Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Election to End All Elections


Like many others, I was surprised by the recent U.S. presidential election results. I read a fair bit of news and would consider myself abreast of the going’s-on in and around the world—from the New York Times, the Washington Post, to Breitbart and the National Review. I’ll read liberals, socialists, conservatives, libertarians, I don’t care. I’m an inveterate news junkie. Something was amiss, though; all the pollsters had the election as an overwhelming Clinton victory, and though I’d like to think I’m a fairly sceptical reader, I can’t help but be swayed when all the ‘experts’ universally agree. Seems logical to me, I convinced myself. The Huffington Post hilariously had the chances of Clinton winning at 99%. I had no hard contrary data with which to run with. Sure, I noticed that Trump rallies were attended by tens of thousands and the atmosphere was like a playoff hockey game, and that Clinton rallies were dreary and under-attended affairs. I chalked that up to people not being very enthusiastic about her, but that—again!—the experts were right, and she was comfortably ahead by every metric. All of this contributed to the shock of election night. That dark November night where the results bled in slowly and the extent of the wound didn’t become clear until most people were sound asleep, dreaming of a new America.
Since the election I’ve posited this query to liberal voters and have felt very troubled by the answers. I’ve stretched it a little because the woman in the scenario is Canadian, but no matter, she certainly would have voted for Trump. She’s a conservative and has been for decades. It goes like this: my friend’s Mom, who is an immigrant of Pakistani origin, voted for Trump. Is she a racist, sexist, xenophobe? The answers I get vary from, “she’s misinformed,” “yes, it’s simple—she is a racist, sexist, xenophobe,” to “she’s obviously dumb,” “she watches too much Fox,” etc. They simply cannot logically comprehend why a woman of colour would vote for a hate-muppet like Donald Trump. Many liberals are in dire need of introspection, but continue to blame their failures on outside forces. It’s all James Comey’s fault! I have a feeling that a lot of them don’t even have one republican friend (because why be friends with a sexist, racist monster, right?)
Maybe journalists should do what the reporter Salena Zito did and, oh, I don’t know, actually hit the streets and talk to hundreds of residents in swing states where they actually live. Salena lives in Pennsylvania and consistently noted throughout the campaign that there was little support for Hillary and that people were angry. She noted “little” details, like the fact that there weren’t many Hillary Clinton signs on people’s lawns compared to previous elections. She didn’t moralize and pass judgement like many at the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc, who, apparently, don’t get out much to the suburbs. I imagine Paul Krugman or Jonathan Chait don’t much talk to plumbers, electricians, truck drivers and the like, yet their words are in vaunted places and reach millions. Clearly, they don’t have their fingers on the pulse of America.

Ross Douthat is a smarty-pants writer for the NYT. I don’t know where he went to school but it’s probably Yale or North Western or Harvard. Some place like that. He predicted that the Electoral College vote would be 322 for Clinton and 216 for Trump. Now, here’s a guy who studies and writes about politics for a living at the most prestigious outlet in the world. While you’re at work filing TPS reports, he’s pouring over the minutiae of the election 9 to 5, sussing out patterns and breaking it all down for his readers. He’s got sources all over. And this political expert got it so wrong that a baboon on a three-day K and booze bender could have made a better prediction. The actual, reality-based electoral college results were 306 for Trump and 232 for Clinton. What kind of chaffs me is that there are no consequences. I’m not saying these reporters should necessarily be fired. Honestly, I don’t even know what the consequences should be (maybe no column for two months?), but as a rational man I feel like justice has been cheated. Their attitude amounts to “oops, sorry ’bout that guys, we’ll do better next time, heh-heh”.
Wisconsin, which has typically been a Democrat stronghold, went to the Republicans. Hillary Clinton hadn’t campaigned in Wisconsin since April and seemingly relied on arrogance and celebrity endorsements to carry her to victory. It’s not terribly shocking that rich feminists like Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham, who decry the ‘patriarchy’ and ‘white privilege’ didn’t sway union guys in Wisconsin who have seen their jobs dry up and industries move elsewhere. Perhaps telling them they should feel guilty about being white and how they’re sexist for sometimes crudely commenting on women with their buddies wasn’t a great strategy for the democrats. It was an utterly tone deaf campaign.
The narrative is now that Trump was elected by a dying white electorate who will soon go extinct. And that if Trump was elected every kind of minority was going to be catapulted over the wall. Well, first of all, nearly half the electorate didn’t even vote. They were so terrified they just didn’t give a hoot, I guess. You don’t hear in the news too much about the millions of Latinos and Asians that voted for Trump. And lots of women.  And lots of educated people. All this about the “poor, uneducated white guy” vote is a little misleading. Sure, a lot of uneducated white people did vote for Trump, but that’s just one piece of the pie. In 2012 for instance, 68% of voters who made less than $50K a year voted for Obama, compared to 38% who voted for Romney. And Trump performed better than Romney amongst all minorities. I see some liberals banking on the extinction of white people and then the saintly democrats can regain power. I hate to break it to you, but if liberals continue down the identity politics road, they’ll alienate the working class even more. If the GOP runs a young, fresh, slightly progressive candidate as opposed to a populist buffoon like Trump, imagine how much they’ll win by. You can disagree with me, that’s fine, but I’m telling you, giving righteous lectures to people telling them they’re racist, sexist bigots for voting for Trump is not a winning strategy. It never will be. The liberal media should focus more on how bad a Trump presidency will be for more pressing real world issues like criminal justice reform and the environment, or that he’s filling his cabinet with hard-right religious maniacs, not spilling endless amounts of ink on which bathroom transgender people use.
I know that there are legitimate concerns in the LGBT community when Trump assumes power. The future vice president, Mike Pence, has some alarming views on homosexuality. He’s a proponent of the bizarre practice of ‘gay conversion therapy’. I’m guessing it’s something akin to ‘praying the gay away’. So, that’s alarming. But, in six months when no LGBT rights are curtailed, gay people can still get married, and trans-people aren’t melted down in to Trump Steaks, all the concern will be for naught. It’s the same thing if Bernie Sanders won. You think he’d turn America into some socialist paradise with universal healthcare and free university? Hell no! People need to discern between campaign rhetoric and actual policy. Remember how Obama vowed to close Guantanamo Bay? Yeah, how’d that go? In regards to building the wall along the southern border, there is nothing inherently racist or wrong about a nation’s desire to protect their borders in the interest of national security. My main gripe with the wall is that it’s a wholly futile endeavour. Yes, illegal immigration is an issue that needs to be addressed, but what will a wall do? People will go over it, under it, through it; they’ll arrive by ocean or by hiding in the trunks of cars. Don’t underestimate Mexicans, they’re hardy people!

