Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

The Space Between Fingertips

Posted on | September 23, 2017 | No Comments

In Michelangelo’s the “Creation of Adam” God reaches down to touch Adam and create mankind.

I have never researched anything about the original reason this piece of art was made. I only know what I think of the space between God and Adam’s fingers.

For my entire life I’ve been fascinated by this picture.

In my early 20s I thought of it as an incredible metaphor of the helplessness of the forces of life that are greater than we are to truly reach us. That when we pray to God, even if that creator does exist, the laws of the universe separate us from his aid. That even if the Creator wanted to perform a miracle he couldn’t do it without destroying the very fabric of our reality.  That God was locked away from us by inches. And that all he could do is reach out to us and find his finger so close he could almost touch us but unable to bridge the gap. The idea of his helpless sorrow struck me as beautiful. And an idea of God that didn’t make me feel angry at the injustice at the core of the nature of our world. Imagine the idea of a God who prays. Who watches with hope rather than knowledge.

I mostly believe in God at 3 AM when I’m looking out a window at the moon, trying to reconcile why bad things happen to good people.

It isn’t 3 in the morning and my life is going pretty well.

I think of that space between fingertips in a different way. I see it as a moving metaphor for compassion and empathy and how even our greatest actions are doomed to failure when what we strive for is perfection.

To me the greatest mark of empathy is your understanding of that failure. You’re whole life you try to connect to someone. There are people that you get so close to you you can feel the electricity of their touch from half a room away but you can’t really know what is motivating them or exactly what they need to hear. You can hallucinate the feeling of direct contact. But when you hear a story you have to imagine it. Every image has to travel through your filters of prejudice and experience. You can try to walk in their shoes but you will make that walk using your legs.

Humans aren’t monolithic. Your experience of life isn’t the same as people as even your siblings who have undergone so much of their life in an exact same manner as you have. You aren’t the group you belong to or most closely identify with. Eyewitnesses of the same crime are notoriously unreliable because of the basic prejudices we all face when we use our perception.

url The Space Between Fingertips

 

Our whole lives are built around making connection. We desire to completely eliminate the space between fingertips. Because we don’t want to have lived our lives alone. Because we began our lives looking in mirrors and imagining our mothers as an extension of our body. Only the truest kindness is in the understanding of that space. That no experience is the same. That all we can do is helplessly reach across the void in hopes of getting close enough to another person to grant them the gift of mercy from their own experience. To give them a safe passage through their mind and yours.

Doing a little research on this article I discovered that this picture is often thought to be Michelangelo’s message about the human mind and how to live with it. The twelve figures surrounding God and Adam when pieced together resemble different parts of the human brain.

I use to think all sentence with the words, “I wish” were an embodiment of helpless anxiety. That they should be banished from my experience because they were a desire for a reality that couldn’t exist.

Recently I have been practicing loving kindness meditation.

I sit. I  wish for someone to be kind, to be loved, to accept the world as it is and to not suffer. There are a million variants on this prayer but that’s mine. I do this for strangers, for teachers, for friends, for enemies and for myself.  I like these words because they feel like realistic things to hope. Accepting life means not blaming ourselves for the moments where life can’t meet our expectations. We should be kind. Everyone should be loved. We should all experience moments where we don’t suffer.

I recently listened to a guided loving kindness meditation. In it the speaker went much further. He wished for the person to be free. To be happy without reserve. To feel no pain. To feel only joy. To feel blessed by their experiences.

My first instinct was to recoil. That what the speaker was wishing for wasn’t realistic. No one can live their lives without pain. No one gets to feel only joy for much longer than a few minutes at a time. You can’t live your life like that. The fingers don’t touch. Prayers aren’t answered.

Only I stopped myself from trying to practice loving kindness meditation in reasonable doses.

I let myself wish with such ridiculous childish hope for humanity. For everyone to get to experience those same feelings of child like wonder when they looked at the sky. To feel themselves running through a park screaming so happily and loudly that the clouds could hear their voices. For every wound to heal.

It felt good. Really good.

See the human heart isn’t realistic. And it’s beauty isn’t in the way it conforms to expectation. But how it exceeds it. How we can imagine better worlds than ours and create them.

It’s the primal helplessness of a heart that wishes for more power than it can possibly possess. A wish so strong that it could break the very laws of reality.  It’s the parent who wishes they could protect their child from any harm. It’s what you feel from your partner when you get a fingertip away from their pain and you can feel it in all its immensity. The desire to heal them. To love someone so much you wish you could take their pain.

It’s crazy to me that people can love like that. That there are people in your life who love you so much that they wish that life wasn’t the way it is so that you could feel better.

