A Poem – Memories of JR

JR: 1988-2013
Memories of JR

This is a poem I wrote the day I discovered he passed (this past August). I picture performing this onstage at the T-Bar, collaborating with Doug on the flute

 
This is for JR – Even though you’re gone, you ain’t far / Even though you’re not here, won’t stay far; never disappear like a faint scar / And you will stay a star like a quasar, faster than a race car – vroom – off the radar / Most people work hard – You would play hard, I knew people later and you’re still greater than they are
 
Damn life is way hard, so we gotta communicate; human resources HR / You were the prodigal “sun,” another day gone, life’s a game of chance, you better play cards / So here’s another eight bars, sharp like knife’s edge, livin’ life on the edge like a skatepark / Not religious, but not a day goes by don’t pray for another day I see ya again, “Hey God”
 
Life’s a melody, gotta learn how to play guitar, sometimes it’s f&^%ed up, yeah it’s Rated R / Feel a pain in my stomach, hit like a paintball, oh shit I’m losing it, gotta stay calm… / Life is a game of pool until you sink the eight ball – but that means you win, so I think it ain’t all / that bad; Life is a dream that we eventually wake from, so JR I’ll see you later when I wake up….

Memories of JR: 1988-2013

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Memories of
 
JR: 1988-2013
 
     
     I knew JR for a short time in Panorama Mountain Village when I worked there, let’s see, 15 years ago now in Lusti’s Cappuccino Bar… I knew JR as the annoying kid who kept harassing me at work (I was 19, he was only 12). I would be making coffees for customers and he would visit, uninvited, and just constantly talk and ask me questions. But I realized I enjoyed his company – JR was like a younger version of myself – and we shared the same sense of humour. We would joke around when there were no customers around, and listen to music after work – mainly Eminem and the South Park Movie soundtrack. He would wait for me till I finished work and then he’d walk with me to my staff accommodations but no further, a “no-mans land” for kids his age. He was too young to hang out with, but he tried, and I admired that. I remember he was already a strong athlete, and competed in everything from skiing to motocross. He was also a very handsome dude, and I remember he asked lots of questions about girls; he was already fending off his wonderstruck female fans.
 
 
     I only just found out about his death, and its been three years… I was shocked, and saddened. He lived a fast life at a young age. I wish I knew him in his twenties as I’m sure we would have gotten along very well. I got to know his dad, Doug, quite well as he’s a musician and I was a rapper and we collaborated a couple times at T-Bar’s open mic nights. We both shared a love for music and people, and I remember him being a very charming and friendly man. I hope to visit Panorama soon, as it’s been over a decade since I’ve been back, and visit the MacRae family. I wish I could have hung out with JR one last time. Without knowing him as a young adult, I know he lived a fuller life than most of us do in a hundred year lifespan. I’d like to believe I was a role model for the young JR. Even though we had a respectable age difference, we treated each other as friends.
 
 
     For knowing JR for only one ski season, I will miss him, and keep him in my heart.
 
-Peace and love to family and friends,
Cameron
 
 
Below is a poem I wrote the day I discovered he passed (this past August). I picture performing this onstage at the T-Bar, collaborating with Doug on the flute:
 
“This is for JR – Even though you’re gone, you ain’t far / Even though you’re not here, won’t stay far; never disappear like a faint scar / And you will stay a star like a quasar, faster than a race car – vroom – off the radar / Most people work hard – You would play hard, I knew people later and you’re still greater than they are
 
Damn life is way hard, so we gotta communicate; human resources HR / You were the prodigal “sun,” another day gone, life’s a game of chance, you better play cards / So here’s another eight bars, sharp like knife’s edge, livin’ life on the edge like a skatepark / Not religious, but not a day goes by don’t pray for another day I see ya again, “Hey God”
 
Life’s a melody, gotta learn how to play guitar, sometimes it’s f&^%ed up, yeah it’s Rated R / Feel a pain in my stomach, hit like a paintball, oh shit I’m losing it, gotta stay calm… / Life is a game of pool until you sink the eight ball – but that means you win, so I think it ain’t all / that bad; Life is a dream that we eventually wake from, so JR I’ll see you later when I wake up….”

