Bloody Well Right

The following is an e-mail from the past, composed on Sunday, October 28, 2007, and sent via FutureMe.org

Dear FutureKel,
A year ago you listened to motivational speaker Les Brown speak about how sometimes when we experience a set-back or trauma we pull off to the side of the road and park. We roll up the windows and settle back into our leather seats completely oblivious that there are people out on the highway who will stop and help us, give us a boost, give us a lift, if only we put on the four-way flashers and let them know we are there.

This impacted you.

You understood that with regard to love and relationships you had pulled off the road a long time ago. You decided to do something about it. One year ago today you were supposed to have a coffee date with a man from Bathurst.

So what happened FutureKel? Did you stay open to the idea of love? Or did you close yourself off and ignore opportunities? Are you seeing anyone now? When was the last time you went out on a date? Have you made any new friends?

I hope you are doing wonderfully well and enjoying life to its fullest. I hope you have love and happiness and someone to share in your joy. But if you don’t, take some time today to remember the lesson of Les Brown and turn on those 4-ways again.

Peace and joy always!
PastKel

What a shocker to get this email from myself this morning! Has it only been a year? That seems like ages ago. Time has slowed to a crawl.

Okay, so what happened? Bathurst guy ended after an annoying abundance of phone calls and two dates. Then there was Sussex guy, two months of emails, one date, no chemistry. This was followed by Salisbury guy, four months, fell in love, got heart broke. Then rebound Blackville guy, couple of rendezvous. And finally summer fling Woodstock guy, who was lovely in text message, but I nearly killed in person. A year, five guys, one broken heart, I can live with that. I think I’m out of the car.

Mood: contemplative
Drinking: coffee
Listening To: i wanna be sedated, the ramones
Hair: imagine if i stuck a fork into an electrical outlet …

Don’t Want to be Haunted by the Ghost

In the dream I’m in an airport waiting to depart. Not sure where I’m going but I have a sneaky suspicion it has something to do with the loonie-sized bony bump on my thigh. It is like the one I have at the base of my middle finger on my left hand, only much larger and not at a joint. In the dream, my thighs are much smaller like in the days of boys and bars. All I have is a small carry-on and a jean jacket. I’m wearing a pale blue checkered shirt, the one I used to have with the silver threading, and those short black lace-up boots with the 1-inch heel that I used to wear all the time. My hair is longish and light brown. I’m an odd caricature of myself from different times in my life.

I’m flipping through a magazine, not really reading, when I notice the guy. He’s middle-aged, pot-bellied and balding. His sweat stained tank top doesn’t quite reach the elastic waistband of the jogging pants hanging low off his hips. There are curly black hairs around his belly button. He looks a little crazy, and is definitely agitated as he tries to stuff his suitcase into a locker. It won’t fit. He starts swearing, jamming the suitcase harder. When he notices security officers approaching him, he starts yelling stuff like, “It’s not fair! You shouldn’t say it’s going to fit if it’s not going to fit! I’m a person too you know! I have rights!” And then he throws the suitcase and bolts, running right toward me where I’m sitting calming watching the scene. The security officers run after him, bellowing for back-up into their shoulder radios.

I don’t mean for it to happen, but when he runs through the aisle where I’m sitting he trips over my boots and falls face first onto the floor right at my feet. Security are on him before he knows what hit him. As they’re handcuffing him and pulling him up, he looks at me and I lean in and shrug. “Sorry,” I say. “I have big feet.” He nods and in a completely normal pleasant voice says, “oh, don’t worry about it, I understand. I’ve got big feet too.” And he holds up a foot for me to see. His feet are indeed pretty large for a man of his height.

Just then my flight is called for boarding. I shoulder my carry-on and get in line, but as the line winds its way through a hall I see that I’m not getting on a plane after all, but rather some kind of a fancy train. The extra-wide cars are made entirely of glass and inside instead of aisles and seats there are large ballrooms with round tables set in cream coloured linens and full-dinner service. Waiters in black tuxedos and white gloves rush around with silver trays in the air getting things ready for dinner. Passengers are being asked to board at the very back of the train. A uniformed conductor takes my ticket and helps me step across the gap.

