I wanted to write to you, to tell you that I’m trying really hard to be positive right now. That I’m trying really hard to think about the things that can go right instead of the things that have gone wrong. I wanted to write and tell you about my friend who’s had his heart taken out of his body and reassembled with bits from his leg and then stuffed back in his chest like so much straw.
I wanted to say this is all so much. It’s all happening so fast, rain drops pummelling tender seedlings down into the soil instead of nourishing them with a gentle mist. That the weight of that rain pelting my skin is very heavy. I wanted to tell you that all I want to do is sleep, to lie out in the sun and sleep. Plant a garden, watch the flowers grow and bud and bloom and die back. That I want to get away from all of this madness and just be somewhere where I don’t have to make decisions and I can read books all day and eat grapes from a cool bowl.
Actually I don’t much care for grapes most of the time. They’re too much like eyeballs and sometimes the burst of juice is terribly offputting. But I like the phrase “peeled grapes” an awful lot and the image of a well-oiled cabana boy feeding me peeled grapes pleases me, so even if I’m not particularly fond of them, I’ll let my cabana boy feed them to me before he rubs my feet and tells me I’m beautiful. So beautiful.
I wanted to post this on my blog but I think it’s too close, too much, too revealing. It would be letting the world see in – or at least the portion of the world that sees my corner of it – and I don’t know if that’s what I really want. I wanted to write to you and ask you if I should post this on my blog or just keep it between us.
I wanted to say that every time I see a photograph of a storm cloud, I identify with that storm cloud. With the active electrons all bouncing around in there, their little mosh pit of thermodynamics and vortices, like thoughts, like feelings, that’s me. I feel the skin between my brows furrow when I’m least expecting it and I ask myself whether that’s myopia or just my own little tropospheric disturbance.
I feel like everyone, everything is taking just a little piece of me away and I am beginning to not recognise the pieces that are left.
Do you think time ever slows back down? That you can get back that sense that summer is going on forever and the freezie you’re eating is going on forever and the orange crush you snuck out of the big fridge in the basement is going to last forever even though it won’t be cold forever. Do you think you can just lie on a thick towel or a denim blanket on the sand and close your eyes and stop the world moving? Not in the way that would make people fly off the face of the earth, but in the way that we could just steal these tiny moments just for ourselves now and then? I think we can’t, but I wish we could.
I wanted to write to tell you that every time someone tells me how strong I am I feel like a fraud because I’m not strong. I’m tender and raw but maybe my secret is that I regenerate. Or maybe I haven’t any secret other than that I’m a fraud. That every time I think I know what I’m doing I’m reminded that there is no such thing as knowing and every time I think I have a stable footing I’m reminded that all rivers have currents that will wash away the sand under my feet only some rivers do it quickly and some take an entire lifetime.
All of these things I wanted to say to you. There are many reasons I didn’t. Many reasons I haven’t. There’s only one reason I may have for sending it along, and that is to feel like there is a connection out there still. A connection with someone. Someone real.
Once Upon a Time, I lived far north of here in a “ranch-style bungalow” on a hill in a city bound by a river. The city itself still had many Wild Places. Not the kind of wild places where one might go after a night in one’s cups, but the kind of Wild Places one might go and get lost and not be able to find one’s way home unless one knew how to gauge the sun’s position in the sky and the placement of shadows cast by trees. There was a “little forest” in the hills behind my best friend’s house and we used to explore. Really, it was a stand of enthusiastic poplars pushing each other about on an empty lot between two houses, but to us it was a forest.
In fact, I’d be willing to say it *was* a forest and anyone who said it wasn’t can be damned.
In front of my house, the trees grew with their heads bent together, nodding against one another across the street. This formed a canopy of leaves in the summer through which dappled light played and two skeletal fists clasped together in winter. Across the street were six enormous douglas fir trees and lining our side, maples and elms.
