REPORT A PROBLEM
Some people are writing entire novels this month, so I figure I should at least make the effort to finish a batch here. It's been so long since I completed one that I'm almost certain that this one won't get finished, either. (That's the spirit, Brad! Great start!) But almost certain isn't the same thing as certain. If I do finish, I know that I'll have nourished that beautiful little thing inside of me that refuses to stay down. It will gain strength and stamina and maybe eventually we can tagteam this bigger thing that has gotten so very ugly.
Three weeks ago, I walked into the university's counselling office, hoping to get some guidance about what to do with these problems, or maybe even a prescription. Because there are so many other crazy people at UBC, and because I answered in the negative when the receptionst asked me whether or not my situation could be considered an emergency, I had to settle for an appointment for last Friday afternoon. Friday morning, I get a reminder call, and I tell them that I'm still coming. But in the afternoon, I totally forget to go. What is happening to my mind?
Halloween night, David and I decided to go for a walk downtown to check out all of the party-goers' costumes. It was fun for a while, but once we hit Davie Street, things got a little ugly. A homeless man passed us, grumbling to me that he was about to stab somebody in the throat. Then, a trio of girls asked me to pick one of them up for a picture. I told them I probably wasn't strong enough, but tried anyway. Nope. Wasn't strong enough. They laughed and one of them told me she felt sorry for me.
I was told by the lovely swan of a girl who works at the pizzeria across from the public computer terminals where I am now sitting that there will be a fresh, delicious, vegetarian pizza coming out of the oven in five minutes. I am wearing a new winter jacket - black, fitting, and made of 100% recycled polyester. David says it makes me look handsome, adult, a nice switch from the colourful 80's ski jacket I wore last winter. In half an hour, I will be listening to some slam poetry, the taste of cheese still fresh in my mouth.
Is it just me, or is it really difficult to cook easy, protein-rich vegetarian meals that aren't swampy in texture and taste? Tonight night we made curried red lentils stew with rainbow chard, and while it was certainly a pleasant treat for the eye, the flavour and texture left something to be desired. David, who has been so patient with the lifestyle changes I've slowly been implementing into our modest household, after finishing his bowl of stew, looked at me with sad eyes and said, "Brad, I know this is good for us, but I'm tired of eating splork."
1) Get a big bag. Any reusable bag will do. Make it, buy it - whatever works.
2) Carry it around with you whenever you leave your home.
3) When you buy shit, put it in this bag.
4) If you regularly buy lots of shit at once, keep some extra bags in your bag.
5) Voila, we have eliminated the need for plastic bags.
6)Now that everyone has a bag, we can all get travel mugs because now we've got a means to transport them.
7) Hooray, there is no longer a need for disposable cups.
8) Reusable containers...
French no longer retains its appeal. I'm taking two French grammar classes right now and everyday I sit in them, trying to trick myself into believing that their content will allow me to better understand and appreciate this troubled reality. Moments of interest come few and far between, and so I've fallen into the bad habit of not doing my homework. Today one professor handed back last week's midterm, and as he gave mine to me, he said something I couldn't exactly interpret, but I'm certain they were words of disappointment. I got 50%.
"Fuck it," says the animal inside.
Inside of me there is a growing need. It's a need for being in the country, on a farm, out of the city, away from the crowds of people who fool you into believing that the most trifling of things hold some importance. I need to learn to grow things, to find things, to see things, to feel things. I need to get dirty - really dirty - covered in mud and animal blood. In feathers and feces. I need to learn to talk to the animals. I need star blankets and moon myths and I need David to come with me.
1) Enter random butchershop in Chinatown.
2) Be ignored by owner because you're white.
3) Inquire about fish balls, insistent.
4) Owner: Those aren't fish balls, but beef balls, that there is no fish found
5) Get "Stop wasting my time!" look from owner.
6) Scan drink coolers, find something good, insistent.
7) Homemade pudding cups! Grab two - one for you, one for embarrassed friend waiting outside.
8) Learn from surprised owner that one is red bean flavour, one is honeydew. $2.50.
9) Sit on nearby bus bench.
12) Catch local smiles.
It's hard to feel proud of yourself when your government sucks, when you know that only one province to the right, to the Right, to the so very
, there is a federal project underway that is the most environmentally destructive project on the planet. True, you've never wanted anything to do with these oil sands, you've never cast a black, greasy deathvote in your life, but it still does something sinister to your self-worth. Now you know how good Americans must have felt when Bush was reelected. Apologetic, unpatriotic Canadians: stay apologetic, but become patriotic. Please.
