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Two Princes

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Categories: Just for You, Something or other but True, Stories, True Stories, When There's Weather, Tags: , , ,

IMG_9346I leave the doctor’s office, where I have just been shirtless in front of two men I have never met. I’m feeling a little scared, because in meeting with this doctor, I have basically consented to surgery. Elective surgery, but elective surgery that may change my life and make it possible for me to run, wear seatbelts, do yoga poses properly, and lay on my stomach. So I’m a little fazed, a little overwhelmed. I decide to hit the mall, maybe buy some lunch.

I walk through the mall. It’s empty. The downtown business crowd are back in their offices. I decide I’m going to go to a shop to get some leggings because I have none without holes in. I smile at a fellow at the bottom of the escalator and head up to the shop what sells leggings.

There is a rack of leggings at the front of the shop. I’m touching every pair because texture is important. I bought a pair of leggings once that ended up feeling like elasticy burlap. I’ll never do that again. I feel someone touch my elbow. I look up.

The man from the bottom of the escalator is standing beside me. He’s touching my elbow. “I saw you,” he says. “Down stairs.”

I don’t know this man. He’s touching my elbow and standing very close to me. He’s followed me from the bottom of the escalator, where he was leaving, back up the escalator to a shop.

“You are so beautiful,” he says. “I wonder are you married?”

I touch the ring on my finger. I back  toward the rack of leggings.

“Do you have friends like you, because, mmmm,” he closes his eyes and licks his lips, “I would love to have a woman like you.”

“Pardon?”

He leers at me. Leans forward. “I would love to have a woman like you,” he says. “So much, so lovely. Like you.”

I thank him for saying so, and look pointedly away from him. I look inside the shop. There are women in there. I can just go in the shop if I need to.

“Okay, goodbye,” he says, but he continues to stare at me.

 

IMG_5754I leave the doctor’s office. I have just been shirtless in front of two men, nonchalantly shirtless, I might add, because, and this may shock you, I have no problem being topless anytime, anywhere, for any reason. We have been discussing my having breast reduction surgery. Talking about nipple necrosis. Did you know there was such a thing as nipple necrosis? “They turn black,” the doctor says, “and then they fall off. So you could lose your nipples.” I try to picture myself with no nipples. I figure, if it means I can lay on my stomach, do yoga poses properly, and find shirts that fit, I’ll cut the fuckers off myself.

It’s cold outside. The wind is unforgiving. I decide to head back through the mall, maybe grab some lunch. Inside it’s pretty empty. All the suits are back at their desks, monotonously clicking ‘refresh’ on their effbook pages, clicking ‘like’ on upworthy vids, wondering if anyone would notice if they looked for some light porn. Nothing hardcore. Maybe just lesbians.

It was cold like this when I was in Ottawa, when I realised I’ve blown apart the thighs of all of my leggings, and considered buying some new ones in the world’s biggest Hudson’s Bay shop. I decide to look at some leggings at the Hoopty Mama shop upstairs. It’s weird for the mall to be this empty. I ‘m used to being here at noon. Dodging crowds. Hearing snippets of conversations about who pissed off whose HR person by using the wrong pencil to fill out form HS/Q1-22. But it’s early afternoon and the only people in the mall are people who don’t have to be back at their desks.

A man leaves the down escalator. He looks me in the eye. I smile at him. I hear him say, “hello!” in a kind of surprised voice, but it’s too late. He’s behind me. It would look weird if I turned around and said hello. It’s damnably uncomfortable being Canadian sometimes. Plus, I’m focused on leggings.

I’m standing at the table of leggings at the Hoopty Mama shop. I feel someone grasp my elbow. “Hello,” the man says.

It’s the man from the bottom of the escalator. “Hello!” I say. “You said hello to me downstairs, and I completely ignored you and walked away! It’s only because I’m so damnably Canadian and realised Too Late I had walked away from you. I’m very sorry. That was rude.”

He smiles. “You are so amazing,” he says. He indicates my hair. “Your hair,” he says. “Are you from Canada?”

“Yes, damnably so, I’m afraid.”

“Always from Canada?”

“Always.”

“Are you Aboriginal?”

“I’m not,” I say. “Although there are rumours about something my great-grandmother might have done when great-grandfather was away, and why my own grandfather had such high cheekbones and such dark skin.”

He doesn’t understand. He squints at me. It occurs to me that English is not his first language. I smile. He smiles. “Are you married?” He asks.

I show him my rings. “I am!” I say.

“Oh.” He sounds disappointed. “It’s just that you’re so beautiful.”

“Sir, I would hire someone to follow me around every day to say that to me.”

“What!? NO!”

“I’m just being silly. Thank you very much. You’re very kind to say it.”

“Do you have friends like you? More women like you?”

I laugh. “Oh, good God no. There ain’t no more of me, baby. I’m it. And let me tell you, that’s probably a good thing because this world couldn’t take any more of me than there already is.”

“Wow,” he says. He shakes his head. “Wow.”

I offer him my hand and ask his name. I offer him mine. I thank  him again. He leaves. I leave.

I end up buying a really shitty juice and some mediocre noodles.

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Swine Cat

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Categories: Cats, Everything Else Drawer, Four-legged Family, Tags: ,

IMG_9449.JPG

This is Poe the Cat. He is a dick. His nickname is Mungbrain the Cat. He believes he was in a movie once (he was not) and that he played the captain of the guards (he did not; it was Jason Bateman) and that it was a, and I’m quoting the cat here, “seminal role” (it was not. It was ancillary at best). 

Poe likes long sleeps in whatever piece of furniture or fabric you least want cat hair on, such as your pillow or clean laundry. His favourite movie is the one he was in (he doesn’t even remember what movie it was), and he hates rap music and “anything twangy because it sounds like cat torture” (I said he was a dick, not an idiot). 

Poe’s greatest turn ons are tricking people into thinking he enjoys them petting him and then biting them. His greatest turn offs are the dogs. He also likes cheese and tuna. 

When asked what he would do if he had the chance to change the world, Poe said “nothing, asshole; that’s your problem.”  

Cats are GREAT. 

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Storytelling Month – The Basement

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Categories: Remembery, Something or other but True, Stories, True Stories, Tags: ,

To celebrate Storytelling Month, I’m going to tell you at least one story per week in  February. These are all true stories.

I don’t think I’ve ever told this story before. Maybe I have and I’ve just reached that stage of perpetual awesomeness where my memory of stories is like that thing that things get out of. A prison or a sieve or a colander or politics or whatever.

Part of the reason for that is that I can’t actually be certain whether it’s fiction or fact. When I look back at the whole thing with my remembery, things are hazy. Flash-bulb, like when you dangle too far into your cups at a hootenanny and your only memories of the evening come in postcard-like flashes because probably your blinks took several seconds each. Like dancers in a strobe. Like headlights on the highway.

