Monday, October 31, 2005

I'd Like To Meet His Tailor

Sunday was sunny and bright and perfect for putting the finishing touches on this year's Halloween decorations. Francine suggested that, rather than do my normal "fill the yard with all the Halloween crap" that we have, that I stick to a single theme.

So I just focused on the graveyard thing. I think it works (will look a bit cooler when I hook up the fog machine tonight). Alexander seems to like it.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2005

When Spooky Eyes Are Peeking

So there I am, about an hour into my book signing last night, when I shifted in my seat and moved my notebook into my lap (I usually fill vacant time during signings by working on various writing projects, making notes, etc.)

What to my wandering eyes do appear, but little glow in the dark spooky eyes, just trying to instill fear!

My fly had been open the whole time, and my spooky eye boxers were peeking out at the world, just curious, and wanting to make friends, as is their nature. (No wonder the ladies at the bookstore were all smiles when I arrived) So there I sat, waiting for just the right moment when it appeared that nobody was looking, so I could reach down and zip up my pants. (The last thing I wanted was a misunderstanding at what my hands were doing beneath the table, it all ending with mall security hauling me out as some sort of pervert)

But with a quick zip, the little spooky eyes were banished back to their world of darkness, and I don't think anyone saw me. I wonder if Stephen King ever had moments like this during his book signings?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Naked Eyes - HNT

I'm doing a book signing at the Coles in Limeridge Mall on Hamilton Mountain this evening at 6:30. I'll likely be wearing my skull tie and bringing along Yorick (my skull), but something I haven't admited to yet is that I often also wear Halloween or spooky underwear to my signings as well. Tonight, I think I'll be wearing my "spooky eyes" underwear.

If you're wondering why I would start posting half naked pictures of myself, it's because I thought it might be fun to participate in the HNT (Half-Nekkid Thursday) stream that blogger Osbasso started. After all, blogs are often about revealing parts of yourself to the world.

Hmm, now that I've revealed this much of myself I'm making a resolution to start getting back on that treadmill on a regular basis.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

When Babies Attack

My son has always been fascinated with the camera. He certainly seems to know what the little device is, as he often smiles, poses and hams when he sees me readying for a shot. But he has always been excited (and aggressive) about wanting to hold the camera.

That’s probably why I have so many photographs of him seemingly attacking the camera, like a miniature version of Sean Penn clashing with the paparazzi, perhaps.

Based on all of the wonderful shots of Alexander reaching for the camera (as well as some video shots I have that document, first hand, how he’s actually been able to wrestle the camera from my hands), I always thought it would make a great half hour special on Fox television - like a cross between “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Cops”

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A PenUltimate Evening

Last night I was a guest at my friend Kim’s writing group meeting. The evening was quite pleasant and much too short with a group of truly interesting people -- I would have loved to have stuck around longer and listened to the members tell me about some of their writing projects, because I found that being in their presence was inspirational.

When I was a teenager, I remember being a part of a local writing group in my home town, but the group seemed to just dissolve after perhaps 3 meetings. Over the years I guess I forgot the wonderful power that a writing group can have on an individual. You’re with a group of like-minded people willing to share and support. Second, you’re given the opportunity to give and receive frank and honest commentary on writing (often, giving commentary can help one’s own writing, because sometimes it’s easier to spot a “fix-it” item in another person’s writing rather than your own). You’re constantly learning from your contemporaries, and the ongoing writing projects and assignments keep you doing what drew you together in the first place -- writing.

One of the highlights of the evening came when Kim read the assigned “Postcard Challenge” stories and we all voted for our favourites. These are flash fiction pieces that had to be less than 250 words (ie, could fit on a postcard), included the words mummified, thriller and haunted, and fit within the theme of “Isn’t it Romantic?”

As I listened to the stories that were read I found something unique or remarkable about each person’s entry. Sure, three of us made reference to an album by Michael Jackson in order to work the word “Thriller” into the story, which was cute, but the subject matter, tone, voice and style of each tale demonstrated a creative mind dedicated to crafting a moment or scene, from the disturbing to the reflective, from pensive to gritty. And it's not easy when you're forced to keep it to less than 250 words.

