“Since childhood, I’ve been faithful to monsters. I have been saved and absolved by them, because monsters, I believe, are patron saints of our blissful imperfection, and they allow and embody the possibility of failing,” 

Guillermo Del Toro, Golden Globes 2018

I was all prepared to write something much longer. I have since decided that keeping it short & sweet makes more sense.

I just handed off my letter of resignation today. Literally, minutes ago. After three years and a bit in this position, I’m walking away from gainful employment with a solid wage and the faint veneer of respectability in exchange for a shot at building a life around my passion: making monsters.

Growing up, my rockstars were found in the pages of Fangoria. My holy trinity consisted of Savini, Baker & Bottin. All my life, in one form or another, I’ve been making monsters. But I convinced myself it was good enough as a hobby, that I was never going to to make it a thing I could do for a living. For decades, I told myself I couldn’t do this.

I’ve since changed my train of thought to ” You can’t do this…yet. But you’re going to learn.” And so, starting mid-March, I begin full-time schooling at the College of Make-Up Art & Design in their Digital Character/Creature Design program. After that? I have a map and a plan. And it feels good to have both, compared to the decades of flailing and compromises and denials I’ve been doing till now.

I’ve said it before, but I know how all this ends for me. The same way it ends for everyone. We all get one crack at this, and I’m finally making it count. After decades of making sure everyone else was happy, this one’s for me. I’m excited and nervous, maybe even terrified. Which means it’s absolutely the right thing.

So? Here we go. There are monsters, waiting to be born.


PS: This photo documents my “ground zero”. It’s possible I may have delayed stepping onto this path if it weren’t for the kind words of support I’ve received from this man. Every time we’ve crossed paths over the past couple of years, he has always looked through my sketchbooks and given me encouragement. When I last saw him October 2017 at the AGO, I told him of my plans to get more serious about creature design.

He smiled and said “Good. This is what you should be doing. You’re good at it.”

Make of that what you will.



Endings, Beginnings and The Sh*t In The Middle

There’s no real magic to New Year’s Day. Your sins are not absolved. Your slate isn’t wiped clean with a blink and a nod. It’s a checkpoint. A marker that tells you “Here. Why not start fresh here? Here is where you take the first steps on the long journey to sorting your shit out.” So do that. Start with one step forward. Set realistic goals for yourself. Be proud when you succeed. Be kind to yourself when you don’t. And most importantly, be honest with yourself. Too often, we fall for the “you’re a miraculous meat-covered skeleton full of pixie dust & you’re perfect just the way you are!!!” school of thought. And maybe this is the year we stop doing that. Because we’re not. We’re capable of great strength and weakness, of inventive genius and foolish folly. We’re just stumbling mammals with clothing and heightened delusions of grandeur trying our best to find where we belong and how we should be spending the finite and unpredictable resources of time & energy we have available.

My goal for the new year: To be a better version of me. Not perfect. Not unassailable. Better. Learn from my mistakes. Take pride in my successes. To care for others, without losing myself in the process. That’s it. What shape that will take? I don’t know. I look back on this year, with regrets over the losses and blown opportunities. Maybe not all is lost. The slim sliver of an optimist in me holds on to the shred that maybe, maybe, some things can be fixed.

But that can’t happen until I’ve repaired myself. My body is a tangled mass of pain and nerve damage. My brain, a constant deluge of self-recrimination and anxiety. My emotions, stunted and guarded. But I know it’ll get better.

So take that if you need it: “I know it’ll get better”.

Maybe not the way or when you planned or hoped but still better than where you are now. At least I hope it does for you. Because I’ll wager that more of us feel lost and alone than don’t, when it comes down to it.

For now, you’re at the checkpoint, & your foot is on the pedal. Where you go after that is up to you, but it’s gonna be a hell of a ride, innit? And with any luck, you’ll end up in a better place – in mind and body – than you were before you got the green light.

You made it this far. Relatively intact and tooling up for another round. And that’s nothing to scoff at. Wear that like a goddamn badge of honour.

I wish you well. I wish you as little pain as possible and as much success as you can handle. I wish you love, given and received, without compromise or fear. Anything else is a placeholder of a life, and you deserve better than that.

Godspeed, you magnificent souls.
Go forth.
Do The Thing.


“Certainly there are spots which inevitably attach to themselves an atmosphere of holiness and goodness; it might not then be too fanciful to say that some houses are born bad.”

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Stephen King labels it “The Bad Place” in his masterful treatise on horror, DANSE MACABRE: A house or home that, through design or luck, houses malevolence in its foundation. Horror fiction has plenty of real estate like this: From Edgar Allan Poe’s House of Usher to Jackson’s aforementioned manor down to Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel – places of security and comfort that harbour anything but good intentions for those who enter its doors. Add Crestfallen Estates to the illustrious roll call of bad places, as Lauren Messervey’s debut novel , CRESTFALLEN, takes us into the aptly-named residence and its equally matched occupants.

