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Redheads Writing in Cafes #1

***I have added a new page to the blog. It is called Redheads Writing in Cafes. Here is the first entry. 

Redheads Writing in Cafes #1

I’m a full-time writer. I work for myself. I don’t go into a Corporate office space. I create my own content. I work from home. I am my own boss. This is my perfect job. This is my dream. There is, however, one problem.  When you are working at home, there are…. how shall we say, distractions. I don’t mean the television, Netflix, YouTube or other forms of entertainment. I mean laundry, cleaning, washing that sink full of dirty dishes, figuring out what to make for dinner, tidying up, re-organizing. As you look up from your laptop, you see all the things that need to be done. You still get writing done, but between the tasks that are staring you down and when you don’t complete them…. there is that pesky guilt. Now that the weather is nicer, I plan on finding my way outside my home to write.  In the backyard, parks, cafes.

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As a full-time artist, writing in a cafe every day isn’t great for the change purse… I am considering a Kickstarter to help finance this endeavor. Feed my coffee addiction.  I’m sure others would be willing to give up a coffee a day to support my cup of coffee a day… right? No? Hmmmm….  All kidding aside, many well-known artists have written their novels, screenplays, plays and poems in cafes. There is a wonderful, addictive energy that fills the walls of cafes, not to mention the lovely wafts of fresh ground coffee beans and baked goods. Ok… now, I’m just making myself hungry. Focus. You need to focus.

The point of this new page is to write about what I’m writing about… while I’m in a cafe…. Maybe I could also convince other redheaded writers to guest write or join me in the cafe. I live in a neighbourhood that has cafes a plenty. I am going to try to choose a different one each time I write and let you know a bit about the cafe.

Today, I’m sitting in a cafe near High Park, looking out at the beautiful greenery, dreaming of the 1930s, listening to Edith Piaf’s beautiful voice, flow from the speakers. I am working on my novel as well as researching the 1930s. For some, being in a cafe would distract them. I drink in the energy that surrounds me, which is the complete opposite of when I am at home writing. At home, I need the sounds of televisions and stereos turned off, the windows open, so the sounds of the outside, find their way to my ears.

The cafe I’m in is Hannah’s Cafe and Bakery. They have a really nice dark roast and I’ve had their lattes. The staff is friendly and the cafe itself spacious. Recently we came here for a writing workshop. I’m Vegan and they have soy milk, they have some Vegetarian sandwiches and salads that can be made Vegan, however, the baked goods are not Vegan. Once you are done writing, you can hop across the street to High Park.

I’m lucky to live in such an amazing neighbourhood. I am a brief walk away from the best park in the city, shopping, bars, restaurants and groceries. The hood is also home to literary and art events. There are writers, painters, musicians, visual artists, burlesque dancers, and other artisans who call this area home. Most importantly, there are cafes a plenty and if you get lucky, you may walk into the one with the Redhead.  That might be an idea for a treasure hunt. Find the cafe with the Redhead who’s writing.

Redhead’s writing in cafes.

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The Good, The Bad and The Dead

“Hello.”

“Hi there. This is the ‘local’ town cemetery.”

“Oh geez.”

“Ya. Could you come pick up your daughter? Again.”

This sounds like some type of dialogue from your typical 1980’s, angsty teen flick, however and to the shock of no one, it isn’t. This was me. This was me as a teenager. Yes, I have spent many hours in cemeteries. No, I’m not a grave robber and you can’t prove it. Hold on, that’s an entirely different story — let’s continue this one.

As a teenager, I was often chased out my local cemetery. My reason(s) for being there were innocent enough, I was there to read. Just to read. I didn’t go there to cause issues, it wasn’t out of a reason of morbidity, though many would think my desire to sit in a cemetery to read, was morbid, weird — inappropriate. I didn’t feel what I was doing, was any of those reasons. I went because I felt comfortable, at ease and safe there. Being close to the dead brought me a sense of calm and peace, it still does. However, circumstances weren’t as simple as me wandering into a cemetery one day and discovering this, it was more complicated than that. The journey was much darker, grimmer and yes, this is where the morbid part really fits in. It all started at the age of ten when I was introduced to death. Confused? Intrigued? Stick around, I’ll explain.

The first time I experienced the death of someone I was close to, was when my Great Grandpa Bill ‘passed away’ — died. Before that, the only death I can remember was when my beloved German Shepherd Queenie, ‘went to the farm’. Yes, those are the words I was told. Until my Great Grandfather died, I actually thought she was running around, chasing squirrels in some farmer’s field. After my Great Grandfather’s death, this changed, my life changed.

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I was incredibly close to my Great Grandfather, he was someone who was my best friend and constant companion. He lived with us and I got to see him every day — until he got sick. A mild heart attack lead to a stroke. The stroke caused his death. He had been in the hospital for a few weeks before he died. I, in my ten-year-old head, figured he would eventually get better and come home. He didn’t. I don’t remember how I was told about him dying. I’m not sure why I don’t remember any of that, maybe I wasn’t told. Maybe, I just became part of the process, being swept along with everything that happened up until the part I do remember.

