A Cisgender White Heterosexual Male Hot Take on the Fall of Roe

Someone’s uterus is none of my, or anyone else’s, fucking business.

That’s it.

That’s the post.

Oh… And may the six unelected monsters who just stripped away this right be haunted to their graves by the screams of every single person who is going to die because of what they’ve done.

The Last Free Mother’s Day

Usually, Mother’s Day arrives with a serene, crisp morning and the promise of flowers, brunch, hugs and chocolate, and shared recollections of tender kisses for scraped childhood knees.  It is typically a day as gentle as those we take this time to honor.  Not so this year.  2022 Mother’s Day is a nightmare from which there is no waking, as the right wing justices on the United States Supreme Court stand on the precipice of stripping away the very right to decide whether to be a mother at all.

Unless you have been exploring the valleys of Mars or so single-focused on the Stanley Cup that you haven’t bothered to raise your head from the sports page, you have seen the news that the draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, scrawled in dystopian hellfire fashion by W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito, plans to overturn 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision and thus trigger complete bans on abortion in the majority of the states.  Forced birth activists across America are salivating at the arrival of the horrific vision that has driven them for decades and will condemn millions of poor women, especially those of color, to imprisonment or death simply for exercising the choice to do with their bodies as they wish (naturally, wealthy women or the mistresses of Republicans will still be able to get safe, expensive abortions whenever they need them).  In some states, a woman who has an abortion after being raped will be subject to harsher prison sentences than her rapist.  Some Republican lawmakers have boasted that saving a fetus is more important than preserving the life of the person carrying it.  This is who they are, and they do not care.  Their moment has come.

There is no sugar-coating this.  It is as bad as everyone who has been sounding the alarm for years has said it will be.  Alito’s “reasoning,” if you can condescend to call it that, falls back on the laughable doctrine of “originalism,” the notion that if slave-holding white men of the 18th Century didn’t explicitly write it down in the Constitution – men who, it must be said, couldn’t conceive of the concept of the computer that Alito or his fascist clerks are barfing out this rights-crushing jeremiad on – it cannot be allowed to exist.  The opinion reaches for justification to the decisions of a judge who literally sentenced women to death for witchcraft and further commodifies children (again, from the party who are accusing everyone who dislikes their agenda of being groomers) by referring to the shortfall in the “domestic supply of infants” in claiming that allowing abortion means there aren’t enough unwanted little orphan Annies for the woebegone would-be Daddy Warbuckses of ‘Murica.  In a public statement following the leak of the decision, Alito’s lickspittle, the odious Justice Clarence Thomas, has shrugged “too bad, so sad” to the vast majority of the country who support abortion rights, telling them they have to suck it up with outcomes they don’t like, when his repellent wife Ginni is an open seditionist who backed the January 6th attempted coup because she didn’t like the result of a fair and free election.

Because the decision undermines the right to privacy, liberals are warning that the right wing has no intention of stopping with abortion.  There is a laundry list of freedoms that conservatives are rubbing their hands about the prospect of overturning in the wake of Dobbs, with gay rights being the most tempting target to attack next.  For this, now, apparently, is how government works in the United States – Thomas’s patronizing missive aside, conservatives can simply appeal legislation they don’t like to a corrupted, utterly politicized Supreme Court that is happy to twist itself into knots to overturn it for them.  Swept aside are any notions of democracy, the majority of the people deciding.  This is the endgame of a slow-moving push towards autocracy orchestrated by a scheming, pampered right – captained by Mitch McConnell, Rupert Murdoch and Federalist Society capo Leonard Leo – and frankly, a lazy left hypnotized by overpaid media pundits who served up endless helpings of “don’t fret silly libs, it won’t be so bad” columns every time another crypto-fascist blundered his way into power.

The battle over abortion is about one thing only – the paranoid need of the penis to dominate the uterus.  Why is it, do you ever wonder, that the men who bleat on about the unborn are all cut from the same and arguably inferior cloth – the white, bloated, puckered, pasty-faced incel type who’d likely have a prostitute wanting to pay him to avoid getting anywhere near that limp noodle hiding in his pants?  The kind who are so unbelievably ignorant that they go on national television and say that well actually, the female body has ways to prevent pregnancy if it senses that it’s being raped?  The ones who have perpetuated a misogynist myth of shamefully promiscuous women laughing through dozens of abortions from forgotten one-night stands?

There is an old saying that “politics is show business for ugly people,” and never is that ugliness more evident than in the hearts, minds and words of these otherwise unemployable male clowns whose deep-rooted insecurity manifests in the desperation to dominate innocent people – to show that big bad world how tough they truly are.  Plotting away in the basement like Revenge of the Nerds writ large, they get themselves installed in low-profile offices – school boards, local councils, usually through the same rote script about taxes and family values and eking by with 20% support in a negligible-turnout election – and once inside, like the emerald ash borer they burrow quietly into the fabric of decent society, building influence, rising to incrementally higher standing and chipping away at liberty one tax cut at a time until one day they’re on the national stage lecturing that the cause of freedom demands that many will have to be sacrificed – to the thunderous applause of millions, Fox News fellation and the collective amazement that this could actually happen here.  These unloved, useless men are angry at the universe that they weren’t born with the faculties to be movie stars or professional athletes or with the choice of a different voracious supermodel to have insatiable sex with every night.  And the world – and women – are suffering exponentially at the hands of these irreparably wounded egos and completely flaccid penises.  Look across the water to Russia today to see a blatant example of a limp dick struggling to erect itself.

You know this is the case because if it was really about protecting fetuses, then the same legal restrictions would apply equally to men.  Employing the same sort of “logic,” it can be argued that a sperm is a living organism that is capable of becoming a human being.  Therefore, every time a man masturbates into a sock he is committing billions of homicides.  Whichever hand he uses should be confiscated as a deadly weapon.  Playboy publishers and creators of hentai videos are accordingly accessories to mass murder, and wet dreams should be recategorized as involuntary manslaughter.  Who weeps for those dear, precious unborn, lost forever to that episode of Star Trek: Picard where Seven and Raffi finally give in to their unspoken passions?  I am still waiting to see the Oklahoma or Alabama state legislatures table the appropriate bills to address these egregious crimes against humanity.  Otherwise, shut up with this ridiculous refrain that you’re defending the rights of the unborn.  This is only about keeping the uterus in line – making government small enough not to drown in the bathtub but to fit snugly inside the fallopian tube.

