Monday, December 22, 2008

Just a Friend You Haven't Met

There is a running joke among my family (mostly my mother) and i about my becoming friends with random strangers. Only I, she insists, would go out of my way to tell the meat vendor at A&P how much i enjoyed the ham she sold me, and continue to swap recipes for 45 minutes. Only Mat would dial the wrong number, and speak to the old man on the other end of the line for a half hour. It should be noted that not only did we have a nice conversation, but he pulled out the phone book and helped me find the number i was looking for.

Yes, it may be a little odd. And i do laugh along with the jokes because they really are funny. But in all honestly, my ability to connect at random moments with random people is one of my personality traits that i cherish above all others. I think its very easy (especially in a big city) to loose sight of the people around us, which is ultimately our own loss. There are a lot of really interesting things to hear if you just take a moment to listen.

Take my "food court friend" from about a year ago. I had stopped in the Rideau Center food court for a quick bite, and an older woman (about 65) asked if she could sit at my table seeing as i was alone and no other tables were free. Now keep in mind, this situation altogether isn't unusual as its a busy mall and most of the tables get snatched up quick. Usually you just go on eating while reading the paper, and neither party speaks a word. But today was a little diffrent. Idle chit chat evolved into good conversation, and before i knew it i was having an intamit discussion with a complete stranger. Eventually we spoke long and hard about why it was that people my age, and people her age very rarely speak to each other on such a level. "People my age think young folk have nothing good to say" she said "but people my age are full of shit". Ultimatly she turned out to be a very insightful woman, and to this day it is one of my favorite memories in this city.

This evening while making my way home, i had yet another encounter like the one above (which is what led to this posting). The local bus system has been shut down for the past two weeks due to a labour stike, which has force many students to use special shuttles on campus to get from one end of town to another. The fun part is that the shuttles run on a schedule only Willy Wonka could understand, and often one spends an hour freezing in front of an empty bus. On this ocasion I got speaking to a woman who i originally assumed was coming from her final exam, but in actually was a traveling scholar from India! It turns out she was a very lovley woman, and we spent the next frosty hour talking about home, family, philosophy, and all the places we hoped to travel. She had an amazing perspective on canadian life, and was amazed that i knew how to greet a fellow scholar in Hindi (Namasté is also a salutation used in Yogic practice). And so yet again i had a great experiance, that came from giving a stranger just a little more of my attention.

I suppose my reason for writing all of this has come out of the past week i spent working the christmas rush. It's been made pretty apparent to me that during the time of year in which we most expected to "love our brother", we actually just want our brother to get their ass out of our parking space, and to quit eyeing the last Tickle Me Elmo. I really do hate clichés, but i think its time we paid more attention to those around us, and make the effort to listen t each other, no matter what month of the year it is. I for one am going to ignore what McGruff the Crime Dog told me througout my childhood, and speak more to strangers.

Check it Out: The Screening Room

Friday, December 5, 2008

There's No Place Like It

I've been thinking about home a lot in the past few weeks...obsessing actually.It never ceases to amaze me how i can go months without a single pang of home sickness, to suddenly being overwhelmed by it. The tricky thing is, I'm never clear (to myself or others) where exactly "Home" is. In my mind home isn't so much a place on a map, as feeling. A sense of "Homeness" if you will. For ten or more months a year, my home is here in Ottawa. This is where my life is, its where school is, and its where i seem to fit best. Here in Ottawa i have purpose, i have goals, and i have the means to realize them both. In Sarnia, however, this isn't always the case. When i was growing up i never felt so much that i was going somewhere, as much as i was waiting to go somewhere. Once i arrived in Ottawa i knew that this was it, this was "Home".

That having been said, nineteen years back in Sarnia certainly left their mark. If you can believe it, in Ottawa being from a town of only 75,000 people makes you a country boy. But I'm starting to accept that, at heart, it may be true. As time goes on, things here in the nations capital start to look different. The streets feel hopelessly crowded with people seemingly unaware of everything around them. Trash appears to be everywhere, you're surrounded by noise constantly and the whole world just feels... coarser. Its like living in a world of sandpaper; what's mildly annoying at first become maddening as time goes on. It doesn't help that generally around the same time i truly begin to miss my family. All of a sudden Ottawa beings to feel more like a prison, and i find myself longing to go back to Sarnia. Back "Home".

This year the need to see my family has been excruciating. My Grandfather, who has been is poor health for some time, has recently had some bad spells and more visits to the hospital. Though my mother assures me he is home comfortably, and is in the best shape possible at his stage of life, i know i wont feel completely at ease until i can see him for myself. On the bright side, my sister has just given birth to her second; nine pounds and ten ounces of beauty called Adelaide. I'm refusing to see pictures until I've met her in real life. This may make me sound like the worst uncle in history, but i see it like this: Would Columbus have been so excited to discover America if someone had sent him the postcard first? I'm going to guess not. needless to say though, the wait is killing me.

So what am i doing to cope with all this? This year, i got a Christmas tree which is affectionately known to me and my roommate as "Bernard the Happy Christmas Tree". As sappy as it may sound (yes, pun intended), decorating the tree definitely took me back to the countless times i spent in my parents house, pulling out decorations and cursing profusely as i stepped on yet another plastic snowflake (seriously, they are the destroyer of feet). I realize that its not so much of a Christmas thing, as a "home" thing. Every time i walk through the door Bernard reminds me a little bit of home, and that whether it be in Sanria or in Ottawa, its never as far as it may seem.

Bernard. The lone Bulb at the top pays homage to the Charlie Brown Christmas tree

Check it Out: Songs for Tibet

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Well, Here Goes!

The Band Wagon: Some times I let it pass by, but today I'm hopping on. My mother had asked me some time ago if i would be interested in starting a blog in order to keep the family updated with regards to my comings and goings. I do have the habit (from time to time) of falling off the earth, and i think she was hoping this would be one way to make sure i didn't float away too far. I cant say i was too thrilled with the idea at first, seeing as the last thing any University student wants to do is add more written assignments and deadlines to their own lives.

So what changed you ask? During the month of November my "significant other" took part in National Novel Writing Month. He was charged with the task of writing a rough draft novel (at least 55,000 words) in under a month, and much to my amazement managed to do so in nineteen days. It should be mentioned that there no prizes for the competition asides from bragging rights and a few website/Facebook banners declaring you a "winner". While he spent most of November chained to a desk, i had a lot of time to think on why anyone would subject themselves to this level of torture. At first it seemed obvious to me that any recent graduate with degree in hand would no doubt have oodles of time to spend plunking out word after word desperately trying to beat the clock. Then it occurred to me (picture the Grinch realizing what Christmas is really all about) that maybe... just maybe, he did this for the shear love of writing! What a revolutionary idea this was! Not writing about the same thing as the three hundred other people in your class, not squeezing the margins or increasing the size of the font just to reach a certain number of pages, and most of all not writing about some dull topic tossed off by a Professor! Not some tired essay about Freud, or the Situational Effects of Social Interactionalism (my last coma enduing paper), but actually writing about whatever i feel like.

During this epiphany it dawned on me that once upon a time i actually enjoyed writing. I'm certainly not the next T.S Elliot, but as i see it writing can be exactly like the practice of yoga. It doesn't matter how deeply you take a posture, or how fully you realize the pose as long as you are taking it as deeply and fully as you can go. And so that's what this is about, stretching my writers legs and seeing how far they go. And maybe in the meantime I'll keep Mom up to date.

Check it Out: The List Universe