Pale Yellow

IMG_5990She was an energetic child, running ahead of her parents everywhere they went. She was full of laughter and joy and her long golden hair flew behind her as she ran. She was a child of the sun.

They tried, one summer, to put her on one of those leashes for children. It was at Klondike Days in Edmonton. After the third passer-by asked what was wrong and could that child not walk (she had lain on the ground, flat on her back, and refused to move, in the middle of the fairway), her parents removed the leash, handed it back to the rental office, and asked for their money back. They made it clear to the child that she was not to run so far ahead that she could not see her parents’ eyes. So the child ran backwards through the fairway. After that, her father carried her. Her favourite was when he pushed her up onto his broad, strong shoulders so she rode above the surging crowd. She could reach the sun. She was the colour yellow.

Iris

She was the child who loved everything she found. There was never a middle ground for her. Once her heart had begun to open, it opened all the way. She loved the dandelions that littered the lawn, their little fuzzy heads tickling her lips. She loved the scratchiness of her grandfather’s unshaven jaw. She loved to hammer nails into boards in the driveway. She loved the kittens born to a stray in the garage. She loved the dead animal she found in the bushes, and the little white worms that wriggled inside it. She loved the snakes and the frogs in the garden, the cooing of pigeons, and the way gophers wagged their tails. She loved the endless peacock-blue sky, she loved the wind that took away her breath, she loved the stones that made ripples in puddles. She loved the people into whose arms she wriggled each night, and the stories they whispered in her ear before she was sent off to bed.

As for the things she didn’t love, she was very clear about that too. She hated when people were mean. She hated stones in her shoes. She hated that the old fart who lived across the alley told all the kids to call him “old Bonehead”, and she thought he was being mean to himself and so she decided she would never call him “old Bonehead”, and that made him angry and he threw onions at her. She hated weeds in the lake that brushed against her calves. She hated liver. She hated that so many people were too busy. She hated the colour pink. She was a child of hyperbole.

summer2web She was friendly. She was never shy to meet new people, even though sometimes she didn’t like being around a lot of them. She always preferred being just a little way away. She liked her distance, but wasn’t afraid to get close. She didn’t so much unfurl as explode, throwing her arms wide, as wide as her smile. She was full of just as many shadows as she was full of light, though, and sometimes was afraid of the dark, afraid of thunder.

It wasn’t the dark itself that frightened her, but the stillness it brought with it. The dampened sounds, the whispered voices. The movement she could only see out of the corner of her eye, there by the edge of the dresser. The ghostly images that swam, reflected in a looking-glass or a window, half-seen then lost on second glance. It was the loneliness that darkness brought that scared her the most. She didn’t so much mind being alone, but dreaded the feeling of being left behind, being left out, being forgotten. If the lights went out, would the world forget her?

IrisTongue4webShe comforted herself with words. Long after the lights had gone out, words tumbled from her tongue. Like soldiers marching across uneven terrain, they came one by one. Words she’d heard but didn’t know: chrysanthemum, pneumonia, adjunct, fallow, carburator. She tried these words out in tiny whispers while the house grew still around her.

Words enveloped her, comforted her. She dreamed if she ran fast enough and said the right word, she could jump and become airborne. When she rode in the bed of the truck on bumpy gravel roads, she could stand up and hold tight to the rear window of the cab. The wind that smashed against her face would steal her words, and that’s when she most liked to shout the words she was most curious about – when only the wind could take them. She was a logodaedalian.

glowweb

She was never afraid of death. It was all part of a cycle, and cycles made sense. Even when death came for her grandparents, she was not afraid. Sad, yes, but never afraid. Death was not a dark place. It was simply unknown. A blank page. Unnamed. Something unnamed was something to be explored. Something to be learned about. Something new.

The sadness death left in its wake, though, weighed heavily on her. She could not bear to see others’ tears and suffering; she felt her own heart breaking every time. Sometimes it was unbearable, and the heaviness of sadness would send her from the room. This was when the darkness became comfortable for her. Where the sun could not reach her, she could be perfectly blue.