IMG_5201I would have been in grade four or five. Maybe grade six. I was around ten or eleven years old and my neighbourhood school had rapidly declining registrations. It was …it *is* a gorgeous old school, built in 1924, I think. It’s a Band School now, but at the time it was a public school. I remember the dust-and-chalk scent of the classrooms, the sound of runners squeaking in the halls, and the way the sun burst through the walls of windows in each class.

The kids I went to school with had been attending this school with me since Kindgergarten, for the most part. Maybe one new kid here and there, but not many. My neighbourhood was in an older part of the city, where there were three elementary schools (two public and one Catholic) in a ten-block area, all on the same street. The point here is that I knew everyone in my school.

When you only have twenty kids in your age range (and split-grade classrooms), you often go to every birthday party that rolls around. It’s a bit like living in residence at University really, or in a small town; when there’s a party, everyone goes. There was a birthday party – a slumber party – and I’d been invited, and my mother didn’t want me to go. She couldn’t really articulate why, but in retrospect, I think I understand. All she could tell me was that she didn’t know the family very well. Didn’t know the parents at all. She was nervous. She said I could go to the party but had to come home before the sleepover started.

I didn’t listen.

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“Corners” image from freeimages.com

I went for the party and after hotdogs and cake I phoned home and asked if I could stay over. Mum said she wanted me home, but I begged and pleaded and wore her down in the way that only eleven year olds can do. She knew where the house was, she knew the phone number, she knew some of the other kids who were there. I didn’t tell her that some of the girls who’d been to the party had gone home. She brought over some pyjamas and a change of clothes, a sleeping bag and a pillow. She told me to be home first thing in the morning. Before noon.

All of us were down in the basement, flopped all over the floor like a litter of puppies. Some girls had sleeping bags, but most had been given some blankets and pillows to sleep on air mattresses at the foot of the stairs. I was curled up on a foam mattress a little way away, listening to whispers and giggles and staring into the darkness watching shapes form and reform as my retinas did whatever magic thing retinas do when the lights are out.

I wish I could remember more details. What the house looked like. Who was there. What time of year it was. But I can’t.

At some point when the whispers and giggles had turned into deep breathing and light snores, I heard something. Someone was coming downstairs. I don’t remember exactly, but I think my birthday friends had older brothers and sisters or uncles or family friends…someone was coming down the stairs. I remember a sliver of light as the door to the upstairs opened. I remember the sound of unsteady footfalls on the stairs. I remember the vague outline of someone walking past the foot of the mass of sleeping girls.

I remember the weight of someone on top of me. I remember pain. I remember, vaguely, at least I think I remember, being told to stay quiet. I remember being completely disoriented, having trouble walking the next day. I remember going home the next day wearing panties that weren’t my own. I remember Mum asking me where I’d got them, and I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know what else I knew then, when I was eleven years old.

That was the last time I ever went to that house, though. I didn’t even talk to the girls who’d invited me to their party very much after that.

Although I still don’t know what exactly happened in that basement, I think I was raped.

It’s neither here nor there now. I don’t remember it, so ultimately it might have all been something that never happened. The only thing I know is that I came home the next day in someone else’s panties and it hurt to walk. It doesn’t affect me. I don’t have PTSD. I’m not a victim. I don’t even really ever think about it. I only tell this story now because not all stories are good ones. But all stories are important.

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Why we can’t be friends when you’re in Hawaii

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Categories: Children, Dogs, Family, Four-legged Family, His Nibs, Just for You, The Captain, The Nipper, Tags: , , ,

My cousin is in Hawaii right now, and I have vowed that she and I can NOT be friends until she is home. Now. She’s a professional photographer, so all of her pictures of her little “vacation” are fucking gorgeous, and because I am not at all petty or jealous, I’ve decided that I’m going to post photographs of MY awesome time STAYING HOME IN THE SNOW.

Now, I’m not a professional photographer or anything, but I think these turned out pret-ty well:

YardSnow The view from our bedroom window. I should point out that this image may be a little under-exposed. It was really difficult to get the light just right, and the snow and sleet kept just firing sideways the whole time which knocked the crap out of my auto-focus. 

I took this with a 500-SLDR MMX BMW 14 gauge 2DR 99% option-free sliding reflux mounted on a tripod made of stale oreos. The lens I used was “Screw You, Winter”, which cost me more than I’d like to admit in mental health. The light’s really nice, coming in from behind the…um. Well there are trees out there somewhere.

SassypantsBumblebuttSnowHere you see ‪#‎PrincessSassypants‬ and ‪#‎Bumblebutt‬ in the yard. They’re adorable when they get out there, all running around and sniffing the air to see if there’s anything still alive after a week and a half of zero degrees kelvin. #Bumblebutt claims she heard a squirrel, but she’s an older dog and might have been hearing #PrincessSassypants’ farts, which, I can assure you, are terrifying. I used the camera on my phone to capture these two mutts. Just look at the looks on their little faces. AREN’T THEY ADORABLE?

…that’s not a dead squirrel in #Bumblebutt’s mouth, is it?

DogpoopSnowOh. This is one of my favourites. After the #Doges romped about for a while (you have to keep moving or else you’ll die of exposure!) , I took this shot of our yard. I’ve always really admired how photographers can capture the SOUL of someone’s yard in a single shot. You know the ones I mean – lush and verdant green gardens, full of blooms and climbing vines, with a little babbling brook or birdbath in the corner, and an arbour under which a small patio set sits, just waiting for a bottle of wine and a much-loved book. Now, I’m not a professional photographer, but I think this shot really does capture the soul of my yard right now, after the dogs have been playing in it.

Well. Okay. Not “playing” per se.

FamilyPortraitSnowOf course, what pictoral essay would be complete without the ubiquitous family portrait in the back yard. We’re all wearing our Hawaiian shirts, as a kind of HOMAGE to my cousins who are staying with my aunt and uncle on the Big Island (the Hawaiian Big Island, not the Lac La Ronge big island). I’m ..I’m not sure what ‪#‎TheNipper‬ is doing in this photo, but it might have something to do with fire walking or coconuts or…I dunno…um…flying crabs? And don’t be turned off by ‪#‎TheTeen‬‘s scowl. He always looks like that. You can tell he’s actually enjoying himself because he’s wearing his earbuds and watching a YouTube video WHILE WE TOOK THE PICTURE. Oh. And apparently one of the mice from our kitchen got in the picture too. Swine cats, not doing their job.

So there. I AM TOTALLY HAVING FUN NOT IN HAWAII.

