Thursday, December 08, 2005
To Be Brief.
The lovely people at the Void magazine are having a contest. You have to write a tremendously short story and insert a sentence in it that they stipulate. See if you can guess which one it is.
A hint: it's the deliberately unweildy one. Part of the fun of this contest, I am guessing, is watching the fictive gymnastics the writer has to go through in order to insert the sentence and make it feel natural, at home. I have to say, it was hard. Here is my entry.
The Air is Thin and So is my Skin
So I’m watching this movie and God appears to this guy. Like, literally appears. And it’s not a dream. And God tells him that he’s on Earth to find the Second Coming. And so the guy spends half the movie looking, and of course the big plot twist is that he was the Second Coming all along, only it took half the movie for him to realize it, for him to come to accept it. And the rest of the movie is about how the Second Coming has to battle the forces of darkness, and Satan is played by Natalie Portman. Then the End Days arrived. The ante was upped and all of Heaven and Hell prepared their respective endgames. It was a dark and stormy night, and the sun was shining brightly. Demons raped angels. God couldn’t watch. And then I wake up. And I have this erection and I have to jerk off, because in the dream I was the Second Coming and Natalie Portman was in this skintight Satan outfit and was like, all over me in her attempt to distract me while her forces infiltrated the Lower Clouds of the Celestial Sphere. As I come my sperm destroys worlds.
Did you manage to guess it?
It's the sentence about it being a dark and stormy night, but with a twist.
Okay. Storytime is over kids.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 5:17 PM
Friday, December 02, 2005
A Few Hours With Flowers
I’m on the phone with Oona.
“I was gonna bring flowers, but I didn’t know how that would play out,” I tell her. “I don’t want to make her feel bad, I mean, if I brought flowers and Alia didn’t.”
Alia and Oona have been dating for about a month. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever dated someone and they’ve been dating someone else simultaneously. It’s very strange. It doesn’t actually bother me – rather, it’s the strangeness of it that’s unsettling. It’s an acquired taste. Like beer. And I love beer.
“I think it’ll be alright,” Oona considers. “She brought me something the last time.”
“Oh,” I say. “Okay. Sorry to spoil the surprise.”
“I’ll pretend to be surprised. Let’s say this conversation never happened.”
“What conversation?” I say.
I’m at the Florateria near where I live. I like the name Florateria. It’s like the cafeteria of flowers. They used to have this fabulous ornate old-style sign, but one day replaced it with something flavourless and plastic. Despite this, I still like them.
It’s so hard to pick flowers. It’s hard to know what’s good. I try to just go with my gut. Go with flowers I like. Nothing too bright. Bright flowers always make me think of fake flowers. I want something kinda subdued. Like me.
I consider the Phlox. Not because they’re that cool-looking, but because they have a cool name. I seem to recall there was a Dr. Seuss character called the Phlox. Or maybe that was a Star Trek character. But google’s not available, so I put that thought away and look at the other flowers. Fuck the Phlox.
Finally I decide on a blue rose, a calla lily, and a white spider. The white spider’s prettier than it sounds. It’s a very spiky flower, but all the spikes are soft. There’s like a bunch of them. They look like one of those cat massagers, with rubber tendrils shooting out everywhere.
The Florateria lady wraps it all up for me and tells me to keep it away from heat sources. I nod and promise to do so.
Walking homeward I think about the fact that I am a man carrying flowers, and what all that means. It’s a very loaded image. It’s one of those images that allows you to dream.
I know that whenever I see a man walking with flowers, I imagine who it’s for, or if it’s for himself. Sometimes a man needs something pretty around the house.
It draws a lot of attention though, that I don’t like. People look at pretty things, and so I take Clark st. home. Clark’s much quieter than St-Laurent.
When I get home I try to figure out what to do with the flowers in the hour or so I’ve got before I leave for the show. For a moment I consider putting them in my fridge, but I don’t know if they’d fit. I imagine taking the grilles out of my fridge to make room, but then I think that’s ridiculous. Also, I don’t know if my fridge is set to the same temperature as the one in the Florateria.
In the end, I decide to put them by a cracked-open window to keep them slightly chilled. I examine the flowers to see if it has any effect.
“Now you won’t wilt, little flowers,” I say to them. Somewhere I heard it was good to talk to flowers. It made them grow more. I don’t think it works on cut flowers, though. I imagine that once they’re cut it’s kinda too late. Talking to them then is more like comforting someone who’s just been cut off at the knees.
Ten minutes before I leave I am imagining carrying the flowers on the 55 bus north. I hate carrying flowers on the bus even more than I hate carrying them in the street. It’s not so much the idea of carrying flowers that bothers me, but rather the kind of weird attention flowers bring you. It’s like suddenly people have permission to look at you. I mean, they do anyway, but it legitimizes their looking. It feels like you’re making a spectacle of yourself. I feel like a circus act. A freakshow. Also there’s that whole sensitive-man thing. I mean, I’m a sensitive man, but somehow, it’s cheesy in some way to appear that way. Or maybe I am scared about teasing. Or maybe I’ve just lived too much of my life as a sensitive man and dealing with the stigma of that, that to appear too much as I am is just way too vulnerable-making. Somehow it’s cheesy to draw attention to the fact that you are a sensitive man. I think I have some weird complex about being seen carrying flowers.
I look around my apartment for a way to hide the flowers. I look for some cardboard. I imagine making some sort of triangular box that can keep the flowers safe and secure. In my head I picture this giant Toberlerone-shaped box that I can carry the flowers in. That would be fucking perfect. But there isn’t much time before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
Finally I get a garbage bag and wrap it around the flowers, careful not to crumple the cellophane. It still looks like flowers, but less like flowers. They could be anything. But then, objectively, I understand that people can see through its thin disguise. But all the interesting bits are hidden. One less reason for people to stare.
The bus trip is uneventful. I find a place to sit where the flowers can be safe.
I’m walking to the venue when I realize I’m walking like a caveman. I’ve got the bouquet up over my shoulder like a club. Somehow flowers brings me right up against my weird masculinity. I mean, I like flowers. They’re really cool. I like their excessive prettiness. I like getting flowers. I like drawing flowers. I like smelling flowers. I find them very charming. But somehow being seen carrying flowers fucks me up in some inarticulate way.
When I get upstairs my friend Andrea is standing with this girl. They call me over.
“What’s in the bag?” Andrea asks.
“It’s a club,” I quip.
“It looked like a big fish to me,” Andrea’s friend says.
“Fish?” I say.
“When my parents used to go out fishing, sometimes they’d bring home these big fish. Like, that big. And we’d wrap them in garbage bags because those were the only bags big enough to hold the fish.”
I think about this a second. She’s right. They don’t make freezer bags that big. I imagine this ginormous ziplock bag. I imagine a ziplock bag big enough to take a bath in.
Suddenly, by the bar, I see Oona talking to some people. She sees me too. She comes over and I give her the flowers.
“Thank you,” she says to me, and kisses me hello.
:: email@example.com :: 5:57 PM
Monday, November 28, 2005
The New Montreal
Apparently, Portland is the new Montreal.
The new hip shit. The place where the next
Arcade Fire will emerge.
Maybe rents will go down and
the Separatists will come back.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 8:04 PM
So I lost the A.M. Klein Award.
But I looked fabulous doing it.
It’s a funny thing being the only cross-dressed man at a very straight, very conservative event. It was fulla writers, so it probably wasn’t that conservative, but it certainly felt that way at the time.
“How are you feeling?” she whispered to me, when the person who went up to accept the award for Erin Moure went up.
“A little relieved, to be honest,” I replied. “Not to have to go up there in these shoes.”
I remember talking to a friend of mine one time who had just broken up with her boyfriend and I said, “Aw. That’s too bad.” and she looked up and said, kinda sprightly, “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll just go and fuck someone else!” So, I was a little disappointed. But I’ll win something else one day.
Actually, this year has been pretty good. I feel like I’ve been winning the whole year. Every month there is something new to celebrate. It might seem stupid, but every time I watch a suspense-filled episode of Law & Order: SVU and it keeps me rapt until the final minutes, I cheer. That Oona can date someone else and me at the same time is cheerworthy. That the world continues to suprise me is cheerworthy. Expozine is cheerworthy.
Oona was very good to me. She helped me do my hair. She had spare hairclips. She looked fabulous in her gown and red sparkly strappy half-high heel sandals. She confessed to me that she is kinda shy and not that good at schmoozing, and so was a little intimidated by the glitterati literati in attendance, but she has decided to be sincere and to let that take her where it takes her, and as I looked over at her during the course of the evening, after all the awards had been handed out and people were basically just chatting and getting drunk, it looked like her new policy was standing her in good stead.
ZINE TO BE BELIEVED:
Expozine was insane. I sold lots of Scrabble pins. People love the Scrabble pins. They are so popular I even decided to diversify. So I made Scrabble tile fridge magnets but actually nobody wanted them.
“It’s because pins you can pin right on,” someone told me, when I pointed out how well the pins were selling. “The magnets you have to wait until you get home to enjoy. It’s all about instant gratificiation.”
