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Every Hallowe'en, I find myself asking the same question: whatever happened to Hallowe'en candy? Of course, people still give out candy (in decreasing numbers, to decreasing numbers of kids, it seems ... in my neighbourhood, anyway).
But I'm referring to those toffees that used to come in the black and orange wrappers with pictures of pumpkins and brooms and cats on them.
Not that I liked getting them. Actually, next to the always dubious homemade treats, they were just about the least desireable thing to get. It's just sad to think they are part a bygone era now, like penny candy.
I always like talking to Chris McDonald, because he has such an inquisitive mind about what is surrounding him. He got me to read Michael Redhillís book, Consolation. He got me to visit the Toronto Archives, both online and in person. He got me to wander about the necropolis in Cabbagetown, looking for William Lyon McKenzieís grave. He got me to visit the Bank of Upper Canada at the corner of what was once Duke and George. And to view the diorama of the Town of York in the old Post Office. And he made it all fun to do.
Not to mention my wonderful friend, Roy. Recently, he gave me a terrific DVD containing the TV series ďItís Always Sunny in Philadelphia.Ē Iím watching it now. And itís so good, I canít stop myself. The way things are going, Iím never going to get my hundred words in tonight. Well, thatís the way it goes. Sometimes, you canít give one hundred and ten percent. You have to phone it in. Iím sure Iíll be doing that on more than one occasion. So Iím just preparing you now. Whereís the word count? Shit! Eight more to go. What can I
When I was a boy, Viet Nam was a faraway place. It was somewhere in Asia. There was a war going on there, but I didnít really know where it was. Cambodia and Laos used to pop up in relation to what was happening in Viet Nam. But they were different, faraway places. I didnít really know where they were, either.
I didnít understand geography. And I didnít realize that, for Viet Nam, there was another country, less often mentioned during the war, looming above. One that posed a threat before the United States got there, and after they left.
I was thinking about Viet Nam, because President-elect Obama is talking about ramping up the mission in Afghanistan. He is even making noises about Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists.
And, aside from the sheer lunacy of the idea of "bringing (American) democracy to Afghanistan", I keep thinking: "Has he looked at a map?" There's India to the southeast, China to the east and Russia to the north.
Americans love to call Afghanistan "Russia's Viet Nam." Well, they're going to have an Afghanistan of their very own. But adding Pakistan to the mix makes it even scarier, I'm afraid.
I never knew what to make of Al Franken's run for the Senate. Even though he had spent a number of years doing political comedy, I don't think anyone expected him to actually win the Democratic nomination in Minnesota, let alone do well in the election. But he seems to have lost by only a few hundred votes, and is now demanding a recount.
Not to mention Alaska. Not only did they bless comedians with Sarah Palin, it's citizens just re-elected convicted felon and master of pork barrel politics, Ted Stevens. American politics can be pretty odd. Just like anywhere.
Whenever there is an American election, I'm always reminded of how little Canadians know about Mexico. We always get into a snit about how little Americans know about Canada. But why would they? We're just those "affable snow creatures" on the other side of the world's largest unguarded border, as Joe Flaherty once said on SCTV.
For God's sake, there are approximately 30 million Canadians. There are over 100 million Mexicans. That's 100 million people on a piece of land a lot smaller than ours. Try naming the 31 states of Mexico sometime. I'll start. There's one called Quintana Roo.
Today, the leaves are falling like mad from the maple tree in our backyard. They seem to be leaping from the branches, they're falling so fast.
Every year I wonder at how unobservant I am. Does it happen around the same day every year? (I know it's in the autumn, thanks!) The leaves change colour, first to red, then to yellow. And I wait for them to flutter to the ground.
Maybe it's because I'm not thinking of the beauty of their colour, or of the wonder of nature's cycle. I'm thinking about raking. Who can get excited about raking?
On one job I had when I was younger, I used to buy foot-long submarine sandwiches. I loved hot peppers. I would get extra on my subs. My supervisor, an easy-going sixty-five year old man, would say while I was eating, "Mmmmm, that sure looks good. Are those hot peppers?" I'd say yes and offer him a bite, and he would say. "No way. I love hot peppers." Pause. "But they don't like me."
I'd ask him what would happen if he had some, but he wouldn't tell me. He would only smile. I thought, "Surely, just a little heartburn."
And then it happened to me.
I was delivering calendars for my mother one winter day. I stopped for a hot veal sandwich, laden with jalapeno peppers. Which had never been a problem before.
But this time, that warm feeling that I got in my stomach for about a half an hour after eating jalapeno peppers didnít go away. It just Ö stayed there. Until about 3:30 or 4:00. When it felt as though someone had begun working on one spot in my stomach with a blow torch. Soon I began to salivate uncontrollably like someoneís proverbial dog.
