JayFM: Year One

I worked in an angry box full of angry men losing money and unwilling to see the reality of reasons why. I became angry just being around them. They chose to act as children instead of men, and when I called for what I was owed—they called for a cleansing. “You obviously have some problems working here, so, I think it’d be best if we just went our separate ways,” said the shaking man with a shaking cheque in hand.

I was cast into the world without a hope or a line to grab on to. I was still in Edmonton, the land of (my) opportunity. Everything had gone so well up until this point, why wouldn’t I be able to js land on my feet? I had quit jobs in the past, just to find a new job within the hour. The longest stretch of unemployment I’ve ever had was after my dad died and I fell apart—but that made sense. I wasn’t just cut loose.

I cried, confessed my failure to my wife and we tried to figure it out. We tried it for a month with me leaning fully into freelance writing; I made twenty-five dollars in thirty-one days. The next month, I started getting “serious.” Manual labour jobs called from the internet, but in person, they revealed themselves to be third-party people sellers. “Work for us, so you can work for them, and the eighteen dollars they pay per hour can be shaved down to thirteen-fifty for your pocket—before tax.” I even applied for door-to-door “charity work” and met with the devil himself.

One particularly desperate afternoon, I was called for an interview. I had put a resume online in the previous month, trying to find writing work. The resume was mainly this—Fat Dog—but, with my other scattered experience, it was filled out to a single page. I wanted to highlight only tangible writing work on this, what I called my “creative resume,” so I could find the same thing: tangible writing work. One company applied their own thinking to the label of Writer and rung me up.

A man named Alan asked me if I could send my most recent resume to him and come in for a meeting later that day. I agreed and due to the nature of the resume I had out in the world, put on my good jeans, a t-shirt, and my new (to me) Adidas. When I came to the business, it was clear something was wrong—it was a software company with computer repair in the basement.  I’m probably wrong about it being a software company, but let’s just roll with it. Alan meets me in their lobby and pulls me into a board room. It becomes clear that he doesn’t actually know what fatdogpod.com is, nor does he really care. He asks if I have any technical writing experience, and I say I don’t even know what that is. I think at this point, he must have realized the mistake he had made, but he chose to play it off like we’re going to get somewhere. So, in realizing (or just being told) that I’m eager, creative and willing to learn, he decides to pass me off to an older man named Bruce.

Bruce was dressed much how I dress today. A nice button up shirt, good slacks, proper shoes with a watch and rings. Again, I was in my good t-shirt. He began to ramble about the company and how it is, blah blah blah—but then Alan tries to direct him to talking about the job. So, he does. I can’t remember a word of it because I didn’t understand a word of it. After a few minutes of this rambling, Alan stops him again. “No, the writing job.” Which to me, in my memory, rings like a blaring siren. At this point, Alan had excused himself and left the room.

We repeat the same conversation I had in the boardroom with Alan, and when we reached the same conclusion, this man gets indignant. Bruce is irritated. He begins to talk about the proprietary software they use in their office, something called Enterprise, and when I smiled nervously at the word, he began to say that it’s probably not the one that I would know. “It’s much more advanced,” like I’m some sort of basement dweller. And then he turned his attention on to my clothes. He literally said the words, “I actually can’t even believe that you’re in here…” while motioning to my person. He literally can’t even. Neither could I. Especially when he laid into my resume.

Holding it in his hand, he turned it over, as if looking for more. He turned it back to the front and looked over it once again, and then looked over the blank back page again. “Never in my life have I seen anything like this—I mean, what have you even been doing?”  It’s a good thing I was so confused, because the amount of disrespect that came at me was just completely unacceptable. It’s unacceptable in the professional world, and in life in general. It should be stated here that they called me.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the meeting, I must have went into some sort of social shock—unable to process the fact that they called me and yet I was a being talked down to like I was wasting his time. I left the office with a sour taste in my mouth. That was the first interview experience I had, and out of the three—the one with the people farm and the other with the devil incarnate—it was by far the worst.

I started to escape. I’d spend my daylight hours applying for jobs that would never call me back, or even worse, email just to disqualify me. Steph lost her job shortly after I did, and when we’d call off the job hunt for the day, she’d sink into a project or just the couch and I’d start to play with audio samples. At first it was small—a distraction to satisfy my audio production bug. I started to build things, they almost sounded like songs. It made me want to pull out my drum machine—which I did. The drum machine got me to pull out my bass, and my bass got me to pull out the guitars. Before long, every piece of equipment I own was piled in a corner behind the table where I kept my laptop. Music began to pour out of me, and when I wasn’t playing, I was writing.

The heart of this blog lays in the summer of 2017. I started the website a full year before but decided to revamp everything last summer. I pulled the old episodes offline; fifty-two episodes—scrapped. I made new art, redesigned the pages and began writing again; pruning the rotten berries from my bush. The first post was on July 9th and it started a fairly regular output. Sometimes when I’d sit down to write, it’d move away from the usual type of feel that I want these posts to have, so I set them aside, unaware that they’d collide into the music I was starting to amass.

In October, Steph and I packed up the dog and went to see our families over Thanksgiving. By this time, a month of two-person job searching had begun to take its toll on our relationship. We needed home and a space where we’d be safe from ourselves. That weekend, while staying with her parents, we were invited to move in, if we needed to. It was an offer that was passed to Steph down from her mother and kept quiet for the time being.