The Dobbs decision will be handed down in June, but it is foregone.  The lines are drawn, the votes will not be swayed.  The media is, as usual, adopting GOP talking points to focus on the wrong part of the story (pearl-clutching over what foul rapscallion leaked the decision???) and suggesting that this is all in fact a brilliant strategy on the part of the right wing to get the bad news over and done with early so that the rage dies down and that gas prices end up swinging the midterms to the Republicans so they can hold two years of hearings on Hunter Biden’s laptop and refuse to certify any election that doesn’t crown their orange, Putin-fluffing and increasingly senile idol king-for-life.  But I really do not think that the uteruses of the nation are going to shrivel up and accept that what Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and the gruesome threesome of Trump-appointed judges (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett) want should take precedence over their ability to govern their own bodies.  Here in Canada, where we have far too many forced birthers of our own entrenched in positions of power watching and waiting for their moment to rear their hideous heads, we must remain just as vigilant – lest future Mother’s Days be occasions not to celebrate but to weep for liberties lost at the will of Man.

It’s not over, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  Perhaps extra reason to ask anyone with a uterus if they need an extra hug today.

Planting a Flag

When you feel like you just need to curl up into a ball and anywhere will do.

Hi there. Your old friend Graham reporting in.

I had to sweep out a few tumbleweeds on here today before starting to type, including, as you’ll notice, the design of the site itself. It was probably a good hint that the theme was called “twenty fourteen” as that feels like the last time I actually paid attention to this place with any regularity. Long time (and very patient) readers may have noticed a few attempts at grand “I’m back!” announcements only to fail to see any follow up. There have been a few reasons for that.

The most prominent is the perfectionist anxiety that has been a persistent thorn in my 46 years of life – and which is often difficult to explain to those who haven’t had their ambitions undercut by it at so many turns. How to describe it – a feeling like if the next few words aren’t the single most brilliant, life-changing phrase ever assigned to paper, it is better to not even attempt to write them down. If the next post doesn’t get a million likes and shares, better to keep it locked away inside my head. And the rational adult in me knows that is a foolish pass at logic, but the wounded little boy craving a hug from long-departed parents screams it so loud that nothing else can be heard – leading to what is essentially, creative paralysis.

Another thing I’ve struggled with a lot over these last few years is something I’ve come to call “validity of voice” – the idea that the last person anyone needs to hear from in this turbulent time is yet another cisgender, heterosexual white male. We are living in the era of whitelash and straightlash, where the traditional power structure has been undermined and is flailing to hold onto dwindling influence by actively oppressing every voice that dares to challenge it. As the majority awakens to the ugliness that has perpetuated the conveniences it takes for granted and decides that this is not okay, we see whites, straights and conservatives who have traditionally owned the space for discourse whine that they are “being silenced,” and we get dozens of stories in The New York Times about Trump voters in diners who can’t cope with seeing transgender people holding hands in public. Frankly, it is too easy for people like me to find an audience, and while I can empathize, I can’t really articulate exactly what it must feel like to feel any kind of oppression. I am from the most privileged caste on earth, I started with a huge leg up simply because of where I was born, the color of my skin and the status of my gender. No one’s pulled me over without cause, no one’s hurled a slur at me or denied me a job based on what I look like. Who really needs to hear me talk about some hard times I might be going through? The stories that need to be told and boosted are from those who can’t so easily find sympathetic ears.

There is a political theory, exemplified by the execrable Steve Bannon, on “flooding the zone with shit” – that is, overwhelming your opponents with so much disinformation that they cannot even locate a foothold to being pushing back. The world really does feel flooded with shit at the moment. The worst of humanity continues to drive the news – Vladimir Putin, Tucker Carlson, Elon Musk, Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rupert Murdoch and Pierre Poilievre, to name just a few who it didn’t take me more than twelve seconds scrolling through Twitter this morning to come across in headlines yet again – not to mention Donald effing Trump, the spectre of whom continues to lurk at the edge of our collective consciousness despite very clear evidence that he’s rapidly disintegrating both mentally and physically, and about whom a think-piece about a potential political comeback is always good for a few fear-clicks and retweets. When there’s so much awfulness everywhere all the time, where do you plant your flag and announce with the certitude of Captain Picard, “this far and no farther!” Can you really be an adequate advocate for the causes you believe in if you have to divide your focus between so many of them?

Finally, I have allowed myself to become overly concerned about the impact of something I say publicly. This last one has perhaps been the most crippling of all in terms of my willingness to express myself, but it is also the flimsiest excuse when put through rigorous analysis. I understand who I am and how I feel about things, and while I might make an inadvertent mistake here and there, I would never purposefully set out to say something bigoted or hurtful. I am not a man who punches down, ever – power and hypocrisy are what should be challenged and exposed, not innocents who are struggling to get by. I recognize that the wisest statement of all is the admission that “I know nothing” and that life is about learning, not preaching. And being afraid to speak because there might be blowback is somehow thinking that there must be something wrong with what I want to say. I would never post anything that I wouldn’t stand behind a hundred percent, whether it’s a review of a James Bond movie or my feelings about the utter wrongness and patheticness of white male privilege. If I get it wrong, I’ll apologize, learn and do better. But I won’t ever set out to act like an entitled bastard, because all that does is add more shit to the flood, and we are barely keeping our noses above it right now. The least I can do is try to pass around as many lifejackets as I can spare.

There are my thoughts for the day. Not perfect or life-changing, not broad or unique, just a little flag here in my corner of the dirt that I can be okay with saluting. And for the first time in quite a while, I can confidently say that there is more to come.

My New year’s anti-Resolutions for 2021

I know this is technically ten days late, but given that these past ten days have felt like an unwelcome epilogue to 2020, I think it’s fair to cut a little slack for your humble narrator. Especially since it does feel like 2020 won’t be over for real until Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated next Wednesday. So as we doomscroll, cross our fingers to bleeding knuckles and purple our faces from holding our collective breath until then, let’s pause and look ahead, specifically to what we can do ourselves to make this a better year.

I don’t think I have ever kept a New Year’s resolution. I’d be hard-pressed to even remember any of them, even though they have probably been of the usual vanilla variety – lose weight, travel more, variations on the lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying”. Clearly they haven’t meant enough to me if I wasn’t really that invested in keeping them. I suppose the whole idea behind a New Year’s resolution is borne of looking back at the year – at the life – that was and finding it wanting. I didn’t do X enough, I did too much of Y, I’ve always wanted to do Z. And the magical turn of the calendar page, thank you, Pope Gregory XIII, is held up as a singular opportunity to hit ctrl-alt-del, even though we are just as capable of doing so on December 27, or August 15, or March 9, or even 15 minutes from now. But we find it easier to tag these commitments to personal change to a specific moment, and more often than not, that’s exactly what dooms us to not keeping them. Real change can’t be tied to an arbitrary start date imposed by societal convention. It almost makes us more likely to fail at it, as like it or not, there’s a subconscious resentment that we have to make these promises just because a new year is dawning, not because we really want to.

