Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Sultan, a Goddess, and Me

Woody Guthrie, a great Road Warrior, box-car law breaker
wondered who could guess the secret of the Sea
who am I to him, unknown poet
to not yet forgotten ghostly sage?
but I’ve heard a story perhaps Woody missed
of a Sultan, a goddess, and me

My wedding story is borrowed from the ocean’s blue
a brand new tale of a timeless age
The goddess has secrets unbeknownst to mortal human
of murky clarity hidden plainly but deeply
written on no dry page
but in a dotted land of mystics and charity
is spun an ancient story of love and glee
where honest people make minimal wages
the tale of a man privy to such secrets
of life and adventure unimaginable to we

His wife the sea goddess holds him in her cage
but once a month at the full of the moon
she paints the Sultan her mermaid cartoon
She collects from the shore her funny prince
a tourist of the sea
the would be King of a magical land
reduced to this impotent rage
but what fascination must lie in his eyes
before he’s returned to the place that is dry
and hailed as King is this former buffoon

The secrets he holds he does so close
he tells us only what not to wear to the sea
this alone is what makes him a sage
and gives him his historical page
his secrets of the sea
but I’ll tell you this one I overheard
from a talkative royal loon
were the Sultan a President of the United States
his secret would tell like this:
we spend more on searching for phony skies
than understanding what we see
with our own naked eyes

Perhaps this is the secret of the sea

[I wrote that in 2000 while I was in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. It was inspired by this song and stories I learned in this place and things I read about this place. Hard to believe it was seven years ago.]

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Friday, June 22, 2007

1,089 Hours and 7,000 kilometres

Sing 'hallelujah!' Throw up your hands, the first draft of the novel is complete. Four years later. Tis a glorious day, and will allow for a nice weekend before the editing process begins. To celebrate, here is an excerpt from Chapter 11:

1,089 Hours and 7,000 Kilometres in Chapter 11

According to Robadise the case of the four child deaths and the Pulau man who killed them (some claimed that his weapon was black magic) had become a national issue thanks to the state supported media’s love of rogue violence and swift vengeful justice. Therefore, nowhere in Indonesia was safe for Bumi, the new prime public enemy. Robadise’s plan was to smuggle Bumi somewhere the Indonesian government couldn’t reach him. He provided few details, saying only that the less Bumi knew about it the better.

“Here’s the deal,” he told Bumi. “If you stay here you will die. I have friends who can save you from that, and save Ada, Bunga, and Baharuddin the pain of losing you. If it works, you can one day send for them. To be frank, it’s a long shot. But staying here is certain death, and that would in turn kill my sister and my niece and my nephew. At least this way they have some hope to hold on to.”

Robadise explained that his friend in the navy was well connected with the Chinese human smuggling industry. Bumi’s special circumstances complicated things, but for a high price he could be sent somewhere he could be a free man. “Think Bumi, no more hiding your books. No more living a lie, you can be yourself again.”

Bumi informed his brother-in-law that without Ada, he could not be himself.

“This is your only hope, Bumi. Maybe you would rather die than leave your family, but think of their needs. This way they have hope, and maybe one day you can be reunited in a place that is free, where you can pursue your ideas, where your intelligence can be put to good use. Maybe you will become rich.”

This beast my brother-in-law, thought Bumi, is a clever one. And again, questions. Why does he want to be rid of me? Is he working for Suharto? Perhaps he thinks I’m an inadequate husband for his wife? Bumi’s obsession with having committed child murder had been replaced with a deeply planted fear of the only man who seemed to be his friend. Yet another obsession he could not put to rest, an idea he could not disprove. “And Ada, you’ve discussed this with her?” he asked.

“Yes, Bumi.”


“She reluctantly agreed.” Aha! Reluctantly. And her absence was an indicator; why was she sent away like a common servant after bringing their untouched tea during the most important conversation of Bumi’s life? As if reading between the lines on Bumi’s face Robadise elaborated. “Of course she doesn’t want to lose you, Bumi. But it is obvious to everyone, expect maybe yourself, that we will lose you one way or another. We either lose you to God, or we lose you to Canada.”

