A Tire Swing Story is a bite-sized "imagining" inspired by an object I discover while wandering. It could be a curbside trash gem or a message sprayed on a wall. A lost mitten, or an antique store find. Anything goes. I photograph the object and post them together, the story and its inspiration. There will be a new story every Monday and Wednesday. On Fridays, I'll discuss writing, life, love, and coffee. (In no particular order and maybe all at once.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Casual Fridays: The beauty of vulnerability

Hi guys, it's Britt. 
Years ago in film school, my Acting and Directing professor asked the class: "When are people most vulnerable?" 

What are the moments in life when our mask slips? When whatever persona we choose to show the world dissolves. When for a split second, or longer, we are real and exposed? 

She came up with these: 

-When you are sleeping.
-When you truly and wholeheartedly laugh. 
-When you sneeze or cough.
-When you trip, slip, or fall.

I have a soft spot for the moment after someone around me trips (maybe cause it's often me!) It's always vulnerable, and embarrassing, and so real. 

The next time you are out and about and someone around you stumbles, take a moment to notice what happens. Observe with kindness how real that person has suddenly become. 

There's something special about being totally uncool. It inspires other people to let their guard down too, and makes us all a little bit more human. 

What do you think? When was the last time you've been truly vulnerable?

Put yourself out there this weekend, story makers. See you again on Monday. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two owls disguised as statues perch on a gateway leading to a small brick house. 

Shadrach: "Why are we here?" 
Igor: "To keep watch. In case she tries to stay." 
Shadrach: "Would she do that?" 
Igor: "Wouldn't you?"

The moon is rising. Serena wears a simple cotton dress and her feet are bare. Her hair is long and loose down her back. She crosses a schoolyard and feels the dew wetting the bottom of her dress, making it cling to her legs. 

She reaches the sidewalk. The concrete is rough under her soles. She sways a little, unsteady as a colt. Its been a year since the last time she walked. 

Serena approaches the house and can see Shadrach and Igor guarding the gateway. They are watching her, making sure she doesn't do anything rash. There are rules, after all, even in these strange times. 

Serena climbs the stairs and stands at the front door. Through the pane of heavy glass, she can see a living room decorated simply, with a couch, some potted plants, and a single framed picture on the wall. Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. 

Serena holds her breath. Her heart is beating very fast. She knocks on the door three times. There is movement in the living room beyond the glass. Then he is there, his blue eyes widening at the sight of her. He opens the door and she doesn't so much enter the room, as fall into it. He wraps her in his arms. She feels the bulk of him. How solid he is. How human. 

Dawn finds her lying with him as the rising light illuminates the painting of Venus on the wall. Outside, Shadrach and Igor are waiting for her. It is time to fly. 

There are many births in this lifetime, not just one. 

Serena remembers the morning of the accident. She hit his bay window and fell to the ground, stunned. He picked her up in his palm and stroked her feathers, calming her. Her bird heart was small as a pea, but right then she loved him with all of it. 

So she struck a bargain with Mother Owl. One night a year she is human.

Sometimes, anything is possible. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

When Cameron's parents argue, he puts tissues in his ears to block the sound. With his ears plugged, he can lie on his bed and listen to his breath going in and out and imagine he is floating on the surface of water. 

In Cameron's grade six class they are reading about Niagara Falls. What he likes best is the story of Annie Edison Taylor, the first person to go over the falls in a barrel. Though she was bruised and battered, Annie survived. 

Saturday, Cameron's Mom and Dad are cautious and polite, like people who have just met. They are cleaning out the basement. The basement is a damp cavernous space with mud walls. There are corners no one has ventured into for years. It feels like being inside a secret. 

Among the boxes, they discover a collection of glass mason jars, a dollhouse streaked with mold, piles of yellowed magazines, and a wooden barrel. They carry everything out to the front porch where it will wait until garbage day.

Sunday, the fighting begins again. This time Cameron is ready. He slips out the front door and climbs inside the barrel. It is dark and the wood around him is slick with rot, but Cameron doesn't care. He isn't afraid, because he knows what's coming. 

He is bobbing on the waves, heading for the edge. He tucks his head down and hugs his knees to his chest. Then he is falling, falling through the darkness with the roar of water in his ears. 

He will survive too.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Casual Fridays: You Were Here

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
We can't resist a fresh patch of pavement. It calls to us. All over the city, beneath our feet, there are words written in the cement. People declaring their love, their friendship, or just writing their own name. 

These are little bits of history that show the world who passed by. 

