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BY Joel

02/01 Direct Link
Drawing his own health nearer
He steps into the forest
With some of the bread bags
That have been waiting patiently
In quiet cupboard corners for this
Their most perfect existential moment.

Scatterings of old crumbs
That have also waited
Speckle maroon-wet leaves>
On the forest floor.

A bird follows the tasty trail
And finds him crouched in the undergrowth
Making litter loaves:
A pinch of cigarette butts
Thirty five cups of cups
A tablespoon of torn panties...

What are you doing? asks the bird.
I can answer that question
With very little certainty,
he says
And they laugh.
02/02 Direct Link
Yesterday I found a leaf
Beautiful beyond belief.

I stooped in the dirt trail to tie my shoe, and there it was lying in front of me having fallen from a nearby plant - last year by the look of it. The green had completely shattered between each vein into a mosaic of yellows and browns. Each small point along its serrated edge had dried into a sharp point, and a black fungus that spread itself via perfect pinhead circles emanated in starburst from the centre. I brought it home, but it soon dried out and lost most of its charm.
02/03 Direct Link
My ego was hurt yesterday when I answered a rare ring at the door and found a young, blonde woman standing there in tight black everything.

She took one look at me and said, "Hello, is your mother or father home?"

"No, I pay the rent here," I said, swallowing pride, supressing anger, shifting my weight from foot to foot.

"Oh," she said. "My name is Alicia and today I'm promoting the new Fountain Tire that just opened on Southwest Marine Drive."

"I don't have a car," I said flatly.

Insincere apologies and goodbyes, doors closing quietly.

Begone, you demon.
02/04 Direct Link
Last night I rode my bike to the library to put in a few hours of reading and as I pulled up to the bike rack, she was there, fated, just leaving, silhouetted against the glow of light bouncing off the stacks inside, her guitar case strapped to her back. We walked over to a pair of wet benches and sat high on the back rests, our feet muddying the seats. She strummed and sang for me, to me, at me... What could I do but hug her? And what force has brought this magnificent being into my life? Why?
02/05 Direct Link
It has been less than five days and already the forest feels like my own fruitful garden.

Yesterday I found a stash of cans and bottles hiding under bare sticks and boughs of cedar. As I was weeding it out, I was hit with a sudden pang of guilt, realizing that this could be some kind of savings account for a vagabond.

Holy shit - maybe there're stashes like these all over the forest... I wonder if I could pay off my entire student loan with bottle deposits... I could write a book about the experience and become renowned and wealthy...
02/06 Direct Link
No, not doing this for money. Why does my brain default to such? It's wired all wrong. Yes, this will be a process of rewiring.

I wonder what the neighbours think of me - half of the quiet gay couple living down the lane slomping back and forth between the forest to the recycling bins in his rubber boots. I wish they would talk to me, smile at me, or even just look me in the eye.

I figure there's about $4.50 worth of bottles here, so I put a five in a Ziploc and hide it in the brush.
02/07 Direct Link
The eyes avert,
Desperate to find
The pristine beauty
For which they came.

But the trick doesn't last
because humanity clings fast
Like a red and yellow fry box
To a rock.

A break in the flow,
Or - forgive me - the chi,
Expired medicine,
Transparent placebo.

A moment's pause
To consider the scene
That displeases me.
I don't look away.

I imagine it changed,
I imagine myself changed,
Then I change them both
At once.

Suddenly a magician,
I float the trails,
Mythic time uninterrupted,
Deeply calm.

