Fighting with Fritz

 A group of Canadian soldiers strung out in the streets of Cambrai against its still burning buildings. Photo by William Rider-Rider (Imperial War Museum, CO3373)

A group of Canadian soldiers strung out in the streets of Cambrai against its still burning buildings. Photo by William Rider-Rider (Imperial War Museum, CO3373)


A four generation, one hundred year retrospective on blood ties and the First World War

Next November marks the centennial anniversary of the end of The Great War. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that; in my heart, I'm not sure if it will ever feel that far away. Through an eerie type of kismet, this year was also the year I inherited a valuable relic from my mother's estate. The artifact, now in my possession, is a portion of my maternal great-grandfather Fred W. Tobey's war letters. The First World War always stands as a unique keystone in my personal sense of history. In my mind, it's the frontier of relatable modernity. That last point on the horizon of time where things become too difficult to discern, too hazy, too foreign. A global community of nations, women's suffrage, mass communication, the automobile, electricity, flight, the West fully in the throes of industrialization, the United States beginning its ascendancy. All these things are recognizable, and they make up a world that we -with a bit of imagination- understand.

We're told that it was the World War that needn't have been fought. Jefferson's prediction of a grand folly of entangling alliances come true. But this view is made possible with hindsight, the people who lived through it, in those moments, I'm not sure they saw it that way. Increasing the contemporary vision of this time is one of being the last extension of an overt European Imperialism. The propaganda of the time paints a different story, a story of young men fighting for King and Country, and of a hereditary link to feudal covenants. They paint a picture of the beaver standing tall abreast the lion, each holding the line against invading Huns. Historians will speak of a dominion forged into a nation through the crucible of French battlefields.

I want to know the personal truth of those days that my great-grandfather can offer me. I could always read published works reflecting those years, but these letters are tied to me. Tied through lineage, and blood, and culture. I want his words to cast clairvoyance over the preconceptions on this period. I want to discover what lies in those pages of those letters, and to learn a bit more about who the young Fred W. Tobey was.

 A postcard of Collégiale Notre-Dame et Saint-Domitian in Huy, Belgium. Fred sent this along with his letters in 1919.

A postcard of Collégiale Notre-Dame et Saint-Domitian in Huy, Belgium. Fred sent this along with his letters in 1919.

Before finding the letters, I had only one memory of my great-grandfather. It was of my grampa pulling me aside on a childhood visit and showing me a picture of the man. He stood there in the Saskatchewan wilderness, a family portrait with six of his brood. Being upwards of sixth-foot-four, my first thought was, "why don't they make us in that size anymore?" The pride my grandpa bestowed in the man, his namesake, was palpable in the space between us. Man, was he tall though, to stand against those northern prairies pines and not be dwarfed, only some can manage that feat.

His grand size would make him an ideal machine gunner, and one of the weapons used by the British Empire was the Lewis gun. A twenty-nine-pound personal behemoth. For those of you who aren't familiar with historical armaments, the Lewis was one of the earlier modern portable machine guns. It's fat barrelled and has a magazine that feeds into it that looks like someone welded a zoescope on top of a gun. It was most effective at bringing down enemy aircraft, but it still did the job of "cutting up" enemy forces.

 a Lewis Gun from the Canadian War Museum Archives

a Lewis Gun from the Canadian War Museum Archives

After reading the letters, what I found most remarkable was how cavalier Fred was in the face of all the violence and death in the war. My grampa mentions this fact in a forward to some of the transcriptions, "...I've got to know him better. He had a lot to go through, but (he) kept his sense of humour."

"A lot to go through," is quite the understatement. Violence came in no short order in those years and Fred witnessed his share of it. The First World War holds a unique place in history. All of the machinations of industrialization loosed on the battlefield, with none of the constraints. The Geneva Protocols would come too late for many of the dead in Europe.

Fred recounts several graphic scenes from his combat. One terrific dogfight that he describes as the "the fine(st) exhibition of stunt flying we ever saw," three allied fighters pursued a German bi-plane. The axis Pilot almost escapes with Fred recanting, "...but our planes would not be denied their prey." Fifty feet from touching down, allied incendiary bullets pierce the plane's gas tank, and the whole thing goes up in "a mass of seething flames." The next day he came across the conflagrated remains of the pilot and observer, their charred hands still clutching their faces in attempts to at protect them from the encircling flames. Once a man, who just survived through a gas attack, stumbled along their line's position. In his delirium, he's unable to follow Fred's advice to fall back even further. The second time an artillery round came for him, he did not survive it. Once, when his company is told to take a forward position, the men use the burning remains of a body as a landmark, the corpse had been given a battlefield "cremation" by the phosphorus artillery round that killed him. Even when combat abated there were long marches to be had, though "the darnedest array of barware entanglements, shell holes, shell fire, and machine gun fire." During one night a group supply horses were shelled into utter oblivion. Fred once saw a young many holding his wrist. "What a peach of a blighty. Ain't I well away," the man said in elation. Machine-gun fire tore through the wrist; he'd won his ticket back to England.

