Tuesday, November 29, 2005


When your first comment on my work involves questioning how I do my job the one that won you multiple national awards there is a disconnect between my success and your need for control.

When the asbestos clearing house you boxed me in has a power failure and you tell me 'you can't work like this', there's a disconnect like maybe the whole joint is wired through your head which happened to have a meltdown today, or maybe you're just bitchy and feel like bashing someone with less power, the way landed immigrants sometimes bash welfare recipients and refugees.

When you fail to have a conversation without coming off as an inquisition and then express explicitly that those adjusting to new cultural norms must learn a hard lesson so you can leave your mark where it doesn't belong anyway and save the face of being irrelevant to such a large population someone must have tripped the fusebox to your brain.

When you are completely unaware of how poorly you're perceived among your own community let alone those having trouble accessing that neighbourhood and the one person trying to save your reputation and improve your performance is a random target of your corrective condescending lectures because he happens to be the last one left in the building that caused a situation beyond any of our control there is a systemic diconnect and you are the one in charge of the system.

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Monday, November 28, 2005


Port Hardy is the Twilight Zone, the same caravans passed us 6 times each, with the same nursing home attendants waving and pointing excuses for not picking us up.

Big bearly man saved us on only his second pass, after getting gas. Covered pickup man, slicked grey-white hair, big deer belly under plaid shirt - cannon voice - a logger. "Oh I don't cut trees, I build logging roards. But I'm semi-retired now - only work 6 months a year. Not as much work these days anyway. So I have more time to visit my daughter. She just dropped out of school. She's a receptionist now. I guess she's happy. I'm on my way to see her - first time in 6 months. Thanks to the US boycott on softwood. I'm a yank myself - from Louisiana, not far from Baton Rouge. Wife makes the best jumbalaya you ever tasted! Yessir.

"But I love Canada. Came to this island 30 years ago and never wanted to leave. I rarely go back to Louisiana now - been 5 years.

"I like the land here. I like the animals, especially the bears. See them all the time. We had one at work got into the whipped cream. We warned the chef not to leave anything out, but he didn't listen. Sure was funny to see that bear into the whipped cream - ate a whole barrel! Oh yeah - seen one carry my neighbour's garbage can 100 yards one time, into the woods. I wished I had a camera - funniest thing. He carried that thing, walkin' on hind legs, hundred yards. Ha! It was so funny.

"Only thing about Vancouver Island is all the Indians." I zoned out on that broken white man record. Nice friendly white bigots coast to coast.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Six Shooter Scores

Bought another offering from Six Shooter Records today: Luke Doucet's 'Broken (and other rogue stats).' I first saw him at a Danny Michel concert and he seemed to be in command of the music somehow, despite Danny's genius. The album reminds me a lot of Danny Michel actually, maybe just because that's the context I know him from. Similar arrangements, instramentation, also works with the omnipresent Kevin Fox, funny clever lyrics (though less prosaic, more poetic, somehow not quite as fantastic, but almost there). Anyway I've listened to it 3 times through and it kicks ass!


ps. ever use a mantra to pass the time while waiting for a page to download? I used to use the Beatles' "1-2-3-4-5-6-7, all the children go to heaven," but have recently switched to "1, 2, 3, and to the 4, Snoop Doggie Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door."

pps. First down, Mont-real!!!


Saturday, November 26, 2005

August 1, 2001

Sixteen days since Sadie left - withdrawal in full force now. Flashbacks - rose-coloured glasses flashbacks in futuristic Utopian fantasies, me her and ever'thing's fine.

Been a long time traveling without ever connecting with anyone new - not since Indonesia: Lodowne and Shorin. Inexplicable connection despite barriers of culture, language, religion. She a religious junkie, the worst kind, except maybe a love junkie like me. But everyone has addiction in common. "Leave it to fate," she said. I'm fate's bitch, all it does is screw me.

