A love letter to Friday Night Lights

Dear Friday Night Lights,

I finished watching the last episode of your fifth and final season on Saturday evening.  My eyes were red from crying, my heart was breaking to say goodbye to these characters – characters I only met in April (thanks to the art of watching seasoned DVDs one after another – Thanks, Jacques!) but felt as though I had known or met throughout my life.  I understand that this letter seems to be getting dramatic and hyperemotional, but this all comes from a genuine place.

I have to say – I have never seen a show quite like you before.  This was the first series where I would forget at times that there were actors at play and scripts delivered – the realism of the stories and people, the depiction of every life and issues without the sensationalism and histrionics.  Never seen it before, don’t think I will again.  You introduced to me to characters who lived and breathed and were three dimensional and established a canvas for a show that never took its audience for idiots, nor (for the most part) forget its history that you created.

There were some mishaps along the way (perfection is strived for, never fully grasped) but here are five reasons why this show was one of the best:

  • Eric and Tami Taylor.  They were the anchors to this entire experience.  The realistic depiction of their marriage and family upbringing was beautiful and real.  I give a knee to Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton for their multi-faceted portrayal of a couple, clearly still in love with each other, and willing to be leaders rather than followers.
  • The young cast is quite possibly the best I have seen in a television show.  Their acting was so natural and humane – their glances told a story more than script pages.  And the passage of time was part of the show’s evolution in that students got older and left to make way for new characters – brilliance and showed that if this is done correctly, every show could do this. To Scott Porter, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki, Taylor Kitsch, Gaius Charles, Jesse Plemens, Zach Gilford, Aimee Teegarden, Michael B. Jordan, Madison Burge, Jurnee Smollett, Dan Lauria and the cast of secondary characters who went in and out of this realm throughout the show – all I can say is WOW.
  • The show treated everyone with respect.  You had strippers, jocks, drug addicts, mothers, fathers, absentee parents, alcoholics, right wing Catholics – and you loved them all for who they are and for what circumstances brought them to points in their lives.
  • The cinematography shook and moved and never stayed still.  You felt like you were watching a documentary every week.  You were a citizen of Dillon, Texas and you saw the life that lived there.
  • This wasn’t shot on a sound stage – you were in homes with details and items strewn everywhere.  You were in Texas and you saw surroundings that were authentic.
  • The writing.  I mentioned it already, but Friday Night Lights trusted its audience and there was no pandering.  It trusted you to know the history and life of these characters and you went along for the ride with them.

I have watched the last montage from the last episode about 5 times since.  I have listened to “Devil Knows You’re Dead” by Delta Spirit (the song that is played over the last scene) about 15 times since downloading it from iTunes.  I am happy to say that this show enters the realm of Freaks and Geeks and Buffy and Felicity for me.  It’s been a really long time since a show moved me with story and characters to such an extent without jumping the shark.  You never did, and you can have glory knowing thatyou didn’t.

Farewell – I may have to purchase you.

Je me souviens…

Writing about school teachers and thinking about the passage of time has made me really ponder about Montreal and the places that I used to frequent and hang out at.  It’s such a special city (especially in the summer- avoid at all costs in the winter!) and the many times that I go home to visit are always taken up by family occasions and running around.

I am a South Shore boy who discovered the city (as most late teenagers do) once I started going to university.  That’s when I realized the pot of gold that downtown Montreal is.  Living in Toronto, I see the differences between both metropolises (sp?) and as much as I think the pulse that Toronto has is addictive and amazing, there is something to Montreal’s quaint, personal and vibrant city life that can’t be duplicated.

When I think of Montreal, this is what I think of:

  • The HMV at the corner of Peel and St. Catherine – that store where I waited on Tuesdays to buy new releases.  That was my mecca, my church.  I loved every corner of that place, no matter how mainstream it is.
  • The cobblestones in Old Montreal – its Old Port and watching the fireworks every weekend there.  I also remember nearly getting Jann Arden’s autograph when she sang for free once.
  • St. Laurent street – the most beautiful, colourful, vibrant atmosphere I will ever come across in Canada – I adore that street for all it represents to me (THE FRINGE!) and all that it offered to me.
  • Rachel/St. Laurent – my Fringe land.  I remember carrying a bucket of glue and postering my Fringe show on anything and everything down there till 1AM.
  • Patati Patata – the best greasy spoon on St. Laurent EVER.
  • Cinema Du Parc – repertory cinema at its finest.  I remember seeing Bully by Harmony Korine there (amongst other films).  Shitty movie – wonderful cinema.
  • Basha Restaurant near Crescent street – I used to have lunch there every Friday when I was at Concordia.  Nobody makes a shish taouk better than Basha.
  • Shambala – I was introduced to this restaurant by someone who loved Tibetan food.  I went out of curiosity and I was a convert.  And the whole place looked like it was run out of someone’s loft.
  • The steps at Place Des Arts – I remember sitting there listening to shows running during the Jazz Fest and thinking that Montreal was the most magical place on Earth (at least in the summer!)
  • Victoria Square – another great hang out place.  Frequented by a lot of potheads and what not, but good to take in the sights.  Reminded always of when Mara and I were dating and how we would just sit there and be together.
  • Le Faubourg – I hear the area is dead now, but when the cinema there and the market was around, I adored that place.  I would go to movies on my school breaks and kinda “live there” – it was a great melting pot.  The Second Cup that used to be at the corner was also a great place to be.  Apple cider on cold winter days…
  • The cafeteria at Dawson College – I didn’t go to Dawson, but I used to hang out there in the early 2000s and I was addicted to their generic Jamaican meat patties.  Mmmm.

