Yeah, you read that right. In my defense, I was travelling on a country road off the main highway where eighteen-wheelers dare not tread and is generally not considered an important economic artery by any stretch (I could’ve just taken the highway to the beach, but where’s the fun in that?). At that particular hour there were no other vehicles in sight, the only sign of non-corvine motile life being the swarm of flies I saw laying their eggs on that dead skunk a few clicks back. So I figured I could probably get away with slowing the vehicle down to a near-stop for the five seconds it would take to unlock my phone and hit the big Shazam button.
That song playing on the radio was one I’d never heard before. Couldn’t put my finger on what it was about it that piqued my interest. Perhaps it was the atmospheric quasi-Harrisonian chord progression, or the harmonic interplay between the guitar and vocal lines, or the artful use of what initially sounded to me like the choir setting on a synth (but was probably just plain ol’ backup vocals) towards the end. It certainly wasn’t the main hook, which sounded like an afterthought in the songwriting process, like something one of the band members let his five-year-old kid have a go at writing because he had no more fucks left to give. The inappropriate Frankie Valli impression employed by the lead singer during said hook only increased its Whiskey Tango Foxtrot quotient. But I still had to know what that song was in spite of its warts, and had precious little faith in the likelihood of the on-air talent’s announcement of such after the song was over.
I wouldn’t find out what the song was until after I arrived at the beach, as there was no cellular service in the area I was in when I initially Shazammed it. But once the result came in, it turned out to be an evidently lesser-known hit from a Vancouver quintet I’ve heard of. A band that broke up well before I started growing hair on my nether regions, yet seems to get a significant amount of airplay on this station in particular. Mere days ago I became aware of the fact that the drummer of said band has been dealing with some unfortunate medical issues lately. Not sure if that’s the reasoning, or merely because the program director is a fanboy.
A former colleague of mine contacted me by phone a few months ago. He offered me a job. Decided not to take it, though. For two reasons. The first reason being that he was very insistent I move back to Toronto to take the job. Something I have precisely zero interest in doing. I lived and worked in Toronto for a number of years, and those were arguably the darkest years of my life.
My old program coordinator at Sheridan College once advised a more naïve and innocent version of yours truly against seeking work in the Big Smoke upon graduation. Her exact pearl of wisdom was: “You’re just not a Toronto kind of guy.” I probably should’ve taken her advice in retrospect. But I didn’t, and learned the hard way what she was getting at. I ended up working for a psychopath who eventually got arrested for stabbing a dude, but that wasn’t the half of it. Toronto is only exciting and glamourous if you’ve never had the experience of living or working there. Otherwise, it’s a miserable place. Shameless materialism and delusions of grandeur are epidemics in that town. If you dare to base your whole sense of self-worth on something other than the number of zeros on your paycheque, people actually think there’s something horribly wrong with you.
The second reason why I turned down the job is because I’ve already made definitive plans as to what I’m going to do with the post-Ellis Galea Kirkland phase of my professional life. Plans which I may or may not elaborate on in a future blog post. I’d like to devote my time and talents towards a more noble endeavour. All the paperwork with regards to said endeavour has been completed and submitted to the relevant personnel; I should be hearing back from them in a few months’ time. [EDIT 1/30/2020 10:40 UTC-5 These plans ultimately did not work out for me, as I elaborate on in more detail here. So the search continues for life’s next great adventure. Hopefully that adventure will not involve dealing with anyone with a God complex. Satisfaction would still be a good and welcome thing.]
It was the first time I had spoken to the aforementioned former colleague in four years, and the conversation did not revolve entirely around this job he was offering me. Among other things, he enlightened me to the fact that our one-time boss did not actually commit suicide, as was initially reported in the Globe. That was the “official” explanation given to the media, but the truth is even stranger (and hence far more interesting) than that. She died accidentally. Hypothermic shock.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, Ellis Galea Kirkland was a cancer survivor. She successfully bought her way back to relative health, but not before her years of illness rendered numerous biological functions defective. One of those functions being the human body’s natural thermoregulatory ability. Over a period of years, her body temperature would gradually lose its propensity to remain consistent regardless of external atmospheric conditions, and would instead fluctuate in response to her body’s immediate surroundings. In short, she ceased to be a normal warm-blooded mammal and became cold-blooded. Like a reptile.
Years ago when Ellis first discussed this particular quirk of her physiology with me, I made some wisecrack to her in response about how she was a human lizard. Despite her hair-trigger temper and her tendency to take herself way too seriously, she laughed that one off. The joke likely reminded her of the pet iguana she used to have back in the Eighties.
Yeah, you read that right – being the near-Michael Jackson level of eccentric she was, Ellis once had a pet iguana. I never met the iguana, unfortunately. It had been dead for years by the time I first met Ellis, but I’ve personally seen old photographs of her posing with it. She would tell me that this critter expired prematurely as a result of an unintended moment’s exposure to a particularly harsh Canadian winter. In a weird way, one could say the iguana eerily presaged its owner’s death some thirty years later.
With her reptilianism in some unbeknownst waxing phase, it would be a mere five minutes outside on a bitter New Year’s Eve in the financial capital of a certain country far in the Northern Hemisphere known the world over for its harsh winters (if nothing else) that would ultimately do her in. A demise that recalls the Wicked Witch of the West, in the sense that she was killed by something that has been naturally present on Earth for millions of years which the comfortable majority can easily withstand exposure to without suffering any life-threatening medical complications.
I may or may not use this as a plot device in SILVER BROWN. Some variant of it might show up, but right now it’s really too early to tell. It’s certainly fucked-up enough to make excellent fodder for fiction. The stuff of a good biological horror story worthy of Cronenberg. There are quite a few characters in SILVER BROWN that cannot be accurately described as human, so if I find myself having to kill one of them off, it would be only fitting to give them a very inhuman sendoff.
“Good Christ, a Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy till they die!”
– Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint
I lost my mother earlier this year, shortly after the winter solstice. My mood about that varies with the alignment of the stars on any given day, for my relationship with her was complicated. To put it mildly. She was a rule-enforcer. A dogmatic one at that. More the type of parent to tell me not to do something than to do it. Always more terrified of the possible negatives that could arise from any given situation rather than excited about the possible positives. So I grew up with the feeling that I couldn’t really rely on her as a life coach; I had to look well outside the home environment from an early age to find my inspiration. My mother’s level of depressing merely intensified as she got older, and would leave this world fearful, angry and miserable after a mere sixty-nine years. A slow horrible death, by all accounts.
I’m still struggling to come to terms with living in a world without my mother in it. She’s been an omnipresence in my life for so long that her absence is almost shocking. It’ll take a bit more time for the shock to wear off, methinks. Some days I’m fully comfortable living in this new world, and other days I’m so uncomfortable with it that I willfully go looking for love in all the wrong places. But if I ever have one of those days when I just can’t deal, it helps to write something. The written word oft proves to be my salvation. Just the act of tapping away at the keyboard puts me in a better frame of mind. The words I write occasionally even shine a light on something I’ve never considered before, even if I end up deleting them soon after.