Writing

Baseball

When I was young I played a variety of sports such as hockey, basketball, soccer and baseball. Although I enjoyed baseball the least I found it the most interesting – primarily for the time I spent alone, left field to be exact. 

As society grows, time alone has become a neglected and forgotten commodity. 

Once a week on game day I would spend at least half the time alone on a well manicured piece of grass with a pocket full of sunflower seeds, wondering what becomes of a 10 year old man such as myself once little league ends?  Always ending up with more questions than answers. 

Does god exist?

What’s for dinner?

Where does a one-legged man by shoe?

Who fucks the stork?

Occasionally I’d catch the eye of a friend in centre field, we’d give each other the obligatory wave or nod of the head to recognize we were both very much not asleep and then immediately dive back into our own private worlds, whether it be a stream of consciousness or some misguided belief the ball would be hit anywhere in our general vicinity, we were pretty well out to sea. 

At some point I began to recognize that the general absence of physical activity during a game could be used to my advantage, it was that moment I decided to become not so much a baseball player in left field but rather a left-fielder trapped in a baseball game, arguably the greatest decision I’d made in my life up to that point. 

The great American pastime could not be more aptly named, hours of thoughts lost to the wind interrupted only by brief intervals of returning to the bench for a round of mandatory high fives and eventually a win-or-lose celebratory can of Coke. 

Much of my ability to make the best of an unfortunate situation can be attributed to solitary field confinement and has served me well in adulthood, where consequences for poorly managed problems come at a higher cost. Self control, awareness, inward reflection and managing expectations were my consolation trophies, awarded for my lack of interest in ‘pop-flies’. Baseball is boring. 

Following a particularly inconsequential game it crossed my mind that maybe I was misjudging the sport and in turn denying myself an opportunity to enjoy something that so many others seemed to relish. I thought about it the entire walk home, glove in hand, the sound of my cleats clicking against the stone pathway dimly masked distant yelling and cheers from both teams still echoing in the park, fading away with every step. 

It was then I realized I’d walked home in the middle of the fifth inning and probably why my coach never let me play first base. 

Practice makes Perfect

As a child I was typically inquisitive, I wanted to know as much about the world around me as I could absorb and I’ve maintained that to this day. My parents were always up front and honest when it came to my questions, even if it made them uncomfortable from time to time. 

One of the few things my parents ever seemed to agree on was that being able to do something on a practical level was equally important as understanding the theoretical side, no matter the discipline it was necessary to have as complete a grasp on whatever it is you’re working on as possible. 

Sometimes they would really go the extra mile and let me participate or interact with things that interested me. 

Animals? A trip to the zoo! Cars? Let’s go to a race! 

Though not every question warranted an excursion, their devotion to raising a critically thinking member of society was apparent and they wanted me to be able to look at the world objectively and not believe everything I saw or heard,  particularly on television. 

A favourite lesson my father loved teaching every Wednesday was how Norm from ‘Cheers’ couldn’t possibly drink that much beer without pissing himself and getting into a fight with several cops. 

Life

No one saw it coming, but I did. The whole thing happened in slow motion and I did nothing to stop it, it had to happen, I wanted it to, needed it.

Blindsided in no small part by their own ignorance and unwillingness to think beyond their own existence. Society has made us content to not only accept but assume that everything will work out in the end – not today. The carnage unfolded before my eyes, the initial uneasiness of the wanton destruction quickly turned into pure exhilaration shot straight into my heart, humankind was not designed for this level of sensory excess but somehow I felt born for this moment, anything which came before was merely a memory of the void my life had previously occupied.

No winners, only victims. No remorse, prodigious joy.

What comes next? Does one pick up the shattered ruins surrounding the now living nightmare that only moments ago would have resembled a cold, foreign land of which you refused to believe existed? Do we run? From ourselves, from the things that once held our sanity together? What remains is the hope that we’ll one day be able, if only momentarily, to forget the bedlam that enveloped what was held dear, gone is the hope of a return to a life of peace, of still, of worth.

Needless to say this was the best blind corner grocery store cart collision I’ve seen in a while!

Party Time

Growing up I had the opportunity to hear a few reformed addicts who would travel to schools and warn us kids about the dangers of drugs, without fail they’d always devolve into a story about some depraved sex act they had to perform in order to score their next hit. Whether it was behind a dumpster for heroin, a truck stop bathroom for a line of cocaine, an abandoned train yard for crack rock, an old factory warehouse for some ecstasy, a spooky haunted house for steroids, a park bench for ritalin, a barn for some ketamine, the post office for some Colt 45, or the Bermuda Triangle for crystal meth the message became apparent to me very quickly, you can find romance and adventure anywhere!

