Monday, March 10, 2014

Excerpt from "Life's A Beach: A Summer Portrait"

The following is an excerpt from Life's a Beach, a comedic memoir to be released later in 2014 of my time spent as a security guard for a resort in Wasaga Beach, ON during the summer of 2013. Names have been changed to protect identities because those involved have no idea of their involvement. Except mine, of course.


Aug 12th, 2013


For summer, it’s a cold and windy day. The sun ducks in and out of a series of evenly spaced clouds. I am patrolling the front of Cottage Court with purpose, though there isn’t much of one. Walking east the hands are in the pocket. Walking west they’re crossed. It’s midday and our guests are relatively sober, which is a euphemism for ‘not completely out of control drunk.’

I’m the only slice of law on the land.

My radio crackles to life and Gary yells at me to tell the people in cottage thirteen, the one down by the docks, to move their cars back up the hill to the where they should be parked.

I stride down into the guest’s inner space, where girls in bikinis are playing beer pong on a fold out table and guys are swaying to the electro dance beats with alcoholic energy drinks in their hands. They all look at me as I say in a Southern U.S. accent: “Okay. Who’s the most sober person here? Because we got to move some vee-hickles.” They laugh politely.

I have watched way too many episodes of Cops.

These kids seem friendly and they have fun pointing around at one another until the two most capable drivers are officially decided on. Some of those who come to the beach are paranoid to high hell about driving drunk and some could give a shit, flaunting it around like urban daredevils. These folks are in the prior camp.

Thirty minutes later, two of them get into a pickup truck. The same one that was moved from the dock. It‘s a nice ride. A menacing steel beast, high off the ground with large shimmering rims. This baby was well maintained with tender love and care. I stood my guard at the mouth of the street, right by the famous blue bridge, glancing at the two men, careful not to stare in their direction for too long. Hard drug users are like skittish doe’s and will flee at the first sign of danger. They were sitting there, commiserating, with seemingly no intention of driving anywhere. That’s a red flag. My throat went dry. I could sense drug activity and I continued to watch them discretely. I patiently stood there with my hands in my pockets, waiting for the move: The Lean Down. It’s a dead giveaway. If any one of the occupants bend over at the waist as if they dropped a cell phone and then pop right back up, something’s going on.

I decide to make contact. They eye me with a cup of suspicion and a teaspoonful of fear as I sidle up to the passenger side window where the black guy is sitting and tap the window ever so gently. I have a mega-wattage, ear-to-ear smile plastered on my face to show them I come in peace. The window electronically lowers itself halfway. It’s a  social scenario that I’m all too familiar with this summer: disarming strangers sniffing drugs so that they know I’m on their side, despite my position of authority. If I feel like they’re holding out, then I’ll threaten them with eviction, their safety deposit be damned.

I’m the Bad Lieutenant of Wasaga Beach, bitch!

“Don’t worry, guys. It’s all good,” I say through a toothy smile. The passenger and I were now face to face--he was a young black man with unnatural looking forest green contacts, like an extra straight out of Spring Breakers.

“Hey, guys, don’t worry,” I reiterated, “I don’t care what you’re doing, I‘m with you all the way,” I said. With you all the way. Ugh. What a dumb thing to say. The longer this summer drags on while I break the rules with impunity, the sloppier I get with the guests. Once you go too far down a hole, there ain’t no way to get out on your own. I don’t care what I say to them anymore. They’re not even real. Tomorrow they’ll be gone and it’ll be some other group of ne’er-do-wells in ironic t-shirts and barely there bikinis.  

My life is the opposite of a touring musician--I simply stay put--yet very similar in the endless revolving door of characters coming and going each night. Everyone you meet will eventually disappear, they just disappear a lot faster in Wasaga.

I was hemorrhaging what little trust these two guys had in me to begin with. The dark haired, olive skinned driver with spiky hair leans over to get a better look at me. like a Panicky Pete, the words tumble out of my mouth, a will all of their own: “Do you guys have any blow?” I was so excited,  thinking I’ll for sure get a line or a pill of MDMA. I was in the grips of the Pavlovian high before the high--crazy anticipatory neurological shit was going on in my brain that only someone like Gabor Mate could explain. My heart’s thumping and I’m about to open the back door or either jump through the passenger side window and maul these freaks. There is nothing but this moment. I don’t care that I’m thirty-one and I live in my parents’ basement, that I have no practical aspirations for a better life. That I’m hopelessly broken in some way because I only want whatever the fuck just went into old Green Eyes’ face. That everything will be better once it goes into my brain. This is for all the marbles, the key to unlock the door to enlightenment.

My heart sinks into my shoes when Green Eyes tells me they just did the last of their MDMA.

Liar whore, liar whore, and you know it!

The three of us collectively sigh. The junkie’s lament.

My premature high comes prematurely.

“Do you know where to get any coke? We ran out last night,” the white guy says, turning the tables on me.

I am asked to procure cocaine for Edgewater guests, as you might expect, and sadly I always disappoint. I honestly don’t know where to get any. Take me to Brampton and I can get it from five different guys but my coke radar is not attuned to any Wasaga Beach frequencies. I’m no fabled importer like Mickey Munday.

“There’s tons of it around, I just don’t know where it is,” I say forlornly. “It’s an elusive fish that won‘t take the bait.”

                                                                       * * *

I can’t score any blow in this two-bit town, but I do have a great marijuana connection--even if I don’t know the guy’s phone number. The only way to make contact is to knock on his door.

He never told me why I can’t call him and I never asked why.

In an illicit business that now almost exclusively relies on cell phones for logistics, it’s a throwback to drive up to your dealer’s house to score, hoping and praying someone is on the other side of the door.

Our lives are now pre-arranged. It’s getting tougher and tougher to disappear into oblivion with these honing devices in our pocket at all times.

Tommy’s his name. He’s an old craggily half native, half white guy with a long grey ponytail and a roadmap of hard living etched on his face. Tommy had the prototypical bulbous red nose. Old tattoos dotted his arms, so blue and faded that I couldn’t even make a single one out. He’s lived in the beach for the last fifteen years.

Tommy, in his twilight years, is a nice enough, laid back guy who doesn’t seem to do work of any kind. At any hour, he’s either at home or the bar. He’s the kind of guy you immediately sense has seen a few cells and eviction notices in his day.

When I am low on marijuana and need to shell out the forty bucks required for a half-quarter, I drive the two kilometres to Tommy’s place in the hopes that he’s home. He lives on the top floor of an old white house on a side street adjacent to the madness of Mosley Street. You have to climb an old rickety set of white stairs to his front door that bows and squeaks even with my 155lbs frame on it.

Tommy has a system. If the padlock is unlocked, dangling from its hasp, then knock away. If Tommy’s not home the door is padlocked, but there may be any number of succinct messages scrawled in black marker on a piece of square cardboard and placed in one of the doors’ small window frames. It may say, “Back at 11am,” or “At the bar,” in which case you know where to find him: around the corner at Studs Lonigan. The most dreaded message of all is the “X” which means there‘s no stock left. There‘s always a gut-wrenching moment of truth when I climb the stairs. Sometimes the lock is unhinged and I can hear a soccer game on TV, but my high spirits are quashed by the sinister “X”. I turn around and skulk down the stairs back to my running car with no pep in my step, back to the basement. Back to analyzing every little thing to figure out how I ended up here.

One time I was so desperate to score, I knocked on Tommy’s door anyways, even with the “X” in the window. I needed answers. A time frame. Anything. For all I knew he just got a fresh load delivered and was in his bedroom chopping the weed up and putting it in Ziploc bags, moments away from removing the “X”.

Tommy, though quite a short man, came stomping towards the door like an elephant and split apart a couple strands of his dollar-store blinds to take a look at the fool who dared knock with the “X” in the window, which communicated perfectly the simple- as-shit message to understand that he was out of marijuana. I could hear him muttering obscenities and braced for a confrontation. The door swung open and before I could explain he said, “Didn’t you see the X?!”

“Yeah, Tommy, I saw the X. I can’t even get a dime? A joint? I‘m dying here.”

“No! Didn‘t you see the X!”

“Okay, well, do you think maybe tomorrow?” I said, cupping my hand to make sure he heard me as the door closed in my face.

“I don’t know,” he said, yelling “Maybe!” through the closed door.

I walked down the stairs with the worst feeling ever. Tommy’s big, cute fluffy black cat, Betty, meowed curiously at me. I always gave her a good pet down before and after leaving.