In all, the evening was a real treat for me and I was glad to be a part of it.

Monday, October 24, 2005


There was an interesting article in the Hamilton Spectator today about the Wife Acceptance Factor (also known as WAF). Apparently the phrase is being used when describing high priced “toys” that men want to buy. For example, when describing a plasma television, one can talk about the picture quality, the sound quality and the size of the screen, but also feel it necessary to mention the fact that it’s thin and could be hung on a wall rather than taking up a lot of room can help create a positive WAF.

For me, Francine mostly humours my impulse purchases (likely because I haven't yet demanded that we buy a Harley or a sailboat, or even a 72 inch television), but I do rent movies and end up watching television shows based on their WAF.

TV shows with a good WAF: The West Wing, ER, Grey's Anatomy, Law & Order (all 3 of them), Commander In Chief, According To Jim, The Simpsons, The Apprentice, Medium, Three Wishes

TV shows with a negative WAF: The Family Guy, My Name Is Earl, Fear Factor, Alias, The Outer Limits, Supernatural, (anything after the first 10 minutes of SNL)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Not Just One, But All Of Them

I’m in desperate need for a haircut. That’s all there is to it.

I’m about two weeks overdue for that blissful Saturday morning ritual where I get up nice and early and head on down to see Russ at his shop on Mohawk Road. Even though he doesn’t officially open until 8 AM, if I show up at 7:15, I know he’ll be there, and perhaps I’ll even have to wait, because I’m not the only person who knows Russ gets there really early.

Perhaps it’s pathetic, but I feel better after a good haircut. And tomorrow evening I have a book signing at Chapters Festival Hall in Toronto and could really use the confidence that a good haircut provides.

When I was a young boy, I used to go to a barber, the same one my dad went to. Rene had a little shop in Levack. Good comic books, fun stories being told, and a haircut for a decent price. I fondly remember the time when I got big enough that I didn’t need to sit on that little board that was placed across the armrests, and also the first time that I went down to get my haircut on my own, without my mom or dad there with me.

Then, when I reached my teenaged years, I abandoned the barber shop for a hair stylist. Part of it was peer pressure, I remember, and a nice dose of vanity. But the idea of getting one’s hair cut at a barber’s was suddenly unthinkable. You see, apparently it’s important to spend more and get the exact same thing -- your hair shortened. Apparently it was also necessary to go to a hairstylist so that I could achieve the highly fashionable mullet which I sported from the late 80’s to the early 90’s. (I doubt that Rene would have let me walk out of his shop looking like that)

As I got older (and perhaps as I started losing my hair), I rediscovered the simple yet powerful pleasure of a barber shop. At Russ’s (the place where Francine’s father used to get his hair cut) I get a decent haircut for a great price, conversation about world events, recent sporting triumphs and loses, and of course, politics, good newspapers and magazines (and kept out of sight and reach of the young folks, there’s a selection of adult men’s magazines. Though I usually just stick to the Globe & Mail or MacLeans -- If I wanted one of the nudy magazines, I’m not quite sure the protocol. Do I just pipe up and say: “Hey Russ, slide me over a copy of “Bum Biter’s Monthly” would you?)

Alexander’s rate of hair growth is so slow that I doubt I’ll be taking him to see Russ for a while, but I certainly look forward to introducing my son to the experience of the barber shop. (Sure, when he’s a teen, he’ll likely escape to some other hair place that charges more, but I know he’ll come back home like I did, if not as a middle aged man, then for sure as a senior)

I’ve also recently looked around at the office, seen Zebing, Howard and Irwanto who all got haircuts recently (good wholesome haircuts like what I’m in desperate need for), and I think I’ve been having feelings of “haircut envy” - it isn’t pretty.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Battle Scars

Yesterday Fran called me at work to let me know that, during their morning walk, Alexander had been running down the sidewalk when he took a pretty nasty spill. He has acquired a lot of bumps and bruises over the past several months. A symptom of walking, I guess.

