Moving is exhausting, especially when you’re older, as I am now.
You have more tangible things to carry as you age—more crap, more junk, more history—and more intangible things, too.
I’m in the habit of getting rid of things now, instead of moving them. “Junking” is an exhilarating, soul-cleansing exercise. I put something in the dumpster and I think, That’s gone from my life now. Gone forever! Why the hell did I carry that around for all those years? What a damn fool I am!
But, like a soldier who loses a limb in battle, even when I throw things out or sell them on Craigslist, the ghosts of those things haunt me for awhile. I feel a tingle where the junked items used to be.
This morning, with 98-percent of my life in boxes, I found a magnet on my refrigerator—a magnet that I’d somehow been looking at without seeing for years.
It has the words of a Susan Polis Schutz poem written on it. Do you know Susan Polis Schutz? You might not know her consciously, but trust me, you know her words. The same way scientists claim that there is a spider within three feet of us at all times, a Susan Polis Schutz poem is within three feet of you—yes, you—at this very moment.
Schutz is a successful, ubiquitous greeting card-caliber poet. She does not skimp on the sentiment. She’s built a career out of saying the obvious.
My mother sent me the magnet.
Schutz’s poem on the magnet is titled TO MY AMAZING SON. It goes like this:
TO MY AMAZING SON
To see you happy
is what I always wished for you
Today I thought about your handsome face
and felt your excitement for life
and your genuine happiness
and I, as your mother burst with pride
as I realized that my dreams for you have come true
What an extraordinary person you have become
In the background is a body of water, an open sky at dawn, a couple of brown mountains. I popped the magnet off the refrigerator. The magnet itself was disappointingly weak, barely strong enough to hold it in place on the metal door.
I thought about my mother; she’s almost 70 now. Lives in Florida in a tiny apartment. I considered the sentiment on display. How bland, I thought. How completely anonymous, I thought. I felt the weight of the weak magnet in my hands. I looked at the brown mountains, the open sky at dawn. I tried to figure out what to do with this damn thing.
This girl I liked wanted to tell me about an encounter she once had with a B-level celebrity.
“Did I ever tell you about the time I was in line at the airport in Montreal and Celebrity X was in front of me?” she asked.
(It was Russell Brand. It’s always Russell Brand. Everyone I know has been in line in an airport behind Russell Brand at some point.)
“No, you didn’t tell me that one…” I said, wincing.
“Well, it’s an incredible story,” the girl said.
She rubbed her hands together excitedly, in anticipation of her own story. Then she began telling it.
I did not want to listen. Hearing about Celebrity X/Russell Brand would make me like the girl less. How much less? Who knew.
But ballpark? Let’s say that it would not be an insignificant amount.
Like a crazed, slobbering madman, I grabbed the wheel of the conversation and steered it in an entirely new direction. I thought I did this clumsily and obnoxiously, that I’d obviously botched it. To my surprise, the conversation thread drifted naturally in this new direction.
The girl forgot about Russell Brand entirely.
She didn’t bring him up again.
But the ghost of that conversation? It’s still out there. It’s still lurking about in the nether conversation world. One day that conversation will find me, mark my words…
Pop Quiz, Hotshot: What used video game is worth less than a penny?
Answer: Find out in today’s episode of “Brief Conversations with Interesting People” when I very gently ambush the unsuspecting staff at the game store in Metrotown Mall in Burnaby.
So who did I find behind the counter? And why are there only three-degrees of separation here in Vancouver as opposed to the usual six-degrees? Click that triangle shaped-doohickey below and you shall receive all answers via this virtual cornucopia/horn of plenty. (P.S. Happy Thanksgiving, Canada.)
[Note: After further review from my audio producer’s girlfriend, my audio producer felt, well, inspired to revise the podcast. So here’s V. 2. -Scott]
I didn’t go home last Christmas. Stayed here by myself. First time I’d ever done that. That’s crazy, I know, but true. As a mea culpa, I promised to visit in January in Florida.
I didn’t. Some work obligations came up. I rescheduled. I rescheduled again. The more I rescheduled, the more days I kept adding to the trip. “I can’t come now,” I’d say. Then I’d use my game show host voice to say the rest: “But I can come in X months. And when I do come in X months, I’ll stay for X amount of days. Also, YOU’VE WON A BRAND NEW 2016 FORD FIESTA CONVERTIBLE.”
In the end, after months of delays and promises, I agreed to a grand total of 12 days with my parents at the end of July. Which, for a middle aged man like me, is a completely absurd amount of time to spend with one’s parents.
I stayed with them in their RV on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake. The weather was absurdly nice that week—not too humid. A steady breeze blew off the lake and rattled the nearby trees. I wore camp shorts. Took the kayak out a couple times.
One afternoon I had a conversation with my father. He’s 72. Into self-preservation. His get-well tip for the summer: If anyone had trouble sleeping, my father would instruct them to eat 10 walnuts and drink 6-ounces of cherry juice just before going to bed. “Trust me, you’ll sleep like a baby,” he’d say.
I heard him share this advice with at least four other campers. Three of the four campers rolled their eyes at him as he told them this.