“Piss off Betty!” I said to her, getting in my car, muttering obscenities.

                                                                     * * *

I went over to Tommy’s to buy a half-quarter and asked him if he had anything else. Pills, powder, anything. He didn’t. Doesn’t mess around with the coke or opiates anymore. Only drinks tons of Canadian and puffs the occasional joint, but as a younger man he was a devoted hard drug user.

An Arsenal game played in the background; the crowd was so big they sounded like white noise. Tommy told me about how way back when, he cooked up a speedball in a strip joint and promptly OD’d. It was the lounge in back of the club where the girls wound down before and after their shifts. For Tommy it was a regular hangout where he mainly shot dope and sold it to the seedy denizens in and around the club. When Tommy spoke of needles he always referred to them as spikes.

“Some of my friends were strippers and some of my friends were junkies,” he said, “and some of my friends were strippers and junkies. Haw haw!”

As it became clear that Tommy was OD’ing, the three strippers in the lounge who were on break ran to his aid, lugging him into the bathtub, running the bath alternately cold and hot, trying to jerry-rig his system back to life. The first three girls left to go dance and hustle and the other three girls took over, storming in, kicking off their vertiginous stiletto’s and getting down to the business of nursing Tommy back to life.

When he finally came to, whichever three strippers were in the lounge fed him bowls of chicken noodle soup and cans of ginger ale with a brand new straw for each can,  until he finally gained his strength back and subsequently made a full recovery--to pounding alcohol down his gullet. The whole ordeal in the stripper ER lasted two and a half harrowing days.

Tommy pauses to slug down the rest of his can of Canadian, it takes a good ten seconds of glugging and slurping. The clock above the window says 10:52am. How uncouth! I don’t have my first drink until at least after 12pm.

He also recounted the time was drinking and smoking a lot of heroin with some buddies in Nova Scotia twenty years ago. He had successfully kicked shooting and switched to smoking. We take our successes where we can find them.

A Hurricane roared through, one of the biggest ever to hit the province. It had an ugly, forboding alliterative name: Hurricane Hortense. Tommy explained that when he smoked heroin, he’d put it on the tinfoil, plug one nostril, and with a straw inhale the smoke through the other one like a line of coke, not through his mouth the way most people do it. “It gets to your brain faster,” he said in a gruff voice. My nose crinkled at the thought of inhaling smoke through one of my nostrils and my eyes began to water.

“So we’re in the rented house smoking dope up our noses, and I walk outside at night to get a pack of smokes from my truck and right in front of me I see this white stallion galloping into the woods. The wind was howling. I was so fucked up I thought it was a ghost! Ha-ha! We all nodded off and then once I woke up the next day and walked outside the barn next door was gone, and all the trees were broken in two like matchsticks. That’s when I realized it must have been a big storm.

For the rest of the day I couldn’t get the image out of my head of a white horse running through the woods during a hurricane, maybe even flying.

“We just loaded up our clothes and shit and took off in the truck, which had a cracked to shit windshield from the storm, back to Ontario without paying the rent cause the whole place took a lot of damage while we were fucked up. That goddamn hurricane saved us a lot of money we didn’t have, haw haw!”


Aug 18th 2013


This weekend the town hosts the annual event: Wasaga Under Siege--A War of 1812 Experience.

Schooners with large wooden masts recreate a battle during the war between Britain and America that took place right here in the Nottawasaga River.

In 1812, America and Britain were like two parents during an acrimonious divorce, fighting bitterly over custody of their young weak child, not out of concern for the child’s well being so much as for the possession of the offspring to consolidate power.

Essentially, Canada’s starring role in this historic war was mainly that of the battleground.

Lots of families and history buffs come out to watch and listen to the thunderous booms of the canons. Relax folks, they’re blanks! It’s fake violence, like fake porn. So bring the whole family!

Re-enactor’s are dressed impeccably in stuffy early 19th century war uniforms and they are all sweating profusely in the unrelenting August humidity. The soldiers balance muskets against their shoulders and pass nervously by the turnt up kids. The whole scene is full of non-stop cringe inducing moments of pity for the imitator war vets. These guys can’t pass a group of people dressed in twenty first century clothes without being made fun of and laughed at derisively. I felt sorry for the anachronistic warriors.

There’s not really much to the whole Experience--only a few old schooners and the occasional boom that echoes across the whole town. This weekend, Wasaga is a smorgasbord of 1812 war vets, drunken teens in the latest wigger wear, families, and old folks with Lego person hairdos. For the whole weekend the town is a George Saunders story come to life.

The actual battle that the Experience re-enactment is based on left me bemused. I am left scratching my head as to why it is being commemorated. I was always under the assumption that it was a glorious battle between the British and Americans, with some rogue battalion of scallywag Canadians stepping in to help the Brits win some penultimate battle. Maybe we were outmanned and outgunned, but through sheer maple syrup moxie we managed to defeat the Americans, their Yankee blood colouring (coloUring!) the southern shores of Georgian Bay a deep red, their guts sloshing around right in front of where the night club Bananas now stands.

No, it was nothing like that at all.

The re-enactment takes place in the narrow Nottawasaga River, where the sunken hull of Nancy, the centrepiece (centre!) of the battle lays after being bombarded by the American ships that were in nearby Georgian Bay. Nancy was a big fish in a little pond. Easy pickings for the Americans safely anchored a short distance away. The half sunken hull is now called Nancy Island and is a main tourist attraction in Wasaga. I’ve never been.

As the story goes, back in 1812 some American troops wandering through the woods essentially found Nancy hiding in the Nottawasaga, lying in wait to ambush or at the very least hide from the Americans docked nearby in the bay. There was only a thin strip of land separating the river from the bay--perhaps half a kilometre. The troops scurried back undetected to the U.S. ships with the good news and shortly thereafter the solitary schooner with an unimposing girl’s name was hammered with canons. Rather than let the Americans take custody of the ship, Lieutenant Worsley made preparations to burn the bitch and get the fuck out of Dodge (Dodge being the forests south of the river that are now a pleasant patch of suburbs). Before this last ditch effort came to fruition, Nancy took a direct hit on the blockhouse and started burning. Totally and utterly destroyed, her charred guts sank to the bottom of the Nottawasaga, only the prow jutting out of the shallow waters. The surviving troops scampered off into the trees. Thankfully the Americans didn’t pursue to finish off the job.

This is the battle thousands come to Wasaga Beach to celebrate? To honour with Canadian pride? I don’t really know. Nancy Island is symbolic of what? Being discovered by the enemy, being cannon-balled into oblivion, and then fleeing into the forest hoping the enemy does not follow? It’s goddamn embarrassing is what it is. And I’m a proud Canadian. Why are we re-enacting this horrendous abomination every year?

Think of Mel Gibson’s speech in Braveheart. It’s inspirational. One gets national pride goose-bumps. The Scots are defending their homeland from invasion by the more formidable English army. Sadly, nowadays, if I catch that scene on TV it’s like Mel Gibson is about to charge the HJA (Hollywood Jew Army). Hordes of writers are in the front lines with flimsy spears, like oversized pencils, while the scions of Hollywood sit back on their horses smoking cigars.

Did Lt. Worsley give a similar speech before abandoning the ship in the river? Before the troops fled into the trees, their plan sabotaged, outwitted by the Americans?

They can sink our schooner, but they can‘t sink our LEGS! . . . Which will now run into the woods!

Yes, Canada. We stand on guard for thee.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Undiscovered City: Binge Ninja

Go to: www.bingeninja.bandcamp.com for all Binge Ninja music and video links.

Author’s note: an asterisk (*) functions as a footnote because footnotes are not possible with this website.

 


Naturally, being a huge metropolis with endless suburbs, a place where concrete is the national flower and creative humans are left with nothing much else to do except experiment in their basements and apartments, especially in the frigid winter months, Toronto has a dearth of unique and eccentric artists. It’s the law of averages.

One of them is Binge Ninja and the band’s most recent project: a twenty song music video collection. Yes, each of the twenty songs have an accompanying music video to go with it.

Sound familiar?