My first experience with a corpse was seeing him in his open casket. When I saw him, I was confused. He didn’t look like my Grandfather. He was wearing weird makeup, rouge, and lipstick. He didn’t look real. Everyone kept referring to him, to the man in the casket as Great Grandpa Bill. I couldn’t make the connection. It just didn’t look like him. It wasn’t registering in my adolescent mind. This is when the questions started. About my Great Grandfather, the man in the casket and about death.

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I was a shy, introverted child. I spent my time hidden away in my room or corners, reading, doing art, daydreaming. My Great Grandfather took the time to talk to me, tell me stories, coax me out of my room. We went on adventures together. When he passed away, I became confused, then curious about what had happened to him, why it happened and what would happen to him afterward. At the funeral home, a lot of questions were asked by me. Why was he wearing weird makeup and lipstick? Why didn’t look real? I became upset when no one would answer me. No one would explain. I wasn’t allowed to go to his funeral because of this. My actions were considered inappropriate, I was distracting and likely causing an embarrassment. I was expected to be quiet, well-behaved and sedate. I may have been hushed that day, that however, wasn’t going to stop me from asking questions.

Avoiding a child’s questions and dismissing them will have consequences. They will either stop asking questions altogether or go to the other extreme. The latter happened to me. When my parents didn’t give me the answers I sought, I went elsewhere. I freaked out teachers and librarians. Especially the librarians. They would cringe when they saw me knowing I would ask them to help me find books on death. I’m sure that getting a call from the principal’s office about this, delighted my parents. I became relentless. I wasn’t going to stop until I had an answer, an understanding. I needed to know everything about death. Did it hurt, what happened after you died? Was death final? Was there an afterlife? What happened to your body after you died, after you were buried? What happened if you weren’t dead when they buried you? (thanks urban legends) The questions were endless and I needed to know all of the answers.

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Since that day, I have been death-obsessed. No, I’m not suicidal, I’m not looking for ways to end my life. I just trying to seek all the knowledge I can about death. My childhood death-obsession also lead me down my current path. I’m a writer and performer. I write in the horror genre and am working on a novel that is a semi-biographical ghost story. I have spent many hours researching death rituals of different cultures, past and present. How other societies celebrate it, what their customs are, how they view it. I have spent a lifetime thinking about it, writing about it, obsessing about it, talking about it.

Recently I have been inspired to start openly talking about death again and to more than just two people. I’m sure Sarrah and Zoltan will be relieved about this. After years of being shut down and told that I was being morbid or hearing the standard, ‘Ha ha. Guess that’s why you love horror.’, I’m finally motivated to talk openly about it again. Normally, my outlet has been writing, now I finally feel free enough to talk to many others. You see, a couple of weeks ago, I discovered a channel on YouTube that advocates The Good Death. The channel I am talking about is Caitlin Doughty’s Ask A Mortician. Finding this channel was like reconnecting with a long lost, beloved friend. I found Death again.

More now than ever, I think it’s important to start talking about death. To open up about it.; start the conversation. Recently a cousin of mine died. He was only one year older than me and I was shocked by his death. When someone this young dies, you start to question your own mortality. I’m not afraid of dying or death. Years of trying to learn everything about it, my education, has removed that romantic notion that I will live forever. We all die, there is no way around it. His recent death is just another push to ensure I do all things in life I want to do. Live my dreams. Make every moment count. Don’t let time run out. We all need to start the conversation about our own impending death. The one thing that Caitlin talks about often, is making sure you get the death you want, The Good Death. I’ve started thinking about what I want to be done with my body when I die. I don’t want a funeral, or a casket or an embalmed body that is preserved against what is supposed to happen naturally. I want to be wrapped in a shroud and buried in a shallow grave. A green burial. The perfect end and burial for a horror writer. It’s also an environmentally friendly way to dispose of… erm… bury a body.

Something else that has become an important source of support and information is Death Cafes. A Death Cafe is a safe place to talk about death and dying. They have speakers who cover a variety of different topics relating to death. Most cities have them and Toronto has a few every month. I think they are brilliant and I will be going to the next one that is closest to me. Another event that has started to happen around the planet are Death Salons. The idea of holding a Death Salon also intrigues me. I’m thinking about how to put one on. More details on this soon. To find out more on what has inspired me, please click on the following link. https://deathsalon.org/

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Will my obsession with death ever fade? No, if anything it will continue to grow. I will never stop reading about it, researching it, learning. I really wish that I had someone like Caitlin to talk to when I was ten. If I could go back and talk to that ten-year-old me, I’d assure her that it is ok to ask questions and that she should never stop. If your child or any other child asks about death, don’t dismiss them or avoid answering them. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you don’t and then find out the answer! Once you have that answer, go back to that child and have a conversation with them about their questions. Sheltering them from death and dying is not going to help them later in life.

