Sunday, April 23, 2006


What do I remember? Recording music in the sweltering heat of a cramped studio in Namibia. Just the three of us, our instruments, and pages of music decaying in the torridity. Sweat dripped, staining notebooks. Sweat dripped, causing ink to run. Sweat dripped, smudging lyrics, altering them, rewriting them as we played. Stringed instruments had to be retuned throughout the day due to drastic changes in temperature and humidity. But we played, suffered through that lengthy session. You can still hear the heat, the near suffocation, in those recordings.

"We've managed to trap disomfort there in those tracks," you said.

Indeed, the day's swelter had infected the music - and we were happy for it.

What do I remember? The slushy streets of Manhattan in November and a much-needed lesson in the ownership of knowledge. I met you and another - one of your students - at a previously arranged coffee shop in the theatre district. Having got there first, making myself comfortable in front of the fireplace with a book, I stood up, embracing you in a warm hug before I introduced myself to your company. After the introduction, the student, her name was Elise, pointed down at my book and asked what I was reading.

"Critique of Dialectical Reason," I said, adding, "Sartre."

You looked at the student, beaming, and said: "See, I told you. Can you believe he spends his time reading such stuff?"

The student shook her head, looking at me in disbelief. "You read for pleasure the stuff we read out of necessity," she said. "Can't think why."

I smiled a little, catching the mischievous twinkle in your eye, and I turned back to the student, Elise. "Two people read the same book," I said, "one because she wants to and the other because she has to. Who's going to get more out of it?"

She didn't answer; she didn't have to. We all sat and ordered up a round of caffeinated beverages and flakey pastries. Talk spun naturally from philosophy to art and onto life in general, while wet snowflakes the size of silver dollars stuck to the windows before melting into individual streams running down that glass. Talk spun naturally in that way that it is wont to do when the right people get together. That day, that snowy day in New York, we were those right people.

What do I remember? A long, strange trip between the moon and the beach of a tiny lake in southern Ontario. High on mushrooms and E, feet pressed into soft sand, digging deeper and deeper, seeking the cool, never finding it. The twinkling stars above with their swollen coronas. Our naked elbows resting on hot sand, feeling each and every grain digging happily into skin. You were beside me, as we watched the others wading in the placid, blood-warm waters.

"How do you know if you've found the right woman?" you asked.

I considered this question for about an eternity. It was a good one, as all questions are when you're that high. I searched the stars for an answer then, and found one floating in the yellow starlight glistening off a tiny ripple on the lake. I let it drift all the way to shore before I picked it up with my eyes, let it settle into my brain, and allowed it to work its way out of my mouth.

"You'll know you've found the right woman," I said, "if she makes a good batch of pancakes."

I could see you nodding slowly in my peripheral. Understanding. Fully.

We were connected, then, all of us. Those resting on the beach, those wading in the waters, those exploring the trees - we were connected, then. Each of us with the same questions on our lips, and the same answers in our ears. Each a thread woven into the same length of cloth, rolled tightly into a bolt. Connected. One. Always.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


"Let me get this straight," you say. "The idea, then, is to write a novel that is completely untransferable to any other medium? Can not be translated to film? Can not be interpreted as a play? Can not, even, be effectively recorded as an audio book?"

The distance between these two cities has been shortened to such a degree that one city has grown right into the other. The line which once separated them, the barren fields of retired farms, has disintegrated entirely in recent years creating a new sort of barren in place of the old; that of an endless sea of cantankerous factories perpetually exhaling thick, black smoke into the sky, coupled with their callous cohorts, the automobile dealerships.

Adrift, now, in this unwelcoming grey sea, this space, this non-space, between cities, adrift, now, in our rented Toyota Prius, we talk if only to distract each other from the ugliness of outside, the slow but steady death of nature beyond our windshield.

'Can not' runs circles round my brain as I try to wrench myself back into our world of light conversation, new car smell, and Joel Plaskett on the factory stereo.

"Well, perhaps 'can not' is a little strong," I reply. "Certainly one would be perfectly able of forcing these transitions, but the idea is that the finished product will always be lacking, will always fail to live up to the original."

"Interesting," you say, absently flipping through the collection of CDs in the console.

"I'd like this novel to be as locked in its medium, as impossible to cover, as a Nirvana song," I continue. "Sure, it can be done - done by anyone, in fact - but it can never be done well."

"I really think you're on to something, and I'm eager to see how such a novel should turn out. Mind if I switch discs?" you ask, holding up a classic - Palace Brothers' There Is No-One What Will Take Care Of You.

"By all means," I say.

You exchange discs and within moments the controlled discord of Idle Hands Are The Devil's Playthings fills the car.

