Pet shop boys

“Can you play with the puppy for a bit?”

If Kari was facing me when she said that, she’d have seen the momentary flash of “Cripes, what do I do?” cross my face as I stared down at the tiny, grey, four-legged, excited, tail-wagging being in front of me.

I’m not a dog person. I’ve never been a dog person. I’m not entirely certain why this is the case. Some combination of fear and misunderstanding, having never had dogs growing up, never being around them. Or maybe I’d had a bad experience with a dog as a kid and it just stayed with me. I couldn’t tell you, because I don’t know.

Kari was house-sitting for some people a while back, mostly because said people had a small puppy who needed someone there. She is a dog person, by any definition. She loves most dogs. She had one growing up, and had pictures of that dog around her apartment when I went over there.  She was good with them, in a way I’d seen others be, knowing just how to communicate, and her concern shows when she’s around them.

This dog, Pepsi (named by a little kid, clearly), didn’t seem to care that I had no idea how to respond to Kari’s question. Her tail was wagging, wanting SOMEONE to play with her. Kari was making dinner, and didn’t want the dog waiting around for scraps while she did. I wasn’t doing anything.

There was one problem with her ask: I really didn’t know much about dogs.

*****

Dennis got home from work yesterday, and came downstairs to greet me. This was fine, in and of itself, and not that unusual. His next statement, however, was.

“This is gonna sound weird… there’s a dog outside our door.”

I don’t remember what I was doing at the computer, but I stopped. “What?” I asked, more out of disbelief than missing what he’d said. “Where?”

Dennis told me, and we went outside. A tiny little rat-like dog, shivering in a corner of our deck, next to the house.

There was probably a similar moment of panic between us when that happened, our collective ignorance of dogs freezing us. But it was clear: we should get him inside.

Dennis got on the horn to 311 to see what our next step was, and I tried to lure the shivering dog inside. I tried to grab him at first, shift him around to see if he was okay. He seemed to be favouring one of his legs initially, and I was worried he was really hurt.

I thought of Kari, of all the things she did, and had told me about dogs. “It’s okay,” I said, softly, as if the dog could understand me. “Come on in.” I tried motioning my hands first, and then stepping back into the house, into the warmth, hoping it would entice him.

The dog eventually got up, and bounded inside, going up the stairs into the kitchen as if it were his home. Dennis didn’t need the report; he heard rather than saw the black ball of fur move. Without knowledge, the next move was safe, and obvious. The blanket was my idea, the water was his.

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*****

Kari house-sat more than once over the fall and winter (because dogs), and I got some experience helping her walk them. It actually worked out well: it was a good excuse for us to get outside during the evening, if we were hanging out during the week. And small dogs are kind of hilarious.

One time, she had a place with TWO dogs, so we split the duty. She got the excitable one of the two. My main contribution was being able to hold a leash.

One of the things I resolved to do over the last couple years- in this relationship, or whenever- was to be more open-minded. I thought I would try to apply it to me not being a “dog person”. I didn’t really know dogs. I was afraid of them, on some level. Because I didn’t understand them.

I recall peppering Kari with questions about dogs, both at the house and as we went on the walks: etiquette, right things to do, when to pull the leash and when to let ‘em go. She was patient and open, telling me what to do to let the dogs get to know me, and really breaking down several years of not knowing anything about how to handle myself around dogs. It makes sense: most people had been around dogs as kids, and really knew what to do. I didn’t.

Dennis and I had cats growing up, and being honest, we were very lucky. Our cats were personable, and loved people, which is very unusual for cats. Walking the dogs, being around them while Kari did her house-sitting, I started to understand how and why people could love them. I came to appreciate them myself, in some ways.

*****

Kari was my first contact after getting the poor stray inside, and she had some good tips for us. Obvious stuff for dog owners, less obvious for us. Dennis got 311 on the case (animal control would be a couple of hours getting there, and would take the dog), and we speculated on the dog’s origins. He seemed old, and I thought he was hurt. We figured he was abandoned, though had nothing but our own suspicions to guide us.