Unless Beyonce spent some recent time downing pints in Parkdale pubs, it’s doubtful she has any idea who Binge Ninja is. I mean, how could the lady? Her time is filled with private jets, arena shows, Jay-Z, performing for dictators, and raising a young child, Blue Ivy.*

A few months before she released seventeen songs with accompanying music videos in late 2013--with no warning or media hype (the cynic in me thinks that type of move is essentially a stunt for someone of her popularity because it will draw media attention, )--Toronto’s own Binge Ninja beat the multi-talented hip-shaker to the punch and released a collection of twenty video-songs--also with no warning or media hype, but that‘s because there is no other way to do it. A few downtown shows and--Pow!--a twenty sack of Southern Ontario Gothic.

The bulk of the twenty music videos are comprised of songs from the album, The Dead Artisan, The New Artist (Self-Destruction For Re-Invention) with the other eight videos coming from a collaborative album, Kissing At Summer Camp with another fine local artist, The First Seed. The BN & TFS songs are like dropping napalm bombs on sonic boundaries. It’s visceral electronic noise that eschews conventional song structure and traditional singing. There’s a lot of “Fuck You” qualities to it. Fuck a three minute song with a sing-along chorus, sweet Beach Boys type harmonies,** and a seamless fade out. Been there, done that. Bo-ring. The fractious nature of the songs, the dissonant, atonal noises*** mirror an internal chaos, and the search for something new.

These songs comes from pain, anger, they lash out at you. It’s damn near impossible to walk away from any of the videos and songs with a “Meh--it was okay, I ‘sppose,” type attitude. It’s confronting and in-your-face. Outright hostility. BN & TFS sound like Atari Teenage Riot raping a boardroom full of plutocrats. They smash what it is to even have expectations about what a musical group should sound like.

Though BN’s twenty videos are a staggering feat--as is Beyonce’s, clearly--a collaborative vision seen through to completion, the songs that comprise Binge Ninja’s TDA, TNA (S-DFR-I) is the best stuff. The songs are eclectic and well written. Binge Ninja is such an enigmatic, difficult band to pin down, and that’s alrightwith me; I like it. Why do most go down the lonely side road of a specific genre? Fear, inability, loss of money? BN expertly genre-wanders through pop, punk rock and flat out screaming noise. But who fucking cares about these tired reference points? As Billy Joel says, “It’s still rock and roll to me.” Don't bother much with the pundits' classification systems.

It’s so tiring to see the same old artists doing the same old song and dance. Evolve already! Do something truly new and innovative instead of the same old bland lyrics and formulaic song structure. Break loose! You are free, my song bird! That’s how BN makes me feel. They are free to roam and take the listener along on sonic journeys. Take a camera, some instruments, and make some magic--that is what an artisan does, after all: use their hands to create. And BN weaves an intricate, multi-coloured tapestry.

Now, there aren’t any ooey-gooey love songs to gush over on TDA, TNA (S-DFR-I). Disintegration and death are everywhere. Obliteration. The lies and emptiness of our deadweight, pointless mass consumerist lives, and failed relationships. Throw in some drug/alcohol abuse to numb the pain, too. It’s dark shit, but the world isn’t all sunshine and butterflies. It feels like an exorcism when you're done listening, a purging of the person you once were.

Actually, I’m starting a cover band called Purge Ninja.

Maybe it’s just the fourteen year old girl in me, but I am partial to the softer songs. I’m a sap for a nice falsetto voice and catchy chords like on The Bends era Radiohead and the latter half of Silverchair‘s output. I’m talking specifically about Fire Into The Dark, one of the best songs on the album.**** I find myself singing that one in the shower or while washing the dishes, as well as Why Do it Over?, another softer song.

That’s not to say that the distorted, screaming anthemic punk songs for the disturbed like One More Binge and Big Black Lies aren’t pulling their weight. Those ones are awesome, too. The videos, for the twenty songs are very DIY. They’re shaky, filmed on the streets of Toronto and the GTA with hand held cameras, but they’re gritty and edited together meticulously. Big Black Lies is all flash cut animation showing sketches and phrases whereas in Murdered, the band members are individually dressed up as Jokers-esque characters performing in the snow.

Where you won't see any of Binge Ninja's twenty music videos is MuchMusic. Fuck MuchMusic in the ass, anyways. There was some decent programming on the channel when I was sitting on the couch, stoned after school in the ‘90‘s. I can’t even imagine what kind of slop is on that sorry excuse for a channel nowadays; I fear a panic attack if I dared tune in. Perhaps I’m way off base because I don’t watch MuchMusic anymore, but I’d venture a guess that the station mirrors which current popular music makes the most money, like it always has. But because it’s harder and harder to make money creating and performing music, the only profitable choices are now, more than ever, of the lowest common denominator variety--dumbed down, highly sexualized, shameless, and douche-chillingly bad to appeal to as many ears and eyeballs as possible. That is where the double-edged sword of the internet steps in.***** Like all independent bands, Binge Ninja occupies a tiny corner of the world wide web, and like a far away star it distantly shines in the vast darkness. If you focus your telescope  just so, you can barely make it out. But it is there to see, at night, in your midnight hour.

Maybe Binge Ninja wouldn’t appreciate the comparison, but the band remind me in some ways of the late great Lou Reed (albeit with a wider vocal range). The way the music is so varied, occasionally leaking into darkly catchy pop songs, but only allowing a few on the album at most, preferring to indulge in other songs that are more intense, more difficult to penetrate. Both Binge and Lou have that genuine, this is what I’m doing and I don’t give a fuck what you think edge to their music. They don’t follow trends or buy into cheap thrills or endlessly simple chords, or smarmy, buttery lyrics.

A great writer once said, “Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted.” The same sentiment applies to Binge Ninja. Beyonce? Not so much.

 

 
                                                                             .  .  .

 

*Which, if you didn’t know, is Lucifer’s daughter’s name spelled backwards in Latin, and Ivy also quite possibly being an acronym for “Illuminati’s Very Youngest.”

**Chill out, I’m a big fan.

***Binge Ninja uses so many oddly shaped, atonal, off-kilter chords, when playing live the fingers of his left hand are often splayed, doing acrobatic splits, and dancing across the fret board like a spider freshly nailed with a spray of Raid! BN may be allergic to a simple E or C chord most of the time--but it works, and the melodies are there, clear, and nuanced.

****I’m aware that this is like being a Radiohead fan saying Creep is their favourite song, it’s the attention grabbing catchier pop tune that 'real' fans deride and only casual fans would favour, but it’s true, and say what you will, I'm not going to lie about it--Fire Into The Dark is my favourite, I don’t know what else to tell you.

*****Double-edged because the internet can both giveth and taketh away from artists. On the one hand, it provides a platform, a vehicle to expose yourself to a potentially vast audience for little to no cost, yet on the other hand, because nearly everyone has the same communistic chance to unleash their music on the masses, there is a white noise, near impossible to rise above. The irony here being that now, in our hyper-technologically advanced times where mass distribution is only a click away and high-tech recording equipment is at the tip of anyone's aspiring fingertips, it is now no easier to become successful than it was back when the only way to get an album made was a sprinkle of talent, a cigar chomping exec, and a dash of luck.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My iMistress's Sparrow Is Dead

This Anthony Weiner guy has a problem. Not exactly the one he's portrayed to have by the media,  though there is some overlap. Anthony Weiner is a dreamer. When it comes to sex, he prefers the method that he can control most efficiently, and which is also convenient and can be done from the safety of his house or a hotel room or what have you: physically alone, digitally together.
Just keeps it all up here (author taps his left temple). Sex, for the most part, is not something that a physical act for Weiner, it’s a fantasy, very private, to be enjoyed by him alone in his own mind. Hey, as a man, no one knows how better to reach climax than when you’re tugging your own turgid rod. I imagine the same goes for women. What do I know? This is how Weiner wants it. The guy doesnt even have flesh intercourse with Sydney Leathers--his iMistress--in person, the way a regular powerful male, who has his pick of attractive available women would.

Imagine youre the prospective mayor of the largest and most powerful city in America and you dont even reach out to physically touch one of your mistresses. A relationship over the course of months is maintained yet there is no face time. Never. You only want to have the mistress talk dirty to you while you yank on your prick. Hell, it only takes a few minutes to pop off and then you just want to get back to pressing mayoral business. Some men only want to have a relationship that is mediated by the distance of technology. Its a fantastical voyage, where everything is safely on the outside and out of reach. Personal connections are right where you want them to be: at arms length.

Weiner never consummates his lust, even though thats all the guy does is talk about having sex when he’s speaking or texting to Miss Leathers, how he wants to cum deep insider her, or on her feet, or on her tits, and not to mention the constant ‘dictures’ he sends her.

