“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 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.
The Fourth Of Five Lists: The Friends I’ve Had (1976-2003)
Close to eighteen months into my recovery I started making lists to sort out my memories, including including embarrassing memories, favourite movies and places I’ve lived. Getting them out on paper has allowed me to place important events which were otherwise confused and scrambled into some order. In my opinion these lists can be very helpful to someone with manic depression or clinical depressions as a means of putting perspective into our lives. As proof I’m offering my lists.
This is a list of friends I’ve had during the different periods of my life… this list does not include girlfriends, which is actually another list I’ve made. Just the act of making these lists became an important part of the first stage of my recovery, no one told me to make them but somehow they made sense… looking at this list in hindsight I’ve decided to include some reasons for why these people are no longer a part of my life, and maybe a little bit about where they ended up… I’m not expecting anyone to read this, but hopefully someone can find some value in the idea of the list itself. To get the details I first started with the names, then the years…
G-Town (1976-1978): Larry and Leanne lived next door to the last clubhouse of the commune I grew up in… they were about my age and became my first consistent friends. At one point their mother found out I hadn’t ever had a proper birthday party so she forced my father to throw one… my aunt made cake for my brother, two cousins, Larry and Leanne and myself.
Larry was killed by a drunk driver (I think) about fifteen years ago, Leanne was pretty much disowned by her family for marrying a black dude.
The Little City (1978-1983): Kristen and Stephen C. were the first two friends I made after we escaped the commune. Scott came a few years later… he taught me how to play Poker during grade seven English class. Kristen’s father-substitute used to put together these room sized train and racing car sets for him. Stephen C. was my first birthday party as a guest… mom bought an eight toy-car set for me to give him, but I stole the Trans-Am as I was leaving.
Twenty-years ago Stephen’s father and mother abandoned their four sons and moved to China. The oldest, Tyler, was left in charge. Stephen’s a drug addict and alcoholic and I’m not sure where he’s living… last I heard he was homeless in Montreal. Scott drank himself to death after a motorcycle accident. About four years ago I told Kristen about my “condition” and a little about my Recovery and that was the last I’ve heard from him.
My Little Village (1981-1982): We played street hockey almost every night after school with Lisa and Sean, a couple of kids just a block away. Every other game finished with Sean and I fighting over a goal, and my brother and Lisa either pounding on each other or just yelling. I ran into Sean last year… still a big goofy friendly dude with a saliva problem. When we were older we played a lot of Risk… I liked Sean a lot.
I ran into Sean last year… still a big goofy friendly dude with a saliva problem. When we were older we played a lot of Risk… I liked Sean a lot, but Sean was always the 20-year old dude who wanted to hang out at 16-year old parties.
High School (1984-1989): Steve, Patrick and I became friends in the Scouts, and in high school they were my first Drinking Buddies. Russell came to our high school via Quebec. Our math teacher once said it was mathematically impossible to do nothing so Russell told him “Gabriel can do nothing eight times before breakfast…”, we were best friends for a few years after that. He gave me his copy of the coolest and harshest parody of Boomer Culture ever written… “The Boomer Bible” is also one of the hardest to find books on the planet. Russell’s raw artistic talent had few boundaries.
Around 1988 Steve, Patrick and I slowly drifted apart after we were all in a car accident. It was Patrick’s car and to avoid the wrath of his father he pinned it on me. Russell just kept getting further and further down the trail of Weirdness. He always wanted to be mentally ill… after my diagnosis he asked me about a hundred questions, then went to a doctor and said what he had to say to get the same diagnosis and pills. He’s a weed junkie now, sucking in about five baggies a day and believes the US has concentration camps set up around the country waiting for a State of Emergency which will be called before the next (rigged) election.
Steve does research at a university and Patrick is pretty much a bank manager.
Frontier Lodge (summer 1987): After working as a 17-year old counsellor for one two-week Camp, Eric either became my 30-year old trainee or assistant. Either way we hung out together for the rest of the summer… his parents had moved to the US and left him an Audi and a three bedroom home in a rich suburb of Montreal. It was a pretty good summer, and at the end of it we went our separate ways.
The Little City (summer 1989): This was my first real Move From Home. I spent the summer running a Day Camp for kids. Barry had moved down from Montreal with his parents, they had the largest of two Chinese Food restaurants in the area. Clay and Vince were the sons from the Other Chinese Place. We, and Billy, spent the summer playing basketball, pool and hanging out… they also fed me a lot of Chinese Food.
Barry moved back to Montreal the next Spring, Billy and Vince both died in separate accidents (I think Billy was actually an overdose), and Clay just went nuts… I believe I heard schizophrenia had been mentioned.
