Back to the Place that Rhymes with Fun

2,789 kilometres in 25 hours.  Not bad.  The Chicago route is definitely the way to go.  Could have shaved a couple more hours off the trip too, had I NOT chosen to try and cross the border on a Friday morning (90 minutes lost), or hit Chicago at rush hour (another hour).  I did 130-140 km/h most of the way, and it was a super easy drive.  Two to three lanes right up to Fargo, and then it was a nice easy two lane for the last part of the trip.  Spent the night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and pulled into Regina at 8:30pm.

I really enjoyed the trip.  Logged a few hours driving in complete silence – no radio on.  Lots of time to do nothing but think.  Yoga for the mind.  I thought about people in my life.  I thought about people who are no longer in my life.  I thought about my play.  I thought about my career.  I thought about my mistakes.  I even spent a little bit of time pondering my triumphs, but not too much.

Once I crossed back into Canada, I picked up the phone to chat up old friends.  I was shocked to see that half my contacts list are Toronto folk now.  When did that happen?

Driving through Regina was also different somehow.  I’m used to Toronto’s slow pace.  Driving 5 kms in TO takes awhile, depending on where you’re going, and how you’re getting there.  In Regina, everything is 20 minutes, tops.  Toronto’s drivers are better, patient and more courteous.  It’s the only way to be, or traffic will be fucked up for everyone, everywhere.  In Regina, signalling to change lanes is like giving away your position.  People scramble to take the lane away, or honk if there’s anything less that a 100 yards between you.  Forget about letting someone in, or making a left in front of oncoming traffic.  Cue the horns.  Regina drivers are a completely unreasonable mass of humanity, generally speaking.

It’s good to be home.  I am excited about immersing myself into the festival this week.  I am excited to catch up with old friends.  Mom fed me home-made shepherds pie last night, and home-made beef stew is on the menu tonight.  I’m sitting in Grama’s living room right now.  Sometime soon, I’m going to snag myself a pint of Guinness at O’Hanlon’s.  Hope to see a few familiar faces there too.

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The Pieces They Gave Me

I finished the festival draft of Dick last night.  It’s now sitting as a two act, 85 page, full length play.  It’s good too methinks.  They’ll be more changes coming, but for now I’ll let this incarnation run its course.  The festival is about taking a draft to the next stage, not performing a show ready piece.  It’s also going to be good to spend a few days away from it, with a 2,600 km road trip added for good measure.  By the time the theatre creatures get done with it, I’m quite certain there’ll be even more changes.

Finishing this draft was quite moving.  In the last few days I’ve swapped texts with Courtney and had a phone call with Julianne.  Things just kind of worked out that way.  To my mind, the later always bore a passing resemblance to the former.  They look nothing alike, but they both study psychology, they both have demons to fight, and they both became close with me.

‘Becky’ in the play, has always been drawn from Court, but in the play, she came across as enigmatic.  She had depth to her, but people had a hard time relating because they didn’t know where she was coming from.  I know the Reader’s Digest version of Courtney’s past, but it’s all assembled on scrap bits of memory and set out in no particular order.  That’s how she revealed it to me.  When I really think about it, Court has also, always been an enigma to me.  It’s no wonder that Becky came across that same way.

I know a lot about Julianne’s history.  It’s a very different kind of past from Court.  Julianne knows exactly what her problems are, has studied them intently, and is probably more qualified than anyone to deal with it – but at the moment, she just can’t.

‘Becky’ needed a little of what Julianne had in abundance, to complement what she already received from Court.  The resulting fusion was a brand new character.  She still very strongly resembles Courtney, but now has Julianne’s spine.  As a result, her relationship with every other character in the play takes on a beautiful clarity that I had always been searching for.

I am grateful for these colourful women to have come and gone, and come again through my life.  However, if this play ever hits the stage somewhere, I ain’t paying royalties.

Free From The Memories

I had a major breakthrough today with ‘Dick’.  I just finished the first Act and mapped out Act II.  Thus far I’ve added 10 pages, and sketched out two new scenes to open the second Act.  After that, the rest of the play should remain, more or less in tact.

