Friday, September 28, 2007
An Ode to the Walking Reader
the walking reader
I salute you kind reader
though you can't see it
what with your nose in that book
I salute your love of words
love that you love them
as much as I do
love that you prefer their imagery
to what goes on all around you
I love that you love the stories they tell
more than you love your own mundane reality
I love that they tantalize you
with all irresistible alliterations
I love that they get you stinking drunk
with their grey coats of bleakness
painting a pain so pure
it busts up your own moderate depression
I love you you lover of words
though you can't see my arms open for you
oh you querulous lonely thing
I love your quest for knowledge
in the form of other people's opinions
I love that your passion is so enraptured
you simply cannot break eyes with your lover
until you know where she is taking you
and still you thirst for more
maybe there will be a sequel
I love that though I can see you
we exist on two different planes
you are in some far off misty glen
in some jet fighter from WWII
you are searching for your ex-wife
deep in the taiga of Tatarstan
you are the last of the geisha
or the first woman to build a mosque
I am in the world of sidewalks and streets
you are wrapped up in words
And I love that they lift you up
tickle your elbows knees and colon
seize you in a seismic fit of laughter
at the unexpected twists of irony
the layer upon layer of imagery
spinning heavenward inside your head
I sing an ode to you
my Walking Reader
your unbreakable affair with words
is the reason why I write
Monday, September 24, 2007
To the Lighthouse
Friday, September 21, 2007
Of Dogs and Hens
Of Dogs and Hens
Last week in rural Nova Scotia a couple of dogs broke into a barn and killed about 40 chickens. The most remarkable thing about the incident is that it made the news, as if dogs killing chickens is unusual.
The story made the press because the dogs in question happen to be pit bulls, a nebulous category of dogs that includes several breeds and cross-breeds. Now that this chicken-killing incident has been debated ad nauseum over ink-stained pages, talk of legislation banning pit bulls, similar to that enacted in Ontario, has surfaced.
Some dog advocates have rightly pointed out that banning a breed of dog runs counter to attempts to restrict the bad behaviour of owners, which is the real cause of canine violence. A spokesman for the Canadian Kennel Club has said that “it’s not an individual breed that’s responsible for what they’re trying to curtail, it’s usually an owner or an environment.”
Some have also noted that pit bulls are not technically a breed anyway, so any attempt to ban them outright would be fraught with technical difficulties.
These are all reasonable points, but they miss the bigger picture of a fact so plain, so overwhelmingly obvious and natural, that nobody has noticed it lurking behind the flying chicken feathers. That fact is this: dogs are carnivorous predators.
Dogs kill things. Things smaller than themselves, like chickens. And by dogs, I mean all dogs, from the smallest shiatsu to the largest mastiff. The latter are just more likely to be successful, equipped as they are with a hundred-plus poundage and jaws of steel.
I mean no disrespect to those chickens; they have as much of a right to life as the next livestock, but the doggie advocate who claimed that “both the chickens and the dogs are victims” is missing the point. Had the dogs not reached the chickens first, dog’s best friend would have done the job for them. For we humans, too, are carnivorous predators, in our own special way.
And had a human done those chickens in, as happens every day in every rural town across this province, you wouldn’t have seen any heavily armed cops seeking retribution at the local abattoir, “for public safety.”
I have to confess here that I myself am a dog-lover. But when you think about it the human effort to domesticate animals as wild and dangerous as canines is one of our more hair-brained schemes, and that’s saying something.
Still, through careful breeding and the provision of a loving environment, any dog of any breed can become the most loyal, gentle friend. But that doesn’t mean that the dog loses its natural hunting instinct.
And, the bigger and stronger the dog, the bigger its prey will be. So, a couple of dogs of the pit bull variety can, if left to wander, break into a barn and slaughter 40 chickens. And, sorry fellow dog-lovers, they can also turn on a small unattended child at any time.
So, our experiment to totally control dogs has thus far failed. What should we do next? Ban the breeds that seem to most often breach our unwritten agreement that they eat only the packaged and prepared portions of livestock we provide for them? Even though there are thousands of other bigger and stronger dogs that unscrupulous and lazy owners could turn into public hazards once pit bulls were banned?