Okay, that's not true, that's the withdrawal talking. Serenity chores sweat it out of me: seaweed harvesting, cliffside weeding, bread-making.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Beethoven's 5th - Lyrics

Most people don't realize that Beethoven actually wrote lyrics to accompany his fifth symphony. The reason for this mass ignorance is that his manager, George, consistently sabatoged the larnyx of every singer the composer hired to put voice to the words. Was he sadistic and evil? Perhaps, but also smart. You'll understand when you see the lyrics. Here they are:

I'm Beethoven
And you are not
I can barely hear and yet I can compose an entire symphony
What can you do?
You are not me
I was better than my father by the time I was a teenager
And he was a pro
Not as good as me
So what may I ask if I could just ask does that make you?
It makes you not me
You're no Beethoven

It goes on like that for some pages. Yeesh, what a Narcissist!

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ferry to Port Hardy II

"Killer whales are known to be very cunning with their prey. I heard about a pod that played with dolphins for hours, luring them far out into the ocean, where they ate them." Pseudo-cousin Katy'd told the same story, except with coyotes and dogs.

"Another cute wild animal that has been known to be aggressive is the elk. A friend of mine was chased all through Jasper by an elk while the tourists snapped photos. It's true!"

Crazy tired arrival at a campsite in Port Hardy called sunshine sanctuary, with scary-ass Paul Bunyon killing stuff statue at the entrance.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Arundhati Roy on family:

"This was the trouble with families. Like invidious doctors, they knew just where it hurt."

--Arundhati Roy, from 'The God of Small Things', 1997


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ferry to Port Hardy, July 31, 2001

BC's southcoast ferry is so gay they call it the Queen. Big smiles abound for glorious gaiety. A 16-hour trip. Cold tin cafeteria tables and hard plastic chairs. Comfy pleather chairs with porpoise dolphins circus-playing for show. Free newspapers and funny movies. Occasional pitches by Natural Resource Tourguide Salespeople (NARTS) on the top deck channel deeper than wise, mountain and small village adorned.

"If everyone here is pure of spirit, we may get to see Kermode, or spirit bear as the natives call it. It's a white black bear, not an albino but a sort of separate breed with a recessive white gene. I've even heard of one with a black head and white body." Ahhh, KK with your blazing orange hair, fat pouty lips, brown eyes into which I gaze from far below, your white magazine skin and coke bottle hips, your swolen hummus belly - how I miss you. Soneone on that boat was not pure of spirit.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Anita Rau Badami on Television:

"She had seen a nature program about Africa on television last week. Killer bees were dangerous. They could kill with a single sting and travel long distances without getting tired. Nandana wasn't sure where Africa was in relation to Vancouver, but on the world map in her room it didn't look far at all. She and Molly McNaughton had discussed it and agreed that it was ab-SO-lute-ly possible for those bees to fly to Canada."
--Anita Rau Badami, in 'The Hero's Walk', 2000


Friday, November 18, 2005

Mavis, Dinah, Flo & Owen

On the way home we were gravitated into a line country music pub. Dinah and Flo - two middle-aged Haida Gwaii women, invited us for a beer, their 17th.

"Y'don look olenuff a be in here, Chris. Bet yer m'son's age. An yer cute." This record backgrounded the live act all night - two Newfies doing folk country - Hank Williams even. "Chris, y'wanna dance?" Of course.

Flo worked packing fish till her fingers curled gnarled and arthritized and it was too much pain. "Chris, y'wanna smoke a joint w'me? It's mediss, mediss, y'know, for my arthritis." Not now thanks.

"Chris, yer m'son's age and yer cute, but m'son's cuter a course. But yer cute - Ai-eeeee!" High-pitched Haida Gwaii cat call.

Dinah was cute too, but her man-catcher was Owen-pointed.

"At this point in our show we'd like to invite our friend Owen up to sing a song or two." Johnny Cash base voice pumpin' hard country - Hank Williams and Snow too, Cash, Willie Nelson. Of course hot-blooded Dinah was drawn, and sung, and danced - old-folk shuffle sweetly.

Mavis joined the party late - the sister of a Haida Gwaii artist who happened to carve Sadie's argellite jewelry: Miles. Miles and Mavis.

We stumbled to the tent after midnight and our old friend Florian woke us up: "Time to get up! Ferry's coming!"

