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December 28, 2003

  • 15 Things I Learned In 2003
  • imageWhen I was much younger, and the world wore their hair in large, geometric patterns, there was a self-help guru that my Dad admired named Leo Buscaglia. Leo Buscaglia died in 1998 and over the years his bromides about loving others have been swept up amidst the tides of Roads Less Traveled and Celestine Prophecies and Courses In Miracles that followed him. But there was one bit of wisdom that Leo imparted that stayed with me to this day. When he was growing up, he said, his father would ask them every dinner what they learned that day, and he felt that was a good question we should ask ourselves as adults: “What did we learn today”?

    As hokey as it sounds, I always found that to be sensible advice. And as we come to the end of 2003, I thought I would look back at the past year, not in terms of “Best of” or “Top News”, but rather what were among the fifteen (an arbitrary number) best things I learned this year.  These things are in no particular order.

    First of all, I learned that you could recover from an embarrassing moment in a job interview, as I discovered last May when I was asked “Where would you like to see your career in the next five years?” and I found myself answering with perfect honesty, “I’d like to actually have a career!”

    I also learned that it is possible for a 275-pound man to ride his bike all the way from Toronto to Oakville—and enjoy it. I also found that the civic planners in Mississauga are some of the most sadistic people on earth: the ‘waterfront trail’ requires biking miles and miles downhill, riding past the briefest snatch of lake, and then riding miles and miles back uphill before doing it all over again more times than I can count. And don’t get me started on the hour or so in 32-degree-celcuis heat where I got completely lost thanks to the inadequate signage…lousy suburbs.

    Watching TV, I learned that a gentle but funny Capra-esque comedy called Ed was far and away the best thing on television this year. Imagine: a romantic comedy that plays fair with the audience, that allows for actual interesting character development, and gets its jokes honestly and with great charm. And let me assure you that I learned this, as I discovered week in, week out, that the show I most wanted to see on TV was not The West Wing anymore.

    I learned how to make my DVD player region-free. Given the sheer amount of pleasure I’ve gotten out of watching Region 2 DVDs from Britain that are unavailable here, I almost think it’s the best technical skill I’ve learned all year, except all I did was download a firmware hack that voided my player’s warranty, which doesn’t take much skill.

    Some of the things I learned this year were downright depressing, like learning that if I have a lot of money, and a lot of cronies and a great political machine, than I too can force out the incumbent, shove out all opposition and become Prime Minister like Paul Martin. Seriously, I watch this guy doing the Christmas interviews with Lloyd Robertson at 24 Sussex and it makes me ill. Think what you will about Jean Chretien—personally, I didn’t mind the ruthless bastard myself, particularly in the past year as he started to think about his legacy—at least he was elected to the job.

    But there I were other things that I learned gave me hope, like witnessing Gene Robinson’s consecration as an openly gay Anglican Bishop of New Hampshire. I learned from that that though all the dogs in the Anglican Communion may bark, democratic decision bodies will still be upheld. Damn the consequences, I say, and bless this man for being a pioneer.

    I learned something about the simple but unbelievably awesome joy of looking out into the heavens, when, on the night of the blackout, my friend Eric and I drove amidst the blackened buildings and disused hulks of streetcars to a local park and he showed me the surface of Mars—at the closest it would be to Earth this or the next century—from his Death Star of a telescope. Nothing has made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end more than seeing Olympus Mons from a million miles away.

    Staggering around the Toronto Beer Festival, I learned that the best, most intoxicating, beer in the world was an Unibroue confection called Fringante. Not only was it the best beer I have sampled this year, but the rest of the night we kept coming across this stunning-looking woman who, after a while, we became convinced was an apparition created by the Fringante. I was given a bottle for my birthday, though I have yet to open it and discover if I shall have another spirituous encounter.

    I learned that I could make my 11 year-old goddaughter unbelievably happy by giving her Pirates of the Caribbean on video for her birthday. God grant me similar fortune next year by giving us another Johnny Depp action film.

    I learned that even better than a first date is kissing someone on the first date. I don’t know why it took me so long to learn that, but months of heartbreak from a breakup later, I still smile fondly at that knowledge, and so it was good to learn.

    I learned that no matter how desperately you might want it, some people won’t be your friend. And even if they do become your friend, you might well end up regretting it. Again, I should have learned that one a lot sooner, but I’m glad I learned that now.

    I got to witness, and learn, first-hand that some of the best friends a guy can have are the ones who will fight for you when an injustice has been done to you.

    Much to my delight, I learned I still look pretty damn good in a suit.

    Lastly, I learned, in the middle of panicking about not getting a draft of one piece done whilst working on something else and worrying about getting a column done by the weekend, that I was finally actually doing what I’ve always wanted to do: to write for a living. And that’s a pretty neat thing to learn.

    Oh, and I learned a great manicotti recipe.


    Posted by graeme | (0) Comments | Permalink

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