Speaking of gratificiation, I bought Elisabeth Belliveau’s new book, Something To Pet The Cat About. It is better than anything. I would even venture to say that it is better than everything. That might be stretching it, but having read most of it, it’s become very apparent that it is stretchworthy. Plus, Elisabeth is very nice. She is in charge of the zine cupboard at Pharmacie Esperanza. She is stretchworthy too. Here are the book details: http://home.ican.net/~conpress/nt_belliveau.html
LITTLE VICTORY OF THE MONTH:
Tyler at eye weekly in Toronto tells me they want me to illustrate Sasha’s column every week! Even though they reserve the right to jump to another artist at any time. Which is totally fine by me. It’ll keep me from getting too comfortable. In this way it’s no different than any sort of relationship. But we’re already settling into a rhythm that’s very nice.
This thursday I am going out to this lovely event. It is likely going to be packed! Everyone in the lineup is so popular. But popular in the way that their popularity isn't at the expense of yours. I am entirely convinced that that night will be the best of all popular worlds.
Catcall Anniversary Gala
Thursday, Dec. 1 @ 9pm at Main Hall
5390 St-Laurent (just south of St-Viateur)
Featuring: Annabelle Chvostek, Amanda Mabro and the Cabaret Band, Andrea Revel, Jordi Rosen, Kathy Kennedy, Josephine Watson, Luna Allison, Abigail Lapell, Paula Belina and Farine Five Roses (a new project by Amber Goodwyn and Erin Ross) Only $5!!!! Hosted by: Stéphanie de Sève
:: email@example.com :: 6:31 PM
Friday, November 18, 2005
Blenders At a
I'm so busy.
Every fall I get busy.
I feel like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter.
Next year I will take my vacation around this time so that I've got time for all the craziness that comes. It's fairiy predictable. It's like knowing that the strawberries will be ripe at a certain time, and that they must be plucked.
I feel bad.
I neglect my blog.
Sometimes I think if I had a dog that I would neglect it like my blog.
But then, dogs are more vocal than blogs. Dogs shit. Blogs don't.
Well. Some do.
I love Expozine.
All the organizers are kind of artsy geeks like me.
They have the capacity to focus unrelenting attention on something.
It seems sometimes that art is all they do. But then they do something like this.
Artsy geeks who organize a monster of an event.
Moments like this I think to myself how Montreal is soaked in talent.
How Montreal is so little, it's easy to inhabit, and feel comfortable here.
How there's so little at stake here because there isn't that much money or media attention and how we all kinda do these things for our friends and to have a laugh. And how that's perfect.
My friends in Toronto are feeling it.
Things Matter there.
Here, it's a 'small m' matter.
Like 'small c' conservative.
Like 'small a' cup.
Like 'small p' press.
Like 'small p' penis.
I just read Life of Pi.
It's the first literary novel I've read in a long time.
Normally I read about cops.
But I read it because my friend Deidre gave me this Gazette article about how they are holding a contest to find someone to illustrate a new edition of the book and I thought to myself, I could do that.
Of course I had to read the book first.
So I was reading it with these stick-it notes bristling out of it like a sunset orange porcupine with fluorescent yellow razor blades instead of needles. I was marking down sentences that would have made good pictures.
And I finished it last night.
And you know, it was pretty good.
The ending was very Hollywood, but heartbreaking in a way that Hollywood never is.
I made a zine the other day with my one-sentence stories.
The plan is to sell it at Expozine for a twoonie.
I didn't have enough stories to fill what I wanted though, so I had to write a few more.
They are all sad.
Years ago, I thought to myself one day that every portrait I ever painted ever again would only be portraits of people with their eyes closed. But I changed my mind about that. Hopefully I will write happy stories one day.
Here's a happy story...
Through my friend Rupert, Tyler at eye weekly in Toronto called me up two days before Helloween, on a Saturday night, while I was getting dressed to go to a party and wanted to know if I want to illustrate a Sasha column! For those who don't know, Sasha is a sassy sex columnist, writer, and burlesque dancer. Her column appears both in eye and in the Montreal Mirror.
And of course I said yes. And I've been doing it every week for about 3 weeks now. And they are so much fun I never want to stop. Sadly, they only appear in eye, and not the Mirror. But eye are the ones paying for it.
You can see them:
You can read all Sasha's columns here:
She's been writing them since 1999. Amazing.
The style is supposed to be referencing the gentlemen's humour magazines from the 50's and 60's, like, those full-page gags in Penthouse. It was a pretty conservative time, and I like that I can use that look while talking about more contemporary things, like queerness, strap-ons, BDSM.
I think about all the letters she must get every week, and how she has to choose the perfect one to respond to. Hopefully something she hasn't tackled before. Or if it is, she has to find a new angle on it. I wonder if it was slow starting. That is, after the first column appeared, it took a while for the letters and queries to come in, for her to find her voice, that sort of thing. I imagine it must have been like a siphon - you have to suck hard at first, but pretty soon the thing starts gathering a momentum all its own. Until everyone knows who Sasha is. Reading her column is like peeking into a world of other people's perverted fantasies, and sometimes, oftentimes, marvellously, it overlaps with your own. But sometimes not.
I remember reading about coprophagia (eating someone's shit), and taking a moment to imagine it. To imagine someone I was totally attracted to, someone smoking hot, crouched above my face, pretty pink asshole finding its position above my mouth. Her grunting. How the grunt would turn me on. How I would open my mouth and the warm shit would slide into it. And how I would be so turned on. And you know, I just can't imagine it. I can't imagine being turned on. Not with stinky shit in my face. But I love that for someone else, this is manna from heaven. It takes all kinds to make a world, and everyone has their own vision of heaven.
So it's been a pretty busy fall.
Next week I am wearing a dress to the QWF gala and am a little nervous about that.
Writers are pretty open-minded but here's betting I'll be the only boy in fishnets that night.
Or at least, the only one not hiding them under pants. I think going to this thing in my sexy black dress is my own version of heaven.
If it were a prom it would be better. But this'll do.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 4:10 PM
Friday, October 28, 2005
Some exciting news today.
My book of pseudohaikus,
"The World is a Heartbreaker"
is shortlisted for the
Quebec Writer's Federation
A.M Klein Poetry Award!
I'm up against two poets with
huge credentials. Mark Abley and
Erin Mouré. They both have award
winning books already under their
respective belts. But if I win, I take home
two thousand bucks! A one in three
chance of taking home 2k, I have to say,
is a very charming prospect.
I get to go to this gala event on
November 23rd. I'm totally going to
buy a new dress for the event. In my
head, I'm always complaining that there
aren't enough dress-up events. But
now I've got no complaints, and
something to look forward to.
Sometimes life surprises you.
I have to say, however, that the
chances of my actually winning this
thing is slender to slim. Erin Mouré
will probably win. Her book just got
nominated for a Governor-General's
Award, for chrissakes. But I do believe
I get drink tickets, and some kinda
consolation thing. Like at the Oscars.
Where everyone gets this bag full of
products. I look forward to bringing
home more things to love.
PS. for anyone who was planning on
coming to this Sunday's reading,
it will start at 8 sharp! There was some
anxiety among the planners because
occurring simultaneously is Words
& Music's 10th aniversary show at
Casa del Popolo. And the small Montreal
anglo literary crowd would have been
forced to choose between events.
And the audience for either event is
not large enough to fill both venues.
So the organizers came up with an
arrangement whereby the Coach House
Event would start right at 8, so that they
would be done, possibly, by 9:30. And the
Words & Music show would endeavour to
start a little later, maybe at 9:30, so
that people could go to both.
The world is so much nicer when
people agree to co-operate rather
than compete. It's very sexy.
Thanks for listening to my self-serving broadcast.
Again, here are deets for the Sunday thing.
30 October - Coach House Fall Launch: Montreal Edition
Howard Akler (The City Man)
Adrian Michael Kelly (Down Sterling Road)
Brian Joseph Davis (Portable Altamont)
Sherwin Tjia (The World is a Heartbreaker)
and special local guests
Hosted by Jon Paul Fiorentino
8.00 pm SHARP!
the green room
5390 St-Laurent Blvd
Free Free Free Free
:: email@example.com :: 6:18 PM
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Cat trapped in dog's body.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 8:53 PM
Howard Akler (The City Man)
Adrian Michael Kelly (Down Sterling Road)
Brian Joseph Davis (Portable Altamont)
Sherwin Tjia (The World is a Heartbreaker)
and special local guests
Hosted by Jon Paul Fiorentino
the green room
5390 St-Laurent BlvdMontreal
:: email@example.com :: 8:46 PM
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Plans For The Weekend
Oona’s invited me up to her parent’s cottage for their closing weekend.
“Will there be canoes?” I ask.
“There will be canoes.” she responds. “And a hot tub.”
“A hot tub!” I exclaim.
“They built it,” she explains. Her mom’s boyfriend and someone else in the family are engineers, so creating a hot tub from scratch is what they do for fun. They apparently built the canoe, too.
“What’s this about a closing weekend?” I ask.
“That’s the weekend, usually in the fall, when they like to lock up the cottage and prepare it for winter. They empty the pipes so they don’t freeze, that sort of thing.”
“Oh,” I say. This is all new information to me.
No one in my family has a cottage. My family are immigrants. Instead of a cottage, what we did on weekends was go to garage sales. I know that sounds hopelessly pathetic, but that’s what we did for fun. It was, and remains, endlessly fascinating to me to look over other people’s stuff. It’s a kind of voyeurism. It’s like watching Dr. Phil.