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Joann McCaig on Oppression

"Melissa began grad school with great promise. But by the end of fall term, she looked unhinged, skeletal, pale with shame. At first, she'd slink into Diana's office, haunted, saying 'I just don't understand...' By winter term, Melissa avoided Diana, looked right through her at readings and lectures. At the annual grad-student conference in March, Melissa stood up to give a paper in which she cried and apologized publicly for being white, middle-class, and racist."

--Joann McCaig, from 'The Textbook of the Rose', 2000


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Busted Flat in Rupert

Busted flat in Rupert - rain pourin in - me under a V-roof picnic table shelter sippin' gas station coffee, Sleepy Sadie out in the tent oblivious to appropriate rains. BC ferries are designed not to connect with each other - part of a Board of Tourism plot to keep up accomodation spending in small-town BC.

Sadie rose playful giddy - me on the rag again. Playing the avoidance game with my books and walking trails. We went for island-priced Sushi on the mainland, eating bioregional irreplaceable pieces of the ocean.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Linda Tuhiwai Smith on Haunani Kay Trask on anthropologists:

"Haunani Kay Trask accuses anthropologists of being 'takers and users' who 'exploit the hospitality and generosity of native people.'"

--Linda Tuhiwai Smith, in 'Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples, 1999


Monday, November 14, 2005

Bye Bye Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii's short impression flew by from the cold back of a red pickup, holdin' hands, battered together in too much time, and not enough. Resilient forests winding road and Lucian-like seas sparkling pink, as if the waves gave colour to the sun.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Margaret Atwood on Sunk Cost:

"'Should' is a futile word. It's about what didn't happen."

--Margaret Atwood, from 'The Blind Assassin', 2000


Friday, November 11, 2005

Exit South

But there was a ferry to catch, a due date in Vancouver. Strange to wander into an open stranger's home for dinner then leave so soon.

"I don't know what to do with myself. I see the beauty here, and what's happening to it, I don't wanna go back to Toronto. The ocean - I need it. But my friends - I need them. And anyway what would I do here? What would I do about these clearcuts?" Bits of light short greens - tree harvest scars, still beautiful but insinuating greater beauty that once was - an aging actress. So plentiful these scars.

"Maybe the trees are just smaller here, in some spots."

They're shorter because they're younger, their parents massacred by our greed.

"You could move to Vancouver - lots of cool people there, and the ocean."

"Replace one urban nightmare with another."

"Not all cities are the same."

"The point is I gotta get out of Toronto, but I'm afraid to."

"Yeah, me too," she said.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

E.B. White on Existential Crises

"If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I awake in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world, and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."

--E.B. White


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Arundhati Roy on Kerala Marxism:

"Marxism was a simple substitute for Christianity. Replace God with Marx, Satan with the bourgeoisie, Heaven with a classless society, the Church with the Party, and the form and purpose of the journey remained similar. An obstacle race, with a prize at the end."
--Arundhati Roy, from 'The God of Small Things', 1997


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ken ctd.

Migrant hippies fluttered in and out for an hour, passing joints and malt liquor, taking turns holding babies, while the indy folk music poured in through the cabin windows. Ken talked sex, chit-chat, geography, weather, politics.

"The DFO wants to come to Haida Gwaii and tell us how to run our fishery, when it was their policies destroyed our fishery in the first place. Now what we need to do is all sit down together, the fishermen, the natives, the locals, consumers, and all sit down with the the feds, and all tell those bureaucrats we don't want their policies on Haida Gwaii - we want to manage our own fishery!

"I really believe in the circle you know. It's the only legitimate form of justice left in the world; when the native elders look at a guilty man and say, 'We can forgive you, but this is how you gotta repent.' Well, we need to all sit down - like in a circle, and talk about how we're gonna manage the resources on this island." Hippies' heads glue-focused, without a noise in thew room but Ken's crackerjack voice. Even the children silent listening, like church.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Surrealist Philosophy:

On that day he was broken at the spokes and hurled into traffic by a passing car, then broken at the bones under rush hour traffic. He was hauled up by a vengeful bum and thrown on the shoulders of an angry mob, which chanted "you worked when you should have played, and you played when we needed you most."