Royalty-free image from stock.xhng (http://www.freeimages.com/profile/caffe)

No Public Telephone

My Internets died today.

And then my phones died. And the only way I knew my phone died was when #HisNibs texted me to ask why nobody was answering the phone. And I said, “you mean the phone that hasn’t rung all…ohhhhh…”

Royalty-free image from stock.xhng (http://www.freeimages.com/profile/caffe)
Royalty-free image from stock.xhng (http://www.freeimages.com/profile/caffe)
So I called SaskTel, who is our phone and Internet provider. They were all, “Okay, ma’am [I HATE it when people call me 'ma'am']; I’m just going to run a line check to see if your telephone lines are working…yes, it seems your telephone line is not working.”

And I was all, “No shit, Sherlock.”

So then we chat about the fact that my phones aren’t working, and the fellow says, “okay, I’ll set up a repair appointment for Thursday morning – does that work for you?”

And I was all, “Sure. I’ll be at work, so you just come and fix it. That’ll be fine.”

And they were all, “wait, what?”

And I was all, “you’re not expecting me to be home for this are you?”

And they were all, “well, actually…”

And I was all, “buddy. I work. We work. We are workers.”

And he was all, “so nobody will be home at all?”

This was the point at which I was thinking how easy it would be to hack in to a utility’s phone line just to set up appointments to find out when people weren’t going to be home and then go and burgle the shit out of them. I figured burgling isn’t really a lucrative business unless you can find the über rich customers, which are probably the ones that bitch the most, but you could set up a pretty sweet crime ring. Jewelry, cash, dope blu-rays…

Anyway, I was all, “my mother might be home, but she’s been dead for eleven years, so I don’t think she’ll be able to let you in. Besides, once you get her talking, she won’t shut up.”

“….”

“Hello?”

“…uh…yes, well…we will send someone out and it looks like the trouble is on the outside of the house so perhaps they can fix it on Thursday.”

“So, just to be clear, we will be without telephone or Internet service until Thursday?”

“Oh wait,” they said. “You didn’t say anything about Internet. Are you saying your Internet is also not working?”

“I am saying my Internet is also not working. Because, you know, they sort of run on the same line.”

“Well yes,” the fellow said, “but sometimes one might work when the other is not.”

“…that seems highly unlikely,” I said.

“I’m just going to run a line test to see if your Internet is working,” he said.

“It isn’t,” I said.

“It looks like your Internet also isn’t working,” he said.

“I know.”

“So we will fix that up on Thursday.”

“So, Thursday is the soonest you can get out here to fix our telephone and Internet [at this point I am having flashbacks to the time my grandmother's telephone line went down and she had no access to her emergency health line and SaskTel told me that didn't count as an emergency so they wouldn't fix it until the following week unless we wanted to pay $500 to have their repair dude from up the street come to take a look], is that correct?” I ask.

“Well, we can put you on a cancellation list in case someone cancels, but Thursday is the soonest we can schedule it.”

“That’s pretty sad,” I said.

“Pardon?”

“I said, ‘THAT’S PRETTY SAD’. At any rate, I will expect my phone and Internet to be repaired on Thursday morning. Thank you for your time.”

It’s not a huge deal that our phone and Internet will be out for a week. I’m sure it will be more of a hardship for the children. I won’t even notice that our phone is gone. But what *irks* me is that in a “boom” province, apparently it takes four days to get your effing utilities fixed unless you’re some kind of super celebrity.

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Flying along on a wing and a prayer

Let me tell you why this bleeding heart plant is my hero.

20140523-100533-36333269.jpgFive or six years ago, I planted this little beggar as a seedling. I watered him and fertilized him and he grew! He was GAAAHHHHJUSSS, as my friend’s daughter would say. Not quite big enough for blooms, but he was on the way!

Then the kids trampled him during a game of “yes you did no I didn’t”.

But he survived! He tried very very hard to reach his little arms up out of the mud. That year, though, he just couldn’t do it.

