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Useful Memories: An Epic Reflection

Now I may be completely wrong but I assume, unfortunately, the majority of people who still read Hello City are either A) related to me in some way or B) first met me in High School. For those of you who didn’t have the “pleasure” of meeting Tim Johnson circa 2001-2004, you didn’t miss all that much. That man was an arrogant, loudmouthed shit. Okay so that really hasn’t changed but Tim at that time was also angry, usually abrasive and carried a chip on his shoulder the size of the Tarpeian rock. Thankfully a few good years of depression, humility, hard work, illness and genuine new found optimism curbed much of my previous viciousness. But despite my less than pleasant characteristics I could occasionally be a caring person and half decent friend. Above all I was a ready drinking buddy, a real heavy consumer. In fact when I cast my mind back to almost five years ago two visceral memories always come rushing back. The first is the image of a certain brunette classmate’s ass in tight jeans (and don’t start, I was a consummate gentlemen compared to many of my contemporaries) and the other is the gasoline like taste of cheap white rum. Inexpensive, reasonably alcoholic and easy to conceal in pint form. This was especially important because legal drinking age in Nova Scotia is 19. Having to rely on an older friend to buy alcohol was a minor inconvenience but actually consuming it could be a problem. We usually couldn’t drink at home so we had to resort to an old Canadian standby, drinking in the nearest available woods. But this being Halifax, we were somewhat lacking in dense isolated foliage. Usually any significant clump of trees is bordered by at least one house or a busy road. This presented any drinker with another problem, the buzzkilling citizenry of the Bedford suburb and by extension one of our two local police forces. In such situations a pint bottle or if you could afford it, a quart of high octane spirits (my poison was Captain Morgan’s White but others went with Smirnoff Vodka or Beefeater Gin) was perfect because it allowed you to get drunk quickly and opened up your options in case of trouble. Given enough space or obstacles the bottle was light enough to allow you to evade and lose your pursuers (usually Halifax Regional Police who as a rule stop chasing a non-violent offender through the woods after about 20 metres), stash your drink until it could hopefully be retrieved later or if you didn’t have time to flee, hide it inside a loose coat and use a cigarette to mask the reek of liquor on your breath. Hopefully at that point you could talk your way out of any more thorough or formal examination. I always did thankfully but I suspect that had more to do with the relative tolerance of the police officers than any great oratory skill on my part. But whether I was fleeing those flashing red and blue lights or blind drunk in a grove of jack pine during a driving rainstorm, I always had a great time. These memories are bright spots directly preceding what would be a fairly dark period in my life and I still look back on them with a wistful grin. Surprisingly, these snapshots of my undeniable jackassery, are also useful.

Last Thursday a few friends and I went out for a bit of drinking and yelling over a bar radio. Not intending to get blind drunk, we were nonetheless slugging back tall boys of Northern European beer and double white russians in under an hour. By closing time we had switched to double whiskey and were doing shots of Screech. Not content to stop there we went by one of our number’s house to pick-up some cans of beer. It is here that I had my flashback. While walking down the deserted Bedford highway it had become aware to us that the paranoid picket fencers of Bedford had become alarmed that something was out of place and had called the police. The subtle tip off was the two RCMP cruisers that penned us in on both sides. Seriously one of them actually drove past us, made a U Turn on the highway (still empty mind you) at speed and then parked directly behind us to apparently make sure we couldn’t escape. The three stony faced and bald RCMP officers were suitably unimpressed about being given such a bullshit call but with a little deference and my best Ricky impersonation, we managed to talk them out of running us downtown. Not before confiscating our beer, that was sealed mind you, which I suspect they actually drank themselves as opposed to “dumping it” (I don’t know, I didn’t see either act). Sadly this run in with the cops wasn’t enough to derail our enthusiasm and a $30.00 cab ride later were on Edward Street. It was 3am when we drunkenly bundled our way into my apartment, where we continued to drink heavily. By 9am my remaining comrades had departed, my supply of Jameson’s and Guinness had been exhausted, my floor was covered in broken glass, my room was a mess, I hadn’t slept a wink in almost twenty-nine hours and someone had pissed on my bed. Fantastic…..

As I was stripping the offending sheets from my bed I did what I often do at times of reasonable surreality, I reflected. I cast my mind back to a night in Grade 11 when I drank, inadvisedly and despite the pleas of my friends, 24 shots of white rum in roughly eight and a half minutes. Less than thirty minutes later I proceeded to: projectile vomit on a stranger’s floor, sexually harass a television, spend most of the night wearing a pair of jumbo sized women’s track pants while awaiting the laundering of my puke stained jeans and then passing out in a snowbank while my friends tried to shepherd me on the long walk home. What a pain in the ass I was for my friends that night. So with such a mark on my record, I really couldn’t be that upset about some dirty sheets. I was just glad he hadn’t pissed on the floor. More importantly the hilarity of this situation carried with it a fatigue both physical and mental. In reminding of me of my younger escapades, this night made me understand two key truths.

