Wednesday, June 29, 2005


It must be the weather, but I'm just angry all the time. So, in my time-honoured means of venting, I have a little story to tell.

It must have been yesterday. The haze these past few days has been identical. The weather reports have been identical (I'm not exaggerating). Breakfast each day was identical. The weariness: not. It increased. It's hard to sleep when dragonflies come to take little sips from what they think is a pool of water on my chest (that one was exaggerated). For lunch: spicy meat. Just the thing for a day when my face feels like it's coated in wax paper and my hair is sopping and prickling the back of my neck. Anyway, from all this, a newspaper box arises. (I must have been walking down the street. A delivery? An errand? An octopus?) It is the National Post. Headline says something to the effect of: "CEOs say Canada is Adrift. Rage welled up. And I delivered my sermon to the haze:

"Fat fucking pigs! They say this because we're not willing to dump 4.6 billion dollars into their feeding trough we're "adrift". Their bribes failed to pay off this time around. To waste that much money is fucking egregious! But I'm sure it's not much to them. But it's life and death for people on the bottom! The fuckers have their "consulting" contracts to reward their cronies and vice-versa for millions of dollars to show up in air-conditioned offices and give talks or some bullshit like that. When was the last time they actually created value? I bet I could shoot every tenth one through the motherfucking skull and the economy--whatever the fuck that is--will be just fine. Maybe better..."

Unfair? Yes. But essential to express. Capitalism will drag liberal democracy down with it. Sad but true.

Consider: "...Fascism starts with the embittered 50 year old sado-masochist who finds dysfunctional teenagers who he then works on for a couple of years until they become transformed into homicidal little skinhead motherfuckers."

Monday, June 27, 2005

The mother--The elder--The child

I believe somewhere down the line I mentioned that my pants are now covered in paint splotches. The variety of colours grows week by week, as more and more jobs pile up. One of the perks of renovation work for someone like me is the frightfully intimate pictures that get painted of the inhabitants of the brick-and-mortar houses. Today the paint splotches reminded me of some of these characters. They are not characters in the common understanding of the term; they are all more or less regular people, the exposition of whom would make a decent one-act play. (That's my way of praising the reality in which these people live, in my twisted, outsider, some would say single-minded weirdo way.) Are they characters or archetypes? How much of this is must my own imaginative filler (as much as I rtry to suppress it)? How common are these situations? At last, a question I can answer: very. If you do jobs for enough people, the vast majority of them will be normal; another way of saying that the majority is the majority. But I've rambled on for too long without getting to it. So, we have:

The Mother: dark eggshell yellow and sky-blue splotch on pants... her days are filled with cuddling her infant... lots and lots of television... talks to the contractors (long history-related diatribes on which the contractors pick up readily)... letting those nurturing instincts splash over anyone who enters the houshold... wants the basement painted bright colours... "like the sky", "pastel tones"... crawling out of her skull with boredom sometimes... was a teacher in previous life... break in monotony comes with arguing with board bureaucrats over maternity payments... even anger tempered by the child bouncing in her lap... wants to know about my life... puts people at ease... wants husband to be more handy... "hockey is not a religion!"

The Elder: primer stains and lighter eggshell yellow stains on my pants... has a cought that leaves me shuddering... "how does her chest not explode"... climbing stairs a Sysiphean effort... gave contractors coffee and coffee cakes... long awkward break making small talk... showed contractors pictures of grandchildren now in the suburbs... husband recently dead... eyes welling up with tears... "do you need anything?"... our empathy turning to ire as our productivity is lowered... tendency to nitpick... "she hovers like a goddamn vampire"... addicted to television... could have been mother to Sarah Goldfarb... church choir music blares every morning, then Maury Povich...

The Child: did not underswtand what we were doing at her house... definitely not my inner child... channeled Marquez when she said: "this rock is a dinosaur egg"... liked to get in the way of enormous pointy crowbars... shouted as we tamped the earth... something about Santa Claus in July... big gentle contractor boss bear made her cry (for her own good)... proud of her tricycle...

