phono

stop and listen:
the world will shimmer
and glisten in your ears;
that ever present hum
to which we’ve grown numb,
veiled in a dark velvet shroud,
is actually quite loud.

open you head:
remove your headphones;
chime in to wind chimes
twinklig in the dark,
wink back with a stark silence,
hold your violence and your breath.
this is what death feels like.

now widen your mind:
first thirst for the creaks
of old floorboards above,
then love the distant din of laughter,
find the sonic subtlety of streetwise steps,
feel the bustle of rustling oak leaves;
soak in symphony.

focus:
the padding paws of passing possums
are phonetically poetic.
don’t let it slip,
concentrate on the consumate beauty
of rudely spoken words through chipped teeth;
air is indifferent.

now mix senses:
see the violet petals of a tuning fork.
taste the gristle from a bearded baritone.
smell the bitterness of hack saw’s winny.
feel the sheepskin of the whistling wind.
hear the here.

speak into your skull:
feel the roundness of the word round.
close and open your eyes.
note the tear-shaped sound
your lids make when bound
oh so briefly with moisture.
hoist this knowledge up.

daydream of dense auditory decadence:
pittering downpours on tin roofs,
rapping cast iron door knockers,
soot-covered hands rifling through glass bottles,
eratic static on a television.
really: hearing is as good as vision.

girl

I dream of a girl.
She sits alone in a parklet,
Lets birds and squirrels gather
Rather presumptuously around her,
Smiles knowingly, her glowing face
Kind, doesn’t mind the critters
Chattering in her ear, the dear.

This girl unfurls her curls
And twirls a single slender digit
Around her locks.
She looks at nothing in particular –
Me, I hope.
Me: the dope her gaze will glaze over
Or hover for a blissful microsecond.

She is unusual –
A visual paradox of asymmetry:
Eyes of hues of amber and blue
Placed askew on a small roundish face.
Lips prim, one ear endearingly
Jutting out just a tad.
This girl is fucking rad.

She talks to strangers,
Ambles up to a rambling hobo,
Kneels down and touches his knee,
Sees his pain and winces
Sympathetically for the pathetically
Lost man, takes his hand in hers.

Her allure is one of demure grace;
She is Arab or Scandinavian by race
But the race doesn’t matter.
What matters is her disregard
For the shards of destruction
That surrounds her
And confounds most.

cake

They say one can’t have cake and eat it too. Well, goddammit, I want my cake, and I want to eat it too. Isn’t that the point of having a cake? Isn’t the purpose of the cake consumption? If I wanted something to admire for its aesthetic value, I would buy a sculpture, or a painting, or a Bluray of Life (narrated by David Attenborough – screw Oprah). But the purpose of the cake is to eat it, and I’ll be damned if I’ll sit and watch the cake, perched atop the kitchen counter, while it tempts me with its sweet frosting and (possible) fruit filling. I’m going to eat it. With impudence.

This applies to many aspects of life in fact.

I want to win, always. But I don’t want there to be any losers. I want everyone to be a winner. I just want to be the biggest winner. I don’t want to win at the expense of others. Maybe that’s the point of winning – to gloat, waving around a giant, suspiciously phallic, trophy in the losers faces, effectively bragging about its overbearing size. Maybe the trophy is simply a metaphysical representation of phallic superiority over other men. I have theories about how far human social behaviour has progressed since the days of pack hunting, but that’s not the point. The point is, I don’t want to wave my dick in other men’s (or women’s, for that matter) faces, neither metaphorically nor literally. I just want to win, but leave everyone feeling pretty okay about themselves.

I want to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and the comfort of friends and loved ones around me, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of a starving South African child. I want children and, indeed, adults of all geographic locations to be well-fed and comfortable. I want everyone to eat from Life’s cake, though I suspect many would settle for a bowl of rice and some fresh green vegetables. I could do without things. I don’t need a memory foam mattress, high-quality nickel-plated headphones, a Lightning-fast carbon-injected condensed-core snowboard, or localized air conditioning in my car. I don’t even need, dare I say it, the computer on which I tap-out this glib text, if it means that twenty Indonesian children with bellies protruding and flies a-buzzing have to slave away at toxic workstations to provide me with these useful but ultimately unnecessary amenities. The world is a lottery, and I’m lucky that I was brought to the sinkhole of capital that is the Western “civilized” world to live out my years, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea that someone, even one person, must live in discomfort to make it possible.