Looking down at his captor saviours he saw they were the ones he'd tried hardest to help, on whom he'd thrust the efforts of his sense of duty. They dropped him by a cliff, trampled him, and the last one stabbed his back and pushed him over.

He fell into a desert where once grew lush forest hosting diverse animals. He crawled, broken-boned and bloodless, across the lifeless miles, until he came to a fuchsia pond. He drank from the party-coloured sludge, convulsed three times, and darkness caressed as unconsciousness enveloped him.

He awoke in her arms and knew he was loved.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005


Sign on the cabin's 2nd floor said 'Come in, We're Open.'

"What's up there?"

"Oh, that's Ken. Go on up and say hello."

Tentative stairclimb to peek inside.

"Oh, hi! Come on in, have some chili. I'm Ken. Have a seat next to the basketweaver." Sparse-bearded, toothless menonite cuddling a basket in hand.

Ken poured us some slaughtered bovine chili. "It's great stuff. Harvey made it, thanks Harvey!"

"No problem Ken." Beer-sipping bronze bearded kid in the corner, Hulk Hogan smile.

"Now, this here's Anna, Jane, oh, here's Stevie. Hey Stevie!" Stevie delivered us a few cans of malt liquor and the Basketweaver quoffed his and stumbled off to a class he was teaching on weaving hats.

"He made me this one," said Anna, long-time west-coast hippie, pretty in her fifties.

"So where you folks from?"

"Toronto. Well, I'm from Halifax originally, but we live in Toronto now."

"Nova Scotia, eh? I got a job offer from there yesterday. They want me to come build them a gazebo."

"That's a bit of a commute Ken," said Harvey. Ken emitted this cackle - it volcano erupted from his torso, stalled, turned over agin like a cold Calgary engine, sputtered, and exploded once more - hyena laugh, body convulsing hands slapping knees.

"Commute! Ha!" he finally sputtered. "No! They wanted to fly me out there. They heard my rep!"

"Which rep Ken?"

The same laugh had me bellowing my own cowardly lion laugh - Sadie later said she'd never heard such noises from me. "Which rep?! Which one do you think?"

"You have so many - could be the professional, could be the personal. Or was it the romantic?"

"Oh, I've dipped into those lush meadows many a time Harvey, many a time. Ha-ha-ha-haaa! He-heh-ha-ha-haaa!" Made the Polar Bear's roar sound like a mouse being stepped on.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Thoreau on gratitude:

"I am grateful for what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment."

--Henry David Thoreau (some time between 1817 and 1862)

Haida Gwai IV - the Ecogeeks' Revenge

By coincidence it was Vibes Bahai who took us to the nature trail, brought sightless Sadie back the glasses case she'd left in his car. "Yes it's a good thing I see you again. I can sense your are a special lady - talented." But the trail was no great revival. The biggest oldest trees had been taken - more stumpiness.

A four-doored red stinky ugly polluter (SUV) took us away from paradise destroyed - we were headed to the folk festival at the edge of the world, an hour north.

"I'm a tree faller. Oh, you've heard of us?"

Speechless serendipity. "Uh, well, yeah, sorta. We hear work is scarce with the US ban on Canadian softwood."

"Oh yeah, just got laid off yesterday. Can't complain though. More time for kayak surfing."

"Kayak -- ?"

"Surfing, that's right. You use a short kayak to do all the same stuff you do on a surf board. It's beautiful! It's the next big thing. We're going to start a bed and breakfast and give kayak surfing lessons there. In the meantime, we have her income."

"I'm an interior decorator. Business is good."

Rob the addictions councellor had wondered about foresters. "I don't know how they sleep at night," he'd said. "I really don't."

Another forester kind enough to carry hitch-hikers told us how he'd spent as many years as a tree-planter as he had cutting them down, and it made him feel good.