What to make of these? What of anything? In the near future, I promise to give a sample of the dialogue in my endless head. (It is probably the dialogue that is endless, not the head.)

Consider: "So you can't dance? Not at all? Not even one step?... How can you say that you've taken any trouble to live when you won't even dance?"

Saturday, June 25, 2005


What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water

This bit from T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land might set the mood for my feelings on the suburbs. You might have guessed I have no love for them. Yet I work in them sometimes. And every sojourn is a boring adventure in itself. Every time I come back, I am thankful for living where I live; the occassional power failures and the frequent raccoon raids on our garbage are small disadvantages compared to actually having something to do if the power goes out. (Music, conversation, other human beings we know and love, &c.)

A few days ago I got sunburned under the suburban sky: completely blue, spotless, bright. I have never in my life seen it as anything other than that. It's fitting: spotless sky for spotless houses, for manicured lawns, for wide spotless streets, for rationally planned angular parks with their angular swings, their authoritarian merry-go-rounds, the piles of spotless cars, the glistening auto body shops, pharmacies, shoe stores, boxes of wwarehouses, warehouses filled with boxes. (I want to point out here that the optics of the atmosphere resemble those of a fish bowl.) (And note than I've gotten way beyond what I intended to say.) Anyway, I cowered behind the facade of a fine house which I believe had the privilege of being the last line of civilization out here. Past it were hundreds of meters of crushed rock and earth-moving machinery. (They had made an enormous pile which was now beginning to resemble a hill. The conveyor belt pumped on more and more dirt from the forest at the edge of sight.)

I have no answer for the highways, those rivers of cars, oddly beautiful in the nights. No answer for identical street grids named after similar trees, no answer for those other grids that attempt to break the monotony by making the houses slightly different or making the roads impossible to navigate (as a break from the street grid monotony). All I can say is these places would not be good locations for temples: some sort of deity has died here, and the stench of its corpse can be felt in the cloud of valium streaming off the impossibly rare passer-by. A warning to all the Salvation Armies and Jewish Cogresses and World Youth Day 2002s: your fine masonry would sink into the mud here; it would gobble up believers and turn them into car-insuirance payment, mortgage-managing drones; somehow, your fancy temples with their well-known religious symbols splashed out onto them would end up looking exactly like all the other houses. (I know I'm not making sense. I blame it on sunstroke from maintaining their impossibly high standard of living.)

Consider: "Q: How many Zen masters does it take to change a light bulb? A: There are two answers. 1) Two: one to change it and one not to change it. 2) Three: one to change it, one not to change it and one to both change it and not change it."

Monday, June 20, 2005


I felt it in the air today; I felt it in the view of the grand highway vista; I felt it in the full moon; I felt it in the vapours of an attic room; I felt it in the rumbling of the car engine under me. Some sort of infatuation, but directionless. A huge fat abstract wreck looking for something to tether it down, something to sit it down on the Chair which is very straight & real & actual. But there is a problem; there is no object to direct this occassionally-upwelling infatuation. So it'll wear off--tragically.

So long as I keep what "passion" floats my way up above my limbic system and behind my facial expression, all is well, in a sense. I can go off and in my mind undertake mystical journeys, the whole time flanked by that painfully abstract representation: the Companion. Just today, I imagined myself out on an anti-whaling ship, letting my beard grow long and matted, decked in some stylishly shapeless sweater to keep out the winds of the south seas: some sort of anti-Ahab. A short-lived fantasy, to be sure. And the Companion is just an empty slot: insert 25 cents, gas goes here, out of stock, parking $4/half hour, "can I help someone over here?", vacancy (TV and adult videos), condemned by order of the Vice Squad.

Someone once asserted that 3/4 of our waking life is imagination, or driven by imagination. Something like that. I will not pass judgement on the assertion (realistically: who can?), but I find it comforting. It allows me to fabricate at will, until I don't know the difference any more.

Overheard Quote: "...I don't know how and I don't know why and I don't know Why."

