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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

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.

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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.

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Extras

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

There are moments when you ask unreasonable things from people because you don’t have a choice. Things need to be done and you can’t do them alone. In these moments people who are basically extras in the story of your life can step up to the plate and become something more. In this case they needed to be extras in an episode of Just Cuddle. Tomorrow. When we shoot. FUCK. FUCK.

It’s Friday, January 22nd, 2016.

There are about a hundred Facebook message bubbles on the screen of my laptop. Each of them begins with something like “I haven’t talked to you in a while and this is going to sound weird but I could really use your help.” Many of these people apparently no longer live in Toronto, or have children they are supposed to spend time with. I have gone down the list from friends to acquaintances to one-timers. Charlotte was a one-timer.

As in I had met her once, at her birthday party, had a good conversation but never really got to know her. In fact, I’d been a bit of an asshole to a friend of hers at that party. I expected little. She said she had a meeting with her writer’s group. But she continued typing. She said she would tell them she wasn’t coming. For no reason at all she decided to help me.

This is the beginning of a very strange story where I was an extra in someone else’s life and made a good friend. But that hasn’t happened yet. I need more extras. So I go back to Facebook without realizing the next part of our story will begin there as well.

****

I’m at work and a Facebook post catches my eye.

Charlotte posts about a dear friend who died. This was the friend I’d been a dick to at that party. As a result of this strange coincidence, I messaged her.

At the end of this conversation she told me that she was having a housewarming party that weekend. She said I should come. I pretended I had a social occasion I had to attend that day. I’m not always a party guy and oftentimes I need to decompress during my weekends and catch up on writing. And honestly, I was vaguely ashamed that I had been a dick to her friend who had died. I try not to be a dick, and that night I was.

Saturday arrives and I’m bored. And I remember the housewarming party I was invited to. I pick up alcohol and I head to her place. It’s an impulse.

Maybe I’d tell some jokes. Maybe strangers would find me funny.

I can’t really say why I went but I did.

****

You have the vaguest outline of Charlotte. Let me provide a few details so you can imagine her properly. Her nose wrinkles when she laughs. A good joke will shake her whole body until she has trouble catching her breath. She’s scarily smart for 23 and has a way with words and ability for total focus that makes her attention like a spotlight for the person she’s talking to.

She is standing on her balcony taking a moment of air when I arrive. She isn’t wearing a coat. I wonder if she’s cold. The thought passes.

I walk up the stairs and enter her new home. Her roommate takes me into the kitchen and smashes ice for me. I think he does this with a hammer. And I’m having a drink at a party.

There’s an ironic boundary in most parties. Great loss takes away that irony. You can’t pretend life isn’t important when you’ve had someone irreplaceable taken from you.

Immediately people are talking to me.

No one is willing to let me feel like a stranger. One by one I get into intense and friendly conversations with people who are in the mood for small talk. Which I can provide. Drunkenly, I ramble about Just Cuddle and what the series is going to be like. They listen because right now it’s a little too painful for them to talk about what they’re going through. I make party friends. I earn them through jokes. I’m feeling pretty fucking good about myself. Even though I understand I don’t really belong here.

Everyone in this room is trying to be strong for everyone else. There’s a hierarchy of pain and they are trying to figure out where they fit in it. You can see them investigating, trying to determine who was closest, who’s the most hurt, and direct their attention to helping that person. Everyone’s a little broken and it’s hard to know who is the worst off.

On the wall are what were once blank canvases. On the table next to it is paint. As the night continues people will leave conversations, grab a brush and begin to paint. An art director paints a particularly lovely rose that reminds me of Salvador Dali, possibly because my own knowledge of art is incredibly limited. What appears on the wall is surrealistic graffiti and stick figures. Whatever it was, I’m guessing it just felt good to paint.

It’s been a long time since I was last in a room with thirty people who had their hearts ripped out. It takes very little for me to realize that I’m a tourist at what is essentially a wake. This wasn’t the wake; they had done that earlier in the week with his parents. There aren’t really words that can adequately bring me into that experience.

I can sense the currents of agony underneath the laughter. Every hour or so someone goes onto the balcony and cries. Someone always follows them and holds them. Often it’s Charlotte. She has a way with people and a laugh that’s infectious and people need that right now. Being under her attention is protective. There’s warmth there that makes people feel safe and a sense that whatever the fuck happens, Charlotte can handle it.

And there’s a moment I remember from that very strange night. I had gotten used to the party’s manic rhythms of intimacy, quick confidences and emotional outbursts. In a way it was freeing being in a place where everything mattered so much.

I was out on the balcony with Charlotte and everyone left for a minute. Most likely to take a break from the cold. And I offered her a hug. She took it and we stayed like that for about two minutes. Clichés jumped through my head. Speeches formed and it all sounded so fucking stupid it couldn’t pass through my lips. I could feel her shaking with suppressed tears.

“I gotchu” I said.

She hugged me tighter.

“But I don’t even know you…”

And strangely I feel like that was the point. That was what I offered. Alone in the party of loving, brilliant people, I hadn’t had my heart torn out of my chest. I wasn’t grieving. She didn’t have to worry about what she said or did or how miserable she felt because I was okay. It wasn’t going to hurt me. I could be there for her because I was just an extra in her life, a tourist in her tragedy.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“I don’t know.”