Mostly, I think I figured out where one of my characters is coming from, and how her objectives conflict and impact everyone else’s place in the story.  It’s all adding up to a delicious mix of conflict, confusion, and drama.

It’s also funny how one year after penning the first draft, events from different parts of my life, including time I’ve spent in Toronto, are finding their way into the play.  Originally, it was about me figuring out my confused relationship with Courtney.  It’s become something much bigger.  I can see Frank in the play.  I can see Julianne.  I can see the ghosts of people from my distant long forgotten past.  I can see how I’m a different very person today, from the one I was a year ago, at least in some respects.  I can see my mistakes with clarity.

I can also see how time has changed the way I feel about things.  Court texted me yesterday morning and my heart did not skip a beat.

It’s like the chains came off her character, and now I’m free to push ‘Becky’ into territory where Courtney could never go.    The play is free to do what it needs to do, free from precious tender memories.

Praise Not From My Mom

Here’s an excerpt from someone not named ‘my mom’ about the videos I just completed.

“Congratulations to the 2012 MABA organizing crew. It was an outstanding event and I was very proud to be a now-distant cousin of the MABA family!

Of particular note were the Vignettes which Jarrett did. They were very creative, artistic, funky, very informative and, yet, succinct. Great job! Probably the best vignettes I have seen after several hundred award dinners over my life-time!”

The gentleman writing the email is someone I crossed paths with a couple years back when I did videos for The Red Cross.  His name is Dr. David Miller.

I realize that I’m flirting with blog rule number two here, but given the amount of anxiety I felt putting these videos together, it’s nice to feel appreciated.  Nadia was sitting in the audience in Regina when they played and she texted me, saying it was good to hear my voice again (I narrated the vignettes).

Today has more writing in the cards.  The first three scenes of ‘Dick’ have been scrubbed clean.  Thus far everyone has an interesting, actable objective, and conventions within the play (ie: talking penis/man) have been more clearly defined.  I also split the play into two acts and am in the process of heightening those act climaxes.  I’ve sketched out new scenes and gone deeper into some of the characters’ back story.

Tonight I’m going to The Firkin on King for Ink Drinks.  It’s a monthly event where they pack a bunch of writers in a room together, add booze, and let things happen.  I attended one in November and met some people.  Circumstances haven’t allowed me to make a return until this evening.

My thoughts now turn homewards.  I’m feeling excited about another long road trip.  Gonna go through Chicago this time.  I figure that by staying on the interstates at 130-140 km/h, I’ll save 6 – 8 hours of driving time, even though the trip would be 100 kms longer.  Northern Michigan and Wisconsin are pretty, but as Sammy Hagar puts it so eloquently, “I can’t drive 55!”

Yesterday was special for one other reason as well.  Changed my Saskatchewan phone number to a local Toronto one.

Bye bye ‘306-537-7535’.  Welcome ‘647-567-7535’.

Kind of rolls off the tongue don’t it?  I called my mother last night to say as much.

The ‘Third Rule’

I look back on my many colourful relationships, friendships, chance happenstancings, and other interactions, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the time has come to add a third rule to my blogging.  This so named ‘third rule’ lands sequentially after the ‘first rule’ (no bitching), and the ‘second rule’ (no masturbating).

Henceforth, the ‘third rule’ shall be, “no writing directly about people who are most likely to read my blog, or about people whom yet other people have a vested interest in knowing what I might be saying about said people/persons”.  Parents don’t count.  Grandparents don’t count.  Shawn doesn’t count, nor does Frank.  People I really don’t give a shit about, also don’t count.  People I’ll never see again, especially don’t count.

Really, it comes down to writing about people whom I’m just beginning some kind of relationship with.  It nearly always bites me in the ass.  Why should anyone have an unfair advantage towards knowing my mind, before I get a good crack at theirs?  The nuggets they glean either get used against me, taken the wrong way, or simply just taken without any obligation towards replacing said nugget with intimate details of their own life.