Remembrance Day was always such a big deal in elementary school, what with all of us having to memorize and recite "In Flanders Fields", shelling out a quarter every year for a poppy that was to be pinned only on the left, above the heart. We'd find out why some kids were so weird, watching them all in their cadet uniforms at the assembly, proudly laying wreaths on white wooden crosses. A dove would make an appearance. The moment of silence, of course. We'd sing solemn songs to honour every fallen hero that ever was. It was actually quite beautiful.
I was pissed off when I got home from the library - there, stretched awkwardly across the livingroom carpet from the wall to David's computer, was a TV cable cord, otherwise known as Satan's Tail. David was on the couch, remote in hand, gleefully watching The Tyra Banks Show, apparently having decided that some of my puritanical ways are pure nonsense. I've let him keep it, but the cord has to be removed after every use. And I won't condone crapwatching - in fact, I've decided that it's a dealbreaker. Am I wrong to be so adamant? Nope - television is scary shit.
Hey - you over there. Yeah, you. Are you overwhelmed with cares? Well then gosh darnit, eat some pears!
When your life feels like a big crap pile,
I know something that'll make you smile.
It's a pear! Boop, beedee boop!
A juicy pear! Boop, beedee boop!
I know you'll think I'm crazy
But you really gotta eat some pears.
*tapdancing in pear costume*
*toss pears to excited audience*
*dance through audience offering serviettes, high fives*
I know you'll think I'm crazy
but you really gotta eat some peeeeaaaars.
*banner falls: EAT LOCAL ORGANIC PEARS, bow and exit*
strawberry Lipsmackers flavour
should be studying
reading stories instead
girl: miranda july?
i love her!
she's my favourite.
you read this yet?
really? you finished?
need to study.
well, thank you.
i miss my book
romance kills me
still not studying
100 words instead
not so sure
about this tea
get a cookie?
sugar eats feet
i need help
i can't get any of this fucking work done
That man has a very beautiful scarf. It's handmade and tightly knit in a fine, cream-coloured yarn of such softness that I can feel it with my eyes from across the room. It almost looks too feminine for a guy, but whoever made it (an angel?) took care to skip certain stitches, creating a handsome argyle pattern in relief that would complement the dark, stubbly jawline of any man. There is a lot of love in that scarf, and from the way he carefully folds and drapes it over his chair, I can tell that this love is reciprocated.
It turns out that book of short stories by Miranda July is at the library nearest to my home - just there on the shelf, available, no holds on it, no requests, not in transit or in repair, nothing. It seems almost too good to be true, but there it is in all of its bright yellow hardcover splendour, waiting for me to finish it.
This is the work of God.
This is the beauty of magic.
These are the jewels of karma.
These are the pellets of owls.
This is your local library.
zen in transit
ride up a hill
a stranger's tired head lilts
rests on my shoulder
a girl on her cellphone
tells an animated story
i imagine real laughter
on the other end
a wet umbrella
brushes my knee
and a stain appears
one stop from home
a seat becomes empty
a van swerves
our driver brakes
we all jerk
in surprised unison
we look around
everyone is okay
"hold on tight"
over the speaker
our smiles widen
a tree whirs past
and then another
You and your wife get in an argument over something and in your frustration, you hit her for the first and last time. You slam your fist hard into her shoulder and you both recoil from the fateful action, stepping back. You back into a door, but she backs into the stairwell that the jolt has erased from her memory. When she remembers, it is already too late. She is sailing backward, screaming, and then you can't decide what's worse - the terrified look she gives you as she falls or the sound of her spine shattering on the floor below.
Aneeta was here when David walked in with the jasmine plant. She smiled when she saw him with it, then looked at me like I was the luckiest guy in the world. "Your plants will grow if you recite poetry to them," she said. And so sometimes I do, especially to the jasmine plant that now sits front and center in our living room. In the summer it bloomed every two or three days, but now just once every month or so: first a bud, then a dense ball of white, then one day - aah - those delicate petals, that scent!