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Storytelling Month – A Bigger Man

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Categories: Stories, Style, True Stories, Tags: , ,

Why International White Trash Week only lasts one night.

To celebrate Storytelling Month, I’m going to tell you at least one story per week in  February. These are all true stories. Okay and I forgot last week’s story but I gave you two stories the week before so it all evens out.

*ahem*

And I was going to find you a picture for this story, but when I really started thinking about it I realised you really don’t want pictures for this story so I found a royalty-free image that kind of has something to do with part of the story and by the time we get to the end of the story, you’ll understand why I chose that and you will thank me.

You. Will. Thank. Me.

When Drang and I lived together in the little boxcar house (which has since burned down, no fault of ours) with no doorknobs, a busted pool table in the basement and a full-wall mural of Homer Simpson smoking the world’s biggest doob, we were never very far from one a’ them…whattayacallems…thinly veiled excuses for having some shindiggery. Drang worked X weeks away at the mine and X weeks back home, and that led to rather a lot of intense ballyhoo action when he was home, and several weeks of recuperation when he was Away. And since most of our friends were mutual friends it was never very difficult to get a Troupe together for a hootenanny.

Cue birthday celebrations.

#HisNibs shares a birthday (or thereabouts at least) with Our Fair Canada, and with my grandmother, who is now dead but at the time this story took place she was very much alive. For the record, my mother (who was  a heavy drinker) was also very much alive. Neither of these latter two facts really plays a large role in this story; one plays more of a role than the other, but we might not get to it so I really just put that out there because this is how I tell stories. Everyone strapped in? Hands and feet inside the car at all times. Ready? Okay, here we go.

Wait. You’re going to want to take that…whatever that is…out of your mouth because I will not have anyone choking. Snorting beer, coffee, milk, or carbohydrates through one’s nose is acceptable; choking is not.

First, you need to understand the boxcar house. Which I think you do if you’ve been reading along. It was a slum house we rented from slumlords who were famous for offering to trade rent for sexual favours, and who didn’t think there was anything *wrong* with renting out a house that had no doorknobs. The walls were made of buffalo board, which is one step down from gyprock and two steps to the left of cardboard. It was a two-bedroom house that was smaller than my garage. AND WE LOVED IT. Because we were 20-something punk/goth gamers whose primary goal in life was to save enough empties to buy a carton of cigarettes. These are not lofty goals, my friend. However, if you set your goals low enough, you can prove success quite effectively.

ForbiddenWe declared the weekend of #HisNibs’ birthday to be International White Trash Week. Because…um…well, because…uh…kay here’s the thing. You have to look at GOALS first. OUTCOMES. What is the END RESULT you’re looking for? We wanted to spend some time drunk on a beach, but we didn’t have a beach handy (we did, but we’d roont ourselves on it the previous month celebrating the Best Day of the Year). We did, however, have a bunch of shitty lawnchairs we’d picked up at the beach the month prior.

Now let’s just talk for a minute about the Aristotelean ideal of “lawn chair”. No, no. Let’s back up from there even. Let’s talk about the Aristotelean ideal of “chair”. If we sort of…deconstruct the concept of a “chair”, we’re left with “something upon which one may sit”. This could, then, arguably, be an actual chair, a log, a chesterfield, a bunk bed, a rock, a tuffet, or any number of things. Drang and I had “sourced” some “lawn chairs” (by which I mean ‘relatively portable items upon which one might plant their bottom out in the yard’) from the “rubbish bin” at the “beach”.

So. Here we have two to four shitty, busted “lawn chairs”, the dregs of several bottles of liquor, a basement full of empties, half a carton of cigarettes, and a fridge devoid of everything but a quart of milk, half a pound of butter, and two half-eaten Big Crunch chicken sandwich burgers from KFC. Oh, and some mustard and BBQ sauce.

Now, we posited that combining those items and a Saturnalia in honour of #HisNibs impending natals would be a Good Thing, and the theme that presented itself, quite organically, I might add, was “International White Trash Week”. Because, you see, we planned to spend that entire week, a week which Drang had free from work, which I had free from work, and which #HisNibs had free from work, slurring our words face-down in a gutter. Lofty goals, gentle reader. Lofty goals.

So we invited our peeps and informed them there would be a strict dress code. Nothing that wasn’t torn, cut off far too short for modesty, or clean would be permitted. Tooth black, while not required, was highly recommended. Bathing beforehand was strictly optional, and there was to be a bonfire so anyone with aerosol hairspray, jerry cans of gasoline, or incriminating evidence was invited to bring it on over. Those few of our friends who had successfully bred at that point were told their children could attend, provided they were solidly attached to a hunk of twine, the other end of which we would wrap around the neighbour’s fence for safety.

Drang and I realised our laundry (A-frame tee shirts quite politically incorrectly nicknamed “wife beaters” and army surplus dungarees) was Far Too Clean, so we spent the afternoon squirting one another with mustard and bbq sauce and spilling coffee down our fronts followed immediately by rolling about in the dirt in the back alley. I shit you not, dear reader, this is a TRUE STORY. Eventually the sun fell low in the sky and Drang built our bonfire high enough that I thought it would warp our neighbour’s siding. We tossed in the “Vote Conservative!” sign our landlord had lovingly staked in our yard, after we stabbed it with knives as a political statement. Drang may have also urinated on it. [Note: my political leanings have not changed.]

Image from http://www.peopleofwalmart.com

Friends showed up in various attires of the redneck trailer trash cracker variety. I have never in my life (and never will again, I surmise) seen TUO in ‘hotpants’ (cutoff jeans) that short. Our friend D showed up – a fellow a few years older than us, who we all just kind of …assumed… had been a biker. Or still was. Or knew some. Or, you know, was hiding from some. We…didn’t ask a lot of questions.

He tied in to the whiskey pretty hard, halfway through the bottle announcing he’d been on the wagon for a number of years, but this…THIS he had to celebrate. By that point, nobody much cared, and in fact that was the moment that Drang ran up to me to announce he had just vomited! Over there! In the yard! By the end of the night, the cat had escaped and been caught (by #HisNibs), Drang had vomited! In the yard! Over there!, TUO had burnt her knees at the fireside, Suzi had scared the ever-loving Christ out of me by pretending to be my mother, and D was looking a little green around the gills.

Here’s the thing about fêtes. If you CHOOSE to go to bed/to sleep, it doesn’t count as having imbibed so much that you passed out. I *chose* to retire to my own bed at an entirely unreasonable hour, with an entirely excellent choice in partners. In fact, I had stayed up, sobering up, most of the evening, waiting for Drang’s Conflagration to die down enough so that I could put it out with the neighbour’s garden hose. So I missed the Excitement happening in my salle du bain.

