Saturday, April 30, 2005

Haiku for today.

A letter from afar-
your soiled envelope conceals
fresh white paper.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Infinity shattered

Infinity shattered. It happened that moment, that very second, you realised you were not going to live forever. You were almost twenty years old and living in a strange land. This strange land was made only stranger by the reappearance of an ex-girlfriend in your bed. She'd travelled to see you - without asking you first. You were only being hospitable.

The morning after her arrival, you awoke to find her still there. You thought - no, you hoped - that she may have been a dream (as you had previously dreamt of her plenty), but lying there with her in the early morning, it would have been too great a feat to deny her existence. So, instead, it was then that you first realised you had a past, then that you realised you were getting older, then that you realised your time on earth was finite, that your very being would someday come to an end.

You were nearly twenty years old before you figured this out. It's sad, really. You even thought about death, but considered it such an abstract concept you were unable to take it seriously. It was something that happened to old people. It was something that happened in movies. It was something that happened in other countries, far away from you. Then, infinity shattered - you were an aging actor in a foreign film.

You were lying there awake beneath a too-thin sheet, with an ex-girlfriend beside you. Looking around your flat in the dim early morning light, you were surprised to find that someone had replaced, while you slept, your innocent childish clutter with the mess of an irresponsible adult. Oscar Wilde's De Profundis lay open atop a nightstand, and you realised, in that moment, that you were reading plenty but understanding nothing. You made a commitment to go back and reread everything you had read up until that point.

You were lying there awake beneath a too-thin sheet, decaying. It was then that you used someone for the first time. Sitting up in bed, you looked over at your ex-girlfriend and hated her. You hated her for coming to you. You hated her for staying. You hated her for being so beautiful. You hated her for doing all of this to you, for flipping the infinity switch to OFF. But you needed her help getting out of there, out of that strange land. She had come to retrieve you, and you would let her. You didn't speak the language, and this film wasn't subtitled.

Back home, your relationship, as it were, lasted but a week - and you were surprised it lasted even that. On her birthday, you presented to her an intricately carved wooden box, and told her not to open it until she got home - there was a very important note inside. She liked mysteries, so was more than happy to wait.

You never spoke again, not really, not with the same enthusiasm anyway. And how could you? She was part of your past. In fact, she was the courier who delivered the past to your doorstep. Since her, you age; there is no escaping it. Infinity shattered. And you can not forgive she who threw the stone.

"...Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain."

-Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


There's an orchard where
the stars hang brightly
from mossy trees.

dewy grass reflects light
from twinkling fruit
like tiny diamonds.

There's a meadow where
sleep is the only thing
that feels real.

somnial delights
caught in a mirror
reflect but themselves.

There's a glade where
night falls as it would
in a restful graveyard.

headboards resemble tombstones,
beds are like graves,
and sleep is death.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Haiku for today.

For now, no posting here.
Why sit inside
when I can sit out?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Haikus for today.

A smashed lock on my car
marks thievery—
Ah, the joys of downtown life.

Fiery spring afternoon—
my patio fun is cut short
by a wasp.

Ants crawl the hot sidewalks,
their number in thousands-
just like us humans.

Red turns to green—
you pass me on the street
like just another stranger.

A retreat to the shade
of my apartment downtown
to nurse my wound(s).

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What do you do?

What do you do? This question - possibly the most asked question between strangers at a party - is perhaps one of the trickiest questions one can be asked. For what is it that you do, anyway? Does the asker desire to know the minutiae of your daily life, or is the asker simply asking you to attach a label, to boil all frivolous components away leaving nothing behind but a single word? A single word which can be easily acknowledged and comprehended in a moment? Most often, you answer with such a label, but in doing so you have only perpetuated an age-old falsity: you have answered in haste, misrepresenting yourself once again.

You can never become, in life, what you are striving to become, only strive to become it. As a human being, you evolve, you grow, through a delicate balance of tension and parity, being pulled in every direction simultaneously, while trying desperately to maintain the equilibrium in which you find comfort. But little by little you go forward, moving ever so closer to becoming what you are striving to become. You are not a writer, only a person becoming a writer. You are not a bricklayer, only a person becoming a bricklayer. You are not a lawyer, only a person becoming a lawyer.

