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As 2010 approaches, I’m beginning to get people hinting at wanting to stay with me during the Olympics in Vancouver. My family members in Saskatchewan, my friends overseas, and people I’ve just met here during my Manitoban holiday, are already trying to get first dibs on my futon for three years from now. But I just want to tell everyone to stop being so prematurely selfish, that there are no dibs to be firsted in this situation. When 2010 arrives, I will be alone in my apartment, hiding from a grossly overpopulated city.
The Devil wears a red Roots beret.
When I’m walking around town just doing my thing, I love it when I’m interrupted by strangers.
“Excuse me,” they might say, and immediately I can feel my excitement gland working itself into a fit down in my belly.
“Maybe this lady’s an aura reader and she’s going to tell me about my exceptionally beautiful aura,” I think. Or, “Maybe I’m about to have an hour-long conversation with this guy about current events.”
These things never happen though – she usually asks for the time or directions, he for an extra cigarette or quarter. Still, talking to strangers is always a treat.
I love the summer nights here in Winnipeg. I can walk around in a t-shirt and shorts and let the tepid, moist air warm my exposed limbs. Locals often complain about the mosquitoes but somehow these little ones haven’t yet gotten under my skin. They always seem to have better things to do than to bite me. Instead, they dance around me as I pace along the moon-sparkled Red River, hoisting themselves with fevered wings up and over the tiny, omnipresent beads of humidity. And the breeze! Always a little breeze to blow away any discomfort the heat may bring.
Sometimes when I'm riding in a car or on a bus across the Saskatchewan prairie, I like to imagine the scenery in a pure state - without the dull, industrial gray of the highway, the unnatural gleam of passing vehicles. Nothing but the immense blue sky and the stretching green plain. But then another part of my brain kicks in and tells me that this dream is not reality, that our lives are filled with roads and machines and people. And so I look to the asphalt in search of a better-hidden beauty among the oil spots and shredded semi tires.
The Way of the Cookie: Introduction
Too often I find myself at a Chinese restaurant surrounded by persons who debase and degrade the near-ancient and sacred method of fortune cookie divination. Most have been misled into believing that these tiny pinched-moon pockets of buttery vanilla clairvoyance are to be taken lightly, if at all, and it shows in every way they interact with them. In the short guide that follows, I hope to teach and inspire readers everywhere to treat these cookies - these edible oracles - with the same amount of respect with which they would treat their future selves.
Lesson 1: Choosing Your Destiny
Most of the time fortune cookies will arrive in a haphazard pile on top of the bill or receipt. You may be tempted to thoughtlessly grab from this pile at random and begin unwrapping immediately, but as you rip through the cellophane, you are most likely tearing into the fortune belonging to someone else at your table. Be patient and choose carefully. Either take the cookie that stands out to you from among the others or take the cookie whose “arms” are pointing closest to you, the one yearning to embrace you in its premonition.
Lesson 2: Never Doubt the Wisdom of the Cookie
Sometimes when you crack through the sweet, brittle shell of a fortune cookie, you will be confronted with a little slip that contains what seems like more of a personality assessment than any sort of fortune. And there is a good probability that you will disagree with the assessment given, knowing yourself like you do. However, keep in mind that the message is describing the you of tomorrow, not necessarily the you who is holding the message between your fingers today. You are a changeable creature, and the cookie knows this.
Lesson 3: Twin Fortunes
At the end of a satisfying Chinese buffet, you and your kin might enjoy reading aloud your cookie fortunes in turn, while the spring rolls and wonton dance and digest in your happy gullets. And perhaps, every so often, this activity brings disappointment when you find that you have the same fortune as one or more of your fellow diners. If this happens, do not sulk and say that you have the same fortune as Sandy or Kevin. Instead, read your fortune as you would have, and smile knowing that you keep company with like spirits.
Lesson 4: Just Eat the Damn Thing
Perhaps you have learned that it is best not to eat the cookie if the fortune inside is slightly foreboding. This is not so! Never deprive yourself of this delicious golden snack, as any sort of abstinence will do nothing to change your fate. Instead, I recommend that, good fortune or bad fortune, you chew the biscuit into a paste and let it rest for a moment on your tongue as you absorb the unique flavour. Your palette cleansed, you will have a greater appreciation for your prospected luck or your prescribed warning.
Lesson 5: The Most Important Lesson of All
There are people out there, who, in an attempt to be humorous, will tack the words ‘in bed’ onto the end of their fortunes. While the fortune cookie experience is meant to be fun (it was, after all, a novelty initiated in 20th Century California and not historic China), it is not meant to be sullied with mid-90’s toilet humour. Therefore, if you ever encounter a person who insists on spoiling a respectable
with lame innuendo, stab their eyes with your chopsticks and pour soy sauce in the resulting wounds.
