Monday, May 30, 2011

No day is harder than the first

The band is Sixteen Different Minds. I knew somebody in this band a long time ago; I followed the link from the ubiquitous Facebook and have been listening to it all day, thinking that it reminds me of something but I can't tell you what. It's a good something, that's as complex as my awareness can get. There's sweet harmony and simple production to it all, especially in the song Summer's End. I might just be a sucker from the lyric that's the title of this entry, and if so I'm a sucker. It's lovely stuff across the board. If you're reading this, seek it out.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Work for Matthew

My son, who likes soap bubbles and is also very fond of trains.

Follows the original Matthew video from a few years back.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I don't remember the source of the theory that I'm blaming for my sore feet and light-headedness. Probably a high-school science textbook; it put forth the proposition that to properly imagine the concept of time, you couldn't simply see it as a roving instance of now that leaves nothing in its wake. It compared the whole of time and all occurrences within to frames on a reel of motion-picture film with an infinite number of frames projecting at an unimaginable rate (the standard 32 frames per second didn't apply).

I won't even consider the size of the projector that this unimaginably long film would require since that wasn't mentioned in the theory, but I'll repeat the central concept that each frame of film contains a 'happening' that is no less 'happening' 5, 10, 15 or 100 frames away from its initial instance; everything is always happening all the time with a loose collection of 'now' moments that add to the total. And if something ain't happened yet, just wait. It'll come.

No past and only a light sprinkling of present all in anticipation of a future that segues into the two previous concepts with almost musical grace and subtlety. The mostly-forgotten theory didn't take all the boring, tangible aspects of time (the stuff we eat, breathe, sleep upon and walk on) into consideration, or at least slid it so far under its theoretical umbrella that it was rendered irrelevant, but the consistently-occurring past and present concept stuck in my head and remains there despite my best efforts to dismantle it. It's the source of my Tuesday night walk from Yonge and Eglinton to Yonge and St. Clair, more or less straight down Yonge St. I spent a lot of time along the corridor, good and bad, and if time is truly concurrent rather than consecutive, it's possible that I might be able to walk past some rendition of myself, maybe say hi, maybe allude to the fact that things work out. Not necessarily for the best, or along the lines of what was anticipated at the start, but they do work out the same.

I can't find my father. He's been dead for almost 8 years by now, and not-finding him isn't really a great shock or a serious disappointment. But some aspect of my psyche will always scan the intersections close to his old office (and close to my present office) expecting him to walk past. This same aspect walked me downstairs into his workshop religiously when visiting my parents house, hoping for a few minutes of solitude away from whatever activities were happening upstairs, hoping that I could at least feel his presence. It's perfectly logical in an utterly misguided way; he spent time there in life, tied to the tools and the scent of sawdust. If he was there at one time, and the room remains the same, he must still be there. I just needed to be in the right corner at the right time, catch the same fall of light from the door where I saw him thousands of times before. He had to be in there, someplace. I just had to wait and look.

He didn't arrive. The room has since become a dusty workshop. T'was ever thus...right?

I start heading south on Yonge when I'm convinced that my father isn't waiting for me at Fran's. Come to think of it, Fran's isn't waiting for me at Fran's. It hasn't been at that intersection for over a decade. I had a friend who worked the bar there for a year or so, he'd drop plates of chicken wings at my table when I was working retail and broke ("Somebody left these in the kitchen, I brought them out here so they'd not bother anybody") and it went a long way. The loss of a greasy spoon doesn't take away too much from this lifetime, but the associations, the lunches, coffees, late night dinners with family are good enough to want the place to be open for a few minutes for some temporal version of the pop-in. I'd be delighted to have a cheeseburger in 1992. For a minute. Just for the fact it wasn't my own cooking (which I was sick of) and I was close enough to walk home to the decidedly ramshackle house I was sharing before the furnace started spewing carbon monoxide and felt like an omen to get the hell out.

Nobody got hurt, but the helpful gas company representative pointed out that the furnace was not only leaking carbon monoxide but methane from it's source pipe. He did this by painting soap solution along the pipe and viewing the resulting bubbles.

"That's not supposed to happen," he said gravely. "Wait here."

Then he left. I was standing in a basement with two gasses that were more than willing to help me die by either slow (albeit painless) asphyxiation or from a good old fashioned explosion. I waited until he came back a very slow 5 minutes later with something I can only describe as a rubber wrench, carefully using it to close the gas valve from the source.

"Call your landlord," he said. "We're not turning this back on until there's a furnace that passes inspection."

It was early March. Our landlords were in Florida. My housemate made the call, she later told me that Landlord #1's first response was "Who told you to call the gas company?" while
#2 was quieter and more concerned with a potential lawsuit. The furnace was fixed but my time there was done. It's a shame. The house was gorgeous and the woman who shared it with me in a platonic sense remains the most agreeable person I ever shared living space with. In the four years I was there, we never had a harsh word about each other.

This isn't getting me down Yonge St.