The next spring, I was happy to see his little leaves poking through the mulch. I watered him and fertiliZed him and showed the chitluns where he was so they wouldn’t trample him. They didn’t! But their toys did. In the chitluns’ defense, basketfootballbouncegolf does have a rather large and unpredictable play area.

He came back AGAIN the following spring! Cue the watering and fertilizing! Cue the putting a little cage over him!

That was the year His Nibs put roundup on our weed beds. I coulda cried. I thought my little plant was gone forever. But the next year, the year before last, it sprouted again! I watered and fertilized AND TALKED TO my little plant. Ever since I was a wee bairn at Granny’s house, I’ve loved bleeding heart plants with their delicate little blooms and their bushy leaves.

That was the year #HisNibs mowed over the little seedling repeatedly, followed by the kids dropping stones on it in Quest For Ants. I would make a little cage out of stones to surround it and he would methodically put the stones in the stone pile, muttering about the kids leaving stones in the yard the whole time. Because the kids, of course, moved the stones you earth the ants’ colonies beneath. There may have been tears shed following the Great Mowing of 2012.

Last year, the plant once again made an appearance it was doing well! Healthy! Alive! Unmowed! It was early June and I was looking for some little buds, but none had emerged. That was THE YEAR, though! Nobody had commuted herbicide!

You may recall that last June, an enormous bough fell off one of our ancient cottonwood trees, just missing the boys, who had been playing in the yard when it happened. Thank Glob the bough missed the boys.

It landed directly on top of my bleeding heart plant.

I have my fingers crossed for buds this year. I won’t hold my breath because apparently this plant has the worst karma in the history of karma. But I hope.

Why I don’t watch network television

Retro/Vintage TV by meltingdog on stock xchng: http://www.freeimages.com/profile/meltingdog
Retro/Vintage TV by meltingdog on stock xchng: http://www.freeimages.com/profile/meltingdog
Here is my summary of network television programming: Angular dude with plastic skin 1 tells angular dude with plastic skin 2 that something has happened. Dude with engineered stubble reacts, but tries to hide his reaction. A woman walks in. One of the dudes notices. The woman announces some things, then leaves. A dude leaves.

Now the dudes are in a car. They are talking about a woman. Things not related to women happen. This is work.

The plot tries very hard to thicken, but someone has forgot to add flour, so it’s really just kind of simmering fat with some bouillon or stock added.

Angular dude with plastic skin 1 reveals something that is intended to elicit a sympathetic response from the audience.

A woman walks in. The woman announces some things, pours a drink, then leaves. A dude enters with a different woman. They are familiar because they are made of plastic.

Angular dude with plastic skin 2 has self-doubt. Then he overcomes it. Because he is white.

Sometimes this is intended to be funny. Other times the story is dramatic. Yet other times it is billed as “non-fiction”. But it is the same story.

"The Runner", public art scuplture in Athens by Costas Varotsos. Made of green glass with an internal structure of steel. Royalty-free image from stock.xchng by Lucretious

What’s art got to do with it?

I was in Calgary recently.  You remember this from such classics as “I lost the King in Yellow” and “damn, that was a good Manhattan, even without the cherries”. Well. Maybe not that last bit. That may have been a *private* experience.

"The Runner", public art scuplture in Athens by Costas Varotsos. Made of green glass with an internal structure of steel. Royalty-free image from stock.xchng by Lucretious
“The Runner”, public art scuplture in Athens by Costas Varotsos. Made of green glass with an internal structure of steel. Royalty-free image from stock.xchng by Lucretious

At any rate, while being chauffered to the aeroport for my return jaunt, my hosts pointed out a really cool THING sitting on the overpass just before the turnoff. “What do you think of THAT?” the Fenris Wolf asked.

“I think that’s really cool!” I said. Because it was really cool. It’s a giant blue hoop just kind of…hanging out…on the overpass. “What’s it do?”

“It doesn’t *do* anything. It’s the latest piece of public art that’s causing a huge uproar.”

“What’s the uproar about? Isn’t it bad enough that Calgary doesn’t have even a single public art gallery? Now people also don’t want there to be any public art at all?”

