Friday, October 28, 2011


I’m not someone you’d describe as singularly focused. I may have my sights on moving to L.A., but that does not mean I’ve successfully tuned out the nagging thoughts of being forever single.

It’s silly really. This is not the time to think about finding love. When I lived in L.A. but dreamed of moving back to Canada, I knew I’d never find a lasting relationship under the palms. I told myself that I had to be in the place where I wanted to be first. Otherwise, my dream would only lead to frustration. Twice I fell in love in L.A. and twice I pitched moving to the land of igloos and no TVs. Both times my Northern ideation helped walls go up. How could the relationship feel stable when I was quite literally unsettled? Eleven months after the second breakup, I quit my law career, packed my car and headed to my home and native land. I had no idea what I would do for a job—turns out studying this video was not helpful—, but I sensed that my life would fall into place. Love would follow. Add a Tim Hortons donut and homemade veggie poutine and I’d live happily ever after.

Seventeen years later, I’m looking South. Whereas I only had four weeks from when I decided to move to Vancouver until I began the drive, my earliest date for a return to Los Angeles will be in July 2012. For the next nine months, I should tune out any ideas about finding love. It’s been a 7 ½-year wait so far...I have lots of reading and writing to bide my time. And I really should catch up on movie classics if I want to hone my screenwriting. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve seen “Pillow Talk” but not “Citizen Kane”. For shame!

Still, a little validation would be nice. My last real date was fourteen months ago. One-time coffee “dates” after online messages don’t count. They are just interviews. The reality is that I fail time and time again. “We’ll call you if we’re interested.” And the cell phone never awakens from deep sleep. I would welcome several dates with the same guy. Get beyond the standard bio exchange. When did you come out? How long have you been in B.C.? Where were you when you learned Ricky Martin was really and truly on our team? Yep, I’m tired of playing in the shallow end. Why doesn’t anyone want to venture to the other side of the pool,...even if only for a season?

It’s a long shot.

If not a string of dates, a few knowing looks would at least affirm that I am more alluring than the ho-hum pastries in the Starbucks display case.

Can’t a decent looking man takes his eyes off the cereal box display in Safeway and give me a peep? Consider it charity. Stares for the needy. Ogle away!

Hello? I exist. If I am stuck in the shallow end, why does it seem that everyone has their eyes shut when I wade in? How long must they play Marco Polo?

I might be better able to play the waiting game if I thought things will be better in Los Angeles, but I cannot kid myself. I remember the model/waiters, model/accountants, model/personal trainers. If I don’t warrant a glimpse here, any thought of standing out in L.A. is foolish California dreamin’.

Sigh. Spinsters may take refuge amongst colonies of cats, but I’ll have closets stacked with jigsaw puzzles. If I’m going to get nothing from time spent gazing elusive baby blues, I might as well lose my vision going bug-eyed staring at cryptic cardboard pieces of indistinguishable blue water. In the end, I might have something to show for my time.

But then, perhaps I’ll send out a final mating call. “Marco?”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


When I was young and actually looked forward to birthdays, the countdown began at least two months beforehand. I’d browse the Sears catalog, take in the Saturday cartoon commercials, peruse the toy section at Eaton's Department Store and create ever-changing wish lists for parents and grandparents. (They needed to know that there were alternatives to woolen socks and books about the Hardy Boys.) Time crawled as the date neared. Same for Christmas, summer vacation and the start of a new season of “Rhoda”. Yeah, I was ecstatic when she married Joe, but I related more to Brenda.

If only Anticipation were satisfied as quickly as the slowly oozing stream of ketchup in a bottle of Heinz, coaxed along by the husky vocals of Carly Simon. So many waiting games are much more excruciating.

I am standing by my plan to move to Los Angeles in July 2012. That’s eight and a half months away. Yes, I’m counting down. Yes, I have a wish list. Make connections, land a lowly writer’s assistant gig, make more connections, sell a screenplay or move up to SENIOR writer’s assistant for a television show. (Senior writer’s assistant—that’s gotta be the guy who orders the pencils and makes lattés, not just regular coffee.) The problem is that I am hitting hurdles before even crossing the border.

Problem #1: My house. Now thirty years old, my house has started to show some wear and tear over the past year. I spent the summer calling laborers to do the necessary repairs and upgrades before I could list it. Calls went unanswered. Appointments got rescheduled. July turned to August. Materials became out of stock. Shipments were delayed. August segued into September. Still, I could see the finish line. The basement carpet that my now-deceased older dog had repeatedly soiled was replaced by laminate flooring. Dim lighting gave way to bright pot lights. Rooms that inexplicably never had any heating source were hooked up with baseboards. Views improved as windows with broken seals were removed. A drywaller filled in all the holes created by the electrician. The only thing left for me to do was to prime and paint the drywall.