The most lopsided electoral college vote was in D.C. Even traditional Red states like Texas still have s high 30s to 40-something % of the population voting Blue. Same goes for Blue states like New York. Yet, something like 93% of D.C. voted for Clinton. A tiny district, more powerful and flush with cash than any other in the world, full of lobbyists who take kickbacks and throw in provisions into bills that never make it into the papers, and sociopaths devoid of any sympathy for the poor who live in rural areas with little opportunities. No empathy for a truck driver from Nebraska with 3 kids. Did you know that the most common job in America is a truck driver? Ah well, he’s just another sucker for the Washington machine to grift. D.C. almost universally voted for Clinton and D.C. is chalked full of the vilest examples of human scum on planet Earth waiting for your fat-ass dirty dollar. The D.C. that voted for Clinton is one not of nasty words but of nasty actions. One could make a case that if you wanted to reject the status quo, if you wanted to make a moral vote against racism/sexism/misogyny and every other hateful ism, you would vote against all the fat, rich white dudes in D.C. who voted for Hillary Clinton. These people don’t care if you’re Muslim or Mormon. No, their discrimination runs deeper than that. They only care about money and exploitation and power. They want to make money with a pharmaceutical company and pour more drugs down your gullet. Oh, but Trump said he grabs women by the pussy! JFK is one of the most beloved presidents in American history and he was a womanizing playboy. So was Bill Clinton. Who fucking cares? Powerful men are generally boorish pigs who fuck lots of women and brag about it. They’re not limp-wristed girlie-men. That isn’t going to change until Clay Aiken becomes president.
I suspect a lot of liberals who act as though they’re horrified by Trump, secretly smiled to themselves when they woke up the day after the election knowing that a whole bunch of fat-cats on Wall Street and K Street were having a really, really bad day. I guess it’s the punk rocker in me, but between moments of disappointment and shock, I couldn’t help but chuckle that the voting public gave political establishment the biggest ‘fuck you’ in a long time, maybe ever.  

If Hillary’s campaign planted an actor posing as a truck driver at one of her rallies with a sign that read “Truckers Will Haul Hillary to Victory!” and then brought him up to the stage to address the people, then Tommy the Truck Driver could have won this election for Hillary. Instead she opted for born-rich millennial feminists finger-wagging to the public and chastising them about how bigoted they are if they vote for Trump.
I wouldn’t have voted for DJT, but man, I didn’t know schadenfreude levels could go this high watching famous people have meltdowns over the Trump victory. I didn’t think it was possible to cringe as hard as I did watching and reading celebs’ reactions to the Trump victory. They really have to be seen to be believed. I won’t quote Sarah Silverman or Lena Dunham’s painfully dumb bloviating for fear that I’ll OD on douche-chills, but go search them out for yourself. You’ll never read something so maudlin and pathetic in your entire life. You’d think their entire families fell into a volcano.
There’s a case to be made about abolishing the electoral college, but candidates don’t campaign for the popular vote. Bragging about winning the popular vote is like a coach bragging about scoring more playoff goals. Right, but you lost the game.
The Dems ran the wrong candidate, plain and simple. They ran a deeply unlikeable, uncharismatic establishment politician who colluded with the DNC and the press to discredit and smear Bernie Sanders (which violates most of our natural inclinations to fairness). Then they rammed her down voters’ throats and America barfed her up like a four day old fish taco.
Hillary and Bill with their Clinton Foundation are like Walter White and Skyler with their car-wash: a front to launder dirty money and favours. Have an A-1 day, America.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Bit of Diet Advice

Getting older. Sucks, huh? Are you having trouble keeping the pounds off? Well, look no further! I have invented a technique that will melt away those pesky pounds. I can restore you to the former you before the current you was nary a thought in the former you’s head. And the best part? No diet books, no elliptical machines, no dumbbells, no crossfit, no yoga. All you need is an esophagus and a dream.
            Isn’t bacon delicious? My mouth is watering right now just thinking about a few extra-crispy pieces, the kind that just snap right in half. Nom-nom-nom. Now, what if I told you that instead of cooking a pound of bacon, you could cook half a pound of bacon and still get a pounds worth of pleasure? You’d probably say, “Oh there goes Taylor again just being his crazy old self.” But, it’s true! And the great thing is that the technique works with any meal. Take your rice, broccoli, chicken, or your soup and sandwich, or your spaghetti and meatballs. It. Does. Not. Matter. One-hundred percent hit rate. A kill shot between the eyes.  Every. Single. Time.
            It may take a few tries to get the technique down, but like swimming, it’s a skill you’ll have forever and it just might save your life.
            Okay, enough is enough. I know you want me to get to it already. You’re thinking, what’s with all the BS? Just get to this crazy secret already. I think you’re right. Let’s stick with the bacon example. So, you whip out the pan and peel off a few strips. A few minutes later they’re sizzling, and the air is thick with a greasy barbeque smell. Now, come a little bit closer, here’s what you do: eat the slices as you normally would in the flavour desert you inhabited before you learned my innovative technique. Then work your esophageal muscles like a grain elevator. Like a self-powered Heimlich Manouever; beam up the recently consumed meal back into your mouth. An esophagus is like a bicep or any other muscle: you can train it do powerful things.
You should be able to figure out at this point the ingenuity of my method. If not, however, it’s like this: You can eat a meal twice, even thrice! (only advanced practitioners should try thrice). Swallow your meal and then back up the chute it goes. Let that pre-chewed stuffed pepper swirl around again in your mouth. Why not stay an extra night in the penthouse villa that overlooks Flavourtown? Mmmm . . . the rice and tomato sauce is perfect. Ever wonder why most food tastes better after a night in the fridge? How about ten minutes in the belly? One can even type out a few emails while it’s sitting there snug in your own personal hands-free takeout container. We already re-cycle. Why not re-eat? In fact, I’d say you have to be re-tarded to pass up this advice. You can thank me later . . . but not with your mouth full!
If you don’t want to take my diet advice—fine! It’s no skin off my back. This is a great country. You can ingest what you like. Healthcare is practically free. Just eat your three cheeseburgers six times if you so desire. That’s a double shot of freedom right there! Do what makes you feel good, that’s what I say. Yet, my technique is undeniably green and good for the environment. Can’t discount that in this day and age now can you? Got to mind your carbon footprint and all that jazz. Don’t want the grandkids only seeing butterflies and birds in textbooks. And that’s just it: you’re not eating half a pound of ground beef in the meatloaf, you’re only eating a quarter . . . again.
Won’t someone think of the cows and chickens?
Umm . . . well . . . this is kind of uncomfortable . . . but, this guy is.
Imagine all those cute little piggies, irascible chickens, and languishing cows, and then . . . imagine chopping them all in half!
             Keep in mind that my method is one-hundred percent effective for twenty-five minutes after the ingestion of a meal or snack. After that the stomach acids start to take hold of your gut and break down the food. It is imperative not to utilize my regurgitation method after the twenty-five minute window lest you get a mouth blast of acrid stomach bile mixed in with the distant vestiges of the meal’s flavour.
Re-eating is the future of food. Get to it, folks!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Looking through the Gate


