Friends

I’m going to warn you that this isn’t my typical “light-hearted” blog, and I apologize if that’s what you came here looking for.  Trust me, they’ll be coming back soon.  It’s just that I’ve had some stuff swirling around in my head, stuff that I’ve hesitated to even write about (hence the long delay there in me posting anything for a while).  Once I get this crap out, I’ll be back to normal happy guy again.  Honest.

On to the darkness…

I’ve never had a lot of friends.  I consider a friend as someone whom I completely trust and absolutely respect.  There’s a lot of people I know that skirt very close to that line…I do respect them and I very likely could trust them with anything, if I gave them the chance.

I guess the problem is me.  I don’t give a lot of people that chance.  Wow, even as I write this, I’m thinking I’m coming off sounding like a dick.  And maybe I am.  Many wouldn’t argue that point when it came to me.

I guess it comes down to how many people I’ve lost in my life.  I never realized the staggering number of people that essentially chose to walk away from me.  My dad, my brother, my sister, my step-father, my step-brother, my step-sister, one person I would have called my best friend for life…the list goes on and on.

And, unfortunately, because of those people leaving, others were taken from me that I got to know and love, only to lose over the years.  My niece, Genevieve Elliott, daughter of Robert (Bobby) and Elaine (Lainey) Elliott.  She would be in her thirties now.  The last time I saw her, she was maybe three.  I mention her name in full because I wish I could get to know her.  I’m hoping that there’s some sort of six degrees of separation that may happen.  Or maybe she’ll google search her own name and read this.

My nephew and niece from my brother’s first marriage.  They’d be in their forties.  Haven’t seen them since they were maybe seven or eight years old.  Ryan, another of my brother’s kids who I still, to this day, kick myself for not trying to adopt.  Might have saved him from all the drugs and jail.

All these and so many others.  I’ve lost too many people over the years.  I’ve learned that I don’t let people in easily.  I guess I’m always waiting for them to leave again.

Lately I’ve been thinking about two in particular.  One, Jim Baldwin…Jimmy and I were inseparable from probably Grade 2 right through to just before I started Grade 11.  His dad was always a little tightly wrapped, but mostly a great guy and Jimmy’s mom was cool.  And for a kid coming from a broken home and no close siblings, they took me everywhere.  I was like their adopted kid.  All these years later, I’m still thankful for all the memories they gave me and all the places they took me and the time they spent with me.  And through it all, there were Jimmy and I, laughing, talking, dreaming our dreams of the future, reading comic books and discovering music.  Jimmy was the first KISS fan I knew.

I can still remember the final summer I spent with Jimmy.  We’d moved from Oshawa to Barry’s Bay and Jimmy wasn’t getting along well with his dad (being a typical 15 year old).  So he lived in Barry’s Bay with us from the end of June until Labour Day weekend.  I remember him begging my mother to let him stay and go to school there.  It broke her heart to have to tell him no.

And then his father came and took him home.  And then…I can only guess at what happened.  I think it can be put down to rebellion, but I rarely heard from Jim after that, only ran into him once more the following summer, was shocked at what I saw, and I haven’t seen or heard from him since.  Jim, if you’re out there somewhere, I’d love to hear from you.

And then there was the last guy I thought was my best friend.  Well, he really was for a lot of years.  We met when my mother remarried and I attended a new school.  This would have been Grade 6.  Al was always a bit of an oddball.  Ridiculously smart, ridiculously funny, with an always-inquisitive mind, I enjoyed hanging out with him.  You could see where he got most of his qualities from, as he took very much after his father and his mother was, quite simply, my surrogate mother.  She was the one I turned to when I was in college and my mother was living a few hours’ drive away.  I could get meals there (and pretty much did, every Sunday).  When I got a part time job that required me to wear a tie, it was Margaret that I rushed over to a few minutes before my first shift so she could knot it for me.  Then I went back later to get her to show me how to do it properly.  I laughed many times in that house, cried a few, and had some of the most fascinating conversations I’ve ever had about anything and everything.

And again, through it all, there were Al and I, laughing, talking, dreaming our dreams of the future, writing, reading comic books and regular books and discovering music.  I remember Al being a passionate Who fan (I really dislike the Who) but when he discovered Peter Gabriel, man, that was it.  I must have heard “Shock the Monkey” about a billion times.  He even played the crap out of the German version, “Shock den Offen”.

I was his best man when he got married even though his bride was an acquired taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked her a lot, especially talking to her one-on-one.  But she could be quite abrasive in a crowd at times.  But once you got to know her, things were okay.

And I still remember the day, hell, damn near the minute our friendship died.  It was Christmas day, I’d proposed to my girlfriend (and, of course, now my wife).  I remember I couldn’t wait to go over and tell Al and ask him to be my best man.

