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Gratitude / Episode Guide

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To everyone who played along with Notes From The Avalon, THANK YOU!!  You made it all worthwhile.  I’d also like to thank the cast and crew of Fifteen, as well as the entire nation of Canada for a bottomless supply of inspiration.  Although this officially marks the end of my run as a blogger, I do not intend to remove NFTA from the internet or sully its purity by utilizing it for writing aboot other topics– it is nothing less than my gift to humanity and my online legacy.

For anyone coming late to the party, below is a handy-dandy chronological guide to all of the episode posts.  Long live Fifteen!

Season 1

Intro – Deadpool: The High School Years

S.1 E.1 – The Nightmare Commences

S.1 E.2 – Freaks, Faggots, Drunks & Junkies

Intermission (Go For A Soda)

S.1 E.3 – Jag ar en javla nord

S.1 E.4 – Purgatorio

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

S.1 E.5 – No Exit

S.1 E.6 – Hinterlands

Season 1 Promo Trailer

S.1 E.7 – The Grapes

Six Hours On Facebook

S.1 E.8 – Sturm und Drang

S.1 E.9 – Revolving Doors To Hell

Mama Says Be Glad

S.1 E.10 – Party Till The World Obeys

S.1 E.11 – The Sorrow & The Pity

Fuck You (for Jake)

S.1 E.12 – Kiss of Death

S.1 E.13 – Nevermore

Season 2

Intro – Deadpool 2: Sophomore Year

S.2 E.1 – I Don’t Know You People…

S.2 E.2 – The Pariah

Happy Victoria Day!

S.2 E.3 – An Awkward Pause

S.2 E.4 – Return of the Phantom

S.2 E.5 – Hell Is For Children

Dear Jake

S.2 E.6 – Entropy Storm!

Baguette Battle

Janice: A Psychological Profile

S.2 E.7 – Boiling Point

S.2 E.8 – Breaking The Band

S.2 E.9 – Sanitarium

NFTA Wins An Award!

S.2 E.10 – Crime & Punishment

Conform Or Be Cast Oot

S.2 E.11 – That Scar Loo’s Nii

S.2 E.12 – Lollapalooza

S.2 E.13 – Chinese Foods

Season 3

Intro – Deadpool 3: Junior Year

S.3 E.1 – Danse Macabre

We’re Back!

S.3 E.2 – Rage Against The Machine

Friends of The Avalon

Miscellany (Feeding Your A.D.D.)

S.3 E.3 – Hair of the Dog

S.3 E.4 – Some Hospital Place

Ashley & Chris: A Reader Poll

S.3 E.5 – Sister Margaret’s Home For Wayward Girls

S.3 E.6 – Get Cool, Daddy-O

S.3 E.7 – Blue Velvet

An E-Mail From Deadpool

S.3 E.8 – TV Party

S.3 E.9 – JoJo Siwa On Infinite Repeat

Dreamline

S.3 E.10 – Wild Sex In The Working Class

S.3 E.11 – Joe Superstar

S.3 E.12 – Yoko

S.3 E.13 – Red Wedding

Season 4

Season 4: Deadpool Goes To Hell

Pre-Reunion Miscellany

Post Script: Vindication!

Boxing Day Eve: Recognizing Recognition

Happy New Year & T.T.F.N.

Fifty: The Reunion

Reunion Teaser!

Ep. 1, Pt. 1: Coming Home To Roost

Ep. 1, Pt. 2: Old Ghosts

Ep. 1, Pt. 3: YYZ

Ep. 2, Pt. 1: Karma Calling

Corrections, Retractions & Apologies

Ep. 2, Pt. 2: The Gathering Storm

Ep. 2, Pt. 3: Dog Days

Ep. 3, Pt. 1: Manifesting Destiny

Ep. 3, Pt. 2: Taking A Stand

Ep. 3, Pt. 3: Old Friends

Ep. 4, Pt. 1: Deviant Fates

Ep. 4, Pt. 2: Original Sin

Ep. 4, Pt. 3: Collateral Damage

Halftime

Ep. 5, Pt. 1: Bars & Bistros

Ep. 5, Pt. 2: Belated Betrayals

Ep. 6, Pt. 1: Reckonings

Ep. 6, Pt. 2: Morning Headlines

Ep. 7, Pt. 1: Lopun Alku

Ep. 7, Pt. 2: Interventions

Ep. 8, Finale: Requiem

The Credits!

That’s A Wrap

Fifteen Questions With Robyn Ross!

The Boy Who Cried “Blog!”

By my count, this post marks the third time I have announced a new blogging project with great fanfare in the hopes that all you Avalon denizens will show it just as much love as you did NFTA. But of course, all 3 of those were shit-canned before most people even had a chance to check them oot and thus I’d hardly blame you if you’re meeting this announcement with skepticism.

This time will be different. I promise. To ensure that my new TV-obsessed blog page TV Gumbo will survive longer than your average fruit fly, I have brought another writer on board. Her name is Juliette and she will be my co-conspirator for the duration of this project. Her encyclopedic knowledge of TV obscurities rivals my own and she’s funny as fuck.

So there you have it. Once this temporary post has run its course, I promise that I will never utilize Notes From the Avalon for shameless self-promotion ever again. Hope to see you there: https://tvgumbo.com/.

Fifteen Questions

…with Robyn Ross!

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Perhaps you know her as Mrs. Klump on the CW’s Riverdale. Or maybe Marnie from The L Word? Or Ellie Holman in the film Suck It Up Buttercup? Oh, screw it, what the hell do I think I’m trying to pull here? — you know her as Hillside High’s very own Brooke Morgan! Robyn Ross generously agreed to answer fifteen questions that I devised and I can think of no better coda for Notes From The Avalon than an honest and revealing chat with the person who drove more traffic to this site than I ever could have with a gracious and unsolicited link on Fifteen’s Facebook fan page.

This is a long one, but unlike most of the silliness on this blog, I think you’ll find it well worth your time. Read it in installments if your attention span demands. If you stick with it, perhaps you’ll be rewarded with a photo from Halloween 2011 of Your Humble Narrator doing a full-on, shaved-headed Heisenberg. Robyn recorded her replies for me, so that’s why the tone of my questions is far less conversational than her answers. Her “oots” and “aboots” aren’t nearly as pronounced as my text implies but, you know…site consistency. Aside from a few flattering asides aboot my writing that would make me blush to publicize, everything here is verbatim from the audio file she sent me. So if you want to dig into some juicy insider info aboot everyone’s favorite teen soap, this is for you. Conversely, if inspiration in these trying times is what you’re after, this is also for you. Robyn is a bright, funny, down-to-earth and exceedingly compassionate person, as you’ll soon see. So let’s waste no further time on my pointless pontification and settle in for an intimate chat with Robyn Ross!

Before we strap into the Way Back Machine, I wanted to start off with something a little more current and topical. How has Covid-19 affected your current projects and how have you been keeping busy during the pandemic? I know that production on Riverdale was forced to shut down with 19 of 22 episodes already in the can, which must be frustrating, to say the least. Do you know what the plans are going forward? Will there be a fifth season and if so, will we be seeing more of Mrs. Klump?

Well, during Covid-19, I was supposed to be permanently moving back to a place in New York City – I was in Vancouver for a bit and I was supposed to be going back and then I just couldn’t go, for obvious reasons. It was better to stay in Canada. My child was here and we have social Medicare so if anything went wrong, we would all be taken care of. Self-employed people made good money every month from our government here. I have to say, as much as I love New York and as much as I love America in so many ways, I think Canada did it quite a bit better so I felt very lucky that I have citizenship in both places and that I could be here during this with my family making sure that they’re okay and I’m okay.

I stayed up in a place called Whistler, British Columbia. My parents have had a cabin up here for 30 years and now it’s quite a tourist destination but it was absolutely dead quiet – no one was here. It was literal Armageddon – you could walk around the village for 20 minutes that it’s usually packed and not see one soul. But I did see bears and I did see birds. In fact, I trained birds to eat oot of my hands – wild, beautiful, stellar jays. So here’s ‘big city girl’ – big New York City girl – way up in the mountains and I never thought in a million years that I’d say I loved it, but if we have to say that there was a silver lining to it all, it was the fact that I got to learn this side of me. I absolutely loved being here, walking on trails every day. That’s coming from someone who was so used to working seven days a week – between acting and voice work and teaching acting and working on set and doing makeup jobs (because that’s my second career – I’m a makeup artist) – it was so incredible to have this break that I would have never taken myself and literally smelled the air and could feel all the appreciation I have for life. I know there was so much suffering in the world but at least I found the positive through it all and hopefully, I’ll come oot being able to help people in their darkness if they’re still there because I feel a lot stronger for it.

All the shows had been forced to shut down. Productions, all the auditions, everything. They’ve started up now – we’re recording voice auditions and live camera auditions from home, so I have the whole set-up. But other than that, it was a good two months of literally just getting to know life and appreciating every moment that I had with family or alone time, time to read, all those things, so that was amazing. I think there’s going to be a fifth season of Riverdale. I’m not ‘in-the-know’ anymore. I think my character is done, which is too bad, but you never know. I wasn’t expecting her to come back a third season and she did, so who knows? I loved working on the show. The team is absolutely great – the crew, the writers, the show runner – everybody’s great, but I don’t know if Mrs. Klump will be back. I’m just happy it’s going on – I heard that Sabrina, which is a sister show, unfortunately shut down, but as far as I know, Riverdale’s gonna keep going.

I still pick up an Archie Double Digest every time I’m in the grocery check-oot line. In other words, if it wasn’t bad enough that I’m a card-carrying Fifteen geek, you can add to that the fact that I love the original Archie Comics more than I love my own mother. That being said, I don’t ever recall a mention of Midge’s mom in the comics, as Midge herself was treated as sort of an ancillary character. Were you afforded any creative independence in perfecting the role of Mrs. Klump or did the writers already have a fully-fleshed oot character envisioned?

