Thursday, 28 May 2015

Consent Implied

I was on the GO train the other day when a young woman embarked. She sat diaginally across from me in one of those double row seats. She appeared to be a student. Beside her, and straight across from me, sat another young woman - older, professional, complete in business suit and all. This was in the still chilly March weather.

To my left, and in the corner, sat a gentleman. He might've been in his late twenties, early thirties. Bear with me. I'm going somewhere with this.

Shortly after we left Union station, the student and the gentleman struck up a quiet conversation. After all, we were seated in the Quiet Zone. It may have been about...ah! Yes. It was about his watch. There was something she found remarkable about it.

Shortly after that, she took her drawing pad and a pencil from her bag. And, she started drawing. I made a polite glance and realized she was drawing a caricature of the man. I cast a furtive glance in his general direction to catch any expression of surprise I could. Nada. Either he was blissfully unaware that his "likeness" was being reproduced, or, he was aware and didn't mind. Or, he did mind  but chose not to be confrontational. Or some like thought.

She continued drawing, rather fast, I might add. She really got that talent down pat. While she did, the young woman next to her reached for her smartphone, then held it up at an angle to direct the lens toward the notepad. Yes. She was unabashedly taking a few photos of the artwork in progress.

By this time, the guy being drawn was clearly in the know about the representation of his image. I'd caught him looking at the notepad. He'd said nothing. I wouldn't go as far as to say he seemed flattered. That'd be a romantic unfounded notion. But, at the least, he did appear a bit amused and totally, as in totally, not bothered.

The younger girl continued her drawing. She too didn't seem to care at all that her work was being photographed by a total stranger - in such proximity!

It was like an unspoken agreement among them.

Of course, when she wrapped that up and started in a new page and glanced a couple of times in my direction, I had to ask, "Are you drawing me now?"
"No," she answered with a smile.
The young woman and the man smiled, too. But, I needed to add, and so I did, "Okay, 'cause I'd have to, y'know, change seats," I said with a feint smile of the pursed "so-there's-that" lips kind. They did a mix of polite smile and chuckle.

At the next stop, our little community disbanded and life went on.

So, we are here. Total strangers all up in total strangers' faces like that. Someone who's performing pretty much expects the smartphones to come out. But, here was a guy, going about his business and voíla! There'd been no request for permission to draw him. There'd been no request for permission to take a photo of the drawing. The characters in this true story simply did as they pleased, as though based on the assumption that the man was worth drawing, or the drawing was worth snapping, consent was implied.

A few weeks after that episode, I spotted a tweet re an article about a young woman who'd had a kind of altered rendition of her Instagram pic put on show. The blown-up photo was said to be sold for about $90,000. Just. Like. That.

I've said before that, these days, once you leave your house - or anyone else's house for that matter - be prepared to be caught up in someone else's video or photo. (Alas, you may be photo bombing and not know it.) It's as though your decision to be out and about in public means your consent to be caught on camera is implied.

I read an article recently about a (perhaps little-known) by-law in Toronto that forbids the taking of photos in parks. And I've visited at least one library that forbids the taking of photos within its walls - no matter how cute you think your niece and her playmates are, standing beside the giant stuffed gorilla. Just sayin'.

Well, you have to leave the house at some point. Correct? Whatyagonnado. Take comfort in the fact that most people couldn't care less about the people who happen to be caught in the background of their pics. Really.

You can leave the house now.


Monday, 18 May 2015

The Sound and the Fury: Fireworks!!!

For years, sis (@MizDurie), has been inviting me to behold the spectacle that is the Toronto fireworks show at Ashbridge's Bay. Years. This year she tried again. This year, I agreed. I decided to see what the fuss was about.

I get it now.

Credit for all photos: @MizDurie


Friday, 8 May 2015

Happy Dance In My Head

On the last day of April - which was a fantastic month, by the way - I was travelling home on the GO Train. I was seated in one of the upper level cars, in one of those rows that face another. On rush hour trains, the upper cars are designated Quiet Zone areas - short and quiet conversations are okay; passengers may plug in to their personal devices, as long as they don't disturb others, etc. 

