Tale of Two Homes

IMG_0550I’m sitting at the bar of the 4 Seasons Sports Palace. In a few hours I catch a plane to go back home.

Home.

At some point a few months ago, I realized that Toronto became ‘home’ and Regina became the place where I’m from.

I sat in the stands for the final home opener ever at Taylor Field, and tried to drink up as much nostalgia as I could. Took some photos. Captured some memories for my mind’s eye. But I watched Saskatchewan play Toronto with a bittersweetness I never knew was possible.

Toronto was up 14-0 before ‘Oh Canada’ was done ringing off the stadium walls. And I didn’t even mind. Part of it has to do with me being an Argo Season Ticket Holder. Part of it has to do with the Riders’ current roster makeover – I think there are four starters back from last year – so not much of an emotional attachment.

With only six days in town, I had little time to see all the Regina sites, sounds and people I wished to see. Still, got a Rider game in. Walked around Wascana Lake. Went to St. George’s with the family. Saw all the church folk. Caught up with my Romanian crew. Caught up with some old friends. Drank in O’Hanlon’s, Bushwakers, and now 4 Seasons. I plan to do a lap through the University before meeting the family for pizza.

Regina.

I love this place. I miss my friends and family. I’m looking forward to going home.

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East Coast Easter Road Trip

IMG_0479.jpgI’m writing from our hotel room on the 14th floor of the Tryp Hotel in beautiful Quebec City. The view out our floor-to-ceiling window is breath-taking. It lead to one of my favourite moments of the trip – Jazzy and I laying on our bellies on the floor, our chins perched on the bottom of the window frame, looking out at the world and talking about the future.

The whole idea started in January, when Jazzy brought up the idea of checking out Saint Thomas University in Fredericton. I’m not keen on the idea of her moving away to go to school, but we have a year before we need to make any decisions. I told her that if a couple of things fall into place for me, we could afford a road trip.

Then I made the CBC sale. Then I landed the Expanse gig.

Jazz loaded up her stuff, and brought her friend Gwen along for the ride. We stayed with my buddy in Fredericton – a playwright named Ryan Griffith. We arrived on Good Friday, and he promptly took us to a gas station to buy groceries – we came home with a box of Kraft Dinner, and 10 beer.

We checked out the campus of STU the next morning. Turns out Ryan teaches there on occasion, so he had keys to the place. The girls got a tour beyond their expectations.

From there we drove around a bit, got a feel for the town, then parked near the river. We walked across the St John River on a retired railroad bridge, then grabbed a bite at a local pub. I had fish cakes for the first time in my life.

After lunch, we split up. The girls went exploring downtown, while Ryan and I camped out at another pub called The James Joyce. He worked on a new play, while I finished the first act of my new TV Pilot.

The plan was to leave Sunday morning, and swing through Moncton to catch a glimpse of the Ocean on our way home. Turns out PEI is only another half hour down the road, via Confederation Bridge.

It added three hours of driving to our day, but lunch in Charlottetown was one of the best decisions I’ve made all year. The girls were blown away by the scenery and pure spontaneity of the drive.

I had Seafood Chowder, Jazz had Calamari, and Gwen ate the fish cakes.

We pulled into Quebec City at 10pm last night, tired from a long day of driving. Then we saw our room, and we were instantly charged with a powerful urge to explore the town.

The plan is to leave at around noon today, which will get us into Toronto, comfortably after rush hour traffic clears.

Montreal, Fredericton, Charlottetown, and Quebec City in 96 hours. This truly has been one of the best trips ever!

Being Home Again

I woke up this morning in my old room at Mom’s house. Had to put Jazzy on an early morning flight bound for Vancouver. We’ve been in Regina just over a week now, and it’s been quite the adventure.

First of all, I hadn’t realized quite how much I missed home. I also hadn’t realized that despite countless episodes of picking up, and dropping off Jazzy at airports over the last eight years, that we’ve never actually flown together before. We sat at the back of the plane, where we had the middle seat to ourselves. Twenty minutes into the flight, Jazzy put up the arm rests and stuck her feet in my lap – which was my cue to provide a foot rub.

As we flew, I allowed the seed of an idea that first was planted at the Toronto Cold Read Series in October, to bud somewhat. Upon landing I sent Rod Pedersen (voice of the Roughriders) a text. “I’m in town. Can we meet on Friday?”

He responded positively.

The following morning I found myself sitting in the window of Atlantis – in my old spot. I figured that before I go half-cocked on my budding idea, I should first do some research, perhaps even write a one-pager. I spent half my time writing, and the rest of my time wandering with my mind, through a meandering current of thinky-thoughts.

The year’s been a hard one on my head space. The reality of losing Dad in February had only recently began to wash over me. He’s really gone. And what does it all mean? Feels like it means something, but I can’t quite touch it.