Our neighbour’s home was a dainty wartime hut with one bedroom off the front room and one bedroom off the kitchen and our neighbour Elsie had a concrete basement lined with jars and jars of preserves. “Her husband”, my Da said, was “a drunk and a mean old bugger and when he showed up he caused all kinds of trouble and when he was gone nobody missed him much.” Our house was on a hill; theirs was on a flat, so their roofline came even with our bathroom window.
Summers were hot and humid in my hometown, and the sun and the birds up at 4am and the mosquitoes and blackflies swarming by noon. My parents were teachers, and from May until the end of June, my father cursed the birds for waking him too early, particularly after the nights when there had been Much Revelry at our house. The songbirds, he didn’t mind. He would yell obscenities at the corvids.
So my father bought a pellet gun.
And he climbed up on top of the house just before dawn, and he sat there with his pellet gun. And he saw the crows flocking out of the fir trees to roost on my neighbour’s house. And he started shooting at them. He wanted to scare them all away.
He shot out my neighbour’s windows. And the crows were back the next morning. Laughing. Cackling. Mocking.
A Story About @ElBne for @jamesmagnus
Once Upon a Time, I had something Very Important to tell my friend Bne*. Or maybe it wasn’t Very Important. Maybe it was more like one of those times when you really haven’t anything to do so you bum around looking for pals to bum around with. Or maybe it was something Moderately Important but only in terms of a LARP in which we were both playing. To be fair, I don’t remember what the deal, as it were, io was. But I wanted to talk to him. So, this being in the days of text messaging being something that Blade Runner and Blade Runner alone could do, I went to his house.
Phoning, you see, was not an option, because Bne lived in a house with some other gents, and sometimes they just didn’t feel like answering the phone. Or didn’t pay the phone bill. Or answered the phone and then went off in search of the requested party, only to discover an *actual* party happening somewhere else in the house and then forgot that somewhere in the house a phone was off the hook. (This being back in the days where if the phone was off the hook, you couldn’t leave a message – you got the most annoying buzzing booping sounds and you just had to hang up or go mad.)
Also, I wasn’t near a phone. These were the days, of course, when “portable telephones” were things you carried in a baby carrier or a rolling suitcase. The smallest ones were the size of encyclopaedias (which were, of course, hefty tomes of printed reference material organised alphabetically, usually one tome per letter, depending on the edition. These were, of course, the days before Wikipedia, when “looking something up” meant going to an actual library that contained actual books and which had an actual reference section that contained actual reference material. Stop looking at me like that. This is most decidedly not fiction. THAT IS WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE OKAY. People who were really good at trivia were really good at trivia because they read encyclopaedias, not because they downloaded cheats for the trivia app on their phones) or perhaps stale loaves of bread. Unsliced bread, of course. If you wanted to phone someone, you had to either spend thousands of thousands of dollars on a “portable” phone or you had to spend a quarter at a pay telephone (which is a little bit like a prostitute, only you pay to talk, not fornicate) or find somewhere with a public-access telephone or just go home and call. And since I was already nearer to Bne’s house than I was to my own, and since I hadn’t a quarter, and since I was a student and couldn’t afford Ramen noodles much less a “portable” telephone (yes, we did have Ramen noodles back then, and thank #Glob for that), I went ’round Bne’s house to just, as they say, “knock him up”.
Now. I mentioned Bne lived with some other gents. This meant that any given day, if you showed up at Flamingo Manor (their abode), you could ring the bell or knock on the door and you would be soundly and effectively ignored or not heard unless The White Mass was at home because The White Mass, if I remember correctly, had a fondness for lounging on the chesterfield in the altogether, reading gaming books and waiting for some poor schmo to knock on the door or ring the bell. I did not, therefore, do either of those things. I entered the house, hollered (which was proper manners for Flamingo Manor), and, receiving no reply, I began to search the premesis for Bne. He was not in the living room (thankfully, neither was The White Mass). He was not in the “dining room” (some milk crates with a “table” made of pizza boxes). He was not in the kitchen; I didn’t enter the basement because frankly, there were things that happened in that basement that no one who wished to remain whole should ever witness. Also, Duane.