I look at the way information is currently dissected and consumed on the internet, and in particular, Twitter, the way you dump black oil sunflower seeds into a hopper to funnel down and be devoured by birds. As long as seeds are in the hopper the finches and the sparrows happily munch away. They sloppily consume the endless, free buffet, until . . . the seeds run out.
Well, the GamerGate phenomenon has a lot of fucking seeds left, and it doesn’t look like they’re running out any time soon.
I’m not much of a gamer anymore, haven’t been since I was fourteen when I discovered guitar, weed, and girls (though my fingers only danced with two out of the three). The main issue, after reading countless articles and stalking countless timelines, is that Social Justice Warrior's/Feminists/Games Journalists are trying to push their narrative behind the scenes in gaming, and not looking objectively into matters. Now all those things they’d like to keep in the dark are having a flashlight shined on them. Like rats, they frantically try to scurry back into the dark, but the internet loves the light. In the last month, I’ve seen the word ‘misogyny’ bandied about so much that it has lost all meaning for me. It’s a string of meaningless syllables strung together, like ‘twattleshrub’, or ‘bingatworp’. The word ‘misogyny’ is so grossly misused in it’s over use, that I throw up in my mouth a little bit anytime that label is hurled at someone to refute a point. Just as vague and overused is ‘patriarchy’. These, and many other buzzwords, are used in conversations more as signifiers to like-minded individuals than as words that actually carry any heft. Quite simply, hysterical feminists have radicalized themselves into indifference. It’s painful to watch. It’s easy to spot a SJW type because, like a cult, they all speak in the same platitudes and use the same code words, the same patterns of speech. When I scroll through the timeline of a young gender warrior, it doesn’t take long before you know they’re infected with the SJW curse. “Damn,” I always think, “we lost another one.”

A few years back I became interested in Scientology. No, I didn’t sign up to be in the Sea Org, rather, I became interested in the (ahem) religion, the way an anthropologist becomes fascinated with the behaviour of a strange new race. It piqued my interest and I became a little obsessed. I consumed the must-read books on the phenomenon (Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman and Going Clear by Lawrence Wright were the best), though I never got around to reading anything from the man himself, L. Ron Hubbard—I don’t suffer sci-fi schizoid hacks gladly. To paraphrase the brilliant comic Sarah Silverman, his name is Ron. I know Ron’s. Ron’s can’t be God’s. I spent many late nights scouring the internet for articles, no matter how obscure, anything from personal blogs to Tony Ortega’s almost daily articles, to desperately going through comment threads with a fine toothed comb).  I watched every video on YouTube, from protests, to interviews, to promotional videos. Is there anything better than unintentional comedy? You want to laugh? Watch this minute and a half clip of a Scientology fundraiser:




You’ve got to admire their earnestness. Sometimes I pity these people, and then sometimes I can’t help but admire their zeal, the certainty of their purpose in life. I’m hopelessly devoid of direction in my life, depressed, and drinking too much. Perhaps I should play Depression Quest?
When I began exhaustively scanning the timelines of those directly connected to Gamergate, reading the blog posts, and watching the videos, I noticed immediately the similarities between SJW’s and Scientologists. It hits you in the gut. I’ve seen a few other random commenters point this out as well. They have the same hivemind speech and behaviour. They all stay within the playbook. You’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all. Anyone who ventures off script will be swiftly dealt with.
SJW’s are just Scientologists who grew up watching the Simpsons and are tech savvy.  
            Peruse through any prominent feminist columnist/gender warrior on Twitter and you’ll find a lot of whinging. They point out others’ behaviour in the media and why it’s racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. Go and look through Jessica Valenti’s timeline, or Lindy West’s, and you’ll find them endlessly criticizing other people for their behaviour. It’s seemingly all they do. Their articles are the same thing done in a longer form. Sane, rational people look at their Twitter activity and most of their content and are surely turned off by it. We laugh them off as shrill, humourless, professional victims, but a small minority are taken in by all the exciting, radical language and talk of destroying the patriarchy. Unfortunately, that small minority goes full retard. They go trawling through all kinds of media for things to get offended by. They actively search for offense, which is truly bizarre, unhealthy behaviour.
           
During the summers of 2013 and 2014 I worked as a security guard at a wild beach resort located two hours north of Toronto. Loads of young people, usually those who have just finished high school and are destined for post-secondary education, celebrate the transition to adulthood in their budding lives with copious amounts of booze and drugs. For the most part, they’re normal, good kids from all over the greater Toronto area. I interact with thousands of young people from different backgrounds. Terms like ‘rape culture’ and words like ‘patriarchy’ are so obtuse and foreign to the majority of them, they look at me like I have a dick growing out of my ear when I tell them about those terms. This is obviously anecdotal evidence, but rarely do any of the young women identify themselves as feminists. Or even if they do, they’re sensible about the concept. They simply don’t care. Outside of Twitter, and more troubling, the corridors of academia, no one fucking cares about this ultra-modern turbo-feminism cultish bullshit. Not that they don’t care about women’s issues and equality, they do! They just don’t care about identifying themselves under the ‘feminist’ label. Conversely, a lot of the young women are extremely sexually confident and assertive. They show no signs of being oppressed by the patriarchy. Actually, the women appear strong and independent, certainly not intimidated by the males in the group. On Twitter, however, you’d think there’s some vast culture war going on, women fighting for equality. As a side note, I received death threats from real life drunk people, live in the flesh! Where were my trigger warnings! Please donate to my Patre--oops, don't have one.

I’m a pretty loose, liberal guy. I masturbate to tranny porn, I watch cute cat videos, I applaud minorities in prominent positions, and I’ve read more than one Matt Taibbi book. But, I detest the road that liberalism in online media is going down. The overtly PC fringe left is wielding more and more influence at a lot of the journalism/entertainment sites that I frequent, which sadly, I don’t much frequent anymore. I tried, I really did, Salon, but you’re veering into post-modern gender warrior land. Vice, too, is going that route. The former disappeared into the woods long ago, while the latter has just entered the woods, not quite hopelessly lost . . . yet.
            Shit, look how crazy it’s got in the last month alone: I stopped visiting Salon and Vice almost entirely and now find myself reading articles by Milo Yiannopolous of Breitbart because he’s the only reporter digging beneath the surface of the GamerGate saga in any meaningful way. Breitbart for God’s sake! You can’t make this shit up people! The bulk of those supporting GamerGate, I surmise, are fairly liberal, yet the gaming sites—which are invariably ultra-liberal—are so insulated that they’re wholly detached from the sensibilities of their consumer base, and no one is there to regulate this mess. The fox is guarding the henhouse while the farmer is away on business.
            And in a way I sympathize with online publications like Vice. There is so much saturation in the marketplace, so many sites competing for eyeballs, that to maintain profitability they have to publish click-bait and other absurd tripe to harness our collective flash in the pan attention spans. Companies have bills to pay, and in that regard I don’t blame them. Things like journalistic integrity and ethics are neat concepts to be enforced only when a company is secure in their existence, with a firm grasp on its share of the marketplace. Online sites for news and entertainment don’t have the luxury of relaxing their tenuous grasp for one minute, lest they fall behind ahead of the latest click-bait bullshit from one of their innumerable competitors. They all use every ounce of energy just to stay afloat. The result is click-bait and hit-pieces from here to eternity.
            There’s something refreshing and exhilarating in this new media landscape about tuning into entirely independent voices. I don’t even know what you’d call people like Internet Aristocrat and Thunderf00t. YouTube personalities? Media personalities? Vloggers? These voices have become very popular on account of the merits of their ideas, the resonance of their voices. They don’t have massive companies behind them—they’re just people, like you and me! (except with more followers). Hit ‘record’ on that camera and boom! your message is transmitted to the masses sans filter. It makes me get all patriotic, and I think of the adage that through sheer human will and perseverance, anyone born in these United States can become president (full disclosure: I’m Canadian). They, and many others, are the punk rock voices in media. Just like when young people heard The Ramones in in the '70s and thought to themselves, “Hell, I can do that!” we’re seeing that same vibe now. What does Thunderf00t have that any other jerkoff with a computer in their house doesn’t already have, too?   
            What does it say for the games media in particular and media at large that more and more consumers are turning to absolute fucking nobodies, relatively speaking? These personalities don’t hold any formal positions in media. Rather, they are people who can sit at their desk wearing nothing but boxers, half of a soggy, pink Fruit Loop sticking to their lip, and postulate on the state of all things video game/entertainment related, and do a better job of it than those whose livelihoods depend on it. The consumer's trust in the media is not good at all. It’s all sorts of problematically toxic.