“Well,” the Fenris Wolf said, “it cost something like $450,000 to build.”

“COOL!” I half-shouted (sorry about that, Fenris Wolf. I get excited. Even in cars. Like a puppy). “Good for the artist.”

It turns out that the city of Calgary has an interesting (although not by any means unique) public art policy that stipulates that for municipal projects, a percentage of the total project cost must be allocated to public art. I did not know about these sorts of policies (I never really thought about that before, to be honest with you. I just kind of went along assuming that all public art was pretty much reviled by 70% of the population for being a waste of money, and that everyone in Canada who values public art had to fight tooth and nail to get any of it installed anywhere, ever. I was wrong. I like being wrong sometimes). ANYWAY. So there was a municipal project in Calgary, and the city commissioned a group of German artists (called inges idee and consisting of Hans Hemmert, Axel Lieber, Thomas A. Schmidt and Georg Zey) to create a piece of public art, and their winning project was “Travelling Light”, which is a giant blue hoop.

This topic was featured on the radio this morning as well, with some interesting arguments and discussions. Like, I suspect, most public art installations, there are people who don’t like the piece. There are people who don’t “get” the piece (I’m not sure if “getting” it is the point, but I’m’a talk about that in a minute). There are people who are incensed that more than $450,000 was paid for a giant blue hoop (which, if you read up on it, is quite an interesting piece of engineering. It’s not just a big blue hula hoop stuck on the side of the road with sticky tack and chewing gum).  There are people who love the sculpture. This is normal. The whole thing has sparked a debate in Calgary’s city council and they’re talking about reworking the city’s public art policy.

I don’t really want to spend a whole lot of time on what Calgary should or shouldn’t do (get yourselves a public gallery. Really, Calgary, that’s shameful. The only major north american city without a public gallery!? Phoo.) with their public art policy. But I do want to talk about a couple of things related to public art.

1) “I don’t think we should use public dollars to pay for X”. This is a statement with which I fundamentally disagree, but I also realise folks who think this way cannot be disavowed of their opinion about the importance of public funding for the arts (in precisely the same way that I can not be disavowed of my opinon that it is a NECESSITY to allocate public money for art and culture). It’s a debate I’ve had many times over (even on this blog) and so I’m not sure it’s even necessary to open that discussion again. I also want to be clear here that I include amateur sports in “culture”. Because they are an integral and important part of our quality of life.

2) “My six-/three-year old could do that.” Now this *is* an interesting argument. One of the reasons your six or three or two or nine year old could do that art is because before we train the ingenuitiy and creative genius and passion out of our children, they are pure vessels of wonder. This sounds *very* hippy-dippy, and I don’t mind that. The point I’m making here is that our children see things in ways that we have forgotten too look, and that is one of the reasons that art – ALL art – is so important. You might not be able to tell that the scribble in the centre of the page is supposed to be a goose, but your kid can. And your kid can tell you a whole story about that goose. And probably has a song to make up about it and an accompanying dance move. Do you know what this is?

This is a child’s brain firing on all cylinders. This is the very crux of learning, of growth, the very spark of intelligence. We learn through expression, through communication, through observation. What that kid with the goose-scribble has just done is observe her environment, interpret her environment, and reproduce what she experienced in an effort to communicate it to others. THIS IS A HUGE DEAL.

So when you’re saying that a piece of art is “so simplistic that a child could do it”, you are paying an enormous compliment to the artist. What you’re saying is that the artist has been able to recapture what most of us lose in about grade 1: the ability to see something, wonder about it, and interpret it. And to be able to create something that is wholly new or different. Sometimes this is representational, and we can “tell what something is supposed to be”. We are trained to think of representational art as “good art”, because it’s easy to grok, at first glance, that that sculpture is a dude with no arms or that that painting is a woman not quite smiling. And we get that those things make us ask questions about the artist and about the piece and generally make us think. But when we’re faced with something more abstract, those things become more challenging.