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bay window (Part II)

Earlier today I saw a bearded guy with big sad eyes leaning on a fire extinguisher outside the blues club, his countenance strangely at odds with what I'm sure he was feeling. He had crazy pants made to look like paint was dripped on them haphazardly. (I actually own a pair of pants on which, over the course of a month of work, all kinds of paint flecks had collected--it looks nothing like his pants.) The incident would be forgettable except that ten minutes later I saw those crazy pants outside my window, and it gave me pause. It flashed me back to twenty minutes before, walking down a vibrant (at the time, I thought "too fucking vibrant!") street; seven (seven!) different types of music vied for dominance, turning every meter of sidewalk into a unique (and sometimes interesting) experience; huge tapestries depicting Ganeesha blew in the breeze; black-clad intellectuals carrying hopelessly heavy book crates ambled down, their eyes as sad as those of pants-guy; rivulets of milk came out of the stores, flash-flooding anthills in the gutter; the overcast sky juts groaned over all this. I fought to keep down the abstract propositions welling up from somewhere; no crates filled with theology or Derrida oppress me; I'm keeping to two books at a time: one fiction and the other non-. Such combinations are endless sources of the writing impulse.

Consider: "Who are these Swine ? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid little rich kids like George Bush ? ..... They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and viscious in the American character.... I piss down the throats of these Nazis. And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck Them."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

1968 (interlude)

It ended up being a slow summer. Ken and the little girl would pass endless hours playing mostly cards. Sometimes she would watch him play solitaire for hours on end. For a small child, she was surprisingly uninquisitive and restrained. Ken had to give explicit instructions for the simplest task. When he said "come in", it meant just that. She would stand perhaps twenty centimetres inside the door. He had to further instruct her to sit down, take food, eat the food, and so on, frustratingly. So they naturally settled into a pattern that involved games with explicit rules. It gave the little girl a degree of freedom. They rarely talked; Ken would have liked someone to talk with, to distract from the almost daily (probably exaggerated) marches and parades, where slogans were belted out of megaphones and bounced several times off the apartment buildings, upward, upward. Sometimes, mercifully, it would be patriotic music which was entertaining--if one ignored all the lyrics.

Elsewhere that summer the world was blossoming and dying. The people of the world stood up against injustices and mildly acquiesced to a platefull of new ones. Summer storms batterred the coasts of the northern hemisphere: monsoons bringing floods and desolation, high pressure areas bringing stickiness and sweat to millions of overcrowded rooms in hundreds of cities. In the southern hemisphere, fishermen living in Tierra del Fuego huddled together and burned whale oil for warmth while taking turns to see whose tall tales would be most unbelievable yet undeniably entertaining. But this is the story of those who were, after a leap of the imagination, connected to our protagonist by unlikely networks whose operations were decidely not random.

The summer mugginess tormented Pavel (a throw-away character we will not dwell too much on). But it wasn't just the mugginess; he had spent many summers lying in dried-up riverbeds in the countryside with his multiple nameless lovers, all with hyacinths in their hair. He would spend those summers drinking the fine domestic beers and belting out the new music trickling in from the West on a falling-apart gramophone, boisterously talking with his friends into the endless nights, saluting the moon and wishing he knew more about the old lost Slavic pantheon. But this ummer was not like the other summers. Two days ago, the soldiers had come. They were nothing but ruffian work gangs, overturining news kiosks, smashing the improvised street art of the Prague Spring or covering it with hopeless bureaucratic tarpaulin, splashing their classless pictures of Brezhnev on every store they passed. There was no point leaving his apartment. He had not heard from any of his friends, becuase he had not had the energy to leave bed ever since he went to the window two days ago and saw the endless line of identical humans march past. He contemplated the coolness and the feel of the gun lying on his desk, the light coming in through the slats framing the entire scene like a still ife by some mediocre painter. He turns to us and speaks his last grand sermon, in the style of his speeches in the riverbeds to admiring girls:

"They've come to take our turnips! We spent our youths tending to these gardens, and when the buyers finally showed up, they "accidentally" trampled them! O mad angel of mercy! What did we do that was so horrifying? Did we listen to too much Elvis? Was it a health and safety risk? Did our pelvises pose a flying-off-and-hitting-innocent-children risk because of our mad gyrations? Did we hat the capitalist enemy with too little fervour? Did our old mothers coddle our generation just a little too much? Was it that our corpses did not fill up enough trenches during the war or that our women were not rape-accessible enough after? Were our cahthedrals a little too preserved? Did me and my friends pose a direct threat to the chairman of The Party? Not our party. All we ever did was drive motorbikes. All we ever did was pose three questions. And yes, we did smoke grass once. But we showed the proper respect to the peasant women passing by our Bodhisattva copse."