The handful of stories found in this unique take on the horror anthology have very little in common – each one is dealing with their own unique personal horrors. What binds them together is location – the titular housing complex. Dilapidated, run-down and liberally trimmed with mold and mildew, Crestfallen is a residence in ill condition, its best days long behind it – if it ever had such days.  From the lonely barista who thinks she may have found a new BFF in her next-door neighbour, the party-girl med student who’ s on the receiving end of a series of increasingly grotesque pranks, to the son of a disgraced game show host who is forced to pay for the sins of his father, each comes through Crestfallen’s doors looking for escape, rebirth, maybe a fresh start or a quiet end to it all. But Crestfallen, and its more shadowy residents, have their own plans in mind for them, and those plans are far from philanthropic.

The anthology is always a tricky beast – the hit-to-miss ratio varying wildly between contributors and stories – but Messervey is able to overcome the pitfalls found in the sub-genre by anchoring the proceedings to one location – a sinister advent calendar with a fresh new horror behind every door. What makes it all the more impressive is the voices she takes one to tell each tale. Told in first-person perspective, Messervey finds each character’s personality and defines them with ease. Each one carrying around very real-world damage – depression, addiction, the shadow of infidelity and other sins of the past – that their new home twists and turns against them. Messervey’s also got a mean streak, as things get both physically and emotionally violent. At the end, each character is changed, scarred and broken – if they walk away at all.

Stephen King (again, I know) once wrote that “nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.” Messervey understands that well, creating a heavy dread not with what we know, but what we don’t.  There’s no greater explanation or backstory for why Crestfallen is so malignant or malicious. The building’s origins are more than a mystery – they’re non-existent. It just is. And it gives the stories such a potent punch.

Crestfallen is an impressive debut, that leaves you uneasy as you turn the last page. It’s mean-spirited and doesn’t give a damn about your finer sensitivities. Whether or not Messervey chooses to tell more untold tales of her apartment building of the damned, or takes us into new and dangerous territory, I know I’m down for wherever she decides to go.

File her under “One To Watch”.

CRESTFALLEN is for sale in digital and hard copy format here.


“Do you remember when you found out you wouldn’t live forever? People don’t talk about this, but everybody had to go through it because you’re not born with that knowledge.” 

David Cronenberg

It’s been nearly eight years since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 39. I was an anomaly – no prior history (save for type 2 on my mother’s side) or obesity. A genetic fluke, a mutation, according to my clinicians.

It’s malicious, this condition. A parasitic body-horror that turns your own body against you in a conspiracy to weaken and eventually kill you. And it doesn’t get better. There’s no improvement, no eradication of the condition. There’s only maintenance and constant supervision of this presence that wants nothing more than to eat away at you, piece by piece. And with all that? Depression. Anxiety. Stress. All adding to the mix, all accelerating the decay. And if you already have depression or anxiety at the start, it only feeds faster. I have reduced sensation of varying degrees in my feet and fingertips. My vision has deteriorated significantly. I heal much slower from cuts and bruises now.

And for the past two-plus years, I have been impotent. I’m not going to sugar coat it with the “erectile dysfunction” label, because it’s a sterile and PC-clean descriptor that doesn’t convey how crippling and soul-draining the condition really is. It has broken the last shred of my self-esteem. It has affected my relationship with my wife. It has made me insecure and emasculated to the point where shutting off would be easier than feeling anything anymore. Erectile Dysfunction sounds like a malfunction with an airplane’s landing gear. Impotence means “without power” or “helpless”. And if you’ve never had a problem with your virility, you will NEVER understand just how true that definition is.

I’m getting help. I see a therapist bi-weekly to discuss the mental and emotional state of the union. I’ve shut down my social media presence for now, maybe more permanently later on, because the last thing I’m feeling is “digitally social”. I have an impending visit with a urologist to discuss possible plans of affordable treatment, if that is even an option now. I’m exercising – weights and running, nothing fancy. We’re starting a new dietary plan at home for healthier living. They’re all positive steps, and I’m glad we are doing them.

But I don’t harbour any illusions about my state. I don’t expect reversal of fortune anytime soon, possibly not at all. I have to be prepared for the possibility that it won’t get any better, that this is the new normal that my wife and I are going to have to navigate. And that it sucks. I have spent the better part of my life brushing things off – “que sera sera” and pushing onwards. I don’t know how to do that now, because I’m tired. And angry.

It’s mid-life crisis writ large and funhouse-mirror exaggerated. That slow creep of IMG_4020disintegration, accelerated and visible to the naked eye. In every sore muscle, in every numb extremity, in the reminder that I am “incomplete”.  I’m not doing this for pity or to eventually dispense some sunny-side-of-the-street bromides about how “it’ll get better” and to “keep your chin up”. Because fuck that. This sucks. I’m sharing this with anyone else going through this to say it’s okay to be angry and hurt and sad. I’m sharing this to say “guys, there’s no shame in this”. But there is rage and frustration from having that part of us taken away without our choice. So be pissed. For as long as you need and as long as it takes. Maybe you push through all this and come out better on the other side,  new men with a new perspective. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe it will finally break you and you’ll just close off.

Because sometimes, there are no solutions.

Sometimes, it doesn’t get better.

Sometimes, things just stay awful.

What you do with that knowledge, well, that’s up to you.

Me? I’m going to lie low for a while and start figuring out where to go from here.
Because I don’t want to be sad and angry anymore and I’m in dire need of a break.




Always looking out,

Grabbing and clutching at something,


To patch up the open spaces.

Cobbled together with scraps and other people’s “you”

Because you know of no other existence.

You can fill those holes with anger.

Or misery.

Or even the quiet insistence of compromise.

The body is flexible, soft

Eager and hungry and wanting to take whatever you feed it,

But the void remains,

unchecked, unsatisifed

and you push on.

All shambling gait and weary bone,

The weight of time and expectations, pushing on the space between your shoulders

It’s a dull pain, this, easing with familiarity,

But it keeps you static, keeps you still,

Moving without gaining ground.

The slowest of deaths,

One that comes at the hands of a tiny thousand regrets

Leaving you bleeding,

splayed across a pool of wet and crimson “what if?”



“The Man Of The Future”: Richard Strickland, THE SHAPE OF WATER’s “Prince Without A Kingdom”.



“What makes a man a ‘man’ , a friend once wondered. Is it his origins, the way he comes to life?
I don’t think so. Its the choices he makes; not how he starts things but how he decides to end things.”

HELLBOY (2004)

This question, and the notion of 20th-century masculinity, has long been a theme in Guillermo Del Toro’s films, be it in subtext or front-and-centre. In his worlds, the real ogres wear very familiar forms. Usually handsome (or at least, rugged), with a penchant for sartotial style over inner substance. More often than not, they can be found in a position of authority or “respect”, which they wield with impunity and brutality. They are hard men with no appreciation for beauty or compassion, products of their environment or merely the latest recipients of an ongoing cycle of abuse. This essence, this spirit of toxic masculinity, takes many names and many faces. It’s in the impeccably groomed sadism of PAN’S LABYRINTH ‘s Captain Vidal. CRONOS’ thuggish Angel De La Guardia. The sullen Jacinto of THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE. And in THE SHAPE OF WATER, in Michael Shannon’s sharp-dressed company man, Richard Strickland.

As Occam Aerospace’s Chief of Security, Strickland is the man of the hour, the hero of his own story. Having captured the film’s amphibious Amazonian “Asset”, Strickland carries himself with the air of a decorated war hero: rigid, shoulders back, his tall frame restrained in a tailor-made suit that keeps him tight and streamlined. His life at home is Rockwellian perfection, his family of the prototypically nuclear variety. He has a doting and beautiful wife, a daughter & son and a home-cooked meal waiting for him when he walks in the door. Cold War-era suburban perfection. And none of it seems to make him happy.

Sex with his wife is a passionless chore – as he laboriously makes love to his wife, he puts his hand over her mouth, silently whispering for quiet. His relationship with his children rings hollow, with a detached half-interest in what his children tell him about their day. When his family’s unyielding chatter and the loud volume of the constantly blaring TV become too much, he escapes to his car in the driveway and sits. The only sound, the patter of raindrops against glass and Detroit steel. This is a man out of sorts with the perfect life he’s created for himself.

At work, though, Strickland has power. His office, highest point in the building, where he can see all from his desk. The augmented courage he feels with his sleeves rolled up and the slick-black cattle prod clenched in his fist. Here, he feels strong. Here, he feels complete. And he has no hesitation in exerting his influence among the others at Occam. Whether it’s belittling “the help” with racist or sexual innuendo, or mocking the project’s chief researcher for his more humane concerns for The Asset (“ Scientists…they are like artists: They fall in love with their playthings.“), Strickland feels more himself away from the confines of domestic life, where his brutish nature and lack of empathy prevent him from forming a meaningful relationship with his family. He has purpose, and that purpose is serving “the greater good” – in his case, the military-industrial complex who sees his violent nature as boon, not bane. Both Del Toro & actor Michael Shannon have hinted that Strickland’s character notes detail a less-than-ideal realtionship with his father, most likely abusive in nature (and considering his thematic predecessors, it’s easy enough to connect-the-dots here). It’s in his relationship with The Asset that we see his true nature: a natural tendency towards domination, the superior being to this “affront” to nature and God’s will (“You may think that thing looks human- stands on two legs, but we’re created in the Lord’s image. And you don’t think that’s what the Lord looks like, do you?“). In a later scene at a car dealerhsip, the salesman tells Strickland, “You are the man of the future.” It’s a line, a sales pitch, but in Richard’s mind, it’s just simple truth, isn’t it?  He is Homo Americanus, the alpha male, by birthright and by dint of his gender , his species and the colour of his skin.
It’s only fitting that he would seek a similar figure of authority as his surrogate father. A man like General Hoyt: the most basic (and laziest) definition of masculine power, Hoyt views emotion and compassion as weaknesses, defining his identity with the brass on his chest and the symbolic weight of his title. The modern ideal of American “manifest destiny”, Hoyt is a fellow “man of action” that someone like Strickland can easily identify with, and willingly emulate.

When The Asset is stolen, Strickland’s grasp on control begins to slip. We see it manifest in his temper, we see it in the rot of his hand, the reattached fingers from his altercation with the amphibious humanoid becoming gangrenous and black, the physical manifestation of his own disintegration. It’s all on him, and he’s feeling the pressure. Enough so, that in a rare instant of humility and honesty, Strickland confides, with Hoyt, his feelings on their dynamic and the weight of it all. The result is one of the film’s strongest moments, and perhaps the only time he elicits any sympathy from the audience .

