As a teenager, I was so afraid of spiders that I had trouble getting close enough even to kill them. When I was old enough to move my bedroom into the basement of the house we rented, the only downside of this adolescent rite of passage was that I was now sleeping next to the large, cool, uncarpeted storage room still filled with the archival possessions of the family friends who owned the home as well as about seven billion giant house spiders. More than once, if one of the giant house spiders appeared when my Dad wasn’t at home to kill it for me, I would go to the bathroom for a dark blue bottle of Finesse hair spray, grab a lighter, and shoo the palm-sized arachnid away with an improvised flamethrower. That I was never featured in a clip of now-viral local news footage gripping haircare products outside of the charred physical remains of our domicile and conceptual remains of my Dad’s security deposit is pretty much a miracle.
I mention this core, deep-set, once defining and lifelong phobia because today on the patio I noticed a spider crawling along the front of my left shoulder and flicked it with my middle finger — my literal fuck-you finger — without breaking the flow of the conversation coursing through the ear buds my in-laws bought me for my birthday. Admittedly, this was a much smaller, more benign little orange spider than the massive lupine monsters that I would chase through the basement with great Finesse. Nevertheless, a spider on my person in days of yore would previous have required me at the very least to change all of my clothes and to shampoo copiously, whereas today I dispatched the threat with Bruce Willis calm. This should not be taken as evidence of increased sangfroid or courage on my part in general — I have many new fears where old ones never were, like the widely-shared but inexplicable terror I feel from an incoming phone call that hasn’t been pre-announced by a text message. I only bring it up because there are things that we consider to be utterly defining features of our relationship to the world which turn out to be no such thing — they turn out to be things we grow out of, for reasons that either remain obscure to us or actually don't even exist in the first place.
As another example: I used to find the early darkness of the winter months to be a cozy, comforting reassurance. Artificial light was, to my mind, always preferable to God’s sunny alternative. In my university days, I worked at the student newspaper whose subterranean offices, off the wing of a parkade, had not one window opening onto direct natural light and I could joyfully spend whole days there, not coming up for a break until evening, for a walk in the twilight. Logically, this propensity made winter my favourite season, and summer — aside from those wonderful nights — a hot drag.
And now? My feelings about natural and artificial light have inverted dramatically in the years since then that this winter, finally, I surrendered and bought an LED SAD-lamp (one upside to the pandemic-year SAD-lamp purchase is that its mega-lumens can substitute for the flattering Zoom light-ring).
These days, I’m just a spider-flickin’, summer-lovin’, call-avoidin’ fool — and I never would have seen it coming. They may be trite and treacly, by this point so heavy with cliché that they can barely be pressed into service, but the words of Forrest Gump’s mother still ring true: life is like a box of chocolates — it’s full of things that I, specifically, am allergic to; it’s a migraine trigger; ultimately, it will kill you.
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For the next two months, the newsletter and the podcast will be moving to a more relaxed and irregular posting schedule, as I acclimatize the return of live performance work, struggle to meet a deadline for an upcoming book, & enjoy some local recreational travel with my friends and family. I’d like to take this opportunity to once again thank subscribers for their support of this project, and remind Founding Member-level supporters of their guest list privileges on my live shows. Please contact me here below or by email for details. Stay safe!