Or, should we focus more on human behaviour, more specifically dog-owner behaviour, something we may actually have some hope of controlling?
In this case, the dogs went after a small prey that some human being would likely have killed anyway. It boils down to an economic loss for a farmer. The owners of the dogs should be required to compensate that loss; that is a punishment that fits the crime.
Unfortunately, the dogs have already paid an unnatural price for their most natural instincts.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Two Slices, Slightly Morose
Instead of embracing what is, embracing what others are, seeing and appreciating that real beauty, we kill ourselves in pursuit of air-brushed two-dimensional fantasies. More delusions of control. Too much power, too close to godliness but never close enough.
One body type they didn’t cover explicitly was the old type. So crazy to think I’ll be old one day. Seeing my 11 years younger cousin it’s hard to believe I’m even this old, hard to remember my mindset 11 years ago. I know back then I couldn’t see a decade down the road. And still I find it hard to imagine 40, yet here it comes, faster and faster.
Hard to imagine being a grandfather, an old man surrounded by progeny’s progeny. Knowing the end is near. What must that feel like?
I become more aware of my own mortality with the passage of time. More risk averse too. No need to hasten the inevitable.
I feel increasingly out of touch with the reality around me. Television is mostly nonsensical, a parody of itself that isn’t in on the joke. How can people watch the supposedly serious garbage on TV? The news is the worst, crime shows a close second. Crime show beauty pageants.
What must the alien anthropologists think of us? How humiliating.
“Shove it up the hole in your culture.”
“Generally the more noise people make the quieter you get,” Maven observed astutely. Especially when the noise is that of talons on throat. I just can’t handle useless petty conflicts. We should be embracing each other’s beauties, appreciating what is there.
Sometimes life gets in the way. MikeyZ and I were supposed to hop a U-haul and make a cross-country cash-grab, stopping at every ex-hippy’s paradise along the way, visiting old friends and greasy spoons too. CMcC was supposed to maybe join us.
Life got in the way. There were babies to feed and jobs to secure and begin, and most of all U-haul fucked us in the form of a 250 percent price increase. It’s seasonal. This is busy season.
I have this memory of barrelling across eastern Canada, my dad at the wheel, me on the navigation tip, belting out Blondie as we rode. There was a flat tire, three days travel, half the time allotted by U-Haul’s insurance sharks. It may or may not have happened like that, but it’s a fine memory.
I wanted that journey. I wanted to bond with someone again, play my music loud and watch the road unfold, no hurry or worry.
Life got in the way. Turns out it’s cheaper to hire a moving company. They make life easy, load up your junk, haul it over, unload it too, all for a third the price, and that includes coffee runs, gas and insurance.* Saves us a trip back to the people trap. Saves us a bundle, and time too, and a lot of labour. Labour I was looking forward to, because it would have been communal, with those old-fashioned friends of a fading era. But you gotta move forward, backward never as Kwame Nkrumah said.
Life moves forward fast, and it still gets in the way.
*post-script: the moving company misunderestimated (thanks George for that word) the weight of our stuff, so the actual cost was as high as a U-Haul anyway.
"The only thing worse than growing up
is never quite learning how."
Sunday, September 16, 2007
on the run from other celebrities
and the celebrity lifestyle in general
Specifically George Clooney and Halle Barry chased me
through a shopping mall full of hostiles
I committed violent acts on the run
all for the sake of my freedom
I dodged neutrals and friendlies
delivered sharp elbows to the necks of evil-doers
Halle and George forever on my aged heels
I had to escape the celebrity microscope
the cocktail parties and political orgies
the ego-inflationary hot-air balloons
I took flight in that dream-time buoyancy
restricted only by labyrinthine rafters and clutching claws
Finally the dynamic power-couple overtook me
embraced me in the oppression of their love
“We’re here to help, Gene,” they said
Halle’s lips seeking my flesh seductively
They brought me down down down to the basement
They locked me away there for my own good
in a place I could no longer endanger myself
with my ideas of sweet anonymity
Their strategy was disingenuously ingenious
I was too isolated to be overwhelmed
I was lonely enough to crave anyone’s company
My kindly Old Lady was the one to save me
with her diabolical invisibility spray
she somehow snuck into my basement tomb
and joined me there in my prison cell
Together we awaited the inevitable nervously
and when George and Halle came to reintegrate me
into their monstrous balls and antechambers
they found my sweet Old Lady there
alone befuddled bemused and confused
“Gene, my sweet sexy old man where are you?”