Yes, I loved Archie Comics when I was a kid! I looked for Midge’s mom through everything on the internet that I could possibly find and I never found Midge’s mom, either. I got to create her, so that was wonderful. I mean, obviously I had the script that the writers had written but I had done research and couldn’t find anything so I kind of just read more aboot Midge – read into Midge – and tried to use my psychology to figure oot why Midge was the way she was. I know that I (Mrs. Klump) didn’t have a husband that existed, so that could add to a lot of the character of Midge’s mom. But I have to say this: considering the first episode shows me at her funeral with my daughter dead, it didn’t take much as a mom myself to imagine how horrific that sort of thing would be, so we just kind of jumped in full-throttle and went from there. Then when she shot Fangs (Fogarty) because she thought he was the murderer of her daughter and then was put in jail, she’s just a mom who was oot of her mind with grief and wanted justice for the killing of her daughter who she loved more than anything in the world – it was her only child. So, I mean, what would any mother do if you thought that the man who killed your daughter was walking free? Yeah. And that’s why she ends up – spoiler alert – joining a cult! So we don’t see much of Mrs. Klump in the cult or aboot the cult, you just see one episode where she stands up and she’s part of The Farm, but that’s it and I think The Farm is done, so maybe Mrs. Klump is done. Anyway, I loved how much freedom I had with her character, and Roberto, the show runner and the writer was really great aboot everything.

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Excuse the wordiness of this one, as it necessitates an anecdotal intro. One of the first times I ever found myself in awe of an acting performance involved Caroll O’Connor in an episode of All In The Family. Briefly, Meathead had invited a friend who had dodged the Vietnam draft over for Thanksgiving dinner. Archie was certain that his guest, an old über-patriotic army buddy, would side with him in chastising Mike’s draft dodging friend. To his shock, his friend expressed support for the kid, adding that if his own son had done the same thing, he’d still be alive. The camera zoomed in on Archie’s face for an extremely long shot in which no dialogue was spoken. I watched as Archie’s entire belief system – his worldview and the very foundation on which he built his self-image and his life – crumbled like a house of cards. Mr. O’Connor pulled all this off withoot a word and that’s when I understood what first-class acting entails.

In the final hospital scene of Suck It Up Buttercup, you and (co-star) Gregory Konow are waiting in a corridor while the doctor is tending to Jackie. The tension – along with the shame, judgment, anxiety and guilt – is palpable. Not a word is spoken for this entire extended scene and yet, you managed to say more than pages of dialogue could have expressed with nothing more than your facial expressions and mannerisms. Does such nuanced acting come natural to you or are there actors – either those with whom you’ve worked directly or those of whom you’re just a fan – whose work directly inspired your own growth as an actor?

Wow. What a fantastic question! Holy shit. Okay, first of all, I loved how you described that scene with Carroll O’Connor. Acting like that is also what inspires me to work to try and get to that level. You almost made me cry by saying you saw that in Suck It Up Buttercup, in which I owe so much of my performance to my incredible director, Malindi Fickle. She knows me, she knew how to get in me, she knew how to pull it oot of me and I literally owe my performance to her. She is the most incredible director to work with. She is a joy and she can make any actor be their best actor-self. There aren’t enough words to describe how incredible she is as a director. I hope she directs more. I hope I get to work with her again, but she is fantastic.

(NFTA: Here Robyn goes off the record to recommend a French film called “Of Gods and Men” — Grand Prix winner at the 2010 Cannes Festival — for the superb and poignant performances of the cast. I’ll be checking it oot at my first opportunity.)

That being said, I have trained as an actor for years and years and years. Obviously, you didn’t see a lot of nuance in my character Brooke in Fifteen, but I was training as an actor at the time and that was a very specific genre. It was very two-dimensional. It was a kids’ teen soap so every time I would try to give a little bit more realistic and nuanced performances, the director would say, “Come on, energy up! Energy up!” and I was just like, “Why doesn’t he see that I’m trying to make it more real?” but at the same time, I didn’t realize then that there are different genres and the kind of overacting, campy, smirking-off-into-the-third-camera for that end shot – that is the genre and I didn’t understand there were different genres so you can’t apply all types of acting to all the types of genre. You have to definitely adjust and learn the different types of techniques you need for the different genres.

I never think I’m done (learning) acting. I still to this day work oot with peers – we do scenes, we coach each other on auditions and I still, at my age, have a-ha moments where I’m like, “What? I remember my acting teacher in New York saying that 25 years ago and I didn’t get it but now I do – crazy!” Or when I’m coaching someone or when I’m teaching my kids in my acting class, sometimes I learn from that, too.

(NFTA: Here Robyn pauses to greet and feed a bird at her window. She also sent me a beautiful video of her fearless feathered friend eating oot of her hand. If I can figure oot how, I will post that video at the end of the interview. Otherwise, I’ll have to wait until a more tech-savvy friend stops by to do it for me.)

Okay, I’m back and I have to admit I cheated because I knew I had to list my all-time favorite actors whose work has inspired me and constantly inspires me and helps me grow as an actor and people whose work can pretty much be anything (other than a couple things, maybe) that they can be in that I will watch just because they’re in it. So here we go. This is my list of favorite male actors. We’ve got Daniel Day-Lewis; Mahershala Ali; Timothee Chalamet – who is new, young, up-and-coming, but, holy cow, his performance in “Call Me By Your Name”, especially those silent moments were phenomenal; Denzel Washington; Morgan Freeman, who is famous for telling the writers to take away his lines because he’d rather say it in his breathing and his face and his expression than the actual lines because he agrees with you that you can say a million more things in a look than you can by actually saying it; Heath Ledger; and Don Cheadle.

For women, there are so many good women but I had to limit it. We’ve got Meryl Streep, of course; Cate Blanchett who is the young Meryl Streep, as far as I’m concerned; Viola Davis, who also gave one of the most stellar performances I have ever seen in a movie called “Doubt” where she was acting in a scene with Meryl Streep and she made Meryl pale in comparison – there are no other actors I know that can do that other than Viola Davis; Julianne Moore; Frances McDormand; Octavia Spencer; and Kerry Washington, also – younger, but she’s going huge places (well, she already is…but she will continue to!) So that is my list! These are the ones that inspire me that I can only hope and pray to one day have even one half of their talent even though I’ll keep studying for the rest of my life but you know, sometimes it’s otherworldly. Sometimes you’re just given this talent – I know they’ve honed it and they’ve studied – but I could hone and study for the rest of my life and I will never touch them. They were born with this God-given talent, or Universal-given talent, and God bless them for that. Anyway, lucky them and I’m glad they’re using it because they’re phenomenal.

Okay, now let’s get into some stuff I’m sure my faithful readers will be curious to know. Assuming IMDB is accurate, you were one of the only main cast members of Fifteen to already have some acting credits under your belt. How was the character of Brooke presented to you? Did the director simply shout “EMOTE!” every time you were getting ready for a scene or did you intuitively realize that over-the-top was the perfect – and only – way to play her?

Ha ha ha! We practically already – I discussed this in one of the other questions but this is what happened with Brooke. I was with an agency – you did your research and you saw that I did have acting credits before – I had been acting since I was six years old so I had some experience, I’d say. I told my agent I’d heard aboot these auditions and asked if I could go and they just said, “No, you’re not right for it,” so they didn’t send me. I was kind of pissed because I was like, “How can I not be right for it? I’m a teenager.” But they were a huge agency and I was just like, “Oh, okay”. But then, I think it was my mother who had read something in the paper that said they were having huge open casting calls, as well, because they really wanted to cast real kids, the real age, the whole shebang, and didn’t want just ‘actor-y’ kids and ones that were older than actually fifteen (that’s a whole other story…but anyway).

So I decided to go down to the open call and I think there were 2,000 kids that turned up to this open call and they literally hustled us through lines. We were in groups, we’d go in a room, they’d give us a line, we’d say a line and depending on how we said it, they’d narrow us down and put us in another group. We’d go through this all day long just being narrowed and narrowed and narrowed down. Then we were put into some improv situations which was great for me because I’ve always had such an issue memorizing lines because I am dyslexic as well as ADHD so lines have always been a challenge for me, so improv was my thing. So we got into groups and they had us do different role-playing of different scenes — this, that and the other — and the funny thing was, in the beginning, I guess looks-wise, they had me going oot for Ashley, the sweet girl, and they had Laura Harris who played Ashley going oot for Brooke. Except when it came to improv, I had so much fun playing the bitch and, you know, the sweet girl was fine, but they switched us and they saw that she couldn’t go all oot there – “especially, like, with her acting voice(NFTA: Here Robyn imitates Laura Harris in the same exact way I meekly typed her dialogue in all lower-case. Yes, that means she actually managed to speak in lower case.) – they were like, “Okay, I guess she can’t do the bitch,” so they switched us around. We got called back the next day – so there was a full day of auditioning, we get called back the next day and now it’s down to very few for each role and we did more improv. I think we did a couple of scenes with the creator of the show, John Binkley, the writer Ian Weir and a couple of their assistant directors and producers. That’s how I got it! I got it oot of 2,000 kids in an open call and then all the kids from the agency so that was a huge deal, a huge win. The funny thing was, my agent wanted to take commission and I was just like, “Do you think I’m insane? I might be young, but I’m not dumb,” and I left that agency. So that’s the story of that. As far as Brooke was, the more evil and the more over-the-top and the more horrible I was, they loved it – the better it was for them, so yes, they’d push it.  As I said in the question before, it was far bigger than I felt comfortable with as far as what I knew reality was, but —genre, genre, genre. That’s why people love to hate me to this day – I still get hate mail! So I guess I did that job right – I guess some people also do believe it. So there you go. And it’s nice playing the bitch because once you got all the bitchiness oot all day long, all you want to do is just be nice, so you’d come home like the nicest person on the face of the Earth. My daughter was very upset when she was little and she saw the show and she said, “Mommy, why do you have to be the mean one?” So I had to tell her that usually the ones who play the mean people are the nicest people on the face of the Earth, so that gave her some solace and comfort. (Laughs) And then she tried to keep proving that right throughoot her life with different actors.

