New blog where I ask the question, if an author put you in a story and killed you, would it bother you? WRITING: Playing with lives
I’ve given up on this godforsaken site due to all the errors. Visit me at tobinelliott.com
Fuck you, WordPress.
For 23 months, I’ve blogged on WordPress, at this site.
In that time, WordPress has eaten more blogs than I can count. After I’d lost my fourth or fifth blog after saving, and yes, I mean, taking the time to write out an entire blog, saving all the way, then hitting that little “Save Draft” button one last time, only to have it come back to a blank screen, all those words disappeared into the ether, I started writing my blogs in Notepad, then pasting them over.
It didn’t stop this damnable site from losing my words, but at least I had a backup. But it’s simply pathetic that I have to do so.
Lately, it’s doing something just as irritating. See the post below this one? Hostage night in Canada? Yeah, I wrote that in Notepad. I pasted it over. Then, I added in some links and tags, and some formatting, bolding, italicizing, etc. Then I saved. When it came up with an “Are you sure you want to do this?” message, but with no way to cancel it, I knew I was going to lose some stuff.
I lost all of those revisions, bolds, italics, links, tags…all of it. Gone.
Did some research through Google. The suggestion was to go up to Screen Options and ensure Revisions was ticked off. Yeah, so, I go there? Revisions isn’t even in the goddamn list. So, instead, I’m ticked off.
When I go to other blog posts, yup, Revisions shows up fine. Back to the one where I need it, it’s not there.
This has happened with the last three or four blogs I’ve written. Every. Fucking. One.
Interestingly, when I go back, spend another goddamn hour recreating everything that was lost, and then copy it all and screen grab the tags, of course it saves perfectly. And the Revisions feature is suddenly appearing now. No, I’m not making this up.
So now I’m done. Life’s too short to fuck around with an application that I cannot trust whatsoever.
So, from now on, no more blogs here.
Come over to tobinelliott.com (a site I’ve had for months, but kept blogging here out of some misguided sense of loyalty). It’s maintained by people who know what they’re doing.
Fuck you, WordPress.
Whaddya do on a rainy night in Toronto?
MacLean & MacLean – What Do You Do On a Rainy Night in Toronto?
It started off so well. A good friend and writing colleague of mine, Patricia Flewwelling, asked me if I was interested in going to an event put on by the Crime Writers of Canada, better known as the CWC, announcing the short lists for their Arthur Ellis awards. A handful of authors, including three I had books from, would be reading, cool people like Jill Edmondson, another author, would be there. Possibly even Paul Alves from Bookguys.ca I really wanted to meet him, but unfortunately, he didn’t make it.
Side note: if you’re interested in books or movies, check out bookguys.ca. It’s cool.
Anyway, the event sounded like an interesting Thursday night out. So I said yes.
Pat, who’s from Montreal, was staying in a Howard Johnson’s (better known as “HoJo’s”) in the extreme east end of Scarborough. So, I drove there and parked my truck. We would take Pat’s car, which is smaller than my ridiculously big fat Dodge Ram Hemi, and much more amenable to parking in downtown Toronto.
Pat shifted the detritus from the front seat to the back and I climbed in. The next half-hour was rather hilarious as I watched Pat, who is used to driving in Montreal, proceed to sputter and rage at the drivers on the 401 and Don Valley Parkway. It was then that we realized this was, in our thirteen years of knowing each other, that I was in the passenger seat.
We made it into Toronto, running late. The CWC event started at 7:00, and we were parking right around then. Pat found an underground spot, we drove in, got the ticket, and parked, then rushed out to the event.
Of the event, I won’t say a lot, except that I really enjoyed Howard Shrier‘s and Robert Rotenberg‘s readings, as well as a couple of others. I got my books autographed, met Jill and it was decided that a few of us would head over to a bar for a couple of drinks. I didn’t mind horribly, though I’d hoped to be home by 10:00. Howard Shrier mentioned he’d likely only have one as he had an early meeting with a publicist for his new book in the morning. Good, I thought, we won’t be late then.
Around 10:30, I started making noises about leaving. More drinks were ordered. Around 11:00, I made some more noises. Around 11:30, it looked like it was going to happen, then I realized we hadn’t paid yet, so we had to wait for checks. That led to another round of drinks and toasts.