No longer searching
For elusive beauty.
I create it.
I possess it.
02/08 Direct Link
Too many straight people don't what it means to be gay, their understanding of homosexuality twisted by the promiscuity flaunted in parades and the flamboyance portrayed on TV design shows. If only there was some way for them to look into our hearts. I wish I could crack mine open for the world to reveal the god and goddess that reside there, each drawing beauty and strength from the other - yin and yang. What would they say then? Would it excuse the powerful softness so evident in me and the other boys? The elegant streak of masculinity in the girls?
02/09 Direct Link
I'm surprised that the Vancouver Olympic Committee hasn't made a stronger effort to clean up the city. Yesterday I walked from Broadway down over the Granville Bridge then up Davie Street, and the place looked dull and really dirty. It could have been the cloud cover lending its melancholy to everything, but then again it could have been the abandoned drink containers and chip bags skidding across every sidewalk and every lane. Maybe it's the Olympic tourists already making a mess. Maybe filth has come to be expected in every global metropolis. Hello, world - let urban squalor unite us all.
02/10 Direct Link
Or maybe Vancouver just isn't trying to claim anything that it isn't. If that's true, I guess the honesty is admirable. In any case, I'm going to try to take an unbiased approach to the Olympics. On Friday I'm going to observe an anti-Olympics rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery and next Wednesday I'm going to one of the medal ceremonies (if I don't get arrested at the rally, that is), my boss having given me a pair of free tickets. I'll be sure to write my findings here so 100 Words readers can get an inside look, too.
02/11 Direct Link
Last month I registered in a "sunrise" tai chi class, and so for the past four weeks, every Tuesday and Thursday, I've been getting up at 5:15am and riding my bike through the morning mists to the community centre half an hour from my home. From 6 to 7 on these splendored mornings, I stand in a row of Buddha-faced people, and I part the manes of wild horses, I paint rainbows, I create and watch wise owls gazing at the moon, my hands become clouds... This is one of the best things I've ever done for myself.
02/12 Direct Link
Or maybe I won't go to that protest after all. I talked about it with David and he seems to think that the only attendees will be grungy street youth, stoned and playing hacky sack. I recall one demonstration in the summer - I think it was Canada Day (Cannabis Day) - and the whole front lawn of the art gallery was hidden under suspisciously happy picnickers, strange clouds floating over their heads. I remember one girl - I shall remember her forever - sitting on her boyfriend's shoulders high above the crowd, wearing mirrored sunglasses, holding a cardboard sign reading "Acid 4 Sale."
02/13 Direct Link
It was cold and rainy when I walked out of my last class, I was tired, and I was reconsidering going to the protest. But in the end I decided it was important, so I headed to the bus stop. I made it as far as Broadway and Cambie, but then I was unable to take the SkyTrain downtown because there was a half hour line up to get into a train. I was really surprised because I've never seen a line for the SkyTrain in my seven years living here. Everyone was going to the opening ceremonies, I guess.
02/14 Direct Link
So I just went home, slightly disappointed. I later read in the news that the protest that day was rather uneventful anyway, with a small group marching down Georgia Street chanting "No Olympics on stolen Native land!" But then again, the media might have skewed the story, and so I am left feeling like I failed in my search for objectivity.

In any case, because the university has given us the next two weeks off, I plan on following my own kind of Olympic regime - early mornings with tai chi, afternoons studying in the library, good food, and early nights.
02/15 Direct Link
Years ago for my birthday, Richard and I decided to finally try this Italian restaurant near our place. It was the first time that I'd ever had spaghetti alla puttanesca and I couldn't believe how delicious it was. Sadly, when we came back for more a few weeks later, we found a notice on the door saying that the restaurant had closed after decades of service. The day after my birthday. We had unknowingly gone on its last night. Somehow the disappointment knocked the memory of the dish to a dusty corner of my brain, forgotten until Valentine's Day 2010.
02/16 Direct Link
Was I a puttana for making this dish with David when the memory of it is so connected with Richard? Yes. But it made for a very sexy Valentine's Day - full of juicy tomatoes, plump olives, salty capers, bulbous garlic, and the sinful, raunchy taste of anchovies, all simmering in extra hot extra virgin olive oil, all sizzling under the goofy, half-drunk gaze of two young men still very much in love after three and a half years.

It was cheap and easy, and it led to fervent garlic breath lovemaking. In the ass.

Happy Valentine's Day!
02/17 Direct Link
A mouse licks its chops upon discovering this Coke container casually thrown into a bush by some oblivious teenager.

A squirrel can smell the sticky saliva-syrup that has pooled at the bottom of the bottle. If only the bottle had a wider mouth! If only the squirrel had a wider head!

Lacking a long tongue, a vole chews a hole in the plastic, cutting out a disc for itself to lick clean.

A young man uses a stick to fish out the bottle, notices the tiny teeth marks, wonders whose little endocrine system is being ruined by unnatural appetite.
02/18 Direct Link
While I take great pleasure from doing this, I can't let it become the only thing I do in the forest. There is more work to be done, for sure, but for a while I need to relax in the small space I have cleared for myself or I will defeat my initial purpose.