But I write, you say. And I lay bricks, and I practice law, say the others. Does not that mean we do these things? And I answer: You do them, certainly, but that does not mean you have achieved mastery in the field. There is always room for improvment. There is always room for you to grow, to move closer to the ideal. If I know a little French and a couple words in Spanish, that does not make me a linguist. If I can change a tire on my car, that does not make me a mechanic. If I know how to run, that does not make me an athlete.

You strive, all your life, to become the archtype, the paradigmatic model in a profession you find appealing, not knowing that you will achieve such a goal only in the thoughts of others after you are gone. Only then can it be said with absolute truth, that you were a writer, you were a bricklayer, you were a lawyer. At the moment of death, you achieve your personal best in all things, becoming whatever people choose to remember you as. As you decay, travelling ever farther away from life's restraints, tension is loosened and parity lost - in death you have become the very ideal you strove your entire life to become. In memory, not only are you a writer, but you are a great writer, a superb bricklayer, the best lawyer.

So what do I do? I learn, and that is all. But I am not a student, and never have been. This is all philosophic double-talk, you say. So you've read a few books and appropriated a few ideas, tailoring them to suit your own agenda - that doesn't mean you're right. And of course it doesn't. And it also doesn't make me a philosopher - only a person becoming a philosopher. As we all are.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A reply to Mr Calvino

You pass through a big city, half already in total ruin, half in some kind of perpetual collapse. The upper floors of the grey towers downtown rumble violently before sliding out of place and plummeting to the street below. This happens on an uninterrupted basis, as new dilapidated floors are continuously reborn above, before they, too, come crashing down. The air is so thick with dust from pulverised concrete and glass that the sun is almost blocked entirely. Strolling through the already dead and decaying half of the city, (presumably you decided it might be safer than exploring the other half), you come across a few citizens, half in total ruin, half in some kind of perpetual collapse, and you think to yourself: Why is it that people live here? Is cheap real estate really worth never seeing the sun again?


As your trip, thus far, has been plagued by undesirable and even abhorrent locales, you decide to follow the advice of a fellow traveller and head south to __________. Before parting ways at the chimerical train station, he asks you, How does one decide where he will hang his hat, where he will call home? After just a moment of hesitation, you answer: Variety. One must first find variety before one finds happiness. The traveller smiles in agreeance, and replies, Then you will be happy in __________. And with that, he boards an illusory train which sets off almost immediately down an immaterial track. He waves goodbye through an imaginary window, and you never see him again.


You arrive at __________ in the early evening, and are welcomed into one of the most beautiful cities you have ever imagined. From the train station, you can see the city's gorgeous skyline shimmering through dusk's dim shadow like a string of perfect diamonds strewn across a bed of brilliant green foliage. This is it, you think, and tell a cab driver to take you downtown. After a most flavourful meal of the most melodiously chosen foods, you retire to the comfort of a huge down-filled bed in the palatial hotel above. When you awake the next morning, you find yourself in a stained cot, in a squalid, incommodious motel room. Gone is the scent of flowers from the night before, replaced now with the stench of blood and death. Out your window, you find the previous night's beautiful skyline replaced, instead, with a tapestry of filth and pollution: a sea of austere warehouses dotted with carbonous factories belching out black smoke. It is then, that you swear off variety forever.


Back home, you sit, depressed, in your one-room apartment, looking through a smudgy window with a suicidal view of the square below. With your trip behind you, you're left with more questions than answers: Is there, somewhere, a better place than this? Is it possible that I just haven't found it yet? Where have I already gone, and why? Have I ever even really left this apartment? This chair? You think back to the words of a spectral traveller, but find them lubricious, slippery, hard to grasp. Or remember? You can't decide which, so you just sit there, dreaming of a place, any place, other than this.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Good form

On this morning
a blackbird flies free-
he's not as hungover as me.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Retreat: a reply to Strychnos Nux Vomica

Today, an unexpected reminder of past work through the post of a friend: Chaise Longue - a short story I wrote pseudonymously in Toronto in the winter of 2002.