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You had to know this one was coming: any dirt to dish on off-screen romances that may have occurred betwixt members of the Fifteen cast back in the day? You can take a pass on this one, of course, but just like every Brady Bunch fan greedily lapped up Barry Williams’ scandal-filled memoir “Growing Up Brady”, I assume the perplexingly small but passionately dedicated Fifteen fan base is equally eager for gossip.

Hmm – gossip, gossip, gossip! Okay, let’s see…I was actually three years older than the rest of the cast (I lied – oops – aboot my age). I was actually 18 when we were literally supposed to be the right ages – we were supposed to be 15 and 13. So the younger siblings were 13, the older ones were 15 and (whispering) I was 18 – I already lived on my own. So that was interesting at times but that’s a whole other story. So I was obviously too old for everybody although, you know, some of the younger characters might have been crushing on me, the oldest girl that, you know, graduated and lives on her own. There’s that. But I had my boyfriend at the time that I was going oot with that I was very serious aboot. In fact, here’s a little Easter egg: if you see when Brooke opens up her locker, there’s a black and white picture of a model-looking guy in her locker on the set – that was my boyfriend at the time, his name was Bill Morgan. And yeah, I was so in love with him then. We’re still friends today, so that’s cool. So I didn’t have a romance there. I did have a car so I ended up driving a lot of the cast members to and from work. I don’t think anyone else had any kind of thing going on while the show was filming – as far as I know. I don’t think so – you’re relying on my memory and this was decades ago.

But I do have a juicy piece of gossip – and don’t get me wrong, a lot of the guys were also very in love with Laura Harris who played Ashley. But Laura and Chris Martin – who was known as Corky Martin back then, who played Dylan – they got married at first for his green card because she had American citizenship, I think. And then, you know, it wasn’t for real so they got divorced. But then years later, they got married oot of love — for real — not for a green card but because they wanted to…and then they ended up getting divorced. So they were married twice – Dylan and Ashley or Laura and Chris. So that’s interesting but that’s pretty much aboot it. Ryan Reynolds at the time, we were doing some mall tours with the show and we did one with Melissa Joan Hart from Clarissa Explains It All at the time and Ryan Reynolds had dated Melissa Joan Hart for a while back then. That’s all I can remember. I was friends with some of the guys from Salute Your Shorts – still friends with them today. And that is it – I can’t think of anything else. If I think of anything, I’ll let you know, but that’s all I can think of so far.

Since you started acting at an early age and understand what it entails, are there any current child actors whose talent or potential have caught your eye?

Well, when I first saw Natalie Portman in “The Professional”, I said, “This kid is going to be hugely famous – she is incredible,” and there you go. She was – Natalie Portman – professional when she was like 12. I called it also for Leo DiCaprio, when he was in Gilbert Grape, I said, “Yeah, this kid!” As well as Timothee Chalamet that we just mentioned and…man, I have been impressed by some young child actors but I’ll have to give that one a thought and get back to you on it but yes, there are some incredible actors that I don’t know how they do it. Another one – the kids in the show “When They See Us” – those kids blew my mind. There were a lot of incredible actors in that show. There’s just so many. I mean, the competition is so tough these days since there are so many good actors coming up. I teach a lot of really good actors and sometimes I’m just flabbergasted that they seem like they have a world of experience and knowledge and they’re only 16 or 15 and I’m like, “How do you look like you’ve already lived a lifetime?”

Deserted islands seem like horribly boring places, so I’ll rework this obligatory interview question for aesthetic purposes. The CSA has perfected hyperspace travel and chosen you to be the first resident of the closest habitable planet in the galaxy. So you’re on your way to a deserted planet. Aside from survival essentials, you can bring: 3 movies, 3 books, 3 albums. What are they?

Okay, wow, one of the most difficult questions ever because I am a Libra and it is next to impossible to have me limit things like this, but I’ve done my very best after deliberating here. It was very difficult. So my three top movies would be “Across The Universe”, “Life Is Beautiful” and “Cinema Paradiso”. So I pretty much have two Italian and one directed by a woman because I love The Beatles’ music so that adds to the music that I get on my island (NFTA: planet). My three books would be some compilation book of world history to date because history is my all-time favorite subject. I love history, learning aboot history, the different times throughoot history, everything. So that would totally satisfy my geekiness and plus I’d have a lot of stuff to read, which is great, so some huge compilation of world history to date. That being said, too, I am not a religious person but I would definitely bring the Bible because it is the number one best selling book in the world and it also delves into historical events, almost biographical, because it’s telling the stories of all these “people” that existed at those times so we would learn a lot aboot those times and, you know, they’re excellent stories aboot overcoming and perseverance and betrayal and all the good things that you would get in movies or films today were written then — and fantasy and all these kinds of things. So I would take the Bible, which would be the Old and New Testament in the one Bible. And then I would take, being the actor that I am, Shakespeare’s works, which are also an account of a historical time and have all the same types of things the Bible has.

As you can see, I’m trying to do my best limiting in a non-limiting kind of way, which means compilations but…that being said, let’s go to my compilation albums! I would definitely have an album that is a Ladies of Jazz compilation, which would include Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, maybe some Roberta Flack and a gazillion other wonderful ladies of jazz that I’m not thinking of at the moment but I would want one big, fat compilation of some beautiful, gorgeous jazz music with smoky, velvety voices. Then I would definitely bring the Gipsy Kings because the Gipsy Kings always make me happy — I feel like I’m on vacation and I just love their music. It makes me want to dance and it puts a smile on my face. And then Prince because I love Prince and I don’t need to say much more than that. Prince is the ultimate musical virtuoso of today. He is the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of today. Yeah, Prince. But again, not one album.  Well, I guess if it was one album it would be Purple Rain…but I would prefer a greatest hits. So that’s it. I do have to mention, though, my other movies of honorable mention because I have written these lists before because sometimes people ask me what my favorite movies are. So my movies of all-time, like I said, “Life Is Beautiful”; “Cinema Paradisio”; “Across The Universe”; but then I have “Inglourious Basterds”; “Of Gods and Men” which I was mentioning before because of that one freaking scene that blew my mind; “Strictly Ballroom”; “Annie Hall”; “Slumdog Millionaire”; “When Harry Met Sally”; “Amelie”; “Call Me By Your Name”; “Leon: The Professional”. And then, honorable mention goes to “Wizard of Oz” because as a kid, it was my most magical movie; “Grease” because I wanted to be Sandra Dee; “Some Like It Hot” because it was hilarious and incredible and I loved the comedy of it and all the actors were great; “E.T.” because it’s classic and part of childhood; and then, newly, “Hamilton”, even though technically it’s a play, it was fucking stellar.

If you could choose to star in a documentary or biopic aboot the life of any historical figure, celebrity, politician, activist, musician, etc. (living or dead), who would it be and why?

I realize in this question that most of the people that I would want to play their lives, I can’t because they’re not Caucasian – they’re either not white or they’re too young. But these are the people whose lives I find extremely fascinating: Rosa Parks; even Oprah Winfrey’s life; or Anne Frank, but it’s too late now. So I think…I was vacillating between Veronica Franco who was a poet and courtesan in sixteenth century Venice. She was the intellectual of her time; you could only have access to reading and writing if you were a courtesan, which was considered a non-respectable woman, but she chose it because she had a thirst for knowledge and reading and writing. They did do a movie aboot this; it was called “Dangerous Beauty” and I loved it, so I can’t believe I didn’t mention it in my movie list but if they made a remake of that, I would love to be her. But that’s a remake so if I had to be somebody from more modern times, I would be Marie Colvin. She was an American journalist who covered the Middle East and her life was super interesting because she was involved in all kinds of circles, infiltrated them where they would have been completely dangerous if they knew why she was a part of them, but her thirst for understanding and knowledge and her love for journalism and getting to the bottom of things would make for such an interesting character to study. She did end up losing one of her eyes from an improvised explosive device that somebody had set up to kill her but it didn’t; it just maimed her and her photographer or cameraman that she had with her. So yeah, I think at the end of the day, I’d have to say Marie Colvin. She seems like she had an incredible, amazing life…and she was Caucasian…and around my age, so I guess that’s within my limits, but she was amazing, nonetheless.

Do you think the global artistic community in general (actors, writers, musicians, visual artists) has an obligation to address critically urgent social issues like racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia? Is there an issue aboot which you’re specifically passionate that you would like to have an opportunity to address through your work?

This is what I love in life, I love having these discussions with people. There’s no point in wasting time on the superficial. Yes, I think anybody who is in the public eye has a responsibility. There comes a responsibility with being in the public eye, whether you want it or not. People who tend to look towards you, look up to you, whether you deserve it or not, whether you signed up for it or not — they do. So therefore…it’s not to say that people need to take what you say as the word of God, by any means. I mean, who’s to say that actors or musicians or whoever else in the public eye is even intelligent or has something worthy of saying – but there is a responsibility that comes along with it. So therefore, if you have that soap box to stand on, if you have that opportunity to make a difference and make the world a better place, fuck yeah, you should seize that. I mean, to be honest with you, as much as I love acting and getting into the challenge of becoming someone else, when I was a child, I remember people asked me why I wanted to be an actor and they asked me if it was because I could be famous and I said, “No, I don’t care aboot that.” Sorry, I’m going off on tangents, but I remember as a child, saying that I want to be an actress so that when I’m finally famous enough so that people actually care aboot what I say and do, then I could get investors to invest in a shelter for animals. I could open a shelter for animals because of my name, so people would give me money to open it. Then I could have children who are poor – children of poverty – pair up with an animal at the shelter and that could become their friend and they could take care of that animal and they would have each other and it would give them both reason and purpose to live and it would be such a beautiful community of all the kids and all the animals there together. Then eventually the animals would eventually get adopted, or the kids would adopt the animal…and la de da de da…this is all so idealistic and beautiful and I think of that dream and I just love where it came from. Maybe one day it could still happen – who knows? (NFTA: I really, really hope so!)

