Mood

Slow Show: for Julian

julian 2

My brother.

Julian is, without a doubt, impossible to read. To use a tired quote, he is a riddle wrapped in  an enigma. When you hang out with him in person, he treats you exactly like he treats everyone else around him. His easygoing attitude seems at odds with his seeming indifference, an unlikely juxtaposition between feeling at peace and friendly while also giving everyone the cold shoulder.

There are very few people with whom this is not the case, and who get to know Julian fully and well. I feel I am not one of these people, but I’d like to try to share what I know.


Even though it’s noon, the basement is dark and somber. Shafts of light from the small windows nearby break through the gloom, floating dust statically staying still as if the beams of day had frozen them in place. A futon lies in the middle of the floor. Someone is curled up in a ball, their head buried in the covers. Julian.

Soft music plays from his computer nearby. I don’t know the band, but I like the sound; it takes a minute for me to register it’s indie rock. Honest, earnest music, like a good friend in a bad time.

I ask him if he’s alright.

He grunts.

I leave. Not much else to do; trying to talk to him right now would be like talking to a stone.


It’s fact that Julian feels quite deeply. Despite this, and I have no idea where he learned how, the man has a poker face that’s hard to beat. Talking to someone he likes and to a person he hates, you would barely be able to tell the difference. Most people would be passive aggressive, sarcastic, something. Julian? Nothing.

Even when you’re alone with him, the most he has to say about anyone in private is that they’re some expletive or another, and that’s that. Thing is, Julian is incredibly good at walls. He’s all the tougher and tenacious for it, sure; but sometimes I wonder what else is going on in that head of his.


My nails are chewed down to a stub, two of them are bleeding. It stings a little, but I don’t care. I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack, but I’ll have no idea that’s what it is until 4 years later.

“Yo.” Julian walks in through the doorway, carrying his laptop. He sets up across the table from me, plugs in Jimmers (his computer), and boots up Heroes of Newerth.

“Hey. You playing HoN?”

He grabs a handful of jelly beans from a Costco sized bag of Jelly Bellies.

“Duh.”

He knows something is up, but as per usual, he doesn’t talk. The voices of strangers blare from his speakers; apparently, someone else had called a character and is calling them a little bitch. Charming.

“Hey man, chill,” Julian says through a mouthful of candy, “it’s just a game. Let’s settle down, take it easy.”

The jerk on the other end calls Julian a couple of colourful words not fit for print, and leaves the game.

“How does this not piss you off?” I ask.

Shaking his head, he tells me that it does piss him off.

“But what the hell am I gonna do about it,” he adds, “It’s not like bitching about it will change much.” He grabs another jelly bean, and tells the rest of his team to get their shit together.

An hour later, he ends up winning.


Julian joined the Navy a couple of years ago now. His practical nature and quick wit made him some easy friends and were instrumental in successfully  passing his officer training; either through study, or through convincing the people training him that their test was hot trash.

I know my own brother half as well as I’d like, but I know the important stuff. He’s kind, brave, and practical. He’ll do anything for someone he cares about, and is quick to defend those he deems worthy. Rolling with the punches comes naturally to the man, and he’s just as quick to dish it out when it does something useful.

More importantly than all that, Julian is a good man. I suppose that’s all that I need to know, and knowing more wouldn’t change a thing.


A chill wind blows past me, a bitter English February evening in London, as I walk down the street towards home.

I’d just lost my teaching position at the primary school I’d been working at for six weeks. I wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye to my class; just a quick meeting with the head teacher and bam. Out on my ass, looking for more supply work.

A gust whips at my face, but through the comfortable numbness of oncoming depression and my very scruffy beard, I barely feel a thing. My iPhone plays away, the music turning from the game remix I’d been listening to for the past few minutes into something I’d forgotten about.

It takes me a minute to realize it’s indie rock. I instantly think of Julian, and I recognize the tune from the basement. It had been at least half a decade since then. Since then, Julian had recovered from a terrible memory. Since then, Julian had become an officer in the Navy. Since then, Julian had started seeing a wonderful girl, and was now happier than I’d ever seen him.

I whisper under my breath, “Slow Show.” It’s a song by the National, a group I know Julian liked a lot. I’ve no idea if he still likes them, or anything, but I know he listened to this song once, when he needed a good friend in a bad time.

Thinking about Julian fills me with a sigh, and I start walking with renewed energy. I smile, and think: it’s not like bitching will change much, right?

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On Garbage

So I’ve decided to finally finish and edit my novel from NaNoWriMo. Just…

It’s complete garbage.

I didn’t make it 5 words before finding something I disliked, and wanted to vehemently cross out in bright red ink, like slashing a terrible monster or the like. It’s my worst nightmare come true, it’s 87 pages long single spaced, and I would rather print it off to experience the catharsis of burning that piece of $%#^.

10 year old kids can write better than this absolute tripe. It’s like watching a car with a bent wheel try to move, only to have the one side of the car lift and fall like some shambling Igor.

The bonus here is that, at the very least, I can tell it’s garbage.

It’s also telling that writing this abomination took a month, and after having spent months teaching others how to write basic forms of stories in a variety of uninteresting and curriculum mandated ways, I can look back on this thing and tell that it would take much, much longer to edit. Multiple months, to be sure. Five, if I had to guess.

Hulking is not a descriptor I would use for most novellas, but the one I wrote has earned it. Not because of deep, heavy hitting content. It’s also a novella, so not size. No, the hulking bulk comes from the pedantic, terrible pacing and ridiculous attempts at tension by focusing on the wrong parts of the story.

Focus on character would have been much better than focus on environmental factors. I was trying to write a video game, but it’s worse than that because video games present and environment for a player to interpret, and this story rams it down the reader’s throats.