“Canada?!” Bumi felt drunk as his mind clouded. Canada? The plan was insane. And Canada, of all the destinations.

“I shouldn’t have told you that,” said Robadise. “You weren’t supposed to know that much.”

“You couldn’t send me far enough, could you brother?” Bumi answered through pursed lips. He squeezed his eyes shut hard, straining his face until it was crinkled like his birth-face and tears were forced from his eyes. His chest heaved as he felt everything slip away, again. And now, 15 years later, he remained utterly feeble and small in the face of the powers acting to move him. He laid his head down on the floor and closed his eyes all the way, ready to submit to his fate and accept it as punishment for all his imagined deeds, and the evil he may have done, the things he had thought about that should never have crossed his mind.

“Canada is a good place for you to go, Bumi. Lots of coast, multicultural, easy refugee laws. Australia is almost impossible. And they treat refugees like criminals. Worse actually - they put them in internment camps worse than prisons, you don’t even get a lawyer and most people there just want to die.” Bumi knew exactly how they felt. “I even hear that Suharto has spies in those intern camps. They report back to him about who is trying to get out of Indonesia and into Australia. So if Australia sends you home he knows it, and you die.

"Anyway, most likely you’d never get past their navy – they patrol the shoreline for illegals. Most likely you’d starve to death at sea or get sent back. You don’t want that. The USA is difficult too. Everyone tries to go there and few succeed. Canada has very good odds, and it’s too far for them to get to you.

"Besides, your politics fit better in Canada.”

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Birds of Toronto

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Language Trix II

[This originally appeared over at The Tony Clifton Experience on August 29 of 2006 under the topic of Euphemisms. I thought readers of Benjibopper might also enjoy it.]

It was a case of extremists v. moderates
or extreme radicals v. fence-sitting nosepickers
or fundamentalist divisionaries v. stagnant cancer

Meanwhile the boys at the box-office were manufacturing
a new cool that would chill the root-out-all-adversaries
neighbourhood bullies and hippify
the stodgy peaceniks refusing to take sides

Everyone else either pro-life or pro-choice
never anti anything, nevermind pro-the-right-to-choose-life
or reject pain or oppose the slaughter of innocence by millions
because if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything so
pick your damn sore spot and start bitching would you?

We have a wide selection of causes you have your choice
between Jews for Jesus
privatization of the market
liberation of the vegetarians
genericization of the war on drugs

Don't get me started on the list of wars you can support we got the:

war on poverty
war on tax fraud
war on large game poaching
war on the remnants of the cold war
war on the left
war on the right
war on terror
war on dictatorship

The list goes on and of course you have the war on war itself
and the boys in the language lab are hard at work sloganeering
for whomsoever can afford their services so if you seek a career
in the public service and you have a knack with subtle put-downs
you can perhaps be the chosen white to solve the age-old adage
of the spectrum-tipping nutters v. the smack dab middle ho-humming wimps.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Four Years Ago Today...

It was our first date. To commemorate:

Tar smells
over birch tree stings
and temperatures at both extremes
Bodies there
lay totally bare
and yours bore all my big dreams

In darkness we dove
till moonlight we rode
followed roads into our past
"Moonlight suits you" I said
it went to your head
these were the times that last

If novelty's gone
our future lives on
we can't forget the past
Gets better from here
we shake all our fears
and hold each other fast

Your body round
so deep and profound
explains the universe
My eyes explore
my hands adore
the reasons why we work

An experience shared
a common concern
rooted in compassion
We stay the same
steady as rain
pictures fall from fashion

The wrinkles that come
as the skin sags
from our bodies proof of age
We'll see it all
the Roman fall
when idiots outsmart the sage