I saw a clever cartoon a few days ago from Lunar Baboon that resonated. The concept is that if you always fail at New Year’s resolutions, then flip the script and make resolutions that you couldn’t possibly want to keep in the first place. To wit: instead of resolving to become fit, resolve to be more sedentary and eat more sugar and saturated fats. That is a much easier promise to yourself to break because of how ludicrous it is, and failing at keeping this resolution is doing your heart and body a great deal of good. Without further ado, here are my Anti-Resolutions for 2021:

  1. Isolate myself more, stop talking to people and let all my relationships lie fallow. Hide inside as much as possible and shun all opportunities to make new friends. Ignore my family’s calls and don’t return people’s emails. If I do condescend to talk to someone, don’t ever ask about them, don’t remember the things they tell me and instead talk more about myself.
  2. Be more ignorant, read more listicles and fewer long-form pieces, don’t take any courses and certainly don’t look at anything created by someone outside my ethnic group or economic class.
  3. Create nothing, stop writing (or, if I do continue to write, just write the same kind of content over and over again) and don’t look for any new opportunities to share my work with the world. Don’t bother with that next novel I wrote the first chapter of a few months ago and haven’t looked at since, and if by some miracle I do finish it, for the love of the FSM don’t try to publish it.
  4. Don’t learn any new skills, be afraid of trying new foods, music and entertainment, be sure I chicken out of attempting any project that requires me to use tools. Don’t bother trying to build that new office area I’ve been talking about or anything in my basement.
  5. Don’t meditate, don’t explore spirituality, don’t take walks in the woods, don’t do anything that recharges that part of myself. Fill my mind with worries about politics and most importantly, spend more time thinking about the Trump family.
  6. Don’t express emotion, stop smiling, “man up” whenever I get upset, and just fume, sulk and/or punch the wall so no one ever knows how I really feel about something. Be more resentful of everyone and everything. Get angry at every single event that is beyond my control and always overreact to people’s opinions of me.
  7. Zone out more, sit on the couch more, bury myself in my phone, distract myself with more trivia, have fewer conversations, and make sure to keep my head in the clouds at all time and never mindful of where I am and what I am doing.
  8. Last but not least, eat more red meat, sugar and saturated fats.

So here they are – eight areas of personal growth where I choose to define the worst possible outcome and work back from there, comfortable that anything short of these extremes is a move in a better direction – toward being a better friend, a better partner, a better human being – just an all around better me.

What do you think? Will you make a list of anti-resolutions for yourself as well? If you do, I heartily wish you (and myself) a year wrought with spectacular failure.

A Dispatch from 2020

I’m old enough to remember a few months ago when it seemed like the biggest controversy out there was The Rise of Skywalker’s low Rotten Tomatoes score.

On August 30, that is not the only item of old news that comes off as quaint, the realm of the dilettante.  2020 seems determined to outdo any year in our lifetime when it comes to events to wake you up at night in cold sweats and keep you shaking the entire day long.  Tune into any cable news feed or social media channel and it feels not only like civilization is unraveling, but a healthy portion of our fellow citizens seem keen on cheering its demise – perhaps thinking, somehow, that they will be on the side of Immortan Joe in the Mad Max-like future they are craving.  That there are far more of us than them is immaterial; like a fire stoked by a constant stream of gasoline they continue to consume the oxygen and spew out the noxious fumes of hopelessness and despair, choking us out.

What is so frustrating about it all is that none of it had to happen.  COVID-19 could have been stamped out before it escaped across the world; the disgrace of a cop could have left George Floyd alone to go home to his daughter.  Onwards and onwards.  I’m reminded of too many science fiction stories where an alien race describes humanity as inherently self-destructive.  What are we to make of this phase of our evolution; are we a petulant teenager having a tantrum and breaking all our toys?  At some point do we get control of raging hormones and start looking forward to how we can make the future better?

I mention The Rise of Skywalker up top because it’s the last thing I wrote about on this site about a year ago.  Since then I have retreated and merely watched.  I have given a lot of thought to this over the course of this past year and questioned why.  There have been plenty of occasions where I have wanted to say something and even more occasions where I have talked myself out of it.  The chief reason is because I have told myself that the world does not need to hear from another straight white man.  I am a creature of inherent privilege who has never had to endure the kind of struggles that BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people have.  There are enough of people like me out there writing op-eds and blog posts about how outraged they are that the system that birthed and nourished them is finally cracking apart, and wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just go back to worrying about who got the rose on the latest episode of The Bachelor.

We have left that more innocent world behind forever, and it is a good thing, though so many lives need not have been lost to turn that page.  Now our eyes are wide open to how our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are treated.  We are living in their world now.  We can’t just watch a documentary or read a book and shake our heads and say “it’s such a shame” and then flip over to the sports section and save our deepest outrage for the Leafs being unable to score in overtime.  We cannot put on a mask to go buy our groceries without remembering the hundreds of thousands of people who were here this time last year and now are gone because the world as it was was not equipped to manage a microscopic little bug.  We have swept too much under the carpet for far too long, and we have no business being upset because the carpet can’t contain it anymore.  The invoice has come due, the interest penalties are exorbitant, the collection agency is calling night and day.  We can’t get out of this abyss by disconnecting the phone.

Shame on us creatures of privilege for letting things get this far.  For not showing up because it didn’t affect us directly.  For refusing to acknowledge how much we benefit from the system that grinds down our fellow human beings.  For reclining back on our couches in front of our 75” TVs and shaking our heads at all the injustice in the world before pausing the PVR to go grab another beer.  For helping to nourish and encourage the system whose inevitable flaws are now threatening to unleash the dystopia we’ve been warned about for a hundred years.

I haven’t said enough.  I haven’t done enough.  I was afraid to step into the fray, to stir the pot, afraid of the blowback – afraid of people whose entire modus operandi is rooted in their fear of change, of the other.  A loud, angry minority who are terrified that their mindset teeters on the edge of extinction and who are determined to take us all down with them.  Shame on me for being afraid of such people.  Shame on me for using my privilege not to speak.  And moreover, shame on me for being afraid to examine the hard truths about myself and my life and how I have contributed, unwittingly and not.  The microaggressive things I’ve said, the stereotypes I have perpetuated, and the unconscious biases that have simmered in my thoughts.  I am not innocent in this and neither are you.

I’m thinking about voices for the good fight that have been silenced recently.  People like John Lewis and Chadwick Boseman.  And my dear friend Louise Gornall.  We owe it to the memory of what they stood for to continue to use our voices in their place.  To never be afraid of what needs to be said or to do what needs to be done.  They cannot speak.  How dare we choose not to speak in their stead.  Let it not be said that we lost our civilization because in the last hour we were afraid to defend it.

I promise I will speak.  You need to as well.  Don’t ever let fear talk you out of it.

Don’t.  Waste.  Another.  Day.

The Why of Skywalker

Well, I’m not sure what to make of the title.