"By the way, how goes the writing these days?"

"These days, the novel practically writes itself," I say. "I've no control anymore. What started out as a vague idea, a seed, easily sprouted to a couple thousand words and onward to a healthy plant of twenty thousand strong. There was a bit of a struggle, then, for control over this unruly foliage - the taming of a concept I suppose - but once I was past that hump, it was all downhill from there-"

"-or uphill depending on how one looks at it."

"Indeed," I agree.

"So where are you at now? Progress-wise, I mean."

"Hit sixty thousand words last week, so I'm three quarters to my projected end total."

"Excellent job, mate."

We enter the city proper now, slowing slightly with the traffic, marvelling at the choppy Great Lake on one side and the concrete jungle on the other. It is here where nature and civilisation have made a reluctant truce, here where one pushes slightly on the other, deadlocked forever.

"At that rate," you continue, "you should be finishing up your first draft in, what, a few months?"


"Do I detect a little trepidation there?"

"A little, I think. See, the thing is, it's going so well that I don't really want it to end," I say. "I'm starting to feel like I could go on writing this novel forever. Like maybe, just maybe, this is the novel I always have been writing and always will be. Like perhaps there is no beginning and there is no end."

The city swallow us whole, a sheer wall of concrete and glass rushing up alongside us now as the lake slips out of sight behind us.

"And can a novel exist without those two things?" you ask. "Without a beginning or an end?"

"Doing without a beginning is easy," I reply. "Authors do it all the time. Doing without an end is another matter altogether."

"Too true," you nod. "Ending a novel without ending the story is one definite way to infuriate your readers."

"Exactly," I say, "and one doesn't ever want to do that - right?"

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

haunted province

Sometimes one needs to see the words written down only so that one can see them erased, typed up only so that one can hit delete, or said only so that one can take them back. Juxtaposition: sometimes a bad idea needs to be expressed only so that one can watch it flounder in a choppy sea of good ideas. Stark contrast: a fleck of black makes white seem whiter. It's like this whenever you go there.

Trips south under a fresh spring sun. Top down, and the roar of that old 318 sings perfectly in tune with tires humming along on aging asphalt. The highway's broken centre line skips by at one hundred, twenty kilometres per hour, hypnotic, while your head nods and your eyes fight to stay open. Serenaded by an endless line of country rebels. The ancient radio, with its one crackling station, plays on. You're strung out, son.

Just yesterday, you witnessed the beginning of the end of the world - but now you're not so sure. It was during one ten hour mescaline trip where the hours clicked by in double time, and the future flitted wildly back to you, stuttering like a nervous schoolboy. Eyes all black with that characteristic pupil dilation, images of the end, bright then dark, crisper than life itself, shone through to your mind on expired film stock. Glorious death and decay. Colourful, decorated armies of one million strong marching through war torn streets. Past the crumbling shells of impotent skyscrapers. Past the throngs of demoralized citizens, their faces hollow and ashen. A steady stream of neatly pressed uniforms. Firearms and battle standards. You, too, were strong once.

Today, the barren wheat fields zip by, full of potential, all too real. You're driving straight into the blue, blue sky, with each rotation of your tires finding an all new now, an all new present. Here, today, hours are hours and minutes are minutes. You're bound by time, and there is nothing you can do to make this trip go by any faster. You're locked in the nonce. Punished, like a disobedient dog. Trapped in a cage.

Sometimes one needs to go backward only so that one can go forward, be silent only so that one can someday speak, or trip only so that one can stand up again. And here's you, the day after the fall. A time traveller turned time captive. An uncommon entity turned common. Now, a guy hurtling down the highway in his car on a trip to nowhere - just a man in the machine.

Monday, April 17, 2006

first class ticket

What did you feel, then, when you received your letter of acceptance? Relief, perhaps. A lot of joy. Validation, certainly. You were given a ticket to board a train to a whole new world. A land where the self-motivated, those brimming with incentive, go to live out their lives in luxurious comfort. A land where one does not walk directly upon the filthy ground, but just a little above it. A world populated by the elite.

You had collected in your notebooks the bits and pieces of information about this world which had trickled down in the fragmentary tales relayed round the campfire. Tales of these unfamiliar lands with their strange geography and even stranger flora and fauna filled your mind, thumping in the great hollow of your memory like an ancient drum. Booming. Reverberating. Repeating forever.