Actually he hardly ever just walks anywhere - last I remember he was doing the soldier crawl across the floor. Next thing I know he’s tearing across the room arms waving in the air, still belting out the patented battle cry that he began to perfect in his crawling days. (I think he might grow up to be a Barbarian, perhaps a Viking or maybe, and this is only if he gets really really tough, a Boxing Day Shopper, like his mother)

Fran described his wounds to me, also mentioning that, though he was crying, he stopped when she was carrying him to the house and he spotted the doorbell (he’s been enjoying both the act of knocking on doors and ringing doorbells lately). But it wasn’t until I got home last night and saw the large bruise on his forehead and scrape on his nose that it hit me. My poor little baby. These were his worst battle scars so far.

I know that this is just the beginning of a lifetime of hurts, of falls, spills, bruises, scratches and all the rest. But I didn’t realize how terrifying it could be, and how much I’d wish that I could be the one bearing the scars and feeling the pain rather than him.

And then, as often happens, I had a really morbid thought while we were out running errands together and Alexander was being his usual charming self flirting with store clerks and waving at people passing by. What if, someone seeing this toddler with the multiple bruises and scrapes on his face suspected that he was physically abused? It suddenly occurred to me as I looked at him grinning ear to ear at the cashier and she smiled back at him and my heart filled with pride and pure, unadultered love for this child.

Is this a common fear for parents? Or am I just paranoid?

I’d never thought of it before, but, before I became a parent, if I saw a young child who looked like he’d just been involved in a brawl (the way Alexander looks right now), would I flash back to the multiple terrifying news stories I’d heard over the years about the monster parents who beat their children to death and suspect this too could be the case? Or would I understand the reality -- that kids, especially active kids, get lots of scrapes and bruises? I’m really not sure. Damn, it's a tough thing to think about - but life's like that. And often it takes someone outside the situation to recognize the symptoms and step in and help -- especially since kids can’t often speak out themselves or in some cases, even recognize that what’s happening to them is wrong.

But how can a casual observer tell the difference? Is the risk of being wrong worth the accusation? In the interest of preserving the safety of a child, I would say yes. As a parent who dearly loves his son and would hate to be wrongly accused, the very thought of losing my child because of a misunderstanding or unjustified accusation frightens the bejesus out of me. But it's a frightening necessity for the protection of children. Isn't it?

While I continue to fail to understand how somebody could mercilessly beat on someone who is smaller than them and virtually helpless to defend themselves, I cringe with every bruise and scrape that Alexander suffers in his daily exploration of the world, hating to see my son in pain, and also trying to push away the underlying paranoia that someone would think that Fran or I did it to him.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

One Hand Screaming Prize Packs

Yesterday we got the “One Hand Screaming” t-shirts back from Can-Doo Promotions. They were awesome - high quality t-shirts at a great price. Fran used Can-Doo Promotions regularly when she worked at the Health Unit in Brantford, and, as usual, her decision to use them (and getting her talented work colleague Donna Kemp to re-adjust the One Hand Screaming logo specifically for the t-shirts) was excellent.

As usual, Fran was instrumental in not only the idea, but in the planning, picking up the product, creating cute little packages in "bat" bags and keeping me from just being too silly (she's my own personal little Graham Chapman)

The t-shirts are being packaged together with a signed copy of the book, and a Halloween sound effects CD. Q92 (Sudbury’s Best Rock) will be giving them away during the week of October 24th to October 28th during the Terry & Mell morning show.

CHML Hamilton News Talk Leader will also be giving a few of these prize packs away next week. It's all part of the annual Halloween ramp-up when sales of my book tend to peak.

I’m looking forward to the book signing I’m doing at Chapters Festival Hall inToronto this Friday evening (the 21st) as well as the one at Coles Limeridge in Hamilton next Thursday evening (the 27th). In between, I have the honour of joining The PenUltimate Group's October meeting (my friend Kim is a member of this writing group) for a fun evening on Monday the 24th.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Strong Enough For A Man - Another Secret

Last week things were so busy at work that I kept forgetting I needed to buy deodorant. Actually, no, not deodorant. Fran recently turned me on to antiperspirant, which I found has been working well.

