Thursday, January 7, 2010


I returned from Vancouver two days ago and my guts are in knots. I'm overwhelmed by the amount of work I have and work-related news that isn't all favourable. Some sleep should help relax the nooses around my innards, but for an insomniac who is too stressed to snooze and whose jet lag has been complicated by a two-week bender of drinking with pals until 5.34AM at both Pacific and Eastern Standard Times, I am so dazed that I hardly know what's going on tomorrow. Or tonight. I don't even know when my next meal is. I wouldn't call it poor planning, this whole five-simultaneous-projects and unfavourable-news thing. Many of these events were unexpected, unplanable unplannable (whatever, it's not even a word). I'm horrible with unplanned events. Many friends -- wonderful hearts, all of them -- invite me to lunch with two hours notice... Ain't gonna happen. If someone asks me to commit to an event on the fly, my answer is always, "Let me check my book...".

My book. Some call theirs an organiser. Some call theirs an organizer. Some call theirs a Day Timer. I call mine "my book-organiser thing" or "my schedule". I don't have a proper name for it because it is many things. It is a diary of activity in pithy notations, volumes which I have collected since 1994. It is familiarity -- I only use Preference Collection, three-hole punched, ivory paper. It is aspiration -- I mark objectives for three days later to three years hence. It is documentation of penmanship -- from the tag-like scribbles of a fifteen-year-old to the tiny and meticulous printing of a man who has been alive in five decades. I was born in the '70s. It is an analogy of my attitude, as I evolved from exuberant teen who would schedule "No school today: CHILL!" to maturing adult who seeks Nordic austerity and simplicity: "Write Draft Three". It is a pillow whose brown faux-leather was regularly smeared by my cheek during innumerable university lectures, and was upgraded in 2001 to real leather and real black. When I was young, it could be brown. Now, it must be black. I refuse any colour. My book-organiser thing has grown with me; it used to feature a picture of Uma Thurman in the front vinyl pocket, and now it features a picture of... nothing. There is no picture. There is no vinyl pocket. It is serious.

It need not be said that I refuse to use a digital device of any kind to sort out my days. It need not be said that when travelling I protect my book with its own fabric satchel.

I guess I just said those.

The overwhelming. During this period of unexpected, unbearable busyness, I have only one friend to talk to: my book. We speak in writing. I tell it tasks and it replies, "Yes." I say Monday and it says, "No, look again. Tuesday." Currently my book is hardly touched because the year has just begun; I haven't scheduled anything and I just got back from fifteen days of drinking and I deserved that vacation and I have to write a draft of this play and a draft of that play and a draft of the other play and I'm attending auditions tonight and now I've got an audition tomorrow and I've gotta finish some designs and I must see every play in this festival starting now and what's up with the bad news about [something] and I can't sleep and didn't I just get off the plane? I told that to my book and it replied, "Tonight: Attend auditions. Buy soap, shaving cream, deodorant. Eat. Work on audition. Sleep. Tomorrow: Audition. Finish designs." My book patted my head and continued, "Begin draft January 11. Finish draft January 24. Begin other draft February 1. Finish other draft February 28. You'll be fine."

In our final year of film school, Adam and I were discussing the overwhelming. We remarked how for the next three months, every minute of our lives would be accounted for. Every minute of rewriting, every minute of storyboarding, every minute of dinner, every minute rinsing in the shower, every minute of crashing/sleeping had to be scheduled. During that year, as with every year, I survived only because I had my book. It makes things manageable, life bearable. It makes sense.

Tell a fetus:

You will come out feet first.
You will have nine fingers.
You will piss your pants during the field trip to the rodeo.
You will be humiliated about your hands and your acne.
You will be ugly.
You will consider surgery.
You will not start dating until you're twenty-six.
You will get a scholarship.
You will become comfortable about your hands.
Your acne will scar.
You will go to university in Europe.
You will go on your first date in Vienna when you're getting your Master's and you're twenty-six.
You will decide you don't love musical composition after all.
You will open a used bookstore in Montana.
You will meet someone in Jakarta.
You will marry her in Copenhagen.
You will have two daughters with your wife.
One daughter is ugly.
The other is selfish.
You will have an affair with a South Korean lesbian.
You will divorce your wife because she is religious
Among other things
And you thought it wouldn't be a problem at first but now...
And you had an affair.
You will return to Vienna and work as an usher at the opera house.
One daughter tells you she is homosexual.
The other hates you.
You will marry another woman ten years older than you.
She plays cello.
She will tell you to reconcile with your daughter
Not the lesbian because that was never a problem.
You will meet that daughter in Cairo.
She will forgive you
And embrace you with her nine fingers.
You will return to Vienna.
Your wife will tell you she has stopped procrastinating
And has visited the doctor
And has Alzheimer's.
You will watch her forget you.
You will place her in a home, against your wishes.
You want to take care of her
But you have prostate cancer.
She will die.
You will move to Kelowna
To be near your daughter and her wife and their son.
You will be sicker.
You will die with tubes up your nose
While listening to Wagner
Because your daughter forgot the Brahms.
Many of these events will be worse than expected.
Many of these events will be better than expected.

...and that fetus will be overwhelmed. But give that young thing an organiser or an organizer and it will be told: "Don't worry. You'll have eighty-three years to do all that. You won't have to start your Master's until you're twenty-four. You won't have to divorce until October. You won't have to reconcile until Friday. It's okay. You're all good."

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