And I held her tighter.

I walked into someone’s life as a stranger. Being there for no reason and realizing that that’s what life is about when it matters. How good it felt holding her and knowing I had something I could give her. How after those two minutes, she wasn’t an extra. She was a friend.

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MOMENTOUS BULLSHIT: CHAPTER 1: RFP

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

We pride ourselves on the idea that a handful of reactions in the right moments will prove our humanity.

I unfortunately have been living on planet bullshit too long.

My immediate response is to explain the silver lining.

“So we can enjoy sunny days without worrying about skin cancer,” I hear myself say.” I don’t have to worry about what I eat. I don’t have to eat handfuls of vitamins or do crossword puzzles under the naïve hope that I won’t develop Alzheimers. I don’t have to look both ways when I cross the street.  I don’t have to wonder if my shrivelled ovaries can produce a child. I don’t have to worry about finding true love.

My  mouth continues to move, “Humanity didn’t destroy itself. Isn’t that….. something?”

The clients stare at me like I’ve lost my mind.

I should have known something was wrong. They didn’t touch their muffins. They haven’t taken a sip of their coffee. They don’t give a shit that we’re offering them fully distilled water.

This isn’t a joke.

The clients work for a secret part of the UN related to outerspace research.  Somehow connected to the UN security council.

“Yeah, so that’s not exactly what we’re looking for,” says Ted. At the beginning of this conversation Ted explained that his coworker Edward was a professional torturer and that he had a list of everyone I loved.

Everyone they assume I love to be more accurate.

“We don’t need help breaking the news, “ says Ted. “In fact you aren’t going to be allowed to tell anyone not working on the project. And they’ll have to talk to Edward. To makes sure they understand the consequences.”

You might not be familiar with the term RFP or Request for Proposal.

In the last days of humanity we created this horrible thing called Capitalism. The idea was that your efforts would be rewarded and wealth would be distributed based on merit. Instead 85 people owned the rest of the world. To justify this insanity we created this thing called advertising. Its purpose was to make everyone stupid and sort of crazy so they could be manipulated into following a system that made them slaves.  Which is why we called the companies driving this system brands. Like the brands we once used to tattoo slaves to identify the slaves as our properties.

These brands were large companies people like me created personalities for.

When a brand or much more likely an advertising agency was seeking out ideas for a campaign they sent out a request for proposal from all of their vendors.

Advertising agencies are more like the Mafia than Mad Men. They don’t come up with ideas. They sell their taste and haggling ability rather than creative talent. They’re usually a real pain in the ass.

This particular deal was client direct and included a rather extensive Non Disclosure Agreement.

Ed turns to Ted in frustration. “Explain one more time. She’s in shock. ”

The anger comes surging forward but doesn’t pass my lips. The only physical clue is my shaking hands. Which they probably put down to nervous fear. Not years of arrogance that makes me ignore the dire consequences of this meeting and focus exclusively on the fact that I’m being Mansplained.

“I think I understand.”

“Of course you do, “says Edward. Edward grins accommodatingly. You’d think the diplomat, not the torturer would be the one playing good cop. “Tell her one more time, Ted.”

“Ok, Ed. C16000 is going to collide with the earth’s surface in little less than nine months,” Ted reiterates. “It’s now 99.9% going to hit earth and kill every living thing. There is no hope.”

A small thought niggles in the back of my brain.

I know I shouldn’t ask because someone much more qualified than me must have watched this movie as a child and suggested this as a possible solution to the problem.

“Have we mobilized NASA to maybe land on the Asteroid and nuke it?”

In case you happen to be reading this far in the future the movie I’m referencing is called Armaggedon. In it two actors, Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis, saved the world by using their mining skills to drive into an asteroid, place a bomb and made the asteroid split into to two pieces. For some reason another movie called Deep Impact came out the same year and they had an almost identical plan. I can’t imagine that is a coincidence.

Ed looks at Ted.

“Again?” asks Ted.

“It apparently was a culturally important movie,” says Ed.

“So…?” I ask.

Ted glares at me for a second.

“Remember how I said there was no hope?” says Ted.  “None. I’m not even going to go into how the idea of splitting an asteroid can’t happen. Ok I will. In order to blow up an asteroid you have to make a weapon that would create more energy than the sun. The SUN! Do you know how that would have to be?” he asks. I am about to Google it. I don’t.  “You detonate an atomic weapon on an asteroid you now have a radioactive asteroid.  Do you know how much worse that is? Much, much, much worse. And why we would go to looking for some sort of plan to destroy the asteroid? Don’t you think we would consult astrophysicist, military experts, NASA astronauts if we thought there was a possible solution where we could intervene and save humanity?? Why would I look for help from someone in advertising of all things?”

I nod. That does sound hopeless.

“So the world is going to end?” I ask.

Ted and Ed nod simultaneously.

There is awkward silence where I try to let this feeling hit me. There is a warmth in my chest. A slightly heaviness underneath my eyes. No tears are coming. And there’s the anger again.

I’m not a good satellite for the signals my heart is sending to my brain. All I feel is overstimulated and hot. Thankfully I don’t care about these people. They can’t be too disappointed by my lack of a reaction.