I waited until we were alone.  Just the two of us.  And, as we sat in his parent’s living room, I said, “I have some big news.  I’ve asked Karen to marry me.”

Al had a book he’d received as a Christmas present in his hand.  He’d been looking at it when I started.  When I told him, he glanced at me briefly and said, “Oh yeah?  Hm.  Hey, have you read this book?”

I’ll never forget it as long as I live.  I didn’t ask him to be my best man.  He didn’t bother to even show up at my wedding.  My best friend of sixteen years.

Again, we lost touch shortly after.  We briefly corresponded just before my daughter was born and I know he was going through a tough time, but he just seemed so…cold.

I guess, as I re-read what I’ve written here, it wasn’t always them abandoning me.  I think Jimmy abandoned his life in search of something better.  But in Al’s case, yeah, he abandoned me.  Like a lot of those other people I mentioned above.

The good news is, I have a couple of amazing friends now.  One I’ve known since Grade 11 in Barry’s Bay. The other I met just before both our sons were born.  Friends that I not only respect wholeheartedly, trust completely, but also laugh and joke with.  We don’t dream as much about the future as much as we talk about the past.  Our dreams of the future now centre around our kids.

But I know these guys will be my friends until the day we die.  I’ve learned that’s a rare thing.  I hope I’m half as good a friend to those two guys as they’ve been to me over the years.

Addendum: Okay, I’ve slept on this (okay, well, not really, that would be uncomfortable, these computers are hard!) and when I read this over, I also realize, for whatever reason, I was wallowing a little and feeling sorry for myself a little.  And I also forgot to mention all the amazing people who ARE in my life, from my family (both immediate and extended), and friends and co-workers.

I guess I should explain that I was talking about best friends in this post, but I do have quite a decent circle of those who I can (and frequently have) leaned on.  And they’ve been nothing but trustworthy, respectful and, most of all, supportive.

I’m a lucky guy.  Hell, look at the comments below.  They’ll show it.  It’s something I try not to take for granted, though, there are times when I forget.  Luckily, I have those around me to remind me I can be a forgetful putz at times.  Thanks to all of you, and I hope you all know who you are and how special you all are to me.  If I haven’t told you lately, let me know and give me a smack upside the head.

Okay, ’nuff said.

Comments on Vanishing Hope

It’s been about four weeks since VANISHING HOPE was released and while I’ve only received one official review (which was, by the way, absolutely glowing) that you can read here, and one blog post that you can read here, I’ve gotten a lot of “unofficial” reviews…that is, what the average reader is saying.

I’m not going to embarrass anyone by naming names, but I can back every one of these up with the original Facebook, Twitter, email or text message.  I’ve got to say, I’m absolutely blown away by all the positive, wonderful, supportive things everyone has said about the book.  And, if for no one else but myself, I decided to capture these comments all in one place.

Yes, I realize this is a little self-serving, but you know what?  There’s times when you just gotta do something that makes you feel better about yourself.

So, without further ado, here we go.

  • “I can only describe [Vanishing Hope] as a dark pleasure.  Like watching a car accident.  It was wicked!  The tone of the book steeps into you as you read.”
  • “I finished Vanishing Hope.  It’s awesome!  I’ve never in my life read something scary and uncomfortable and NOW I can’t wait for No Hope.”  NO HOPE is the follow-up to Vanishing Hope, tentatively scheduled for late next year.
  • “Scary as hell, gripping and it was an awesome story man. I can hardly wait for the next one you write. Keep it up man you have an amazing talent for writing horror.”
  • “In a word: BRILLIANT!  I can’t believe that’s your first book.  Very captivating!”
  • “I finished reading Vanishing Hope this weekend and I have to say I love it! Really kept my interest. I can’t wait for the novel to come out next year…I am really looking forward to reading more of the story and see how things play out. Great book, Tobin!”
  • “Just reading your book, not bad at all, you sick, sick man.”
  • “Just finished it, enjoyed it very much.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.  I assume you are doing a second part, right?” 
  • “For such a normal looking guy, Tobin has a vivid imagination. Imagine having a child with his protagonist’s leanings. And it seems books can be dangerously suggestive.”
  • “I hope Tobin is still [at the Festival of Fear] so I can tell him how damned awesome Vanishing Hope is.”
  • “An absolutely awesome little story.”
  • “A killer little chapbook with a lot of aggression.”
  • “Just finished reading Vanishing Hope.  Super creepy!”
  • “I really really enjoyed Vanishing Hope and I’m really looking forward to reading your full book when it comes out!”
  • “I’ve long said that fantasy and horror are not my reading interest.  Considering that, I couldn’t put Vanishing Hope down.”

I also had a couple of questions from one reader…

“There are some unanswered questions that I hope to hear more about in No Hope. The first is about the origin of the book. The novella eluded to the book disguising itself as a children’s book but then showed itself to Talia. I am curious as to where it came from and how it got into Talia’s room. I hope that the novel may answer this question.”

