Monday, May 28, 2007

Vignettes - Chapter 2
Todd and Dave

One the first times I met Todd, he had sun-bleached streaky hair,
wore camo shorts and was very loud. Todd was the source of many
stories among my good friends Jeff and Garry. Somewhat enigmatic
and sometimes nearly fictional, Todd has been the source of many
folktales in my life. Once, while Todd was faxing his resume to
Camp Iawah, applying to work with the ILT program for the
summer, another mutual friend named Chuck snuck into the office
where Todd was faxing and shot Todd (and his resume) with a
watergun from across the room. The blast of water caused the
resume to rip in half while faxing, ultimately only sending half of
Todd's credentials to Camp IAWAH. Another time, when Todd
and his housemate Dave had a seedy downtown Kingston house
together, someone broke into the house while Todd was asleep
and stole his wallet. He woke up several hours later. Another time,
my friend Mark drove me all the way from Guelph to Kingston
in the middle of the night. We landed in Kingston at 3 am and
picked up Jeff (who in his sleepy state mistook me for 'Jesus') who
proceeded to call Todd to invite him out for breakfast. The four
of us ate a greasy breakfast at Lino's (which was shut down
some years ago probably due to mafia problematics) and then
dropped Todd off at his house. Todd woke up the next morning,
already an hour late for a three hour exam. He biked to the
exam with all of his might (in late december) and still managed
to do well, having only written for less than 2 of 3 possible
exam hours.

Another time, when Garry, Brad and I were introducing Todd
to Camp IAWAH, the three of us helped do dishes for a retreat
in late May. Todd put toiletscrew covers (you know those
white plugs at the bottoms of old toilets that cover the bolts)
over his eyes and screamed completely ridiculous phrases at
retreat guests from our window in the old staff building
(Derbyshire). He yelled things like "QUIT MAKING NOISE!!
ME BLIND!!" along with other phrases to that effect even
though the guests outside our window were making very little
noise at all.

That summer, in 1998, Todd got in more trouble than most bad
campers...and he was a leader. Another time, after Todd had
hooked upwith his then-girlfriend-now-wife Chelsea, a group
of 6 or 7 of us (including Charn, Richka, one or two of the
Heathers, Todd, Chels and I) were having dessert at the
Sleepless Goat. I was going through a hard time in my
Christian life with everyone in my community talking about and
debating the topic of Calvinism (count yourself as blessed if
you know nothing about it). Todd offered me some wisdom
and encouragement in that area. He said to re-consider the
sincerity of Calvin followers in the sense that John Calvin actually
burned people at the stake. Todd then claimed to hear bees
buzzing in his head (He had drank about 5 or 6 coffee refills).
Todd also often claimed he had Polio in the mornings and had
caught it over night. Todd used to pretend he was a ghost when
the lights were off by covering himself in a sheet. Todd also
used to claim that there were 'animals in his drinking water'.

Todd spent much of his years at Queens, though, with a sidekick.
Todd was rarely referred to without the naming of 'Dave' and it
was like this from the beginning of my knowing him. Dave B was
a tall Dutchman who, though quiet at times, had a wildside that
was triggered by Todd. Though I never got to know Dave all
that intently, we have managed to keep in touch over the years
and he is a regular blogger on my list (
I feel like I did get to know Dave, however, through the proxy
of Todd and my other Kingston friends. One of my fondest
memories involving myself, Todd and Dave was a day in Kingston
where I spent a full afternoon and evening with the two of them at
their old seedy downtown house. The day involved playing
massive amounts of Atari 2600 (in their Atari loft which was a
seperate upper floor of the house that was dedicated to old school
gaming), making and eating Reuben sandwiches (the ingredients
of which Todd's mom had just left for him the day before) and
something that involved takingpictures in their bathroom with a
maxipad stuck somewhere on my body. All I really remember
about that incident was Dave laughing silently, into beet-red
colour, with his shoulders shaking. Todd was always more of
a giggler. I appreciated Dave and the role he has played in Todd's
life...and I hope he knows that...even though I don't fully know all
that it encompassed.

