BLOG-Bits: A Man

BLOG-Bits

A MAN

4.13.21Vision “Vision without action is a dream.”

Why don’t I have a vision? Something that guides me, and motivates me along the way? I can envision so many great things, almost will them into being. But by own future moves along a different timeline. I can open the door to my mind, yet have no access my future. Even a hazy vision would be fine; it doesn’t have to be crystal clear. When I close my eyes, all I see nothing but darkness, still I can hear the voices sneering and snickering hiding in the corners of my mind. I suppose that’s what therapists are for. Wait a second – my vision is to have a vision. Eureka, I’ve got it! Time to get to work. What is my vision? Why don’t I…

3.04.21 – Cog in The Machine

Most men are simply a cog in the machine… In that they, no matter how integral, are just part of what makes the whole contraption run. But they, too, will be replaced after churning out their best work, put through the grind, worn and abraded, a thick layer of elbow grease, blood, sweat and tears, with another just like him but at cheaper cost. None the matter; as long as this thing keeps running. Now go back to work!

3.03.21A Man

What is a man, if not his word? A man is his promise. And I cannot keep promises. In fact, anything I’ve “promised” you before this very writing could not and should not be counted on. And for that, I apologize. I am human, but I feel more like a scrapped blueprint for one. “I am my thoughts,” and my thoughts are made of shame and regret. Shame and regret for what? For letting myself down; for I know what a man is – sense one when he is in my presence – and I am not that, although it is what I strive to be: to finally become A Man.

BLOG-Bits: Ramblings of a Madman – The Pub

BLOG-Bits
Ramblings of a Madman
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The Pub
10.23.19
    Nothing like a cool pint on a cold day… Sitting in a warm, dimly lit pub, in prohibition era red velvet chairs. With the first sip you can forget your worries… And the pub suddenly becomes your home: the dirty table, the stained chair, the dusty lamp. You could live here. The waiter is suddenly your best friend. The previously loud and annoying resident is suddenly a friendly neighbour. The loud noises are suddenly welcome. The smell of chicken wings is suddenly akin to the feeling of an organism. An overall sense of elation comes over you like there’s not a thing wrong in the world. All you worries, anxiety, depression – poof – gone. I could kiss my neighbour right now: a bearded hipster. This feeling feels like it could last forever. Is this how men become alcoholics? Did it all start with good intentions – a stress relief, a therapy, something to set the world straight? If I were dying I’d like to got out after a few pints. I wouldn’t be afraid of death. I would welcome it with open arms, like my mustachioed companion. Why can’t I always feel like this? I never want this feeling to end. Weed is good too. Why don’t they serve weed-infused beer pints? They’re missing a good business opportunity. Maybe I should start one: a pub that sells weed pints. I’d make a ton of money. Then I could buy as many pints as I like.

BLOGasides: “Not Very Bunny” (An Easter Story)

BLOGasides

“Not Very Bunny”

(An Easter Story)


Preface: During our Easter brunch this year at the prestigious The Doctor’s House in Kleinburg, as I prepared to delight the family with some “Easter entertainment” during brunch, I magically disappeared before the show even began, leaving my family to think I’d dashed on the bill or ran off with the Easter Bunny. Now to “eggsplain” the mystery behind my unplanned disappearance…


     I was all prepared to give my best 5 minutes as the Easter Bunny, but of course my laptop crashed that morning, so I had no way of playing the audio file. It was at that point I made up my mind: I would find some living soul in Kleinburg that could help me. I ventured out into the attractive yet unknown terrain of Kleinburg Village, popping into every store along the way hoping to find a working computer. Alas, shop after shop, the townsfolk had never heard of a “computer.” Finally, glimmering in the distance like a mirage, was a Flower Shop with a flickering red light that read: “Open.”


I ventured in and the proprietor, an old Korean woman, tried her best to help me by plugging in my usb stick into what looked like Bill Gate’s first prototype of a “computer” to no avail. Now in full-on panic mode – all the while knowing I was missing out on a succulent 5 star buffet – the singular customer in the shop, a lovely lady with with her son, noticed my predicament (I had been joking around with her son: “Are you buying flowers for your girlfriend? Did you meet the Easter Bunny this morning? Etc”). She said, out loud, likely much to her chagrin, “We have a computer at home. We live close by!” After the shock of hearing one of the local residents actually owned a computer died down, I said, “Let’s do it!” and then she said, “Follow me!” to which I replied, “I actually don’t have a car!” to which she then retorted, “We don’t live that close…” Then she said, “What the heck, jump in!” and she, Cecelia, I learned after a hurried handshake, introduced me to her husband Michael; driver, and her four cute kids sitting in the back.