Finally, we got out at 12:30.
Pat and I hit the streets, wet with light rain. We made our way back to the parking lot. I figured, well, it’s 12:30 now, so it’ll be at least an hour before I’m home. I’d better grab a coffee for the road. So we hit the Tim Horton’s across the street, then laden with coffee, tried to get to the car.
The garage door was down. No matter, there was a stairway leading to an entrance. I walked down it, jiggled the doorknob. Locked.
Heading back up, I looked at the sign. Yes, it said it was open 6 am to 7 pm and, forgetting for the moment how ridiculous it is to close a public parking lot at 7 pm in downtown Toronto, I looked for the note that said something about “no entrance after hours.” There was none.
I called the number on the sign and it went something like this:
“Hi, I’m parked at the 1075 Bay Street parking lot and I need to get to my car.”
“Come back at 6 am.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Look, I need that car. I’m from Courtice and I’ve got someone here from Montreal that needs to get back to her hotel room and her dog.”
“There’s nothing I can do.”
So I swore loudly and disconnected. As I did this, it immediately started to rain much harder.
With nothing else to do, Pat flagged a cab and we headed back to her hotel room in Scarborough.
We’d just gotten into the cab and were discussing options (both of us needed to work in the morning, we were trying to figure out ways to get Pat’s car) when the Wife called. “Are you planning on coming home tonight?”
I explained my situation and told her I was on my way back to the truck. As I told her this, I had a flash of a memory. A memory of me looking at my keys and weighing options.
“Oh shit,” I said.
Both the Wife and Pat said, “What?”
“I just realized,” I said. “I left my keys in Pat’s car.” I let that sink in. Pat’s car. Currently receding behind us at 110 kmph. “I can’t drive home.”
I have a real problem with keys. To find out more, read this.
My first thought was to get the Wife to drive out and meet me in Scarborough, but she reminded me that our daughter had taken the car and was sleeping over at a friend’s place. They were celebrating the end of their first year of college. “She’s likely had a couple of drinks by now,” the Wife said. So that was out. I could tell by her voice she was not happy.
It was decided at that point that I would sleep on the floor in Pat’s hotel room. Pat warned me that, because she’d been drinking, she’d likely snore. “I snore too,” I said. “No biggie.”
I apologized to the Wife, Pat apologized to the Wife, and I hung up. $70 and 30 minutes later, we got back to the HoJo’s.
Pat’s mother had been dogsitting, and offered me a ride back, but with my daughter out, there was no way I would be able to get back to Scarborough, or to work in the morning.
Now, Pat’s mom is nice, but by now it was around 1:00 am, and I’d made the decision to get up at 5:30 to go get Pat’s car right when the garage opened at 6:00. So I just wanted to lay down and sleep. Pat and her mother chatted about the dog, about pizza, etc.
I’ll be honest here. When I’m tired, I can get rude. I’m sure I was rude, but neither Pat nor her mother mentioned it. They’re both far too nice to say anything.
Me? I grabbed a couple of pillows, dropped them on the floor, took off my button-down shirt so I’d look a little presentable in the morning and stretched out in my jeans and t-shirt. Pat’s mother left shortly thereafter.
Ever tried to sleep on the floor of a hotel? The carpet’s thin. It smells. We hadn’t thought to request an extra blanket, so there I was, fully clothed, contacts still in my eyes, trying to sleep. Let me break the next few hours down for you.
1:15 – 2:00 am:
Pat and her dog Dixie settled into bed, and both started slow, regular breathing. I tried to ignore the discomfort of the floor and focus on getting to sleep. Instead, I felt the slow thrumming of that last coffee jangling my nerves and popping my eyes open. Cars and trucks drove by. Dixie breathed. Pat breathed. Then I heard the shift of Pat’s breathing and thought, wow, if that’s what she calls snoring, that’s nothing. Ten minutes later, it got louder. Then louder still. It crescendoed to a room-rattling snarl, before reaching a peak, a snort, and a sound like glib-glab, then stopped. Then the whole cycle started again, taking about fifteen minutes from first heavy breaths to final glib-glab.
