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When I see this again will it be as embarrassing as diary entries that are 17 years old? All I worried about then were girls (or lack thereof). It was like reading penthouse letters written by a blind Tibetan monk. Only difference being is the Monk would know what he was talking about… It’s odd, but a friend killed herself that summer and I have no idea how I felt about that. But we should never be ashamed by how we felt in the past. That was another person. Someone we can’t remember being. Someone we would never recognize.
I used to manage this bar in PEI. Downstairs was a restaurant owned by the same people, and the staff would often come upstairs to eat lunch as you were allowed to smoke in the bar. One of the waitresses, Emily, used to do this and we would often get into heated discussions. One day she said that the fillings in your teeth were poisonous. I told her that that was a lot of bunko and that there had been a study done that statistically "proved" her wrong. She said, "Ninety percent of all statistics are false."
She wasn't joking.
One day in July James came to my door. It looked as if he had been crying. This wasn't normal. He was always very careful with those "tender" emotions. Anger and hatred were easy, but this was something new. "What's wrong", I asked thinking that perhaps his grandfather, who was our neighbour, had died. He just looked at me, his eyes getting rheumy. "She did it to me. With Geoff."
I wasn't entirely surprised. You didn't need a telescope to have seen this one coming. (Wasn't that very
I let him in and closed the door.
The most noticeable thing about Toronto compared with other places that I had lived in Canada was this: Toronto wants to be New York. Every other city and town in this country, whether they admit it or not, wants to be Toronto. (And deny it they will. The perception of Toronto, at least from the East Coast, is not at all favourable.)
Toronto wants to be New York. Why can't it be happy being Toronto? New York is perfectly, perhaps insanely, happy with being New York.
So the question is this… does New York secretly desire to be Des Moines?
Toronto is full of Rock Stars.
I know this because I see them everyday. We decided to go for a walk down Queen Street West and the closer we got to Spadina the more Rock Stars we saw.
To clarify: Everybody on Queen West wants to be a Rock Star. I saw them. A fifty year old woman in Ramones black and spiked hair. All the young girls looked ready to rave at the drop of a hat. I like people watching but it's really hard do when everybody else is watching people because they all look like Rock Stars.
The couple in front of me. He was extremely tall and thin, and wore a pair of shorts so baggy that they looked like pants, gold chains, NBA T-shirt and white bandana. Very short afro. The girl was in a pair of denims that can only be described as resembling paint. She was very pretty and wore a scarf in her hair and D&G sunglasses.
He was cursing loudly about something. It was all effin' this and effin' that.
She says, "Quit makin' all that noise on the street, you want everybody lookin' atcho all the time?"
I love her.
I used to write a lot of poetry. I don't so much any more. However, just now I cheated. Faked it, if you will. That bit I wrote yesterday. I took it apart. I chopped it up. I reorganized it. It's indistinguishable from the stuff I wrote years ago that took up so much energy and time. Instant poetry.
I used to think that being a poet, or at least a writer of poetry, somehow made you sexy. I still enjoy writing it, but come on. The poet has no special knowledge. The poet is nothing but a postal service.
A conference company. That was where I had my first office job. I quit (my resignation letter said little more than that) because I had some ethical problems with my boss. He was the owner and seemed to have gone to some Dickensian business school.
Recently I was having a conversation with a former co-worker who was telling me how one of the other employees, Charles, had had a nervous breakdown or a stroke or something. He asked the boss, " What's the story with Charles, where is he?"
The boss replied, "Oh, don't worry, we're not paying him."
I have some poetry I wrote when I was younger. It's terrible. But, again, we should never be ashamed of the person we were. It's hard not to. The poetry itself served a purpose. It's just unreadable. They're all obviously based on song lyrics. U2, The Cure.
But I kept at it. Now I do have some that I like and I think are readable. I won't bore you with them unless you ask.
For about five years I was very productive. For some reason though, in the last seven years, I have only managed four pieces.
My muse escaped.
We moved Pictou, Nova Scotia for a time. Nancy had gotten a job at the local printing plant. We had visited Pictou when Nancy went for her interview and it seemed like a reasonably nice town. Only 4000 people lived there and the folks we had met all seemed friendly. We found a house for rent right in town. We had the first and second floors and the basement was let out to a guy named Doogie. He seemed harmless enough if a little rough around the edges, but hell, this was a fishing town, and the boys play hard.
The first sign of trouble was the day the plumber came over to fix a problem I had with the taps in the kitchen. Everything went fine; the plumber fixed my problem. Doogie came up the stairs to the backdoor after he had gone.
