More Art

I was in the edit suite until after midnight last night.  Just finished the dance scene I shot with Tempest.  I’m happy with it.  Proud of it even.  Super excited to show it to people.

It was also great to be creating something in the edit suite purely for art’s sake.  Sure, something may come from this, but that’s not why I finished it.  It kept my mind off other things, as much as it reminded me of those same other things.  Strange.

It’s work to keep my head in a positive place because my emotions ain’t worth a fuck at the moment.  They’re diving and soaring and nothing useful is coming from any of them right now.  My head’s shoved sooooo far up my own ass, I barely noticed that my morning was filled with more art, for art’s sake.

A concert pianist named Hillary graced my rudimentary USB keyboard and performed a Jacques Brel tune while Ingrid sang along.  I recorded the song and will be preparing it for use as a soundtrack to a dance piece.  So you know… typical Tuesday morning in the life of me.

Things are reasonably good now.  Good people are in my life.  Drama keeps things interesting and the future will take care of itself.

I also committed to having the 2nd episode of ‘Highwaymen’ written by Monday.  Nothing would give me greater pleasure.

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Heart

It’s a subdued Monday afternoon in Regina… which means the Riders didn’t win their game last night.  I shaved my playoff beard.

Doesn’t hurt as bad as last year (the loss, not the beard).  We simply didn’t play well on offence.  The rest of the team held their own and we wound up losing 21 – 18.  Respectable.  Still sad, but respectable.

We’ve been to 3 of the last 4 Grey Cups.  We have a young team.  We have a good team.  Next year, we’ll be one year better.  Maybe even 4 points better enough to win the big game next year.

When asked for his thoughts on what this meant to him immediately after the win, Montreal’s quarterback, Anthony Calvillo welled up with emotion.  He revealed that doctors found a lesion pressing on his heart, and he needs to have life saving surgery.  It was one of those ‘holy fuck’ moments.  He held off this surgery so he could finish the season and play in this game.

My heart goes out to him and his family.  May good health and a speedy recovery find him well.

Grey Cup Sunday – The Sequel

In just over four hours, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be taking the field to meet the Montreal Alouettes in what is the most important single day of the Canadian calendar.  One quarter of all Canadians will be united in bars and living rooms across the country to partake.  Grey Cup Sunday is the Nation’s glue.

Tens of thousands of fans have converged upon Edmonton, Alberta, site of the 98th Grey Cup game.  They’ve been celebrating and partying for a week now and they come from all walks of life.  They walk and party among the CFL’s brightest stars and that’s what makes Grey Cup so special.

Players in the CFL earn an average of $50,000/year.  Some make significantly more than that, and some make slightly less.  They make the same money as the average spectator who watches them play.  The league’s superstars are extraordinary, and ordinary at the same time.  During Grey Cup week these players, these heros, are walking among the fans, drinking beers, and sharing stories.  They’re down to earth.  Approachable.  And the only thing ‘elite’ about them is their play on the field.

Fans of the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, or any other major league can’t say that about their players.  The costs of attending events in and around their championship games are affordable only by the wealthy and corporate elite.  The players are untouchable.  They’re not like the rest of us.

For 98 years, Lord Earl Grey’s Cup has been given to the best team in Canadian Football.  Fans can have their pictures taken with it.  They can touch it.  They can read the names like Marv Levy, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Marc Trestman, Jeff Garcia, Ron Lancaster, George Reed, Kent Austin and countless others, engraved upon it.  They can do it because this league is their league.  It’s my league.  It’s your league.

It’s our league.

Sideways Vertigo Confusion

Everything’s gonna be alright.  Everything’s gonna be alright.  Everything’s gonna be alright.  Everything’s gonna be alright.

Bob Marley knows some things more than what I know about.  Spent the last half hour writing and erasing, writing and erasing, writing and erasing.  All of it, self pitying drivel all dressed up to sound profound.  Fuck that shit.

Gotta get myself a new attitude.  Shit happens.  It always happens.  And when times are good, they’re gonna give way to bad.  When they’re bad, they’re gonna give way to good.  Don’t even have to lift a finger.  It just happens that way.