I’ll tell you, I was the first person to bitch about the Canadian government spending close to $2 million for Voice of Fire. I didn’t know the history of the piece, the artist’s intent, and I’d never seen it. I’d only ever seen pictures of it in the media. When I stood in front of that painting, I was completely overwhelmed. I mean, it’s MASSIVE. And it *did* something to me. I could go on and on about how it felt like I was falling into it, or about how I couldn’t tear my eyes away, or about how I could have very easily just spent my entire day at the National Gallery just looking at that painting. But I won’t, because personal experiences don’t amount to a hill of beans. What I will say is that as Canadians, we should be proud that our National Gallery contains billions and billions of dollars’ worth of artworks from all over the world. Voices communicating something, in a moment in time, that do, in some way, change the way we look at the world. Pieces that do make us question, or that do make us feel something. Some of them are beautiful. Some of them are ugly and horrible. Some of them are weird. But that pretty much describes all the people of the world, and that is an important thing.

3) “I don’t get it.” Not all art is there to be “got”. When you look at something and you immediately “get” it, you understand it without trying, you’re not thinking about it. You see a stop sign, you stop, you kind of half-assedly look around for oncoming traffic, and then you go. This is a basic activation of your lizard hindbrain and you’re pretty much just being a trained monkey. A sculpture of a bear that’s installed in a forest probably won’t make you think too much about it. You’ll be all, “oh hey. That’s a sculpture of a bear in the forest. That totally makes sense. Huh. It even looks like a bear and it’s actually in a forest. That’s great art!” But if you see a sculputre of a 40-foot-tall blue bear staring in to an office building, your brain starts firing off in all directions.

Smarty Pants could tell you a whole bunch about what this means, and the little tiny area in your brain, just above your ear, that basically gets tasered into action whenever you encounter something you’re not expecting. The short version of this is that you start asking questions. And when you start asking questions, you start thinking about things. And when you start thinking about things, your whole body goes into action. This, I think, is what the majority of artists out there are trying to do. They’re trying to get you to think about something, to feel something (even if that feeling is revulsion).

Not all art is pretty or palatable, or even likeable. And art is supposed to not only be a reflection of life, but it’s also supposed to get us to challenge what we think we know. It tries to get us to talk about things. To think about things. To get out of our lizard hind-brains and out of the trained monkey suit and into a different place. At least, that’s my take on it. So if you don’t “get” it right away, that’s okay. That’s GOOD! Maybe you’ll never get it (“melting watches? What the hell is with the melting watches? That’s not art; that’s just a bunch of nonsense.”). Maybe you will. Maybe you don’t like to think about things (that makes me sad) or question things (sadder) or feel things (still sad). Maybe you’re cool with the whole trained monkey schtick, and if you’re happy with that, then I guess that’s okay too. I guess.

There are many, many reasons why public art is important. Far smarter people than I have even done SCIENCE about public art. The fact that there is debate about it is a *good* thing. We argue about the things we are most passionate about. Ask yourself why a piece of public art bothers you so much. Ask yourself why you’re so upset about the amount of money being spent on it and whether you’d still be upset if the government spent the same amount of money on a concert, or a sports event, or a business convention. You might just not like the idea of governments spending public money on anything – that’s a very different discussion than whether or not public art is valuable.

Gallery of public art installations

Erosion

The dude on the news was talking about a recent study that seems to say that people with University degrees are earning less than people with high school degrees. Guy then goes on to say that University grads make more but that people with high school diplomas have received more pay rises, which has resulted in University grads making less. This is either an example of shoddy reporting or of unclear writing. It cannot be both – or all three – things.

20140428-194334.jpgThe study went in to say that a University degree (undergrad, graduate, or post-graduate) does not guarantee a middle-class life. What the study apparently didn’t even look at is the fact that our government has, over the past ten years, eroded the middle class.

So this is what pisses me off: these studies that look at one thin without looking at the effects other pressures may have on the entire system. It’s like studying the plumbing in a house by looking at the shower drain and concluding that the plumbing problems are all caused by hair in the drains. You have to look at multiple factors with something like this – you have to take a step or two back and figure out what all is in play.