But yes, causes are important and using your platform to help to create change or help to fight for rights of people and to make this world a better place is so effing important. If you go on my Facebook, my Instagram, my Tik Tok, everything that I’m on right now, Twitter – everything has been consumed with Black Lives Matter. So many of my friends throughoot my life are black and I’ve been educated to know now that just being friends with them wasn’t enough when they weren’t seeing the same opportunities or equal rights that I had and I’m so glad that I’m open-eyed to this now but knowing this is just the first step. The next step is making sure that all these people that have brought so much to my life and enhanced my life in so many ways – and I have friends of all different ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds, gender identifying backgrounds that have added so much to my life – that I need to fight for all of them so that we all have everything the same. Equal. Equal human rights. I mean, is that so much to ask for? But anyway, so yes, I’m all-consumed with that right now. A part of this passion I have for that right now is – I don’t know how many people might know, but I am Jewish and as a child, I kind of tried to hide from that or have people not know that. I knew from studying World War II or growing up in a very, very German area in Canada, I was ostracized and picked on and made fun of a lot and this was, you know, 30 to 40 years after the war had ended and still these prejudices and these stereotypes occurred. So I always considered myself growing up as one of the “others”, even though I’m white-passing and that did make my life easier; but people knowing I was Jewish did make it harder so I always chose friends who also felt like ootsiders and I’m so thankful for that experience because it opened up my world so wide to so many incredible people from so many incredible places, so I’m very thankful for it. So again, like I said before, I’m not religious, but culturally, I am Jewish and I’m proud to be Jewish and I love my culture and I am going to stand up for everyone, including my people, and against anti-Semitism as well, because lately more than ever, I’ve been seeing so many things circulating online which are just such non-truths and painting everybody with one brush and thinking we’re a monolith and we all have the same thoughts and we all do the same things and make the same choices or have the same politics and we don’t. We’re all just different and you can’t paint one race, one religion, one gender all with the same paint brush, People. So look at people as individuals. Don’t try to categorize them by these superficial labels – just individuals. So yes, I’m fighting for equality but I’m a fighter in general.  My mother calls me a justice seeker – that’s probably the part she hates the most aboot me in the sense that I’m always fighting for the things that are right. But again, I am a Libra and as much as I vacillate, I don’t vacillate over my passion for good in this world and for the causes to create betterment and love and peace.

You’re sick in bed and you have a choice of passing the time with an all-day marathon of Breaking Bad on AMC or iCarly on Nickelodeon. Which will you choose? Be honest!

Well, I’ve never seen either of those so…everyone has said such great things aboot Breaking Bad. It would probably make me very cynical aboot the world and everything but I heard Bryan Cranston was amazing as an actor, so I’m just gonna have to go with Breaking Bad. It’s on my list of things to do. I’ve never seen an episode of Lost or Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or any of those…I have a lot of catching up to do.

walt
Then maybe your best course, Robyn, would be to tread lightly

I just saw House of Cards over Covid, though – went through all 7 seasons. Phenomenal acting – too bad aboot Kevin Spacey.

When production of Fifteen was moved to the studios in Orlando, did you become friends with any performers from the other shows airing on Nick at the time? (For instance, did you ever have an opportunity to just sit back and let Clarissa explain it all?)

Yeah! Chris Lobban from Welcome Freshmen and Melissa Joan Hart from Clarissa Explains It All. We did the mall tour, like I said, with them — Mint Condition was a band at the time; Hulk Hogan and Clarissa and a few of us – I have pictures to prove it and it was fun! I think pretty much just Chris Lobban and I – he’s a great guy. We still talk on Instagram and it would be great to catch up and see him. There were some game shows and we were friends with the game show hosts with the slime and all that, but nobody we kept any long-lasting relationships with. I do know when we were filming at Universal Studios in Orlando, though, we became friends with a lot of the performers – the musical performers in the theme park. We didn’t have e-mail back then or social media so unless you were really good at being a pen pal and keeping up with letter writing or typewriting letters, you know, connections kind of got lost so…it’s too bad. It would have been a whole different thing in this day and age but it was what it was.

I’m gonna slip a completely self-serving question in here and hope nobody notices. To the best of your knowledge – has Ryan ever visited Notes From the Avalon?

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know. I’m gonna say probably not. I wish he did because it’s great and you did a freaking great job and I’m so glad I got it to the writer/creator. I don’t know if he’s written you back after reading it. He’s going through some personal stuff with the family right now but hopefully when he gets time…um, Ryan – I kept in touch with him for a long while. He was a great, great guy, we were really good friends right after the show ended for a good 7 or 8 years. He came and hung oot with me in New York, he hung oot with me in L.A. I introduced him – it’s on my IMDB, I don’t know how it got there or who knew it – but I introduced him to Rich Ruccolo, the guy that starred with him in 2 Guys, A Girl & A Pizza Place. They both came to my house on Valentine’s Day one year because I was single, Rich had just caught his girlfriend cheating on him and Ryan’s girlfriend was in France, I think, at the time, so it was like the Lonely Hearts Valentine’s Night. I introduced them that night and then less than a year later, they’re both starring in a TV show, a sitcom, together, so that was crazy. Then when he dated Alanis, I was still in touch with Ryan at that point but unfortunately, when he went on to date Scarlett Johansson, a lot of ties with his old buds were cut off. But then Blake (Lively) was in town in Vancouver while I was in Vancouver – she was doing a movie here and I know Ryan came to visit her and Chris Martin who played Dylan had a small part in Blake’s movie “Age of Adaline” and so our makeup artist on Fifteen was also the makeup artist on this movie so she told me to come to set and I missed Ryan that day because I got there too late but I did say hi to Blake and she told me that “the boys” were talking aboot me all day so that’s kinda the last I spoke to him. You know, he’s busy in his life – lots of kids, Hollywood, that kind of thing, but he’s a great guy with a great heart and I’m so glad he keeps giving Canada a good name. I send nothing but love to him.

Had your life not taken the trajectory that it did and you had never broken into acting, what career do you guess you would have pursued? Is this something that still interests you?

YES – okay, in my next life or maybe when I quit acting and realize I have to give it up for – it feels like an addiction – I was gonna say “for my health”, but I was always thinking of going back to school. I love art, I love galleries, I love Renaissance art, I love Impressionist art, I love all of it, so I would love to work in a museum as an art appraiser or in a gallery or something. I would love to go on archeological digs — an archeologist. All those kinds of things – again, history and arts and culture. But you know, I’ve been very lucky in my life because I have done other things than acting. I have an equally fulfilling career as a makeup artist, which I love. I did it in the fashion industry in New York for a long time and now I do all kinds of projects makeup-wise and I teach and I love that; and I teach acting and I love teaching. Teaching brings me so much joy, so I will be doing that for the rest of my life, for sure, and helping young artists find their truth and their voice and guiding them in directions so that they don’t get hurt and damaged along the way. I love my voice work that I’ve done, my voice career – I wish it was singing. I used to do musical theater back in the day but then I went to New York and realized I don’t have 1/100 of what those people have on Broadway. So I meant voices in cartoons and video game acting. I just feel so blessed and lucky to be able to do so many amazing, fun things. I guess I felt like I had no choice because I didn’t think I could do anything else! So there you go…when you’re limited, sometimes there’s a silver lining to thinking you’re limited. But yeah…art appraisal, museum.

Before I took it upon myself to usurp somebody else’s fictional characters, did you ever imagine what grown-up Brooke’s life might look like? What details – family, career, habits, general personality – did you imagine for her?

Oh my gosh! No, it scared me to think aboot what Brooke would be. Brooke would be everything I cannot stand in a person. She is so far from what I want my life to look like or me to carry myself as, but then again, that’s why it made it so much fun to play. I loved what you wrote for Brooke – I completely saw that for her. The only way Brooke would have changed is if there was some major trauma or something that happened in her life where she literally hit rock bottom. So if someone died who was close to her, she got sick and didn’t think she was gonna live, or she lost a child or something horrific would have had to happen to make her realize that her life was like First World problems and, you know, there was more to life than the drama she causes. She was very insecure, obviously, and needed to feel like she always had to impress people or be feared. So no, it would take a lot to have changed her but I would have hoped she would have gone to some major therapy and found a heart that was kind and decided to kill people with kindness, not with cattiness, and become a good person but…chances are, she might not have been, which would have made her an awesome adult villain in an adult soap or some kind of other dramatic series. But nonetheless, I would love to play her in your series one day – yes. (NFTA: No one else would do!)

This one’s not really a question, but a request. Tell us something good. Exciting news, an inspirational message or just general silliness…anything at all.

I have my health. I have my life. I have my family. I have my friends. I have a roof over my head. I have food to eat. And I woke up today. So to me, honestly, what more do you need? I am one of the luckiest people on the face of the Earth. So that’s as good as it gets. I wish it were far more fun or silly or anecdotal but that’s it! I’m pretty much happy and filled with gratitude every day to have that. It’s what I want and it’s what I need. And if I were to die tomorrow, then please know I died happy and satisfied and fulfilled. But please don’t let this be a self-fulfilling prophecy because I still have so many things to do! That’s it. Fighting for my passions, loving raising my daughter who is now 20 years old and my best human being friend and everything else in the entire world — my confidante. I feel like I have so much more to do, and I will! Let’s keep talking, Guys. I want to hear your stories. I love people, I love life, I love life experiences. That’s where I’m gonna leave it.

A Word From Deadpool

Deadpool-2

Hey, Kids.

All good things must come to an end. Nearly a year and a half has elapsed since Notes From The Avalon’s glorious inception and honestly, there’s not much more that can be said aboot the phenomenon that is Fifteen.

Right?

Wrong, Suckahs! Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with the lovely, talented and inimitable Robyn Ross to be posted on NFTA within the next few weeks! Yep. That’s how frigging cool she is.

So that’s exciting. But it will also be the last post on this page…except for the temporary one that will follow it announcing a brand new blog page whose subject matter is as yet TBD. But whatever topic I ultimately choose, it will be funny, because I have lost interest in anything and everything that’s not funny.

