Friday, December 30, 2011

What I Learned in 2011

A still from Series 2 of Skins. Why? It's still the best television I've seen all year.

One more day to go, then 2011 bites the dust. As far as a unit of time, I think the year is a solid dividing line. Four seasons pass, the days get longer, then shorter, and if we're lucky, we get to see a few sunsets on a beach.

I've had a very eventful year. It started with frantic activity as I prepared to launch The Telephasic Workshop with two business partners. What was supposed to be an art shop / cafe that would inject something new into staid Yonge Street (Glad Day Bookshop and my favourite sushi restaurant being notable exceptions) flopped spectacularly. However, I will always be grateful for the experience. It pushed my limits and showed me what can be done with a sound business plan in place, some audacity, and a strong spicing of ambition to finish.

While the business was still forming I had the pleasure of working with Fab Magazine's Paul Bellini on a sketch comedy show he was shooting for OUTtv. It was a real pleasure to help with The Gayest Show Ever. Paul even shot some scenes in the alley behind Glad Day, which show the graffiti and grittiness of that space (which has since been demolished for the construction of a condo)

This year also saw the closing, and successful re-opening of Statlers on Church, the most delightful bar in Toronto's gaybourhood, hands down. Rick and Michael are two of the best bartenders in the city, and wonderful people to boot. I enjoyed many good times helping Glad Day Bookshop run book events there, hanging out during Rick's chili Fridays, and enjoying the company of the bar's regulars. There's no better place to wind down after a long day at work. Here's to wishing these guys an amazing 2012.

A couple months ago I jumped into the 21st century and bought a new iPhone 4S. What a wonderful tool it is, and how dangerous for everyone who can't put it down. My feelings about technology improving humanity's ability to connect with other human beings remains skeptical, to say the least. Bruce Benderson put it best in his 2007 collection Sex and Isolation: And Other Essays:

"The global information world is the physical opposite of the physical space called the marketplace, or downtown, which I memorialized in my recent writings. Smell and touch have been exiled from it. Nothing sinks in or keeps its shape. Nothing is remembered in the flesh, which means, quintessentially, the end of long-term memory."

Thoughts to ponder.  

Speaking of media and viewing screens, I still couldn't get enough of the British drama Skins this year. I'm currently re-watching Series 2 with my friend John. Such a great show, full of solid acting, equally solid writing, and deeply felt, emotionally genuine moments.  

Around the end of June I made the decision to return to school next fall. If everything goes to plan, by this time next year I'll be in Montreal working toward my MBA. As Pop Artist and quiet deviant Andy Warhol once said, "being good at business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art, and good business is the best art." While some might read this as glib, there's also truth to it. Any small business owner, or anyone who works for that matter, should be proud of the contribution they make through their labour. Few things are as satisfying as sitting back and relaxing after a hard day's work.

On a sad note, just this week Toronto's Glad Day Bookshop, the world's oldest gay and lesbian bookstore, was put up for private sale by owner John Scythes. I've volunteered with the bookstore since I met Jearld Moldenhauer, the store's founder, and John back in 2006. Glad Day is very close to my heart. Censorship battles taken on by both John and Jearld changed Canada. By refusing to be stepped on by the Canadian government and other forces they ensured the store would stand the test of time. For 42 years Glad Day has been the meeting place for this city's gay intelligentsia and everyone who cares about the culture.  Long live Glad Day!

Here's hoping that 2012 brings us new challenges, deeper involvement in our communities, and greater humility. A little Peter Gabriel for you to enjoy from his fabulous New Blood tour. Happy New Year everyone.

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