Waiting for an Omelette on Queen Street West

I’m sitting in an old-school style diner on Queen Street West.  There’s an old fashioned chocolate milkshake making machine and I’m sitting at the counter on a round stainless steel stool.  It’s a real 50’s vibe.  You could almost smell the ghosts of hamburgers past.

This place specializes in oysters.

I finished cutting my latest project this morning.  I’m sitting down with Luis to review it in half an hour.  I’m hoping I can get through without too many changes.  Took me 35 hours to get it to this point.  The number is comforting.  Some weeks I wake up to a Friday morning and wonder what the hell I did with all my time.  It’s Thursday morning and I know the answer precisely.

-47 degrees celsius in Regina this morning.  My facebook friends are all screaming about the cold.  I felt compelled to provide my own status update on the matter.  “A bit chilly in Toronto this morning.  Had to close the window when I woke up and put on a long-sleeved shirt.  Might have to write a sad angsty poem about it later.”  One friend thought I was serious.

Well, my omelette just arrived.  Gonna wrap this up.  Have an amazing day.

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Midnight in Jarrett

I watched Midnight in Paris last night – twice!

It’s about an Hollywood screenwriter who discovers a secret portal to Paris in the 1920’s where he can hang out with his heroes – Hemmingway, Bunuel, Dali, Picasso, Fitzgerald, Stein, and everyone else from that scene back in the day.  I felt so instantly drawn to it.  Things that the protagonist was musing about are some of the very same things that have gone through my own mind.  If the movie was about filmmaking, or directing, I doubt I’d have felt such an affinity for it.

Guess that informs me something about myself.

It goes a bit deeper than that though.  Though the plot was different, the style, the subject, the tone felt similar to a screenplay I finished last year, (That Moment in Between) but never really shopped around.  I figured I was just being vain.  Then I watched the credits again.  Written & directed by Woody Allan.

Boom.

My screenplay had been described by an Hollywood reader as ‘Annie Hallesque’.  At the time I had no idea what he meant by that, so I watched the movie and got my answer.  I’ve never really studied Woody Allan’s work.  I can feel myself attempting to channel Joss Whedon when I write, but certainly not Woody Allen.  I would not describe him as an influence.  Yet the similarities are there.

And this is the part of the article where I cringe at my own words.  Woody Allan is an international success who’s career has spanned decades and I am an unknown writer.  I worry that I’ll sound like I’m inflating my own self importance by putting myself in the same sentence as him.  Really I’m not.

‘Moment’ remains at a first draft stage.  I haven’t touched it in over a year.  Seems to be a theme with me.  I guess what I’m stumbling towards is the realization that I am inspired to crack it open again.  Give it another pass, then put it out there to see there’s a market for it.

Just gotta make the time for it.

Being Frank About my Philosophical Tank

Frank showed up for the workshop yesterday with Dianna.  Two others called at the last minute and asked to join in on the fun.  It was a good time.  Most surprising (and flattering) of all, Frank actually got a lot out of the workshop.  He just bought a DSLR and wanted to learn how to use it.  I know that last sentence seems obvious, but you need to know Frank.

He bought a violin last year and a handful of other things he thought would be cool, but quickly lost interest in.  To be fair, he found the violin in Value Village and thought it would be worth a million bucks because it was a Stratovarius.

I showed up early for the workshop and managed to spend a bit of time with my nose in a book.  It was nice.  I figured out that a big part of the funk I was in, came from the fact that my tank was empty.  One can only sustain himself on his own self-made thoughts for so long before requiring the need to seek out the thinky thoughts of others.

The trick methinks is to augment the tank before it requires attention.  Otherwise one risks a philosophical decline that begins at the extremities and works its way to the core – like how blood retreats to the heart as hypothermia sets in.  You fall asleep and never wake up from that.

I can now hear my edit suite beckoning me.  I paid it no attention yesterday and so today will see me putting another 8 hours or so in with it.  I’m thinking I can split that up a bit.  Maybe take a break at the 4-hour mark to spend some more time in a coffee shop with a book.  That would make for a satisfying day.

Painting a Stream of Consciousness

I’m sitting in my lawn chair with my feet up and staring out my window while I let the morning’s thoughts wash over me.  Among them, I haven’t left the apartment for over 24 hours.  Didn’t notice that until just a few moments ago.  Been too busy alternating my time between editing and playing games to take my mind off editing.

