“A list poem is one of the easiest kinds of poems to write because it doesn’t require either rhythm or rhyme. But that doesn’t mean you should write down anything helter skelter. Here’s a list of elements that makes a list poem a poem instead of just a list:
1) The writer is telling you something–pointing something out–saying, “Look at this” or, “Think about this.”
2) There’s a beginning and an end to it, like in a story.
3) Each item in the list is written the same way.”
“How to Write a “What Bugs Me” List Poem”, by Bruce Lansky (1996)
“My advice, to anyone willing to listen, is to find a notebook that fits into your pants pocket. Use a pen with a cap so it doesn’t explode in your pocket, and start writing down whatever you can remember. Even if it’s a favourite colour. Then, later, write down why it’s your favourite colour…. and pretty soon you’ve got a list.”
The Third Of Five Lists: The First 52 Places I Remember Living
Close to eighteen months into my recovery I started writing a new journal. After a while I started making lists to sort out my memories, including one of all the places I’ve lived. Without a doubt this list has been the most work of them all. I’ve lived in at least 52 houses, apartments and rooming houses so trying to put dates on each is almost impossible. But getting them out on paper has enabled me to place important, and trivial, events into some order which otherwise were left confused and missing from my memory. Making lists, in my opinion, can be very helpful to someone with manic depression or clinical depression — which distort reality — as a means of putting perspective into our lives. As proof I’m offering mine.
There will be two more lists after this one, plus the third and last part of this list. Previous lists have included my favourite twenty-five movies and fifteen of my most embarrassing moments. This is the Second Part of the Third List: The First 52 Places I’ve Lived… numbers 25-40, or basically my Ottawa years. This links to the first part: The First 24 Places I Lived. And this is to the original post explaining why I think Lists can help people in their recovery from severe or manic depression: “My Memory Is So Good I Can Say With Absolute Certainty That On June 4th, 1996, I Had Creamed Corn With Chopped Onions For Dinner… It Was Delicious.”
25) Ottawa (sp1991-sp1992) Osgoode St.: This was a rooming house for University of Ottawa graduate students. It was probably the nicest rooming house I’ve ever lived in… definitely the nicest one I had to lie to get into. I was working part time at the University radio station as a producer for their drive show. But I missed two shows by sleeping in, then I missed the meeting where my “conduct” was to be discussed. This was the last job I’d have for almost four years. This is also where I met M.S. Who I should have married, but the untreated insanity of manic depression kind of got in the way.
26) Ott. (sp1992-sp1993) Stewart St.: I met M.S. through her brother Ken, a recovering addict I had met when I first moved to Ottawa. When I went manic I spent money and forgot all about it… Ken and I had plans to get a place together and at one point he handed me his last months rent. It wasn’t until years later I remembered what I had done. The entire time Ken was asking me for the cash back I thought he was full of shit. But after I lost my room on Osgoode Street — because the landlord figured out I wasn’t a grad student — Ken still helped me get into this rooming house. I was so fucked up at this point I could barely function… if it wasn’t for Ken getting me into this place I would have been on the street. The rent was based on income so, for a really large clean room, I was paying less than $100.
27) Ott. (summer 1993) Daly Ave.: I had met up with a friend from high school while working at the radio station and we ended up living together in a massive basement apartment. Very interesting guy, he was heavily into the industrial music scene and our time together really turned me on to the music. Unfortunately we had a million roommates all named Mr. Roach. By the end of our time there he was crushing them on the wall and leaving their carcasses as warnings to ‘the others’. M.S., who had yet to be broken by my manic depression, stopped spending the night after she woke up with some of them in her hair. Which was when I stopped paying rent. Jake and I moved out two months later.
28) Ott. (fall-winter 1993) Cantor Blvd.: As much as I’m doing this list thing to prove one memory sparks another and so on, this place is three or four posts on its own. There were four of us living in a three-bedroom bungalow and at one point we were stealing picnic tables from parks so we’d have something to burn for heat.
29) Ott. (March 1993-summer 1994) Dynes Road: I got sick of living like a 19th century refugee so I found a nice house with nice people and managed to get a room for my brother as well. Great place… then psycho nutbars moved in. There is nothing worse, roommate wise, as someone moving away from home for the first time. Two of them moved in with us and totally fucked up my Zen. It didn’t help matters any that my little brother was fucking them both… nope, that didn’t help at all.
30) Ott. (summer 1994) King Edward: Once things got out of hand they degraded fairly quickly on Dynes Road. I couldn’t afford the rent, my brother had moved out and I was a totally different person than my four roommates. I was twenty-four, they were nineteen and twenty and in first-year university. I was working 4am-6pm as a mover. Plus, honest to God, people in university are mostly idiots. Every time I have a conversation with one I just want to slap them across the face and tell them to go to college or trade school and learn something. So of course I moved out and into a sublet at the King Edward Residence at the University of Ottawa… you know, so I could be surrounded by people I wanted to punch. This is where M.S. broke up with me for the penultimate time… she was leaving the University of Ottawa for some University in Southern Ontario.