The next morning (I’m an early riser much of the time and especially after I’ve been in my cups), I found D snoring loudly on the couch, and although I did my best to creep past him on my way out with #HisNibs to fetch some delectable morning-after fare, D woke with a grunt reminiscent of bears rumbling out of hibernation. “Where you off to?” He mumbled.

“Breakfast. Want to join us?”

He cocked an eyebrow, then rolled himself off the couch and rose unsteadily to his feet. “I could use some coffee.”

What he did not know, what he *could not* know, is that my favourite thing to do after a night of imbibery is to eat greasy fast food. So we drove to the greasiest, fastest-foodiest, arch-related restaurant in the vicinity, where I ordered two greasy mcwiches, several far greasier hash brown patties, and a large cup of coffee drowned in cream and loaded with sugar. I ordered for everyone, as D was still a little unsteady and had opted to have a sit-down in the sit-downery (see: Aristotelean ideal of “chair”) to wait.

I returneth, bearing a tray of sweet, greasy ambrosia.

D’s face turned several shades of…actually I don’t even know what I’d call that colour. Orc? Sun-dried dog  poo? Anyway, the man did not look well. He gulped a few times and said “what the hell is that for?”

I said “Breakfast!” and began to chow down. Now, truth be told, I ate far too fast for the state my stomach was in. But watching that man change colour was far more interesting than any minor protestations coming from my pyloric valve. I didn’t know human beings *turned* those colours. What I did not know was that D had spent much of the previous evening in the loo, retching horrifically…actually, I don’t believe “retching” is an appropriate descriptive verb here. According to #HisNibs, who is a consummate raconteur, the noises coming from the WC were somewhere between “a jet engine revving up” and “an entire pride of lions roaring into a very deep cave”, which lasted “for longer than [he] thought humans could survive without breathing” for the better part of an hour.

“Holy shit,” D said, watching me eat, wiping his brow as he watched. I noticed he was shaking a little. “You’re a bigger man that I am.”

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Same same?

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Categories: History, Just Wrong, Rants, Something or other but True, Tags: , , , , , , ,

TL:DR version - learn your history before you shoot off at the mouth.

In the years surrounding the war, Japanese Canadians, German Canadians, Ukrainian Canadians were all taken from their homes and put into internment camps. This is one of those…whattayacallems…parts of Canadian history that gets sorta shoved under the carpet because when faced with something that makes us feel bad, Canadians are a lot like puppies. I have a friend who told me that when his dog pooped on the floor, she would pick up the poop and go and hide it in the chesterfield. And that’s pretty much what Canadians do with our own history that we find kind of nasty.

When Louis Riel was elected to Parliament, he couldn’t take his seat because most of Upper Canada wanted him killed, and I think there were warrants out for his arrest. What was he in trouble for? Telling Upper Canada that the people who’d broken the land and homesteading in Manitoba kind of owned their own land regardless of their heritage. I could be fuzzy on the details because the only thing that was taught in my elementary school about Louis Riel is that he was a criminal who betrayed the government of Canada and was exiled to the US and was hanged for treason. And that because of Louis Riel, the Canadian government was able to pretty much wipe out the Red River Rebellion, which was a good thing because what would we do if a bunch of Métis people were able to declare themselves a distinct society and want to govern people of non-Indigenous descent? CLEARLY we would devolve into some kind of savage oligarchy, ruled by a controlling despot who muzzles the press and underfunds education, science and research, and…oh wait. Shit.

al_historictreaties_treaty-text_main_1361286085685_eng“The Treaties were enacted so that the Indians could have a place to live in Canada and could learn how to sustain themselves with agriculture.” I mean. It’s no goddamned wonder most students don’t like learning “history”. Because it makes no bloody sense. A “treaty” is a formal and ratified agreement signed between countries. So at some level, the Canadian government recognised that the Indigenous peoples of Canada represented distinct nations. Why in the world would a foreign government (Canada) have to draft treaties for Indigenous peoples to live where they’d always lived? And why on earth would Indigenous peoples need to learn how to survive when clearly they’d been surviving quite handily for thousands of years before foreign boots landed on this country’s soil? But of course, when you’re in grade three and you don’t understand a lot about these weird concepts like private ownership and international trade agreements, you just kind of believe whatever is in your text book, or whatever your teacher teaches you.

History must be told in terms of story. There’s fiction, and there’s non-fiction. And usually, history is non-fiction. Usually. Unless you’re Canadian and you’re learning the kind of history that doesn’t even actually mention internment camps for Immigrant Canadians during (and after) the war. Unless you’re Canadian and you’re learning that the British (Canadian) government wanted to “help” Indigenous peoples by basically putting them in internment camps and then reneging on most of the terms of the treaties they’d signed.

Imagine my confusion when I learned about the Treaty of Versailles and how Europe was *surprised* when Hitler violated the terms of the treaty and began amassing military troops and reinstating military conscription in Germany. Why was anyone surprised about this? Clearly the purpose of treaties is to write down a bunch of stuff you don’t really mean, which you have no real intention of doing, for a bunch of people you don’t really much like anyway. This is what the word “treaty” meant to me, because in Canada, it was pretty clear that the only reason the British government offered to entreat with the Indigenous peoples was because it was easier to control a population of people who’d been starved nearly to extinction, decimated by disease, and ethnically cleansed from their traditional lands in the American midwest. And just outright killing them was so…American. The Prime Minister (Sir John A.) had a dream to unite Canada under one government, but in order to do that, the peoples who had “title” to the lands in the west would have to agree to surrender them. Most of the Indigenous peoples were in a desperate enough state that some help looked pretty damned good.

We learned in grade three about the destruction of the bison herds. We learned about the Trail of Tears. We learned about the disease and the starvation that turned entire nations of peoples into groups of nomads, trying to find a place to live in a country overrun with foreign settlers who were looking for the same thing. We learned that the Government swept in and saved the people. But we didn’t learn what our government signed on behalf of all Canadians with the Indigenous peoples, *forever*. Most of us never read the numbered treaties under which our own homes were governed. (Some of us went and looked them up in the municipal library because we had Questions.)  I am not a scholar of Aboriginal law nor of Treaty law. Nor of law at all, really. The point I want to make here is that the Government of Canada signed these treaties *in perpetuity*. There’s no end date on them. More on that in a minute. Keep that in your head though, okay?

Look, I know you didn’t much like my rant yesterday. Nobody likes it when we point out each others’ weaknesses. There are an awful lot of people who don’t seem to understand that Indigenous peoples were never given any “free stuff”. Indigenous peoples in Canada had their traditional homelands *annexed* by a foreign government. A foreign government came in to their native homeland, annexed it, and set aside certain portions on which the indigenous peoples could continue to live.  This was pretty weird, if you think about it. Invading forces usually stormed a country, killed off all the leaders and warriors they could, took the land away from every other landowner, installed their own leaders in positions of authority, and then enslaved the indigenous people. Anyway, that’s really neither here nor there. The point is that reserve land is not “free land”; it’s a concession of property granted or traded for other lands or services.