“I’m not some person in advertising.” I say. I don’t need to point to the awards on my wall, the bags under my eyes or the title under my door. “You want something big. Bigger than anyone else can do. What do you want me to do?”

Ed grins. It’s paternal and admiring. The psycho is proud.

“We want you to distract people from what’s happening,” says Ted.

“Like a sex scandal?” I ask.

“Bigger. There is the small chance this asteroid goes right past us and the human race gets to live on,” says Ed.  “So not so much no hope. But no reasonable hope. We don’t trust people to react reasonably to this news.  Rioting, genocide, mass suicide. We’d like to avoid it. So we want you to assemble a team to make them think about something else.”

I nod my head.

I feel laughter forming in the center of my chest. Little hands tickling me from the inside. I push that laughter into a tiny box that I’ll open when I’m alone.

“Tell her the other part,” says Edward.

“We want you to create a happy ending for the human race.”

I close my eyes.

For some reason all I can think about are joyous polar bears drinking Coke as the polar ice caps melt.  A billion hands holding an IPHONE reaching up towards the sky to get one last selfie. The Kardashians finally silent. God taking his thumbs out of his bleeding ears.

“So you want me to find the meaning of human life?”

“We don’t need you to get that deep,” says Ted. “We just need you to make a great advertising campaign. Do you think you can do that?”

I stare at the windows.

I can see them tensing.

I stand up and pace.

Ed looks embittered. They’re watching me very carefully. Like I’m not the first person they offered this job too. Like the last person got to this point and flung themselves out a window.

“I’ll think about it.”

“It’s still a request for proposal. So you need to put something together.”

I’d ask or what but I know the answer. If my idea didn’t get picked I’d be killed.

“What’s the deadline?” I ask.

“EOD Tuesday,” replies Ted. “We’re looking for emotional resonance. Something people can really connect with.

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Momentous Bullshit: QI: PROLOGUE

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

Shortly after I refused to accept her collect call my sister killed herself.  It was a particularly busy time of year for me.

Q1.

In my business you can’t afford to get behind.

So while my sister is dying in a bathtub I’m pitching a client about how their android technology could have a real brand story. They weren’t just a cellphone technology company, they were a future company, they were a connection company.

The tagline is, “No one ever has to be too far away again.”

I use an adorable white baby to illustrate my point.

Naturally the client was very impressed. There’s a certain feeling you get when you have an audience in the palm of your hand and you don’t mean a word of what you say. It’s a little like the first lemming must feel before it hits the ground.

So imagine the water in the bath tubs going from translucent to sticky red as a tear trickles down the eyes of an android phone developer.

Handshakes are distributed evenly across the room. The deal is closed in the room.

My sister’s lips are turning blue.

Mine are Pearl’s “Femme Fatale.”

Her blood drips out of the bath tub. She left the water running. When she was a kid she’d always do that.  Which means it goes onto her floor. Which means it goes through her thin ceiling and blood rains on her neighbor’s dining room table. Landing directly on her Thanksgiving diner.

Someone goes to my office and grabs champagne bottles that we keep specifically chilled for moments exactly like this one. I popped it. With my fingers. I learned a trick in Paris when I was a kid.

This tastes like God let you into his private stock.

Girlish laughter in tones I long ago crafted for moments like this.

Come with me to my perfectly organized desk. It’s a stand up. I rarely sit down during the day and nothing is more ergonomic than standing. I have an ellipitical bike in my office to make sure that I don’t become sedentary and energy-less.

Anyways I got two phone calls in about five minutes.

The first was from the president of my company. He’s escstatic. Handsome, useless and rich.

My cheeks blush as I listen to his British accent formulate as many big words as he can to give me the impression he’s my teacher and I’m his student.

The condescension doesn’t matter.

All my hard work is going to pay off.

He uses the word Creative Director.

I don’t feel prideful. I feel proud of him.

He finally realizes that I’m the best employee he’s likely to ever have. I don’t have to wait for him to have a heart attack to get a promotion my company doesn’t typically give to women.

And for the briefest of moments the anger that animates my everyday life disappears. Just for a few seconds. My life is about to begin. And strangely I feel happy tears sliding down my cheek.

You earned it. I’m very proud of you.

Goodbye, sir. Thank you, sir.

I hang up the landline.

I put in my wireless headphones.

I put on Beethoven’s Fifth.

I turn up the music all the way. So it gets into every part of my brain. So I feel as calm and happy as a person can possibly feel.

I turn on my office fan to make sure that no one can hear me sobbing. I feel the most intense sense of relief. And I can’t stop sobbing. It feels too good.

There’s been this knot in my stomach that the doctor recently diagnosed as an ulcer. This tension that I won’t be able to provide an equal sign between all the hours of suffering I’ve had to put into get this far.

The equal sign exists.

It was all worth it.

I receive the second phone call. Directly to my wireless headphones. Beethoven’s Fifth disappears.

A detective appears, shakey, awkward, unprofessional.

It’s about your sister. You were her Emergency Contact.

And here lies the mystery.

I stop crying.

You’d think it was shock. But it isn’t. I waited for weeks, months and years and it didn’t come.

That was the last time I can remember feeling anything.