My Little Village (1988-1990): I’m not sure how I hooked up with Tim, Dave and Dean, they’re at least two-years older than I am and in High School that’s two generations. I think it was through Karl, who was a brilliant student who had to repeat a grade due to a Provincial transfer. They were part of a larger gang of Punks who adopted me. We had a lot of adventures, mostly while baked on weed. As far as I know, towards the end I was the only one in the group not doing coke.
Dean and I started hanging out again a few years ago when I moved back here. Since then I’ve helped him get off crack and get his finances in order. I just took photos of his family over Christmas. Karl joined the Navy, left as an engineer and is out West somewhere with a family. Dave survived, Tim didn’t. Tim and I were closest… he moved to BC with a friend of mine, got hooked on heroin and sold all of her stuff. Ends up he was physically abusing her as well.
When Tim moved back here his reputation preceded him so he was on his own, he still had a heroin habit but crack is like candy around here so he picked that up as well. After his mother died he stole a bunch of shit from his father and sold it all for drugs. His father forced Tim to take him to the dealer, grabbed his stuff back and left Tim standing there.
Half the people who know him swear he’s dead, the other half say maybe. It’s a crying shame. I was there the night his 6’6″ 240lb father slammed a shovel into Tim’s head for leaving tire tracks on the lawn. Before it All fell apart Tim had been an excellent writer.
Ottawa (1990-1993) The first time I really met Ken and Karl B. they were ransacking the apartment I had just moved out of looking for food. My place was a three bedroom, no living room, apartment in the attic of a decent rooming house. Ken lived on the second floor and Karl B. had just moved into a room the size of a closet next to him. After the initial Weird factor I invited them over to the place I was housesitting for pizza and Heavy Metal: The Movie. After that we became really close friends…. we had rotating weekly potluck dinners for over a year.
Ken introduced me to his sister at one of the dinners… we dated for three years after that, which was awkward at first because Karl B. had apparently been secretly in Love with her for a long, long time. When I met Ken he was in the process of kicking a drug habit and, later on, he asked me to become a “co-sponsor”. Karl B. liked weed and beer… Karl B. was, mostly, a likable idiot who could cook and was always getting his ass kicked.
I managed to steal $400 from Ken… unintentionally, but still. I really didn’t realize I had done it, so when he asked I said “WTF?” and that was that. Ken moved to BC and Karl B. had a kid and moved back to Nova Scotia.
College (1994-1997): I met both Mike and Gary on the first day of my Journalism program in the smoking area outside our building. Mike and I had both previously worked at newspapers, I also had some radio production experience. We had also Lived a Life before getting to School. Gary, on the other hand, was straight from high school… Mike and I were the overly bitter cynics who could only survive in little moments of Irony, and Gary followed us around like a puppy.
Mike had a fairly severe disability involving his legs. He walked with a cane, but should have had two. He also had a wife and new borne child… and he commuted ninety minutes each way, everyday. After I dropped out / was kicked out during my second semester Mike dropped out during the third semester. Gary and I ended up together at a small national newspaper in Ottawa… he helped get me the job. A few years later he got a job at a magazine based on my reference. Last time I heard he was getting close to 300lbs and still squeezing his head in his hands when he was nervous. Weird kid.
Ottawa (spring to fall 1997): I’ve written an entire post about Wild Bill, a solvent huffing, ex-neo Nazi, weight lifting, 240lb dude… he’s still my favourite neighbour.
College (1994-2000): Meanwhile, back at College… Gary and Mike were my friends in College while Wes, Justin, Martin were my friends through College and beyond. I had known Martin for a little while in elementary school… scrawny and meek would fit, so would art geek. He was a year ahead of me in College, where he had grown into a 6’6″ 230lb dude who was still a geek. Wes and Justin and I shared a particular sense of humour.
Wes embarrassed me in front of my girlfriend… we were late getting to his apartment to pick up some stuff and he just sat there giving one word answers and pouting. I have a thing, it’s not my only Thing but it’s one of the Biggest, and it’s about respect. Something, it turns out, I didn’t give to Justin recently and now he’s not talking to me… Martin just got weird and started stealing stuff. I saw him two years ago, he was working in Public Relations, but he had stopped taking the steroids so his chest muscles had become his stomach fat.
42) Toronto Punks (1999-2003): When I first moved to Toronto I thought I was pretty much on my own… but I found an entire enclave of refugees from My Little Village. Darell, Jamie, Steve and Sam had a fairly successful Punk Band, and Sean and I knew each other from way back. Most of the Refugees were three to four years younger than myself, but most of them knew me by reputation or my younger brother from his, much more degenerate reputation. I met Jason R. through the band and Sue through some artists we had in common.