But of course, everything’s funny, isn’t it? How’s that for spoiling a spoiler?

It’s been 564 days since I’ve had a job and I look like a hippie because I don’t see the point in going to the barber under these circumstances. But I can still make an N65 respirator mask look sexy as fuck, and that’s really all that matters.

 

Listen Up!

billjake

Yeah, I know. Everything sucks ass to such a ludicrous degree that to elucidate it further would be a horribly tedious endeavor. But while a retarded racist demagogue continues to preside over my plague-stricken nation, I’ve been temporarily shielding my eyes and letting my laptop collect dust while I chill with my dog and await November with a sort of tired resignation.

Like I said…I know.

So what, you may ask, inspired this unlikely post in the midst of such a self-imposed online vow of silence? Well, it was brought to my attention today that Seasons 1 – 3 of Fifteen are now available on Amazon Prime! That’s right, Hillside fans, all the seasons that matter of the greatest TV show of all-time have finally resumed their rightful place in the cultural pantheon.

Go. Watch it. Now. Here’s that handy link again: Fifteen!

Shoo.

That’s A Wrap

brooke and kelly

If there’s one thing I’ve learned aboot the modern animal we call “the blogger”, it’s that most of them never know when to shut the hell up.

Illustrative of this point: Notes From The Avalon came to its official conclusion a few days ago with the final post of the reunion story (and for those who thought Requiem was the final post, you ain’t done until you’ve sat through the credits, like any good discriminating viewer). And yet, here I am again, blabbing away. See what I mean?

So what comes next? Well, for one thing, I’m just going to keep on paying my annual URL fees to ensure that NFTA lives on for the betterment of future generations. As far as my next writing venture is concerned, I haven’t a clue what (or when) it shall be, nor do I particularly care at the moment. But whatever it is, I’m certain it will have a WordPress destination of its own and I’ll make sure to get the word oot whenever that comes to fruition.

The real reason I’m choosing to tie NFTA up in a nice little bow with this gratuitous epilogue is that I noticed something kind of interesting within a Ryan Reynolds promotional video on YouTube this morning. While researching various cast members throughoot NFTA’s run, I got the distinct impression that Mr. Reynolds isn’t very keen on reminiscing aboot the very show that enabled him to break into show biz. Why did I have this impression? Well, because he just doesn’t talk aboot it. Ever. Until today, albeit with great subtlety. Normally, I would post the whole video here, since Ryan’s stuff is always hysterical, but this one was just a little promo for some company or another, so it contained fewer jokes than most. Just take a close look at this screen shot of Ryan’s PC desktop, especially where my artistically-rendered arrow is pointing:

ryan desktop

Yup. Right there in the upper right hand corner for all to see is an icon named ‘Best of FIFTEEN.mov’.

And if it’s good enough for Deadpool, it’s sure as shit good enough for you. Now stop reading this nonsense and go watch Fifteen. That’s an order.

It’s truly humbling how kind and supportive of this silly little venture of mine you’ve all been. With that in mind, I have just one more favor to ask: please take that kindness and spread it around. A lot of people could really use it right now.

Happy trails.

 

The Credits!

credit deadpool

Phew! That was one hell of a ride, wasn’t it, Kids?

At the conclusion of this magnum opus, it occurs to me that I am a 50 year old man who spent the better part of the last four months channeling his inner Tina Belcher, though I doubt I could ever match the sheer titillation of her criminally misunderstood erotic fan fiction.

fan fiction

And since you’ve come this far, why not stick around for the credits, eh? If you read all the way to the end, you might just be pleasantly surprised. You might also be in serious need of a social life, but who am I to judge?

Some Douchebag’s Miniseries

Starring God’s Perfect Idiot

A Few Hot Chicks

A Moody Teen

More Gratuitous Cameos Than I Can Count

Produced by:
Asshats

Written by:
The Real Hero Here

Directed by:
An Overpaid Tool

The Cast

Dylan Blackwell……….Christopher Martin

Ashley Walker……….Laura Harris

Matt Walker……….Todd Talbot

Chris McDonald……….Andrew Baskin

Roxane Lee……….Roxane Alexander

Brooke Morgan-Hoffman……….Robyn Ross

Courtney Simpson……….Sarah Nakatsuka (Douglas)

Bill Simpson……….Ryan Reynolds Hugh Jackman

Arseman Harrell……….Arseman Yohannes

Jake Deosdade……….Ken Angel

Stacy Collins……….Lisa Warner

Janice Patel……….Rekha Shah

Theresa Morgan-Reid……….Janine Cox

Kelly Lavoie……….Enuka Okuma

Jerry Dalla-Vecchia……….Randy Dalla-Vecchia

Tabitha Hoffman……….Cree Cicchino

Elliot Hoffman……….Chris Parnell

Isabelle Simpson……….Blake Lively

Valerie Lavoie……….Lisa Bonet

Nia Lavoie……….A Baby with Shitty Parents

Sister Regina……….Kristin Schaal

Craig……….Kevin Connolly

Leslie……….Aubrey Plaza

Olaf Koskinen……….Aubrey Nealon

Anna Koskinen……….Emily Ratajkowski

Barbara……….Miranda Cosgrove

Tony……….Jed Carpenter

Ben……….Bill Burr

Marjorie……….Allison Janney

Judge……….Ryan Stiles

James……….Patton Oswalt

Cindy……….Ahnee Boyce

John……….John Boyd

Marvel……….Marvel

Merci Beaucoup: David Makowski, Suzanne Craig-Whytock, Dave Cline, Tom C., and of course, Randy Dalla-Vecchia and Robyn Ross.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                

 

 

 

Fifty: Requiem

cemetary

Episode 8: Finale

Lonsdale Quay Market
North Vancouver, B.C.

“Arseman, you’ve been scouring that goddamn rack of sunglasses for 20 minutes.”

“I don’t remember bitching aboot your 45-minute quest for the perfect feather boa, Jake.  Like you said, this will be the first time most of these people have seen us in over 25 years – we’ve gotta look fabulous, Babe!”

“It’s a nighttime concert.  In a club.  Nobody understands the importance of accessorizing more than I do, Hon, but sunglasses?”

“Good point.  Let’s go grab an Orange Julius and plot our next move.”

They strolled over to the mall directory and scanned the food court choices.

No Orange Julius? Pfft. How aboot ‘Muffin Delight’?”

“That might work as your new stage name back in The Village, Jake, but I think I’ll pass on lunch today if our only option is mall muffins.”

“Oh, you’re such a little princess, Arseman.”

“Don’t you forget it.”

“Cocktail lounge?”

“Attagirl!”

They weaved their way between the kiosks to the bar near the main entrance and sat down at a small table in the back.

“So…do you think Courtney will show up tomorrow night?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Jake.  I know she apologized, but I honestly don’t know what got into her.”

“I do.”

“You do?”

“Arseman, what do you think happens to a person when they enter a convent directly oot of high school?”

“Hmm…I guess the world has kind of passed her by, huh?”

“Right.  She’s not exactly experienced in dealing with unpredictability.  Imagine a sudden taste of romance going south so quickly for such a…?”

“Such an ‘adult’ reason?”

“Well stated.”

A waitress came by and took their drink orders.

“I’m gonna have to detox for a week after we get back home.”

“That makes two of us.  Hey, Jake, speaking of the concert, I was wondering if Ashley might show up.”

“I think it’s a given.  She’s in town, Matt’s in rehab, Janice probably sent invites to the whole class and…”

“…and Dylan’s the opening act.”

“I feel like we’ve fallen down some fucked up rabbit hole, Arseman, where everything we thought was done and over with is returning in a zombified form to punish us for daring to break the centrifugal pull of Vancouver.”

“Drama Queen.  Besides, you don’t escape to New York, Jake…you get banished there.”

*************************

Cascade Southeast
Vancouver, B.C.

Janice struck a profile pose in front of the floor length mirror and leveled a threatening eye at the imaginary crowd assembled in front of her.

She’d rehearsed her mid-show polemic so many times that she had it committed to memory, but the bitterness she’d harbored for the past quarter of a century had grown like a tapeworm, feeding lustily upon her steady success and starving for the day it could at last spew its toxic contents upon those who had conjured it in the first place.

Humiliating Dylan would be easy.  Amanda and Courtney had yet to RSVP but Janice was fairly confident that any no-shows from her list of special invitees would at least watch the TV broadcast. Brooke…to Janice, she represented the very embodiment of cruelty.  Inhumanity. Nothing less than a dose of her own inhuman medicine would do.

Tomorrow, Janice would finally be triumphant.

*************************

Whistler, B.C.

Courtney skipped down the stairs and called oot for Billy.

“In here, Courtney.”

She walked into the kitchen and found Billy leaning against the counter smoking a joint.

“Oops…sorry, Sis.”

He waved his arms exaggeratedly through the cloud of smoke he’d just exhaled, causing Courtney to chuckle.

“It’s no problem, Billy, I’ve smelled pot before.  But um…do you think I can borrow the car again today?”

“Sure. Where you headed?”

“To the convent.  I called Mother Judy this morning and asked her if there was any way I could return to the Order.”

“Oh yeah? Have a little chat with the Big Guy, did you?”

“Something like that. It’s so weird and exhilarating at the same time, Billy!  That faith – that unshakable and unquestionable faith I prayed so hard to feel all those years just came to me in a flash of light. I know it sounds ridiculous, but—”

“Courtney, give me a little credit.  I don’t think it sounds ridiculous at all. Will they take you back?”

“Well, yeah, but it’s a little complicated. The Church never actually considers a person free from their original ordination, but some paperwork has to go back and forth between the parish and Rome for me to return to my full sisterhood duties.”

Full Sisterhood Duties. That gives me a pretty creepy idea to pitch to the studio heads.”

Courtney burst oot laughing.

“Stop it, Billy! Can I please have the car keys?”

“On the hook in the garage.”

“Thanks, Billy! I love you!”