I would urge young women, and anyone really, to disregard writers like Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, Rebecca Watson, and Lindy West. Instead, check out women that you can really learn a thing or two from. Women like Lydia Lunch, Mary Karr, Sheila Heti, Miranda July, Lorrie Moore, Camille Paglia, Bonnie Macfarlane, Lena Dunham, Christine Sommers, Alice Munro, and Tina Fey. Maybe some of these women consider themselves feminists, and some don’t. I don’t really know or care; one thing they all have in common is that unlike the former list of writers, the latter are more versatile. They don’t make gender issues their raison d’etre.
          And praise Xenu for that. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Life's a Beach: Excerpt #7

June 27th 2013

Some guests in cottage one had a barbeque problem and they were a little annoyed at the whole snafu. Maybe a lot annoyed. They really wanted to fire up some chicken wings that were marinating nearby, a sea of guts in a large bowl. I hopped on the radio, explaining the issue to Gary. How two out of the three cylinders inside the barbeque were not catching, so there wasn’t enough heat to cook anything except a grasshopper. “We probably need to replace it right away,” I told him.
These pachucos were having none of it. Disgusted with the subpar service, they made insulting comments underneath their breath, engineered to be just loud enough for me to hear: “Fucking stupid idiot,” said one generic fool.
We probably need to replace it right away,” one of them said, mocking me in a nerdy white guy voice. *Sigh* If people only knew what it’s like to be white in the 21st century.
There was no denying it—I was infuriated and humiliated. It was the maddest I’ve been at any guests since I started at Stillwater. I wanted to smash the butt of my radio into the first piece of scum that made a move towards me. I was burning with white-hot rage at these fucking Latino jerk-off punks, each one of whom I could totally kick the shit out of in a one-on-one battle (probably not). My anger bolstered my confidence. You learn to size a man up pretty quick at Stillwater if you want to keep those teeth in your gums. If it’s in your nature to be allergic to aggressive posturing, that will either change pretty quick or you’ll find another job. I’ve slithered out of all the potentially violent confrontations by either feigning superpower strength or feigning to call the police. Either way it’s all bullshit.
            The bulging muscles of a beefed up dude will affect the level of respect you accord him. I tone down the sarcasm and become respectful really fucking quick if the guy is 6’2” 220lbs. Luckily, most of these high school kids here tonight have a pea brain stuck between two spaghetti arms. Talk to them in the correct way and they bow at your feet; you can put them back in line with a stern voice. Not these particular teens. I started to fear that I was dealing with a drug cartel and not recent secondary school graduates. Why are they not respecting my authority? They just arrived and they’ll be kicked out from their beautiful riverside cottage if they fuck with me. Are they cray-cray?
I walked away from the group to hear Gary more clearly over the heckling. I’m going to be here well into the night with these dopes as they get progressively more fucked up,  and the slightest provocation could ignite the latent primal male rage that surely resides within me and I’ll probably get hurt real bad even though I upped my bench pressing from once a week to every five days. My soft feminine hands are filled with middle-class rage! So lookout!
            When I get off the radio with Gary, one of them, with an aquiline pencil-thin beard asks, “So, yo, you gonna fix it or what?” There was a smattering of snickers from both the boys and girls. I got the sense that they were from Toronto.
            I took a deep breath and sighed. A loner amongst hostile forces all leering derisively at me, I replied with a mendacious, Walter White-esque quip: “Do I look like a barbeque repair man to you?”
            They didn’t like that comment too much, and there was a collective, “Ohhhh” and as I quietly walked away, not wanting to incur any physical wrath, they were muttering insults under their breath and I was simmering for the next hour. I avoided them for the rest of the evening, only having to endure their stink eyes and smirks as they walked by towards the convenience store for some zig-zags and smokes. By the time the gang was coming back from the store I made sure to be somewhere else.

I have seen so many good looking eighteen year old Ontario girls in the last couple months it is nothing short of stupefying. It is positively life affirming! I have a renewed sense of faith in humanity! The milky skin and pert breasts, the taught haunches and shining blonde hair. Canada is full of healthy and vibrant women! As Yakov would say, “What a country!


June 29th 2013

At Cottage Court tonight, Friday night on the Canada Day weekend, I laughed truly and heartily for the first time in a while. It’s 7pm, and the hour-long thunderstorm is over. The stifling humidity has been sucked out of the air and it’s a cool night. Most of the guests are a racially mixed lot from Brampton. White, brown, and black kids are running wild all over the property hootin’ and hollerin’, not a care in the world. Oh, to be young and dewy-eyed again!
An immaculately toned black kid, clearly the class clown type and clearly drunk, whips out his cock and balls and jiggles them around for the whole world to see. I didn’t really want to see this kid’s penis, but like the sun I stole a glance at it before my eyes burned. You’d think an atom bomb of funny exploded. A few kids had the presence of mind to whip out their iThingamajigger’s and immortalize the lurid display. A lot of these teens reach for their hip instinctively whenever something remotely out of the ordinary happens. Reaching for an electronic device is like an outlaw reaching for his six shooter; you got to watch out for Billy the iKid. Now, I didn’t actually see the young black man’s genitals; by the time I glanced over he was zipping up. That’s not what made me laugh. What made me laugh was the reactions of his buddies, who I’ve come to know in the past couple days and am fond of. For one comes to know, understand, and bond with people in a deeper way during a dramatic life event, (ie., passing through the requisite, liminal lost weekend at the beach that proceeds the graduating of high-school and precedes entering post-secondary education and/or work. In other words, not a boy, not yet a man). Everyone was falling all over themselves, wailing and laughing so hard--it was infectious, and I too joined in from a distance. There is no feeling quite like laughing as hard as possible with a large group of friends. If only we could bottle that up and sell it for twenty bucks a shot.

Gary relocates me to Bayside, supervising a much smaller group on my own. Bayside is the best chunk of property to guard because most of the time I’m the fox in charge of the henhouse. At Cottage Court, there’s usually three or four guards on duty. Here, I can order a shot or accept a twenty and grant permission for a kid or two come aboard the party train without much fear of getting caught.
A drunk Indian kid in a tank top was running around, accosting guests and being generally annoying and unruly. He didn’t have the right wristband. I approached the young gent to kick him off the property but he was “bro, bro, bro-ing” me. I was in no mood for his nonsense and I clenched my fists and the words just spilled out: “Get off the property or I’ll break both your arms and then your Daddy will have to jerk you off!” I don’t know where it came from. It was meant to be serious--and I was--yet the line came out kind of funny and some of the guests laughed. He was too drunk to realize the full import of my warning so his two buddies grabbed his shoulders and ushered him towards Mosley Street, towards the next beachfront motel party.
            As they were walking away, he suddenly turns sober and serious and says “Yo, why you have to get all aggressive with a sixteen year old?” I cocked my head and shrugged my shoulders as if to say “You gotta do what you gotta do” and I never saw him again.