Not many can sculpt a genitalia shot like Weiner. He’s the Orson Welles of dick pics. He takes the picture from below the penis, so when one opens the file to view it for the first time, you feel subservient, looking up at this looming beast.

Weiner needs constant reassurance and ego-stroking. A powerful man in control--thats Anthony Weiner. And dont you forget it! There’s also an element of head-scratching absurdity when one considers the nom de plume Weiner employs to disguise his alter ego: Carlos Danger. To me, the vaguely Quixotic/Zorro undertones hint at some long lost childhood love from a far away place; a hero of his youth, perhaps. Come on-- where did he come up with that one? What a fucking goof.

According to Sydney Leathers, who was delightfully eloquent compared to most other high profile mistresses, in the absolutely enthralling Howard Stern interview on Tuesday, July 30th, she claimed that Weiner never even mentioned or commented to her about the name. She assumed it was implicit and only reasonable that this powerful New York politician would use a pseudonym when compulsively engaging in teenage boy level emails and texts. Weiner just screams immaturity in the personal realm. He calls this supposedly young alluring sexpot, who, lets be honest is kind of a beast--in mayoral terms--and frantically tugs his cut Jew cock in three to five minutes tops and splurts his ectoplasmic seed into his bellybutton, filling it like a kiddie jism pool, then awkwardly ends the conversation and gets back to the business of politicking. Does that sound like a forty eight year old man vying to run New York City?

I, baby, am Carlos Danger.




The iMistress herself.


Ultimately, his juvenile sexual behaviour is the symptom of an addiction, a compulsion, an its-just-never-fucking-enough type of non-stop feeling. It manifests itself in a myriad of ways. For example, me, I like to get high and drink and think about it all the time even when Im not doing anything, when Im reading a book or eating lunch, I cant stop thinking about how good it will be when that bong hits my lips and that sweet smoke shoots deep into my lungs, so deep I think where does it all even go in there? And how great that pint of Molson M will be. Well, how great that fourth one will be, once Im already juiced up and stoned. Then try not to repeat for as long as possible. So I can laugh at Weiners problems, but I feel for the guy on some level. Aren’t we all prisoners to our unruly desires? I can also identify with Weiner, as can many men I suspect, in that who fucking cares anymore about working for a relationship? Can’t I just pull up YouPorn.com and jerk off, be done in five minutes, and not have to deal with all the jabbering and rotten smelling vaginas and in-laws, and comprimised ME time, and human contact? I know, it’s all so narcissistic and misogynistic. I am a broken man, what can I say? I dream of the perfect woman, where we cuddle up at night and our days are filled with love. At some point in the fantasy, reality's gaping maw of doom always creeps in through the cracks, and doubtless we’ll end up being snippy with each other and we'll long for the days when we weren’t so responsible for each others’ happiness and well being. And to think my parents have been married for thirty nine years! 

Real love is scary and when it happens we aren’t in control of our emotions the way we’d prefer. It’s like waterskiing and the boat is being driven by a maniac; can be potentially thrilling, the ride of a life, but can also cause you to drown, or at the very least get a nasty rope burn.

Why Mr. Weiner clearly cannot and will not be mayor of NYC isn’t so much about his sexual preferences, it’s about his colossal lack of judgement. This is NYC politics; a goddamn boiler room! People are watching watching watching! The minute you fuck up, someone’s right there to ask you about it.

Personally, as simply another John Q. Citizen, I want my politicians to be automatons for the people, monk-like in their devotion to giving over their lives to public service. I don’t want a mayor who smokes crack or compulsively sext’s women because that is time he should be spending to make life better for the billions of dumbfounded dip shits. And everyone knows--not that this is nowhere--but that when you hear of some dubious politician smoking crack or sending out cock pictures, it’s not like they’re doing that here and there, only sprinkling it in after a hard days night work. Perhaps once or twice a month. Fuck no! They’re doing that kind of nonsense ALL THE TIME! Or holding themselves back, peering over the precipice, thinking about doing it ALL THE TIME!

I should know. If you snap a photo of me taking a bong rip, you can be damn sure it wasn’t the exception to the rule; certainly not a special occasion. So what is the solution once the cat is out of the bag? Witness the recent multiple sexual harassment allegations against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner: Press conference apologies and the humble accepting of wrongdoings, and a guarantee to process the shame and guilt in the manner deemed appropriate by professionals. Then whisked away to a two week behavioural therapy course (two weeks!?) to correct the sexually inappropriate conduct that is unbecoming of a public figure. Next stop: Curesville!

It's like giving an Advil to an AIDS patient.

"There's no need to step down as mayor, no no no, why do that?" He essentially says. "Those two weeks really did me good. I feel right as rain. I'm ready to NOT grab underling titties, and NOT lick the cheeks of buxom interns with my septuagenarian tongue, no siree!"

Many of Filner's accusers claim that he is a cheek licker. Gawd, imagine having to endure that slimy slug moving across your cheek, smelling like Polident and Psylium fiber. The cheek is a very private and sensitive area of a person's body. Even in jest, to lick a friend or lover's cheek, causes one to immediately pull away and wipe off with any available cloth, or the back of one's hand, the sheen of saliva streaming across the cheek. I find Filner much more despicable. These gals are saying he also hugs way too tight and for too long. This guy is a fucking nightmare. I can only imagine how many inside jokes there are between Bob's most trusted staff: "Hey guys, last night I was Filnering this broad's asshole with my hot yogurt." Or, when he's at a gas station: "Filner up!"

"How'd you like some cheek-licking and tight-hugging?" 


Some senior citizens emit a tender glow of warmth and friendliness; the years have bestowed wisdom and humility upon them. This Filner character, with his hangdog jowls and cold dead eyes, has about as much warmth to him as a serial rapist from Nunavut.

Weiner? Are you listening? Maybe New York isn’t the place for you. How can you say no to palm trees and agreeable weather all year round? Just think, you could be topless jogging along the pacific coast in the middle of January.

Following the lack of judgement theme: How could Weiner possibly think that Sydney would keep her yap shut? What child-like trust in a woman he has never even seen in the flesh. He probably has an encyclopaedic brain, can quote obscure law by rote, but his Amygdala just takes over at every twist down the road of life. Those damn fingers have a mind of their own!

Cynicism sinks in a little deeper the more I gnaw on it, I get to thinking that maybe Weiner is addicted to the attention, not feeling even an ounce of shame. And Huma, she’s known about his behaviour for years but she doesn’t care . . . this isn’t love, it’s success, it’s a New York power couple. That’s the deal. Fight enemies together? Well, sure. But only make love and be emotionally faithful to each other? Are you nuts!

Weiner’s so famous now, has so much juice, he doesn’t care that it’s because of his unruly internet sexcapades. Weiner loves the power. Even scandalous power can be parlayed into legitimate power. A couple years ago, Anythony Weiner running for mayor of NYC would be a total joke. He somehow, in between sexting the fuck out of various women, clawed his way back into the ring. I wonder, were his claws just that sharp or was the public just that soft.

Weiner doesn’t think like you and me--he’s on another level entirely. Yes-men and yes-women carry out his every whim. Common civilians on the street shake his hand enthusiastically--or not--and tell him they love what he’s doing for the city. He is some kind of god. He’ll subject his beautiful and smart Indian/Pakistani wife (a spicy combo indeed!) Huma, to a soul destroying, humiliating, career-defining press conference. Boy, her ‘I’m standing by my man during this difficult time’ speech didn’t have much gusto. I always think how odd it must be for those on the other side of the camera. We see them in high definition yet all they see in their moment of anguish are obscured humans, their shoulders propping up all manner of video equipment, some large syndicated networks cameras looking like they could fucking lobotimize you on the spot. Bright lights, flashing lights, square boxes, round boxes, just focused on you. Beaming you out to the world. All these prepared words you're saying, that sound nothing really like you, and it's like a play, or a movie, because that's where you say rehearsed lines as a character, but here we are and there are lines to to say yet there isn't supposed to be a character.

Weiner stood beside Huma and leered as stoically as he could while she said her peace, the pieces of her intimate life gutted and splayed for the world to see. How a heart wrenches! As a young girl, could she ever imagine that her future husband would be sexting as Carlos Danger? That this is what the sum of her carefully groomed and affluent life, her education, her political career as a successful aide to Hilary Clinton, who thinks of Huma as an “adopted daughter,” amounted to? She was this close to having it all, except that her hubby is a compulsive sexual dreamer.