But last week, with my own supply depleted, one morning I tried Francine’s Lady Mitchum. I ended up wearing it all week, and I have to admit, damn, it worked quite nicely. Not only that, but occasionally I would catch a whiff of that "powder fresh" scent and think: My, that's a pretty smell. And then I'd realize it was me. I smelled pretty.

There's a slogan for this product that states: "so effective you could skip a day" (I don't think so, not with me), but it does bring back fond memories of an old "Secret" television commercial in which they tout that it's "strong enough for a man, but made for a woman"

Me, since I had a chance to get the usual "man" version over the weekend, I'm just missing that pretty "powder fresh" scent right now . I wonder if Fran would notice if I kept using her stock?

Ghost Voice From The Past

I recently had one of those freaky “is it ever a small world” moments -- my life, of course, has been filled with them, which is always an interesting injection into one’s day, like a clear dose of déjà vu or some other moment that makes one wonder about the mystical connectors underlying the universe we believe that we understand.

Last week was a long and difficult one at work with several projects that had been launched going wrong wherever we turned. Because there was nobody in IT to take ownership and understand enough of the many diverse pieces for a recent gift card change, I did my best to step in (despite not really knowing all of it, I can sometimes be good at winging things -- hey, I’m a writer who has found himself in an IT support role for the critical element of Master Data for Canada’s largest book retailer, so if that doesn’t suggest I can “wing it”, I don’t know what can) For the gift card mess, I’d interfaced quiet a bit over the course of a few days with Heather (no, not Heather Reisman, the head of our company, another Heather, although she sits on the same floor at head office as our chief booklover) trying to keep her in the loop as the situation was unfolding.

I think I first met Heather Harkness perhaps 10 months or a year ago, and, over time, we’ve connected a few times, been in meetings together, worked in parallel on projects here and there. But until recently we hadn’t spoken with each other for more than a few sentences. Last week, though, we were joined at the phone. That, I think was the key.

It was near the end of another long day when we were establishing where we were with the whole mess when that bizarre moment hit. As we'd been talking, there had been something about her voice that was familiar. It kept hitting me, again and again, there was something in her voice that I knew. This wasn't Heather's voice I was hearing, but rather a ghost voice from my past that had surfaced, almost like one of those fleeting glimpses you get where you're convinced someone just walked past, but, alas, nobody is there.

D'uh. That was it. Heather's last name -- the voice. It suddenly made sense.

So I asked if Heather was related to any of the Harkness family in Ottawa. She said yes. So I asked if she knew a Colin and Christine. There was a long pause (likely Heather suddenly all freaked out) before she said: “Okay, how do you know so much about my family?”

In the early 90’s I’d briefly dated Heather’s sister, Christine. And it was Christine’s voice that I’d been hearing when Heather was speaking, the tone of voice, the inflection, the subtle nuances. It was uncanny. Although I can’t recall speaking with Christine since the mid or perhaps late 90’s, I knew that voice as if we’d last spoken only yesterday.

Christine and I had only dated for a month or two, (no big surprise for anyone who knew me -- I’d fall for a girl, drool like an idiot and she’d realize that hanging around with me was a huge mistake. Of course, I still have Francine under a magic voodoo spell which might explain why she tolerates me and my drool). Anyways, while the dating thing hadn’t worked out, we did maintain a friendship, kept in touch via the occasional letter or phone call, but ended up losing touch with each other over the years.

It has been said that scent trigger powerful memories, and I’ve found that to be true. But this is one time that sound, a voice, triggered strong memories. I wonder if it’s because when Christine and I hung out, we spent most of our time talking. I’ll always remember her as one of those friends with whom I could chat endlessly, from deep and meaningful conversation to light, fluffy and silly things.