I will always carry the ten-year-old around with me. She will always be there asking questions and expecting answers. I’m glad we live in a world that I can research from the comfort of my own living room. Living in Toronto has also made it easier for me to find the information and resources I need, without being pointed out as that weirdo wanting to talk about death. Let’s talk about it. Let’s start a conversation and keep it going. Don’t let the ten-year-olds, with questions about death, be swept away with the process.


“Oh Hi Mark” and why The Room is the best movie of all time

“There are people who have seen The Room and those who haven’t seen The Room.” Neil Traynor

*** There will be spoilers.***

I love terrible movies.  They are my happy place.  The schlockier the movie the happier I am. I show no prejudice for genres and have watched them all from horror to sci-fi to romantic; silent; film noir; b-movies; romance; expressionist; westerns and comedy. If it’s considered a badly made movie, I want to see it. My current two favourites are Plan 9 From Outer Space and The Screaming Skull.  In my heart of hearts I never thought any movie could knock either of those off the top of my list. Who could possibly beat Ed Woods and take his title? Always up for a bad movie challenge,  I was ready, willing and open to seeing if this could take the reigns.

For MONTHS now, our good friend Neil Traynor (1) has been telling us about The Room, insistent that once we watch it, we would never be the same again. Finally we were able to arrange a viewing and as Neil said, it was life changing. It might actually be the best movie of all time. How could this be, you ask? The Room has it all. Love, sex, romance,  action, violence, blood, family values, long drawn out sex scenes, drug intervention, x-files style disappearance of actors, belly button fucking, more long, drawn out sex scenes and best of all, no plot.

I’m serious.  There is no plot. None. Nada. Zilch. Zero! Not only is there no plot, I personally feel that one of the reasons this movie has become such a cult hit, is you cannot, in anyway, describe to someone what the storyline is. There is an amazing Wikipedia page that has a very thorough breakdown of the movie, the characters, many of the issues with the movie and the production of The Room.  However, even after reading the page, you still have no idea what exactly this movie is about.  You just need to watch it.

The Room is Tommy Wiseau’s directorial debut and what a debut it is.  Oh… did I mention that he also produced it, wrote it and stars in it.  Mr. Wiseau is a bit of a mystery man himself. He is famous for keeping his past and personal life secret.  Even the Wikipedia page about Tommy Wiseau, doesn’t reveal very much. Who is this mystery man? Is he even real? A figment of our imagination?  Only way to find out, is to attend one of the many Love is Blind events happening across North America.  If it comes to Toronto or even a city near here, I will be first in line to get tickets.  After all, I need to know why Tommy Wiseau wears two belts. Although… he does have his own YouTube channel, called Tommy Explains It All (https://www.youtube.com/user/TommyExplainsItAll), yet… he explains nothing.  

Social Media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have helped The Room’s infamy grow.

There are many memes.

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Quotes 

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Montages

and videos of critique.

 

All of this is helping to keep The Room alive. You could literally spend hours, hell, even days watching the many videos being created to celebrate this cult hit.  Oh, and I can’t forget there is a Star Wars Mashup!

The Room has a huge cult following and fan-base.  It also has  a play, a book , a video game,  a Facebook page dedicated to it, a-soon-to-be-released mocumentary, a documentary called Room Full Of Spoons and there is a movie being made about it, that James Franco is producing, directing, writing and starring in.  Sound familiar! How did this movie become such a huge hit?  It rivals movies such as Plan 9 and it’s huge fan base is dedicated and steadily growing. It is a phenomena with many, many unanswered questions.  Like the ones I have, such as:

What happened to Peter the psychologist?
Where can I rent that green screen?
Where can I find that 1880’s industrial shot?
How can it be sunny and smoggy at the same time?
Where did that new guy come from?
Will Denny survive without Johnny?
Will Lisa ever find love again?
Did Claudette survive the breast cancer?

Sooooooo many questions!

Back to my opening statement about this movie possibly being the best movie of all time.  Let’s take a moment to think about this. When I say best movie of all time, what I mean is best terrible movie of all time. When I watched it, I laughed till I was laugh crying.  I was laugh crying till my stomach hurt so bad, that I thought I was going to throw up. We discussed this movie indepth, for hours afterwards, my love and I talked about it as we were going to sleep and woke up talking about it.  All of our conversations for the next several hours have been dominated by it AND we have been quoting the movie. I have spend all of my time researching the movie, Tommy Wiseau and am agonizing over what happened to the actors, needing answers to my questions and searching to find out if a “Love is Blind” event is coming to a place near us. I have been feeling all of the emotions you would after seeing a movie that blows your mind.

How does this movie compare to my current top favourites Plan 9 From Outer Space and Screaming Skull?  The Room is definitely comparable in cult status to both these movies and over the top in terrible. Does it knock either of them off the top.  No, but it definitely ties for top spot.

You have to see this movie. It was even shot so you can watch it 2D or 3D. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V10Px9xbrbU Apparently it wasn’t shot to be a 3D movie, Tommy Wiseau just decided to shoot with two cameras, because he could.  When you watch the movie, don’t forget to say hi to Mark.

(1) Neil Traynor is a Toronto born singer/songwriter guitarist/multi-instrumentalist.

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