You live long enough in life, things get ripped from you.  Hurts like hell.  Emotions all raw and vulnerable.  Can’t do anything about it.  It happens.  It passes.  It happens again.  All you can do is flow.

I’m a leaf floating upon the river and everything’s bubbling and churning around me.  I’m feeling a motion sickness vertigo confusion at the moment and everything’s sideways… but that’s ok too.  The river’s flowing and I just passed a sign that says, ‘calm waters ahead’.

I know what I want and I’m gonna get after it.  When I find it, no one’s gonna rip it away because it will be in me.

It will be me.

Buck Up Shut Up Gitter Done!

I’m sitting in a bar drinking a pint.  Just finished chatting up the singer who’s about to go on stage.  She’s an old acquaintance.  Directed her in the Vagina Monologues a couple years back.  Fun times.

I’m sitting at the back in the dark and I like it that way.  Don’t want anyone to see me.  Just want to stare at the wall and wish I could cry.  First time in my life I ever felt this way about a bar.

They say you’re better off not hitching yourself to anything.  Just sit back and appreciate the cosmic view of things.  I’m tired of being a spectator most of the time.  I’m tired of seeing the big picture everywhere I go.  I’m tired of being strong for all those who can’t.  I’m tired of being above it all.

I also hate that my best writing comes out of moods like this.  Something’s gonna bust loose soon.  Something’s gonna give and I’m up for whatever I get.

The crowd’s grown since I started.  Jeanette said she hates playing bars.  My pint’s half gone and I’m about done with all this shit.  Time to buck up.  Close up.  Stare at the wall and dig some music.

See you all tomorrow.

[intermission]

I wrote that last night before the bands started playing.  Shortly after closing my laptop for the night, a face from my past showed up.  Nicole.  She came with her new man.  She’s really happy and that made me happy.

Of all the bars in all the places of all the times…  She joined me at my table on this night, at that moment.  Things ended kind of badly nearly a year ago.

Time kind of took care of her.  I guess the same can happen for me.

Waterfall

The last 24 hours have been completely… well.  I don’t know what word to write here.

I woke up next to the girl of my dreams yesterday.  It was the single greatest moment of my year.  Just looking at her, still sleeping.  Still dreaming.  I watched her for a spell, then kissed her awake.

We stayed up all night working on an essay.  We were laying on the couch, still in our clothes.  There was no making out.  No sex.  Just cuddling, warm hugs, love, hopes and dreams.  We got a lot of work done too.  Had more left to do.  That’s how I spent the morning.

Later in the evening, I showed up at her condo unexpected (due to a schedule mix-up), and she was desperate to get rid of me.  Wouldn’t accept the coffee I bought her, wouldn’t let me inside.  Wasn’t interested in talking to me.  Was downright hostile.  Someone was with her.

In between, I spent the day with Tempest Jade.  We did a photo shoot.  She was twisted up, legs thrown up over her shoulders at times, standing on her hands at others.  There were a series of mirrors double reflecting back onto each other.  Four Tempests all twisted up in unison, all reflecting her current state of mind.

Later in the edit suite, we put it over the music she danced to.  Our jaws hit the floor.  So beautiful.  So haunting.  So unexpected.  Pure art fuelled by tear drops.  There was no plan to any of it.  She did her thing.  I did mine.  We found something beautiful together.

My head hit the pillow with broken thoughts.  Thoughts all twisted up and mangled.  Mangled like the girl’s troubles.  Mangled like Tempest’s mind.  Mangled like the beauty and the numbness of my day.

My mind’s been full and my heart’s been quiet all morning.  An hour ago I read an email from the girl.  Makes perfect sense now.  Once again, my heart goes out to her.  She’s got even bigger troubles.  And 90 minutes ago Tempest sent me a text saying how awesome she thinks I am.

I feel like a leaf floating on a river, going over a waterfall.  I’m not even worried about me, or the girl, or Tempest, or even the immediate future right now.  None of it really matters.  Nothing I can do about any of it.  Thinking just gets in the way of being.  And being is about all I can do right now.