Let’s put this in perspective. If the Americans decided they didn’t want to sign any more international trade agreements with Canada for natural resources like oil, lumber, potash, and water, and they kind of wanted to just, you know, take over Canada and make it part of the US of A, and they came up here with their military prowess and their redneck militias, we’d be screwed. Canada wouldn’t be a nation anymore. Your land titles might not be valid anymore, since they were registered in a country that no longer exists. Sure, you say, that would never happen. Times have changed. (Well, but not really.) Or what if China did it? What if China decided to annex Canada and you had to learn Chinese in order to get anything official done? And you couldn’t go to church anymore because the official religion in China is no religion at all or Taoism so your little church on the corner would become a temple or a laundromat or a government office.

So this racism, this intolerance and distrust and judgment towards Indigenous peoples in Canada and recent immigrants to Canada, it’s awful. Everyone everywhere hates each other; that’s why countries have borders at all. Very few of them are geographically-based; national borders are imaginary lines drawn in the sand that basically say “you keep your people over there and I’ll keep my people over here” in a sad but powerful game of Auntie-I-Over. But the way to move out of our xenophobic and sorry monocultural rut is to talk to each other. We need to learn about each others’ history and culture. We need to park our indignation at the door.

Read the Treaties that govern what are essentially international relations for the area in which you live. You’ll see that, f’rinstance, the terms of Treaty 4 (which covers the place I live) cedes approximately 50,000 square miles (that’s a lot of miles, square or otherwise) in exchange for, among other things, an annual payment, *in perpetuity* of $5 for every man, woman, and child in the Band. FIVE BUCKS. Five bucks A YEAR. Why, for an average, healthy woman, that amounts to nearly $450 over a whole lifetime! That’s, like, a lot of bucks! Man. If the federal government gave *me* FIVE FREE DOLLARS A YEAR, and if I invested it wisely at birth, I could possibly TRIPLE the investment and make almost FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS over my 90-year lifespan! My band could receive ammunition and twine! TWINE! Amounting to not more than $750/year. That’s a LOT of twine. I could be given a school! FREE! And I wouldn’t have the option of whether or not to send my kids to that school! The government would just come and take them from me! And then rape them and beat them! And force them to speak a foreign language! That would be SO AWESOME! And let’s not forget that as long as I stay on my reserve, I am not allowed to have any alcohol or spirits. Sorry about the Grey Cup party, lads. But if we pool our $5 for a few years, we could maybe set up a big-screen teevee on the edge of the reserve and sit on a couch on the other side of the border and drink beer!

Now, if you live a bit further north and are living under Treaty Six, you’re super lucky because the terms of this treaty originally allowed the government to take away whatever land they wanted from your reserve (which was establised when about 121,000 square miles were ceded) for “public works or buildings” provided proper compensation was provided. You also got to share one plough and one harrow for every three families if you decided to engage in agriculture. And each Band got one whole whetstone! Oh, and every family has *access to* a medicine chest kept at the Indian Agent’s home. So that’s pretty nice. I’m sure the Indian Agents are *more than happy* to run clinics out of their homes!

So if you think that five bucks a year, access to education, shared farming tools, and a shitload of twine, along with some land set aside out of between 50,000 and 121,000 square miles of land is a good deal, then you and I should have a talk about what you’re willing to sell your beachfront cottage for. I *happen* to have rather a lot of twine I grabbed from Grandmother Smaug’s hoard. And let’s just make sure you understand that in order to receive your five bucks a year, access to education, shared farming tools, and a shitload of twine, you have to live where the Government tells you to live, and you’re *not allowed to leave your neighbourhood without permission*, and you *aren’t allowed to have a beer on your own land*. Because if you leave your neighbourhood, for many years, you could be arrested. For a long time, if you married someone who wasn’t from your neighbourhood, you had to leave your neighbourhood and forfeit your five bucks a year.

I hear people say “why should I be held responsible for what happened 150 years ago?” I can answer that. It’s a pretty easy answer, actually. It’s because *our government* signed internationally binding treaties that last *forever*. Our government essentially agreed to these terms on your behalf, three generations before you were born. If you are Canadian, you are covered by, and are therefore governed by, and are therefore held responsible to uphold the tenets of, every treaty signed with every nation in Canada, by the Canadian government. Just like you’re covered by, and are held responsible to uphold the tenets of international agreements signed with the United States or Germany or China. You personally might not have signed those treaties, but your government did. And that’s why it’s your (and my, and every Indigenous person’s in this country) responsibility to know what you’ve been signed up for, what your rights are, what our rights are, and how we can enact those rights *together*.

That’s the thing, see. We’re all in this together. So get over your ridiculous sense of entitlement if you think that you deserve MORE than you’ve received (which is essentially a taxpayer-paid education, taxpayer-funded health care, a pretty good standard of living, political empowerment) and should be getting five extra bucks a year and a shitload of twine. No, you didn’t vote for Sir John A. Macdonald, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he signed international treaties on your behalf. I didn’t vote for Stephen Harper, and he’s ruining the country without my consent too. (This is one of many reasons why it’s *kind of important* to vote, and to cast an informed vote.)

Education, health care, land claims – these are all treaty rights (among other things). They are rights that were given in exchange for Indignenous peoples ceding a LOT of land (like, all of Canada between Ontario and the BC Coast). Land that you couldn’t afford to buy if you tried. Even if you were the Koch brothers. If you need to think of treaty rights as Canada’s “sale price”, then go ahead. What is your homeland worth to you?

More reading:
Canada’s Numbered Treaties 

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Saskatchewan Racist as Fuck No Surprise To Anyone But Folks Who Don’t Like Indians

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Categories: Bad Mojo, Canadian Politics, education, Just Wrong, Rants, Tags: , , , , ,

Yeah, I stole the title from my own Twitter stream.

I’ve seen these headlines over the last couple of days that talk about how SHOCKED everyone is to find out that SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH has PROVEN that Saskatchewan is full of people who pretty much hate each other. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has lived in this province for more than ten minutes. Seriously, we can’t stand each other. But because it’s so goddamned cold in this province, we help each other because there’s a good chance that at some point in the near future you’re going to be stranded on that stretch of highway #1 between Moose Jaw and Swift Current where literally nothing happens for days unless someone is looking, which nobody ever is.