Miracles aren’t possible. You can’t fully take away someone else’s pain. But you can get close.

And sometimes, if you love hard enough, you can get close enough to feel the space between fingertips.

 

 

 

Share

Because there was no muffins

Posted on | September 5, 2017 | No Comments

The stories we tell fight against our fear that life is meaningless.

Our characters have tragic flaws that destroy them or they overcome on their way to triumph. Because there is something appealing in this concept. If horribly things happen to and because these people they are because of immoveable flaws in characters. Bad things happen to good people because these bad things are an expression of their character. They are a lesson we can learn from. As you get older you notice how often your scars perform puppetry.

What few people mention are how often these scars that motivate us our made completely unintentionally.

Moments that manipulate people for their own lives can have next to no real meaning behind them. Our actions aren’t simply dictated by character but by how little sleep we have had, how drunk we are and a lingering cold that makes us sharper than we’d normally ever be. The horrible thing we say can be motivated by little more than impatience. We don’t even have to mean it. And that comment can register like a dog whistle. At a frequency that only the person who will be most heartbroken will hear. We can do something we would never do under any other condition and a connection formed over a life time can end.

It’s astonishing to realize how often we are injured without proper intent. This why we tell stories to ourselves. Of what these people meant. Of why they said it. Stories that have no use for chaos but play to the legends we build for ourselves. We can’t grapple with the idea that we lost control over much of our lives because someone forgot to eat a muffin. How does that equation look? Romeo doesn’t simply die because of his romantic nature or his encounter with Juliet. We are trained to think it is that inevitable. But what if Romeo never went to the party and met her?

Could he have fallen in love with someone else?

Could a simple invitation to a party actually be what killed Romeo?

Or the goddamn inferior system for posting mail?

It’s hard to realize how much of our lives are formed by coincidence. That ultimately we create meaning for ourselves. And our scars aren’t simply the horrible things that have happened to us, or the words that have been said that shouldn’t have been. They are the stories we tell ourselves. To make what happens to us part of a story.

So that we’d feel safer and more in control of our destiny.

When ultimately the truth is someone forgot to bring the muffins. And for the rest of your life you’ll dance to music that someone else played without any intent.

It’s not because you’re a bad person.

It’s not because you were destined to fall in love with that person and you unfortunately missed the elevator.

God doesn’t hate you, or love you or even exist.

You didn’t deserve it.

It’s much simpler than that.

Because a snowflake hit another snowflake.

And we are born helpless.

And live with much less control than we ever could have imagined.

It’s because there was no muffins.

 

Share

Do The Right Thing

Posted on | September 5, 2017 | No Comments

I feel a noticeable wave of nausea when I see them.

I look down.

Because I have to fight myself. Not to take their signs and break them over my knee. Or shout in their face like an insane person.

Because they want someone to do that. It’s part of the reason they’re out here.

In the middle of a sidewalk on Bloor Street. Determined to do what they imagine to be the right thing.

It’s those assholes with the signs that have a picture of a Fetus at 12 weeks and make a habit of talking to women as they walk by. One of the women has a baby strapped to her shoulder. Most likely her own as kidnapping a child to make this point would seem a little far even for her. She has a determined look. Cocky. Like she has proof that she understands all the complexity of pregnancy. And she has no problem using her child as a prop in her argument.

She dares you to say something.

“Look at my baby! Would you kill my baby?”

She’s the most annoying member of the group.

Now let’s tilt our focus to the right. Militant Christian organizations in Toronto seem to almost uniformly decided to get new immigrants who don’t really speak English as their principal advocates.

I’m not sure who adopted this strategy or what the reason is. But the new to Canada Chinese immigrants stare at their feet. A little anxious but determined not to leave. Even if someone violently disagrees with them. Holding the sign but not really understanding the repulsion they inspire.

I wonder how someone talked them into this.

Most likely under the guise of this will really help you fit in. Canadians like being bothered on the street.

Besides the point…..

I look at the woman triumphantly holding her child. The defiant look on her face. Ready to scrunch up as she explained to the women passing by that they were in fact a murderer. As she passionately explains why  women shouldn’t have a choice. How she can’t possibly understand every person who had to make that choice. And how pretty much no one in the history of time has cackled manically and had an abortion. How no one actually is pro abortion. They just believe that difficult decision shouldn’t ever be forced on anyone.

And I want to yell in her face.

For all the people I know who had to make that difficult choice.

And then I say nothing. I just meet her eyes. And try to memorize what these expression looks like.