Once the heat in my stomach had me salivating, I hoped that I could forestall the inevitable. But as I approached the top of the hill on Pape just below Danforth, the need to stop became overwhelming.
I pulled over, leapt from the car, ran into a nearby alleyway, found a quiet spot and promptly threw up.
As I stood between retches, it felt like I'd reached another milestone on the road to old age. Now I would only be able to look wistfully at a sub with hot peppers and say, "I like them, but they don't like me."
A friend of mine and I attended a marvelous concert at Trinity-St. Paul's church yesterday. It was for Remembrance Day, and the pieces were all settings of poems from A.E. Houseman's "A Shropshire Lad." Housman's poems were published in 1896, but are full of the pessimism that one associates with World War One.
Some of the settings, particularly the ones by Ralph Vaughan Williams, were striking, and were helped by the fact that both singers were excellent, the tenor in particular. His diction was superb, and I've always found that my enjoyment increases the better I understand what's being sung.
There are times when I miss singing, particularly when I attend a concert that I enjoy. I don't wish I was up on stage in place of the performers. But it reminds me how beautiful and uplifting the human voice, unmiked and in a sympathetic setting, can be.
I'd still rather listen to someone sing in a church than anywhere else. I felt that as I sat in the pews of Trinity-St. Paul's. I looked around at the balcony, the arched ceiling and the stained glass and thought, "Oh yes. This is for something besides music. I can't think why."
With my wife and daughter gone to Japanese language school, I'm left with the stillness and silence of a Saturday morning. I browse the Globe and Mail, the Hello Kitty clock ticking in the background. Occasionally, I hear a car engine in the street, or the voice of someone passing the house.
I used to think that an environment like this would induce creativity. That silence would begat inspiration. But at age 47, the opposite seems to be true. I've found that comfort inspires lethargy, too much dreaming and not enough doing.
Time to rouse myself and leave the womb.
Once I was at a party, and there was a woman who said that one of her boyfriends had given his penis a name. As usual in situations like these, I was so surprised by this that I hadn't asked the question that begged to be asked: So what did he name it?
Naturally, if he was the sort of person who would name his penis, he probably wasn't given to subtlety. He wouldn't have called it something pleasant like "Sunny Jim", or something apposite from literature like "Buck Mulligan."
No, more likely it was a dull, priapic, machine-like name.
This whole penis naming thing ... it all seems a little far fetched. It reminds me of the scene in "The Big Lebowski", when Maud Lebowski speaks of how "a man will refer to (his penis as) his dick or his rod or his Johnson."
Would a woman name her vagina? Would someone's girlfriend invite her partner to "fall into the abyss", or to "visit the grotto" or "ride the subway"?
This is all sounding like the letters one read as a teenager in Penthouse forum, where references to "moist love thatches" seemed real enough to excite fervid adolescent imaginations.
Consternation reigned. I can't remember where I read those two words, but I've always loved them. I'm sure Philip Larkin wrote them. He must have been writing about a classroom. It suits one.
I can remember consternation reigning countless times, a group of 30-odd (or thirty, odd) youngsters reduced to confused, worried silence by an assignment or a silly question or some paradox.
I also remember a time my grade six teacher slowly convinced everyone that it was possible to safely step off of a plummetting elevator the moment before it hit the ground. A time consternation should have reigned.
As days grow shorter, the world seems to spin faster. Time and events are beyond control now. How did I get here is a question not even worth asking. Although at times I imagined I was following a plan, that was a kind of self-deception. The impromptu plan now is a desperate one.
Where this will lead is anybody's blind guess. But what seemed like it might become an adventure isn't an adventure now. It's just survival. The mystery, the wonder, discovery ... the stimuli of the imagination were traded for something else. For small comfort. Which is no comfort now.
My daughter is 11 years old, and has a long, narrow face much like mine. It wasn't always like this. When she was born, she had a round head and looked very Japanese. But as she has grown, her facial structure, even the shape of her head, has changed gradually.
I was surprised by this when I looked at some of her baby pictures last week. It seems almost like she was a different person. So many of my facial traits have appeared the last few years.
If she is lucky, though, she will keep my wife's small, cute nose.
The first movie I saw at an Imax theatre was "A Series of Unfortunate Events." It was at the request of my daughter, of course. Mika had read all of the books, and was looking forward to seeing the movie. It last winter, so she was wearing a winter coat with a hood.
She sat staring straight ahead the whole movie, her coat on, her hood on her head to muffle the sound. I was worried that she found it overwhelming, but when we got to the end, she didn't want to move until the final credits were completely finished.
I went and saw "Madagascar 2" with my daughter today. We saw it at an Imax theatre, which has become our preferred venue for watching movies together.
I've never been a blockbuster, "big event" kind of movie-goer. But I must admit, the right kind of film is much better in an Imax setting. I can't say that any of them have stayed with me, though. They're just like rollercoaster rides. Fun to repeat, possibly thrilling to experience; but nothing that makes a real lasting impression after it's done.
