Grave Game, Round 1

Did you know?

My friend, Ria, plays a mighty fine Grave Game: think up the best epitaph you can, for posterity’s sake. It certainly helps to pass the inevitable time.

(I guess the game should be called “Epitaphs,” but sometimes the names pick themselves.)

Nobody will ever read your yearbook, but someone’s bound to walk pass your grave.

 

Round 1:

– I Never Read The Book.

– Must Be Nice.

– Bitch, Please.

– Meh.

– Omar Coming.

BEHIND YOU.

– Fine Enough.

– Here Lies Lisa Simpson.

– My Other Grave Is A Camaro.

– Kind Of Hard Not To Take This Personally.

– Weasel Popped.

– I Doughnut Care.

– Shredded Hearts Or Cheese, Makes No Difference.

– I Voted.

– What? These Old Bones?

– Lousy.

– “The Thing in Quotes That Defines Me.”

– Am The Dust Collecting Now.

– No More Fart Jokes.

– I Tried, I Tired.

– Don’t Blink.

– Have A Nice Summer!

– The Whole Thing Was Pretty Distracting.

– Imagine Now How I’d Look In Real Life.

– People. Do. It. Every. Day.

– Finally Got It.

– Better You Than Me.

– I Used To Be A Lot Better Than This.

– Now Comes The Hard Part.

– Yoga? Dead Anyway.

– The Movie Was Better.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Celebrity, Communications, Death, Downtime, Friends, Games

The Quick and the Dead

“Books are dead!” proclaimed my guest, who wasn’t really a guest as a surprise visitor who came in with one of my actual guests. He was just that type, just the sort of person to do just that, just to give you an idea.

It is my fault for letting him in, I know. Though I do not take responsibility for his behaviour. That would be asking too much, I think. It would be expecting the whole world.

Books are dead!” he cried out again, after I faltered in my response, not knowing exactly what he was getting at (but also noting all the books we have weighing down the shelves and invading the little free spaces of our tiny apartment).

I read for work,” he continued. Incredible. There was an aura of self-induced triumph about him.

And that’s what made me think of the boy.

It was a Saturday morning and the subway car was, as usual, overcrowded – Stephen and I and quite a few others were jammed up close, near a young boy and his mother, who were seated but nonetheless closed in with the rest of us.

The mother sat by the window, the boy sat towards the aisle.

“Eee-er-rect? Ee-rect-a?” said the boy.

His mother ruefully shook her head, but did not discourage him. She smiled to herself and then at us as her son struggled with the ad hanging tantalizingly above our heads, its message as yet a mystery to his young mind.

“Dis-disfunct. Dis-func-sia-in,” he enunciated, carefully, loudly, heedlessly.

We waited. Stephen and I, the boy’s mother and the boy, and the half dozen people to our immediate left and right in that moment became a coterie, a clique, an inner circle facing out. The world be damned.

The boy continued: “E-rect-tile. Erectile! Dis…dysfunct-dysfunction!”

There was so much laughter threatening in that moment to break through. The boy’s mother congratulated him – sincerely, proudly – on his having mastered two very difficult words. Who would dare laugh then, and spoil everything?

And then the boy asked, pointing to the ad: “What is it?”

His mother looked at him. She looked at us. She looked out the window. “Ask your father,” she deadpanned.

So much laughter then, the boy’s merging with ours and I think, not because he understood his mother’s exquisite joke or deft delivery, but because, together, they had elicited a moment of joy out of the drudgery of the everyday. His mother laughed as she pulled him to her, beaming.

“Books are dead.” “I read for work.”

I guess what I’m saying is this:

I wish the boy and his mother had shown up at my house instead.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Children, City Life, People

Open Secrets, Vol. 4

– It’s always showing a little.

– Common Sense vs Exceptional Nonsense.

– Nobody sees you there.

– Everyone lies here.

– Anyone can take it back.

– The chicken was the egg became the chicken.

– What is even ironic love?

– No further questions re: your baby.