It’s not quite as straightforward as A New Hope or The Force Awakens, nor is it as clunky as Attack of the Clones or as obvious as Revenge of the Sith.  But after the abrupt drop of the trailer for the final installment of the great space saga that began 42 years ago this May, we’re left with just as many questions about The Rise of Skywalker as we had the instant before we saw Rey in the desert, igniting her lightsaber against the screaming approach of Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer.  Has the returning creative force that is J.J. Abrams managed to craft a satisfying end to this particular tale after the creative choices made by Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi left a vocal group of hardcore fans mewling over their spilt blue milk?  Is Star Wars going out in a blaze of exploding Death Star glory or limping, exhausted into a gentle fade away like Luke himself on his mountainside hideaway?

Star Wars as a series of movies isn’t one that lends itself to a lot of different interpretations.  You either buy into it and love it or shrug your shoulders and regard it with indifference.  (There tends not to be a lot of people who actively dislike it, save your typical clove cigarette-sniffing film critics who believe George Lucas and his generation killed the art of cinema.)  More to the point, there generally aren’t a lot of ideas at work in each movie, beyond the exploration of the archetypes of good and evil.  Ambiguity is nowhere to be found, and character motivations are generally skin deep, that is, “we must do X before Y happens.”  Rian Johnson’s stroke of inspiration in The Last Jedi was to sneak some genuine food for thought into this relatively restrictive frame.  While the bad guys chased down the good guys and laser blasts flew, we saw the usual notions of heroism and destiny turned on their heads.  From the moment Luke blithely chucked his legendary lightsaber over his shoulder, our expectations were thwarted.  We saw storied legends turn to cowards and were asked to examine the difference between a hero and a leader.  We were asked to consider the notion and worth of sacrifice.  We saw ugliness beneath opulence.  We saw three different versions of the same event and were asked to choose which one we believed.  In what was perhaps the boldest answer to the many mystery box questions left over from The Force Awakens and yet one that dovetailed neatly with the central thesis of the movie, Johnson told us that Rey (the wonderful Daisy Ridley) was descended from absolutely no one of any consequence.  Whenever the movie was meant to go right, it turned left, and unusually for this crowd-pleaser of a saga, a lot of folks got pissed off.

Angry Star Wars fans are nothing new as they’ve been skulking around the Internet ever since a certain Mr. Lucas thought that a bumbling orange floppy-eared amphibian was what his audience truly craved.  How many “raped my childhood” posts and comments were we forced to sift through while navigating the primitive interwebs circa 2000 A.D.?  But even through the uneven experience that was the prequel trilogy the love for the universe itself remained undimmed, largely because of the reassurance that the images of Luke, Han and Leia as they were first presented were preserved in cinematic amber, to be revisited whenever you had a spare two hours and a Blu-ray copy handy.  Luke Skywalker in particular was the unflappable hero, last seen beaming alongside his comrades by an Endor celebration bonfire, his mission accomplished, the future a galaxy of possibility.  Surely then, when he returned to the fray as teased by the final shot of The Force Awakens, we would see him again donning that mantle and slicing apart First Order Star Destroyers and other Chuck Norris-esque feats while those same angry fans now wet themselves in orgiastic ecstasy.  You know, much the same reaction as accompanied the reveal of Darth Vader hacking down hapless Rebels left and right in the closing scene of Rogue One.

And it would have been an incredibly boring movie.

A downtrodden Luke was a huge surprise, and incredibly necessary, because otherwise, what is his story?  Where does he go?  What does he do?  Grab the lightsaber and jump aboard the Millennium Falcon five seconds later so the remainder of the movie’s run time is stormtroopers getting sliced up?  There is a pretty good reason why these movies aren’t made by knuckling under to fanservice.  And why WhinyFanBoi68 doesn’t have a first-look deal at Disney, despite the many volumes of self-penned Luke/Mara Jade sex scenes on his hard drive.

As exciting as it is to live in an era where social media allows us to interact with the creators of our favorite art, the drawback comes when those same creators mistakenly interpret the shouted (and usually profane) demands of a fervent minority as the opinion of the many.  They will even find themselves feeling like they have to defend their creative choices vocally – feeding the trolls, in effect – instead of letting the work stand for itself.  Driven by these same trolls (and lazy media writers who give them megaphones by boosting their bleats to drive clicks), the public narrative on Star Wars now says that the poor reception of The Last Jedi led to an underwhelming response to Solo: A Star Wars Story and now The Rise of Skywalker will undo much of what was established by The Last Jedi in order to calm everybody down and make sure everyone has a rollicking good time at the conclusion of this saga.  Never mind that J.J. Abrams himself said he loved the script for The Last Jedi so much that he wished he was directing it, or that Solo still made a metric tonne of money despite its key fault (outside of the fact that you can’t really recast Harrison Ford’s most iconic role) that it was looking backward rather than forward.  The movie gods have decided, and there will be no take-backsies.  Apparently.

The most surprising thing to me among the litany of Last Jedi bitching was the note that one would think would resonate most among Star Wars fans:  that the Force wasn’t the exclusive property of one noble family.  That the revelation of Rey as the daughter of drunken (and deceased) junk dealers, and the anonymous kid on Canto Bight Forcing a broom into his hands before staring up hopefully into the night sky, hinted at a galaxy where anyone could be the hero, regardless of bloodline.  When we were young, who wasn’t that kid pretending that a hockey stick or a pool skimmer or any lousy stick you could find was a blue-bladed lightsaber ready to scare off those bullies who chased you home?  Who didn’t dream that we could find within us the same courage that led Luke to confront the Emperor, to confront our own demons, whatever they were?  Rian Johnson was one of those kids.  Making Rey a nobody, making her someone who found it within herself to be a hero no matter where she came from, was a powerful message for him to send – a tribute, in essence, to all the dreamers out there.  The idea that it might be retconned in The Rise of Skywalker to make her someone famous all along is like telling all those kids and kids at heart that it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’ll never get anywhere unless you’re born a Kardashian.

Or a Trump.

It’ll be unfortunate if that is the direction Abrams et al choose to push the story, in the hopes of soothing the commenterati desperate for predictable, straightforward answers to complete their wiki pages.  If Rey has to be a Skywalker to fulfill the promise of the title, wouldn’t it be more interesting if it’s a name she chooses for herself, rather than it being an inevitable cosmic birthright?  If the First Order’s (and the undead Emperor’s, apparently, I’m really not wild about that revelation) obsession with destroying Skywalker leads instead to the rise of millions of self-proclaimed Skywalkers across the galaxy – a sort of I am Spartacus moment to the strains of John Williams’ Force Theme?  “No one’s ever really gone,” says the voice of Luke in the trailer.  Maybe that line doesn’t have to be so bloody literal.  Maybe this is the resolution of the conflict that is Kylo Ren:  even though he wants to continue the legacy of his grandfather, no one else does.  Maybe the lasting victory of the light side over the dark is in what people remember and most want to take with them.