"I was here," these words seem to say, "I mattered."

Next time you are walking through your neighborhood, look down. You'll be surprised at what you see. And if you happen to stumble across a lovely soft patch of cement, go for it! What do you want people to know about you?

Write it down this weekend, story makers. See you back here on Monday.

Oh, and I hope you'll allow me a moment of shameless self-promotion by sharing the link to an "Image Interview" I did about a month ago. This is an amazing project, founded by the wonderful Joel Yum. Joel photographs creative folks doing what they do, and then publishes it on The Image Interview website. Check out mine! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Batman needs another beer. He'd get it himself, but he doesn't want to miss the end of the show. It's time for the judges to deliberate. Who will be eliminated tonight? 

There isn't much in the fridge, just two Budweiser tall boys, a jar of mustard, and the remains of some chicken chow mein. "Holy starvation, Batman," I say, "it's time to hit the Loblaws."

We wear civilian clothes whenever we go out but Batman still insists on the masks. He says it's to protect our identity, but there hasn't been an arch villain in Gotham city for years. I think he just wants folks to know he's still here. 

It's true that Batman's never been a happy-go-lucky sort, but these days he's downright depressed. 

Money's gone. We went bust a few years ago in Vegas when his gambling problem got out of hand. And if you got a bum hip and you’re broke, and hair’s thinning, the women disappear faster than you can say, “to the bat cave.”

He tells me I should leave. Start over. But I'm not going anywhere. "That's what sidekicks are for, old chum," I say, "to fight crime by your side, or to pick up your prescription." 

The only thing that seems to cheer him now is television. So You Think You Can Dance is his favorite show. All those poor saps acting like they're just going to shake their way to the top. 

But nobody tells you that even if you make it to the top, it's lonely up there. And it's a heck of a long way down.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dee's head aches. Her mouth is dry, and her tongue feels coated in chalk. It's the booze, of course, but she's been at it so long, she's forgotten what morning's supposed to be like. 

She is walking through a residential neighborhood, limping slightly. Last summer, she broke her left ankle and was too far gone to make it to a doctor.
It never healed right.

Somewhere in this city, Dee's kids are waking up without her. Someone else is hassling them to brush their hair and drink their juice. Dee can still see the two of them in her mind: little Ava, slow and still groggy, and Dylan bounding out the door to high school with his coat half-on and his shoelaces untied. It's been almost two years since Dee lost custody of her kids.

She notices something caught on a bush ahead of her. A shopping bag. The white plastic shudders in the breeze and Dee feels like that bag, blown around and empty. 

She lights a cigarette and lowers herself onto the curb. There is a small cardboard box sitting beside her on the sidewalk. She peers inside and discovers a discarded pair of red shoes. 


Red can't be the right word. It doesn't begin to describe the color of these shoes, or the way the sight of them makes her feel. What kind of woman owned these shoes? Dee is sure she's never been that kind of woman. She's got no use for them, living on the street and it's stupid for her to be thinking what she's thinking, but Dee needs these shoes. She needs them real bad. 

Dee butts out her cigarette on the pavement, leaving a black smear of ash. She opens her backpack and slips the shoes inside. Then she gets to her feet, shoulders the bag, and  continues on. 

Is it strange to try to live up to a pair of shoes? Maybe. But it's a start.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Casual Fridays: Mr. Brainwash & the Public Journal Part 2

Hi guys, it's Britt.
As I mentioned last Friday, I started my own "public journal," by taping a sheet of paper and a pen to a pole outside my apartment. At the top of the paper, I asked the question: "What do you want to say?" 

my sheet
I planned to leave the journal up for a full week. But then something funny happened. 
After less than 12 hours, the page was full. I printed a fresh sheet and tacked it up. By the next afternoon, that one was full too. 

Wow. People really love to share their thoughts. And it was a whole mixed bag--from genuinely moving statements, to graffiti-like declarations. (Otto Rules!)

Here is a sample of what I got:

What do you want to say?  

I want my dogs back. Divorce sucks.
Otto Rules! 
Spring is coming soon.
Everyone ends badly. 
Tomorrow is a new page. 
Mr. Brainwash. 
I wish the TTC was on time for once. 
Jesus loves you, and he's the only one who can save you. 
Gods start wars. Just be good to the people around you.
An ache inside of me. 
Bill Clinton. 
Find me somebody to love. 
Let your creative juices flow and make today a more sexy day than yesterday. 
Find the killer of George. 
Otto was here. 
Soul is toxic. Mind is dead. 
I am disappointed by my species. 
I heart Lamb. 
The life of a "cheb," "chet" "chef"??? (word is illegible) aint easy.
Harper is a weenus.
Jesus loves you!
Everything is Perfect. Maybe.
Can I borrow a pen?
Aim Low Stay High. 
Going to see the Tim Burton exhibit. Yay! 
Just be nice. 
Love your neighbour. 
Beautiful sky at 7am. The light is gorgeous. 
Is this a sociology project? Where can I find the results, and how dirty is this pen? 