Star Search

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I was exposed to a television show called ‘Star Search’. I rarely watched it and even at a young age considered it campy and generally nothing more than a talent show for people and things that generally didn’t matter in my universe.

  For about 12 years Star Search would take performers from various aspects of show business and pit them against each other, judged by a panel and audience reception to determine their success on a 1-4 star grading system. 

  Performers each week would be required to win their respective categories in order to advance to next week’s show. Sound familiar?

  The Championship reward on Star Search was $100,000, there were no record deals, no publishing contracts or “360 deals” and little else guaranteed other than the recognition which an entertainer would have to turn into a career moving forward – still no easy task.

  Auditions and the show itself were shot in Hollywood, California at the Earl Carroll Theatre on Sunset Blvd. 

Contestants were required to send in an audition tape of themselves in order to be considered for a spot on the show, which would then require they made a trip to the west coast should they be selected, a costly endeavour for many.

  When I was young I knew of a very small number of families who owned a video recorder, which to my understanding weighed 300lbs and could shoot up to 13 minutes of tape before the battery died, an obstacle on the road to stardom.

  Economics alone were enough to deter those whose interest in show business was nothing more than a fantasy, stoked at the occasional family gathering or office party where a peer told them how ‘talented’ they were. “You should be on Star Search!” was used as an insult by my friends and I growing up if one of us decided to get too confident.

  The show was a phenom for a time and launched notable careers for entertainers we all know today, but it was not easy, the competition was stiff and the likelihood of success was slim.

  Originality, perseverance, sacrifice and charisma are just a few of the traits shared by many of the careers born of the show.

  Today we live in a world where there are countless versions of Star Search which require much less of the performer. Open auditions are held around the globe to any town with a venue that can support a lineup around the block to each and every guy and gal who believes their version of ‘Bobby McGee’ is going to set the world ablaze. 

The internet has nurtured an environment for those with no special skills or motivation to develop one to consider themselves worthy of the difficult and dedicated world of the arts.

  For the countless and nameless contestants to go through the machine there has only been a very, very small percentage who have had any success beyond the level of notoriety given to the winner until the next season goes to air and the whole process starts again. 

  Unfortunately for an ever-widening segment of society, these modern interpretations seem to have pushed music further into the background of day-to-day life, an add-on for whatever else it is we’re doing with our time and given rise to the armchair quarterback, simply waiting on the world to come to him.

The greatest tragedy in the current climate is the number of hard working, driven and talented people who refuse to be a cog in the gears of a system setup to benefit everyone except the artist. 

  Perhaps this is all a phase and eventually people will become so inundated with mediocrity that they’ll begin to seek out those who hone their craft not for fame or fortune but because it’s what makes them whole. The only other option is to dig up that sonofabitch Ed McMahon, cash the over $38 million in embezzled Star Search winnings and Publisher’s Clearing House cheques he was buried with and take back the industry ourselves!

Little Victories

I just drove across the city to get a specific sketchbook that no one else carries. The price was almost $10 more than what it is online but the guy at the art store was wearing a beret and had a French accent. This is not a joke.

The pricing is a major deterrent so if I decide to make another trip I’ll have to bring a witness.

I too, will wear a beret.

Except I’ll be very coy about it and maybe say something like “Cool hat!”

At that moment one of two things will happen.

Option 1: He begins to question me on where I purchased my beret. I’ll panic, realizing I didn’t come up with a proper backstory. He grows suspicious.

Next, he’ll begin to pepper the conversation with French to throw me off. I won’t take the bait but it’s becoming ever apparent he’s onto me.

In a hasty move I’ll begin to reach for my wallet to pay for my purchase and escape before things escalate.

Startled, he reaches for a broadsword he keeps behind the counter. We begin to duel.

He yells “IL NE PEUT Y’EN AVOIR QU’UN!!” which I later learn is an obvious tip of the beret to ‘The Highlander’ franchise.

Several minutes of the store being ravaged by violence as the body count increases – collateral damage is becoming immeasurable.

Our eyes lock, realizing it’s him or me I reach for a no. 4 pencil and throw it hoping to temporarily blind or at least distract him long enough to make a last ditch effort at escape.

Insulted to say the least, the move only infuriates him. Just then a small child from across the store throws me a sword of my own…

…that are also nunchucks.

The playing field levelled, berets drenched in sweat, weapon to weapon, he slips on a puddle of Prussian blue paint he was planning to use on a portrait of some fruit in a bowl but forgot to clean up.

I cut his head clean off his shoulders.

Exhausted and covered in blood I take my Moleskine sketchbook and make my way home. I’m safe for now, but it won’t last – it never does.