In past trips to Grande Prairie, we’d talk about how uneasy we were of even driving the streets, let alone running into someone we knew from “our old lives.” There was a solid feeling of let’s never move back here in our relationship, but somewhere between Grande Prairie and Bezanson on the way back, it came out that this trip felt different; it felt like we were coming home. In hindsight, I chalk it up to broken hearts, but it was absolutely the right feeling to have. We discussed the move and decided that it was the thing we had to do for our future.

The job hunt stopped, and the mental preparation began. Despite the necessity of the move, we began to feel like we were being robbed of life by the universe. We had moved to Edmonton to be independent. We lived there for six years together, with Steph in the city for a decade—and we were married now. This shouldn’t have been happening to us, we’re grown-ups. As we started to plan our packing, the depression began to settle in. I lost myself in my beats again, learning that the writing I’d been saving would fit over top of them—and thus End of Side One: A Tragedy in Five Tracks was born. You can plot the album coming together by the output of the blog. As the posts wane in length and frequency, the more time I was putting into perfecting the tracks.

Because the job search was halted, this is what I’d do in the morning until the mid afternoon when we’d start to pack. When the sun went down, and my wife drifted off to a restless sleep, however, I began to take flight. With headphones on and my sneakers tied tight, I’d walk the Garneau neighborhood, crossing into the campus of the U of A. There are lush lawns of soft, well maintained grass, and huge brick buildings built in the heyday of “innocence.” They quiet the world to a dull moan in the wind and illuminate just about nothing with their fluorescent windows shining against stone. Rabbits came out at night, as did the porcupines, deer and coyotes. Just above the river valley, the university was a magnet for life; only once did I see a porcupine or a coyote, but rabbits and deer were and every day occurrence. And every day I walked. From midnight, if not one a.m. to roughly four or five—I would walk the pavement to the beats and words of Jonwayne, Open Mike Eagle and Lady Gaga, until the day everything changed.

A long grey building, multi-leveled and lined with windows houses the university’s English and film studies departments, and the night I discovered that off-kilter air-pressure kept one of their doors ajar was the night I stopped walking without a purpose. The inside of that building was like a utopia. Never was there another soul inside, I was completely alone with dozens of classrooms and two auditoriums all to myself. Through other unlocked doors, I could make it through the entire building—whether I was ever known to be in there, I’m not sure, but there were cameras in a few of the classrooms. I learned to stay clear of them, but at first, I was plainly on camera at least a few times.

Steph however, wasn’t so lucky with distractions. She began to crack. Out of left field, one day she says she wants to play Prince of Persia—more specifically, the one her cousin had for PS2 back in the day. And, well, she didn’t want to play, she wanted to watch me play it. Looking for anything to lift her mood, we turned on the PS3 and found the game online. After three solid days of play, we emerged from the fog, back into our living room in the same broken mindset and were now running out of time. 

Naturally, this lead me to say, “Shall we play Grand Theft Auto 5 next?” And we did. The game was so long though, we had to pack. The days would be split, half GTA, half packing. Sometimes we just played GTA for two days straight, then, somehow, accomplish more in a single day of effort than we would in the week previous. Eventually though, the game ended, and we were ready to go.

Remembrance Day long weekend, we moved. The day the U-Haul pulled up to our house, was a true resetting of pace. We were moved without sentiment; like our lives really meant nothing in Edmonton. It was a rushed pace because of parking, the dog, and timeframe. Before we knew it, we were alone in an empty house—crying and wandering around. With eyes full of tears, we made sure that we had gathered anything that meant anything to us and cleaned up the party we had the night before. The rooms looked so bare and the echo of the walls, made of—I swear to god—petrified wood, reflected every little noise that anything could make. Sali wandered around, digging her face into the carpet. She sniffed out the spots she had ruined as a puppy and began to worry, as she does, about the bags in our hands.

My dog is a more nervous version of myself. If Steph, or myself are having off days, the dog will be off. When we’re sad, she mopes and cries with us. She had undertaken a rollercoaster of emotions, just as we had during the last month, and now I think she realized the game was over. She began to cry out loud and pace, just like us, and that’s when we knew we had to leave. We hit the road and haven’t been the same since.

It’s been a tough six months. I can’t sit here and pretend that it was the same for both Steph and I. I know that as history has shown, I am insanely lucky when in the city of Grande Prairie. Steph didn’t have it as easy as I did. My dad always said I have a silver spoon up my ass, and I’m really beginning to agree. After a drought of phone calls and leaving the job market—I put two applications back in the world, both of them at the suggestion of my mother-in-law. Both of them called me back, and the one I went with turned out to be the greatest left turn my life has ever taken.

A year ago, I hated my job and everyone around me. I played nice, but it was all so fuckin’ hollow. Now I spend my days having meaningful interactions with people, providing a simple thing that makes life so much better for so many people. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that, but the fact that I’m surrounded by compassionate people is worth my body weight in gold to me. I am a better person than I was, and it’s solely because of my job. I’m smarter—I get to learn everyday and flex my problem-solving muscles. busdriver once said, “always know the medicinal effects on an engaged mind,” and these days I can feel it. I can feel the medicine of activity flowing through me on a completely different level than before. I’m learning a tangible skill that can take me all over the world if I choose to let it. For the first time in my entire life, I can see myself as an old man.