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I know the exact words I am dying to use to quantify this feeling, this experience, this very largeness of feeling to which I'm so unaccustomed – it’s like staring at a building so old that the weight of its history grips you and shakes you, middle on out.  You stand, gasping for breath in wonder and awe at the immensity and terror of the moment, able to feel nothing but relief and joy at the depth of emotion suddenly available.  Like staring at the sea, or great art or the sky on a cloudless night in Shirley.

I am terribly lucky to be right here, just now, where I believe I am meant to be but have never been before.  I am thrilled to my very centre to be sharing it with someone so honest, challenging, brave and delicious.  I know exactly what this is but I’m afraid to name it for fear it will disappear.  Some part of me realizes, though, that no matter the outcome, no matter the future, nothing can tear this feeling from my tightly curled fingers.  It’s mine and I just want to say one thing:

Dear Universe:

I think I understand. 

Thank you,

A Grumpy Bastard 

P.S. I am drinking tea that tastes like campfires.  This is also a treasure.

So I’m sure most of you have seen this movement online; it’s where grown-ups vlog to young people about their lives now that they are out of that horrible teenage place. Dan Savage is the progenitor of the campaign and it was started in response to the rash of queer kid suicides that have hit the news lately. Its intent is to offer hope to young, gay/trans/bi/questioning kids who despair of ever making it out of high school alive by painting portraits of happy-ish, mostly adjusted, grown up people who survived that very thing and are glad they did.

I find the movement, in general, to be very powerful. It feels like a really honest and genuine attempt to create permanent documentation of hope, happiness and perspective; three things that I believe we need to pay more attention to at all stages in our life.

Recently, I’ve heard criticism of the project, namely because it suggests that once you’re no longer a teenager, your life will magically be great and, as well all know, it’s fucking not. I’ve also encountered criticism suggesting that while the project claims to embrace trans kids as one of the targeted groups, they will never be as whole as their cis gendered gay counterparts upon adulthood. This may be true, I do get it, but I refuse to dwell on it. Perhaps this is shitty of me, I don’t know.

I think that the whole “it gets better” idea is a bit of a stretch for everyone; it’s not magic. Time won’t heal all wounds or make your life automatically awesome. I think that growing out of teenage-hood, regardless of your experience in highschool, though, goes a long way to it getting better.

I think the point of the campaign is right – reminding kids that it won’t suck THIS BAD forever. Yes, it will still suck at times. But as adults, we are frequently able to handle it better because we’re not such a hot mess of hormones, newness and inexperience combined with a proscriptive and stifling environment and complete financial dependency on others.
Anyway, so enamoured am I of this Thing, I want to ask all of you, my friends, family and acquaintances to make your own contribution. I don’t think it matters if you’re gay, straight, bi, cis or transgendered, (which seems to – kind of sadly, to me) to be a prerequisite for the official campaign. All that’s required from me is that you felt, at some point, in your youth, that despair was overpowering you and that you might not make it. You HAVE made it. And that’s incredible. Go You.

I know it’s not perfect but I really do like the idea of “it gets better” for all teens, regardless of their trans (or not) experience or sexuality. Being a teenager is especially rough because you have no perspective. It seems like it’s all or nothing. I think it’s great that grown ups want to reach out to them in a really honest way and show examples of how it CAN work.

So what would you write to a kid (any kid, anywhere) who feels that way now? What do you wish they could understand (or if not understand, at least potentially take on faith to get them through that wretched time)?

Here’s mine:

Dear The Kids:

You think it’s awful right now and it will never get better. Guess what? It doesn’t, but You will.

You will learn that the things that devastate you now are normal. Everyone has something similar. You are not as unique as you believe; because everyone has aspects of themselves that are terrifying and beautiful and bizarre. This will comfort you later and allow you to dance in clubs without being self conscious.

You will learn that people are generally good and want to be loved, even while they’re spewing hate and that the very best offense is to channel Sailor Moon and harness the power of your love and the connections between you and your friends and family.

You will learn that it is okay to be single, fat, transsexual and queer. You will stop asking peoples’ permission for being who you are and you will find them accepting you more often because you’re giving them no excuse not to.

It will not be perfect, it will never be perfect but it will be really, really nice sometimes and you will, overall, believe that this exercise (life) is worth doing.

Bow-ties make many things better

I like my doctor - I really do.  For the first time in my life, I have a doctor who is not creepy, obviously self-absorbed, molesting children or abusing substances and their family on the job.  My doctor wears cardigans and bow-ties; which would be excusable in someone around seventy but in someone who is probably just around or under forty, it's adorably peculiar. That's not to say that cardigans and bow-ties prevent one from having any of my previous physicians' faults; it just makes me a little less tense while I'm in there in the various compromising physical and emotional positions one finds oneself in in doctors' offices. It makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I'm not the weirdest one in the room.