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Inches

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

I like the sound of your voice and the shape of your thoughts but honestly we both know that we didn’t really need to talk

That sounds like an insult but it isn’t

Looking at you makes my head feel like its on fire.

Like there is nothing polite in what I want to do.

If language hadn’t been invented

If society didn’t exist

I don’t think I’d need to say a word before we kissed

We could be total strangers

And this would feel frantically familiar

I know it and you know it

The longer I look at you the faster your heart is going to beat

Excited but not nervous

Like the way you feel when you’ve been in a sweat lodge and there isn’t a toxin left in your body

Head so clean

Like there is this humorous sense of seriousness

Like how absurd is this

That your eyes are dancing and I know exactly what you’re thinking

We’re talking but I know you can feel my lips on your neck

Like my words are coming out of my throat and landing like heat on the tips of your ears

Like my hands are on the table but you know what they’d feel like if there were gripping your thighs

Like what people do in the dark, occurring in the blackness of the pupils of your eyes

Like you can feel every inch of your body and the fabric clinging against your burning hot skin

Ripe like a ripe strawberry balanced between your teeth and tongue

We’re laughing not because anything is funny but because it helps you breath a little faster and you don’t have to say much

We’re talking but that’s just an excuse to look at each other

This isn’t poetry

This is drawn deep down into the DNA

Desire before reason makes it pretty

Before shame and the deification of dignity

God doesn’t live in this house

Your hands fidget wanting to break apart the space between us

Like eyes moving back and forth in sleep

The distance between us is filled with electricity

The only thing completely unnatural between us

As we pretend

And have a polite conversation

Sensing that we are only separated by inches

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They Had To Wait

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

Most of the time you’re all part of one big happy family when you wait for the bathroom.

You’re impatient but when you’re outside on those doors you’re all playing for the same team.

When your time comes up you leave the nest. Become your own person and the source of inconvenience to every single person in that line behind you.

People aren’t sympathetic to the person keeping them from using the bathroom when they need it.

“What’s taking them so long?” someone will loudly wonder.

You’ll agree with them. The person inside the bathroom is probably a murderer. An awful person doing an awful thing with no consideration for the rest of the world. You’ll forget all those times when going to the bathroom took you a couple minutes. In the line you’re a 30 second person. A member of a union of reasonable bathroom users. Waiting for pissing Hitler to do his business.

Once you make it in you’re the enemy.

You become Pissing Hitler and the clock starts ticking.

It’s fair. It’s the way things are.

And often you don’t give a shit about the assholes banging on the doors like a couple of maniacs. You waited. You deserve this. This is your time.

You hate the people who desperately struggle with a door knob that will not make any difference. You think they’re impatient and idiotic.

Don’t they realize this is a careful business that needs attention paid?

We all know these moments.

This isn’t your ordinary bathroom war.

At first there is a joking irony in the line and I exercise kind compassion.

I note that someone was behind me. I was sitting and he was standing and he made the decision to go to the bathroom first.

It’s his turn.

I let him go in front of me. He thanks me with his eyes.

We wait for a bit.

His eyes lose their friendly shimmer. He becomes troubled. He has much to attend to.

The change in the line’s temperament is probably my fault.

It’s also fair to say that an adult should be able to take notice of an obvious line of people waiting to use the bathroom.

See there were trailblazers. Thoughtleaders in disruption. Who pretended there wasn’t a line and needed to be reminded.

The first of the trailblazers bolts through the line with no awareness, assuming a bunch of strangers are congregating near the doors because they like the view and moves for the opening bathroom door like an Olympic sprinter.

“Hey,” I say, first harshly then modulating my tone to be more playful and Pee Herman like. “There’s a line. BEEP! BEEP!”

She startles. Stares at me. Shocked by the cartoonish warning. I see her momentarily fight back a wave of shame. My attempt to be cute has backfired. Hatred glimmers in her brown and white eyeballs.

“I didn’t notice the line,” she says.

I say nothing. I just beam at her like a little baby angel. I believe her. That’s what my face says. Even though my heart knows my face is lying.

“I wasn’t going to skip the line. I just didn’t notice it.”

This is untrue but I don’t really care. She clearly would have walked through the door and into the bathroom. She doesn’t give a shit about democracy.

People are unreasonable when they have full bladders. Maybe this kind looking frazzled woman has to take a huge shit and can’t wait. Maybe she is in this coffee shop for this express purpose. She’s also in a line of people least likely to have sympathy for her. Nobody stands in line for the bathroom unless they have to. She may be fighting a war but there’s artillery fire everywhere.

Welcome to hell, lady. Welcome to hell.

“Totally,” I say. “Sorry.”

Easy to concede defeat.

My first line friend makes his way into the bathroom.

We go back to waiting. My first enemy gives a stretch, lets go of the tension and gets into fourth or fifth position in line.

I’m next.

All I have to do is wait a little longer.

I will not be visibly impatient.

Until a second early 30s woman walks past the line and starts banging on a door. Call her Jenny.

“Yo,” I say. “There’s a line.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have made the same mistake so shortly after the first time. This time Jenny explodes. She doesn’t like the yo.

“You weren’t standing,” says Jenny.  Her next words come rapid fire and vehement. “I didn’t see a line. Jesus.”

Someone behind her notes that he is also in line. That there are five people who are waiting. She is sixth.