Not to mention all the ‘edgy’ gore, the attempts at horror, action best described as a play by play on a football monitor. Clunky doesn’t begin to cover it, like a blanket for someone who is several inches longer than the motel bed.

There is much work to be done; if it can be salvaged at all. My Dad always could find uses for good quality trash; just the other day, while he was visiting, Dad picked out several doors, hooks, and shelving units that others had thrown out. To him, these items were still useful, helpful.

Some things, though, are just trash.

Dark

dark hallwayThis is the story of one brave (?) boy and his need to go to the bathroom.

The boy lay in the bed, sleeping soundly. His chest rose. It fell. It rose again. The rhythm of a slow pulse, in and out, the coming and going of waves on the shore. Unexpectedly, a sharp intake of air and his eyes, blurry from sleep, cracked open. He was awake, and dimly aware of  one of the most basic needs; the need to go pee.

The nightlight at the far end of his room shone a comforting light, a sunlike glow across the warm peach painted walls and the soft carpet floor.

First things first, under the bed. The boy carefully got to the side of the bed, and like Spiderman hung his head carefully over the edge of the bed. Unlike Spiderman, he realized he did not have sticky hands and began to slip, causing him to scramble for a handhold anywhere on the loose duvet, which of course he didn’t find. A short tumble later, the boy was secure of two things:

  1. No monster under the bed.
  2. He was very awake.

Carefully picking himself back up to avoid the creaky parts of the floor, the boy snuck across the floor of his room to the door bordering his land, and the land of his brother. He guided the door open slowly. The door made all the noise in the world, much his chagrin, but his little brother slept soundly… for now.

Still, the boy knew what to do. He had a lot of practice with these floorboards, the hardwood a path of solid and creaky places to walk. Imagining himself a dashing adventurer, like Indiana Jones, the boy tip toed across the floor avoiding the noisy spaces like his heroes avoided the trapped squares.

*creaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak* went the floor.

The boy stood stock still. Halfway to the door on the opposite side of the room, and he made the loudest noise he possibly could have, practically thunderous. His brother would surely wake up.

As luck would have it, the brother slept along, and the boy stood still for a whole minute listening to his brother breathe. Just to make sure. Couldn’t be too careful around sleeping people, he thought. When the coast was clear, the boy made sure to be more careful while stepping around.

After carefully navigating the rest of the room with all the agility of a heavy set sumo wrestler on tip toe, the boy finally made it to the door. This part, however, was tricky. Very tricky.

This part had the Dark.darkness-7

On the other side of this door was a long hallway, where the brother’s room was on one end and the parents on the other, both on the long wall. Next to the bedroom the boy stood in was the washroom, not more than 3 feet distance. One small step for man, but several small steps for the boy. During the day, this wasn’t a problem, but at night… the risk was great.

Down the hall, at the very end, lived the Dark. Again, no issues during the day; the Dark had to hide in the closet hidden in the wall next to the parent’s bedroom. This was fine, the boy thought, except it didn’t stay there. At night, the Dark left the closet and swallowed the end of the hall whole, creating nothing but pitch black emptiness there. The boy gently peeked around the door frame, just his eyes, to see if the coast was clear. It was not.

Even in the briefest second, the boy could tell the Dark saw him, and turned its unknowable being his way. It was aware; not only that, the boy could tell the Dark was famished, too.

The boy hadn’t seen the Dark eat anyone. He didn’t need to, because it was obvious to him what the Dark would do to you. The boy broke into a slight panic. He felt very uncomfortably hot all of a sudden, and his palms began to sweat. Unseen eyes stared at him through the walls, making his skin crawl. It was waiting for him.

With all the care he could muster, the boy pulled the door open again, edging towards the boundaries between where it was safe and where he knew it wasn’t. The moonlight from the window across him lazily illuminated the area in front of him, showing the short-but-altogether-too-long distance between him and the washroom door. Sneaking a peek leftwards again, the boy could see the Dark preparing to move. It already lapped greedily at the moonlight, like a cat licking a bowl of milk. Still, its eyes were set on the boy. and the boy knew that once he’d made his move, he’d have to be fast.

Breathing deeply, skin crawling, the boy counted to three in his head. On one, he locked eyes with the bathroom door. On two, he checked the end of the hall to make sure the Dark was staying still. On three, he made a break for it.

He dared not look back as he practically lept to the washroom, and slammed the door behind him. He wasn’t sure, but the boy thought he heard the silent whisper of shadows slashing at the door. After a few moments, the sounds stopped and the house was deathly quiet again.
With that done, it was a normal routine. A wisp of moonlight peeped into the bathroom through a tiny window high up the far wall. The light bounced around the mirrors that covered almost every surface, allowing him to see many versions of himself in a row. Behind him was another version of him, his face unchanging, and another one behind that until infinite. The boy dared not say a word; in every reflection, the dark of another world hung behind the boy like a shadowy pall. He stared down, away from the disturbing mirrors of other worlds. A quick trip to the sink to wash his hands, and then it was time to go back to bed. scary mirror

He crept to the door and opened it a crack to see the end of the hall. The Dark was still there, waiting for the boy to dare to cross its territory. Little by little, the boy could see the darkness move towards him, and the hallway got darker by the second as the light was swallowed by the nightmarish monster.

Although no one else would hear it, the boy heard the Dark make a hollow growl, a tenebrous noise that chilled his heart. The boy had to move. Now.