Grey Cup Bound

At some point last week I decided that I was going to grow a playoff beard.  That’s why the Saskatchewan Roughriders are in the Grey Cup this Sunday for the third time in four years!  Or maybe it’s because our ‘team’ beat a bunch of egotistical, end zone dance choreographing, chest pounding, trash talking individuals in their own stadium.  I fucking hate the Calgary Stampeders.

They went 13 – 5 this season, while we only went 10 – 8.  They beat us two out of three times and finished first overall in the regular season.  In the media they talked about destiny, and how this was their year.  They put 8 players on the CFL all-star team.  The game against Saskatchewan was merely a formality.  When they lost, they blamed the refs, and one even accused the league of fixing the game.

Fuckers.

It feels different this time.  Not as dramatic.  More workmanlike.  Water is wet, sky is blue, and the Riders are going to the Cup again.  We beat ‘em last year in the finals, and we did it again this year, AND we did it while playing the game on their turf in -30 C weather.

At one point in the third quarter, our offence stood on the field for five minutes, bare arms, ice forming on their face masks, and facing a cold prairie wind while awaiting the review of a play that was challenged.  Calgary’s defence retreated to the sidelines, stood by the heaters and put on jackets.  The call went our way, and we took 6:20 off the clock, marching the ball into the wind to score the game winning touchdown.

Saskatchewan 20 – Calgary 16

It’s been a pretty special year.  2010 is the Roughrider’s 100th anniversary.  We are a community owned team – there is no private owner.  We are Canada’s team.  There are two 20 story tall Roughrider logos covering the sides of Regina’s twin towers.  The team has played in seven of TSN’s top ten highest rated CFL telecasts.  We outdraw the NHL, NFL, and Monday Night Football on Canadian television.  We sell more merchandise than all the other teams combined.  It wasn’t that long ago that Saskatchewan was the hind tit of the CFL, and of Canada.  Look at us now!

Having said that, 2010 has not been easy on the team.  We’ve been horribly inconsistent.  Lost games we should have won.  Rode a four game losing streak into the final game of the regular season.  People were calling for players to be cut and coaches to be fired.  The team, and the faithful endured.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t talk about individual accomplishments.  They respect their opposition.  They respect the game.  They represent our community.  Hell, on a team that draws its 46 players from all over North America, 8 are from Saskatchewan, and 25 now live year round in Regina.

And now we’re going to the Grey Cup in a rematch of last year’s game, a game we lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Montreal Alouettes.  It’s time to finish what we started.

1,800

For the first time in my life, my rating in backgammon surpassed 1,800.  I think that puts me in the top 6% of over 7,000 registered players on FIBS, the site where I play.

I’ve written and erased and re-written the above paragraph twice now.  I have two rules when I write.  No bitching and no masturbating.  I’m trying to express my accomplishment without falling into the later category.

Backgammon is over 5,000 years old.  It’s been played by emperors and pharaohs, generals and foot soldiers,  peasants and clergy.  It was banned by the Church once because it brought too much joy into people’s lives.  I also read recently that Wayne Gretzky, Canada’s greatest hockey player, was won by the Edmonton Oilers in a game of backgammon.

I find the game to be a perfect metaphor for life.  You roll the dice, and you make the best move possible, given your current situation.  Sometimes the move you make is easy to figure out.  Sometimes not so much.  Sometimes you choose between the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes it’s too good to be true.  More rolls are coming, good and bad, and you need to roll with those rolls too.

Like life, the game can turn sideways in an instant.  You think you’re in control, but really you’re not.  One roll is all it takes.  Get too emotional, too high, or too low, and you usually make your situation worse.  Like life, there’s always a chance you’ll come out on top, no matter how grim your situation. It’s best simply to take a deep breath and make your best play, over and over and over again until the game is finished.

