Naked Fear

So I have a lot of wacky ideas, and I go “whew”pretty often when I realize that people can’t tell that I have these wacky ideas. Some of these wacky ideas might be called Worst Fears which I don’t realize are wacky at all until they’re over, or done with, or gone.

So it’s pretty alarming when the repertoire of worst fears start to happen one after another. One of them, lets call it the banking-related fear, played out like a bad stage play in slow motion. The kind of play you can’t get up and walk out of cause you know all the performers, but you can’t bear to sit through it and you wonder how on earth you ended up here in the first place.

Next there was the, “cop happens to run your plates on the 401” fear. You see her driving behind you. You pass a car to put someone else in the line of fire. She passes the car too and follows you. Then the cherry lights go on. Can you play dumb at that point, with a heart attack in progress?

So the scary part is that there’s a whole bag of fears where those came from. And the stressful part is that it’s tempting to think that maybe they aren’t all as bad as I imagine they will be. That they’ll happen and I’ll go, “Oh, well, now that’s over with.”

Like the time I walked Denise to the subway early one morning. I didn’t need to be up so early and decided I would go right back to bed so I pulled a dress over my nightie which was over nothing, slipped into some flip-flops and walked the few blocks to the station on a quiet blue morning. As we approached the entrance a train went by underground and my dress-nightie combo flew up around my ears. Straight up. I pushed down the front and the back billowed on. I held the back down and the front went up again. Finally, I stepped off that damn subway grate.

Then I had to walk back past all those people waiting for the bus.

In this case, I think I must have experienced someone else’s worst fear by accident cause I assure you, I wasn’t losing sleep at night fearing that I would one day be naked in front of the Junction commuter line up. I didn’t wear a dress for ten years or so.

The thing is, all these little fears sap your confidence and it makes you feel like you’re in a bit of a trap. It’s how you feel when you’re without a job, without resources, without the language, or the connections or a community to tell you it isn’t as bad as you think. (Or a family to tell you it’s worse!)

You need some kind of reference group in order to check in and realize that you aren’t public enemy number one. Then, presumably, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way.

Note to self: always be prepared – wear under garments.


Tail Gates and Black Ties

My family is so cool. I like that they can do tail-gate parties and black tie events.

I especially like when they do both at the same time; witness the parking lot before Joe and Kristin’s wedding.

It’s not really about the hummus and olives and specialty beer in cans is it? It’s about bonding and hanging out and being one unit before you go into the fray to become part of a bigger unit. It’s like home-room in high school, only with better beer, and you actually want to be there.

Families are sometimes underrated.

And sometimes overrated.

My Addiction: No Laughing Matter

It happened when I went back to university, the second time. I used to be pretty healthy in those days; no meat, no dairy, no alcohol to speak of, no coffee, no processed foods. I needed an easy lunch to take to school so a friend who could read Chinese hooked me up with some noodle soups in China Town (Montreal) that were vegetarian, no MSG.

In those days we had one of those water boilers which are always hot – as long as you keep them full of water. Makes it really easy; crunch the noodles in the bag and pour them into a bowl, add the flavour packets, pump-pump on the water thing, let it sit for a bit till the noodles are soft and enjoy.

It wasn’t long before I was having the soup as soon as I got to school. And then I started to have it at home before I even left in the morning. Earlier and earlier. I started eating the soup before the noodles were even soft.

One dark morning, barely awake I grabbed my noodles, crunched them into a bowl, added the flavour and pump-pumped on the water – Empty! Someone hadn’t refilled the tower! With a howl of rage I stormed downstairs to the neighbours who also had a water tower and banged on their door till Krikor opened it. I pushed past him, barged into his kitchen, pump-pumped on the water and started scarfing the crunchy stuff right there and then, breathing hard, glaring at the world, while the little me that watches me realized: something isn’t right here.

I went up stairs and threw out the rest of the soup.

The next day I went back to China Town to get more. I couldn’t tell which one it was. I bought a few. It wasn’t the same. I couldn’t find my soup! For about a year, I’d get whiffs of it now and then and a little “gimme some!” urge.

Since then, I am careful not to have coffee seven days a week. Careful not to do anything too repetitively. I got lucky with the noodle soup and Krikor was presumably too sleepy to be offended with my behaviour.

What I have learned this week is that Crack is the most addictive of the street drugs: you only need to try it once. Then your body wants more, and more. The recovery rate from Crack is apparently almost zero. Eventually people’s behaviour drives away all of their friends and family. To say the least.

I didn’t know that. How would your average teenager know that? YOU ONLY HAVE TO TRY IT ONCE TO BECOME ADDICTED.

Makes me want to join the vice squad (do we have a vice squad or is that only on TV?) and bust the people who are profiting off the destruction of people’s lives. Like the Shaggy Guy who pimps Snowsuit Lady.

They found me one night. Alone in the cafe I witnessed their moment of discovery as I looked out the window to see them, surprised, looking in and pointing. I called 911 that time, not the other number. As the police car arrived Shaggy strolled by the window looking in, then disappeared. It’s always her who takes the risks.