I want to do what I want precisely when I want without letting anybody down. I don’t want to compromise. I want my desires to sync up perfectly with the desires of those around me. If I feel like eating sushi, I want the idea implanted in the heads of only those with whom I would like to share a meal that sushi would, just then, makes their lives complete. If I want to leave work for a few months and live in an igloo in the Canadian Arctic, I want my boss to spontaneously suggest that, for my professional development , it would be advisable if I took a few months off to life in an igloo in the Canadian Arctic. Somehow, my boss would decide that the ability to build an Inukshuk and to skin a still-living seal is vital to the success of the company. Full pay and benefits, of course, would be included; however, fresh seal meat would be required as proof of skill acquisition.

Is all this too much to ask? Probably.

Canuck-chuck

The noble Inukshuk, aka Stacked Rocks

Photo credit: Rolf Hicker

father

My father is nostalgic.

Things were different, he says. People were different; people cared about what you had to say. They paused and listened, sometimes cocking their heads in interest. We sat and talked long into the night over steaming glasses of black tea, pausing only to refill the samovar, throwing kindling into the stove pipe, he says. For me this conjures an image of old men in rags hunched over charred wooden tables. Old men with sweaty brows and bushy mustaches, speaking quietly, with the occasional sounds rising above the still night air. Old men, speaking of important things. But they could not have always been old men. He could not always have been an old man; I suppose he was once young like me, and, indeed, he often reminds me of this unlikely truth. For some reason I picture him and his brothers as perpetual old men, growing old into their lives, as I know them now. I imagine a widow-peaked head crowning out of his mother’s womb and his tiny wrinkled hands emerging, clutching an ebony pipe. I imagine him calmly asking for a box of matches. I imagine an elderly infant rolling miniature dice onto a backgammon table and yelling “Penge!” at a frightened neighbourhood child.

Still, I enjoy sitting with my father and reminiscing. This usually happens after birthday parties – his, mine, or my mother’s. The gifts would be piled up in a corner, unopened, and my mother would be in the kitchen washing dishes. We would be sitting quietly at the table – he at the head of the table and me just to his right – and drinking some post-tea Brandy. He has a handful of events that he recalls fondly. My father smiles and stares at some point just beyond my left ear when he speaks of his post in the Soviet Army, patrolling the mountains along the Iranian border. He doesn’t speak of the training. He doesn’t speak of the brutal conditions. He mostly speaks of silly details, like how he taught himself to cook in the large vats the army provided and how the troops loved him because his cooking was much better than the expired canned cabbage and rancid meet slabs they were accustomed to. He speaks of the views – the wonderful views of the unforgiving rocky terrain. He likes to pull out this blurry black and white photograph. The photograph is taken on a hilltop. There is a small cluster of huts below and the faint outlines of distant hills in the background. He points to it and says proudly, “This picture was taken at midnight. This is most amazing thing I have ever seen. Up in the mountains of Guba, it’s the only place in the world where the moon can be so bright.” I usually squint at the picture and nod in approval, but my eyes are accustomed to megapixels of image data and I cannot feel his wonder at this vague outline of a city.

Other times he speaks of growing up near the Bazaar and how, before he was sent to school, he would venture to the many shops and stalls with his mother, nervously clutching at her skirts and cowering from the booming voices of the market sellers advertising their goods. Again, I find it hard to imagine my father as a small child, but mostly I find it hard to imagine my father cowering. I think it is difficult for anyone to do this. Even as my father grows old and his fragility makes him seem almost child-like, it is essentially impossible for me to imagine this powerful figure, the protector of the family, shying away from anyone. So instead I picture myself, hiding behind my grandmother’s shawl and shuffling my small feet to keep up with her long and purposeful steps. I imagine the gruff shopkeepers with their leathery skins, smiling at me and handing me fresh wild pomegranate. I imagine my grandmother laughing, her stomach rising and falling in jerks, as I try to bite into the hard rind. My father tells me how he used to help my grandmother carry the bags of food, meant to feed him and his six brothers and sisters, so I imagine this too. I imagine my arms growing tired, but my heart being filled with the sense of duty that only a child can feel.