2:00 – 2:30 am:
The snoring was now done for the night. Next came the argument in the front lobby. I could tell the one guy was the poor bastard manning the desk of a Scarborough HoJo’s in the middle of the night, but I couldn’t tell who the other guy was. And the yelling didn’t serve to educate me any further
“I’m gonna call the cops.”
“You aren’t gonna call the cops.”
“Yes I am. I’m gonna call the cops.”
“You won’t call the cops.”
“I’m gonna call them. I’m gonna call the cops.”
“Go ahead! You call the cops.”
“I’m calling the cops.”
Seriously. If I wrote conversations like that in my fiction, I’d immediately delete it.
Not able to sleep, I pushed a pillow up against the wall and sat, arms on knees, head on arms. Did nothing.
2:30 – 3:00 am:
Two dogs. Two separate occasions. The first, some little pipsqueak of a thing, out in the hallway, yipping, then it was quickly cut off. The second was a bigger dog, and it barked five or six times.
Gave up and stretched back out again. This floor wasn’t getting any more comfortable. Smelled like dogs and dirty feet. I tried not to think about how many feet had walked the spot where I lay.
3:00 – 4:00 am:
Gave up, turned on my side, got as comfortable as I could. Fell asleep for fifteen minutes or so. Woke up, turned to other side, got maybe another half hour’s sleep.
4:00 – 5:00 am:
Got cold. Dreamed of my warm leather jacket, sitting not a hundred yards from where I lay, locked in my truck. Pulled my button down shirt off the chair and draped it over me. Watched the time go by in ten minute increments. Amused myself by counting to six hundred to see if I could accurately predict ten minutes. Nope. Had the Canadian comedians MacLean & MacLean’s song running through my head. Whaddya do on a rainy night in Toronto? Though their answers were funny, mine were just sad. Lose a car. Lose my keys. Lay awake on a floor. Curse the world that allows parking garages to close too early.
I can’t express the precise toll sleeping on a hard, cold, malodorous floor will take on you. How badly it stresses you to want to sleep, to need to sleep, to beg to sleep, but sleep doesn’t come. Instead, the night is spent staring up at a small green light on the smoke detector, the only point of interest in an otherwise dark room. The thoughts, every time the time is checked, of, That’s XX less minutes of sleep. I have to get up in XX hours. And too soon, that last thought changes to I have to get up in XX minutes. And finally, pushing up off the floor, tired, depressed, frustrated, and feeling two decades older than four hours before.
Though I’d originally planned to get up at 5:30, boredom and my bladder got me vertical at 5:00.
Called a cab company. The cab that should have been there in five minutes took more like fifteen. The cabbie called me to ask me where the hotel was. He later admitted he was a little concerned about picking someone up in Scarborough (he normally worked the western end of Toronto).
He finally found me, and by 5:30, I was on my way back to Pat’s car.
$75.00 later, he dropped me in front of the despicable 1075 Bay Street location right at 6:00 and I walked in, ready to drop a can of whupass on whoever happened to be working that morning.
There was no one. The entire place was automated.
Tell me again why a parking garage with no humans, only automated systems, needs to be closed at fucking 7:00 pm?
Found the car, pulled up to the exit, plugged in the ticket. Wasn’t surprised to see the daily maximum of $12.00 had, of course, been doubled. Why shouldn’t they hold your car hostage overnight, then bill you $24.00 for the privilege?
At this point, as I pulled out my credit card, I could only laugh. I stopped at the exact same Tim’s and ordered a big, fat coffee. Because, you know, there’s always time for Tim Horton’s.
I drove back to the hotel in Scarborough, got there about 6:30. Parked Pat’s car, snagged my keys, took her keys back to her, then got back in my truck and, bone weary, headed home.
Got home about 7:00. Got my son up for school, walked the dog, had a shower, ironed a new shirt and headed back out to spend a full day standing in the Oshawa Centre to observe how one of my company’s stores run.
The next time I get invited to an event in Toronto, I’m still going to say yes, but I’ll be goddamned if I’ll park at 1075 Bay Street.
And it will turn out to be something better to do on a rainy night in Toronto.