It was a little after 4:30...okay, it was 4:36. I had checked, just as the thought crossed my mind to ask a favour of the woman seated across from me. She had been reading The Cruellest Month - a rather thick novel. I figured if she is a reader, then she could be relied upon to give valuable feedback on a totally new piece. Before I gave myself a chance to talk myself out of it (that sounds funny), I spoke up. I had read in Blake Snyder's Save The Cat that it's a good idea to ask someone at, say, a coffee shop, to look at you work or draft or idea. I totally get that. I imagine you'd likely get great feedback from a total stranger with no hangups about hurting the feelings of someone they'll probably never lay eyes on again. And, if they do, they'll probably change coffee shops. Or, you could change coffee shops. Okay! It's not about coffee shops.

So, as I was saying, before I interrupted myself, I spoke up. 

Me: Excuse me. I've never done this before. I'm writing an introduction to my anthology of poems. Would you mind reading it and letting me know what you think? 
She: Yes, of course. 
I handed her my phone. She bookmarked her page, then looked me in the eye, "I'd be happy to read it."
Me: Thank you!
I was positively beaming! I did my happy dance in my head! Heh heh.
When she was finished, she leaned toward me and I followed cue and leaned toward her. We were, after all, in the Quiet Zone. 
She: It's very real. It's very personal, and it's moving. It should go well with the poems as that's what they're about. It needs a bit of editing, but it's really good. 
Me: Thanks so much. Could you tell me where needs editing? 
She: That part where you talk about the relationship? His pillow? Is it a real person or someone you're imagining? The reader needs to be clear on that. Hopefully, that gives you enough to go on? 
Me: Yes! Thank you!

I'm glad I'd plucked up the courage to do it. I got good feedback. She was right, of course. I knew the context I had had in  mind when I wrote that section, but the reader would need more information to make sense of it. 

Can I tell you? That was a wonderful way to end April 2015! I had won the poetry competition at the Lit Café, and @CBCBooks had held a lil #CBCRhymes competition on Twitter one day - and I was one of two (or three) winners! I received a few poetry books as my prize. They came just in time, too. A few days earlier, my publisher had asked me to send the write-ups - acknowledgements, author bio, and so on - for my upcoming poetry book. I had decided on a cover, too. When I got those books in the mail, the first thing I did was pay attention to the covers; how the titles were written; whether the font sizes were too big, etc. And, yes, I will be reading them. :-)

Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years is now in the production process. 

Again, #HappyDanceInMyHead! 


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Not-so-great Expectations

More often than not, whenever I open the new post page to the blank screen, I tell myself I won't be long. Next thing I know, I'm hitting 600+ words. Tonight, however, I won't be long. I think.

I've been thinking about this blog and where it's headed. I really like the fact that I've carved out a little space in cyberspace and write whatever I want to. However, my first book of poetry (there's at least one other poetry book inside me) is being published - Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years. I'm excited and humbled and thankful...all up in my feels, really. I am also a tad concerned that, as a published poet, my lil blog will be expected to feature more writing about poetry, the writing process, and the like. And, that's not one of the feels. Okay. Lemme stop speaking in SoMe language for a second.

The idea that I may be expected to write more about my work as a poet is a tad unappealing. I relish the luxury I now have - writing about a variety of subject matter. My posts range from dogs to Desiderata; Buju to BlackBerry; writing to World Cup.... You catch my drift. I am a real person, and I find many things in life interesting - even up to a point, at a certain point - and like to write about them.

So, I dunno. I'm thinking the writing/poetry posts will come - the words will force themselves into my psyche - and I will have no choice but to write them. For, whenever I do write about writing and poetry and creative processes, it's because I simply must. I am just a bit wary that I might have to sacrifice subject range on the altar of brand development.

That mightn't be a bad thing. Still, new visitors to my blog will, hopefully, come to understand that writing and poetry, and writing about writing and poetry, are just part of the whole. And, while they're at it, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

All being well, my book will be out in September 2015. Would you look at that? "My book." :-) Thank You, God. At this stage, I'm writing those important sections for inclusion. Y'know? Acknowledgements, intro, bio, and everything like such as... :-)


Saturday, 18 April 2015

Sydney's Home!