Who knows, maybe Weiner, as he was gazing silently at his radiant wife and mother of his two children standing at the lectern, while she proclaimed her acceptance of her husband’s indiscretions and forgave him, was absent-mindedly greasing the gears and pre-texting with Sydney. Thinking about how he can’t wait until he finishes up with this shame inducing hoo-ha charade, and can steal a few moments away from aides and family to unlock his phone with the deft, second nature swipe of his thumb to write a quick horned-up message to Sydney Leathers, iMistress extraordinaire.

I’m getting all worked up just thinking about it!

Like a moth before there were light bulbs, what did Anthony Weiner do before cellphones?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Built Ford Tough, Like A Crack Rock


While powering my way through 4 digital kilometre’s on the elliptical machine (okay 3.64), I made the split second decision to pause Opie & Anthony and turn up the volume on the TV. See, what I do, what I need to do while cranking out fake mileage on a fine piece of modern day exercise equipment, going to and fro, holding onto the top of the bally knobs, simulating a walking briskly type motion, like a happy worker on his way to the job and is all sorts of tinkled pink about it, is be over stimulated. It really is a strange motion that elliptical machine. And because I’m addicted to stimulation and information and also because I cannot stand silence, like cannot accept it for even a nanosecond, there always has to be a radio or person or TV talking in the background or I’ll go insane. I always listen to either Howard Stern or Opie & Anthony on my iPod stereo and simultaneously tune in to either the CBC, CNN, hockey, or tennis--all muted of course.

Unless there is some kind of apocalyptic breaking news story the TV remains muted and I’m left to ruminate on what the expressions on the newscasters’ faces mean. Believe it or not, I’ve seen quite a few good tennis matches while suffering for beauty. I can get lost in a long rally, in the game within a game within a game nature of tennis and by the time I look at the digital display, 2km’s have been put pounded out. But enough about me.

The reason for pausing O&A is Rob Ford’s brother, Doug. The behind the scenes rainmaker. Doug is  the landlord and his brother Rob the sole tenant of a madhouse of their own creation. In a saner alternate world, the somewhat well spoken, somewhat in shape Doug would be the mayor, and goofy fat boy Rob would lick oversized swirly lollipops in his overalls.

It was one of the stranger press conferences I’ve seen in a while. Right off the bat, Doug wanted to be sure the great people of Toronto knew that he wasn’t “speaking for my brother, he can do that himself,” yet that was in essence what he was doing . . . speaking for his silent little bro. And then in a feat so bold and hubristic it boggles the noggin, Doug goes on to list the various accomplishments of the Ford administration and almost entirely ignores the specific issue at hand, and the supposed reason for the press conference being called in the first place: Rob Ford smoking crack on a cell phone video taken by Somali pirates drug dealers.

Now that’s a Hollywood pitch meeting as far as I can tell.

In Doug’s universe, this was simply an opportunity to remind the good citizens of Toronto that we have more cranes in the air than Chicago and Atlanta combined!

Well, okayyyy, but . . .

A hypothetical aside: Would you rather have a mayor who smokes the occasional crack rock but otherwise is firmly in line with policies you support, or a tee-totalling do-gooder with nary a whiff of scandal but is out of step with your beliefs? I’d sure as hell take the former though I’d rather take neither.

And then, impossibly, Doug ends the whole self-aggrandizing charade by not taking any questions and disappearing into the bowels of city hall. Take that Toronto! The whole thing gets very meta when you consider that Rob was most likely watching the speech that he should have been giving on a nearby TV.

The next day arrives and finally Rob has caved into the pressure and holds his own p.c. It was almost as bizarre as Doug’s speech. The spectacle played out pretty much the way I thought it would: Rob vehemently denies the crack allegations and goes on to praise the colleagues who have stood by him during this difficult week. There where more ‘thank-you’s’ than a goddamn Oscars speech.

Perhaps my favourite part was right at the beginning, when Rob first looked up at the throngs of reporters and cameras glaring back at him. “Wow . . .” he can be heard saying softly, as he adjusts the mic, as if he thought there would be one or two local reporters, as if the whole hullabaloo was much ado about nothing. After the ‘wow’ there is some inaudible mumbling before he gets down to his prepared speech; the mumbling of a very nervous man about to speak publicly.

What really troubles me, in a strictly logical sense, is that he denied smoking crack, yet in the following sentence could not comment about the purported video of him smoking crack. Does it not follow common sense air-tight, steel trap logic that when one denies smoking crack there would ipso facto be no video of any crack smoking?

His lawyers have told him to shut his trap, the less said the better. That’s the explanation for his wall of silence. It took a week of silence for him to tell Toronto in a single terse sentence that his legal/p.r. team advised him to not comment on the video? Why wasn’t that said on day one of #CrackGateTO?

If this crack smoking video did not exist, he would probably not be advised to say (or not say) anything about it while members of a salivating media exchange ponderous head shakes with one another. He would simply do what you or I would do when faced with an absurd, false allegation: jump at the first chance to defend yourself; set the record straight. Me smoking crack with some thug lifer’s filming me on an iPhone? Naw pal, got the wrong guy.

Rob spent most of his time at the lectern heaping his smelly, insincere ‘thank-you’s’ onto the very people and organizations that no longer want anything to do him. Mark Towhey, the mayor’s Chief of Staff, was fired for apparently trying to talk some sense into Rob, and the Catholic School Board of Toronto does not want him coaching any of their school football teams, namely Don Bosco, the school where he has been coaching those ‘fucking minorities’ for the last number of seasons. The football thing has to carry some extra sadness for Rob, like a favourite toy being taken away from an unruly child.

At the end of the p.c. Rob walks off the field, but not before laterally passing the pigskin to Doug, who would not take questions during his own p.c. yesterday but will now graciously answer a few questions from the frothing hordes for his brother Rob. He then spent half his Q&A time chastising the journo’s for talking over one another, asking questions while he was trying to answer. Diversion at its finest, or basest, who knows?

I can’t help but wonder what this past week has been like for the person(s) with the tape. Is there a secret team of police officers loyal to Ford Nation scouring Rexdale and Scarborough neighbourhoods looking for these guys? Is there a group of ruthless Quebecois wheelchair assassins hunting down Somali crack barons? Is Rob’s camp actively trying to buy and bury the tape? Come on, Rob must know who is responsible for it; sure as fuck isn’t Herzog or Coppola. He didn’t roll down his window and ask some random punks if they have any crack for sale, and “Oh by the way, I’m going to hang out with you kids for a little bit and have a couple puffs.” He must know these guys in some capacity. Perhaps Ford’s lawyers have gotten a hold of them and threatened some kind of legal (or illegal) action? Because there hasn’t been any sign from the owners of the tape for days.

Why disappear though? These people actively sought out buyers of this tape a week or so ago, meeting with John Cook, the editor at Gawker, and two Toronto Star reporters, and now that the $200,000 Gawker was raising is drifting into the realm of reality, they’ve disappeared. Poof! No more Somali crack dealers with the most valuable piece of iPhone footage north of the 49th parallel. What in the what?

Maybe other characters in the Trawwno underworld who are in the know are after the owners of the tape as well. By golly this whole scandal is like T.O. Confidential!

I think Rob Ford is gearing up and preparing for the bomb to go off. He knows this alleged video is legit, and it’s going to come out sooner rather than later. He’s not vociferously defending himself with regards to the crack tape because it will simply make him look that much worse when the video does come out. He does not want to explicitly lie about the video in a legal sense.

The clamour to get a hold of the tape is so intense you‘d think it was Infinite Jest . Are we all going to become comatose after being entertained to death, fluids spilling out of every orifice after we finally--hopefully--see this two minute crack masterpiece? (But John Cook and the two Star reporters are still alive and well. Hmm . . . )

I have a feeling it’s going to be that good. Think how awesome it will be the moment before you see the video, when your buddy texts you, “Have you seen the crack vid yet brah?” And you rush to the computer, anxiously waiting for the video to buffer on Gawker, or wherever in Hades it ends up only to spread like a super SARS Trojan virus across the internet.

Here comes the best crack toke of your life, better than even the first one. The lush burning bowl aglow with orange and crackling like a Victoria Day sparkler . . .

Exhale and press ‘play’.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Letter To My Unborn Child


Dear Whoever You Are,

Humans are not inherently special; not a single one of ‘em.

