June 19th, 2012


4. Progonish

When it comes to experiencing the sheer, awesome power of Nature, many well-known places spring to mind: Niagara Falls. Mauna Kea. Tuktoyaktuk. But for my (generally hypothetical) money, the most incredible, impressive, intimidating, and inspiring* display of Nature is right here in Sherbrooke. Yes, it's the black flies. Industrious. Indefatigable. Unending. Relentless.

* - Mostly oaths, but still.

They are really quite something. I've never before needed a bug jacket just to vacuum a car. And after that was finished, the inside of the car was crawling with the blas- blessed things. At least they were easy to promote to a higher level of existence, if you gather me. They seem to be playing a numbers game at the moment. It's to the point where, after blowing your nose, you check your tissue for little legs. (If no one's watching, anyway.)

Still, they don't bother you too much if you are doing something that requires movement, such as running, provided it's running as if you were being chased by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, who actually don't seem so bad after all, do they?

* * *

A long time ago, a friend told me that I should be more "Will, the person" and less "Will, the character". I understood what he meant at the time, but I didn't have much of an idea as to how I was going to address it. And even today, in many cases I use what people might think of me as a source of laughs.

I think I can still keep doing that, but only if I have an answer about who I actually am. And now I think I do, even though it's incomplete: I'm a nerd searching for a purpose.

In some fundamental way, that's much more satisfying than "I'm an [insert subject here] student" because there is always the question "And then what?" or "What are you going to do with that?" Very good questions, but I have no answers to them, in part because I don't know my purpose. (I don't know if we even really have to have purposes, other than perhaps living for the day.) I also don't know what the future holds, and I don't know if I will or will not "plateau" as an informatological technoperson - this will be a problem if the "when" is in September or October, with lots of months still ahead, filled with stuff to learn to do and then do. So I can only speculate, and in doing this I come off as lacking in confidence. I am, I suppose, but only in a sensible way. Surely with great grades I must also be able to eke out a living? Perhaps, but not surely. A lot of wildly successful people are dropouts anyway.

I don't even really care any more about the particularities of the job at the end of the tunnel, though. It might relate to what I'm studying and it might not. The most important thing is that I'll have finished something that I can be proud of. I can stand on a soapbox and say "Look at all this shit I did! I'm resourceful!" And then I'll play character parts in B-movies, if I'm spectacularly lucky.

I'm still in some pain from time to time and it would be really nice if I could just clack away at the keyboard all day without a twinge. (Or would it? It seems like a terrible way to waste a life if you really think about it.) I don't know if those days will ever come back. I'm glad I went to school last year and fought through the pain instead of staying home and being lonely and miserable all the time. Can I do another year of this, though? (We'll find out, won't we?)

* * *

On Friday night there was a benefit concert for a Village resident who is undergoing cancer treatment. I wasn't able to get down the street in time to meet up with the usual folks for pre-drinking, but I did get a ride to the liquor store and back.

The concert was at the Presbyterian church. Curiously, there was no cash bar. But seriously, there ought to have been an intermission. A 10-minute break to get up and stretch would have been welcome. I took a few opportunities to get up between sets, but that was easy for me because I was sitting at the back anyway. Now that I think about it, it would have been neat to take in the concert from the balcony, but I would have made a conspicuous racket going up and down the creaky wooden steps.

Performed were some great vocals and great guitar playing and sometimes even both at the same time! j/k I was moved by many of the songs, and most were new to me as I'm not much of a folk listener. But I remembered how I have a cousin or two on PEI that love the style, so I tried to put myself in their shoes so as to appreciate it better. Anyway, the performers came from all over, and there was one twenties-ish woman from Antigonish who sang to a karaoke tape - it took me a few minutes to suspend my disbelief, but we ended up giving her a standing ovation. It was funny because a while before she went up, I figured I could do this if I had a karaoke tape. And later there she was, with a karaoke tape. A very good voice in search of a few friends. I sympathize.

To balance the ledger, there was a great bit that didn't have any vocals at all - just three guitars (one an electric bass). I could have listened to those three jam for hours. Even while sitting on an unforgiving church pew.

On Sunday my uncle and his partner and her son (and his friend) came down for the night. The son brought along a pellet gun to try out, and when he was proposing that he (14) and his friend (11) go out and shoot without additional supervision, he added the epithet "What could possibly go wrong?" His uncle and I exchanged a look.

"You really can put somebody's eye out with that," I volunteered. But my uncle had a better warning: By dint of his naval experience, he knows of times when people practicing with submachine guns have heard their names called and spun around to face their caller. So he went out with them. And they had fun, and I presume in reasonable safety.

Also that day, an elder friend from Halifax called letting me know that he and his family have someone staying with them who's there to practice her English. I know, right? I thanked him profusely for thinking of me, but my re-joining the little social club will have to wait until I'm in the area again.

Now there's an interesting conflict of interests - not really within me, thankfully, but here it is: my grandparents would rather not have to go to Halifax for medical treatment, but if they do, I imagine it'll be at least overnight, and I'll probably get a chance to get out and see some people - old, new, whomever. So I am kind of hoping for Halifax, though I guess for their sake I am also hoping not, so maybe I do have a genuine conflict-of-interest in that sense, but at least I'm not the one who decides.

Anyway, it's okay if I don't go to Halifax because today [Monday, when writing this] I am cautiously optimistic that there is hope around here. If anything exciting happens, I promise you'll hear of it in good time.

Today I took my grandfather to Antigonish for his procedure. It was being done in day surgery and he'd be staying overnight. I originally expected I'd be staying in the hospital for, I don't know, moral support? (He did have to ask what my last name was in order to get a form filled out.) But he came out of the processing room and kindly said, "You're dismissed," and the nurse said, "We'll take care of him from here." OK, cool. So I went and got groceries and had lunch. Service at the Antigonish A&W was lightning-quick - I was impressed.

I really like Antigonish. It's a full-service town, but it's also really folksy. And they even have a university. People are for the most part exceptionally friendly. And there are a lot of beautiful pale* Scottish-ish red-headed women. Not the only kind I like, but certainly a weakness for me.

* - I like colors just fine, too. In this case I am fairly pale myself and I think it is attraction-to-sameness, and I know it is certainly not white supremacist bullshit.

Here's a fun secret: The quality of services is usually a lot better in rural areas and small towns. Why? Because it's necessarily personal - you're not anonymous, and you often didn't have to wait in line. But you wouldn't really want this level of attention in the city because it would create gridlock (metaphorically and literally). Here, you get to be spoiled practically all the time. It almost goes without saying that I like being spoiled.

Anyway, it looks like my grandfather's procedure went without a hitch - he doesn't have a phone in his room, but the nurses reported that he was up and doing his puzzles. Tomorrow morning we'll call and find out if they'll keep him for an additional day - but I suspect they won't need to, so I'll be showered and ready to go when we phone.

Now I look forward to an exciting six weeks of keeping him away from the whipper-snipper and occasionally using the darned thing myself. Taking care of this expansive and complicated lawn is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. I think it can go a few more days before we get back at it. As long as people don't think we're growing hay, I think we're okay. Just do enough to make it look like somebody cares.

Well, I care. Sigh. Brrrzzz. Brrrrrzzzzzzz. Brrrrrrzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I picked up my grandfather without incident and he is now resting at home.