"Deny" image by Asif Akbar used royalty-free from freeimages.com

“Deny” image by Asif Akbar used royalty-free from freeimages.com

White folks are racist towards “The Indians” (or, if you’re outside of a small town but not quite in one of the cities, “The Natives”), “The Immigrants”, “Those Mooselimbs”, “The Catholics”, “The Protestants”, “That Black Guy” [excluding football players], “The Chinese” (sometimes also referred to as “Asians” as if Asia weren’t, you know, fucking immense and full of many nationalities, but whatever. See “The Indians” above.), “The French” and basically anyone who can’t trace their own lineage to other white folks. French people are not included as “white folks” because Quebec. And of course people (mostly dolts) talk about “reverse racism” (which doesn’t exist) which is what happens when a brown person hates a non-brown person. It’s still racism. It’s just the kind of racism that happens when an historically ill-served and abused culture ends up hating the privileged class or race.

And yes, I’m just going to go ahead and use the term “racist” and “racism” synonymously with “bigot” and “bigotry” because sometimes when I get going on a rant I don’t much care about the vagaries of nit-picky word origin when we all know what we mean. We mean the kind of knee-jerk, ingrained, culturally insensitive distaste and prejudice we have against an entire class/culture/group of people based on a single or small select group of characteristics. SO GO AHEAD AND TELL ME IT ISN’T TECHNICALLY RACISM TO HATE MUSLIMS. It’s still ruddy bigotry so that’s what we’re dealing with.

Look, we have a long and storied history of misunderstanding, ignoring, mistreating, and basically hating the Aboriginal peoples of our province. And the immigrant peoples. This comes primarily from the long and storied history we have, as descendents of Europeans, of hating each other. THIS IS WHAT WE DO. It should come as no surprise to anyone that WE STILL HATE EACH OTHER. Because what have we done to change our own behaviour?

Sure, you watched a movie about Gandhi, and boy howdy he was a really smart little Indian dude. You thought Nelson Mandela was kind of keen. You said you’d have voted for Obama. It’s sure easy to point our fingers at all the hate and intolerance all over the world and still be unable to see our own prejudices. To be unable to acknowledge that we still comment about how our doctors are “darkies, but they’re not quacks” (that’s a direct quote from a guy I know). To express shocking ignorance at our own history of systematic destruction of entire nations’ language, culture, and religion in what any other place would be called genocide or ethnic cleansing but what in Canada we choose to call “that nasty business with the residential schools”.

It’s pretty easy to say shit like “well all that nasty business that happened with the residential schools – you should just get over it. If it weren’t for the Europeans, you’d still be living in tents, for God’s sake”, which is something I still hear people say. And they’re not joking. Heaven forfend you should mention Treaties. Because somehow, magically, these internationally-binding agreements that *our government* signed on *our behalf* don’t apply to us? Because, what, that was just, you know, a thing that some dudes did, like, a hundred years ago or whatever but it doesn’t apply now.

Do you know why there are a bunch of different countries in Europe? Africa? Asia? BECAUSE OF INTERNATIONAL TREATIES, you boob.

Anyway. Yeah. That Saskatchewan is racist as fuck is not news. That very few people seem to be able to figure out that ACCURATE INFORMATION and education is the first way out of the hole into which we have all, seemingly quite happily, jumped is pretty sad. The first step in eradicating racism is a very, very easy step. But it involves leaving your ego at the door, and sadly, I don’t think we’re even close to that yet.

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You’re to Blame

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Categories: Rants, Vaccinations, Tags: , , ,

I wasn’t going to say anything about this, but as usual, semantics made me do it.

Because we live in a free and democratic first-world country (except for those places you don’t want to walk through), you get to choose not to vaccinate your children, and your reasons for that don’t matter. Good for you. You made a decision!

"Virus" photograph by Andrzej Pobiedzinski (http://blog.pobiedzinski.com/), used with free license from Freeimages.com

“Virus” photograph by Andrzej Pobiedzinski (http://blog.pobiedzinski.com/), used with free license from Freeimages.com

I don’t actually care what your reasons are for choosing not to vaccinate your kids. I toyed with the idea of not vaccinating mine, but in the end, reason won out over paranoia. No, I don’t think that’s being harsh at all. I wasn’t considering not vaccinating my kids because I thought vaccines caused autism (which is, frankly, the stupidest claim I had ever heard *anyway*); I was considering not vaccinating my children because I had questions about the efficacy of the vaccines being used.

Then I remembered having pertussis (whooping cough). And chicken pox (which I got as an adult, from my kid). I remembered my grandmother telling me about how she watched her brother die (in the bathtub) of diphtheria. That was what made her decide to be a nurse. I decided it really didn’t matter what the efficacy was of the vaccine, because giving my kids a chance to not have these illnesses or to have far less virulent versions of them just really seemed like the common sense thing to do.

FAR BE IT FROM ANY OF US TO HAVE COMMON SENSE.

When my kid got chicken pox, one of my friends said “you should bring him over for a chicken pox party”. I had never heard of a chicken pox party. I asked whether my friend’s kid also had The Pox.

“No,” Friend said. “I want your kid to GIVE my kid chicken pox.”

Of COURSE I thought Friend was joking. I said something about syphilis and gonorrhoea parties probably being kind of fun, please pass the mercury har-har-har before I realized Friend was serious. Because that’s how I roll, yo.

Cue me being horrified at people WANTING to spread virulent, potentially deadly diseases.

I’m not a scientist, and there are plenty of people far more edumacated than I am who can explain to you how vaccines do and do not work. Now maybe you and God had a little sit-down over instant coffee and He told you that He most certainly did not invent science and that the devil did that and that anything that comes from science is evil so you have, which is your right, decided to forego the ‘lectricity, plastics, synthetic fibre, the Internet, your telephone, that stroller, and fire-retardant sleeper PJs, along with diapers and detergent. And instant coffee, come to think of it.

But just in case you’re not living on Mount Sinai tending your goats (and what adorable goats they are) and you’ve decided to pick and choose *which* bits of science are the work of the devil AND you’ve decided not to think about why God wouldn’t take credit for inventing things – you’ve chosen to believe that vaccines are bad and evolution is just a funny thing that the British talked about for a hundred years. Maybe it’s not a God thing at all. I shouldn’t be so…religion-shamingey?

Like I said, I don’t actually care about why you don’t think public preventative medicine is a good idea. Diseases, and particularly viruses, have a way of mutating (but it’s not through evolution, of course, because that’s just that silly British thing…it’s more like God creates a new virus every time an angel sneezes) and not all vaccines work for every person and not all vaccines work for life and let me just reiterate that my great uncle died in the bathtub when he was 13 because of diphtheria.