His favourite memory is probably of the time that he and his friends swam to a tiny island in the middle of a cold, clear lake in the mountains near his ancestral home. Ten meters by ten meters, he says. He’s always using numbers to describe things. He really wants me to understand that things really happened, so he often gives me specific metrics. I guess he wants to make sure that I believe him; I believe him anyway, but I appreciate the gesture. Anyway, when he is feeling particularly nostalgic, he relates the story of the rabbit that he and his friends found on the island. After an evening of sitting around a fire on this isolated island, drinking cheap homemade samagon, and telling jokes about the Russians they loathed (my father still loathes them, in all honesty), the group of friends heard a rustling in a nearby bush, and immediately trained their flashlights on the spot. There, frightened, stood a fat gray rabbit. “Juicy,” as my father describes it. What ensued seems to me like a frantic, drunken skirmish – an impromptu game of flashlight tag. I imagine laughter and as the group of friends hurried to surround the rabbit. In the end, they caught it, skinned it, cooked it over an open flame, and ate it. To this day, my father doesn’t know how that rabbit got on to that tiny secluded island. He shakes his head, his eyes widened, and asks, “Why was the rabbit there?!” I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that the rabbit is no longer there.

All this makes me wonder (and how can it not?), if all that will be left in the future will be a handful of random memories. Not even the important ones, it seems, are stored – only the ones that trigger something in the mind, the memories that contain some important but tragically indecipherable kernel of universal truth, whatever that is. Perhaps when I am old and my brain is a patchy tapestry of still photos, all that will be left will be the image of my elementary school’s side wall, where we used to play handball, and how the French teacher Madame Dorn (Doorknob, we would call her, but never to her face!) would pop her head out of a second story window and yell, “doucement, mes enfants!” Or maybe all that will be left will be my Army memories. Like the feeling of rocks digging into my palms as I performed pushups on the crushed stone walkways while NCO’s rather rudely informed us all of our worthlessness. I suppose thinking about the past fondly, or even ambivalently, is better than the bitterness of regret. That’s why I can’t help but feel some fondness for my quickly aging old man; I guess I am grateful for his memories.

My father is nostalgic, and I am bound for the same fate. I think I’m okay with that.

why i suck

Self-deprecating… humour?  I guess.

I lied.  I’m not the ideal man I describe in my decree of eligibility.  Yes, it’s true, in the course of dating and especially when painting a picture of oneself to that end, we all have a tendency to exaggerate – sometimes ridiculously so.  Indeed, I was poking fun at this dishonest depiction, this disgusting vanity, this metaphorical puffing out of the chest to impress the opposite sex.  Still, I feel that I’ve misled you, kind reader, and this misrepresentation must be remedied, late as it is.  There is no reason to be dishonest in this anonymous forum; it is tantamount to Doublethink.  Or [insert other clever Orwellian reference].

I am utterly incapable of commitment.  I break into a cold sweat at restaurants when I order soup.  I have to run to the bathroom, vomit, and splash water in my face at the thought of losing the possibility of having salad that night.   I look at my haggard face in the mirror.  I see a five-day unkempt growth of facial hair and bloodshot eyes and I taste the salty tears dripping down my nose.  But I tell myself it’s okay, the salad will be there next time and, besides, it’s just salad.  It’s just a loosely tossed pile of leaves and grass sprinkled with oil and a little vinegar.  But I’m inconsolable and I ultimately run back to the waiter and, with spit frothing from my mouth, plead with him to change my order.  What kind of salad?  House?  What the fuck does that mean?  Whose house?  Oh my god, there are dressing options?  What’s thousand island dressing?  Which thousand islands?  The Mediterranean?  The Galapagos?  The Canadian Arctic?  Is the dressing just a melted glacier from Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic?  This is too much.  I settle on a baked potato.  I suffer its arid starchiness, but at least I’m not thinking about soup or salad.  I am utterly incapable of commitment.