I’m not going to reveal a lot about the Book, as you do get a little more info on it in No Hope.  So, you’ll get more insights, if not full answers.  I gotta leave something for the other stories, right?

“Another question that I am curious about is where everyone goes when Talia makes them disappear. That information would make for an interesting side storyline as part of your next book.”

Actually, this one is covered off in greater detail in the next book.  NO HOPE will lift those skirts a little higher.  All I’ll say at this point is you’ll get a much more wide-angle view of the world of the Book.

And if you’re going to be anywhere near Barrie this weekend (Oct 1-2), Art Ce Soir will be taking place from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am.  I’ll be there with the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County (WCSC) and I’ll be reading from Vanishing Hope as well as hosting a couple of writing workshops.  And Sunday, I’ll be out at the lunch meeting of the Writers’ Community of York Region (WCYR) hobnobbing and selling books.

And of course, one last reminder that you can purchase VANISHING HOPE at Burning Effigy.

Thanks to all who provided all the positive comments above (and that’s all of them, I didn’t edit out any negative ones, honest!).  All the support I’ve received has meant more to me than any of you can know.

I really appreciate it.

Get over yourself

What the hell is wrong with public figures these days?  Scarlett Johansson has had nude pics leaked to the internet.  FBI are looking into it.  Closely.

So, how many Hollywood stars does this make?  About a billion?  Seriously, at this point, I truly don’t care who “hacked” her and posted them.  I really don’t.  I don’t care if they catch them.  I don’t give a rodent’s rectal orifice.

Because this would all stop tomorrow if just one little thing happened…and I know I’m talking crazy here, but still…all they need to do is not take nude pictures of themselves!

I know, I know, crazy concept.

I may be jaded, but I really think most of these “leaked” photos are a way to get the person’s name in the news, trending on Twitter and talked about on Facebook.  And it works, cuz here I am talking about it myself.

In this case, as far as I can tell, Scarlett took the pics herself.  So, let’s just slow down for a second here and look at this first point.  She took the pictures herself.  Why?  She’s going to check them out later?  She’s going to look back fondly on them some day when she’s older and her birthday suit could use some ironing to get the wrinkles out?

Who the hell takes pictures of their nude self?  I sure as hell don’t.  Ain’t no one wanting to look at this wreckage, me most especially.  And what would I be thinking?  “Whoa!  Check out that fine, fine ass on that guy!  Hey, that’s art, baby!  Oh, wait!  That’s me!  Day-ammmmmnn!  I’m pretty fly for a white guy!”

Yeah, not so much.  And if Scarlett, you’re doing that for any reason closely resembling that?  Get over yourself.

But it’s not just her.  Chris Brown, Vanessa Hudgens, Amber Rose, Kendra Wilkinson, and of course, the heavyweights, Paris Hilton and the tag team of Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson.  Paris didn’t seem like there was a hotel room (most likely all Hiltons is my guess) that she could keep clothed in.  Tommy and Pam humped their way across a paradise.  I hope they used sunblock.

Even Gene Simmons was caught on video with an Austrian model back in 2008.  Okay, granted, he hadn’t hit 60 just yet, but who wants to look at his bloated ass doing the hokey pokey?  Ewwwwww.

What is it with these people?  Why is it the pictures are snapped, the videos are recorded and then, suddenly, when the images are released, they are shocked, outraged, embarrassed and seek legal damages while waving a pointed finger authoritatively in the air, as though all this righteous bluster will carry on up to the Lord so everyone will understand that they really do have Ethics and Morals and aren’t Bad People…they’re just photographed that way.

Please.

And the FBI now has to look into this crap.  Cuz, you know, this is the most important and valuable use of their time.  Forget all the serial murderers and those that have defrauded billions of dollars.  Forget all the future crimes that they may stumble across leads for.  Naw, let’s go looking for the guy the hacked and released the pictures that Scarlett Johansson took of herself and stupidly kept on a device that was hooked to a public network.  Yeah, let’s do that.  That’s much more important.

Ah well, at least some of the guys will get new desktop wallpapers out it.  So it’s not all bad, I guess.

People.  The expression used to be “keep it in your pants” and they were referring to your genitalia.  Now, consider the same expression being applied to all recording devices.  Keep them in your pants.

And keep your damn clothes on.  Cuz I don’t want to see it, hear about it or blog about it anymore.  I couldn’t give a rodent’s rectal orifice.

To my son…

Fifteen years ago today, my son came into the world, and my God, life took such a left turn afterward.  In a good way, if unpredictable.

