Damned Beloved White Leather Couch

The rope was synching tight around three fingers on my right hand. If the loop closed, I knew I’d either break ’em, or possibly lose ’em. The world was snapping into slow motion. That’s when I knew things were taking a turn for the dramatic.

Worlds don’t snap into slow motion over menial things like pouring the morning coffee. That only happens for catastrophes like train wrecks, collisions with gravel trucks, or hoisting a couch up over one’s balcony.

The whole thing was supposed to take no more than two or three hours. Would have been on track too, but for that damned beloved white leather couch of mine.

The day started well enough. I walked to U-Haul from my apartment to pick up a truck. Put the last of my stuff into a large cardboard box and waited for help to arrive.

Then Frank called. He was stuck in Vaughn on his motorcycle. Pouring rain. He wasn’t going anywhere.

Lisa and Andy showed up and within 45 minutes, we had everything out of my apartment and on the truck. My couch was the trickiest part of the operation – and I knew it would be.

Everything came off the truck with relative ease upon arriving at my new place. We kept walking onto the truck, passed the couch, towards the next item that could be easily carried up the stairs. Each trip, we eyed that couch with the same sense of undiluted pleasure, as one might experience looking forward to a tax audit. The stairs were narrow, and there were two tight turns.

Then it started to rain.

So now we were standing in the rain, my beloved white leather couch jammed half-way into the entrance of my new place getting wet, and it became painfully clear that my couch was not going to fit up the stairs – and it was raining.

And I needed to return the truck within the hour.

I fished a tarp out of the truck of my car, where I keep my camping stuff. Twenty minutes later my couch was sitting outside, beside the house, where it was very much NOT inside my living room. It was under my tarp at least, but I took little comfort in knowing this scenario was the best possible option for me, my beloved white leather couch, and my immediate need to return the truck.

An hour later, I found myself sitting on Frank’s couch. Truck was returned, Andy was driven home, and Lisa was off, getting to something she delayed so she could help me with the move.

Frank was cooking pasta. His friend Ethan picked him up in Vaughn and took him home. He invited me over for supper because he felt bad for missing out on the move. He also mentioned that he has some expertise in hoisting couches up over balconies. Did it a couple of times for Donna, who lives on the third floor.

Two hours later, I was rigging my balcony with rope I had just bought from Canadian Tire. I used to be a boy scout you know – used to occupy my time in school tying a whole variety of knots while the other kids doodled, or listened to the teacher, or whatever. I was beyond comfortable with the prospects of getting my couch up over my balcony rail, and into my living room from there.

This all flashed through my mind as the loop closed tighter around my fingers.

“Frank!”

Frank left his rope in the hands of Ethan’s failing grip, to grab my line, for just long enough for me to get my fingertips out of harm’s way.

My beloved white leather couch was dangling about 8 feet off the ground. There was no way we were getting it up any further than that. Not enough manpower.

This moment marked the highlight of my night. We lowered the couch and gave up.

Frank eyeballed my staircase once more. “We can get it up. We just need to remove the rail get a couple things out of the way.”

I expressed my doubts, but then Ethan got in on the action, showing enthusiasm for Frank’s idea. Perhaps it did indeed seem like a good idea, or perhaps it was simply the image of my couch sitting upside down in a flowerbed, being dripped on by a leaky eavestrough, that was influence enough for me to reach desperately towards any solution that might improve my situation.

Thirty minutes later we were right back where I was nine hours earlier with Andy and Lisa. The only difference being countless more scratches, scuffs and moisture bestowed upon my beloved white leather couch.

I’m writing this from my perch overlooking Gerrard Street East, sipping coffee and musing about my day. My couch is under a tarp outside, and professional movers will be coming this afternoon, to hoist it up, onto my balcony and into my living room.

I slept in my new bedroom last night. I’m half unpacked. I’m thinking about digging out my bathroom stuff and taking a shower. Sunlight is washing over me, and just prior to writing this article, I found myself googling, ‘repairing a leather couch’.

It’s not much, but as Bob Marley would say, ‘Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be alright…”

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The Period at the End of the Junction

IMG_0930My last few days were consumed with finishing the music video – so much so, that I didn’t spend much time on anything else.