It was my dad’s hobby in particular – garage sales. He’d wake up early on Saturdays and get the paper. He’d drink his coffee and thread his way through the classifieds, circling with a ballpoint pen different sales that were in our general area. Then he would get the map out and figure out the best path to take, so that we could take them all in. The things he liked best were street sales – when four or five houses would get together and decide to all have garage sales together one weekend. It’s been a while since I’ve lived at home, but every time I visit I notice all the things he’d bought over the summer swath of sales.
My dad’s a funny man. Not funny in a hilarious way – rather more odd than that. I believe he’s addicted to garage sales. He used to be addicted to cigarettes, but then he had a small heart attack last year and quit smoking after forty years. Cold turkey. Now he chews Excel gum. Whenever he gets a craving he chews gum.
Anyway, my dad likes to buy little trinkets. Ridiculous little things. All the things that you might look at and go, whoever could possibly want such a thing? He likes to buy. So every weekend my dad goes out and buys lots of little trinkets, but never spends more than $15. And for that I’m tremendously grateful.
Of all the addictions a man could have, garage sales seem to be the most harmless. He never lets it get away from him. His addictions are cheap. My dad enjoys garage sales. Watching WWF wrestling. And, surprisingly, dance music. The kind you might hear at a rave. Every time I get in the car with him the channel is set to a dance station.
One time I asked him about that. The dance music.
In broken english he told me it reminded him of the Gamelan drum music he used to listen to as a kid growing up in Indonesia.
Then he turned it up.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 2:53 PM
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
It looks like asteroids impacting the earth.
:: email@example.com :: 11:48 AM
Three Hole Punch
The gun bucks in my hand.
I take aim and fire again.
Then again and again, till I’m out of bullets.
Jim comes up beside me and presses the “Return” button on the frame beside me. The target comes zipping back, like clothes on a clothesline.
“Wow,” I say. “I suck.” Then kind of laugh, because I’m so nervous. Not about having a bad aim, but rather because firing guns is fucking terrifying.
“You’ll get better,” he reassures me. “You started out really good.”
It’s true. My first couple of shots even surprised me. But with each shot, my aim got worse and worse. When you see it in the movies and on teevee, no one really warns you about the noise. How loud it is. It’s the loudest thing. It’s hard to explain. Even with ear protection, which we wore, it’s super-loud.
“Outside it’s not so loud,” he told me. On the farm growing up, he’d take his dad’s guns outside and pick off cans and stuff, shoot rats. Outside the sound dissipates, so the noise is handlable. Inside, however, it’s deafening. With certain calibre shots, you’re literally rendered deaf for a little while. “Those .357 rounds Dirty Harry unloads,” Jim tells me. “you see him firing shot after shot. No way could he hear after that. But that’s the movies.”
I’m in Winnipeg for the Winnipeg Writers Festival, reading some poems to people. Jim’d picked me up from the airport. On the way to the hotel, somehow we’d stumbled onto the topic of guns. Perhaps we were talking about crime in Winnipeg. But at any rate, Jim told me about his handguns. He has 4. Two 9mm, and two revolvers. And he has a rifle. A .22. He even belongs to a gun club in town, and sometimes he goes to the range. So I did what anyone who wants to write a thriller about an FBI agent would do – I asked him to take me shooting.
The SIG 9mm is beautiful.
“Wow,” I say. “This looks like the guns on television.” It’s black, slightly rounded in certain places. Because I’ve seen it so many times in different media it has a very weird effect on me. It seems virtual, but I know it’s not.
“Most agencies issue Glocks these days,” Jim tells me. He and his wife have friends in the RCMP. “But this gun. I love this gun.” He tells me it cost him about a grand for it.
The gun fits beautifully in my hand. It’s quite light. Jim had started me out on the revolvers. He’d shown me how to use a speedloader, how to cock the firing pin back, where not to have my hands when the explosive gasses escape from the sides, how to handle the recoil. Then we started on the semi-automatics.
Usually by the third shot my aim is off considerably. The stress of holding this bucking dangerous thing in my hands is incredible. There’s also the anticipatory tensing that I do before the gun goes off, which puts my aim off. I always take a break around now. I breathe like a madman. Above us, the exhaust fan drones loudly, sucking up the gunpowder clouds.
What’s funny is to watch the spent shells fly out the side of the gun. I mean, I don’t really focus on them, because I’m trying to aim my shots, but they’re really quite funny. They arc out the side almost the same way every time. One of them hits the shooting range frame and plinks back at me.
“Are they hot?” I ask Jim, as he’s picking them up.
“They’re warm,” he tells me.
“On the crime shows I watch, one time, they caught this guy because he was firing the gun all gangsta like, with the gun sideways, and one of the shells pops out and burns him on the face.”
“I don’t think they get that hot,” he tells me. He grins. “My buddy and I, we used to have this game where we tried to catch them as they came out of the gun before they hit the floor.”
“Oh my god,” I say. “Didn’t you get burned?”
“Nah. I mean, they were kinda hot, but not so’s you’d get burned. Not so’s it’d leave a mark. But that’s TV for you.”
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 11:37 AM
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Sit Down and Make a Lap
Oona and me are over at Louie's. He's got kittens. Literally. They are the cutest. They break my heart. The way that babies break some peoples' hearts, cats break mine. Anyway, I see this box on the kitchen counter. It's colourful and for a cat toy. It's this radio-controlled mouse. You can like, set it going, and the cats will chase it. There is a remote control for it. It's the kind of overpriced toy that only people who really love cats would buy. I mean, I know cats really well and I know they go crazy over twine, or string, twisty-ties curled into a ring, or balls of aluminum foil - but this - it's either a complete scam, like a toy that no cat would love, that's sold to people who want the best for their cats but don't really know cats that well - or it could actually do it. It could be the thing that makes your cats dance for hours. You'd get to see your cat's O face.
I'm about to ask Louie if it works when he starts talking about another cat of his that died last year. Millie'd gone outside on a cold night and accidentally dipped her paws in some anti-freeze. A few licks of that and she was acting drunk, but Louie didn't recognize the signs of anti-freeze poisoning, and just thought that something'd spooked her. Now he knows he should have taken her to the vet, or given Millie a solution of bleach and water to make her throw up, but hindsight is always perfect.
"I bet in cat heaven," Oona remarks, "there's a cat-petting carwash. Like, cats go through, and all these hands come out and pet them."
:: email@example.com :: 3:44 AM
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Eight One-Sentence Stories
The naked man, who might not be naked behind his solid balcony, recently put up these windchimes, which keep me up all night, and the thing that hits the chimes is this wooden heart, and I don’t feel love when I see it.
Jim, his feet at the edge, flames licking his back, held his breath before he jumped, knowing it didn’t make any sense, knowing that none of it made any sense, but holding his breath nevertheless gave him a moment of comfort, as if the air in his lungs would hold him aloft, the way he felt at the pool at the Y before he cannonballed himself into oblivion.
Jane scribbled her suicide note on the inside cover of her Bible, writing, “Jesus, why have you broken up with me? Why won’t you return my calls? You can be such a jerk. You think you’re God’s gift to women. You think you’re God’s gift to men.”
It was the heavy breathing that woke Nick up, in the bunk in the next room, at this camp for challenged teens, who, though slow, were fast to first, then second, then third base.
It was a short-lived TV series that was cancelled mid-season about a serial killer targeting librarians in downtown Manhattan that caught his attention, that obsessed him, so much so that he hunted down the original writers, one by one, and tortured out of them how the series ended, episode by episode, beat by beat, relentlessly pursuing who the killer really was.
They slow-danced on the rooftop during the blackout, city in silhouette all around them like a dress, iPod between them in a pocket, earbud in his ear, earbud in hers.
The girl next door who he had a total crush on was pawing at his window, eyes staring, mouth open, clothes ragged, in tatters, moaning, covered in blood, now a zombie, hordes more behind her, their arms out, their minds gone, and God help him, such was his love that when she smashed through the glass, he held his own arms out to receive her, as stiff and as welcoming as his one-eyed erection.
The second Kara put her tongue in his mouth, Scott was surprised, amused, aroused, the one thought uppermost in his 15-year old mind: my first french kiss was with my cat.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 1:47 PM
Thursday, August 25, 2005
My friends Owen and Lena are starting up a band and I am going to produce it. I know nothing about production, but I know people who know people who know things, so I remain hopeful. Also, it's my nature to try to do things before I die.
Originally the band was going to be called "Women & Children." But then all these bands started appearing. One was "the Ladies and Gentlemen" and I think another was "Friends and Lovers", and I just thought to myself that we'd get lost in the shuffle. Of course, by the time anything actually occurs, those bands might have broken up or died, so "Women & Children" might be new again. Like bellbottoms.
Then I thought, no, we need a name that's a phrase. Like that band, "And You Shall Know Them By The Trail Of The Dead", or "Godspeed! You Black Emperor". And I thought, oh yeah, we'll call the band, "Cat Trapped In Dog's Body." Like it was a medical condition, or a headline, or something. But it always seemed to be too unweildy. Too many ideas. I mean, we could title the first album that, or a song, but for a band name, it was too much.