One time, in the spring of 98, Todd was living in Ottawa and
working at Yogen Fruz. He wasn't too sure about going to Iawah
for the summer anymore and even if he should visit for a weekend.
He was starting to feel uncertainty about his life and was feeling
pulled in many directions. I'm not a super-spiritual person by ANY
stretch, but for some reason I felt compelled to call my new friend
and tell him something that was heavy on my heart -

I called Todd one night and told him he needed to be at Iawah for
the upcoming weekend and for that whole summer, not because I
wanted him there, but because God did. That sort of thing has only
happened to me a handful of times. I felt awkward considering I
was just starting to get to know Todd. I still don't fully know why
I called him and told him that to this day. He did, however, go to
Iawah that summer...and ended up meeting his wife.

I don't take any sort of credit for what happened and I never will.
That same sort of thing happened to me (except Iwas on the
recipient end) in Halifax after my friend Mark's wedding in June of
99. Mark's pastor (who seemed to be an incredibly genuine and
honest guy) approached me after Mark's wedding, after having
had only one conversation with me over the course of a weekend.
He said "Matt - I feel like I have to tell you something" and you
could tell he was embarassed.He proceeded to tell me to 'stop
worrying and stop running' and that 'God had never left me' and
that 'God wanted me to come home to Him'. Though initially
weirded out, after walking away from the pastor in the banquet
hall on the campus of King's College in Halifax, I began to see
how much those words really applied to me at that point in my life.
I'm glad that man approached me, even though he must have felt
super awkward about it.

Today, I consider Todd to be an invaluable friend. He has always
had a wisdom beyond his years and any chance I have had to pick
his brain, I've taken. Though we weren't in each other's wedding
parties and are not best friends, he is a dynamic revolutionary who
loves without limits and I'm blessed to know him. He once blogged
about me, while he and Chels were in Korea, and it made me weep.

'Never be afraid to say the things that you think should be said.'

Blessings T-Hawk.

Friday, May 25, 2007

It was the fall of 2001. I had just finished
a very rewarding summer season of
Camp Iawah glory and I was making my
first real steps towards being 'out there' -
no longer in school and ready to make
my first tracks into the real, cruel world.
This would not be an easy process but
essential to my existence, nonetheless. I
had badly bleached blonde hair with
super black roots and wore my
oversized blue envy hoodie almost every
other day. I had decided that Kingston
was the city I wanted to take root within.
I had a lot of friends there but at that
time, the core group of friends I had come to know and love were moving...
changing...evolving in many ways. Jeff was getting married the following
spring and was now getting into a serious 'older-guy' routine. He had a full
time job at Bombardier and excelled in pretty much everything he did. He
was still (and will always be) an excellent guitarist but instead of wanting to
play indie rock shows with me, he was content playing more at church and
his amplifier knob barely ever went past 2 or 3 in the din of his bedroom.
Montana, though, was still his wild and crazy Korean roommate but even
he was starting to ask some serious life questions and begun to seem more
down in the dumps. I used to think that being down in the dumps meant
you were 'questioning' or 'struggling' with something but I realized that my
thought patterns, especially concerning my faith, had been very naive for
some time. But naievity, as it were, would be leaving my life very soon.
Then there was Brian. Brian was only a guy I'd ever known through other
people - He had lived with Jeff through most of Jeff's university career
and a cousin of another great camp friend of mine named Paul.
Brian was only an intimate part of my life for a few months but he

really played a big role in helping me figure out some 'crap'. One
of the best memories I have of Brian is living in his reaction to my
having fiery diarrhea from an extra spicy #5 from the Wok-In (seeing
as it was the first meal of that day) in the park near his house. Brian
helped me plan and organize 'All The Hype' part deux. All The Hype
part one happened in May of 2001 on a dirt-track. It was a day
long concert of Christian bands (most of whom are now defunct)
and an excuse to try event-planning. Both years were minimal
successes - financial nightmares but massive learning experiences.
Brian helped me take it up a notch for year two. I remember
praying with him, when part deux was all said and done, on a
rock with Jared Siebert. Jared's prayer was as real as they come:
"'re friggin invisible. Why do you make it so hard?"
You couldn't have three more different personalities praying on
that rock...but there we were. Stuck in the mire of beauty of
it all. (Brian is getting married soon.)

