The Last of the Rock Stars

I hadn’t listened to him in years.

I knew his music – everyone knew his music. I had some of his songs in my iTunes library. Occasionally they’d crop up when I shuffled through my 80s playlists. And I still have the copy of Purple Rain (on vinyl) I got for Christmas 1984. He was like a relic of that childhood long gone.

After losing Bowie in January we all thought that was it; the One Big Death we’d have to face this year. Then they all started dying. Maurice White. Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey. Not even a third of the way through the year 2016 was becoming the Year Everyone Died.

Then came April 21. We’d just lost a genuine piece of Rock Royalty.

Shock gave way to sadness. And confusion. Not so much “why him, why now?” but “why is this one so hard?” I may have owned Prince Songs, but I owned Bowie Albums. More than a dozen. But Prince’s death was hitting me in a way Bowie’s did not. And I couldn’t figure out why.

And then it hit me.

1984. The year of Purple Rain. You couldn’t escape him. Not on MTV, not on the radio. Not even in elementary school. He was an androgynous alien dropped into white-kid 80s suburbia with the impact of one of those atomic bombs the Soviets were threatening to drop on us at any moment. Like it must have been for a different group of kids a decade earlier when Ziggy played guitar.

1984. Reagan’s America. Mulroney’s Canada. Thatcher’s Britain. Growing up then we knew we were living on borrowed time. We weren’t going to see 1990, let alone 1999. There was even a TV movie about it the previous autumn that burned its nightmare into our impressionable brains. We could look around our clean, tree-lined suburb and picture the devastation of the mushroom cloud.

Then he arrived. Not in a spaceship – on a motorcycle. He was different. He was weird. You could look at him, you could study that Purple Rain album cover or that video for When Doves Cry and wonder … who was this guy? Was he black? White? Was he even a guy? We didn’t know – all we knew was Let’s Go Crazy was rock and roll distilled into its purest essence jabbed through our sternum to roar through our veins and feed our impressionable young minds.

He was everything we thought a rock star should be.

He got me through some rough times. A move to a country and a city and a school I couldn’t stand. Where I’d feign sickness just to avoid one day of it. Where some days I’d make myself too sick to leave the safe confines of my home. But any time Raspberry Beret or Kiss popped up on the local top 40 station the clouds would part for a glorious moment and I’d feel whole again.

I moved. I moved on. We all did. By Batdance we wondered if it all hadn’t been a joke. We found Grunge and flannel and angst. Prince went on doing what he was doing only he wasn’t calling himself Prince anymore. He was always there, making music, touring, making news from time to time. We thought he’d be with us forever, in the background, occasionally popping up on our radar when we’d hear I Would Die 4 U blast from an anonymous radio. And, of course, we did make it to 1999, and you couldn’t escape that song written and released 20 years before. It was like despite all our fears of our impending nuclear obliteration Prince knew in the end we’d be alright.

When he performed at the Superbowl, I watched. We all watched. I still knew the words to every song he performed. You didn’t have to own his albums or listen to his music with frequency to know those songs. They were etched into our 80s kid DNA.

Now he’s gone, and we mourn him and celebrate him, but deep down we realize all our rock stars are leaving. There will never be another Prince or a Bowie. Music isn’t valued anymore. Money (and the lack of it) is the motive. So is social media outreach. So are Facebook likes. Rock and roll is fading from the airwaves, like a weak radio signal as you drive out of its radius, flickering out before going to static. Alternative rock is too fragmented to make a difference. Rap and hip-hop have gotten boring. Pop is disposable more than ever. We’re living in the future Warhol predicted. Everybody’s famous; especially the ones who don’t deserve to be. Our 15 minutes are almost up. Our rock stars are dying off. Soon our radios, our Spotifys, our streams will be filled with the voices of ghosts.

We mourn him because he was the last of the rock stars – the genuine, no-holds-barred, unapologetic rock star. No-one who came after could come close. By the late 80s earnestness was in. By the early 90s nobody wanted to claim the title. And by the time the new century rolled in everyone wanted to be a rocks star but the ship had already sailed.