Just think: each of these statements belongs to a person with their own story to tell. Would you have written on this journal if you'd stumbled across it in your day. And what would you have said? 

Now, just cause it's Friday, please enjoy a photo of my cat, Joy wearing a party hat. 

Have an expressive weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mikey was hungry again. When Donna went into the nursery to check on him, his blue eyes followed her every move. She picked up a wind-up musical teddy bear and turned the crank. The room filled with a merry tinkling song. But Mikey's gaze never left his mother. Donna knew then that she wasn't being watched, but stalked.

She closed the nursery door behind her and wedged a chair beneath the handle.

Jerry was in his office. She rapped on the door and opened it. "Honey," she said, working to keep her voice level, "it's time." 

She could see Jerry's jaw tense and the vein in the center of his forehead stood out. But he nodded.

The ad they placed in the local newspaper read: "Live-in nanny needed for energetic 18 month old boy. Perfect for females and college students. Room and board provided."

On Tuesday, Bonnie arrived for the interview. She had a swinging blond pony-tail and long tanned legs. "I just love children," she cooed, sipping the glass of iced tea Donna brought her. 

"You don't have any family of your own nearby, then?" Jerry asked. 

"No, my folks are back in Drinkwater, Saskatchewan," Bonnie said. "They didn't want me to leave the farm, but I'm going to be an actress. Who ever got famous in Drinkwater? So I'm here alone." 

Jerry and Donna exchanged glances. For the first time in days, Donna smiled. 

"Well then," she said, "why don't we bring you in to meet little Mikey?"

For a little mood-music, click here

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rupert Small was a doorman at a fancy department store. He wore a black wool coat with silver buttons, and a cap. On his hands were spotless white gloves. 

"Good morning," he'd say, holding the door open for customers. "Good afternoon." "Good night." As he greeted people, Rupert imagined he was a pilot welcoming passengers aboard his plane. 

Rupert had dreamed of flying since he was old enough to gaze up at the sky. After work at night he'd sit at his kitchen table and build model airplanes. Sometimes Rupert constructed planes using scrap materials. One such airplane was hanging outside his apartment. He'd put it there to remind himself of what he wanted most. 

But at the age of thirty-seven, Rupert had never been on an actual airplane, much less flown one. 

Was it too late for him? 

That particular fall afternoon was crisp, and Rupert was grateful for his wool coat. He stood at the door smiling and saying hello, but inside, his heart was heavy. Rupert was filled with certainty that he was going to work at the department store for the rest of his life. He was never going to fly. 

He felt a single, solitary tear leave his right eye and run down his cheek. It wouldn't do to have a crying doorman. So Rupert left his post and went into the store to collect himself.

Have you ever tried to stop crying when the tears want to come? It is very difficult. Rupert walked blindly through the department store. He passed several cosmetic counters and thought to ask one of the salesgirls for a tissue. But then Rupert stepped on something. 

He wiped at his eyes with his gloved hands and saw that he was standing on a little sock monkey. Rupert reached down and picked it up. 

"Terribly sorry," Rupert said to the monkey. 

Something about the monkey's smile made Rupert feel better. So much better that he did an unusual thing. He slid the doll inside one of the deep pockets of his coat. 

Rupert Small couldn't have guessed that this meeting with Marvin the sock monkey would alter both their fates, and make his dream of flying come true. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Casual Fridays: Mr. Brainwash & the Public Journal

Hi guys, it's Britt. 
If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that I'm really into the intersection of public and private worlds. The place where boundaries between us blur. I was walking on the Danforth the other day, and I came across a telephone pole with a piece of paper stuck to it that said: "Public Journal Project." 

On this "journal" were various thoughts written by folks passing by, from the mundane to the profound. I thought it was cool. I went home and looked it up, but couldn't find much on the internet. So I decided to pay tribute to this project, by doing a little "public journal" experiment of my own.

I made this sheet. At the top, I wrote: "What do you want to say?"

