better than I have ever been

This past week was a crucible. I did something I’ve never done before and come out of it like a phoenix from flame, a new thing, my impurities burned off, the corrosion washed away. If I play my cards right, I will never be the same again.

It started with the unlikeliest thing, choosing while being chosen, seducing while being seduced, a photograph then a note, a reply then a phone number. Within ten minutes I was dressed, throwing a toothbrush in my bag, hopping for the door as I pulled my shoes on, still talking, fleeing from my life and towards the cab at my door. Another ten minutes and I was downtown, stepping from the vehicle, saying hello, saying thank you and good evening, everything set in motion, the confluence of a thousand superficial things coming together for this perfect fact, two impossibly complementary strangers in a hotel bar.

When any uniform magnetic field is applied across the cloud chamber, positively and negatively charged particles will curve in opposite directions, according to the Lorentz force law with two particles of opposite charge.

Just over a week later I am exhausted, every muscle of my narrative stretched, a pile of serious sounding business cards in a small pile on my desk, an entire new life hovering in the wings, waiting for me to settle in, work hard, and accept. I have moved back into my apartment, reintroduction shock and all, taken the appropriate pills, and abandoned nearly every scar I’ve ever gathered, given away like baby teeth as a gift to a new and extraordinary friend. My time away was a radiant miracle, equal parts unexpected and compassionate, as lucky as a random mutation that betters a species, the dream like paths of the particles seen in a cloud chamber made flesh. Now all that’s left is to take what I’ve gathered, sort my thankful thoughts, and dig in and write.

Meet New People, Try New Things

I’ve started a number of projects this year.

The 365 Self-Portrait Series: The challenge is to take a different self portrait each day for an entire year. I’ve attempted this a number of times in the past, but every time something came up to interrupt the flow – my camera broken or stolen or a hard-drive crash that locked up all my pictures. According to Flickr, the most I’ve ever managed is 181 photos. Last year I was too depressed to even begin, but this attempt is already unlike the others. Something inside me snapped this spring and hasn’t mended. All that’s left is the determination to make this year different.

My Facebook Friends Portraits: This is the year I expect to have 1000 facebook friends. To celebrate the milestone, I am going to take a portrait photo of every single one. When I am done, I will have a small gallery show. Given that many of my friends are scattered across the globe, I may have to actually apply for arts funding for this one, but for now I’m going to do as many as I can where I am. The website for the project is still in the planning stages, but I’ve already started taking the pictures.

Six-String Samurai: I haven’t picked up a guitar with an intent to play it since my father smashed mine when I was little. Time to move on. To that end, I’ve been given an acoustic guitar by my family, jointly somehow by my mother and brother Kevin, that used to belong to Brenda, and my friend Ray has returned my family’s guitar book, Rock School, that my mother bought through mail order when I was two. I have cut the nails on my left hand short and practicing chords every day until my fingertips go numb. There is an end goal, a VideoSong, but more information on that will come later, once I am farther along the way.

Sell My Stuff: I started this last year to some success, but the pace isn’t moving fast enough. To this end, I’m putting aside a day every week to catalogue what’s left and re-list anything that hasn’t sold. I will also be reviving the minimalfox blog to keep track of my progress. Most of my sentiment’s been excised, so the new rules for the majority of what remains shall be that of good design – if it’s not unique, rare or hard to find, it had better be useful as well as beautiful.

a summary

This is one of my favorite memes. It’s a look at the last year, through the first line of my first blog post of each month.

  1. the failed canary in the lightswitch
  2. a crow carrying pearls
  3. sometimes we have the same colour iris
  4. commitment/abandonment
  5. it's may day: make a joyful noise
  6. confluence
  7. artpost: something I could never do
  8. I'm going back
  9. a memoir
  10. heavy traffic
  11. at the late night double feature picture show
  12. this is it, the only life we have to live

Looking over my archives, it's clear that this is the year I've written the least. (Two unresponsive partners in a row destroyed my craft to the point where I wonder if I'll ever get it back.) Perhaps I'll find it's a matter of practice. Perhaps I should resolve to write every day, no matter the topic, and if all I have is unhappiness, regret, pain, and sorrow, than I should write anyway, damn my efforts to keep up the tone. I've lost love this year, and trust, and joy, and my partner, and my most intimate friendship. The people closest to me let me down the most, in every possible way. There is death everywhere. And struggle. My body is broken, my heart an open wound, and my life bleak in almost every direction. I have no work, no income, and no future. Losing my writing should at least be my last straw. My writing and my pictures. Once I stop creating, what is there that's left?

