I will not fear this city

“Don’t touch me, you stupid cunt!”

“That’s right, you feminist whore! I will fucking beat you.”

“Quit looking at me, bitch!”

“Get out of here, you moron.”

The man – I haven’t seen his face; eye contact seems injudicious – hurls the worst epithets he has at his disposal towards the woman who unthinkingly reached out to steady his body, lurching with a combination of bus breaks and alcohol.

The tirade lasts the span of two blocks. At the back of the bus, we – mostly women of the upper middle class – exchange flickering, uncertain glances. I am struck with the man’s language. Not the vulgarity, but the tone and nature of the words. All feminine and derogatory or implying a lack of mental facility. I am sure the rest of them, like me, feel the impulse to act and not to act. But what could any of us do?

At the next stop, the man decides to leave rather than wait for whatever enforcement service the bus driver has contacted. Despite his departure, we troop as a flock to the next bus that vaguely follows the route we need, trying to escape the malodor of echoing memory. But before we go, I see a young woman offer a tissue and some reassurance to the target of the man’s hostility.

Two days later, I am walking home from work with a friend. We pass a panhandler. I’ve seen him before. Sometimes I offer change; more often I walk past with murmured apology. This time I am absorbed in sharing an anecdote. His legs are stretched far into the sidewalk, so I must pay oblique attention to curve my path and avoid stepping on him.

His scream truncates my story: “Shut up! You talk too much!”

While my friend is startled, I am puzzled. Alarmed and detached. This may be the first time in my life I’ve been yelled at by a stranger. But two incidents, however unequal in threat, so close together begged analysis. I was in no danger during either event. The only thing ruffled was my sense of untouchability – which ought to be ruffled now and again.

You see, I love this city. The last time I fell in love with a city I didn’t know how to love with open eyes. I loved what I thought I saw – loved the products of my imagination. And perhaps this is what breaks love. The slow dissolution of fantasy. Perhaps that is why I left.

I have less theory, more experience this time. I know my love will not change the way this city moves. Will not weave small bridges between all the worlds trying to occupy the same space. This city will break my heart and mend it and break it again. I will allow it to create and disturb my comfort. Because loving a perfect space no longer satisfies me.

Adopting traditions for my birthday

I turned 33 yesterday. Not a particularly noteworthy age, but the universe converged to allow me to have dinner with two old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. So it was a good, quiet way to celebrate.

One of these friends included me in a tradition that his circle of friends keeps: on your birthday, you must identify the best thing about the last year and the worst thing about the last year. There is nothing novel or revolutionary about this exercise, but it was something I’d never done before. And in answering the question, my attitude turned a little sideways in a much needed way.

The worst part of the last year was the uncertainty leading up to our move out to Vancouver. We had decided we wanted to move; we picked Vancouver because I was likely to be able to keep my job. Except that I couldn’t get a straight answer out of anyone about when I could go or what I would be doing. Many a dark hour until I got a straight answer, booked the movers, and started packing in earnest.

The best part of the last year was much harder to pin down. In a year filled with new surroundings, new activities, and welcome incidental lifestyle changes, settling on the highest point is tough. So my answer was getting to see They Might Be Giants in a smallish venue. They opened the show with the song I’d had in my head all day, and then played the entirety of Flood, my favourite of their albums. To top it off, they finished up with an encore of my favourite sequence of mini-songs from Apollo 18. But many other experiences crowded into honorable mention, and today, I want to change my answer. But I won’t.

I’ve been restless lately. Feeling a bit directionless and out of touch. But maybe it’s just been a failure to take stock of all the wonderful people I interact with, and of the events and activities that fill my days. More dissatisfaction is ahead of me: I’m not sure I’m built to be content for long. But I’ll take this past year with its highs and lows. See what we can’t find in the next one.

And then there was October

I’ve been writing long enough to know that writing about not writing is the very worst kind of procrastination while at the same time being crucial to getting past the not-writing stage. True story.

So the intent was always to post something once a week. Not just anything though. Something good. And fuck if that plan didn’t seize up my creative muscles until I was just barely getting by on what I could squeeze out for the unbelievably easy to please office crowd. Between perfectionism, feeling generally uncommunicative, and a couple of extracurricular editing contracts, I have been pretty well silent here for nearly a month.

Someone at work today told me it’s winter. Which is impossible because the world is still green and yellow and red and orange. These West Coasters don’t understand my winters, and I’m not sure I understand theirs . But I am in love with this lazy autumn. My street is littered with big orange-gold leaves, and just today, I conceded that the mornings are a bit too chilly for my heavy summer jacket and shrugged into my light wool coat. The rains will start soon enough, and I’ll have to learn to deal with the damp heavy darkness. It’s amazing what the sight of green grass can do for the soul at this time of year.

Somewhere else it’s NaNoWriMo. And Movember. But I am participating in a different kind of contest. A photo challenge to document aspects of my world with a different focus each day. I don’t have any aspirations to join the ranks of my many photographer friends. It simply seems like a good opportunity to re-engage with the world I find myself moving through. I’ve been disconnected and distant so far. Reluctant to force my way in anywhere. But it’s time to connect with this city a bit more. Learn it for what it is and isn’t. Take us both for what we are.