He threw the door open and dashed for the bedroom. The Dark pounced, its deep murky threat instantly replaced with sharp, pointed malice as the shadow devoured the moonlight in the hall. Sprinting, the boy ran as fast as he could over the creaky floor of his brother’s room. He felt the cold touch of the Dark on his ankle, a near miss. It chased him still, snarling, swallowing any light in its way.

The boy practically dove into his bed head-first, using his duvet to create a protective dome around him, drawing all the little holes closed and securing any possible weakness. Just in time too; the Dark slammed into duvet, repeatedly. In the dark of the dome, the boy was alone, surrounded, and faintly crying to himself as the assault continued for what felt like hours.

Eventually, the beating at the walls stopped. The boy lay curled in a ball, breathing in his own fear and stress. The lack of oxygen was causing him to feel dizzy, but he dared not lift the duvet. He could still feel where the Dark had touched him, his ankle numb, empty and cold from the experience. The boy would stay like this for a while before finally being forced to surface for air, and eventually start the process of falling asleep again in the glow of his nightlight.

The following morning, the boy’s father would get up and walk to the bathroom. He would look at the door, and with an exasperated sigh make a mental note to grab a can of white paint for the three gashes in the door.5jr64

Bedridden

monster bedIt’s a shit job, to be sure. You lie down, wait, and wait some more. You sleep sometimes, and that’s a help ’cause the time goes by faster. Still, you can wait a long time before anything interesting happens; in fact, the last time I had anything to do, clocks still made a ticking noise. Now, they just murmur with a small, almost impossible hum as their circuits flare at almost impossible speeds.

When the job’s good though, it’s real good. Nothing better than a job well done. You’re lying there when, for the first time in years, something lands on top of your bed. Then you go through the steps.

First step, wait until night. Has to be nice and dark, otherwise they’ll not see you coming.

Second step, slowly check to see who’s in the bed. This time, it’s a child; 5 years old, no older. This doesn’t happen all the time. If you get someone that’s older than 11, usually it’s no good and you go back and wait some more. I mean, you could try to go to the next step but most times you’ll be wasting your energy. Still, the boy’s 5, and we’ve got a catch.

Step 3, and watch carefully now, you gently grab the kid. If they’re too old, they won’t see you; which means you can’t do anything. Monsters can only be felt if they’re seen, and can only be heard if they’re thought of. Didn’t your parents teach you anything?

So once you’ve grabbed the little thing, you just gotta… there we go, yank them underneath the bed. Our job was easy this time; the bed didn’t have bars at the foot of the bed. We didn’t have to pull the bastard through the bars; I had to do that once, was cleaning the stains off the underside of the bed for a week!

Once you got the kid here, it’s easy pickings, easy to prepare. We’ve got claws after all, and they should be sharp.

You can always sharpen them some more while you’re waiting for the next one.

Purple Papa

a;lksjdf;lakjsdf“When you were born, we still couldn’t think of a name for you.”

Nameless for a few hours, I did whatever babies do while my Dad and Mom eventually came to a conclusion, together, that I should be called Phillip. They later, unofficially, removed the second L. In hindsight, this explains a lot of my teachers misspelling my name; the official transcript must have had two Ls.


My Dad and I had an interesting relationship from the moment I was born. There was a time, the story goes, where I wouldn’t stop crying. Dad checked and changed the diaper. He fed me, or tried. He tried bouncing, burping, the whole shebang, and nothing worked. Fed up, he put me in a jolly jumper to tucker myself out, sat in the other room, and put on some records.

I was out within 15 or so minutes.


The stairs weren’t entirely uncomfortable, but I was getting tired of sitting on them waiting for my parents to all get out of bed. Christmas was the best; lots of presents, and Christmas milk, and awesome food… plus, Dad and everyone would get oysters!

I loved having Oysters with Dad.

With a creak, the door of the bedroom cracked open to show a bleary eyed pair of parents shuffling to the stairs.

“Why are you sitting on the stairs, Famous Philip?”

“Waiting for you! Presents!” I grinned.

My brothers and I got a wicked sick Batcave, and the action figures were getting a lot of attention that day.


Dust had gathered on the Batcave. It had been awhile since we last took it off the shelf. I passed it by with indifference on my way to the basement. I hadn’t seen Dad yet today.

The stairway down was dark. I hated and feared the dark, so I crept down carefully, flicking light switches from as far away as I could so I could stay in the light. Once I got to the bottom, the sound of Dad’s electric shaver was loud enough to wake the dead.

I opened the door.

“Morning Dad!”

“Good morning Famous Philip.” He kept shaving, his focus clearly on making sure he got all the rough patches without missing a one.

“Can I shave?” He laughed, and propped me up on the sink, and gave me a shave.

The trimmer tickled my face, and I laughed. Dad smiled. It wasn’t often I saw him smile since he and Mom stopped getting along, but he always smiled around my brothers and me.


Trees flashed by, punctuating the grey outside the car as we sped to the cottage.

Dad was explaining what was happening, how often we could see him and stuff. While driving, he started explaining how Mom wanted us to see him every second weekend.

My furrowed face grumped in the front seat, trying to puzzle out why Mom would want that. “That doesn’t seem fair.” 10 year old me was very interested in fairness; having two brothers has that effect on a boy.

He nodded. “Neither do I, Philip. I love my sons; if I could, I’d want to see you all the time. Now, you should love your Mother, always; she’s the only one you’re going to get, and I’m the only Dad you’re going to get. But…”

A flash of blue circled on the note pad as Dad made a pie graph, something I’d learned about not too long ago, so I could read it. Half of the circle was being sketched in blue. One side was Mom, the other dad. 50/50. Week on week off, he explained.

“That’s a lot more fair,” I judged. Dad smiled.


