Belonging to a Place

Things are rather chaotic in my life right now.  I can’t really make plans until some of the balls I have orbiting my life right now, run their course.  Even as that happens, more happenings unfold in unexpected ways.

Frank called me Friday afternoon to inform me that the bachelor suite downstairs just came free.  I looked at it and I like it a lot.  I’ll have my own private entrance, tall ceilings, full kitchen, bathroom, living room, and a loft bed.  Tons of storage, plenty of character, and I won’t have to live with anyone.  It costs $50 more per month and it would only take me about an hour to move my stuff.  I could see myself living there until I get myself into a position to once again buy real estate.

I took it.

There’s a slight wrinkle.  The place isn’t available, technically, until September 1.  In the meantime Frank is now trying to rent out our current space for August 1.  There’s not really a plan in place to deal with potential imminent homelessness, but I’m not too worried about it.  At worst, I’ll crash in Bacia’s place with Frank for a few weeks.  Jazzy’s not really concerned about it either.  It’s all part of our little adventure called, ‘The Toronto Summer.’

I’ve been getting to know the neighbours across the street, Tino and Mary.  Tino’s Portuguese, and has lived a rather colourful life.  He’s a little rough around the edges, but he’ll give you the shirt off his back.  Mary has a daughter who’s Jasmine’s age.  The two took an instant liking to each other – had a sleepover and everything.  Tino can be found most nights sitting on his front porch with Mary, drinking beer and yacking with the neighbours.  He seems to know everyone and he’s fed me many a beer.

When I move into my new place, I want to buy some patio furniture – maybe even a planter box (though it will be too late in the season to grow anything), and some other odds and ends to suggest ‘patio’.  There’s a nook right in front of my apartment where I can sit like Tino does, and watch the neighbourhood go by.  It’ll make me feel a little more like I belong to the place.  I may even share a beer with the passers by.

My Life With Jazzy

I love living in Toronto!  Know what makes it even better?  Living in Toronto with Jazzy.

It’s so much fun experiencing everything the city has to offer with my beautiful little girl at my side.  On Tuesday we wandered around downtown for a spell near Dundas Square.  It looked like something was afoot – people were gathering, bringing lawn chairs, snacks, etc.  There was a big screen set up on stage.  Turns out that on every Tuesday night, there’s a cult movie classic being played, for free, to all comers.  We took in The Big Lebowski.  Jazzy had never seen it before and for me, it was just as funny as the first time I saw it.  Actually, it was even better, because I had my daughter at my side.

On Wednesday we did a photo shoot with Sharon in the Distillery District.  Sharon and I were both surprised by how assertive Jazzy was being, telling Sharon where to pose, how to pose, and noting how light was landing on Sharon’s face in certain locations.  It seemed that after hanging out with me while I taught three photography workshops, she was busy filing away everything I said.

It didn’t stop there.  Jazzy started pointing out all the people walking by with fancy cameras – maybe they could use a photography workshop.  I gave her some of my handbills and she started working the crowd, tepidly at first, but more confident towards the end.  I just stood back and watched her.

When I was a kid, I used to spend summers with my dad on the truck.  All day long, all summer long.  He had a septic business called Southern Sanitary Services.  He worked at pumping out people’s sewers, and I helped him – except for me, it was fun.  There was nowhere in the world that I wanted to be, except on the truck with my dad.  I thought about those summers as I watched Jazz hustling the crowd for me.  I didn’t even ask her.

Last night Sharon took us to the Toronto International Beaches Jazz Festival.  Fifteen blocks of Queen Street East was closed to traffic, and every half block or so, a live band was playing.  You could stop and listen, or keep walking to take in the next band.  People were everywhere.  Music was everywhere.  All of it, free of charge.  We split our time between taking in the sites and sounds, and talking to people sporting DSLRs.  By the end of the night, Jazzy was fearless, approaching perfect strangers to pitch her dad.