Dennis had acted first, so I took point with our new guest. I thought back to the dog-walking with Kari, and the time with her that was shared with dogs while she was house-sitting. I tried to let him sniff me, get to know me (her words, on my phone, and in my head), but he was resistant. This was understandable: depending on how long he’d been outside,  or what he’d been through, he probably had reason to be reluctant. Though he had sought out a corner near our house, shielded from the wind.

Soft strokes and soft voices seemed to put him at ease. He stopped shivering for a bit, at least. We fed him a little bit of cheese, which seemed to perk him up, and he finally lapped at the water after leaving it for a while. I felt a weird kind of elation at this. We helped! Dennis and I helped!

Dennis took a turn minding him. He’d settled in the kitchen, and eventually left the blanket for the floor to sleep. I didn’t know why he’d left the soft blanket for the cold floor, but wasn’t going to question. If that’s what this poor guy wanted, we weren’t going to take that away from him.

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*****

So I kind of learned how to play with the puppy. Pepsi didn’t care about my lack of knowledge, thankfully; she was young and excited enough that I was giving her attention that how I did it didn’t seem to matter.

I came to enjoy it, and Pepsi even seemed to pick up on it when I came back to visit Kari: any time I was around, the dog wanted to play, and thought I did too. She wanted me to chase her, to toss toys, and came to recognize me. It was endearing.

I’d almost forgotten why people get pets. Dennis and I are so long separated from having cats that a lot of that experience was forgotten to me. The companionship, the love, and a connection that’s different from you get with people.

I started to understand dogs, too: why people like them, and want them, and in some cases prefer them over cats. My long-standing theory was that dogs were “lower-floor/higher-ceiling”, though I’d pondered revisiting that theory after my time with Kari while she was house-sitting. I wish I’d known before. I wish I’d understood before.

But part of life is understanding that things happen in their own time, and I know that it wouldn’t have been the same for me if I hadn’t come to that in this time. Or if it wasn’t someone like Kari, loving and patient and understanding as she is, who’d helped me come to that place.

*****

Animal control arrived promptly, and Dennis and I did our best shrug as we tried to figure out how the dog had arrived on our doorstep. No, he didn’t have ID. Yes, he was just waiting in the corner when we got home. No, we have no idea how he got there. No, neither of us had any idea how to take care of a dog, and we’re very sorry if he hurts you or throws up or something.

We didn’t ACTUALLY say that last one, but we were both thinking it the whole time. If you were dropping a lost dog anywhere, on our doorstep is probably the last place that guy would want to be. Two guys who didn’t know much about dogs, and for the most part, didn’t care for them. Especially little dogs.

I think Dennis and I would both agree it was an interesting few hours, and that we felt strongly for this little guy who was (figuratively) dropped into our laps. We didn’t know why or how he’d gotten there, and talking today we were hoping that he found his home. Or a home, if he’d been abandoned.

I’m probably still not a “dog person”, but after my last few months, I can see how someone would be one. How they could work their way into your heart, and stay there, and how you could love them. Maybe whoever had this guy felt that, maybe they didn’t. I hope they, or someone else, does again.

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The interview

I almost didn’t go. To the interview, I mean. For the job I have now.

This is hard for me to admit, and beyond laughable in hindsight. There’s no logical reason to why I would have done that. I’m occasionally slow to notice something good when it’s in front of me, and it wasn’t as if this wasn’t a blinking, red light of an opportunity. Financial advisor, at the bank. Closer to home, a move up, more challenges. All good things.

So let’s pull this back a bit. You probably need some background.

As the prior paragraph indicates, I work at a bank. I’ve mentioned it once or twice in the past. I work with customers as an advisor: bank accounts, credit, mortgages, investments, whatever. I’ve worked at mostly smaller branches so far, which is better for me. I get to do a lot of different things, and got to know clients and co-workers very well. It leveraged some of my strengths: being good with people, flexible, smart, figuring out systems and getting stuff done quickly.

I’ve always struggled with the “selling” aspect of it. If I didn’t truly believe something was the right thing for the person sitting across the desk from me, I couldn’t push it. I hated calling people, but I did it.