Whether it’s the prime minister or your neighbour. Basically, we’re all the same tub full of guts, however basically sad that is. What I really mean is that no one possesses any special powers. L. Ron Hubbard was schizophrenic and Jesus Christ was a carpenter. Be wary of anybody who claims to know or converse with God. They’re always lying, or at the very least are untruthful in the sense that they have convinced themselves of the veracity of their lies, but any way you slice it, it’s not true--remember that.

Like someone’s father once said: “The reason for living is to get ready to stay dead a long time.”

You don’t need religion to construct a set of moral ethics. It’s really not all that complicated. The rub is empathy. Some may not believe it but it’s true. You can never say the phrase, “put yourself in their shoes” enough. Say it at least five times a day and you’ll understand why people are the way they are. Sure it’s a cliché, but you will eventually find out that no amount of ironic detachment can slay the inherent truth’s in most clichés.

The put yourself in their shoes adage is also equally applicable to oneself. Imagine the other person is in my shoes, hearing what I just said, taking in my position. It’s really an invaluable phrase to live by. How can we be assaulted by modern reality and not constantly remind ourselves of this? It’s what keeps us sane. The things we pay attention to, our emotional responses, are so manipulated and commodified from the moment we emerge screaming from our mothers’ piss flaps, the first curtains we see peeled back on the world stage, how can we even know we’re doing the right thing? All I know is, I’ll do my best to show you the right path, but you’ll have to machete chop your way through the unchartered areas.

Occam’s Razor is a remarkable tool. The simplest explanation generally really is the truth. 9/11 conspiracy theories and UFO’s, however salacious, are sliced up by the O.R. Avoid getting caught up in all the blustery rhetoric. You’ll be coaxed into ponzi scheme’s and robo-call scams, and Shamwow’s, and timeshare’s, and marriage, and joint accounts, and 48 hour murder mysteries, and enough already! Stay away from it all! It’s all lies! If you want to live in a cabin in the woods that’s fine by me; you can’t get far away enough from these humans.

I certainly don’t hold out much hope for unvarnished truth in the political sphere, and I have never identified myself outright with any dichotomous political party. Labels are for cans, dude, not people. Politicians tend to screw the electorate behind closed doors and in mundane ways, ways that are muddled in needless complexity so as to detract attention--it’s too boring--rather than in sexy conspiratorial ways. Makes for a great movie though. The grand systems we are born into are maintained through networks and kickbacks and last minute insertions that the plebeian masses can only catch the smallest glimpses of and are seemingly powerless to control. The maddening thing about politicians is that even when they’re being genuine you just don’t know if they’re genuinely being genuine or if that’s simply part of their whole persona . . . to seem more genuine. God, I hope you don’t become like that, where every word that comes out of your mouth is mediated and considered for full emotional effect.

Simply be you and you’ll find that others are drawn into your orbit. Try your best to speak the truth. I mean, you’ll end up telling some lies, it’s inevitable. If your boss tells you to tell a customer the shipment that never left the dock was caught up at a UPS terminal, well that’s your call. It really doesn’t matter what party you vote for, that part of the show is an illusion of democracy. All the important things that keep the cash flowing for the plutocrats who control industries and influence national policies will continue to be implemented in clandestinely immense ways regardless of which party controls the House, Senate, Duma, etc. It doesn’t mean I don’t want you to care about social issues, I just wanted to sound kind of smart and include it in my letter to you. If you need to know what a letter is all you have to do is ask.

Help others on a communal level instead of worrying too much about the big picture. The big picture is far too daunting; too much white noise.

Have a sense of humour about yourself. There’s nothing more annoying than a vegan feminist lesbian or a white supremacist who obsessively collects Nazi memorabilia and shines his guns every night, or a narcissistic actor who is a Scientologist. These people have no senses of humour about themselves and are not much fun to be around. Not that fun is the be all and end all to human experience. My culture is very much addicted to entertainment and fun. We’re continually sliding down the fun continuum, scrambling our sense of what’s truly important. Attention spans have been co-opted to consume the most stimulating experiences in quicker and quicker doses. It’s what the audience demands! Not much time for much else.

Real understanding takes time, though. That’s the problem. Sometimes a message needs to be fleshed out over five hundred pages for the nuances to be understood and fully enjoyed, not one hundred forty characters. I’ll tell ya right know, kiddo, there’s no Coles Notes to this thing.

In my culture it’s very easy to be courageous. All you have to do is be in the right place at the right time and be famous enough to draw attention. Angelina Jolie is unanimously being hailed as a courageous woman for pre-empting her potentially cancerous genes by having a double mastectomy. She has roughly an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. A mastectomy seems like a common sense approach to eliminating the threat of a serious disease. Some say she is courageous because she is a famous actress and her identity is integral to her physical beauty. I will concede that point on the surface. However, Angelina is not a young woman trying to gain traction in Hollywood (I’m aware that not many young actresses have double mastectomies), she’s one of the most powerful and established women in show business, married to the hunk of all hunks and her doctor is going to more or less replicate her formerly beautiful, buoyant chesticles, perhaps in an even more lascivious shape and heft than the originals, so she can still play milfy sex pots and the audience has the added bonus of catching glimpses of her new breasts and thinking how odd it is that science made those! I can certainly empathize with the pain of the whole ordeal of adjusting to her new body, and I realize it is life altering, but I fail to see what is courageous about this. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. She and/or her publicity machine knew she would be hailed as courageous so it was a very low risk, non courageous decision to gain/maintain publicity and relevance. I don’t get it. I’m not singling her out because I have some white hot hatred towards her. Her op-ed in the New York Times was a nice piece, but even she noted that aside from the surgery and the small scars there are not many lasting effects.

Real courage, for the most part, happens outside the encompassing gaze of Sauron’s eye.

Real courage is a woman living in Brampton with two kids and an ex-husband, and a receptionist job, and she was too tired and busy to check out that lump in her right breast, tried to will its corporeality out of existence, because her youngest has a recital tonight and she has to be there; then finally, after months of this ungodly lump growing slowly until it could no longer be ignored, she goes to her doctor and sits in a waiting room with the rest of the diseased hordes, until her name is called and her test results come back a week later to confirm that she has breast cancer and she goes home and doesn’t even cry, or think about it all, she makes dinner for her kids because they have to eat, and doesn’t say anything about going to the doctors office, she’s still in shock and it’s just way too sad and unreal so she loses herself in the routines of family maintenance, and her kids don’t suspect a thing. They eat macaroni and cheese and get tucked in at night by mommy who tries to figure out the right thing to do.

The world abounds with delicious contradictions. You’ll find out that some of the funniest people you will ever meet are also the saddest.

You can always come to me with anything. That’s not to say our relationship will always be seashells and butterflies. I am simply a man, a human just like you, and sometimes my emotions swell up and I’m overcome with hatred, spite, jealousy. I can be a passive aggressive asshole. I don’t like confrontations and go to great lengths to avoid them, and act nonchalant in social battles though inside I’m forever scheming and plotting to outsmart and upstage my opponents.

I hate that about myself and anyone else.

I don’t address serious problems directly and grow cold and distant for reasons that perhaps I’ll work out and correct by the time you’re older. Let’s hope so. If I ever act like a passive aggressive asshole by all means let me know. Two passive aggressive people equal a non-operational union. I’m not good at many things, but no matter how narcissistically self-obsessed my persona is, don’t let that fool you--I’m a really good listener. The kind that, after a long, emotion-purging one-sided conversation, you wonder if the other person is even still on the line. I’m that strong silent type. Spill your guts out, it’s all good, I have two ears and a heart ready for you.

Even if you want to rape little boys, or blow up tall buildings, or both, at the same time, however awful that is, I’ll be there for you, and we’ll try to work through it together. I can’t promise the authorities won’t be notified. However, I’d always be early for our prison visits.

Drugs really aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be. Especially ones like pot and coke and booze. Maybe some Mdma and Adderall too. Don’t mess around with meth, bath salts, glue, and opiates. They destroy your life more so than the other aforementioned drugs; easier to get carried away and addicted to. Tobacco’s not really worth it either, it’s worse for you than coke, pot, et al., and there isn’t much of a payoff. Avoid that one. The main thing is don’t over indulge and keep it recreational. If you’re drinking a twelver everyday, you’ll have some ’splaining to do. That goes for pretty much anything, though. My eyebrow would raise if you only ate bananas every day for a week, too. There’s absolutely nothing wrong--morally, spiritually, physically--with sniffing a few lines of blow while you’re out with some friends. It’ll ring your cherries. I don’t know why it is that any substance that brings relief or pleasure is automatically categorized as evil. The main thing is respect. You must respect the power of these substances. And they are powerful. All of them. Cocaine is a helluva drug.

