Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Wanderers (Part I)

So I'm big into "mystical" journeys of late, which is just to say I pick up and walk in some direction. Who knows what the wide city holds for me: astral vibrations? Power animals? Bush souls? High-contrast constellations? Wise Old Man archetypes? Talking flora and fauna?

CATLAP: Hey, let's go to High Park!
DOGLEG: Isn't it a bit far? And didn't our bicycle get stolen?
C: So? We'll walk.
D: And so we proceeded to walk. The first uneventful hour through Littaly taken with phone calls--business to finish. Meaningful chunks of itinerary to blast away. Buttressing my sweethearts and reassuring the parents. Catching up on the fortunes of the family: strokes, birthdays, gossips, overworked mothers and domestic abuses. After that was done we looked around to find ourselves atop a hill, looking down off a cliff (fenced for safety, of course). It was sad to realize this cliff was made because exactly half of a hill had been flattened to accommodate a big-box retailer.
C: I said that! Did you tell them?
D: Catlap saw it. And we had out what-the-fuck conversation, there on a bridge over railway, the bridge shaking with the passing of a streetcar, both of us half-blind from neon Gas Station adverts. We fled onto a side street and walked by parks, children and artists' lofts and studios. This whole area is losing its quiet hopelessness. But so it goes.
C: Did you tell them about the song stuck in our heads?
D: Wait a minute. That didn't come until the highway. first I have to tell them the story of The Robin.
C: My bad.
D: So on one of the impossibly tall west-end oak trees we saw a robin alight. And I remember telling Catlap that I read somewhere people thought a robin was the prototypical bird. I wouldn't have said that. I can count on one hand the number of robins I've seen. My prototypical bird has to be the sparrow. Or some combination of pigeon and sparrow.
C: Pigeon-sparrow!
D: And then we came onto the highway, headed due west until we noticed high park. And that's when the song came unbidden. Consider it providential, what you will. I won't.
C: A song-cycle about lost islands where human feet tread only with trepidation. A trap-island populated by monsters hidden in the reeds and the waves and even the constellations. An island with magic anima-song to entrap would-be adventurers, crones throwing children into caultrons, herds of centaurs roaming the dells inland, fire-drakes guarding fantastic treasures, their lidless, waking eyes watching small hamlets where only wizened old shepherds venture outside to tend the flocks. It spoke of wanderers, rogues, heroes, kings and princes who tried to tame the island--each with their own motives on the sliding-scale of nobility. What all of them failed to take into account were the ramblings of old Jacob, the shaman of one of hte hamlets. Nobody heeded the interruptions to their plans from the ancient race of pig-people who emerge only in spring, or the thunder-monsoons of the early summer, never mind the flesh-stripping chinooks of the winters. Or that's what I took from it, anyway.
D: What was the song called?
C: I'll not tell.
D: And it was around this time that we found the south end of the park. And we walked through what was hilly terrain until we realized it was some sort of mountain bike course, and we tried negotiating it, though it was obivously not made for pedestrians. We followed the crests of the odd-shaped hills until standing on the tallest one, we saw the pond. We looked at it briefly, and realized "this is not the pond we seek". How that came about is still a bit of a mystery, but we followed the voice up a path. We hiked along this path for a while, until we were stopped in our tracks by a specific tree.
C: You see, as we were scrambling down an untrodden hillside we held onto its trunk for stability, and chanced to look up. And then we felt the vibration from some forgotten, unused part of the psyche: a part of us that has not really played a major role in life (feeding, growing, reproducing) for about three million years. What is three million years? And what were we to make of this Australopithecene idea of "safety", a confused mess of thoughts balsted apart by three million years on the ground. And yet the germline trembles. This tree is safety. It is holy. It has been solid ground for about as long as ground itself. It's an odd valuation to us moderns. But we have the same kind of response to diving, except that is ls even further. It's bittersweet; a feeling of sundering. Here the lineage floundered. Here were homes and hearths we abandoned. Here all that was familiar. Here the concepts that made sense of this flux we deign to call a unitary thing: a universe. But we also struck new paths, and we did it, despite all.
D: We decided not to scramble down the hillside again. We came upon a lodge in the middle of the woods. Some parking lots and plaque signs explaining a rich British man's love for nature. Amid paving and litter and all the various sundry things.
C: But here we found the path to the largest pond, a staircase framed in wood. We stood by the pond for what seemed like hours, watching the ducks, trying to imagine what it's like to be a duck, watching the tiny ripples on the surface of the water, thinking about the unbroken membrane that separates all the world's oceans from all the not-ocean parts of the world. We looked at the reflections of the trees on the pond: identical and blurry. Here was similarity, but different enough to make you think there is some sort of curious lidless eye watching you. That is how we felt, at the very least.
D: We grew bored of this as well, as we do. After reading about the source brook that feeds the pond on a plaque, we decided to go on a journey into the woods to find this spring.
C: We moved north through a wetland that grew more and more fantastic the further north. We reached a land of gigantic marsh plants. There was grass twice as tall as a man. We wandered there, the mud sticking to our feet, making suction sounds with each passing step. We could not go too far in, because there was no clear demarcation between the pond and the marsh. Any farther, and we'd have fish rubbing up against our legs.
D: Night was beginning to fall at this point. And it occurred to me that I normally don't attach any significance to the arrival of night. The colour of the sky is at best a neutral datum I have to deal with.
C: The path was beginnign to disappear.
D: Anyway, we came across the remnants of a Russian drinking party. How did we know it was a Russian party? Because of the piles of vodka bottles and candy with cyrillic markings. If we wanted to be charitable, we could have assumed it was a Czech drinking party, or a Polish one, or Lithuanian, or (least likely) pan-Slavic.
C: At last, with the last rays of the dying light, we found the source. It was a canal carved into a hillside, a rusty grate out of which an almosy unnoticeable trickle of water flowed. We gave our respects to this quite unremarkable artefact, and hiked up the hillside, whereupon we were immediately starteled by the high-speed neon specters of Bloor Street.