I wouldn't want to make too much of a habit of it.
I went to YouTube the other day looking for one of my favourite jokes. It's the one Robin Williams tells at the end of "The Aristocrats." It probably made me laugh so hard when I saw it because, after over 90 minutes of seeing comedians tell variations on the same filthy joke over and over, it was a relief to hear something different.
A rabbi walks into a bar. He has a frog on his shoulder. The bartender says, "Hey, where'd you get that?" The frog says, "Brooklyn! There're hundreds of them."
Well, I'd rather hear it than read it.
When I was growing up in the sixties, it seemed as though every TV show would feature a wannabe psychedelic band. But the worst part was their name would sound completely bogus. I mean, even when I was a pre-teen, I could smell the stink of inauthenticity emanating from those names.
Then the same thing seemed to happen with Punk Bands. They could never be raw enough or capture the necessary amount of ironic stupidity required to make a good, authentic local punk name sound real. I used to think I could come up with better names without even trying.
Made-up Names of Punk Bands
Cans of Jesus's Piss
Stephen Harper's Manboobs
Dial F for "Fuck You"
Virtue is for Patients
Gallons of Swallowed Cum
Diet of Worms
Speak My Name and Barf
Triumph of the Dull
Rarin' ta Go
Mom's in the Toilet
Gunned Down by Chickens
Rite of Sausage
Trussed in God
Dumb as Dirt
The Number on That Truck
Steve Buscemi in the Woodchipper
Kittens in the Dryer
Co-pilots on Mescaline
And Now Here's a Found Poem:
Good Names of Real Punk Bands...
Armed and Hammered
Bratty and the Babysitters
Screamin' Sam and the Problems
There's No Solution ... So There's No Problem (record title, actually)
The Dayglo Abortions
The Disgruntled Postal Workers
Blibber and the Rat Crushers
Elvis' Love Child
The Nancy Sinatras
(RCMP) Rednecks Cause My Problems
Shitloads of Fuck All
...and this was spray painted on an overpass in Ottawa:
I'll stop there because I can't find more good, obscure punk band names.
Writing 100 words a day is like any other assignment. At first, it's easy to do. Anyone who likes to write has a few ideas at hand, or maybe a theme to work on for a couple of days, and can churn out a few pieces confidently.
Soon it becomes work. You feel up to the challenge for a while, but it slowly becomes more onerous, until finally it's a burden, one more job that's piled up at the end of the day.
Christ, maybe I can put it off and do a couple tomorrow. Oh, oh. Now it's three.
Is this how a newspaper columnist feels?
What do I write about today? I'm an informed, intelligent person. I've got unique opinions and ideas. Why, I'm just full of them.
Full of something, anyway.
Wait, don't become cynical. Let's open the newspaper here. Hmmmm. Terror in Mumbai. Oh, that's depressing. How about "Cynical Tories aim to cut off vote subsidy to opposition parties." Naw. Too many people who didn't even know it was happening will like the idea.
Sports. Oh, who cares? I'm too old to get excited about young men physically abusing themselves for millions of dollars.
He eased the sheer straps of her nightie from her shoulders and let them come to rest for a moment on her bare upper arms. Then they slowly slid along the contours of her body the rest of the way to the ground, coming to rest in a gossamer-like heap at her feat.
Her bare breasts were as beautiful as he had imagined, her brown nipples perfect because they were part of her.
She noticed his gaze wasn't moving. It seemed to rest on her neck. She felt helpless. "What's wrong," she asked.
He said, "It's these fucking hundred words."
How many to go? Let's see. 30 days hath September, April, June and ...
Ah, good. If only it were February.
With my luck, it would be a leap year.
You know, twice a week might be a better assignment than seven times a week. But then it would be even easier to put off.
At this point, it's just a grammar and counting exercise. And my computer does the counting. What note should I end this on?
Captain, do you remember how I used to try to get you to look at my legs? Captain! LOOK AT MY LEGS!!
Great Movie Titles:
Drug Dealin' Biker Chimps
Asian and Unafraid
Bad at Being Bad
Gidget Goes 7-11
Godzilla vs. Home Alone
Dick Cavett IS "Undaunted ... by Harsh Criticism"
Growing Up Timid
Vengeful Grandma 3: Grandma vs. Those Neighbour Boys
Nonsensical Tirades of the Damned
Neko the Irate Cat
Dildo Fucked Beach Punks
Eddie Murphy in Clumps 4: The Lazy Jihadist
Advice for the Stupid
Reese Witherspoon is "Blonde and Impregnable"
The Callow Swordsman
A Challenge Declined
Time Stops for Everyone
The Whiniest Hobo
Liberal Christians to the Rescue
Maudlin Beauties of 1979
Steven Seagal is "Barely Lucid"
The Tip Jar