I didn’t join Pottermore for the longest time. My relationship with Harry Potter was intense, but troubled. It oscillated between shameless joy and celebration to cheek-biting scrutiny and critique.
In one past life, I’d enthusiastically dressed up in costume and painted signs, windows, and children’s faces for the midnight releases at the bookstore. In another, I’d spent two semesters engrossed in academic study as I wrote a dissertation critiquing Rowling’s implicit versus explicit ideologies. (Seems pointless now. Ten years later and Tumblr has my thesis covered.)
This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.
I was exhausted and burnt out. For short trips, you rally. But backpacking is a marathon.
I dyed my hair from blonde to brown before I left Vancouver because I knew I was going to Morocco, and I’d heard warnings—mostly I’d ignored them, but my mother also heard those warnings. If she felt better, I could deal. However, it faded back into a dark blonde by the time I arrived in North Africa.
This is the introduction of what I hope will become a series / retrospective project / diary-after-the-fact / examination of memory-and-place-and-all-that-jazz. All the links to other posts about specific adventures and places are/will be below.
Whenever you get back from a long bout of travelling, the world always feels different (at least for a little while, until reality sets in again). For me, however, the world really was different. I was gone from August to November 2008. I have always meant to write more meaningfully about this trip. I’ve touched on bits and pieces here and there, but alas… I’ve never put together something huge.
I imagined that one day it would all be complete, as if I was filling in the pieces on a puzzle that would one day reveal the big picture. It seemed so easy, when I thought of it. That I would be able to simply sit and write. I would start at day one and then it would unfurl from there like a pulling the thread on a sweater.
I’ve never much been one for resolutions but sometimes circumstances arise, flailing their fists, demanding action be taken. It’s never anything so banal as the ticking of the clock from one year to the next that does it; no, for me, it’s something drastic.
Often, these resolutions end badly. Why? Because I suffer from the horrible conflation of three horrible characteristics: impulsiveness, laziness, and hopeless romanticism. This means that I have the rationality of a Disney character and the ennui of the French New Wave.
The coolest I have ever been is the day I had eye surgery on my left eye. When I left the hospital with one pupil normal and one dilated, I looked the closest to David Bowie as I ever am likely too unless Tilda Swinton and I are in a horrible accident together and the only way to save one of us is to put my brain in her body.
But I digress.
I bring this up because the follow-up make-sure-you’re-healing-and-not-going-blind-instead appointment was tentatively dated to a time when I was immersed in the heavy production period of a film school would-be masterpiece. I cancelled the appointment and never remembered to reschedule.
Sometimes I think how you remember your childhood varies with how much time has passed since. Each year adds another coat of paint tempered with pop culture and shifting perspectives. Childhood takes on this orange hue, as if a perpetual summer. One coloured with the clichés we remember from movies: bare feet, tire swings, lakes, rivers, streams, creeks – how much of childhood seems to revolve around water? It’s as though youth finds itself in something at once both primordial and perpetual in its motion.
“Childhood” – when remembered as such – is just these images. They are probably not even our own. We have to think further to connect childhood to something. Time comes back in fragments. These are the “stories.” These are the pieces you slot together into a puzzle that can never really be completed. Do you ever start talking to an old friend or family member and they come out with an old story in which you are the protagonist that you have absolutely no memory of? It feels like someone else’s life. It’s a piece to the puzzle, but one you don’t feel comfortable fitting in because it doesn’t connect to anything else. It’s just this lonely jigsaw shape floating about in your life.
A while ago, my uncle told a story of toddler me that my parents didn’t even know: he took me for a walk and – toddling about as toddlers do – I found a small rock that I tried to push through a storm drain. When it didn’t fit through the grate, I kept pushing, punctuating each attempt with a “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” I guess I was able to take this “new old story” as my own because I can still relate to it today.
But these fragments, these pieces, become clichés – clichés like: bare feet, tire swings, lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, and the colour orange – because that’s what we need as an anchor.
1. My home has entered levels of cleanliness never before imagined or aspired to. I am well and truly becoming my mother (who, but a mere twenty-five years ago, became her mother.)
2. When I get an injury or illness there is very palpable fear that it will never truly go away. Just one little ankle sprain means I will forever and ever after for all my days refer to my right foot as “my bad foot.” I now have to drink cranberry juice because I have increased chances of kidney stones. Fuck you, aging body, fuck you.
3. I can no longer connect with the youth of today and I don’t care. This might seem like a cliche way to realize you’re getting old, but my lord if it isn’t a doozy. It’s become apparent to me recently that the dominant youth “generation” of today are the Millenials, and by gosh, I ain’t one of them. I exist in that strange netherspace between them and Generation X. We are the lost socks of a shifting zeitgeist.
You enter the process with so much excitement. The possibilities seem endless: hardwood floors! 1000 sq ft! Mountain views! Close to Skytrain! In my price range! Utilities included!