She keeps her focus on me.

“You don’t have to yell at people like that,” she says.

I didn’t yell.

I’m not tempted to. The door opens.

My time is at hand.

“My turn,” I say, full of joy and celebration.

I go inside. I close the door. I check the stall. Nothing gross has happened.

I sit.

I hear her outside.

“Who the fuck was that guy!” she exclaims. “Like I would just butt in line if he was standing. Why was he sitting?” she ask.

The first trailblazer is on Jenny’s side unfortunately.

“What is he the fucking line police?” demands the Trailblazer.

“And that voice!” she shouts.

What’s wrong with my voice?

“Holy shit was he a prick!” agrees Jenny.

My feelings are moderately hurt.

There’s also a strange pressure in the powder keg of hatred a few feet away. These people wish me harm while I’m in such a delicate state.

I ignore them. But I know it’ll be a long time before I accomplish anything. I can’t concentrate. This isn’t going to happen. I get up. Maybe I should just go.

“What’s with him? Why is it taking him so long? Jesus Christ.”

“I know.”

Fuck them.

I pull my phone out of my pocket.

They broke the Geneva Convention of Bathroom wars. Keep your complaints quiet. The person in the bathroom is in charge. You have your snarky good humor. They have a door that locks.

I scrolled through my Facebook feed. Jay Dahl posted a link to a New Yorker article called “The Uninhabitable Earth”. It was about the horrors of global warming and how soon we will feel the consequences of our mismanagement of the earth. It was about seven thousand words long and was profoundly disturbing.

They were rude.

They were spiteful.

They had to wait.

 

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A Writer Like My Dad

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

I think I wanted to become a writer because it seemed like the simplest way to become my dad when I grew up.

My dad’s great.

They call him Stephen “The Cuban” Kimber.

For decades he inspired journalism students to take the news seriously and helped them careers in an industry where that was still possible. He’s a quiet man who loves stirring up shit and has been responsible for exposing a good many scandals local and international.  He is a pinko commie rabble rouser who somehow temporarily changed the international relations between America and Cuba before Trump decided to fuck things up again. He doesn’t stop trying to become a better writer or a better person. He’s still hungry for that next big story.  He’s always working on a new book or journalistic investigation into government and corporate corporation. There will be no real retirement for Stephen Kimber. Because he’ll never stop being that kid that sat down at a typewriter and realized he could change the world by paying attention to it.

He talks slow while I talk fast.

We look nothing alike. He’s got dark hair that is sprouting a little more silver everytime I see him. He’s got a nose that would indicate he was my Jewish parent (he isn’t) and I have got the nose of an Aryan conqueror (my Jewish mother’s) . We don’t have the same eyes. The only common characteristic is that we both maintain a strangely naive face of a child. Like the world still hits us with wonder. Like we never really grew up and occassionally put on a serious face to hide it.

To say I was attached to him as a child was an understatement.

Wherever he would go, I would try to follow. Which is funny because my dad is easily startled and also a little unaware of his surroundings. He’d be working out on the Norda-Track, and I would knock on the door to his office. He’d be lost in the music he was listening to or the book he was reading and I would say his name and he would jump and make that surprised sound where you spit out the breath you’d just taken in. After a few questions he’d calm down and asked me what’s up.

He listened to me talk a lot.

I talk a lot now but as a kid I literally never shut up.

He was patient and he’d take what I said seriously. My first book was called GamesMaster’s Games and was essentially Mortal Kombat with different character names. One of the villains names was Stanco. Times Magazine labelled it a masterpiece.

He printed out copies and I gave them to all my family members as a Christmas gift.

We got a dog named Gabby. She liked to go for walks after dinner and my dad would take me with them to Point Pleasant Park.

I’d ramble about my latest book. Which were usually well outside of my life experience. One was about a schizophrenic mafia boss who went to war with his enemies and an alternate personality. Which was essentially my experience in grade 4.  The plots were very complicated. And I felt like I needed to tell him every single beat of the story and he’d point out design flaws and encourage me to actually sit down and write it.

I did.

He’d edit my books and I’d put the books on my shelf and he’d put them in a box I would someday look at and marvel at how much absolute shit I’d made him read.

I recently discovered a letter in my email from my father. It was 12 pages. Actually 12 pages.

I think it’s from 2005.  He was writing to me about my book For Four. Which was a fantasy novel. That’s plot could be boiled down to a simple observation: “I smoked pot. A lot of it.”

The letter is both complimentary and honest.

He praises my attempt to create a world with as many characters as the bible but notes its a little difficult to follow.

He not only read every word of the 350 page book. He also took extensive notes. He then sat down at his computer and wrote this email. Knowing that when I got it my heart would break.

He explained that the novel I’d spent three years on should be abandoned. That there was too much going on and fixing it would take too much of my time. He said there were flashes of what a great writer I could be but the book should be abandoned. So that I could learn the fundamentals.

I was 20. And I wasn’t ready to hear it.

I also lacked the perspective to understand what it’d be like to send a letter like that.

I’ve read pieces written by other writers who deserved letters like this. Giving feedback is a tremendous responsibility.  Sometimes I sent the email and sometimes I didn’t. An honest and hurtful criticism is a kindness you give someone if you truly believe they can do better. My dad always believed I could do better.