So when a few people in a few different areas of my life suggested interviewing for this job, I was reluctant initially. More “selling”, something I didn’t see myself as being good at. More responsibility. More pressure. Did I want that?

*****

I had a week off. Around my birthday, every year, for no other reason than I liked taking it off. But even with the free time, it took a few days before I threw my name in the hat for this job. The same doubts kept creeping up, the same reluctance. It was sales, and that was a struggle for me.

But there was a lot of good here: it was closer to home. It would have some responsibilities that I enjoyed, and could potentially set me up for a leadership role. Get away from the selling eventually, if I did good. And if I was being honest with myself, I felt stuck where I was. I loved the people, but I’d run my course there.

We set up the interview, on a Saturday. I was up late the Friday before, where I’d spent time on my resume, going through my results from the last year, my failures towering, staring me in the face as I clicked “send” to email my potential next manager.

Look at that. Those numbers are bad.

Why would she hire you? 

I was a bad salesman, which isn’t good when that’s the primary measure of your job. I was reluctant, or unmotivated, or unconfident. There was good: I was smart, good-natured, willing to help… just not getting the numbers.

There was some irony in my doubts in my own ability playing off the feeling of being stuck in my job. Two wrongs almost making a right. I eventually hit “send”, somewhere past midnight on the Friday.

*****

Saturday morning came, and with it a weight that was almost crushing. The doubts were back, and they’d brought friends. Soothing voices, of routine, of not changing a routine that had a certain comfort, if not enjoyment.

Don’t go.

Cancel the interview.

Tell her you changed your mind. You don’t need this.

I was close to it. The interview was at noon, and I sat in bed between 9 and 11, my mind closing in on itself. It had been a long time since I’d felt so weighed down.

I’m a Christian, and that means I accept there are forces beyond my control. So what were these doubts? Why was my mind trying to tell me not to go, to stay in bed, to just continue muddling along in a job I mostly tolerated? Was it chemical? Something I’d eaten? Or something exterior?

Whatever it was, I managed to shake it off. A cold shower, my best suit, a good tie, and a deep breath got me to the door.

Showtime.

*****

The short drive to the branch was probably good. It didn’t give my doubts time to mass for another assault on my psyche.

I interview well. This was something I was good at in my job: people like me, for whatever reason, and I tend to make a good impression. It made my struggles all the more perplexing to prior bosses. I get that.

I was honest with my potential new boss. I’d struggled with the work. I was a project, in some ways. She’d be rolling the dice with me. But I wanted to be good. I wanted to find that magical middle ground: Where I could do the sales part of the job, and have it be something I was good at. I just needed some help to get there.

I had to avoid laughing, at parts of the interview. She was talking like I was already there, like she was going to hire me, like I was going to be some essential component of her team, leading and mentoring and doing great. There were moments I wanted to stand up and shake her. The thoughts, the doubts, were said, and lingering for me, just below the surface.

Why? Why would you hire me?

But she didn’t see it that way. She had the benefit of experience, of objectivity. She didn’t see my analytical mind, swimming in its own uncertainty, trapped on the bed, ready to pick up the phone and call the whole thing off. Her certainty emboldened me, made me sure I’d done the right thing.

I walked out of the interview certain I was going to have a new job soon. I felt excited about work, for the first time in as long as I could remember. The weight, the doubts, the failures, didn’t matter.

There’s a lot of work to do. I want to get better. I want to improve. I wanted to bottle that feeling, and keep it for the times I felt stressed, for the times I felt weighed down by the same uncertainty I had then. But change, challenge, new work… it was something I was looking forward to. But excitement? At work? That was unfamiliar.

All that, from an interview I almost didn’t go to.

After the tone

I spend a lot of time on the phone for work, much to my chagrin. On the one hand, talking with people on the phone addresses a weakness: immediacy, confrontation, conflict. I was told once that I was good at thinking on my feet, and that’s true, to a point.