31) Ott. (fall 1994-May 1995) YMCA: There was a place between King Edward and here but I can’t remember which… but I wasn’t there long. Then I moved into the YMCA, which is everything you think it is. They give their inmates residents free passes for the gym, so I started playing basketball every morning and working out. I went from 244lbs to 224lbs in six weeks. Sweet. This is where I was living when M.S. came back for Christmas and we broke up for good. I was also enrolled in a College journalism program and was relearning all my skills at skipping classes. So, just before my second semester was over, I was kicked out. Then I was kicked out of the YMCA for non-compliance with their rules and always being late with the rent. Good times. I moved in with a girl from school for a few weeks, but that got awkward and weird.
32) My Village (June-August 1995) Stanley St.: So I moved back to my Village, at first I thought I’d stay with the parents for a little while then back up to Ottawa, but they were sane enough to say Nope. So they set me up at a rental house owned by my step-father so I’d have a place to apply for welfare.
33) My Village (August-December 1995) Main St.: Once I started collecting a cheque I moved into a nice apartment behind a restaurant on Main Street… with no furniture except a mattress and a dining set made up of two white plastic chairs and a table. I also had one of those weird anti-depression lamps which just made me blind for twenty minutes a day.
34) Ottawa (Jan. 1996) Youth Hostel: The head of the journalism program had offered to do whatever was necessary to get me into the screenwriters program. He gave me a choice between the screenwriting thing or I could come back to school and retake the second semester… but only if I took my medications and got cleaned up. So, for the first month of my second shot at second semester, I lived at the Ottawa Youth Hostel and wore ties to school. Before now the longest I had taken the Lithium was during this period. I lasted — for the most part — from June 1995 to March-ish 1996.
35) Hull (February to August 1996) Wellington St.: I moved in with a friend from school… she was in the class I had been kicked out of. There were six of us living in a small four bedroom house across the river from Ottawa. My room was an addition with paper thin walls and no heat. I had a small plug-in heater which, when left on for more than thirty minutes, smelled like smoke. This was where I started making lists of things I was eating. It was also where I started dating Nicole… a fantastic woman in my journalism course. But I was still pretty seriously hung up on M.S.
36) Ott. (1996) Bell St.: I only lived here for two weeks. I had sworn to never live with roaches again, and the landlord was bizarre and very creepy. I’ve had dudes hit on me before and since, but never like they wanted to take me straight to their cabin in the woods where no one can hear the screaming.
37) Ottawa (September 1996 to summer 1997) Spadina St.: I’ve written three short stories about this place. It’s a rooming house in one of the worst areas of Ottawa… if you’re not used to addicts and hookers and finding used needles in the playground you’d probably get a little freaked out. I loved the place. I broke up a robbery at the Mac’s Milk convenience store and the counter dudes let me have my chocolate milk free for a couple of weeks. My upstairs neighbour, the dude in charge of the rooming house, was a fall-down drunk who told great stories and the dude down the hall, Wild Bill… I’ve already written a post about him, a heavily muscled 260lb ex-neo NAZI / Hells Angel who huffed solvents and had his pet rabbit butchered by his schizophrenic best friend. I had a tiny room with a bed, radio and dresser. This is where I was living when I put together my five-year plan — which actually worked. I was scraping together coins for MSG noodles and five years later I was on salary at $65,000. I just forgot about the pills and getting treated. I graduated from College and started working for a national Technology newspaper while living here.
38) Ott. (summer 1997 to spring 1998) Besserer St.: When I started at the monthly paper I was getting paid $12,500/year and thought it was heaven. Blessed are the ignorant. I was late everyday, sometimes showing up after lunch. I was writing ten to twelve stories per issue, but had been expected to provide 15-18. But the Publisher / Owner liked me a lot so I could get away with shit. Plus my stories were really good. But then a Managing Editor was brought in and he was insulting and mostly an idiot and then I showed up to work one day and was handed a box for my stuff. While he was firing me he got angry because I wasn’t taking him seriously… it was funny.
39) Ott. (s1998-sp1999) King Edward: At Besserer Street and this King Edward house I was living with the same girl from the Hull house, and her boyfriend. Great roommates… I never saw them, and never heard them. Perfect. However, when we moved to this place we picked up a friend of theirs named Mark. As I was giving my notice to Sarah’s boyfriend in the spring of 1999 I had a large knife in my hand and I was very close to sticking it deep into Mark’s chest. The guy drove me that far into Insane Town.
40) Toronto (summer 1999) Dufferin: After getting fired from the Ottawa-based newspaper I worked with a government cultural agency for six months. Then, after the contract was up, I took a few months off to write a book. Then, when I was down to a can of beans in the cupboard — and looking at homelessness because of the Me v. Mark episode — I asked the head of my journalism program for help finding a job. I ended up in Toronto working for a technology magazine publishing house. There were eight magazines altogether, I was working for the largest. It was a lot of fun. The apartment was a rooming house… nice room, but there were roaches. Not enough to bother me too much, though. When I first moved to Toronto I stayed with my friend Justin and his lovely wife while I found a place. I think I was there for two weeks.