Yesterday I went for a run, stopped to catch my breath and glimpsed a squirrel stuffing her cheeks with old maple leaves. Bedding for a nursery? Tiny bugs swarm in patches everywhere, feeding on the sweet rot of the same leaves. Here are the true recyclers.
02/19 Direct Link
So the Olympics aren't as bad or as good as everyone expected - they're just there, scattered around the city, avoidable for most people for the most part. People are still complaining that it will be taxpayers' money that deals with the giant party bill afterward, but these people are journalists and other self-interested individuals. Taxes will always be wasted on something, so get used to it. To think that I almost got swept up in the drama! I'll write one more entry on the Olympics, but then it's nothing but my creepy environmental neuroses all the way to March.
02/20 Direct Link
So much for early nights, early mornings. I wake at 11:30, disappointed, with a dull headache. I make toast, then haul a big thermos of lemon tea out to the forest. I do tai chi there in the middle of that great green heart and feel better. Check to see if the little pile of pecans is still there on the log. It is. I need to make better offerings, I think. Maybe I should invest in some birdseed.

Sunshine streams through the canopy, silhouetting hundreds of thriving pillars, to rest as tiny balls of light on my eyelashes.
02/21 Direct Link
It's not that I hate humans or modern life or technology - I don't. That might have been the case a few years ago, but now I've realized that nature has this incredible way of balancing itself out, and that there is good and bad in everything. The trick is to become in tune with this balance, to be honest with oneself about what ones needs and bad habits, to take responsibility for one's own personal balance. I always seem to forget this in moments of distress. I should make something beautiful and hang it above my bed to remind myself.
02/22 Direct Link
Over the Granville Bridge you walk
Alone at night and you talk to,
Speak to, something inside you,
Something bright like the headlights
Of cars that flow past like stars,
Like the eyes of quiet lovers
And loud spirits fresh from the bars,
Like the shimmering glass towers
Whose glow hovers above the sea,
Floating, mirrored, this bridge, this view
Has mysterious powers, suddenly stars
Circle the moon like cars
And mountains seemingly stand
Like skyscrapers in sand
Or soft breasts so gently caressed
By a young man's hand and you shout
All one, aha, like a liquored up lout.
02/23 Direct Link
I could write a whole batch - a whole book, even - about Wei Tian and my relationship to him and his family. For now I must only say that since last May, his mother has been paying me to tutor him in Math and to do physical activity with him, as he is a little heavy for his age.

Today we rode our bikes into the forest and stopped to strip sticks of their bark with Wei Tian's carving knives. We discover that I can't tell the good wood from the bad.

"You suck at this," he says to me, scoffing.
02/24 Direct Link
I want to make a stick with a pointed end so that I can easily pick up candy wrappers and chip bags and other trash off the ground. On my third attempt at selecting a branch, Wei Tian looks at it, then whips it against a tree trunk, snapping it in half.

"I guess I'll have to find you one," he says, sighing.

He goes off into the trail and returns a few minutes later with a branch as thick as a broom handle. He knocks it hard against the trunk. Solid. He smiles at me with charmingly annoying arrogance.
02/25 Direct Link
He holds up a twig and sneers, "This is baby boo boo wood - too soft."

He then takes up half of the branch that I mistakenly chose and says, lifting his chin in perfect didactic unison, probably imitating the tones of his kung fu teachers in China: "This is old man wood - it's weak and it breaks easy."

Now he takes up the good, sturdy branch and turns it in his hands admiringly. "Now this," he says, "is the kind of wood we want. This is strong, like a twenty three years old person."

I laugh at this kid, amazed.
02/26 Direct Link
The bark sloughed off easily, like peeling a big carrot. While I worked I told Wei Tian what I was going to use it for and he thought it was a good idea.

And quite sagely he told me this: "There is no such thing as garbage, Brad. Everything on the earth comes from the earth. Everything is part of nature."

After a wave of pride for him came and went, I said, "But don't you think that some things don't really belong with other things? Can we change the combinations of things to create more beauty? Like feng shui?"
02/27 Direct Link
He looks pensively at the underbrush for a good five seconds, and I imagine him processing everything he knows on the topic.

Then, "Yes, you are right. You know, you're a good listener."

The approval of this eleven year old Chinese boy means a lot to me. For the past eight months I've been trying to present him with a different version of reality than the capitalist, consumerist one his parents give him, while not confusing nor scaring him. This is progress, and his compliment is certainly refreshing among his habitual preteen epithets for me - buttface, idiot, sucker, elfy nose...
02/28 Direct Link
And so our staves stripped and sharpened, we ride our bikes back to Wei Tian's house, with me letting him believe that he is the inspiration for my new hobby. Because he might just be a big part of that inspiration.

On the ride home, he doesn't stop at a stop sign, he doesn't listen to my voice calling out behind him, and he almost gets hit hard by an SUV. I make him stop on the side of the street and I give him a long lecture about bike safety. He rolls his eyes at me, the little punk.