I went upstairs and knocked on Bne’s bedroom door. There was no answer. I opened the door a crack to see if Bne was abed. He might have been but it was impossible to tell because Young Bachelor Living On His Own. I decided to Write a Note.
I penned a note, and began searching for a thumbtack. Some tape. A piece of chewing gum. (That is where the search for A Sticky Substance ended, because House of Bachelors. Iew.) There was nothing. So I grabbed a knife from the kitchen counter and pinned the note to Bne’s door; the note that indicated I had been by and was looking for him and because he had not been there, clearly he sucked. Not having found him, I left.
Bne came home later. He went about his business, went upstairs, changed from his work clothes, went back down to the kitchen, made himself some Ramen noodles (or, knowing Bne, ketchup chips). His room-mate saw him. Said, “hey, cenobyte was here.”
“Oh yeah? What’d she want?” Bne asked.
The roommate blanched. “You mean…you didn’t see the note?”
“What note?” Bne asked.
“The. Um. The note stuck to your door with a knife?”
“The fuck you say?”
“There is a giant butcher knife sticking out of your door. She came here looking for you and didn’t find you and stuck that note to your door with a giant, eight-inch blade, and you didn’t see it?”
“I think,” Bne said, “I would have noticed something like that.”
Bne, incredulous, went upstairs and looked at the door to his bedroom. The door he had opened not moments before. The door where, stuck at roughly eye level, there was a large kitchen knife holding a note.
“Oh hey,” Bne said. “There’s a note here! Huh.”
And that is how Bne found the note I left him the day he was not home.
A Story About That Time I Wore A Towel On My Head An Pretended It Was My Hair, or Mother’s Cuts are the Deepest, for @melistress
Before I started elementary school, I had long, long hair. It was blond like spun gold and I wore it in pigtails high on my head with fuzzy green ties and bobbles. My mother would brush my hair every morning like a well-trained torture specialist. It’s a surprise I had any hair at all. She might as well have fed it through a combine.
So she decided that when I started school, I should get a hair cut. *A* hair cut. Not ALL of my hair cut. I went from having lovely, curling mermaid tresses to having a mushroom cut. A MUSHROOM CUT (they called it a “page boy”, but it was not a page boy. It was a mushroom cut). My mother said, “if you’re going to fight with me every morning, I’m going to cut your hair”. I had pointed out that all animals fight when they’re being attacked and that it was a question of survival, the way she wielded that hairbrush (it may have come out as “BUT IT HURTS WHEN YOU DO THAT!”). Hence? Mushroom cut.
The third day of school, after having fielded all of the “why did you cut your hair? You look like a boy” comments, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I wrapped my favourite blue bath towel around my head and secured it with a headband. I once again had flowing, beautiful mermaid locks. I went to school. My teacher made me take the towel off my head and called my mother because I was “being disruptive”. I hardly think launching a legitimate human rights violation complaint citing freedom of expression is “being disruptive” (although at the time it might have come out as “BUT THIS IS MY REAL HAIR I CAN’T TAKE IT OFF MY HEAD!”), but that’s what elementary school is all about, isn’t it? Tramping all over our human rights and trying to teach us not to question authority.
The next day, I chose a *brown* towel, figuring that the reason my teacher had caught on to my ruse was because most people under the age of 80 did not have blue hair.
That was not what had clued my teacher in, as I discovered with the brown towel, the subsequent yellow towel, and the red towel. One week of multicoloured towel turbans, and not one – NOT ONE – slipped past that vicious gorgon who smelled faintly of chalk dust and stale coffee. She was on to me. Neither could I fool her with the wig I ferreted out of my mother’s costume bag. The jig, as it were, was up. I had to accept that my butchered boy hair was simply something I had to live with.
So I got tough and I got mean and I figured that if I looked like a boy, I might as well fight like a boy.
…okay, I didn’t actually get mean. But that was the year I started playing tackle football and stopped wearing skirts and girly blouses.
*Bne is not his real name. His name has been changed to protect his innocence identity.