I remember, clearly, how I spent that unusually balmy winter: unemployed and plagued by writer's block; a cruel combination. I wrote Chaise Longue one early morning in a sudden feverish fit of fiery inspiration. The result was a story about a chair, a chaise longue - a psychiatrist's couch. The work was very therapeutic. An excerpt:
One patient views the psychiatrist's chair as a retreat, a peaceful island in the middle of a violent river; she's safe for now, but at the end of her allotted time, she will need to swim back the way she came through the river's tumultuous waters. The next patient sees the chair as a boat crossing the river Styx - safe, and guided, but Hades waits on the opposite shore. Can the ferryman really be trusted?

The general gist of the piece, (which you can't really get from the above paragraph), is that we tend to look for problems in our lives where there aren't really any. Having a problem gives us something to talk about. Having a problem makes us whole. Having a problem often makes us, and therein lies the real problem. In The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), the artist writes:
"I decided to go for psychiatric treatment, as so many people I knew were doing. I felt that I should define some of my own problems - if, in fact, I had any - rather than merely sharing vicariously in the problems of friends.

Because I felt I was picking up the problems of friends, I went to a psychiatrist in Greenwich Village and told him all about myself. I told him my life story and how I didn't have any problems of my own and how I was picking up my friends' problems, and he said he would call me to make another appointment to we could talk some more, and then he never called me."

Is writer's block a myth? Oftentimes, we say we have it, but maybe it's simply wishful thinking, laziness, an excuse to not write. Writer's block is fashionable, after all; to suffer from it, one must really be a writer... right?

At any rate, I'm suffering from a serious case of writer's block right now. I'm off to have a pint and a slice of pizza - try to catch some of that so called inspiration all the kids are talking about.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Yesterday's rags

A sleepy morning after a troubling dream which saw my body of already inferior works ransacked and used as inspiration for even less quality writing. I awoke full of nervousness and nausea, happy to find that it was nothing but fiction. Overtaken by a strong sense of having dodged a bullet, and relief that I still do not have to take responsibility for past mistakes, I decide that I will drink not one, but two pots of coffee this morning.

At around noon, I field a telephone call from MB who wants to chat about current affairs, but my mind is still too stuck on past affairs to be of any use as a conversationalist of the now and present. I tell her that I slept poorly, that I'm not feeling well - that I'll call her later when I'm feeling more with it.

With it? Hanging up the telephone, I wonder what I meant. With what? With the present, I can only guess. In The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, "The Past lies upon the Present like a giant's dead body." And now, lying on the couch, I can feel that corpse's crushing weight, preventing flight, impeding breath, and repressing evolution of the self.

You must throw off
Yesterday's rags
before donning
Tomorrow's new clothes.

It is this verse of which I dream during my sleep in the gauzy afternoon. Diaphanous lines that they are, I can't help but see some modicum of truth in them, while wondering all the while how long ago I wrote them. Which part of my past did my Unconscious loot to come up with such a verse? And just like that, it is ruined; I have been robbed again - this time by myself.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

mint julep

MB may be drunk, but I'm sure not. This afternoon, a long walk home with MB after a few too many Mint Juleps on the patio. With the day still too young, and the sun still too high for serious drinking, we decide to take leave of the pub before the dinner rush. Walking down Main, MB confides in me:

"Even if I should accomplish a measly one third of the things I told myself I needed to do before I die, then I shall expire a happy girl."

"But whatever shall the happy girl think?"

"Pardon me?"

"Oh, nothing."

We take an unnecessary turn at 3rd Street, then another at 14th Avenue, before inexplicably ducking down a greyish alley. I point up to a pair of sneakers hanging from a power line.

"Why do you suppose people do that?"

"I suppose it's only reasonable that people should, when they get the opportunity, toss their old sneakers onto telephone lines."

I nod, solemnly, and we proceed to walk the length of the shady alleyway, and out the opposite side, before breaking out into warm sunlight. MB kisses me on the cheek beneath the sun (made only hotter, brighter, and more absurd by the afternoon of drinking), and tells me goodbye, that she'll see me tomorrow. We've arrived at her place, and I still have two blocks to go. I may be drunk, but MB sure isn't.