BLOGasides: The Big Comeback

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BLOGasides

The Big Comeback

Sep 22, 2016

     I’ve never had a comeback per se. Sure, I’ve bounced back from adversity, challenges, struggles, and disappointments. We all do. But to be honest, I always imagined a BIG comeback. Not from any one thing in particular, but from life itself. I am waiting on the day I turn it all around: My Big Comeback.

     What would I come back from? you silently ask. Well since you asked…

I would come back from all my mistakes, mess-ups, failures, and fuck-ups I’ve made – and I’ve made plenty – along the way. First, lets take a trip back to Junior High… An awkward time where I was shy, uncomfortable, and consequently an outcast. I was teased for being gay – perhaps because of my fashionable taste in clothes and boyband looks – and endured a daily onslaught of insults hurled at me in the hallways. And I was bullied because, well, I was an easy target. The bullies would slam me up against the lockers for no reason at all, embarrassing me in front of any onlookers. My mom used to have to wait for me outside after-school so that I wouldn’t be pummelled. I had low self esteem, and no confidence in myself. The pathetic part is I never fought back. I was too much of a pussy. I was scared, but looking back, I’m not sure what I was scared of….

I can see all the faces of those who bullied me now, and I picture My Comeback: Me, kicking in the doors to the entrance of the school, Backstreet’s Back playing on some boombox in the background while everything is moving in slow motion. The Bully, seeing me confidently walk in with my white Levis jean jacket, cracking his knuckles and getting ready for another beat down. As I approach him, I look him dead in the eye and say, “You’re a real dick.” As the initial shock wears off, both hands fling out to grab me…but I counteract by pulling his arms toward me, using his own strength against him, and watch, giddily, as he falls to the floor…all this taking place of course in front of every student in the school. As they point and laugh, Cory (I don’t actually remember his name but Cory seems like a pretty generic bully’s name) gets to his feet to throw a punch…but I catch his fist, midair, and uppercut his jaw, watching him stumble back on his ass in humiliation and the realization that I AM THE STRONGEST OPPONENT HE’S EVER FACED AND AM NEVER TO BE FUCKED WITH AGAIN. He even thinks he’d like to invite me to his birthday party, but I’d never accept, I’d never hang out with losers like him! And all the while everybody’s chanting my name “Cameron! Cameron! Cameron!”

As I snap out of this sycophantic fantasy, I realize this comeback comes twenty years too late, but only if I could go back….

Next came High School… A slightly, though not much better experience. I was used to the bullying by then, and didn’t pay them much attention. I made friends and had my own clique: “The Loners.” We certainly weren’t cool, but we had out own plebes we made fun of, like a natural food chain, everyone having their place, never to be messed with. I was a good student. I just hung out with the wrong crowd. I studied, did my homework, handed in assignments on time… That all changed when I met my best friend. He showed me a whole new world: A world of not studying history, but of studying ass. In the library, while everyone was checking out books, we checked out Sonya’s ass. They both had overdue fees. I’m sorry, that metaphor made no sense. Instead of doing homework, we shot pool in the local bar, never being checked for ID, and early on discovered our enjoyment of alcohol and the underbellies of society. Instead of handing in assignments, we rarely went to class, instead skipping to hang out in the lunchroom and watch movies on our smartphones. I’m just kidding, we didn’t have smartphones then, pagers were about be in vogue… I don’t know what we did in the lunchroom. But I know it didn’t help me with my final marks or report cards.

I can see all the faces of those teachers who failed me now, and I picture My Comeback: Me, strutting into class at 7:59 one minute before the cut-off deadline, and tossing my A+ project on top of the pile. Mr. Pelic’s eyes widening in surprise as he reads my above-grade level report on “Nature versus Nurture.” The bell rings at the end of class, and as the average students scamper toward the door to leave he calls out my name “Cameron, why don’t you stay behind for a minute,” and I do. “You know, I’ve read a lot of reports in my day and never have I read something with such..brilliance.” As I smugly reply that I was up all night writing it, Mr P, not believing I could’ve written such a masterpiece in only one night, shakes his head with pride. We both share a smile. I start studying and acing my tests, quickly becoming the top student in all my classes. Suddenly the word “genius” is thrown around and the other students are in awe of me. It’s clear that I have a bright future: doctor, lawyer, or even a writer… As I come to, daydreaming on the toilet again, I realize none of these things ever came true, but there’s still hope I tell myself, I can always make a comeback….

