunch with a friend who wants to talk about a show in which I would play “a version” of myself. Perfect. I’m already immersed in a similar role.

I’m awaiting inspiration. It’s a foolish conceit and I know it - yet I continue to expect an epiphany of some kind. I feel as though I’m reaching critical mass and that soon I will complete a complex artistic synthesis and, at some significant moment - perhaps the completion of the Toronto book launch event - I will ping like a microwave oven and know that I’m ready.

Ready to make something new.