Monday, July 30, 2007

Liberty Cliff

Here's something I wrote almost 10 years ago (!!!) after my first trip to America. I was so earnest and naive:

Our next adventure came in the form of two close friends, both of whom are of course overzealous fools, my favourite kind. DC is a bundle of pure energy that bursts all over you like soap bubbles, and infects you with excitement and a feeling that nothing can go wrong. MZ is a cool character who takes things easy, studies and works hard and has a good head on his shoulders, but dresses like Don Ho or John Travolta, depending on the day, dances like a battery commercial, strips at bars whenever the song 'You Sexy Thing' is played, calls everybody "his bitch" and very rarely gets embarrassed by anything.

The three of us decided to take a road trip in DC’s parents' 1998 Toyota Corolla, the most practical and fuel efficient car on the market, down the East Coast of the United States, as far as we could get in the time we had off. I had only a week, and ended up flying home from Jersey. The other two got as far as Washington, or maybe even Philly.

In Boston we hooked up with another old friend of mine, The Polar Bear (PB) from Sackville, a fellow business school survivor. He is not your typical biz-knob either, his goal in life is to make enough money to retire when he's forty. PB is a high-level slave for a computer consulting firm. He's addicted to everything, especially work, and has spurts of intense energy followed by moments of deep depression.

As soon as we arrived from our 14 hour drive from Hali he poured us full of drinks and pretty soon we were dancing around his living room to the Back Street Boys. It got weirder from there; I have one clear memory of PB laughing uncontrollably at the half-priced club security device we got at the Walmart. “It’s a baby club,” he shouted with tears streaming from his eyes, us trying to figure out what was so funny.

The next day PB woke up at 7:00 am and was at work before we saw the sun. We had some good times roaming around Boston for a few days, then piled back into the Corolla and headed for New York. We stayed in a cheap motel in Jersey where they had hourly rates, which most guests made use of, and there was 24 hour access to a porn channel, and a mirror on the ceiling. The greasy owner checked us in with a knowing wink and a smile, and when we checked out two days later we felt pretty dirty for having used the bedding provided. It fit our budget and the Canadian dollar was weak.

We saw lady liberty and flashed her the finger for a picture that I guess was supposed to represent an expression of defiance to the power and materialism that is America. When I look back it was a mistake because lady liberty doesn't really represent that, but rather what is great about the country, the freedom its founders had in mind and their friendship with like-minded allies. It’s something so sublime that it drives one to thrust her torch high, lighting the way for an entire nation to move forward, knowing that they are free to do as they choose, the kind of freedom Woody Guthrie sang and wrote about, like Kerouac did too, like many young fools for generations experienced and never wrote about it. We were using that same freedom as Canadians, yet we were making a statement against it, which even in jest seemed inappropriate.

We made a similar statement toward the World Trade Centre that made a lot more sense. Once I thought that world trade was the answer, that unifying all nations under a common bond was the ultimate solution to problems such as oppression and war. Now I see how cultures are quickly becoming assimilated, with the resulting mono-culture of consumers fighting a battle against the nonviolent resister Mother Nature, to whom the greats like Christ and Gandhi were ultimately devoted. I see the danger that world trade poses to nations like St. Lucia. I see how every individual strives to be like Westerners, who hold the money and the materials, so that their wasteful practices are mimicked by the spiraling populations of the growing third world.

World trade be damned and it feels better to remember flashing defiance at its centre than it did to do so at the time, because in retrospect, with greater understanding, I better understand the power and importance of such defiance, because only with defiance and self empowerment can the individual stand up to the tide of destructive practices that so many people, hiding behind faceless corporations and governments, practice with such devotion.

Our trip was not as liberating as I'd hoped; I hadn't moved to the dark soulful rhythms of Charlie Parker's dancing melodies and I hadn't taken in the joyful bliss of the American Woman and I hadn't driven like a madman over the cliff of liberty at 90 miles an hour through cross-town traffic; but I had seen America for the first time and I'd seen the most exciting city in the world and I'd listened to some good rock and roll in the car, plus I'd mooned a camera for the first time. And when I returned to Ontario, life became very blissful for a while.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

My Latest Accolades

I've been tagged by sweet Eric with the Thoughtful/Creative blogger awards [see sidebar]. This makes me happy because creative and thoughtful are two of my favourite adjectives. Now I gotta pass this honour on to some deserving suspects, so here goes.

Ultra Toast Mosha God has a most creative and thoughtful form of expression, which is both dazzling and deserving.