Several weeks ago I was in to have blood work - you know the drill, they give you the sheet, you go get bled and then they never call you to tell you what happened.  Or so you hope. 

"Will you call me with the results?"
"No, we only call if there's a problem."
"Oh.  How long does it take to know?" (When should I tell the tenterhooks place I'll have them back?)
"If you haven't heard from us within four weeks, there's nothing wrong."

Cue 30 days of minor, back of the brain paranoia.

22 days in, the medical receptionist phones me at work and says they want me in for an appointment.  I asked her if I could know what it was about; she said that she couldn't say but that I needed to come in.  Cue dread, terror and confusion; duration: one week.

Today was the appointment.  I showed up almost late and then sat for ten minutes in the busy waiting room beside a man who'd been kicked out of his pregnant lady friend's exam room; he was compulsively flipping pages in a heavy coffee table book full of pictures of Places People Go to Take Photographs.  He occasionally muttered under his breath things like "of course you're in France.  Of course."

I glanced through A Century of Photographs compiled by Pierre Berton.

They call me to the doom - I mean room -  and I sit down.  Doctor is all bowties, cardigans and smiles "Hmmm, so what can I help you with today?"


"Do you need a referral to a psychiatrist? That's what I have here."



Rewind to two weeks prior.  I'm sitting in my cubicle at work, surrounded by pleasant, gentle, clever and kind people who can hear every word I say ALL THE TIME.  Trying to be discreet as I tell the receptionist that I want that referral to the psychiatrist after all.

"I'm sorry, you'll have to speak up. I can't hear you."

"I need the referral to the psychiatrist that Dr F said he'd do if I needed it.  I need it."

"I'm sorry, what's this about?"

"Can you just read my file?"

"Can you speak up? What do you need?"

"A PSYCHIATRIST. I am in need of a psychiatrist."

"I can't hear you. Do you need an appointment?"

"NO.  Thank you. It's okay, forget it."

The following week, they call to book the mystery appointment.

So today, I got to have an extra visit with my doctor.  Who is so excited about this transition thing, it almost makes me think that perhaps my general reaction of wonder and apprehension is inadequate. I feel bad for all those years that I wasn't so interesting.

Google as Oracle - Is it Thursday?

"In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic opinion, predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination." - wikipedia

There's this:

And this:

And this:

And finally, there's this:

Last week, I typed in the following search string after my blood typing episode and came up with a surprising top hit:

"CBS sues gay man blood ban"

This was my #1 Result

So google knows me better than I do myself.  I DID want to read about Morrissey.  It wasn't what I thought I wanted, but it was alright.

Sadly, it seems like the magic blew out because the same search string results in only related topics today.  The lesson? Screen cap everything.  Get witnesses.

Aug. 29th, 2010

Having committed a desperate act of pollocide today I feel both accomplished and satisfied. I’ve killed things before: the toad my cat had left to die in shock, a chicken in a bag tied to an exhaust pipe after being half mauled by a dog, a squirrel smoked by a motorist and half dead at the side of the road. Mercy killings all.

Today was the unsavoury task of killing the chickens I’d raised from teeny weenies. We did nearly 30 birds in four hours and I’m proud to say that I actually did most of the killings - it was important to me that I take them out of this world as cleanly and quickly as I could. I felt good about the process and I’m thoroughly impressed with myself.

I am so, so tired, though.

Update!  Here's the result (it was delicious):

Aug. 27th, 2010

Dear Canadian Blood Services:

Now that I know my blood type is common, I can stop feeling guilty for not being allowed to donate EVER in my adult life due to your fucked up policies.

Thank you for your time.

A+ for blood. Boo to CBS.

Nurse: Have you ever considered donating blood?

GB: Many, many times. I feel quite strongly that I would like to. [explain that I am banned and pissed].

Nurse: You know, it’s really not a lifestyle thing.

GB: Well, it’s sure not a science thing.

CBS was in my work building this week, soliciting donations and identifying blood types. I've had nightmares for years that I had some kind of rare blood type and was depriving the world of my life's juice.  Turns out I'm terribly common, thank Dog.

So You Think You Can Dance

Oh how I love the dance show.  It is so gay. It's the only reason I have not cancelled my satellite. 

That is all.

A forest of text

There are books everywhere. Stacks and piles in all corners representing badly drawn categories and nowhere yet to go.  Today is the day that the books get organized.

I have many, many books.  I am attached to each one of them in some way.  There are other items in my life that get to be purged and gotten rid of but very, very rarely a book.  A book in my get-rid-of pile has to be some kind of monstrosity (and some of those I save out of a love for the curious) or have made its way to me completely by accident and misadventure.