Fred avoids using the words death, or dead as much as possible in his correspondence. Instead men "get theirs coming and going," they "doze off into a quiet, peaceful sleep and wake up in the great beyond," they "cross the river to make peace with their makers," maybe they are part of a group and "it's R.I.P for the bunch." I don't know whether this is a coping mechanism, dealing with the wanton destruction of life, or whether Fred wanted to endow some poetic meaning to the passing of these men. I like to think it's the later. In one of the few occasions that he uses the "d" word, he applies extra amounts of reverence. After taking a road near Cambria and reflecting on the casualties he remarks, "many a hero died (in the attack) to lift one hero into fame."

He frequently references luck as a force to be reckoned with. If true, then I think Lady Fortuna is one of the most indiscriminate capricious cosmic forces in this universe. I feel like you'd have to believe it a little. You'd need it to power the resolve and determination to go over the top of trench lines. When on an attack to take a nearby road, Fred merely decides as he goes over the top that "a few of us would reach the road and I would be one of the few."

As is typical with most enlisted men Fred had his share of ups and downs with N.C.O.s and officers. He recounts a "cool as a cucumber" Sargent spotting a group of enemy machine gunners. An exchange of gunfire followed both sides "cutting the grass" of no-mans-land. The Sargent held steady, directing the men's fire, "give it to them (men), you got three (guns), and they are scattering in every direction…!" In another incident, a startled officer comes down the line warning that the Fritz are making a charge, my great-grandfather recognizing his manner as being spooked. The German charge the man thought was coming was no more than old telephone poles in the distance obscured by a hillside. Fred not wishing to give away their position takes great lengths to pretend his Lewis was jammed. The officer blew the whole incident off when his head finally cooled. He would, however, take a vindictive stance to Fred's inspection checks from then on, making sure his gun had the correct maintenance. After the war was over, but before the men returned home, he bartered away his war trophies to a "bomb proof" Sergeant Major. A pair of German glasses and a belted dagger taken from the battlefield were exchanged for simple food money.

When mortality is in question, more often than not, it's expected that individuals will take a special delight in simple things provided, and an equally special agony in essentials denied. When things went good there was respite. When things went bad, they went really bad. There were times when a few draughts of rum could be paradise. In Fred's opinion, if there was anything worse than facing death, it was facing death unrested with an empty stomach. He mentions times when no officers we around, and two men were left keeping watch, they'd take turns getting a few hours of rest, a necessary break in the protocol to give them the energy to charge in the morning. The distance between being dry and wet is great enough to build a railroad across. Fred often took strides to keep sheets of corrugated iron on hand to provide cover from rainfall On "lovely mild" nights a "spare parts bag (felt like) a feather pillow"  Multiple times he writes of using his trenching tool to shovel makeshift holes out from artillery fire, ancient mammalian instinct to desperately dig for survival. Occasionally, when fighting died low enough, the Y.M.C.A. would build forward outposts and supply provisions to the men. Fred makes biscuits and tea sound like a decadent fest, "they had gallons and gallons of lovely tea...before long there was a line a kilometre long of hungry soldiers from all branches of the service, all waiting...to get some extras."

 Picture of Fred W. Tobey in London, England. Taken in 1919 shortly before returning to canada.

Picture of Fred W. Tobey in London, England. Taken in 1919 shortly before returning to canada.

Sometimes I can't believe how similar in spirits those young men are to my own friends. During a long march, Fred gets the idea that he'll lift morale with a little song. No sooner than when the first notes go out that he's met groans, dog howls and intimidating demands for cessation, "put a sock in it," or "can it," or my personal favourite, "somebody bomb Tobey." To this he offers his own retort, "cheer up, we'll be dead soon. We're fooling the Fritz anyway. This is army tactics, so Fritz can't get (the) correct range." I'm a bit older than the age of most of the enlisted at the time of these letters. John Babcock -Canada's last Great War veteran passed away in twenty-ten. For me though, when I think about those veterans and the fallen, I'll always be the little boy passing reverent daydreams of those young men half a world away.

In the end, I don't think it's ever about causes or country for men who fight and die in war. If you wanted a reason why someone would go through such agony, I think Fred summed it up best. "Greater love has no man than when he lays down his life for his friend...it generally happens when the chance comes the best in each of us comes out, and self is forgotten in the knowledge of the suffering of others being greater than your own." No, they don't make them as tall as they did, and they don't make them as brave either.


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Tristan is a level six wizard imbued with an enchanted Staff of Intelligence. The charming hybrid of punk, geek, and hippie culture. An avid writer, and even more avid reader. His focus covers topics like pop culture, history, politics, gaming, and science fiction.

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Tristan Handley

Tristan is a level six wizard imbued with an enchanted Staff of Intelligence. The charming hybrid of punk, geek, and hippie culture. An avid writer, and even more avid reader. His focus covers topics like pop culture, history, politics, gaming, and science fiction.

Editing Without Ego: profile of Robert Giroux

By Sheila Hill

“The length was impossible.  The editor at Harcourt was, is, my old friend Bob Giroux…When you hear your words read aloud in a refectory, it makes you wish you had never written at all.’’ [i] Thomas Merton, OSB.

Literary editor and publisher Robert Giroux worked with some of the most influential talents of the twentieth century.  During a career that spanned six decades, beginning at Harcourt Brace & Co. in 1939, and continuing with Farrar & Straus – where he later became partner -  his roster of writers included Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, Robert Lowell, Flannery O’Connor, and Thomas Merton.  He edited and published Nobel laureates and Pulitzer prize writers, such as T.S. Eliot and John Berryman. 

Born in New Jersey in 1914, Giroux was from a Roman Catholic family and attended the Jesuit academy St. Regis High School in New York.  Although he dropped out of high school to work at the Jersey Journal, he nevertheless won a partial scholarship to Columbia University.  It was there that he met many of the writers with whom he would eventually work.

Harcourt and FSG

Among the first works he published at Harcourt were Woolf’s Between the Acts, Kerouac’s The Town and the City, O’Connor’s Wise Blood, and Merton’s The Seven Story Mountain: An Autobiography of Faith.  When Giroux, a junior editor, asked senior editor Don Brace to review Merton’s autobiography, unsure of its commercial appeal, Brace responded, “I’ll read it in print.  If you like, let’s do it” (Letters of Robert Giroux & Thomas Merton).  This display of trust and confidence reflects the credibility and reputation that Giroux would enjoy throughout his career.

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After 15 years with Harcourt, in 1955 Giroux moved to Farrar & Straus (FS).  On his joining FS, Roger Straus Jr. said it was, “the best thing that ever happened to his house” (First Things 2014).  As testimony to this, as well as to Giroux’s character, writers en masse followed him from Harcourt to FS (Washington Post).  Flannery O’Connor broke a contract with another publishing firm to follow Giroux, and T.S. Eliot cabled Don Brace at Harcourt to tell him he was following Giroux with his next book.

In 1964 Giroux became Chairman of Farrar & Straus and his name was added to the company.  Straus’ and Giroux’s individual strengths and styles complemented one another, resulting in a successful partnership that made Farrar, Straus & Giroux (FSG) a powerhouse in the world of highbrow literature.  Straus was the public face of the company focused on public relations and business matters, while Giroux focused on the books and developing writers.  As Julia Yost explains, “he implemented Straus’s vision for Farrar, Straus & Giroux: to chase not bestsellers but the best authors, to accrue prestige rather than millions” (First Things 2014). 

Their partnership also contributed to building a community of writers that reflected Jewish and Catholic identity within the American literary landscape, as well as a style of confessional writing.  With writers like Flannery O’Connor, John Berryman and Thomas Merton, Giroux cultivated a Catholic ethos in literature. “Giroux was a Catholic editor who had his foot in the secular and mainstream world” (First Things 2013).

 Editorial Style

Giroux’s editorial style has been described as brilliant and modest (Courtly Icon).  But, he was also very tactful.   He approached editing with a subtle hand, offering support, to ensure that an author’s voice and story shone.   While his editing was attentive and precise, he was a cutter when needed.  His style was balanced. 

Giroux appreciated the aesthetic and was not afraid to take a creative risk, yet he was pragmatic at the same time.  Of his style, Matt Schudel noted that he, “wielded the sharpest pencil and held the hands of temperamental authors” (Washington Post).  As for holding hands, Giroux took time to build relationships with his writers.  He was dedicated to developing young talent and he nurtured friendships.  And, he was very much an advocate for his writers – good literature and friends mattered.  When he would receive criticism for publishing Merton, a contemplative, Giroux responded by handing out cards he had printed saying, “Writing is a form of contemplation” (Letters of Robert Giroux & Thomas Merton).

In an interview with The Paris Review, Giroux described the most important elements of editing as judgement, taste and empathy.  Giroux was well respected for his literary taste.  When asked about his thoughts about publishing in an interview with Saturday Review Magazine, Giroux replied, “If it isn’t about what you like and believe in, you might as well manufacture sausages” (Washington Post).

Controversies

While at Harcourt, Giroux reviewed and accepted The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.  He felt strongly about this work and fought hard for it.  Despite his efforts, however, the “powers that be” rejected it.  Giroux later said of the loss, “It was the biggest blow of my publishing career” (The New York Times).  Ironically, a few years later at FSG, Giroux had an opportunity to publish Jack Kerouac’s On the Road but he turned it down believing his bosses would reject it. 

Another crisis at Harcourt developed over Merton’s autobiography.  Merton was a Trappist monk and his writings for publication were subject to review by his community. The final Trappist censor refused permission for publication because it spoke to the Trappist way of life  (The Seven Story Mountain).  The problem being Merton was under contract. 