I’m not saying I necessarily want that to be the answer.   But the line between a lasting experience and something that is merely a diversion is the ability to surprise and to go deeper than what is happening on the surface, and based on the trailer I’m really not sure which is in store.  In many ways, Rian Johnson achieved the former with The Last Jedi simply given how many people are still talking about his movie, even if it is with disdain.  Once The Rise of Skywalker has come and gone, will we still be talking about it years afterward, or will it be merely a pretty good movie that leaves not a trace of aftertaste or thirst for interpretation?  An epic conclusion or a series of boxes ticked to avoid a rash of hot takes?

I know which one I’d prefer.

Be a Voice, Not the Noise

So, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted…

It’s a weird feeling doing this again after over a year away.  It took a tremendous lurch forward from a rather apathetic lull to even dare to log into the site and brush away the digital cobwebs.  And it’s not as though the world helpfully pressed pause in the meantime.  The way information is consumed has changed, and appetites today crave short bursts of salty pith rather than the more languidly composed thousand-word meditation.  Never the sort to use one word when ten will suffice, I wondered often over the past few months if it might be better to quietly shutter this old blog and slip unnoticed off the stage.  It wasn’t as though the nation was turning its lonely eyes to me and begging me to come back.

Where have I been all this time?  To continue the “Mrs. Robinson” reference, the story goes that Joe DiMaggio approached Paul Simon after that song charted and insisted that he hadn’t gone anywhere.  Well, neither did I, really.  I was still here, quietly scrolling my social media feeds, reading friends’ posts, buying their books, silently supporting their success wherever possible, but at the same time, feeling that there wasn’t much of a place for me in that world anymore.   I began seeing so much unfiltered ugliness everywhere across the Internet; venom and sewage gushing from every available orifice, a constant flow of hateful effluent swallowing everything that had been good and hopeful about these marvelous technologies that allow us to reach out and connect with each other across the world.  Election Night, November 2016 really did feel like the moment Biff gives his younger self Gray’s Sports Almanac and skewers reality into a dystopian alternate version of itself that was never meant to be.  I won’t pretend things were perfect before, but there was a distinct tonal shift at that moment in that the bad guys had unexpectedly taken the hill and the good guys were suddenly under siege in a way they had never been before.  The very rules of the conflict had been rewritten right from under us.  You’re not supposed to be able to win this way.  Moreover it didn’t feel like a fight I wanted any part of anymore – dueling trolls is spiritually exhausting and for each one you vanquish, fifteen more will rise to take their place.  Was it really worth courting that kind of intrusion on my sanity just to be one more participant in the boundless cacophony trying to find the most clever, clickable manner of pointing out the terminal stupidity of the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

I tried to write about other things.  I got back into baseball only to see my team collapse, and there are only so many compelling narratives to compose about constant failure in sports.  Eventually I lost my passion for that as well (writing about it, not actually watching the games in constant hope of a surprising turnaround) and 2018 came and went without me writing a single word, apart from a couple of holiday tweets to reassure friends and followers I hadn’t died.  Like a gym membership purchased with the best intentions on January 1st and cancelled before February, it is incredible to me how easy it is to not write a word.  It wasn’t as though I had nothing to say about what was going on in the world, I just didn’t feel that my saying it would be terribly helpful in the Age of Rage.  Did the universe really need the natterings of yet another cisgender white male, however well-intentioned, handed down from upon his privileged perch as though it were etched upon stone tablets for the ecstasy of the masses?  I felt utterly phony, and that the best thing I could do was shut up and retreat into the ether without waving a flag about my oh-so-noble departure, and let others far more deserving have the microphone.  It does often seem that the most appropriate approach in certain debates is not to enter them, so I stayed out, week after week, month after month – cheering my side, facepalming at the machinations of the opponent, and always keeping my own counsel.

The desire to write again never truly ebbed, even as I refocused on family and career (and not always, regrettably, in that order), like a chronic itch in need of periodic scratching.  It was too easy to talk myself out of it though, to submit to more passive pursuits or offer up the common excuse of being incapable of finding the time.  However, life still felt that something was always missing at the edges, as if I was just idling at 95% of the way to what I was supposed to be.  But every time I thought about opening up the laptop and banging something out, the counter-argument roared to life again, asking me if I really wanted to add to the cesspool.  As I had no decent answer to that, I shrugged my shoulders and let another day slip by without touching the keyboard – surfacing only periodically on my locked-down Instagram account to share a picture of me at a Jays game or some interesting creature wandering through my backyard.

As the calendar finally turned on 2018, what likely should have been a very obvious thought struck my addled brain:  whoever said you had to add to the cesspool?  Why such a hopelessly narrow perception of the possibilities?  The list of topics one can discuss are literally limitless, and moreover, why should they be filtered through a cheesecloth of negativity?  No one is telling you that you must weigh in on the pitiable state of Western democracy or that you can’t offer a thoughtful commentary on The Last Jedi without calling for heads to roll.  Why not write about the things you like about the world instead of spending hours editing and re-editing ripostes about the things you don’t until they are polished sabers of snark?  Isn’t the better way to be heard above the noise to simply sound a different note?

Be a voice.

When I am gone, hopefully many, many decades from now, the things I’ve written will survive me, and I would rather they (and I) be judged as someone and something that tried to engender smiles and thoughtful reflection in readers, rather than the tired wails of a perennial malcontent who bemoaned the state of the world but couldn’t be arsed to try to improve it, however incrementally.  What good does that serve anyone, least of all myself?  Who is Graham Milne, and what does he really want to be?  Angry or hopeful?

Pardon the rambling; you’ll forgive me for being a bit out of practice at this.  The Coles Notes version is that despite a few false starts, I’m here, I’m back, and I’m sticking around for a good while.  I respect the limits of your time and while I cannot always guarantee it, I will do my utmost to ensure that what little of it you are able to spend here with me is not wasted, and does not leave you feeling worse than when you first clicked the link.

Allons-y, mes amis.

Not Fade Away

I wasn’t there at the beginning.  He crept unheralded onto the roster during my long night away from baseball and the team my father had taught me to love.  I wasn’t there as he transformed himself from a perennial journeyman castoff and marginal bench bat into one of the most powerful, most feared, and most significant hitters in the entire sport.  I – along with many others, judging by the endless rows of empty seats in the old highlight reels – wasn’t there, for the most part, to watch him become Jose Bautista.

But I, along with 47,393 others, and probably a great number more who wished they could have been, was there for the end.