You’ve know me for how long?… and in all that time, I… This is…what happened here is…A man is faithful, Sir: loyal, efficient all of his life. All of it, and he is useful. And he expects, he has certain expectations in return. And he fails, then. Once. Only once. What does that make him? Does that make him a failure?

When is a man done? Proving himself, Sir? A good man. A decent man.

And in return for opening up, for baring his soul?


A man has the decency not to fuck up- that’s one thing. That is real decent of him. The other kind of decency? It doesn’t really matter. We sell it, sure but it’s an export. And we sell it ‘cause we don’t use it.

See? Thirty six hours from now this entire episode will be over. And so will you…

Our universe will have a hole in it with your outline. And you will have gone on to an alternate universe. A universe of shit. You will be lost to civilization. You will be unborn. Unmade. Undone.

So, go get some real decency, son. And unfuck this mess.

Years of dedication, brutality and servitude, all dismissed with the most casual of airs, by the man he respected the most. A mistake on his part , a moment of weakness, one that he knows he’ll never make again. Strickland doubles down on the “man of action” stance, descending further into rage and violence. He gives himself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror to psych himself up, reminding himself that above all else, he delivers. But even as he performs this act of willful affirmation, though, he’s coming undone. Emotionally and physically, the tight grip of order he has worked so hard to maintain all these years is coming unraveled. There’s a rot taking place, manifested outwardly by his hand, betraying the real sickness that has infected his soul.

At his core, he is a lost little boy, one of Del Toro’s  “princes without a kingdom” : a man with no positive male guidance in their lives, suffering from either abuse or neglect and filling the emotional breaks and gaps with hardness and cruelty. A defense against the world that’s seen fit to break them at an early age. As a child, they were not given everything they needed to feel loved, protected. As an adult, they become the very force that shapes them, the rotten apple falling far too close to the diseased tree. Somewhere along the way, Richard Strickland was broken and robbed of any potential for kindness or sympathy before he even had a chance. But sooner or later, a man chooses whether he will break the cycle or continue to perpetuate it. And it’s that choice that marks the line between sympathy and revulsion. Strickland’s choice, like Vidal and Jacinto before him, ends up determining his fate. and unlike our star (and species) crossed lovers, it’s not a happily ever after.Any sympathy for his sad childhood gets eliminated by his willful cruelty as an adult. Like the other “lost princes”, Stickland dies at The Asset’s hands, right after his final moment of revelation (“Fuck me, you ARE a god!”), finding himself in the presence of a higher power at the very end. Richard Strickland suffers the fate of most tyrannical men. He finds no great reward or tribute for his actions. Only death, bleeding out in the fall rain. His life ends just as he chose to live it: violently, and alone.

Leaving a hole, with his outline, in the universe.



It isn’t much a of a stretch to call Cynthia Loyst a “renaissance woman”. Currently one of the hosts on CTV’s THE SOCIAL, Cynthia has been working both in front of the camera (including hosting duties on Space’s INNERSPACE) and behind the scenes ( producing as well as hosting City TV’s SEX MATTERS & SEX TV) as one of Canada’s most well-known and respected media personalities. She’s been a keynote speaker and guest lecturer at colleges and universities. She’s received numerous awards and commendations for her work in sex-education and is also a  member of SIECCAN (The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada) and a graduate of The University Of Michigan’s sex education program. And she’s not done yet, as she’s embarked on her most ambitious project yet: Find Your Pleasure.


In her words, FYP is ” a space dedicated to candid talk about love, sex, and the relationships that mean the most to us. And because pleasure is about so much more than great sex, it’s also about sensual living – and the everyday joys that we can all be thankful for. ”

In between recent speaking engagements and her daily gig with THE SOCIAL, I was able to get some time to talk to Cynthia about life and pleasure – where to find it, how to get it, as well as working it into one’s regular routine.

What was the impetus to start FYP?

Well, when we first launched The Social, I had just given birth a few months before hand, so I was not only sleep deprived but very hormonal.  Even though I loved working on the show, I also felt quite conflicted about leaving my young son every day.  I was also rushing around trying to be AMAZING at everything: I wanted to be an amazing host, I wanted to be an amazing partner and, of course, I needed to be an amazing mom. And inside, I felt miserable.

It all caught up to me when a few months into working on the show, I had a minor panic attack live on the air. No one knew, and I didn’t tell anyone even afterwards but it was a real wake-up call for me.

The thing was, logically, I knew there were all kinds of things in my life to be happy about and thankful for. But I was drowning in “must-dos” and “should-dos” and general ennui about life. I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I did something I loved JUST FOR ME. When I started asking my friends about this, I discovered it was the exact same thing for them. So I started to do a deep dive on pleasure and realized that it is a super fascinating and highly complex topic. And that eventually led to the website.


The launch party for Find Your Pleasure, February 8, 2017, held at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

Sexuality forms a large component of FYP’s coverage. While we’ve become very open in discussing sex, as far as gender identity and equality, we still get squeamish when talking about the act itself. Do you still see self-repression among the masses, or are we finally getting over the hump?

