Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Life and So On and So Forth: Go-Getters and the Canadian Dream

We are a generation of young adults.

More so than ever before we are categorized thusly. None more so than we, are willing to compromise and to conform. To become that which is necessary.

We live out our lives in a linear fashion. Paycheck to paycheck existence, we’re lost, disillusioned, and blind. We grow up slowly, trying to orient ourselves in a chaotic and lonely universe, and we’re given no guidance.

There was never a lesson plan on the meaning of life. We’ve racked our brains so vehemently of the concept that now we’re convinced that the answer is not within our grasp any longer. And so we no longer seek; content to sit idly by and hope that it will fall in our laps sometime during our lives, as if it were lying in wait for us. This is the first question we stop asking, and the first in a world of questions that we will not, care not, or dare not to ask.

I lost my innocence long ago, but I remember my youth fondly. I was a straightforward boy – na├»ve dreams and playground forays. I had my basketball and girls; classes and avoiding classes, mocking authority and being punished. School dances, hands on hips, so innocent, still curious, still eyes filled with the light of wonder.

Somewhere along the road we’re provided with the answers to that wonder: Commerce, faith, degrees and jobs; marriage, mortgage, life. Quietly and convincingly, the media defines success in monetary terms. We drool over Miatas and MTV cribs, always silently and sometimes unknowingly we’re weeping that our fantasies go unfulfilled. We, the unsuspecting and uncaring generation of children raised by children, a race born out of war, slavery, hate, greed and death.

History is written in bloodshed and afterbirth – No other two forces progress it more.

All the while we’ve been lied to. Disney told us we’d have grand romances and perfect lives filled with fantasy and adventure. Oh what a wonder was consciousness, and oh so sublime was life, that we could live here in Canada and make for ourselves whatever we wanted. But through no malicious means and no intentional course, no deep rooted conspiracy except inevitability, we were driven into our position. Sit down, Mr. Switzer, and pay attention. This is your life.

Welcome to the institution of your future. Your curriculum consists of the ancient lineage of memetics forged in thousands of years of conformity. You’ll be an agent of commerce, an industrial force; you’ll be a productive member - you’ll contribute, become one with the swarm, or you’ll be alone, freezing to death in a cubby hole on the side of the road, a sign saying god bless, and rasping please could you spare some change for a cup of vodka. Asking if they’d like a poem for a dollar.

You there, Capitalism, I want my inspiration back.

And God said, “Let there be work ethic.” And it was so.

Decision time, Mr. Switzer. You’re eighteen. Not yet old enough to drink, but old enough to pick a degree that will determine the entire course of your life from here to your dying day. Eigteen is the prescient number. The number of the oracle: you. You’re a self-fulfilling prophet. You are meant to do what you arbitrarily decide as a wistful and ignorant youth.

Get a piece of paper go and prove that you’re a go-getter.

Way to go, you got your degree, now go get a job; and now it’s gotten harder but you’re gunning for that promotion, precluding a promotion, subsequently you’re making all the money you ever wanted. Now go get yourself a woman. A female. If females were fruit loops, and Toucan Sam were God, would he say to follow your nose? Now go get a child, and get another one too. Now feed it, identify with it vicariously and watch it grow, love it, like some grotesque mirror-image chia pet. Now kneel before it, and wish it well, for it is half of you, and now you’ve done your due genetic diligence, your tugging imperative for the human species.

Paint a fence; paint a picture if it’s not too late. Build a shed, write a book if there’s time. Fix the pipes, but don’t flush your dreams, if there’s any left.

Clap Clap Clap. You’re wondering what all the congratulations are about, you just followed the path of least resistance. Congratulations, Mr. Switzer, you’ve earned the gift basket called life, and all you had to do was stand in line and look like everyone else. A cookie from God, an MTV dream, an inevitability and a foregone conclusion. A fair trade, that light in your eyes, that wonder, your innocence. And all you had to do was stop asking why.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ducks in a Row

It’s morning again.

I awake to the nasally pounding-like rhythmic punishment of my alarm clock. I appreciate the aggression with which it assaults me, because I know that only through some great amount of annoyance could I be made to rise from my dreaming.

I press the Alarm off button, but it doesn’t seem to work. The damned old alarm clock always wakes me but never seems to want to stop buzzing in my ear. I press furiously, and can only hope that it will stop. It complies with a residual whine, leaving the room in a silence that is palpable, the afterimage of sound still pressing on my senses.

My wife is beside me sleeping still, snoring again, but I’m used to it. They say that you become accustomed and even affectionate for the quirks of marriage. Snoring had yet to graduate into the bank of marital endearments that Dr. Phil’s book outlined. 

I’m staring up at the ceiling again, and the light is beginning to filter in through the drapes, silhouetting our tree out front, holes of light pinpricked across the ceiling; a kaleidoscope of nature.

I’m allocating a moment out of the seven minutes I have until I need to shower to squint at the light and think for a moment about the tasks ahead, while I muster the energy, the will, to get up and get to it.

So I’m getting out of bed again, and putting on my glasses. I’m clearing my throat and putting on my watch. My favourite watch; with the hands that tick so precisely in time, keeping me from being late. Its six twenty two, and I’m seven minutes ahead of schedule again.

I wonder at the irony of being regularly ahead of schedule. If I’m ahead of schedule every day, isn’t that just right on time?

There are no devoted moments to consider the points of scheduling philosophy for me, however, so I’m starting my morning stretching as always, hands towards the sky; my neck bending side to side and to and fro; working out it’s kinks again. I’m feeling spry already. 

I pull the covers off me, and I glance over at Miriam. Still asleep, still snoring, but beautiful also. No one can question my love for my wife; that much I know as always. 

“Are you making coffee again?” She asks me, and I reply I will, but I need to shower first.