The girl I was crazy over chose another, more muscular guy There’s still a chance for a comeback a voice in the back of my head assures me. Another bomb at standup night – I pictured it going so well – We’ll get’em next timeI tell myself. I didn’t get the job I was sure I had in the bag. When I’m working for myself and making enough money to walk in, buy the company, and fire the manager, then I’ll show’em who’s boss!

     There will always be time, I tell myself. I can always make a COMEBACK.

By Cameron Brtnik

Cameron is a freelance writer based in Toronto who’s still looking to make that “big comeback”

Poetry Corner – Starless Sky

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Starless Sky 

a poem about Taipei


Taipei, Taipei, starless sky

Up above the world so high

I can't see you, your guiding light

You never show up, day or night 


Taipei, Taipei, starless sky

I look up and you always hide

You're full, but down here lose your power

Starlight wasted by the hour


Taipei, Taipei, starless sky

I look up and I wonder why

You're bright, but light cannot shine true

Clouds like a membrane obscure view


Taipei, Taipei, starless sky

I feel a void, a great divide

You're strong, but cannot break on through

Pollution thick; light sticks like glue 


Taipei, Taipei, starless sky

Sometimes I look up and I cry

I miss you stars, why did you leave

Without your guidance eyes bereaved
 

Taipei, Taipei, starless sky

Even if you really try

You won't see them, they've gone away

For now it's starless, black and gray

Short Story – The Magician’s Assistant

The Magician’s Assistant

A Magical Fiction by Cameron Brtnik

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The Magician’s Assistant

    There was a thunderous applause reverberating throughout the room, coming from the audience as the lady stepped out of the box, fully intact and alive to be sure! The Sawing a Lady In Half trick never ceased to amaze audiences, even in this day and age of smartphones and catching Pokemon. The magician took the beautiful lady’s hand and bowed with her at the front of the stage, the applause always music to the magician’s ears. He lived by the audience’s feedback, and their applause was proof of their adoration. Amanda, the beautiful assistant, could care less. Her job wasn’t glamorous; she was a glorified contortionist. But she was really a talented escape artist, almost as good as Houdini – she could escape from locks, free herself from a straight jacket while hanging upside down, free her shackled hands while floating in a tank of water, and even break out of jails – but no one cared. They only cared about the magician, the “man who made the magic happen.” She didn’t hate Peter (The Magnificent Julio was his stage name, a moniker that neither resembled ‘Peter’ nor had anything to do with his ethnicity considering he wasn’t even a quarter Spanish), in fact they had a romantic fling time to time that she quite enjoyed. She especially liked when they did it after a successful show in the wooden box where she was usually accustomed to being alone in such a tight space. Amanda realized she enjoyed the claustrophobic-ness of it, especially with no audience to please but herself, where the trick was to come inside the box rather than out if it. She also enjoyed fucking on the the magic prop table, silks, locks and chains flying everywhere in the heat of passion.
 
     Amanda was fine with it. She had a goal: she would be “discovered” and move to Vegas where’d she’d have her own magic spectacle; this was just temporary. So she smiled in her skimpy dress, swallowed her pride and got on with the show, seven nights a week. After all, Julios was the best in the business, and without her the show would be nothing. If Peter replaced her with another girl – probably younger, attractive obviously, but with no experience – the show would go to shit! She was a modern-day Houdini, with a set of long legs to boot! She knew she was irreplaceable. She pushed the thought from her mind and ran backstage for a costume change; she would do the Metamorphosis illusion next and she needed to change into her skimpiest outfit: the glittery blue dress, its dangling frills hanging over her upper thighs. In the blink of an eye she would change places with the magician after being shackled and tied up in a large sack. It was Houdini’s first illusion, and one that was still performed today. It was all about “who performed the illusion the fastest” now, the record currently held by The Pendragons (damn those bloody Pendragons). The audience was always amazed like it was their first time seeing the illusion (hadn’t they seen that stupid masked magician expose this trick a decade ago? On a side note that guy actually improved business by making the “secret art of magic” more accessible to the lay person.)
 