It’s not much fun to sniff a line if you’re doing it every night. When drug use is needed simply for the maintenance of sobriety than something is long gone wrong. You won’t get that great rush of anticipation before the physical intake of the drug. For example: if I’m constipated, all I have to do is pour out some sugar and cut up a thick line, whip out my wallet, roll up a fiver, and come this close to sniffing it up the schnozola to jog the old memory bank.

Respect drugs and they’ll reward you with pleasure and something resembling enlightenment. You can learn about addiction either directly or indirectly. It’ll be damn near impossible once you become a teenager or young adult for me to actually make you stop using drugs by punishing you. What am I gonna do? Lock you up in a cage and watch you 24/7/365? I hope you don’t learn the hard way, because it’s bleak--a soul-sapping type of suicidal bleakness, and I don’t want you to go through that. I’m not even sure it builds character in the long run. Only digs a grave, really. All I can do is light the way and hope you don’t wander off into the dark. All I can do is give you a pair of steel toed boots to kick at the darkness.

Sometimes I can’t escape the thought that once we’re born into this world our sincerest, deepest bed rock emotions, our attention, our money, our entire sense of being and our beliefs, is only a potentially viable commodity to be bled dry and co-opted and manipulated to further the agendas of massive corporations. It’s a very sad and empty and helpless way of approaching the world, and though it doesn’t prevent me from pursuing the things I love and feel strongly about, it’s a constant kind of nipping at my heels. A niggling voice in the back of my mind; such is our modern world. By bringing you into it I will have ostensibly surrendered to the fact that you, too, will be subsumed by this, and all I can do is make you aware of The Matrix, let you know it’s there, lingering beneath every decision you make, even though being aware of it doesn’t really change anything, cannot change anything.

Don’t let that extinguish your passions. It still takes everything I have not to get all pissy-eyed when I listen to And I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues by Elton John. It’s one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard. Difficult to even put into words why--I might need five hundred and forty pages. It’s the timbre of Elton’s voice, the poignancy of Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, the wonderful chord progression (a killer B7 in the verse). It‘s about the direction love should have went and didn’t.

Really, though, please don’t become a Scientologist. I spent a few weeks in a YouTube vortex watching ‘bull-baiting’ protests and creepy minions confronting ex-church members at their homes; scary, scary mind-controlling stuff. Some of Scientology’s official videos, like the fifteen minute one criticizing the integrity of The New Yorker, and some of their fundraiser commercials are unintentionally hilarious.

That’s another thing: unintentional hilarity is perhaps the greatest subset of comedy. It’s incredibly funny on an abstract plane knowing that unintentional, purely non-comedic actions are, in actual fact, sometimes completely hilarious.

One of the best feelings a human can have is trying to suppress laughter in a socially inappropriate setting--classroom, job site, courtroom, etc. Where you’re trying with every ounce of strength to keep those facial muscles slack and those guffaws way down in the hole. Then the damn bursts and tears are streaming down your face and your cheeks ache from smiling.

When I used to paint houses, my partner in crime, Jamie, and myself began mimicking our bosses idiosyncrasies, making fun of his habit of starting off sentences with, “Get a . . .” As in, “ Once I get a good meal in me I’ll finish the lower windows in no time.” Furthermore, he would end sentences with, “Or . . .” just letting it trail off into the ether. “You guys gonna finish the lower windows, or . . .”

Or what!? Suck each other’s dicks and do our taxes!?

To this day, it’s one of the most grating speech tics, worse even than ‘like’. So don’t do that.

In closing, please don’t become one of those religious nuts who believes the world is six thousand years old and that all the evolutionary and geological evidence to the contrary is only gods way of testing your faith. Oh, brother. Hey god, why not just a written, huh?

P.S. I simply love you more than I love life itself.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Guitar (& Life) Lessons From Dan

So take me to the station
And put me on a train
I’ve got no expectations
To pass
Through here
Again.

- No Expectations, The Rolling Stones

“Being dead’s only a problem if you know you’re dead, which you never do because you’re dead!”

-Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

1.

I took off my tattered, unwashed cardigan that was hanging open over a Nirvana t-shirt, the one that has a pink translucent figure on the front and ‘SLIVER’ written on the back in blue capital letters, and grabbed the proffered Armani suit attached to my mother‘s outstretched hand. My arms slid nicely through the smooth lining and I went into the bathroom excitedly to check out the results. It was the first time I ever put on a suit jacket.

At first, it looked perfect: I’d never seen my wimpy teenage shoulders so enhanced and sharply rendered. All of a sudden, here was Simon Le Bon staring back at me. The jacket seemed perfectly tailored for me and not to a recently deceased family friend. But then my eyes drifted towards the extremities. Those damnable sleeves! Of course they were too short and if I was wearing a dress shirt underneath, the cuffs would be as long as John Holmes’ rig. Curse these gangly twig arms! I took off the suit and hung it up in my closet, knowing it would sit there until I, too, could pass it along.

2.

The doorbell rings, I stop playing my guitar and lean it against the back of a chair, taking my hand off the neck for an instant to make sure it will stay up on its own before turning for the door. There’s nothing worse than the sound of your guitar toppling over and crashing to the ground with an atonal thud.

I got up to the peephole and watched this stranger stare back through the other end of the peephole. He an eerie blank look of non-recognition though he was looking right at me; some kind of thousand yard rock n’ roll stare. It’s my first lesson with this teacher and I’m a little nervous. One more deep breath and the show begins . . .

He stepped into the foyer and plunked down his hard shell acoustic guitar case, extending his hand to mine. We both shared that universal truth when two people shake hands and look each other right in the eyes. I was instantly pleased and relaxed; he had the warm smile of a disarming person. Instantly, I became aware that my new guitar teacher was a dead ringer for Kim Thayil, the lead shredder from Soundgarden. I was flabbergasted.

Ambiguous East Indian/South Asian nationality? Check.

Long, thick black hair? Check.

Long, thick black beard? Check.

Grunge/Stoner get up? Check.

It was 1997, the height of Soundgarden’s fame. If I didn’t bring it up it would be the elephant in the room. As I led him through the hallway to the dining room, I said, “Dude! You look exactly like Kim Thayil. I bet you get that all the time.”

He broke into a hearty chuckle, half expecting it, and confirmed that, “Yeah, I get that all the time. Hey, I can‘t help that that guy looks like me,” he said and gave me a you got the joke, right? smile.

KT took a seat at the dining room table, unfastened the clasps on his case and whipped out his axe. My guitar lessons always took place in the almost-never-used-yet-fanciest-room-in-the-whole-joint, otherwise known as the dining room. It was the only reasonable place where Mom could keep an eye on the proceedings.

KT showed me the scales, in particular the E scale, iterating that, “all those awesome solos, from Slash to Mick Taylor, originate right here.” He waited for the profundity of the statement to sink in, and I managed a half-hearted, “Cool.”

There we were, Kim Thayil circa the Black Hole Sun video, and me, a greasy haired grunge rocker/stoner amidst the finest china the Nesbit’s could afford. It was quite the anachronistic scene.

He showed me a few chord progressions and tricks of the trade (Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually) and asked if there was a song or two for him to tab out for next week’s lesson. A treat of sorts if I practice the scales.

“What are you into? Classic Rock? Grunge? Most of my students are into grunge nowadays. I bet you are too, right?” He asked accusingly.

As much as my existential teenage angst cut to the core, I was no different than most fifteen year old’s, apparently. “ Yeah, I love Nirvana, Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, that type of stuff, but I also love The Doors, Hendrix, Zeppelin, and The Beatles too. I don’t think I can learn too many solos right now. I like the chords, the rhythm parts. I love Nirvana. I just want to learn like Nirvana songs basically.”

“Just tablature, right? You don’t want to learn notes?”

“Pretty much, yeah. I mean, no notes . . . yeah.”

“That’s fine, I’m not a hard ass about the notes. Truthfully, some of the best, most original guitarists don’t know much about the technical side of things. It’s kind of like knowing where your good buddies house is, but not the address. In the end, you still know how to get there right?”

“For sure.”