Then the other day, brainstorm!
I googled it and nothing came up. Not one listing. What I want to believe is that because it's not on the internet, that the google oracle didn't scry it, that that means that no one in the history of humans has ever said TOMBOYFRIEND.
I think I shall google 'Tomboyfriend' after I finish posting this post.
When I think Tomboyfriend I think of this person I met a few times but didn't really know who studied art history named Pascal. Or maybe it was spelled Pascale. I never saw their drivers' license or anything.
In other news, I am going to be running around this coming month.
If you are in Montreal on August 25th (that's tomorrow),
Winnipeg on September 24th, or Ottawa on October 6, you
can see me read poetry - or more accurately, mumble incoherent
drunken things from stage. I will heckle the audience's performance.
Here are the things. Please come out if you are bored.
If you mention my blog I will give you a free Scrabble pin!
SIRENS WILD RIDE
@ Pharmacie Esperanza Friday, Aug 26 @ 8:30 PM * $5 5490 St. Laurent. @ St. Viateur
FEATURING: *Athena Reich (Cabaret/Punk/Pop with an activist edge)*Luna Allison (edgy, fluid, risk-taking spoken word).
*Sherwin Tjia (reading one-sentence stories)
Catch Athena as she rides through town as part of her 3 month North American tour. Athena will be promoting her new CD, "Stories from the Road", (a live, intimate album). www.AthenaReich.com, www.LunaAllison.com
24 September – Sherwin Tjia at the Winnipeg International Writers Festival
Sherwin Tjia, author of The World is a Heartbreaker, chats with Lorna Crozier at the Winnipeg International Writers Festival.
Winnipeg International Writers Festival
Prairie Ink Cafe
McNally Robinson Booksellers,
24 September – Winnipeg International Writers Festival: Mainstage Poetry Bash
Join Sherwin Tjia, author of The World is a Heartbreaker, Lorna Crozier, Clive Holden, Brenda Leifso, David Seymour and Karen Solie during the Winnipeg International Writers Festival’s Mainstage Poetry Bash.
Winnipeg International Writers Festival
Manitoba Theatre for Young People
CanWest Global Performing Arts Centre
6 October – Sherwin Tjia at the Ottawa International Writers Festival with fellow Coach House Authors
More details later, though I know it’s at the National Library. This is very cool because I basically spent the first 13 years of my life at the library. I feel right at home in them. My friend Liz in Toronto lives above a bookstore, but I am looking forward to meeting someone who lives above a library. It strikes me that that would be the nicest thing. Beats living above a bar. Although bars do contain beer. Argh - what a dilemma. I think that I devour books and beer with the same frequency.
:: email@example.com :: 7:22 PM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Chris is blind. He got Diabetic Retinopathy in his 20's. He sits across from me eating a vegetarian sandwich. I met him through a friend of a friend. I'm doing research for my book - one of the characters will be blind, and I don't know anything about blind people. There's so much I want to ask him and I do. One of the things I ask him is how he perceives new people now.
"I mean," I say. "So much of how I perceive people is through how they look. How do you see people now? What does beautiful mean?"
Chris laughs. His eyes are white. They look clouded over. He looks up a little.
"Everyone's beautiful now. I just picture everyone as beautiful."
"That's very charming," I smile. "I like that."
"Unless like, they exhibit a bad trait, then they turn ugly. They become ugly in my mind's eye."
I laugh. I envision this beautiful boy making a nasty remark and visibly becoming uglier as he speaks, like time-lapse special effects aging on teevee.
"So when you're dating people, do you have any-"
"A sexy voice," he says. "That's very important. A nice voice. One that I can listen to."
"Are you ever misled?" I ask. "Like, for sighted people, someone might be hot, but not a nice person at all."
Chris laughs. "Yeah," he says. "And I suppose liking someone on the basis of their voice as superficial as judging someone based on their looks, but there have been times when I'll just share it with people, like, the other day I was walking with a friend down the street, and we bump into this girl he knows, and after she was gone, I said to him, 'wow. She has the most amazing voice.'"
Chris tells me he likes the girl's voice in that band Paper Moon.
"Do you know them?" he asks.
"I actually have their album," I tell him. "They're on Endearing records, right?"
"Speaking of sexy voices," I say. "Check out The Weekend."
"The Weekend?" he asks.
"Yeah. Like, the weekend," I say. "As opposed to week days. Or like, weakened. To be weak."
"Right," he says.
"The lead singer of that band has like, a special kind of throaty voice. It's like all the girls you ever lusted for in high school, and all the songs are like, these summer songs."
Chris smiles. "I'll remember that. The Weekend."
"I could burn you a copy," I offer.
"No," he shakes his head. "I don't like to have burned CDs."
"How do you know which CD is which?" I ask.
"To be honest," he says. "That's one area where...I mean, I have a pretty good idea. I have these piles. And I know, within a few CDs, which ones are which. It usually takes me a few tries."
"Do they have braille labels?" I ask.
"Braille's really hard," he says. "Harder than I thought. I mean, before I went blind, I thought it couldn't be that hard to learn. I mean, I learned how to read and write pretty young, but I was a kid. Braille is hard. No - they have this gizmo, it's a barcode reader/voice recorder, and you can like, scan a CD, or a can of soup, or a book, and say which one it is into it, and then when you're looking for a particular CD, you can just run the laser over your CD and it'll playback yourself saying which one it is..."
"Do you have one?" I ask.
"No, but I've been thinking about getting one."
"I guess you'd have to know where the barcode is on every CD." I point out.
"Well, they told me that as long as the laser is like, 4 inches from the barcode, it'll pick it up. I guess it's got a wide field or something...but then, they were were trying to sell me the thing."
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 6:59 PM
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Minerva's birthday is coming up.
"What do you want for your birthday?" I ask her.
"What don't I want," she grins.
We are walking to the park. It's one of those rare days when it's not swelteringly humid. There is a breeze that is sliding up the belly of my shirt. I am wearing my flip-flops. It's one of my rare concessions to summer. They make noises. Flap, flap. Flap, flap.
"Every time you take a step it sounds like the faces of small children being slapped," Minerva comments.
"And you would know this because...?" I tease.
"I used to babysit," Minerva grins. "That is - sit on babies."
"I know what I want for my birthday," she finally announces.
We are on the swings now. My flip-flops are off my feet, lying in the warm sand. Min still has on her Converse All-Stars. She told me once that she loved those shoes because they never stop making them. They're always available. They don't, for some reason, get discontinued. "They're like orgasms," she said. "They are that necessary. And that classic."
"What do you want?" I ask.
"I want to look through your stuff."
I slide to a halt. The sand gets in between my toes.
"Wait," I say, kind of alarmed. "What do you mean? You want some of my stuff? What do you want?"
Minerva keeps swinging. In fact, she's swinging higher.
"Don't worry," she says, cooly. "I don't want anything. I just want to look through your things."
"But for what?" I persist. "What are you looking for?"
Min looks over her shoulder at me, then keeps eye contact as she reaches the height of her swing and comes sliding back.
"I don't want anything!" she sings.
"You don't want anything?"
"I just want to look through your things. Simple as that. Period."
"Well, what in particular are you looking for?"
"I want to look through your drawers," Min says.
"I dunno," she says. "For whatever you have in there."
"That's crazy," I tell her. "You don't know even know what I have in there."
"That's the whole point!" Min grins, still powering herself along. "I want to know."
"Well, you're not gonna find out," I tell her. "Pick something else."
"Pleeeeeeeeeeease?" Min pleads.
I consider this.
"Only if I get to look through yours," I tell her.
"That's crazy!" she says. "It's my birthday, not yours."
"Then forget it," I tell her.
Min's quiet for a few swings.
"Alright," she says, finally. "Then I want to go to La Ronde."
"La Ronde?" I repeat. "Why would you want to go there?" La Ronde is this amusement park on this island just south of Montreal. You can get there on the metro.
"I like roller coasters," Min explains.
"Okay," I say. "La Ronde it is. When do you want to go?"
"Well," Minerva frowns. "But I don't want to go when there's all the line-ups. Let's go in the fall. When there are like, no crowds, and we can just stay on the roller-coasters after ever ride, because there's no one waiting to get on."
"Fall? How fall?" I ask.
"Like, October fall. That's the last month they're open."
"You'll be in the states then, though." I tell her.
"Oh," Min says. "That's right."
"I want you to make me dinner," Min says.
"Dinner?" I say. "I don't make dinner." The terrible truth is that I have an awful diet. I like to eat out. I like to get take-out. I like to order pizzas. I like salads when they come in those little kits, with the dressing and croutons all wrapped in little cellophane packets. I don't think I have ever made a salad from scratch in my life. Making dinner doesn't fall within my skill set.
"I know," Min says.
"All you want are hard things."
"I know," Min smiles.
"It could be disastrous," I warn her.
"I know," Min says.
"I could poison you."
I am hoping that Minerva will change her mind but she has that look in her eye that tells me she won't.
"Dinner it is," I say. Then I start swinging again.
:: email@example.com :: 6:36 PM
Thursday, July 28, 2005
I HEART ANNE FRANK
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 10:04 AM
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Rose and I are at the gay pride day parade. It's my first one. There's about four rows of people standing in front of us. Nothing's happening yet. We are at the very end. To our left we can see this fenced off area where they're going to dismantle the floats, and have people disembark. It's kind of hard to see with four rows of people in front of you.