After a fun name game along the way where I purposely mixed up all the kids’ names much to their delight, we pulled into the driveway of what must’ve been the nicest house in Kleinburg. I started guessing what Michael must do for a living: doctor? Lawyer? Arms dealer?? As I walked into the front lobby, there was a single painting hanging on the wall, clearly depicted by one of their kids, but it wasn’t the painting itself that caught my attention; it’s what was scrawled on it: “Make Magic.” I stopped in my tracks and exclaimed, “This is a sign.” Despite it technically being a “sign,” I couldn’t help but think I was on the right track. I followed the sign further into their beautiful, sprawling home and then into Michael’s office. I made quick work: I inserted my usb stick into the computer (even the computer was big), pulled up my file, emailed it to myself, and confidently said, “It is done.” By now I was sure an hour had passed.

My intention was to bolt back up the road to the Doctor’s House, but Michael offered to take me back as he knew the predicament I was in. James joined us (“James Cameron”, another sign?) We sped up the winding road back to the D.H., and I jumped out and thanked them. Michael handed me his business card and I assured him I would contact them. After a friendly farewell, I sauntered in, clearly having been lost in the labyrinthine buffet, and the rest is as you remember it: At some point in all the craziness, the Easter Bunny made his debut, told some “not so bunny jokes”, scared a baby or two, delivered some hastily dyed hard boiled eggs, hugged a few people he hadn’t seen in years, then hopped off into some distant meadow where he’s happily hibernating till next year (mistakenly next to some hungry bears). And it struck me that that is what Easter is truly about; it’s about gathering together with family, sharing laughs, tears, and lots of chocolate; and about helping out a random stranger in need.

Happy Easter to all my lovely followers! – Cameron

Watch my “Not Very Bunny” Easter Bunny standup act: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=8zDIcGLgxJI

Reel Vietnam – “My Accident”

Reel Vietnam – “My Accident”

by Cameron Brtnik

Excerpt from a letter I wrote to a friend in Taiwan just after moving to Vietnam

Speaking of accidents…

    I had a bad one last month (worst one since I started driving a motorbike in Asia). I was going about 50 km, which isn’t that fast in Taiwan. I was in a rush as it was a Monday morning and I was running late for a job interview. It was an old bike and I knew the brakes were shoddy, so I shouldn’t have been driving so fast in the first place.. but it totally wasn’t my fault. I was driving merrily along, and the car in front of me made a left turn – and suddenly there was this old dude on his motorbike just stopped in the middle of the goddamned road!

    Now that I’m more experienced I realize this “maneuver” is “normal” here. The back of his bike had about 100 boxes loaded on top of it. He was just sitting there like he was daydreaming, and I saw him too late… I tried to brake but the brakes were shit, so I swerved to miss him and flew off my bike like Superman… landing on the pavement with my entire body weight broken by my left hand. I got up and dusted myself off – seemingly fine due to the adrenalin coursing through my body – thankful I was alive and apparently uninjured, but furious… The guy actually stopped on the side of the road, but didn’t get off his bike to help. He just looked somewhat scared and confused (*note like in Taiwan locals are often scared of hitting foreigners). I then did something I’ve fantasized about since I started driving a motorbike: I walked right over to him and kicked his bike as hard as I could, tipping it along with him and his boxes over.. but he somehow caught his balance on one leg (these old dudes are strong!), then drove off.

    My bike was shattered and leaking gas, but miraculously it still worked. I defeatedly drove off and continued to my job interview.. and that’s when the adrenaline dissipated and the pain kicked it… It felt like my left hand was broken, so I drove myself directly to a hospital (where the doctor actually laughed at the frantic state I was in). It was extremely painful driving, but luckily my hand was only sprained. I wore a cast for two weeks. My hand is still healing and sore if I use it, but I’m sure it’ll fully heal. So there’s my accident story! On the plus side I now feel a lot more confident when I’m driving – It’s a different art altogether in Vietnam.