‘Finishing’ brought me to a rather strange headspace. I was so looking forward to being finished, that I didn’t really think about what I’d do once I actually did. It’s like I climbed the mountain and forgot to take a photograph.

Of course I am proud of the piece (not so happy with youtube’s compression of it), and I was excited to release it, but I was so creatively spent, I could barely cobble together the words to describe the piece, once it actually was up on youtube.

I think it all happened so fast, I barely had time to think about what I was doing. I was at an Event Planners showcase on Thursday afternoon, handing out business cards. Realized the game at Varsity was taking place in a few hours, and if I was going to document it somehow, I’d better start putting the wheels in motion.

Now I’m done. No one paid me for it. There was no strategic or marketing plan around it. I just wanted to make a video. Simple as that.

Perhaps that’s what I’m most pleased about. I just found myself doing it, before I really put much thought into the who/what/where/when/why of it.

Time to move onto the next thing – which looks to be a few hours’ worth of follow-up with potential clients (and I just happen to have a fresh new video to show ’em). After that, my future has much packing in store.

I invited people over to my place at 11am tomorrow to help me move to the new apartment. Haven’t even started packing. I’m not worried about it though – I’ve done this so much over the past couple of years that I have it down to a science.

I suppose this article marks the last time I’ll ever sit out in front of my Junction apartment to blog. Not a bad way to put a period on the end of that sentence. Finish a music video. Pack. Move. Do it all, all over again.

Vampyre Weekend

1262_547064272016855_499445010_nThere was no way I WASN’T going to be there. First professional football game at Varsity Stadium in 54 years – a place that was built in 1911 – and completed ninety minutes before the 2nd Grey Cup was played.

There was no way I WASN’T going to document the occasion somehow. My ticket was for standing room only, but since I was armed with a professional looking camera and lens package, I just walked into the restricted area and acted like I was supposed to be there. No one stopped me.

Four hours later, I had shot over 1,300 photos – a number of them being the first photos ever taken of a professional football game at Varsity, featuring the CN Tower in the background.

I’m spending the weekend fashioning those photos into a documentary music video of the event. I’m calling it One Thursday in TO. As of this moment, I’m about 30 seconds into it, and I’m thrilled with the way it feels.

I’ve long been interested in connecting the Argonauts with other scenes around Toronto. Details on what that vision might look like have aways been somewhat less than specific, but like porn, I’ll know it when I see it.

I think I’ve glimpsed it thus far.

My goal is to finish this video by Monday morning. I need to prove to myself that I can turn around big projects like this within a reasonable period of time. Not only that, but if I take much longer, this video will be old news as the Argos prepare for their Season Opener on Thursday.

Lisa was over last night as I began noodling with it. She was with me when I picked the music – Vampyre by Toronto band Cai.ro. We watched the bones of it come together. Hair stood up on the back of my neck. I’m soooooo excited to bring this thing to life.

When I dropped her off last night, Lisa commented that I was far too happy for 2am. I guess that’s what happens when I dive headfirst into my art.

Following Up On Simplicity

One thing at a time, one day at a time. That notion would be a photograph of my ideal lifestyle, and for the most part, 2013 has been incredibly satisfying because I’ve been able to live up to that ideal.

There’s been some luck involved. A bit of instinct too. Perhaps even some self-awareness operating at a subconscious level, groomed after many years of fucking up the nuanced delicate finesse of it all. I think I’m finding the handle.

These were my thoughts as I walked the conference floor yesterday. Event planners, and event industry suppliers from around the world filled vast swaths of space at Direct Energy Centre here in Toronto. I had no idea that I would even be there only a few days ago, and yet there I was, walking the among the mass of humanity with clarity of purpose.

I suppose it all started from scratch a couple weeks ago, looking up a few directories with lists of event planners in Toronto. I’ve maintained a spreadsheet ever since of names, numbers, contact dates, and follow-up notes. Most importantly, I’ve managed to stay on top of the follow-up. Fifty-six names on that list so far. Most have indicated a desire to use me sometime down the road.

I’ve managed to keep my understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish, clear to myself.

This isn’t about money. This isn’t about growing my business. This isn’t even about ‘opportunity’.

It’s about listening.

One thing at a time, one day at a time. Period.

