Rocco de Giacomo

On Turning 38

I’m very fond a line in a Sex And The City episode where the depressed male love interest of Carrie Bradshaw, in response to her encouraging him to get outside and meet up with some friends, stoically replies, “I’m a middle aged man, I don’t have friends.” It’s a line that I like to use every so often whenever I explain my social life, or lack of one.

Over the last year or so, the things I that have become my personal necessities – my books, my writing, my PS3 (weekends only!) – are all coincidentally things are very jealous regarding my attention.

But why have such things became priorities far and above that of meeting face to face with fellow human beings? The first reason that comes to mind is that I can partake in these activities without wearing pants. If you are puzzled by this reason, then I have to assume that you either a) have a roommate or b) live with your parents and therefore have no idea what it’s like to lounge around your kitchen and living room in just your undergarments. The ability to walk around pantless is the single biggest reason why people end up either buying or renting homes for themselves. Of course homeowners/renters will never publically admit to that, but there it is. Once you adopt the lifestyle of domestic pantlessness, the chances of you going out for anything other than work or Chicken Massala diminish greatly.

For those of you who still choose to wear constrictive legwear around the living room, going out is actually a reasonable and viable option. For you, all that is required is to simply pop on some deodorant and some make-up and march your tightly bound legs out the front door. For people like me, it’s a whole arduous process of putting down the book, finding my pants, putting on my pants, synching my belt, looking for the sock that came off when I took of my pants….even thinking about it makes me feel exasperated and completely unsocial.

I jokingly try to address this general unwillingness to get outside and converse with my fellow man. Yet this circumstance has diminished my greater circle of friends. I suppose if I were a younger man, this ever-shrinking list of social contacts would have worried me. But why not now, in my 38th year? Especially when I can count names of people who would pick me up from the airport or bale me out of jail on one hand. Of course, there are exceptions; those restless Saturday nights when I’m a little tipsy and sentimental, but overall, there is no great feeling of loss regarding the slow death of social events in my life.

Perhaps it’s the job that I have chosen teaching adults ESL students, where I exhaust my social energy managing conversations. It could also be the hours I spend writing poetry – straining to be introspective, wracking my brains for a sliver of profundity – which leave me spent, with no greater desire than to spend a night blowing away aliens in a first-person shooter video game. It could be that when I do venture out to social gathering, prior to at least three glasses of wine, I often find myself looking at other people deep in discussion, and wonder, a little enviously: What could they possibly have to say to one another? I read. I watch the news. And yet, how can they have so much to say?

Or – and think I’m getting close here – it could just very well be that I’ve reached a point where I have to save my verbal energy for practicalities. Discussions, debates and discourse take energy, but when we all end up walking away believing what we want to believe anyway, is there any point to me opening my mouth? In essence, we are ALL George W. Bush, cherry-picking the facts to fit our worldview and going with our gut on life decisions. Verbal pragmatism doesn’t fit into the equation.

Mind you, there are many things I’ll stand for. For instance I plan on making an appearance at the Counter-Rally against CLCY’s rally to De-Fund Abortion tomorrow at Queen’s Park. But for many things, I’ve learned that that simply living through a mistake is the best way – and usually the only way – to change one’s mind. Sometimes it’s just better to let the world outside come to its senses on its own. In the meantime, I’ll be here – a pantless curmudgeon with a dwindling number of friends – waiting to pick it up at the airport or, god forbid, bale it out of jail.

August’s Top Five Vids

5. Phil Collins + Gorilla. Could it get any better than this?


 

4. I spoke too soon: Cookie Monster + Tom Waits. Now, this is fantastic.


 

3. For my exo-Toronto friends. KPMG is a huge multinational auditing/consulting/kitchen sink company, our new mayor hired to suggest ways to trim our budget. And surprise surprise, one of their suggestions was privatize some city services. And why not? Why should our tax dollars pay for unionized city workers when they could go towards unionized private workers! We’d save millions of cents! Anyhoo, in the following video, Councillor Vaughan asks about Melbourne, Australia, a city that also privatized some of its services. Listen for the dramatic punchline…


 

2. I mentioned this idea on Facebook a few weeks back. Take heed, vegerians, for the next time you invite over a meat-eater!


 

1. This is a beautiful clip from the movie Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, inspired by John Foster Wallace’s book of the same name. In the clip a man talks about his father working as a washroom attendant in a ritzy hotel. It really gets under your skin.


 

 

My Rose-Coloured Facebook Glasses

 
“An even more potent force in this regard is the Internet, where it’s easier than not to fall down a down a wormhole of self-referential and mutually reinforcing links that make it feel like the entire world thinks the way you do.”