In some ways the conversation around sexuality and gender has really progressed…I’m part of an online mothers’ group in my ‘hood and I’m so happy when I see them often sharing articles about sex education or about transgender youth.  But in some ways, we are still so far behind.  I have written an advice column for years and I still get the same types of questions over and over again which basically circle around this idea of “normalcy.”  People are super concerned if they are having the “right” kinds of sex or “enough” sex or making sure that their fantasies or desires aren’t too out there. There’s the side that we think we should show to the world and the side that we show to a lover and then there’s the side that we only show to ourselves.  If there’s one thing I hope that I get through to people is that everyone is unique. As long as you approach sexuality with the safe, sane and consensual mantra, the most important thing is to find out what pleasure looks like to you.

You lead a very busy life. How do YOU juggle all of that and still find the time to take part in life’s simple pleasures?

I have to shut down sometimes.  I just got back from a 9-day cruise and I just turned off my phone. It was hard but it was also so rejuvenating.  But I also have recently been researching about other people’s morning rituals and trying to come up with my own. Like, did you know that Benjamin Franklin used to take an “air bath” every morning? I know you’re wondering: what the heck is that? He would go out into the cold air – naked – and wander around (I’m assuming he had no neighbours or maybe he was an exhibitionist?) and then slip back into bed for an hour to have another short nap before starting his work for the day. I like the idea of having a little daily ritual to ground myself for the day. I highly doubt mine will look like that though.

The simple things, the little pleasures in life – which ones get you through your day?

My morning coffee that I make every morning from fresh beans and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon. Getting outside and going for a bike ride along the lakeshore. Painting rocks with my son and just listening to his sweet, crackly voice.  Playing board games with my other half or having a scotch with him at the end of the day. Cooking strange recipes. Going for long walks in the woods. Getting to bed early to read or to just luxuriate in the coziness of it all. Reflecting at the end of a day on everything that I am grateful for.

What are the plans for FYP’s expansion?

I want to start a pleasure revolution!  I have been loving doing speaking engagements and hope to one day write a book.  I think pleasure has often been seen as the bad cousin of happiness. I’m here to preach the importance of pleasure because it is intimately connected to happiness – you can’t have one without the other.

Cynthia Loyst can be seen on THE SOCIAL weekdays (and Saturdays) on CTV and CTV TWO – check local listings for times. She can also be heard Wednesdays mornings as Virgin Radio Toronto‘s weekly sex expert.

FIND YOUR PLEASURE can be found on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.



DON’T PANIC: A Diabetic’s Guide to COVID-19

Wow. Shit is scary right now, isn’t it?
On top of the steady stream of anxiety and dystopic terror that is social media, we now have a global pandemic for a virus with no vaccine. Everybody’s jacked up and worried. And rightfully so – this is heavy stuff. The WHO doesn’t issue “pandemic alerts” like they’re handing out candy. So you SHOULD be taking this seriously. Especially those among us over the age of 60,  or those with immunodeficiencies or underlying conditions. In my case, I have the one-two combo of Type-1 Diabetes and Asthma. So yeah… I’m concerned.

I’ve also been doing my research. That means consulting legitimate health organizations such W.H.O. , Women’s College Hospital (my diabetes clinicians – they’re wonderful) as well as verified statistics from other reputed and established journalistic sources. And yes, we diabetics are at a much higher risk of complications than those without. Most specifically, we are much more susceptible to organ failure and cardiovascular aggravations than the majority of the population. In this aspect, yes, it operates like a flu bug – it zeros in on the lungs and proceeds to infect them, creating the perfect environment for pneumonia and bronchitis. When there’s not enough oxygen getting in, this can cause a cascading effect in the body’s organs that may result in intensive care hospitalization and worse. Where it differs from the flu is the accelerated rate of infection and the lack of any specific antidote or vaccine (so those of you saying “psssh, it’s just the flu!” need to cease that shit immediately and show a little compassion for those who are legitimately scared. Like me.)

These facts have been shared repeatedly with the public for a couple of weeks now and there’s a reason for it: you need to take this seriously and you need to up your diabetes self-care game. Starting now.

You know the scene in the movie where the hero suits up – loading weapons, slapping on armour and getting ready for the final showdown.

This is that moment. Let’s roll.

IBUPROFEN        (Advil 200mg)
ACETAMINOPHEN (Tylenol 350 mg)
MUCUS AND PHLEGM COUGH SYRUP(Mucinex/Robitussin/ Nyquil)

(no expired medications – keep it ALL fresh and up to date)

Okay, so you’ve gone through the list and you’ve stocked up on what you need. Make sure you have a month’s worth of the required medications (maximum) on hand. No more, no less. Anything more than that is wasteful and (let’s be honest) selfish.