Giroux recommended Merton appeal to the Abbot General in France.  At the same time, Giroux himself worked tirelessly to negotiate permission.  He held firm in his position defending Merton’s work and, in the end, Merton received approval to publish.  The Seven Story Mountain is a literary classic, and it remains one of the most valuable works in Catholic spiritual theology, compared with St. Augustine’s Confessions

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The Person is the Publisher

Fr. Patrick Samway, a dear friend of Giroux’s, as well as editor of The Letters of Robert Giroux and Thomas Merton, described him as having a, “priestly character” without ego.  Merton characterized him as strangely placid, and he was unlike the editable neurotics he hung around with” (Courtly Icon).  Indeed, Giroux was at times a parent to his writers, and his lack of ego served him, and them, well.  While Giroux worked with the most talented and remarkable writers of the twentieth century, some were at the same time very troubled.

As much as Giroux shared the joy of his writers’ success, he also endured their suffering, having lost colleagues and dear friends to tragic circumstances.  Both Virginia Woolf and John Berryman committed suicide.  In 1968, Thomas Merton, at only 48 years old, died accidentally while in Bangkok.  Like Berryman, Jack Keruoac was an alcoholic, the addiction believed to have contributed to his death at age 47 in 1969.  Robert Lowell was depressive – likely bipolar.    

Conclusion

Robert Giroux died on September 5, 2008, at the age of 94.  His work’s legacy speaks for itself.  Mark Van Doren, Giroux’s professor and mentor from Columbia University, said that a literary classic “is a book that remains in print” (The Seven Story Mountain).  Giroux had his hand in many classics.  Reflecting on Thomas Merton hearing his words read aloud in a refectory, what stands out is the word “friend”.  Robert Giroux was a classic.  This is his legacy.

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sheila hill

Sheila's passion for music emerged at a young age.  From dancing around the house to Motown beats, she experimented with road trip rhythms, holding her own with Elton & Kiki.  These early influences surface on her latest release Shower Serenades.  Her repertoire stands the test of time.

Three Strike Downfall

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           The three most significant moments in the past five years seemed like they happened a million years apart, not within the span of a few years. The first moment started when I had made the bold step to move out with my significant other at the age of 18. Though I wasn’t experiencing complete independence, I was with someone who had experienced living on their own for quite some time, so it was still frightening and thrilling. Since a young age, I had looked forward to the day I finally experienced being an adult and moving out into the world on my own. I was moving from the country to the city, and I was leaving high school behind and trading it for real world responsibilities.

            Afterwards, I moved on to my second most significant moment during that time; starting my first year of college, after taking a nerve-racking year off. Though I had some trouble deciding exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, all within a year, I thought I had made the right decision by pursuing an education in Graphic Designer. I had been overwhelmed by the number of classes and material I was learning during the first semester, but I was determined to start looking towards my future and getting into the real world.

            Not long after, I had started to realize I had chosen the wrong course, and followed a fleeting passion. I no longer had the interest in graphic design as I thought I had, and it had become more of a hobby then my life passion. During the hard times that I had faced when taking the multimedia program, I had picked up writing to fill in the boring times in class, or when I lacked motivation to attempt any effort towards my assignments. That realization brought me to also realize just how much I loved writing and reading, and always have, since I was younger. It was a passion before my life had been changed by embracing my slight independence.

            While that turn around happened in my life, for the better, another turn around decided to stumble its way into my life, making its appearance as the third most significant moment in the past 5 years. When I realized my passion for writing, my significant other had realized his lack of passion for our relationship, but couldn’t find it in his heart to let it end. I had suffered through a few months of mental and emotional abuse from the relationship, as I tried to grasp on to the one positive thing in my life at the time; my school and writing.

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            I was then taken from a stable life, with a full-time income and cozy little apartment, and thrown into the ultimate ‘real world’. I was left on my own, unable to return to my parents place due to the aid of OSAP, only able to work part-time. I brought along with me two lovable cats, who have become my forever home and family, no matter where I am. Though it was difficult for a few months, living literal cheque to cheque every month, barely able to make ends meet. I managed to pull through, carrying many heartbreaking and strengthening experiences with me. I had become a better person in the end, because of the hurt and trials I had to face alone. Though the situation had also greatly affected my school and social life, I was still able to get back up on my feet as well, and continue down the path of my passion.

            My anger and hurt fueled my creativity, and I found I was also a better writer out of the experience, with new ideas to add into my stories and work. Along the way, I found a new motivation and overall, just felt like a bigger and better person. It has now been a year since that earth-shattering day, where I had lost a large chunk of my life, and almost lost my passion.

            Since then, I have continued to embrace my complete independence and will to handle anything life wants to throw at me. I have caught up with my education, and even managed to further pursue my goal career, as a freelance fiction author, officially published. To distract myself from the depressing and warped world around me, I started to tap into the online world of self-publishing, and creative writing. I published the first few chapters of the first fiction-romance story I had attempted.