Courtney trotted oot of the kitchen with as much enthusiasm as Marvel when he knows he’s going for a ride. A few moments later, Isabelle appeared at the kitchen door with her arms folded.

Billy?

“Izzy?”

“Whatever that UFO-looking monstrosity is that you have sitting in the yard frightening the neighbors and decimating our property value, Marvel just pissed on it.”

Goddammit, Marvel! I better not have to pay for that thing. It’s surprisingly expensive for a UFO-looking monstrosity.”

“Uh, stupid question here but what the hell is it?”

“It’s a special effects device I, um…‘borrowed’ from the studio.”

Isabelle rolled her eyes.

“Okay, you’re gonna make me play 20 questions, right?”

“Alright, I’ll spill it. I knew Courtney wouldn’t be able to handle what happened with Matt and I knew it was only a matter of time until she found oot. Besides, even if she hadn’t, my sister just isn’t equipped for, well…life in the twenty-first century, I guess.  I don’t mean to sound so condescending.”

“No, you’re right and it makes sense, all things considered. But I’m still not any clearer on the purpose of the fucking Death Star in the backyard.”

“Up until the last few months before she left the convent, Courtney might not have led what you and I would consider a terribly exciting life, but she always sounded content when we talked.  Whatever it was that caused her to question her religious beliefs in the first place, I had a feeling it wouldn’t take much to overpower it.”

“What did you do, Bill?”

“Well, the Millennium Falcon oot there — thank you very much – is what they use when they need to have a ghost grow from a speck of light to a room-filling specter, for instance. Or, say, if one of those insufferable Kirk Cameron movies needs an angel to dramatically appear to one of his D-list cast as they’re at the bedside deep in prayer.”

“Bill, you didn’t!”

“I lugged it against the back of the house this morning, but I had to have it way oot in the yard last night so the projection would reach her room.  I think I killed a big circle of lawn.”

“You may be a lawn murderer, but you’re still the sweetest man on Earth. Do you realize you actually gave your sister a miracle, you wonderful son of a bitch?”

“I’ll take the sweetest man on Earth and wonderful son of a bitch, but I didn’t give her a miracle, Babe. No such thing. I helped her get her illusion back. That’s all anything is that makes us feel our lives have meaning and sadly, I think that’s what most of us have lost. But Courtney hasn’t. And I just think something that rare…should be preserved. Don’t you?”

“Absolutely.”

*************************

Vancouver International Airport

“Tabitha!”

Theresa waved an arm at the crowd of passengers spilling oot of the gate until Tabitha spotted her.

“Hi, Aunt Theresa!”

“It’s so great to see you! This is Stacy, a friend of your mom’s.”

“I know, we met at the awards ceremony. Thanks for coming oot here with Mom.”

“It’s my pleasure, Sweetheart. Your mom is an amazing person.”

“Do you need to go down to the baggage claim?”

“No, this is all I brought.”

They walked oot to the parking deck and silently piled into Theresa’s SUV. As they pulled onto Grant McConachie Way, Tabitha twisted around to face Stacy in the backseat.

“I want you to level with me. How bad is she?”

Taken by surprise, Stacy paused hoping that Theresa would cut into the conversation, but she was distractedly singing along to a song by The Tragically Hip playing on The Peak.

“Honey, it’s not good. But your mother is strong and if anyone can beat this—”

Tears were streaming down Tabitha’s cheeks and Stacy’s words caught in her throat. They rode on to the hospital in silence.

************************* 

Options Vancouver Treatment Centre
North Vancouver, B.C.

Ashley sat on the stone steps at the rear of the clinic reading Brooke’s letter for the sixth time since it had arrived in the morning mail. Try as she might, she couldn’t square the beautiful words of regret and admiration it contained from what she remembered of its author. The door opened behind her and Matt stepped ootside carrying two Styrofoam cups.

“Good morning, Ashley. I brought you a coffee.”

“hi, matt. thanks.”

“What are you reading?  Am I interrupting?”

“no. you’re not going to believe this, but it’s a letter from brooke.”

“Brooke? Brooke Morgan?!”

“the one and only.”

“Holy shit! What does it say?”

“well, for starters…brooke has cancer.”

The smile slowly faded from Matt’s face.

“Oh.”

“but then…she goes on to apologize for how she treated me in high school and for never taking the time to get to know me. she sounds so sincere, matt. this letter might be the most beautiful thing anyone has ever written to me.”

“Wow. I’ve gotta be honest, even being back in Vancouver all this time, Brooke just never crossed my mind. How did she know you were here?”

“i don’t know. but she seems to know you’re here, too. she said that any love that could last as long as ours has is worth fighting for and that maybe fate put us here for a reason.”

“Huh. She might just have a point. Don’t you think?”

Ashley sighed and looked at Matt for a long moment.

“yeah. but what if it’s too late for that?”

“Why would it be too late?”

“come on, matt. just look at what both of us did in only one month apart.”

“Maybe that was the problem. Being apart. Look, Ashley, I know you’ll probably always have some feelings for Dylan just like I always will for Courtney. But there’s a big difference between infatuation, sexual tension, drunken hook-ups…and true love. I think we have that, Ashley. Don’t you?”

“of course. but we need to have trust, too, matt…and i’m not sure i’m ready to take that risk again.”

Matt made a sweeping gesture of the hospital grounds.

“That’s what this is all aboot, Ashley. I might not have what it takes to be a TV star, but I know a thing or two aboot recovery. We’re here to rebuild trust – in ourselves and each other. It won’t happen overnight, but if we really try, Ashley – I think you’ll find that Brooke’s words were very wise. I’m up for the fight if you are.”

A solitary tear ran down Ashley’s cheek as she took Matt’s hand between hers.

“how aboot we start with a date?”

“A date?”

“yeah. i hear there’s a concert being broadcast tomorrow night at 8:00 in the ward 3 lounge. it would be a shame to have to watch it alone.”

Matt put his arm around Ashley’s shoulder as they sat on the steps staring oot at the woods beyond the fence wishing this moment would never end.

*************************

The Venue – Downtown
Vancouver, B.C.
April 23, 2022

Dylan sat on the stage restringing his guitar when Jerry bumbled through the door carrying three bulky cases of liquor.

“Don’t get up, Dylan. I wouldn’t want you to hurt your precious little fingers.”

Dylan jumped off the stage to lend a hand but Jerry had already made his way behind the bar where he began to unpack the boxes.

“So, Jerry, when do you expect The New Pornographers will get here?”

“Some time between now and 8:30, I guess. Why? Don’t even think aboot harassing the band with stupid fanboy shit, Dylan. You’re a professional now.”

Dylan’s cell phone rang, so he turned from the bar to take the call as Jerry eavesdropped.

“Hey, Baby! How are you making oot?”

Jerry watched as Dylan’s expression slowly transformed from happy to pensive to despondent.

“No, Ashley…don’t apologize. I’m the one who should be sorry. Matt is your husband and I had no right to come between you.”

With a look of mild concern, Jerry turned and walked back into the kitchen so Dylan could finish his phone call in private.

“Say hi to Matt for me, okay? I love you, Ashley.”

Dylan stood dazed in the middle of the empty dance floor when Jerry reappeared and called oot to him.

“It’s gonna be okay, you know.”

“What is?”

“Everything. You’re a rock star now, Dylan. There’ll be other women – hell, more than you can handle, if that’s your thing.”

“No, Jerry. That’s not my thing. And there won’t be another woman like Ashley.”

“You’re gonna be okay tonight, right?”

“Of course, Jerry.”

“I hope so. Don’t fuck this up, Dylan.”

“Hey, you know what they say – the show must go on.

*************************

Broadband TV Corporate Headquarters
Vancouver, B.C.

Janice was lost in thought at her desk when she was startled by Barbara’s voice from the intercom.

“What is it, Barb?”

“There’s a visitor waiting in the lobby for you.”

“Who is it?”

“Her name is Stacy Collins. She says she’s an old friend of yours from high school.”

“Send her in, Barb.”

A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Stacy entered and took a seat across from Janice.

“Stacy! What a surprise! I guess you got my invite to the show?”

“Hi, Janice. Yeah, I got your e-mail. Do you have a minute to talk?”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“You remember Brooke from Hillside, right?”

“Of course. I sent her an invitation, too. I’m really hoping she makes it to the concert tonight.”

“She won’t be there.”

Janice furrowed her brow in annoyance.

“That’s too bad. I actually had something…special planned for Brooke. Why can’t she make it?”

Stacy paused to gather herself.

“Janice…Brooke passed away last night.”

They sat in silence while Stacy waited for Janice to react, but she just stared blankly ahead. Stacy opened her purse and pulled oot a folded piece of paper.

“She was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, so she asked me to drive oot here with her from Toronto so she could…make things right with a few people.”

For the first time since Stacy had arrived, Janice’s countenance began to soften.

“And I suppose that I was one of those people?”

“Yes. Brooke wanted to do so much more, Janice, but the cancer just got so bad so fast that there wasn’t even a point in starting chemo.” She unfolded the piece of paper and pushed it across the desk. “So she asked me to do her a favor. Brooke gave me a wad of cash to donate to Hillside.”

“To Hillside? Why?”

“She asked them to refurbish the entire athletic wing, install modernized volleyball courts…and dedicate it to you.”

Janice’s hands began to shake as she read the dedication to be engraved on a plaque at the entrance to the gymnasium.

This Athletic Complex is dedicated to Janice Patel, Class of 1992, who exhibited the virtues of humility, honesty and teamwork in all she did and served as an inspiration to all who met her.

“Stacy?”

“Mm hm?”

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

“I almost did something really stupid and…”

“And?”

“Just…thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Janice.”

*************************

The Venue – Downtown

The club was packed from wall to wall as the cameramen from Broadband jockeyed for prime positions. A small area a few rows back from the stage was cordoned off with placards indicating “VIP Section”. Scattered among the four tables within the velvet ropes were Arseman, Jake, Billy, Isabelle, Courtney, Sister Regina, Roxane, Cindy, John and Stacy. Dual spotlights danced across the empty stage.