Inside I find myself in a huge lounge. It’s like something out of the Roaring 20s, like a scene from Titanic (before it sunk). Chandeliers, thick tapestries, leather and mahogany furniture, a grand piano in one corner, jazz music … all the men wear tuxedos and chew on cigars while the women glitter in shimmery gowns and take slow long drags off cigarettes held in long holders. I’m shocked and amazed and feeling a little like Dorothy … We’re not in Kansas anymore

I climb into a high bar chair and order a glass of wine from the dapper little bartender. As I turn to set my bag on the chair beside me I notice a woman sitting there. It’s my friend Judy and she looks stunning in bright red flapper attire. I’m surprised to see her but she’s been waiting for me. We’ve been invited to this dinner. It’s important. I don’t know anything about this, but I go along. I am feeling pretty hungry. My wine arrives and we’re chatting and I’m starting to feel really good about this place, no matter if it’s not where I expected I would be. And then a man brushes against me as he steps up to the bar.

He wears a brown wool suit and his hands turn a Bowler hat round and round by its brim. He’s a sharp contrast to all the gloves, tails and top hats. He and I stick out in this crowd. Two of these things are not like the others. He turns sideways leaning on his elbow against the bar to survey the room while he waits for his rum drink. And then I see his face. He’s a little older than I remember, wrinkles around his eyes, less hair. He recognizes me at the same time and his hands stop fidgeting with his hat. We don’t say anything, just stare at each other. For the longest time. It’s like we’ve ceased to be in the room with everyone else, we’re on another plane. And then he smiles. “I should’ve called,” he says. And I smile. “Yeah, that would’ve been nice.” We stand there grinning at each other like maniacs. “But you’re here now,” I say. He laughs, shrugs, rolls his eyes. “Yeah,” he says. His eyes are so blue. Were they always this blue? “I’m here now,” he says. “You look good, Kel.” And he opens his arms and I bury myself in his chest as I hold on for dear life and the tears start to flow.

When I wake up it’s 7:30 on a Saturday and I’m singing Foo Fighters in my head:

I
I’m a one way motorway
I’m the one that drives away
then follows you back home
I
I’m a street light shining
I’m a wild light blinding bright
burning off alone

it’s times like these you learn to live again
it’s times like these you give and give again
it’s times like these you learn to love again
it’s times like these time and time again

Mood: dream-like
Drinking: hot chocolate
Listening To: Haunted, The Pogues with Sinead O’Connor
Hair: in a messy pixie

Happy Anniversary to Me!

The day was half over before I looked at the calendar and noticed the date … October 22nd … Happy Anniversary to Me!

On this day nearly 25 years ago I started dating my first serious boyfriend, my high school sweetheart. I remember the months leading up to that date like they were yesterday … wondering who that guy was at Herbie’s pool hall … wondering who that guy was at the Exhibition … finding out who that guy was with my friend at the school dance. I remember what happened before we got together, but I remember nothing of the first date itself. Was the first night the rainy one with him shivering, soaked, in my parents kitchen? I’m not even sure how it came to be. I remember the falling in love part. I remember the falling out of love part. I remember some of the stuff that happened in the middle, but the very first date totally eludes me. I guess it didn’t really matter in the scheme of things. For sure it no longer matters in any way shape or form.

Over 20 years ago I started dating my most serious boyfriend, my college sweetheart. Yeah, same day. Kinda weird. A double Happy Anniversary to me! His memory presents itself a little differently. I remember the first date, the second, the third … I remember the first six weeks, in freakish detail. I could give you a blow by blow accounting. The first break-up can still bring a tear to my eye when I’m feeling particularly nostalgic. It was like something from a movie. And the getting back together is etched in my memory. The second break-up is fuzzy. And I wish I could forget all the stuff after because it was so unpleasant.

It’s a little weird. Most days I forget why I’ve gone into the kitchen by the time I get there. I struggle with people’s names and birthdays. I’m not very good at remembering song lyrics or names of bands or lines from movies. I never know what day it is. I couldn’t tell you what happened last week … yet these useless memories stick by me forever.

It’s been the coldest day yet in my apartment without heat. At one point I put on gloves. It snowed outside. I’ve been feeling a little down all day. Hard to say why exactly, perhaps a combination of all these things. I wish I had brandy.

Mood: scattered
Drinking: nothing
Listening To: doors slamming in the hall
Hair: sassy

These Dreams

In the dream I’m going to Toronto with Stacy. This, in and of itself, isn’t anything unusual. But in the dream we’re driving to Toronto in a 15 passenger van with Stacy’s cousin, Claude, and a group we met in the basement of a church in White Rapids.

Yes, they are a church group!

Our Mighty friend, Terry, has somehow conscripted us into this church touring company. We will re-enact the scene when God created the world. We will sing hymns off-key in time with a tambourine. We will spread The Word and save souls.

I have no idea how this happened. Terry is apologetic, but he promised that we’d go, so go we must. Claude is appropriately agitated and bitchy. I mean who is Terry to force this lifestyle upon him. But Stacy and I are freakishly calm in the face of this excursion. She seems to even enjoy the singing and has started picking up the tambourine when nobody is looking. Plus she has been cast as the sun in the creation play, which is a major role. I’m not quite as excited as she appears to be, but I’m open and optimistic. “You’ve never done this before!” I think. “This will be an adventure!”

There is only one niggling snag with the trip. We will be gone during production of the next issue of BnM. Cindy is mortified. She’ll have to do EVERYTHING herself, from cover to cover, write, edit, design … We have confidence in her ability, but she’s pissed. How is she going to make a magazine all by herself and look after her kids, clean her house, cook, etc. etc.?! “You can do it!” we yell as we press our noses against the windows of the van and wave good bye.

When we arrive the next snag becomes apparent. Because we’re not at work, we won’t be getting paid. Because we’re only on loan to the church group, they are not going to pay our way. They kick us out of their cushy boarding house and leave us to fend for ourselves. Stacy and Claude quickly steal the 15-passenger van and drive off eastward bound. “See you suckers!” Claude yells out the open window.

I’m left standing in a rain soaked dark alley. I’m not really sure where I am. I think the west end. I have no money and no idea what to do. My cell phone rings and it’s Terry. I tell him about Stacy and Claude’s defection. I tell him about the church group kicking me out. “No problem!” he says. “All you need is a little bit of cash and they’ll let you back in. Didn’t you used to do temp work when you lived there before?”

Aha! I snap my fingers as the way becomes clear. I will hit up the temp agencies. I will get some odd jobs. I will make a little money and then the church group will let me stay with them. It’ll all work out. I am saved.

Mood: delirious
Drinking: coffee, black, maxwell house, rich roast
Listening To: buddy upstairs moving furniture around
Hair: still short

Criminal Intent

For those readers who have been pining for stories of boys and bars, you’re about to get lucky! I am writing again for a small workshop group. Need to produce new material every week. So I’m taking up some of the old causes. Casting the net to see what comes to surface. Hoping to find some tidbits in this lazy brain of mine. This is my first attempt … maybe part of the Katt’s Lives series, if you recall that from years ago.

*****

A guy I used to know made the paper. He’s a thief. He’s going back to prison. He’s going to do some serious time. Years. Nobody will see him for a very long time. I only ever saw him twice and that was over 10 years ago.

We met at the after hours club. The club with no “official” law. I had never laid eyes on the man before nor heard his name mentioned. Maybe because he’d been away in jail. Maybe because he didn’t grow up in my neighborhood and we went to different schools. No matter.

What mattered was that he pulled into the parking lot in his souped up 70s Chevy and I noticed. I didn’t yet know he was a thief, but he was built like one, slight and wiry. You could imagine him slithering into hard to get places, slipping out, blending in, disappearing with ease. He was about my age, a little bit younger, with a great sense of humor. His tongue twisted gracefully around multiple syllables and I was impressed by his grasp of the English language. The boy was slick. I’ll give him that.

He noticed me right away. I liked his direct approach. If he had a game, his game was that he had no game. He walked right up to me, told me I was beautiful and he wanted to be with me for the rest of his life … or at least until morning. I liked his persistence. He stayed right by me, no matter how much I ignored him, no matter how much I protested, no matter what I said to drive him away. “Aww, you pretend you’re all mean and hating on me, sweetheart,” he’d say. “But I know you don’t mean it. Deep down in there somewhere is a heart that’s beating for mine.” And he’d wink and laugh and drop a loonie in the jukebox.

Maybe because he had been in and out of jail, in and out of foster homes, on and off the streets, there was an urgency about him. There was time for setting up a mark in the pool hustle. There was time for casing the joint. But there was no time to fool around with games in matters of the heart. He took one look at me and decided he wanted me to be his woman, and then he never faltered from his mission to make it so.

He had a vivid imagination. Within an hour of meeting him he was designing my dream home, planning the wedding and naming our babies. I suppose it was a testament to his conning abilities and delightful personality that I stayed long into the night, sipping beer, playing pool and embellishing upon these plans. It was all in good fun, and I’d never met anyone like him before. But when the time came to go home, I went my way and he went his.

The next day he called me. He wanted to go on a proper date. Pick me up. Dinner. A movie. Flowers. Candy. Anything I wanted. As lavish or as simple as I desired. He just wanted to be with me, wanted me to be happy. “I don’t know,” I hedged. “Maybe someday, sometime …” I was not playing hard to get. The fluttering in my stomach scared me … plus, I had baggage, unresolved issues with a Mister On Again/ Off Again. Mr OA/OA didn’t like me seeing other people, even when we were Off Again. He could be counted on to cause a scene, to make life difficult. Somebody could get hurt. Somebody could get beat up.