Halle cooed as George scanned the shower
under the bed and behind the wardrobe
I stood shivering off to the side
completely invisible and conscious of every breath
When George opened the window and called out
into the delirious night so dramatically trained
I took my cue and my cure and I took flight
vowing to come back some day to save my Old Lady
I flew deep and far and fast into darkness’s warm heart
I was naked, unseen and unknown
gloriously free like never before.
Friday, September 14, 2007
A Day in the south of England
The owner of the organic grocer drove us to a long and winding motorway where we could thumb a ride. He'd travelled the Western hemisphere long ago, before becoming an eco-entrepreneur. He was kind, good-natured, and down-to-earth, which left me wondering why eco-stores always follow the same formula of tin-flute trickling water and incence. [ My all time favourite restaurant is a big dirty greasy spoon Tex-Mex in NYC's East Village that has an all-vegan menu and plays rock 'n' roll music loud.]
We didn't have to wait long for two dudes in a kind of mini-Woody, c. 1988 but a 1940s replica, to pick us up and ride us about 4 miles up road to an east-bound junction. They too had travelled - to many diving hotspots - and were saving up for the next excursion. Most people who pick up hitchers are bursting with memories of kindnesses afforded them on past travels.
Tonya took us from the junction just outside Cheddar as far as Bath. She works with children who have special needs and she took great interest in Maven's work in Africa, so much so that she kept the conversation going at her friend's going away party. The host's face was a sketch of human perplexity when Tonya announced casually, "These are two hitchhikers I picked up en route. Can you spare them some tea?"
The host, a marine biologist, was about to embark on a long tour of photographing dolphins and whales. Once she realized that Tonya wasn't joking she set to the task of extracting our stories with scientific precision and impartiality, while her twin sister's husband made corny jokes and recommended routes northward from the sidelines like he was practicing for fatherhood.
They gave us a splendid time, tea and doughnuts, and a map of Bath, in exchange for adding some spice to their Saturday afternoon, and we were off with our packs to walk through town and back to the highway.
Johnny picked us up just outside of Bath and drove us far enough to explain his philosophy of spreading love through a network of kind deeds. He'as an aeronautical engineering guitar player and he played us a recent recording of his band off his i-pod. The recording quality wasn't great but you could hear some talent in there, reminded us of Feist or Frente. They had a strong, subtle female lead vocalist, whom he was honoured to play with.
Like me, Johnny is a music and chocolate lover, particularly fond of the Double Decker brand, and opposed to war in principle. Together we dreamed of better ways of spending a trillion dollars than causing a civil war in Iraq; it was all too easy.
He contributed his own gas and dollars to our cause, bought us some delicious cornish pasties, and I gave him some of my chocolate. He drove out of his way to drop us in Oxford-town, from where we got a ride with 36-year-old Harvey, who thought we were 20-year-olds and seemed a little disappointed in his own life when he saw ours.
Harvey quickly took to complaining about Britain's poor roads and high taxes, a story we hear everwhere it seems. The people who complain least about roads are the people who don't have any: Mongolians.
Harvey was good enough to take us straight into the heart of Kennelworth, between Warwick and Stratford, by the old town-clock, where we met 17-year-old Andy Stone, one of the hundreds of teenagers with whom Maven has worked over the years. One of those relationships developed in one place and non-sequetorially continued elsewhere.
Andy gave us a historical tour through town, pointing out the many houses built in the 1500s, now lived-in monuments, the owners of which are barred from making any structural changes.