 
A few weeks ago I posted this quote from Seth Mnookin’s book ‘The Panic Virus’ to my Facebook page. The timing of the post – the day after Canada’s federal election – was not a coincidence. Judging from the status updates and tweets from my like-minded social media friends, the overall feeling, as the election results came rolling in, was utter shock. There was no shortage of ‘WTF’s as the conservative vote steamrolled across Canada. I wasn’t an exception. Where were all the left-wing votes? What happened to the nation of liberals flooding my inboxes on a daily basis? What happened to the thousands of youths throwing their support behind Rick Mercer’s Vote Mobs and spreading the digital word about websites like www.shitharperdid.ca?

Well, first, I was grossly mistaken that there was a whole nation of liberals out there. I had convinced myself that the world of my left-leaning Facebook friends and fellow Tweeters were representative of the world beyond my living room door. The overestimation seems clear now, but is it any surprise now how I had fooled myself?

While my parents’ generation had to sit through a great deal of cable news stories and Op-eds that they disagreed with, my generation – with increasing ease over the last decade – has been able to choose what news we want to watch and which opinions we want to hear. We’ve been able to edit out any information or ideas that make us feel uncomfortable or stressed, and keep those that reinforce our own world view.

Hence why my Facebook and Twitter friends all think like I do, and the links they post transport me to websites and blogs that never mar the finish on my leftist-coloured glasses. In addition, the Youtube segments I watch, from Jon Stewart to Bill Maher to The Young Turks, not only tell me the bits of news and opinions I want to hear, but they reassure me that those who disagree with such news and opinions are a stupid minority not deserving to hold power. Heck, do these rubes even know what the internet is?

In the end though, it was all BS.

As it turns out, we hold no advantage with intelligence, numbers or internet savvy. Some of you may balk at this, but the proof is in the pudding: their leaders are running the country with a clear majority. If you want to claim something about mass voter brainwashing and political trickery, then you can join the ranks of the Birthers, and to a lesser extent the Voter Fraud crowd who tried to discredit the last Bush Administration. Such communities are prime examples of how people brainwash themselves in order to protect their fragile world view.

The morning after the election results, one of my Facebook friends posted the status update: “I wish only my Facebook friends voted last night.” I’m sure the thoughts that went into writing this post were different than those I took from reading it. But it sums up both my keen desire to keep the real world out of my cozy digital realm, and the overwhelming disappointment that comes with the realization that real change doesn’t occur through witty Facebook updates and cute 140-character tweets. Somewhere along the line, and perhaps in part due to the grandiose claims of techies equating twitter activism with revolution, I confused having rosy-cheeked fun with making real change. In the movie, The Trotsky a character comments that “it only gets real when it stops being fun.”

How many of our generation would ever want social media to be anything but fun?

Namdaemun Sestina

Seoul, South Korea

 
Across from the waxed pig heads,
mothers and daughters gather at carts
loaded with assorted clothes.
Elbows deep, they churn up colours
while old ladies, rapped in fabric, sit on stools,
poised above red clay pots filled

with kimchi and large silver bowls filled
with silver minnows. Above our heads
UN flags hang from strings. Below, on stools
booth owners gather by music carts.
Cigarettes dangle and pop music colours
the sun swinging amid bars of designer clothes.

I am walking , and men are shouting and waving clothes
above their wagon loads, bending their tongues to the air filled
and turning with spice and meat and colours.
The sky turns the voices about our heads,
under the shoes of men stomping on carts,
and through the fabric of ladies poised on stools.

I walk, and though the men might rest on stools,
drinking deep the voice that fills their clothes,
these streets draw sky like the wheels of carts.
I breath, and my life is drawn about a lake filled
with twilight. We are the stars forming about our heads.
Poised in a tin boat, our whispers draw the colours

of skin as we shed our clothes submerge the colours
into the fabric of these ladies, poised on stools
breathing the sleep of children, whose heads
are cradled in the hands of fathers haggling over clothes.
Their dreams gathering the voice of memories filled
with men who chant from clothing carts,

music that crackles from music carts
and all the spice and meat and sewage and colours
turning the air about me into a single breath filled
with the stillness of the men resting on stools.
Sweat is soaked into the fabric of their clothes
an entire street is drawn up into their heads.

In a food tent, there are some empty stools.
Under the canopy, I can watch the colours
submerge into a lake of twilight, drifting above our heads.

 

 
As appeared in Freefall, Vol. XVI No. 2, 2006.