Sometimes it’s necessary to drill deeper into what we’re trying to accomplish and why. I’ve pursued all manner of projects throughout my career with mixed success. Some things were quite profitable. Others were a complete waste of time. Others yet, were simply impossible to measure, in terms of their value to my growth as a person creature.

I’ve figured out what I’m good at. I’ve figured out what I enjoy. I’ve figured out what separates me from my competition – to use a business term. Most importantly, I’ve figured out how it all connects to that much deeper simplicity that I’ve been on about.

Every single person I’ve reached out to, have been beyond impressed with my work. They’ve never seen anything like it. Quite simply, if I reach out to a sufficient number of potential clients, and convert a small percentage of those into actual clients, success will be inevitable.

I collected 10 business cards yesterday. All of them are strong leads. One was even referred to me from a previous contact I made. How’s that for leaving an impression?

So what does this have to do with one thing at a time, one day at a time? What does all this activity, hand-shaking, and follow-up with innumerable potential clients have to do one simple mantra?

It’s about waking up in the morning, watching the neighbourhood whilst holding a cup of coffee in my hand, and breathing in the day. Let my mind fall into clarity. Let me pluck from a vast inventory of writing and editing projects I’ve grown for myself to work on – to enable myself to wake up in the morning, to watch the neighbourhood, to breathe in the day.

Better Things Ahead

I signed the lease at my new place last night. Celebrated by going for a walk in my new neighbourhood, down Glen Stewart Ravine, towards Queen Street East. I found a coffee shop that seems to specialize in quiche. I ordered the mushroom version. Possibly my first taste of quiche ever.

I spent the earlier part of the day preparing an ad on kijiji for my current address. Tidied up, took photos, wrote a blurb, and sent it up. If someone takes the place before the end of the month, I won’t owe Frank any rent come July 1.

In between, I worked the phone, lining up meetings with potential clients. Made significant progress with a few. One kept me on the phone for several minutes, pointing me in the direction of several leads I should chase down. She thinks I’ll do well because on one in Toronto is doing what I can do with photographs in 3D space.

I registered to attend an event planners’ conference that’s taking place today and tomorrow. Free of charge, with some limitations. I won’t be able to attend any of the keynotes, and I’ll only be able to work the room for a brief period of time. Not a big problem as far as I’m concerned. I plan to simply hang out and fall into conversations with whomever might be in the area.

On my way home from the coffee shop last night, Frank called. He said someone already put a deposit down on my place. I even had a chance to meet her – pass the torch in a way. I was never worried about the place being vacant for very long. Anyone who’s ever visited me loved the space. I’m really going to miss it, but I’m moving on to something even better.

I signed the lease for one year. If things look as bright as my clients seem to think they will be for me, I may be in a position to buy my own place in 12 month’s time. Wouldn’t that be something?

One Bottle of Beer at Hemmingway’s

It’s a hot Monday here in TO. Pushing 30 degrees celsius. I have in the meantime been pushing $16,000 in grant funding requests out the door from the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Board. It was for two projects – Not Being A Dick and Room 31.

I won’t know the results of this effort until sometime in late October. If I get the funding, I’ll be thrilled. If I don’t, I won’t. Other than permitting myself a bit of reflection on my past two days’ efforts, I won’t be giving those applications much thought after this. Out of my hands now. Tomorrow I return to focusing on setting up client meetings.

I’m writing this from a pub on Cumberland called ‘Hemmingway’s’. Seemed like a good place to celebrate the completion of two literary arts applications.

I’m excited to see how I stack up against the competition. Juries are blind. My name is not allowed to appear anywhere in my project description, artist statement, or sample of work. If I am successful, I’m successful on merit, and not on my connections (or lack of connections) to people of influence.

There was a refreshing lack of extraneous art board BS in the application forms. The bulk of both applications consisted of showing my work. In the case of TAC, they wanted to see 20 pages of Dick, and 20 pages of Room 31. OAB wanted to see 40 pages of my manuscript for Room 31. In addition, I needed to tweak my resume and provide an artist statement. It only took me a few hours to compile everything required because, to my pleasant surprise, I’ve already done the work. How convenient!