Your Taiwanese buddy, Cameron

Reel Vietnam – “A Little Goes A Long Way”

Reel Vietnam – “A Little Goes A Long Way”

By Cameron Brtnik


      On May 27, 2017 I jumped in a van – joined by my fellow teachers Peter from America and Marty from Australia, both living and teaching in Vietnam, and Toby, a winemaker from California and one of the sponsors, – and rode the hour long trip to Tien Hiep Secondary School in Ha Nam. This was my second excursion to a rural school in the countryside with BLV – Better Life Vietnam – a non-profit organization that promotes learning and reading to students who attend schools that don’t receive enough funding for school materials or resources or even programs like a library. BLV does this by visiting these schools, often located in rural areas of Vietnam, and providing English classes and activities taught by foreigners, an opportunity that students in these villages would not normally get. BLV also does this by donating books to those children who don’t normally have access to an abundance of learning resources.

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{BLV’s wonderful team of supporters and volunteers from USA, Canada, NewZealand, Australia and Vietnam}

      On my first trip to Hà Nam, I had such a great experience bringing joy to these underprivileged children I had to do it again! When you arrive at the school, the students’ eager looks, the excitement in their voices, their enthusiasm to speak and learn English – If you’re an English teacher in Vietnam, you understand that these are all the reasons we teach in the first place. This is an experience you may not find teaching at schools in the larger cities. It was no different this time around. When we arrived at Tien Hiep Secondary School, we were greeted by bright, smiling faces excited at our arrival. The students were very shy to speak to us at first; keep in mind their speaking level is at the “Hello, what’s your name?” level. We split up into various classrooms and each volunteer teacher taught the students a 30 minute class. They were so well behaved, they made us forget all about the naughty kids we had back in Hanoi!

See here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qUsEgl0qHg&feature=youtu.be

      We then hit up our second school for the day, Trinh Xa, where we played activities and handed out books to nearly 300 students! The organizers, Thinh Nguyen and Nhung Nguyen, hosted the school’s event and introduced each of the volunteers. One at time, we took to the stage to talk with the students, play games, perform magic tricks, teach English and give them advice – namely sharing with them the importance of reading – all this to 300 students!

Watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPnYx9Ws2ew&feature=youtu.be

     Then the best part: Handing out the books. It was like a hundred Christmas gift-openings at once! The children tore open boxes, reached inside and hurled out books, choosing a book that perhaps caught their eye or had a familiar title. Lots of photographs and video were taken throughout the day to document the day’s events. After all the fun and games, the organizers again took time to talk about the importance of reading, and encouraged students to keep learning no matter what their education or family’s situation is.

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After a full morning, we joined the school principal and teachers for a lovely locally-prepared  lunch, enjoyed with a toast with their local rice wine. What a splendid way to end an already awesome day!

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     Started by Thinh Nguyen in 2017, Better Life Vietnam was established as a way to reach underprivileged areas of Vietnam, and to help less fortunate children and families in Vietnam: “Better Life Vietnam was founded with the belief that access to education, food, healthcare, clean water and a decent quality of life are basic human rights.” BLV is an outstanding organization that develops programs to sponsor schools, provide educational material, donate books, and organize events – all geared toward underprivileged schools in rural areas of Vietnam. They also initiated a superb program that interviews students’ families about their family and financial situation, choosing one of those families (based on various factors) to sponsor by providing livestock so that they, typically farmers, can earn money. Visit their website www.betterlifevietnam.org for more information.

VOLUNTEERS WANTED!

BLV is currently looking for volunteers to help with teaching classes, hosting activities, taking photographs/video of the event and video editing, as well as other jobs. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to donate your talents and time to a worthy and fun cause: providing better living for students in Vietnam! Note: Some organizations in Vietnam make the volunteer pay for their time. This opportunity is free for all volunteers!