We hauled firewood from below the cottage, hand bombing the bits from one brother to the next. Julian was in the deepest; he was small enough to fit without banging his head all the time. I was in the hole, taking from Julian and passing it on to Sebastien, who would then run it inside the building and stack it. Dad was inside, correcting Seb’s mistakes and lighting the fires, getting the house warmed up. In the mean time, the cold had permeated my gloves, and my fingers hurt a bit. It didn’t matter much though, we were close to getting the wood we needed for the next couple of days.

“Philip, do you have any homework this weekend?” Dad’s voice was clear through the house.

“Nope, did it while I was in school.”

“You telling the truth? I have to know I can trust you.” His voice betrayed his distrust. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

“Trust me Dad, I’m not lying. I don’t have homework.” I lied.


I sat crying in the back of Mom’s car, her friend Brigitte in the front with her. Both were asking for details of some kind. What happened?

Sobbing, I told them how I didn’t do my math homework for my tutor, and after trying to squeeze out of it all day I had gotten caught. Dad was furious. He threw a dictionary across the room, and told me to leave.

One month. It had been a month since the last time I lied about my homework, but it wasn’t enough. Dad had kicked me out to Mom’s house.

His voice rang in my head. “If you can’t tell me the truth, then get out! If I can’t trust you anymore, and I love you, and this…” he left the room, the sound of heavy footfalls going upstairs. Sebastien helped me call mom and get me picked up. I don’t know what Julian did.

I cried until Mom got there, and sobbed some more.


The house was dead silent. None of the lights were on, save for a faint glow near the red room at the front of the house. I took off my snow-slogged shoes, leaving them in the mudroom. My socks padded the floor, the wooden floor creaking as I passed through the dinning and piano/reception hall. The dark stillness of the house was like a heavy blanket, smothering all the colours, turning them into a lifeless still-brown.

The door to the red room swung open on semi-dry hinges. The glow of white outside was stuck at the window opposite the door, the light of day unable to pierce the perma-gloam inside. The sofa nearest the door was occupied; someone lay there, wrapped in several blankets.

Dad.

Drifting past the table, I sat on an empty section of sofa near him. He had visibly lost weight, but not gained any muscle. Stress and misery had robbed him of his demeanor, his joyful and bright twinkling eyes which now sat on dark beds themselves. He stared at the window, but couldn’t see past the darkness.

I gently placed my hand in his, and squeezed. As if breaking a spell, his eyes focused and turned on mine. No one spoke.

He squeezed back, the crack of a smile touching his eyes.

An hour later, I left his sleeping frame on the sofa and embraced the bitter cold outdoors as it bit into my face.


Intro to Western Philosophy. Not a bad class, not at all, but the best part was being able to see the one girl in the back every day. I’d never talk to her (and I never did) but she was always a highpoint in my day without meaning to be. I worried about whether that made me normal, a monster, or both.

My phone rang. Dad.

As we spoke about my school and whether I was doing the work, I kept searching in the Sleven for a snack. I stopped mid sentence as I found a tin of oysters. I couldn’t help but smile.

“Philip, are you still there?” Dad was worried we had cut out, again, since he was driving in hilly areas.

“No, no, I’m still here Dad. It’s just… remember how we used to get oysters?”

“Sure thing, Famous Philip.”


The hall broke up in elated cheers as the ceremony came to an end. By contrast, I stood up, stretched, and sighed in relief. Those chairs sucked, but I was glad I got through the ceremony. Graduation isn’t so much a feeling of suddenly being spectacular, but a slow and satisfying stretch after hours of sitting.

I walked to the end of the pathway and saw Dad. He had the biggest smile.

“Sorry Dad, I forgot to shave. I know I should have.”

“No, no. The beard suits you, just…” he paused to collect his thoughts. “Just make sure you keep it clean, mister teacher.”

“Whatever Dad. Look at you, you scruffy bastard. You look good!”

Chuckling, he brought me into a hug. It had been a lot of effort, for him especially. Full professional degrees don’t come cheap, particularly when they take 7 years of secondary schooling to achieve. I worked over the year, sort of, and worked over the summer in a kaleidoscope of jobs that never really paid as much as I would have liked. School would have been impossible without his help. Not to mention all the times he moved me, or lent me the car; the times when he gave me needed advice, or an instrument with which to do a music degree. I owed him everything.

“Thanks Dad,” was all I could manage.

 

 

To Mom

Audio;

To mom;

How’s it going? It’s not often that I talk to you like this. Honestly that’s my fault, and if one were to be precise, a laudable and likable thing to be, then I would like to add it’s my mistake.

I had a brainwave the other day where I thought about all the things I wanted. Young men want a lot of things; a beautiful partner, a glorious career, an impact on the world, and excitement; but only to the point where excitement no longer breeds boredom through inundation, an overload of one’s being. This is who I am, still and currently, for at least a while. This attitude is what led me to leave home; the necessity for a life experience that could at least be said to rival the idea of a good life. Through whose terms is another question, maybe answered by someone a lot smarter than I am.

As I sat in my room one hot July day, sweltering not only under the heat of a mid-Toronto afternoon’s haze but under the scrutiny of an uncaring depressed mind, I saw a branch to help me out of my darkness, a stick that struck towards England as a place of opportunity and a way to find the glorious life I mentioned above.

Self doubt tried to cripple my confidence, laziness sabotaged my ambitions, and complacency quashed any sense of adventure that sparked in July. Despite these things, or perhaps to spite them actively, you helped me. You bolstered my courage, spurred my spirits, and moved me to move myself towards a future I myself could make.

It wasn’t until today, when I realized that I hadn’t made the chance to thank you.