I’m terribly selfish.  If I were to go for dinner with friends and one (or all) of them was wheelchair-bound, I would suggest a restaurant that was not even remotely handicap-friendly.  There would be spiral staircases and metal spikes for railings.  There would be a single mile-long dirt path to the entrance; the path would be treacherous, boasting sheer cliffs and hundred-foot drops should you make a wrong step (oh sorry, you can’t make any step).  Patrons would be required to limbo in order to get in.  But, the food would be delicious and I would rave about it, and send out mass emails with amazing yelp reviews.  When we got to the restaurant I would make a mock sad-face, and march my functioning legs up the path, under the limbo bar, and into the restaurant, while my handicapped friends stood – I mean, sat – dejected at trail head.  The next day I would gloat to my handicapped compadres, comparing the food to sex – “Oh, I’m sorry, I guess cripples can’t have sex, can they?  Well it was really really good, anyway”.  I would stop by at their houses with leftovers from the dinner and heat up the food in their microwaves before devouring it like a duck, all while they eye me balefully.   I would then declare loudly that I am stuffed, and need to work off the calories.  I would suggest that we go for a run to get the blood going.  I would look down at their still  limbs and say “lame, dude”, before trotting out the door.  I’m terribly selfish.

I am really rude.  Decorum means nothing to me.  I’m the kind of asshole that would start a slow clap at a funeral for no other reason than boredom.  Then, I would film it and upload it to Youtube with the title “the party was dead before I got there, ROFLMAO”.  I am really rude.

I’m a fat, disgusting slob.  I subsist on decade-old Cheetos and Mr. Pibs I found in a museum bomb shelter.  I don’t use napkins, I just rub my orange and greasy hands on any available surface.  My only available surface is the sheets of my childhood twin bed, which I haven’t left since childhood.  I haven’t seen my toes since I was an infant not because of my hefty slab of stomach fat, but because my chin skin is so full of lard that it resembles an inflated toad gland.  I am a fat, disgusting slob.

I am two-faced.  I tell the French that, as an American, I hate the French.  I tell Americans that, as a Frenchman, I hate Americans.  I tell Canadians that no one likes them, then I tell them to go choke on some poutine, but not before they get me some first (because I’m also a disgusting slob).  I smile sweetly and nod at the substitute teacher in class History class when they lecture me about the merits of not exposing myself to other students, then drop my pants and piss on the leg of her desk when she turns around to gives me a sticker from her sticker book for being such a good listener.  Gemini.  I am two-faced.

I am a conceited prick.  I am so conceited that I would write a blog post about all the ways in which I am a fantastic person, and how I would make the ideal mate for any woman.  Later, I would delete the comments that point out my inflated ego, and masturbate to the comments (written by me and posted via a fake WordPress account with the name “Megan Fox”) that say that I’m a great writer, that any woman would be lucky to have me, that I’m a stud in bed.  Then, later, I would write this sarcastic post about how I am, in fact, a horrible person, and expect people to read it, pretend they don’t agree, and laugh.   I am a conceited prick.

I have no idea why anyone actually likes me.

Leave Timmie alone! Why won’t you all just leave him alone?!

Canada Day is in two days.  Yes, Canada has a birthday, too, and it is three days before America’s  birthday.  It is close enough that we can mooch off of America’s spotlight a little, but not so close – or after – July 4th that it would seem like an afterthought.  Like we heard the ruckus downstairs and decided that we wanted a little shindig of our own, like, you know, we can party too?  Or perhaps these are the ramblings of a homesick Canadian.  No, not perhaps.  They are the ramblings of a homesick Canadian.