Andy's mother made us fishcakes and veggies and we all chatted about West Africa. Andy's father had sptent three years in Nigeria managing construction projects and partying with other expats until he met his wife and found other things to do elsewhere.
Jon came home later and we stayed up to watch NHL playoffs on satellite TV and talk about the boys' lives in Engliand. Andy, the younger, seems to have adapted completely right down to the accent, whereas Jon has retained his Canadianness to a much greater degree. Among the three siblings, Jon alone has been hit with foreigner fees for university, even though he's a UK citizen, because he didn't live in Britain for thee consecutive years before starting his higher (cost) learning.
He has a good job though, as a tourguide at a castle ruin near his house. That helps, and he gave us a free tour, the informal version complete with quips like, "Elizabeth I, talk about your diva! She had 400 people follow her around everywhere and do her bidding. They built an entire section of castle just for her 11-day visit. It took them two years."
Their father is having a tough time adapting too, even though he grew up in England. He's slowly adapting to the construction industry as practiced there - the completely different jargon, and the skyward housing costs, which have pushed them back into renting.
In this immigrant house, under the coffee table, was a headline reading 'Immigrants Taking Away Our Culture' as if it was fact. And it was fact according to a new report complete with numbers to prove it. One can only hope that somehow poor England survives this assault on its right to snooty pretentiousness.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
New English (not a haiku)
A six-syllable word
Destroys my poor haikus
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
That you've probably never even
There are ways you are part of
That infiltrate the parts of me
I don't even know exist
There are memories of places
That lift us like a melody
and we haven't even been there
Yet we have
There is poetry in every moment
That I know you exist
Music in every movement
you make that I don't see
There's a dance in my subconscious
That I can't do awake
That you taught me while we slept
There are parts of me you've touched
That no one else knows
That I don't even know
And they feel like birth
There's an iceberg floating our way
It won't even know what hit it
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Supporting Our Troops and Honouring Those Who Were Murdered Means
Friday, September 07, 2007
Nothing but Flowers
EXT – Day, Deep Woods
[A couple sits under the canopy of some trees gnawing on big hunks of raw meat, chewing and chewing slowly and disgustedly. They are both dressed in tattered business suits.]
Ten years of vegetarianism gone down the drain.
This is truly disgusting.
(beat) I wonder how Jesus is doing without me running Hostile Takeovers.
I wonder how Tarik is doing without me to get his reapplication in order. He’ll never get his Thesta-Distatica patented without me to look out for him. He’ll probably be another victim of DigestCom in fact.
Would you shut up?
Ooooh, do I detect a little lingering loyalty to the assimilation machine?
No. I left for a reason you know. As much as I could go for some bruschetta and a café latte right now, I’d rather be here gnawing on this half burnt half bloody deer meat than carving up the corpses of small businesses to keep Jesus and the shareholders secure in the knowledge that anything innovative will soon be theirs. I’m just sick of talking about the city. We’re better off out here.
We’re miserable out here, Adam. This isn’t food, this is a dead animal. It’s not meat it’s flesh! And this isn’t living. God I have the shakes.
I haven’t slept more than four hours a single night since we got here.
You haven’t slept more than four hours a single night since university.
Yes but we’re supposed to be getting past that. What’s the point of caffeine withdrawal if you still can’t sleep at night? And what’s the point of sleep deprivation if you don’t have to work tomorrow-
Oh we have to work tomorrow, girl-
Have to but can’t. How are we supposed to work when we’re shaking like this.
[Jane holds up her left hand to demonstrate. It’s shaking heavily and she has trouble even holding it up. It’s caked in dark deer blood.]
Yeah, I know, I know. (beat) Not to mention our eyes.
[Camera shows close-up of a bloodshot red watery eye.]
Don’t remind me, please.
[Adam holds his lids open and leans in close to show Jane.]
What I just say?
[She grabs Adam by the face and shoves his head away.]
Seriously Jane what do you think is causing this eye thing?
INT. Adam at a computer, typing a financial report, with his eyes mere inches from the screen.
EXT. Back under the canopy
I dunno. My eyes are fine.