Alyssa sits in the kitchen with her realization. She can hear the TV in the other room and she imagines her grandma sitting there in her chair, watching the show, fat and chain-smoking, like always. She only ever moves to get food or to go to the bathroom. “Quit fucking bothering me!” her grandma had screamed at her earlier, when she’d asked if she wanted to play with her. “I’m too old to be fucking playing! I’ve had a hard life!” So Alyssa sits in the kitchen contemplating the words “a hard life” and being terrified of her possible future.
“You ought to get yourself some new pants,” they all told the man with holes in his jeans. But he simply didn’t hear them. He had other things than pants on his mind. “How about that neat-looking dog,” he thought, staring out the window. And, “What is this pretty little tune playing in my head? I wonder if I just made it up or if it’s a song I heard when I was a boy.” “The world’s going crazy and I’ll just have to let it.” “I sure do love to feel that breeze on my knees. Yes I do.”
Confess to me that you’ve done something stupid, and the drinks won’t be on me; I won’t stay up late with you smoking cigarettes, trying to get you to laugh at jokes that’ll make you forget for an evening. Nope. I’ll probably just listen to you for a while, make you cry with my opinion, and make you nod with my advice. Then I’ll hang up the phone or leave the café, and trust you to sort things out like an adult. This will be the extent of my compassion. You will hate me for not letting you off easy.
The old hippy woman, who stands on Main Street every afternoon screaming at the town drivers about carbon emissions, has a dirty secret. On Sundays, when everyone else is in church, she pulls a motorized lawn mower from her decrepit garden shed and cuts her grass. She keeps a jerrycan full of gasoline on hand to fill the tank if necessary. She just can’t resist the thrill of the ripcord, the shuddering engine, the sting of herbage whipping against her purple-veined shins, the tingling sensation in her arms long afterward… And the back-arching guilt! Oh, the dripping ecstasy of hypocrisy!
No one could understand it at first. Even the scientists who presented their discovery on international television seemed a bit confused about it. But everyone was in accordance that it was the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen. It was oin, the world’s new primary colour, created through nuclear defripitization of helium atoms. Within days, it became the colour to wear, the colour to own, the colour to
; the Crayola standard 8-pack became a 9-, and McDonald’s famed arches had a new hue. Within a week, from space, the Earth bedazzled the void in blue, green, and oin.
“Are you?” I can hear my two-year-old nephew yelling from upstairs. He’s looking for me, but I’m hiding in the basement, taking a much-needed break from the cartoons, the board books, the search for lost toys, and the constant duty of supervision. “Are you?” he calls out again with a little more desperation.
I am here
, I answer silently to myself.
Uncle Brad just needs a few minutes.
But I’m so tired!
“Are you?” I give in and ascend the stairs, exhausted, but flattered to be such a highly regarded playmate. “Here I am!” I say. Big smiles.
There is a park in the middle of downtown Regina where the weird kids go to be weird. Dissatisfied with life, they wear brown spots into the grass as they sit in circles, smoking pot, letting fresh tattoos and piercings heal, and trying to ignore the world outside the park. I spent a summer there when I was about fourteen, but stopped going when I learned the difference between anarchy and apathy. Even now, six or seven years later, I see the same sad souls sitting in those circles. If only their minds would grow as fast as their dreadlocks.
When he found out that his boyfriend was going to Japan for a year he wasn’t sad. Nope, instead he just filled his head with super cute thoughts of his boyfriend taking his heart right along with him on his travels. He pictured the little thing palpitating at its first taste of wasabi, beating along the brightly lit streets of Tokyo, and its tiny aorta poking out the neck hole of a specially made silk kimono.
Konnichiwa. Watashi wa haato desu.
“Why be sad when you can just think of cute shit?” he thought. And he was never sad again.
I’ve gotten into the bad habit of detagging all of the unflattering photos of myself on Facebook. All it takes is an awkward angle or an unfortunate shadow and these pictures are removed from my profile forever. I hate that I have this vanity in me! I wish I could just accept my spaghetti arms and noodle neck and lasagna nose (never mix metaphors!) and stop worrying about what people might think of my body. Because no matter how scrawny I may be, and no matter how much my profile may resemble that of an anteater, I’m still B-rad. Hahaha!
Tonight I feel sorry for all the Deans out there. And the Katrinas. And the Andrews. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to share a title with a hurricane. To know that at the mention of your name, thousands of people would shudder to remember a certain storm that destroyed their homes or killed their family members. Why do they dub hurricanes with human names anyway? Tsunamis and earthquakes and other horrendous events aren’t named after people. They didn’t take Chernobyl and call it Nuclear Disaster Stephanie. I’m not trying to be funny here - this really bothers me.