I’m teaching a photography workshop later today in the Distillery District, so that should help get me reacquainted with the world.  I’ll be finished around 7:30 and I suspect I won’t be in a mood to head straight home on a Saturday night.  It would be pretty super duper alright if I could manage some facetime with that book I was talking about yesterday.  Perhaps I may even tickle the keyboard towards some writing I haven’t done in a long while.  Better remember to pack the headphones so I can avoid distractions that come with the bustle of a Saturday night in TO.

I just remembered that I invited Frank to tag along tonight.

I guess we’ll see how the evening unfolds.  If he remembers to come, then the night will unfold in a more sociable manner.  Not a bad thing.  Otherwise it’s back to plan ‘A’.

I spoke with Jazzy on the phone yesterday.  Talked with her for a bit then let the conversation taper off.  She phoned me right back after a couple minutes, excited about the youtube link I posted on my facebook page, about the Nerdgasm show I took in on Sunday.  She wanted details.  I provided them.  It seems she knows more about Buffy and Angel than she does about Firefly.  I scolded her, and she mentioned that she’d take a closer look at the series.  Next time I’m in Regina, I plan to walk her class through an episode of Firefly.

As I write this, I can’t help but wish that this article was a little more packed with intellectuality and philosophical insights.  Barring that, a little humour would do as well.  A stream of consciousness came out instead.  Not entirely a bad thing.  Years from now I may look back and see a picture of myself painted with these words.

I wonder where I’ll be when that happens.

Transphasic Morning Thoughts

Having sufficiently combed the newspaper headlines for useless bits of daily fodder, I find myself ready to begin the next phase of my morning.  This will involve standing beneath a stream of warm water whilst cleansing myself of yesterday’s somewhat gamy accumulations.

The apartment itself could use a good scrub, but I’ll wait for later in the day when I will need to rest my mind from all the editing I have planned for the day.  I figure I have about 14 hours of consciousness ahead of me.  It will be satisfying to dedicate at least three of ’em towards some reading.

I saw a photo of Jazzy this morning on facebook.  I wanted to pick up the phone and call her, but she’ll be on her way to school.  Later perhaps.  I have this delicate balance between how much I allow myself to think about her.  Too much, and I come to feel tangibly the many miles between us – which only leads to frustration.

That’s about as far as I wish to go with that thought.

Time to focus on other things – more external things.  The day has much in store.

When the Thought Bubble Pops

A thought bubble splattered overtop my mind this morning as I sat with my coffee in my hand, gazing out the window.  In one simple burst, a whole year’s worth of self identity simply popped – it came with a metaphorical sound – and I’m left naked with a simple truth.

I want to develop and produce my own TV shows.  I want to write them.  I want to direct them.

When I moved to Toronto, it was after turning my back on a whole big part of my professional experience.  I no longer wanted to be a ‘producer’ and ‘directing’ fell a long ways off my radar screen.  I wanted to limit my ambitions to writing drama and comedy for television.  Still do – but not at the expense of everything else I do well.

This is not ego.  This is acceptance.  This is looking back and seeing what all my history adds up to.  I’m embracing it, and I believe I’m coming to it from an honest place.  I am being careful to NOT confuse business with personal identity.

To this end, I’ve been developing a documentary series.  It’s on a topic I’m passionate about and experienced in.  I have connections I can exploit.  I will know within six weeks if it has legs.  That, I suppose, is the best part.  Sometimes projects can tease you with their potential until you become disillusioned.  This one will either go into production in March,  or it will go on the shelf for a year.  Very simple.  No in-between.

In the meantime, it’s become time to look at everything else I have on the shelf.  The world economy is in a better place from when I last set out to pitch projects.  Broadcasters are buying again.  Why not dip my toe in those waters to see how far the ripples may travel?

Fire Dancing with a Heavy Heart

Nerdgasm Toronto

Nerdgasm Toronto

I was sitting on the kitchen floor with Jazzy last Thursday morning and she was teaching me ‘Cups’ – how to play a beat on a plastic cup while listening to music.  We were playing along to some of our favourite songs – or more specifically, she selected some Van Halen tracks that she thought I’d appreciate.  After five minutes, I had to stop her.