I know what it’s like to be in the Walking Dead. I live it most nights at Stillwater. In the early hours of the morning, they walk along the street, stupefied and stumbling, moaning incoherently. I’m the only one not infected (well, most of the time). 


July 2nd 2013

As previously mentioned, the best part about the 6am cleanup shift are the pristine goodies laying amidst the rubble of another mega beach party. Today I found four quarters, three bottles of Canadian, one can of Coors Light, a flash-bang firecracker and a pair of sunglasses with Canadian flags in the lenses.

A good chunk of my time on the clock is spent standing at the entrance to the various Stillwater properties and many folks will walk by me all day either say “Hi” or will sometimes stop and chat with me. I get asked all the common greeting tropes: “How ya doin?” “How are you?” “Doin alright?” “Yo, what’s up?” And of course, the least labor intensive verbal greeting, a mere reflexive guttural emission: “’Sup?”
Then there are various nods and waves of recognition in lieu of actual sounds coming out of your face to convey acknowledgement: Winks, smiles (showing teeth, not showing teeth), barely perceptible head nods, the casual two-fingered salute. I’m standing around, greeting dozens and dozens of people every damn shift—I find myself bored with answering with “Not bad” and “Doin alright, sir” and “Hey there” dozens of times a day, and organically I began to incorporate new phrases. This weekend, my go-to response to the eternal, “Greeting another human being for the first time question,” is the old clever talk-show line, maybe Rickles or Newhart said it.
TALK-SHOW HOST: “How ya doin’ _____?”  
GUEST: “If I was doing any better, it would be illegal.”
More than half a century later, the sunbathers who will never be on TV still seem to like it. Kind of clever if you’ve never heard it before; it comes off as witty—a verbal wink. The phrase itself is quite absurd when you think about it. What does it even mean? “If I was doing any better it would be illegal.” Like my life is in a zenith state, perfectly matched up with my dreams and if one more roll of the dice went my way it would be too much fulfillment and I could actually be ticketed and/or arrested because things are so darned good? I’m that high on life? 
Also, currently, I’m punctuating greetings directed at males with “Boss.”
“Doin’ alright, boss?”
“Having fun, boss?”
“Gonna fucking party tonight or what, boss?”
“Can I get a beer from you, boss?”
“Just chillin’, boss?”
“Hey, you got any blow, boss?”
“Hey, you got anymore blow, boss?”


July 4th 2013

A group of one hundred twenty five young adults from Mississauga came up to wonderful Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada to celebrate their high school graduation with a three night stay at Cottage Court. I began cracking jokes and most of them were pleased, putting me on a first name basis right off the bat. This one girl, rather plain, but definitely DTF, kept talking about how she was going to, “Smoke my cock. Room number nine.”
            “You’ll need a lighter with a lot fluid to smoke this cock,” I said. Her friends laughed, and it was all a half-serious charade with the security guard.

I busted into cabin six, and later cabin seventeen, to collect on the Taylor Tax. The ghetto party inhabitants were more than accommodating. Giving the security guard a shot is like feeding a monkey at the zoo: you’re not supposed to do it, but it’s irresistible.
I was feeling oh-so-fine and went to chat with a group of fifteen kid’s barbequing and smoking all sorts of things on the back porch area. This massive porch is about one hundred feet long and ten feet wide. It’s where the BBQ’s and graffitied picnic tables are. It’s where the kids hang out most of the time; where beers, faces, joints, and hookahs are sucked.  Across the river, the lights of the main strip waver in the humidity. Throbbing beats from the nearby clubs echo back at the Stillwater guests, delayed and out of time.
Below, at the fire pit by the banks, another drunken multitude is roasting dollar store weenie’s. They all laugh at one girl who’s weenie has fallen into the fire just as it was ready to eat. 
            In front of her whole clan, this girl again asks for me to see her in room number nine and makes the international blowjob motion, jerking her hand by her mouth, pounding her tongue against the inside of her cheek. “I’ll smoke your cock. You can finger my ass,” she says to the delightful laughter of the group.
            “How many fingers? One or Two?” I ask, and the group roars their approval at my willingness to participate in the game. I smile and walk away. Big brother is watching me and I’m supposed to be at the front of the property, not cavorting with the guests in back. 
            Speaking of smoking things--all the kids nowadays sit around massive octo-hookahs and huff flavoured tobacco. They don’t ever smoke pot out of these hookahs. Their tall glass bongs are kept right beside the hookahs. Or they smoke joints. Usually both. I’m still dumbfounded that practically every teenager smokes pot up here. I understand it’s a party resort, but these kids all smoke pot back in Mississauga or Ancaster or Toronto during their regular day-to-day life, too—they all tell me so. Christ, they haul the humidors and the bongs and the grinders all the way up to Wasaga like it’s their toiletry bag.
I’ve witnessed countless glass bongs topple over and shatter. Perhaps there’s a market for fixing these vessels of the magic herb; a golden opportunity for a shrewd entrepreneur to open up a seasonal bong repair shop. Let’s call it Bong Voyage. Guys with their names stitched onto coveralls in sweeping cursive--Bob, Gary, Don--with resin blotches smearing their faces, wiping their brows after a hard day’s work cleaning and repairing glass bongs.
            Marijuana is so integral to modern Canadian teendom, you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it with your own two eyes. It’s outta control! I’ve seen some studies that say only a tiny percentage, like 3% of teenagers smoke pot daily but that has not been my experience this summer. At any moment the sweet, burnt pine smell of potent bud wafts into my nostrils while I’m pacing back and forth on the grounds. Joints, blunts, bongs, you name it, they smoke it. Seems to me that people smoke blunts as more of a display of wealth than any other form of smoking marijuana. These guys are the show-off types who like mega bling. Blunts are the five star hotel of marijuana smoking. If you smoke blunts, it says, “Yeah, I have enough fuck you money to burn this big ol’ thing full a weed rolled with the most expensive, thickest type of cigar paper.” Or, they’re simply connoisseurs of the herb and spend thirty minutes with their scissors and their wraps and their pile, carefully plucking out the stems and dropping them into the ashtray with a little rattling ping, like a doctor removing body lodged bullets out of another drive-by victim. And they put in a filter, usually a small rectangle cut out from a pack of zig-zag’s, and lick the blunt twenty times, pulling it out of their mouths and holding a flame under it to harden the fuselage and ensure it stays uniform while burning down. If these potheads put that much effort into world peace, we’d be shitting flowers.
            On any still night in town, there is a haze of marijuana and camp fire smoke that hovers in the air creating a thick, flagrant, muggy fog. Kids keep their appurtenances on the picnic tables in full view of the cops that drive by every few minutes. Wasaga is nice that way. You can freely sit outside your room or cabin and smoke away and the staff or the law won’t do a goddamn thing about it.  The kids get a kick out of it when I inform them upon their arrival that they can smoke weed right in front of the cops. “It’s all good,” I say. “This is private property. Smoke away!” If they’ve never been to the beach before, their reaction is incredulous delight at the freedom. God bless Canada! Young men and women come here to dance in their thongs and smoke weed in their bongs, shaking it to cheesy beats that loop and loop, a robotic voice spraying nonsense in between drops, fists pumping furiously into the air. This is freedom in the great white north. This is what kids do. They get fucked up and get fucked and eat sloppy hamburgers, and get half of it on their face, and then they hit REPEAT.
           