The brook babbles by
dry leaves under thigh
softness of cries escape
Sometimes we scream
through nightmare dreams
before laughter finally takes shape

Salt on my lips
searching your hips
seeking the taste of skin
Latin feasts
sea-supplied beasts
Making the most of sin

The heat of promise
broken and kept
delayed and finally delivered
The warmth of home
the rush of bliss
elevating the peak we entered

The brush of your skin
you invited me in
I finally decided to stay
Your lips on my cheek
my strength when I'm weak
the constant in my days

Hot tears on my face
so easily traced
from all the times I cried
My love my hope
my strength my faith
My reason not to die

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The New Metaphor

Striving for the new metaphor
tipped by agents of Balkan wars
Could be tricks treason lies deceit
bitter memories of defeat
that motivated liars' tongues
sadistic playboys having fun
tempting me with the holy grail
of every hack soaked in ale

Pen paper high school diploma
heartache tales of hitching Roma
cancerous insides express style
become art in lonely exile
if coupled with concepts worth ink
changing the way that people think

Without the shift from oppression
it's a meaningless expression
the holy grail an illusion
its dreamer filled with delusion
as the new metaphor draws near
see its hollow vaccuous cheer


Saturday, June 09, 2007

In Montreal far from the Rain (with anecdotes)

It was one of those great still crazy after all...weekends, lots of reminiscances, digging up the dirt, catching up, bringing out all the old stories, laughing like old times. And, experimenting with the new camera:

Along the pier, in front of all these rusted out factories, we saw this beautiful little community garden, my wife and I did, as we strolled along, buzzing on coffee, on our way to meet my best buddy GB and his new old flame.

Next to those rusted out factories we saw this tugboat, the second oldest in the world, now out of commission.

Here we see the power of zoom. We spent a couple hours just soaking in the sun along the canal, me reading Tolstoy and M reading Canadian social policy. Nearby is a little market where we bought some sake to go with the evening's sushi. In Japan M fell in love witht the sake.

The midwife in the middle is a good friend who drove us to Montreal - she was headed to a midwifery conference there, and to her right is her friend, a trained psychologist who wants to work with the 'criminally insane' in med-security prisons.

Just a little waterfall along the canal.

Allergies were on overdrive - this is ragweed in the canal. Imagine what our lungs look like.

Pretty water.

GB and his new old flame (NOF) with the merry intrepids, a few coronas and a bunch of sushi in. NOF also made a fantastic Asian noodle salad for the occasion. In return she wanted dirt on GB and I didn't disappoint.

This is the family of a woman who my wife met at a course on refugee issues. They live in Montreal; we rang in 2006 with them and they are enormous fun; the little boy made it all the way to midnight for the first time in his life.

GB took us to his favourite Vietnamese joint, where I had a fantastic chicken noodle soup.

GB also gave us a little tour of the town. Here we see an underwater wishing plant counting its money.

There was a fire in Chinatown that left this burnt out beauty.

Back along the pier, lots of action in sunny weather, kids playing football (soccer), rich couples sipping martinis in their boats, tourists like us strolling along in the sunlight.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Extry-Long Weekend

Going to Montreal this weekend to visit the world's best friend. After several years in NYC with a good job, he took another good job Back Home. Then he quit and moved to Montreal - for a girl. Not just any girl, but a girl who broke his heart ten years ago. Foolish? I think not. I think he's the gutsiest man I know, one of the few brave enough to follow the heart. Besides, Montreal's a great city. So, leaving tonight to visit him and the new old flame - should be fun.

I leave you with something recently published by one of my favourite writers, a philosophical piece summing up some lessons from Africa:

African Social Evolution

Or, if this is more your speed:

Attack of the Flesh-eating Nympho-bots from Venus!!!

Happy weekend blog-geeks!


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Irresistable Game

"It was initiated in 1991 by a Senegalese migrant working as an assistant to a wholesale merchant on New York's Broadway, much of whose business was with foreign clients and involved negotiating preferential exchange rates with local banks."