My heart was breaking.  In 10 minutes I’d be out the door, bound for Toronto.  These last few precious moments were becoming too much for me.  I love teaching my daughter new things, introducing her to new things, providing her with new experiences.  It’s when I’m at my daddish bestiness.  Now she was teach me something.

I never had a harder time, pulling out of my mother’s driveway to leave Regina behind.  It will be a few months before I see Jazzy again.  My heart was heavy.

As I mentioned previously, I arrived in Toronto sporting a much better headspace.  Zen chillations aside, it is absolutely great to be back in my own space, and living my own life.  While my heart might be in Regina, my foundation has completely shifted to my humble abode here in The Junction.

As if to confirm the soundness of my recent shift in geography, Frank rang up my phone on Sunday.  “How do you feel about me taking you to a Joss Whedon show tonight for your belated birthday?”  I could have kissed him (but in a manly, totally not kissy way).

JOSS WHEDON!!!!  The man is my literary hero.  Whenever I’m stuck designing a story structure, or get tripped up by dialogue, I consult a Whedon script.  Now Frank was taking me to ‘Nerdgasm’ – a Variety Show Dedicated to all things Whedon.  It was produced and created by IlluminAir Entertainment, and it was for one night only.

There were Whedon characters represented from nearly every series and movie the man ever made – but there was a ‘variety show’ twist to them.  There was burlesque, fire dancing, acrobatics, singing, and dancing.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  It was an absolutely outstanding experience.

Sometimes a thing is just a thing.  Sometimes a thing is a symbol.  I’d never get to see anything like this show in Regina.  ‘Nerdgasm’ was my welcome back to Toronto moment.

Unpacking

I am back in Toronto after a 26 hour drive through the US.  It was one of my most enjoyable road trips ever.  My headspace remains elevated to a higher place – still turning with all the contemplations though all those miles.

Prior to departing, I bought Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig on audiobook.  It’s the most read philosophy book of all time.  Used to carry the paperback version around for a year wherever I went.  Never made it past chapter 10.  I would always read a chapter, and by the half way point, my mind would be so full of stirrings inspired by the book, that I couldn’t concentrate anymore on what was written down.

More than anything, I feel like I am about to write a new chapter in my own life.  Been feeling it coming on for some time.  It’s a chapter that would have been impossible to write without living through my most recent experiences in Toronto this past year.

In the book, Pirsig talks about a ‘moment of crystallization’ – the singular moment when a particular character’s journey down a philosophical discourse was born.  My own moment of crystallization took place a few days ago over coffee with Chrystene.

I’ve said on many occasions that I am my career.  I go as my career goes.  Chrystene kind of frowned when I said that to her.  She thought it was a horrible way for me to describe myself.  I am a writer, producer, and director – a genuine creative type – but I am not cash flow forecasts, marketing, strategic planning, business schtick, etc.  I’m only fooling myself if I think I am.

I confessed that I felt like I lost something over the past year.  I came to Toronto with so much piss and vinegar.  Made a sale to CBC, had a sitcom going into production, finished a screenplay, and developed two other series.  Things never panned out the way I expected they would, and over time, the whole thing beat my sense of myself to a pulp.  Chystene said that when we first started working together a few years ago, she felt I was supremely confident.  I believed I could do anything.  I was bullet proof.

She said I was now a more softer, more disillusioned Jarrett.  She liked this version of me better.  She asked me to consider the possibility that losing that part of myself, might be a gift.  As soon as the words left her mouth, something began to crystallize.

I’ve been struggling to find balance between all the different aspects of myself, from career stuff, to self exploration, to love, to fatherhood, to creativity, to practical considerations, to matters of ego, and much more.  I’ve been holding so rigidly to a certain idea of myself, that I never considered the possibility that I was fooling myself.

I am a vessel with no motor, riding the current of the river.  We all are (though some of us fail to see things that way).  I am packed with all my baggage and none of it fits neatly together.  It’s all accumulated over time, and has never really been pulled apart to see if there are better ways to balance the load.

The journey from Regina to Toronto took just over 26 hours.  The book is 15 hours long.  I still never made it all the way though.  Had to keep shutting it off.  Let the wheels in my head turn, just as those on my car were doing.  Betcha I drove at least 8 of those hours in complete silence.

I am a happier, more malleable version me today, at this moment.  I intend to unpack every aspect of my life, look at it under the light, sit, look at it some more, and then maybe see how I feel about taking it back on again.