In other news, I received verbal confirmation from Eric, my NEW landlord, that I can move into the new place on July 1. I’ll feel better once my signature’s on a lease, but his word is good enough for now. Frank and I can begin the process of finding a new tenant for my current place.

What shall I do next?

It’s 4:30 in the afternoon. I have to pay for my beer. Too late in the day to contact potential clients – which is a Tuesday thing anyway. I can do research? Asked it like a question – a suggestion. I can do nothing? Would that be productive?

Perhaps a bit of planning is in order. July 1 is two weeks away. There are some logistics to figure out. Perhaps Ill figure ’em out from The Beaches.

Exposing Myself Down Memory Lane

How many filmmakers does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. Rewrite. Exterior. Day. Fuck the light bulb.

I hadn’t shot 16mm film, or used a Bolex since my University days. All that changed yesterday in a spontaneous bit of serendipity.

Frank’s sister’s friend was shooting a student film and needed people to show up, dressed like Rockstars. I was planning to work on an arts grant, but this seemed fun. Frank was planning on being there and invited me along. It was a chance to make new friends, while hanging out with old ones.

Upon arriving at ‘Smudge’s’ condo at 99 Harbour Square – a building steps from the water – it became clear that my filmmaking experience would be welcome and needed to keep the day moving well. I was happy to oblige.

We started by simplifying the script, reducing the number of set-ups given the limited number of hours we had to work with. I also suggested we work purely with daylight. Breaking out lights is a pain in the ass, and nothing in the story suggested that we couldn’t accomplish what we needed to do, by moving out of the sunlight. We even got Frank’s motorcycle in on the action. He was more than happy for that bit of action.

Between the beer & pizza, taking light meter readings, winding the Bolex, helping with the set dec, spontaneous re-writes, opportunistic staking out of locations we never obtained permission to shoot in, and never taking ourselves too seriously, I felt myself moving back in time – right up to my film school days. We were even shooting with the same Kodak Eastman 7222 16mm film stock I used back in the day. What a rush!

And guess what?

About 10 seconds after we wrapped for the day PJ called. We mused about those long-ago film school days where she tagged along on some of my shoots, or hung out with me in the edit suites late at night. She said I sounded happy on the phone. Smudge and Frank later told me that I looked really happy.

Frank’s sister and his mother joined us afterwards. Smudge took us all out for dinner as payment for a fun day’s work. We stayed on the Harbourfront.

I’d never hung out in that part of the city before. What an amazing place! Tall ships. Yachts. Seagulls. Dockside attractions. Humanity in all shapes and sizes – all having fun. I intend to make regular visits.

Also, I hope the film turns out.

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The Richest 36 Hours

946664_10151378239926887_1744243639_nIf my life could be as rich and diverse as these last 36 hours, I would never know sorrow.

Let’s begin with my road trip to Barrie on Thursday morning. I met with potential clients, and it looks like we’ll be working together down the road. A great group of ladies who thought my work was pretty super duper alright. Forty-six more just like ’em, and I’ll be well beyond busy.

Upon my return, I drove straight to The Beaches. Parked the car and walked the neighbourhood some. Checked out properties that I saw for rent and concluded that I needed to deepen my search when I got home. I didn’t see anything that moved me.

I didn’t see anything online that moved me either. The thought went through my head as I sat in my apartment in Frank’s building, taking in the space. My 9th floor 2-bedroom apartment in Regina was the only other place I enjoyed living in more than my current address. If I’m going to move and feel good about it, the new digs need to have something ‘special’ in store for me (and Jazzy).

A nap followed all those thinky thoughts.

Twenty-six minutes later, I was walking towards the direction of Carlton Village Community School, an elementary school in my area. Renee asked me to volunteer for their family bbq. I enthusiastically accepted. Not only would I get to spend time with an outstanding human being creature person, but I’d get to contribute somewhat to my community.

We were stationed at the inflatable slide. I took tickets and managed the line-ups while Renee handled the mischief taking place within the structure. We had a system. Hummed along like we were some kind of professional inflatable slide people.

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Then it began to rain.

People started to breakout their rain gear and umbrellas. Other people I mean. Renee and I got drenched. It was sunny when I arrived and I assumed there’d be weather cover if the sky opened up. I assumed wrong. Same with Renee.