For a long time, I avoided making phone calls when I could. There was a barest handful of people I could talk to without my anxiety crippling it, making it strangled and nervous. It was a strange contrast, at times, to what I fashioned as a public persona, in front of people. I got better, though. I never thought I would.

She had been one of them, once, who I could talk to without worrying. We talked for hours, before. And then, I stared at the phone, lifeless in my hands, unable to move, to breathe, to act in a manner befitting my adulthood. To talk to her. The trust was gone, shattered.

There are times I call customers, and hope they don’t answer. When my analytical side already worked out the possible endings, none of them good. When I believe it a hopeless cause, a sale not done, a conflict unresolvable. Was that my anxiety, too? Preparing for the worst, bracing for a storm that might not come?

Even having that experience, its strange calling from the other end, as someone asking for something. As if I’m imposing on them. Experience and logic can cut through the absurd reasoning, but in the moment, in thought, I drown in the emotion.

No wonder she didn’t want to talk. I barely could.

It’s gotten better, slowly. I’ve developed relationships with people I trust, and let that buoy me into places I don’t know. I’ve often said that this work has been good in pushing my boundaries, making me uncomfortable in a good way, in pushing away the shyness/anxiety that’s stayed with me my entire life, and doesn’t leave.

Adding new experiences, having to do things as an adult, has helped. Calling to schedule a car appointment, even something like that was a struggle. But having that experience, gaining that traction, gives me something to build on for the next time.

I’m someone who remembers the struggles, though. The tone of her voicemail, a relief and a worry, my words coming faster than I want, sounding dull and lifeless and ineffectual to my own ears, almost regretting them even as I say them. I wasn’t saying the right thing.

I put on the shirt and tie, go into the office, and become someone different. I can’t be anxious, or uncertain. That’s death, for a salesman. Facing down a fear makes it less scary. Knowing the fear, understanding it, makes it less daunting, sometimes.

So now, when I do that for myself, I know I’m not imposing on someone. I’ve seen it from both sides, and understand it better. The understanding helps, for someone as analytical as me.

Though it probably doesn’t hurt that the new lady prefers texting.

NFL 2K14

FOOTBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALL predictions in one sentence or less, as per tradition.
( * for wild cards)

AFC

EAST

Patriots – Yeah.

Dolphins – Not an inspiring bunch behind the perennial leader.

Bills – Might not be terrible, depends on Manuel.

Jets – This, on the other hand, will be hilariously bad.

NORTH

Bengals – I’m not happy about it, because Dalton sucks, but they’re still the best.

Ravens – Hoping for some Ray Rice karma here.

Steelers – Feels like a 7-9 season.

Browns – Jason Whitlock’s “Johnny Bench” nickname for Manziel is the greatest thing.

SOUTH

Colts – Could be 10-6, but still the class of the division.

Texans* – Fitzpatrick being the QB is frightening for them, though.

Titans – Hard to see them getting much better.

Jaguars – Hard to see them getting much worse.

WEST

Broncos – Probably not as dominant as a year ago.

Chargers* – It’s less that they’re better…

Chiefs – …and more that the Chiefs will be worse.

Raiders – Another couple of years of awful football awaits.

NFC

EAST

Eagles – Fun to watch, and mostly good.

Giants – They zig when everyone thinks they’ll zag.

Cowboys – That defense… woof.

Redskins – Trying to make RGIII into a pocket passer seems like an odd fit.

NORTH

Bears – Sorry, Dennis.

Packers* – Always seem to get hurt, lost some of the offense.

Lions – All sizzle, no steak.

Vikings – Upward trending, but a few high fences to leap.

SOUTH

Saints – Though it’ll be close.

Falcons* – Back in black, and hopefully not as snakebitten with injuries.

Buccaneers – Sneaky good late last year.

Panthers – Lost a lot of key contributors.

WEST

Seahawks – A really, really good team, and it kills me to say that.

49ers – Feel like Harbaugh starts to wear on them this year.

Cardinals – A Carson Palmer team almost made the playoffs, and I’m not sure how it happened.

Rams – Bradford done, and so are they, even with a good defense.