Here's how it works:
01. Grab the nearest book
02. Open it to page 161
03. Find the fifth full sentence
04. Post the text along with these instructions

-Courtesy of This is Me

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Saving the World and Whatnot

I got offered two jobs and a promotion in one week and to boot saw my Montreal Canadiens play the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Garden in Toronto, one of the last times they played there, with my world's best friend.

It was just as I was negotiating the terms of my promotion that McC called me to say "you're in kid," or something of that nature. To celebrate we hit the Hockey Hall of Fame, Wayne Gretzky's bar, and of course the game, on which I wasted (well) $125 for the sake of the scalper's kid's college fund and my own personal pleasure.

So life became pretty good for a while, I had a better job, which although still not socially productive at least was more interesting, paid better. Still I could feel the call of something bigger and better, and I felt that somehow, someway I was to be rewarded by my travels, that I would be "handed a pearl" as Kerouac said. That pearl would not only be the thrill of travel, the joy of freedom and wildness of life, the adventure, the reality of it all, but it would be the chance to learn, to educate, save the world and whatnot.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Vegetarian Style

A few weeks later I flew to Hali for my interview, and saw J. Her and I had been in a long distance relationship for about six months by then, and it would be several more months before we were to reside in the same province again. It had put a terrible strain on our relationship, which although strong in love, and been tumultuous over our entire two years together.

I guess our first breakup that Christmas had been inevitable, though I didn't see it coming, and it hit me like a freight train. We were still best friends, and it was so good to see her that weekend.

The interview itself was an experience, and it allowed me to meet Morning, Frent, KK and Dudi, who would soon become a big part of my life, especially Dudi and KK. There was a one-on-one interview in the morning, which went well because I'm so used to interviews from my co-op experience in school, that I was relaxed and laid back. The afternoon interview was with a group of six other applicants. I hate those things because although they are supposed to be relaxed, it's phony because really everyone is competing with each other, but they are trying to be nice. I was told by a friend of mine that the purpose of those things is to eliminate ridiculously quiet and ridiculously loud individuals. There weren't any of either there though.

At the end they asked us each for our thoughts. "It's been fun," I offered, "it's too bad we can't all be accepted." How easily that line of bullshit flowed from my mouth. The truth was though that the afternoon had not been the total hell I expected, and some of the activities were actually quite interesting. To me at the time that is, I won't trouble the reader with such superfluous nonsense. I'll just say that I knew that four of the six of us would be accepted, and I knew which one of us would not be. There was a young girl (about 18 years) from the Cape here with a heavy accent who was clearly nervous and not very well spoken. She seemed like a sweet girl, and let me assure you that Capers are generally speaking the nicest group of people you could ever hope to encounter, but I had a feeling she was not going to be chosen. That left the other five of us on equal ground from my perspective, so I figured I had an 80% chance.

The interview had taken place on Monday, February the 23rd, 1998. That afternoon I was left with quite a high, having had a good time and having liked all the other potential participants and thinking I had a good chance. I danced into J's apartment that evening to spin her round the room like a ballerina with her hair and dress all sparkling in the spotlight, sending light waves dancing with equal brilliance across the crowd which was to make the singular cheering noise that can only be heard at spectacular events, and in the middle would be the two of us, flowing like a river round the room.

In fact I danced into an empty apartment; she was still at work. At the time she was working at a fast food joint selling delicious stuffed pitas. She hated her job because so many drunks harassed her at night, and she had to prepare meat and was and still is a vegetarian like myself. The two of us in fact quit red meat together in 96 and then chicken in 97. The chicken we quit simultaneously without even consulting each other; we were in different cities. Despite her temporary absence that evening my high stayed high and I flowed around that room myself until she got home. "Get dressed I'm taking you to dinner!" I said when she got home. She was captured by my bliss and the fact that I looked pretty good in my suit and soon we were paintin' the town red, in our more laid back vegetarian style.

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