I wasn’t always ready to do better. I spent three more years on the book and this time he asked to read it. Knowing that I wasn’t showing anyone. And that I desperately needed to hear something positive.

At 25 I finished the book and quickly fell into a six month long depression.

As I started this descent he asked to read the latest draft of the book.

Which I had edited and worked on for years and he wrote me another long letter.

This time about how proud of me he was that I had spent the time and made something that had such beautiful moments. He told me I needed to write a query to submit to writing agents and that he’d edit it.

We did and no one ever responded.

But he told me I should write something else. That he’d read it. That I was getting close.

In the midst of my depression I wrote a 10,000 story about my girlfriend as a unicorn.

He helped me edit it. He took me for doctor’s visits. He waited for me to start talking his ear off again with my story ideas.  Time passed. I got better.

My desire to be a writer took me away from Halifax. I moved to Toronto.

We talk on the phone. Sometimes for hours at a time about the stories we are working on. As I have gotten older he’s started sharing his own ideas and getting my advice. He’s always a little excited to tell me about it. The thoughts have spent a lot of time brewing in his head and there aren’t a lot of people you can talk about the places you go in your head. Because it really is something only other neurotic writers can understand.

We share our lives and our feelings and what we’ve been thinking about. We say we love eachother at the end of every phone call.

But our most important conversations are about things that never actually happened.

We mainly talk about stories we are working on. It’s like a secret language we have.  A way to say I know that you go to a place no one else goes to and sometimes I want to bring you there with me because you’re important.

I talk about a lot of things with my dad. When times are bad they’re practical and he gives me advice.

When times are good and even when they’re really bad we talk about stories.

A lot of writers feel uncomfortable when they sit down and start typing. Perfectionism hits before they can really even dip their feet into the water.  The process gets caught up in the result and they get frozen. They need a drink. They look at the blank page and they get up from their desk.

I don’t.

Writing is a place of peace for me.

I think a lot of that is because when I sit down and write it brings back both those conversations with my dad. Where I can say anything and he would listen. Where anything is possible if you have the courage to imagine it. I think that in a lot of ways I’m the best person I can be at that table, with my fingers on that keyboard.

I know I have a lot to learn and I can get there. That this process is going to break my heart sometimes and that’s going to make me better.

A place where I have the curiosity of a boy and the bravery of a man.

We’ve talked about a million things but when we talk about writing it’s not really about sitting down and typing, editing, outlining or getting published. But a way to live. To fully commit to the beauty of being alive, making mistakes and daring to connect with people. To know the world is so vast, it’s impossible to understand it in its totality. But that a person can be imbued with the same force of gravity that moves planets and galaxies. If you love something enough to try to understand it you can become a part of a force that moves everything.

A force that feels almost unimaginably powerful.

A force that feels like being seven years old and going for a walk in Point Pleasant Park, holding my dad’s hand.

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Extrapolating Raindrops To Understand Oceans

Posted on | July 9, 2017 | No Comments

We are walking and talking and laughing and realizing that we aren’t the same sort of people as we take a quick tour of Toronto in a large pack of common friends.

She’s really nice. I listen a little more than I normally do. I ask her a question. Then another question digging deeper. She likes things I don’t. Which is briefly fascinating. She’s smart, kind and knows about stuff I don’t normally have any interest in.

We reach the zenith of our possible connection to each other which happens to be polite conversation.

Toronto is an excellent Darwinian experiment in connection. Because if you don’t really, really enjoy a stranger you can make zero effort and never see them again for the rest of your life. In fact getting to know someone means violating many well established Toronto rules. You can meet them by swiping right on their picture.  You can meet them at a bar or party when they smile at you and give you permission to do so. But these aren’t really how you get to know someone. You get to know them because you choose to.

We might talk a few more times in our lives but it likely won’t be a choice we actively made.

Very earlier on in our conversation I subconsciously seize on the one thing we have vaguely in common.

She is a fraternal twin. My nieces are fraternal twins.

Ergo I should tell her about the twins.

To show I understand her people.

Talking about loving my nieces is a good social move and also a reflection of a very important truth.

They sort of blow me away.

My sister and her husband love each other deeply. They decided to have kids. Who they in turn love deeply. Their names are Hannah and Avery. Hannah looks like a Cherub out of a classical painting with chubby baby cheeks and a matching angelic smile. She runs head first into things and that often means literally slamming her head into things. Avery is more quiet, and like all children has the occassional health problem. For her it’s a problems with child hood asthma. Which will most likely be something she forgets about when she becomes older but for now can be the object of a great deal of worry.

I remember coming home a few years ago for Christmas and going to the Emergency room to visit Avery.

My sister was patient and funny. Avery got her puffer and the steroids filled her with surges of insane dizzying adrenaline.  She raced around the hospital in her little hospital dress, and devoured her treat, a pink popsicle talking a mile a minute.

. This particular hospital visit was a very low grade emergency. A typical journey they’ve taken a dozen times.Like all children, ocassionally they’ll get sick and the level of fear will multiply. My sister will handle it. As all parents do. Quietly, keeping their fear mostly to themselves.