You do a drive-by. Walk around the area. “I could live here,” you think. You find yourself dreaming of the future like it is some kind of golden age just around the corner; this beautiful utopia that finally seems within reach. Is this not the kind of adulthood you were always told you would have?
But then you dig a little deeper. Make a couple calls. Some internet research. Find out about the bed bugs. The past history of murders and muggings. Find out that we live in frickin’ Vancouver, where the kind of money that gets you a mansion in Toronto gets you a crackhouse here.
You cross a few things out on your list.
You widen your parameters a little. You try to tell yourself this part of town is “the next big thing.” That “I’ve heard they’re planning on gentrifying.” But, as Boyfriend noted: “This is definitely east East Van. See that big shadow on the horizon. That’s Burnaby.”
“But the price is good,” you tell yourself, “And the building is nice.”
Compromises are kicking in.
And this goes on. And on. Until you just find yourself thinking “I just need to find somewhere before the end of the month. Fuck it, anywhere.“
Moving out of my childhood home was a gradual process. I’m a gradual process person. Not cold turkey; a “weaner”, if you will. When things happen suddenly, I forget Douglas Adams’s best advice…. (Read: I panic.)
I get stuck in an odd state of shock only calculable as a sick ratio beyond my mathematical skills that involves variables such as “deer,” “headlights,” “fans” and lots and lots of “shit.” There’s something within that state of shock which is the quintessential form of denial. Like Pure Extract of Denial, if you will. It’s this core belief that somehow, somewhere deep within this giant cesspool of bullshit, there is a safe place. There is still somewhere where you can go where you float freely in some kind of womb-like structure. But that doesn’t really exist, does it? But were we ever to let go of this deep-seeded belief, we’d surely go insane. We have no choice. We must believe. (I think I’m on to something here, regarding the foundation of religion and other myth-making, but that’s really beyond the scope of my blogging escapades at 2.45 on a Friday afternoon.)
Okay, exciting, I know. Transcript/rip-off of my interview with Whohub.com (from sometime last spring). I was discussing my writing process with someone today, and it made me want to blog about it (naturally). Then I remembered this interview, so I thought I would share this instead. I wrote all the answers, so I feel no guilt in repeating them here.
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I first read the back of milk cartons. But I mostly just looked at the pictures. It made the story easier to understand. Even at such a young age, I got it. The cows like eating daisies, they smile, while blinking their pop art eyelashes. They are happy to have their teats violated for me. I think from here I moved on to picture books, but those memories are all a little hazy. Must have been all the Children’s Tylenol I was jacked up on.
I began to write in kindergarten. I had just learned a new skillset: the proper etiquette for eating paste. I was a sick kid (all the paste, of course) and spent about three weeks in hospital, during which I completed my opus. It was magnificent; something about a dinosaur. It glittered. I made a cover out of cardboard, which my mother had to sew together as the doctors had banned all paste.Continue reading “Excerpts from an Interview with Myself”
It seems to happen every four or five years, doesn’t it? That cycle of personal growth. Quarter-Life Productions started in 2005 – a mere four years ago. Perhaps that’s a testament to my advancing age (advancing, not advanced), that four years seems a small speck, a blip in the otherwise murky waters of my sea of emotional instability. Four years. That’s nothing. Four years from now I’ll be a thirty-year-old. A thirty-year-old I’m slowly getting acquainted with. Four years ago I was twenty-two. A small baby. I don’t know that kid anymore. But in tracking the chronological path of Four Years, it’s within the scope of cognitive recognition. Like when you were a kid on a camping trip, and you’d shine the flashlight at the stars, just to see how high up that beam of light could go. It didn’t reach the sky, just like now, at twenty-six, I have no possible way of casting any light on who I will be or even what I will be when I’m old and grey (if, indeed, I ever get there). Yet now, thirty is the trees on the edge of the campsite; close enough for the flashlight to reach. I’m not entirely sure who, or what, or where I will be, but the closer I get, the possibilities narrow.
There is a theory of evolution that argues that, rather than evolutionary change happening at a constant rate over a long time, changes happen quickly – remoulding the population at a relatively quick pace – then followed by a long period of stasis. Visualize the path from single-cell organism to human being as a set of stairs rather than a long, sloping ramp. I’ve always thought of the development of one’s self, one’s personality, as analogous to evolution. Certain traits are selected for and developed – education, love, humour – while other traits simply still exist because there was no strong enough force selecting against – neuroses, bitterness, etc. Just like evolution, there is no divinely prescribed endgame. You’re not working towards anything. You die out when you die out. You don’t always get more complex, although that’s the pattern these things tend to follow. But you’re not the same person at the end of your life as at the beginning. And these things just happen fairly randomly. You can’t really control who you are, can you?