A friend of mine, Dean Watson, once commented that he enjoyed spending time with friends that challenged him (mentally, physically, etc) - he enjoyed someone who was capable of keeping him on his toes and forcing him to try new things. I think, along those lines, I’ve always been attracted to friends with whom I can have stimulating conversation. Dean was certainly one of those people, my buddy Steve has been one for most of my life, but there are many other people whom I’m realizing I enjoy spending time with for that very reason. Francine, of course, holds the top spot in my little world for the scintillating range of conversation we have, from the deepest deep thoughts and emotions to boughts of wild creativity, from politically charged topics to the silliest and stupidest things (although she prefers that I save my truly low brow guy stuff for my buddies like Steve and Pete)

But it was the talking, the conversation, that I’ll always remember Christine for. That’s likely why Heather’s voice had such a ghostly effect on me. It’s like I was hearing this voice from my past. And I was, in a way. It was really freaky.

I was glad to hear from Heather that her sister is doing extremely well, apparently the co-owner of a Yoga fitness club, going for her Masters in Montreal and is in a long term relationship with a great guy. Christine was a good soul, a kind person, and I’m really glad that she found a nice guy and is successful. The last time we’d had an in person long conversation, she was heading to Vancouver to do some exploring before heading to University. It's nice to see she found something good and is living happily ever after.

So, in the challenge with my buddy Pete to connect with long lost friends, he's leading the charge due to the popularity of his blog. I may not have had as much success via my blog, but at least all that overtime at work has allowed me to connect with the sister of a long-long friend. That's gotta count for something. No?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Writer's Block? No Such Thing

There is no such thing as writer’s block, there is merely a state of mind in which you either can’t decide what exactly to write or you’re not sure where to go next. I’m currently experiencing such a state, but I refuse to call it writer’s block, and I’ll tell you why -- because I’m writing. Yes, writing. And, if I had writer’s block I certainly wouldn’t be able to write, now would I?

Thus, there is no such thing as writer’s block.

Perhaps this is a fun exercise to employ whenever you think you’re experiencing writer’s block. Start typing the sentence that there is no such thing as writer’s block with one of the following words:

there is merely
but rather

By the time you finish your sentence, you could be well on your way to resolving that thing which you thought existed, but which we both know certainly can’t exist.

The act of writing begets more writing. Thus, there is no such thing as writer’s block if you keep writing. Who cares if it is fluff, garbage or something you’ll never share with the world -- the point is, trudge through it, and you might just kick off that special little spark in your mind that you needed to prove that there is no such things as writer’s block. Who knows when that little spark might be responsible for a raging fire.

I say this because, before writing the words you see here, I sat staring at an empty page (okay it was a computer screen with an empty WORD document, but I think of it like a paper, perhaps because I like to romanticize back to those days when I was starting writing and it was either a page rolled into a typewriter or perhaps a piece of paper on the desk in front of me)

Yeah, I was exhausted after another 14 hour day at work and didn’t know what to write next, just that I needed to write. And this evil little demon snuck up, tapped me on the shoulder and said “Hi Mark, I’m Writer’s Block and I’ll be your companion for the next indefinite period. Where do you keep the beer?” I refused to listen to it, of course, and as soon as that nasty WB word started rearing its ugly head, I started typing something, anything, to vanquish it.

And heck, it seemed to have worked. Last time I looked over my shoulder, that nasty little devil spawn is nowhere to be seen, and there are still some bottles of beer left in the refrigerator. You see, it must have just been my imagination, because we all know that there is no such thing as writer’s block.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Go-Train Maxims

The volume level and degree of annoying ring tone of a person's cell phone are inversely proportional to the speed with which the person carrying that phone will answer it.

The loud and annoying voice of the person sitting in the section nearest to you are inversely proportional to the level of intelligence and interesting content of the words being spoken.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

For In That Sleep What Farts Might Come

While it has been a great week for media publicity for my writing, (yesterday morning was a great mother and son bonding as I called her and listened to my on air CIGM interview over the phone) this hasn’t been a good week for sleep so far.

First, we spent the weekend at my Mom’s in Levack, which was fun -- but we usually stay in the basement “apartment” that used to be my Baba’s main living area, with Alexander’s playpen set up in the living room and Fran and I in Baba’s bed in the next room. It’s a cozy place that allows us some quiet and privacy. But then there’s Baba’s bed.