Mint Julep

The stuff

4 fresh mint leaves
1 fresh mint sprig
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp cold water
2½ ounces bourbon
finely crushed ice

The steps

First, the mint leaves, sugar, and water all go into a frosted collins glass. Then you crush the mint leaves with a bar spoon, and stir until the sugar is disolved. Pack the glass with your shaved ice, and add the bourbon. Top with more ice (if needed) and garnish with the fresh mint sprig. Serve with a straw. Or don't. For best effect, drink as many as possible.


It is night-
a treble voice
sails on the wind.

A sudden
thought sneaks into
my feverish mind:

If I buy
a ticket now,
I just might catch it;

we could ride
together from
this place to the next,

and each one thereafter.

Monday, April 11, 2005

simple sweater, complex girl

"Oh! That sweater is terrible."

"Which? Ah, that sweater - I know just the type of girl to wear that sweater.

"Blonde, tiny, blue-eyed. On overcast days like these, she swears her eyes are grey - in fact, that's what she answers on forms beside EYE COLOUR. She's blonde because she dyes her hair, (otherwise, her hair's a mousy brown), and she's tiny because she has a high metabolism (and she exercises obsessively while eating improperly).

"She wasn't very popular in high school, but she wasn't really unpopular either, instead, falling into the lost crowd stuck in the middle of it all. She had her friends and they had her - nobody else really paid them much mind. At the time, she said that popularity didn't matter to her, but she wished so much that the cheerleaders would just pay her some attention. Even say hello. Just once.

"She started smoking when she was fifteen, quit for two weeks when she was nineteen, and quit again for good after her twenty-first birthday - though she still smokes when she drinks. Oh, and when she's stressed. Ah, yes, and after sex.

"Her virginity escaped from her in the passenger seat of a Toyota Camry when she was just sixteen years old. Though there was no force involved, she regretted it even while it was happening (for all two minutes of the act), and she has regretted it ever since. How did she deal with it? No, not by abstaining from sex like one might think, but by embracing the act with an enthusiasm only matched by the most gumptious of streetwalkers.

"She says she doesn't drink much - maybe once a month or so, in her own words - but, in fact, it's closer to two or three times a week. Or every weekend. And not just a bit, like she claims. Usually on the weekends - Thursday night through Sunday morning - she can be found falling down drunk, and staggering out of a nightclub at around two-thirty in the morning. She's usually one of the last ones there, hoping to extend the party, never wanting it to stop. And oftentimes it doesn't.

"In her second year of university (undeclared and undecided) the partying effected her grades to such an extent that she dropped out. To say she dropped out may be inaccurate as it implies a sudden departure from academia, which this was not. Instead, her decline was slow and painful. She wasn't willing to admit to herself that her current lifestyle was not conducive to productivity, so her decline took weeks, wasting both her time and that of her professors'.

"Just after the crash, she moved from part time to full time at the restaurant where she worked waiting tables. A month into that, her father died, and it took everything in her being to simply shed a single tear at his funeral. It's not that she hated him, because she truly did not, but she just was not able to feel sadness for his passing. There was no happiness either. No anger. No fear. No regret. Nothing.

"So, where is this girl now? She still thinks about going back to school, but she can't bring herself to quit the restaurant because she needs the money that it brings. (This is what she says, anyway, but the real reason she can't tear herself away is that she enjoys the feeling of camaraderie which working there brings. She is part of something - a group where she is accepted, where she is interesting, where she fits in.)

"She doesn't wear that sweater so much anymore. It sits on the top shelf of her closet, neatly folded, beneath a pile of other sweaters not worn in months. She keeps it in case she needs to wear it again. But she keeps it hidden because she's hoping not to. And with it cleared from her memory, maybe that time will never come."

"Wow, you got a lot from a simple sweater..."

"I've met that girl a few times - simple sweater, complex girl."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Strychnos Nux Vomica or Of Love and Strychnine

A raucous debate over gallons of beer in a darkened booth at the back of a pub: Pseudonymity versus Anonymity. You each possess intimate knowledge of one or the other, and you push, no, you thrust your opinions at one another. Your way is the only way. His is, too. And his. And so is hers. But it's so hard to practice either while sitting right across the table from each other.