If you would like to get involved please contact Better Life Vietnam at
Email: betterlifevietnam@gmail.com

Cameron is a freelance writer, English teacher, and volunteer living in Hanoi, Vietnam

Travel-ogue: Reel Vietnam – Ninh Binh Family Homestay “Home From Home”

Travel-ogue: Reel Vietnam

Ninh Binh Family Homestay 

“Home From Home”

SO YOU’RE TRAVELING in Vietnam: You’ve been to the South and navigated the dizzying traffic of Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to by its original name Saigon), visited the amazing Cu Chi Tunnels, and took some selfies in front of the magnificent Notre-Dame Cathedral. Perhaps you worked on your tan on the pristinely white sand of Phu Quoc. You certainly explored the luminous and magical Ancient Town in Hoi An, and definitely visited the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, walking through the bustling Old Quarter, strolling around the beautiful West Lake, and stopping by some historical temples where you can even view Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body at his mausoleum (which amusingly was named the world’s sixth ugliest building in 2012). And of course, no Vietnam trip is complete without a boat cruise through the hauntingly beautiful Halong Bay. But, perhaps towards the end of your trip, you’re ready for some peace and quiet away form the hustle and bustle and all the tourists… That’s when you open your Lonely Planet and discover the small city of Ninh Binh. Located in northern Vietnam, and the capital of Ninh Binh Province, the area is best known for its largest nature reserve, Cuc Phuong National Park. “But why travel to Ninh Binh?”, you ask. To stay at the Ninh Binh Family Homestay, of course!

Run by a young, lovely Vietnamese couple, Mr. Nguyen Thanh – or Scott as his guests call him – and his wife Mrs. Tran Hang, along with their two adorable children Bo and Min, the Ninh Binh Family Homestay really is, as their motto says, “Home From Home” (mind the endearing grammatical error). And I should know; I’ve been here for one week! I discovered the NBFH on the Southeast Asia Backpacker Facebook page, advertising that they were looking for a “volunteer English teacher,” and that they provided free accommodation, food, as well as a motorbike! I was traveling through Southeast Asia at the time and couldn’t resist; a chance to do what I love – teaching children, a profession I’ve been working in for the past five years in Taiwan – and explore a remote and authentic region of Vietnam.

I was welcomed graciously by Scott and his family, and on the first evening we enjoyed a delicious traditional dinner on a rug shared by other homestay guests from Australia, and the States, with a hearty chicken and vegetable soup, crispy spring rolls Vietnamese style (both Family Homestay specialties), and homemade “happy water” – you’ll find out what makes it “happy” once you try it So far I’ve taken my motorbike out on day-long excursions, exploring the countryside, and generally getting lost – the best way to figure out your bearings! It’s not unusual to encounter a herd cows blocking the road, free range chickens frantically scurrying about, and “goat traffic” which, instead of being gridlocked behind a line of cars, you’ll find yourself stuck behind a traffic jam of goats! We also take morning bike riding excursions with the guests – and there are plenty of guests to keep me company during my stay as the the Homestay is always at 75% occupancy – through the peaceful rice fields, admiring the local farmers as they plant all the rice seeds by hand, and the abundant livestock as you’re sure see some intimidating but friendly oxen lazing along the dirt roads, gaggles of garrulous geese (sorry for the cheesy use of alliteration), as well as a wide array of other farm animals grazing in the grasslands.

There are of course some excellent local tourist destinations you can visit just a bike-ride away: Ninh Binh City contains the impressive Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest pagoda in Vietnam, as well as the biggest bronze Buddha statue in Southeast Asia! For a unique excursion, you can take the Trang An boat tour, winding through the Song Sao River and breathtaking mountains made entirely of limestone, and even passing through natural cave – but just a “heads up,” you’ll have to duck your head! Cool fact: Trang An is the site where they filmed the new King Kong film “Kong: Skull Island!” Scott also offers his own unique tours, scenic bike rides through the countryside, and his “special tour” designed only for the bravest guests with a sense of adventure, and danger… I have posted some photos, but pictures cannot do justice to what you’ll see when you explore Ninh Binh yourself. I’ll be updating you again soon, and posting photos daily on their Instagram account “Ninhbinhadventure.”

So stay tuned, and when visit the Ninh Binh Family Homestay, remember to say, “Mot hai ba zho!” as you down your first, but certainly not last, shot of happy water. Cheers!

-Cameron
Ninh Binh, January 26, 2017

Cameron is a freelance writer and blogger, and currently works as a tour guide in Hanoi, Vietnam. He now enjoys happy water on a weekly basis

BLOGasides: On Being 29

BLOGasides

On Being 29

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by Cameron Brtnik

4/15/11

     Getting older is not fun.