As I noted last time, this was a crummy year for the Blue Jays, the metaphorical bill coming due for two most remarkable, franchise-reinvigorating seasons full of individual moments to spark debate and storied recollection for years to come.  It’s never easy to cope with the head-pounding hangover that follows, or to settle into the realization that maybe this ball club hasn’t quite made it over that maddeningly elusive hump that separates perennial contenders from perpetual also-rans.  Maybe, like the Minnesota Twins, we’ll have one bad year and be right back in it the next.  Whatever happens in 2018, it’s hard to nestle into the idea that No. 19 won’t somehow be part of it.  He has ingrained himself into the soul of this team, that bearded visage almost as eponymous for the Toronto Blue Jays as the bird in profile stitched into every uniform.

Somehow, it was easier to get over Edwin Encarnacion leaving.  We went through the five stages of grief pretty fast, soothed somewhat by how well Justin Smoak performed in his place at first base.  I was away from the game during Roy Halladay’s tenure, so he never meant as much to me as some of the guys in the 80’s I grew up watching, but maybe it was just as hard when he departed for Philadelphia.  At least you knew Doc would land on his feet, and indeed, he made some of his biggest contributions only once he was sporting a P on his cap.

We don’ t know what the future holds for Jose Bautista.  As he looks at 37, his fielding a shadow of what it was and the pop largely quieted from the singular bat, the thought of him reduced to a minor-league let’s-give-it-a-try deal to DH with a sub-par franchise somewhere else is heartbreaking.

That’s not how a legend is supposed to go out.

Blue Jays Nation’s Andrew Stoeten wrote a great piece a couple of weeks ago about how baseball seems to have piled itself collectively onto Jose Bautista and how despite the load, he’s never broken.  I’ve never quite understood why the mythos of Bautista-as-villain has been perpetuated, and the only “rationale” I can find is that maybe folks just don’t like being on the receiving end of one of his home runs.  You’ve heard the boos that rain down on him in every opposition ballpark (except maybe Seattle, simply because it’s flooded with Jays fans) and the snipes from jackass GM’s who whine that they wouldn’t want to sign him because their fans don’t like him.  You’ve seen the douchewad managers who order their pitchers to throw at him, or the childish players who dispense with words and just out-and-out take swings at him.  That’s what you get, it seems, for being exceptionally good and injecting, God forbid, some actual panache into how you play a “stately” sport that can at times bore people to tears with its mountains of algorithms and acronyms and robotic players possessing nary a discernible trace of personality.

Jose Bautista has always been larger than life.  I’d rather have – and the dirty secret is, most fans would rather have as well – a once-a-generation shining light than a legion of statistically competent monks shuffling in and out of the clubhouse.  You know, the types who play well enough, but no one ever wants to buy their jersey, or would ever sing their name out along with 40,000 friends after an instant of triumph.  Cleveland has a bunch of dudes like that, they won 102 games this year, and day in and out in the regular season they can’t fill their stands.  No one cares.  Because none of those guys has a flicker of what Bautista simply owns.

Jose Bautista is the kind of guy you’d want to make a movie about.

It’s fitting, then, that his last game in Toronto as a member of the home team had its own cinematic quality, and I’m lucky I got to witness it from five rows above home plate – just behind where Geddy Lee usually sits and keeps score.  I bought a program, but didn’t bother with a pencil.  I didn’t want my head buried in scribe’s work today lest I miss something special on the field.

The roof stayed closed until after 12:30, to hold off this atypical late September heat.  Improvised banners dangled or were hoisted everywhere, saying goodbye, saying thank you, or making obvious predictions about a future anointing to the Level of Excellence.  When a crack of sunlight crossed center and the panels began to slide back to the sound of the hip-hop pumped in by the stadium’s resident DJ, it was like the gradual unveiling of a Broadway curtain on the closing night of a show.  Of course, you weren’t exactly sure how the show was going to go down.  There was nothing riding on this game, the second Wild Card berth long having slipped out of reach.  Maybe it mattered more to the opposition Yankees trying to catch the Red Sox and avoid the dreaded do-or-die one game playoff.  It didn’t matter much to the talkative Yankee fan named Jonathan sitting next to me, who was in town on business and decided to grab a single ticket to hopefully see Aaron Judge sock some dingers.

It mattered to the rest of us, though.  We wanted to see an acknowledgement of our hero.  Baseball was dead in this town – pushing up the daisies, running down the curtain and joining the choir invisible dead – and he had cast his eye upon the empty blue seats and said no, I’m bringing it back.  Maybe moreso than anyone else, he had brought it back.

Most of all this day, we didn’t want to see him fail.

The first actor took the stage.  Marcus Stroman emerged for his warmups wearing an old-style black Bautista jersey, and we cheered.  We knew then that they were going to get it right, that everyone down on the field knew the significance of this game as much as we did in the stands.  The players let Bautista run out onto the field alone, his stride strong and determined, and we rose to our feet, careful not to waste a single of these last opportunities to let him know, here in the friendliest of confines where he’d never hear so much as a titter of disapproval directed at him, exactly how we all felt.

Heroes are few and far between in this day and age, when we are inundated hourly with relentless updates on the worst of us elevated to the maximum level of their incompetence and making the world suffer for their inadequacies (my new favorite word is kakistocracy – look it up).  It still seems silly, though, to assign the concept of heroism to men who get paid more in a year than we’ll earn in our lives to play a game for six (and if all goes well, seven) months.  Yet if you reflect on our intrinsic need for heroes, and the ability of athletes to unite thousands in a single, blazing moment of ecstatic, unifying glory – like what happens when a fastball down the middle connects with the barrel of a bat, and time and sound halt for a microsecond before the telltale crack – and a veritable supernova of unleashed excitement follows – how can you not come to think of the men who generate these moments in those terms?  Chances are you’d probably hate the guts of a majority of the other people in the stands with you if you knew them personally – what quality do you ascribe to someone who can compel you to set all of that aside and come together en masse with one purpose, one intensely shared passion; an instant when you know that everyone around you feels exactly the same way?

Bautista must have sensed it, and he fed off it.  Instead of looking like the flailing strikeout magnet he’d been for the majority of the season, there in the haze of an aroma of sunblock and french fries and humidity fogging the camera lenses we were all trying to use to capture these important final hours, he stepped into the box with the hot winds at his back.  He turned on the first pitch he saw and deposited it in front of Aaron Judge for a solid single.  The next time up, Yankees starter Jaime Garcia avoided giving him anything to hit, and he strolled to first on a walk, to be cashed in later by Russell Martin’s bases-clearing double.

When Bautista came to the plate with the bases loaded later in that game, the stir that had been building in the park began to crest; things had been going well so far, the Jays were out to a comfortable lead and Judge hadn’t done anything yet.  It was a growing recognition that maybe the gods of baseball were crafting the narrative to a conclusion drawn from The Natural.  The right man at the right time in the right place, one last time.  And just like we all did when the count went to 1-1 in ALDS Game Five, we took to our feet, drew a breath and shared one collective thought, 47,394 strong.

