Maybe I knew.
Standing on the street corner in that Parkdale suburb at 1:00am on January 1st 2010 while listening to a new Broken Bells song, I think I knew. I knew that 2010 would be a tough year.
There’s a theory that the future can influence the past, and even though 2010 started out with me at a New Year’s party talking with friends about my new TV reporter gig, I knew that something was amiss. That feeling, that intuition that had served me right so many times before, hung over me as I headed over to the bus station. And on the subway. And on the second bus. And as I scarfed down an entire plate of shrimp and crackers when I got home. And for the next few months.
Months when everything…actually went pretty well. I stayed busy learning and making connections at the The Edge while doing local coverage of the region’s best yogurt shops at Rogers TV. My radio-approved webcomic and subsequent trading cards made me a station-wide celebrity at The Edge. I did also work at a No Frills, but I had plenty of friends there so the menial labour was offset by fun people. The most important thing was that I was constantly busy creating and remaining in the public eye, two things I need to feel fulfilled.
Yeah, the first few TV shoots were a little awkward. I went to a new-age health centre, a new-age toy store, and also other retail outlets that weren’t new-age. But they were at the very least interesting and different. Even when I accidentally double-booked a shoot behind the producer’s back I was only lightly reprimanded. So what could possibly have been tinging such a productive few months with noxious vibes?
The easy answer would be a change in leadership on the Edge’s street team. Hailey, the team leader who had hired me and grew to become one of my closest friends, had left at the end of 2009 to pursue a career on the West Coast. In her stead she left a much more caustic supervisor in the form of Stitch, an anarcho-punk who was decidedly less friend and more boss. Despite a few unnecessary barbs, he never treated me poorly, but the loss of Hailey did make life feel incomplete. Still, I don’t think this was enough of a factor for the prescient gloom I lived under.
Even an early spring didn’t help shake it off. Two weeks after I watched Canada’s Olympic hockey team win the gold medal alongside New Found Glory at the Sound Academy, it was warm. Tuesday March 9th I was walking around without a jacket, heading over to the Town Council Chambers to help with the camera set-up for the weekly meeting.
I don’t remember exactly what it was that spurred me to buy a DSLR, but I did exactly that after a TV shoot at the combination bowling alley/church. I think about that late March day often every time I pass that camera store in the Eaton’s Centre, and how much it changed the course of my life. I wouldn’t dive deep into photography until a few years later, but that was the unexpected first step on a path to many creative ventures over the decade.
April was a quiet month. The clearest memories are of very calm, tranquil walks to and from various TV shoots in Newmarket. I remember feeling alone, but not in the same way I would in later years. It was a peaceful kind of solitude that’s become increasingly rare.
May was similarly quiet- except the 26th- a sweltering day where I did both a TV shoot at a pawn shop and a street team shift at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I did a lot of walking that day, but I didn’t mind because I spent it listening to Pendulum’s new record Immersion, which remains one of my favorite albums of the 2010s. It’s not a quiet album, so that wasn’t a quiet day.
The day after that was also pretty memorable. I did a shoot at a golf course – challenging because a school group had a field trip there that day and I didn’t bring enough release forms to get footage of them. So the choice of shots ended up being pretty limited. This was worsened by the fact that the cameraman forgot to change the white balance setting on the camera, resulting in an awful blue tint on all the outdoor shots. The show’s producer wasn’t happy with either of us, and that cameraman ended up crying his heart out to me afterwards. This was his third strike, and he feared that losing this gig would mean he would have to go back to South Korea. Also his wife was cheating on him. It was an uncomfortable situation that heralded a sea change, right as June began.
On June 1st I got a call from the promotions coordinator at the Edge saying I’d impressed enough people around the station and I’d be starting work at the promo desk immediately. I happily accepted, but I opted to remain on the street team for the time being – a move that would end up saving me.
That move also helped me meet Cindy, a new member of the street team who I took an instant liking to as we prepared coffee for customers on Tim Horton’s Camp Day. Yeah, I can say that I was a Tim Horton’s employee for exactly one day in 2010.
I met a lot more people in the next month, namely all the on-air staff at the Edge. They were all very kind and accommodating, but it was Dave Bookman – Bookie – who I really clicked with.
It’s here that I must note that I’m using his real name because it would be strange to honour his legacy with a pseudonym.