"What the fuckin' monkey want?" He asked.
I didn't know how to respond. Nobody had ever used that language in front of me before. (The part about monkeys, not the fuck word.) I didn't know what to say.
"He fixed my pipes…" I mumbled in response. I shrank back into the house and closed the door.
What kind of place is this, I wondered? It's a one off. You're bound to run into racists all over the country and just as often in small towns as in large. I let it go. There was no point in teaching the finer points of racial harmony to a man with a restraining order against him.
Doogie never said anything like it again. Perhaps he was able to read other peoples emotions and could tell he had made me uncomfortable. Or perhaps he was just high as a fucking kite as he was wont to be… All the time.
Doogie had a brother.
Kipper was the town arsonist. I say that like every town has one, like it's a required role. Well, in Pictou it certainly seemed that that was the case. Town arsonist, town slut, village idiot, mayor. I first met Kipper in my role as town bartender. I worked at a pub called The PressRoom and it was owned by the same people who owned the printing plant. They ran it at a huge loss. The manager was a friend of the owners son and he ran the place like he had a degree in leisure activities.
Like he had a degree in leisure activities. Which is exactly what he had. He graduated from Dalhousie University with a Degree in Physical Education. His name was Sean and he couldn't run a bar. But that was ok with the owners as they could write off the loss every year against the taxes they had to pay on the printing business.
Kipper came in one night and in the space of two hours consumed, I swear to God, a dozen beer. I told the waitress, Michelle, to cut him off, but she said, "I like to see him spin."
As it turns out Kipper was the town arsonist. He had just been released from Springhill after spending 4 years there for burning down the Pictou courthouse. The courthouse was one of those beautiful heritage buildings you see in almost every Canadian town. Well, one night Kipper decided that the best way to deal with his up coming case involving a previous charge of arson was to put the courthouse to the torch and "let's see the judge try me then."
He was drunk of course when he did this and was caught at the scene watching the building burn.
So after Kipper was released he came back to Pictou to live near his only kin: Doogie. Kipper spent most of his time getting drunk and being asked to leave places. He was one of those drunks that immediately make everyone uncomfortable. You can see he's always just about ready to blow. Just saying something innocent can turn this sort of person ugly.
In Pictou every summer they have a lobster festival. It's a great time. The town and local businesses set up beer tents and they hire top maritime entertainers like Natalie McMaster and Great Big Sea to perform.
I went for a wander about on the Saturday night, as I didn't have to work until the next afternoon. That was when I saw Kipper. He was with his girlfriend (how guys like this get girlfriends I'll never figure out. Unless they get paired up in detox). This was where that underlying anger came out and Kipper made ready to blow. I think his girlfriend might have said something like, "I want to go home now." And kipper went fucking mental. In front of a crowd of townies and tourists he beat the ever living shit out of her.
The police weren't far away. While someone subdued Kip, someone else went and got an RCMP constable.
The girlfriend was is sorry shape. Kip was an unmerciful drunken robot.
Kipper was charged with assault causing harm, public drunkeness, and breaching the conditions of his parole. He spent the night in the lock-up and his girlfriend spent the night in the hospital with concussion, a broken nose, and various other bruises and cuts.
The girlfriend "stood by her man". When he was released the next day under caution not to contact her, they both went over to Doogies to "party".
About a week later Kipper had another brilliant idea. This one couldn't miss. He decided that if the arresting officer wasn't around there would be nobody to testify against him. A plan this simple just had to work. One night Kipper stealthily and sloppily (he was gunned on Old Hermit) approached the split-level where the officer lived with his wife and two small children. He climbed onto the front porch and out of his jacket he pulled a bag of fertilizer and a book of matches. He stood there now, before the front door and lit the bag on fire.
He pitched the bag as hard as he could against the door and was off the porch and crossing the lawn as fast as his legs could carry him.
The officer had been awoken by the noise outside and when the bag hit the door and step with a terrific thump he was up and out the door. He caught the fire just in time and was able to put it out with his bare feet. He looked out over the lawn to see if he could catch the culprit.
Stood there at the end of the lawn was Kipper.
He had turned around to watch the fire and hadn't moved.
Kipper was arrested by his intended victim. He was eventually charged with attempted murder and was sent to Dorchester Maximum.
Running should have figured in his plans somewhere, but Kip had no idea where.