Even when good vibrations are the result, there’s something ultimately unsatisfying about kind words that come too easily.  We all appreciate the view better when we climb the mountain ourselves, rather than simply materializing there.  From now on, if you want to know what I think of you, you should simply ask.  How much I reveal in my answer, will depend on how much of yourself you give back.

Ahem… just so we’re clear, I was using the royal ‘you’ right there, not ‘you’ specifically.

Thing Dick

Delay’s with one thing caused things to push up against the other thing, and when combined with my rather casual work ethic thing – things kind of piled up.

I am not a fan of having more than one thing on the go at a time.  Taxes the headspace too much.  Unfortunately, that sort of thing is the nature of my career.  No use complaining about it though, so I won’t, but I do have to get better at managing it when it happens.

I met with a different producer about Highwaymen on Monday.  He’s someone whom Ian e-introduced me to.  Admittedly, the project has cooled off somewhat after TSN passed on it.  The Saskatchewan government’s decision to axe the tax credit (something every other jurisdiction in Canada offers) pretty much kills the series, in its current form.

At best, the project will go into development for a year, with a conventional broadcaster like CTV.  It’s not as great as ‘shooting in June’, but getting paid to write and develop my series over the next twelve months isn’t a bad thing either.  Of course, I still need a development deal from a conventional broadcaster.

This is why I am interested in working with another producer.  Not only is it one more contact to add to my rolodex, but it’s a way for me to focus on doing what I do best, while allowing someone else to bring their own expertise and relationships to the table.  I still have much to learn about the business side of the ‘scripted’ genre.

My focus this week is back on writing.  Specifically, I want to get Dick in shape for the festival in two weeks.  My dramaturge want me to turn it into a 2-Act full length play.  He thinks it has that much potential.  He also thinks it has some major issues to sort out, mostly related to fleshing out a couple of my characters.  I’m at 64 pages now.  Maybe I’ll find the answers I need over the next 10 – 15 pages.

Of course, it’s not about how long the drama is, it’s about how I use it.

Easter Tables

Easter was bittersweet this year.  For me it’s always been less a religious occasion, and more a family occasion.  More specifically, it has been about going 40 days without meat and dairy, to sit through a midnight candlelight church service, then winding up at Auntie Sophie’s table at 2:30am for a meat orgy with friends and family all around.  Last night, I was 2,600 kms away from that table.

I was torn all day.  Go to church and probably later wind up at some other stranger’s meat orgy, or hang out with Frank, who’s sister was celebrating her birthday with friends and family?  I was intrigued by the idea of showing up at a Romanian church in the neighbourhood.  Serendipity would certainly lead me to a potentially new community to connect to.  They’d still be strangers though.

I wound up choosing the party.  Frank’s the closest thing I have to family out here.  I had a good time too.  Still didn’t stop my thoughts from drifting half way across the country.  At midnight I phoned home and wound up talking with Dad.  First time I heard his voice since my birthday I think.  Life passes too quickly sometimes.  Jeff texted me a photo from church two hours later.  It was good to be in their thoughts as well.

There was no table stacked with meat to go to, but Frank did know of a burrito place that was open late.  Turned out to be one of the top 100 places to eat in Toronto, according to news articles they had printed on the walls.

I awoke this morning feeling that burrito sitting in the bottom of my belly like a lump of pure bliss.  I had breakfast with Frank and Tang (the person, not the juice), and a short time later was left alone.  I bought fresh fruit at a market on Bloor and as I was about to walk out, saw a spread of garden plants.  I walked back in and bought flowers for Bacia.  Seemed like a good Easter thing to do.  A trip to Chicago Deli on Roncesvalles for some fresh meat and cheese topped the day and a short time later, I smiled like a school girl as I shovelled a fresh made sandwich down my throat while sitting at Bacia’s table.

On The Threshold of Eating Meat

They say that when you pass through a threshold (doorway), whatever thought you might have been carrying in your mind, passes.  I’m talking little things like ‘fetch a cup of coffee’, or ‘grab a paper clip’.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with big troubling thoughts.