Up until the day I left, denial reassured me I wasn’t going anywhere; While going through security, grief informed me I’d never be back, and while living here? Loneliness reminded me just where I was, with whom, and to what end: me, myself, and I. From there, I pushed myself not because of any sensibility but from a misled ideology of only I can help myself.

I had a brainwave the other day about how all the things I wanted would not be possible without someone very special; you. And I hadn’t the courage to see past my own failings to notice how, through my denial, my deceit and my disgust, you continued to push me, to help me, and to care, even if it meant I moved further away.

Today, on Mother’s Day of all days, I wanted to, at long last, thank you for your care, your help, and your love; your untiring belief in what I want to do, even if I don’t know what to do. Without you, I wouldn’t be half the man I am today.

Thank you

Love,
Phil

Journal: 2015/10/30

I’m a lucky bastard.

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog with an actual update about myself that wasn’t a cryptic reference to how I was feeling: usually mopey. But not today! I’m actually updating this thing with a real entry! Which, subsequently, will be interesting to see how many people actually like knowing about that kind of thing.

Stalkers, this is for you.

That sentence is extra creepy because I finished a book called “YOU” by Caroline Kepnes, and it’s a really creepy fucking book. Don’t read it unless you want to read a horrifying story from the point of view of the stalker. Seriously, it’s creepy. Did I mention that?

Anyway, I’ve been in France for the past week or so. The schools in the UK get a week off every 6 weeks or so. So, I get a week off every 6 weeks or so! Unfortunately, I don’t get paid, so my wallet it crying a bit. Regardless, it’s a welcome week off. My housemates and I made plans to go visit Paris for a couple of days, followed by a 5 day sojourn in a place called Hossegor. Once the plans were set, we only had to wait until the schools went on vacation.

The Friday the schools went on vacay, we celebrated with a glass on wine and a quick trip to bed. Because school is exhausting, mentally, and we’d had enough. We spent the Saturday packing and lounging and recovering, which would have been fine had the neighbours not had the birthday party of the century that night. We didn’t get to sleep until at least 01:00.

Which was hilarious because the car we booked to go to Heathrow was at 03:00.

We finally made our way to the airport. The car ride was uneventful: some napping, some chatting, but overall it was an hour of super tired whatevers. Once we paid and got out, we discovered that the security checkpoint wasn’t open yet. We got to the airport before the people who work there did! Which led to another hour of napping and such while we waited for the airport to man itself. Once it did, we got through security, had a shitty sandwhich, and got on our plane.

An hour later, we were in Paris.

In hindsight, my ability to speak and understand french was incredibly helpful. We got good directions very quickly and made our way to the metro system. Say what you will about it, but there was only one place the metro smelled (it smelled of pee), and it was faster and more efficient that the London metro. Suck it, England!

We got off about a 5 minute walk from our hotel, where we dropped our luggage. We grabbed a lunch, and that’s when I fully realized why I love France so much more than England: the French know how to cook. I ask for a tuna melt in England and it’s okay. I ask for the equivalent in France and holy shit there’s olives and fancy bread and everything. Long story short, I love French food.

After lunch, we made our way to the Eiffel tower. We found it, no real issue, but our first order of business was to find our tour guide; and find him we did. Nice guy, his name was Alex. Super awesome french accent. Once we got rolling, it was like being treated to an educational stand up routine. The Italian heckled, the Swede mediated, and what did I, the Canadian do? Antagonize him, and pull puns out of my ass. In short, I felt like apologizing afterwards.

Anyway, it was gorgeous. Got to see the top, and see Paris from on high. It was a gorgeous view; everything was in front of you. On one side, la Seine and the bridge from Inception: another had a massive financial district with massive skyscrapers. Notre Dame, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur, the Middle Finger of Paris… it was all there. Oh, you don’t know about the Middle Finger of Paris?

Now you know. It’s called the middle finger because LOOK AT IT.

Seeing as this was the day we woke up at 03:00, it was time to pass out. And pass out we did, happily in our hotel.

We woke up the next day, and set out for the Louvre; for those who don’t know what that is, it’s a huge museum. With three nerds, it would eventually take us 6 hours to skim through an 8th of the place. When I say huge, I MEAN huge. But first, we had to print our tickets! We got to the Louvre at 09:00, but couldn’t print our tickets there: instead, we had to find the closest FNAC store. Why? Fucked if I know!

We spent an hour finding the store, cursing it being closed, eating at a cafe, finding the store again, getting our tickets, and then walking back to the Louvre. When we finally got in… holy shit. Did I mention we spent 6 hours in there? Because we did. We started with the Antiquities, specifically the Greco-Roman stuff. So a good few hours staring at statues with dongs and oversized feet and boobs. In short, a great way to begin my morning! No fig leaves; I learned that the fig leaves wasn’t until much, much later. The Greeks and Romans kinda thought “eh, it’s a bunch of dongs and tits, whatever.” Someone else thought that was unseemly and hid them behind plants. My question is this, Fig Leafer: what if the leaves had parasites? Now the dongs have parasites! THAT’S unseemly!

After that we spent a  lot of time in the Italian painters section. Because, Mona Lisa. That’s why. I was a bit more interested in the painting with Napoleon being ballsy and crowning his own empress. Usually that’s what the Pope did, because through the Pope, allegedly god says it’s okay. The painting is essentially showing Napoleon’s ego: he’s better than god.

The balls on that motherfucker must have been HUGE, which is hilarious considering the rumours about Napoleon himself. Also, those were proven false: although we was about 5’4″, that was the average for his time. We’d just be abnormally huge.

That’s what she said?

After our long stay at the Louvre, we went back to the hotel to nap. Why? Exhausted, that’s why. We had a good long rest, which ended up with us leaving around night time. Where were we headed? Back to la Seine, of course! We had a boat to catch.