Baba’s bed boasts a 65 year old mattress and box spring. I’m not kidding. I know that they used to make things better and longer lasting than they do today, but that’s taking it to the extreme, I think, because she still refuses to let us buy her a new bed or at least new mattress. To call the mattress uncomfortable or hard would be an exercise in understatement. The first time I slept on that mattress I remember looking for one of those “George Washington slept here” signs in the room. This last weekend, Francine asked me to start checking for one that said “Fred Flintstone slept here” (not just because of the age of the mattress of course, but also the pun involving “Bedrock”) -- the bed also has this foot board that only sticks up about an inch and a half from the granite mattress -- just enough so that it digs into my ankles. Sleep and Baba’s bed don’t mix too well.

I think I made things worse when my buddy Steve (also from Levack - he was visiting his folks) showed up around 8:00 PM or so on Sunday night. Six hours later, the remainder of a 24 of beer and half of a bottle of rye behind us, we called it a night. Good times (and yes, since I'm quoting my buddy Mathew I should mention that I even called him on Google Talk at the beginning of the drunk-fest - not nearly as exciting for him as his 911 call that night, though) Crawling into bed at 2:30 knowing that we’d be up early the next morning preparing for our drive back home wasn’t one of my smarter moves.

The drive the next day was one of the longer ones we've had on long weekends. It took us 9.5 hours to do what's normally a 5 to 6 hour drive. That's long-weekend traffic through cottage country for you. The worst part, besides Barrie, where Highway 69 and 11 merge, is where a stretch of road south of Parry Sound in which the divided highway cuts down to a two lane highway for about 15 kilometres. Prior to this merger, the traffic stopped and slowly crawled along -- it took us 2 hours to go about 8 kilometres. I did my best not to get frustrated, though, thinking about stories overheard from friends about the mass exodus near New Orleans and Texas these past couple of months in which it took upwards of 12 hours to go 10 miles. On the tail end of the Canadian Thanksgiving, despite the traffic snarl, that was one more thing I was Thankful for -- that I was travelling for pleasure, not fleeing my home and mass devastation.

I knew that it was going to be a busy week at work. We're about to engage in what we call our "Christmas Freeze" - it's a time in which the IT department doesn't roll any changes into our production environment beyond October 15th. The idea, since we're a retailer, is not to insert any undue risk into the systems that our stores depend on during the most active time of year for the retail environment. This past month has been nuts at work due to pre-freeze deadlines and commitments, and this final week is no exception.

Combine that with the fact that it's my turn to be on 24/7 call via our team's support cell phone for the week, and you get a very tired boy. I know that that 2 AM call this morning that kept me from falling back asleep for close to two hours is just the beginning of a fun week of sleep interuption and deprivation. I'm still convinced that the whole thing is a twisted experiment and I'm looking around for the hidden cameras and cautiously waiting for when the doctor's in lab coats reveal themselves or perhaps when the film crew and Allen Funt jump out and say "Smile, you're on Candid Camera"

I have a million meetings and demos to sit through this week at work. I'm thinking of trying to get an IV line from the coffee machine hooked up to my arm so I don't fall asleep during those half-day demos, and, like many of the GO-train commuters I share space with, end up snoring or farting. Although, either of those might wake me, and the rest of my colleagues up.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Beautiful Day

Today's signing at the Chapters in Sudbury was a wonderful experience. The old saying "you can't go home again" gets thrown out the door every single time the Sudbury community welcomes me into its open arms.

Besides the joy of getting to see such wonderful booksellers as Rosemarie and Kim and the rest of the staff at the Chapters in Sudbury, I got a chance to chat with many great people. One of the true joys of doing book signings is the great conversations with readers -- the stretches of time sitting by yourself at a table for seemingly endless periods are certainly worth the fun and interesting people you can meet.