In the meantime, there are some practical considerations to consider.  These are the simplest to figure out of all.  Big ideas and lofty goals take time.  Until then, I need to make as much money as possible, by doing as little as possible, which will leave me time to attend to these other considerations.

My current gig fits the bill nicely.  I enjoy my work, I’m good at it, and it comes naturally to me.  I no longer feel an urgent need to push it aside in favour of more impressive goals.  To be clear, I’m not giving up on my ambitions, I’m just affording myself the time to examine them.  More than anything, I need to make sure I’m coming to them from an honest place.

Free Falling into a Comfortable Routine

I don’t believe anyone will look back years from now and reminisce about the timeless memories of my 40th birthday party.  It was perfectly chilled out and just what I was hoping it would be.

Usually I find myself in a pub or bar somewhere, inviting anyone who’d care to join me.  This time Shauna was kind enough to donate her place, where I could invite a diverse bunch of my friends.  Most of those people had no business being in the same room together – they were all from different walks of my life.  I found this part especially satisfying.  It was great to sit back and watch ’em mingle with each other.

We had music.  We had snacks.  We had drinks.  We had a diverse and interesting group of people.  What more does one need?

I’m still in Regina by the way.  My return to Toronto has been delayed by logistics.  My cheque from Toronto was mailed on the 5th, and it still hasn’t shown up in my mom’s mailbox.  I’m not keen to leave with it still in transit somewhere.

This is not entirely a bad thing.  I have my work with me, so I can still be productive.  Jazzy and I are spending a lot of time together, and I’m getting a lot of bonus time in with friends whom I won’t see in a while.  Jazz and I crashed Chystene’s class at the University last night.  She was teaching ‘Visual Story Telling’ and I found it quite interesting.  Despite being nearly three hours long, Jazz was also getting a lot out of it.

Afterwards, Chrystene, Jazz and I got kicked out of the campus bar when Jazzy got carded.  I thought we’d be okay since Jazzy wasn’t drinking alcohol, but I was wrong.  Even so, I’m proud to have been a part of my 13 year-old daughter’s first barroom mishap.  She’s getting quite the education from our little adventures together.  Next time, the plan will be for her to sit at a table while Chystene and I fetch the drinks.

I am finding myself getting itchy to return to my life in Toronto.  My state of mind has slipped from being home on a holiday to being in a kind of existential purgatory.  Things are becoming almost routine here at mom’s.  It’s a nice comfortable inertia – the sort that comes with free falling from a great height.  Precautions must be taken to ensure the landing doesn’t come with too much of an uncomfortable thud.  The longer I stay in Regina, the longer I go without returning to MY life in Toronto.

There’s a TO birthday party to plan after all.

The Number 40

Just about the time I get done thinking about the year ahead, I get started on reflecting back on my life as a whole.  January 12 is my birthday.  Today represents my 40th spin around the sun.  What a ride!

Forty seems old to me, but I don’t feel old.  I look in the mirror and I don’t see old.  I don’t think I live an ‘old’ lifestyle.  I suppose it’s what that number represents that bothers me.  Forty.  Four Oh.  Some kind of milestone.

I’m not where I wish to be in my career and as I said many times before, I am my career.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  If I ever do catch up to where my ambitions have already been,  I might just curl up and die.  Without that carrot before my nose, there’s nothing to keep me moving forward.

[several thinky thoughts pass through Jarrett’s mind]

Hmmm.  It seems happiness comes, not from achieving goals, but by making progress towards them.  More specifically, by making the journey towards those goals, a well travelled one, I’m living my life at its best.

When I consider my own personal idiosyncrasies, I’d have to say the single greatest cause of angst in my life, is my talent for NOT beginning the things I need to get to.  I wouldn’t even call it procrastination.  It’s something much deeper.  It’s like there’s some kind of psychological barrier that blocks my way.  Gonna have to remedy that somehow.  Any ideas?

In other news, I taught story design to Jazzy’s grade 8 class yesterday.  It was a highlight of my whole trip home.  I had ’em laughing and I think they learned something too.  The teacher wants to continue to use me as a resource and most significantly, Jazzy is proud to show me off to her new friends.

She’s coming with me to my party tonight.  I’ve invited a number of old friends and it will be great to have ’em all in a room together.  Good music.  Great food.  Plentiful booze.  Amazing people.  Should be a good time.

I’ll not waste any time getting ready for it.