Suddenly All Growed Up

Do you remember when it happened to you? Those years when you suddenly stopped being a child? It’s hard to recognise it when it’s actually happening: you only see it when you’ve fully grown and start to feel somehow redeemed as an adult human. My moment – triggered by the responsibility of a ‘zine – would mark the beginning of the end of innocence: no more Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Street Cents (back when it was hosted by Jonathan Torrens) after school. Then I would retreat to my room to listen to Vauxhaull and I, The White Album or Dark Side of the Moon on headphones. I would draw in ink and markers, urging out my teenage frustrations onto paper.

So what? Do I even know what I’m talking about? That is, am I that “redeemed adult human” I claim to be? Probably not. I mean, I fill empty hours playing video games and visiting I contemplated us adults, the grupsters, if you will: in following coverage of the SXSW Interactive conference, I’ve realised how pervasive nerdiness is in our generation. We are attached by the hip to our gadgets and laptops, and we are suddenly crippled without WiFi or at least some kind of internet connection. I mean, during the last snowstorm here in Montreal, I considered the risk of a power outage, and that I’d might as well throw my iBook in the garbage should our wireless network go down. What am I going to do…organise my photos or edit a document? Actually, I wouldn’t be able to even do that since I started using Google Docs instead of shelling out for some bogus Microsoft software.

And the kids of today are just getting deeper into it. We joke about how Neptune will mock us when we mention cassette tapes: her music will just get downloaded directly into her brain or something like that. Preteens have mobile phones and have figured out BitTorrent. Neptune is surprisingly quick at learning how our gadgetry works: she can play games on my DS, un-hold and use the iPod, scroll through photos on my BlackBerry, put DVDs into and turn on the PS3, and click my laptop’s trackpad to start playback of funny cat videos on YouTube. And she’s only been here for 30 months.

This blog post doesn’t really have a thesis or point, so I will end my ramblings here. Maybe that’s what adulthood grants: long, rambling, roundabout thoughts in lieu of a youthful stroboscopic bombardment of media.

The Powder Keg

I was thinking recently about the dawning of the internet and also my early days as a writer, which led me to the memory of a BBS I sort of belonged to called The Powder Keg. It was a pretty small group of Toronto-based writers that somehow I got hooked into. I think at the time I was one of the youngest and least experienced writers on the BBS. But seeing as how I thought of myself as perhaps a writer, the confidence of youth propelled me onward.

Wikipedia mentions some interesting facts in its description of the BBS: “The BBS was also a local phenomenon, as one had to dial into a BBS with a phone line and would have to pay additional long distance charges for a BBS out of the local area, as opposed to less expensive local charges. Thus, many users of a given BBS usually lived in the same area, and activities such as BBS Meets or Get Togethers (GTs or GTGs), where everyone from the board would gather and meet face to face, were common.” Seeing the letters “GTG” makes me remember the occasional Powder Keg poetry night held at a local restaurant called Cafe May (now defunct) on Roncesvalles. I never went: I was too young, too shy, and besides, the aged cedar facade of Cafe May, and cavern-like lighting made it intimidating from the outside. The Powder Keg members/writers would do readings, peddle chapbooks, discuss each other’s work. I think the ringleader (SysOp) was named Ian, but it’s so long ago I can’t remember. He also might have had a beard and wore Birkenstocks with socks, and I probably had a foolish teenage crush on him. But remember, it was the early 90’s.

A few years ago, in the midst of some Dears media broo-ha-ha, The Powder Keg – which had before this moment had faded almost completely in my memory – made its reappearance. I received an email from a fellow Kegger, James McNally. I recall we’d connected beyond just the BBS, we’d met at a vernissage or something poetry-related, and I think he was my only real BBS friend. Completely by accident he stumbled onto The Dears, then noticed my name in the credits. You can read the whole story on his blog. He reminded me of some 4-track demos I had made, and basically how I was so explosively creative in those days. That was before I grew up, which I hope to explain here on my blog over the next few…years?

Anyway, the topic of the past few weeks seems to be “Blasts From The Past.” I had another one explode in my face at Neptune’s 2nd birthday party this weekend, which I will save delightlfully for later…it’s related to my zine years. Yeah, that’s right. I had a zine, but that is another tangent to take on the story of my life.

High School Poetry

Since most of us are closet megalomaniacs, we are sometimes tempted to Google our own names. Out of equal parts boredom and curiosity, I find this little secret search entertaining, especially when I discount everything Dears-related and Blog-related. What I’m left with is a handful of old things I wrote, mostly from when I was among the first-generation of the now rampant “bitter music journalist.” But then there’s this nugget, this little, mini scrap from my past: high school poetry. I will have you know that “Bowl of Trail Mix” was selected as the “Cool Poem of the Week,” but really I can’t think of anything less cool than being the author of a poem deemed cool by teachers.

I have a philosophy that I stand very strongly by: that we are all forgiven for everything we did from birth to the age of 18, with an emphasis on the period that spans across the teen years. At any rate, my grade 12 English class, taught by Mr. Pendergrast, participated in some kind of electronic writer’s workshop, back when computers were just invented and class handouts were still being printed by hand-operated mimeographs in the teacher’s room. Ok, not that far back, but, seriously: almost. So a few of us major nerds in English class would bring in our poems, and give them to Mr. Pendergrast. He would then type them up and actually send them by EMAIL to this Writers In Electronic Residence (WIER) message board (or BBS, as they used to be called). Other students from across the province (Ontario) would then read and comment on our poems, and we would do the same for our peers. Anyhow, I remember I thought it was so amazing that, in addition to other students, real, published authors would read and comment on my work! So I basically felt legitimised as a writer, and sailed out on a downward spiral of romanticism. I mean, really, aside from a career in academics, what the frig are you going to do with a degree in English/Creative Writing? What, become an author? Undergrads, listen now and listen hard: other than a valid reason to drink heavily, a degree in Creative Writing will only make you want to put down the pen and never write again. Who needs a bunch of middle-class ding-dongs critisizing your art? I mean, that’s what Pitchfork is for…YEOUCH!

But my bad high school poetry story doesn’t end there. August, 23, 2007: it was a rainy night on the patio of a Toronto hipster bar, where my friend Amanda unveiled the dark secret that was not meant to leave the realm of Google search results: she had stumbled upon a fellow WIER writer, who remebered my crappy poem. So my next project is to somehow reconnect with this person, who I recall conversing with a decade ago, via a strange, pre-internet medium.

To Be Continued…

Pop Monty: Bio Writing

I’m in the middle of writing bios for the Pop Montreal schedule. I’ve been doing it every year for a while, and I actually really enjoy it. It forces me to listen to new bands, old bands, bands I’ve “heard of” but never actually heard. I hardly ever listen to music at home, so I like the opportunity…then I can make my hardened, jaded comments about the music industry (indie and otherwise) with at least some element of validity. Anyhow, I realise that all I do to get my info on bands is check their MySpace, Wikipedia and CBC Radio 3 websites. I was just noticing it, because just like five years ago, that wasn’t the case: I’d actually have to scour the web, hope a band had their own website or at least a CBC page. Now it seems bands don’t even have their own websites anymore, or those sites have become a static, secondary source. MySpace basically formats a band’s web identity, the same was Facebook formats a person’s individuality. But this isn’t a complaint, this is just how it is, how things have become. It’s like Jennifer Aniston’s waitress character from Office Space: we all have to wear the same uniform, but are encouraged to add pieces of “flair” to distinguish ourselves from one another. Weird…