By Christmas?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. When I was downsized in March, I got a number of phone calls from recruiters fairly quickly and I assumed I’d be working again by summer. Then I thought, when that didn’t happen, I’d be working by fall. Then everyone assured me I’d be working by Christmas.

But right now, I can’t give it away. I’m still living off a severance package and all is well in that department but eventually, I’m going to need something. I got an email from a company specializing in debt restructuring asking if I was interested in a position with them. Calling people to arrange debt repayments sounds positively depressing but, well, I’m going to have to do something, aren’t I?

I’m reminded of the song by Payola$, “Christmas is Coming” written during an economic depression in the early 80s and it even mentions going on Unemployment Insurance, as it was known back then.

Been down to the UI
and nothing but queues
Been down on my welfare
with holes in my shoes
the kitchen’s still leaking
with floods on the floor
the landlord will fix it
he only wants more
Christmas is coming it’s been a long year

I suppose as the new fiscal year begins, companies may have more positions available.

On the other hand, there is a child-man in the White House with his finger on the button and we’re all going to die so it won’t matter! Wheeee! I’m trying not to be fatalistic. I really am.

Anyway, we’re spending tomorrow night in Ottawa to visit some friends and family and see the lights on Parliament Hill. Our invitation to visit Justin and Sophie at Harrington Lake must have been lost in the mail so we’ll be at a Travelodge. And we’re eating at a Chinese restaurant. Because somehow, every holiday season, Chinese food is consumed somewhere along the line.

I hope you and your loved ones have a nice Christmas, Hanukkah, or just a relaxing holiday break.

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Excerpt

An excerpt from a novel I’ve been writing that I need to finish. This particular passage is set during prohibition in a fictional New Brunswick town called Ducks Harbour:

Roderick Soloman sat in the saloon across from Captain Lillington. The Newfoundland born captain of the Nellie J. Banks took a swig from his bottle of Moosehead Pale Ale and, lowering it, he took a hard look at Soloman while the fingers of his free hand drummed the table. Soloman kept both hands on his own bottle, his fingernails surreptitiously scratching the label. His wife would not approve of this meeting, nor its location, he thought. Saloons were no place for moral men. Given the way he saw the others in the room drinking whisky like it was water, knowing they would soon be swaying home up the street to the row houses where they lived, he was inclined to agree. But as he was the son of Joshua Soloman and the current president and owner of Soloman Wineries, he was in no place to pass judgement on those who took to the drink.

In the corner, he recognized one of the men: George Hoyt but everyone called him Georgie Boy. He was one of his employees, driving the company truck for deliveries. Barely reaching five feet, he was a jockey before the First World War. He returned different, as men so often did, and never rode a horse again. Soloman wasn’t sure where George got his nickname but understood it had something to do with his post-war stint as a boxer. He didn’t know what a five foot man with no reach and barely any muscle on him would do as a boxer but there were tales of his ferocity in the ring. His crooked nose and cauliflower ears told that story. But that was long ago and today Georgie Boy was a known drunk who still managed to show up to work on time. George lived in one of those row houses and it was on more than one occurrence that he had to be carried from the saloon to his home where his wife sat up waiting for him in the front room, listening to the radio. George’s bar buddies would enter without knocking, deposit their charge on the sofa next to his wife, and say a hearty goodnight. His wife, Debbie, merely grunted an acknowledgement that anyone was even there. She then set to work putting him to bed there on the sofa, annoyed but relieved that he was home in the first place.

Soloman returned his attention to Captain Lillington.

“I’ve got a hold full of demerara rum from Jamaica and beer from Saint John, all heading for Prince Edward Island. And you want me to add your dandelion wine?” The old mariner asked.

“Not just dandelion. Blackberry, strawberry, blueberry. Diversification, it’s called.” Soloman clarified.

“It’s called weak piss is what it’s called. Prohibition may be the law of the land on Prince Edward Island, but the punters over there aren’t going to settle for just anything, not when there’s black rum to make for a fine Saturday night.”