Like the cost of education, the earning power of a student’s family, the ethnicity of the student, the type of degree they are graduating with (they did conclude that bachelor of science and Bachelor of Arts degrees don’t guarantee good paying jobs. Which we’ve known for 30 years – those are general education degrees and if you want to find work as a specialist you kind of have to specialise), the area of the country in which you study, the profile of the university, the types of jobs students are seeking, the time frame in which they are looking, the political climate and policies/legislation enacted over the course of the study that may have an effect on outcomes, rates of pregnancy and childbirth, rates of illness…I mean, you could go on forever.

So the conclusion seems to be that an undergraduate degree in 2014 doesn’t “pay” as much as it did in 1964. We’ll slap my rump and call me “baby”. I am shocked. The 60s were when the baby boomers were bursting into the market and creating a very weird future. The 70s were when they were all calming down and getting puppies and babies and non-Volkswagen cars. The 80s were when they were at the height of their earning potential. And the economy has been slowing down since then. AS IT SHOULD.

Anyway. I yelled at the news today because of that comment about how tough it is to try to earn a middle class wage as a University grad, but didn’t give a very complete picture as to why.

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Unretired (LOCKDOWN LOLITA writing challenge winner)

Congratulations to Elaine Hayden Booker! She won the LOCKDOWN LOLITA writing challenge with her postcard story, Unretired. I love how quirky it is.

Follow Elaine at her blog or on Twitter @abstractsunflwr

image licensed for use from shutterstock.com

Unretired

(postcard fiction by Elaine Hayden Booker)

Most of my peers are retired. Not out of a desire to be retired; we were retired too early when we were all replaced with these skinny little things a number of years ago. I’m one of the select lucky few to come out of retirement and have a whole new second life. My former life was great; I spent a lot of time rolling around places with loud music playing and disco balls. Those days were fun. These days, though, are exhilarating.

My new life has introduced me to competitive sport–or rather, competitive sport has introduced me to my new life. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. The cheering from the crowd, the sense of urgency to make it to the front of the pack, the spontaneity of never really knowing what the blockers are going to do to prevent you from getting past them. On occasion I’ve been roaring down the track at top speed and then without a moment’s notice found myself flying wheels up in the air without a clue as to how I’ve gotten there. A few times I’ve had to dodge or jump over a face that’s found itself on the track. Once, I even came so close that I ran over a dreadlock that was sticking out of its helmet. Talk about adrenaline.

In the past few years I’ve made a lot of new friends who I could have never imagined before this new life. It was always just me and my twin back then. Now we spend a lot of time with the helmet, mouth guard, and the other twins: elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards.

Yes, coming out of retirement has been incredible. I think every pair of four-wheeled roller skates should have the opportunity to have a new life as a Derby Girl’s skates. There’s nothing quite like it.

LOLITA writing contest

This is it. I am hosting a writing contest. There is a prize. TWO prizes, to be honest. But ‘cept the two prizes are two individual things that are actually part of the SAME prize.

The contest:

Send a postcard story (up to 500 words) or a poem (limerick or haiku) to c3n0byte at gmail dot com. The subject field of your email should say LOCKDOWN LOLITA. The subject of your piece (or pieces; you may enter as many pieces as you wish) should have something to do with roller derby. Bonus points if you can also work dreadlocks into the piece! Deadline is Thursday,  April 24th.  There is no cost to enter this contest. Unless you count peace of mind.

The Prize:

logo-2013The winning entry will be published at cenobyte.ca; promoted on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, etc., etc., and will receive two tickets to the Pile o’ Bones Roller Derby’s season opener on Saturday, 26 April at the Caledonian Curling Club in Regina (2225 Sandra Schmirler Way)! This is the first event of the season and will feature all three house teams:

306th Bombshell Battalion vs Bone City Beaver Dames vs Lockdown Lolitas

You can find more info about the club and about the bout itself at the Pile O’Bones Derby Club page: http://pileobonesderbyclub.com

The Coolest Prize:

The winner of this contest will get to meet Parks ‘N Wreck – one of Pile O’Bones’ newest derby girls! You’ll get to meet her IN PERSON, after her bout.