How compassion can drain out of your features when you think you’re doing the right thing. How easily anger goes together with that rush of righteousness. I’ve felt that blindness before. I haven’t stood on street corners and lectured women on their right to choose. But I’ve hurt people’s feelings. Because I was certain.

The stop light changes.

I walk across the street.

Revulsion spinning nervous circles through my stomach.

Remembering the expression she made.

Thinking how much of a dick a person can be when they’re sure they are right.

 

Share

Creed

Posted on | August 27, 2017 | No Comments

For my life Christie Pitts is an Axis Mundi.

A place where all my lives come together.

It’s where I mourned the loss of my first love when I moved to Toronto and discovered Adele three weeks before the world made being her fan a mainstream thing. It’s where Katherine died in Just Cuddle. It’s where I laid on the grass and looked at the sky in my last relationship. It’s where I’ve celebrated successes and mourned failures. It’s a place I go to remember I’m aging and have lived a lot.

This is a post about boxing and Rocky and .

You might be surprised to learn I wanted to be a boxer when I was five years old. That for a year I’d ask my dad to read me stories from a massive book about boxing in the belief that someday a kid my age would be reading stories about me in a similar book. I forced my brother to fight me in our backyard. He was seven years older and enjoyed kicking my ass. Until he’d let me hit one lucky blow in the 12th round and fall to the ground. Bleeding and bruised I would raise my hands in the hair and run around the block. Proclaiming myself the world champion of Beech Street.

I didn’t pursue this dream.

But the Rocky movies meant something to me. As I am sure they meant something to a lot of people. I was five so I think it pretty much came down to the idea that if you try hard enough at something you can win. As an adult I look at those movies and see different things. Rocky 1 is about how you can do your best, train as hard as you want and you can lose and you can still be magnificent. The second is about how sequels are great and should always happen because box offices want Rocky to be champion. And the third is a great movie if you don’t look at it too closely.

It’s 9 o’clock.

Christie Pitts.

Just dark enough to show a movie.

And I’m watching Creed.

I think about how when I watched Rocky Stallone was still young. It felt representative of my dreams of what life might be like when I grow up.

And now he’s an old man. Getting sick. He has already lost those things he was fighting for in those climactic fights. Watching him I felt echoes of that five year old child who’s insane hopefulness still drives me to this day. And I think a little about what we are fighting for.

There are five hundred people gathered around this hill. On blankets. Next to their families and partners. Watching the huge screen and cheering.

The basic plot of the movie is Apollo Creed’s son wants to become a professional boxer. Rocky helps him do it. It pretty much copies the beats of the first Rocky exactly. I shouldn’t love this movie as much as I do.

The thing is this movie feels like one of those moments where humanity went in the right direction.

Creed is played by Michael Jordan aka Wallace from the Wire.

And Christie Pitts is filled with black families.

Who want their kids to look up at the screen and see what I saw as a child. In a message that wasn’t given to them in movies like this.

They can try as hard as they can and success or failure doesn’t matter. They can be magnificent. If they follow their passion.

At the end of the movie the fight ends.

And people are screaming and cheering.

And there’s tears in my eyes and in the eyes of the people next to me. There is something incredibly moving in the idea that there has been this tiny change.   Where the news tells a lot of people want to go back into the past, this movie is about a future. One we can fight for. One we aren’t guaranteed to win. But one we have to fight for.

 

Share

Seeing The Future

Posted on | August 27, 2017 | No Comments

There’s a good deal of literature about what would happen if you were able to know the future. I’m not talking just Biff and his sports betting book. There’s something else. Underlying it all is the idea that there is a right choice we should have or could have made. Because Hollywood is cheesy the right choice is generally speaking whatever choice you originally made because time travel doesn’t exist and we have to be happy with what happened. But it’s that underlying idea of a right choice that interests me. That I think collectively haunts us all.

That with these collection of choices we will arrive in our ideal destination. It’s this feeling that makes us look at our life and wish for something more. The concept of time travel pivots around a strange hope. That through our journey through time we will arrive in a world where time doesn’t touch the things we love and the times we look back on with the greatest fondness. That in some future we are always as in love as we were at the beginning. That we will always feel the same sense of awe when we reach the summit. And that when we change what we regret we won’t regret the change.

I want to take about that place you think you’ll get to. A bright and shimmery world like the ones actors live in commercials and actors live in love stories starring Ryan Gosling.

This place without time.

I think the biggest case against knowing the results of our actions is that we wouldn’t do anything at all.