"We need to get higher," I tell Rose. "How do you think we can do that?"
"Well," she says. "Next year we can wear high heels."
I laugh. Then think about it. I've worn high heels. They are very high and very hard and very likely would be crippling if we wore them for very long. But this gives me an idea.
"What do you think about this? Next year, we bring milkcrates, and we dress up, and we decorate the milk crates, and stand on them, and we watch the parade that way?"
"Totally," she says. "It'll be one of those things where, it's so clever, people won't mind if we're standing in front of them. It'll be one of those things where they wish they'd thought of it! People are here for a spectacle anyway. We'll be it!"
We hear dance music in the distance. There is the flashing of some cop cars in the distance. I'm kinda oblivious to it though. I am already planning my costume. I am imagining wrapping the milkcrates like presents. Maybe tying flip-flops to them. We don't need anything too fancy. Just enough to walk slowly in them. Maybe we could even set up a kiosk to sell them. Then I think I am getting ahead of myself. It's odd though, because coming in, we saw all these people with fold-out chairs, with bad views, but milkcrates are the perfect thing. I am thinking that for all future parades this is something I will remember.
"Yay!" Some guy beside me is yelling. The first floats arrive. It's a jazz band. They are playing this little tune that we are just beginning to get the taste of when they stop playing. The speakers shut off. Then they look out at us, expectantly.
They want us to applaud. Some people do. It's very strange though. People applaud reluctantly. I know they've been playing for two hours, but to us, they've just arrived, and they're done. We caught just a hint of their playing. But because they're done, they're expecting from us this enormous finishing applause. I sense that both parties are having their expectations crushed.
"This is weird," I comment to Rose.
"Yah," she agrees. "Wanna walk?"
We move further down, walking against the parade.
There are covertibles with drag queens. Pretty ones. Some of them are flirting with the hooting men they pass. I don't understand how they get so pretty. These boys.
"This is more like it," Rose says.
:: email@example.com :: 6:05 PM
Monday, July 25, 2005
Oona is over for some ginger tea. We're talking and talking when she mentions an old boyfriend she used to have, and in my head I do a double-take, like you see in cartoons, because up until now I'd thought she was a lesbian.
In fact, I was so sure she was a lesbian, I'd asked my friend Vince, who knew her better than I did, once I knew Oona was coming over for tea, if she was in fact, a lesbian. And he said that he was pretty sure she was. She'd mentioned a girlfriend in her conversation with him. "It's hard to know though. People are fluid. But I'm guessing."
So Oona's over and she just mentioned she used to have a boyfriend and so I'm thinking that if she's liked boys in the past that there's a chance she might still like boys now. Of course, some girls went out with boys early on, because that was the thing to do, until they realized how delicious they found other girls. But I decide, what the hell, because Oona is getting cooler and nicer all the time. She's real cute, and showing a lot of leg. Maybe it's accidental, but maybe it is a sign from god.
"So," I say, looking down. Then I look at her. "Are you seeing anyone these days?"
"Yes," she tells me.
Oh, I think. I didn't expect that at all.
Oona tells me about this girl in the states she's seeing. She comes into Canada about once a month. Sometimes Oona goes down there. They talk a lot on the phone. But then she goes on to tell me that they're polyamourous. And that she "dates who she wants to."
Somehow I take this to mean that she has just opened a door for me.
I used to date this girl who was polyamourous. Or at least, she wanted to try it. Like me, she also had a lot of queer friends, and the idea seemed to feel right to her. So I did a lot of digging on the internet. It basically means you have many kinds of intimate relationships, and that you are open and honest with all your partners about what's going on.
"Some people," Oona tells me, "always date more than one person. They're never just with one." She thinks that's kinda sketchy. Kinda cheesy. Almost as if they were only dating one person, that that might be too much, or not enough.
I think about asking Oona out on a date, but I'm kind of reluctant to.
Here's the thing - I'm a very weird man. I think about how I have to explain to her how much I work. See, I work about 40 hours a week at my day job and about the same amount making art in the evenings. About a year and a half ago I made a vow to myself - that I would work with what works - and art was working for me. It was the one thing in my life that never let me down. So I focussed on it. I cut the crap out of my life that wasn't working and art was pretty much the only plant I watered for a year. And it worked.
Every night I woulsd sit at my crazy table. Get take-out and have the television on in the background while I sat at my well-lit table, or clatter away on the keyboard, or make notes on the plotting of a story. This is how I get so much shit done. And this is my priority. So really, I can only spend about one day a week with anyone. Added to that, I spend so much time alone that I need about a full day alone after I've socialized heavily. I knew it wasn't much to offer a girl. But part-time, right now, sounds just about right. I'm glad that there are many ways to date. God knows the way it's worked in the past hasn't worked out for me.
And as I'm hugging Oona goodbye, I tell her, "Take care. And let me know if you ever want to date part-time." And that's when she kisses me.
Oh, I think. I didn't expect that at all.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 5:04 PM
Thursday, July 21, 2005
THE COLLECTED WORKS OF BILLY THE COLONIZER
Owen is over. He just finished reading Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.
"It was very cool," he says. "It's kind of a scrapbook of poems. He deliberately juxtaposes different kinds of poems. Some of the poems masquerade as other things."
"Like what?" I ask, having never read it.
"Like, newspaper clippings. Wanted posters. Things like that."
"They did something like that in the Watchmen," I tell him. The Watchmen is this graphic novel written by Alan Moore in the 80's. It, along with The Dark Knight Returns, kind of broke things open for the comic book genre, adding very human dimensions to traditionally very obvious characters.
"Oh yeah, I remember that." Owen says. He takes a sip of his orange juice. I gave him lots of ice. It's very hot these days. I give everyone who comes over lots of orange juice with lots of ice in a beer glass I stole from Barfly next door. Owen looks at the glass.
"Boreale," he reads. There's a little logo on the glass of a polar bear lounging on this red rectangle with BOREALE on it. "Do you like Boreale?"
I shake my head. "I hate Boreale. But I like polar bears."
Owen takes along huge gulp of the juice. The fan whirs behind him. We're both sweating our asses off.
I flip through the Billy the Kid book.
"All the women I talk to love Michael Ondaatje," I tell him. "They think he's the sexiest man."
"It's the accent," Owen tells me. "He's got this English accent."
"Is he English?" I ask. I always get the English, Scottish and Irish accents slightly confused. Although after I saw Trainspotting, I could more easily distinguish Scottish from the rest.
"His family moved from Sri Lanka to England, I think," Owen says. "That's why he sounds the way he sounds."
"Was Sri Lanka colonized by England?" I ask. I am looking at the photos inside the book. It does look like a cool book. I consider asking Owen if I can borrow it, but I've got so much to read already. It would just sit around.
"I dunno," Owen says.
"When I was younger," I say. "I used to wonder why he didn't have an East Indian accent. I mean, I used to think that all brown people sounded like Abu from the Simpsons. And I'd wonder why Michael Ondaatje didn't."
"And recently," I continue. "I started to think that if he did sound like Abu, would women still find him so sexy? Why is it that the English accent is so much sexier than the East Indian one? At least in this society. Is it the James Bond effect? Or is it just that he's got like, the accent of the colonizer. And the colonizer means power. And power is sexy. Maybe it's like that. It's that simple."
"Well," Owen says. "In his defense, he does write kickass shit."
I turn the book in my hand.
"He went from poetry to novel-writing. That's a path a lot of writers take."
Owen tosses back the rest of his O.J.
"There's more cash in novel-writing. He's got kids. He's gotta feed 'em. There's no money in poetry. There's no money. No power."
"And power is sexy," I say. I hand the book back to Owen.
I like my conversations with Owen, but I hate how they always end up in uncomfortable conclusions. I try to think of ways where disempowered people are sexy, but it's difficult. Only when the disempowered try to take back power are they sexy. Disempowerment is sometimes sexy, but only in the mind of the powerful, when they think about all the power they have over people. I am always on the side of the underdog so I try to pursue this line of thought some more but I get tired.
"Want more juice?" I ask Owen.
:: email@example.com :: 1:27 PM
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
A PUNK CUT TO BREAK HEARTS
I am cutting my friend Julia's hair tonight. The last time I did it she baked me raisin cookies! Tonight it is the same deal. I know what I'm having with my coffee for the next few days.
The last time I cut her hair she kept urging me to go more blunt with her bangs. I was being tentative. She wanted it punklike. Asymmetrical. She liked it if it was a little fucked-up. It's funny how funny-looking is the new good-looking.
That time I just kinda cut it. And it looked exactly right. I was kinda casual in my cutting and the hair reflected that. If I tried too hard to cut it casual it would reflect that too - the trying. Julia's hair was kind of a concrete EKG meter for me.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 5:12 PM
Monday, July 18, 2005
These days I am prepping to write my thriller. I read all these books, true crime and otherwise. I take copious notes. I take notes on pacing, characters, technical notes - like what kind of gun an FBI agent carries. I take notes on how to create suspense in the reader, how to manipulate them into thinking one thing, while I am preparing to hit them with a twist. I am re-reading old thrillers I loved, but taking them apart in the process. All the plot points I took delight in I am now dismantling, so that I can use them myself. I gather all these little scraps of paper together.