And I feel like I’m gonna die
I don’t feel so good inside
Why baby-why, why, why?
But I had a good time
You know I had a good night
Ramones – Death of Me
You’ve heard that expression, I’m sure, about the person who’s never on time? The one that goes something like, He’ll be late for his own funeral?
Yeah. That one.
I think it’s okay to talk about this next thing I did. The statute of limitations has run out on it by now. Hopefully.
When I was a teenager in Barry’s Bay, my friends and I had a bit of a summer tradition. There was a core group of us, Pat, Dennis, Bob, brothers Dale and Dean, and myself. Occasionally others would come out for a day or two. We’d find someplace to camp for a few days. Really, for some of us, it was simply an excuse to get absolutely hammered. For others, such as myself, it was to simply remember all the details and relate them back to the sobered up ones a few days later.
I’m not kidding here. I think the general rule of thumb was a two-four (for any Americans out there, that translates to a case of 24 beers) for each day of camping.
Anyway, on this particular camping trip, we somehow managed to pick some of the shittiest, wettest weather we could manage. Most of the time, we spent huddled in an old canvas tent that leaked moisture like dew, small glassy beads of water slowly swelling to heavy globs that could no longer cling to the roof of the tent, and fell in great, freezing splashes on exposed body parts.
If we weren’t in the tent, we were learning the futility of trying to maintain a campfire in the rain. I have a dim, fuzzy memory of one of the guys propping a canoe up on an angle, wedging the top between two trees, then huddling under it, trying to light a fire. I don’t think it worked.
In the garden of Eden
The first was the sight of seeing one of our group catastrophically drunk, popping open the doors of his pickup truck, selecting a specific song on the cassette player, then proceeding to…well, really, there are no words, however I’ll try.
Picture a tall, blond male encased in jeans and a t-shirt, both damp from the rain. On his head is a slightly battered cowboy hat. His face is brushed with a light dusting of hair under his nose and under his chin. He’s got a loose, boneless motion as he first bobs his head, then eventually jerks his body back and forth, a staggering, zombie-like creature, completely attuned to, and drunkenly grooving, for the next seventeen minutes and five seconds, to Iron Butterfly‘s In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida. The primary picture I have in my mind is him desperately clutching the tailgate of the truck as he shoots his head forward, the cowboy hat somehow resolutely holding on for dear life.
That’s a memory that will never go away. All the more fitting, as it’s sort of a drunken anthem. The song was originally titled In the Garden of Eden but the singer got drunk and slurred the words into In a gadda da vida. True story.
Four quarts will open her
The second memory is several of us playing poker in the tent. One of the brothers wasn’t able to hold his liquor all that well. He became not just drunk, but obnoxious. So when he raised his head and proudly declared he “hadda piss,” we all looked to his brother. Genetics always trump.
The older brother helped the younger out, then walked him around behind it, a safe distance away from the tent. Interested in how he was being managed, we watched through the small window.
The older one grabbed his brother by the back of his jeans. The younger, taking meticulous care, finally got his fly open, and proceeded to relieve himself. How, guys can hold a remarkable volume of urine. And he seemed to hold even more. The peeing went on and on. And on.
A couple of times, the older brother, getting wet holding his brother up, would say, “Are you almost done?”
And on he would piss.
Finally, he finished up. By this point, the younger brother, still being held by the back of his pants, was leaning forward at a startling angle. He got everything packed away, and zipped up. “Done now?” his brother asked.
“Nope!” the younger said, then opened his jaws and threw up spectacularly. This, of course, did nothing to improve relations with the older brother, who turned away and grimly held on.
Thankfully, the puking went faster than the pissing, but by now, the older brother has pretty much had it with the younger. After the final hacking and spitting, and still at that rakish angle, he said, “Done now?”
Wiping his mouth, the younger said, “Yeah.”
“Good,” the older said, then let him go.
Yes, he dropped forward, straight into his own bodily fluids.
The older left him there, came back around, got in the tent, resumed his position, and said, “Okay, whose deal is it?”
A little while later, the younger eventually gathered himself together, dragged his sodden body over to the tent, stuck his goo-encrusted face up to the screen window and said, “Open up! Lemme in!”
