Saturday, April 30, 2005

Ephemera

Example

http://www.onemansafari.blogspot.com/

The moment I encourage another blog, it probably means that the user will suddenly become a satanist and only post pictures of slaughtered goats to be thrown down mines in Bolivia. But that said, the link above is for a fascinating site of ephemera. Old ads that the user thinks is interesting. Photos he's dug out of rummage sales. Whatever strikes his fancy. And they're eclectic. Something to peek at on a slow afternoon, or to start your mind racing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Layers

I'm at a local for a few pints with a semi-employed friend. I am at the moment duly employed, but still gun-shy: layoffs may be polite and with the Godfather sense of "It's just business, Mikey", but I, like everyone else, have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep etc. And to finish off the cliche boulabaisse, there but for the grace of God go I.

So he's semi-employed, I'm duly employed and my wife is pregnant and I would therefore like to remain employed to support both wife and upcoming baby. Work is complicated, but not difficult, and save for the according-to-all-sources-PERFECTLY-NORMAL pre-fatherhood jitters (and of course my wife's pre-motherhood jitters), a Sunday afternoon is a good time for a beer. Or two.

Example

We're chatting, staring out the front window at a grocery store across the road. It looks pretty standard for a Sunday- a few people outside the coffee shop next door, various shoppers ferrying carts of groceries to a cab stand or to the parking garage. David notices that there's a police car in front of the establishment, and two nice officers discussing something with a guy behind a large cart of groceries.

'Discuss' is too light a term. This is a debate. They're appearing quiet, but the guy being questioned (heavyset, expensive coat, a very shiny watch) looks to be raising his voice. A second police car arrives, two more nice officers exit and the grocery cart individual is looking downright agitated.

We can't figure out what he's done, if anything. The cart is filled with bagged groceries, which means he's probably paid for them, since walking through a grocery store bagging your own groceries is a bit conspicious, and this guy does not look dumb. He does look pissed. Pissed enough that one of the cops puts his hand on the guy's shoulder, as if to suggest that this chat happen someplace closer to the squad car, where it's nice and warm.

Pissed-off guy slaps the cop's hand off his shoulder, rather loudly (at least looking that way from a distance). Another 2 pints of Guiness arrive and David mentions that this was not a good manouvre on the guy's part. "You really want your lawyer to be able to say 'My client co-operated with the arresting officer...", and this guy has just blown it.

Example

The other two cops swoop in, again not touching the individual, but making their presence known. Another hand on his shoulder, another slap. One slap too many. The guy is sort of lifted under his arms and whisked to the back of one of the cruisers. Another kerfuffle, he doesn't want to put his hands on the trunk and allow himself to be searched. His hands are then PLACED deliberately on the trunk and his legs kicked open- the kicks are aimed at his shoes, so perhaps there won't be bruises after the fact? And it's pretty obvious that the cops have lost patience and the guy himself is suspected of...grocery theft? They pull a sheaf of paper and his wallet out of his coat, wave the papers in front of his face.

NOW the gentleman becomes polite, you can read the 'Officer, this has been a big misunderstanding' tone in his face from across the street. An order of chili fries arrives and this all becomes dinner and a show. A third car arrives, and an OPP cruiser (which is waved off), so 3 cops are lingering with the individual, 2 cops discussing some matter with a green-coated grocery type, and one poking through the grocery cart.

Finally, the gentleman's wallet, and the sheaf of papers, are divided into little piles and placed into evidence bags. And it hits us. Credit card fraud. He used (or is suspected of using) a stolen card. The card is swiped, authorized, he signs a name that may or may not be his. The credit card company now knows that somebody used a card at a particular location, and requests that the nice officers are sent there to investigate. And they caught the user.

Who's going to be having a very bad day. Why the sheaf of papers? Reciepts? Was he stocking a restaurant on a stolen credit card? Or is this all a horrible misunderstanding and he's going to sulk out of a holding cell in 3hrs with a loathing for law enforcement? Who's to say. Another Guiness and Sunday continues, unabated.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Undrawn

If you watch kids TV, either because you have kids, or because it's a Saturday morning and between Newsworld and Meet the Press, one would like some kind of amusement from one's cable, you might come across Caillou. It's a show about a four year old, firmly aimed at the 4 year old set. Very gentle, non-challenging programming. In fact, it's so damn gentle that the edges of the frames aren't fully drawn, the action takes place from shot to shot in sort of a fine-edged canvas that turns into white at the edges, with that border shifting from shot to shot.

Example

This is a stylistic device, probably made to replicate the style of the Caillou books, which are by all accounts a hit with the under 5 set. I mention this today because I'm working on sort of a Caillou vibe, the edges of my own day-to-day activities have been shrouded due to Robaxicet. I deal badly with pain killers, although they do kill the pain rather nicely. They also kill most other sensory stimulus, and put me into a sleepy state of mind where I'm not awake enough to even be sleepy- they induce great limbo.