            I was so nervous, with the newly found feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness after losing my significant other, I was afraid I was going to get a lot of negative feedback on my story, or nothing at all. My motivation was deep in the gutter at that point. A few weeks had gone by, and I was ready to give up on continuing the story; until a spark ignited. Something happened, as if my silent wish had come true overnight, and I woke up to very few comments and likes on the chapters I had published. They were small words of encouragement, but they were enough to continue to restart the fire of passion. I knew I had to share my work with the world.

            Before long, I had hundreds of comments, of all different kinds of feedback and criticism. Many readers had commented that they could connect with the characters on a personal level, and that was one of the few things I had always hoped to achieve when it came to my writing. My characters reflected how I am feeling and thinking, and all have a small part of myself in them. During the time that I was writing my story, I was depressed and uninspired, but still driven and determined to make something of my passion and ideas.

            The day had come when I finished the story; my very first story every completed, and self-published entirely. I was amazed I had come to that point, and was still receiving such positive comments and reviews. It was then, another great realization had come to me. I had started to question my ability, and myself. Was I being too hard on myself? Was I undermining my creativity? I was being too hard on myself.

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            From then on, any idea that popped into my head, big enough to stem a story or plot off it, I went for it. Every story since has been quite successful to my expectations, when published online, and I have now gained the confidence to maybe one day try and have my books officially published. None of these feelings could have been possible, I feel, if the events and moments that occurred over the past five years didn’t happen. I would not have come to find the confidence and motivation I have now, to pursue my passions, and live life to the fullest, in any way that I can regardless of what is thrown my way to try and veer me from my path.

            But like many have said, all good things must come to an end, what goes up must come down; you get the point. I went from striking out three times, to landing myself on cloud nine, only to fall bottom first back on the ground, 10 feet under where I was before. Such is life. It brings you up and makes you feel like you’re finally in step with everything, then slips it all out from underneath you and leaves you lying in the dust, wondering where you went wrong.

            When we find a new-found confidence in ourselves, one much bigger and brighter than before, we tend to make decisions without thinking, or considering the outcome in the long run. With my own new confidence, I made another bold decision in life, to start over with someone else. Everything seemed great for the first few months, but one thing after another, and I found my confidence slowly slipping away. I was no longer in step with my life anymore, it had ripped the rug from under me.

            It was then I learned a truly valuable lesson, one that I will carry with me longer then I will the pain and experience I have endured through the last five most significant years of my life. I learned that you will never be in step with life, but you can be ahead of it. Don’t let yourself fall when life tries to bring you down, be one step ahead and stroll past life with rock solid confidence. At the same time, it’s alright to be one step behind, and take everything slow. One thing in our short lifetime we can never do, is go back. We must live with whatever consequences are thrown at us, and face the fact that there will always be good and bad moments with equal good and bad consequences.

            The trick is to find the ones worth living with, find the people worth fighting them for. It took a three strike down fall of constant ups and downs in my life, and being thrown into the middle of harsh reality, for me to realize that. We are never prepared for situations like those when we’re kids, we have no idea what to do. I had no clue what I was doing, and what I could have done to make things better. Looking back now, we are never truly prepared for harsh reality, because there is no way to teach that. No matter what we do, no matter how different our situations and outcomes will be, they will always be different.

            Though it was a horrific downfall, and not something I ever want to go through again, I know if I ever do, it might be a bit better than before with the knowledge and experience life has given me, as a small token for putting up with its crap. I will never forget, or regret, the life I have chosen and the decisions that led me down the path I follow.


 Alyson Doherty

Alyson Doherty

I have had a passion for literature since the day Dr. Seuss started to make sense. Healthy living is just one of the many other strong passions I have, and combining two great passions is living what I believe is a fulfilled life. Walk through my arranged blogs on the joy and knowledge of healthy living!

 

 

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Alyson Doherty

 

I have had a passion for literature since the day Dr. Seuss started to make sense. Healthy living is just one of the many other strong passions I have, and combining two great passions is living what I believe is a fulfilled life. Walk through my arranged blogs on the joy and knowledge of healthy living!

Matching Souls

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How do I begin to tell the story of a friendship that’s going-on-two decades long, where we’ve helped each other build the homes that have gone on to build us:

[February, 2016]

I perch in the middle of your bed, on top of your psychedelic duvet, watching curiously as you unravelled the tightly wound red and white striped knee sock.

You’re ankle deep in the carnage that used to be a neatly zipped suitcase, rooting through piles of unfolded clothes, toss a swim suit aside, finally pulling a balled-up sock out from the bottom of the mess.

“You went to Vegas and brought an old sock back for me?” I tease. “Did you wear it while trying on a pair of Louboutins or something for me to experience vicariously?”
“Oh shush,” you snort, smiling, cheeks all sun kissed from your adventure in desert country. “I promise I brought you something better than a sock. Gimme a sec.”

I perch in the middle of your bed, on top of your psychedelic duvet, watching curiously as you unravelled the tightly wound red and white striped knee sock.

“Pro-Travel Tip,” you tell me, handing over the box that was at the middle of the sock-ball. “If you’re worried about the TSA finding something in your suitcase, pack it as enough of a mess that they won’t want to bother digging through anything. Don’t shake that, by the way.”