The house music stopped and Dylan along with the rest of the band appeared from backstage. He strapped on his guitar and stepped up to the mic.

“Hey, thanks for coming oot tonight, Everyone! We’re Black Well and…well, if you dig us half as much as you’re gonna dig The New Pornographers, then I guess we’re doing something right.  We’re gonna play you some brand new material tonight, but first, I’d like to revisit and hopefully breathe some new life into an old classic. This one’s for all my friends from Hillside.”

1 – 2- 3- 4!

Well, I’m too tired to try but I’m too young to die
But Mama ain’t around no more
to hear me cry

‘Cause I’m fifty! And now the shit has come down
yeah, when you’re fifty years old,
behind every smile is a frown

By the time the band reached the bridge, the entire VIP section was dancing on the tabletops, even Courtney and Regina whose clumsy, self-conscious foot tapping was oddly juxtaposed with Jake’s full-on “Miss Jacqueline” shimmy.

After aboot a half hour, Black Well finished their set and the house lights came on for the intermission.  As Dylan was putting his equipment away, Roxane approached the stage.

“Damn, Dylan…you guys were on fire.”

“Thanks, Roxane.”

“So, uh…what are you doing after the show?”

“I hadn’t really thought aboot it.”

“Where’s Ashley?”

“I think you know the answer to that, Roxane.”

“Whatever it is you’re implying, Dylan…oh, the hell with it. You’re right. I’m a fucking cunt and I tried to screw up your little romance, okay?”

“Yeah. I know. And no, to tell you the truth, it’s not okay.”

“I’m sorry, Dylan. I don’t know what else to say. I hope you have a lot of success.”

Roxane turned and started walking towards the exit.

“Roxane!”

She turned around and saw Dylan hurriedly descending the stage.

“Wait. If you, uh, want to stick around for the second half of the show, I wouldn’t mind going for coffee afterwards. If you’re up for that.”

Roxane grasped his hand and smiled.

All of a sudden, the house lights dimmed and a single spotlight shone at center stage. Janice strolled oot and positioned herself in front of Dylan’s microphone stand.

“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen! My name is Janice and on behalf of Broadband TV, I’d like to thank all of you for being here tonight for this special premier concert event. The New Pornographers will be coming on shortly, but in the meantime, I’d like to say a few words. I had what I guess you could say was a radically different speech planned for tonight, but thankfully, I received some new inspiration from an old friend.”

She caught Stacy’s eye and smiled.

“So now I have a different, much shorter speech to give. I would like to dedicate tonight’s show and all future broadcasts of Live From The Venue to Brooke Morgan, who passed away last night after a long battle with cancer. One of Brooke’s last acts was to resurrect an old high school acquaintance’s faith in humanity…probably the best gift a person can receive. That acquaintance is me. For anyone who remembers Brooke, I hope that you will allow her to live on as an inspiration and a reminder that it’s never too late to change things for the better. I know I always will.”

Janice waved at the audience and walked off stage. The VIP Section broke into hushed murmurs.

“Sister Courtney, did you know this Brooke?”

“Yeah, Regina, I did.”

“God rest her soul.”

“To be honest, she was a bit of a thorn in my side…in everyone’s really. But something tells me that’s not how she died. I mean, if Janice was moved to say all that aboot a person who used to treat her so terribly, then she was probably trying to make amends…before it was too late.”

“How sad!”

“No, Regina. It’s tragic.”

*************************

Empowering Women, B.C. Headquarters
Vancouver, B.C.

Six Months Later

Kelly unlocked her office door, took off her coat and booted up the PC. A few moments later, she looked up and saw Theresa standing in the doorway.

“Good morning, Kel.”

“Oh, hey, Theresa. Good morning.”

“How was your weekend?”

“Full of shitty diapers, as usual. Yours?”

“Not bad. Tabitha sent me a package…she wanted me to give something to you.”

Theresa reached into her purse and pulled oot a Polaroid photo with yellowing edges. She handed it to Kelly.

“Oh my God. This is me and Brooke right before the school dance.”

“Can you believe the god-awful shit we wore back then?”

“Hey, at least Brooke and I tried to make the most of it, Garanimals Gal!”

“Shut up! I liked my Garanimals.”

Kelly laughed. “Maybe I’ll give Tabitha a call after work to see how she’s doing.”

“I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.”

Theresa turned to leave.

“Hey, Theresa?”

“Yeah, Kel?”

“Thank you.”

As Theresa walked back towards the elevators, Kelly grabbed the framed photo of Denzel Washington she kept on her desk and removed the backing. She pulled the picture from the frame and held it up.

“Sorry, Denzel. I love you, Baby, but you’ve been demoted.”

She took the photo Theresa had given her and placed it carefully in the center of the frame before positioning it prominently at the front of her desk.

“And I love you, too, Brooke. I promise I won’t ever let you down.”

 

-Finis-

 

Fifty: Interventions

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site

Episode 7, Part 2

Whistler, B.C.

Courtney entered through the back door and took the rear stairwell straight up to her bedroom.  She slipped off her shoes and tiptoed around the room in order to prevent Billy and Isabelle from hearing her as she changed into her bed clothes.

She had cried her tear ducts dry on the drive home, unable to process the oppressive mixture of shame and embarrassment in which her mind was shrouded.  Sitting in the driveway, she shot off a quick apology text to Arseman and Jake, knowing full well that this feeble gesture was pathetically inadequate in the wake of the childish tantrum to which she’d treated them.

With shaking hands, she made the sign of the cross and knelt at the bedside.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.

Courtney’s mind took over at the conclusion of the prayer.

God, why did you make me like this?  Why would you give a grown woman a child’s mind and then take her faith away?  Please give me guidance, Lord.  I’m lost and scared.

She knelt in silence for a few more moments when she noticed a dim ray of light beaming through the window above the bed.  The ray terminated in a small circle of illumination on the hardwood floor.  From the corner of her eye, Courtney thought she saw movement within the circle of light, so she got up close to investigate.

Starting as a golden pinpoint of brilliance in the center of the circle, the image moved and grew, expanding the beam’s circumference until it filled the entire room with stunning white light.  Courtney was momentarily blinded, but as her vision began to return she was startled by an image of a large dove resting in mid-flight with an occasional gentle flapping of its wings to stay aloft at eye level.  Just as suddenly, she felt overcome with rapturous joy as tears streamed down her face.

Courtney knew she had seen the Holy Spirit.  With a fresh resolve and rejuvenated heart, she made the sign of the cross one last time before going downstairs.

*************************

Ridge Meadows Hospital
Maple Ridge, B.C.

Brooke’s eyes fluttered open on Theresa and Stacy sitting on either side of the railed hospital bed.  She tried to speak, but the most she could manage was a barely perceptible smile.

“Don’t try to talk if you’re not feeling up to it, Brooke.”

She felt some strength return to her limbs at the sight of her sister and her friend, so with considerable effort, she raised herself up on her elbows and leaned back against the headboard.

“Thanks for coming, guys.”

“We had a talk with the doctor before we came in.  It sounds like they sure put you through the wringer today.”

“That’s how it works, right?  The worse you feel, the more invasive they are.  Was that all she told you?”

Theresa nervously cleared her throat.

“No.  They told us that the cancer has metastasized.”

“It’s in my spinal cord, Theresa.  Do you really need me to spell oot the prognosis?”

Stacy attempted to stifle a sob.

“You better get that all oot right now, Stace, because you’ve got work to do.”

“I know, Brooke.”

“This is my fight, Stacy, and we all knew it was coming.  I just wanted to be…a little further along before it came to this.”

Stacy bit her lip and dabbed a tear from the corner of her eye.

“The papers from the CRA came back today.  Empowering Women, B.C. is officially incorporated.”

“Oh, thank goodness.  Okay, you know what to do when it comes to Kelly.  Any luck tracking down Ashley?  Or Janice?”

“Actually, yeah.  I was just gonna bring you up to speed on those two.  Janice is the programming director for Broadband TV in Vancouver.  As far as Ashley’s concerned…you’re not gonna believe this.”

“Try me.”

“Would you believe that for the next 28 days, she’ll be living in a drug rehab?”

“Excuse me?”

“No joke.  I can’t help but wonder how you would have reacted to news like this back in high school.”

“Who says I’m not laughing on the inside, Stace?  Making amends doesn’t mean you have to lose your sense of humor, you know.  But this is good…I can work with this.  You didn’t happen to bring your laptop, did you?”

“No, I left it at Theresa’s.”

“Okay, then grab a pen and paper.  I hope you know shorthand because you’re aboot to transcribe a pretty lengthy letter for me.”

“To Ashley?”

“No, to Justin Trudeau.  Of course, to Ashley!  Don’t ask stupid questions, Stacy.”

A smile spread across Stacy’s face.

“Now that’s my Brooke!”

*************************

North Vancouver, B.C.

Kelly was watching TV when Valerie came back in holding a stack of mail.

“Hey, Sis?”

“Yeah.”

“There’s some mail for you here, I think.”

“You think?”

“Well, it’s your name on the envelope, but then it further identifies you as the Chief Operating Officer of some place called Empowering Women, B.C.”

What?

Valerie tossed the envelope at her sister.  Kelly opened it with her fingernail and pulled oot the form letter from the Non-Profit Division of the Canadian Revenue Agency.

“You’re not gonna believe this.”

“What does it say?”

“It says that I’m the COO of a charity for battered women.”

“Boy, your drunken blackoots are sure a lot more productive than mine.”

“Funny.  I’m not in the habit of drunk-incorporating, Val.  Whatever this is, Brooke is behind it.”

“Brooke?  You think it’s a gag?”

“I’m not sure.  I doubt it.  She was really different than I remembered her when we got together a few weeks ago.  This is either a naïve gesture to repair her image, or…”

“Or what?”

“Or a motherfucking miracle, Valerie.”

*************************

Options Vancouver Treatment Centre
North Vancouver, B.C.