When a group of fifty plus teenagers sit around, drunk and stoned, inevitably one of the jocks whips out a football and three or more guys fan out and start tossing it around. One guy goes long. Too long. The ball ends up on Mosley St, where it’s like ‘60’s California: guys showing off their tricked out anachronistic rides. In Wasaga you don‘t simply go for a ride to get from point A to point B, the raison d‘etre for the ride in the first place is to go cruising by the strip and along Mosley where the resorts are. To show off the whip and gawk at the girls. ‘Tis a pity I don’t care much for steel horses. Doesn’t matter if there’s a good engine under that hood or if it runs on unicorn tears—all I know is I would look good in a new model, two door, black BMW. Men visiting Wasaga will sidle up to me and get all technical about an engine or valve like we grew up on the same block and had discussed the finer points of automotive maintenance many times. “The viscosity rate on the V5 block is atrocious,” he says.
            “Oh yeah, totally,” I say knowingly.
            If only I could talk Wimbledon with some of these nitwits! Don’t they know that it’s the men’s semis tomorrow!? Don’t they know Jerzy Janowicz is playing Andy Murray and that a Brit hasn’t won Wimbledon in like three hundred and fifty eight years and Jerzy is a great young Pole who has never made it this far in a major tournament? Jerzy is an emotional wreck, getting progressively more pissy-eyed after each win, but it’s true sports glory, the greatest kind of reality TV, and if that doesn’t hit you right here, than you, sir, have no soul.
But no. They want to talk about rims, upholstery, and matte black paint jobs.
We’re all on our own, and here’s to each and all of you.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Life's a Beach: Excerpt #6

June 24th 2013

I’m a little bit of an alcoholic (is that like being a little bit pregnant?). I drink every day, but I don’t generally get drunk—not falling down, blackout drunk, at least. Nine days out of ten, it’s four or five pint sized cans of 5% Canadian beer spread methodically—occasionally with white knuckles—throughout the afternoon/evening. This is roughly a six pack of regular sized cans for those keeping score at home. Sometimes I stray from this formula and overindulge, though not often.
            The real problem begins when you start to analyze the stats: six (or more) beers a day . . .  that’s forty two beers a week . . . and one hundred eighty beers a month. One hundred eighty beers a month?! Are you kidding me? That’s a problem if I ever saw one. Where do I find all the time!?
I only go a day without drinking if I was totally sloshed the night before. Even then I may have a couple to tide me over until the four to five pint regiment begins again the next day. The thought of being without any beer in the fridge, or wine in the cupboard, is terrifying.  
           
If you internally scream Yes! when you come upon an unopened can of beer doing clean up, like the alcohol Gods have smiled upon thee, then you may be an alcoholic.
            If you go to either the Beer Store or LCBO 4-6 days a week, you may be an alcoholic.
            If you only walk with a gangsta limp when your gout acts up, you may be an alcoholic.
If you keep empty beer cans by your bed to pee into during the midnight hours (because there is so much beer in your belly and you don’t want to walk upstairs three or four times a night), justifying the behaviour with an environmental argument—less toilet flushes—then you may be an alcoholic. 
If you have $1.67 in your savings account and can’t afford any beer, so you pour a couple shots of mouthwash, thinking you’ll have both a solid buzz and fresh breath, then you may be an alcoholic.
             
***

There was a large melee out front of Cottage Court, and this one kid happened to get pepper sprayed—not by a cop, but by a fellow reveler, then sucker punched while temporarily blinded. A low-ball, yet highly effective play, if you ask me.
            I took it as my duty to find this kid and get his version of events.
            It wasn’t long before I found a short, mulatto kid with an angular haircut and a black eye. “Are you the one that got pepper sprayed last night?”
            Right away he launched into a terse explanation: “Fucking got sprayed then sucka-punched, yo.”            
            His topless friend in aviator shades and a straw cowboy hat took it from there, explaining how a larger individual first sprayed the irritant at the slightly structured mulatto boy, and while he closed his eyes, instinctually bringing his hands to his face to rub and soothe his burning eyes, he was punched on the left side of his face.
Crackalackaboom!
The wounded young man will leave the beach tomorrow morning with a badge of honour--for what can a man do after being pepper sprayed and sucker-punched? The teen did not cower, or get knocked during a fair street fight (if there is such a thing).
He was blind-sided, and everyone can sympathize with the guy who didn’t deserve it.

June 26th 2013

At this point, I meet Jackson, the figure skating sociopath. His words, not mine.
Jackson doesn’t work directly for Stillwater; he’s an independent contractor but Gary still runs the show. He’s the apex predator in the Stillwater ecosystem, overseeing all maintenance and management duties. Jackson is a trusted general contractor, jack-of-all-trades type. This week he is slopping concrete onto the base of the cabins, filling in the chips and cracks, then smoothing the concrete out. Touch-up work.
Upon meeting Jackson, my first impression was that of a calm, affable guy in his mid-thirties. From the moment I met him, he was very pleasant to chat with on the job site. Jackson was a physically well- proportioned man, tall and fit with good teeth and a head full of short cropped hair. The only unsettling feature of Jackson’s body  are the crudely drawn jailhouse tattoos covering all four arms and legs. The tats are now an unnatural bluish-green and fading fast; I could faintly make out one that read, “Harley Davidson” in the familiar orange and white logo. The rest were vague shapes and letters that were indecipherable. I comment on the Harley tattoo and Jeremy tells me he worked security for some biker bars in the past; also studied martial arts. He proceeded to dissect North American martial arts versus original Asian martial arts, engaging with me like we had been to hundreds of martial arts events together. He was committing a mortal sin of first impressions: talking about his interests in length and detail as if I, too, was also an aficionado. All I could do was smile, say “Yeah, cool,” and nod approvingly.
            Jackson told me I have a “good frame,” but for what I don’t know. Figure skating? Taekwondo? After I first met him, I came away thinking, “Seems like a nice guy.”