So what about your year? What did it look like?

I have a job interview there tomorrow

It is only from one of the higher towers, the myriad smaller buildings laid out below and higher ones gleaming in the distance, that the City’s infinitude truly becomes intuitively and not merely intellectually apparent.

Mastering new things generally comes easily to me, yet contact lenses are presenting a strange new kind of learning curve. Despite several months of switching them back and forth with my glasses, (a task that abruptly went from herculean to simple when I learned how to peel them off the skin of my eye with a fingernail), I remain severely discomfited by the visual change, how everything warps, the way my brain readjusts its input parameters to redefine normal.

When I first tried them, the doctor put them in for me then told me not to stand up right away. I didn’t mind waiting at first, but eventually even the marvel of peripheral vision became boring in the broom closet back office, so I stood up and tried to step to the door, thinking I was ready. Wrong. As I crashed immediately to the ground, shattering every pretense of sophistication and grown-up-ed-ness, I could hear him shout from the other room, “I told you so!”.

(He promised weeks ago that he would write a reply.)

Today’s best telescopes could see the amount of light produced by Tokyo from as far away as the Kuiper Belt.

I put the idea down, feeling like a fool as I walked down the path, dismissed from the large green house, and stepped under the arch of the overgrown hedge, a thick, living wall as solid as any made of stone. From the street, the house is hidden by its branches, as invisible as the steady burst of static that clouds my brain every time I approach it or even pass it, as I usually do, a solid block away. Something deep in my chest thudded as I walked under its shadow, wounded, let down by my own betrayal, that I had even approached that door. Why do I do these things? Why do I try? I was an echo of the spring, drained of everything worthwhile, too tired with myelf to even be angry. All that was left was to walk away.

Seattle was nice to visit. I rearranged all the furniture in Aleks’ apartment while he was at work and made a bed out of pillows in front of the fire. I enjoyed the concert, then the after concert concert, and two different movies, all of them good in distinct and lovely ways. I introduced friends to friends, met new friends of friends, spent some time chatting with Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaimen, who were gracious and sweet, had a cup of drinking chocolate while I wandered Pike Place Market, and Tony bought me a steak. It was like a teeny, tiny vacation. I no longer have any comforting intimacy there, nothing deep, it’s not my home, I still couldn’t sleep, but it was enough to feel okay on the surface, just to navigate a handful of days without any struggle.

letting the cat out of the bag for a trip around the block

Shane Koyczan
Promotional photo for Shane Koyczan.
  • ChatRoulette Love Song: speed dating done right.

    Arron took me on a driving lesson the other day, all the way from Home Depot to Metrotown, the farthest I’ve ever gone in a car. I suspect he found it vaguely terrifying, but given my lack of experience, I think I did rather well. No one died, nothing got wrecked, and I finally found myself okay with driving at more than 30 km/hour. I had been vaguely concerned that driving his truck would be somehow scarier than the little car I had been learning in with Young Drivers of Canada, (bigger equals more dangerous), but instead I discovered that though I disliked the hugeness of the thing, (the amount of space it takes up is slightly ridiculous), my years of living in a truck have apparently made me significantly more comfortable sitting higher up. It feels more natural being able to look down at other vehicles, rather than up at them. I blame my mother and her addiction to vans. Also, not dealing with a clutch meant that I stopped mixing up the pedals, so that was a victory, too. The best one, probably. Notes: remembering to check blind spots, figuring out how much space is actually required to change lanes. (Hint: significantly less than I think).

  • Little Wheel: a sweet, beautiful art game involving robots.