    NOW I’M THAT GUY: the one who I always despised. The guy who goes out to dinner with his wife or girlfriend of three years and asks the young looking waiter how old the he is. Upon proudly asserting he is only 19, his wife/girlfriend replies (with just a hint of flirtation): “Oh, you’re just a baby.” For some reason I always thought that was lame. I always thought I would stay that baby. But now, now I’m that guy…

No matter what anyone says, getting older sucks. Nothing is as good as it once was. I just don’t buy when (old) people say, “Getting older is great! With more experience comes greater wisdom!” Not to mention with more birthdays comes greater joint pain. I think the best part of life is attaining that wisdom; “The journey not the destination” and all that. Sure it’s great to give it, your wisdom, passing it on to the youth who will surely ignore it as you once did because you needed to learn it for yourself. And what would be the fun in following it? Sure you’d stay out of trouble, but you’d miss out on the best part of growing up! Wisdom, therefore, is contradictory, an oxymoron if you will…

     I feel shame.

I am no longer proud of my accomplishments. Possibly because I have not made any in a long time. I think the last time I felt good about anything I did was at age eighteen, the first time I traveled – to British Columbia, Canada – and made something of myself; I became a ski bum. I got a job at a ski resort and fell in love with snowboarding. I felt liberated, absolute freedom in the mountains, and felt like I could conquer the world… Since then, I haven’t felt quite as high: L.A., Carnival Cruises, China, all great challenges and experiences, yet not the same feeling of accomplishment…

     I feel off.

It may be a chemical imbalance; my family is evidence that this is probably the case. Or it could just be me. Or maybe it’s something I could adjust if I just changed my thinking. But that’s just it: No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to change my thinking. I’ve become stuck in a rut, and I’ve been here, or there, for years. I’m not sure what I can do…

     I feel helpless.

Perhaps it doesn’t help, not having any family around. I hole up deeper inside myself, and it becomes a self-perpetuating emotion, a form of self-sabotage, and it’s something that I can’t shake. When I return back home, I should seek help. I just hope it’s not too late. Like Saito recited in the movie Inception, I don’t want to “become an old man, filled with regret.”.

     I feel lost.

I’m sick of not knowing what I’m supposed to do in life. It seems as though everyone else has figured it out by the age of twenty five and set their lives on course to reach their goals. I feel like I was born with the career-oriented portion of my brain missing. I can’t figure out what exactly it is I want to do. I suppose there may be many other people out there who don’t know what they want to do either. But they decide on something: Something that they could be happy doing, not ever fully knowing if that’s what they were destined to do, if they will ever reach their full potential, both creatively and emotionally…

   I’m a teacher. 

I truly enjoy teaching, but sometimes lack the patience it takes to make sure every student reaches their full potential. I believe in helping each child individually, no matter how dumb he is or hopeless it seems. I think I should focus on teaching, but…

     I’m a writer.

     I think I really want to be a writer. I’d like to write for a magazine, sharing stories about my travels and experiences, or even write fictional short stories that I could submit weekly to a publication just to get by, and one day write that deceivingly simple word “book,” expecting my life will have been interesting enough by then for anyone to want to read about. But… 

 I’m a family businessman.

Deep down, even though I left the family business a decade ago, I’d  like to make sure my family’s restaurant continues on and remains a mogul in Toronto. I know we have a good thing, and I want to be involved in continuing its success, ensuring its reputation lives on throughout future generations. But I feel like…

     I’m a prostitute.

On prostituting yourself (Bruce Lee quote): “I realize that if you prostitute yourself in anyway, it won’t make you happy. That means anything; Don’t give anything for free!” This doesn’t mean you can’t be charitable, I’m all for that. But you must feel like it is a good deal for you. If you are giving for the betterment of the community or for children, that’s a good thing. But if you feel you are doing something for free, against your will, DON’T DO IT! It’s not worth it, I know. I’ve prostituted myself, and lost myself, my self-worth, along the way…

    I can’t remember what I wanted… I can’t remember what my morals were…I can’t remember where I was supposed to go…. It’s time to remember.