It strikes me that making art is like making a fire. You gather all the materials together and at some point you're ready to light it. That's when I'll sit down and write the first word. After I have my outline, after I've lived with those characters in my head long enough to make a go at their voices, I'll strike my first word and set my story ablaze. Hopefully then I'll burn through my novel like a house on fire. The passion of it will keep me warm through the weeks it'll take to gut the sucker out. It'll seem interminable, but I know I'll miss it when it's gone.
:: email@example.com :: 5:43 PM
Thursday, July 14, 2005
EVEN JESUS WORE DRESSES
She wears all these different pairs of shoes during the summer. Each one hurts her feet in a different way. She's nurturing these callouses. She is building up scars. She's waiting for it to hurt, then heal, then hurt again. She is building these walls for a reason. She knows those flip-flops will cut right across the top of her foot, so she puts her band-aids there before she sets out for the day. Her feet are fulla cuts. But she would never go barefoot. She would never think of it. Shoes are sexy for a reason. The wind blows her dress up for a second so she can see them better.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 7:57 PM
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
ALL MY FRIENDS ARE LESBIANS. OR BI.
I've noticing that increasingly, I am spending more time with girls who like girls. Or who like girls and who like boys, too. But if you didn't know them, for sure you'd think they just liked girls. What is the opposite of a 'fag hag?' I have discovered that whatever it is, I'm that.
:: email@example.com :: 5:05 PM
INSANE BY SUNSET
I keep thinking that one day I'll go crazy. But I keep thinking this not in a crazy way. I think it in the way that some people say they'll get married. Or have kids. Or retire. I feel like one day I might retire from sanity. That going crazy is the most natural thing to do.
But then I think what a short drop that would be from medical illustrator by day/artist by night to homeless gibbering guy on the street. It could very easily happen. But I keep thinking I'll be crazy, so I won't care. But how uncomfortable. Even crazy people get uncomfortable.
It strikes me that I don't know how many crazy cats I've met. I mean, I've met some cats that were kinda grumpy. Some were downright irascible. But none with major mental illnesses. Some were depressed, though. And they do what depressed people do. They sit around in bed all day and sleep. But we don't call that depression. We call that being a cat.
But then, most of the cats I've ever met have lived indoors. They were fed regular. We could say that they were middle-class cats. I'll bet alley cats are insaner. I'll bet alley cats are only nice to me because I'm bigger. If I were an indoor cat (which I kinda am) venturing outside with some kibble in a baggie around my neck, you can bet the alley cat crowd would tear me apart.
From here I can see that it would be a bad idea to go crazy, but I suppose if I were to go nuts, there's no stopping it.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 9:29 AM
Monday, July 11, 2005
IT'D BE NICE
My co-worker Deidre and I are talking about Tania. I mention this prank I wanted to play on Tania once. Around the medical faculty we have these plastic skeletons. I had to return one to Tania one time. She wasn't in her office. I thought about taking it off its stand and seating it in her chair, behind her desk. It wouldn't come off the stand, though. So I didn't. I just left it standing there.
"She wouldn't have found that funny," Deidre says to me.
"She just wouldn't," Deidre says. "She's bitter."
"Why is she bitter?" I ask.
"She doesn't want to work."
In my head, I am thinking, well, I don't want to work.
"She feels she shouldn't have to."
"She feels she shouldn't have to work?" I ask.
Deidre nods. "She wants to be taken care of."
In my head, I am thinking, well, I would like to be taken care of.
"Is she an attractive woman?" I ask. "If she was really attractive, she could get someone to take care of her."
Deidre shakes her head. "No," she says, then she goes back to her office.
In my head, I am thinking, all of us office people are in trouble.
:: email@example.com :: 8:01 AM
Thursday, July 07, 2005
WHEN TERRORISTS ATTACK!
This morning my radio alarm goes off and it's all about explosions. None of the usual beauty about provocative new books or the same-sex marriage debate. A double decker bus in London's top is blown off. Smoke in the underground. It's happened again. Almost 5 years after "Nine-Eleven," we have "Seven-Seven." I wonder if that's how they will refer to it. Or maybe they'll just call it "July Seventh." Or "7-7-5." Or the "Transit Disaster." Or "Bombs in the Underground." Maybe it's too soon for monikers. Just like in the Mafia, you only get a nickname after people get a sense of you. Maybe too, we'll find out what people call this only after people start calling it something. "Seven-Seven" sounds kinda stupid. Like "Jacob Two-Two." My money's on "Seven Squared." or "The Terrorist Attack."
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 11:39 AM
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
ARTWORK AFTER WORK
Oona tells me over the phone that she likes to stay at work after work too. She works in this yoga studio as the receptionist. Her job is to be the perky greeter. But she's kinda stopped doing yoga. It's too much if the place where you work is the place where you relax, she tells me. But last night she went dancing on the warm polished yellow wood floors. She just spun and spun. This huge happy space. It's nice that you can reclaim it, I tell her. Have a secret life. Then, during the day, she can look out on the yuppie yoga people on their mats, and be all magnanimous. Like, they are there at her leisure. This is the kingdom of the day. But at night, she takes flight.
:: email@example.com :: 12:59 PM
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
DON'T FIGHT GOING CRAZY
I see old people and they're insane. They like to wear what they like to wear. All their old cardigans are pilling. They wear their skins like loose clothes and they're constantly trembly. The way their faces quiver reminds me of terrified rabbits' twitchy noses. They take their time at cash registers. It takes them forever to walk to the corner. They are these clattering masterpieces. I don't understand how people so fragile could still function, still walk down the street under the assumption they're not gonna get eaten. One day I'll be old and insane. I'm not gonna fight it. I love it. I'm gonna love it.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 12:04 PM
Thursday, June 30, 2005
I had the wildest dream last night.
We’re on the roof of a building in downtown Montreal looking at the huge cross on the hill, when my friend Christina tells me she used to be a Christian.
My eyes flick down to her boobs, then back up to her face.
“You used to be a guy?” I ask. For some reason this is the first thing I think of.
“No. Like, a Christian. As in, Jesus CHRIST kinda Christian.”
“Oh,” I say. Then she’s running at me, her arms out in front of her. I don’t know what she’s doing. Then she pushes me off the roof! And she’s grinning. She’s grinning that blissed-out smile that you see on the faces of Christian Youth high on God.
And I fall off the roof. And I see her at the edge. And she takes both her hands and brings them together, like she’s praying. And things are going very slowly. Like, I’m not splattered on the ground or anything. And like in cheesy movies, the clouds part and a shaft of sunlight shines down on her, but I keep falling. And in my head, I’m thinking, I should have hit by now. I should have hit by now. But I’m too terrified to turn around. And out in front of me the sky just gets brighter and brighter and by now it’s getting kinda painful, so I decide I’d better turn around to see how far from the ground I am. And so I do. And I wake up, half-turned around in bed.
A week ago my friend Oona tells me she used to be a Christian.
I am surprised by this, because she doesn’t seem like a Christian.
I mean, she sleeps with girls.
“For four years,” she tells me. She was die-hard. She’s read most of the Bible.
“I tried,” I tell her. “But I couldn’t deal with the old english.”
“Even the King James version?” Oona asks me.
“I mean, I know they have comic versions of the Bible now and everything,” I tell her. “But all I like to read these days are thrillers.”
The last time I can remember opening a Bible is a year ago. I was visiting Minerva’s house, she was giving me a tour, and we were in the library. There was this fancy Bible on a shelf. It even had a fancy purple ribbon sewn into the binding so you could mark your place. In the New Testament, all of Jesus’ dialogue was in red ink. The rest was in black.
“Creepy,” I remember thinking, but marvelling at how soft the pages were. They were tissue-thin. Thinner than the White Pages.
“Is this paper?” I remember asking Minerva.
She rubbed her finger over it.
“I think it’s vellum,” she said. Then she took the Bible and put it back.
“C’mon,” she said. “Let's keep going. There's more on your tour!"
Sometimes I think about Jesus just because there’s so many people in the world who think about Jesus. I mean, Christ. They’re everywhere. There are constant reminders. One morning I’m waiting by the bus stop and this old woman comes up to me wanting to hand me a flyer, and I can see it’s about Jesus, and I just shake my head. And she goes away with this disappointed look on her face. And I remember thinking, “Shit. I coulda just taken it.” But I think I was afraid that she would have wanted to have an extended conversation with me while I waited for my bus, and before I have coffee, I’m a bit of a brute. And I think to myself, fuck, you should just go and accept it. She’s an old lady. This is what she does. So I turn to look for her, and she’s gone. Not Gone like on teevee, where they’re gone suddenly, inappropriately, disobeying natural laws. Because they're secretly an angel on earth doing God's Will. No – she’s just up the street. But far enough so that if I were to go all the way over to her, it would have been weird. So I just stay put until my bus comes.