And with that he moved towards the gun, picked it up, but collapsed into bed and let the gun drop, feeling his last spoken testament was not forceful enough.

Elsewhere: demons were pillaging the Costa Rican countryside. At least according to the locals. The Arenal Volcano was belching out its sulfurous anger at the planation owners, but even this brutal giant was no match for the concept of absentee slavedriver. In Chicago, the high winds were blowing in change as kids in colours, kids like Pavel, went up against the endless indentical military people, with slightly better odds of making it. They trashed some politicians, threw flowers and custard and then dispersed to the afterbars where they spent three days digging the bellows of the negro trumpets of the downtown.


Consider: "..our goal was to save the planet and alter human consciousness. That will take a long time, if it happens at all."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


If I had grown up in another time, in another culture, I'm almost certain I would have been a priest. It is the one job that ties together all my myriad interests. Of course, the one (really major) obstacle is my lack of faith in God.

This entry is about faith, my musings on faith I complied while toting buckets and making sure the subloor in an anonymous kitchen did not creak. (Why is that relevant? Well, something about that situation at that time encouraged such musings.)

I. It is not befitting a free people to cower in fear of a partiarchial middle-eastern deity. I would not at all be surprised to learn that the move from polytheism to monotheism coincided with greater political centralization.

II. For all the many faults of democracy, for all its inertia, its stupidity, its mob mentality, it is the way to go if we really want freedom. (Insofar as possible, which, let's face it, is slimmer than we had ever hoped.) We try as much as we can to be free. Are we up to it? Inevitably, some of us will burn our brains with drugs, some of us will commit suicide, some will go the way of Raskolnikov, others the way of the Bodhisattva, and so on. Will some of us "make it"?

III. On the argument that people need something to believe in: yes. Nobody denies that. Faith makes life possible. It's just that I prefer to place my faith in things more likely to be tangible. I think of it as a Pascal's Wager in reverse. When it comes to invisible superheroes in the sky, people really want to believe because the implications that there is something beyond this. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to explain away the utter lack of any credible evidence for such a creature. I prefer to put my faith in the proposition that people are, in a state of nature, more apt to do "good" (as vague as the term is) than "evil".

IV. The biggest problem of the godless existence is the crystallization of abstract ethics. I find it a muddle of faith-based propositions. We end up adopting a tortured working morality that is not all that different from opinion. (Of course, there are schools of thought that asser that God wouldn't help with this.)

And now, someone else's thoughts: "...strong hope is a much greater stimulant to life than any single realized joy could be."