And then it rained. Nothing extraordinary. Just a typical five-day streak of downpours and showers. Plop. Plop. Drops began to fall from the ceiling in one of the bedrooms. The aging roof pressed for retirement. Last week, I got a new roof. Now I need to get the drywaller back in to fix the ceiling. (I am sure his kids will be getting way better Christmas presents than woolen socks this year!) I spend my evenings searching for fortuitous deposits in my bank account—maybe I should help that Nigerian ambassador who keeps emailing me—and then planning the payment succession from credit card to line of credit to ???

Ah, but the money will come when the house sells. Right?

It will sell. Right?!

Despite dumping all that money into work that had to be done, selling the house will still be a huge challenge, especially doing so in only eight and a half months. In Vancouver, houses sell in a week, perhaps a month. A ferry ride away, it’s a radically different market. Two houses in my neighborhood have been listed for over two years. Other homes in the larger community have sat with For Sale signs for up to three years. Signs are everywhere. Collectively, that’s a bad sign.

I should have the house listed in early November. Prime time for house sales. Right?

Problem #2: The visa. I once had a permanent alien card, allowing residency in the U.S. Six years ago, I flew to Dallas to visit my parents for a weekend and a customs officer threw a fit over the fact my parents were American and I wasn’t. He sent me off for questioning and I nearly missed my flight. I had to sign a form surrendering my visa card. Now I am one of hundreds of thousands looking at the (fading) American Dream from the outside.

I can’t get an American employer to petition on my behalf for work purposes. Steven Spielberg doesn’t know me yet. From what I’ve read online, I move up in the queue if my parents successfully petition on my behalf. First step is to establish that I am their son. The form is ready to go. Unfortunately, my birth certificate does not list parents.

I knew it! In Ontario, at least, babies are delivered by storks. (I think this is connected to my fear of flying. Being airborne while dangling in a cloth from a bird’s beak had to be traumatic.)

More online searching and I discovered that I can apply for a “long form” birth certificate. If I have parents, the certified copy will show this. Having proof of my legitimacy remain in limbo would normally be mildly amusing. But the fifteen business days seem to pass slower than the two-month buildup to my birthday. Tick tick.

The hurdles are there to test whether I really want a change. And here I thought I’d already worked through that. I am anxious to step up to the starting line. Some things in childhood required seemingly endless long waits. I preferred the instant action. Someone yell, “Ready, set, go!”

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Today is Moldy Cheese Day, but few observe the occasion in a formal capacity. More people recognize the day as Thanksgiving (in Canada). Instead of thinking about gratitude, it is a time when I fight off pity. And, yes, I almost always win the battle with self-pity. It’s the pity from others that creates more challenges.

The good thing about Canadian Thanksgiving is there is no clarity over when to have the big celebration. When I lived in the U.S., it was always on the Thursday. Everything except Denny’s and 7-Eleven shut down. Here, some folks have the big dinner on Sunday, others on Monday. This helps as there isn’t one particular day to lump me with the sad sacks.

I am a vegetarian with vegan leanings so I am not missing out on turkey and gravy. In the past, I have picked at too many sides of heavily sugared sweet potatoes. I am not even a fan of thick pie crusts. (A pumpkin pie Blizzard at DQ suits me just fine.) Obviously, it is not about the meal. It is the expectation that eats at me.

Just before the holiday comes the obligatory question: “What are doing for Thanksgiving?” When I smile and say I’m repainting the ceiling in the basement, people respond with looks of deep sympathy. Oh, poor you. Yes, I shouldn’t have bumbled the first painting attempt. Of course, that’s not what they mean.

Sometimes I get an invite somewhere, but I have regularly declined over the past two decades. The host needn’t stress over making an entirely separate entrée—which he or she invariably does. “Oh, it was no trouble at all” is the standard line, but good hosts are bad liars. When I go to barbecues, I eat first or bring my own food, but it is harder to be inconspicuous at a sit-down dinner.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I hosted Canadian Thanksgivings. I could serve stuffed peppers without people feeling disappointed. They’d get a crack at a turkey leg at the end of November. In Vancouver, I went through a couple of years of inviting over others with families in Ontario or elsewhere. The Bailey’s chocolate chip cheesecake quirked things up enough to help folks get over the mindset that a plate of roasted veggies left a void. Over the past decade, however, friends have settled into marriages and young families. Thanksgivings are with the newly doting grandparents.