Much easier to hide behind the written word than the spoken. Back home, a little drunk, you sit with one line typed on the screen: It's too easy to assume that if an answer can't be had right now, then there is no answer. Easy to hide behind the written word, and this line looms so large you can't possibly see past it.

Trying to sleep that night, your previous work pushes down on you, heavy on your chest; a novel published back in 1998, and another in 2001. Your two dark secrets: the first, riddled with typos, born of lust and naïvety, the second, filled with inconsistencies, born of fear and regret. Your reasons for pseudonymity: to pull away from the past, to avoid a third mistake - one born of loss and anger and teeming with hate.

The next morning at brunch, a little hungover, you chat with LH about words. You tell her, "I can't seem to get anything done. I've no schedule - nothing to do with my time but read and write." She responds with an obvious, "Isn't that what you're supposed to be doing?" Between mouthfuls of hashbrowns, you reply, "Yes, but when I'm not expected to do anything, it's so easy to do nothing at all."

Lunching in the park, feeding the squirrels, still thinking about words. You love what you do, but it is poisoning you. These days, words are like strychnine. Restlessness, uneasiness, anxiety; the first clinical signs of the poison's effect on your body. And you feel each of them acutely. Next will come the muscle twitching and stiffness of the neck, followed closely by convulsions and respiratory arrest. The autopsy will reveal that you died not of strychnine poisoning, but of writer's block.

Suddenly aware of the pad and pen in your breast pocket, you pull them out and write: No man knows his end. And it's a start. Walking home, weaving your way through the park, you're optimistic once more. You notice, for perhaps the first time, the delicate balance between the green grass and the blue sky above. Between the red bricks of the pizzeria and the grey asphalt of 12th Avenue. Between pseudonymity and anonymity. Between art and madness.

Thursday, April 7, 2005


Just for fun, I went to an interview yesterday for a job I didn't really want. Some excerpts below:

Large Russian Man: Have you ever stolen anything from an employer?
Me: No, absolutely not.
Big British Guy: I have something to ask at this point...
Me: Alright.
BBG: How about a pen? (Holds up a pen to show me what one looks like) You've never even walked out of the office with a pen?
Me: (Thinking) Well, I've probably walked away with a pen or two in my lifetime, yes. But I don't make it a habit. Look - (I point at a pen on the table) I brought yours back.


BBG: Okay, so say you've walked away with a pen - would you consider that theft?
Me: Maybe accidental theft.
BBG: So what would you do about it?
Me: I can't promise that I'd make its return a priority.
BBG: And why not?
Me: Well, the pen you just held up is a thirty-cent Bic. I'm not sure that I could justify dedicating any substantial amount of time or energy to returning such a pen. Now, if it were a $250 Mont Blanc, it would be an entirely different matter.
BBG: What if the pen were $99.50?
Me: I'd return it immediately.
BBG: $49.50?
Me: Ditto.
BBG: So what would you say is your cut-off then, so to speak?
Me: (Thinking) I would say $1.00. I mean, hell, I've had $2.00 pens that I've been attached to, and would want returned.


--- --- ---

LRM: Have you ever solicited the services of a prostitute?
Me: (Grimacing) No.

--- --- ---

LRM: Have you ever experimented with illegal drugs?
Me: Hm... (Thinking) Nope, can't say that I have. Oh wait, I did some underage drinking - so I guess in that case, alcohol would be the illegal drug.
LRM: What would you say if I told you I do not think you are being completely honest with your answers?
Me: I would say you have every right to express that opinion.

--- --- ---

LRM: Have you ever been charged and found guilty of any offence?
Me: Nope.
LRM: Have you ever done anything that you think you could have been arrested for?
Me: Hm, interesting question. (Pause) No, I'm pretty sure not.
LRM: Would you say you are being completely honest with us today?
Me: Yes, I am being as honest as I can be.

--- --- ---

LRM: Well, I think I am about done with my questions. Do you have any, BBG?
BBG: (Turning to me) Not so much a question, no, but I would like your opinion on something.
Me: Sure.
BBG: It doesn't matter if you agree with this stance or not, but I'd like you to present an argument for why all drugs should be legalised.
Me: All drugs?
BBG: (Smiles) Yes, all drugs.
Me: Alright. In fact, I'll argue why all drugs and prostitution should be legalised.
BBG: (Purses lips, nodding.)
Me: Not that I agree with that-
BBG: (smiles) Of course not.