I want to make this book about Jesus. From what I’ve heard, Jesus only started proselytizing when he was 30. I keep thinking about what he did before then. He had three decades of living before he started causing trouble for the Romans. I figure Jesus was a quiet kinda guy. I figure he didn’t talk much. Probably he just spent all his time listening. I figure if I was God incarnate, I’d want to do a bunch of shit. I’d want to take a shit, and feel how good that felt. I’d want to get drunk. I’d want to get laid. There’s a buncha stuff to do. And I think about my life. How I like to draw everything. So I want to make this book: “What Would Jesus Draw? The Lost Scrolls.” It’d be this fun book where I’d visit Bethelehem and look around. I’d try to look at things the way Jesus would.
Christians have this thing, where whenever they’re confused, or having a moral dilemma, or about to stick their tongues into each others’ juicy orifices, they ask themselves, What Would Jesus Do? And I would be there, looking around Bethelehem, asking myself, What Would Jesus Draw? And I would draw it. And I feel that if I were all-loving God, I’d see everything as beautiful. So likely, I’d be drawing pools of rain, steaming piles of fly-infested turds, dead flowers, sunsets, clouds, the wrinkles beside the eyes of old ladies.
But this book will probably never happen.
First of all, it would require a trip to Israel, and I hate the heat.
Second, I like drawing robots.
So there you go.
:: email@example.com :: 8:37 PM
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The Better Things in Life
I'm waiting for my pizza and the pizza guy is standing there talking to me.
"What's up?" he asks.
"Oh, I just got off work," I tell him.
"You like it?"
"Well - I've been doing it for four years. I'm getting tired of it."
"Yah - my pal," the pizza guy says, "My pal Don, he says to me, 'I want the kind of job where, every morning, I wake up - " the pizza guy makes these running motions with his arms, "'And I'm fulla energy! I can't wait to get to work! Where I LOVE my job! That's the kinda job I want.' And I'm like this to Don - I say, Don! Who's got that kind of job? NO ONE."
I laugh and nod.
"Most jobs," I say. "It's like you do one thing a thousand times. And then another thing a thousand times. You can't escape the routine."
The pizza guy spreads his arms out.
"That's why I like this," he says. He points to me. "I get to meet people. I move around. I get the phone. I see the customers. I make the pizza. I mean - it's not great. But it's okay. Hold on a sec," he says. He goes around the table with all the pizza bozes and pulls mine out.
"Here ya go," he says. Then the phone rings. "Take care of yourself."
Every day I think about how to escape.
I think about how sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day isn't what people were designed to do. I think about joining the international coalition for the 4-Day Workweek. I wonder what madman thought that we should work 5 days out of 7. I would like to kill that person and their children.
I think about my parents. How they worked jobs they hated their whole lives.
How could they do that to themselves?
"This is life," my mom told me, when I complained one time. And I thought to myself, This is my life? Will this be my life?
The thing I think about everyday is that I'm not living up to my potential.
I spend my days working on other people's projects. Realizing other people's dreams.
I remember this one quote I read once in Richard Russo's book, Straight Man.
I'd have to say that it's the quote that's been most influential on my life these past few years.
That is, I never go a month without thinking it at least once.
The main character is this university English prof, musing on his co-workers, who all have that unfinished novel in their desk drawers, right next to the whiskey.
He says of them, "They all thought they were meant for better things. But the truth is that if they were meant for better things, they would have done those things."
The first time I read that it stopped me cold.
I think I'm meant for better things, I thought.
Oh goodness. Now I have to do them.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 5:34 PM
Monday, June 06, 2005
Beer and Stars
It’s Friday night when Minerva calls.
“Hey, it’s me,” she says. “What are you doing?”
“Guess,” I tell her.
“Working on your graphic novel?”
“D’ya wanna do something instead?” she asks.
“Like, maybe you could come on over.”
Minerva actually lives very close to me. It’s ridiculous. If my windows faced west instead of north, she could see me. That would, actually, be very weird. She always talks about seeing other people in my building from her bedroom window.
I take a look at my drawing board. I’d worked hard all day. I practically got a whole page drawn and inked. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a lot.
It’s very warm out tonight. I stop by the depanneur between my house and hers for some beers. I always get the same kind of beer. I like Mexican beers. They’re very clear. When they are really cold, they go down so fast it’s like you’re inhaling them.
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Minerva asks. I’ve got her freezer door open and I’m putting my beers in there.
“I won’t forget,” I tell her.
“They’ll freeze and then they’ll crack,” she tells me. “And then they’re undrinkable because you’ll have glass shards in your drink.”
“I won’t forget.”
I am lying beside Minerva on her bed drinking my beer. I’d offered, but she didn’t feel like any tonight.
“Look ay my wonderful new scarf,” she says. She holds it out between her hands. It’s long and grey. It’s more like a net than a scarf. When I look closer there are threads of blue and lavender mixed in with the grey. She opens it wide so I can see the holes. “It’s so wide,” she marvels. “Look – it’s practically two feet wide.” Then Minerva scrunches it back together. “But when you squeeze it, it looks solid!” She wraps it sround her throat and gets up.
She stands in front of me, hands in her jeans pockets, scarf once around her neck.
“Don’t I look like a grad?” she asks me. “Scarves are the grad uniform.”
I squint. It’s true. I don’t understand it. All grads wear scarves. It’s some subtle stereotype that I hadn’t noticed until Minerva mentioned it.
“When did you graduate?”
“It was the day before yesterday.”
“Did you go up on stage and- ”
“God no!” Minerva flops back into bed. “They’re gonna mail it to me.”
“When do you leave?” I ask her.
“Not until August.”
“It’s sad that you’re leaving,” I tell her.
“Yeah.” she says.
Minerva is going to the States for grad school. Far away. It’s breaking my heart, but what can you do? Friends have to go where they have to go.
“Is that an Arcade Fire poster?” I ask her. On her wall is a silkscreened Arcade Fire poster.
“I saw them!” Minerva tells me.
“I saw them on the street! Wynn and Regine. They remembered me. They waved when I was on my bike.”
“How do you know them?” I ask. This is very strange. Earlier that day I was going through my old planners, culling phone numbers and emails that I forgot to put into my address book, when I saw an entry for Crackpot. Crackpot is this band my friends Bernie and Howard are in. That night, I couldn’t make it. This is about a year ago. But then I saw I’d written who they were opening for. It was the Arcade Fire. Everybody knows the Arcade Fire but me. This is terribly depressing.
“I had an old roommate,” Min says. “He knew them.”
The park is busy. People are walking through it. It’s such a warm night. I’ve got my bag of beers in one hand.
“Let’s sit on this mound,” Minerva says. There is a slight swelling in the ground in front of us and we sit on it.
A bus moves slowly up Parc Ave. It’s all bright and white inside. The people inside stand, looking out. I wonder if they can see us. It’s so bright though, they can probably only see themselves.
“I count, three stars,” Min says. She’s looking up at the sky.
“Hazy night. Middle of the city,” I say. “That’s not bad.”
I crack open another beer and swig it.
“Are there cops around?” Min asks. She’s a little paranoid tonight. Maybe it’s the new-grad in her.
“Nah,” I say. “Don’t worry.”
“You’re right. I won’t get fined if you’re the one drinking,” she says.
I laugh. “That’s the spirit.”
“Ah, what the hell,” Min says. She cracks open the remaining beer.
I’m looking up.
“Is that star moving?” I ask.
“It only looks like it’s moving,” she says. “That happens a lot. It’s because there aren’t any reference points. It’s your imagination. You’re the one making it move.”
I take another draught of my beer.
“There was this study,” Minerva continues. “They put these 3 people in a room. A, B, and C. C didn’t know that A and B were moles. They were in on it. They were actors. Anyway, they were in this darkened room, when suddenly, on the other side this flashlight came on. Anyway, A said that the light moved 5 inches to the left. B says the very same thing. When it comes time for C to respond, what do you think he said?”
I look at Min.
“Well, he says the same thing, of course.”
“Right. But here’s the thing –” Min says.
“I know,” I tell her. I can see the plot twist on this one. “The light doesn’t actually move. It’s in C’s imagination.”
“Right – but even when they tell him that they were lying, and that the light stayed stationary the whole time, C insists the light moved!”
“Wow,” I say. “We see what we want to see.”
Suddenly, I stop.
“Wait. There’s cops,” I say. I point into the distance.
“Where?” Min says, suddenly worried. She tucks the beer into the bag. “Where are they?” She peers into the distance.
“Maybe five inches to the left,” I tell her.
Min grins, turning to me. “You’re so stupid!”
:: email@example.com :: 10:46 AM
Saturday, May 28, 2005
I Want To Be on Teevee
So I'm back in Toronto. For the third time in a month. I'm going a bit crazy. But it's all for a good cause. The last time I was in Toronto this very nice and enthusiastic woman approached me and told me that she was producing a series of half-hour shows about poets. Right now she was scouting, but that I gave a good reading, and that there was a chance I could snag a spot. We chatted. I didn't get my hopes up. I never get my hopes up. I always expect absolute disaster, but my heart always secretly hopes. And sometimes life surprises me. And so here I am. Back again. And tomorrow I will be on camera for hours. And the same for the next day. Apparently they have to film hours of material to get enough stuff for a half-hour show. They edit a lot. I understand. It's like how sometimes you have to date 50 girls to find the one you like. And how sometimes you have to date 100 to find the one you like who likes you back.