Please, don’t let him fail.

The pitch came.

The leg kicked, the barrel turned, and–

Off it went.  Not to the seats, but safely into right field again.  Another single.

A runner crossed the plate.  Notch another in the RBI column.  And doff your cap to the man standing at first, mission accomplished for this inning.

It wasn’t legendary.  It wasn’t really even spectacular.

But it was enough.

I recall wondering if maybe, when he came to the plate for what would likely be his final at bat in the game, if Dellin Betances, on the mound for the Yankees at the time, might just toss him a “Sam Dyson Special” to give Bautista one last chance to do what he had done almost without parallel for ten years.  (Don’t tell me pitchers last year weren’t going easy on David Ortiz from time to time.)  But the Bronx Bombers still had their eye on the division title, they’d Judged their way back into the scoring in this one – much to the delight of young Jonathan to my left – and they weren’t inclined to give anything away.  So Jose Bautista’s final plate appearance in Toronto would be a forgettable pop out into foul territory.

However, it was probably one of the only times in baseball anyone has received a standing ovation for doing that.

The best had truly been saved for last, though, and when manager John Gibbons lifted the man of hour for Ezequiel Carrera with one out in the ninth inning, a 9-5 lead safely in hand, the warrior returned from the field with his shield intact.  When he paused to hug each of the teammates he encountered on the way back, the tears started to well.  Yes, contrary to what Tom Hanks would have you believe, sometimes, there is crying in baseball – tears that are earned, and shared, and cherished.

With all of our remaining energies, with our palms pounding furiously against one another and shaking the very walls with our raised voices, we saluted him.

He waved back.

Ted Williams, famously, didn’t.  Jose Bautista did.

Some gods do answer letters, Mr. Updike.

Roberto Osuna sent the Yankees packing, he and Martin did their end-of-game knock-knock-and-dab, but eyes diverted immediately to just outside the dugout, where Bautista was speaking with Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae.  I didn’t learn what he said, nor the emotions that he chose to reveal, until much later at home; instead I snapped the photo above and remained in my seat, watching the field clear and the crowds file out and listening to a deep silence descend, knowing that it wouldn’t lift until the end of next March and that an important, needed piece of that picture wouldn’t be there on that day.  That the crowd would be full of fans wearing jerseys bearing a name and number now extinct and relegated to the past.

It’s appropriate that regardless of weather, the roof at the Dome is closed soon after the game concludes; it’s the curtain being brought down on the show.  We yielded finally to the inevitable and began the trudge back to the car, satisfied in the victory, satisfied that our hero had done well this day, speculating on the ever-churning well of what-ifs that might mean this wasn’t really the end.  If it had to be, then it was fine.  Perhaps not the ending doused in the champagne bubbles of a World Series after party, but an ending of dignity, of respect, and of gratitude.  The quiet, European cinematic ending.

The Toronto Blue Jays will win another World Series soon enough, and while he won’t be in the lineup that physically accomplishes the ultimate goal, Jose Bautista will have been an integral part of painting the way.  Against odds, against expectations, and against an ocean of doubt and the clucking of baseball’s mother hens, he made himself, through sheer force of character and will, into a legend in these here parts.  Bautista’s work made the team a contender again, made great players want to play here, and made disillusioned fans pour back in through the gates in ever-swelling torrents, even in a losing season.  Those who come afterwards will be fated to be compared to him and what he achieved.

This day, September 24, 2017, he did not fail.  Over ten years, he never truly did.  He went out and played and got the crap kicked out of him and kept showing up and kept trying, and he was rewarded and he was reviled and he kept going, with all the grit and mettle you come to expect from the finest people to ever pick up a bat and a glove.  He has nothing left to prove to the people of Toronto, nothing more owing on that contract with the fans.  It is left to us, then, to ensure that the memory of what he did for us remains strong, as the feats of Dave Stieb and Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter and others still do these many years later.  That these unifying little slices of time, the where-were-you-whens, will go on and never fade away.

How to Love a Lost Season

Ever since the first week of April, regular sports folk and professional prognosticators have been champing at the bit to pronounce a moratorium on the Toronto Blue Jays’ hopes for success in 2017.  After all the caveats about it being “early,” and all the provisos that this is a team playing inexplicably below its talent level and overdue for an unparalleled hot streak, the dog days of summer were particularly canine, with sweep and series loss piled on top of yet another sweep and too many quiet exits through the clubhouse for those remaining players who hadn’t had their years snatched away by injuries.  Here, then, perpetually ten games under .500 with September ebbing away, is where we glance up for the sight of the final nail, dangling Damocles-like, for the team’s coffin.  At least for this year.

A few weeks ago, when our old friend Edwin Encarnacion and his Cleveland posse were flattening all opposition en route to their record-breaking win streak, a few noted sports scribes opined that without a World Series win come November, said streak would be meaningless.  Which, one supposes has a degree of validity, given that not a single MLB team kicks off April with the aim of simply having a good time for a few months and shuffling off to the golf course after they finish in fourth.  Of course everyone wants to win it all.  But judging the worth of an entire season by how it ends is a bit like judging the entirety of someone’s life only by how they die.  Coughing out your last breath as a withered husk in a ramshackle nursing home as opposed to going out saving a hundred orphans from a school bus that plunged off a bridge doesn’t mean that how you lived every one of those moments beforehand becomes worthless.  Jose Bautista’s dour, sputtering finale to his Blue Jays career in 2017 will never diminish the exhilaration of the instant of The Bat Flip™ nor the many other highs of his legendary tenure with us.  2015 ALDS Game Five continues to be talked about and cherished in Jays’ fandom, while 2015 ALCS Game Six is rarely ever mentioned, the pungent sting of that disappointing October 23 faded now like an old scar.

We’re reminded constantly that baseball is a game built on failure.  29 MLB teams and the hundreds of players who stock their rosters will fail every single year.  Every team, even the World Series champ, will lose at least 54 games, and a lot of those losses will be brutal, soul-crushing agonies.  The mere fact of statistical normalization will always tend to balance out the video-game-like triumphs with equally reality-defying slumps.  For the sake of your sanity, you can’t ever pin your enjoyment of baseball on how the season concludes.  Even as in these final days 2017 cements its reputation for the Blue Jays as The Season Where Nothing Quite Went Right, there are individual moments that deserve to live on, to bring you a smile as the skies darken, the fields go quiet and you inevitably roll your eyes at every transaction made by the front office come November and onwards.

