Monday, April 3, 2017

Pantsing off to Hawai'i with @NathanBurgoine

Waipi'o Valley, Hawai'i.

I'm not really much of a planner. Even when it comes to writing, I'm generally a pantser—though I learned the hard way novels do require at least a wee bite more plotting than short fiction. I don't mind not having a schedule ahead of me, and for decades in retail that was a good thing: lord knew it didn't matter what I tried to plan there, something would go sideways and throw it all off, be it a home office visit, a sudden change in staffing, some sort of reorganization...

So, generally, I'm the guy who shrugs and says, "I don't mind," when someone asks "What do you feel like doing?"

I also realize this is not at all helpful, and I'm sorry to those who have to pick a place to eat with me. It's likely infuriating.

I'm not incapable of planning. I should be clear: I understand the value of organization, and I do keep myself organized. But it's not an inherent skill for me, and I have the mixed blessing of a solid memory, so I can find things when they're in disarray as I remember where I put them, and my calendar will often remain blank even though I know I've got three major appointments coming up: I'll just remember them.

Well, I'll try, anyway.

You may have noticed I missed last month's blog post. And, to be fair, I did remember it before the day, it's just something came up.

Now, something you should know about my fella? Of the two of us, my husband is by far the bigger planner. When we put together our joint life, he's the one looking at the horizon for specifics. He dots I's, crosses T's, and researches before we even think of leaping.

So you can imagine my surprise when, in the middle of one of the heaviest snow accumulation winters in recent history, he turned to me and said, "We're going to Hawai'i."

And we did. With nearly no planning what-so-ever, we were packed, booked, and out the door before I realized what was happening. He'd hit his limit of winter grey and endless snow, and that was absolutely that.

It occurred to me I'd never written a story about someone who does that thing we all dream of doing: dropped everything and took off on a vacation.

Now I was doing it.

What followed was a brilliant week in a warm place full of lush colour. We often joke in autumn that we need to "fill our colour meters" for the winter ahead (Ottawa winter is unfailingly white, grey, grey-white, and sometimes blue-white), but the sheer relief we both felt after a single day of greens, purples, oranges, blues, reds, yellows and browns?

It was transformative.

Not to mention sitting outside in February in a T-shirt and shorts. Something that would lead to hypothermia back home was a distinct pleasure in Hawai'i.

We saw so many gekkos. At a botanical garden, orchids were growing wild in the open air in more varieties than I'd ever seen in my life. We walked through a lava tube, and wound our way between the steam vents along an erupted volcanic floor. I learned a tonne about various Hawai'ian legends, and we explored the ruins of an original fishing village. We rented a home built out of bamboo. We listened to the night sounds, windows open, and slept better than we'd slept in months.

Frankly, we recovered from the winter more than we ever have in our life. Coming back was a bit painful, but even now, a month later, I'm chipper and upbeat, and spring will come. At some point. I mean, okay, it snowed yesterday (again), but... It'll happen.

And in the meanwhile? I've got a great memory of that time we pantsed our way to a warm escape. And maybe while I was there I forgot to blog here.

I'll plan that a little better next time.

And I totally need to write a story about doing the whole "drop everything and go somewhere warm" thing.


Speaking of folks without a plan, one of my favourite completely-without-a-plan characters is one I wrote in the collection Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction. In my short story, "Struck," a guy who is very much aware of how important it is to plan for the future, Chris, meets an odd customer at the bookstore where he works. The guy calls himself Lightning Todd, claims to be psychic since he got struck by lightning, and has "tuned in" on Chris in order to fix his life. That his "fixing" seems to have a healthy dose of potentially getting Chris fired doesn't seem to phase him, and prognostications about the Titanic, coffee, and zipper troubles aren't exactly the most useful. Still, there's something about a guy who won't wear pink, and ultimately? Happiness. It's almost enough to make a guy believe in lightning striking twice.

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