Imagine a world where when you say hello and are filled with that laughing sense of ease you get to watch that person die in your arms. Imagine trying to enjoy the first six months of new love with the actual knowledge of the way your relationship will and must change. Would you start a conversation if you could remember every fight you’ll ever have? The things you shouldn’t have said and they shouldn’t have said. Could love begin if we saw people exactly as they are with all of their immoveable flaws right at the beginning?

We’d hold onto that dumb idea of a right decision. One that could avoid these places. And you’d live alone because you know that someday you’ll meet someone who’s magic and can let you live in that place. You wouldn’t do anything because ultimately best case scenario is you meet someone who’s amazing and you die before they do. And this is the cliche place to focus. Rather than you’d wake up with the very best person you’ve ever met and wonder if this was the right choice. If there isn’t someone you could love more.

Our lives aren’t just defined by who we love. Also by our work. Imagine if you were able to see exactly what it felt like after you succeeded at that long sought after task. What would you do if you knew it wouldn’t fill that hole in you? If that hole is just a part of being alive and that as humans we are   given the irrational hope that there is a deeper and truer world then the one we get to see. We are trained to believe in heaven on Earth because the ultimate purpose in advertising is to create a larger and large hole in you so that you buy things to fill it.

If we were able to see the future we would know that everything breaks and changes and dies. How could you do anything if you truly understood that all paths lead to the same place?

The answer is simple.

With delightful delusion.

We can’t see the future. We can’t know what will come. But we can know that everyone walks around with a heavy head on their shoulders. Wishing there was something more. Feeling that hole in themselves. Berating themselves for not being able to fill it. And there’s something about that spot. That unfillable hole that creates a love for other people that isn’t a perfect peaceful place but as powerful as entropy. We’re never kinder as human as when we see the pain of others become manifest.

And the reassuring knowledge we aren’t alone.

There isn’t a secret.

There isn’t a clean way to live and not suffer tremendous grief.

You are smart. You’ve been looking.

You’ve tried. It isn’t there.

You know everything breaks. Everything dies. Everything disappears.

And you rage into the dying of the light.

Not because you will reach that secret place and find what you’ve been told to look for.

No.

Because you’ve seen things truly break until they can’t be repaired. You’ve lost people that you can’t get back.

You don’t miss their perfections but their complexity.

And you understand how lucky it is to be able to hold things close to your heart as they travel through time and space. And you long to have your heart broken.

Because you’re still alive.

And there is no better place to be.

Share

Too Nice

Posted on | August 24, 2017 | No Comments

Girl you got a nice butt

I’m not talking about shape or size but how your butt spends it’s time

I’m talking manners

She’s polite,

Super nice

The type you’d ask advice

And she’d save your life

Stay the whole day by the crossing lights

To help old ladies cross the street

She buys Toms shoes, because she wants her feet to help defeat poverty

Your butt works at the children’s help line, in her spare time

Listening to other people’s problems just to unwind

Because she won’t know how to be unkind

She won’t sleep

Until she knows everyones feeling fine

Her temperament is even

She writes Hallmark cards and Memes because she wants people to know she believes in them

She doesn’t want an Easy Win

She started the Make a Wish Kids Foundation

Because she’s patient and amazing

Your butt is was the videographer on the Bat Boy video

It doesn’t matter if this line rhymes

Your butt did that

And it made me cry

I don’t understand how come children get sick and die

But I just remember what she did for that little guy

Superheroes do exist

She supports you when you sit

And she never complains,

Not even a little bit

She fought for gay marriage and she’s progressive as hell

She’ll pick you up, no matter how far you fell

And the jokes that she’ll tell

Will make you laugh even if you don’t want to

Helps you deal with the ghosts that haunt you

Walk with you through the places that feel haunted

Does it because she wants to

Your butt is Abby and Ilana’s friendship on Broad City

The only one strong enough to fight global warming

Stop the warring

Star Trek and the reason humanity will keep exploring

She listed herself as a kidney donor

Donated one and kept on going

This wasn’t a joke or tomfoolery

This is her eulogy.

She too nice

And she lost her life

I don’t know what the world will be like

Without her light

And wanted to say a few words

About her wonderful life

Share

The Fucking Cup of Coffee

Posted on | August 19, 2017 | No Comments

Listen Michael

I’ve come to talk to you about something. 

Yes, I know I look just like you. 

Please don’t get so excited. 

Just pretend I’m you’re fucking twin and don’t act like an ass. 

You’re embarrassing yourself, which is embarrassing me. 

And I won’t stand for it. 

Neither will you.

Please sit down. 

No, I’m not here to test your stupid hypothesis, that if two different versions of a person had sex it would be considered masturbation. 

You’re being gross. 

Let me get to the point, big head. 