Option 2: He staples my receipt to my debit transaction and I go home.

Shoes

As far back as I can remember I’ve always been intrigued by people. No particular type of person, just people. Some of my favourite places to spend my free time are coffee shops, book stores and generally anywhere with a wide variety of different folks coming and going. When I was a kid I would make up stories about people who passed by, something that I still do if the mood strikes. At first my parents would scold me for staring but eventually gave up as they could see I’d clearly gone on a journey in my own mind.

I wonder what these strangers do in their day-to-day outside of the fleeting moments they cross my line of sight, not necessarily for work but what drives them or makes them tick. For the time we share the same airspace they very much become a muse, if only briefly.

Sometimes I’ll wonder how many people’s photos I’ve accidentally made it into the background of, forever in their memories as a nondescript extra in the movie of their life. Other times I’ll use someone’s public persona as inspiration for a song or even a joke. The inherent complexity of being human makes for an endless stream of diverse characters from which to draw.

A major benefit of this habit is the patience it has given me, more often than not I’ll try to find a sympathetic side to someone under the presumption that their day may not be going as smoothly as they hoped. Perspective has always been a useful tool in navigating through life.

On occasion a person will stick with me long after I’ve run through any number of scenarios for their day. There’s usually no rhyme or reason and they’re often forgotten within a day but once in a while I can identify the prolonged fascination.

 For the last two weeks I’ve been haunted by the memory of one such person. No name, not a word, not even a face, yet to this day I’m reminded of the coolest sneakers I’ve ever laid eyes on every time I poop in a public restroom.

Manners

I grew up in a household where there was a near militant value put on both manners and respect, particularly for one’s elders. My parents wouldn’t allow a conversation to move forward if I were to respond with a ‘huh?’ or ‘what?’.

As a child it was incredibly frustrating at times as the scrutiny seemed never-ending but as I matured I came to the realization that they were equipping me for the world and I’m all the more thankful for their persistence.

To this day ,’Yes ma’am’ and ‘No sir’ are indelible from my day to day vocabulary. 

What I grew up believing to be social norms now seem of a bygone era. Something as simple as assisting the infirm with their groceries or holding a door open are lost to the realm of the professionally ‘too-busy’. Regardless of the change in times, I continue to practice courtesy in any situation I find myself in – these are deeply entrenched values I’ve held dear all my life until I found out a court can try you as an accessory for giving up your seat to the guy who ended up taking a shit on the bus.

Regards,

Chris

Little Monkeys

  As a kid my parents house had a big tree in the front yard. They didn’t like my friend and I climbing it but as long we didn’t get hurt they tolerated the fact that we were going to anyway.

  One day my buddy fell out of the tree and his nose was bleeding badly but our only concern was having our tree privileges revoked.

  We needed an alibi and fast, so I suggested we say he fell in a place where we never hung out much to begin with before the adults got wise to what really happened.

  Covered in dirt, scrapes and blood we told our parents it was a fall beside the house and they forbid us to ever play there again. It worked!

  We used this tactic every time there was a mishap, injury, or any kind of trouble, tree-related or otherwise. 

Broken toe? School! Sprained ankle? The bus stop! Torn clothes? The box factory! Chipped tooth? The retirement home!

Months went by and through process of elimination we’d exhausted most of the local businesses and institutions within bicycle range.

One day we both came home smelling of cheap wine, guilt, the neighbour’s wife, covered in lambs blood and carrying the head of St. John the Baptist. Panicked one of us accidentally said we were at Church. 

That’s the day we weren’t allowed to climb the tree anymore.

Lunch

When I was growing up school could be a really tough place if you didn’t have many friends. There were bullies, teasing, and generally goofing on kids who didn’t fall into your social circle but there was also a collective feeling that we were all in it together, many of these moments occurred in the lunchrooms and cafeterias. One example is if a student who was unpopular was without his group of friends on any given day they would always be welcomed into our group to hang out, even if the next day meant they’d be the butt of a joke when reunited with their clique, it was still clear that there was no ill will and no alienation of anyone based on the usual preconceived notions of what made one popular. 

Another example from my elementary school years is when a student would show up to school without their lunch, whether it be from unfortunate circumstances at home or simply forgetting it. When this happened the teachers and/or lunchtime supervisors would suggest that students could voluntarily donate part of their lunch to their fellow student, without hesitation the child in need would have a lunch that often doubled the size of their usual meal – I was once a benefactor of this kindness and it has stuck with me ever since. This sense of community among young people more important than ever and had I not once experienced it first hand I would have never acquired my taste for booger and fart sandwiches.