Inspiration in the most unexpected places

I have a day job.

It’s not something super fancy or anything to be proud of, but I make a decent salary, have benefits, and get a few vacation and sick days here and there. It’s pretty comfy.

The problem with my day job is that it’s taking time away from writing (and taking my sanity, bit by bit, with every inane phone call I get from a woman in Minnesota who can’t find her phone’s power on button). This is where it gets a little bit interesting.

Last week, I started taking phone calls for a new area of my company. We do cell phone service and domain name registration – I’m more well versed in the phone side of things, and am still learning how to deal with domain names and email issues. A man called in yesterday trying to get his email started on his Mac, which immediately gave me two problems as a) I’m still learning about email and b) I can’t stand Macs and as a result have no idea how their OS works. (It seems a very strange oversight to me not to have a “home” type launcher or a more accurate search bar.)

This gentleman was on the phone with me for over an hour. We slowly got email to work on his tablet, then his laptop, but at last glance we were still trying to work out getting email onto his desktop. He took the time while we were waiting for downloads or updates to ask a bit about me, and I soon revealed that I’d rather be working in music, and that I’ve started writing songs as a gateway to that ideal. He was very impressed (though he has no proof of whether or not I have any talent!) and regaled me with stories of his Californian friends who knew people who knew people. Apparently the Beach Boys liked to rent out rooms in peoples’ mansions for $20,000 a week and fill them with sand. Whatever gets you going creatively, I guess.

This gentleman and I struggled to get his email working (Safari couldn’t open it, so we downloaded FireFox) to no avail. He sympathised with the difficulty of starting any creative endeavour. “You’re not Elton John,” he said (and I laughed a little as my sister’s nickname for me is, in fact, Kiki Dee), “you can’t write a song in an instant. Candle in the Wind was written in 5 minutes on the back of a napkin. Don’t worry about that. You’re not competing with Elton John. One day, you will be, but by then you’ll be able to write a song in 5 minutes, too. Until then, don’t worry about it.”

I told him I want to write an EP by the end of the year. “How many songs does that entail?” he asked me. “About 8-12.” “Well that’s perfect!” he said, “just write one song a month. That’s all you need. Don’t worry about writing any more than that; even if you have some songs you don’t like, you’ll still have the songs you aimed for.” I couldn’t deny this.

I’ve been worrying lately that I’m not writing enough, or well enough, or fast enough. This anonymous gentleman from California – a lawyer who couldn’t open his email – reassured me that I don’t have to be at that level right now. Baby steps. If you look at a mountaintop right away you’ll miss the basic steps that get you there. I’ll get there.

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The greatest dream

China, summertime. A large group of travellers and locals gather for a group photo near a local temple, including me and my newly met friends (whose names I forget but let’s be honest since it’s a dream they probably aren’t all that offended). After the photo, a party: people attempt to converse in their second languages, translators ease the conversation, all is well. Until the snacks are served.

For some reason, the Chinese locals are unfamiliar with the snacks – Smartfood – and a mass hysteria begins, wherein people ingesting the popcorn begin to believe they are spiders and begin to attack. My first instinct is to call in Batman, but then I realise since he is not actually a bat, he will not eat these spider-people. Since I hate Smartfood, I am immune, and though at first I genuinely believe that the food is turning people into seizing, demon hell-beast spiders, I soon realise (after reading a TIME magazine article about the abuse that the sufferers must endure once they are detained by the military) that these people have not been infected by some sort of cerebral virus – it’s simply mass hysteria, further encouraged by the media. After realising this, I and Philip Seymour Hoffman emerge from below the office desk where we were hiding, and set up a plan to capture a spider-man (heh) and study him to see why the hysteria has been so deeply effective.

We stretch packing tape against the nearest doorway and act as human bait to lure the zombie-like spider-people into our trap. We know they rove in packs of four so we have to be ready, once the first spider is caught, to stave off the other three. Surprisingly, our primitive trap ensnares all four, who rush blindly together in confusion and end up tied up on the floor like some kind of Scooby-Doo villains. At this point, before we can study them, soldiers burst through the doors and haul them away, and we are defeated in our quest to solve the puzzle that plagues the nation.