Letting go

I was at work much later than I wanted to be today. A co-worker was having a crisis. I resented that initially, since it was Friday, we were well past closing, and I wanted to go home. I was already in the process of packing up when he came into my office, at his wit’s end on something that he was working on. This was, sadly, a familiar process to me, as he was relatively new to his position.

I turned, and he had my attention, even as I braced for the panic his whole body was resonating with. I thought back to my own initial stages in this job, how someone had always been there for me, and how I’d sworn I would be that for others. Patient, thoughtful, and trying to guide them through with the experience and intelligence I knew I had.

He spoke, frantic. “What do I do?” he asked me, as he had so many times before, on so many different things.

I had to take a breath, and marshal myself, feeling my irritation gnaw at me, wanting him to not burden me with this, to not dump this on me at the last-minute of my day, the freedom of the weekend so close. I was prepping for a speech. It’s what I do. I felt like I’d given him this speech hundreds of times. We talked mechanics, which he needed, but I got the sense he also needed a pep talk. Not from a manager who was frustrated, or a co-worker looking at his watch, but someone who’d been through the fires of learning and had survived.

“Look,” I said, trying to get him to look me in the eye, needing his attention, to feel as certain as I did about what I was saying, and how much I meant it. “It sucks that you’re in this spot. But you have to make the call. I can’t do this for you.” A pause, and I looked at him again. “I know you don’t see it now, but these files, all this crap, you get through them, you’ll be able to handle anything. You have to keep at it. You can’t dwell on the mistakes. ”

Even then, I wondered if I could well have been speaking to myself. I didn’t have his immediate burden, but the mistakes, the doubts, the uncertainty, that I know, and remember, as much as anything I ever do. They stay with me.

I left a short time later, uncertain if his burden has been lifted. Mine wasn’t, but that wasn’t something I could solve. I had no speeches for myself. I wasn’t as compelling a speaker, looking into the mirror. Maybe I wasn’t as convincing as I thought, and the same tired act worked as well on him as on me.

Or maybe learning isn’t something that happens in a moment- it’s something that happens in time, in experience, as we grow and live our lives as best we can. Maybe we have to let go in our own time and space, and not dwell on things so much. Keep at it, and eventually, it happens and we never realize it. I haven’t lived long enough to know if that’s how it usually is, yet, but sometimes, I hope so.

Daring to dream

A short time ago, TheScore let a handful of its feature writers go. This was very distressing to me, for several reasons which I will go into here.

It wasn’t just that they were some of my favourite sportswriters going today, or that being of “my generation” meant they spoke in a tone I understood, and wrote at a level that many other more professional sports outlets in Canada (TSN, Sportsnet) couldn’t match. It was because them writing (and writing like I would WANT to, were I much more talented) was important to me.

I was having a conversation with Kari a while back about work, and she asked me what I would be doing in an ideal world. After some thought, I gave her the same answer I gave anyone: I’d be writing. About sports, probably, but as this blog demonstrates, I’m capable of drifting from topic to topic.

TheScore letting those writers go- feature writers, in-depth writers, who analyzed and probed and poked rather than reported news- was a directional shift for them. As someone who loved their work, I hated it. As a pragmatist, I could see their logic. They were focusing on their mobile experience. People clicked on news. People clicked on updates, delivered quickly, able to be consumed on a five-inch screen. One rarely sits down to read a well-thought out article on their iPhone.

*****

“So, are you planning on writing the next great Canadian novel?”

A former boss asked me this, just before she was about to offer me a full-time, better paying job than the one I had.

I laughed. She knew about my yen for writing, and was probing to see where my head was at. The pragmatist in me was weighing it quietly, even as she continued to speak, to “sell” me on a job where I would, in some ways, sell others.

I love writing. I can’t remember not loving it. Did becoming a banker mean giving that up? Only if I let that happen. I could always write “on the side”, even as I had a respectable 9 to 5 job that earned me money to live on.

I took the job, and wrote on, maintaining this blog-ish site where I have several drafts that have yet to see the light of day. Less than I’d like, but adult responsibility creeps in, and I have no regrets about where my time is spent, for the most part.