La Seine, the big river that runs through Paris, is jammed in between the many, many landmarks that make up the city. An hour long tour on those boats lets you see quite a bit: and at night, it’s something special. Mostly a lot colder, but it is nice! I know this because we did exactly that: a night time tour of the river on a boat. It was awesome: all the landmarks were lit up to show them off, and it was crazy cool to see Paris when it was sleepy rather than jam packed.

I spent a lot of time thinking. Boats are great places to think, especially when it’s a smooth ride on a cold night. It was cool being in Paris, right then and there. Not as many tourists, a great temperature, and wonderful food… that’s when I thought back to how it was for me before I left.

This past summer was a depressing one. The only things that kept me moving forward and waking up in the morning was my YouTube channel and my friends (I miss our runs, guys, and Sam? You and I need to rot teeth the next time I come over): everything else was depressing and had me stuck in a rut. If it wasn’t for moving over to the UK (which I’m honestly still deciding whether I like the place or not), I’d still be living in my room, desperately attempting to just keep getting out of bed and such.

So, I guess I’m okay with the move here, even if there are days where I’m not.

On Tuesday, at 05:00, we got a cab to the train station, played some public piano, and hopped on a train by 06:28, and made our way to Hossegor. It’s a coastal town with the distinction of being one of the “surfing capitals of the world.” More importantly, it’s my favourite place on the planet: the sounds and smells of the ocean, the feel of grainy sand, and the perfect place to read a book or swim. If there’s anyplace where I can recharge and recoup, it’s here. I’ve been here since, but I leave on Saturday to go back to England, back to work.

I’d rather stay here, but… money.

So that’s it for now.

-P.

New Card Game: Bank!

 Once upon a long time ago, my brothers and I sat down and tried to make up a game. We called it “Joker’s World,” and it was a neat start. You had a joker, and moved it around on face down cards which, when revealed, had different effects on the player. I honestly don’t remember how you WON, but I do think the goal was “don’t die” and now that I think about it, it was more like solitaire than anything else.

This morning, I sat with a deck of cards. They’re really sick cards: highish quality, plastic, pixel art cards. One of the cooler features of the deck was the art: the face cards were lovely and intricately detailed, and the jokers were both coloured: one red and blue for the hearts and diamonds, one green and black for clubs/clovers and spades. It’s at this point that a memory of Joker’s World kicked in: I got to work trying to remake it.

My two housemates sat down, and started offering input. After the span of 2 hours we had a workable game with rules and everything. So far, it’s legit: some skill, lots of chance. 

Here are the rules for V. 1.0.


Game Name: Bank Age Range: 10+
Number of Players: 2 per deck used. Playing Time: 3-5 minutes/round for 2 players.
Rules Version: 1.0 Date: 2015/10/28

Game Object:

The purpose of the game is to get more points than your opponent. You do this by moving your game piece on a playing field made of aces and face cards. The cards you land on allow you to exchange, discard, draw, and bank cards for points. The game ends either when the last space is revealed, or when the draw pile & discard pile have no cards left.

Game Contents/Materials:

  • 1 complete deck of playing cards
  • 2 game pieces (Anything will do, the Jokers from the card deck are great)

Game Setup:

  1. Separate the face cards and Aces from the deck.
  2. Shuffle the face cards and Aces together.
  3. Place the Face cards and Aces face down in a 4/4 grid on the table in front of the players.
  4. Shuffle the other pile of cards (This pile should contain all the cards from 2-10).
  5. Deal each player 5 cards face down. These cards will be the player’s hands.
  6. Place the remaining cards in a pile within reach of the players.

Define Terms:

  • Draw Pile: The deck of cards from 2 – 10.
  • Discard Pile: The pile of face up cards resulting from landing on Kings and Jacks.
  • The Stage: The 4×4 grid of Face Cards and Aces.
  • A Space: A card that makes up a stage. 1 card = 1 space.
  • Game Piece/Joker: What represents players on the stage.
  • The Bank: The face down pile that you put cards into when you land on an Ace. Each player has their own Bank.

Game Play:

  1. Decide who goes first (Loser goes first if playing multiple games). Turn order continues to the left.
  2. The first player places their Joker on one of the 4 spaces on the row closest to them. They follow the effects of the space’s card as if it were a normal turn.
  3. The second player places their Joker on one of the 4 spaces in the row opposite the row of the first player. They follow the effects of the space’s card as if it were a normal turn.
  4. After their first turn, during their turn, players move their Joker to another adjacent space.
  5. The game continues until 1 of 2 end conditions are met.
    1. All the spaces are revealed. In this case, if the player who revealed the last space was before the last player in the turn order, the other player(s) after them in the turn order take another turn before the game ends. If the last player in the turn order reveals the last space, the game ends after their turn ends.
    2. The draw pile and discard pile are empty. If this happens, the game ends immediately after the current player finishes their turn.

Turn Sequence:

  1. Move your Joker.
  2. Reveal the card your Joker landed on. Follow the effects of the card.

Important Rules:

  1. There are 5 rules to movement.
    1. You CANNOT move to a space you were on last turn.
    2. You CANNOT move into a space occupied by another Joker.
    3. You CAN move into a space if it has been revealed, so long as it doesn’t conflict with a. and b.
    4. You MUST move your Joker to a different, adjacent space on your turn so long as you don’t break a. or b.
    5. If you CANNOT make a legal move, then you MISS YOUR TURN.
  1. The effect of the card spaces are as follows:
    1. Ace: Take the 2 highest cards in your hand, and put them in your “Bank.” Draw 2 new cards from the draw pile.
    2. King: Discard the highest card in your hand. Draw a new card from the draw pile.
    3. Queen: Pick a card at random from an opponent’s hand. Then give them one of yours.
    4. Jack: Discard 3 cards of your choice from your hand. Draw 3 new cards from the draw pile.
  2. You MAY NOT look at the cards in your Bank, or your opponent’s.
    1. You MAY count the number of cards in your Bank, however.
  3. You MAY count the cards left in the discard and draw piles.

