Summer 2016 was the close heat of Toronto sticking to your skin like flypaper. I lived for the weekly evening thunder showers that spurred the grown ups of Roxton Road to race out of doors like the recess bell had rung.
By day, the streetcar. A rusty mammoth clinking its hourly migration, tired old thing complaining audibly on the detours down to King Street. Up to Queen, east to Parliament, and flit like a damselfly into the air conditioning. And one by one heat mopped day, we made a record.
By night, two electric fans. Seated on the floor because the couch fabric is too warm and bakes your underside. Online hours, where productivity is instantly gratifying in the way of a ping pong return, forgetting the job will be yours again by morning. With this pattern, by some miracle of patch and quilt and fray, we made a documentary.
I wanted to think of it like an alter ego. Recording artist by day, filmmaker by night. But truthfully it’s more like I put my shirt on inside out and backwards and insisted to myself it was a new shirt. I tricked myself into intense productivity. (And it worked.)
A finished project is like the furthest displacement of a pendulum where, against all nature, it appears to pause. Like on a swing set, at the top of the arc, when you thought you might be flung off into outer space. And your body rises from the seat more softly than it seems it should. And you are weightless, and a little scared, for a moment so brief you cannot be sure it occurred.
In art, it is the time between pride of completion and outside comment. That pause. Brief, weightless, and frightening. But artists have exhaustingly delicate mental constitutions.
So I’ll put it to you like this. In St. John’s, I can see the ocean from my house. I have to go upstairs and into the spare room. (Which isn’t so much a spare room as the room I don’t happen to sleep in and is therefore distributed with things that have no other home to go to. Boxes of unsold cds and a desk that will never move again because I would have to take it apart to get it out the door and threaded down the hall, and then where would it go.) Let me start again.
I can see the ocean from my house. I have to go upstairs and into the spare room. I have to bring a kitchen chair to stand on. And in the top right corner of the window there, I can see the ocean from my house. I could just as easily walk to the ocean and see much more of it. But this part is on the mortgage. No one else has exactly this view. And it changes daily. And the afternoon is different from the morning, is different from the evening, is vastly outdone by the night.
I cannot see what you will see.
(Gone airs in Newfoundland & Labrador Saturday September 17th 8:30pm on CBC Television. National air date TBA.)