We carried on like good soldiers (or professional inflatable slide people). Spent another hour helping with the tear down and clean up, then headed back to my place for some dry clothes and the beer in my fridge. Talked the evening away while our garments air-dried.

In hind-sight, I’d have to say the rain was about the best cherry on top that fun sunday that I could ever have ordered up.

Frank knocked on my door after Renee left. He brought beers. We hung out on my couch while he talked about his plans for the evening. An idea then crossed his mind, “Wanna come see Cai.Ro with us?”

He was referring to a local Toronto band who were playing the North by North East Rock Festival. Zillions of bands playing the same zillion amount of venues here in this fabulous city.

“Sure. Why not.”

I saw three bands that night in an intimate club on Queen Street West. My head didn’t hit the pillow until sometime after 3am. What an amazing night!

Today began in my lawn chair out in front of my apartment. Not many more mornings left, where I’ll be doing it quite that way in The Junction. Frank came around the corner and greeted me, “Did you drive us home last night?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, good. I couldn’t remember.”

He wheeled his motorcycle out into the sun to dry it off from the previous day’s rain and asked if I could keep an eye on it while I continued my important business of holding down the lawn chair with my ass. I happily obliged.

After my shower, I checked out a site that Renee told me about. The phone rang as I typed the address into my browser. It was mom.

“Holy shit!!!”

“What?” she asked.

I found an apartment that moved me. Steps from the boardwalk. Mom hung up so I could check it out. The phone rang again within a couple of minutes. This time it was Jazzy. I pointed her in the direction of the website and she checked that property out for herself. Thought it was cool to be so close to the water.

She then clicked on another listing, two blocks from her soon-to-be school. Between the two of them, we both felt incredibly good vibrations. I made an appointment to see the latter property later in the afternoon.

I am now writing this from a pub on Queen Street East. Having walked all over the neighbourhood, including an inspired jaunt through the Glen Stewart Ravine in the area, I can say that I’m ready to call this place home. I told my prospective new landlord that I’ll take the place.

Jazzy’s excited. My application needs to go through some scrutiny, but I’m sure everything will check out. Frank (who’s actually my current landlord) is actually down on the application as my 2nd emergency contact.

Cross your fingers for me. Let’s hope this marks the beginning of something special.

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Behaving Like A Grown-up

Remember in my last article when I was musing about what big changes my life might see sometime in the distant future? I was content to not think about change too much. Let the universe turn and I’ll just go on trying to find my place inside it. That’s how I roll.

Well… the rumblings began about an hour after publishing that article on Sunday. They grew over the last few days until a realization emerged from the aether. I’ve had difficulty thinking about anything else. The phone call came last night.

Jazzy is moving to Toronto to live with me.

My whole entire world has changed in an instant. I’ve been on my own for seven years, trying to find a better way for myself. Of course Jazzy has always meant the world to me, but she didn’t need me to survive. PJ was always there to provide Jazzy’s daily needs. I saw my role as something with more big picture concerns – exposing her to new ideas, challenging her and teaching her skills she didn’t have – not that PJ didn’t do those things as well, it’s just that there was only so much I could do as a father from 2,000 miles away.

Suddenly there is someone else in my daily life who’s needs must come before mine. No more sacrificing the short term in the hopes of scoring in the long run, career wise. Jazzy needs stability. She needs her own room. She needs me to be responsible for the bread on our table. She needs me to act like a grown-up so she can be a kid.

Nothing in my life is more important to me right now.

PJ is moving back to Vancouver to finish her PhD. Should take about four months. After that she has no idea what lays in her future or where she will wind up. I continue to hold out hope that she’ll find her way out to Toronto, but there’s no guarantee about that. I do know that she’ll emerge as one of the foremost experts in her field. I am incredibly proud of her.

In the meantime Jazzy’s about to start Grade 9. With so much moving around in the last number of years, she’s feeling a strong, strong desire to be in one place for four years to develop long-term friendships and feel like she has a home. Our walk through The Beaches a couple weeks’ back resonated with her. There’s a great school in the area.

My beautiful little girl needed me to be more than what I have been in the past. It’s a decision that required no thought. Water is wet. The sky is blue. Jazzy needs me to make her a home. I couldn’t have asked for a better Father’s Day present.