The best players know the probabilities of any given move at any given time.  They look at the board and they see numbers whizzing by.  It’s the same kind of math quantum physicists use to find sub-atomic particles.  Other players (like myself) rely more on pattern recognition.  I’ve played over 17,000 games online, seen a lot of situations, and observed how the best players play those situations.  At one time my rating was as low as 1,320, now I’m at 1,800.

That’s what the rating means to me.  Life is completely random.  Getting through it requires an iron stomach and a reasonable sense of how to move forward.  You pay attention and you see patterns emerging around you.  There’s always hope for a brighter future.

I still have a whole lifetime of learning ahead of me, but I seem to be on the right track.  I’ll take my lumps along the way too, but I’ll learn from them and hopefully become better for it.

Tempest Jade

She was upside down, standing on her head, and talking about how when she touches her toes together up in the air, it’s the only time she feels perfect balance in her life.  The rest of the time, she has troubles.

I knew that.  She told me about her troubles before we even started filming.  After 24 years of living, she decided that it was time for her to track down the woman who gave her up for adoption.  She wanted me to document the journey for her… maybe turn it into some kind of documentary.

There wasn’t a plan really.  I thought we’d just feel it out and see where this thing was headed.  In mere hours she’d be standing on stage in front of a packed house, wishing more than anything, that her birth mother could see her.

And so she’s upside down in perfect balance, talking to me through the camera’s lens, about finding balance in life… and she’s upside down!  Great metaphor.  I’m starting to see where this is going.  And we’re having this great conversation through the camera.  It’s really starting to flow now.  I’m thinking about composition and exposures and shutter speeds and keeping the conversation going and then she asks me if she should drop the bomb… the big reveal… the whole point of the documentary.  I say yes.

“I have an eating disorder, and I’ve had one for 14 years.”

Silence.

The camera’s rolling, framing her in close-up as tears form in her eyes.  A million things race through my mind and none of them make any sense.

More Silence.

I’m still holding the camera and I feel like I have to say something.  I have to say something.  She’s looking through the camera to me for words to come out my mouth.

Suddenly this isn’t a documentary anymore.  It’s two friends standing on razor thin ice, and every word about to come out my mouth from this moment forward has the potential to end badly.

I’m a writer.  I’m a filmmaker.  At this moment she needs a psychologist.  And the camera continues rolling and I have to say something.  This exact moment will never come again and I need to be someone I’m not for her.  There’s no one else in the room.

I’ll have to go back to yesterday’s tape to recall exactly what I said, but I think I mentioned something about how I have my own demons.  I could feel her drawing closer to me with her energy.  I took a deep breath and I told her that I spend hours everyday playing backgammon online.

She laughed hysterically.  We were off the thin ice.  The words after that weren’t as supercharged with potential danger.  We talked about balance, and being, and flowing, and searching for answers that only lead to more questions, and how everything moves in cycles, how everything is gonna be alright if we just move forward, one little step at a time.

She told me that my words were the best words anyone ever said to her on the subject.  Better than any psychologist she ever talked to.  I was more relieved than gratified.  Don’t know where those words came from, but I’m just happy I didn’t fuck things up worse.

And somehow, I managed to keep the camera rolling through all of it.

Spent

It’s after 3:30 in the afternoon and I just finished teaching a bunch of high school kids an introduction to dramaturgy using an episode of ‘Firefly’ as my source material.

I’m spent.

Poured everything I had into it.  It’s satisfying to bring so much of myself to a something I have such passion for, and to touch others with it.  It’s like we’re all kids again, sitting around on the floor of my living room, and we’re playing the best of each other’s vinyl collection to the room.

I stopped.  I started.  I replayed certain scenes.  I discovered.  I shared.  I questioned.  I lead.  I connected.  I put out so much energy, I feel like I ran a marathon.

I walk around in life and I never amp it up that much.  Engaging other human beings, checking in with them, making sure they’re with me along for the ride, is something that feels like driving a twisting mountain pass at 200 mph.

It’s volunteer work.  Don’t get paid, yet it’s always a highlight of my week to come in and share with the kids.  I think I probably learn more than I teach.

And that’s it.  Simple as that.  Nothin’ more to say.