Gosh, there’s so many others – and as I write this, I am acting as though I can’t go visit these places anymore.  I guess I could still, it’s just my life is different and these are isolated moments in my past life.  Revisiting through memory is more fun sometimes.

Father’s Daze

it’s sunny and we just came through the front doors.  she’s unstoppable – ready to take on the day like it’s nobody’s business.  i’m trying to keep up.  i tell her that she needs to hold my hand.  she wriggles hers away from mine but then retreats.  she says her usual hello to the newly landscaped flowers in the front of our building.  i say hello as well and we proceed to the sidewalk and begin our walk together.  she admires the grass that is growing, and it makes me notice as well.  she says hello to the baby trees and the big trees and i repeat the salutations as well.  i think i’m a kind person, but she has clearly made me kinder.

she sees the laid out stones that are used to ground the trees that are along our street and she wants to walk directly on them.  daddy walk, she tells me so i oblige and we walk on the wobbly parts together.  i think about the wobbly bits that we’ll have to walk upon when she’s older.  i will always walk with her.

she doesn’t want to hold my hand anymore, but wants to be carried.  i always agree so i lift her into my arms and we make more of our walk this way.   she waves at passersby and sometimes they wave back.  i give running commentary to her every move and i encourage her to wave and say hi to people.  she likes it.

she lets me know of the cars on the street driving and the buses bounding down eglinton street.  she says hello to buses.  i say hello to buses.  when did i ever say hello to vehicles before her?

she lays her head on my shoulder and i feel that this is exactly where i need to be in this moment.  i hug her tighter and tell her i love her.  i say the words i love you to her so many times a day, most probably to make up for the times when i didn’t hear it as a child and to catch up to the number of times i continue to say it to my wife. I treasure telling her that.  she doesn’t know what it means, but i do.

by this point, we’ve walked over the grate that is in front of the subway and passed by the garbage can that overflows with items.  she points to the bus shelter and says apple juice to the orange juice poster inside.  i correct her and tell her she’s so smart.  she lifts her head off my shoulder and tells me that she wants to go on my shoulders. i hoist her up.  she used to call shoulders elbows so it’s nice that she knows the difference now.  i notice that there is a pain in the back of my neck and across my shoulder blades.  it’s come from these shoulder rides that i can never say no to.

i look at the shadow that we’re making – looks like we’ve composed a giant whose head has a small ponytail that points out.  she counts out loud and wants me to count with her. i do.  she sings row row row your boat, and she wants me to sing too.  i used to never sing publicly but she broke down that wall a while ago and now i will always sing with her when she wants me to (even when she tells me not to).

benches, flowers, hedges, dogs, babies in strollers – she notices everything and sometimes connects them with something that has taken place in her world.  i am continuously amazed at her.  i know she is not the first baby to make these observations, but she is my first baby and therefore i am in constant awe.

we make the only left turn on our route and we are nearly at the house.  she wants to get off my shoulders by this point and walk right in to meet everyone.  i remember how i wept the first time i left her there, feeling that i was letting go of the first piece of her childhood.  i don’t feel it like that anymore, but she is growing so fast that i can’t keep up with it sometimes.  she bounds through the doors, says hi to everyone, does a retrace and gives me a backwards hug and kiss before leaving me.  i don’t like goodbyes and though this is the most minor of goodbyes, it still breaks me knowing that i don’t get to see her at every moment.  but social skills are a grace and this is a good thing. i see her interactions with other children and adults and there’s a definite people person emerging.

i close the door behind me and take the walk that we just took – this time solo.  iPod earbuds are in, and i’m in work mode now.  as much as work does fit the bill, i always wait for the day to end.

when i walk the walk once again to go get her, i think about how funny life is.  how you think you’ll end up alone but then you blink and you have a family.  i think about my own Father and not having him around – mortality washes over me like a wave at every moment and i pray to God that I will be with her for all of the many pages her life will write.  the iPod earbuds are still in and I bounce my way to her, always missing her after a long day and always trying to walk a little faster than my work shoes can take me.  the walk to go get her is always faster than the walk to drop her off.

