the diary thing 
NO WHITE CHRISTMAS. Fine by me, I guess. Our landlord hasn't bothered raking up the leaves that have settled into damp, rotting piles all over our front lawn, so I wasn't looking forward to trying to shovel snow with thick layers of mulch underneath. The neighbours on our street already think this house is a bit of a let-down for the side, so our reputation wouldn't be damaged any further by untouched snow, packed into icy troughs on the sidewalks and paths. Still, a white Christmas would have made the decrepit state of the place an issue, and I'm glad I didn't have to deal with it. 

Here's to the indictable, assertive responsiblities of home ownership. As a renter, I don't care about mulchy old leaves as long as the roof stays on and the tap runs clear.

MANAGED TO GET THROUGH the holidays in a relatively even frame of mind. On the Friday before the day itself, rushing through a last-minute shopping frenzy, I was overcome by a brief but undeniable anxiety attack as I sat in a Starbucks nursing a grande latte and planning my next shopping move. Too many people, my fevered mind muttered to itself. Seething, grasping mass, half-crazed from insatiable want, the voice mumbled, sounding a bit like Derek & Clive crossed with Gore Vidal. Never mind that I was part of that seething mass, as desperate and want-mad as anybody else. 

I don't get out much these days. Lack of money and a kind of grim contentment with our little world out here in the west end militates against any sustained journeys around the town. Friends I'd once see weekly for coffee I barely see once a month, and I've memorized the magazine release schedules well enough that foraging for print can be done in quick raids. The rest of the time is spent on the couch, downstairs in front of the t.v., or up here at my desk, with the cats milling around my feet and the world filtered as it enters my window by the branches of the ash tree on the front lawn, now leafless. 

I've cultivated a ghostly presence as a pedestrian or transit-rider, avoiding rush hour, armed with a book or magazine in which to bury my eyes, or gazing blankly at the hoardings around the latest bits of development, glassy-eyed as I note the latest retail failures or the new stores that pop up in their place. I grab meals at off-hours between lunch and dinner rushes, make my way through the popular shops at quiet times early in the week, and have nearly perfected a seething, intense, vaguely hostile glare that repels all but the most robotically cheerful Gap salesclerks. 

I actually rather like the month or so of retail torpor after Xmas, for reasons that should be obvious; dead shops staffed with saleshelp ill-motivated despite their grudging gratitude at surviving post-Xmas layoffs; prices slashed low-low-low in hopes of meeting at least the rent before spring and paid-off credit cards bring the real shoppers back. This is where I thrive, picking up a few bargains and sifting through the slowly replenished stock. 

I stand to have a bit of spending money this winter, thanks to an unexpected job, and I might be able to enjoy the denuded retail landscape. Maybe I'll get a cheap DVD player, a new pair of pants, another hooded sweatshirt, some travel books. 

The Grinch gazed gloatingly down on Whoville, his thin lips turning up into a dreadful smile as he contemplates the snowy streets and the stores with their pleading signs, "Flurbs 1/2 Price!" and "All Wha-Tinklers Marked Way Down!"...

"Work keeps at bay three great evils: boredom, vice and need."
- Voltaire

A final, bilious entry for 2001, a year nowhere near as nifty or tidy as the movie. Here's a hilarious re-think of the "Bedford Falls vs. Potterville" debate, from Salon. A vital broadside in the war against nostalgia.

I HAVE A JOB, at least for a month or two. The photo editor at K.'s paper is on sick leave, and I've been asked to do her job till she comes back. At the least, this could see me making a weekly wage for most of the traditionally fallow winter freelancing season. It's novel, even exciting, to have a job again after more than a decade of free(lance)dom. In many ways, it's the perfect job for someone with my unhappy temperament.

The day starts mid-afternoon, between lunch hour and end-of-day rush hour, and ends late at night, when the subways are empty. My desk is in a far corner, away from the knot of editors, where I can see, far in the distance, the bracket-mounted t.v.'s tuned to news and sports respectively. My workstation is a massive Mac, a G-4 with a monstrous LaCie monitor and a huge T1 pipeline hauling in the photo feed from Reuters. As I watch something happen live on CNN, the photos pop up on my desktop. It's magic, a news-junkie's dream. 

On this bruiser of a computer, Photoshop runs like melted butter down a trough, as I re-size and re-jig each image before dumping it in the layout bin. Even the inevitable freeze or crash is just a hiccup in my day, a chance to stretch and walk over to the water cooler. At the end of the work day, most of the paper's photos accounted for, I surf the net, leafing nimbly through the sites it takes minutes to download on my poor old machine at home, one eye on the Reuters for the sports shot -- the Raptors or the Leafs, natch -- that will complete the day. The entertainment editor will ask for a gossip shot of Kate Winslet or Tim Allen; a quick trawl through the archives, a quick bash with the Photoshop wand, and the job is done. It's hardly painful; a real treat compared to the years in the service industry, all those years ago.

I have to learn how to burn the paper's back issues onto disc. One more minor skillset collected and duly added to my wan little resume. Nothing but a long winter to dismantle in tidy work-week parcels, and the promise of spring and Spain ahead.

photos and writing 
©2001 Rick McGinnis
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