She looks at me the same way I looked at my dad 30 years ago.  I’ve said many times how I worry about her growing distant from me, living half a country away.  Instead she embraces me.  She dives into my life, beyond just tagging along, she actively participates in it.  She makes my life a part of her life because she enjoys my life.  She’s proud of me.  How many parents can say that about their teenaged daughters?

The Myth of the Well-Ironed Shirt

Jazzy and I spent most of yesterday at the Beach.  I was teaching another workshop, and not only was it profitable, but we all had an amazing time together.  Devlin and Sarah proved to be the sort of students who buy their instructors beer.  I explained that if there are any issues with their photography, and adjustments to ISO, shutter speed, and aperture don’t seem to be fixing things, the generous application of alcohol will most definitely help.  I used to pour shots for my program manager before she reviewed a cut of InJustice.

All four of us laughed like old friends all day long.  Jazzy and Sarah really seemed to bond.  There was also some serious learnin’ going on.  Devlin and Sarah went from being completely uncomfortable with the manual settings on their DSLRs, to being able to guestimate the required f-stop for certain lighting situations.  I’m very proud, and I hope to see them again.  I’ll post pics soon.

I’ve been back on top the Toronto Mission.  I found a directory of Toronto film & television production companies.  A comprehensive listing from A – Z.  Sent over 70 emails thus far and I’m only at ‘E’.  A few even got back to me.

This led to something Jazzy’s never ever seen before called, ‘Dad irons a shirt’.  Normally I would shield her from such domestic displays, to maintain the illusion of a macho not-at-all domesticated father figure, but she’s been sleeping in my room on an air mattress.  I like to think it’s because she wants to be near me, but really it has everything to do with the air conditioner mounted in my window.

So anyway, she’s kind of reclined into her pillow watching me clear a section of my desk for use as an ironing board.  She’s not saying much.  The whole Dad = not domestically competent myth was being exploded right before her eyes.  For what it’s worth, I only did a half assed job.

The interview went well though.  I’ve been invited back for a second round.  Pretty sure it had everything to do with the shirt.

We’re now sitting together in Roncy Bean.  In an hour McKenzie will be meeting us and we’ll be crossing the street to take in a movie at the Revue Cinema.  I’m really liking how this Toronto summer is shaping up.

Sharing A Meal

Jazzy and I went over to Sharon and Jerry’s last night to settle in for a friendly game of Settlers of Catan.  It was my forth time playing it, and Jazzy’s 2nd time.  She won.  She batted her eyes, played ‘cute’ the whole time, sucked people out of their resource cards, and then came out of nowhere to win.  I am both astonished and impressed.

Bacia bought a one-way ticket to Vancouver a couple weeks ago.  She wanted to be with her son.  She’d been increasingly withdrawing from our dysfunctional little community for some time now.  She didn’t even bother to say ‘good-bye.’  Perhaps it would have been too emotional for her.  I’m going to miss her.  She was my ‘Toronto Mom’.

In the meantime, Frank decided to move into her place and put me in charge of finding my own roommate for our current space.  This will give me power over the place, meaning that if things don’t work out with the new person, I can send him/her packing.  The lease will be in my name.

It took me awhile to understand the implications of the deal.  Real estate ain’t my thing.  Frank sat me down and drew it up for me with crayons.  At first I was like, ‘You’re the landlord. Why am I finding a tenant to replace you?’  He used small words and spoke slowly, explaining that binding myself into a lease with a perfect stranger probably isn’t in my best interests.

Living apart will probably be good for the ‘ol friendship as well.  Seeing each other everyday and every night, whether we want to or not, tends to dull the bloom on a relationship.  It’s been awhile since Frank and I actually hung out.  We’re both looking forward to finding a little space from each other, so we can get back to feeling like we actually WANT to hang out.

It’s been almost nine months since I moved into this building.  The dynamic has changed completely.  We used to gather around Bacia’s table for meals.  Not only was it familyish, but it was necessary.  Frank and I didn’t have a stove.

Once Frank remedied that inconvenience, I think we only got together for a meal at Bacia’s on two other occasions.  Frank and I stopped eating meals together as well, since we tend to be on different schedules, and eat at different times.  We became islands, drifting apart.  Bacia’s gone, Frank’s moving out, and I’m courting a roommate.