The group of new admissions sat silently in folding chairs arranged in a circle when the Hospital Intake Director entered and walked to the front of the conference room.  She handed a stack of pamphlets with the facility regulations to the man sitting closest to her and asked him to pass them around.

“Good afternoon, Everyone.  Welcome to the Options Vancouver Treatment Centre.  My name is Marjorie. Today, you’ve made the choice to change your lives for the better and I think you all deserve a hand for that.  Come on, give yourselves a round of applause!”

After a smattering of half-hearted hand claps, she resumed the orientation.

“For the next 28 days, you will be working with our incredible team of counselors, psychologists and, of course, each other in your journey to recovery.  You’ll learn to live with dignity and honesty as you rebuild your lives and forge new, healthy relationships with people who are on the same path.  We subscribe to the twelve-step recovery program, so you’ll be able to network with other recovering addicts and alcoholics while receiving personalized counseling from members of our staff.  I know this is an intimidating time, but it’s also the beginning of your life free from the shame, fear and insecurity that are part and parcel to the disease of addiction.   I’d like to begin by going around the room and having everyone introduce themselves.”

She motioned to the man on her right.

“My name is James.  I’m an alcoholic.”

“Hi, James.”

The group’s eyes turned to the woman sitting next to James.  She sat with her head down and her hands folded in her lap.

“Ma’am?”

“oh, sorry.  ashley.  i’m…a drug addict.”

“Hi, Ashley.”

They continued going around the circle until a man walked into the room and apologized to Marjorie for arriving late.

“That’s alright, Sir.  Please take a seat.  We were all just going around introducing ourselves.”

“Ah, right.  My name is Matt and I’m an alcoholic.”

The quiet woman sitting next to James let oot an audible gasp.

Ashley??”

Marjorie looked at Matt with confusion.

“I’m sorry, do you two know each other?”

“You could say that.”

“Oh?”

“We’re married.”

Matt glanced over at Ashley, who was staring at him with her mouth agape.

“Hiya, Hon.  So what have you been up to lately?”

Fifty: Lopun Alku

porvoo

Episode 7, Part 1

Porvoo, Finland

Anna walked into the den and found Olaf staring wistfully oot the window in the direction of the grain silo at the far end of the property.

“Please tell me you’re not contemplating another useless overhaul of that decrepit silo, Olaf.  I don’t think I can stand another summer watching you toil the afternoons away on that eyesore.”

“Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning any new projects, just…thinking.”

“What aboot?”

“I got a very curious e-mail this morning from someone named Janice.”

Anna shot Olaf a look of mock suspicion.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes, she lives in Vancouver and went to the same high school that I attended as an exchange student when I was 15.”

“Was she a friend of yours?”

“No.  She says she enrolled at Hillside the year after I left.  I never met her.”

“So what does she want?”

“Take a look.”

Olaf positioned his laptop so she could read over his shoulder.

Dear Mr. Koskinen,

My name is Janice Patel and I am the programming director at Broadband TV in Vancouver, British Columbia.  I understand that you attended Hillside High School as an exchange student for a semester in 1991, just before I transferred there.  My classmates spoke of you often and fondly.

My network will be premiering a new show featuring live music broadcast from a local club in Vancouver.  I am writing to cordially invite you to the performance, which will feature Canadian alternative supergroup The New Pornographers as well as a special guest performance by Black Well, a rock and roll ensemble fronted by one of your former classmates, Dylan Blackwell.

I know this is very short notice, especially considering the travel involved, but if you can possibly attend this special premier concert event, Broadband will pay for your airfare and lodging expenses.  If possible, please RSVP by April 16th so that I have time to make the arrangements for your stay.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Sincerely,

Janice Patel
Programming Director
Broadband TV Corp.

“That sounds exciting.  Are you planning to go?”

Olaf let oot a pronounced guffaw.

“Anna, I think I would rather sleep in that damn silo every night than travel halfway around the world to see those people again.”

“Oh?  This Janice made it sound like they were your friends.”

“That’s what I don’t understand.  I mean, there were one or two people who were nice to me…or at least they refrained from mocking me every time I opened my mouth…but I never really got close to anyone.  I have a feeling there’s more to this than meets the eye.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if Janice is anything like the rest of her former classmates, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find oot that she’s held a grudge aboot something for over a quarter of a century and intends to exact some kind of revenge at this concert.”

“On live TV?”

“You’ve never met anyone more addicted to melodrama and self-pity than these people, Anna.  I’ve always suspected it had something to do with the Vancouver water supply. If one of them has a chance to humiliate her former tormentors on live TV, I bet she’s going to take it, even if it comes 25 years after the fact and jeopardizes her entire career.”

“I see.  Well, if nothing else, it should be interesting…can we at least watch it on TV?”

“You know me, Anna – I love to see a good train wreck.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

*************************

Echo Café
North Vancouver, B.C.

Courtney tapped the excess moisture from her umbrella and walked inside, scanning the café for a familiar face.

“Courtney!  Over here!”

Jake stood up and waved his arms until Courtney spotted him and made her way to the table where he was waiting with Arseman.

“Oh my God, it’s so great to see both of you!!  I can’t believe you’re really here!”

After exchanging hugs, Courtney took a seat across from her old friends.

“We really owe you an apology, Courtney.  Arseman and I have been in town for a couple of weeks, but we just assumed—”

“—that hanging around with a nun probably wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun?”

“No, no…we just thought that maybe you wouldn’t be interested in hearing from the old crowd.  You know, until we heard that you’d left the convent.”

“Well, you were wrong.  I would have been thrilled to hear from you no matter what!  But how did you know I left the convent?”

Arseman nervously twirled a strand of hair between her fingers.

“Matt told us.”

“Oh, you guys saw Matt?”

“Yeah, we did…um, when did you last speak to him, Courtney?”

“Friday.  We went oot to dinner.”

Jake and Arseman fell silent as Courtney tried in vain to understand their ambivalent reaction.

“Courtney…you remember Matt’s problem with…”

Arseman interrupted, deciding it would be best to rip this band-aid off as quickly as possible.

“His alcoholism.”

Courtney looked at her with surprise.

“Well, sure, but that didn’t seem to be an issue anymore.  I asked him aboot it and he told me that he’s been drinking moderately withoot any problems for quite a few years now.”

While Courtney was speaking, Jake pulled up the article from The Sun on his cell phone and passed it across the table.  As she read, her eyes welled up with tears.

“Courtney, I’m so sorry…we didn’t know how else to tell you.  Matt had some drinks with us, too, and it seemed like he had it under control but I still didn’t like it.  Alcoholism doesn’t just disappear with age.”

“Oh, Arseman…he was so kind and romantic…I guess I just didn’t want to face reality, so I took Matt at his word when he said it wasn’t a problem.  Why can’t anything ever…”

Courtney’s voice trailed off as Arseman reached across the table and grasped her hand.

“Courtney, it’s okay.  I’m sure Matt’s feelings for you are genuine…remember, he has an illness.”

Courtney wiped away a tear and sat up resolutely in her seat.

“No, Arseman!  His illness isn’t the problem.  The problem is that Matt Walker is a selfish, lying…asshole – just like everyone else!!”

She got up and grabbed her umbrella from beneath the table.

“Courtney, please, just sit down and let’s—”

“Forget it, Jake!  There’s nothing you can say.  Maybe becoming a nun wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made, but at least it kept me far away from all this bullshit.  I know this isn’t your fault and I know you’re both just trying to help, but please…do me a favor and don’t ever call me again.”

She stormed oot of the café leaving Jake and Arseman in dumbstruck silence.

*************************

Vancouver, B.C.

Dylan walked into the bedroom where Ashley was packing her suitcase.

“How’s it going, Babe?”

“okay, i guess.  this is the first time I’ve ever had to pack for a monthlong stay in a mental institution.”

“It’s a rehab facility, Ashley.  You’re gonna be fine.”

“yeah.  i still don’t think you needed to skip rehearsal. i could have driven myself to the clinic. the show is just two weeks away, dylan.”

“Some things are more important than rock and roll.  Besides, the band is tight.  Jerry set me up with some first-rate musicians.  I just wish you could be there.”

“i’ll be glued to the tv.  if one of those drug addicts tries to change the channel, there’ll be hell to pay.”

Dylan smiled and put his arm around Ashley’s shoulder.

“I’ll visit you every weekend.”

“thanks.  dylan…?”

“Yeah?”

“i know this might sound silly but it’s been bothering me and i really have to ask. where were you last week when i called you?  you know, when you came home and i was…”

“Ashley, I already told you, I stopped by The Venue to have a talk with Jerry and I just lost track of the time.”

“are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.  I swear that’s what happened, Ashley.”

“okay.  i’m sorry, dylan.”

Ashley glanced at her watch.

“we better get going.”

*************************

Provincial Court of British Columbia
Vancouver District

Matt and Craig exited the courthouse and made their way to the parking garage.

“Craig, thanks again for showing up today.”

“No sweat, Matt.  It was the least I could do.  So…28 days in rehab? That’s kind of a drag. Think you’ll get through it okay?”

“Rehab?  Please. I’m an old pro at that one, Craig.  It’s what happens when I get oot that worries me.”

“These judges are suckers for dedicated Twelve Steppers, Matt.  You’ll be fine.”

“I hope so.”

Options Vancouver…it kinda sounds like a gay dating app.”

“Well, I sure hope the name’s deceiving, Craig, because for the next month of my life, it’s home.”

*************************

Maple Ridge, B.C.

Brooke woke up in a cold sweat, the bedsheets clinging to her burning limbs.  Her temples throbbed mercilessly as she tried to sit up but found herself too weak to move.  Theresa and Eddie slept in the adjacent bedroom, but when she tried to call oot, her voice was too weak for them to hear.

She thought of Tabitha and garnered every ounce of strength she could muster to grab her cell phone from the nightstand and shoot off a quick text.

No matter what happens, I am always with you.  I love you with all my heart. 

Before she could send the message, Brooke was overcome with dizziness and the phone dropped from her hand.  Her eyes glazed over as she rolled off the edge of the bed and fell to the hardwood floor with a sickening thud.