True to form OA/OA got wind of the new boy and showed up at my house worried for my safety. “I know this boy,” he said. “Known him for a long time. He comes from a bad family. He is nothing but a low-down thief. He’s been in and out of jail. You don’t want to get mixed up with the likes of him.”

I sighed. “But you’ve been in and out of jail and I’ve been mixed up with you for years,” I said.

“Yeah, but I ain’t no thief! They’re the lowest of the low! And I don’t want you around him.”

The argument seemed to be “better the criminal I knew than the one I didn’t” and strangely there did seem to be some logic to that.

Later at the club, when the old Chevy pulled in I decided Mr. OA/OA probably knew more about this guy than I did and I should trust his judgment on the matter. “I can’t go out with you,” I said to the boy.

He didn’t want to hear that. He had plans. I told him I had found out about his troubling past. He told me he’d never do another dishonest thing in his life. With me by his side he could turn his life around and make something of himself. He seemed so sincere.

I pulled out my secret weapon and dropped OA/OA’s name, which was usually enough to make even the biggest and strongest of the tough guys turn tail and run. Nobody with any sense wanted to get into a racket with OA/OA over me. But he didn’t care. He knew OA/OA, had partied with him, had hung out with him, knew his capabilities, but it didn’t matter.

“I’ve been through hell and more,” he said. “I’m not afraid of him.” And he meant it, his blue eyes filled with steely determination. He took my hands and looked into my eyes, “But seriously, I just want a chance to show you, just one date is all I’m asking for. And if afterward you decide I’m not for you, I’ll go away and leave you alone forever.”

He wasn’t afraid of nothing or nobody . . . but I was. I was afraid of what OA/OA would do to him. I was afraid of what might happen to me. But most of all I was terrified of the way my heart pounded in my chest when he held my hands. “No,” I said. “No. I think you should go now and leave me alone forever.”

And he did.

His big eyes glossed over with a film of hurt. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed his rejection and he drove off.

I never saw him again.

A few months later I heard he was caught stealing some petty stuff from a business in town. He got sent away for a few months over that. Then he dropped off my radar. “Better the devil I know” became my motto and it was back on again with OA/OA.

Sometimes I wonder what if I’d taken a chance on the wiry little con man. Would he have changed his ways? Or was he already too damaged when we met, is that the only life he could ever know? Sometimes I wonder, and then I see the court clippings and am thankful not to see my name in there as an accessory to the crime.

Mood: creative
Drinking: nothing
Listening To: people in the hall
Hair: still short, still dark

Grounded

The excess spending of this spring and summer on events and trips and things, coupled with a nagging financial imbalance left-over from last winter’s inflated hydro billing, finally all caught up to me knocking the wind out of my happy-go-lucky sails. I cannot afford to do anything! I mean ANYTHING!

After a very lean late summer/early autumn where I saw my savings dwindle to zero as I cleaned up on every old can of whatever to be had in my cupboard. As a result I’ve recommitted myself to living within my means.

I need to accept that I can’t do anything. I can’t go anywhere. Period. I need to learn to say, “I’d love to go, but I can’t afford it.” It’s hard. It’s hard to pay the bills and have nothing left. And it’s really hard to be in the position of not having any food in the house and not being able to buy any more. This happened to me recently and lasted for a good little while … but no worries, I’m okay now.

I’ve had lean times before, like when I moved from Sackville to Newcastle, there were a couple of lean months, but this autumn was pretty bad. Huge eye-opening reminder! Like most people I know, I’m living about two months away from being homeless. And I need to stop! So I’m doing things a little differently. I’ve given up my gym membership. I’ve turned down some invitations. I’ve changed the way I buy groceries.

I’ve started buying cheaper non-perishables in bulk. My pantry is now full of canned and dried goods. I’ve started reading the sales and planning my list based on what’s on sale. I have five boxes of Stovetop Stuffing … which I never bought before in my life as a result of getting a good deal. I am amazed at how much generic brand crap that can be bought for a hundred bucks. And hey, Compliments brand ABCs are equally as disgusting as the pricier Heinz Alpha-ghetti. They are also surprisingly comforting as a hang-over cure-all.

Yesterday I made a casserole out of one boneless skinless chicken breast, a box of Kraft Dinner and Stovetop stuffing. I’m still podded and I have enough leftovers to last until tomorrow. This is economizing!

Another area I’m cutting costs is in hydro.