– You don’t have to be the hero or the asshole.

Good: bosses, days, deaths.

– Ears are the eyes of hearing.

– No.

– Arms are not the opposite of legs.

Bad: luck, hair days, news bears.

– You is them when they want it to be.

– Sometimes the ass is the logical conclusion of the head.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Body, Interruptions, Philosophy, Words

Eponymous

Let’s skip the definition here and witness the word in action, so rarely do we get to do that with such perspicacity:

Our manager, Bristol,* ever-loving Bristol, easy-going Bristol (or so she would have you believe and, really, do I have any proof to say otherwise?), Bristol wanted to shake things up, play a little music as we worked.

Music of our choosing.

“What shall we play?” she asked cheerfully after her playlist had exhausted itself.

“Beyoncé,” answered Simone.

“O-K. Beyonce! What songs? Which album?”

Beyoncé.”

“I heard, Beyonce.”

“Beyoncé.”

“I need you to give me an album, at least to start.”

Beyoncé.”

“STOP SAYING BEYONCE!”

It took several long moments, in which nothing was said, in which nothing, (Beyoncé or otherwise) played, before Bristol, finally, blessedly caught up, got with it & realized.

“Oh. You mean – “

“Beyoncé: Beyoncé,” answered Simone.

As the music played and we four women (Bristol included) worked steadily away to Drunk in Love (feat. Jay Z), Tim, a report writer, stuck his head through the door and into our workspace.

“Wow. It’s like a sorority in here,” he said.

(Tim’s head: did I mention it was undersized?)

But Tim is another story:

Tim’s an asshole, the very definition.

 

 

 

________________________________________________

* Not real names. No real names, not here, not today.

 

 

 

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Filed under Communications, Jobs, Music, Names, People, Words

Cold Inn Comfort

The art, such as it is, repeats itself.

Three panels on one elongated frame, hung just above the bed; each panel an abstract, non-comitial rendering of something that resembles earth-toned coffee stains overlapping each other on a hard wooden table. A kind of meek, kaleidoscopic effect (or is that affect?).

Ottawa, Calgary, Thunder Bay, Vancouver. Wherever. Whatever.

Every room the same: an unfailing arrangement of bed against wall (close to the small alcove containing the bathroom and the door), TV placed atop a chest of drawers in front of bed, desk with black faux-leather swivel chair beside chest of drawers (leading away from the alcove and door), mini fridge (possibly with an ancient microwave balanced on top), then some dead space of a few unimaginative feet, leading finally to a sliding glass door festooned with elaborate (often broken) lock, ostensibly to keep unwanted elements out.

Imagine someone. Anyone. See yourself. Staying in this room in one city or another, some capital propped up against the landscape, some small town just big enough for the chain motels to test their tepid waters. Put up a location, see what takes! Provide slightly more-than-basic cable. Serve a “free hot breakfast” (available 6:30AM – 9:30AM) that’s already been worked into the price of the room.

Every room the same. With one exception: the large framed photo by the bed. Hung up on the wall just by the foot of the bed. Always different, always a photo of the place outside the room, the world surrounding the motel: the Rockies, the Sleeping Giant, the Parliament buildings.

It’s the one thing you, weary traveller, have learned you must count on.

***

Scenario 1:

A man wakes up and discovers that it is still dark outside (too early to get up, much too early to partake in the “free hot breakfast” of sugary bread, machine-dripped coffee and scrambled eggs fresh from whatever half-opened carton of liquid egg-like product that happened to be lying around that morning). He is shivering. He does not remember going to bed; he had not planned to sleep, not after this particular job.

He is suddenly reminded of the blood that still remains under his fingernails, the bruises running the length of this ribcage, marring his face. He tastes vomit – he, actually, reeks of it (and not all or even that much of it is even his). His head throbs, his temples dancing to the beat of an erratic pulse. He tells himself again that he regrets nothing and then just like that the darkness is too much for him.