And what was the song which could be written over top of this age-old rhythm? What unique melody could ever be imagined to accompany such a beat? What harmonies to put over this? Well, that was all to be decided in the following years of your residency. During that time you would be allowed to choose which instruments would fill out the orchestra. Which notes would be played. Where the verses, choruses, bridges, and solos would go. Keys, pitches, and timbre would be yours to play with. You had complete and total freedom - well, perhaps not completely complete or totally total. There was the minor issue of the time signature, after all; that could not be changed. That drum's been banging out 4/4 since the beginning of time and there is nothing a tiny person such as yourself can do to shake things up. Greater people than you have tried.

The dark, wet foliage wraps itself around my bare arms as I trudge slowly through the tangled undergrowth with the patient, rhythmic beating of an ever-distant drum lagging a little behind the racing of my aging heart. I'm thinking about the entrance to this labyrinth and how I'll never be able to find my way back, and I'm thinking about the exit and how I'm not even sure anymore that one exists. All this, while entertaining the paradoxical thought that perhaps somebody could have been considerate enough to tell me there was no way out of this quagmire. Once you're in you can never get out again - that's all they needed to say.

'A land where one does not walk directly upon the filthy ground, but just a little above it.' I read this line from my notebook, and look down at my own feet now. My feet, pressed into the rotting layers of dead leaves on the ground. My feet, standing on an entire generation's worth of decomposing organic material. My feet, not directly upon the filthy ground, but just a little above it.

The rain starts again with a roar, and huge drops of water batter the canopy of trees above, a cacophonous clattering, the legs of a billion tiny insects on the move. My brain tells my feet to move forward, to push me towards shelter before the water finds me - and they begin to move again, perfectly in time to the beat of that infernal drum.

My feet, marching in an endless parade. My feet, growing more tired by the minute. My feet, lost in the middle of it all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

pool hours

She's only half in my world and half in another, on the couch curled around a weathered copy of Tournier's Le Miroir des idées. Lips moving slightly as she reads, fingers picking absently at a button on the couch.

"Come over here and sit beside me," she says, without lifting her eyes from the book. Then, a line read from her current page: "Un grand auteur est celui dont on entend et reconnaît la voix dès qu'on ouvre l'un de ses livres," she says, and looks up at me. "Il a réussi à fondre la parole et l'écriture."

No, she is not in my world now. I smile a little, a half-smile of sorts, and cross the room to the bar with ice cubes clinking in my empty glass. Not in my world, but another. I set the glass down on the antique highboy and free-pour a few fingers of Chivas Regal over the ice. Take a sip of that sparkling liquid amber. Savour the clean burn all the way down my throat.

"Are you stuck again, dear?"

Suddenly, my stomach knots. How does she do that? How is it that she knows me so well? That even from over there, that other world, she can see right through me? I walk across to the bookcases and grab a random book from the shelves, switch on my reading lamp, and sit, alone, in my great, leather armchair.

"You know," she goes on, "perhaps you could try that exercise C.P. mentioned last time we were out with him. What was it? To break through your self-censorship, to write about something real from your life, something you would normally never write about."

I hear her close Le Miroir des idées, but I make an effort to appear as though I'm busy reading - whatever it is I have open in my lap.

"Something, even," she continues, "that you normally would try to push from your thoughts, to never even think about. Something taboo."

I'm flipping pages now, all anxious like. Taking long, nervous sips from my scotch, not even feeling the fire. This is what this woman does to me: gets me all mad in the head, pushes my buttons, so to speak - drives me completely fucking mental. It's why I keep her around.

She's behind me, now, fingers working their way across my scalp and I'm nearly taken away by the bouquet of her flowery hair dangling down across my shoulders.

"L'homme ne promène pas son chien," she purrs, "c'est lui qui est promené par son chien." More Tournier delivered on a crashing wave of cherry lip gloss. Warm breath on my cheek.

There's the sudden realisation that it is not she who has left this world, but I. But that's me, so eager to always leave. To get away.

More soft words, bringing me back down to myself. Words brushing against my cheek, nuzzling into my ear, making a home there.

To get away. Me, who would rather move across the country and spend a thousand nights in seedy pubs drunkenly arguing aesthetics with strangers, marching out Kant, quoting Baumgarten.

Whispers. Coming down.

To get away. Me, who would rather push over that bloody lectern than speak at it, selling lies. Tear up that oppressive hall, destroy it, make it unusable, rather than let even one more precious mind be shattered there.

"Baby, are you hearing me?" Those words, new cashmere against my skin.

"Let's go upstairs," she suggests. "You can tell me all about it, then."

Friday, April 7, 2006


What happened last summer? Nothing. Indeed, last summer was the first summer in your experience for which you gained no crazy memories. The summer during which everyone you know grew up, forsook the easy fun of youth. Last summer was the summer which ended all summers.