****

The previous paragraph took place a couple days ago. Then today, my second time working around Jeremy, it was more of the same friendly, pleasant chit-chatting. Out of nowhere, as we were shooting the shit in between two cabins, me washing out bins with Quattro and Jackson smoothing out wet concrete with a small darby, he says, “I’m a diagnosed sociopath.”
            “Oh, yeah?” I ask. What else am I supposed to say to a declaration like that?
            Curious about this guy’s past, and encouraged by his friendly demeanor, I then inquired, “Ever been to jail?”
            “Yeah. Been in Penetanguishene for a couple a years a couple a times. Assault, stuff like that.” Jeremy maintained the smile on his face.
            The smell of a burnt roach, freshly put out, wafted from his truck; I said I was a fan, too. He offered me a puff, I declined.
            “It relaxes me,” he said. “It’s the only thing I do. I can’t drink anymore or I’ll get too crazy, ya know? You sure you don’t want to smoke a bone?” Jeremy asked.
            “Nah, I like to smoke after work,” I told him.
For me, marijuana is a late-night, private affair, dangerous liason kind of thing. Plus, I didn’t want to get too friendly with a potential violent weirdo.
            Jackson lives alone a couple kilometre’s away from Cottage Court in a motel owned by Stillwater that inhabits mystery and intrigue because it does not have any guards patrolling it like the other three resorts. The residents of Seawater Inn, which is quaintly located right on the banks of the Nottawasaga, is home to a much older crowd. Men and women in their forty’s and fifty’s sit around bonfires in Adirondack chairs drinking beer and fishing. There’s no beer pong being played here. Only serious hardcore drinking; the booze unable to hide behind their tired eyes. These are the folks of Wasaga that time has forsaken. They once had dreams like the teenagers down the road celebrating the completion of high school. It’s okay to act crazy when you’re eighteen because you have your whole life ahead of you. Sitting on the banks, drinking a twelve pack, watching the water flow along on its merry way, at fifty-two, is pathetic. Humans are always analyzing whether the behaviour of others is age appropriate.

The difference between these inhabitants and the ones at the other Stillwater properties is the Sea Breeze folks are permanent--or at least they’re trying to be, scrounging up enough cash for today’s beer and next month’s rent. Neither families nor high school graduates come to Sea Breeze. It is for those who live in Wasaga barely cobbling together a living, never quite hustling enough money to get out of the monthly motel rent game. A lot of them are hardcore alcoholics.
            “So . . .” I begin, “if I had an accident with the lawn mower and my hand was cut off, blood shooting out in arterial spurts, you wouldn’t feel kind of weird about it at all, and think ‘Hey, that guy Taylor I met yesterday seemed like a nice guy, I enjoyed talking to him on the site . . . too bad he had his fucking hand cut off! I’m going to have nightmares about the horror.’ Or something like that? You wouldn‘t feel bad for me?”
            “Well,” Jeremy seemed to consider, “I’d definitely jump right in and help you,” he said, not fully understanding the thrust of my query. Maybe he was just dumb.
            “No, I don’t mean actually when the horrific lopping of my hand and the subsequent screams and cries happen--I mean later, when you’re at home eating dinner, reflecting on the incident. Wouldn’t you think about it? Unwillingly replay the horror of it all in your mind? Would you not hope I was okay, that possibly my arm could be surgically reattached and I could again masturbate with both hands if I so choose?”
            “Well, yeah, I suppose I’d have to have dinner. If it was later.”
            I’m sure Jeremy could be bullshitting me for his own twisted pleasure. I couldn’t quite tell, but he did seem to be genuinely off; I sensed it. Using my own twisted pop psychology, there was must be a positive correlation between Jackson’s tattoos and the number of years he spent in prison. Why else would his limbs be festooned with such nonsense as skeleton bikers with bandannas on their skulls, wildly waving machetes? Nevermind the tattoos are drawn with the skill of a common crackhead felon.
Could Jackson be a sociopath as he claims? Probably not. Sociopaths generally don’t go out of their way to tell you they’re sociopaths—they prefer to hide that aspect, to fake it so that others think they have appropriate human feelings/reactions. That being said, the guy really didn’t understand and/or acknowledge the basic thrust behind my hypothetically gruesome situation. I dropped the issue and went back to spraying bins with a highly powerful disinfectant, getting rid of barf and burger residue, wondering where it all went wrong.
I have an honorary degree in Psychology from a reputable Canadian University! Good lord! What am I doing with the plebeians and ingrates amid the rotting stink of dumpsters in forty degrees Celsius! Oh, the injustice of spraying bins with a commercial level disinfectant! My hands! My soft, precious, writerly hands! They’re so smooth, as if God used his own personal darby to carefully sculpt them. Whatever happens, I don’t want to lose my velvety hands!
            We had trouble locating the trusty yellow nozzle that we shared, the kind with six different notches of varying modes of H2O dispersal. It was supposed to be with the hose at all times, and it was driving me fucking nuts because I needed to wash out garbage bins, and more importantly, my psychotic pal Jackson needed to wash out some concrete bins with the jet spray before the concrete dried and hardened. All he needed was the goddamn yellow nozzle, so he could put it on blast, but there he was, laughing about how we couldn‘t find it.
Ha-ha-ha! No matter. The yellow nozzle would turn up sooner or later. He wasn’t getting frustrated like me. Secretly, I was worried that his calm and cool exterior would hit the breaking point and all of a sudden explode into a psychotic rage if I didn’t find the yellow nozzle for the hose. I feared Jeremy’s nice guy façade was only a ruse, that all the DIY jailhouse ink had invariably poisoned his well.
            “See, that’s the problem with this place!” I ranted. “Other people come in and use our shit and then don’t put it back where they got it! I’m going to take a yellow nozzle and go over here and attach it to this hose and then selfishly carry on with my business. Stupid, selfish motherfuckers!” Maybe I’m the psycho.
           