So back to theScore’s “restructuring”. The idea that someone COULD make a career writing, and writing well, was something that I still held onto and dreamed on, even as I continued in my other work. Even as media changed, there were people out there who were working hard, being creative in a medium I enjoyed, and making a living wage.

I’m not smart enough to comment in too much depth about changing journalism, though it’s a subject that’s fascinated me for some time, as we’ve seen the evolution of the internet, of mobile devices, of content being free or paid and different theories on which is right.

There was a logic to theScore’s decision: why pay someone very talented to write long-form posts when content farming news people could make five posts in the span that they made one? Who’s reading long essays on their iPhone? Just tell me where Lebron ended up.

I think back to that office, my manager offering me a job, one with much more security than my admired writers had. Writing is easy: anyone can fire up a blog and have it online and readable in the span of an hour. Writing well is hard. Real journalism is hard. When I thought about it, I figured that for me, writing was better fit as an indulgence than as a career. Did I want the pressure of needing it to put food on the table? Did I want to have to compromise my writing for the purpose of whoever I was working for? Was I good enough to make it in an evolving industry? I didn’t know the answers.

But seeing that others were writing, and doing it well, was something that kept me going, gave me some comfort and enjoyment as I appreciated their work. Seeing that change, the writing pushed aside for practicality… it hit home, a little more than I’d care to admit. Would we make the same decision? Did I?

Not entirely. I’m still writing, after all.

The ballad of Malcolm Reynolds

*****

“Mal: Ain’t all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first rule of flying is?… Well, I suppose you do, since you already know what I’m about to say.”

River: “I do. …but I like to hear you say it.”

Mal: “…Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens, makes her a home.”

*****

“You’d like Firefly. Forrest is a lot like Mal.”

My (internet) friend, Cathy, told me this several years ago, before I’d discovered Firefly. ‘Forrest’ was a character I’d written- an introspective, thoughtful, somewhat tortured sort.

Cathy had described some great one liners from the show, and I commented that this “Mal” actually seemed to resemble ‘Travian’ (another character I’d written) a lot more. Someone who was more prone to one-liners than Forrest.

I have a hard time describing why I love Firefly to anyone who’s not familiar with the show. It does hit a lot of my weaknesses: it’s science fiction, in space, with quick, clever dialogue, and characters that are more than they appear.

But one of the reasons was the main character, the captain, who was both thoughtful and sarcastic: Malcolm Reynolds. Capable of deep, resonating quotes like the above, and dispensing wit with a wink. The fact that he was an amalgamation of characters I already wrote and enjoyed greased the wheels for a love and appreciation I have a hard time explaining. But I’ll try anyway.

 

*****

Simon: “I’m trying to put this as delicately as I can: How do I know you won’t kill me in my sleep?”

Mal: “You don’t know me son, so let me explain this to you once. If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.”

Simon: “…Are you always this sentimental?”

Mal: “I had a good day.”

*****

Cathy was close. It wasn’t just that he was what I was writing; it was that I was writing someone I wanted to be, in many ways, and he was close to that.

Malcolm Reynolds was a complex character. Looking and acting so much the hero, even as early on in the series it’s established that his ship and crew (on a SPAAAAAACEship) were criminals, acting outside the law, taking jobs to survive in a spread out universe. Are they right or wrong? It’s not black and white. In Firefly, the governing Alliance is presented as an omnipresent bureaucracy, cold and unfeeling, and would be easy to paint as the villains. But it’s not that simple. Even in the first episode, as Mal and the ‘good ship Serenity’ get away, it’s only because they trick the Alliance into thinking there’s people in trouble elsewhere.

When I first got into Firefly, I’d grown up on Star Trek, and was at a place where I was probably disillusioned with it. I’ve gone into that before, so I’ll summarize my problems with Trek here: I’d seen all the stories, and knew how they were going to end. There was nothing new in the universe that could be presented to me. The conflicts were flat, and the characters mostly repetitive. Occasional brilliance could not mask what I saw as a lack of creativity.