Our daughter was just over three years old, and really, had been the model baby and toddler.  Quiet, neat, gentle on her toys…it was like the set-up to the punchline that is my son.  And again, I don’t mean that in a negative way, more of a holy-crap-we-didn’t-see-THAT-one-coming way.

Ignoring some of the more obvious signs–that we’ll touch on in a minute–my son’s delivery was much less frantic and traumatic than our daughter’s.  She took 36 long…slow…torturous hours to make her grand entrance.  His was a third of that.  And when he did come, it was just so relaxed.

But, he was born on Friday the 13th.  8 pounds, 13 ounces.  About 13 hours of labour.  And the room my wife recovered in?  1313.

No, no signs of future trouble there.  Uh-uh.  Nope.

He was special right from the beginning.  The first grandson on my wife’s side, following a sister and four female cousins.

But he was also…just…such a boy!  Madison never put anything in her mouth as a toddler.  Not even a soother.  With him, friggin’ everything went in that sloppy hole.  But his favourite thing seemed to be rocks picked up from the driveway.  Not one or two rocks at a time, mind you.  A mouthful.  Crammed tight.

There was an afternoon just after he’d learned to walk that I was making lunch for him and his sister.  She came into the kitchen at one point, complaining that her brother was trying to hit her with a stick.  I looked at her disbelievingly.  “Madison,” I said in my still relatively new parent voice.  “A stick?  There’s no sticks in the living room.  Now stop trying to get your brother in trouble and go back out there and play while I get lunch ready.”  She dutifully trotted off.

Minutes later, she came back in the kitchen.  Crying.  With a red, very stick-like line on her face.  “What happened?” I asked.

“He hit me.”

“He did?”

“Yeah,” she said.  “With a stick!”

I went out to the living room and there was my son.  With a stick in his hand.  Smiling.  I know what you’re thinking, but in my defense, technically I was correct.  There were no sticks in the living room.  My son found one…by ripping off a section of trim from our wall unit.

He later went on to duplicate the stick thing with the slats in the crib, breaking through those like he was bustin’ outta Alcatraz.  If they ever remake the movie The Rock, my son could play the lead.

Because his escape talents didn’t stop at crib bars.  Oh no.  He was soon hopping the crib barriers to get out.  When he graduated to a kid bed, we were still concerned about him making mischief through the house.  So we put up a kid gate at his door.

He woke me up the next morning by slapping my forehead while stating, quite proudly, “I’m OUT!”

So we put another gate above that first one.  Climb over two of them smartypants, I thought.  He woke me up again the next morning by slapping my forehead while stating, again quite proudly, “I’m OUT!”

Yeah, he’d simply managed to push that second one high enough that he could slip between them.

When I managed to lock them together, he overturned his toy buckets to get out.  Though he couldn’t really verbalize it, I got the message loud and clear: There ain’t a prison built that I can’t bust out of.

Things didn’t really change as he grew.

The biggest things to know about my son is that he’s a creative spirit that needs to understand how things work.  To put it another way, he likes to tear things apart.  And he’s never been a colour-inside-the-lines kid.

Every parent thinks their kid is brilliant.  But we know he is.  When teachers were lazily writing him off in school (ironically, because they considered him lazy), we ran him through a battery of tests.  The testers, when talking about his performance, typically looked at us wide-eyed, shaking their heads.  They’d never seen a kid perform so well on some of the tests.  He got answers right they’d never seen done before.  He did it all in his head, multi-part math questions and spatial problems that made my brain sweat to think of determining an answer.

And he’d just shrug.  It’s the way he works.  So, he wasn’t lazy, as those lazy teachers thought.  The explanation for his performance that’s always stuck with me is this one:  Imagine you’ve just bought a high-performance sports car.  Now imagine you’re driving it off the lot, itching to experience some speed.  Now imagine everytime you drive it, you’re faced with nothing but speed bumps.

That’s what my son was facing.  Not laziness.  Speed bumps.

And now, at fifteen and virtually the same height as me, my baby boy now at the cusp of being a very handsome man, it’s his mind that fascinates me.  He sees things so differently at times, makes some of the most incredible connections.

And his sense of humour never fails to absolutely flatten me.  Aside from my best friend, my son is the only other one I can count on to say something so unexpected, so funny, and so out of left field, that he leaves me teary-eyed and gasping for breath from the belly laughs.

He’s never going to be your typical, normal guy.  And there’s times it pains me knowing the tough road he will face at times with a mind and personality like his.  But I look at him and all I see is vast, unlimited possibilities.

Like I said, fifteen years ago, life took a left turn.  And we’ve been lead down some incredible roads since then.  We’ve been shown amazing wonderful things.  All from our Friday the Thirteenth kid.

And, challenging as it’s been, it’s also been a hell of a fun ride.  I eagerly look forward to what’s next.

I just hope it’s better than eating rocks.

Happy Birthday, Hunter.  I love you, dude.