People didn’t used to have 6 to 14 kids in their families solely because women had no easily accessible control over their fertility. People used to have families with 6 or more kids because usually every other kid died from communicable disease. Pertussis, measles, mumps, smallpox, chicken pox, polio, diphtheria, cholera, tuberculosis… you name it, kids died from it. Yes there were shitloads of other reasons why graveyards up until the 1940s had so many tiny headstones with lambs all over the place. And yes, people still get those diseases. All over the world.

Hell, if you made it to age 6, you beat the odds. Entire generations of families didn’t name their children until the babies turned two because it was statistically probable that the kid would just die anyway. Or they just really really really wanted a daughter called Mary so they kept naming every doomed child “Mary” until one survived past infancy.

We have the ability to reduce infant mortality through vaccines. Yes, there are other things at work here, and no, reductions in infant mortality doesn’t exist in a vaccine-only vacuum. A minority of people in the world have cleaner, improved living conditions from what we had 100 years ago. A minority of people in the world have access to clean water, food, shelter, and health care. Children dying of preventable disease is something we are happy to leave “over there” in third-world countries and in the parts of our own cities we choose not to walk through.

Whatever the brainwashy reason you choose not to vaccinate your children is your decision and because you live in a free and democratic society you get to exercise stupid decisions all the time. So here’s the deal. Don’t send your kids to school. Don’t put them in sports (unless you’re that family from teevee whose mother has a womb that’s actually a clown car and you can form three full lines for hockey out of your own direct descendants). Don’t take them to church, don’t take them to the mall, don’t take them to day-care, don’t take them to the strip club. Just sit up on your mountain, tending your goats, and don’t let your children carry and spread communicable diseases.

Because even though my kids ARE vaccinated, one of the points of vaccines is to strengthen the community’s resistance to highly contagious pathogens. That means you are the weak link. Well, okay. That’s not fair. Your kids are. Keep those little typhoid Marys and pertussis Pauls away from other people.

And the semantic thing that set me off? There is no “vaccination debate”. It’s not about the argument, in other words. There is hard, scientific evidence that supports the practice of vaccination, and there is crackpot, knee-jerk paranoia that undermines public health.

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Storytelling Month – Grandmothers

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Categories: Family, Grandmothers, Just for You, Stories, True Stories, Tags: , , , ,

To celebrate Storytelling Month, I’m going to tell you at least one story per week in  February. These are all true stories.

Every day at noon, the bells in the fire hall in Climax (the town in southeastern Saskatchewan that was home to my mum, and to me every summer, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and most spring breaks) would sound out the Westminster Chimes, and bong their bongers twelve times. No matter where you were, you knew it was time to go home for lunch.

Or, in some cases, you knew last night had been a hell of a night and you buried your head under the pillow and cursed the English once again for every travesty they’d committed upon your ancestors, your ancestors’ ancestors, good food, and the middle class.

Either way, to this day, I associate that particular melody with everything that was good and right and wonderful about childhood. Lying on the the dry, crinkly grass (it was always dry and crinkly down there, no matter how often you watered it because the only trees in town other than the spruce trees planted by Old Mrs. J at the end of the block were two weedy and spindly poplars we planted in Nama’s yard that grew at a 60º angle because of the constant wind), staring up at the cloudless azure sky, the Chimes of Westminster would break you out of your reverie and in you’d go for toast squares and blueberry pie and a tall, cold glass of milk.

"Moroccan Breakfast" photo by Piotr Menducki, used with free license from freeimages.com

“Moroccan Breakfast” photo by Piotr Menducki, used with free license from freeimages.com

Today I walked a few blocks west of the hotel in Pasadena, letting the sun warm my bare arms and dry my hair, and I stopped in to a little restaurant for breakfast. I ate on the patio, and the part of my leg not sheltered by the sun shade grew hot, but I didn’t move it out of the sun. So what if eight inches of my right calf got sunburnt? It’s summer here and there’s no goddamned way I’m budging an inch.

I drank hot, rich coffee and read the book I’d brought with me. I made plans to stop in at the Pasadena library on the way back, because it looks like the lovechild of the Alamo and a colonial spanish ranch-style bungalow. (It turns out it has a courtyard with a fountain and a wall of books devoted to Doctor Who. I love libraries.) A few minutes after my order arrived (eggs benedict florentine with avocado and Canadian bacon), a woman arrived with a young boy – the boy probably not quite old enough for school. The woman had short greying hair and the boy had Spiderman clutched in one hand.

She ordered for them (waffles, orange juice, water, and two plates so they could share) and I read my book and ate my breakfast and drank my coffee in the sun. If this story ended here, it would be just fine. But it doesn’t. Because, as Anton Chekov says, “something-something gun in the scene, something-something better get shot”. I may have muddled up the quotation a bit but the gist of it is that if you introduce something into your story, you had better be prepared to use it.

The waitress brought my bill and I sipped my coffee and watched the grandmother with her grandson and I had An Idea. It was one of those Ideas that kind of jumps out at you from behind the topiary and then slaps you around a bit until you agree that it is, in fact, a Good Idea. Because the grandmother and her grandson were having breakfast together, on the porch of this little café, and I thought about all the times I had eaten at my grandmothers’ tables. I thought about grandmothers. About how maybe someday I’ll get to take my grandchild to a restaurant and share a plate of waffles.

I thought about how, even now, thirty years after she died in a cold and green hospital room, I miss my Nama fiercely and think of her often. I thought about how despite the differences my Gram and I had. one of her greatest joys was taking us out for a meal (and how she nearly shivved His Nibs when he attempted to pay for dinner one night). My eyes were filling with remembering, and this Idea was still beating me up.

This was taken the last fall she was alive.

This was taken the last fall she was alive.

When the waitress returned to take my credit card, I asked her to please add the grandmother’s and grandson’s bill to mine, and to please not tell them I was doing that. And the moment the waitress walked away, a church nearby began to ring out Westminster Chimes. I left a note that said “please tell the grandmother and her grandson how wonderful it is to see them enjoying each others’ company, and to always remember how lovely it is to spend time with your grandmother.” And I paid their bill and left my tip and got up and walked down the stairs toward the library.

Now go ahead and call me flaky, but I could damn near feel my Nama walking next to me. She was smiling as she told me, “that gift came from me, you know.”

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To Print or Not to Print

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Categories: Books, True Stories, Women, writing, Tags: , , , ,

You’ve heard by now that HarperCollins will be publishing a “new” book by Harper Lee, the author of one of my favourite books, To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee, renowned for being reclusive and very protective of her work, may not have made the decision to publish, and that raises some interesting questions. Questions about art ownership and intellectual property and commerce in the creative economy.