I could have gone this weekend to Tofino with my two remaining single gay friends. They’re great for shopping weekends, but not for holidays. Neither of them has ever (EVER!) expressed the slightest desire to find a partner. Indeed, they resemble a couple, well-settled in a sexless relationship. Their “children” are the latest techno gadgets, every conversation interrupted by an iPhone Google search or a quick check of an incoming text.

No, I am happy to paint the ceiling. I will walk the dog on the beach. I will hit the gym where others stumble in before that sleep-inducing turkey enzyme casts its spell. I am thankful for an extra day of sleeping later and letting the early morning ferry sail on without me.

Tuesday morning I’ll be hit with people asking, “How was your Thanksgiving?” I am prepared with a quick, “Fine. Wasn’t the weather wonderful on Sunday?” If we can leave it at that, I will be spared the looks. Can we move on? October 12 is Farmer’s Day, the 14th is Grover’s birthday and the 15th is National Grouch Day. October is also National Popcorn Popping Month, National Pizza Month, National Clock Month (huh?) and, best of all, National Roller Skating Month. These are just a few of the occasions I can celebrate on equal terms!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


As a middle-aged single, gay wannabe writer, there are so many opportunities for self-doubt. (Why is it that my parents feel they need to nurture that?)

Life would be far easier if I stayed on the ground. After all, being “grounded” is deemed an admirable quality. Unfortunately, I’ve got this urge to walk the tightrope. I’m a wee bit afraid of height so I’ll set it three feet above ground, but still there’s a huge risk of an ankle sprain. I’d be quite the wuss on crutches.

I have a solid job, one that I feel more satisfied doing than I ever have. I go about the days calmer, with a clearer understanding of what I can impact and what is too burdened by personalities and other issues. And yet I’m walking away from the job and the career in nine months. (Yes, I’m counting.) Perhaps seeing the finish line is what makes the work easier. Maybe it strengthens me. It excites me to think I’ll leave on a high note. If only all life changes could begin that way.

When I move, take a peon job (“Welcome to the Gap!”; “Have you tried our newest McFlurry?”) and put all my energy into writing, it will feel in some ways as if I’ve sunk below ground, but really I’ll be flapping, hopefully soaring, above. The pension fund will sit stagnant, enough to buy kibble for the dog in what has the potential to be a frugal Meals-on-Wheels-seniors’-bus-pass-thrift-shop-scrounging future retirement. I turn forty-seven this week. That leaves me with plenty of years to keep hoping my lottery numbers will come up if my writing dreams prove as silly as my childhood aspiration to work as an elf at the North Pole.

A nagging message in my head (presented in my mother’s cautionary voice) says, “Why would you quit your job? Why not write on the side?” Ah, yes, so practical. A sage suggestion for the grounded folks. I’m not wired that way. I require risk and discomfort to push me into action. When there is nothing to fall back on, I waste no time fretting and doubting. I write.

To my parents’ dismay, I’ve done this all before. I went through law school, passed the California Bar, clerked for judges and then worked as an attorney in a boutique firm with an office view of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Pier, only to decide as I hit thirty that I needed to start over. To do so, I had to leave California so there would be no way I could fall back on my license to practice law. I moved to Vancouver where I had but one acquaintance and no job prospects. I took a Christmas retail job on Robson where my manager was twenty-three and my coworkers lived for Saturday nights at The Roxy. I didn’t get as psyched about selling leather jackets as my colleagues and rarely made my daily sales target. Management chose to end my seasonal employment after Boxing Day.

I could have taken going from successful lawyer to unemployed sales clerk as a humiliating game-over fumble, but I needed that awkward time to stop speculating about my future and to DO SOMETHING! I’m pleased that I found a path to follow for seventeen years. To continue to amble along and extend the trek to thirty-two years is not an option. It’s safe, but it would foster feelings of regret. It should come as no surprise that my favorite poem has always been Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.

I can feel the excitement, but the pressure mounts as well. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing. I have a manuscript that will be ready to submit by the end of October and a screenplay that will be fully polished by the end of November. Maybe there will be bites, maybe there won’t. It is the beginning of a new phase in life. The journey on the tightrope is frighteningly narrow, with nerve-fraying wobbles. I don’t care how I look—I’ll wear a helmet and my old kneepads from volleyball—but I can’t wait to remove the safety net and give it a go. If, along the way, I have to mop up on Aisle 6 or cohabitate a moldy basement suite with a rat I’ll name Ben, so be it. I’ll twist a retro expression and say, “Write on!”