The one thing keeping me aware of this realm at all is the stabbing pain (quite literally like an awl is pressed into me) under my left shoulder. I leaned over at the perfect wrong angle to scratch my cat under the chin, and this happened. Not uncommon. The result of general tension, sitting at the wrong angle while mousing, sleeping on the wrong nerve-ending. It will lift. But until then, I'm at the end of an echo chamber, the wrong end.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

An Epilogue

'So, what about the damn radio?', mutters nobody, remembering mention of said radio in November.

What indeed. It's near the end of April, and my wife is pregnant (January's surprising, but very welcome announcement) and time gets away, but from time to time, my mind returns to the radio.

Read back a few months. An old Cathedral-style radio, (called Tiffany Radio on the box), impressive from a distance, with a faux stained glass (since 'fake stained glass' sounds so unappetizing) rendition of the classic Coca-Cola logo. To wit:

Example

Upon closer examination, the cabinet is cheap particleboard shaped into a dome, with an almost-still-sticky layer of stain, the knobs barely attached, the faux stained glass is pretty damn faux, being brittle plastic cast or molded with a quivery hand someplace outside of Hong Kong.

And all that said, there's a nice glow from the cheap bulb inside. And I've collected old radios on and off over the years, I've always liked the a classic tube radios in the old Cathedral cases. And most of those were cheap veneer, rickety wood, a cheap bulb behind Bakelite. But there's something reassuring about the fact that tubes or transistors, a cheap radio is still a cheap radio.

Why all the fuss?

Pre-Christmas, and my father is still dead and my uncle is, to me at least, frighteningly frail. The drugstore underneath my office tower is stocking lots of pre-Christmas nostalgia presents, Coca-Cola merchandise being a big seller. There's a place to discuss the merits of Coca-Cola as a foodstuff and their South American policies and the corrupted palate of the world, but this ain't it. It's just an old fashioned, mid 20's, early 30's style radio (early 20's tended to be boxes), with the Coca-Cola logo. My uncle would have loved it at one time.

But not this time. Too old. Too ill. He sleeps 12-14hrs a day and does he need another gadget, a radio that I would have loved to give him at 10, 20, 30 years old? It's the last thing he needs, so up to a few weeks before Christmas I decided against it. For reasons of practicality.

The eternal practicality.

This epilogue stems out of a sudden change of direction. I mentioned the radio to my mother in one of our uncomfortable 'what's Christmas' phone calls, maybe the both of us realizing that the momentum after my father's death is over, we can't sail through Christmas this year as part of another event's collateral damage. I mention the radio, and how I talked myself out of it. She says to keep it in the back of my mind, maybe my mother and sister and I could go in together for it.

So I do. But. I see it. I actually dreamed about it. And avoided it, for want of not objectifying everything I feel about my ill uncle, or my lost father, or the sheer painful nature of Christmas this year. I don't need a single object to wrap it all up in, but in that lies the problem. The more I try NOT to let that radio represent everything, the more it does. It feels like the Coca-Cola glasses that I found one year as a present for my uncle, or like the tiny bottle set he kept as chachka on his desk, it's pointless and plastic and is somewhere, an image. A quiet one.

So by buying it, I'm giving into sentiment. By not, I'm gettting depressed. By wasting time debating the issue I'm wasting time debating the issue.

Example

What...to do?

In the end, expediency. I have bought books and bath salts and dishes for my aunt, not because I need to get something on short notice but because they FEEL like the right thing for her. And my uncle was getting a book and not a radio not a radio not giving into the cheap radio until my mother calls and says she couldn't find the right thing for him, could I still pick up that radio?

And I do. For the record, $35.00, PharmaPlus, who has picked up product from the US Rexall chain, thus all the weirdly American ephemera. I buy it sheepishly, wondering about all the fuss, but feeling something...uncoupling...is the only way I can put it. And when we drive north a few days later and hand it over, he's having a good day. He's not sliding into sleep mid-conversation, and when he opens the box he looks amused. So many other items pass has hands, appreciated and put onto a side table, opened carefully with a pocket knife, the characteristic of men on my dad's side of the family. A pocket knife, comb, transistor radio, essential tools of all of them. My father had them on his bedside table to the end.

And the big Coca-Cola radio. He unwraps it, comments it's too big, too expensive. And looks at it. He'll place it later, with my aunt's help. But he pokes at the box, reads the back, fusses a little. I unpack it and put it in the kitchen, realizing how cheap the construction is, carefully turning on the light and the radio, finding the same station (CBC) that their old clock-radio has, and simply leaving it, glowing, muttering the local news, under the overhanging cupboard in the kitchen in the grey of a December afternoon.

"It sounds nice," he says, "the wood cabinet. Sounds warm."

And the epilogue ends not with the rest of the Christmas account, but with a simple, vaguely selfish response. The local shops still carry that radio. But after half a month of seeing it on shelves, thinking that purchasing it or not purchasing it would result in the same impotent sadness around the holiday, I see it now and get a rush of something like relief. Buying it didn't buy into the maudlin, and the damn radios don't look like something lost, anymore. They made my uncle smile, and played music through wood, something rare, with a faint colourful glow on a grey day.

Simple and warm and now, 4 months later, still playing. To all, a good night.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Back in the Land of the Living

Really not much to say, however. But I do like grapes.

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