The decision to publish is a commercial one. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating because I still hear the hateful phrase “art for the sake of art” more often than not. So I’m going to go on a little tear about that phrase, then I’m going to talk about publishing as a commercial creative production, then I’m going to (hopefully) draw the whole thing together, and back to Harper Lee. Are you ready for this? Okay. Let’s go.

As an artist, I do not “do art for the sake of art”. I do not “make art for the sake of art”. I’m not into that bullshit belly-button-gazing phrase because I don’t know any artists who do “art for the sake of art”. In fact, I don’t even know what that phrase means. People tend to use it to mean “people who create things without an intent to commercialize/monetize their works”. That is a very different thing from “art for the sake of art” (hereafter referred to as AFTSOA).

Some artists, and many hobbyists, may decide to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars creating works with no intent of ever recouping any costs at all. You know who’s the worst for this? WRITERS. We undervalue our work *all the time*. We think nothing of tossing a blog post up or a piece of fan fiction or several chapters of our next book because we are under the mistaken impression that if you put your work out there for free consumption, we’ll become well known and publishers will start beating down our doors to get our next manuscript. I don’t want to be a poopypants here, but that’s not going to happen.

Chances are *pretty good* that the next Stephen King or Alice Munro is not sitting in front of their laptop posting the next eighty chapters of their Lloyd Robertson/Mike Duffy slashfic. And chances are *even better* that Random House is not trolling tumblr to find the new Stephen King or Alice Munro. The reason why Stephen King and Alice Munro are successful is because they devoted their lives to their art. They had little or no income. They worked shit jobs to pay the bills so that they could spend their time doing what they’re driven to do – what they can’t NOT do – and artists grok this. We do what we do not because we choose this lifestyle but because we go bats without it.

Ultimately, though, we want to make a living. Ask any artist what their dream is, and I’d put money on them NOT saying “working at a desk job for the rest of my working career”. I bet they’d say something like “being able to quit my job so that I could focus on writing/music/sculpture/theatre career/photography/stand-up comedy”. Some of us are fortunate to find work within our creative sector, and most of us aren’t.

I will concede that there may be some hobbyists (and I make the distinction here between professional artists and hobbyists because professional artists spend decades learning how to be better at what they do) who choose to write stories or make earrings or paint landscapes because it’s cathartic and they never want anyone to see what they do, except maybe their kids and friends. There are people who use art as therapy (and it is a POWERFUL tool in that arena), but those people aren’t professional artists. What makes a professional artist professional is that they have chosen art as their career. Which means they want to make a living at it. Which means they want to get paid.

In order to commercialize artworks, there needs to be some kind of production – visual artists may have their work exhibited in a gallery; musicians make albums and go on tour; and writers’ works are published. The decision to publish is entirely a commercial one. Publishing, even if you’re doing digital publishing, is not easy to do well, and it’s a dear venture. The truth is that people place more value on products they pay for, and if you want your creative product to “get out there” so that “people will read it”, you need more than just a PDF available for download on your website.

Manuscripts need editing, design, sometimes typesetting, marketing, distribution…they need PRODUCTION. And this is where the new Harper Lee book becomes very interesting.

Publishers publish because they are businesses. They need to make money. They may be non-profit or for-profit, but non-profit doesn’t mean no revenue. It means the profit recognized from sales gets rolled back in to the operations and that shareholders don’t profit. Let’s look at HarperCollins. This is a HUGE publishing house with hundreds of publishing professionals at their disposal. They have an accomplished and notable sales force. They have international distribution and rights deals. They can move a lot of books because they have a lot of money to put behind a title.

HarperCollins doesn’t want to publish Go Set a Watchman for the good of the people. They probably don’t want to publish this book to benefit the author. They want to publish this book because they know it will turn a profit. They’re planning an initial print run of TWO MILLION COPIES. To put this into perspective, an indie or small press publisher might print 5,000 copies if they think they have a particularly strong title.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with publishing being commercial, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with huge publishing houses producing enormous print runs. I’m not anti-business (especially if it means artists and the creative economy benefit).

But if what Madeline Davies says in the Jezebel article is true, and I don’t see anything in that article to indicate she has her own ulterior motive in questioning this publishing choice, then a bigger question is at play.

Let’s just say that Harper Lee has a really good reason why she hasn’t published this title before now. Maybe she didn’t feel it was as strong as To Kill a Mockingbird. Maybe she felt that To Kill a Mockingbird was an important enough book that she didn’t want to put another one out there. Maybe that one book was enough. Maybe she only had one story in her, and that was the one (and what a hell of a good story it is). Maybe she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird because what it talked about – racism, rape, and the American justice system – needed exposition in modern literature. Whatever her reasons, she opted to stop publishing novels (but she didn’t stop writing essays and articles and letters). She chose, for more than fifty years, not to publish another novel.

Why?

Do you think she’s just mean? She just doesn’t want you to find out what happened to Scout and Jem and Atticus? She thinks you can’t HANDLE it? She doesn’t want any more money. That’s it. She has sold enough books with her first novel that she’s said ‘no, you know what? I don’t need any more money’. [Note: Harper Lee probably didn’t get incredibly rich from sales from her novel.]

Harper Lee has received numerous accolades as a result of this book – not just a Pulitzer prize, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a National Medal of Arts. And she has fiercely and successfully defended her own copyright and intellectual property.

And, let’s play devil’s advocate too – let’s say she has decided, in her later years, that really, that second novel really SHOULD be published. That the people of the world really do need to find out what happens to Scout and Atticus. That maybe what happened to those characters after that trial in Alabama is important too.

I’m not convinced. And here’s why this is important: As artists, our intellectual property, our artworks, are commodities. They are our products. We have control over whether or not our works *become* products. If we don’t feel a work is good enough, or ready, or says what we want it to say, we don’t send it out. There are numerous reasons why, and those reasons, each of them is legitimate because  our works are the product of our labour.

If writing a book is like building a house, then publishing a book is like selling the house. If the wiring isn’t up to code; if the roof leaks and the grade is off and the foundation cracks, that house isn’t going to sell. If I’m the builder, I want to make sure I build a good, solid house. A beautiful house. A house that will hold young lovers, and tiny babies, and rammy kids, and old farts. And then more young lovers. I don’t really know what this simile has to do with anything. But I kind of liked it.

Anyway. I think I won’t buy the new Harper Lee book when it comes out. I figure that the important story she told in To Kill a Mockingbird wasn’t about Scout, or Jem, or Atticus, or Boo Radley. I think I don’t want to know what happens to those folks. I’m happy with Scout staying 9 years old forever. I’m happy remembering Atticus clean off his glasses. I don’t much think about what those folks might have gone on to do, because their zenith was in that court room, and in the jail cell, and back at Atticus’ house. It was never about the characters, in other words. It was about the truth.

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