One long day bled into the next.

polaroid one

Reading Deleuze on a pub patio over a pint of Wheat Ale in the late morning. Tangy lemon slice squeezed and dropped into cold, pale liquid beneath a hot sun. This is breakfast. Street noise becomes white noise permitting concentration. Until. The words of Superpositions blurring signals the need to move onto the next segment of your day.

polaroid two

A coffee shop and more time by yourself. Sort of. Scribbling notes and half-listening to the tiny voice of your favourite barista.

I'll say, 'I knew him when....'

-when he used to pay in loose change and bother you to top him up - free of charge, of course.

Well, he had a way with words, even then.

polaroid three

A languorous lunch of Thai food coupled with Derrida's playful language. Dissolving words. Building thought. Rebuilding language from the ground up. The menu is unreadable: the Thai, indecipherable, and the English, even worse. So you order by the number. Eat a little, and take the rest to go - you'll have it for when you get hungry later on.

polaroid four

The afternoon is for writing, and words come easily as they always do. Thought stretches out in the afternoon heat until it reaches a breaking point and words explode onto the screen. You run with it. Fingers tapping keys, your mind racing. Go with whatever thought jumps into your head. You find your voice, become comfortable with it. Plant seeds. Make plans for the future.

polaroid five

The everyday. Comfortable solitude. Now, you sit beneath a spring Sun. A different Sun. A suburban Sun. You sit on your own patio with a bottle of imported beer beneath the shade of your oak trees admiring the green of your lawn stretching out before you. You'll trade the cramped smoky air of the public house for a cool, clean breeze any day. A barista’s disingenuous words for the chattering of squirrels. Pad Thai for barbequed steak.

What will happen this summer? Probably nothing. At least, not until you begin reflecting on it a year later. Memory builds slowly. Even slower than the explosion of the downtown core. Cranes moving mammoth I-beams, slowly giving rise to the skyscrapers of tomorrow. Floor by floor, concrete is poured. Men and women in hardhats crawl all over the site. Busy little ants on a hill.

So far away.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006


So I stood still instead. Watched the passage of time cascade, twinkling, across the lens of my goggles in a wave of a billion tiny lights. Shattered glass with no sound. Nice and slow, the hours and minutes, days and years, of the past all stretched out before me, then settled down softly upon me, warm, like an electric blanket. Then it was over, just like that. Switched off. How is it that I'm so lucky? So lucky to be the first to see such a thing? This is how it is when one is able to push past the present for even one second. When one is given a little peek at the past - a fleeting glimpse of a


world gone awry. A billion deaths go unnoticed while a dozen men protect their personal interests behind closed doors. Each has a vision of the future. Each fights to keep things on track. On the front lines of this war, men and women fight with each other and themselves a losing battle to make things make sense. Ethics. Personal codes of conduct are pushed tight up against one another like a shelf of books packed too full. One can not be removed without damaging it. One can not be removed without unsettling the others.

"We're not even feeding them a decent meal anymore."

"They're prisoners."

"They're people - they have rights!"

"Do you want to go in there with them?"

There's a twitching blue crackling of energy from the soldier's rifle, mirroring his on-edge mood. His finger tenses on the trigger, and his opponent's eyes drift down to the ground at his feet. Bested. Court-martial's are not very sexy - everyone knows that. Both men ease up. Both men can tell


you're slipping. Farther away. Farther or further away from here. Close your eyes and count ten digits. Backwards or forwards, it doesn't matter now. Just try to - it'll all be over soon. You'll feel your body move and not move, dragged backwards across the expansive chasm of one second. You'll open your eyes in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the space between, the space between then and now, but will only be met with the dead disappointment of blackness filling your goggles. Strain. Strain to see


a team of white coats bustling around me. Bright lights above, bursting with multicoloured coronas on the lens of my goggles. I think to lift the glasses, but can't seem to get my arm to follow orders. White and stainless steel. Something's happened. Something's gone wrong. Flurry of white. A veritable blizzard.

"He's conscious."

"Not very and not for long. 'Nother 10ccs, please."

Lights. Perfect coronas distorting as my eyes fill with tears. Try to speak. Try to get up. Run. Tell them you're okay. Body not responding. Unable to move.


So I stood still instead. Alone in a field of knee-high wheat with the blue, blue sky exploding over me. Soft summer wind on my face and that grass gently brushing against my legs. I was gifted, then, with the knowledge that I was one distinct part of the universe. One part as unique as the Sun or Pi Sagittarii. I stood there for a time with my eyes closed, the smell of life in my nose, and my feet planted firmly in that healthy soil. Growing roots. I just stood there for a time and let them grow. I wasn't going anywhere any time soon.