I realize now that I mourn Prince because with his passing, that small, too-brief piece of a childhood he provided the soundtrack to is gone with him.

Until I put on Purple Rain, and it comes roaring back on the wings of crying doves.

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Haunted When The Minutes Drag

I moved around a lot as a child. By the time I was 12 years old I’d lived in 8 different cities and two different countries. I got very used to (and very good at) making new friends and even better at saying goodbye to them. In fact, my entire childhood is pretty much compartmentalized, with memories tied to a specific place and time, and those memories extend to TV, music, movies, comics and so forth.

For the longest while I thought this was normal; that everyone moved with the frequency we did. Then I later realized that my life was the exception; my friends were kids born in their city or town and grew up there and would very likely remain there for. They were lifers; I was just a face and a name passing through, staying put for a short time, then one day I was gone and my face and name would fade from their memories. I doubt many, if any of the people I went to school with in Vancouver or Edmonton or Greensboro remember me at all. I was the anomaly, not them, and while I once liked the excitement of new cities, new homes, and new schools, over time I came to hate those moves. I came to hate having to say goodbye. I wanted stability. I wanted a sense of place. I wanted a home, not a house.

Pictured: the writer as a brooding young man

Pictured: the writer as a brooding young man

I bring all this up because I’m at work on my next project, a novel largely inspired by the years I lived in Brockville, Ontario (roughly 1986-1992). While wholly a work of fiction – it’s a horror/sci fi/mystery hybrid – it’s still drawn from the reservoir of memories of my years in that town. It’s about many things I experienced there, and after I left. Mostly it’s about saying goodbye.

It’s been quite the experience so far. Like opening old wounds. Sure, you remember the good but to create real drama you have to zero in on the bad. I’m taking my mind places it hasn’t gone since, well, since those darker days. It hasn’t been pleasant, but it’s been necessary. Both the good and the bad have given me fuel, but so have the mundane moments; shooting pool, hanging out at the arcade, renting crappy horror movies form the local video store. Those moments that seem inconsequential at the time that take on mythic importance so many years later.

When I lived in Brockville I hated it, but I think every teenager hates where they grew up. It was boring, it was stale, and I felt trapped. Even when I got my driver’s license and my first car I felt tethered to home like I was attached by a big elastic. Just when I thought I’d achieved freedom there was something to snap me back. Had I lived someplace exciting like Toronto or New York I’m sure I’d have things to complain about them too, but age changes things. Your memories of that “miserable” time become more golden. You realize that, while they were far from what some would call “the best years of your life” they were special, they were meaningful, and they mattered because they made you the person you are now. Your work ethic, your personality, all of it formed in that blast furnace called High School. It was when you made the decision, conscious or otherwise, to be the person you wanted to be.

Unsurprisingly, if you know anything about me, music has been a great gateway to those years and memories. The infamous box of old mixtapes that inspired Mixtape have come in handy here, as have the assorted yearbooks, photo albums, magazines, notebooks and so on that have been following me around for almost 30 years. Unlike Mixtape, this new project has that element of the fantastic that hopefully means a wider audience than the ‘musical memoir’. It’s very different from Mixtape but shares a lot of its DNA. If you take the cast of my comic and all of a sudden dropped them down into Invasion of the Body Snatchers you essentially have this new thing. Like Mixtape, it has unlocked old memories and opened old wounds. Much of my dislike of those years is because that was the period my parents’ marriage hit the rocks. It was not a happy time. There was yelling and arguments at the dinner table, on outings, even on one infamous birthday celebration (mine). I couldn’t wait to get out of there and when I did I never looked back or went back.

For a while, anyway.

