Poetry Corner – Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

People waiting in anticipation

For something so natural, so primitive

Mother Nature must laugh at our pettiness

A game of hide and seek

Trying to inconspicuously dip away

Not trying to draw attention to itself

Doing a poor job of it

Trying to run away from sky

Trying to escape from civilization

Away from world

Away from people

Unaware that it will return again tomorrow

Repeating the same process

Again and again

For eternity

The definition of craziness

Reflecting off the surfaces of the water

Reflecting the human experience

Sunset

-Bali, Jan 11/2017

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 

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: 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

BLOG-Bits: Depression

BLOG-Bits

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9.2.15 – Depression

I ate a whole box of O’s in bed last night and passed out. I effectively both avoided Skyping home, as was my plan (every time I want to Skype home I have guilty feelings of all the times I never Skyped home, and therefore avoid it again to rid myself of those negative feelings, therefore causing the cycle to continue) and all responsibility – I had planned to accomplish a few things before bed. WTF is wrong with me! I’m afraid I haven’t improved since I was a teenager, and I’m not sure if I ever will… I’m scared, and feeling more depressed than ever. I have a prescription for Ritalin, which helps me focus for long periods without getting tired or eating, and gives me feelings of inspiration, motivation and happiness… but those do not last. I feel worse the next day. It must be what a cocaine hangover feels like. I should probably change my prescription to antidepressants.

.

Travelogue: Penghu – Taiwan’s Beautiful and Boring Island

Penghu

Penghu

Taiwan’s Beautiful and Boring Island

by Cameron Brtnik

Penghu, September 8, 2014 – My thirty-third birthday. I’m currently sitting seaside at a port in a small city on a tiny island off the coast of Taiwan, enjoying a glass of “The distinctive flavor lager beer,” also known as Taiwan Beer, and gorging on delicious freshly caught oysters and imported salmon. I feel at peace.

    I needed a vacation – Not from work overload, but because in the three years I’ve been living in Taiwan, I’ve never left the island (except for my trip back home to Canada). So I decided to take a trip, alone, to a pretty neighboring island to the west of Taiwan called Penghu (actually a cluster of islets). Warning: This is a couples’ trip, so only go alone if you want to experience cabin fever…without the cabin. Albeit a beautiful island, there’s not much to do besides visit the gorgeous local beaches – I suppose everything’s “local” in Penghu – to surf, dive, or (like me) finally get through that worn paperback you’ve been schlepping around everywhere. And that’s about it. “No matter, I’ll meet people!” I thought. Unfortunately, I came to this isle toward the end of the Moon Festival holiday when people were already returning home. Oh, not to mention the plane crash that killed 48 people (including two foreign exchange students from France) just two weeks prior to my arrival. That never helps an already flailing tourism industry.

    Undeterred (I had caught wind of this news the night before, but I was drunk enough at the time that I accepted my destined, likely watery fate), I took the first flight out of Taipei – which, by the way, I caught the same night of my birthday celebrations, or should I say following morning after leaving Halo, the club we were partying at, bottle service in tow – still inebriated, but somehow functional. I had smartly packed that evening and took my luggage straight to the nightclub. The plane ride was short, just an hour, and I felt safe (which I can’t say for those unfortunate souls who got caught in the typhoon), perhaps because I was passed out the whole way.

    I arrived at the small airport, where I passed out for another three hours on the uncomfortable, yet somehow comfortable seats. When I awoke it was only 10:30am, and I asked about cheap hostels. Soon a van arrived to escort me, and a lovely girl named Julia, whose family owned a local hostel called “Big Fish House,” drove me straight there. It was a very cute inn, more of a Bed and Breakfast, and wasn’t very cheap – $1500nt for the night. But it was well worth the stay, with a bright, spacious room to myself, breakfast, and a scooter (for an extra $300nt) included. I spent the next two hours sleeping (still working off that hangover, or tequila, or both) then hopped on my scooter and hit Shanshui aka “Mountain Water Beach.”

    The first thing I noticed along the way was that sea smell; the salty air hitting your nostrils like it was the first fresh breath of air you’ve taken in years. I was told there’d be “lots of foreigners there.” I was optimistic, as I wanted to meet some new friends to share my adventure with. There was one – he and his Taiwanese girlfriend – and he didn’t look the sort I was interested in meeting (or vice versa). So I kept to myself and got into my book – Freakonomics, a former yet still-popular bestseller I always intended to read, but never got around to till I found myself on a lonely island.

    At dusk, I jumped on my scooter and headed into town; if I were to find any action, it would be in the heart and centre of Penghu! I was wrong. I found one bar that I recognized from the Taiwan Lonely Planet called Freud. It was modelled after a fishing boat, with the same charm and décor as any Canadian seafood tavern, but it was missing that one asset I was looking for: people. I ate the mediocre “Thai-style shrimp” and enjoyed the choice Heineken beer. The mood was dark and depressing, so I left soon before it “got busy.” I went back to my commodious, Japanese-style room, and passed out for the fourth time that day..

    I woke up too late for breakfast, but it was still available: dried up bread loaf and two choices of spread: Nutella and peanut butter. If you know me, you know I enjoyed the shit out of it, more so because it was included (although not served in a bed). Julia, the friendly hotel manager – she and her mother manage two locations of Big Fish House, and she plans to leave in three weeks to study English in Australia for six months – drove me in her Big Fish van to the north end of the island to catch a ferry to a smaller islet fifteen minutes away. Exotically called Chikan (or “chicken island” as I preferred to call it), it’s a little paradise get-away, punctuated by stone weirs – oddly-shaped stone walls in the water originally built as fish traps – and small beaches. I visited Aimen Beach, famous for its jet skiing and banana boating. I did neither, and instead collected coral fragments that had washed ashore, and that’s what the sand was mostly composed of. A nice way to spend the day, but I was sunburnt and happy to catch the last boat back to “civilization.”