 

 

Sacrifice?

See, the thing is, when I chose to become a parent, I did not think in terms of “sacrifice”. I did not think in terms of “giving things up”. It wasn’t about not being able to go out partying with my bee eff effs. It wasn’t about not eating hot food. It wasn’t about giving up my personal space and time.

It was about welcoming a brand new soul to a fucked-up, wonderful, terrifying, joy-filled world. It was about getting to help build a whole new person. It was about seeing everyone I had ever loved reflected in wide, questioning, innocent eyes.

My great grandmother as a girl, standing with her parents.
My great grandmother as a girl, standing with her parents.

It was a decision to learn from my mistakes, to know I would make many, many more. It was a decision to create something bigger than myself, someone more important than myself. It was about learning what true need was, and learning how to be comfortable filling that need with love and patience and absolute fear. It was about learning how to identify and to accept my myriad weaknesses and to begin to learn how to find strength.

I did not choose to become a parent because I wanted someone to fill all of those voids in my life left *by* my life. I didn’t think children would “fix my life” (rather; I knew they would bring different challenges). I certainly wasn’t doing what was expected of me.

Having children has been the scariest thing I have ever chosen to do. It is the grandest adventure, and on every adventure you encounter mishaps and hardships and insurmountable problems. Usually, I am the insurmountable problem. I had to be willing to accept that there was someone who would love me because of who I am, and who would, at the same time, resent me and sometimes hate me for those same things.

I resent the claim that parents do a thankless job ceaselessly for no pay. Parents are paid with laughter and with tears. With hugs and fights and birthdays and slamming doors and most of all with years. We are paid with time. Every moment you get to share with a child is a gift. Even if you don’t like kids (not every gift is the one we want).

The most important thing I learned when I chose to become a parent is how much I valued the people who had a hand in raising me, even though sometimes they messed up. I have learned and continue to learn so much about who I am and who I am meant to be. I have not had to sacrifice; rather I have had to earn every moment

Competition?

Hi cenobyte,

How have you been? I understand you only wanted to communicate to your previous consultant but I am emailing you now check on the update for your book. We are celebrating our 17th anniversary this month and we’re giving out almost more than 50% discount. I am not sure if you are particular in saving during the publication of your book but I only wanted to inform you this as your publishing consultant. I hope you will not get angry with me. I am just doing my duty as your consultant.

Sincerely, Jan

How-to-Format-a-Book-Manuscript Dear Jan,

It’s a fine thing for you to just go around calling Nathan my “previous consultant”. You probably have him hog-tied under your desk and you’re feeding him cheerios one at a time and water from a hamster bottle. That’s no way for a man to live, Jan. I’m not sure it’s even legal. Maybe in Indiana. Either way, it appears you are utterly without remorse for what you’ve done to that poor man, and recalcitrant to boot (I really like the word ‘recalcitrant’, by the way. It doesn’t mean “someone who adds calcium to something more than once”, like you might think it means, though. It means something like a leopard doesn’t change its spots.) And that describes you perfectly.

Since our last discussion, I’ve *moved on*, Jan. I’ve been talking to Cherie [REDACTED] a Publishing Consultant with [REDACTED], which is a very long name, and I honestly don’t know what her parents were thinking when they named her that; it must take up an awful lot of space on her driver’s permit. Anyway Cherie and I have a relationship now, since you man-napped my beautiful Nathan and did horrible things to him in a pit full of cockroaches or whatever.

Cherie and I have been talking about my new book. I had to give up on my manifesto because when you man-napped Nathan, nobody ended up getting back to me about my advance, and so I couldn’t finish writing it. Well, I suppose I could have but since I didn’t get that cheque, I had to go back to work and because I had given them two weeks’ notice, they took me out of the filing office and put me back on the front lines, which isn’t bad if you don’t mind rats and raw sewage. Which, like all writers, I’m pretty used to.