Have you heard of a multiverse?

Shhh….

Yes, like Rick and Morty.

I’m you but from a different reality

There are countless worlds

Every decision you’ve made have been made differently

Each tracing a new universe, with it’s own infinite possibilities. 

Everything you thought was meant to be was a coincidence

Because I have seen it not happen

I have seen you happier than anyone I have ever met and I have seen you punching your fists into water in the hopes your reflection would become solid enough you could shatter it into a shards of glass and the blood would make you feel something

I have seen you desperately in love and I have seen you die without your first kiss

Anything that can be happen has happened and is of no interest to me

This is about the cup of coffee you always drink at 3:30, on a warm day in August, 2017

Without fail, it happens the same way

There was one world where the skies were streaked with nuclear missiles

 They ran through the clouds like Icarus

Like strobe lights through smoke

Before the sound of all the lightning in the world came together at once

But you had that cup of coffee

You finished to the last drop

You only spilled a little bit on the wooden table

This is the strangest part

The world ended a million times before you were born

But if you’re born, the world exists until at least that moment

I’ve looked through police files and top secret documents and you’ve never been that important

You’ve married thousands of different partners

You’ve had millions of different children

You’ve given up your dreams and you’ve followed them until they killed you

But you always had that cup of coffee

The odds are astronomical

In the end all the laws of physics have been deciphered and math proven beyond axiom

Every mystery has an answer

You’d be forgotten totally and completely if not for that cup of coffee

I don’t understand how no matter how even when you’re homeless you afford it

How when you’re blind you stumble down the street and when you don’t have legs you use your arms to drag your body and you place your order, sit down at table and have a cup of coffee

If there is one thing you had to do why would it be so mundane

Why do you get on a plane and fly half away across the world

Why do you go there everyday

Or for the first time

Why do you leave the hospital or Mount Everest just as you were about to reach the summit

For that cup of coffee in August

How come the plane never runs out of fuel, the traffic never jams, the assassin’s bullet never hits

Everything that can go wrong has

But doesn’t

Everything changes but this

It takes you precisely twelve minutes to drink the majority of it, a few seconds to spill a few drops on the floor and three more hours to finish the last sip

If the meaning of life is to discover what must happen, then I have surely found the meaning of why you were born and die

It’s like your a character in a book who only has one line and the rest of your life is just an attempt to infinitely improvise. cleardot The Fucking Cup of Coffee

Only I can’t tell you why that’s important

Maybe in another world I’ll discover it

In this one

I’ll simply measure life in coffee spoons and wonder why

Share

Boy Scout

Posted on | August 19, 2017 | No Comments

I’m walking home from Contra and I see gray tendrils of smoke reaching into the horizon.

You can’t really tell how much smoke is normal for a barbecue and how much smoke comes from a building burning to the ground.  I know that my body tightens up a little as I see it. A natural human reaction. When you’ve seen what can happen you prepare for it happening again.

I decide to follow it. Maybe I’m being silly.

Maybe there’s a reason bad things happen to people. So that they can help other people when bad things happen to them.

I turn the corner. Because it’s near my new friend’s house and I immediately had this strange fear it would be their place and they would be in danger. Psychologically this fear makes sense. Because a girl died in my basement. During a fire. And we tried to get her out. And when I think of fire I think of women I don’t really know that well dying.

And a part of me thinks maybe this time I can do something about it.

My hearts racing a little faster as I turn the corner. Her house is fine.  The reassurance this offers is there for a moment and gone. The smoke is  still pouring into the horizon.

There’s a woman in her car. Working on making her key work. Twisting it back and forth. The engine comes alive.

I knock on her window.

She looks up.

“Does that look like a normal amount of smoke from a barbecue?” I ask.

She nods.

“Yes, barbecue. Definitely.”

Who barbecues halfway through the afternoon?

She turns on the engine and speeds away.

I don’t believe her. And I keep walking. Until I hear the fire trucks. The alarms blaring as they rush toward the scene.

I’m not needed. Someone knows. Someone qualified.

My feet keep moving. As though I’m asleep.

Lost in a past that I frequently forget. Because life is wonderful and you find things to love and pain recedes into the back of your brain. Waiting for moments like this.

It’s near Ossington Station.

The smoke is coming in great billows. So thick you can barely see.

Fireman race to combat the flames.

And idiots wield their phones. Hoping to capture this moment for Facebook. I contemplate yelling at them. The ghost of a titanic and unhealthy anger entering my chest. At my fire, I threatened a camera man. I watched as people gathered. Entertained by the end of a chapter of my life.

This is a different day and a different place.