Speaking of that liberal, progressive, peace-loving country, what the fuck is this shit going on with the G20 conference?  What a mess.  I get it, the G20 is somehow (I’ve yet to determine how) supposed to give the country, and city of Toronto, some sort of feeling of prestige, like having the leaders of the 20 most powerful nations in the world rubbing elbows and conniving behind closed doors and shitting in our toilets and using our prostitutes will, by osmosis, make the city a better, more desirable place.  Maybe it’s supposed to increase tourism.  Maybe Barack Obama will be telling his pick-up basketball buddies to visit Toronto, telling them that you get your own police force to protect you from the frighteningly dull Canadians.  Maybe it’s supposed to put us in the headlines.  Well okay, we’re in the headlines, but I don’t think this is what our wise leaders had in mind.  The security budget for the G8 and G20 summits was close to 1.5 billion dollars.  Now this may not seem like a lot of money to Americans, citizens of a country that spent well over a trillion dollars on its military last year, but that is more than the budget of the entire Vancouver Olympic games.  Seriously, guys?  Like, really?  Moreover, the entire downtown core was shut down.  Residents were asked (read: told) to leave their homes, for the security of foreign diplomats descending on our fair city.  This seems like, and is, a ludicrous amount of money to spend on security for an event that could easily have been held via Skype Video Conferencing.

So yes, you should protest.  Loudly.  Disrupt traffic.  Annoyingly.  Make sure the attendees of the conference know that the residents of the city they have descended upon resent their presence, and the stupid amount of money spent on them.  But this, I do not understand:

Yeah, I'll have a double double and a bowl of glass shard soup

What… the hell?  First of all, this is one of my most frequented Tim Horton’s locations.  The bakery is (was?) downstairs, so they always have (had?) the freshest donuts and the best coffee.  Attack my character, and I will resent you.  Attack my coffee shop, and I will loathe you, you Black Bloc bastard.  What genius decided that trashing your own city is a good way to show intruders that they are not welcome?  That’s like throwing plates and smashing your 40 inch plasma TV when your mother-in-law comes visits.  She will think you are stupid and demand that her daughter divorce you, and rightfully so.  What did this poor coffee shop do to you?  Smash a bank or a government building, or some other institution run by “the man”, but Timmie’s is a place regular people, like you even, go for a cheap cup of coffee and maybe a delicious Canadian Maple Donut.  And if you are going to attack a coffee shop, which you shouldn’t, at least go for a Starbucks or Timothy’s – one of those posh establishments where rich men and women in suits and pencil skirts order impossible to replicate custom beverages.  But Tim Horton’s is the coffee of the people.  I bet you had a coffee there yesterday.

And what do you do when the fuzz surrounds you?  Do you scream protest slogans at them?  Do you fight back and take your well-deserved lumps?  No, you remove your black clothing and go on your merry way.

"Who, me? No way, copper, I ain't wearin' black."

You cowardly cocksucker with your horribly tacky red shorts!  Who are you, and why are you destroying my city?  Go back to Winnipeg, you resentful swine.   Though, I guess there’s nothing much to destroy there since the Winnipeg Jets left your frigid abyss of a city.   Okay fine, there’s a chance that you might get them back.  [Disclaimer: I have nothing against Winnipeg.  I’m  sure it is a wonderf– um, tolerable place, in the summer anyway]

The worst part is then you provoked the cops.  You frustrated them, you slimy snake.  They don’t know what to do, so they find the nearest Chrome-bag wearing fixed-gear cyclist and make him kiss the ground (“Bite the Curb!”).   To people who are surprised by this, I ask: why?  What do you expect when cop cars are being treated like Social Distortion mosh pits?

"Weee!" Maybe you should stick to jumping on the bed, kids.

Alright, this last picture is pretty funny  You see, Oxfam protesters are dressed as caricatures of world leaders “pregnant with promise”.  Get it?  Because they promised a lot of stuff and they have big bellies and– oh, nevermind.

Live-action cartoon nudity, politicized!

Okay, have we gotten it out of our systems?  Can we go back to being a peace-loving people?  Let’s be friends again.  We’ll sit down and talk about it.  Let me buy you a coff– god damn you.

Credit for pictures goes to Boston.com’s The Big Picture, one of my favourite photojournalism blogs, and the Huffington post.