That was the end of Kipper for a few years. We moved from Pictou before he returned so we never found out if he had any further adventures. It wasn't, however, the end of Doogie.
It was mid-summer. I was enjoying a cigarette on the back step just listening to the sounds of the village…
I often sat on the back deck, listened to music and smoked. From here I could experience the full force of Doogie.
As a matter of fact, when Doogie first moved in he intimidated the shit out of me. He had only just unloaded his pickup truck of the few items he had collected during his brief existence, when he stumbled up the stairs to our back door.
BOOM BOOM BOOM. He wasn't angry or anything, that was just the way he liked to knock. That was the way he liked to do everything. Big and noisy and preferably bloody.
I went to the door not knowing what to expect. I opened it a crack.
"Hey, I dint mean t'scare ya. Could I possbly use yer phone?"
He had this great big Jesus dog with him too. All black and dangerous looking. I thought that if I refused to let him in he might go ballistic (Doogie not the dog). So I let him use my phone.
"Whaddya mean yer not fuckin' ready?" He roared at whoever it was had the pleasure of this call. He went on like that for about five minutes getting redder in the face.
He was exuding that sickly sweet smell that alcoholics give off after a long binge. Nancy was none too pleased at this development and when he left she suggested we not allow it again. I was in agreement, but since he hadn't busted up the place and had even offered us some money for the use of the phone, I didn't see how we were going to refuse the next time. And you knew there was going to be a next time. I had made the mistake of opening the door and now he'd be up here all the time.
Hiding below the window frame was the way it would have to be. He did catch us on occasion, looking to use the phone, and we'd let him. He asked for aspirin once, and I accommodated him. Then he started asking for Valium and codeine.
And HE was the town dealer.
So back to the day where I was enjoying a cigarette on the back deck. Doogie was well into it by noon and getting deeper by the hour. He came out of his back door, which was directly under ours, and pinwheeled over to me.
"Got a smoke, man?"
"Yeah". I gave him a couple and helped him light one.
He seemed to be one of those guys that can take everything you throw at them, pot, coke, pills, and wash it all down with JD or something, and still they remain standing. Maybe that's the problem. By the time the rest of us have had that much we're dead and have missed the let's break stuff and kill something stage.
"What's going on today, Doogie?"
"The Woman is comin' over wid the kids and we're gonna have a barbecue."
It didn't sound fucking nice at all.
The Woman was Doogie's wife and they had restraining orders against each other. They had been living up the road in a trailer in Caribou. One night Doogie got a glow on and, like Kipper, reacted adversely to something the Woman said. Doogie grab his sawed-off shotgun, held to her head, and, in front of her sister and the collective kids, said, "I'm gonna blow yer fuckin' hed off, bitch.
The police were called and Doogie was hauled away. After he was released he moved to Pictou. He hadn't told the authorities about the move and was effectively in hiding.
The local RCMP did know he was in town. It's hard to be in hiding when you're incapable of keeping your mouth shut or a low profile.
That rest of that afternoon went by event free. The Woman came over with her sister and the kids. The Woman seemed very nice and so did her sister. The Kids, a boy and a girl, played cards with me on the deck while Doogie and the girls did God knows what in his apartment.
Nancy came home from work and I made some supper. It was becoming a nice quiet Friday night.
The bars hadn't let out yet so there was no screaming in the streets. Nancy and I sat down after our meal and watched some movies she had picked up on her way home.
At about 9 PM there was an almighty Thump that shook the walls of the house. And Again! And again!
"What the fuck is that?" I went to the window and pulled back the blind.
Doogie's door was directly below the window and just as I got to it there was one more earth shattering bang and I could see Doogie come screaming out the door.
His back was to me, but I could see that his hair was more disheveled than usual. He was banging on the roof of the Woman's car. The Woman and her sister were in the front and they were crying and terrified. The two kids were in the backseat in an even worse state. They were in shock, pale and crying, and clutching each other.
The Woman put the car into reverse and backed out of the driveway, spraying gravel. Jamming it into gear she, she took off, tires squealing.
Doogie yelled after the car, "Come back here, you bitch!"
He turned at that point and looked up towards the heavens. That was when I saw the blood. His entire face was covered with it and it was running down onto his shirt and jeans.
Like a dog being tortured he let out a scream.
So did I.
…There is more, but it's the end for now. Maybe next time I will regale you all with stories of my adventures in Newfoundland, or the restaurant industry, or (best yet) theatre.
I fancy myself a bit of an artist you see, like we all do.
It is just a fancy though.
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