To better explain Kingston, though, I feel I need to backpedal a little.
That summer, I believe the word I referred to that described my camp
experience was 'glory' - I really don't think any other word would
suffice. For most of my life, being a Christian had been a strange,
idiot-filled, nearly incomprehensible, masochistic uphill experience
but that summer, I reached a place where I actually felt secure in my
faith, surrounded by an amazing community, in which my ripe age of
25 was right smack in the middle of the age-dynamic of the massive
staff that year. Though there are flaws that I see now, the whole feel
of the summer had a glow of...childishness. It's as if fantasy and reality
were intermingled for those two months and anything that was
unachievable was achieved through a hard-working, dedicated, loving,
mature and inter-supportive staff family. It was a time in my faith
where I needed refreshment and craved a connection with God as
opposed to cold, hard facts. This type of Christianity was becoming a
major form of uprising to the boring, dusty churches of North America
but I didn't feel that joining a Pentecostal assembly was any type of

In the times in my life where I have connected, and I mean truly and
hyper-consciously connected with the big Man, it has always been
genuine. I've never really been any good at faking, especially towards
my faith - it feels fake most of the time anyways so any sense of reality
within is always guarded well.

That summer was real. There was a team running the music or
'worship' (a term I'm not so comfortable using anymore) and it was a
major pathway for people to reconcile, re-connect, and become
introduced to the Father. I don't know why - It certainly wasn't because
of anything we did. We were scared. It was Josh, Zac and I who really
ran the show and decided who went where, what song would fit,
what style of music we should play and what mood we were sensing,
etc., etc. I've never been a part of a music team so clearly focused
on God-ness that was as powerfully blessed as that summer.

I long for those days, in some respects. I wish that everyone could have
as powerful of an experience as that summer in such a golden community
of diverse people.

But I am here and now.
I must make sense of what I have.
Come along with me, won't you?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Brain Vacation

Some days, you just have to write because the fire is alive in your pen.
Like Lester Bangs in Almost Famous says 'I used to stay up all night - on
a little speed, mesculin...and some cough syrup...and just write pages
and pages...a dribble...about the faces of Coltrane.' A great line. It
embodies the art and the passion that lies behind writing.

What do I want to achieve by writing? What dark faces do I want to uncover
by rattling the bones of the past and waking the potential of the future?
I have worked on and off on a fiction work for over five years but I can
really only write on that story when I feel truly inspired. Otherwise, it
feels like it is being forced. Writing, though, can be equated to dollars
and sense and sometimes that means handing in something (to a boss)
you're not completely comfortable with in order to meet a deadline.

It's a weird monster. Writing can help us to tackle the closeted creature that
wrestles our subconscious, forming bridges to eiphany. It can also be
a means of a distortion or inadequate context that snowballs into an inspiral
world of hatred and fear.

I have to get back into the habit of typing and writing while I'm at work
instead of just wishing the shift away into pieces. I guess, in some ways, this
place has made me realize the creative side of me is still very alive and active
but that it needs feeding with constant water, light and soil. A plant cannot
live on mere wishes for its existence - it needs the work to be done by its

The weather brings a sense of renewal and relief. It's as if the sun is
bringing out the sense of strength in all of us. Sometimes i hear the song
'jesusland' by ben folds in my mind and i wonder if Jesus really would hang
his head in shame at a lot of the shit that goes on among his people and their
constant misinterpretation of his love. Call me crazy, but I really don't
think he would be picketing against the gay right. I also don't think he would
be so caught up in legalism and labelling. He came to liberate - not to
segregate. Too much of the christian bubble gets lost or scared within the
idea of focusing on the heart of humanity. Isn't that what we are supposed
to do? Aren't we supposed to be more concerned with the status of
someone's heart as opposed to their outward actions? I think so many
things (and perhaps NOT necessarily gay-ness) are a sign of massive
discontent and utter dissatisfaction of self - alcohol abuse, drug abuse,
physical abuse, rape, acts of terror, etc. I think there is a deeper need
within the hearts of all people that is being overlooked. That need is what
i want to be concerned with - not that i have any specific
straight-and-narrow answer but I want to offer myself to my neighbours
in order to help them take steps towards 'living life to the full'.

I live for the moments where people come together for a cause of a
greater good. I think it is important that each individual be self-sustainable
and intellectually charged but that individual is nothing without the deep
roots of a real and vibrant community. Individuals can make differences
but with the aid of a vitalized communal core, greater differences can
be made. A ripple effect can be seen in the living out of ideals within
people that truly care for and want the best for each other. This is what
interests me - This is what drives me on.

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