Consider: "The foundation of all mental illness is the avoidance of true suffering."

Sunday, September 17, 2006


So it was a few days ago. I was standing on a soggy lawn (two days previously a downpour had crippled this Small Canadian Town) and it hit me. Well, I can't say it hit me. It had been nibbling at me all weekend. The world is fucking huge--you know what I mean: that particular, subjective feeling that bitchslaps your fragile sense of self-esteem every once in a while. It's like: stop marveling at your own thoughts--it's been done. You're not original. You're not tall. Not particularly funny. That is: not special. And you know what else? Nobody really gives a shit. During most moments anyway. A thought experiment: recall the most powerful orgasm you've ever had (for the kids: it's kind of like when you have to pee, but it comes out as a sneeze). Did you--at any point during, before or immediately after--give a passing thought to Six degrees of Separation (also known as "Small World!")? It's OK; I didn't either. You worship at the altar of continuous creation only when bored. And you're only seized by spasms of barbed ideas shooting up out of the unconscious at the worst possible moments.

So that's what hit me, and then I went for a walk, except the street was covered by people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. I went back inside, but all the seats and all the tables and all the ledges and the floors were covered by beer empties, or crushed cans, or cigarrette butts, upright bongs, toppled bongs. The air outside pregnant with sweat-pheromones and sticky with human spittle. The air inside reeked of fermentation and plugged-up toilets and sinks. Everyone was either numb or out or sprawled: not a standing primate in the bunch. Windows open to rooftops with no stars or clouds or moons visible: only smoke drifting from the fireworks exploding--negative images in the sky, streaks across vision and then fading to nothing as I close my eyes. The only respite came from a fish head I found: a totemic object, perfectly severed at the level of the brain stem--eyes piercing and omnidirectional; mouth twisted in permanent scowl, scales an interesting texture after recoiling from leathery skin, and finally a smell to coat my hands and not come out, even through the blasts of cooking furnace smoke, or waves of muddy earth smell without warmth kicked up by a stuck truck, through the staleness of the beers the morning after, and especially through the stink of a drunk wet dog (mixture of vomit, natural odor, and mineral-stocked bathwater).

