‘Tomorrow will start serenely’ is what my fortune cookie said. I had just finished my dinner and was counting down the minutes before the CAFE lecture by Dr. Miles Groth.
I’m not going to talk about the incredible lecture by Dr. Groth. There are better scribes here who can do it justice. What I am going to talk about is when it was time for the 27th to end, and the 28th to begin. Serenely, allegedly.
There was a great turnout for the lecture; some extra people had made the trip. We found room for everyone and a local activist offered me a place to sleep.
I grabbed my travel bag and jumped in a cab, eager to arrive at my digs for the night.
When I got there, I rapped the door – no answer. ‘Okay a little weird,’ I thought, but nothing to worry about. ‘I’ll just give them a call and they can let me in. Then – a quick shower (wash the red dye out of my beard,) a few hours of sleep and prepare to express and show compassion for men at the Ontario Parliament buildings.’
No answer – right to voice mail. I tried about three or four more times and the result was the same, ‘you have reached blah blah blah…’ I left a message, and waited for a call back. The call back didn’t happen.
I assessed the situation; It’s not looking like I have a place to sleep. I have an epic red beard going on. I’m in a city where I’m well known as a men’s human rights advocate and not particularly liked by the opposition. I’m a ‘maaahhhhsaawwjuunist,’ in femi-lingo-lunacy. I also needed to find another doggy sitter for Jebernaught, my furry son and loyal wing-man. I was running short on cash. I had blisters on my feet. I had a 20lb travel bag to carry around. And – I was damn tired. I had been awake for 42 hours straight promoting the events, as well as tracking the potentially violent baboon brigade. All this, while getting ready for the weekend.
I stayed in the lobby for a bit but the security people had a job to do and I was asked to move along. They did let me try the cell phone number a couple of times but there was still no answer. So I left. I walked the streets for a bit with the strategy that a moving target is better than a stationary one. If I sat for too long I was going to fall asleep.
I found a coffee shop and had a bucket-sized cup. Then I had another and left. More walking – and it was a little unnerving. I couldn’t be sure when a person took a second glance at me whether they recognized me or if was due to my massive red beard. Still more walking, I found another coffee shop, another bucket of java, and made a few calls. ‘God I hope I can raise somebody.’ I called the person I was supposed to stay with; two calls met with two voice mail greetings but the next two calls were answered. The dog sitter (who was getting anxious and had other stuff to do,) and Agent Tungsten, I was angry, cranky, no sleep, sore, and my words expressed that.
They were, though, understanding and concerned. Both understood I was in a fairly precarious situation.
Luckily my phone battery was running in the red, adding to the overwhelming atmosphere of serenity. Tungsten listened and tried to wake Dean; she was a beacon for my wayward travels on the streets of Toronto. She recognized my anger for a valid human emotion. I was left in the lurch, tired, sore, and justifiably angry. I owe her a deep debt of gratitude; she did everything she could to help.
The dog-sitter also was there but again being so far away not much could be done. And then my phone died, my coffee was done, so it was back out on the streets again – red beard and all. ‘Start serenely’ my ass. Did I mention I was walking? Back and forth, I weaved east to west, heading north every eight or so blocks. I knew the general area I was in and around 8:00am, I discovered a hostel – a semi-permanent sanctuary, for me and about 75% of the homeless population. There were probably a few divorced fathers there too (maybe they had the same fortune cookie writers before they got hitched.)
I had been about 4 or 5 hours on the street. I no longer had blisters on my feet as it was just raw skin; they had popped by now and the ones that were raw skin (from my poster efforts leading up to the weekend) were raw again. I asked about a shower and signed up for one. I had about a half an hour before the showers opened up. I found an electrical outlet got my cell phone out and started charging it. 5 minutes later it had enough juice to turn on.
Calls and text messages started to come through, all of them expressing concern.
Dean I want to publicly thank you brother. You practiced what we preach. You let me vent my anger which needed to be done. You understood and so did your wife and were reaching out as best you could. You didn’t tell me to ‘man-up’ or that my reason for being angry wasn’t justified. You didn’t turn a blind eye to a man in the lurch. You offered solutions; I could hear the stress in your voice over the situation. And you didn’t write that damn fortune cookie. I have to say I feel bad about my words. I don’t think I said anything out of line but damn I’m sure the words I strung together could have made a sailor blush.
After talking with Dean I got in a quick call to the dog sitter. Thankfully, because they run their own business, they were in a position to go that extra mile and bring Jeb along with them. Apparently, they both had a good time. With things somewhere close to being back on track my next step was to get this damn 36 inch red bulls-eye off. I asked at the hostel’s front desk and the employee directed me to one of their volunteers. A man around my age. A homeless man. An ignored majority. He showed me around the place and directed me to the shower area. He offered me a sandwich, ‘an extra,’ he said. I declined, telling him all I wanted was a shower, to get changed, have a smoke and go to the rally.
I talked a bit about the MHRM, what we speak out about, how we highlight the inequities men face. A few others in attendance chimed in – agreeing something needs to be done. My body at this point was aching. A hot shower within feet of me and I just wanted to drag my tired bones in, but I didn’t. I listened to their stories – not about their hardships of being on the street but of their lives in general. It wasn’t anything glamorous, just a few male human beings discussing their lives with equal respect for all involved. The volunteer asked me for a smoke; I gave him a cigar. Before leaving I told all within ear-shot to come down to the rally. I showered, changed, tracked down the volunteer who made sure I was taken care of and gave him another cigar. He offered me that ‘extra’ sandwich again, I declined, and off I went.
I arrived at the rally and met up with everybody. We all shook hands, and hugged. Apologies were made; I was offered a meal and beer. We acknowledged the human emotions of men and did not vilify or demonize them. My anger was not labeled as violence by any involved. It was recognized as a valid human emotion to a rotten series of events and it was allowed to be expressed. I was not told at any time to ‘man-up’, ‘suck-it-up-’, or ‘shut-up’.
Now, if I could just find that fortune cookie writer and have a word with him.