He turns on the oversized lamp that is (also always) by the left side of the bed. Nothing out of the ordinary appears in the lacklustre light in provides. He breathes.

No, nothing out of place.

Until he looks up and finds the frame hung up on the wall, just by the foot of the bed, empty. A great white nothingness where a picture of the Canadian Rockies should be just manages to glow, a little, blankly, then hotly, in the darkness of the room. It is clear it is calling to him. Beckoning.

It knows.

He realizes he won’t make it to either door if he tries to escape: movement now that he has seen the frame will only serve to pull him in and snare him in its field of vision, something which he knows he must not do.

Terrified, the man realizes that his only recourse is to lie silently in bed and wait for the daylight.

It soon becomes apparent that the light, too, is conspiring against him. The lamp dies a slow mocking death, its flickering like cruel laughter. The darkness – despite what should be by now the encroaching dawn – remains.

Scenario 2:

A woman wakes up from a long nap after spending the better part of the day touring the nation’s capital. Standing on the steps of the Parliament buildings, she remembers telling her friends to expect her in the evening upon which one, a man who everyone knows had a huge crush on her in high school, handed her a polished wooden box. It fit nicely in the palm of her hand, though it weighed down her palm and tired her arm. There were etchings on it she couldn’t quite make out.

“Not now,” he said, when she began to open it. “Later, when it’s time.” He wagged a thick finger across her eyes and then stuffed the offending hand deep into his front pants pocket. Behind him, their other friends tittered loudly like a nest of drunken sparrows.

Now, sitting up in bed, the woman thinks again of the man, and her thoughts are less than fond. Actually, she remembers him being more of a friend of a friend (or someone’s brother, maybe); in any case, he was an annoyance she put up with because it made things easier among their rather exclusive group. She remembers being liked by most everyone (by everyone who counted), and as she does this, she glances idly to the spot on the wall above the foot of the bed.

The picture is of the Parliament Buildings, but it is from the year 2056. The semi-distant future. She only just recognizes the buildings from that very afternoon (there have been quite a few alterations, queer flourishes, and add-ons), and then only after reading the little inscription affixed haphazardly to the frame itself: a bronze plate with scratched-on letters.

It seems like a warning; even the ambient noises of her room now seem strange, a measured humming she can’t quite place. Yes, there is an ominous whooshing in her ears and the air tastes brittle, like tin. She reaches for her cellphone, but cannot find it in her to turn it on. What if – ?

A cursory glance of the room reveals nothing else has changed. A prank, perhaps? Or is she still dreaming? She looks again at the unassailable frame.

Reluctantly, she considers the box.

Scenario 3:

The Sleeping Giant Provincial Park isn’t quite as you remember it. It seems less pristine, more congested now, and the childhood fancy you had of the rock outcroppings being the Giant’s “spine” as you walked along them does not hold the same sense of joy (or was that whimsy?) you had hoped it would. The scale, the immensity of actually being there disrupts, undermines the fantasy for you. But not as much as you imagine it should.

Mostly, you are just tired. You realize it was a mistake to come back (you regret it so much), and you are glad you decided to spend this last night at a motel rather than at your father’s place. In the morning, you will leave them both.

Something about the frame hung up on the wall just by the foot of the bed catches your eye. A portrait (of sorts) of the rock formation, the Giant, who indeed appears as if reclined, as if in sleep. He is surrounded, of course, by the mighty waters of Lake Superior, and you find yourself oddly comforted by the thought, the assurance of that critical distance. You walk up to the frame, traces of a smile pulling at your lips. You put your face in real close, almost touching the glass. A challenge (and one, you are certain, easily won).

You blink.

There is a man standing, perched, on the Giant’s chin. The perspective is impossible: he is so far way and yet so very close; his features are clear but his proportions are indistinct. He must be a giant himself to stand on that massive jaw the way he’s standing on that massive jaw, that jaw that nonetheless remains in the distance, bounded by the water, all that water, of the largest, the greatest of all the Great Lakes.