I’m a little confused about your email. I mean, not only because you have the cojones to write to me after everything that happened between us – you, Nathan, and me – but I’m a little confused as to what kind of operation your publishing company is, anyway. At first, when I started talking to Nathan, I thought you were a respectable publishing house, but now, after the man-napping and three separate “consultants” offering to publish my book, I’m thinking maybe I was mistaken there.

What I’m saying is that I think I’ve underestimated not only the size of your operation but my success as a writer. Three acquisitions editors are asking for my manuscript (I’ve taken to calling it a manuscript, which, if you left your cubicle long enough to find Cherie and ask her about it, I’m sure she’d be able to explain why)! I bet Stephen King never had THREE ACQUISITIONS EDITORS asking for HIS stuff. Maybe two.

This makes me think that I’m probably asking too little for my advance. Nathan and I had initially talked about $300,000, but now that I’m in such high demand, I think I’m going to have to insist on the $500,000. And I’m not even going to pretend it’s all for Uncle Dan anymore. He can hire a grad student to grab things for him when his last three fingers fall off; since everyone seems to want to publish my books, I’m just going to take that $500,000 and buy one of those portable classrooms to write in so that I don’t have to share the kitchen table with Grandfather and Ms. Bloom’s preschool bible class. It’s a big table and all, but the truth is, what with Grandfather’s shingles and little Ricky Anderson who always (and I mean ALWAYS) has his finger up his nose, it’s tough to get a lot done.

So once you send me my advance, we can talk more about my book. To be honest, I’m not 100% sold on the idea of the book about what it’s like to be a gay man. It’s compelling stuff, and I think it’s a great idea, but I haven’t heard back from Cherie yet so I’m thinking maybe Ms. Bloom was right when she said that nobody wants to read about the gay agenda. She said it like that, too. She leaned way forward and said the gay agenda with her eyes wide open and she only really half-said it, like she was just mouthing the words but I’m notoriously terrible for lip-reading, so it’s like she knew she’d have to say SOME of it so she just kind of half-said it. Later she said it was for the benefit of the children, but honestly, those kids are more interested in what Ricky Anderson pulls out of his nose than what goes on between a couple of people in love so I don’t know what she was worried about.

Anyway, Ms. Bloom knows her books – she has, like, fifty books on her shelf and only half of them are the bible, so I might take her advice. But I was thinking that maybe the book I’m going to write should be something more *accessible*. That’s a word that means “something everyone can read”, but in this case I really just mean “people who don’t come from around here”, because if I were going to write THAT book, it’d have to be an audiobook and I’d have to get some dude with no teeth to narrate it. Not that I’m ashamed of where I’m from, Jan. I love these people. They’re just not sophisticated, you know? Unless you count shucking corn as some kind of sophistication, which I guess it is when you think about it, because there’s actually a real skill involved in getting all those hairs off without winding them around your fingers. Which is actually what happened to Uncle Danny’s left pinky. He got some corn silk wrapped around it and he didn’t notice for, like, two weeks, and by that time the damned thing just fell off so what can you do?

Speaking of audiobooks, Nathan and I talked about having Patrick Warburton do the narration for my manifesto, but now that I’m doing a different book – I’m thinking of one of those…what do you call them…coming of age stories about a girl who lives in the city and eats some bad meat. I mean *really* bad meat. Like, radioactive meat. And then instead of going through puberty normally – I mean, instead of growing armpit and crotch hair and whatever – she grows vegetables all over her body. And she’s, like ostracized or whatever because she always smells like onions because that’s the most prevalent vegetable growing on her body. I’ll do a tie-in with bullying of course, and maybe you can include a study guide for schools. You guys sell all your books into all the schools in North America, right? So this should be easy.

In fact, I was thinking if you just get the book adopted to all the core curriculae for, like, all the elementary schools on the continent, you might even be able to up that advance to, say, $550,000. That would really help with typewriter ribbons. I don’t know if you know this, but typewriter ribbons are super expensive. I think they get ink directly from deep-sea squid.

Thanks for getting in touch with me. Let me know about that advance and do be nice to Nathan. He’s a peach.

Yours,
cenobyte