Honeysmack always seems to twist my brain into pleasing new pretzels of poignancy, so she gets a nod.

Okami's 20 questions were brilliant, particularly an answer she gave me about fear, which was very different from the words of Nelson Mandela, but equally prophetic and perhaps more personal.

Naturally, there are many others equally deserving, but 3 is a magic number.

What I like about these awards is they are without committee. They are reviewed by a peer committee of one. So, while they lack the prestige of, I dunno, the Pulitzer, and the glam of the Oscars, they are more community-based.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fear The Monoculture

I fear the monoculture
because I know in the time of choosing
which culture will win out:
The Dominant One
the one that eats forests for breakfast
and oceans for supper
skips lunch because it’s too busy
and can’t afford the calories
The One that never sleeps because
it's too busy planning
its next acquisition

I fear that loss of cultural diversity
because if we all start acting the same way
we’ll be a world of bullies
in search of new victims
and only the planet itself
will be left to suffer
That would be our undoing

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Poets in Their Natural Habitat: A field trip

Poetologist's Wisdom
the white-eyed poets hide stealthily in their urban habitats, cooing awkward mating rituals before a slack-jawed public applauding like imitating babies. in pin-striped flannel and broken-framed four-eyes they tilt and poke and twitter, laugh and scorn, drink and smoke, mostly hide from the light of the sun. they scratch in pen but the fittest adapt to modern-day technology, the only sub-species erectus to evolve in an age of mass mediated idiocy, they tap-type and multi-mediate, cut paste print and design. it's society's loss they're too blitzed out on hyper realistic chemical bliss to make it to work in the morning, or organize anything more complex than a printing press or an archaic coffee decanter, or they'd surely charm the pants off world peace and let us all have a turn of the pacifist orgies. but why the whiteness of this crowd? is maya angelou too good for these folk? are they too good for her? or is the ninnering of the poets about recipricol embraciture a mere orwellspeak ruse for the segregation of the intelligentia? regardless, the token of chinatown rouses the crowd with the longest and arguably best rendition of a heart luckless story that you gotta hear as it rings across the lonely dead-end libraries across the land of the literate ignoramuses. what seems most likely is that this timid species has failed from fear to look underneath the grotesque pain of creative preaching to the geniuses hidden underneath the grease-soaked throwaways of consumer culture. it takes a bold kind of mouse to bellow from a shit-ditch, so that kind of poet lives communally unheralded in the gutters of the shit of the white lab mice, singing about survival. We raise a toast to the wisdom of the poetologist, who knows where to look for winding words of wisdom recited by beautiful losers (TM L. Cohen) who have risen ever so slightly from the muck, in some cases found like mates, and are close enough to power to pan its appraisals. I salute you poets and poetologists, I'm so glad I found you. Now go forth, multiply, and realize that there are like-talented minds in all different bodies, equally toxic and afraid of the sun, yet willingly able to weave magic with words. share in their wisdom and your own, they can only make you stronger.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Multi-Dimensional Poet

This accompanies the last post.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Check Mate Crown Me King

Ivan has awarded me the Schmoozer Award. I'm not exactly sure what it's for, but it has something to do with this:

Schmooze: etymology: Yiddish shmuesn, intransitive verb : to converse informally : CHAT; also : to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner... transitive verb : to engage in schmoozing.

Strangely, the award itself has a Mr. Clean-like bycep and a ribbon saying 'community involvement.' Now I'm supposed to pass this award to five other bloggers. I'm a bit sick of the tagging thing, but since it's an award and a chance to recognize some good blogs, I'll do it.

Specifically, I'm choosing blogs of people who seem to have good and strong hearts, based on the nature of their writing. These are people who seem likely to be involved, in positive ways, with their respective communities:

1. Red Jenny: Not even sure if she's ever come by here but I enjoy her blog; she's got some righteous anger that I'm guessing leads to positive action, and her writing is nicely accessible.

2. Trevor Record: For being a vegetarian, and also for writing (very well) about the underdog.

3. Eric1313: Also for writing (very well) about the underdog.

4. Enemy of the Republic: She's a righteous and spiritual mother who has a definite political perspective, but also makes it personal, and community-based, and seems very honest and genuine in her writing.

5. Andy Kaufman: Staying on the parental theme, the rumour's of AK's demise are slightly exaggerated. He's a new dad and I admire that his priorities are straight. He also writes with twisted elegance.


Sunday, July 15, 2007


1. When I first came to Toronto back in 1997, fresh out of the brain factory and following the scent of a scantily clad woman, there were two men who saved me from mediocrity: RK and BC.