I waffle between “Bring it On, tough guy!” and “Where’s my dog when I need her?!”

“Do you want me to stay on the phone till the police arrive?” asks the 911 lady.

“Yeeesss.” I say, clearly not in Bring-It-On mode.

Up and down the street the neighbours and business owners are standing together to make it clear that this is a community that cares, not one that will turn a blind eye. We are all aware that the best case scenario means they will probably just find a new neighbourhood.

Is somebody somewhere working on a big-picture solution to this?

Good guys.

I remember being 12 years old in Guelph when some boys were picking on Fatima. I walked her home then found myself stranded at the top of a six-foot fence, albeit the fence of my own yard. I finally scared them off with hand signals to my imaginary gang; waiting in the wings and ready to pounce.

I remember being 23 years old at the post office, when this guy returned from a long suspension to disrupt people’s peace of mind with his abuse. Particularly Henry’s. Henry’s real or imagined wife was the target of much of his venom. Everybody just shut up when this guy was around.

Finally one day I couldn’t take it. I went up to him and told him that you can’t talk to people like that. Among much bravado he said “What are you going to do about it?” “I’m going to report you.” I told him. Much abuse and threats ensued. “I’m going to report that too.” I said, and I reported him.

Unfortunately, I reported him to an idiot. The guy came back after a talking-to and told me how much he needed his job and couldn’t afford another suspension and that he knew where I lived and if I ever said anything again he’d mess up me and my whole family. I reported that too.

Unfortunately I reported him to an idiot. The idiot explanined to me in patronizing tones that when people make death threats they don’t really mean it. It’s just an expression. The idiot was afraid of him. Aren’t some people paid not to be afraid?

The guy did mellow out and took to maligning his own real or imagine girlfriend in stead of Henry’s. Many months later I was accosted in the washroom by a female postie who said that the big cheese was here to talk to me and I’d better watch what I say. Curious.

What the big cheese wanted now was for me to tell him how this guy had been harrassing me since. ‘In fact,” I told him, “the guy has not been harrassing me, or anyone else that I can tell.” I thought this was good news, but the big cheese had other plans.

He outlined several fictional infractions that I had committed and how they added up to a two week-suspension that could be applied to me without notice at any time. And Christmas was coming. Maybe now I wanted to tell him all the things that this guy has been up to the last six months. They certainly wouldn’t want me working in an unsafe environment.

I told him to have a good day.

Eventually the idiot himself was threatened by someone and I found myself in a room full of people in suits wanting to hear my story. About how the idiot had told me that death threats were meaningless so how can he charge someone else when suddenly it is he who is threatened. At least, I thought they wanted to hear it. As I got into my story they all jumped up yelling and left the room except one fellow in a suit. This fellow asked me to finish the story and then said thanks for coming out. And good bye.

It took me a while to work out that my “Yeah, but” argument wasn’t much good if your defense is based on “No I didn’t”. I was surprised to discover that there were no good guys in that battle.

I quit the post office that day. This world withought good guys was a world I didn’t want to live in.

And now, I’ve summoned up my imaginary gang for the walk to the cafe past Snowsuit Lady and her everpresent Guy, and I wonder if there are any good guys in the world she lives in.

This is MY Area

Snowsuit Lady at King and Garfield seems to be stirring up quite a bit of heat lately. She “hitchhikes” there from dawn till dawn, regularly trying to get into my car even though I come and go from the cafe five times a day.

Local businesses and residents call the cops more and more frequently. Not sure what went on between her and some young kids that got people up in arms. Her “guy” went into the buisness next door to tell them to back off. Today the air was let out of the tires of my car. Yes, I’m jumping to conclusions. I know.

After moving the car I decided to have words with her and found a police woman on the corner instead who warned me that Snowsuit Lady has a history of violence and communicable diseases; best to keep your distance. I didn’t see her all afternoon.

Then on the way home tonight I see she has moved from out front of my cafe to the end of my street. So I kept my distance. And I wrote down the license plate of the car that stopped. It took off. She got mad and started yelling all sorts of things. Like “this is MY area.”

“Am I interfering with your business?” I asked her. She gave me her opinion about her business. I told her it’s not her business I object to, but the violence that she is bringing into the neighbourhood. She gave me a long song and dance about how she has never assaulted anyone in her life. She “WROTE half the bible,” she says. Don’t know what that means.

Eventually her guy came along. He got mad. Called me all sorts of names. What has to happen before something changes? I’ve heard the stories about the association in the next neighbourhood where someone is doing a thesis on vulnerable populations and that people like me – well, I wasn’t one of those people till today – people like me are intolerant.

“Punch her in the face!” Her guy said to her.

She wound up and stopped short of my face. “She’s gonna beat your face in!” he said.

“What are you, crazy?” he said to me when I just stood there. “Get out of here or I’m going to kick your ass!”

He wound up and kicked at me but also stopped short.

“What’s the matter with you?” he yelled in my face wen I didn’t move. “Why aren’t you leaving?!”

“I live here,” I told him.

They went the other way.

This is not YOUR area. This is OUR neighbourhood.