I 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.”
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.
I 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?”
“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.”
“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.
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:
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.
Here 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?
Oh. 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.
Of 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.
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.
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.
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.”
To celebrate Storytelling Month, I’m going to tell you at least one story per week in February. These are all true stories.
You know how you sometimes get in to the middle of a situation and then you wonder “how the hell did I get here?”, and then you spend the rest of the night trying not to let any part of your body touch any part of the furniture, floor, walls, or yard of the place you’ve found yourself? You know how that is, right? Of course you do. It’s part of the human condition. It’s one ‘a them…whattayacallems…shared experiences that become part of the collective unconscious, shaping the entire future of mankind.
I had a lover who played bass.
I realise this sounds like the beginning of a noir novel…“I had a lover who played bass,” the dame said and blew her cigarette smoke across the desk into my face. I’d have taken offense, but nothing that those lips could do would ever hurt me more than watching them quiver as her heart broke. But it isn’t. A noir mystery/thriller/crime story. Well, okay, it could be, but you’d have to squint a bit and pretend that “noir” actually means “punk rock” and that “mystery/thriller” really means “crazy adventure”.
So I had a lover who played bass. He had long hair and loved Primus and thought he was less bright than he actually was. He was a friend’s ex boyfriend and he was sweet and I always knew that he was the one whose heart would be breaking when the affair ended. I was on a roll back then, “chewing up men, and spitting them out,” my friend RR would tell me, “like a combine chews up wheat and spits out the chaff”. He had a band. I mean, of COURSE he had a band. Well. He had a dude he hung out with who played drums.
He and his drummer had an audition, down in Regina, and of course neither of them drove (didn’t have their permits, in fact – I once attempted to teach my lover how to drive and after he nearly took out the neighbour’s fence I encouraged him to take some lessons) and neither of them had paying jobs but I thought it was kind of cool that they had an audition for a band. I agreed to drive them to their audition. In Regina. Did I mention we lived in Saskatoon at the time? We did.
I collected my lover’s friend and their kit and we drove down after I was done work for the day. I asked where the studio was as we approached the city. “What studio?” D- asked.
“Uh. The studio where your audition is?”
My lover’s friend in the back seat snorted. “Studio. There’s no STUDIO. This is at a dude’s house.”
Ah. A house. A house with a recording studio built in the basement. My boss at the time had one of those. Well. His was in his garage, but still. I’d always wanted a studio in my house.
Nope. It was a dingy, run-down house in the sticks of the ‘hood. A tiny little house with shitty floors and Too Many People and these stupid dogs. I mean. Okay, to a certain extent, all dogs are stupid. This is a true fact. But these dogs were PARTICULARLY stupid. Like. Sat in the fire pit while the fire was burning stupid. Big, fluffy, drooly things with mats and bad breath. Which reminds me of another fellow who asked me out on a date…
…but I digress.
The house smelled like wee and stale beer and cigarettes and a lifetime of regret and bad decisions. The stupid dogs had the same look about them, except with more sadness. There was a torn and 100% springs-free chesterfield up against one wall, a filthy coffee table varnished with several years of spilled beer and ashtrays in the centre of the room, and an even MORE decrepit couch/love seat covered in tattered blankets along the east wall.
There was no television, no stereo. The “dining room” was a bunch of lawn chairs with tables made of beer cases. And let me just say here before I start sounding too pretentious that there was a fairly long stint in my own life in which my primary goal was to save up enough money from the return of my empties to buy a carton of smokes, and that meant the only reason my dining table wasn’t made of stacks of empties was because I was returning them for a carton of smokes. And the only reason we didn’t use the busted pool table as a dining table was because the legs were gone. So. Just to put things in perspective there. It’s not like I lived in the most auspicious lodgings.
Remember the scene from “Trainspotting” where Renton retrieves his fix from the worst terlet in Scotland?