Winning/Scoring:

  1. Winning is determined by the sum of the numbers on cards that players banked. The one with the highest point total wins.
    1. E.G: Player 1 has three 10s and a 9 banked, for a total of 39 points. Player 2 has one 10, two 9s, and three 7s for a total of 49 points. Player 2 would win in this case.
  2. Ties might occur. If this is the case, have a beer and relax. It’s not a big deal.

Game Variations:

  1. More Players: You can add more players. For every two players you add to the game, add another deck of cards.
    1. 4 players = 2 decks, 6 players = 3 decks, 8 players = 4 decks, etc.
    2. All face cards and Aces are used, and create a bigger Stage.
    3. When the game starts, players can place their Joker starting anywhere on the Stage.
      1. Jokers are placed in reverse turn order. P4 places first, P3 places second, P2 places second last, and P1 places last. P1 then goes first, and turns follow turn order as normal.
  2. Teams
    1. Play is same as with More Players, but team mates share a bank together.
      1. E.G: P1 is on the same team as P4. Any cards banked by P1 or P4 go to a shared Bank.
  3. Go Fish
    1. Players don’t aim for point totals, but try to create pairs. Players bank a pair when they land on an Ace.
    2. The game is won by the player with the most pairs.
  4. Flush-A-GoGo
    1. Players try to not exceed 40 points. If you exceed 40 points, you lose.
    2. When you would discard a card, place it in the bank instead.
    3. If you Bank a 7 using an Ace, take all the other cards in your Bank and shuffle them back into the draw pile. Remove the 7 from play.
  5. PokerJoker
  6. Liar
    1. Play as normal, but players may break rules.
      1. E.G: banking 3 cards instead of 2, not discarding their highest card to a King, drawing more cards than allowed for a Jack, etc.
    2. If a player breaks a rule and the opponent moves their Joker before noticing, then play continues as normal.
    3. If a player is caught breaking the rules, they must move a random card from their bank into the bank of the player who caught them.
  7. Pitfall
    1. Play is as normal, with the following additions.
      1. When a player moves from a revealed space, remove the space card from the game. That area is now a “pit” and cannot be crossed.
      2. Once a player is stuck (can’t move at all), they miss a turn. They may then place their joker on another revealed space on the stage.
    2. In addition to above end conditions, include the following.
      1. Play ends when there aren’t any legal moves for either play to make.

Credits:

Inspiration
My awesome brothers

Development, Testing
Lauren Ellacott, Kaytee Raiger, Phillip Budd


Thanks for reading! If you try the game and like it, let me know, and try the variants. Make your own!

Curiosity

Shakespeare, the Animated Series.

I sat in my chair enjoying the show. The students watched with rapt attention as the screen flared to life, a *shwoom* marking the beginning of the movie. I, for one, was going to enjoy this; a 20 minute cartoon representation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet was right up nerd alley for me. In awe of the *shwoom*, the students sat and waited. Whether they sat on a chair or on the carpet, the room was silent.

For a classroom with 50+ nine/ten year old children, this can only be categorized as a miracle of epic proportions. Such a silence had not been heard since the kids had left for summer vacation. I wondered how long it would last.


The year 5’s had been working on reading and understanding Romeo & Juliet for approximately 3 weeks now. The reading part wasn’t hard. Students had been reading a shortened, reviewed, edited, and modernized (linguistically speaking) version of the play. Tame would be the best word to describe it; not so much as a peck on the cheek had made it’s way out of Shakespeare’s more adult original.

In short, the book had none of the original’s character. Still, it was effective at getting young readers to buy into a world where pantaloons were the height of fashion.


“O Romeo, Romeo? Wherefore art thou Romeo?” wailed the oddly well endowed cartoon Juliet. I pondered the meaning behind that particular artistic decision. Juliet was supposedly a 13 year old girl, and here was a particularly fetching cartoon of her in a night slip that barely covered her ta-tas. I mean, it must have taken a team of animators to do this movie, but the unanimous decision to make Juliet bombin’ was an odd one.

Juliet from Romeo and Juliet

My 9 year old brain wouldn’t understand. I’m with him.

My thoughts were interrupted by a chorus of nauseated children. Focusing on the screen, I realized that Romeo and Juliet had just started making out, and laughed to myself.

“Sir, that’s gross!” shouted a little boy in the seat next to me.

I shrugged. “Give it 6 years kid, and you’re going to wanna know how he did that.”

“Wha?” English accents don’t particularly like having consonant sounds at the end of words.

“Never mind. Keep watching, or you’ll miss the film” I turned back to the movie when a memory started tickling at the edge of my conscious mind. I couldn’t figure out why though, as it was interrupted by the most horrifying Mercutio I have ever seen prancing around.

Mercutio cursing the houses

Fuck yo couches, I was beautiful.


Students were asked to take a bullet point summary of the book in an earlier class. This completed, the last class was spent entirely on summarizing those points on another sheet, this time with two sides: one said book, the other said film. Most anybody can figure out what this meant, but year 5 students are not most anybody.

Mr. B, why is there Film? Because we’re going to be comparing the book and a movie.

Mr. B, are we watching a movie? No, we put film on there to torture you.