Yeah but your ear looks like a head of cauliflower – mmm, cauliflower.
INT. Jane on the phone arguing about a rejected patent claim.
EXT. Back under the canopy. Jane gives Adam another face shove as he leans toward her ear with his mouth open and watering.
EXT – In an open field now, Adam and Jane are hovering over a fire upon which rests a boiling Teflon pot of dark green liquid
ADAM (shaking all over as if feverishly sick)
This better work, Jane.
JANE (very defensively)
Or what, Adam?
[Adam looks at her blankly but if looks could kill…]
Whose dumbass idea was it to come out here again? Was it, hmm, maybe, I think, yes, was it – YOUR idea, Adam!
[Jane switches to a deep, goofy voice.]
Oh, Jane, we’re stuck in a trap here. We’re working so hard we never have time for each other, and when we do I’m so stressed I can’t even get it up anymore. Oh Jane this life is too much work for too little reward – what’s the point of all our possessions if we can’t even enjoy them together, Jane? Oh Jane, let’s move out somewhere wild, build a lean-to and live like hunter-gatherers – we can be naked all the time. It’ll be our own Garden of Eden – except we can even eat the apples, oh Jane let’s do it.
[Jane switches back to her own voice, except angrier than we’ve yet seen her, she’s yelling at the top of her lungs now.]
Well you know what? You may be Adam, but I ain’t no Eve, and there ain’t no apples on this godforsaken island!
[Jane storms out of sight. Adam stares deep into the brewing cauldron, pulls some small berries out of his breast pocket and squeezes a milky substance from them into the pot, and stirs with a stick.]
ADAM (calling over his shoulder)
Jane, I think it’s ready.
EXT. Back under the canopy. Jane and Adam sit sipping from two Second Cup stainless steel traveler mugs, making contorted disgusted faces with each sip. Jane occasionally looks like she’s going to wretch. They sit sipping for about 15 seconds, eyeing each other suspiciously, saying nothing.
EXT. Back to the wide open field. Adam is chasing Jane. She lets him catch her, hugs him, squirms loose, runs, lets him catch her again.
Oh Adam! What did you put in that tea?
That was no tea Jane, it was espresso, espresso au natural.
Adam, some espresso, it was disgusting.
I think it has potential. It must be healthy, look how much better we feel. I haven’t eaten for hours and I’m not even hungry. And I’ve stopped shaking. And so have you! And I don’t feel thirsty either, it’s a wonder drink. We just have to figure out how to make it taste good and we could make millions.
I thought you weren’t interested in making millions anymore.
Well, I’m not, but, you know. (beat) I thought you were.
I just want to get out of the jungle.
And go back to our miserable lives working non-stop, never seeing each other or our friends, consuming unstoppably, glued to our desks, stressed, sleepless?
Let’s work on this natural espresso. Show me what you put in it.
EXT. Over the fire and boiling pot again. Through the magic of time lapse photography we see Jane and Adam trying batch after batch, making a vast diversity of contorted faces until, eureka! They make a delicious batch.
EXT. Adam and Jane selling ‘Natural Espresso’ on the side of the road to Galiano tourists, thus curing the tourists’ caffeine withdrawal. They’re talking up the customers about city life, the beauty of nature but also how one misses the finer, higher culture things in life: the theatre, the ballet, the symphony, espresso.
Oh you can’t beat Karen Kain, Minigawa’s beautiful but she doesn’t have as much grace – that’s just how it is. I wish Karen Kain would perform again, even if she’s past her prime, she’ll always have that graceful beauty.
Heather Ogden is something to watch. She’s very self-assured.
Yes, she certainly is (beat) something to watch.
[Jane elbows Adam playfully. The customer thanks them, returns to her Prius with a travel mug full of a dark green brew, and drives away.]
We’ll be rich!
Yes, rich because we’ll be in the city we love, with a job we actually believe in – bringing this great energy drink to our fellow yuppies, actually having conversations with people. And we can grow a rooftop garden that will supply us with all our raw materials. Rich indeed, a kind of wealth too few people know.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
To LG (March 10, 2005 - August 29, 2007)