In college when people asked me where I was “from” I never had an easy answer. “Directly” you could say “Brockville” but it wasn’t where I was “from”. When you lived in 8 cities over 12 years you can’t say you’re really ‘from” a certain place. I still saw people from Brockville, and remained friends with them through some of college but we were all moving in other directions. New friends, new horizons; those old familiar faces reminded you of the person you were not the one you wanted to be. So for a very long time I buried Brockville and those years deep, until a good fifteen years had passed since I said my formal goodbye. That story has been documented elsewhere so I won’t bore you. I will say that once I started to plumb the depths of my experiences growing up I became a much better writer. I had a POV, I had a story, I had a voice that was unique yet familiar. My experiences weren’t so different from many others whether you were from Providence, Rhode Island or Buenos Aires, Argentina or Monroe, New York.

One of the great tragedies in life is that we grow up thinking we’re alone and that nobody anywhere understands our problems or what we’re going through, only to learn well after the fact that on every street, in every school, in every town small and large there were people our age going through the same things we were. You can’t help but be haunted by your past and the memories you have of that long ago and far away land. Whether you realize it or admit it, it’s a part of who you are. And I think by embracing the past, warts and all, you stand a much better chance of navigating the present.

If writing is therapy I suppose this new project is mine. Especially being a father now I’m trying to come to terms with the person I was versus the one I am right now and the one I hope to be. To teach my son how to be a better person than his father is. To show him that despite a world that seems dark that there are joyous moments to behold. That even when he’s upset or unhappy and wishing he lived anywhere but here (wherever that will be), that in time it’ll be a lot easier to remember the good moments than dwell on the bad.

So that’s it. Now take care of yourselves. I have a novel to get back to.

Pictured: that moody young man discovering his muse

Pictured: that moody young man discovering his muse

Comfortably Numb

I’m not much for posting state-of-my-life stuff online. Not my thing, never really been my thing. I figure you’re here to .. um, why are you here?

Well it’s been a rough week…

On Jan 31st I pulled a muscle in my back. One of those “oh shit I shouldn’t have done that” moments – picking my son up off his playmat. And sure enough I was proven right. The next day I was sore. Really sore. By Tuesday I couldn’t get out of bed without help. By Wednesday I was done. Finished. Not with the pain – with suffering it.

I’ve had back problems for years, ever since a the handle on a banker box full of books tore as I was lifting it down off a shelf at my old apartment in Toronto. Rather than let it fall I tried to stop it. That sudden sharp pressure on my back tore a muscle and sent me collapsing to the floor in agony. I must have lay there for 20 minutes before I could get to my feet. And of course there was no aspirin or Advil in the apartment, meaning I had to walk to the nearest drug store many blocks away. It was excruciating. Thinking back on it now it felt like two China plates in my back rubbing together. I made it to the drugstore and back with Advil, heat pads, and Bengay. I self-medicated, I took things very easy, and after a week it cleared up. But for the next year I’d get twinges of pain here and there and if I wasn’t careful, would re-injure it.

That was maybe 12 years ago. And I’ve had on and off pain since. Getting older sucks. Lifting with your back also sucks. I pulled a muscle the day we left for a 10-day Scandinavia trip and had no choice but to take an asprin and fly for 8-10 hours.

But this time it was different. Because I’d been suffering back pain for seven months, starting with the birth of our child. Because baby needs to be carried, lifted, put down, changed, played with, you never get that break. And of cause there’s the matter of the following:

Stress. Depression. Anxiety.

They’re real and while they may not kill you they sure as hell can incapacitate you. Nothing humbles you more than needing your wife’s help to get into and out of bed. And to be frank it’s been that way for a while – that stress. It probably didn’t show up in any previous posts because I’m a dude and guys don’t talk about their feelings. But that day to day feeling, like my head’s been in a vice and someone’s been slowly tightening it on me? I’ve been living with that for some time. I’m generally a pretty chill guy. I will get pissed off on occasion but that fuse has been a long one. But since work intensified and I had a baby to feed, clothe, care for simultaneously, that fuse had gotten shorter to the point that something would set me off:

Every. Single. Day.

Not an exaggeration either. It was that bad. And all that stress, that anger, that anxiety contributed as much to my injury as the actual injury.