Mr. B, can I go to the bathroom? I’m bustin’!! (Apparently “bustin” is appropriate terminology for “about to piss ones pantaloons.”) Remind me in 5 minutes. Don’t pee yourself. Please.

Regardless, the proverbial stage had been set, and we were going to compare and contrast the book to the cartoon version of Romeo & Juliet.


Romeo had killed Tybalt in what was probably the most bloodless murder that I’d seen. What if Tybalt had no blood? That would explain his creepy ass complexion.

Tybalt

That jaw tho. What a pale ass HUNK.

The thought that had been nagging at me surfaced again, and this time I remembered; isn’t the part after this where Romeo and Juliet straight up do some underage matrimonial polka? Panicking, I glanced at the desktop computer playing the film. Not that sexuality or fixing the proverbial plumbing is a bad thing: quite the contrary. However, the UK has the interesting and backwards view towards sex ed that basically boils down to “if I have to.” In this case, I really didn’t want to be the one to explain to upwards of 50 children about the birds, the bees, and the bedroom blanket drill.

Thankfully, one of the teachers was manning the post, and just as the story started to get visual with a game of “hide the salami,” she turned turned off the projector.

“Wha’?” exclaimed some kids.

“Is something wrong?” asked most of the rest.

One boy, however, was close to the desktop.


Curiosity can be rare in kids, depending on the subject. Ask a student to do math and the majority response will be an untempered but well practiced groan of misery rising from the bottom of the deepest hell they can fathom. If you tell young ones they are playing a game, they will lose their minds.

Often, getting kids curious about something is like working with a stubborn, conservative, crotchety old man. It’s not so much that you’re telling the man what to do; it’s more like guiding him, tricking him into doing something you want him to do. Like letting women vote or something.

Sometimes, curiosity just comes up, but it’s never when you want.


I imagine that the boy was probably seeing the hanky panky for the first time. His eyes were wider than plates, and sucked in the scene faster than a dying man in the desert could suck back a fresh glass of water.

“Oh my gaw, they’re naked!!”

A calm before the oncoming storm lasted for all of a half second. Silence, the likes of which I’d never hear again in a class this packed, filled the room like air in a balloon ready to burst. Then, the class erupted.

“What do you mean naked?” “Like, NAKED naked or naked naked?” “That’s gross! Can I see?” “What does it look like?”

“Cool,” went one solitary voice in the back. I didn’t know who it was, and it was probably better that way.

The other teachers scrambled. For precisely 40 seconds of chaos, the class had dissolved into a cesspool of burgeoning curiosity the likes of which I will likely never see again, and I sat and laughed. If only you could have this level of curiosity on a daily basis, not just for the bedroom romp, but for everything. It would be amazing.

When the class had calmed down and the film had picked up from where the tangled sheet tango left off, normalcy returned and the story concluded in dramatic and completely depressing fashion. Half the students left to go to their normal class, and the incident was mostly forgotten instantly.

“Sir?” asked the boy who was grossed out by the kissing earlier. I turned to him, and asked him what was on his mind.

“What did you mean by 6 years?”

Poker face meme

Maybe later kid.

Pressure

i think I’ve figured out something that has been bothering me for some time. It’s a helpful thing to know, but it’s an ultimately shallow reassurance. 

I performed a lot during my undergrad: or at least I felt I did. I played euphonium in the wind ensemble whenever I could, culminating in about 6 years of play with that group. I’ve done a lot of performance work on the side, where I’ve done game casting and personal, self published work. Most people would think that someone who has done that kind of work for about 7 years now would be good at handling pressure. 

When performing, there’s always a sense of pressure. You feel stressed: like an egg with just enough force to put you on a breaking point, but it’s the spots where you can handle it. Where you are designed to handle it, even, trained to through years of iterations and luck and work. But you do it and you emerge kn the other side either broken or reborn, never anything in between. 

I usually ended up in the reborn category. I might have played badly or messed up somehow, but I always got to the other side with very few scratches. I would like to say I didn’t feel pride in the work, only in the process; that would be a lie though. I’ve felt plenty prideful of some of the things I have done, marking them like ticking little boxes on the checklist of my life: did you finish this? Yes. Did you get laughs? Check. Did this constitute a life moment? Why not? I spent time on it so it obviously will be a success: check. 

Every moment where pressure had a foothold I’ve looked at it as a personal test; like having the red key for the red door. If I didn’t make it, well it wasn’t of much consequence, since I could double back and get the key later. 

Now that I’m in the UK, things feel different. 

There’s pressure, per usual, but the pressure is far more than having the red key for the red door. Instead, the pressure is one of sink or swim, a primordial struggle where one survives and breathes fresh air on sandy ground or one drowns, their memory only surfaced as a cautionary tale for the young so that that they don’t repeat the same mistakes you did. 

Being in the UK is a pressure unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  The egg analogy from early is the same, except that the pressure is coming from all the wrong places and I already feel like I’m cracking. I know this moment in my lifetime, and the few moments after it, will make my life more bearable or a living hell where I have to struggle and fight for every second of time I can find for myself, let one anyone else I want to keep around in my life. 

I am staring at the  curtain in my room. It’s a deep, opaque black that lets no light through. Even at night I can see the shape of it, breathing in and out as the wind passes by my open window as if it was some shade, a ghost and a harbinger of the worst to come. My stare is consumed by it as I imagine the horrible things that could happen to me this year, but most shamefully that I come back home having not succeeded at what I tried to do. This time, there’s no doubling back for that key. I swim, and start a career which lands me I a life where I have control over what I wish to do, or I sink and come home, only to owe everybody everything and have no means of paying them back. 

The pressure is on, and I can feel it.