     After a hugely successful show, the theatre manager came backstage to congratulate them and invite them out for celebratory drinks. “We’ll be there after teardown,” Peter said. “Mandy, I’d like you to meet someone. She’ll be helping out in the show from now on. Julia, come here.” This young, beautiful blonde came out of the change room (had she been there all night?) “Hi,” she said shyly, “I’m Julia.” “Amanda,” she said in return, although in a much colder tone of voice. “So…you’re a dancer?” Amanda managed in a clearly condescending tone. “Yes, well kinda, I’m..” “She’s an assistant,” Peter thankfully cut in. “Mandy, you’ll be training her over the next month. Just think of it as, “Double the beauty, double the entertainment!'” he announced excitedly. Amanda didn’t feel so excited. “Oh, okay..” she said more to herself than anyone in particular. “C’mon, let’s go celebrate!” Peter said, wanting to put an end to the obvious awkwardness.
 
     The next morning they were on the road visiting the next middle-of-who-gives-a-shit-nowhere town on their American tour. Amanda was teaching Julia how to to pick locks in the back of the trailer. Julia’s hand slipped and the bobby pin fell to the floor. Dumb blonde, Amanda thought to herself. Where does he get off hiring such untalented girls? Not including herself of course. “I got it!” Julia squealed and threw the shackles to the floor. “Great..” Amanda feigned. “What’s next?” the overly enthusiastic new assistant asked. How about seeing how long I can hold your head under water before air bubbles start floating up to the surface? “Let’s get to the rope ties I guess.” When they arrived at the theatre, Peter started unloading the props, while Amanda led Julia to the stage to go through all the choreography. Magic was as much about showmanship as as the trick itself, and what better showmanship than having two sexy ladies on stage misdirecting the audience’s eyes at all times (or at least Peter thought so anyway).
 
     After an hour of practice it was time to rehearse the Sawing A Lady In Half illusion, an audience favorite. First, she showed Julia how to step into the box like a lady, and where to position her hands, and the secret compartment for her feet. Amanda could contort her body into extremely tight spaces, and she was waiting for Julia to look at her like she was crazy. But suddenly Julia contorted her body into a pretzel, easily fitting into the claustrophobic space underneath. “Like this?” she asked innocently. “Yeah..you ditzy whore..perfect!” She suddenly had the disturbing image of Peter fucking her in this box, this same box at her audition: “Did I get the job?” Oh you got the job alright! “Where does the saw go?” snapping her back to reality. Amanda picked the saw up off the ledge of the table. It glinted in the stage spotlights. Usually Julio was the one who sawed her in half, but she knew how to do it; she’d watched him do it hundreds of times. She held it for a moment, feeling powerful at that moment, that she was in control for once. She expertly swung the saw into its grooves in the box and pushed downward, sawing her body in half, half-smiling at the thought of Julia missing the lower half of her body, her young gorgeous legs no longer attached to the… “Now look frightened,” she said as she removed the saw and pushed the box apart, splitting her right down the middle. “Now you can smile and wiggle your toes..but not really.” The mechanical feet did all that for her; even up close they looked real. She pushed the box back together, unlocked the latches, popped open the lid, and helped her “lovely assistant” out.
 