When I was very young, Mom would often bring me to AA meetings with her. I think it was at these meetings that I began to develop the senstivity to the problems of the world that greatly affects my daily life. learned to respect First Nations peoples at these meetings and I also learned a serenity prayer that gets me through tough times, even though I'm still not sure what "God" implies:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
My oldest nephew is staying with us for the weekend and we're both pretty excited about it. It'll give us a chance to see what kind of parents we would make and also what four year olds are all about. I anticipate being very tired by the end of it, because our itinerary is stuffed tighter than SpongeBob's SquarePants - the aquarium, Chinatown, the library, Oobleck, Granville Island, a ferry ride across False Creek, the art gallery, the SkyTrain - whoo! I'm exhausted just thinking about it. I just hope he has fun and that he remembers his visit with his funcles.
Well, I certainly have a new appreciation for what my sister does everyday. This little one and a littler one on top of that, plus another even littler one on the way - where does a person find the time and energy? I suppose parents aren't always doing whirlwind tours around the city via public transit, but there's still a lot of work involved, a lot of thinking on your toes and forgetting about your own needs. It's worth it, though. Here's why:
"One time in Regina I ate my fingernail and it tasted like lemon pie."
In a carnivalesque dream I once had, I found myself working in a vintage clothing store. The boss really liked me (I think we were lovers) but the other employees steered clear of me and my lack of style. How could I fit in with the scruffy hipster guy with the silver sequin top hat, forever shimmying in front of the mirror with his matching cocktail dress? Or the pierced up punk girl and her ironically plantium blonde spikes? After a confronation, she took pity on me and handed me a volume from her extensive style library: The Retro Nerd.
Is this dream a cosmic vision? Should I go out and spend a good chunk of my student loan a bunch of garments from a gentler bygone era? It's tempting, but I don't know if I could pull off any one style for long and I don't want to get caught up in superficialities. I don't want compliments on what would be very tasteful choices. I want to be nondescript, to lurk in the background of modern life and all of its superficialities, taking lots of candid, scathing notes.
Fashion is for people who are too ugly to enjoy nature.
The Chinese girl sitting beside me uses four different pens to take her notes - blue, green, black, red - one for the date, one for the title, one for general notes, one for very important notes. It's not really relevant that she's Chinese, because there are girls of every kind all over the classroom, all focused, organized, happy. Perfect hair. I look down at my notes, scribbled here and there between all the whimsical doodles with a cheap, blue, lidless pen. The ink could run out any second now and I wouldn't have a replacement. I wouldn't care. I am lost.
The girls here
Wear silken scarves
And feathered earrings
And their hair in long waves.
The boys here
Wear floppy toques
And plaid flannel
And their beards in harvest stubble.
The soup here
The bowls here
Are hand thrown
And washed by volunteers.
The coffee here
Is fair trade
And 75 cents
The music here
And drifting through meaningful conversation.
The purpose here
Is to get away
And to be nourished
And to feel community.
The me here
I'm not the kind of person who can justify spending more than twenty bucks on a haircut. I usually just go to the Great Clips down the road and and get a trim from a nice Iranian lady, or from a nice Filipino lady - it depends on who's not busy when I walk in. We ask one another a few polite questions while the job is getting done - I ask about their families or if the shop has been busy that day and they ask me about my schooling. They get bits of itchy hair down my shirt. The end.
Me: Help me write my 100 Words.
David: Um, okay. What do I do?
Me: Tell me a story.
David: Once in a land far from here there lived an old woman and her cat. This story is not about the woman. As the cat grew older and wiser, it began to realize that there was a world outside the walls of its floral print prison. It longed to run free in the mouse-busy meadows.
Me: The mouse-busy meadows?
David: Yep, the mouse-busy meadows. But sadly, the cat was lame and depended on its warden for dinner.
Eleven suggestions for a greener, more meaningful Christmas:
1) Make gifts instead of buying them.
2) Send Christmas cards to all the deserving people in your life.
3) Make your own wrapping paper with parcel wrap or newspaper and paint.
4) Donate time or money to a charity.
5) String popcorn.
6) Watch Christmas movies.
7) Read Christmas books.
8) Go to church at least once, if only to appreciate the beauty of the human voice.
9) Decorate your home with the forest floor - pine cones, holly sprigs, cedar boughs...
10) Start a new tradition.
11) Buy fair trade gifts.
Well, I did it. I finished my 100 Words for the month. Technically, I still have to finish this entry here, but short of an asteroid or an earthquake or a stroke within the next few minutes, I have finished. Make room for me at the winner's circle, everybody! Today, despite the rain, I will hold my head high and smiling, imagining myself to be a superhero of some sort. I might even wear a cape made of my batch in size 36 font, printed out on 8.5x11 paper, carefully taped together, billowing about me like a fresh aura.
The Tip Jar