Cameron is a regular Blogger, Writer, self-styled Psychologist cbrtnik.com 

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”

BLOGasides: Being ITM or In The Moment

LiveInTheMoment
BLOGasides
Being ITM or In The Moment
Ready? Let’s be in the moment together…
    Ironically, I’ve always been a loner. I’ve always thought about things and done them my own way, setting myself apart from “the group.” You wouldn’t guess it upon first glance – I enjoy being around people, love being social, and relish being the centre of attention. But yet…I feel awkward around people. I can’t just have a relaxing, normal conversation about sports, or politics. It’s not that I don’t find either of those subjects interesting (although I could care less about “the game” last night), it’s just that I find them utterly inane; unimportant on the scale of things, fleeting and impersonal. Instead of prattling on about “the score,” I’d much rather talk about who “scored” the previous night. It’s so much more personal, interesting: human. To me who our next POTUS will be isn’t as significant as who my high school Year Book Club president was. At least that individual directly affected me – I knew him personally, and he got to choose which unflattering photo of me would be printed within its pages. And when truthfully, whether you’re voting for the Year Book Club President or the President of the United States, it’s all based on the same thing: politics, power and high school gossip.
     It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good political debate. I do..as long as I happen to be following the news that week. It’s just that I appreciate the NOW. Not the score from a game that happened thenight before; not who rose ahead in the polls today; but what’s happeningright nowin front of me. Like, for instance, if the lady I’m talking to has spinach in her teeth and I awkwardly point it out, or the smart-ass student I’m teaching pipes up with a funny remark, causing not only the entire class to erupt in laughter but the teacher too – that’s real to me. It’s about creating real human moments, things I canobservedirectly.I can tell what my best friends thinking if I suggest jerk chicken (he’s thinking, Hellyes!), not what a politician is thinking when he promises reform and better healthcare.
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     I think I live in the moment too much. I rarely plan things and that seems to be my downfall. It’s why I’m always late, why I’m always broke, and the reason I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I’m envious of everyone around me: I call these citizens “normal people” (NP from here on out). I envy their jobs, their lifestyles, and their generally relaxed demeanours under life’s stresses and pressures. They seem to defiantly move forward, while I obstinately pretend these things didn’t exist. I tend to defuse these social situations with a sly remark, a witty observation, a funny joke, all hiding the fact I’m morescaredthan the they are (though perhaps they’re thinking the same thing). In fact, most of the time I wish I was someone else – fat, ugly, poor or rich – anyone but me. But then I try and erase that thought, afraid that I’d lose my talents, abilities, personality, and anything that makes me,me.
     Sometimes, if I take a moment to reflect (which is rare in today’s day and age), I tell myself to acknowledge the awesome things I’ve done: the art, poetry and performances, to take some time out of my “busy” day to pause; to congratulate myself in an unrelenting, and at times unsympathetic world. It’s certainly healthy to do so; otherwise we’d all walk around doing things and forgetting why the hell we did them. So, good job me! Congratulations! You’ve survived another day – You got up, showered, brushed your teeth, dressed, made coffee, wrote a blog, went to work, taught a student something new, talked to a stranger, texted a loved one, watched three episodes of Narcos back to back, and did it all without offending someone too much and maybe even brightened someone’s day who felt worse than you.
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     I may be a loner at heart (the reason for all my self-inflicted problems), but perhaps we all feel like loners in our own world. I feel “unique” in this world – I believe my mom uses the term “special” – but this is a feeling I think we all need to adopt in a world that, if you don’t display your uniqueness in some way, you fade into the background unnoticed and unappreciated..and that would be such a loss to your fellow creatures. So let your uniqueness shine! Even if your uniqueness is the cause of your depression, anti-social behaviour and other issues, show the world you’re different than the rest. Read up a little on what’s happening in the world so you can indulge in a conversation that covers the basics: polictics, sports, Hollywood gossip… But make sure you’re also in theNOW:notice what people are wearing, what nervous ticks they have, don’t be afraid to awkwardly point out the mustard stain on their jacket or ask about their personal life. It’s the stuff that makes ushuman, and not just a Blackhawks fan who thinks Trump is the best thing to happen in politics since that weirdo who headed up the Year Book Club. What’s his name again?
Cameron is a freelance writer and proud loner