I turn the palm-sized package over in search of a label after accepting it from you.

Arizona Department of Agriculture Phoenix, Arizona
Bach’s Cactus Nursery Inc.

“You didn’t?” I read the label twice to make sure I’m not just imagining what I want it to say. “Just open it,” you cut off my babbling, shaking your head.

There’s a baby cactus inside— no bigger than a pingpong ball, just a tiny sphere of little spikes, planted in a clay pot painted to look like a scene from a cowboy movie— sunset, cactus silhouettes and all.

“Finally,” I deadpan. “A plant that my limited-sunlight basement apartment might not kill.”

“I found it at the Hoover Dam Gift Shop, of all places,” you tell me while I poke at the newest object of my affection. “There were two of them,” I turn to look at the window sill you’re pointing at; a twin of the cactus in my hand sits beside your bamboo plant. “They were just so cute, and they just looked so lonely...”

“I think it’s a he,” I confide. “And he looks like a Bartholomew.” “Bartholomew?”
“Yup. Bart for short.”

How do I tell the stories where we’ve saved each other over and over again:

[November 9, 2016]

Dude! There’s a guy in the next bed over that’s in here because he had a heart attack. Doctor just came in and asked if he was a smoker—
“No I quit.”
“When was that?”
“About ten minutes ago.”
I kid you not, Lynette, I think I heard the doctor snort.
“Ah, right. Why now?” “It was just time.”
read 11:37pm

lmao! I’m sorry. I shouldn’t laugh...
that’s really awful. But no time like the present I suppose.
read 11:40pm

Carpe Diem and all that crap :P
The guy on the other side’s a jockey, I think—
his friend is real tiny and walked by wearing the full regalia a few minutes ago.
Sounds like he got thrown off his horse (the guy, not his friend).
His friend keeps telling him to lie still until the doctor comes back with x-ray results.
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Hold up.
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Why are you at the hospital??
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Weren’t you guys going to that trampoline gym tonight?
Did somebody fall?? Did Tim have another seizure???
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No, no seizure— the boyfriend is fine.
...there was a peanut oil incident...
read 11:52pm

Rewind and WHAT? Are you okay?
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Wait—no, dumb question.
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Are you going to be okay?
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I’m alive, and breathing on my own, and all that stuff.
Ambulance got there fast enough that I hadn’t had to use my EPI Pen yet
— they gave me a shot of the same stuff before loading me in, though.
read 11:57

<3
read 11:58
what happened?
read 11:59

It was an honest mistake.
The friends who made dinner for us knew I was allergic to eggs,
didn’t know I was allergic to peanuts...
They cooked the chicken in peanut oil.
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Crap.
read 12:03am

Yup... I honestly thought they were kidding at first...
to be fair they felt reeaallllyyy bad afterwards.
And now I’m here, listening to the stories of how the people on either side of me landed themselves in the ER on a weeknight, willing away the hours.
read 12:09am

How long do you have to stay?
read 12:11am

They pumped me full of every antihistamine known to man,
made sure everything reacted properly,
and said that so long as it all continues to do so
I can leave after a few hours of observation.
read 12:14am

Copy that... Do you two need a ride home later?
read 12:16am

Tim didn’t come to the hospital with me.
...He went to the trampoline gym with his friends.
Mom can probably come pick me up once I’ve been released, though.
read 12:19am

Excuse me?
He just put you in the back on an ambulance and
went off to jump around on trampolines?
You know what, no.
You don’t have to talk about this over text.
read 12:22 am
...you’re there all alone?
read 12:23am

Yup... just me.
read 12:25am

I can come sit with you?
Seriously, the husband isn’t working, the car is in the driveway.
I can be there in 20 minutes.
Which hospital are you at?
read 12:28am

Queensway Carleton, but don’t worry about it.
I’m honestly not even sure you could get into this
section now that I’ve been admitted and everything, anyways.
read 12:32am
...But if the offer for a ride home stands?
read 12:33am

You just let me know when.
read 12:35am

Thank you.
Not just for this— for never abandoning me.
read 12:38am

I will always come for you.
read 12:40am

...since we’ve established that you’re going to live...
is it terribly insensitive for me to ask what it
feels like to be on all the allergy drugs at the same time?
read 12:43am

lol :P
no, that’s totally kosher. It’s kind of trippy....

How do I tell the stories of the moments where we’ve learned to just live in the stillness between the rhythms of life:

[November 2017]

“Didn’t this used to be a popcorn ceiling?” I wave my hand in the vague direction of up from

where I‘m lying in the middle of your kitchen floor.
“Mmmm, popcorn,” you mutter, reaching into the bowl sitting between us.

...by the time our legs gave out from laughing too long without a deep inhale in between, and the best sort of tears ruined all the work I put into the my eyeliner in the morning, we probably don’t even remember what started the outburst anyways.

We dissolve into another fit of giggles when you miss your mouth, scattering kernels onto the tiles around your head, chasing after one that somehow rolled down your shirt, and got caught in the cup of your bra.

