On the Fence
The class-rage was real
Lehane had called it
And it was true, alright.
He felt it,
He knew it
Years of sobriety
And a college diploma
Had not deterred him from this anger
It was the caviar-liberals
And other intellectual elites.
Their smug sense of contempt.
The way they wrote
The way they talked
The way they saw the god damn world
The way they were speaking
On behalf of the working class
While looking down on them just the same
Like we need to be salvaged
Like we need to be saved
If only we could all move to New-York
To be with the rich
And the literary.
There was such arrogance in their tone.
Such ignorance in their speech.
Don’t they know
That the working class
Enjoys the work it does
Don’t they know
We would take a long hard day
Of good and honest labour
Over the boredom
Of yet another literary festival.
Have they never run a hand
Against a massive piece of wood
To get a feel for
The grain of it
The length of it
The strength of it
To see the end result
In a simple set of planks
To know the looks of it,
The shape of it.
Feel love from it
Don’t they know the joy?
The loud, screeching noises of power tools
From benches to belt-sanders
The outbursts of sawdust filling in the workshop
As the swearing of loud men
Overcomes even the loudest of machines
“This bitch is too tight.”
“You cut too long.”
“Fuck’ out of the way.”
“You’re gonna get in, you motherfucker!”
Sweat mixes with dust
And a little bit of blood
And the hands become stiff.
Stiff from the ruggedness of the wood
And the vibrations of tools
The drills and the sanders
The work carries on at good pace
And life feels like a god damn blessing.
The hours disappear behind the work
The day flashes by with a roar.
You forget about food
And drinks and the problems of the world.
Then there is the most beautiful silence in the universe
As the workshop comes to a halt
Once the wood is as smooth as a baby’s ass
And the dust is picked up
The smell of varnish fills the room
The faint stroke of brushes
Brings your mind into focus
The fumes fill you with satisfaction
As your day’s work comes to an end.
The guys are having a beer, now
Limps sore but feeling good
Blackened from the work.
You wipe off your hands on your dirty Dickies
And grab a bite.
The radio is playing,
Music from another era
It’s shitty speakers
And you are deaf by now anyways
Creedence Clearwater Revival
And everyone is smiling.
So very few now,
Get the whole picture
The knowledge of both worlds
The joys of wood
And the word
Even fewer of us
It is sad
Care to write it anymore.
I used to be a very negative man. I used to believe no one was going nowhere and why not get it over with sooner rather than lather.
This week of first : first day of graduate school, first time I buy a home and fist time I take a plane.
I was never in “absolute poverty.” I am well aware of that. I was never in a war nor had I ever lived in a bombed out country. I was simply working class in an era that has very poor prospects for the working class. Factories are closing, warehouses are closing. The kinds of jobs I used to know how to do aren’t in demand anymore.
I had to make a change and it was going to take work. That what the moral of my first novel, The Factory Line : “Don’t be here in ten years.”
It actually took a decade to get out of it.
These past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a good woman, we had children together and worked tirelessly to make ends meet, keep jobs (with very mixed results) and get ahead in life.
I have eaten my “yellow cans of beans” for years to save every buck I could…(for those who are not from Canada, there is such a thing as “the yellow brand” here that is the cheapest version of anything in a yellow can with the simple name of the item written on it, very “Dharma initiative”.
I am also well aware that I am lucky enough to be Canadian, where healthcare is free (I’ll take a waiting list over a 15k bill any day!) and education is cheap.
I can now say that all those years of patience and sacrifice have paid off… Yesterday I’ve started my MBA. That’s correct. A Diploma that costs tens of thousands of dollars in most of the developed world (especially in the US) will cost me about 7000$ CDN total, and half of that will be subsidized by the provincial government one way or the other because I am statistically poor. (I do feel very rich even with my income and the possessions I have… most people ask for too much, that’s for sure.)
I am a working class kid doing an MBA at Concordia. I had my first day yesterday and it was amazing. Concordia is amazing. We had discussions about the influence of “structures” over “individual behaviour” and how such or such system allows liberty or how others favoured “deviant behaviours” and so on…
I now have a chance to make a dent in the bullshit I know still exists.
I was confirmed in my belief that this was no small achievement when I say statistics in La Presse about the “state of things in Montreal”… Most people on this city are still very poor. Only about 22% are owners of their own homes, much less in the parts of town me and my family are from (Tetreaultville to Centre-Sud), the whole lower-East end of the city.
It’s still poor. Numbers aren’t that good. Wages go from half the Canadian average to 2 thirds at the very best. Lots of unemployment, welfare and single moms.
I feel luck and proud to have made it that far. Once I’m done with grad school, I need to find a way to help out in whatever ways I can.
Today I can’t say I’m still working class. I still work a warehouse until I get a better job, but my livelihood is no longer solely resting on my hands for labour.
I’ve become the owner of my own apartment as well yesterday. Went to the notary and signed papers right there. It wasn’t such a huge moment in of itself. Perhaps the significance of it will be felt when we actually move in a few weeks.
It was hard to move out of “rentals” as the prices keep going up and wages are stagnant, it’s very difficult to “make it.” have the minimum deposits and clear the bank’s. I was lucky enough to have my parents help me. It took absolutely everything we had, me, my wife and my parents, for me to get a loan. I had saved up 10000 dollars (at a rate of about 1200 a year) and my parents chipped in the last 3000. We have a very simple two bedroom condo that will cost us about 900 a month with all taxes and fees included.
The way rents are going, we landed exactly where we needed to land.
This week I will take the plane for the first time as well. I will fly for two days to New-Orleans for a book convention.
Years of work are coming together on this. I self-published out of college, managed to meet a few good people with that. Kept writing and putting out books, working the indy scene in Montreal until I won an Indy prize for a novel.
I stopped my instincts of self-publishing again and looked at the market. There were a few new publishing houses doing this completely differently than the “old” publishing system. I was lucky enough to know a guy who knew a guy and got onboard one of those publishing houses at they were on the rise. That was about two years ago.
The publishing house was Down and Out books and they’re turning five in a big way with releases every month and a Bouchercon anthology coming up with many of their authors on shortlists for awards.
I will go to Bouchercon this week thanks to them.
I am very grateful.
If you’ve read all of this, maybe you wonder what words of advice I could have. I wrote them a while ago in Northern Gothic, I believe :
“Pick a line, stick to it, don’t fuck up.”
Being Canadian also helps, seriously. (Nearly) Free education is a fucking bliss.