Soloman knew better than to be insulted. He was opening negotiations. When the consumption of alcohol was still prohibited in many parts of the Maritimes, he knew he had to do this dance every once in awhile. The ten years prohibition took hold in New Brunswick were difficult but the winery managed to use its bottling facilities to create a line of soft drinks, the best seller of which was a golden ginger ale. But they never stopped bottling wine as they had permission to export it to foreign markets and, unofficially, it got exported back to its home base.

“Not everybody likes rum and beer,” he countered. “Perhaps the wives of Prince Edward Island would like it to go with their Sunday roasts?”

It was a hard sell, he knew. Islanders were looking for the most efficient way to get drunk. Moonshine was the chief domestic spirit where prohibition was the norm. It made, he was a told, a fine cocktail when mixed with lime cordial. Islanders were not looking for a bottle of something that could be paired with a Sunday pork roast. But he needed to keep his company’s name in the hearts and minds of those jurisdictions when prohibition was inevitably taken off the books. Otherwise, they were liable to forget about whatever it was that the Solomans had on offer in favour of the Oland and the Labatt families.

Lillington scratched his chin and was silent for a moment.

“Right,” he said at last. “Let’s talk price.”

La Meute

Rather disturbing, if not entirely surprising, story at CBC today about the rise of far-right, anti-immigrant groups in Quebec.

The question of Quebec identity has come up in this province from time to time whenever new customs are introduced into the majority culture. It came up with Charter of Values two years ago and now it’s manifesting itself into this group called La Meute or, “the Wolfpack.

Aligning themselves more France’s Marine Le Pen of the Front National than Donald Trump, la Meute, according to the CBC, “hope to become a lobby group of sorts, dedicated to making Quebecers aware of the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism.” Generally, I’ll assume your political movement is bad news if it has “Front” in the name.

Of course, they seem mostly based in rural Quebec where few immigrants actually live but anti-immigrant sentiment is often highest.

Over the past year, with the refugee crisis in Europe, as well as with the election of Donald Trump, it seems as though people, egged on by fake news designed to whip up hatred, are now emboldened to act out against those who are different.

We need to guard against complacency and smugness in Canada because we’re not so different from the rest of world.

Currently Reading

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I’m reading the 2o15 Hugo Award winner for Best Novel, The Fifth Season. It’s the start of an epic fantasy series by N.K. Jemisin called The Broken Earth.

Here’s what the Atlantic had to say about it:

The Fifth Season is a stunning piece of speculative-fiction work, and it accomplishes the one thing that is so difficult in a field dominated by tropes: innovation, in spades. A rich tale of earth-moving superhumans set in a dystopian world of regular disasters, The Fifth Season manages to incorporate the deep internal cosmologies, mythologies, and complex magic systems that genre readers have come to expect, in a framework that also asks thoroughly modern questions about oppression, race, gender, class, and sexuality. Its characters are a slate of people of different colors and motivations who don’t often appear in a field still dominated by white men and their protagonist avatars. The Fifth Season’s sequel, 2016’s The Obelisk Gate, continues its dive into magic, science, and the depths of humanity.

I don’t read a lot of fantasy and I wanted to read authors outside my own white male demographic so this highly recommend book fulfills that need to break out of my bubble.

I’ll be certainly picking up the next book in the series.

Advice from an Old

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“THE MOTION DIES! IT LIVES AGAIN! IT IS CARRIED!”

As a forty-five year old person, you wouldn’t believe the number of young people who come to me for career and financial advice. Or, as it happens, you may believe that number because that number is zero. But should anyone ask me if they should buy a condo, I will give them this advice:

As option for home buyers, condos have a lot to recommend them: they often cost less than a detached home, there is less maintenance, and they are often located conveniently close to public transport. For someone who doesn’t want or need a lot of space or is on a tight budget, they’re an ideal solution.