My step dad’s in Chetumal right now – right on the coast of the Yucatan where the hurricane hit hard. This is one of the reasons why I was so riled up about hurricanes yesterday. Apparently he spent the storm in a fortified garage with a neighbour and thankfully no one was hurt. We got a call from him tonight from a miracle payphone that’d somehow retained its dial tone. He told us about the debris, the destroyed homes, the uprooting of every single tree in the area, and worst of all, the birds – thousands of dead tropical birds strewn everywhere.
A friend once told me that my writing is too literal and it has haunted me ever since. I now feel guilty every time I write a paragraph without a simile or allusion, like I’m not trying hard enough. But today I’ve decided that I’m not going to feel bad about this any longer. A person shouldn’t have to hunt after the metaphorical. If interesting links between words and images reveal themselves to me, then by all means I’ll write them out, but I’m not going to worry if my heart feels like simply seeing things for what they are.
Bonjour. Je m’appelle Brad. J’ai vingt-deux ans. J’habite à Vancouver. J’ai une soeur. Elle a deux fils, donc j’ai deux neveux. Ils s’appellent Braden et Logan. J’aime les arc-en-ciels. Ils sont très beaux. Je suis en train de écrire une paragraphe courte en français mal, parce que je n’ai pas quelque chose pour écrire en anglais ce soir. Peut-être je devrais écrire en français tout le temps ici à 100 Words, mais je pense il n’y a pas de personnes qui voudrais lire les histoires en français. Je ne sais pas. Je me couche maintenant. Bonne nuit et bonnes rêves!
What is Oprah doing for sustainability? Nothing, that’s what. The other day she had Al Gore on her show doing a condensed version of “An Inconvenient Truth” and I thought, “Good for you, Oprah. Get that word nice and spread, girl!” But today her guest was Colin Cowie, and she just sat there oohing and aahing over his flamboyantly ostentatious wedding designs. “I want five thousand roses for every table! Let’s have the priest wear a Vera Wang habit!” How can she support such opulence? Her wisdom, book club, and charity all drown in the pool of her vomitous materialism.
I’d been looking for a copy of Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson for weeks now; it’s one of the books I need for my upcoming First Nations Studies class. Today I walked into a used bookstore here in Calgary, where I’m spending these last days of summer with my sister, and found it. In fact, it was the first book on the shelves to catch my eye. I opened it up to check the price and was taken aback by the following inscription:
May good spirits guide you.
I am in harmony with the world.
I once had a pen pal who lived in London. His name was Ben. We exchanged emails and letters and post cards and parcels for almost two years. We never met, but we offered our thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams so freely to one another that we became lovers. I fell in love with him first, at a time when he was not prepared to love me. And then he fell in love with me, at a time when I was not prepared to love him. Now we no longer write, both unprepared to give friendship a try.
Laura’s mom is throwing an afternoon birthday party for Laura’s younger sister, Christine. Christine and a handful of other five year-old girls are sitting in a circle on the hardwood, making necklaces out of big wooden beads and yarn. The girls had been having trouble keeping the beads from sliding off the back end of their strings, so Laura’s mom has given Laura and me – two seven year-olds too cool to make their own necklaces – the important job of holding these tricky string ends, locking the beads in place with our fingers until the necklaces are ready to be tied.
Going over to Laura’s was like jumping into an episode of Little House on the Prairie – a fascinating break from the Married With Children marathon going on at my own house. Her parents were bifocal- and cardigan-wearing old people. My dad was a wannabe biker and my mom had a rose-tattooed crotch. I think spending time with her family influenced me quite a bit; I remember wanting a library card because Laura was already halfway finished reading the Nancy Drew series, and them introducing me to exotic vegetables:
“This cucumber tastes kind of weird.”
“It’s not cucumber, Brad. It’s zucchini.”
For the longest time I was embarrassed of my parents and our house. Other kids had moms and dads with degrees, while neither of mine finished high school. They had moms with long, beautiful hair and dads with crew cuts, not the other way around. They had finished basements and trampolines in their backyards. Other kids seemed to have it much better than me in all respects. It took me a while to figure out that none of these things mattered. My parents were unique and interesting. My mom taught me about love and I inherited Dad’s sense of humour.
He sat there at the train station waiting for her. He’d been five minutes early. He rarely made arrangements to go out with people, but when he did he always made sure to be a little early because he didn’t like to make people wait for him, to be an inconvenience. She was now twenty minutes late. He wasn’t inconvenienced. He’d given up on being inconvenienced. He’d come to expect this of people. Anticipating this lateness, he now brought a book with him whenever he was meeting someone. Or sometimes he’d just sit and wonder when rudeness became the norm.
He’d give her another ten minutes. He’d made it a rule for himself that he’d only ever wait half an hour for someone late in meeting him. After that he’d leave and go about his day, alone, never having to wait for himself for anything. Often when people were really late, he’d begin wishing they wouldn’t show within that half hour, just so he could take off and spend the afternoon the way he would have spent it otherwise. But as soon as he wished this, they would emerge from the crowd, ready with their fabricated excuses and insincere apologies.
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