Among the highlights of today's signing, I had a chance to chat with Jana, whom I went to Levack District High School with; Scott Overton, the host of the 790 CIGM Today's Country morning program, and a fellow member of the Sudbury Writer's Guild stopped by to interview me for a spot on his morning program; Bob Vaillancourt, a reporter with The Sudbury Star, interviewed me for one of their spotlight 20 Questions interviews. (This, of course, after The Star's Laura Stradiotto did a wonderful little article about my signing and my forthcoming online thriller "I, Death" which I'll be officially launching in January.) And Laurence Steven from Your Scrivener Press and his wife Jan, two friends that I made during Word On The Street in Toronto a few weeks ago, swung by to say hello and of course, to offer their moral support.

In all, the day was a lot more successful than I could ever imagine. God, I love Sudbury, and I love Sudburians.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Head Out On The Highway

We leave for Levack in the morning, and, as usual, Fran has done this incredible job of getting most of our stuff ready so the packing tonight has just been the final, last minute things. It's a good thing too, because I ended up working late again tonight, getting home just in time to give Alexander his bath and put him to bed. And it was Fran's last day at work, to boot - a bittersweet day for her. She was damn good at her job, it's just too bad they wouldn't allow her to work part-time. I could go on for hours but will suffice it to say that my wife is one brave, strong and incredible woman whose ability to set and stick to her priorities in life are an inspiration. Alexander and I are very lucky to have her.

We hit the highway tomorrow; for part of the drive I'll be participating in a conference call or two with work (thank God for my hands-free phone), but I should be free of those shackles after noon. From then on it's time to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend up north. I'll be doing a book signing at the Chapters in Sudbury on Saturday, which should be fun - the staff there are always great. Yorrick is already all packed up and ready to roll. (Reminds me of a bad pun based on a sentence pronounced with the wrong em-phasis: "Look, what's that up on the road a-head?")

Okay, I better stop before I start in with my "Rectum? Damn near killed him!" type jokes.

Alright, time to get back to work. Have to get a document emailed, then finish packing. Can't think of silly jokes. Also have to stop worrying about what my buddy Pete might be up to in our house this weekend all alone with a high speed internet connection and his web cam. (Must remember to hide my toques)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Things have been extremely busy at work these past six weeks or so, and I’ve also been finalizing the editing work on North of Infinity II which is due to the publisher by mid November and I’ve been ramping up on my self-promotion activities by doing readings, book signings and standing on random street corners waving my book at people driving by and saying “look at me, look at me, look at me.”

Currently, time spent with Francine and Alexander is short and precious. I’m looking forward to the drive up to Levack (Sudbury) for Thanksgiving weekend, as it means that I get to spend between 6 and 7 hours with the two most important people in my life -- then, on the way back, I get to do it again. That’s good. It’s like a treatment that my soul needs.

One of the things that I think is keeping me sane and grounded during this buzz of non-stop personal and work activity are the little moments with Alexander. He’ll be 15 months old in a few days, and he’s a joyous bundle of energy and activity. The world is his to explore, and explore it he does, with an unbridled enthusiasm and vigor. It’s inspiring. And often hilarious.

He does things that I’m often tempted to do myself but don’t, likely due to some adult training I eventually succumbed to. Like his need to stop and stick his hands into the toilet water every time he passes a bathroom, the way he stands at the front window and just yells at the people walking past the house (he’s not yelling for them to get out of his yard or anything like that, it’s just a raw and passionate “hey” sort of sound as if he’s excited to see them and greeting them at the same time), or the way, when he spots Mister Bunny, he gets this huge grin on his face and then plops himself on his butt beside the rabbit, just happy to sit quietly for a moment beside his little buddy.

While he does blurt out the occasional actual word (such as “book” or “ball” or, yes, my personal favorite “Daad”), he still speaks in this wonderfully simple yet complex language of babies. While I was giving him his bath last night, he launched into a very loud round of two of his recent favorite streams of vowel sounds:


...and there’s also his other favorite...

beeeyaw beeeyaw beeeyaw

...and of course, the old classic from months back that he still uses from time to time...


He usually does this while he’s concentrating on something, like when he’s trying to fit the little circle, star and triangle shapes into the similarly shaped "windows" on his bathtub boat, sometimes reminding me of a muppet the way he opens his mouth by lifting the top of his head up and back as he belts out his stream of baby talk. It never fails to bring a smile to my face or make me laugh, the same sort of balm that hearing him laugh offers me.