I’m not needed here.

I walk away. Having played the boy scout. Pointlessly heroic.

I walk to Christie Pitts.

I text Elias and Dave. My two go tos in case of Emergency.

I tell them what happens and I sit down. Knowing that if I lose my mind a little I’m covered.

Only I know that won’t happen.

My head feels clear.

Like a windshield that’s has had years of grim wiped off and is finally fully clean.

All my everyday anxieties have disappeared.

I’m sharply aware of the true state of the world. Dangerously fragile. Miraculous in its lack of emergencies.

There’s a couple sitting next to me. She fiddles with his hands. Eager to touch her new boyfriend. Laughing. Her mouth so close to his cheek he can feel each breath she takes. Wonderfully alive.

I turn my face away. As the tears begin to pour down my cheek. The sound of my heavy breathing mixing with theirs.

On a beautiful day in Christie Pitts park.

Unable to pretend that I know the future.

Crying without sound.

As I thank life that I’m alive.

Share

Lonely New Years

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

I’m watching Nathan For You on my laptop, which is haphazardly resting on my mattress. I can hear the fan in my computer whirring towards annihilation. I check my phone. No messages.

It’s New Years. It’s 9:30PM.

I have absolutely no plans.

The feelings that change you are the ones that feel like they’re going to last forever. It’s the difference between infatuation and love. Between sadness and depression. Between being alone and being in the full and all consuming grip of loneliness.

I’m in my underwear reaching a nuclear level of lonely.

It’s the type of feeling that blocks out memory or daydreaming. It’s like you’ve always been here. It sinks through your skin, into your bones and at first you just feel numb. Like your nervous system knows this is something you shouldn’t have to feel and it shuts down. Because when you become aware of this feeling it’s like your feet have been encased in concrete. And you sit there paralysed, watching Nathan For You, trying to get your attention span back from the pit of your stomach.

No messages.

I should turn off my phone. That way, I won’t check it. There’s nothing I can do. No place to run. I just have to feel like this for a while. I imagine telling people what I did on New Years. It’s strange how shame makes you feel like the most important person in the world. Like everyone cares what you’re doing.

I once saw a homeless man getting a hug. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t think they knew each other. But he was asking people for change and somehow he got a hug. I remember looking at his face and being lost in his reaction. It was as if he was seeing the sun for the first time in years. And I was astounded at how important it is to take that brave and awkward step towards connection.

I have gone weeks without being touched. I can’t imagine what it feels like to go for years. This New Years was a reminder of what loneliness is really like. I don’t really need to describe this feeling for you. I know you’ve felt it. I live in Toronto. There’s five million people and it’s incredibly easy to lose touch with all of them. Everyone is busy. As an adult you have work, a love life, exercise, and family to take your attention. It’s easier to read advertisements in subway stops rather than muster the irrational courage it takes to meet a stranger’s gaze. It’s unspoken that it’s rude to start a conversation. As an adult you see your friends less and less. Your social circle shrinks. It happens to everyone.

It’s a cliché to mention that we say more words through our screens than we do in person. Or to say that our eyes do most of the heavy lifting in our personal interactions. We connect through pictures without touch, smell, taste or sound. You get it. It’s so boring that we don’t like to see our lives honestly depicted in media. And the older you get, the harder it is to be brave.

What happened next?

I got a text message.

“Come over.”

Relief floods by body.

It’s from my childhood best friend, Dave Plowman.

He says that he’s taking it easy with his girlfriend Lauren but they would love for me to join them. I turn off my computer. I get on pants and my shoes.

I’m on the subway. Meeting stranger’s eyes. Finally able to breathe again. In fact, I’m breathing a little quickly. Like I know I’ve just escaped from something deadly that I can still feel in my body.

I’m surrounded by drunk people. Some of them are wearing adorably psychotic festive hats. Some are willing to make eye contact with me. I beam at them. I got out.

I don’t think Dave will ever fully realize how important that text message was. I guess people rarely talk about how much friendship means. Dave and I have been there for each other throughout the years – when it was four in the morning and it was goddamn necessary to pick up. We’ve been there through funerals, divorces, breakups. I stayed at his house the first night I moved to Toronto. I stayed at his place after my apartment building burned down. Some things break. Our friendship won’t.

I go to his house. I have a drink and his pug George crawls into my lap. I feel alive again.

What’s the point of all this?

A web series called Just Cuddle. 

It’s about people who are lonely and somehow manage the bravery it takes to reach out to make a connection. Our story is about a professional cuddler. Each episode is a short film focusing on a different client. It will be unlike any web series you’ve ever seen.