“You gotta go around to the front of the tent to get in,” we explained.
“Fuggoo! You hid th’ fuggin’ zipper! Yoo fuggin’ bassards!”
It went like this for a while, then his face disappeared. We heard rustling and muttering, then a snicking noise, then came the phrase that, over thirty years later, I still remember.
Apparently, he had a small pocket knife on his person. The snicking noise was him opening the blade up. Then, when he said, “Four quarts’ll open ‘er.”
Translated from Drunk, this meant, “Step off dear friends and sibling, I’m about to cut myself a new method of ingress.”
We all ran out and, in quick succession, stopped him, disarmed him, then dragged him around to the front of the tent. Yes, he got cleaned up before he was allowed back in.
However, it’s the final story of this ridiculous excuse for a vacation that I feel the most stupidity and shame for.
After a few days of toughing it out, we decided to stick a fork in it, pack it all up and head back home. By now, none of our clothes are dry, it’s been too cold to swim, so we haven’t bathed in days. We smell like damp and smoke and beer and puke and sweat and dirt. We’re tired, we’re miserable and some of us are hung over.
We just want to get home.
One of my chief complaints about Barry’s Bay after I learned to drive was the summer tourists. For ten months of the year, I could drive through the town virtually unimpeded. But come summer, the traffic would lock up at the three-way stop at the hub of the town.
It’s funny when I think about that now, after having been trapped on the 401 for hours at a time. Oh, the impatience of youth, right?
So, we were all piled into the bed of the pickup truck, and, once past that three-way stop, I was ten minutes from a shower, a hot meal, and my own bed. So, I was a little impatient. Then we came to a dead stop in the middle of town. We were at least five or six cars back from that stop sign where we needed to turn right toward my home.
And we weren’t moving.
I remember first leaning off the side of the truck, then getting out to look. I became virtually apoplectic. I remember looking into the truck and saying something like, “Some stupid bitch is letting all these cars through! Stupid goddamn tourists!”
Then, I made a decision.
“Screw this!” I said. Then I walked past those five or six cars in front of us. I walked up to that three-way stop, then I paused for a moment to observe exactly what was happening. What I saw infuriated me even further. Cars were coming up to the intersection, then simply driving through, taking up that lane that we needed for me to get home. My bleary, tired mind could find no reason for this.
Well, I wasn’t going to let this hold me up. I boldly walked right into the middle of the intersection, a dirty kid dressed in unlaced workboots, jeans, a t-shirt and a flannel lumberjacket (also known as a Kenora or Muskoka dinner jacket), hair wild and greasy, and an angry expression of hate for all things touristy.
I saw the next car about to pull out and into the intersection. I held my left hand up and stood in front of him. Then I turned around and, with my right hand, I pointed at the woman in the car sitting at the front of my line, then waved at her to proceed. I can still see her eyes, wide and staring at me. She did a small shake of her head, but I would not be denied.
“GO!” I roared.
She went. Then I turned and got the other guy to go. I basically directed traffic at that stop for the next minute or two until the pickup truck came into view. I waved him around the corner, then ran and dived into the bed.
A few minutes later I was home.
And then, as I came through the door, my mom said, “Oh, you’re home early. Did you run into that big funeral procession in town?”
Turns out a VIP in town had died while we were out getting soaked and drunk and singing In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida. And I came back to town just in time to make him late for his own funeral. Rush hour in the Garden of Eden.
I never ever told her what I did. But I remember there being a write up in the local paper a couple of days later about an “unknown person” that held up the procession.
Now, memory may be playing tricks on me here, because as far as I remember, it was our Member of Parliament, a man named Yakabuski, but I don’t think that’s right because the years are off. So, if anyone happens to know a bigwig that died in Barry’s Bay in the summer of 1980, let me know, huh?
And if you happen to be related to that person, I’m sorry.
God as my witness, I’d never really experienced a funeral procession before. Had no idea what headlights on in the middle of day meant.
Yes, I was a stupid kid.
But you know what? I probably wouldn’t be that upset if, at my own funeral–which I hope is not for many, many years–is held up by some ridiculous, impetuous teen. Because, I’d probably like that kid.