As is the habit around here, I like to do a year’s in review sorta post. Actually, that’s the habit everywhere. So saying it’s the habit around here is a bit like when Peggy from King of the Hill calls spaghetti ”SpaPeggy”. I should just call it the habit. And I don’t even like doing this post all that much because I loathe looking behind me and imposing a narrative on life requires fiction or, even worse, journalism. So I should probably cut all this whole paragraph out.
Anyway, your end of year post . . .
Seems like most people had a pretty terrible 2012. I had a decent one. But it was also quite busy and it’s a little hard to figure out exactly how everything went down. I just know it did. And fast.
I actually don’t even know if it’s been a decent year. It’s been an important one. But time will measure its decency. It’s been liminal. I’ve been fluxed.
Let’s try to put it together, shall we.
2012 started with my wife’s immigration to Canada drowning in the tar-pit of bureaucracy. Life eroded our savings. But, last January, this was just a background stress. It’d been going on for a while. It looked to go on for a while longer. We’d discussed plans to get out of Canada, see if we could make a life somewhere else. These plans were all vague.
I’d just had my first novel published. So I had to do some sort of publicity for the thing. Spent too much money (out of my own pocket) sending people review copies only to see very few of these reviews materialize. But I expected it to be a money-losing endeavour.
This book game takes time. Basically, you tread water and try to drown slower than everyone around you. At least, that’s my take. I’m about endurance.
I had all that publicity shit going on. Was working on another book, had my day-job and developed some sort of nerve damage in my arm. When it wasn’t numb and tingling, it was in pain. Work-related. The clock had started ticking on my body. Restaurants are a hard business.
My book was short-listed for Canada’s top two speculative fiction awards — The Aurora and The Sunburst, neither of which I won but it actually is an honour to be nominated.
Unlike in any other field of cultural endeavour, Canada is a world leader in SF. These awards are a long way from the Oscars but they’re a pretty nice pat on the back. While I’m pretty cynical about awards and the awards process –feeling that they sometimes drive wedges between those who would otherwise be comrades and that praise is dangerous– I’ll take it where I can get it.
Of course, none of this pays the bills. And with my wife and I struggling, watching our future being eaten, we had to do something. We’d considered moving to Mexico, Central America, a lot of different places. The decision was made. We would move.
I saw the house prices in my wife’s hometown of Sacramento. The prices can’t get lower, I thought. Just can’t. For the home prices to get lower, it’s have to go like Detroit. But it’s not Detroit. It’s the state capital of California. I gave her all my money and she took all of hers. “Buy a house.” She left that week. I’d been waiting on a crash for a long time.
The California real estate one had finally hit bottom.
She spent months couch surfing, looking at houses, while I worked and tried to help from afar. We fired our first real estate agent after she almost moved us into a daylight robbery sort of neighbourhood. (This was our only real requirement: We don’t want to be robbed in daylight.) Our second agent was much better.
It was a long stressful process. We competed with investors who wanted to buy foreclosed properties to rent or flip them. Houses had gone from being on the market for over 100 days to less than 10. The sharks were out in force.
Are we sharks? No. We aimed to live and work in a neighbourhood. Not drain it of money.
My wife found a place and we bought. I don’t remember how many we tried to get before this one.
Writers face a catch 22. Most publishing houses will not even look at books without representation and most reputable agents won’t take on writers who haven’t published a book. Basically, you need an agent to sell a book and you can’t get an agent without selling a book. That I managed to sell a novel without an agent or many short story credits is, well . . .
Don’t try it at home. Let’s put it that way.
(If you’re interested, standard route is to sell short stories to the major markets, use those to help you find an agent and then sell a novel. Sounds easy. It’s not. Nothing is.)
With just about everything I hoped to accomplish relating to my first novel accomplished and probably everything I ever wanted to accomplish when I moved to Toronto done –with a lot more besides– I packed up shop, gave my notice at work and prepared for launch.
Those last weeks in Toronto were strange. I felt like a ghost haunting my life.
I had a bizarre urge to revisit all the places that were important to me in Toronto. Most of them were gone or had changed so much they might as well have been.
My work threw a going away party for me. It was really nice. Old and new friends and . . .
I miss my work comrades. Maybe more than anything. I worked in the same place for years with many of the same people. Talking to the same people over the bar. They were almost like a family to me. I miss it. Not the work but sometimes even that.
All that aside, I got across the border and across the country.
Stayed with my wife in a Motel 6 for longer than anyone should stay in a Motel 6 with anyone.
Our house closed. We moved in.
I finished my second first draft of the year — started rewrites– and a short little novella. Am working all the time. Fixing up the house too. It’s a decent hood. Blue collar.
I wake up to things like this.
Or like this:
Instead of this:
I won’t lie. It takes some getting used to.
I’m so not used to it that I don’t even know what I’m not used to. Is it being in a much smaller city? Having space and a yard? Being a homeowner rather than a renter? Lacking a country? Being in a different one? Is it an east and west coast thing? The light? Full time writing. Not serving tables?
What the fuck am I not used to?
I feel like I’ve moved into the television. That time stands still here. And that America is trying to murder me. That it’s trying to murder everyone. That it’s an evil place. And the evil is no big deal. It’s just here like snow is in Canada. Everyone is used to it. They know how to walk on ice.
I look around and it’s either the start of a YouTube fight clip, a television show, a movie or a music video. It just has those sort of trees. We live next to the police helicopter’s roost. Beneath its spotlights. Just like movie stars.
I don’t know anyone.
I feel myself losing grip on any sort of abstract identity Nationality, all of that noise, but brought into hard contact with the mundane facts of place. I’m American until I disagree with one.
It’s not even worth having an opinion.
I feel like an exile. It’s not a bad way for me to feel.
Anyway, I hope you’re all doing well. I miss you. Sort of.
I hope the future treats us all kindly. No matter how we treat it.
I’m going to watch Bladerunner as is my NYE tradition.