Share

Dinner With Friends

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

I’m in my incredibly tiny room where the white walls look blood splattered (odd art project of a previous tenant) and everything is covered in books and ginger candy wrappers. To call it claustrophobic would be a compliment. I live in this closet-sized space for the purpose of saving money so that my girlfriend can move to Toronto and not have to worry about money as she sets up her business as a massage therapist. Until then I’ll live in this blood-splattered womb, my excellent roommates being my only consolation.

I’m currently on the phone with my friend Winter Tekenos-Levy.

We’re talking about a story we’re working on together. Winter wrote a first draft and I tried my hand at a second. It’s a comedy where a girl has to tell her boyfriend she has an STD.

We go over her notes. They are small but important. Winter is an amazing writer with a talent for comedy.

Winter and I became close friends at a writer’s group hosted by our friend Matt Corluka. She wrote the funniest stories in the group and I’m pretty addicted to anyone who can make me laugh like she does.

The first time I met her was at a producer’s conference. I noticed a placard on her shirt that said ‘development’ and proceeded to pitch her a series I made up on the spot. She looked at me quite calmly and said, “Dude, I’m in the same conference as you. We met this morning.”

A week before the phone call with Winter, we got drunk at my birthday party and decided we should work on something together. I liked her STD comedy and wanted to play with it. My writing partner Elias would direct. Our friend Tabitha would produce. This phone call is about finalizing the script so we can go into pre-production.

I love talking to Winter; we have a shared obsession with the obscene, Kanye West and Pusha T.

We start chitchatting about ideas we have and different stories we had gone over at the writer’s group.

She tells me that she has decided to abandon her sex worker sitcom.

“The more I thought about it,” she says, “the less funny it was probably going to be. I mean if it was realistic… and I like don’t actually know about any of that stuff. Pretty fucking privileged.”

“I can see how it might be a little dark,” I agree.

“Just a little,” Winter concedes.

And then I remember a conversation I had with my girlfriend about professional cuddlers, which at the time seemed a little bit like sex workers lite. “It’d be cool to do a show about like a professional cuddler. It’s a real job. You ever look into it?”

She immediately begins looking it up on her laptop. Quickly my obsession with professional cuddlers becomes hers.

In the conversation it becomes clear that this could be a web series. I suggest mimicking the structure of High Maintenance where each episode focuses on the client instead of the cuddler. She points me towards a video online of a man who hires a sex worker to perform the mundane tasks of a girlfriend such as getting into arguments about cereal and telling him that she loves him. I suggest getting in touch with our friend Elias. After all, we did have that blood oath thing at my birthday party.

“Call that motherfucker,” says Winter.

I get a text from my girlfriend.

“I gotta go. Gotta call the girl.”

“Give her a cuddle.”

“Call. She doesn’t live here.”

“Phone cuddle then.”

“Tell your boyfriend whaddup from Kimber.”

“Will do.”

By the end of the second episode of Just Cuddle, both Winter and I will have broken up with our long-term partners.

We’ll have breakfasts and bar nights to celebrate our newfound independence and we’ll get closer. We’ll check in with each other for updates during that time where you go a little insane, just to make sure the other person is doing okay. And we’ll celebrate together when life is no longer about being heartbroken.

And she’ll star in Just Cuddle. And we’ll depend on her excellent notes. But that happens later.

For now, just relish in how a comedy about an STD sowed the seeds for a show called Just Cuddle. 

****

Elias Campbell and I are in Trinity Bellwoods.

Characteristically we aren’t drinking beers, playing Hacky Sack or smoking weed. My laptop is balanced on my thighs and I’m overdressed for the atypically sunny April weather. Elias is munching on a Clif Bar and leaned up against a tree.

We’re writing.

First let me explain that my best friend looks a lot like Justin Trudeau and acts nothing like him. Elias’ face is an extremely easy-to-read book. When he likes a person he beams. When he smells bullshit in a conversation, you can see him fighting back a scowl. He’s down to the bones honest and drawn to people with a similar temperament. When I first became friends with him I was eight months jobless and feeling like I was destined to become a failure. Working with him changed what I thought I was capable of.

It’s a rare friend who can make you regain confidence in yourself.

Elias is giving me notes on the STD comedy and pretending like he cares. He wants to make something and this might do. But what he wants more than anything is to get started on something big; something that’ll really test him and push him to become better at his craft. He’s excited about Just Cuddle, which I informed him of via text the night before. He’s so excited he’s about to name it.

“I think we have to make a choice,” says Elias. “If we want to start shooting something I’d rather do the professional cuddling thing you were talking about. It has a great hook and I can already sort of see it.”