Well, there are six thresholds I must pass through, going from my bedroom to the living room.  I’m always forgetting shit.  Go downstairs, put my shoes on, and damn – forgot my wallet/jacket/keys/whatever.  Frank’s also forgetting shit constantly.  Like me, he also must pass through six thresholds from his bedroom to the living room.

I meant to write about this phenomenon earlier, but I kept forgetting.

I’ve been occupying myself with the research I’m doing for the Vancouver producer.  I interviewed someone this afternoon, and am looking to meet with another later this week.  In the meantime, I continue to cut a series of vignettes together for the Mayors Arts & Business Awards, happening in Regina next week.  The going is slow, mostly because that’s my nature.  Having said that, hard deadlines have a way of making me a little quicker on my feet (and in the edit suite).

Turning to more foodish matters… I’ve been off the meat and dairy for the last 27 months or something (35 days) and I’m really starting to get the shakes when I think about it.  I’ve been having near erotic dreams about hamburgers.  Six more days and I’ll be able to scratch that itch.  It’s been a near constant thought lately.

Perhaps climbing up and down my stairs will help.

Jarrett’s Jade

I am learning that without a ‘to-do’ list, written on paper, crossed out in pen, I can’t make meaningful progress on anything.  If there is one thing I wish I could change about myself, it’s my inability to begin something, without first NOT beginning anything.  Getting started is the hardest thing to do.  That’s what I was thinking when I found myself looking at Harlequin’s website last night.

I met a girl who works in their marketing department.  She reads romantic smut all day long and she put the idea in my head that I could do that too.  I’d never use my real name.  Too embarrassing.  Gypsy Scarth would be my pen name (after my first pet, and the street I grew up on).

Writing smut would be about as easy for me as breathing would be for anyone else.  I have a keen mind for that sort of thing – which is something I struggle with everyday – not making decisions with my dick.  Here’s an excerpt from Harlequin’s website to potential writers;

“These stories should be fast-paced paranormals with strong erotic fantasy and danger elements. Authors should feel comfortable exploring any and all sexual scenarios and shouldn’t shy away from graphically sensual situations. In fact, the short stories should contain many erotic scenes that compel and bind the characters together. Strong, emotional characters that grab the readers imagination are also essential.”

So I’m reading this and I’m thinking I could bang out 15,000 words in a week.  I just need to design a story structure, draw up some great characters, put ‘em in conflict, sex ‘em up some and….

…and that sounds like a lot of work.  It sounds like time I should otherwise be spending making revisions to Dick, or finishing my research, or wrapping up the editing I have to do, or any number of other things that slice at my calm, bleeding out anxiety, a thousand little cuts at a time.

Did I ever mention that my mom named me after a romance novel?  Jarrett’s Jade.

Neither Here Nor There

Jeff asked me about Skyping into the hockey pool for Thursday night.  I said I was in, and I have a buddy who also might be interested.  He said, “You have a buddy in Toronto? I don’t believe it.”  I told him that it was true, but I had to pay him though – he’s my landlord.

I’m on the fence about driving home and staying for a month in May.  Seems like a good idea.  I have to be there for the Spring Festival of New Plays (Dick is in it).  Three weeks after that I have a small gig if I choose to take it.  I can live in Mom’s basement, and catch up on long lost friends & family.  Camping on May Long Weekend also sounds appealing.  When I go home, I can haul my camping stuff, my art, and some other odds & ends with me.  I’ll also get to show off my spanking new Ontario licence plate (all the cool kids have one).

On the other hand, I’m making a life for myself in Toronto.  Though I can’t think of anything imminent going on, something might come up.

That’s a rather short paragraph there, ain’t it?  Unless something definitive does come up between now and April 27, I’m going to make a month of it.  All the work I’m doing in Toronto right now, can be done from anywhere.

This means I’ll have to get my CFC application together rather quickly.  Gonna have to make sure I get sufficient time in with those I wish to see before I leave.  I need to write another draft of Dick.  Gotta renew my passport too (it expired in January).  I’m also looking to line up meetings with two producers and one writer whom I’ve been playing email tag with.  I think that’s it.

Now I gotta make Orthodox Easter plans.