--- --- ---

In the end, they offered me the job - I declined.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005


Ground level ozone and fine airborne particles.

This city is not for lovers. The balconies are much too high, the grass, too stiff, and the alleys, a little too perfumed with piss. You can go to the park if you don't mind sharing it with used needles. You can go down to the beach if you ignore the broken glass. You can go enjoy a pint on the patio if you disregard the guilt.

Our afternoon, cut short by rain. The first drop plops into my beer and the second, into yours. Within minutes, the sky opens up. I suggest retiring to the cozy interior of the darkened pub, but by this time, you're already half over the slick wrought iron railing. You tell me you've gotta go. I mention how you'll remain drier if you run - it's not wet between the raindrops. And just like that you're off, running crazily down the street with your jacket over your head.

My languid, and damp, walk home brings with it laboured and uncomfortable breathing. The rain pulls the smog down to the street, and my breathing draws it burning into my lungs. I pass an unconscious homeless man in his junk-castle, and I drop the change from our pints into his filthy hat. This city used to be interesting - back when it held a little mystery. Now, it is a sieve, straining out all the questions, leaving nothing behind but grey towers, garbage, and poverty.

At 4th Street, I break into a beery run. Blurring through the glass and concrete tombs, past the yellowing trash strewn grass of an abandoned park - running fast enough, I am untouched by this repulsive metropolis. It's not wet between the raindrops. And if I'm lucky, I'll be dry by the time I get home.

Monday, April 4, 2005


How is it that your name still comes up?

Eight years after that ill-fated trip to Argentina: a week of debauchery - drinking, philandering, and fighting - capped off by a rather interesting, if not mind-blowingly long, episode with customs on the return trip. Did you know what you were trying to bring back to Canada? Was it our youth that so easily convinced those agents of our ignorance?

Seven years after that race down Bloor Street - the race which saw us both almost dead, and our cars, right-offs. We tried to lie - to say that we weren't speeding and didn't even know each other - but the cops didn't have to investigate to know that it wasn't true. The way we sat there on the curb together, bleeding and laughing, was all they needed.

Four years after that mushroom- and whiskey-fuelled hike through the British Columbian Rockies. Who knew hiking at night was such a bad idea? We blamed the moon for getting us lost, then. The murky shadows became trees, and the murkier trees all ran together, and each new direction we turned looked exactly the same as the place we just left. It's amazing how we managed to stumble back to the cabin under the crushing light of dawn, just as the drugs were wearing off.

Two years after you shot yourself to death in a downtown hotel with your father's gun. I would've pegged you as the type to leave a note - something really sarcastic and filled with ironic angst. Guess I was wrong.

In 1994 Jacques Derrida was quoted in the New York Times as saying:
But psychoanalysis has taught that the dead — a dead parent, for example — can be more alive for us, more powerful, more scary, than the living. It is the question of ghosts.

And this, a question of your ghost: how is it that your name still comes up? And so often? With each recounting of the stories, your role becomes bigger, and with each uttering of your name, you become more real. Maybe even more real in death than you were in life. How many more words must be spoken before you're actually brought back from the grave? And will you have with you secrets in tow? Secrets better left buried in the earth? You, a small and harmless man in life, leave a large and terrifying spectre in death.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Words no-one will ever read.

Just as reading is easy when you make no presumptions, writing is easy when you make no assumptions.

1. When you begin writing a new piece, never assume that you will finish it; that is a sure path to discouragement.

2. When you begin writing a new piece, never assume that you know how it's going to turn out; that is a sure path to dissatisfaction.

3. When you begin writing a new piece, never assume that anyone will ever read it; that is a sure path to disgruntlement.

4. When you begin writing a new piece, never assume that you are doing anything unique; that is a sure path to disappointment.

5. When you begin writing a new piece, never assume that you are not assuming anything; that is a sure path to disillusionment.

Me, a fictitious author, chalk-full of both presumptions and assumptions, growing disenchanted.