On our way out from the clearcut I started pulling logs onto the road, just to annoy the loggers. And I put any garbage back on the road to remind them of it. Sadie joined me in my little boy vandalism. We found a sledge hammer used to imprint logs and smashed the lock on the entrance gate. I threw the sledgehammer into a puddle of sledge. Jobs are hard to come by, but I don't know how they sleep at night; I really don't.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Salman Rushdie on urban whores:

"No city which locks women away is ever short on whores."

--Salman Rushdie in Midnight's Children, 1981


Haida Gwaii III

High on caffeine, human goodness, chocolate, sugar, newness, we dampened my poor hapless dome tent. Mordechai Richler died that same night, said the headlines as we sipped $4 split pea soup at brunch. Lunch was sardine sandwiches on $5 bread from the organic grocer. Hitched an afternoon ride to the Haida museum with a frenchman named Vibes Bahai, a divorcee with 3 San Fransisco daughters.

Further on up the road a homely housewife dropped us near a logging road: "STOP. Active logging in progress."

We walked 500 metres through tree trunk humility, stopped breathless beheld massacred acreage - tree carnage. Waded in. Bloody mess.

I struck a pose on an 8-foot trunk for camera perspective. Followed a dumb little grousse - hunter's dream of slow stupid fat prey. Doe-eyed deer dream snacking on the undergrowth. We walked until a feartruck rambled by as we ducked behind dead wood. We split up and walked tree trunk miles - sparce miles of densely crowded carnage, oil cans tilting, beer bottles strewn. Material discarded. Trees cut to the shore, into the river, with the bank eroding. We reunited, stared over vacant destruction onto unobstructed shimmery sea.

"All this useless beauty."

We sat arm in arm silently crying. Wounded forest healed friendship.

"Tomorrow we'll go on a nature hike, and appreciate it much more because of this."

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Marriage

"Together they had overcome the daily incomprehension, the instananeous hatred, the recipricol nastiness and fabulous flashes of glory in the conjugal conspiracy."

--From 'Love in the Time of Cholera', 1985, Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Haida Gwaii ctd.

"You know," said our camera-handed neighbour, "I hear there used to be a white raven on this island, but it was electrocuted when it tried to eat its way through a power line."

A suicidal albina raven, fascinating.

"I hear that eagles have been known to drown trying to haul giant salmon from the ocean."

"It's true. Their talons can only release when they land, so if a fish is too heavy they are stuck. But on the other hand, eagles have been known to snatch cats and poodles for dinner."

"Poodles eh? Good for the eagles!"

"Enjoy your dinner."

"I will if I can just forget the price."

Sunshine waitress later visited us to offer cheesecake.

"It isn't on the house by any chance is it?"

"Well, as a matter of fact I think it might be." She pulled a disappearing mysterioso, came back soon: "Yeah, the gentleman who was sitting beside you paid for your dinner for you, plus two cheesecakes and 2 cups of coffee. Do you know him?"

"Um, I wouldn't say we know him. We bantered a little."

"Wow! I was thinking 'whatever those guys did I want to learn how to do it so I can get free meals.'" Flabbergastation looks.

"Maybe it was our backpacks."

"Maybe they heard us complaining about the prices." Triple chocolate chocolate fudge mocha mousse cake with chocolate sauce on the side and top, and good coffee!

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ahhh, Engrish

Haida Gwaii

We hitched a ride with some art foragers. "It's really something to see so many great artists in one place, all living in squalor. We're here to buy some of their work." Dropped us at an island priced hostel - double the mainland cost. Skipped the big bill and found Howler's Bistro.

Veggie burger: $8.75, clam chowder: $4.95, garlic bread (2 slices): $3.00. "I'd order a beer but I don't have 40 bucks on me."

"And some coffee and cream - ten bucks."

This is when she told me her nipple rape theory: "milk is nipple rape. I wrote a paper on it my firest year at York. They impregnate the cows perpetually so we can steal their milk. The calfs are born, taken away and turned into veal before their mothers ever get to feed them. Instead a cold hard steel machine is forced over their nipple to suck them dry." An exclamation mark oversized crow swooped and snatched our neighbours packaged coffee cream, flew to the ground and feasted on processed cow milk.

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