[George's Pond]

My Room

It is my favourite room in the entire house. It’s the first place I go to each morning, to catch up on the overnight news and it’s my last stopover in the evening until the Blue Jays or Leafs lure me away to our geriatric, 32-inch, unsmart TV.

We refer to it variably as the office, my man cave or the library. None of which really captures the essence of the place.

To me, the word office suggests a place where something with at least a modicum of importance happens. That’s a stretch for what actually goes on in that space.

Yes, my desktop computer is domiciled there, and it’s where I spend hours trying to make sense of the incomprehensible changes that appear on my television/ internet/telephone bill every time I request even the slightest tweaking of my account. And I can’t even think about changing providers when my techsavvy offspring warn that all the telecommunication giants are equally skilled in the art of obfuscation.

That little room is also where I commit my profundities (ahem) to paper in the hope that some kind publisher will see fit to use them and some equally kind readers will bother to read them. “It is,” I like to say, “where the magic happens.”

Man cave doesn’t quite cut it either. For starters, it’s above grade. It has copious windows and an abundance of natural light softened only by the blinds that allow me to fulfill my role as the street’s self-designated Neighbourhood Watch in anonymity.

It is in no sense a man cave. Any man cave I’ve seen has been hidden away in the bowels of a house and contains a refrigerator to ensure the adequate hydration of its occupants. Not to mention the obligatory elephantine television stuck on TSN, Sportsnet and whatever other channels offer up seemingly endless varieties of less mainstream sports.

Add to that the cosmopolitan contents of the beer fridge – the Heineken, Peroni and Tsingtao – and it’s hard to dismiss one friend’s claim that his getaway is more a multicultural centre than a man cave.

That’s two contending names down and one to go. But is library an apt appellation for my little sanctuary? I do have a modest collection of books crammed into my bookshelves, but let’s be clear, those shelves are no floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall testament to my erudition. Not quite the elaborate repository of dusty tomes you may have seen on Downton Abbey. Just enough humble, Ikea-esque shelving to accommodate a couple of hundred or so mostly soft-cover volumes that provide me with untold hours of enjoyment and relaxation. While some people read for enlightenment or to improve their minds, my mind is about as improved as it’s ever going to be. That’s a lost cause. I read for entertainment, and if a little enlightenment happens to creep in along the way, that’s just a serendipitous bonus.

In spite of the best efforts of a succession of 1960s U of T profs, my literary tastes could be described as plebeian. Oh, they did their best, force-feeding me profuse quantities of Joyce, Dostoevsky and Salinger, but none of it really stuck. Today, my bookshelves are replete with names like Grisham, Iles, Scottoline, Picoult and Rankin. Give me a good murder mystery, a riveting legal thriller or anything set against a Second World War backdrop and you have my attention.

It would be disingenuous of me to gloss over the fact that those books are also a nice visual addition to my corner of the house. At first glance, they may convey the impression that this is one well-read guy – until you take a closer look at the titles and names on their spines. No disrespect to the aforementioned authors. I envy their talent. But Rand, Camus and McLuhan they are not.

One closing thought on the prop value of books. Can it really be an accident that so many of the pundits we see on CNN et al. hold forth in front of jam-packed bookcases that help create a certain air of learnedness, adding authority to their utterances. Impressions do matter. That may work for the talking heads, but it’s far too much ask of my book collection.

As important as those narratives are to me, to call the room that houses them a library just seems a little posh.

So where does that leave me? Having shot down the three leading contenders – office, man cave, library – I’m still left with a room with no name. Kids to the rescue. Funny isn’t it how our adult children can cut through the mental flotsam and jetsam that frequently clutters and sometimes paralyzes our thought processes.

“You don’t have to overthink every single thing, Dad. Why does it have to have a fancy name? It’s just your room.”

They’re right. A rose by any other name. It’s just my room.

Story by:
George Smith

Illustration by:
Charles Bongers

[Winter 2021/2022 departments]