Consider: "Any belief system that can be accepted on faith alone can also be dismissed on faith alone."

Friday, September 15, 2006


Phlangers ringing out of clubouses... periodic "fuck!"... mist emerging from an alleyway, spookily lit by a single headlight... the reflection of one monstrous office tower off another one... exhortaions to expanded consciousness, (or C. G. Jung's sermon on the Serenghetti plain)... entangled human keratinized shrubbery... murderous/suicidal ideation, for real this time... the voluptiousness of spandrels... untold story of the girl in the miniskirt... anima continues to grasp and falil her snake-hair... forgotten conselling commitments... the blurry abyss of the swans at night... spinal realignment as an excuse to lie down... energies gained and lost... the realization that others have way more accomplished... people out of their context... pushing and pushing to realize what consciousness is... searching for answers in idosyncratic marks on paper... mists from below a sign of profound welling up, rain from above a gift from on high... "I forgot my mantra"... oscillations and waves burning holes in our retina... "hold on, little mouse: just fifteen more minutes"... told story in some, and untold story in each... po-faced just won't do... the awesomeness of conceptual Jiu Jitsu... "that's all well and good, but her narrative seems too well put together"... inexplicable posturing... gay promise rings... appetite gutted by stress and soup trucks... rattel of pneumatic drills somewhere in the distnace... lights through the windows and eyes, but also flashes of unprompted visual experience... muscie twitches on the anthill, and I move away.

Consider: "I compare human life to a large mansion of many apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wine (Part XVIII)

It gets really tiring. Tiring and spinny. And it gets frustrating, being inert, the big obelisk in the center of the room, unmoveable, the central tendency of my personal plot. The protagonist. What kind of protagonist am I? I already know the question involves the phrase "modern anti-hero", or "introvert-driven plotline", or something like "oversensitivity sensationalism." The kind of situation where every colour is oversaturated and all phrases, gestures, facial expressions, poetentious broods or storms up or down stairs tied together with this slack but unbreakable thread, and I lift and wind the thread for hours, trying to see it all in line, in relief, in explicable terms. Of course, doomed to failure, I content myself to wander the streets muttering what seem like insane ramblings but are actually the strophes of Howl which I memorized. Last few weeks have not seen a broadening of my literary horizons: instead we get re-treading of familiar terrain, which is still deep and moist and ripe for picking. The Beats, Gunter Grass, old textbooks, a few loved passages of Nietzsche or neo-Jungians or William Carlos Williams, each a pointer in a hundred other directions, up to the point where the sheer literary possibilities, the picaresque denizens of America in Howl (fro example), make me want to cry, or create, or kill myself, or proclaim to the world from atop a soapbox, or make mock religions, or get off my ass and act. There is an unknowable soft spot in my head at the moment, and it is not to be healed by confession. You will see what I am thinking. But first I must distance myself from the world of rooftop reveries (though we have one of the finest roofs in the city--stars and flashing lights and clouds), or gatherings (though the cast of characters is favoured by The Gods), or the endless chase of the hip, and especially colours which to my eyes are distraction. There are those to whom colour speaks. To me it only yells. Perhaps I am pathological. I've considered the possibilities of OCD, or borderline personality disorder, or proto-schizophrenia (known long ago by the more terrifying name of dementia praecox); or alternately just the influence of some two dozen teachers--children of the 60s, and a village slumbering on the endless plains of Eastern Europe, ECGs in the gutters and rabid dogs on the streets, army men and birds' nests shattered.

Consider: "Institutions are not pretty. Show me a pretty government. Healing is wonderful, but the American Medical Association? Learning is wonderful, but universities? The same is true for religion... religion is institutionalized spirituality."