You want to step back – away – from the frame, its incontrovertibility, but know that it is already much too late.

You see his face. You realize that you’ve seen that face before. More than that, his expression, the one staring back at you from the frame, is one of recognition. And anger.

You blink (you can’t help it) and the man vanishes. The hairs on the back of your neck suddenly prick at a presence behind you, looming and immense.

“Hello.”

***

Each scenario, while fantastic, is not wholly ridiculous. Not when you’re sitting in that room, not when you’ve been across the country, as I have, and discovered them all – every room – to be the same, in whatever city, whatever place you happen to be.

Every room the same, except for that one picture, the large framed photo by the bed, hung up on the wall just by the foot of the bed.

It is never the same, unless the place is.

Wherever and whatever that place happens to be.

 

 

 

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Filed under Interruptions, People, Places, Routines, THE FUTURE, Travel

Open Secrets, Vol. 3

– Big heavens, small miracles.

– Sometimes it’s not hard to forget.

– Suggestion: “Tuesday Tacos.”
Also: Thursdays. And: Today.

– Meaninglessness can mean anything.

Noble Truths: TBA.

– Alternate worlds vs. Alternative realities.

– Without gusto is fine too.

– Good intentions, bad results.

Absolute Truths: BRB.

– It’s hard not to care, except when it isn’t.

– (Just tuck it in already.)

– There’s moonlight. And then there’s serious moonlight.

ALWAYS CHOOSE THE BOX.

– Double negatives are often not not easy to not undo. UNLESS.

– Everyone is from the past, at some point or the other (or another).

– Watch those caveats!

Half-Truths: LOLZ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Food, Interruptions, Philosophy

Noodle Soup

Ah, all the noodle soups I’ve had in my life! The hot, the savoury, the lukewarm and questionable.

When I’m feeling down, or bored, my thoughts often turn to noodle soup.

Where can I get some? Where must I go?

Beef Noodle Soup. Ramen. Phõ.

Oh, Phõ!

(Often pronounced, by some, in anguish, as a low, almost guttural, “P-OE” or “PO-HOE.” Sometimes “re-imagined” or “deconstructed” by others into a dish only very remotely resembling what could only very generously be called Phõ.)

I don’t begrudge them. It’s, frankly, not all that important (not really, not always). Just don’t mess the ingredients. More: don’t intrude on the scene expecting more than you give. Than you can give.

Don’t insist. You don’t even have to call it Phõ!

There’s more than enough for everyone, but not if you insist. Not in the way that you think.

(Trust me.)

The taste might be different each time, the experience. But not its standing. Consider the weight of the Thing, the ingress, the import. The majesty it imbues. Be mindful.

Do or do not do.

(Trust me.)

Some things in this world are not to be taken lightly.

Listen:

The broth is key.

The broth is life.

Trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Food, Philosophy, Race, Relationships

About Fran

As I said:

Fran has some very interesting theories regarding a library thief at her local branch.

Again, to reiterate: “Not the hoity toity library in the neighbourhood, the working-class library.”

She makes that distinction. How could you even begin to fault that? Really.

How could you deny it?

To wit: someone’s been ripping recipes out of the new magazines that come every Friday and Saturday at Fran’s library, and Fran is on it.

Forgetting “why” for the moment:

WHO?

  1. Most likely a woman. Fran is rather convinced of that, given the apparent gendered nature, as it were, of the evident act, though I have my doubts. But this is Fran’s Thing.
  2. A fellow library patron; one lives in the neighbourhood, given the frequency of the crime, the opportunity afforded by it (this is not an offence committed from a distance).
  3. Someone who must come to Fran’s library on New Magazine Day because Fran goes to the library on New Magazine Day. That person, whomever they are, has thus far managed to somehow get to the new magazines before Fran (the magazines arrive Fridays and Saturdays, but the timing of their arrival varies greatly).

WHY?

Who knows? Someone quite inconsiderate. Someone desperate? Someone.