We brought my new puppy, Sydney, home today. We, because, although I'm her primary caregiver, she already pretty much belongs to everyone in the family. Yeah, it's like that.

Durie, Kiki and Koko (sis, lil niece and lil nephew) made the road trip to the Kitchener-Waterloo area with me today. It was a joy to finally hold her, knowing she's mine - technically, and yes, I want to be technical - and to share her with the others, too. She's been introduced to all the family via Skype or phone! They think she's a sweetie. :-)

So far, she is adjusting quite nicely. She's used her "pee pad" a few times already, and she knows her way to her food and water. Good girl.

I imagine the first night will be a tad rough for her, but she's already proven she's a real trooper.

Also, you should see her strut her stuff like she's a top contender at Crufts! Lol! Never mind that she's a Pekepoo - Pekingese/Toy Poodle mix. She doesn't know it - and she doesn't care. Clearly.

I'm thankful for her. She is already loved.


It took a while, but I finally got her to stand still enough for a close-up.

This didn't take as long. She knows where to find her food and water.

Yup. She's a snuggler.

Why Sydney? I named her after my favourite TV action character, Sydney Bristow in ALIAS. She was a brilliant CIA agent; a tough kickboxer, and a beautiful, kind-hearted person. Yes, I have the DVDs - in the Rambaldi Box!


Wednesday, 8 April 2015


April is usually celebrated as poetry month. It's in light of this that the Oakville Lit Café holds a poetry competition each April. I think this is the first time (since I started attending) I'll be in town for it. (I'm usually on vacation to celebrate my birthday.) So, I submitted my entry the other day. The entries will be judged by a panel - not the audience. Also, the poems should include three of the judges' given words - all starting with the letter 'E'. Out of the list of about 10 or so, I chose: epiphany, evanescent, and ethereal.

It'd be nice to win.


I hear the distance I travel
I feel the distance I fear
Spanning the height 
Between ground and endless sky
My feet are off the ground
And I am high.

This is neither flying
Nor soaring. An epiphany.
I'm being transported into
A vast nothingness
Losing all sense of context
And motion and time and space
I feel the distance increasing
I go up, up, and away.

Hands over ears
I melt inside
No tears
Can't cry if I can't feel
Now, can I?
Am I there yet?
No, higher yet.

Soon, I morph into a shadow
Of my former self
Looming evanescent
Nothing happens.
My thoughts are crystal clear.

This moving, my doing
This distance, my desire.
Is my fear of heights weaker 
Than my fear of loving you?
Than I fear being loved by you?

I was prepared to die flying
Than I was to die trying
At something new with you.
Something ethereal, yet true.

I don't have a fear of heights
I have a fear of falling
I have a fear of loving
And falling into you.

Update 2015-04-30: I won! :-)


Saturday, 28 March 2015

"You Learn"

Lemme just squeeze in a short poem of mine, as a prelude to a well-known poem. Okay, I think it's well-known. And not just by many, but by heart. Someone introduced me to it when I was in my late teens. At the time, it was attributed to good ol' Anonymous. Enter, Google. The writer was Veronica Shoffstall - or so I thought. The Keepers of the Knowledge of Rightful Attributions - okay, that's not a thing, but it should be - came to the defence of Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinian writer, pointing out that his was the beautiful soul that had penned those poignant words. It reminds me of Marianne Williamson's "Our deepest fear..." constantly being attributed to Nelson Mandela. But, I digress. The jury should be back by now on "You Learn". (It's sometimes referred to as After A While.) It's the Internet, who knows? What I am sure of is the high degree of relatabilty that burns within the poem. Well, "high degree of relatability" for some. For others, I think you'll appreciate it, nonetheless.

*squeezes in*

All In My Head

Fool me once - shame on you
Fool me twice - shame on me
Fool me thrice - I must like it when you "fool" me.
For a fourth time? I have been fooling myself.

It was all in my head.

Now, over to you, Jorges. (Yes. #TeamJorges.)

You Learn

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

That you really are strong

And you really do have worth…

And you learn and learn…

With every good-bye you learn.

 - Jorges Luis Borges