INSULIN: You will need to be regular with your injections, both slow and fast acting forms of insulin. And you will have to monitor…a lot. Make sure you have a functioning glucometer on hand, with plenty of control strips for testing. Should you start showing the symptoms of infection (fever, cough, sore throat), your body is going to go into panic mode and start producing more glucose to fight this infection. This accelerated blood sugar is going to get you into hyperglycemia territory. Left unchecked, that hyperglycemia is going to bounce you right into Ketoacidosis territory. We’re talking acidic blood and potential for organ shutdown, exacerbated by the virus that’s already speedbagging you. There’s no such thing as “overmonitoring” under these circumstances. Check every hour on the hour if the infection is active. It also won’t hurt your piece of mind if you have a grasp on the numbers.

Also, depending on your readings, use “sliding scale insulin” practices to adjust for any spikes in your glucose readings. Consult with your doctor or endocrinologist on the proper procedure for this – I have my suggested dose adjustments, but those are mine. Get the details from the people who handle this stuff for a living.

BREATHING: If you are prone to any kind of respiratory illness (asthma, in my case), load up on the required medication because Covid-19 zeroes in on the lungs and will make itself very comfortable there. This includes fast-acting solutions (ie: Ventolin) as well as the more long-term medications such as Flovent. The fast ones will work on opening the lungs up, while the slower ones will continue to strengthen your lungs during infection. As an added weapon, Mentholated Rub (ie: Vicks Vaporub) and Mucus and Phlegm cough syrups (Mucinex and Benilyn are highly recommended) will also work on keeping the lungs clear and reducing buildup (NOTE: many of these medications do contain sugar, so I’ll repeat: monitor, monitor, monitor!). And that’s where the extras comes in: Decongestants will help keep nasal and sinus passages open. Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, used in rotation, will aggressively keep fevers down.

EXTRAS: As far as environment control, you will need a humidifier. You will need to keep the air in your residence from getting too dry. A personal remedy I’ve used is a bowl of boiled water with the tiniest amount of mentholatum stirred in. Place your face safely away from the bowl and drape a towel over you. Breathe. You’d also be wise to load up on Chicken Soup. I don’t pretend to understand the science behind it, but it goes a long way in loosening up lung congestion and phlegm. Plenty of Kleenex on hand, with regular and measured blowing of the nose, is expected as part of your routine now, too.

The key is in your breathing. If your lungs are open, they are getting oxygen. If they’re getting oxygen, so are your other organs.

If breathing problems become more persistent, and if you are unable to get your glucose to manageable levels, you will obviously need to go seek professional help. Please follow the protocols established by your local health agencies. There is a system in place for screening, accepting and treating patients and everything you can do to follow the proper procedure will work to your benefit, as well as the medical staff you will be dealing with. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Covid-19, so all of these things, all of these steps are going to be even more important for someone with underlying conditions. In cheerleader parlance: Be Aggressive! Be-Be-Aggressive!

Above all else… stay calm. Yes, diabetics and other immunodeficient people are at a much higher risk of complications, but those conditions are NOT an immediate and death sentence. Be aggressive with your home treatment and self-care. Monitor your blood with intense regularity. Use the medications and procedures here to ensure your airways stay as clear as possible. And eat, for god’s sake. And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

I’m sure I could have written this with more polish and presentation, but it’s important for you to know that you can get through this, sooner rather than later. Whatever you do in your daily diabetic maintenance, you’re going to need to do more of it. And more often, until this passes and we know what we’re dealing with and to stop it.

If this helps eases some of your anxiety, good. Doing the detective work has gone a long way to reducing my stress levels, and I hope it helps you, too.

Good luck out there.



Encounter At A Roadside Inn

He wakes up, slowly, eyes bleary and adjusting themselves in the near darkness. It’s early. Dark-sky early, but he hasn’t been much for sleeping in for some time now. His body’s primed to wake before the sunrise, and he decided not to fight it anymore.

He slowly sits up, body slumped in half-sleep mode. The motel room is illuminated only by the outside light light filtered through the Venetian blinds on the solitary window.He’s taken to sleeping nude over time. He figures there’ll be time enough for pajamas when he’s done his wandering, when his body and mind are sequestered away in some home with the others waiting for the last boat to the other side. Or by himself. He’d almost prefer the latter. He’s gotten used to it.

He makes his way to the bathroom. Stark fluorescent light flares up, illuminating the room and its occupant in sterile, thrumming white. His body is in better shape than it was before – regular exercise, better eating, less stress. He’s no bodybuilder but he’s got a tight and wiry grace to him now. He pulls silver tinged hair back from his brow – the cut is long, more salt than pepper. Facial hair is the same. Beard and mustache trimmed, but not too much. Just enough to be scruffy, but not enough to be unkempt. He gets a good look at the scars and dents in his armour, like he does every morning – the unfiltered journal of a life lived and the hits he’s taken along the way. He’s earned all of them, and feels no shame or regrets, either.

I don’t know how I ended up in this room, looking at this man as he gets ready for whatever the day holds for him. He doesn’t seem to be aware of me either. But I get glimpses of him – his life – and I have no idea why I know these things about a complete stranger.

We’re out of the room now, inside the motel diner. He’s the first one in. The waitress seems familiar with him, so he’s probably been here for a while. She brings him coffee – the best kind of trucker’s coffee – and he puts in sugar and cream. He drinks it and the way he closes his eyes as he sips tells me it tastes as good as it smells. I keep waiting for him to do something – read a newspaper, write notes, anything. But he sits and sips and stares out the window as he waits for his food, which I notice he didn’t order. Again, he’s been here for a while.

I don’t say anything to him, but only because I don’t think he would hear me anyways. I’m still trying to process the state of things. Dream? Hallucination? No idea. So I don’t interact. I sit, I look and I try to feel him out.

That part comes almost too easily.

Within seconds, I get … a feeling, I guess? I don’t know the details of his life or the events that brought him to this diner on this stretch of The Trans-Canada, but I feel what he has felt.

Loss. Love. Victories. Defeats. Moments where he stood his ground and others where he stepped out of the fray to tend to his wounds. There’s sadness, but also moments of joy. Accomplishments, where he stepped outside of fear and hesitation and took life by the throat. And the times he didn’t and the regrets that came with it. I don’t know how I know this, because I shouldn’t. But I do. It’s in the way his eyes narrow as he looks out the window at the now-empty highway and the sun slowly cresting over the horizon. It’s the way his breath catches in his throat, as if an involuntary sigh. It’s in the creases of his face, the lines around eyes that have seen their share, the crooked smile/smirk as he recalls something that made that smile happen a long time ago. There’s so many feelings and vibes coming off him, but the undercurrent, the baseline is contentment. At least, acceptance. It’s good enough, he seems to say, without a hint of sorrow. Good enough.

He’s done a lot. Lived a lot. Made mistakes and learned from some of them. He hasn’t done every thing he wanted to do, but he’s done enough of them. He’s been hurt, and sometimes he’s done the hurting. He’s loved and been loved. And now, for whatever reason, he’s on this road. Sleeping in motels when his personal engine light tells him it’s time to pull off and give it a rest. He travels light – the duffel bag in his room is necessities only. His is a spartan existence, and it seems to suit him. There are no wants in his life anymore, only needs.

His breakfast finished, last cup of coffee downed, he leaves a wad of bills on the tabletop. Doesn’t bother counting it, even though it’s more than enough to cover the bill. Time was he would have calculated it all – fairly, mind you – but life’s too short for accounting. Especially now.

We’re at his car now, and he’s thrown the duffel bag in the back seat. It’s a Mercury Marquis. Old. Big. Familiar. He gets in the driver’s seat and turns the ignition, giving it a bit to rev up. He looks out his side window, at the sunrise. And at me. The smile, familiar but modified by age and thick facial hair, and a raised eyebrow.

And like that, tires kick up gravel and he’s back on the road.

I still don’t know anything about him: Does he have a family? An actual place to call home? What does he do, if anything at all? Is he happy now? What brought him to this point in his life?

I don’t know. But I think I’m going to find out. Someday.






Published on March 25, 2011

NOTE: Through the magic of the internet, I’ve been able to track down the archives for my very first writing gig: DADDY’S LITTLE MONSTER was a tag-team review column I did for Rue Morgue’s blog with my then-11-year-old daughter, Emma. Emma’s now 18 and getting ready to head off to university in a month, so this seems like as good a time as any to revisit these.
I blame Guillermo Del Toro. It was the first pics of Ron Perlman and Doug Jones in full Hellboy/Abe make-up that turned four-year old Emma into the horror kid she is today. While she’s enjoyed the Hellboy movies, she’s been wanting to kick things up to the next level. For some time, she’s been bugging me to get a look at his more mature work, especially Pan’s Labyrinth. I’ve been hesitant: the film is quite heavy, mature and very brutal. There’s not a lot of “fun” to be had, like with our previous choices. After a lot of thought, I decided maybe it was time. And the end result? Read on…

Ron: So, Pan’s Labyrinth. We’ve watched it, we’ve let it soak in a bit. What did you think?

Emma: I liked it a lot. I think because it was “real” horror.

Ron: Now, what do you mean by “real”? A lot of folks would classify this as “dark fantasy” or a “fairy tale for adults,” but not horror.

Emma: Because the monsters aren’t what we should fear, that the humans are the real monsters and that makes it more scary. People are very brutal to each other in this film and with no real reason, either. That, to me, is real horror.

Ron: Well, definitely in the case of Vidal. He’s certainly the most brutal and horrific character in the movie, isn’t he? The brutality that he exhibits, and the fact that he’s so cold and unemotional about it – he doesn’t seem to feel anything – I think that makes him more horrific than The Pale Man, and he’s a walking nightmare.

Emma: ALL the worst stuff in the film is done by Vidal.

Ron: Now, we discussed the fact that this film has a different kind of violence than you were used to. No brain-eating, no “splatstick”. Keeping that in mind, from your view, is this a film that parents should be comfortable viewing with their kids?

Pan-Labyrinth-poster-342x490Emma: Oh God, no. No, I wasn’t even prepared for the violence here – it was brutal! When I first heard about Pan’s Labyrinth, I had a completely different idea what it was about. I thought it would be about this girl who ends up in this other world and she has to escape from these creatures who are horrific. I thought would be like Alice In Wonderland, but with evil creatures and it’s not like that at all! The monsters, the other world, they’re not the bad guys at all.

Ron: Well ,except for The Pale Man.

Emma: Right, but all the violence, all the evil stuff is being done by Vidal and his men and that’s way scarier. The movie was not what I expected at all.