I was hoping to use our conversation as a pitch to a media outlet. The way my father positions himself as the informal medicine man in his community is strange and interesting to me.
But our conversation took some darker, more opinionated turns that disqualified it from pitch material.
He’s moody, like lots of fathers. He thinks he’s always right. You’ll hear all of that.
My father and I both looked out over the lake as we talked….
[Also: Special thanks to Steven Nikolic. He mixed the audio and wrote most of the the music.]
My father and mother arrived on Sunday to drop off the paper at the hospital. My father was obviously excited. “I found a place that sells it for $6 instead of $10,” he said with pride. The $10 Canadian price of the NY Times vexed and mystified him on a very deep level. I knew the place where he’d gotten such a discount: the dimly lit convenience mart on Davie Street that had about a hundred hookahs in the front window, all decorated with dazzling sprays of rhinestones.
I told him the store had been closed the year before for selling black market handguns.
“Who cares if they sell monkey paws and goblin eyes?” he asked. “If I can save four dollars, I’m going to save four dollars.”
Visitors arrived on a daily basis. They wanted to look at me, poke at me a little. “How you doing, champ?” they’d ask, sometimes grabbing my foot like it was a phone they were about to answer. “You feeling better? You doing OK now? We were worried sick about you. You look great! Really, you do. You gave us quite a scare there, pal. Don’t do that again, got it?” Then they’d present an offering of some kind which, nine out of 10 times, consisted of reading material.
Paperbacks, hardcovers, magazines, newspapers—if you could read it, the visitors brought it to me. An ex-girlfriend brought me that month’s Vanity Fair, with the cast of Game of Thrones on the cover. (I’d been obsessed with Game of Thrones before the stroke; post-stroke, I’m much more ambivalent about it.) A colleague brought me a copy of Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter. What these people didn’t understand—and what I didn’t understand, at least not initially—was that I couldn’t read anymore.
Each night I kept vigil for the constipated old woman the way Catholics watch the chimney above the Vatican for signs of a new pope. On Thursday, during the hour after dinner when the hospital begins to wind down for the night, the old woman suddenly felt that she might be able to go.
The next morning one of the beefcake male nurses at St. Paul’s toted an impossibly large, old fashioned scale into the communal hospital room. Once he had the scale situated, he cleared his throat and said, “Good morning, boys and girls. It’s time for your morning weigh-in.” More…
[Going back in time on this one, folks. Been talking things over with my writing partner, finding things that I never wrote about and probably should have. So I’m filling in blanks here.
[Just to get you situated, timeline-wise: I’ve had the stroke, had the open-heart surgery, and now I’m in St. Paul’s for a month, recovering before I can be transferred to rehab. What you’re about to read happened in April of 2014 or so.
[Got it? Good. Here we go. -Scott]
The ever-present eternal question from both doctors and nurses during my month-long hospital stay was this: Are you constipated?
I was asked this approximately two or three times during any 24 hour stretch, day in and day out. Are you having bowel movements, Mr. Jones? Are you backed up, Mr. Jones? Are you pooping regularly, Mr. Jones? These conversations would usually go like this:
Doctor: “When was the last time you had a bowel movement?”
Scott: “This morning, doctor.”
Doctor: “And how would you describe the stool?”
Scott: “Hmm. Pretty long?”
Doctor: [Paused here and presumably wrote the words “stool = pretty long” in his notebook.]
Doctor: “And was it…healthy, would you say?”
Scott: [Quizzical look] “You mean was the stool itself healthy?”
Doctor: “Yes. The stool itself. Was it healthy?”
Scott: “I’d say it was pretty healthy. If it was any healthier-looking, I’d have packed a lunch for it, put a beanie on its head, and sent it off to kindergarten this morning.”
Doctor: [More frantic writing.]
Hello, site visitor! My, you are one tenacious individual. Thank you for your interest, your commitment, and your passion. I finally have an update for you. But the news, unfortunately, isn’t necessarily good….
The future of this site is currently uncertain. I don’t know how necessary it is for me to leave it here, without regular updates, which I am obviously not writing right now. I can’t remember why I thought this site was a good idea in the first place. I guess I was hoping to catalogue my thoughts in the hopes of one day selling a book.
All of this is my way of saying that 1. there are currently no updates and 2. I’m thinking about taking the site down or changing it into something else entirely.
I’m pseudo-hibernating these days. I get up in the morning, make an OK effort for a few hours, swill a cup of coffee or two, etc. Then I go to the gym, eat lunch, listen to CBC, take a nap, and suddenly, it’s somehow evening already. Two or three days turn into a week; the weeks turn into months, and so forth. I’m peeling off calendar pages at an alarming rate of speed.
I go to bed early. I sleep a little longer than I need to sleep these days. Maybe I’m depressed. Or maybe I’m afraid of something. Maybe both.
I have ingredients for two or three more podcasts that I’ve recorded, but I have yet to process them. Anyway, I’m mulling everything over right now.
I thought you should know that.
Thanks again for your beautiful support. It means a lot to me, truly.