We always seem to end up here— fuelled by cheap wine, or whiskey, whatever snacks we can dig up in the pantry, and sometimes weed on your half of the equation.

Tim appears and doesn’t even attempt to get us to move out of the way, just steps over the pair of us, stealing a handful of popcorn on his way to the back door— his evacuation route.

“Listen here you—that’s my popcorn,” You threaten, pointing a rigid index finger as menacingly as our current state will allow.
“You’ve done it now,” I warn without moving.

“Mhm,” he grabs another couple kernels. “Whatcha gonna do about it?” He doesn’t wait for an answer, just makes his exit as we burst into our next fit of cheek-splitting laughter.

He gave up trying to ask us what we laugh that hard about years ago— learned that by the time our legs gave out from laughing too long without a deep inhale in between, and the best sort of tears ruined all the work I put into the my eyeliner in the morning, we probably don’t even remember what started the outburst anyways.

You hiccup— I laugh— I snort— you laugh harder, and the cycle starts from the top.

Later were lie on your bed, on top of your haphazardly strewn [psychedelic] duvet, silently listening to the steady turns of the floor fan.

Not all soulmates are meant to fall in love, and screw, and burn from the inside out until they’re consumed. Some are just meant to be forever.

[December 16, 2017]

How do I even begin to tell the story of a friendship that’s going on two decades long, where we’ve helped each other build the homes that have gone on to build us, where we’ve saved each other over and over again, where we’ve learned to live in the stillness between the rhythms of life— where if you died I think I’d die right along with you, into 1,500 words and standard-width margins?
read 11:41pm

I hit send after spending two hours staring at my computer, with ten different introductions saved, none of which feel right. There’s too many damn statistics to even make a dent touching on how social media, rising unemployment rates, and all-time-high mental health crisis is impacting our generation’s ability to maintain relationships.

Studies show that 59% of male university age students and 70% of female university age students attest to feeling lonely at some point during the year (Beaudette). The “Canadian Dream” is changing too— with Toronto ranked as the 13th most expensive city to live worldwide, and Vancouver, Montreal, and even Ottawa on similar levels, the future for young Canadians
won’t necessarily include owning a home instead of longterm rental (Carmichael). This generation, my generation, needs to build our “homes” from memories and people, instead of brick and mortar.

Your response comes quickly, and you save me once again.

You'll manage that just fine because you know the exact right words.
read 11:43pm
You always have.
read 11:44pm


Works Cited

Beaudette, Teghan. “Nearly 70% of university students battle loneliness during school year, survey says.” CBC News, Sept 9, 2017,
< http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/university-loneliness-back-to-school-1.3753653>

Carmichael, Kevin. “For many young Canadians, home won’t be a house.” Macleans, Aug. 14, 2017,
< http://www.macleans.ca/economy/economicanalysis/for-many-young-canadians-home-wont- be-a-house/>


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Growing up, Lynette told everybody who would ask that one day she was going to be either a Rock Star or a Writer. She writes a little bit of everything from song lyrics to creative nonfiction, and can usually be found with a guitar or pen in her hand. She’s still working on the Rock Star thing, but at least becoming a writer has actual job postings.

 

 

 

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Lynette Wilson

Growing up, Lynette told everybody who would ask that one day she was going to be either a Rock Star or a Writer. She writes a little bit of everything from song lyrics to creative nonfiction, and can usually be found with a guitar or pen in her hand. She’s still working on the Rock Star thing, but at least becoming a writer has actual job postings. 

A transformation of my life perspective

By Francis Rochon

Remember when video games were seen as unhealthy and bad? That it only promoted violence in young children? It wasn't too long ago that I had to explain to others that just because I played a Mario game that didn't mean that I had the desire to stomp on a turtle. And you have to wonder... if people saw the state and prestige that video-games have today... would they have thought the same way?

 

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Ever since I learned how to hold a controller, video games have defined my life, in a way that the impact it has had I still can’t fathom to this day. And the impact has been positive, which may surprise some people. My parents had put limitations of course, to make sure I didn’t just sit in front of my television playing Super Mario World and Super Metroid all day (two games from my youth that I still revisit and play every now and then. Timeless classics, for sure). My two older brothers and I would be allowed to play only on the weekends, and only before dinner time. This would cause me to always try and wake up as early as possible so that I could get the most playtime, which caused a lot of tantrums due to being overly tired, not getting much sleep. But never did my parents stop me from growing this passion, one that has empowered me to be who I am today, both as a person and even a worker.

When I was ten, I was introduced by my brothers to a game called Defense of the Ancients ( or DoTA for short ), which is a very complex game with lots of different mechanics and aspects to the game that makes it extremely hard to learn, much less play at an adequate level. I was awful at the game, not going to lie: always complaining that things were too good or unfair, unbeknownst to me that I was just really really bad. But I still found the game interesting. It was a cool concept, and not only that, but it was my first experience to Online Multiplayer: Where myself and four other random people around the world would go up against five other random people around the world to play a game. It was very new and surreal to me, having only played local games until that point.