Sometime later, still during the outbreak of spiderdom, I am in a convenience store, merely browsing. A man comes in, distraught, and tries to shoplift some Play-Doh. The cashier notices, begins to yell at him, and threatens to expose him to the crowd of spider-men roving menacingly in the back alley. I quietly place some Play-Doh in my sweater – green, brown, white and black – and exit stage left. When the man is finally booted out of the store by the cashier, I hand him the swag and beat it back to base camp. The man follows me, explaining that his home had been broken into by the spider-people and subsequently looted, and there was nowhere for he and his young son to stay. I invite them both to come chill with me and Philip Seymour Hoffman. He agrees.

Back behind the office desk, the little boy is making caramel apples out of the Play-Doh I managed to purloin, while hallucinations take over and I am convinced the door is a portal to hell, with screaming spider-people whizzing past us to the outside world. (Important to take note that apparently an office desk will save you from all this.) Hoffman shakes me, tells me to get a hold of myself, and eats some Smartfood right in front of my face. I am horrified. I scream that he can’t do this to us, the resistance needs him… until he grins, and reminds me that this is all just mass hysteria. That was exactly the wake-up call I needed, and though I read in TIME magazine that one of my new friends is dead, I bravely step around the front of the office desk and call the rebels to action.

Philip Seymour Hoffman steps outside the pagoda wherein we were hiding, and bravely stands out on the stone platform surrounding the temple. Men and women are everywhere; being chased and beaten by the military, chasing and beating the military; general havoc abounds. Hoffman steps into the fracas and demands that everyone give him attention. They stop. He reaches deep into his bag of Smartfood and eats an entire fistful. He announces that there is nothing to be afraid of – it’s just food. Terrible, artificial-tasting food. People look around at each other. Some are embarrassed, some are weeping. The soldiers administer one final kick for good measure, and drive off in their Jeeps. There is silence.

The people near the temple all shuffle back to the risers where our initial photo was taken. There are fewer of us now, and I’m reunited with my surviving friends. The man and his son emerge and join us. Our photo is taken, we are survivors.

EPILOGUE

It is a year later, and I am back in the village which I visited on that fateful summer when so many lost their lives. A man is sitting in his window when a letter blows in – he opens it, but cannot understand it since it is in English and he only reads Mandarin. He hands it to me, smiling, and I see that it is covered in Zoidberg stickers – a little inside joke between me and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I smile. As I tuck the letter into my pocket and turn around, a familiar shout gets my attention, and the little boy comes running up to me, arms outstretched. I ruffle his hair – he’s grown a lot in a year! – and accept the Play-Doh caramel apple that he thrusts into my palm. I stand and smile at his father, who smiles back and takes his son’s hand as they turn back to the home they rebuilt.

Also throughout the whole thing I had this awesome British accent.

Living in the sunlight, loving in the moonlight

…having a wonderful time.

(Thought I’d ruin all your good-weather moods with a little earworm-maker known as Tiny Tim. Just try getting it out of your head.)

Today I had the most wonderful 19C picnic. Early spring (still technically winter), grass sprouting, sun warming the earth (and waking up the bees… oh, the bees), and two out of three of my siblings in the park near my house with a manwich apiece. Well, my brother’s was the true Dagwood, but he’s also 17, tall, and skinny, so that’s to be expected.

Anyway, I brought my trusty guitar Monty along with us and set up an impromptu jam with my brother. Baby sister said we should get a busking licence, because “well, you’re not doing anything, and he’s not doing anything… except lie around the house and be lazy. He should get off his butt and do music.” Which was her way of telling her plenty-older siblings to get a job. I WILL WHEN YOU DO

So there you have it. Summer employment opportunity in an entrepreneurial musical venture as coerced by an almost-ten-year-old. Sounds almost fancy when you put it that way.

My little sister gave me a bear

Apparently the best thing for writer’s block is a little brown plastic bear with big eyes. This is according to my baby sister, anyway. I asked her what I should write and she exclaimed “this!” as she thrust the toy in front of me. And I thought, why not? After all, most of her philosophies hold water.

For example, she theorises that since her job isn’t math, she won’t do math. Makes sense. She also seems to think sideways shuffling is a more effective mode of transportation than the traditional “evolved bipedal forward motion,” and currently is exhibiting the benefits of inverse standing over the more common “standing on your feet.”

I think society as a whole needs to adopt an attitude like this. Draw things that don’t exist. Sing as you skip down the street. Make up words (and dance routines). Make room in your life for a little reckless abandon. Maybe if we all lighten up a bit and stop taking things (like math) so seriously,  we can all be as happy as this little pixie.