Friday, June 10, 2005


There is a heat wave. This is Canada; dealing with air so hot you can swim in it is not what I signed up for. My skin is damp. I shower but don't feel clean. There might be something stuck in my brain; maybe it's one of those arousal systems. Such is biochemistry; it's odd to think in causal terms when it comes to metabolism. I make typos every third word or so. I catch most of them, but they frustrate me and often make me lose my train of thought. So I'll stick to short sentences, some of which aren't sentences at all. Like anterograde amnesics who can only watch commercials on TV. Hmm. I wonder if I've actually felt cockroaches on my skin. I might be making it up for the sake of committing the idea to the great electric void. I have definitely learned something about skin and suction. Heat waves are excellent times for existential crises, but I might have outgrown them. If so, that is another tragedy. They say that schizophrenics don't just hear voices: they experience "unreal" sensations in every senosry modality. Sometimes familiar words seem strange to me. Sometimes words stick in my mouth. I worry about the lubrication of my brain. Imagine a dozen imps walking over my arm and tipping little braziers filled with weak adhesives under my arm. Then I lift it and there is a "sqloosh" at the edge of hearing. A symptom of schizophrenia? I've made too many typos in my time and now every word has become one that needs a double-check. Are my abilities deteriorating? I don't need your weird cognitive plasticity, nameless interlocutor in my head. I just want a semblance of control. I want a little of the creative power the child-me had; the power that fell out somewhere by a ditch in Old Europe, unwritten and lost to posterity. Once, I found a hospital cardiogram in that ditch: it was, by some mad fluke, the cardioram for the last three minutes of my great-grandfather's life. This actually happened. I wish my eyes wouldn't squint so much. Would I had the manual dexterity to lay my thoughts out efficiently. I think we're going over the same issues again and again, so I've better find some new ones. I failed as a lover. This nameless experience made me realize that it's not my mind's motives that are important. It's what you can express with your belly and your tongue and your body language. We are jufdged by what we give up; emotion-names are just labels. Real giving up, giving out, spewing out, fessing up, or whatever are the real meat of it, the banana under the sticker, the carrot root in the ground. There I go, covering up with fruits and vegetables. Maybe I'll be waking up in a lot of lonely beds and squash and cauliflower will rain down on my head until I learn to keep my spirits up. With what? Alcohol? Icewater? Energy drinks? Glucosamine tablets? I may be a crank, but I'll come to terms with that eventually as well. But for the moment it is hot. And memory is not helping. Associations are the scoundrel's attempt to stay at the surface. When was the last time I wrote on an intenesly touching topic at length? It's all been impressions. I had a private hournal once but the microchips housing it melted. Even my music has heat shimmers. How is that possible?

Consider: "...after a few months in my parents' basement, I took an apartment near the state university, where I discovered both crystal methamphetamine and conceptual art. Either one of the these things are dangerous, but in combination they have the potential to destroy entire civilizations."

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Bay window

Some impressions from my new home in the student ghetto:

I've been thrust from my reclusive corner into the bustling human antheap. My bay window looks out on a street, and on the endless parade of "characters". People frop in with stories of amusement or harrowing hatred of life, sober and drunk, organized or stinking ot high heaven. You can hear the chiming of a distant windcatcher through the paper-thin drywall. buddhist monk saunters up the street, his Scottish beard flapping in the breeze; preachers of hellfire rise above the crowd not on soapboxes but puny-looking stepladders; nieghbours walk throuhg carrying chests of drawers leaving a trail of astral woodchips; babies shriek and I'm convinced at least two lines of cocaine are being consumed on this block; ceramic drums beat away against my ceiling; guitar circles gather and flounder on impulsive solos filled with dissonance. I am an intensely impractical person, but I had to assemble furniture--not intuitively assembled furniture, either. Tour buses occassionally pass; they get a good view of the hole under my room where they're digging out a new basement, apparently trying to turn this unassuming looking house into a grand subterranean tenement.

Consider: "..why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn't want to fuck in the first place?"

Friday, June 03, 2005


How will I ever live up to your prolific entries? Your endless entries: all different and marching down the page. You are the clever one. All I have is my anonymous room with its naked bulbs. You have the static storm of sleek servers; you avoid Google's countermeasures to detect machine writing. You will be more successful than me: one hit and you will have a sack full of change in your pocket. You never make spelling mistakes. Your recursive grammars seem perfectly natural to most people. I torture myself and push and pull my biological meat based on daylight, hormones, drugs, food, while you update like clockwork. Like word clockwork; like an opportunistic vortex of electrical impulses. Oh, what have transistors given us? The power to bitch at non-sentient objects and still feel engaged. (Once I saw a man heaping abuse on a coat rack he had crashed into; but he was not engaged with it on a cerebral level.) What does that say about us?

Consider: "1 buy celebrex buy celebrex drug buy celebrex cheap or buy celebrex linkdomain online;..."

Actual Content: "...our modes of thinking have changed profoundly over the past two hundred years, more quickly than ever anticipated. On the evolutionary timescale, this is a catastrophic shift, comparabe only to sudden climate change--something else medernity might bring about."