Right. Well. That was pretty much what the loo was like upstairs. After dodging the passed out drunks and stupid dogs while trying not to touch the walls, I ended up standing on the terlet seat (with my boots on; I’d refused to take them off) and squatting to wee. The worst part was that when I was done, the drips on the terlet seat WERE CLEANER THAN THE REST OF THE TERLET. Ugh. I was even a little leery as to whether the running water from the sink was clean enough to wash with. The point here is that this was not a Better Homes and Gardens house.
I sat at the end of the chesterfield, nursing the one can of beer I’d accepted from the host, and pretending to share the joints that were passed around. I did not inhale. I literally didn’t inhale* because I was pretty sure if I did, I’d have flashbacks about that house for the rest of my…oh wait. Shit. Well I could have been high, which would have made what happened later make more sense. Maybe.
This guy. This guy sat on the couch next to the chesterfield and he started chatting me up. As they do. With the dulcet tones of staggergingly bad death metal lilting up through the floorboards at 800 decibels, this guy on the couch leaned toward me and said:
I nodded. Because, 800 decibels.
“YOU LIKE DOGS, MAN?” He shouted.
I nodded again. I figured, just keep nodding and eventually this guy will get the idea that you’re too high to talk to.
“I LOVE DOGS, MAN.” He shouted.
I do not have the sort of luck that involves people getting the hint that I’m too high to talk to.
“WHAT’S YOUR NAME, MAN?” The guy shouted. He was like…if you took Bruno Gerussi and roughed him up outside Molly’s Reach, then kind of smooshed him up with Stan Rogers’ younger brother Garrett, then threw in a liberal dose of Gordon Lightfoot, added a few more felony convictions and a dozen years of hard labour, and far fewer showers, that’d be this guy.
I told him my name.
“NO WHAT’S YOUR NAME, MAN”
“FUCK YOU, MAN.”
Now. I’m sure you’ve heard the adage about your life flashing before your eyes when you’re in a car accident or when you find your grandmother’s dildo. This was one of those times. I was convinced that there would be a news story the following morning in which someone found my body stuffed in a chesterfield in a burnt-out slum house in Regina. Faced with such a situation, I know you’d have done the same thing I did. I leaned as close to Bruno-Garrett-Gordon and shouted, “No, fuck YOU, buddy. You asked my name. My name is cenobyte.”
He reared back like I’d spit on him. I may have spit on him a little bit. “NO, FUCK YOU MAN!” He shouted, jabbing at me with his finger.
I stared at him. Knowing that would be the last moment of my life, I wanted to remember it in perfect clarity just in case reincarnation was, you know, a thing.
“MY MOTHER’S NAME IS CENOBYTE!” He hollered.
“NO, MAN. MY MOTHER’S NAME IS CENOBYTE. I LOVE MY MOM, MAN.”
I’m not really sure there is a way to describe what my expression must have been.
“YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE I LOVE, MAN?”
I had no idea what else that man loved. I had a few ideas. Blow-up dolls, larceny…definitely not soap.
“I LOVE MY DOGS MAN.”
What does one say? I mean. A hobo is screaming at you in a drunken slum house while your boyfriend is playing death metal in the basement loud enough to move the floor joists and a smelly chow dog is drooling on your foot. What does one say? Want to know why you’re not me? Because *I* said, “at least you have someone.” I said that, like, before I thought about it. I should probably claim contact high here.
“I HAVE THIS SHIRT, MAN.”
Thank Christ he hadn’t heard me.
“I HAVE THIS SHIRT AND YOU KNOW WHAT IT SAYS, MAN?”
“I cannot begin to fathom,” I said.
“IT SAYS, THE MORE PEOPLE I MEET, THE MORE I LOVE MY DOG, MAN.”
I kind of felt bad for the guy. I feel bad when people love their animals more than they love other people because what shitty people we are. Love is easy, you know. Even hobo Gerussi. He was lovable in his own way. As soon as he said that, I knew there was no threat from this guy. Not from any of these folks. So who cared if they’d fired the maid or were squatting in a low-income rental? They had music, they had friends, and they had dogs. That’s a damned sight more than a lot of people have.