    Walking along the beach I noticed one thing: I love long walks on the beach (not a cheesy dating site description). This goes back to my cottage days of walking the shore of Georgian Bay all the way to Balm Beach, over an hour’s walk, and feeling happy as a sand boy (an expression my mother often used, but I never understood. I had to look up the etymology and discovered sand boys were actually “men who drove donkeys selling sand,” and were reportedly always happy). I also noticed something else: I felt utterly alone. It wasn’t a good feeling. I realized right there and then that life is better with friends, or family, or a significant other. That feeling faded though as I thought about how lucky I was, and started plotting world domination.

    I took the ferry back across the straight, caught a cab back into town, and checked into a shitty cheap hotel. I put a generous helping of aloe on that inexorable “Brtnik Burn,” grabbed my laptop, and headed down to the port where I’m currently sitting, two tall beers in, writing this diary entry. It’s my birthday, and I’m surrounded by drunken fishermen and the feeling of loneliness. I think I’ll try and bump my return ticket to tomorrow, as another day on this beautiful and boring island may make Jack a dull boy. As of right now, I feel content, but I wish my friends were here… My friends from Taiwan. My friends from China. My friends from Toronto. My brother and sister. A stranger. But all is well, and let’s all feel lucky we’re alive and not on a plane destined for doom (God bless their souls). I’ll see everyone soon. Oh, and happy Moon Festival!

-Written by Cameron Brtnik, September 8, 2014 on his 33rd birthday

taiwan-penghu

Cameron is a freelance writer living in Taiwan and part-time explorer cbrtnik.com

Memories of Germany: Remembering Edith & Wolfgang

Memories of Germany

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Remembering Edith & Wolfgang

by Cameron Brtnik

June, 2014 – We’ve lost someone dearly beloved to us. Edith Herzog, 1932-2014. She lived a long, full life, then lost a battle with cancer. Otto, her brother, and my dad, spoke with her on the phone in the weeks prior to her death and said she sounded well, in good spirits. He was able to talk to his only sister before her passing, and I am grateful for that.

    I always wished we – my younger brother, sister, and I – were closer with our family in Germany: Aunt Edith and Uncle Wolfgang, cousins Roby and Bepsi, her husband Helmut and their kids, our dear cousins Eva and Kati, and of course, our Omi. Not close in the sense of family, but in terms of distance – we saw them very infrequently as kids, but made trips whenever we could visit. Sometimes Otto would take all three of us. I went alone once, and Adam and Meghan went on other occasions. They were all memorable trips, in no small part due to the generosity and hospitality we felt as soon as we arrived.

    Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting my wonderful family in Stuttgart, Germany. Our Aunt Edith – sweating and slaving in the kitchen, our uncle Wolfgang – yelling Edith’s name from another floor high above, perhaps about the laundry or maybe looking for his glasses. Taking a short car ride into town to pick up some sparkling water (which I hated. They never drank spring water so I just had to get used to the unpleasant fizzy taste) in Wolfgang’s Mercedes Benz – never the “top of the line model with leather interior,” but a beautiful automobile nonetheless (as a retired engineer at Mercedes he would receive a new Benz every two years, not a bad retirement package!) or to pick up fresh pretzels in the morning (I still have an unhealthy love of those warm, squishy pretzels). And watching Walker: Texas Ranger (which was unusually popular in Germany) starring, yep, Chuck Noris, on TV with my auntie Edith.

    Eating is a considerable part of German culture and I can remember Edith working in the kitchen all morning to prepare lunch (in American culture dinner is the biggest meal whereas in Germany lunch is – In Taiwan EVERY meal is the big meal), which was always hearty and delicious. We would then make our way into town to shop, or travel outside of Holzeim (the quaint, hillside town where they lived) to go sightseeing, visit picturesque towns, gothic churches and modern museums (my favourite was always the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart).

    They generally made sure we were always busy during our visit. There were also neighbours who had kids our age, so we were never bored, even if there was a language barrier – isn’t it funny that these things don’t matter as a kid? My favourite way to pass the time would be to wander beyond their backyard, cross over the train tracks, pass through the poison ivy, and into the rolling green hills just beyond their home. It was a beautiful, picturesque landscape, and I can remember feeling quite at peace, riding a bike or just hiking through the hills.

    One of my fondest memories of my aunt Edith was when I was about 15, and had met a German girl at the local gym. This girl had particularly long fangs that masqueraded as teeth. We went on a date and I ended up with a painfully visible hickey on my neck. Edith nicknamed her “Vampire Girl” from then on. We never had a second date. (If you’re reading this, add me to Facebook! Or should I say Fangbook?)

    I’ll really miss Edith and Wolfgang – I never got to say bye to them, and I haven’t visited in almost ten years. But every visit I had was so momentous it never felt that long between visits. I wish I could sit down and have a chat with them now…. Edith’s laugh filling the room (she always did have a great sense of humour), Wolfgang, serious, stern, but generous and always joining in on the joke. They were more than just great but amazing people that I’ll always hold close to my heart.

    I remember always looking up to my cousin Roby as a mentor – a fashion expert, music buff, and ladies man (though he’s now engaged with children), he had a big impact on me as a kid. We still have lots of great family in Germany, and we should all make efforts to see each other whenever possible. In fact, Meghan and JP will travel to Germany next week. I wish I could join you guys! I know you’ll have an incredible trip, and make even more lasting memories. And if you happen to see Vampire Girl, tell her…that she left a “lasting impression” on me.

Dedicated to Omi, Edith & Wolfgang

Written by Cameron, September 10, 2014