On the way home, I found myself driving through the old neighbourhood – passed my old house, my old school, and even my old paper route. I’m normally not one to indulge too much into my past, but something was knocking on that door.

After sketching out a rough budget for my project the next morning, I began to glimpse at what sort of stakeholders would need to be involved, and to what extent. This led me to a meeting with an old film school colleague at Creative Saskatchewan. In broad strokes, she outlined how my project might fit into their funding criteria, though nothing quite like my idea had ever crossed their desk before. She wished me luck, then asked if I was planning to attend the industry Christmas party that night.

“What party?” I asked.

Three hours later, I found myself in a room full of people, whom I’d known my whole career. I forgot what it was like to have such an interconnected history with so many people in one place. It felt like family. It felt like home.

The next morning, I met with Rod. He loved my idea. I next met with Mike at Twisted Pair Sound, who also loved my idea. He agreed to provide free studio time, so I could record a demo. From there I met with Mike at ACTRA Saskatchewan, who also expressed a strong desire to see my project made. My final meeting of the day was with Harvard Broadcasting, the Roughriders’ radio rights holder. Though my idea would be something they’ve never done before, it was met with much enthusiasm and an invitation to keep the conversation going.

My final stop of the day was at Java Post. I asked Joan if she would play a role in my project, and she enthusiastically agreed. Java also happened to be having their year-end Christmas party that day, so I was invited to stick around. Within an hour, I once again found myself surrounded by people I’d known my whole career.

They say you don’t buy beer, you rent it, so a visit to the bathroom was inevitable. I had to walk right passed my old office space in the building to get there. The door to the space was open, so I stepped inside. We created over 36 episodes of television inside those walls. In a flash I saw every face, felt every memory, and relived a piece of my history that seems a million years old. I just don’t feel like I have that much in common anymore, with the person who used to pay the rent there.

On Tuesday I recorded the demo for my project – a radio sitcom about the Riders. It sounds fantastic. The feedback has been enthusiastic, and its prospects for success seem inevitible. Putting it together felt more like a scavenger hunt, where all I did was drive around collecting “yes’s.” I’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign in January, so there remains much work to do, but in the meantime, I will bask in appreciation for what was accomplished in such a short period of time.

There’s no part of me that feels ungrateful for the home-cooking and abundant family time I’ve been receiving since arriving in Regina. In many ways, the best Christmas present of all, has been to simply wander aimlessly through the memories and musings awaiting me here. It’s been so easy. So remarkably easy.

This is what home is supposed to feel like.

Blue Moon

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Once in a Blue Moon, a little girl named Jazzy comes to live with her father in Toronto, to spend the next four years of her life, learning how to be a grown-up. She might be sorely disappointed with the maturity content of her new home.

They’re calling the full moon hanging over Toronto last night, a Blue Moon. It’s not actually blue technically speaking, but rather, it’s the third full moon in a season that’s expected to have four of ’em. Jazzy isn’t technically a little girl anymore either, but I still see her that way. At 14, she’s showing a wisdom beyond her years. There’s got to be some kind of a metaphor, voodoo, juju symbolism over this happenstance. I’m choosing to allow time to dictate the meaning of it all.

The car ride over from Saskatchewan was a gooder, as far as long road trips go. Aubree just finished a contract in Saskatchewan, and the timing for her return to Ontario was perfect. We spent the night in Ironwood, Michigan. Had a picnic in Mackinac City. After dropping Aubree off along the way, we arrived at our home in Toronto at 1am.

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Jazzy and I spent the morning unpacking. She began putting her room together, and started a list of things we need for the apartment. It ranged from air fresheners for the bathroom, to a mattress for her bedroom.

She met Kirk this morning and sat down with John & Fionna this afternoon, just before we took off for a walk through the ravine to Queen Street East. We’re now sitting in a restaurant. My nose is buried in my laptop, and Jazzy has hers in my phone (she forgot hers at home).

Home. I’m still getting used to the idea that she’s not just visiting. My beautiful little girl is living with me now.

John, Fionna & Kathy have organized a games night tonight. It’ll be just about the most perfect way I can think of to mark our first full day of Toronto residency together.

Jazzy on The Beaches

IMG_2318Yesterday was another amazing day with Jazzy.  We did nothing.  Just walked around The Beaches area of Toronto.  Not a care in the world.  Not a single hurry.  No plan whatsoever.  It was the best way to spend a Sunday.

We’ve both been to The Beaches before, but this time I made a point of walking streets and seeing parks I’ve never seen before.  Expand my familiarity with the place.

It’s funny. The Beaches is a neighbourhood in TO, as distinct and cultural as any other in the city.  Yet this neighbourhood feels like a resort.  People live and work here, just as they do in any other neighbourhood.  The 501 streetcar goes up and down Queen Street, just as it does in other neighbourhoods along Queen Street.