Bookie was a Toronto legend, and it was easy to see why. His frantic energy and sly sense of humour won over anyone who knew the man, from regular guys like me to rock icons like Bono and Dave Grohl. He was kind of like Nardwuar in the way he found mutual interests between himself and others, allowing for natural conversations to flow. I picked up many soups from Fran’s for Bookie, and he’d always tell me to get something for myself while I was there.
The G20 summit happened. I hosted the Canada Day parade for Rogers. I spent a couple of weeks interning at CP24. And then things….started to go downhill.
I was the wedding DJ for a friend on July 17th. In my fancy white tux I introduced myself as an official radio station DJ, and waited for the single bridesmaids to stop by my table to chat. And waited. And they never came by. And suddenly I didn’t feel like I was a TV reporter or an employee at 102.1 The Edge or a wedding DJ. I was just a regular guy that wasn’t particularly interesting at all.
A few days later I was told by the promotions coordinator at The Edge that my employment would finish in mid-August because I didn’t have my full driver’s license. My final exam just happened to land at the end of that month.
A few days later I was told by the producer at Rogers that I was no longer going to be a TV reporter, as my mistakes (double-booking that shoot in February, the release form fiasco in May) were unacceptable.
And suddenly, I was just a regular guy that wasn’t particularly interesting at all.
I spent August 2010 getting the most out of my last month at the promo desk. It was fruitless as there was no way I’d retain the position, but I tried to make myself indispensable. Any shift, any time.
Working so many shifts helped me cross paths with Cindy regularly, and I developed a solid rapport with her as we bonded over making webcomics. Some of my on-air colleagues noticed and implored me to make a move. “Dude, I thought she was your girlfriend already,” the afternoon drive host said. So I asked Cindy to hang out, and she agreed. My final shift at the promo desk was one long team plan where each on-air host gave me some advice, and as I was leaving with Cindy I looked back to see three of them giving me the thumbs-up.
I took her to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (the first time I’d ever seen a movie with a girl), followed by dinner at a Thai restaurant and a nice night walk in a city park. We parted ways, texted a bit afterwards, and I thought that the summer of 2010 had been redeemed.
On Wednesday August 25th I took my final driver’s exam. I passed. It wouldn’t help me get my promo desk job back, but I felt accomplished. I walked triumphant through my front door and was told the news that my grandfather had passed away.
I left for Europe the next day for the funeral.
A week later, I came back. Shaken and numb, but determined to keep going.
Having opted to stay on the street team back in May, I still had a connection to the radio station. It had been a smart move, but it also put me at odds with team leader Stitch, who became extremely condescending towards me. He didn’t want me back on the team, hinting that I should have left. As we were driving to an event in early September, I cautioned him about a street light up ahead. “That’s just a signal for people in the right lane”, he said snidely, “you would know that if you drove downtown.” Cindy was in the car with us, but luckily she was in the back so she couldn’t see my face turn beet red out of embarrassment.
She did see it turn beet red out of embarrassment later that night though, as I asked her out on a date and she turned me down, saying that she only saw me as a friend.
I helped my sister move into a new dorm in Kingston and returned to the shore of Lake Ontario where I’d sat six years earlier, nursing a different broken heart during a different terrible year, and realized the eerie similarities.
I slept straight through the following Sunday, and Monday returned to No Frills.
Fall 2010 was a time to rebuild. I stopped doing a webcomic because of the awkwardness with Cindy and started doing a video blog for The Edge instead. Things were dull, but calm. Stitch kept on being condescending, but I got to see a handful of cool shows over the next few months., including Norm MacDonald and Gord Downie. There were a lot of shifts at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, which became 2010’s most visited venue, and one I haven’t been to since.
I painted my room. I really got into UFO news. I kept on video blogging. I met Sierra.
And then December 4th came and it turns out Stitch was wanted for some incidents during the G20 protests during the summer. We worked the Brandon Flowers show at Sound Academy where he snapped at me a few more times. The next day, he was fired.
Things felt a little looser over the course of December. Life slowly started to come back together. I was in the new Edge offices a lot more, Hailey had come home from British Columbia, and Christmas was on the way.
And on Christmas Day we got a grim phone call saying that my grandmother had passed away.
And then 2010 ended.