Take my extensive collection of Margaret Atwood novels, for example. I hate Margaret Atwood (not personally, the last time I made that mistake I may have killed off a popular Canadian author. Oops).  For several years, though, it was all people seemed to want to give me for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions. Then there were the novels I studied in the "gender and literature" course I signed up for, imagining that we would actually be examining gender in literature instead of just reading women's lit. I currently own:

Selected Poems
The Handmaid's Tale
The Edible Woman
Alias Grace
Lady Oracle
Dancing Girls
Simple Bones and Good Murders
Cat's Eye

I'm sure I have more, but I haven't crossed their paths yet tonight. They are free to a home, good or otherwise. Do you want to save me from Atwood? Please?


I've successfully filled three shelves – two spanning antiquity to modern 20C lit and one for theory and anthologies. I am tight on space for modern novels and I'm bothered by this because it means that one shelf down and I won't be able to look at them all the time. The bottom shelves are (in my mind) reserved for cookbooks, non-fiction how-to kind of stuff, histories and popular novels that I don't necessarily feel that strongly about. The love affair books - the cloth and leather bound classics; the beautifully printed 1950's hardcovers, the pocket poetry editions – these I must be able to see. Although, most of them have their titles rubbed right off their spines which makes figuring out what one has sort of difficult.

Note the pickled beets at left serving as bookend:


That probably explains why I have so many duplications. There are certain books that I have consciously
bought more than once. I have purchased The Wars by Timothy Findley three times – once was to read it the first time, twice was the first edition I found and the third time was to give away except that I didn't. I have bought East of Eden twice - again, the first was to read it and the second was because the newest edition was so exquisite.


Then there's Shakespeare. Many of my books came from my mother's collection. When mine and hers were merged, a certain amount of duplication was bound to occur. For instance, of course we both had nearly complete sets of the Shakespeare plays plus a Complete Works of respectively. That doesn't explain the four copies of Hamlet. Do we each claim responsibility for two? Or is one of us really that crazy?


I think I need one more day at this. I spent this afternoon alternating between compulsive book placement and sitting in the park across the road for Shirley Day. It was oddly uncomfortable being the only person there sitting alone. I knew almost everyone but they all had small groups; I mingled, I wandered, I chatted but I ultimately sat alone to eat my salmon dinner with a copy of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. Being there seemed like a strange test of my ability to socialize. I should have volunteered, it would have given me purpose.


Ending Abruptly,

A Grumpy Bastard


ETA: people keep telling me to get a Kindle.  This is not an appropriate solution to too many books.  More books is the solution.  More books and more shelves and another house to house them. And endless hours to read them.  Kindle. Is it a coincidence that they named it after something flammable?  Book burnings anyone?

The birds are back in town

So, here are some things that have changed since I saw you last:

1. "wtf" has entered common usage as if it were a real word

2. I've moved to the country - this means a lot of things; not least of which is that I have a better grip on the natural world and a lot of trouble maintaining a connection to the city which I also love

3. It's 2010 now, not 2006.  This seems obvious but bears mentioning.

4. I am going to do the hormone thing.  This was formerly a vague possibility which has solidified into a rather irritating need.

5. I am still single.  I got together with some people in between then and now and then we un-got-together. There are many reasons for this.  I am not certain they are worth discussing.

6. My ailing mother has entered long term care, come home again and then re-entered.  Caring for her was the right thing to do but has created a lacuna in my creative expression.  It's coming to an end over and over again like the ocean tickling my feet at its shore.

Yesterday, the blue jays* returned to my yard.  They have been gone all summer; I like to think that they are here to remind me of the autumn that's coming (sneaking in, crawling crazily closer - isn't it still spring? have we had summer already?)  I love the fall.  I love the smell of it, the start of decay, the moistness and the sunny chill of October and the beginnings of all of those lives that come out of fecund death. Mushrooms, zombie grass - resuscitated from a summer of starvation and dehydration for one last stab at spring but doomed to be outdone by the cold soon enough. 

I love the crows with their slow, methodical frenzy.  I love the breezes that are always a little colder than I remember and expect.  I do not love the shortening of the days but I secretly admire the audacity of the universe for giving us 19 hour days and then taking them away without so much as a vote or an application process; it seems to represent some kind of doomsday.  You know what's coming; 8 hours of daylight and even that suffers behind a thick grey woolen sweater.  Like Neruda's winter sky; 'air white like wet bread.'

I am being maudlin talking about this in August but it's been on my mind since the blue jays came back.

* Wikipedia informs me that these are, in fact, specifically Stellar Jays.  They are darker and smokier looking than regular Blue Jays.  They are also terrible at baseball.
Dear LJ,

Hi! How are you? It's been a long time and I'm sorry.  I can give you a truckload of excuses but none of them are really any good.  Apparently, we haven't spoken since 2006.  Jesus.  How did that happen? We used to be so close.  I miss talking to you, I really do.  What do you say? Can we give it another try?

A Grumpy Bastard