When Elias has a vision, he’s difficult to refuse. You can almost feel it in his tone. Something is happening and you want to be a part of it.

“Given any thought to a name?” he asks.

I shrug. The Cuddler was my first idea. I think a serial killer on The Shield was called that. So that’s probably an association you don’t want to have.

“Just Cuddle,” he says. He smiles at me when he says it. Like it’s a joke. Like it’s so good I can’t refuse it.

“Like it’s not sex,” I say. “Just Cuddles.”

“Yeah. Exactly.”

“Just Cuddle,” I say again. I don’t quite know how to explain it mouth-feel wise, but it feels like a thing. Like a real thing.

And as hipsters bond over PBR on the first nice day after a long winter, we talk about what we want Just Cuddle to be. And in the conversation we decide that we want to tell stories about people trying to break out of their loneliness and connect. We want the stories to be about what compels someone to reach out to a professional cuddler.

As we talk I type down notes.

“We need to make this soon,” says Elias. “You think we could be shooting this in like six weeks?”

I nod my head as if to say anything’s possible. Elias takes that for full by in. He doesn’t let an idea for a film stay just an idea for long.

Winter texts me.

She’s down for meeting us for dinner.

We get into Elias’ car and drive to Salt Wine Bar. There’s no parking. His frustration with this situation amuses me to no end.

When I break up with my girlfriend in a few months, Elias will help me find a new apartment. He will help me put my IKEA furniture together. And we’d work on the series until it was a real thing. And in a time I was particularly lonely, I’d be able to focus my energy in writing.

Making pain into beauty is pretty much the only fair trade you get from dedicating your life to making art. I don’t really know how people live with their pain without being able to make something out of it. Writing has both healed me and distanced me from everyone in my life as my addiction to it deepened until my sources of pain and pleasure dried up. So determined that my life would just be about art, I have sometimes gone without people for weeks at a time. With Elias, I realized that with the right people I could make better art than I could by myself.

That’s later. Right now Elias is cursing the parking lot for having no empty spaces.

****

Dinner is ridiculously expensive. Like insane.

We order everything and it’s fucking delicious. If you haven’t gone to Salt Wine Bar you should really consider trying it. It can be quite affordable if you don’t act like you’re out for your last meal before the gallows.

I don’t really remember what we talked about. Most likely Winter teased Elias because she does that every time. Elias and Winter have a relationship based on being almost total opposites. Winter is funny and extroverted and has this incredible silliness she’s waiting to unleash. Elias is far more serious and is a self-styled curmudgeon, but Winter has this way of making him laugh like a child. And when Winter seeks out wise counsel, she turns to Elias. Though if I remember the night correctly, she mainly just made fun of his beard.

I think we briefly talked about the series and possible deadlines, but mostly we just talked.

And I remembered a brunch we had months before where Winter and Elias were talking about how scared they were that they weren’t going to accomplish anything in their lives. How desperately they wanted to get into a writer’s room. And I remember thinking they’re so young…

They still have dreams.

I had gotten into the habit of convincing myself that my dream would just be living in the same city as the girl I loved. And I argued with myself why it wasn’t important to be a writer. I don’t know how the math came together but it basically came down to this: If I wanted to become an adult, I had to give up my goal of making films. Which was not altogether different math than my ex-girlfriend had. Where she would have to move to a new city she didn’t like and start from the beginning all over again with no client list and little in the way of savings.

And at this table, I could feel the sense of fear and malaise exiting my body. I wasn’t going to accept that I couldn’t have what I wanted. It was there that I laid the groundwork for the break-up several months later. When I decided I couldn’t leave Toronto and she decided she couldn’t move here. It was at that table I decided I was going to take a chance and risk it all with my friends. And a great woman would leave my life as a result. And we’d both go in the directions we were meant to go.

Sometimes doing what you love is more important than being with someone who loves you.

She’d use her talents as a massage therapist to make people able to enjoy their life without pain. I’d use my pain to make something I’m incredibly proud of with the people around this table.

****

On April 5th we released the trailer for Just Cuddle. On April 18th, we released the first episode.

Three days before that, Winter will leave her job at a television production company to put it all on the line to get into a writer’s room. She loves the people she works with but she wants to pursue her dream. They told her they believed in her. Very few people are able to risk everything for what they want most in the world.

But that’s Winter.

A friend I get to have dinner with. Someone who inspired me to be better.

Tune in to see her knock your fucking socks off.

Share
keep looking »
  • Introduction to the Cure



  • Peter Diamond Gallery

  • About

    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

  • Archives