The good: obviously something needs to change. I know that now. And taking time off to just focus on healing was the best thing I could do. Which is why once I deliver this manuscript I plan on taking a break from work. I don’t know how long this break will last, but it will be lengthy.

There’s a school of thought that if you’re a writer you need to write every day. I’m here to say that’s bullshit. You need to take care of yourself every day. Do that, and the words will flow. Fail to do that, those words will stop flowing whether you want it or not.

It’s been a week now, and the pain is slowly subsiding, mobility is improving, and each day I’m feeling incrementally better. I managed to knock out 2000 words today and am getting back on track. But things are going to be quiet around here for a little while as I focus on the important stuff and less on blogging. So, take care of yourselves and I’ll check back in sometime soon.

Everyday is Halloween

I realize I don’t write much about writing like a writer is supposed to. As someone who’s written movies, TV, comics, and now a novel you’d think I’d have lots to say. And I do have lots to say; I just choose not to say it. While I am happy to answer questions people have about my process, writing about it unprompted is just something I don’t do. I figure there’s already too much white noise from writers blathering on about their craft that the world doesn’t need another noise maker.

That said, there is one question I do get asked a lot, especially when people find out I’ve been doing what I do professionally for what will be 17 years this January;

“How do you make a living as a writer?”

To which I reply; “Well, it’s not much of a living.”

Then I answer the question as honestly as possible;

“By not doing it for free.”

That’s it.

No matter your level of experience, if you’re a writer, if you’re any kind of artist, you should get paid for the work you do for people because it is work. Hours, days, weeks, months, if not years of your life consumed by your art. You won’t get those hours back. And if someone is asking you to essentially sign over those precious hours of your limited and ever dwindling lifespan to write for them, they damn well better make it worth your while. Writing a review, penning a magazine piece, writinga screenplay – you have to be paid. That’s pretty much my mantra:

Writers. Get. Paid.

Or to put as The Joker so eloquently did in The Dark Knight (after killing a dude with a pencil, get it? A pencil) “If you’re good at something never do it for free.

And you wouldn't disagree with a psychotic clown

And you wouldn’t disagree with a psychotic clown

But Brad, you say; What if there’s a really great opportunity but not a lot (or any) money? What then? To which I answer: “They can still pay you without paying you.”

Then you get confused.

Then I explain.

For a month in 1998, I lived at a movie theater. The Bloor Cinema to be exact, as I was volunteering to help run that year’s installment of the FantAsia film festival. I won’t bore you with the details, but I did write about the pivotal experience here  as it was one that literally changed my life.

During this film fest I got friendly with Rodrigo Gudino. He was just at the start of a very long and very distinguished career as a writer, filmmaker, and creator and editor of a genre magazine of some note.

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Julian Grant, festival programmer and friend of the magazine, had graciously offered space – for free – in the lobby for Rod to flog Rue Morgue which, IIRC, was only 5-6 issues in (currently RM sits at #161). But back then it was just this small, cool, well-written horror magazine still finding its audience. Anyway Rod and I spent a lot of time in that lobby between screenings, talking horror and movies, and when the festival wrapped, Rod invited me to write some movie reviews for Rue Morgue.

These would be unpaid reviews.

This was because, at the time nobody – not Rod, not publisher Marco Pecota, was making any money at it. They were both living at the magazine’s offices (which were owned by Marco’s family). Food and expenses were covered, but any dollars the magazine made – which were few – were rolled right back into producing the magazine. There was no money – let me repete that; There Was No Money. It was a genuine labor of love for Rod and Marco and for the small group of contributors who, to this day, Rod, and ubsequent editors Jovanka Vuckovick and Dave Alexnder would proclaim without prompting were the real backbone of Rue Morgue.

My first published piece as a magazine writer appeared in the November-December 1998 issue of Rue Morgue, issue #8. It was a review of Jack Hill’s Spider Baby, and appeared on the same page as my then writing partner Joe O’Brien’s review of Evil Dead 2, and Rod’s review of the Canadian thriller Trail of a Seriel Killer, whch was actually co-written by Joe, and starred Michael Madsen as “FBI Agent Brad Abraham.”