    I had a try-out day of work with Agentic yesterday, the web development company I’ve been interviewing with that I rather like. It was a very relaxed time, some easy work in a nice environment, surrounded by quiet, friendly people, not stressful at all. I was mostly left to myself, just me and a desk and a small pile of simple tasks. It was only after, during my gentle walk home, that I started feeling worried I wouldn’t get the job, as if my body had saved up all my concerns for later, tucked away in a bottom drawer of my heart until it was deemed safe to let them out. Silly, in a way, as it is out of my hands now. Everything left to do is on their side – talking to my references, deciding which candidate to hire, then calling us with the decision. (I was told they’ll let me know no later than Monday.) In the meantime, all I can do is wait and cross my fingers that I am what they need. It would be great to work in a positive environment again. I’m tired of spending time in offices where you can tell that everyone there wishes they weren’t.

  • Mills & Boon: self-portraits that mimic the covers of romance novels.

    My others news: Lung and I are finally starting a photography business together, Fox-Rain Wedding Photos. We’ve been talking about it for years, but the timing was never quite right. This time, however, I’ve already kludged together a solid rough draft of our website that I plan to take live in the next few days, before he leaves for California next week, and hope to get some sort of quick logo nailed down by the end of today, the better to toss on business cards asap. Neither one of us is particularly flush at the moment, so start-up money is tight, but I’ve done my research and I’m not only certain we can do this on the cheap, I’m absolutely confident we’ll succeed. If we can get everything together quick enough, things could even be up and running by the end of the month. Expect us at a tacky wedding fair near you, soon! We’ll be the people who don’t suck.

  • not made for this weather

    “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” –Dom Helder Camara

    For all my poverty, I am rich this week thanks to a fridge full of vegetables and half of a left-over chicken. It’s unbelievably exciting. Luxurious, even. Edibles: the best gift ever. Though it is a blessing to be able to eat when I want, groceries are never high on my priority list. Instead I skimp to pay off my Heart of the World debt, living off rice and potatoes and very little else, and anything I can claim as extra, however meager, goes to better things, closer to my heart than survival or an easier life. Last time I went out, for example, instead of food or a camera bag or a casing for the naked SATA drive that contains my photography archives, I purchased tickets to the Dusty Flower Pot’s upcoming show, The Hard Times Hit Parade, for Valentine’s Day. Possibly not the most clever decision, but the kind of choice I’ll stand by and defend tooth and nail, even as my tummy growls defiance. A large part of being poor is knowing when to make those choices, understanding that while it is important to scrape by, it is equally essential to feel alive sometimes, too.

    That said, today I’m about to splurge on something that neatly straddles the line between requirement and desire – I’m replacing my shredded duvet, the one that died so ignominiously on the way to Burning Man. It’s not something I can afford, strictly speaking, not when ten dollars is still a lot of money to me, but it’s a want that has finally nudged its hesitant way past wistful desire to actual need and why I have a credit card. I have been cold almost every night this winter, waking up so regularly in the dark of morning, shivering underneath two layers of inadequate blanket, that my cat, Tanith, has finally learned to sleep under the covers with me, the better to share some heat. My first thought this morning, as I lay in the dark, huddled in a tiny ball, “To be warm again, I can’t put a price on that.”

    EDIT: Even better, I’ve been given the opportunity to barter for one! Photography for a duvet! Internet win.

    the failed canary in the lightswitch

    And sometimes the night looks like morning, while at other times like rain.

    This past year wasn’t what I wanted. Though there were exquisite moments, beautiful, troubling and lovely, I’ve been left tired and burned out, worn down to the grain. In spite of obscene amounts of effort to the contrary, I remain plagued by chronic debt, injuries, and unemployment, and the haunting suspicion that no matter how hard I fight against these things, it’s possible that I will never escape.


    He turns on the television, flicks through some options, a way to feel useful while too tired to do anything more. On screen, a pornographic backdrop behind the menu, a naked woman sitting on wrought iron fleur-di-lis, shot from below, the metal pressing into her soft, photoshop-perfect skin. She is anonymous, mostly a silhouette of legs and shaved genitals, though it can be seen that she has a ring piercing in a sensitive place. I mentally wince, thinking of how easy it would be to get caught on things, but grin, looking at him, silently expecting an explanation, as that’s what such situations generally require. “It’s not mine, if you’ll believe it,” he replies to my amused face, “I would have fixed the aspect ratio.”

    It’s amazing the moments that feel like home. Because yes, I would have too.