I felt something, walking through its streets, boardwalks, and parks.  Jazzy felt it too.

This is my city.  This is what makes Toronto such an amazing place to live.  I really like living in The Junction.  I enjoy visiting all these incredibly diverse parts of the city.  I enjoy sampling the food.  I enjoy the symphony of languages and cultures I encounter.

Frank texted me around 8pm.  He asked if I wanted to go for a ride in his new Mustang convertible.  His other car was totalled in an accident on Sunday, and he has this loaner until things sort themselves out.  One hour later, we were all cruising along Lakeshore taking in more of the city.  Jazzy took the front seat.

We capped the day by taking in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at my place.  Frank and I drank beer, while Jazzy enjoyed another one of my foot rubs.  Lights went off just after midnight.  As my head hit the pillow, I heard Jazzy shouting up to me, “Dad, today was an awesome day!”

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Post-Regina Recap

photoAfter 28 hours of driving over two days, I’m feeling like the world has sufficiently slowed down enough for me to reflect upon my time in Regina.

As mentioned previously, I spent most of my time holed up at Mom’s working on my script. The experience made for a very different kind of visit.  There wasn’t a lot of time to see friends.  I didn’t even make it out to Dad’s.  It was strange being surrounded by so much that I miss about the place, but not actually partaking of it.  It was a bit like going to a steak house, and ordering tofu.

I did manage to make the visit worthwhile in other respects.  Jazzy was a big part of my trip.  I walked her to school nearly everyday.  We hung out on the couch and watched TV together while I rubbed her feet.  I drove her to work at Nadia’s store, and picked her up at the end of her shifts.  I took her shopping.  We went for a long walk together near Craven.  I took her to Easter service on May 5.  We dressed up and went out for supper at a fine dining place with Nadia and her man Milos.  We talked.  We laughed.  We mused.  We philosophized.  We kept the bond between us strong.

Home cooking, and all that came with it was beyond words.  Mom’s house is a home.  Being there meant I never had to worry about any other aspect of living, except working on my script.  Water is wet, the sky is blue, and Mom will always be Mom.  I never took for granted a single plate of food, or a warm cup of coffee placed before me.  Sitting on the deck with Dave, and playing cards with Grama and Papa made the whole experience, home.

I managed to carve some hours away for other friends.  I saw Shawn a couple of times – once upon arrival, and the second time, upon finishing my script.  He had Brad & Beth over, along with Cheryl’s sister & brother-in-law from out of town.  We had a fire in the back yard.  Clear night.  You could see the Northern Lights.  Unfortunately, I was burnt right out, mere hours after handing my application in.  I was home before midnight.

There were other faces too.  I put in a personal appearance with the guys from the Romanian Syndicate for our annual hockey pool (which I’m winning by the way).  I gave a lecture at O’Neill High School about filmmaking.  Saw Jamie & Greg in their backyard, movie with Cheryl, lunch with Lindsay, drinks with Glenna, supper with Shy, and visits with Yana, and Shauna.  Seems like a lot, but feels more like I’m scratching the surface.

I was most struck by how familiar everything seemed.  I’ve been driving around Regina’s streets all my life.  Most are associated with memories – some distant, some not so much.  I sat in Atlantis on a couple of occasions.  Wandered aimlessly.  Drove in the city’s version of traffic.  Took in the sights.  Photographed the sky and sent it to TO.

I’m writing this from my apartment in Toronto.  I’m looking out the window at the neighbourhood, and basking in all this familiarity.  Jazzy and I had quite the day yesterday, getting ourselves reacquainted with the city.  I could say more, but that’s a subject for another day.

Leaving Regina

I’m hitting the highway this morning with Jazzy in the passenger seat.

We spent our last act in the city last night walking around the lake together.

I have more to say, but I need to hit the road. Thank you Regina for being an excellent host these last three weeks.

If I’m feeling plucky, I’ll be writing a more comprehensive post tonight, somewhere from the middle of Wisconsin.

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AMerican Road Trip Through Chicago Sports Radio

After two days, one night, six states, and two-thousand seven hundred seventy three kilometres, I was able to reach my long sought after destination – a beautiful little girl named Jasmine, in Regina, Saskatchewan – where she’s old enough for a part-time job, but still young enough to jump into my arms and call me ‘daddy’.

There was also still snow laying about.  WTF?

Toronto to Regina, via Chicago.  I like long road trips.  Yoga for the mind.  Nothing to do but keep it between the lines.  Traffic moves between 130 and 140 km/h.

Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis were the only major spots where I lost time, but I didn’t mind.  I like seeing the big cities from my view out the windshield.  8 lanes.  10 lanes.  Merge lanes.  Big glass towers.  Old brick industry.  Ball parks.  Park parks.  Highway lines and back bumpers.  Mind my place in the left lane flow, and I’ll be just fine.

Sometimes I drive in complete silence.  Sometimes I listen to audio books.  This time I stuck mainly to AM radio.  Just picked up what I could as I passed from place to place.

There’s something about AM radio that makes me feel like I’m actually traveling somewhere.  The crackle of the distance between me and the signal’s source is more tangible than FM band somehow.  AM signals never really fade – they go down fighting.  The background static just gets louder and the signal screams for dear life.

And as the mile markers blink passed me, that crackle takes me through time.  I imagine myself 80 years ago, stuck in some distant nowhere – big vacuum tube radio, picking up something from anywhere – especially on a starry clear night.

I travel the dial as I put miles behind me.  Talk radio voices – accents from places laid out like road markers on the side of the highway.  Old country music stations.  Gun advocates.  Preachers.  Politicians.  Local news.  Weather reports.  Flood warnings.  Sports.

I caught the Chicago Bulls playoff game just as they went down by 14 points with 3 minutes left to play.  Someone from Brooklyn missed an easy dunk.  I was on I-94, crossing from Indiana into Illinois.  Hit Chi-town just as the game went into overtime.  Was heading into the tunnel downtown as the 2nd overtime began.  Cleared traffic on the north side of town as the team pulled out the win at the close of the 3rd overtime period.  Every radio voice on the air said it will go down as one of the greatest playoff games ever played.  I really wouldn’t know.  It was the first NBA game I ever heard on the radio – and for that matter, I’ve never seen an actual NBA game on TV either.  Reminded me of the time I caught seven periods of overtime between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals in 1986.  I was a kid and hadn’t really taken an interest in hockey yet.

The signal faded as I approached Rockford, Illinois on I-90.  The next clear signal on the dial was a NASCAR race in Richmond, Virginia.  Listened to the first 192 laps until that signal faded, somewhere northwest of Madison, Wisconsin on I-94.  Next clear signal on the dial was a Chicago Whitesox game in Tampa Bay.  Caught an inning before that signal broke up.  Next turn on the dial made me laugh out loud – a Chicago Cubs game in Florida!  What’s with all the Chicago teams?

Baseball broadcasts lack the action of basketball or hockey.  They’re more like conversations between announcers that get interrupted by bits of action from time to time. Almost seems like an inconvenience.  Still, it remains perfect platform from which to experience a game.  AM radio, baseball, and a late-night road trip go together like nostalgia, old photographs, and painted memories.  Imagination takes the stage for a crack at the miles barraging my soon-to-be heavy eye-lids.

Further up the road, near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, I turned to the next clear signal on the dial, a home broadcast of the St. Luis Blues.  Guess who they were playing?  The Chicago Blackhawks!

It’s good to be home.  Turned the dial one last time as Regina’s lights came into view.  620 CKRM.  The most nostalgic of all AM radio to me.  Roughrider games.  Pats.  Childhood memories of late night polka parties, playing cards with my Grama in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan.  Willie Cole & Fred King.  Geoff Courier.  Carm Carteri.  Rod Pedersen.

I’m getting together with my buddies for a hockey pool draft on Tuesday night.  I was thinking I’d take Penguins as much as possible, but there’s something about this road trip that has me thinking seriously about Chicago’s chances.

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.

The Logistics of Being Home and Sociable

I am sitting in my mother’s living room, drinking coffee, and staring out the window.  Just got off the phone with Jamie, and I’m looking at the calendar, figuring out how I’m going to pack so much Regina into a limited number of Christmas and New Year’s type days.  It’s a wonderful problem to have.  So excited to be home.

The drive had its moments.  I75 in Michigan looked like a snow covered back alley – and drove like one too.  60 km/h was the best I could do in some spots.  As a result, after 12 hours of driving, I didn’t get as far down the road as I would have liked.  Spent the night in Marquette, Michigan, which forced me to drive 17 hours yesterday to make it home.  At least the weather was good for that part of the trek.

I brought Phillie with me so I could get some editing done while I’m here.  I figure the pace will be a little slower, but at least I can still earn a pay cheque while visiting.  It basically means that I can extend my stay to January 13th or 14th without feeling the need head back to TO.

There’s also a trip to Vancouver coming up on Dec 28th – which I’ll get into another time. The circumstances surrounding that trip are a colourful tale that deserve an article unto itself.  I will say that there are Vancouver friends whom I may have a brief opportunity to look up while I’m there.  More logistics to plan.  Again – nice problem to have.

My face is itchy from a lack of shaving.  My hair is tangled from too many days behind the wheel.  I have an edit suite to set up.  I have a shower to take.  I have friend dates to make.

It’s good to be home.