     Four weeks passed and it was Julia’s turn to get in the box. She had rehearsed it to the point where she was just as agile as Amanda, better even, and Peter felt it was time to give Julia her time in the spotlight. Amanda didn’t really care what Peter thought anymore. She was in the change room doing her makeup, daydreaming about…there was a knock at door. “Thirty minutes to show time!” She could hear the music echoing into the room as the audience shuffled in to find their seats. She put on the final touches and left the change room. As she made her way backstage, she passed by the box.. The box that was no longer hers, like she had been evicted and thrown out on the street. She paused there for long time… She had no idea how long because when she came to the stage manager was yelling at her, “You’re on!” She smiled Thank you you moron I’ve done this more times than you’ve been with women and she stepped out onto the stage to a welcoming roar. The music began, and she performed a flashy dance with Julio while the stagehands wheeled out the mysterious box. Julia appeared from stage left to an even more (to Amanda’s ears) welcoming applause – her young legs glistening in the bright lights, her perky tits perfectly buoyant in her glittery outfit and her white, shiny teeth glimmering intensely, seducing the audience, almost making them forget they were there to observe a magic… The Magnificent Julio and Amanda helped her into the box, her petite body agile and vibrant; no one wanted to see her precious body get maimed. Julia lay down inside the box, forcing her body into a human pretzel. They latched the straps together, locking the lid and trapping her inside… She looked out at the audience in feigned terror. The women in the audience felt anxious; the men were on the edge of their seats. Julio picked the saw up off the ledge of the table and banged on it with fist, causing it to wobble, its sharp teeth glistening under the spotlight – yes it was a real saw. He deftly waved the saw in the air, then expertly swung it down it into its grooves on the box. Now Julia looked frantic, her face twisted into a grimace, her toes frantically tapping at air, wishing she could escape at the last minute… He wasn’t sure, but he could’ve sworn he felt the box jiggle once he stuck the saw in…
 
     The Magnificent Julio pushed the saw downward….and it got stuck. Fifteen years performing this trick and it never got stuck. He felt a large bead of sweat roll down his forehead. He looked at Amanda, who was smiling wide at the audience, professional as always. He grabbed the handle and pushed down harder…still it seemed to be jammed. He couldn’t see Julia’s face from where he was standing – Amanda was blocking his view – but he assumed she was fine as he didn’t hear anything… So, with all his might, he pushed the blade down…and with some difficulty it struggled through, straight to the bottom. There was a palpable nervousness rising from the crowd; a normal reaction, but more than usual. Julio felt another large bead of sweat run down the other side of his forehead. He smiled, stealing a glimpse at the box out of the corner of his eye…and his heart sank. He could see tiny droplets of blood dripping off the saw’s teeth. He first prayed that the audience didn’t notice..then that Julia was alright – he hadn’t heard her scream. I’m sure it’s just a cut, nothing serious, she can contort her body better than any assistant I’ve ever had, the show must go on… Julio and his assistant walked to the ends of the box and pulled them apart, Julio praying there would be no more blood… He had to really put effort into pulling the halves apart, and when they finally separated, it felt like he was tearing a piece of meat off a bone… and then he realized the true horror of what had happened: He could now see (the audience could too) that Julia’s legs had been separated just above the kneecaps. A woman screamed in the audience; some others fainted. Julia’s head had gone limp; either a terrific actress or… Amanda had been calm this whole time. She realized she needed to take over at this point; she calmly pushed both ends of the box back together, a horrible squishing sound created from the collision. Julio was in a daze. Amanda walked to the front of the box, removed the saw (with some difficulty), and unbuckled the latches… She reached in to help the beautiful assistant out…but no one emerged. She grabbed Julia’s arm and pulled – her limp body popped up, head hanging to one side, her hair still done up in a bun. People in the audience were shouting now, many too uncomfortable to watch, many already leaving the theatre… “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s all just a joke!” Julio attempted to calm the audience, to save his career… It wasn’t working and people were shouting frantically now: “Call an ambulance!” “He murdered her!” Boos rang out through the theatre, and Julio motioned for the stagehands to come quick and wheel the gurney away. “Ah, we will now take a short intermission, drinks will be served in the lobby…” Julio said in a shaky voice. Amanda was still smiling, through the entire ordeal, imagining her start in Vegas, in the spotlight, and the glamour…it would all be hers soon.
 

The End

Cameron is an English teacher, fiction writer, and professional magician living in Taiwan cbrtnik