I haven’t had a gin and tonic in a very long time, but I’m having one now. It’s not a small one either. And you should know that it’s tasting mighty fine.
It’s the 3rd of October and I’m sitting on the back deck at a weathered teak table with a view over my small but quite lovely yard. And the awning has been retracted because the last thing I want right now is less light. It’s 4.45 pm (too early to drink?) and the temperature is 18 degrees Celsius, for which I’m pretty grateful, though not quite as grateful as I am for the gin, a brand called The Botanist, made from bits and pieces foraged from the heathery and wind-blasted island of Islay, or so it says on the label, and why not believe the Scots, brilliant people that they are.
I’m taking stock then, that’s what I’m doing this afternoon. Having a look around me and reminding myself that it’s not bad, this old world. Quite the opposite, in fact. My worries, when I tot them up, are mostly of the banal variety (though they do accumulate and gain some alarming heft the odd month).
I was up at the Jump store on Princess St this afternoon. My MacBook Pro is on its last legs, and in a misguided attempt to rejuvenate it I think I might well have killed it. I explained that, and demonstrated to the Genius at the counter the machine’s sad wheezing every time I try to fire it up.
“It’ll be sixty-five bucks for a diagnosis,” I was told. “Three to five business days.” Fair enough, I thought. I can live with that.
“But for $95 I can also take your computer back there and put it on his desk right now,” this affable young guy added. Completely straight-faced, and proud of his sticking to the script.
“I can jump the queue?”
“You sure can.”
And that is a terrible, terrible sort of bullshit, is it not? It’s what’s wrong with a good part of the world, the fact that those with cash on hand don’t have to wait, be it for a laptop repair, or a new heart valve. I mean this in all sincerity. I think it’s awful. I fucking hate it, and it’s one of the things I would ban immediately if I was in charge. I could have wept, but didn’t (I just thought to myself: I reckon today is a gin and tonic sort of day, and began right then and there to add it up, how I was feeling about the world and my place in it.) And yes, I did leave my computer with that fresh-faced and largely innocent tool of the capitalist system. Because there are some little battles that you’re just not going to win.
On the weekend it was a different battle, one a little harder to recount cheaply. Wave after wave of panic broke over me. Hasn’t happened in years, though my good doctor diagnosed back then limited symptom panic attacks, and said it explained also the arrhythmia that has my heart flopping in my chest for hours like a surprisingly athletic pike on some wet Ontario dock. I thought I’d got it mostly licked, to be honest, except for the heart. I consider myself a pretty easy-going guy, or at least one able to keep things in perspective. But not this weekend, when I couldn’t move much from the left end of the velvet couch, and thought I might melt whenever the phone rang, or someone knocked at the front door, a dozen feet away, and my kids surely wondered what the fuck was up, and worried themselves silly too. Even my Spurs doing a number on Pep Guardiola’s Man City wasn’t enough to get me to the surface. And that will mean nothing to most of you, and the world to a few others.
I’m mostly through that shit now (thanks in part to my single malt Scottish friends) and I told someone it was like trying to ride out a bad drug trip, which it was; that seems an accurate summing up. And I’m grateful to be back, on this deck where it’s dropped to 17 degrees now and my glass is dry, at least until the ice melts.
I just remembered that I have a picture on my phone from this afternoon, of my son strapped into a harness and leaning back happily away from the highest limbs in a tall tree, his friends all around him at some northern day camp He is unreservedly happy in that recent moment. I know him reasonably well and I can say that with some confidence. If I could arrange it, I’d preserve him in that moment. Or at the very least provide him with a permanent shortcut. Because we all need a good safe place to go. Corny shit, you say, and I’ll grant you that. But if you say it to my face I’ll also ask you to leave.
Bon Iver’s new album is a thing of frightening beauty, I’ll say that before I go too. I liked his first outing very much, and after that didn’t care quite as much. But it’s a brave and adventurous half-hour he’s distilled from whatever is going on in his world. I’m a little in awe, and I don’t think I say that every day.
Well there you go. An hour ago I had no idea this is where I’d be. Or that I’d have said all this. Or that I’d care so little that I haven’t given you much connective tissue between the paragraphs here. You’ll get it or you won’t. You’ll be back or you won’t. But if you made it this far, I salute you. And I thank you very much. Cheers.
*The photo up top is a crop of one of my son Lucian's photos, this one of a bridge over the Gananoque River. I think it's marvelous. His instagram account is lucian_eats_photos and you should follow him. He's good and he'd like that a lot.