2. RK was a California long-hair who was just too cool for Canada, and rode me in his red jeep with the top down all the way to Niagara Falls, me shivering in the blind wind the whole way. We drank ourselves white as breaking water and had an early breakfast. He had the lumberjack special and I had poached eggs.

3. BC got himself a corporate banking job and filled two grocery carts with high-end liquor, half of which he fed to me over a high-stakes game of monopoly. He expressed shock at my choice of pizza toppings. "I think that's a disgusting combination," he said with the dignity of old money, before ordering himself a heart-attack-special.

4. These two opposite men teased me for my incumbent vegetarianism and general anti-corporate stances - they couldn't quite fathom such choices after what we'd been through together, specifically completing a degree in Commerce. In between laughing spasms we could all feel the chasm that was starting to separate us.

5. RK soon disappeared to all and everyone who'd known him up to that point in my life, and none of us has heard from him since.

6. BC became a father last season to 1.5 pounds of premature miracle, a real beauty. The mother claims she married BC because she wanted her liberal vote to cancel his conservative vote so they had to live in the same polling area - may as well be the same house and bed.

7. He and I don't see each other much any more - he's got higher priorities now than an old acquaintance and I completely understand that.

8. I'm free from mediocrity now anyway.

There you go TWM, eight random things about me (as random as anything can be amidst the organized chaos of intelligent design), with some added inspiration from Ivan. I won't tag anyone else so the chain may die, but I don't think anyone will miss it. I must say though that I did enjoy this little challenge. If anyone else feels like playing, consider yourself tagged.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Audience Poll

Kind Readers,

I have five working titles for my novel [until now called only 'the subway novel' because that's where I wrote a good chunk of it], and I want to get your impressions of them. Knowing that few of you have read anything more than an occasional excerpt, I just want your impressions of the titles on their own, as if you had never heard of me or the novel and were browsing your local bookstore for something new.

Would any of these arouse your curiosity? Make you want to pick up the book and read the back flap? Which of the five is most likely/least likely to do so? What would you think the story was about based on the title? What do they bring to your mind? Do they all suck? Should I scrap them all and start fresh in the morning?

Any comments would be appreciated.

Here are the titles:

Thanks for your help.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007


1. northern ontario rock

2. paper in fire

3. northern ontario falls

4 condo cats

6. lake ontario canada goose

7. chutes

8. lake ontario gull

9. selves

10. Jazz singer

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Monday, July 02, 2007


Today's special guest blogger is Buffy Sainte-Marie, who sang an old song on the radio on Saturday that once again broke my heart, especially when she sang about what happened to Annie Mae. The host of the show didn't even mention the national day of action held on Friday by Canada's First Nations peoples, but I don't think his choice to play this song the day after was a coincidence.

As I wrote recently on the Suokojamin blog, "I've always been sympathetic to First Nations land claims, but never done anything about it really other than argue with my non-aboriginal friends about it. Being in Mongolia, where people live off the land, where land is so important to their survival and to their souls, where there is so much vast openness, really hit the point home to me. The Europeans who settled Canada stole a way of life, and we perpetuate that sin to this day. It's unresolved. I don't know what the resolution should be, but it's a national shame." Grammatical weaknesses aside, I still feel that way.

Now, the powerful words of the great Buffy Sainte Marie:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
by Buffy Sainte Marie

INTRO:Indian legislation on the desk of a do-right Congressman
Now, he don't know much about the issue
so he picks up the phone and he asks advice from the Senator
out in Indian country
A darling of the energy companies
who are ripping off what’s left of the reservations.


I learned a safety rule
I don’t know who to thank
Don't stand between the reservation
and the corporate bank
They send in federal tanks
It isn’t nice but it’s reality

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
bury my heart at Wounded Knee.


They got these energy companies
that want the land
and they’ve got churches by the dozen
who want to guide our hands
and sign Mother Earth
over to pollution, war and greed
[Get rich... get rich quick.]


We got the federal marshals
We got the covert spies
We got the liars by the fire
We got the FBIs
They lie in court and get nailed
and still Peltier goes off to jail


My girlfriend Annie Mae
talked about uranium
Her head was filled with bullets
and her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands
and told us she’d died of exposure
[Loo loo loo loo loo]


We had the Goldrush Wars
Aw, didn’t we learn to crawl
and still our history gets written
in a liar’s scrawl
They tell ‘ya "Honey, you can still be an Indian
d-d-down at the ‘Y’ on Saturday nights"

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.


[for more info about these words, visit here.]

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