she is playing outside and she sees me in the crack of the picket fence.  She says daddy daddy daddy and she makes her way to the gate.  i open it and there she is waiting to be picked up.  she wraps her arms around my neck tightly.  my heart bursts every time and i feel full.  we say thank you and wave goodbye to the other angels waiting for their adult pickups.

as soon as the gate closes, she asks me for a bottle to which I tell her that she can have one when we get home.  she asks for mommy and I tell her that she will see her when we get home.  she asks for my shoulders and i oblige because why on earth would I say no.  she’s back on and so is the pain.  it’s really not that bad.  we pass all the usual sights on the way home – the vacuum cleaner store, the funeral home, the vet – and we talk about her day and who she saw.  i listen and converse.  i hope to always listen to what she has to say, and promise myself to always be interested in her words.

she sees the stones again and wants to walk on them.  she says daddy walk and i follow her.  we take our wobbly steps again and meet once more at the front door of our building.  we go in and we’ll do it all again tomorrow.

 

 

 

My most favorite teacher(s)

Word Press sent me a blog subject idea entitled “Describe your least favorite teacher.”

I’d rather put a positive spin on this one.  I have to say that writing about the TWO most favorite and profound teachers in my life is a bit of a nerve-wracking process.  I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to tell the both of them in person about how much they did for me, but I guess it’s another thing to actually collect your thoughts and write something down. So here goes..

Both teachers entered my life during my high school years.

The first teacher is Mr. Philip Booth – English teacher, drama teacher and all around fascinating and great guy.  I remember having him as a Drama teacher at 13 years old.  I had seen him in the hallways and he seemed like a jovial man.  He was British, and he exuded a real gentlemanly type of demeanour.  When he was my teacher, I got to know him and the different sides to him.  When he was on his game, he was amazing – quick-witted, sharp, intelligent.  If you pissed him off, he could scare the life right out of you.  I’ve seen both of these sides (luckily the latter I had witnessed with other students – never to me) so I knew what made this guy tick.

At that point in my life, all I had wanted to do was want to be an actor.  I thought it was a pipe dream however – who would cast a scrawny, brown kid with big glasses in anything!  Mr. Booth did.  He was directing his latest play at school – Moliere’s The Miser and was getting ready to have auditions.  Who knew what in me decided to audition, but I did.  And I got a part – the Justice of the Peace.  I was on cloud nine.

I remember practices with Mr. Booth and how he would take the time to let me find my way with that character and really allow me the ability to try things and express myself through funny voices and body movement.  The play could have been a disaster, but Mr. Booth was the first person to truly believe in me in an artistic way so I knew the play would always be a success in my head.

Years later, when I was acting, producing and directing my own play at the 2001 Montreal Fringe Festival, I found being overwhelmed with emotion as dear Mr. Booth came to see it.  He came to see my show.  I will never forget that cyclical moment for me for as long as I live.

Second teacher: Ms. Natalie Small.  She too was my Drama teacher.  She started off as a student teacher, working with Mr. Booth in his classes.  She appealed to me in all ways – she was cool, she was my first real crush and she basically wanted to motivate her students and work on their level.  She was also the first teacher I ever had who I could call by her first name! She liked to do improv games and talk about movies.  She liked to listen to her students and, I know for me, become a pseudo-therapist!  I was her student at 13 but I truly got to know her and understand her teaching methods when I was her student at 16.  She was both a theatre director and my English teacher – and she pushed and made me strive to be the best student I could be.  She talked about issues that were not really talked about in my classroom circa 1992 – racism, homophobia, violence.  She was a trailblazer and she continually wanted to push the envelope and get her students active with ideas and challenged.

I remember that during my last year of high school, my marks were falling drastically in all subjects.  The principal of the school at the time had called me in his office because he was very concerned with what was happening.  From what I can remember, I don’t think anything really personal was going on at the time, but I do remember that for all of those failing grades, I was excelling and flourishing in Drama.  I remember Nat asking me if everything was ok at home – I guess she was asking because she didn’t see a failing student in her class.

Nat also had faith in me and challenged me to open up not only as a Drama student but as a person as well.    At 16, I may have not had the big glasses anymore (god bless contacts!) but I was still that introverted kid who liked to write and not talk in class.  In Drama, I spoke, I talked and took risks.  Nat’s class (and her) gave me the confidence to follow through on my dreams of wanting to write and be creative.  It was probably her spurring that got me to study Film and eventually graduate from Film Studies.

(What I love most of all is that through these over 20 years of my life, she and I have maintained contact and she has been able to see me grow up into marriage and fatherhood, and not to mention exploring my career.  While she will always be my teacher, she is also my friend.)

So, there you have it – two teachers who truly made a different in my life.  As I sit here and write down my feelings towards both of these individuals – these gods of my adolescence –  I can’t help but still look at them with my scholastic eyes and be wide with wonder.  They know how I feel.  I got as far as I did because of them.  And I cherish the both of them.