I never realized how powerful sharing a meal together can be.

Jazzy & Me in Little Italy

I’m sitting in a restaurant in Little Italy across a table from Jazzy. We’re having an amazing time together. She flew in Tuesday night and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

We rented a movie Tuesday night, then she came with me last night as I taught my photography workshop in and around the U of T campus. She grabbed my camera and learned it right along with my other students. It was a great way for us to wander around Toronto together.

Tonight I taught another Workshop in the Distillery District. She enthusiastically took that in too, snapping even more photos while exploring yet another part of the city she hadn’t seen before.

We’re finding a nice….

[Jarrett tells Jazzy to shut up so he can focus on his blogging]

…we’re finding a nice balance together. Hanging out, talking, musing, reading and laughing. I often worry that she’s growing up in Vancouver without me in her life. These moments, like the ones we’ve been sharing together – they make me feel the unbreakable connection that lives between us.

I love my beautiful little girl. My first Toronto summer just became that much more special.

Being Still

I’m sitting here in my campsite in Killbear Provincial Park.  Mel, Jerry, and Sharon are swimming at the beach.  I’m enjoying a pot of freshly brewed campstove coffee by myself.  My mood is calm and I feel good.

I wrote yesterday how this weekend will be about stillness – a chance to see how the balls orbiting my universe will play out.  More than that, I believe this time is for developing a deeper understanding for how it all connects as I sit in the quiet of this place.

I received an email yesterday from the CFC.  More than anything, I felt getting into this program would be the key to my future in Toronto.  They’re only accepting 8 writers per year and they had more applicants than at any other time in their history.

I didn’t make the cut.

As it usually happens with these big moments in my life, the news just sort of bounced off me.  I’m not upset or regretful.  If anything, a whole great big Red Sea opened up and now I can walk through.  I’m not bound up, passing up, or avoiding opportunities that might have conflicted with this program.  I also kind of noticed how I stopped trying to contact production companies, looking to break in to their writing room because I figured this program would open more doors, faster.

Balls are orbiting my life at this moment, and I’m going to spend the day not thinking about them.  I have a strong feeling that I’ll see them with greater focus when I return to Toronto.

Important Balls

I’m sitting outside a coffee shop on Queen St. E. waiting for Mel to get out of the bathtub so we can start our trek north.  I don’t mind.  Gives me time to write.  She had to go into work this morning for a meeting, so it’s not like she was being unorganized or anything.

This trip will mark my first venture outside Toronto since I moved here.  Road trips homewards don’t count.  It comes at a good time.  Cell service, wifi, and electricity may be hard to come by.  I’ll be left alone with my thoughts in the wilderness – with a bunch of Saskatchewan folk.  Doesn’t look like Rachel and Waylon are coming by the way.  Thought you might be on the edge of your seat wondering.

I’m starting to find some clarity with all the shiny objects floating about.  Each one is a ball in orbit and all I have to do is accept that it’s there.  It will be there for as long as I make it a part of my universe and if it’s important, its existence will be justified.  If it’s not, I need to let go.  Turns out, there’s not a lot of unimportant balls orbiting my life at the moment.  That’s a good thing at least.

Life alternates between moments of activity and passivity.  I’ve been pushing those balls around hard.  Working up a sweat.  This weekend will give me a chance to be still and see how they move.

Industrious Shiny Objects

Trying to feel the difference between being distracted by shiny objects, and being industrious is challenging.  In the last week I’ve taken several meetings with an aim towards a variety of outcomes.  I wrote a play.  I taught a workshop.  Opened a new workshop venture.  Wrote a few articles for the Argonauts.  Saw those articles being picked up and retweeted by 3rd parties I’ve never heard of.  Set up further meetings.  Drilled deeper into RedShirts.  Researched over 6 dozen Chicago theatre companies and then sent Dick to a handful.  Designed and distributed posters and handbills to promote my new venture.  Wandered aimlessly.