I’m up and at them, in the washroom again; and I’m brushing my teeth. I use a Colgate electric toothbrush that reduces plaque. I have straight teeth. Some people tell me I have a nice smile. I’m working around the gums. Gingivitis is a problem for me, my dentist said. So I take an extra minute to do my dental diligence. There’s always time for vigour when it comes to hygiene.

I don’t smile to examine my teeth; I pretend to be something carnivorous, some terrible animal of prey, maybe a Lion in a cage, scaring kids at the zoo. It’s my private joke with myself. Some people tell me I'm quite funny.

I’m adjusting the knobs in the bath now, moderating the perfect temperature. Two turns counter-clockwise cold, one and a half turns hot; making for delightful measures of warmth again, just the right amount.

My glasses start to fog as I’m taking off my boxers now, and I wonder why I put them on if only to take them off. I recall that to read the time I need them to see the hands of course. 

No time for reflection on glasses protocol though, so I take them off my face. I put them on the bathroom sink as always, so I can remember where they are.

I’m stepping into the shower again, and beginning my morning grooming ritual. I catalogue the various items I use to clean myself. As always I start with a specialty shampoo; Miriam likes it so I buy it up in bulk. 

It’s scented of lavender and something else that I’m sure is from the far reaches of nature. Maybe some rare Amazonian reagent, maybe some fictional plant, or maybe just some abstract concept. Use our new body wash Simon, it’s flavoured Lavender Justice. Wash up Simon, smell like Truth or Beauty, Simon.

Sitting in silent subsequence is my body wash; flavoured moon lily. I’ve never been to the moon, but I guess there are lilies there. 

Finally some potent, effective, see-the-results-in-days-listen-to-the-testimony-of-these-celebrities facial scrub; consumer reports rating of five point five of six; which I use to exfoliate gently, as per instructions, as always. 

Now I’m clean and squeaky again, with my glasses on I check my watch – four minutes ahead of schedule as always, leaving time enough for coffee and a shave.

I'm dragging the razor across my throat again, chopping short stacks of dark Simon hair, leaving smooth pathways of pink Simon skin between foamy shaving gel. I'm feeling my face with my hand of course; smoothest shave that Gel Mach 14 can offer, with 13 micro blades, thin as atoms, could cut the coarsest hair.

I’m looking through my closet and I'm scrutinizing my clothing. My job doesn’t really require a full suit – I’m a medium to large account sales coordinator for a mid-level software company, not exactly a board of directors position. The hardest part of my day sometimes is picking out a tie. I have trouble deciding between saffron and maize, so I sometimes cheat and just wear yellow.

Yellow tie, pale blue shirt, dress pants. The holy trinity of work wear, I rarely deviate from what works. 

She’s making breakfast in her bathrobe as always; I appreciate her eggs. We share duties. I make coffee, she makes eggs. We’re a team. 

Black, no sugar, no milk. She’ll want the usual; she keeps it simple. I give her the cup, she takes a sip and she’s satisfied as usual. 

“Another murder in Charlesville they say, the fifth of them this week. You need to start locking the door.”

“Yes, dear.”

“I mean it Simon. This isn’t a joke, Simon. Are you even listening Simon?”

“Of course dear.”

“So you’ll be locking the door tonight I hope, because I don’t want to have to worry, Simon.”

“Don’t worry dear.”

We part ways sweetly, as always, a bye-dear and a drive safe-dear and a kiss upon the cheek.

My car is unspectacular; it goes from A to B. For it’s purpose it is precisely what I need, and I don’t lament it’s poor choice in colour, it’s boxy frame, and the smell that describes without words the hundreds of sweaty summer commutes.

Seven fifty eight arrives on time, my hand ticking just at twelve, the timing pristine. I’m two minutes ahead of schedule of course, and I’m hopping in my car. The commute ahead is twenty two minutes, and I’ll arrive ten minutes early for work, factoring in a minute long walk through the parking lot.

There’s no time for reflection regarding commuting though, so I’m starting up the car. 

There are four or five routes to work that I’ve explored, and the one I take is the most efficient; a short cut through the countryside, in fact, in order to circumvent the other commuters also busily speeding to their jobs. 

Always distracted and hurrying people; they’re drinking coffee in their cars, brushing teeth in cups, fixing Half-Windsor’s in windows, spreading mascara in mirrors. Sloppy and inefficient, they’re bumbling along the road. Silly, slow, and tired people, I bet they don’t even stretch.

So I’m taking exit thirty and I’m moving along the road, scenery blurring by. Trees swaying and brooks babbling to my left and to my right; nature tugging gently at my senses. I turn on the radio and keep my eyes on the road. Nothing I haven’t seen before, I’m habituated to its charms. 

Suddenly I’m beset upon by a curious sight to see in the road; a perfect row of seven ducks, beginning to cross the road. I stop the car to wait for them, annoyed that they are wasting my parking lot minute-stroll. 

They’re walking slowly straight in line, one after the other, like a military promenade; perfect, straight and yellow. Their heads don’t look from right to left, don’t check for predators, cars, or people. Oblivious and calculated at once, they’re nearly in front of my car.

Even their waddle begins to seem a determined strut, angling in and straightening out – like they had crossed a thousand roads in a thousand different lifetimes, reincarnated as ducks each time for yet another crossing. No rush or sluggishness, but rather the determined pace that encompasses the realization that the other side of the road is exactly where they plan.

I'm gripping the steering wheel now, as I realize I hate them.

That’s when I accelerate.

Work to do.

To contextualize the blog:

I'm a writer.

I can't tell you if I'm a good or a bad writer.  It doesn't concern me so much.  

I have ideas.  I don't know whether these ideas have been said or written or even thought before; but it doesn't matter, because if I didn't write them, I'd slip into a private insanity.