Goodbye Wheels, goodbye MCA

Here’s the thing: I don’t blog very often. I tell myself every week that I should really be updating this site every month at the least, but somehow that never happens. I’m not making excuses because I really could be writing a post instead of watching Come Dine with Me Canada after dinner, but then I think, what kind of writer would I be if I gave up an opportunity to observe humanity? Of course, I would be actually writing instead (as writers are supposed to do), but that doesn’t make the cut for rational arguments around my heavily-under-renovations house these days.

And I always want to blog about something relevant to my life as an author. I could blog about being a mother, which many of my friends do, but do I really want to immortalize in words the details of my poop-y, tantrum-y, booger-y parental life? Absolutely not. I’ve been tempted to wade into the current war between the back-to-the-earth mamas and the women who find this all-consuming philosophy of motherhood antithetical to feminism. But I’d rather not. My motto: be the woman you need to be. Full stop.

(Although, in fairness, I have no idea where I land in this debate. I’ve been known to give my kid potato chips. And chia muffins. And on my watch he ate the fluff from a cotton swab. So, really, I suppose I’m philosophy-less when it comes child-rearing. Which seems bereft and wrong.)

But my writerly existence has been pretty boring lately. I write. I talk about writing sometimes. I read when my eyes aren’t wasted from staring at my laptop. That’s all. I’m quite sure no one wants me to blog about that.

Yesterday, though, I was having one of those moments where I was writing a scene and needed a break from the intensity of my fictional conflict. So I went online (as we do) to look up a fact I needed for my manuscript about 1980s television. I stumbled across the saddest bit of news I’d read in a long time. Neil Hope, the actor who played Wheels on Degrassi Junior High, had died. And, worse, he had died five years earlier and it was only this past February that anyone in his family learned about it.

I grew up with Degrassi. I have watched every single episode of Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High. I own three seasons on DVD. I even watch the current series once in a while when I feel like rolling around in adolescent angst, which happens more often than most adults are willing to admit.

I loved Wheels. He was the straight man who hid core anxieties about identity and self-worth with a veneer of normalcy. We couldn’t all be the flamboyant Joey Jeremiah, or be as comfortable in our post-punk skin as Spike; but we could all hide what was really hurting us by pretending to be just like everyone else.

I learned the foundations of character building from Degrassi, and I discovered what characters would always compel me the most from Neil Hope’s nuanced and thoughtful portrayal of Wheels over the years of our shared childhood and adolescence. I’ve lost real friends and relatives, all of them well-loved and missed. But losing Wheels is like losing a friend I might have had, or versions of all the friends I did have, or all the people I was and could have been. I know virtually nothing about Neil’s personal life, but I like to think that it would matter to him that his work as a young actor affected me and many others deeply. Not just affected, actually. Changed.

This morning, the world also heard that Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys also died“You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party” came out when I was in grade six, “Sabotage” when I was in my last year of high school. I could say that the Beastie Boys were central to my understanding of poetry, or something writerly like that, but the truth is that I just loved them and that’s all. I watched them perform in 1998 with A Tribe Called Quest, one of the best and most out-of-control shows I’ve ever seen. It made me mad. It made me dance. It made me scream. It was great.

MCA, I wanted to marry you and be you all at the same time. Wheels, you had me as soon as you picked up that bass and sang “Everybody Wants Something” with The Zit Remedy. Be well, boys. I’m thinking of you.

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