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And for the next nearly 10 years I stayed at Rue Morgue even when my career as a screenwriter took flight. I stayed because I enjoyed the work, I liked the Rue Crue, and I just enjoyed being a journalist even though I wasn’t being paid to. I became RM’s man on the ground at the Toronto International Film Festival  from 1999-2002. As by then I’d become a full-time screenwriter, I had the time to spend the week at screenings and interviews and roundtables. I got to see movies before they were released, I got to meet and interview filmmakers known and (then) unknown. People like Guillermo del Toro, Eli Roth, Don Coscarelli, Angus Scrimm, Bruce Campbell, the Hughes Brothers, the legendary Ray Harryhausen, and the even more legendary Roger Corman.

And one of my featured cover stories, I might add

And one of my featured cover stories, I might add

Now I wasn’t paid for these interviews, reviews, or screenings either – well, not if you consider money being the only way to be paid. I was paid in experience, but also in access. To meet people I’d idolized my entire life in some cases. To ask them the questions I always wanted to.

And it wasn’t long before I started getting paid in dollars too.

In 2001 the screenwriting life hit a speed bump – a big project I was working on was canned after delivering scripts, and while I was paid for my work on that and wisely banked the proceeds, I had nothing lined up in the immediate future. I needed to find some way to make rent without having to go back to the 9-5 day job. By then I’d amassed a number of credits with Rue Morgue and while I hadn’t been paid for them, they had been published, and to some acclaim too. So, I selected my best pieces, and using them as a portfolio, began soliciting magazines that did pay.

And in the end, Dreamwatch Magazine rode in to the rescue.

Rule Britannia!

Rule Britannia!

The early 2000s ended up being the twilight years for genre magazines. The internet was around, but people still largely got their interviews and news from publications like Starburst, and Starlog, and Dreamwatch. The editors of DW looked at my portfolio, liked my writing, and when I mentioned I was covering TIFF that year, asked me to be their correspondent. 2001 was a particularly good year for horror-sci fi at the festival – it saw the premieres of the Hughes’ Brothers’ From Hell, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Christophe Gans’ Brotherhood of the Wolf, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone among others. At the end of the fest I had a good ten feature articles at 2000-2500 words apiece on average to file for Dreamwatch.

Oh, they paid. In pounds sterling. That’s 10p a word, but when you factored in the exchange rate on a then-weak Canadian dollar, when it was all over, I banked nearly eight thousand dollars for what was essentially ten days of work.

And right around the same time, Rue Morgue had grown successful enough that we started getting paid for our work there too. Again, not huge dollars, but enough for Rod and the others to say “thanks” to all the contributors who’d worked for them out of that love of the genre, and of seeing our names on the masthead and in print. We’d all done our part helping build the Rue Morgue brand, and making it the success it is today. You won’t find Starburst or Dreamwatch or Starlong around anymore, but you will still find Rue Morgue. Part of why it has remaned standing is on the strength of its writing; a tone and standard first set in 1997 with Rod’s mission; to explore horror in culture first, entertainment second. And they still do to this day.

But by 2002-2003 I was feeling burnt out. I’d contributed to every issue since #8, but wasn’t having as much fun. It felt like work. Reviewing films was a chore, and I felt like I was running out of things to say. I decided I was going to end my RM run that summer and had filed what I thought was my final piece. It seemed a good time to leave. But I still stuck around some years though less frequently.  An “occasional contributor” Rod caled me, and despite wanting to move on Rod, and Jovanka, and Dave still called me up and asked if I could go interview someone, see a screening, review a book. They like me, and liked my writing, and wanted me to stay in the loop in some capacity.

The mag went through changes, hired new staff and while I don’t want to say they never were more than professional the vibe had changed. I was no longer a part of it but I did feel like I had done my part in those early no paid years to help make RM an institution and one of the few genre mags still standing. But I’ve always been the guy who leaves the party early, and I was more preoccupied with telling my own stories rather than listen to people tell theirs.