I walk past the overpriced Italian restaurant with the admittedly great food, the one without a name (only a logo) and whose staunch refusal to post a menu was legendary. They've recently condescended to posting a web address for reservations, but the size of the font suggests their hearts weren't into it. Further down, there's a wing and rib place I frequented with a buddy for his company rather than the ribs and wings (both leathery and inedible), the overpriced furniture stores with sulky owners, the spy-tech shop that keeps wandering across the street from location to location, the Thai restaurant that, under previous ownership, sent me into the street when I saw a fat sewer rat calmly walk across the floor, under a table, and into the kitchen. The former oxygen bar which was and remains the most stupid idea for a spa that I'd ever encountered, where they'd wash your left hand with a warm washcloth before putting the oxygen nozzle under your nose (they never explained the hand washing), assuring you that the oxygen was great to get rid of headaches (which I had lots of at the time) and gave you energy and helped you sleep and made you immune from hangovers and I'm sure they would have tossed in some mention of how it was low in trans-fat if they'd had time. I paid for it once out of curiosity, swore never to do it again but was lured off the street a second time with an offer of a free 'treatment' if I filled out a survey about the experience. It was identical to the first time, except the hangover avoidance wasn't mentioned. The space now belongs to a sporting goods establishment. It's a step up.

Reaching Davisville. The condo that never returned my calls and a series of apartments that were wide and well-lit and would have been perfect, but after asking for first and last month's rent, the landlord called us to say sympathetically that she'd forgotten she'd offered the space to somebody else. My wife wept on the phone as she was assured that we'd be the first people called when another apartment came open (we never heard from her again).

The hairdresser I went to for years and still keep in touch with, impossibly long ago. She was actually so nice and engaging that I kept my hair short for years because I'd drop by for a trim whenever I was depressed.

It's a brisk walk, but I haven't run into me, yet. I missed me by a few seconds here or there, finding coffee shops where I remember sitting in various states of employment or financial disrepair wondering How the hell am I going to get out of this one? and if I saw me, I'd at least try to radiate some sense of You'll get through it.

There's not much after Davisville. An office building where I used to work, a pub I frequented where the food was always lousy but the lunch crowd was lively. Further east, there's the untouched Italian restaurant where my sister hung out in high school, occasionally taking me along to sit and watch her boyfriend play pool on something at least one of them wasn't calling a date. If I walked across the railway bridge, I could end up at the brownstone (if that's the phrase; a 1920's 4 story building with original fixtures) where I lived after getting married, or the parking lot of a standard apartment where a good friend lived and I could jump through the hole in the fence to save 5 minutes worth of walking and probably get yet another scar on my wrist from the rusty nail I didn't see.

The last time this happened, it was probably 1997. I'd cut through the parking lot to get to work early and cut myself badly enough I thought I'd need stitches. When the blood stopped, somebody suggested that tetanus, while not a popular malady nowadays, was still pretty unpleasant and maybe I'd like to get checked out. I arrived at my doctor's office shortly thereafter and explained what happened. "That's interesting," he said. "Jumping through a fence. The last person I had here who did the same thing was 9 years old and was pretending he was Batman at the time."

I walk past Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. The dead are still there. They don't get out much.

By the time I get to St. Clair, I don't want to walk, don't want to go home, don't want to eat, don't want to be hungry, don't want to stop, have no particular reason to continue, and am wondering exactly where or what has brought me here. The ghosts around me aren't entirely unpleasant and I'm always free to get on a train and go home, but perhaps the sheer density of them has stopped me in my tracks. I could hit the nice Italian place, splurge on vitello limone and a side of pasta with the alfredo sauce that tastes faintly of walnut oil, but it will remind me of the time I was having lunch with my wife and my father was just heading into chemotherapy and the irrelevant, unpleasant, self-indulgent and downright sad fact that it was one of his favourite restaurants and he can't eat here because he will feel too sick to enjoy it or keep it down just hit me and I collapsed in the wake of it, sick at the thought and unable to explain why it suddenly meant so much, just then, over something as simple as a meal. My wife, lovingly, took me home and made the right noises and used the right logic and I never caved like that again. I could set foot in the place tonight, but wouldn't appreciate it any more than a hot dog at a street corner vendor. I'll wait for another time.

There's not much left before the ending. I find a cybercafe and let all this out in one burst. Lucy told me recently that You should edit yourself less. My wife and my mother in law are home chatting and I have a night alone. It isn't melancholy that brought me here or sat me down, maybe just that initial misguided theory about space and time. I can deal with me, most times. I get sick of me frequently. Occasionally, I want to give me a break. I don't need to return to the past, but maybe something close to ego or just a recognition of the swath of the karmic boomerang lands me in places I remember. You'll get through it, I fire into the night at myself back in whatever day suits the situation.

Then I just go home to the now. Now is always best.

May, 2010

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Bin Laden is dead. 9/11 is 10 years ago but not over. Posturing around it has always been easy. Everyone has a perspective, some from close up.

" less an authority than the CBC, in an article entitled 'Bin Laden’s Death Cheered by Americans,' claims 'the crowd [at Ground Zero] included people who live nearby, emergency workers, and survivors of the attacks....everyday New Yorkers.' So I guess it’s irrelevant that all of the media coverage I watched, well into the wee hours of the morning, showed hordes of college-age kids doing the yelling and the cheering.

Every once in a while a reporter would snare an actual grownup who’d lived through the attack--a retired firefighter with lung disease from working on the pile, for example--but the grownups weren’t screaming and yelling. They were talking about, for instance, 'remembering my 343 brothers' (those would be the firefighters who died in the attack, fyi). So the reporters? Not so interested in what the grownups had to say.

The kids made much better TV."

- From Alice in Newyorkland's blog.

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