Cross border shopping

The great Canadian tradition! Spending our money in another country – and even though it’s currently worth more than American money, prices still haven’t been adjusted to reflect that. Why do we still do this? It’s not even Black Friday…

But on the other hand, their stores carry some products ours don’t. Worth it? Maybe…

Mah teef hurp.

SPOILER: some gross medical-y stuff ahead. Teeth, blood, needles, gross bits.

The weirdest thing about taking Tylenol 3 is when you stop taking it for a bit, then start again. You never realise the fog you were in until you’re out and your mouth hurts and you have to swallow everything whole so all you’re eating is noodle soup and jell-o and you’re deathly paranoid about getting food stuck in the space where your teeth used to be and your mouth still isn’t closing properly and EVERYTHING IS GROSS.

Sorry.

I had a blood test today (because what with all the massive amounts of cavities, plus my recent extreme and consistent thirst, and a ten year history of hypoglycemic shakes, in addition to a family history of diabeetus, we thought it was prudent to check), so I fasted and didn’t take any pills till I could see a doctor. Thankfully I was able to see one by 2 pm today, so the fasting was over quickly and I returned to my drug induced stupor shortly thereafter. My haemotologist was amazing, though. She sat me down, no nonsense, I looked away, I thought I felt the needle pinch, then about 30 seconds later she was removing the tournequet and throwing away the needly bits and there were two full vials of blood on the table. Well done, ma’am!

I responded in disbelief, exhaling a “wow!” as I stood up to grab my jacket. “You’re good!” I grinned, as the hunger and faintness began to kick in.

“And you have lovely teeth!” she responded. “You say something nice to me, I say something nice to you.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my “lovely” teeth were the very reason I was in her clinic today.

Good one, me.

So I’m sitting here playing Minesweeper when I come to a section of the grid where I have to fully guess where the bombs are. There is no algorithm, there are no clues, it’s just pure guesswork for about 7 or 8 bombs.

(Yes, this is a post about Minesweeper. Deal with it.)

I made it through the guesswork without a hitch, cleared the whole corner area, and literally thought to myself “Wow, that was a real minefield!”

Then I realised what the game is called.

Goals of an amateur songwriter

It’s a new goal of mine to write one of those songs where like, five months after it’s released, everybody goes “THAT’S what it’s about?!?” But not in a “Pumped-Up Kicks is about gang violence?!” way, more like a “Gwen Stefani wrote a song about getting her wisdom teeth out?!” way. Silliness, in other words. No idea what I’m going to write yet, though. Maybe a thoughtful ballad about going to the laundromat because I don’t want to give my landlord another $3 just to do a load of laundry. Or an up-tempo, feel-good groove about how my rats constantly fight over food and keep me awake at night.

You know, something random.

Dinner party

My sister recently issued a hypothetical question (she loves to do that) involving which 5 celebrities or historical figures, living or dead, you would invite to a dinner party. Not only must they be interesting to you, but they must have common topics on which to speak and must be able to get along with each other… for example, inviting Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill could either be fantastic (because of their quips and witticisms) or terrifying (if it turned out they wore similar cravats or failed to greet each other with the proper panache).

It’s taken me awhile to come up with my celebrity dinner party, but here goes:

1. Jon Stewart. Because if conversation gets out of hand he can mediate and direct to a better, more common ground. I’d also ask a lot of questions about the guests he’s hosted over the years. Also he is teh sexc.

2. Damian Kulash. Not just because of my overwhelming crush on him coupled with crippling hero worship, but because he is a genuine brilliant soul. Also artistic. Also gorgeous. But he has to have shaggy hair if he’s allowed at my party.

3. Ellen DeGeneres. Why I tend to be aiming toward talk show hosts here is unknown, but as with Stewart, DeGeneres has wit, charm, a sense of humour, and the ability to steer conversation. She also has a broad range of knowledge which would lead to interesting conversations.

4. Oscar Wilde (sans Winnie). His prose is among the most haunting, his wit also razor-sharp, his imagination boundless. I can only imagine the clever put-downs he’d give me over my cooking. Scratch that, this is a catered affair.

5. David Sedaris. I will make him recite his “Six to Eight Black Men” in honour of the season, and we will bond over being short and having lots of siblings.

This would be the best party ever.

Edited to add: If there were any more space at the table, or one of the guests couldn’t make it, Betty White would be next on the list. Because she’s a strong woman, embraces her age instead of fighting it, has a career that keeps picking up speed, and she’s a total baller.