Firstly, I’m really glad I live in an Urban area as opposed to the suburb which I had ventured into on Thursday night. Though more chaotic and noisy, it is also far more tolerant, more expressive and less anally retentive than the planned and carefully managed communities that ring a city. Secondly this night made me truly recognize that no matter how nostalgically I view those nights of my youth, I’m not that person anymore. More vitally, I realized I didn’t want to be. I am now at a stage in my life where I am trying to make important changes in how I live. And while I may be occasionally uncouth, disorganized, relatively lazy when it comes to cleaning my flat and am still painfully bad with women, I am also more confident, optimistic and resilient than I have ever been before. I am getting ready to not only make my way in the world but actually chase my dream. So while I enjoy my pints as much as the next man, I’m at the point in my life where I don’t find getting stopped by the cops while walking home and having the sealed leftovers of my night’s revelry seized and then dumped on the ground amusing. Especially when we weren’t causing any trouble. I am not sixteen anymore. On the flip side, I also don’t live for the big Friday night anymore. I would rather go to one of the many fantastic pubs in this city, have five pints of dark microbrew, talk and laugh with my friends for hours and then wake up the next day not feeling like I got hit by a truck. Besides I love the taste of a finely crafted beer… A tall pint of excellent bitter, port or stout is worth a case of cheap domestic cans.

I’m ready to get out in the world and for once take a big fucking risk. I want to test myself and the modest talent I possess. I want to work like a mad bastard to create opportunities. I’m trying to find a way to see new places, meet new people, actually have something resembling a stream of income, buy my own furniture (Dalhousie, your broken Communist surplus apartments are terrible), have a chance to create something people want to see and hopefully (please Universe please!!!) get laid more than once every year and a half.(He’s single ladies!) All of this cautious ambition, new found self-confidence, reasonable emotional maturity and painstaking personal development which I am currently enjoying is radically at odds with the carefree disengagement and rampant indulgence (good natured though it may have been) of my youthful self. Many of our values are totally opposed. In fact I’m fairly sure that if Future Tim met Past Tim, he would more than likely have called me a light-weight, a pussy and overly intellectual. He would then probably get angry that I hadn’t had much success with women or learned to play guitar and proceed to head butt me. I would then point out that he was a directionless, lazy asshole and that I’m the one who women occasionally find attractive. I would then call him a Bitch and run glee-fully back to my Post-Bush future. Enjoy the next eight years Jackass!

As I sit here largely devoid of cynicism or bitterness, my past, present and future laid out in front of me like fresh dry sheets, I am no longer all that sad about putting my relatively smooth high school years behind me. Sure they were easy and reasonably secure but they were largely devoid of the things that I now find so fulfilling. My writing, my new outlook and all the wonderful people I have met all across this country. People the short sighted young-man I once was never could have related to. Sure I may have a bad reputation in Halifax, for all my past rudeness and impropriety, but they love my ass in Calgary.

This line of thinking unavoidably lead to yet another realization (yes I’m going cram another one into this long ass post) as much as I malign Western Canada, I’ve had a good run there. Sure Calgary isn’t my favourite city but that is for three reasons only; their lack of comprehensive public transit, their piss-poor urban planning and their tragically underfunded and overcrowded health care system. Other than that I think Calgary is pretty awesome. The atmosphere is energetic and there is a real sense you can do anything you set your mind when there, something Halifax hasn’t quite mastered yet (we’re getting there). I love the scenery. It is truly epic and it makes me glad to be Canadian. Most importantly I love the people, especially in two cities; Vancouver (I’m counting the metro-area) and Calgary. The Vansterdamers are just fucking crazy and creative as hell. The Calgarians are by and large the single friendliest collected mass of humanity on this Earth. Simon, Greggo, Rich, Julia, Lindsey, Ian, Leam, Moondance, Stales and all you others, this is your shout-out! I’ve already made clear how my time out West shaped my aspirations, but it also helps that the heart of the Canadian film industry is located in a place I have absolutely fallen in love with since visiting. If I had never lived and worked in Calgary, then I wouldn’t have seen British Columbia until I was much older. That would have been a fucking shame. All the little pieces of my life are adding together. Sometimes it takes a dramatic event to force a burst of inspiration and revelation through my sleep deprived synapses and allow me to see the facts with renewed clarity. I guess you could call the RCMP and a pint of urine dramatic. So what is the moral of the story? Tim really, REALLY needs a girlfriend.I wish…..

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