April 6. 10:50 am- Taped sign to the pole outside my apartment. It is right beside a TTC streetcar stop, so thinking that people will see it while they are standing around waiting. My Parkdale neighborhood is a bit on the um..."eccentric" side, so we'll see what we get. 

April 6. 10:51 am- Started the journal off by writing "you are beautiful" to get the ball rolling. Thought if I put a positive statement first, people might be more receptive to write something on there.

April 6. 3:20 pm- Walked my sister out to the streetcar stop. Checked out the sign. A few posts! Okay, we got a couple of nice statements: "Spring is coming soon." "Tomorrow is a new page." A downer: "Everyone ends badly" and a stumper: "Mr. Brainwash."

I'll keep an eye on this journal over the upcoming week, and report back to you next Friday about how it went. In the meantime, please enjoy this video of an old-school David Letterman episode, where Dave is man on the street interviewing folks. Love it!

Embrace the unexpected this weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I know what they say about favorites. But every parent's got one and Lucy is mine. 

When Lucy emerged from her pupa state and wiggled her antennae for the first time, I loved her more than I dreamed possible. "For you, the moon and the stars," I whispered. 

The Queen is starting to wonder why I've lost all interest in mating. Everyone in the colony seems to think I should be doing my job. But I can't stop foraging. There's a human girl nearby who is careless. She's always leaving things behind in the schoolyard. I carry these lost items back to the nest for Lucy. 

A doll's shoe has become my daughter's bed. A faded hair ribbon is her blanket. It embarrasses Lucy to get gifts in front of the other young workers, but I know she's secretly pleased.  She's not engineered to be special, none of us are, but we want it just the same.

The last few days, Lucy's been acting differently. She's listless and not eating as much. Today, the colony elder tells me that Lucy's sick. She likely won't live to see spring. 

The Queen is sending out her mating pheromones again. It's time for me to get to work, but how can I, when everything is lost? 

I head to the schoolyard instead. It's dangerous for me to be out here alone, but I don't care. In the distance, something glitters. When I arrive, I see it is a girl's headband shining like the moon and stars together. 

An ant can lift 50 times its own weight. And we can carry much more when we have to.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sarah is wearing a strapless dress printed with palm trees and gold earrings that sway as she walks. Around her neck is a chain of fuchsia colored plastic flowers. A "good lei," Beverly called it earlier when she slipped the necklace over Sarah's head.

It was a Hawaiian theme party and Sarah brought her famous pineapple chicken. Now she is walking home carrying the empty pot. The pot is getting heavier with every moment. She longs to put it down, just leave it on the sidewalk, but won't because it was expensive. 

She and John had a fight again tonight. Once it was clear they were going to argue, he'd tried to steer her into Beverly's bathroom. Sarah knew what was in there. Fierce words spoken in low tones so no one else at the party could hear.

For a long time now, she and John have been fighting in people's bathrooms. In hallways. Parking lots. Restaurant lobbys. Outside movie theatres. In elevators. On balconies. Anywhere no one can see.

But tonight Sarah pulled away from John at the bathroom door and rejoined their friends in the kitchen. A few minutes later she discovered that he'd left the party. She would have to walk home. 

Sarah has almost reached their street. She looks down at her necklace. It's stupid, she thinks suddenly: this chain of plastic pretending to be real flowers. The necklace is a lie.

She shifts the pot into the crook of her right arm and with her left, wrenches on the necklace. It doesn't break. She pulls harder and feels the plastic dig into the back of her neck. Ignoring the pain, she pulls harder still. She nearly cries with frustration. She needs to be free of it. 

Suddenly the chain snaps and pink flowers scatter over the pavement. 

Sarah doesn't stop to pick them up.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Casual Fridays: Say it or Spray it?

Hi guys, it's Britt.
A week ago, I was running an errand and passed a building with the words
"I love you," spray-painted on the side. 

I didn't think much of it, until a few minutes later, when I saw the same message on a different wall.

Then, a little further along, I saw another one. And another.

At first, I thought the love-graffiti was restricted to this one particular block. But yesterday, I was on the bus in a different neighbourhood, and I looked out the window and discovered the same words sprayed on the side of a building. 
I jumped off the bus, pulled my camera out of my bag, and snapped it. 

As I walked along taking pictures, I felt like I was inside some kind of story. I was a regular Hansel and Gretel, following the breadcrumbs. 

So of course, I'm very curious. Who wrote these messages? And who are they intended for? The general public, or one special person? Did these words of devotion sprayed all over town actually win someone's heart? What do you guys think? Let's hear your theories. 

Have a curious weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday.