Saturday, March 1, 2014

Daniel Morgan

Since mid-January, I've been writing a manuscript. Tonight, it's finished.

It was one of those things that had potential that worked well enough for me to write it fully and finish it because it's in most respects a period peace, although it doesn't stay in the same period. I've been purchasing aerial photos of the same area - Nepean-Parkwood Hills - for three years now, images of the same area but taken in different times. The earliest I have right now is September 7th, 1962. The idea is I'm tracking the visual history of the neighbourhood I grew up in from the 1960s to the present. I've got aerial photos taken in 1962, '65, '66, '67, '68, '71, '73, '75, '78, '81, '83, '85, '87, '91, '93, '96, and '99. I haven't bothered purchasing images post 2000 because I'm filling out images taken in the 20th century first. Every image that was taken, essentially. It's a long but, to me anyway, fun process.

The story started out as an interest of writing about a character who lived where I grew up, in the 1960s or any time that wasn't the present, particularly before I was born and lived there myself. Then I thought of the idea of writing about this character's life by tracking it through the same dates as most of my aerial photos in my growing collection. I'd start in 1962, and make my way forward through history, eventually to the present. It made perfect sense in terms of not just tracking this character's life but the physical setting in which he lives and grows, because I have the visual image of it in front of me via aerial photos. There's his house, there's the school he goes to, the store his mother buys milk at, the park he plays with his friends in. All physically there in the image, and present in real life accordingly (if whatever specified setting is still there today).

The story starts with this family moving into a brand new bungalow at the corner of Meadowlands Drive and Deerpark Road. The house is real. They have a four-year-old son named Daniel. In the first chapter, his maternal grandfather takes him to Mooney's Bay and they sit atop the hill, where Daniel asks him what the meaning of life is.

It continues on from there; the theme of the meaning of life is recurrent throughout the story. Daniel grows up, and his parents have two more children, a younger sister and brother. He goes to Fisher Heights for school, and throughout his education does very well, being gifted academically, though unfortunately he gets bullied throughout high school. Eventually he begins a career in news journalism and makes a family of his own, having three children in the late 80s and early 90s (Colin, Edwin and Brooke, respectively). He struggles mentally with his career choices as he gets more and more famous on TV, and has a major personal setback in 1999. By the 2000s, he has his own show, and the story focuses on his siblings, children and friends almost as equally. It finally ends in this year, in June.

Other than the recurrent meaning of life, the story ties things together throughout and uses family, familiarity, tradition, and personal emotional growth as its main themes. Past 2002, I stop using the dates of aerial photos as I can't locate the dates of images taken in years after that, but that's okay. I based all of the characters on bits of people throughout my life, as well as myself, and there are many 'hybrid' characters, those who are based on more than one person or his or her actions. Daniel's best and longest friend Nick has some of my father's actions in him as he unintentionally gets someone pregnant in 1991 and leaves the city for a job opportunity, then later marries a young foreign woman and has a child with her. Colin has Asperger's Syndrome, though Edwin, Daniel's second son, doesn't and takes part in the Swim Team in high school, like I did.

These are the real-life settings that are mentioned or included in the manuscript:

Rockliffe
Hintonburg
Mooney's Bay
Fisher Heights Elementary School
Century Public School
Merivale K-Mart (closed in 2002)
Long Park (Steve Maclean Park)
Parkwood Hills Foodland store (the 'corner store' of my childhood)
Merivale High School
Auto-Sky Drive-in (closed 1981)
Merivale McDonald's
Inverness Park
Carleton University
CJOH-TV station (1500 Merivale Road, destroyed by fire in 2010, demolished 2011)
Algonquin College
Toronto
Baskin Robbins 888 Hog's Back location
Dairy Queen Merivale/Clyde location
Los Angeles (or L.A.)
Los Angeles City College
Zena's Fisher Heights Plaza
Civic Hospital
Sir Winston Churchill Public School
Zellers Merivale location (closed 2013, replaced by Target)
Meadowlands Mall
Wendy's Merivale location

If I remember more I'll add to the list, but just about all of them are local settings or places. Despite the story taking place in a developing neighbourhood in the 60s, 70s, and so on, I stayed away from focusing too much on the detail of how it was changing because while it applied, it wasn't a history of Parkwood Hills/Fisher Heights/Borden Farm, it was a story about this character's life, as well as the lives of his family and friends. That said, a lot of places in the area are referred to or mentioned, and some places, particularly Mooney's Bay, have a recurring tie-in to the story. Daniel gets a Ford Maverick for his 20th birthday in 1978; a lot of things, some of them which tie things in his life together at different times, happen in that car. Playing with those kind of story elements is part of my style.

Anyway, you can read the story here. Just click on the 'More' next to the 'Latest Writing' and a drop-down list of all the chapters of Daniel Morgan show up in chronological order going up. I think it's a pretty good story. I'm pleased with it.

Justin C.

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