Monday, May 14, 2007

I remember making my own flip books....

My mother just got back from a vacation, and she gave my daughter a really cool flip book that uses actual photographs of sea lions, so when you flip the pages, it's like you are watching a wee movie. The book is awesome, and it sparked a memory for me.

I was bored in many classes in junior high and high school. I would take my pencil, start on the first page of whatever textbook I was using for the class I was in, and I would draw a stick man. On the second page, the stick man would be moved very slightly, the third page a little know how flip book animation works, right? I never knew what would happen to the little man until I drew it. Sometimes his head would pop off and he'd have to chase it, sometimes he'd fall off the bottom of the page and have to climb back up, sometimes he'd meet a stick woman...every text book was a different story.

It was perfect. I could still listen to the teacher, and as far as they could tell, I was absorbed in making notes or something. Once the drawings were all laboriously completed, I'd sit back in my seat and flip through the pages of my text and feel very pleased with myself as the little man would come to life. I don't think I showed these animations to anyone else. I had learned early on in junior high that any creative impulse must be hidden or you would be tortured for it. The little men were my little secret.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I remember a friend with amnesia....

Anyone who has lived through secondary education knows what a pressure cooker school can be. Every professor thinks their class is the only one, and there are papers and exams and assignments until you sometimes can't remember if you are coming or going. If you are a music student, you also have hours of practice on your instruments of choice as well.

My friend, Rob, was a music major. He was so talented musically, had a disarming and charming sense of humor, and somehow managed to be completely suave and totally geeky both at the same time. One night he was giving an informal concert in the student lounge. He pulled a stool up on the stage and asked for a volunteer, then walked straight up to me and dragged me up there. He sang "Ain't Misbehavin'" to me, making me blush twelve shades of red when he'd look into my eyes and sing "I'm savin' my love for you!". It was a fun evening.

Not very long after that, Rob collapsed in his room, unable to breathe, a complete breakdown. He was rushed to Emergency, and we were all very concerned. Word came back to the school over the next few days that Rob had lost his memory, and once he was up to it, would probably benefit from visits from some of his friends.

A small group of us traveled to the hospital as soon as we were allowed. Rob was sitting up in his hospital bed. He looked at us all quizzically, and we introduced ourselves. He was still completely himself, charming and geeky, but he did not know who we were, he did not know his own name, he did not remember how to read...he couldn't remember ANYTHING! It was the oddest thing.

His roommate stuck in a cassette tape of some Beethoven symphony. Rob perked up. "What is that?"

"That's Beethoven. That's music."

"I like it! I like music!"

I felt like crying.

"Do you hear that da-da-da thing with the interesting tone? What is that?"

"That's the trumpet, Rob. You play the trumpet."

"I do?"

"Yes, you do."

"Well, listen to it. Can you hear it? There are four of them playing different's pretty. I like it."

Even though he didn't know what he was listening to, he was listening to it better than any of us could. His talent, his humour, the things that made him Rob were all still there. He just couldn't remember anything.

Over the next few weeks he began to regain his memory, bit by bit. The prognosis: stress. The treatment: take it slow. He didn't finish the school year, though he did come to visit a few times. It made me sad to see him, he seemed so tired and fragile. I found myself wondering how close to the line I was, how close to a breakdown, and what parts of me would be left if I got total amnesia.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I remember the longest line of cocaine I ever saw....

I was living with Theresa. People would ask me, when they'd found out I'd moved in with her, how I could stand living with her...she was always talking fifty miles over the speed limit, she was intense and loud, her hands were always moving and fidgeting and pulling on her long red hair....and I'd reply that I didn't need a TV, I could just sit back and watch T. I got a kick out of her and her vibrating energy.

One day her old boyfriend, Seppo, got back from a fishing trip. This translates to "loaded with money and needs to burn it". He came over with Kelly, a quirky young punk-rocker we all knew, and a big bag of cocaine. We closed the curtains, put on Led Zeppelin II, cracked some beer and began to party, just the four of us.

The party itself is rather unmemorable; we didn't terrorize the neighbours, we didn't bust a hole in the wall. We just hung out listening to loud music. The reason I tell this story is because of this one image in my mind. Seppo, T. and I are all sitting on her bed, looking at records and liner notes in the dusty dimness. We look up, and Kelly is quietly sitting on the floor. He has taken the full length mirror off our wall, and has proceeded to cut the longest line of cocaine I have ever seen, snaking from one end of the mirror to the other and back again three times. We have no idea how long this has taken him. I can see him quietly bending over the mirror making little tiny chops...he looks up as he realizes we are watching him, and kind of giggles. "I just wanted to do one more line."

The line must have been 15 feet long! Silly boy.

I thought to myself at that moment..."This should be a scene in a movie. My life is like a movie."