My suggestions (which Fran took into serious consideration): A collector. Someone who wants material proof of their proclivities. Evidence of taste, action, deed.

“Really?” said Fran.

“Really,” I said.

OR

Someone who had it in, personally, for Fran – who knows her habits, her routines, her likes and dislikes, and is making some kind of point about it. A point of contention!

“Unlikely,” said Fran.

“But not impossible,” I said.

HOW?

They, whomever they are, must be taking the magazines home, ripping out the relevant pages and returning the magazines before anyone gets wise (again supporting the proximity theory).

Unless

To avoid suspicion, they are ripping the pages out within the library itself. The magazines NEVER LEAVE THE PREMISES, are never checked out in that person’s account. There’s no paper trail.

The perfect crime.

To this, Fran brought up a good counterpoint: her library is small; you’d hear the ripping (these being quality magazines with good, glossy thick pages).

“The bathroom?” I suggested.

“Single stalls. I’m watching,” was Fran’s response. “And I’d still hear it.”

UNLESS

I showed Fran the tiny pair of folded scissors on my keychain.

“Where did you say you lived again?” asked Fran.

I asked what the staff at her home library thought of the whole sordid affair. The state of things.

(I wonder how the hoity toity library would handle something like this. Or is this a hoity toity library problem?)

“It’s like they don’t care,” said Fran. “They do, the staff there do care, but there’s nothing they can do about it.”

Ah. But they’re not Fran, are they?

So to them I will only say this: You are not alone. Fran is on it!

Our own working-class hero. Really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, People, Places, Politics, Relationships, Routines

Open Secrets Vol. 2

– You can be kind to be cruel. It is, definitely, an option.

– Apocalypse/beauty/success is in the eye of the beholder.

– That sheer difference between luck and fate.

– She doesn’t like you.

– There are other beholders.

– Everyone: poops, lies.

– “Hideous” is a very good word.

– The facts don’t matter compared to the Truth.

– It’s not them, it’s us.

– What does, and does not, count as controversy.

– Lake —> Lake Monster.

– “Because why not?” is why.

– It also gets better before it gets worse.

– More to the point: you’re not them.

– Beyoncé. Always.

– Just make sure they’re good lies.

– Never Beyonce.

– It’s not OK. And yet.

– It’s really obvious when you don’t think about it.

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Filed under Celebrity, Music, Names, Philosophy, Relationships, Ritual, Routines

Close (But Not Too Close)

The lab tech leaned in close as the clamour in the next stall (cries of laughter, joy, and pure, unadulterated mischief raised above the level of what very well could be deemed acceptable patter in the workplace), as the commotion behind the screen reached what I later realized was its absolute pitch (for a while, it seemed that the chatter and babble were on-going, a constant feature of the place itself).

In a most conspiratorial fashion, the tech, an older lady with a severe expression and total poise, told me that the employees there needed to act more professionally while at work. She went on about other Things, Things that were seen but noticed.

“It’s not right, all this, is it?” She leaned back and nodded, confident in the unspoken knowledge that I understood.

“Can you believe it?” whispered the cashier, ostensibly meaning the person who had been in front of me in the line, who had tried to pay with a store credit card from a different store. “This world, I tell you.” She went on, a tall, statuesque woman with kind eyes. She took her time, telling me about the state of things, what was happening. Her held her tongue as a manager walked pass, then continued. “You know,” she said.

“No, no, sweetheart. Not that one,” came the gentle admonishment from the woman behind me. “Put it back. It’s no good, it’s no good.” Her clothes were careworn, her face open and friendly as she spoke. She told me more, slowly, carefully so that I would not lose a word of what she said as we stood there in the open-air market. The smile dropped from her face as she left, neutralizing her once more, giving her cover as she moved back into the milling crowd.

Every time, though never when I expect it: they lean in close, but not too close, and tell me Things that need saying, that are not to be trifled with, or ignored.

Maybe I just have that face.

Same as theirs, but different.

You know what I’m saying? Don’t you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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