I know that soon the fun and experimental babble is going to evolve into words and strings of words -- that’s when his exploration of the world will take on a new form: verbal. And endless questions. While I look forward to watching him master verbal adult language, I know I’m going to miss those baby babble days just for the sheer raw power and explorative nature of baby speech.

For now, though, when stuck at a long and seemingly endless meeting, I have to desperately fight off this burning impulse I have to break the monotony of it all and just stand up, my head flapping around like a muppet and yell out: “Oh for God’s sake. Why don’t we just egobbledygobbledygobbledy or maybe even beeeeyaw beeeyaw beeeyaw!”

Monday, October 03, 2005

One Of These Kids Is Doing His Own Thing

I did a reading last night at Hamilton’s Lit Live, a monthly gathering of writers reading from their work in the Aquarius Lounge of the Junction Cafe on King William Street. My ever faithful buddy Pete was there to show his support, which was great -- and thank God for that, because I’m thinking that I stuck out like a sore thumb.

First of all, it was very exciting to see the entire bar filled. There must have been between 30 and 40 people there -- yes, for a literary reading event. One of the readers, a very talented writer from Ottawa whose reading I quite enjoyed (Kim Barry Brunhuber), commented that he’d been to readings where there were five people in the room -- 3 of them his friends, one of them his publisher and the third some crazy lady who wandered into the wrong place. That type of thing was more along the lines of what I’ve been used to. But I was in awe of the size of the crowd last night.

I did my reading with five other writers: three poets and two novelists. All of them gave great readings. It was about the time I took the stage that the little song from Sesame Street started going through my head. You know the one: there’s this split screen with four kids, each of them doing something. The first one is bouncing a ball, the second one is using a hula hoop, the third one is jumping rope and the fourth one is sitting reading a book. These actions, of course, are accompanied by music and the lyrics “one of these kids is doing his own thing -- can you guess which one?”

As I stood on the stage in my black shirt and skull tie, nervously holding my book in front of me and trying to decide, on the spot, what I’d lead off with -- I suddenly wondered what I was doing there. These people were here for a literary reading -- I was a horror writer. Would they boo me off the stage, or would they just start to walk out once I got a few lines into the reading? Or would they sit quietly, applaud politely when I’d finished, then go yell at whoever had the gall to actually have invited me here this evening?

I thought I’d try to find a natural flow from the reader who’d gone before me, a poet. So I thought I’d start with a few poems, then finish with a short-short story. It worked out that the reader after me was a novelist. There, if I could offer nothing more to the evening, at least I’d be a nice segue between the normal writers. Not just that strange freak on stage who read a poem about killing trick or treaters and Santa Claus, then went on to read a poem that took a beautiful Elvis Presley song and turned it into a homicidal maniac’s fears of retribution from beyond the grave, then a story about an escaped convict that sounded like a cheap rip-off of an old campfire ghost story.

After reading the first poem, one that I was hoping would bring forth at least a few chuckles from the audience, I dreaded looking up and seeing something from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon. There's Bugs, dragged into a medical demonstration where they're going to switch his brain with the brain of a chicken, and he gets up, starts trying to amuse the crowd with jokes, slapstick, anything to win them over -- but all he sees is a completely quiet crowd, serious, just staring at him with blank faces. I was relieved that I didn't see that, but instead, a few smiles and a couple of laughs. Whew!

Between two other poems, I remember looking to my left and right to see if there might be one of those long cartoon hooks slowly sneaking in from the side that was going to whisk me right off the stage. It never appeared either. Second dose of relief.

There was applause when I finished my reading, nobody asked me to leave, and my buddy Pete tells me that I did a great reading. But I still get the feeling I was that “odd guy” doing his own thing (offering mostly bits of dark humour) while the other readers read poignant pieces, elegant pieces, moving passages.

In all, despite my "odd man out" routine, it was a wonderful event, one I hope to be able to return to in the future; not to participate in (God knows if I’ll ever get invited back), but just to enjoy the ambiance. Hamilton does have a very active literary community and Lit Live is a wonderful example of that.