But I learned a lot in those years, and a lot of those skills I picked up – economy of writing, making your points clear and concise – proved a boon to my film and TV and now literary work.

So yeah, writing for free can be a good thing. And a good thing to leave behind.

So that’s my story. And to reiterate, you should always be paid when someone asks you to create something for them. If they have the money to produce their book, magazine, movie, TV, whatever, they should have the money to pay you. Hell, if they rent office space and pay a staff, they damn well better have money to pay you.

But you’re ultimately the one who has to decide whether anything is worth your time, and how you should be compensated. A movie ticket may be enough, building your portfolio of work is  also a given. But in the end it’s your ass in the chair. And just because they aren’t offering money, they damn well better be offering you something to make that time worth spending.

Because it’s your time, not theirs. And you won’t be getting that time back. So make every minute of it count.

 

1992

I don’t know what compelled me to look it up but this exact week 23 years ago I began college life.

Well, to be exact I was a week away from beginning classes – those started right after Labor Day. The week before I was settling in to my room at the residence, met my roommate, my floor mates, and did the usual stuff; registering for classes, picking up textbooks and so on. But I was still … I don’t know if haunted is the word. Maybe still tied to home, my friends, my previous life. This was a week and a time I had been looking forward to for the previous five years – I was entering Film School – but I was still feeling conflicted. Worried. Scared.

By June that year, I’d settled into something of a comfort zone. As one of those kids who never quite fit in with any group, by my senior year I had fit in … with the other kids who didn’t fit in. We weren’t preppy, we weren’t nerds, jocks, burnouts, or stoners. We just … were. If you were to look at us you’d see the Doc Martins and flannel shirts and think “grunge kids” but that was just how we dressed and that was before Alt Rock made its mainstream splash. We were maybe more “artistic” than the norm, but not enough to be considered one of the “artsy” crowd. We were average, and average wasn’t a bad thing. I think you’ll find most kids that age fit into the category of “normal, average types”.

No comment

No comment

So after the previous four years of High School (this being at a time when HS in Ontario was grades 9-12, with Grade 13 being part of the Ontario Academic Curriculum or “OAC” – basically if you had plans to attend a university you needed Grade 13/OAC – 6-8 credits to qualify for University. There were no SATs – just OAC), I settled in with a group of friends – guys and girls – into the same stuff as me; music, movies, the culture of the day. That group fluctuated from time to time, but when you got down to it the core was me, Elliott, Moira, Janet, Nathalie, Jill, Andy, Anthony, and Charles. Guys and girls not romantically linked, though Elliott and Moira were a couple for a spell. As for what we did … mostly we hung out. At one or another’s house, on the beach, by a bonfire. A large group of us went to see The Pixies in November 1991, and again, the entire group much went to Lollapalooza 1992 en mass. For the first time in a long time I was at ease in my own skin. Ticket But once we graduated our summer began, it felt like we were living on borrowed time. We had summer jobs so only really got together on weekends, and sometimes at the place of one or another’s employment. I worked at the local newspaper, on the assembly line. Basically, the newspaper you had delivered to your home began there (hot off the presses as they say). Then it went down the line where people stuffed the day’s advertising inserts in, it went through a machine that wrapped the bundle in plastic, then it reached me, who ran the machine that tied the papers into bundles to travel down a conveyer to a waiting car. Those bundles in turn were delivered to the kids mostly who in turn delivered the individual papers to the homes on their route. It was about as exciting a job as it sounds.

We were all around town, but we weren’t. Our schedules didn’t overlap much. Parties, movies, hangouts were increasingly infrequent. It was like we knew we were drifting apart but didn’t want to admit it. There was always going to be more time, right? But we all knew with every day we were closer to that inevitable parting of the ways. June turned to July, and by the approach of August, shit, as they say, began to get real.