Last winter I pretty much kept the heat cranked all the time in all the rooms to keep the place comfortable. The winter before that I arrived late to the game (moved in February) but I was frugal with the heat because I had no idea how much electricity would cost because my last place was inclusive. So this winter I’m returning to the frugal ways of the first winter. There have been some pretty cold nights already, but I haven’t turned on the heat. And I’m not going to. Certainly not until November and I’m actually hoping late November. I’m in a good position because my apartment is surrounded on all sides by other apartments, so I should be able to steal some of their warmth. This year I’m winterizing the windows with plastic, which I’ve never done before. And I’m closing off the spare room. I did that the first winter and it seemed to make a difference. As for me, I don’t like the cold any more than the next person but I’ve got the heavy wool socks and sweaters and I’m ready to live a little cooler than last year.

I also got some blankets. If you’ll remember from past winters, blankets have been an issue. But now I’ve got more than enough. I like sleeping in a cool room actually, as long as the bed is warm. The bedrooms are the coldest rooms in the place, drafty around the windows. Even with the heat cranked last year, it was cold. But I think the blankets are going to make all the difference in the world. So far they really have. Last night dipped to a frigid minus 10 and I was snug as a bug in a rug … as long as I stayed in bed.

With the cost of electricity about to rise again this is one area where I really have to try hard to cut back. When everything is said and done I have about $400 a month left to pay hydro, buy groceries and do anything else that needs doing like taking a cab to work or buying birthday presents or going to the movies, or anything else that might come up. $400 a month for hydro and groceries isn’t much, especially in winter, let alone any extras. So you can imagine how terrible it can be to get a hydro bill that is well over $300, as happened last winter. I’m not letting that happen this year.

As for saying no thanks I can’t afford that … I’ve said no to a yoga/writing workshop, the WFNB Fall Literary Fair, a travel writing workshop, a wine festival, a women’s lunch, Matt Mays and Sam Roberts in concert together (I know!) and a slew of other things. It breaks my heart, but if I can’t afford it, I just can’t afford it. Sucks, but I guess it is what it is … so until further notice I am grounded. Staying home in my increasingly cool apartment and devoting my time to inventing new and unique recipes involving Kraft Dinner.

Mood: dizzy
Drinking: coffee
Listening To: buddy upstairs do laundry
Hair: still short ‘n sassy

Nanowrimo Time

There are some who say writing a novel takes awesome talent, strong language skills, academic training, and years of dedication. Not true. All it really takes is a deadline – a very, very tight deadline – and a whole lot of coffee.

Welcome to National Novel Writing Month: a nonprofit literary crusade that encourages aspiring novelists all over the world to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. At midnight on Nov. 1, more than 100,000 writers from over 80 countries – poised over laptops and pads of paper, fingers itching and minds racing with plots and characters – will begin a furious adventure in fiction. By 11:59 PM on Nov.
30, tens of thousands of them will be novelists.

2008 is the ten-year anniversary of NaNoWriMo, founded in 1999 by freelance writer Chris Baty. In its first year, NaNoWriMo had just 21 participants. In 2007, over 100,000 people took part in the free challenge, making it the largest writing contest in the world. And while the event stresses fun and creative exploration over publication, 24 NaNoWriMo novelists have had their NaNo-novels published, including
Sarah Gruen, whose New York Times #1 Best Seller, Water for Elephants began as a NaNoWriMo
novel.

Around 18% of NaNoWriMo participants “win” every year by writing 50,000 words and validating their novels on the organization’s website before midnight on Nov 30. Winners receive no prizes, and no one at NaNoWriMo ever reads the manuscripts submitted.

So if not for fame or fortune, why do people do it?

“The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creative potential like nothing else,” says NaNoWriMo Director (and nine-time NaNoWriMo winner) Chris Baty. “When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both. Also, it’s a great excuse for not doing any dishes for a month.”

There will be a “Meet and Greet” Event held 2:00 pm Sunday, October 26 at Chapters (Regent Mall), 1381 Regent Street, Fredericton, NB, E3C 1A2. Come and find out what the buzz is all about.

If you would like more information about National Novel Writing Month, or would like to talk to participants from NaNoWriMo chapters in your area, please visit our website at http://www.NaNoWriMo.org, or contact Fredericton Municipal Liaison Susan Douglas (506-451-2955) OR press@nanowrimo.org.

Every year I think I should do this, and every year I don’t … I should totally do this though! I just don’t know how they do this and do anything else, like work, eat, exercise, etc. etc. etc. Maybe giving up tv shows for a month would be enough?

Mood: curious
Drinking: tea
Listening To: doors slamming
Hair: unknown