I lost contact with all of them as I sunk deeper into what would become my Depression Coma. I moved three cities away and collapsed. On my last night before moving back to My Little Village they came to town and got me completely fucking faced. I still have sporadic contact with Sean, Darell, Jamie and Steve…
42) Toronto non-Punks (1999-2003): Everywhere I’ve worked I’ve been a part of the “Baddass Smokers Pack”. At the Publishing House it included Robert, Tom and Laura… I was the newbie, but my first Friday was spent at Tom’s party where I was the only person from my magazine to show up. I met reporters from all of Toronto’s main newspapers (everything except The Sun) and was still young enough so everyone thought I was precocious. Robert, Tom and Laura were all editors at the Publishing House I worked at… Laura was actually borne in the same hospital as me, and close to the same day. Shane was the Prissiest guy I’ve ever met, but also one of the strongest mentally… he was a great dude who helped me a lot. Jason and I worked at a public relations firm… we spent a lot of nights drinking a lot of alcohol.
When I went over to Public Relations (it was a mistake) most of my Reporter friends and I stopped hanging out. Jason and I stopped hanging out over a stupid email exchange.
G-Town (2003): Buck was one of four other people who saved my life. I’ll write more about him and Angelo and the Others later.
My Toronto punk friends came over the night before I moved home and took me on a massive all day binge… then they went to a neighbour’s party while I went to bed. They then collapsed on the living room floor of the house I shared with Buck and Wayne… thing was, it was a “Dry House” for recovering addicts. Drunk people on the floor was a definite No-No. It was a respect thing and Buck lost a lot for me that night.
neato. I’ve renegaged with a lot of old “friends” and there’s so nothing to report for the most part. Babies, weddings, divorces. Some crazy.
But only one death I’m happy to say.
Thanks for sharing. You’ve had a life full of people. That’s the ‘stuff’ of life.
A girl who alternately terrorized and used me for 10 years of my life recently got her 8th DUI, after leaving a MADD panel. My mother always told me she would get what was coming to her. Somehow it isn’t comforting to know that she did.
I was asked by B and a friend recently if I had any friends that hadn’t been screwed over by mental illness (actually phrase used by my friend) and I found myself making a list of friends.
I am lucky, I have lots, I had more. I like remembering them. I looked through my yearbook when I was home for the holidays, last time it was unbearable because I kept thinking about how much I wanted to have done it differently, but this time was cool because I realised that I totally couldn’t and wouldn’t have played in any other way. The same is true of friends, there are a ton of folk I am willing to leave with the memories but a handful who I’d want to catch up with.
I figure if I accept enough Facebook friend requests I eventually work back to the past friends I still would like to grab a coffee with.
This was interesting. But boy…me making a list like this? It would be an absolute monstrosity and there would also be too many names that I couldn’t remember!
Sorry…I’m not trying to sound all maudlin about it but it’s true. Too many friends lost. I have written about this.
You’ve offered up reasons, as well. I suppose I might be able to find some more concrete ones but for the majority, I am simply left gobsmacked, not knowing what the hell happened.
Where did they go? What did I do? Did I do anything at all? If I know I did something and I apologized because it caused a rift, was it really that bad that you still disappeared? I mean, we all fuck up, right?
I’m not in the habit of pissing people off. Not anyone! And certainly not friends; they are too valuable to me. Why would I want to upset them?
I don’t think I am a bad person. I don’t think anyone is. I treat people with kindness and respect, I accept them for who they are and am supportive. And sure, I may make mistakes but we all do! We are human!
Anyway, I don’t seem to know the answers and all the ones I’ve lost seem to just vanish into the ether. It seems to be such a pattern and I really don’t know why.
It’s like, is there something wrong with me? Am I somehow toxic? You kind of begin to wonder after a while, you know?
Man, it’s just so screwed up. Oh, well. I don’t really have control over others. Again, I can only be a good friend and if that friendship is not returned…
I’ve learned to let some go, of course. Say, from childhood. That was a long time ago, though. But I think when it does keep coming up again and again–that’s difficult. And when it’s a really close one, someone you really care about…oh, dear. Those ones can hurt a lot.
*PA hangs head*
However, I have a copy of The Boomer Bible. I borrowed it from non-bio dad ages ago–like…when it came out! I’ve never returned it and he’s never asked for it back. I’ve never even finished it…it’s unbelievably huge.
I’m still here, you know.
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