Ron: And the violence is not supposed to be entertaining.

Emma: No, not at all. The scene where Vidal takes the bottle out of the farmer’s bag and smashes his face in, like, his face literally becomes flat, because he’s beating him so hard. That’s pain you can feel – I’ve fallen down on the ground and smooshed my nose before, even bumped a tooth – but that, times a million, is basically what he’s doing! I think I actually said “Oh My God!” at the end of it. But the one that got me the worst was the scene with Mercedes and Vidal. He’s about to torture her because she was trying to escape the night before. He’s got all these gruesome tools on this little shelf and she takes out the knife from under her apron – you have to pay attention, because she’s had it there from earlier on in the film – and she saws at the rope. She gets free, stabs him in the back, then stabs him again, like boom-boom-boom, and he’s still not down. And then, she puts his knife in the side of his mouth and she says something like…

Ron: “Don’t you dare touch the girl. You won’t be the first pig I’ve gutted!” I remember it because it’s the first time you see someone stand up to Vidal and take him down a peg.

Emma: Well, she also said another word, but we won’t say it… and she’s tearing at the side of his mouth. I couldn’t even watch it. It still gets to me.

Ron: So, it’s safe to say this probably isn’t the best film for a child to watch. Yet, despite that, I was surprised with just how much you liked the film.

Emma: I did! I really did! I love it.

Ron: Same here. For me, it’s because Del Toro remembers what it was like to be a kid. To believe in magic, to believe that there were things other than what we see. I remember you, years ago, took to sprinkling salt on our windowsills after seeing another movie, The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Emma: Yes, to keep the goblins out.

Ron: Exactly, and as a kid, that’s a perfectly sane and rational response. And Del Toro gets that. But that’s MY reason for loving this movie, what’s your reason?

Emma: Doug Jones. I’ve been a fan since Abe Sapien and I loved him as The Faun because he’s so friendly and sweet.

Ron: I’ve never heard The Faun described that way before.

Emma: I want my own Faun. A BFF: Best Faun Forever [Laughs].

Ron: A friend of mine once asked, “Where’s the Boris Karloff of our generation?” and for me, it’s Jones.

Emma: Look at all the emotions he can show under the makeup. He does so much with his body, especially his hands. He’s covered in latex and he’s just so real and believable. I love The Faun. I love Doug Jones.

Ron: And yet, he’s also The Pale Man, the polar opposite.

Emma: Yeah, I don’t need my own Pale Man. The movements he makes when he’s chasing after Ofelia on those skinny legs, the eyeballs in his hands. He was very scary in that scene. I was on the edge of my seat, going “Eeeeee, come on, comeoncomeon, go!”

Ron: Which leads me to another highlight of the film, and that’s Ivana Baquero as Ofelia.

Emma: I thought she was great. What I liked about Ofelia was she was kinda ditzy, like when she left her good dress on the branch and crawled into the tree and got all muddy. I liked that she wasn’t the smartest kid-hero on earth. She’s still a kid. I think she was supposed to be fourteen or so, but I felt like maybe when her father died, maybe she hasn’t grown up or “matured” from then on. She’s still free-spirited, a real kid with a great imagination. When you see other movies with child actors in them, the child always seem way more mature then they would be in real-life and they’re always smarter than the adults. She felt real and I could relate to her.

Pans-BanqueroRon: I think Baquero was so natural in this film and so believable. When she’s being chased by The Pale Man, like we talked about earlier, her fear wasn’t hysterical or over-dramatic. It was how a real kid would probably react in such a scenario: mute, wide-eyed and frantic.

Emma: But she’s still brave in her own way, especially at the ending.

Ron: Yes, the ending. Without giving away too much, we did have an interesting chat about the ending, didn’t we?

Emma: Yeah, like you said, the film could be seen in two ways: was her imagination making all these things appear real, or were The Faun, the Pale Man and the fairies real?

Ron: And there’s enough evidence to support either side of the argument that there is no wrong answer. Either ending works equally well, but I like the fact that it keeps me guessing.

Emma: Yes, but when you watch it from the “real” grown-up perspective, that’s like the saddest ending ever and that really sucks. But if you see it from Ofelia’s point of view, the ending is much happier. I prefer the happy ending.

Ron: Yeah, me too. The grown-ups’ view is very tragic, very dark and probably more realistic, but this is a fairy tale, so I’m sticking with the happy ending too. So, overall, what’s your take on Pan’s Labyrinth?

Emma: It’s one of my favourite films now. I want to watch it again. Doug Jones and Ivana Baquero were amazing, they did a great job. All the actors were really good. But it is not for kids. I would say maybe fourteen and older, because the violence is really disturbing. I also want to say that this is not Harry Potter or The Spiderwick Chronicles. The fantasy stuff is pretty short, and most of the film takes place in the “real world”, so your kids may not even be into it. But I loved it. How was that?

Ron: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Now, we’ve been hearing from some people that we’re too agreeable, that the generation gap isn’t as wide as they were expecting. “When are you two gonna fight?” they ask. You’ll get a taste of that next time. The knives are coming out for that one. In the meantime, sweet dreams, Little Monsters.