Jackson told me he’s been single for fourteen years. An unusual and embarrassing tidbit to offer up to someone you just met. Though to be fair, I did let him know that I myself had been single “for quite some time.” (“Quite some time” being a euphemism for “Years.” “Years” being a euphemism for “At this point, I’d fuck a hole in the wall.”)
            He tells me that he, unlike myself, couldn’t work security at Stillwater, because he knows it would provoke him. Jackson is a general contractor, a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, his own boss, because he knows he has issues with authority. At the very least, he’s well aware of his violent tendencies and is proactive about taking himself out of those situations. Quite a civil sociopath, this Jeremy. 
            At the end of the day he heads back to the Seawater Inn, back to the true-grit Ontario folks. They’re funny, these local gents. One day I helped a colourful group of them, under Gary’s supervision “move some things,” as Gary described over the phone. I arrived at the Seawater and walked down a ten foot wide set of stairs into the basement where there was what appeared to be a long-defunct club from the late 70’s/early 80’s.  many chairs and tables, as well as a massive, L-shaped bar. Gary explained that this was the décor for a disco club on a houseboat that cruised the Nottawasaga in the misty ‘70s. When I walked through the basement doors it was like being transported back to 1977. I could feel the Bee Gees’ nasally falsettos bleeding out of the walls. I listened to the guys doing the grunt work, mostly in their forty’s, bust each other’s balls to pass the time. They were putting on a show for me, trying to make an impression on the young outsider. I stayed quiet and politely laughed at their jabs. I accepted a proffered beer, the gesture ingratiating myself to them. After all, it was only ten in the morning. It takes hutzpah to slug  cheap beer at ten am. Though considerably younger and not quite as weather beaten, I proved myself a trouper. Am I looking into the future?
            We spent a couple hours lugging all the chairs and tables carefully up the stairs and into a hatch attached to Gary’s truck. The whole load was to be hauled thirty minutes away to a 19th century barn converted into the dining/dance hall of a bucolic bed & breakfast, nestled in the peaceful farmlands between Wasaga Beach and Barrie. The B&B was owned by Ned, the owner of the Stillwater empire, and Gary’s boss. The only man Gary is deferential to. Ned is the boss to end all bosses in this story. He’s the Godfather. Ned walks unnaturally, and constantly has an inappropriate smile on his face.  
            After a light-hearted debate between Gary and a greasy haired man with silver flecked stubble, that was, underneath the surface, a clash between two alpha males trying to assert dominance and leadership during a logistical puzzle. It was the kind of conversation that could spiral out of control into violence if one party says the wrong thing, jokes too hard, or does not acquiesce. As for the rest of us, we stood there mute, not daring to offer up our private thoughts about how best to haul the humongous Tetris piece up the stairs; our theories played out in our heads alone, clashing silently with each other.
There was a complex set of belts looped around the right-angled bar for leverage. These belts looked like they were torn out of an Oldsmobile. Eight of us, four on each side, grabbed hold of either a belt and/or the bar. One of the guys, with a short cropped head of hair and a six inch long goatee, took the lead: “Ready? One . . . Two . . . Three . . .”
Our ragtag octuplet gave it everything we had and began hauling that fucker up the stairs. After much testosteronal grunting and straining, we reached the top, the bar safely intact. One rowdy guy with the city of Hamilton spelled out across the middle of his back in bold, arching letters, walked away flexing his arms and screaming in victory: “Yeah motherfucker!” He then tilted his head back and slugged what was left in his can of extra strong bargain beer, the sun glinting off the upturned concave aluminum rim, the liquid gold flowing down his gullet.   
            We then hoisted the bar, home to the ghosts of thousands of elbows, up into the hatch. I hopped up and helped secure the irregularly shaped wooden beast with more belts. The move was and it was now hardcore drinking time. High fives went all around. Mr. Hamilton bro hugged me so hard I thought I felt a rib snap. If I had to guess, the total number of years spent behind bars by this feral clan totaled well over the age of a common Canadian grandpa.
Gary pulled out a wad of colourful bills and handed it to Mr. Hamilton, who in turn peeled off a couple of green twenties and handed it to a buddy who pocketed the cash and dutifully hoped onto his ten-speed and took off towards The Beer Store. 
            The men grabbed their open beers which were sitting conspicuously in a row on the ledge of a nearby porch, and went back towards the river bank to finish them off. There was a mass of soot and ashes in a pile. One of the guys threw a couple logs on top and squirted the wood with lighter fluid. It was a plan. A fire, lots of beer, and perhaps a hard-boiled egg with some Mr. Noodles for dinner.
It was only noon so the guys were mostly sober. Who knew what kind of state they’d be in come nightfall. When you don’t live with these down-and-outers, they are mostly delightful to be around—less annoying, yet more set in their ways than the teenagers jacked out of their gourds on MDMA and hormones.
            In the early evening, Gary sends me back to Sea Breeze to round up a man named Derek, as well as his dog, to stay the night at HQ, The Stillwater Inn, while some renovations are done on his Sea Breeze room. A common event, this temporary reshuffling for upkeep and maintenance.
The whole lot of them are wary when I pull into the driveway, collectively thinking Who is this potential bother and/or disrupter—until, that is—I get out of my car and they recognize me from the earlier move. Their faces fall into toothy displays of merriment. “What’s up, bro?” Mr. Hamilton said. Everyone was smoking at the same time, just like the kids at the beach, except these folks know the real monetary cost of long-term addiction and plan ahead, buying a lot of cheap cigarettes, the ones you buy in large Ziploc bags. Down the road, the kids mainly buy Belmont’s—generally the most expensive brand—mainly as a peacock display. The irony, of course being that the teenagers, compensating for their lack of manhood and financial stability, grasp at some of the lowest hanging cultural fruit (cigarettes!) to promulgate an image of refinement and wealth and overall badassery. Smoking a Belly is like a crack hit of cache. It’s not like pulling into the parking lot with a Porsche. The power of a Belmont is fleeting and ephemeral, yet it’s undeniable for a few minutes. And then juice is used up. Until you pull out another one.
Almost all of the Stillwater guests smoke Belmont’s. Do they have secret agents infiltrating this town? Every kid buys into this Belmont conspiracy. It’s about $14 a pack and you could trade a carton for a kilo of smack. Bravo Belmont. As a company peddling 1st class, downright tasty lung death in the 21st century, they’ve somehow, brilliantly, got a lot young Canadian adults on board even though they sell the costly cigarettes, and they’re not much better than any other of the decent smokes out there. I can remember it being similar in the late 1990’s when I was in high school. Only the cool kids smoked Belmont’s. They were expensive back then, too, a lot more than my brand, Du Maurier’s. It was uncool for a real, punk rock stoner teenager to be seen smoking a Belmont. Belmont’s were reserved for the nice looking, cookie cutter alpha jock types. The sensitive, artisanal snowflakes like me wouldn’t be caught dead with a Belly.       
           
I see a man sitting by himself on a log away from all the muckrakers, reading a book, while his large golden retriever sits in the shade, its tongue pleasantly lolling. He didn’t notice me as I walked towards him, his right hand holding a thick paperback in front of his face. He was an older gent and shabby looking. He appeared to be the kind of person that glory has no time for any longer; an unknown soldier in the battle of life.
            “You Derek?” I asked, the man setting his book down on his lap to look up at me.
            “Yep, sure am.”
            “I’m here to take you back to the Inn for the night.”
            On his lap was a small forest, written in fine print. The book looked like a serious endeavor.
“Whatcha reading there, Derek?” I asked.
            “Oh, just something about a captain, out at sea for many years,” he said.
Derek told me the author’s name but it eludes me now, not someone I’d ever heard of, so I didn’t inquire any further. He told me the dog’s name was Goober, that much I do know. We hopped in my car for the short drive to the Inn.
He was a pleasant man with a very Zen attitude. Not much of a talker, which I liked, because it’s tough to suffer fools and all those dumb sounds that spill out of their mouths.
 Derek did not seem like a current drinker, but he reeked of past abuse. Years ago he could have been at Cottage Court funneling an ice cold Molson Canadian, a crowd chanting his name. His whole life was ahead of him. Derek took some wrong turns, and now he’s ended up back at the party, thirty years too late. Derek has a story to tell, like anyone else, but I don’t know what it is. He remained silent. Was he abused by a creepy uncle? Did he have a family? A wife and kids? An ex-wife and kids? There were no answers, only questions that tumble into more questions. All he had was Goober.
We eyeballed the women walking in bikinis and hid the desire for our favourite girl. Goober’s head was far outside the window, a subhuman, goofball smile on his face, and he stared, presumably, at his favourite, too.
At a stop sign, I snuck a glance at Derek. He looked haggard and unkempt, the transient life clearly taking its toll. The eyes were clear, though. I imagined Derek flitting from hotel to hotel, barely keeping dog food in the dish. Not exactly homeless, yet still without a home. Like a light switch stuck in the middle between on and off, buzzing and flickering.

I left the two of them in the car and went into the office at the Inn to confirm the details. Jacky gave me a room key. I escorted Derek and Goober to their room for the night—the stock motel room laid out the same way as Sea Breeze. Goober was excited about the new accommodations, frantically inspecting and sniffing the room out. Dogs will love you just the same whether you live in a one room dump, or a house on the hill, and that’s more than I can say about some people.