Apparently most of the show will be performance. Me reading. Very strange. I keep thinking of ways to have the camera focussed on something other than me. I offer sketchbooks. Comics. I suggest beautiful tableaus of astonishing objects. But they want to see my eyes. I can't wear a hat, she tells me, because it would shadow my eyes. And they need to tape me performing. They need a controlled performance. They need a radio mike on my shirt, near my throat. They need an audience who would be willing to be taped. To perhaps be on teevee too. You have to sign a waiver. So if anyone is in the Toronto area and aren't just sick to death of me, consider this my personal invitation to you. I will be reading some older stuff, and some newer stuff. And of course, my big book of pseudohaikus will make an appearance.
Sunday 29 May – Bök and Tjia at Toronto's Victory Cafe
Christian Bök (Eunoia, Crystallography) and Sherwin Tjia (The World is a Heartbreaker) read at the Victory Cafe. The readings will be filmed as part of the ‘Heart of a Poet’, a new television series for Book TV and Bravo!29 May, 8.00 pm
581 Markham St.
In other news, my friend Tori, who is a freelance producer, taped a reading of mine, then interviewed me, and cobbled it all together in a quite lovely seven-minute mp3 podcast about my new pseudohaiku book and you can download it here:
I have to say, it's weird to hear my voice. I mean, I hate my voice. But then, everyone hates their own voice. When I first started doing poetry readings I thought for a long time about hiring someone to do the readings in my stead, as me.
But I suppose we have to do what we can with what we've got. Tomorrow morning I will put stuff in my hair and brush my teeth. I will drink some coffee and be honest as I can in front of a machine that turns me into light.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 1:27 AM
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Scrabble pins! You can make some too! All you need is a glue gun and pretty little pinbacks!
:: email@example.com :: 9:55 PM
I'm at the Montreal Anarkissed Book Fair. It's a little past 11 AM and already it's madness. I'm sitting behind a row of cafeteria tables with my friend Amber, who I luckily happened to find myself sitting next to.
"Do you have a band name yet?" I ask her.
"Not yet," she replies. "Actually, me and Erin were discussing this last night."
"Can I help come up with one?"
"Sure," she says.
Coming up with band names is one of my most favourite things. To me, it's a little like advertising. The name has to be perfect. It has to convey everything you need it to. A band that has a name that is incongruent with its music will always have something just off about it. Unless, of course, it's being ironic. But that only works sometimes. Like the band U2, which is known for being all peacable, but is named after a warplane.
In one of my parallel lives I'm an advertiser. I create brands and slogans for anything that will pay me enough money. I put ads on condoms that couples can read when they unroll it. I place ads at the bottom of soupbowls, that emerge, like nymphs when all the hearty stuff is gone. I'm the Devil, the Devil's Advocate, and the Devil's Advertiser. We steal contracts away from the agency of the Father, Son & the Holy Ghost.
"How about 'Apple Crumble'?" I ask her.
"That's kinda nice," she says.
I get out a piece of paper and write it down.
"I've got all day to brainstorm," I tell Amber.
A vaguely dyke-like girl with asymmetrical hair and holes cut in her clothing comes by my table and looks at my stuff. I've got my new book out on the table for a special discounted price, some Scrabble Tile pins, and some mini-CD's that have audio recordings of my friends masturbating. Her finger drops down into the box with the masturbation CD's, then pulls back up. I can tell she's tentative.
"Those are my friends," I tell her.
"Oh yeah?" she picks up one of the CD's. It's slightly larger than a Twinnings tea bag. It's got elegant flowery pink curlicues around the corners of the package. It says 'Listen to my Friends Masturbate' in a nice font. At the bottom it says 'Girls'. The boys version is blue. This girl's picked up the Girls.
"If you have any questions, feel free to-" I start.
"What - what is this?" she asks.
"I asked my friends if they would mind if I recorded them masturbating," I tell her. "I went to their place and like, showed them how to work the recorder, and where to put the mikes, and I went into another room. Sometimes I'd watch teevee, if they had one, while they went about it."
The girl turns the CD around. On the back it says, 'Please use this CD for good and not evil.'
"What - are they all different people?"
"It's seven of my friends."
"How long is it?"
"Well," I smile. "The boys is a lot shorter than the girls."
The girl laughs.
"I had to edit some people. There are huge tracts of silences. Okay - these mini-CD's?" I nod at the box. "They're like, 22 minutes each. But some of my friends, they took that long to orgasm. And I didn't just want one participant on the thing. I wanted a selection. So I had to edit some of them down."
I can tell the girl is half sold. She is holding the CD differently. She is cradling it in one hand. She is not taking her eyes off it. She is looking at it like a baby.
A few years ago, my friend Jon who works in retail told me that he could tell when someone at his store was going to buy something because they started carrying it around the store. "See," he said. "In their heads, they already own it." At this moment, I can tell the girl is already listening to it at home.
"Will it work in CD players?" she asks.
"It should," I tell her. "It works in mine."
The girl, I can tell, is on the purchasing precipice.
"It's funny," I tell her. "Everyone masturbates differently. The more repressed of my friends are quieter. Some make really stupid noises. One of my friends is a grunter. She sounds like a boy when she comes."
The girl's eyes look up.
She reaches into her pocket and pays me.
"This place is full of anarchist kids," I say, absently, to Amber. Then it comes to me. "Anarkids!" I write that down on our growing collection of band names.
"Everytime I think of Anarkids I think of arachnid. I think of spiders," she tells me.
"Oh," I say. "I didn't think of that." I rethink this. I hate spiders. I scratch it out.
"No, I like it!" Amber says.
"Oh. Okay." I say, rewriting it in above the scribble.
After another half hour I get up to look around. Amber's gonna watch my things and I'm gonna go to the bathroom and get her a cup of coffee. I stumble through the crowd. I really don't fit in. I like to wear quiet clothes and everyone here is loud.
Looking at the other tables, I see all sorts of anarchist publications. The fonts are all bold. The images are sharp. The palette is black, white and red. I keep feeling that this is not my scene. Where are the soft things? I think. I think back to the row of tables that I was at. They put me there because I'm traditionally a zinester. They put me with the zines. And I realize, as I'm getting some coffee, that the zinesters aren't really trying to change things. Not like the anarchists, who are trying to change the world. The zines I perused were more about changing everyday little things. Like trying to talk to your dad more. Being kinder to cats. The zinesters have a different kind of energy. I feel the anarchists like to go out, while zinesters like to stay in. They have to. If they made their zines outside the wind would blow all the pages away. When I return to our row, it's a bit of a relief.
When I sit down I take on of my Scrabble tile pins and ask to borrow Amber's black sharpie marker.
"Whatcha doing?" she asks.
With the marker I turn one of the Scrabble A's into an anarchist symbol.
Me and Amber laugh.
"For the geek anarchists." I say.
:: firstname.lastname@example.org :: 8:38 PM
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The Brittle Outer Crust, and the Hotter, Softer Mantle
I'm sleeping in these days. I watch Oprah. Then Dr. Phil. Then the news. It is my mid-afternoon line-up. It's a parade of blunt, stunted people. They are the people I watch and whom I thank god I'm not. Maybe it's wrong to do that but I'm quite certain people have the same opinion of me.
A few months ago I asked my bosses for a two month leave of absence. A 9-5 job is a slow insanity. I could literally feel myself going crazy. More than usual, I mean. I was getting worried. I was afraid I was going to do something desperate. Like quit. Or hang myself from the sprinkler pipes in my apartment. But then I thought, what am I thinking? This is silly. You have options. You can ask for some time off. So I did. And I got it.
It's very funny. I spend as much time sitting now as I ever did. 8 hours in front of a computer has been replaced by 8 hours more or less at the drawing board. I am going full-bore at my graphic novel. It's almost done. I had planned it to be a 155 page book and I have 12 pages left. It's quite amazing what you can do if you do a little bit every day. When I'm working, I like to buy a cup of coffee every morning, and sometimes I think about putting the styrofoam cup in the corner of the office, like a brick. Then every day I would add to it. I would soon have a line of them, running around the perimeter. In this way I could watch my life measured out in coffee cups. When the coffee cups reached the ceiling I would know I'd been there too long.
I'm running out of money. It's an unpaid leave of absence. Thank god I have a job to come back to. June 1st will bring much needed refreshment to my bank account. These weeks off have been a bit of a dreamtime though. I've socialized a lot more. I walk slowly. I listen to my iPod in the streets and am strangely high. I feel giddy. Giddy with nowhere I have to be. I go shopping. I play a videogame on my computer at home. I brew coffee on my expensive coffee maker sometimes at midnight. I am flagrant with my time. I use it up. I sleep whenever I want. I cut my friends' hair in exchange for homemade raisin cookies. I bought individual Scrabble tiles from a games store because I am gonna turn them into pins and hand them out to my favourite people. I eat out. I take out. I actually have time to cook now. I listen to the Arcade Fire as if they hold some secret, and each listen will tease that secret closer to the surface. I think to myself how they are Montrealers and maybe one day I'll meet them. Maybe I actually know someone who knows them. Who could introduce me. I think it's funny how I want to meet them now that they're famous. How I want to be their friend. How fame is funny that way. And how I will never ever meet them.
:: email@example.com :: 3:50 AM
|The Hipless Boy|
|Open. Intimate. Odd.|