This was my first journey like this. I wasn’t scared. I just noticed how when Avery grabbed my hand I would feel it in my chest. Stopping to go for a walk with her as she explained the world as pink Popsicle drool dripped down her lips and I’d feel this feeling of love like a prayer. Like don’t let anything bad ever happen to her.   I’ve seen her just a couple times. I do backwards math. If this is what a raindrop falls like as it hits me, I tried to calculate what the ocean must feel like.

I try imagine what Emily feels when she looks at Avery in her little hospital gown. When she has to maintain a game face when things are scaring her and how she somehow blossomed into this full grown, compassionate adult human who occassionally calls me Michael instead of brat.

Only this isn’t what I have been thinking about lately. Or rather I’ve been thinking of what it must be like for Hannah when Avery gets sick.

I remember how Hannah likes to have all of her toys perfectly organized. She says that when her toys are in good working order her head feels clean.

She’s in the vicinity of four years old.

She has no problem breaking out in song and performing a dance routine from Frozen in front of absolute strangers. She likes to dangle upside down. She has learned how to climb humans as though they were a staircase.

She loves to open her arms and run at her sister.  Excited about a hug. They’re extremely close and hug at every possible opportunity.

Hannah is also aware that her sister sometimes has problems with asthma.

I don’t know what she feels exactly. I just know that she has a much smaller world that she can control. Which is ultimately those toys she has in her basement. That need to be perfectly ordered. So that her brain feels clean. I think about how much the two little girls care about eachother. How much they laugh when they’re together. And what it might feel like to love her sister that much. With a heart that is completely inexperienced. That has no concept of scale or time or how things change, break and come back together again. There is only a desire to keep the world ordered in a way adults feel and have learned to ignore. There is only an intimate knowledge that her sister and her parents and her grandparents are her world. And she wants to keep things organized. So they’re protected.

There are few people you met and instantly know there are yours. That these are people you’ll fight for. That their struggles through life will also be yours. That you won’t care that they don’t like the same things you do. You’ll love them anyway.

I think about mentioning all of this to my new friend. Who is also a twin.

I think about asking her how much she loves her sister.

I stop myself because I understand that might sound creepy. People are weird about twins in about a hundred ways I don’t want to participate in.

I ramble a bit about how much I love Hannah and Avery.

She nods her head. Probably imagining that I’m doing what people do in their tinder profiles when they post pictures of children that aren’t their own. And she’d be sort of right.

She asks a few questions.

Smiling. Playing the get to know you game.

As we experiment with getting to know eachother.

Analysing our first impressions.

Doing those calculations we all do.

As we try to add human behaviours together to decide whether this will be one of our people. If we can let go enough to let them really get to know us or if we’ll just fill out the survey questions.

It occurs to me that a lot of our people are nervous talking to strangers. Maybe they play it safe. Maybe it takes them awhile to really warm up to someone. Maybe fifty conversations in you discover that person actually was destined to be your bestfriend. Maybe it isn’t who someone is but where they are when you need them. Maybe the whole fucking thing is trying to extrapolate raindrops to understand oceans.

You go from the smallest bit of evidence and you make a decision every time you meet a stranger.

Will I get to know this person?

Maybe if given the proper chance a person who doesn’t like the same things you do can be one of your people.

Only as you get older there are less and less chances to get close to people who don’t immediately fit. Because circumstances aren’t going to force you to get to know eachother. We rarely talk to strangers. We are almost never forced to have 50 conversations with anyone.

You have to make a decision.

I do.

Maybe I’m missing out.

I doubt I’ll ever know.

 

 

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Importunate

Posted on | July 1, 2017 | No Comments

It’s record-breaking cold in Toronto.

The crew for the murder mystery web series Typo is outside facing the type of chill that makes your skin burn.

Alex Pirie-Hay is inside holding a puppy in his hands, calmly stroking its head to keep it from yapping and conceivably ruining some very important takes.

Alex is an expert audio technician and not a dog wrangler. In fact, Alex is allergic to dogs and is too polite to mention this. It should also be said that you can tell the animal is falling in love, licking his palm, lolling like a contented baby.

A contented baby that is most likely making Alex have an allergic reaction.

I’m watching him because there is something you see when you get to know Alex. He is sweet in a way that kind of breaks your heart. Like he is a person who gives everything away and doesn’t get enough back. And he is a trained sound technician petting this fucking dog to keep it quiet so it doesn’t ruin our takes.

There are a lot of places you could start with this story. I could mention the first time I worked with Alex the October before on a short film and how we stole shots on the subway as he recorded the sound, rocking his head frantically back and forth pretending to be a punk rocker just in case someone was watching.

We could start with us walking from set on the first day of Just Cuddle as he explained that for his birthday he asked his parents for a memory of his grandparents.

I start on that cold day in February because it was that picture I couldn’t get out of my head. A person who was infinitely more than he appeared, who was at a point in his life where he was settling to be less than he was. When Elias and I were breaking the story of Just Cuddle Episode 3 “Film School”, Elias said he wanted Alex to play the part of Harold, a character that bore a striking resemblance to Alex – someone who was so much more than he appeared to be. When we filmed Episode 2, Alex was the sound technician. For Episode 3, we wanted him to be the star. But we aren’t quite there yet.