The characters I wrote, even in the Star Trek setting, were something of a reflection of that frustration: they were good, but not without their warts. One character I wrote, Forrest, was with a rebellion, but a “good person”, and constantly debating his own place in that rebellion. Travian, the other one, was with Starfleet (the “good guys”), but a mischievious, wisecracking person, who didn’t always play by the rules, and had dark secrets of his own.

I could easily overanalyze the how and why of the characters, the Trek universe, and what it had to do with me liking Firefly. Were those characters my own frustration, playing out in prose? Or did I see my own universe as complex, as more than rules and regulations and good and bad? Was I trying to figure out my own life through art? Was I seeing what I wanted to see?

Perhaps that was the case. But Firefly didn’t need my existential conflict for me to love it, and nor did Mal Reynolds need my own fictional avatars for me to admire him.

*****

Mal: “Well, would you look at this. Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?”

Zoe: “Big damn heroes, sir.

Mal: “Ain’t we just.”

*****

Cathy was right: I liked Mal. I liked his cleverness, his steel, his smirk, the way he inspired people. I admired the complexity of the character, of the Firefly universe, how even in the middle of a normally dramatic situation (as above, during a rescue), they were cracking one-liners. It was a perfect reflection of the age I grew up in, which prized sarcastic detachment in any situation.

I wanted that detachment. I wanted Mal’s toughness, his leadership, the way he inspired people. As someone who struggled socially, who struggles in relationships, I wanted to seem cool, and collected, because I was never that. Mal was who I aspired to be, in a lot of ways. I fed off his wit, and through the lens of the show, saw how that detachment really affected him, how emotional he really was. I saw his struggle with intimacy, with relationship, and saw so much in there that I related to. That was me. Or least, that was who I wanted to be.

I would never be the hero, the leader who got respect like he did, strapping and decisive and clever. I would never live on a spaceship. But there was so much of Mal Reynolds I admired, so much I wanted to be, and so much of him I stole without even knowing I had. I knew the character before Firefly, in the avatars I’d already written.

*****

Simon: “You had the Alliance on you. Criminals and savages. Half the people on the ship have been wounded or shot at- including yourself- and you’re harbouring known fugitives.”

Mal: “We’re still flying.”

Simon: “That’s not much.”

Mal: “It’s enough.”

*****

Mal was a lone wolf, or at least he tried to be. That hit me too. Growing up, I isolated myself in some ways. Sometimes due to anxiety and fear, and sometimes because it was what the loner in me wanted. I got more comfortable in my own skin as I grew up, but I still wanted the ability to separate from a situation when it was murkier than I wanted. It was easier to stew in my thoughts and emotions than confront them. That caused me trouble, and more than likely cost me some friends.

One way good characters really impact me when I see myself reflected in them, or see what I want to be embodied in them. Firefly had wonderful characters, much beyond the lead, who were all relateable, in their own strange way. And the stories, for the one season it existed, were both familiar and original. There was a depth to the universe, to the plots, that hooked me right away. For a time, I could escape and get caught up in this place, this futuristic, wonderful universe, that was still somehow down to earth (that-was). The fact that it was only one season and one movie probably enhanced the legend, made the quality of it stand out more.

I would probably have enjoyed Firefly even if Malcolm Reynolds was different, or less effective. I’d probably still go to Firefly marathons every few years, and start Firefly quote trees on my Facebook wall every so often, and share these terrible in-jokes about the series with fellow geeks who loved the show. There was a lot to love about it, and I probably didn’t go enough into that here, for this post that will likely be my manifesto for Why I Love Firefly.

But much like the crew of the good ship Serenity, I found myself drawn to Mal Reynolds- the character, the man, and what he represented. He and the other characters on Firefly drew me to it, as much as anything else there. I can still easily get lost in Firefly; in a fun, imaginative, but still very relable universe, which still inspires me to this day.

*****

Mal: “Y’all got on this boat for different reasons, but y’all have come to the same place. And now I’m askin’ more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this- they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean.  A year from now, ten? They’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people… better. But I do not hold to that.”

“So no more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.”