I came to Toronto with clarity.  Meet as many people as possible.  Write.

I’m now feeling like I need to keep as many of my options open as possible.  There’s a lot of opportunities here.  There are also a lot more people looking to take those opportunities.  I still have more people to meet and doors to crack open.  People are impressed with me.  I just need to keep pushing.

In the meantime, a camping trip doth beckon.  I’m picking up Mel tomorrow morning and we’re heading up north to Killbear where Trenna, Alden, Sharon, and Jerry will meet us.  A Saskatchewan reunion of sorts.

I should call Rachel and Waylon.

Alright.  On with the day!

With A Camera In My Hand

I’m just finishing up lunch with Tang.  It was her birthday on Friday so the meal is on me.  Happy Birthday!

Last night I taught another photography workshop.  Six hours of wandering Toronto’s sites and sounds with a camera in my hand while teaching someone how to see light the way a camera does.  We did some nice daylight stuff, played with reflections off windows and water puddles.  We shot in harsh light, diffused light, low light, and found light.  I enjoyed the later the best.  Cities look better when they’re lit up at night.

Tonight the Riders host the BC Lions.  I’m looking to round up some Rider fans here in TO to watch the game.  I’m so excited.  Football season = the beginning of summer to me.  I devour every game, and not just those featuring Roughriders.  Stayed up last night until 2am watching a replay of the Toronto/Calgary game, and I spent Friday watching Hamilton, BC, Winnipeg and Montreal play.

Jazzy’s ticket to Toronto is booked for July 17.  I can’t wait to show her Toronto in the summer.  There are so many festivals, and places to see.  Might as well take her around whilst sporting a camera in my hand.


Speaking of participating… I just submitted a play to the Toronto Fringe Festival’s 24 Hour Play Writing Competition.  Got it in with 41 seconds to spare!

We met under a steamy tent in ‘Fringe Ally’ behind Honest Ed’s on Bloor & Bathurst.  They gave us four objects/phrases that needed to appear in our play (to ensure we didn’t write the play beforehand) and then sent us on our way.  I bought a draft beer and helped myself to a seat at a table in their makeshift pub. I was right in the middle of all the action – people coming and going, talking, bitching, bragging, and sharing stories.  Wasn’t at all distracting.  Just plugged in my headphones and went to work.

I pounded three pages in 30 minutes before I left to take in another play with Sharon and Frank on Dupont & Spadina.  The time I took away from my writing to watch that play seems counter intuitive, but I felt confident in my ability to come up with something.  It’s not really about ‘time’ for me.  It’s about deadlines.  Too much time, and I get nothing done.

I didn’t even stay up late.  After watching the play with Sharon and Frank, I excused myself and began sketching out the story structure.  You see, I actually had no idea what my story was going to be about.  Took my four objects/phrases into account, put two characters in a room, put ’em in conflict, then stood back to see what the collisions would bring.

It was a real head scratcher to be sure.  The academic exercise of brainstorming possible inciting incidents was turning up nothing I felt inspired by.  There was no crisis decision in sight.  My climax was simply beyond me.  Back to the two characters I returned.  I put the story in their hands.  Pushed them further, faster – threw stuff at ’em and watched them squirm.  I learned a lot.  Went to bed at midnight with a quarter of the play written, and a good sense of where it was headed.

Today, with one hour to go, I still had no idea how the thing was going to end.  Four characters in a room together, balls-on conflict, and no clear way forward.  I decided to start a new scene.  Didn’t even bother ending the previous scene.  I needed an ending more than I needed a middle.  I knew that I wanted two characters in particular to be in that ending.  I had some loose strings to tie up and I had 49 minutes to do so.

With 17 minutes left, I had my ending.  Jumped back to the middle and figured out there wasn’t much middle left to go.  In fact, I could just ram it right into the end scene, massage the exits a bit, make some tweaks, hold my nose and send it off.

I wrote my final line of dialogue with 60 seconds to go.  Quick export to PDF and then sent my play in at 5:59:19 EST.

I called the play Metaphor.  I’m still not sure if it has a climax.