****

For Alex, doing film is a way of breaking out of his shell. He likes people but he hates meeting them. He’s paralyzed by a lifelong pathological shyness that he needs to shed on set. He’s forced to talk to actors and get them to put their mikes on properly; he has to tell the director if the sound on a take has been spoiled; he needs to write emails to the producer to make sure he has all the appropriate equipment. But he feeds off of this energy where he gets to be a part of something.

We are sitting down after shooting Episode 2. Elias and I ask Alex to join us.

“So we want you to be the star of the third episode.”

Alex looks confused. It’s clear he feels as if he has misheard us. He assumes we aren’t stupid so he must have misheard us.

“What?”

Elias presses on. “We have a script that we’re really excited about. We think you’d be really great in it. As the lead. We’d love it if you read it…”

“You’re making a mistake. I’m sure I’ll love it because you guys make great things  but I’ll ruin it… I promise I’ll ruin it.”

“Can you read it? Just see if you might want to do it.”

Three days later, we get his reply:

I agonized over this. I fucking love it and want to so hard. Lovely, lovely stuff. If you’re in a pinch and can’t find anyone, count me in but in a perfect world I’d recommend someone else. I’m pulling a Harold. Maybe in five years.

P.S I relate to Harold like a horse. This guy – pooped on and pooped out. Sincerely wonderful stuff. 

P.S.S I can’t drive. err. yeah. I know, wtf get a license, on it on it, but that’s a factor too.

So we acted politely and looked for other actors.

The other actors didn’t quite get it. There is a dignity to Alex that we needed for Harold. We needed to believe this guy wasn’t a loser. This was just a person who had never won before. And someone who was about to find out that the world didn’t see him the way he thought they did.

The next part involves booze. Maybe a lot of it.

Elias and Alex were at a friend’s barbecue on a patio drinking beer.

“So we auditioned people and there was no one who really stood out for us. They were sort of approximations but not quite what we were looking for.”

(Side note: Elias does in fact use words like approximations. He is a person who perpetually has the perfect word in his mouth.)

“Hmm…. I see.”

Alex doesn’t have that gift. His words often get lost in his mouth like he believes his contribution shouldn’t be heard.

“Would you consider coming to a no-pressure callback where you read with some of the actors we’re interested in for the part of Alison? Just see how it feels?” says Elias. “If it feels comfortable, know that the success of the episode doesn’t rest on you. If it doesn’t work, it’s my fault. But trust that I’ll do everything I can to get you where you need to be to make this work.”

Alex nods, takes a sip of his beer and assumes it will end with one audition.

****

What we don’t know is that Alex had in fact acted before. His first experience with acting involved Hamlet and being yelled at. Being yelled at a lot.

The director of this particular rendition of the play didn’t like the way Alex pronounced his lines. Alex pronounced them this way because he had no fucking clue what they meant. The director didn’t bother explaining the meaning. Instead he shouted:

“Do it again!”

“She is importunate, indeed bereft, her needs will must be warranted.”

He was made to say it over and over again until the director gave up trying.

“She is importunate, indeed bereft, her needs will must be warranted.”

“No.”

“She is importunate, indeed bereft, her needs will must be warranted.”

Gradually he saw the director die inside.

He assumed this experience would be very much the same. We would give him lines, he would say them and our eyes would glaze over and we would wish we were dead.

****

Hannah Whitmore came in for her callback. Immediately there was this wonderful chemistry between Alex and her. She could see the great thing that inspired such devotion in Alex’s friends. And when she was doing her lines, he could feel that thing in himself.

In Alex’s words: “When the readings were happening, I was reading with two or three people. It was with the forest walk scene. And I remember this was the most scary part, initial time working with professional actors. I figured they’d see it. You know that I suck. That I’m a big fake and I can’t act. When Hannah started her lines this thing happened. Right away she got into character. Oh shit Jesus she’s in character and I was like I’m Alex awkward. Recommended that Hannah brought the fire whoever she ends up acting with it will go really well. 

I remember receiving the text from Elias while I was on vacation. Alex would be Harold. I remember pumping my fist and swearing. I knew if Alex was involved we would have something special.

My faith wasn’t shared by Alex.

Alex agonized over disappointing us. He lived the days before the shoot in a sheer terror. He was going to ruin it.

“She is importunate, indeed bereft, her needs will must be warranted.”

****

And on set, magic happened.

Alex explained his secret to playing Harold: “The guy is nervous in his own skin. That played well because that’s what I am. It played well on camera because it was a fact. I was shitting bricks until halfway through the last day. Somehow people thought I was good and you know I think I sort of believed them. For the first couple days afterwards I was riding high. I did this impossible thing and I didn’t fuck it up too badly.”

Alex moves cities to break out of his shell. A few weeks after we finished shooting his episode, he relocated to Vancouver.

There was a job in an art department on a series where he says the work is intense but never boring.

When I called him for this interview he was on a bus on the way to see a friend.

I pictured him on that bus. Wide eyed, taking in a new city. Ready to break out of his shell again.

I hope that people in Vancouver know what they have.

Because every single person on the set of Just Cuddle knew what happened when he got in front of the camera. And know what he is like as a friend.

Pure fucking magic.

See you soon, Alex.

We all miss you.

Sincerely,

The Just Cuddle Team

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  • 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.

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