I didn’t budge from my corner of the chesterfield all night. I eventually fell asleep with the chow dog on my legs for warmth, and when my lover was finished his audition (which was an hour of playing and five hours of steady and unreasonable drinking and drug use), we drove home. That guy yelled at me periodically throughout the night, every time he caught my eye.
“THE MORE PEOPLE I MEET, MAN, THE MORE I LOVE MY DOG, MAN.”
I hope you’re still around, Hobo Gerussi. And still kind to dogs.
*This should read: “I literally didn’t inhale THE DOPE”. Not “I literally didn’t inhale at all”. Because, of course, if I had literally not inhaled, the rest of the story would be a complete lie because I would be dead. Of not inhaling. Which I think they call “not breathing” these days.
I’ve been gone for a little while. Which is to say, after ExMass, I decided I’d do a little assperiment. But before I get to the assperiment, I want to tell you a little bit of background stuff. While I’m ramping up to that, have a listen to the best version of this song that has ever been performed in the history of the performing arts:
Sometimes, when I find something I really enjoy, I like to walk away from it because as the child of an alcoholic, I’m always a little nervous that I’m using the things I really really like as some kind of crutch or escape. That, in essence, I’m exhibiting the same behaviours toward things about which I am passionate as my mother exhibited toward her addictions. I suspect there’s some kind of buzz word for this, but I don’t think much of buzz words. And I’m going to warn you now this post will probably descend into some kind of rant about something, even though it’s meant to be more expository than …uh…rantitory.
Just after ExMass I gave some thought to my activity on social “needia”. It’s no surprise that I’m not a huge fan of Effbook. Their privacy policies make me grind my teeth (and frankly, there’s a reason I didn’t keep in touch with you, Chris M.; we’re just too different. Plus you were a total dick). I hate how most of these platforms aren’t actually about being social. They’re about breaking communities down and attempting to rebuild them on the basis of algorithms and the laziest of “social interactions”, the ‘like’ or ‘poke’.
There are two things about social networks. One is making connections. This is done one person at a time. You meet someone, you find out a bit about them, you share a little bit about yourself, and there’s give and take. The second thing is about content. In order to form a social “covalent” bond, you have to share content (electron pairs, if you will. This will be the extent of my chemistry metaphor because my knowledge of chemistry is pret-ty rusty these days). And I find most social networks sorely lacking in the content arena.
If “media” is a form of mass communication, then “social media” is either redundant (“collective/mass communication to the collective/mass from the collective/mass”) or it’s misnamed. It could possibly be both, actually. If society is really communicating to the masses, but society IS the masses, then doesn’t the actual content – the message – become meaningless? How can you find the content if the point of communication is simply broadcasting?
These are the sorts of things that keep me up at night.
At any rate, when I find something I really like, I walk away from it because I want to be sure that the reason I’m passionate about a thing isn’t because I’m using that thing as a crutch or a replacement for some aspect of my life or my self that’s lacking. Or absent. Or stunted. You get where I’m going here.
So I quit social “needia”.
I wanted to see if I’d hate it. If I’d feel lonely. If I’d feel like my friends had all abandoned me and I was alone. (Yes, yes. *I* was the one who chose to leave, I know.) I wasn’t sure if I could handle more of that lonliness business.
What happened was exactly the opposite. You wrote and asked if I was okay. You checked in. You texted me and emailed me and called me to find out where I’d been. You missed me.
These are the important connections. This is what I want to build on. One person at a time, one relationship at a time. I miss you too. It’s important that you know that. That you’re not just a name on a screen – I know this sounds really schmoopsy, but I want to and plan to continue to focus on building relationships up.
Look, my hiatus wasn’t narcissistic in any way. I needed to walk away to see what would happen. I do plan to come back, maybe a little at a time. Maybe all at once. But I kind of like the silence too, and I kind of liked forcing myself to come here to this place and share a little bit more. I don’t know what’s coming, but since you asked, I thought I’d tell you where I’d gone.