We’ll remember 2017 as the year Chris Coghlan took flight, the year our ace pitcher hit his first home run, the year Steve Pearce smacked two walk-off grand slams in the same week – the latter capping an incredible comeback win after going into the ninth down 10-4 – and the year an unloved, strikeout-prone first baseman reduced largely to a late-inning defensive replacement role transformed himself into a fan-favorite, powerhouse All-Star.  We’ll remember it as the year the force of nature that is Josh Donaldson put up better numbers in basically half a season than most players do in a full 162 games.  We’ll remember a host of opposition batters looking utterly lost at Marcus Stroman’s sliders and Marco Estrada’s changeups.  We’ll remember Ryan Goins as “Mr. RISP,” Rob Refsnyder as “Refslider” and Carlos Ramirez as “Mr. Zero.”  We’ll remember those GIF-worthy moments like Darwin Barney swimming to third base, a bewildered Matt Dermody wandering off the field having forgotten that the game was over, or Gibby simply being Gibby.  And yes, we’ll even remember those infamous red jerseys.  Personally, I’ll remember my first selfie snapped field-side with my young niece, getting the chance to spend the night in one of the hotel rooms looking over center field, and of course, Jason Grilli throwing me the ball.  In light of those and uncounted thousands more precious personal experiences at the ballpark or watching or listening at home, what does it matter, really, that this year it won’t all end the way 1992 and 1993 did?

Love it, hate it, but don’t dismiss what it does to you.  Don’t discount the charge of endorphins flooding your brain when you hear just the right timbre of cracking wood that tells you that thing’s going into the upper deck (or out the exit, if JD is up at bat).  Don’t do a disservice to the nine guys working their asses off on that field to give you that charge with each play, nor to yourself for investing so much passion into the limitless possibility that tantalizes you every time one of them takes their position in the batter’s box.  Don’t think that the ultimate value of baseball lies solely in the glimmer of the World Series trophy.  It’s so much more than that.

It’s the bespectacled little kid in the Donaldson shirsey thrusting his tiny glove hopefully skyward when a foul pop tilts his way, or the explosive roar of the crowd and the home run horn burning itself into his subconscious when his hero goes deep.  Visceral, irreplaceable sensations to be recalled with a smile a decade or two hence when he’s taking his own kids to their first game – maybe in another losing season.

2017 isn’t going to be our year to win it all.  Arguably, it was never going to be our year.  But that’s okay, because we’ll be back cheering on the Blue Jays in 2018, and even if next year belongs to someone else as well, there are great baseball memories in store next season that we can’t even imagine yet.  Physics-defying plays, heart-stirring come-from-behind triumphs, and the incalculable, invaluable weirdness that often goes hand-in-glove with this unique and special game.

Like life itself, the joy in baseball has never been in seeing how it all ends.  It’s in what happens at every minute, every pitch along the way, and in having your heart simply leap at the thought of what – fastball, slider, curve or changeup – might be coming next.

Please Forgive My Unexplained Two Month Absence

Yeah.  About that.

One of the easiest things in the world there is to do is not write.  To let yourself become so utterly consumed by the drudgery or drama of your life that your laptop gathers an incrementally thicker coating of dust next to your bedside table as you slump deeper into your living room couch under the weight of your cat and daily justify the inertia with a half-hearted “maybe tomorrow.”  Before you know it, days have become months and there’s absolutely nothing to show for it.  You wake up and think about everything you could have done with the lost time and didn’t.  And you wonder why you’re no closer to achieving your goals, why those white posts still seem to gleam just as far away, over a stubborn, spiky hill.

I used to follow a political blog that had a nifty quote in its header:  If writing is a muscle, this is my gym.  One can marvel at the productivity of one’s peers and try to figure out how they manage it, but it’s the exact same feeling as wishing one were thinner, stronger, etc.  If something is that much of a priority to you, then you simply make it so, and the more you do it, the better you get.  By the same token, lack of regular use will cause that muscle to atrophy.  Progressively, it will get harder to say what you mean with the flair you once wielded like a lightsaber, and you’ll start to feel like that the precious nuance of your native tongue is suddenly as foreign to you as ancient Sumerian.  That will be really, really, really… bad.

At the same time, being away from it leads you to question your relevance in the ongoing conversation.  In an era of infinite cloned hot takes fired off in the wake of every act of presidential incompetence or goddess knows what else has grabbed people’s attention this minute, is it really worth the grind to try to grab the waterski rope as it whizzes by, for little reward more than a few extra notches in your stats?  When you’re already inclined to a persistent state of self-doubt, the thought of going through the motions to produce something that few will read and fewer will care about is as daunting as eyeing that bench press in the corner of the room and thinking about the long, sweaty, aching slog it’s going to be to build up your strength again, to reconnect with whatever audience you ever thought you had.

There comes a singular moment, however, when, scatologically speaking, you have to either defecate or remove yourself from the appliance.

It comes when you recognize that perhaps the reason why you have felt so listless over the past couple of months is that an important part of you is missing.  Against your better judgment you’ve let it slide away.  You’ve convinced yourself that you’re not good enough and that the success of contemporaries, rather than inspiring you, is taken only as a reminder of your own failures.  Over the last couple of months I’ve seen friends and acquaintances release books and land publishing and even movie deals and I’ve wallowed in my idle reads counter on Wattpad, with that damn nattering “see?” voice stifling my willingness to suck it up and try again. There’s another good saying, that professionals are nothing more than amateurs who never gave up, and if your peers didn’t give up, then why should you?  Especially when the precious act of putting one word after the other is a cheaper and more legal source of endorphins than anything else you might choose to pursue.

So, for the tl;dr folk, here’s the short version of the announcement:  whether you missed me or not, I’m back.

Baseball season is winding down and my beloved Blue Jays look unlikely to make the playoffs this year, but that certainly isn’t the only thing to write about (even if it seems like it’s been my exclusive focus when I have bothered to plant my arse at the keyboard in 2017).  Despite Drumpf doing his damnedest to ruin everything everywhere for everyone, this is still a beautiful world with a bursting reserve of beautiful stories to explore and to experience.  Our goal shouldn’t be to just wow passersby with the sharpness of our snark or force open jaws at the erudite manner in which we describe hating his bloated breathing guts, but to give someone who offers us a few moments of their attention an experience that leaves them feeling lifted and renewed.  That’s my goal, anyway.  To try to push the message that descents into the depths are never one-way, that there is always a path up the other side.  In fact, I’ve been gathering my thoughts on that subject for the last little while and I’m pretty close to starting off on a brand new novel that will aim to deliver that very message.

Will it be a challenge to work on that book and maintain a regular blog presence (and work a nine-to-five all the while)?  Sure, but as I used to tell my kid, no one ever looks back on their life and wishes that they’d watched more TV.  I can’t promise that everything I write will be a heartbreaking work of staggering genius; I’m sure, in fact, that the first few steps out of the gate again will be epic stumbles.  But the muscle will continue to build, slowly and surely, and eventually, we’ll be busting down brick walls.

As always, I’m glad to have you along for the ride.  Let’s see if we can’t go somewhere new and interesting on it.