But, from my experience, before buying the condo, always ask if the condo administration is currently embroiled is some kind of bizarre, decade long civil war in which both sides are lead by Immortan Joe and there is no sign of Imperator Furiosa to save us. On Wednesday I went to the annual meeting, which some of the administrators said was illegal and against the Quebec Civil Code, but lawyers present said that, in fact, it was legal and there was a lot of yelling and stonewalling and I wish it would end. Stuff is getting done. We have a new roof in our unit but we also have a president who hasn’t really shown up for the job.

I know there’s always politics involved in any community organization like this but knowing this in advance would have made me reconsider my decision to move here.

The neighbours are nice, though.

A Statement of Optimism

Two years ago, I wrote that committing to a 25 year mortgage is a statement of optimism. I resisted buying for so long because I wasn’t sure if my job would be permanent or my company would survive so I held off, just in case we needed to get out of a rental quickly to move down the road. But things continued on in my career and things seemed stable. I decided that despite the ups and downs of life, somehow things will work out for me and I would be able to, at the beginning of the month, make those mortgage payments. And so we signed upon the line that was dotted.

In March, I was terminated as part of a departmental restructuring so what do I know about optimism? It figures two years after I buy a house is when I get shitcanned. Fortunately, I should say at the outset, that there was a generous severance which will last until May and then I have to register for unemployment benefits. But right now we’re doing ok.

However, searching for a new job in 2016, after almost twenty years at the same company, sucks. A forty-five year old man with an English degree and two decades of completely unrelated airline experience is an odd sell in today’s market. But I’ve had some interesting interviews and I keep thinking I’m closer and closer to landing something, anything, but it remains frustratingly out of reach.

I’ve been making use of the time. I’ve returned to my writing and think that I may be on the road to being a real writer in that I really think the novel I’m writing is garbage. I’ve also started doing sessions with a personal trainer to learn to do strength, specifically weightlifting. Clearly, losing my job lead to something of a personal crisis so I figure if I cannot control my employment, I can control my health, which has always been something of an issue.

But it’s been eight months and I still haven’t found anything and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about that.

August Catch-Up

It’s been since last December when I last updated this thing.

Householding

Much of the house is painted now and a new floating floor has been put in the TV room in the basement. The big jobs remaining are still putting in a whole new, less ugly kitchen and embiggening the bathroom. This will happen some day when we’re not broke.

Jobbing

I’m still in the I.T. department at the new job and have adopted a work style of “Keep doing it this way until my boss yells at me to stop.” This has happened a few times. But, by and large, the change has been good for me. My previous job often left me wondering what exactly my role was as more and more people were given input into my work and, to be honest, a conflict with my boss ended up not being too good for my mental health.

Politicking

I am volunteering for my local Member of Parliament in the upcoming election. They were impressed that I’ve been a member of the NDP for, like, fifteen years, man! Apparently the Orange Wave of 2011 made a lot of new members. Last night I attended a debate watching party with my local Member of Parliament, which is a new thing. I’ve long been a member but never volunteered.

Partially, it’s just an excuse to get me out of the house once in a while.

Writing

I am working on a novel, the same novel I’ve been working on for years when, suddenly, I figured out what I wanted it to be about. It happened when I realized my favourite books were set in fictional versions of the author’s hometown for the purposes of satire. Then I realized, “Hey. I have a hometown…”

I also submitted some short stories and a comic book so I can officially say I’ve been rejected by tor.com, Asimov magazine, and Oni Press.

Parenting

My son, soon to be seven (!) starts grade one this year. He also has a working diagnosis of autism, a confirmed diagnosis of dyspraxia, and possible ADD. This is what happens when, before having children, I scoffed at these middle-class parents who claimed their children had all these conditions. The diagnosis does help explain a lot and a proper assessment is pending. While he is very intelligent, he has difficulties at school. A diagnosis will help the school get more resources to help him out. It’s a been a big challenger but I’m learning a lot.

Vacation

And, as of today, I’m on vacation. Other than some camping in Ontario and whale watching in New Brunswick, there won’t be a big trip this year because, again, money. But Barcelona is looking like a place to go next year.

So…what’s up with you?