And of course I was oblivious to the fact that people were actually playing DoTA and other games in a competitive, tournament setting. Games like Super Smash Brothers, Street Fighter, and yes, DoTA. People would move around the world to play these games, from continent to continent, from home to away from home. Now that I look at it, the fact that this was a thing even a decade ago still surprises me to no end. I remember especially in school that I was an odd kid out because I played video games so much. I always talked about them, and how much fun I was having. Most kids thought I was spending too much time on my game, and some even shunned me for my passion. But I never let it bring me down or deviate me from what I really wanted.

 Image credit to Valve

Image credit to Valve

But to keep going with my point, it really surprised me when I learned that Esports was something that was possible: You could make a living out of playing your favorite video game. Now these days I don’t have this delusion or desire to really do this with my life, but back then, around the age of fourteen, I got so pumped when I learned that DoTA was getting a remake of sorts, the critically acclaimed Dota 2. This was essentially an updated version of DoTA in terms of graphics, game engine, and design. The gameplay was the same, but everything else was fresh, new, and the first tournament to promote the game had the biggest prizepool in the history of Esports: Winner takes One Million dollars. Yes, you heard me right. One million dollars.

As soon as I got a Beta Key for the game ( which allows you to play a game when it’s still in early access and development ) I started to play Dota 2 nearly everyday, for as long as I could keep my eyes open. I was awful at first, but I had a bit of an edge over certain other players. I had played the original DoTA long enough to know what every playable character was, what they did, what their role, strength and weaknesses were in a given match. And with that, my journey to try and get into the Dota 2 pro-scene started. I played and played, and was so passionate that I did see a shift in my personality, one that made me more competitive in not only Dota 2, but with my school and with my brothers, who also played Dota 2.

But one thing led to another: they had less time to play due to work and more intense school work. I had it easy, I could play without worrying too much about my education or anything of the sort. I remember that summer was pretty much Dota 2 every day, from beginning to end. And by playing the game so much, I learned a lot, and got far better at the game than I ever imagined that I could. And though I have tried to get into the competitive scene and have gotten a bit of success in it, I have learned to this day that I don’t have the mental fortitude and stamina to play Dota 2 in that way. Playing the game normally and online, against playing it with a dedicated team or people who are trying super hard to win is very difficult. It’s just like sports: everyone is trying their hardest to win, because it’s their life, they need to win to succeed. And if they lose, they can get angry, frustrated, shift blame on others to try and make themselves feel better about the loss.

This is the same in Esports, in any of them, even if they’re single player. With every passion comes dedication, and even though I don’t play Dota 2 in a desire to play competitively, watching the pro-scene gives me so much more excitement: excitement that I get from nowhere else, even playing the game itself. When I watch one of my favorite teams make a fantastic and coordinated play, or even just an individual player show amazing skill, I just get so ecstatic. I want to see more of what they’ve got to show, and that’s what it feels like to watch an Esport that you’re very invested in, or anything really, which includes real sports. Fans are going to be crazy and passionate sometimes, screaming for their team to win, yelling at them for losing, always judging the players on the field or on the ice ( or in Dota 2’s case, the battlefield ) and the decisions that they make.

 Image credit to blog.dota2

Image credit to blog.dota2

But why do I believe Esports is a very positive phenomenon in our current culture? Apart from how economically successful it is and giving tons of perhaps more introverted people a community of people very much like them a home where they are understood… why is it good?

 Image credit to ESLGaming

Image credit to ESLGaming

Because the people who are truly passionate about Esports make it as good as they can. ESLGaming, being one of the most renowned Esports tournament organizers since the 2000’s have paved the way for the success of Esports, showing that anyone is welcome to play and spectate, no matter the game, the genre or anything of the sort. They have been very welcoming to everyone, new or veteran, to experience Esports in the same way. And having experienced my own slow and steady implementation into the scene, it warms my heart to know that people just like how I was back then are going to fit right in without having to worry about judgement or isolation.

Esports is no longer just a word, or a job, or tournaments or players. It’s now a veritable community of passionate and wonderful people, the same with any community of people are. People with the same passion and interest band together to make the experience as amazing as it can be, allowing the people who don’t even think they have a spot in the whole ordeal feel where they belong and are appreciated. There’s nothing quite like talking about Esports for me, because it’s just so important to my life and to who I have become. Learning to play Dota 2 and looking at how people work together in these types of game has made me a better worker even in my day job, being a Supervisor at the Tim Hortons I work at. It’s given me leadership skills I never thought I had, communication and problem solving tools that I’ve adapted and fine-tuned to play Dota 2 better. Overall, my gaming and Esports passion has been nothing but positive for me, because I’ve invested so much time and energy into it.

And to me, when that kind of dedication to a craft is so great that you become a better person because of it, then it doesn’t matter what other people may think, or who people may think you are. I can tell them for a fact: It was worth it, and I don’t regret it a single bit.


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When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.

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Francis Rochon

When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.