Lollapalooza 1992 hit Molson Park on August 5. After the show ended I stayed in Toronto because on August 8th I had a one-day orientation at Ryerson University – my university. I got to stay in the residence, meet a lot of the Residence Supervisors and kids attending that fall. I met someone who was in the same program as me, also named Brad. I got the lay of the land and the campus, but by the time I got back home I realized in just a few short weeks I’d be back there and it would be my home for the next eight months. It seemed like the inevitable was crashing into my life much faster than it ever had before. Summer had dragged up until that point. Now it was accelerating.

Those remaining weeks were a blur. Buying bedding, buying supplies, things for my dorm. In a pre-internet age that meant my electric typewriter, my stereo and cassette tapes, my posters, my portable TV. It meant leaving a town I couldn’t wait to get out of, but found the closer moving day got the more I wanted to stay. To crawl into bed and cocoon myself in it and never come out. To be 18 for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong; I was excited. I mean, this was Film School, which I’d been dreaming about for years. Not just any film school but The One everyone wanted to get into – the one that only allowed 50 new students a year. I was one of those students. I was lucky. This was my future, right on my doorstep. But that meant having to say goodbye. To my town. To my friends.

And on the last weekend of August – Aug 29-30 – I said goodbye.

I’m not sure who’s idea it was, but someone realized that two of us – Nathalie and myself – would be leaving Sunday, as we were both attending Ryerson, and our classes began a week before the other schools’, which meant orientation began a week earlier. And we knew this would be the last time the whole group of us would be together at the same time for a good number of months. What we didn’t know was it would be the last time that group would be together in any place. What did we do? We went to Andy’s and hung out in his basement like we had countless times before. Drank, snacked, listened to music, shot the shit. But a countdown that had begun with months and dwindled to weeks and days was now measured in hours. My dad was driving me to Toronto the next morning and he wanted to get an early start so I think I may have been the first one to leave. There were no group hugs or tearful goodbyes. I think we’d all convinced ourselves that things wouldn’t change that much. Charles, Elliott, and Moira were going to university in Toronto also so we’d still see each other a fair bit (and did in that first year, but even then that faded like most friendships). Soon enough I was back in my car, back on the road, back to my house. My room was all but packed. The shelves looked barren, given everything I was taking with me had already been loaded into the trunk of the car.

We left at 8am the next morning. I said goodbye to my mom, my sister, our dog. My mother managed not to cry until we were pulling out of the driveway, and I’ll admit I got a little misty eyed too. We drove the three hours to Toronto, dad helped me carry stuff up to my room, we grabbed lunch nearby and he told me how proud he was – that I was only the second man in the Abraham family to go to university after him. We parted ways and I went back to my room and when I closed the door and sat there I realized I really was alone. Then I unpacked.

The years that followed – 1992-1996 – would go on to be some of the happiest of my life. I forged friendships both personal and professional that remain to this day. I still work alongside people I met that first week of university. When I visit Toronto I still see many of them.

That was 23 years ago.

Right now kids the age I was back then are trekking off to university, leaving home for the first time. Some just said goodbye to their friends and promised they’d stay in touch. And maybe they will – with social media can you really lose touch like you used to? But there’s something about when goodbye really meant goodbye. I think it made us cling to those moments a little tighter because each other’s lives weren’t a text message or Facebook post away. I think to say goodbye to childhood you really do have to say goodbye.

I don’t want to sound like another aging Gen X-er going “in my day things were better” because they weren’t. But in an era where things weren’t videoed and documented like they are now I feel like we held onto those moments a little more because we couldn’t revisit them with the click of a button. When they were over they really were over. I have few regrets about those years, and that place in my life. Sometimes I miss that town, those basement parties, and those faces. Some I’ve managed to reconnect and stay in touch with. But if there is anything I do wish is that there were photographs of that last party and that last night together. It only exists in my memories now; of a night twenty three years ago when that group of friends came together for one last hurrah, and then say goodbye so our lives could truly begin

But sometimes you have to recreate the memory you lost