The Liminal Year

This was a year. There is not much more to say about it. Things happened but they always do.

This was a year as liminal space between dumb and stupid. Dumb things happened. I kept saying “everything is stupid” and I was never proven wrong, perhaps proof of what I was saying. A quote as a perpetual motion machine.

The year began with my search for a new literary agent because I had written three books, or four (two of them are a duology and could quite easily be one title, but they were written as two), over the past four years and he was unsuccessful in selling any of them. I don’t blame him for this (he’s quite a successful agent) but I don’t blame myself either. Parting ways with him was a kind of liberation from agents, though I did then spend the next three months (unsuccessfully, again, there’s that word) searching for a new agent. But I was damaged goods, surely, partly because my previous agent is not a chump, and then in March I returned to my old publisher (ECW) and placed one of the books (but not the others mind you, and I’ll return to this) and it will be published in the spring of 2024.

My father caught Covid. In the dumbest way possible but also in a way quite in character, if I have to admit this, and then he died in March, not from Covid, but surely because of it, so his was not a death added to the statistics of the global plague but, again, his death started with Covid. Officially he died of organ failure, resulting from an unchecked infection, which was not caught, for whatever reason, after a series of hospital stays due to Covid, all of this at my parents’ winter home in Kolkata, so this was all transmitted to me by phone from a panicked mother or other family members.

He died in March.

This then sent my brother and I on a scramble to obtain a visa from the Indian authorities, which seemed impossible (Canada and India, despite or perhaps because of the size of the Indian diaspora in this country, do not play nice together on the diplomatic level) but then became possible thanks to the great help of strangers (my brother is far more famous than I am and when our travel agent encouraged him to apply pressure to the Indian High Commission via social media the outpouring of offers to help was not only something to behold, it gave me some hope, honestly, for people, and allowed me to refer, more than once, to Blanche Dubois’s Kindness of Strangers speech) and we were on our way. It was the first time I had been on an airplane in more than two years, and it resulted in my first visit to India in more than 30 years. It was an odd way to reconnect with family but it was also oddly comforting. We performed rituals by the river and then a funeral for family and friends. We drank a very expensive bottle of scotch I’d picked up at the duty free shop at the airport in Delhi. We saw aunts and cousins and ancient family friends. We ate as much street food as possible. The jet lag never left us. 

On one of our last days there, we accompanied my mother to my parents’ country house, about 4 hours north of the city, to the place where my father felt his most complete self and spent the day there before returning to Kolkata and then, ultimately, home, where I arrived exhausted in every possible way.

We held a memorial service for my father in the summer, for his Montreal friends, held in the basement of an art gallery that had housed a…Covid test centre. The room overlooked the courtyard of an Italian restaurant near the Museum of Fine Arts and we served Indian and Italian snacks and it finally felt like closure.

Here’s the stupid part: my father was first infected with Covid at a beauty salon. Normally he would go for a mani/pedi but this time he got a facial as well. We can’t be sure he got infected there, but he otherwise hardly left the house. My mother never got it. She still hasn’t. I have the bill from the salon. It is a ghoulish artifact (and one of many – my father never threw anything away…)

My father-in-law died later in the year. He had fallen and the fall was the culmination of a long couple of years of failing health. He was ready to go, and my wife and son got to see him the day before he died. My wife delivered a wonderful eulogy.

(My father’s brother died. Not to put his death parenthetically, which, granted, I’ve just done, but his death was my personal tragedy-comes-in-threes endpoint.)

My mother decided to return to India for good after more than 50 years in Montreal. Helping her shut down her life here, cleaning out the home, going through my father’s things (we found things…), seeing her off, was a bookend in and of itself. 

I started my own consultancy toward the end of 2021 and in the fall I accepted a job with one of my clients, which, aside from all the death, was perhaps the most unexpected thing that happened during the year. (I also helped in the start of a…hot sauce company.)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine happened. China took another turn (and again and again). India is going to a bad place more and more. Lots and lots of people died for unspeakably dumb reasons, at the hands, directly and indirectly, of unspeakably dumb people. Hunger is still a thing. Forests are still being cut down. Animals are being driven to extinction. The weather is weird and getting weirder. All of this is caused by people. The stock market. Inflation. Chatbots and AI. The metaverse. Crypto finally collapsed. NFTs were a thing and then weren’t. I don’t want to hear more about Web3. They all feel like grifts. Speaking of which: Trump never went away and continues to live rent-free in the minds of millions. And speaking of rent-free….

Elon Musk’s chaos-reign at Twitter had me looking at other social media and I joined Mastodon, Post.News, CounterSocial and Hive. I quit Hive (though it was, seriously, the best-looking social media). And though I remain on Twitter, I have to say the chaos surrounding, well, everything had me rethinking social media in general and I realized I just don’t use it as much anymore and need it even less. This is both a function of my age and general crankiness but also a definite continuation of my retreat from the world, one that started well before the pandemic, was accelerated by the forced quarantines and rules instituted because of the plague, and that continued as things opened up. The fact that the year on social ended with the epic self-own of a professional misogynist at the hands of a teenaged environmental activist who seemed to live, yes, rent-free in his messy awful mind was not just irony and poetic justice, and not just dumb and stupid, it perfectly encapsulated that liminal space the year inhabited.

In the coming year, I will edit a book. I will continue work on a new one. I am thinking of starting the search for a literary agent, again, because the idea of doing the self-publishing thing exhausts me and, remember, I have two or three books that need a publisher. I will cut the cord on cable, finally, and stick to some streaming services. (The only thing I watch on linear TV is sports and there are work-arounds there.) I hope to get on a plane again, with my wife, and do some proper vacationing.

I know good things happened in 2022. I’m thankful for them. I’m thankful for the family and friends that continue to put up with me. I am thankful for the continued existence of love despite everything that surrounds us. Anger is an energy, sure, and a destructive one. Anger begets fear which begets anger. An ouroboros.

But love is also an energy. A greater one, with more power, sustaining, right up there, with the sun.

A dumb, stupid energy.

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