Surely, Nirvana was the bane of mid-to-late nineties guitar teachers’ existence.

“Okay . . .” he sighed, “Anything in particular?”

I played it off like “Hmmm . . . let me see, how about this song. . .” when really I was waiting all week for this question so I could show this guitar teacher who totally looks like Kim Thayil, that I was fucking way deep cool.

“Let’s go with Radio Friendly Unit Shifter. You know that one?” I deadpanned like a jaded junkie rock star.

“Sure, sure. I know every single song from In Utero, front to back back to front. The kids can’t get enough of it! Though I don‘t usually get asked for that one, I‘ll admit. I’ll have it tabbed out for next week’s lesson on one condition: you practice that E scale both going up and down. Even Kurt knew the E scale, Taylor!”

3.

It is the summer of 1987, and I’m on a houseboat idling in the middle of Pigeon Lake. It’s my first time on such a thing--a houseboat, not a lake. I am six or seven years old.

I’m standing on the deck looking out absently at the opposite shore while both sets of parents whooped it up inside the kitchen/dining area. Dan came around the corner wielding a fishing rod with what I only recall as a flailing scorpion-like creature of death hanging from the hook. A crawfish perhaps? Dan pinched the dangling line and swung the creature in my face, the thing coming this close with its pincers to snapping onto my rosy, prepubescent cheeks.

Cue the waterworks. I started wailing and crying with the gusto that only a small coddled only child can muster. I considered diving overboard, taking my chances in the unknown waters, (I could, after all, swim in the deep end sans water wings) but instead ran into the interior of the ship where Dan’s dad was frying up lunch and the other adults played cards.

“Danny has a monster and it’s gonna bite me!” I cried.

This was my one and only memory during the week on the houseboat.

4.

The doorbell rings, and I put the same guitar on the back of the same chair, wait the moment it takes to be sure the guitar is perched at such an angle that it will remain poised, and head for the peephole to check out my new guitar teacher. I can’t say I’m thrilled. KT was a great teacher and he left after only a few weeks to go on tour--just a local one. Never did get the name of his band (Soundgarden cover band, perhaps?)
I opened the door to a man wholly committed to denim. He was a tall white guy with shoulder length hair and bore a striking resemblance to Canada’s own Kim Mitchell (when he had hair, of course). And can I pause here for just a minute? Kim Mitchell is just awful. He has some of the most unbearable tunes in the annals of Canadian rock history. Who needs to be told to go for a soda so nobody hurts and nobody dies? It’s like if Neil Young sang, “I’ve seen the car crash and the damage done/Unsafe amounts of beer were in his blood/Gone, gone, the damage done . . .”

I’m MADD as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!

Is the public so ignorant that they need to be told--in song form--not to rape toddlers born with AIDS? We get it, Kim, drinking and driving is bad, thanks for the advice. Now shove a patio lantern where the sun don’t shine.

Anyways, I didn’t sense much warmth from this guy and things went from bad to worse as the lesson progressed. He was militant and unfriendly. I fumbled through his Yngwie Malmsteen-esque drills while the look on his face, just beneath the surface, if you looked hard enough, had failed-frustrated-wannabe-rock-star-just-biding-his-time-until-his-big-break written all over him. Not the most suitable approach to teaching.

As soon as the guy left I told my Mom that that man cannot under any circumstances teach me guitar ever again.

5.

 Dan was the best guitar teacher I ever had. He would come over and we’d go in the basement instead of the formal confines of the dining room. Protocols of formality disappeared because he was a family friend. My parents knew his since before Dan or I were born. He was the kind of family friend that I only saw on big occasions like Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving, and we’d been out on their boat a few times, too. It deflated the mystique of Dan to see him on a regular old Tuesday in July.

In the basement we’d sit cross legged on the floor, our acoustics cradled on our laps. Dan would flip open a tattered notebook full of tabbed out songs from previous sessions. He would always ask at the end of each lesson to give him a couple songs to tab out for the next week.

This one time he opened up the Sacred Book of Tabs and the song was one I had been waiting all week to learn: Here Comes Your Man by The Pixies.

Before I had a chance to make sense of the numbers running through lines, he warned me, “Don’t look at the tab yet, just watch me play it.”

He picked out the familiar riff a notch slower than how The Pixies actually played it. His fingers were flying all over the frets, even using the dreaded pinkie to hit one of the notes. “Not the pinky!” I protested. “Can’t I just use my third finger to compensate?”

“Nope. Gotta use all four. It will suck now but you’ll thank me later.”

Slowly, I fumbled my way through the indie surf rock riff, gaining confidence and clarity of note through each go around until we landed in synch, and it’s like we were one entity reflecting a message--the same message--back at each other. We played the riff a couple of times so I could lock it into my muscle memory. I took my eyes off the neck and peered over at Dan. He was looking right at me and I looked right back. His eyes were asking, “Do you get it now?

Dancing with fingers instead of bodies. Though there is no physical contact, his fingers are urging mine along, guiding them, stringing them along, forging a path. There is a connection that is not possible through language or sex or blood. It is through music and unfortunately it can only be conveyed descriptively through language.

6.

Forgotten junk and rock n’ roll are apparently peaceful cohabitants.

Before me are rows upon rows of single car wide storage spaces coloured road construction orange stretching out into the distance. It’s one of those places where most people store whatever tenuous junk they’re hanging onto, unable to just toss it in the garbage and forget about it. These are the auxiliary items that define their lives, but are too cumbersome for the homestead.

And then there are those who rent out these spaces for rock n’ roll. A place where there are no parents and no neighbours who simply don’t get it.

Dan slides up his units door, unfurling before me his tools of the trade. There was a drum kit, two guitar amps, a bass amp, and a few stray guitars strewn about the small space, barely large enough for a car to fit in. A tattered poster of the Human Riff himself, is the only accoutrement adorning the walls. It’s the one where Keith is leaning against a wall, eyes hidden behind aviator glasses, a blank look on his face; beside him is the sign: PATIENCE PLEASE . . . A DRUG FREE AMERICA COMES FIRST!



Though I didn’t recognize the photo at the time, I’ve since seen it many times since, scrolling through Google Images looking at page after page of Rolling Stones photos, scouring for ones of the band in the heady early‘70’s. The photo was taken during the Exile on Main St. tour of America in the summer of ‘72, arguably their best tour, and my favourite if I had to choose. Definitely their most mythologized; books, movies, you name it. At some point the myth and the reality become inextricable. The reality is that they’re savvy businessmen who crafted their legacy very carefully and they also know how to write great songs, but a boy can dream, can’t he? Or maybe Mick is the reality and Keith is the myth and the ingredients are stirred into a concoction that is left to simmer, and here we are fifty years later and if I could afford the tickets I’d be watching them at the ACC this summer.

“I’ll hop on drums and we’ll jam it out, okay? I’ll give you a simple beat and just lay into some power chords, man.”

Dan got behind the kit and started banging out a slow and simple 4/4 beat while I drowned him out with brain piercing decibels of feedback to hide my insufficient skills. Sensing that I had to actually play something, anything, I then palm muted an E chord and in a Parkinson’s-esque flurry kept chugging along until I switched it to a G chord and then back to an E, then back to G and so on, until Dan, finally sick of my two chord dichotomy stopped playing and shouted, “Hey! Hey! Taylor!” until I stopped too and looked up at him. “Yeah?”

“Let’s try something different. You know ‘Satisfaction’?”

“No, don’t know any Stones songs.”

Dan showed me the simple riff on a nearby guitar while I watched his fingers compute the simple equation across the calculator of the neck. Simple enough, I thought.

Back on the drums, he kept time with a repetitive tap on the snare until I had the rhythm down. All I could was keep playing the intro riff over and over, which is not very much fun for anyone involved. Sensing my nervousness (and ineptitude) we stopped and he drove me back home. I felt like a doorknob and a douche bag. I was a beginner but he entrusted me to be able to hold a simple rhythm and fiddle around on some chords and I let him down (Whhhhaaahhhh!). He was as meek and accommodating as ever . . .

“Next week I’ll come to your place and I’ll teach you a couple little tricks. You’re doing fine Taylor, it just takes practice. John Lennon didn’t get good overnight, either. Though, you can palm mute an E chord like nobody‘s business!”


                                        Breaking the (by)law
                                                                            
                                                                               7.

Everyone remembers notable world events that happen on one’s birthday. We collect them like talisman’s we hope imbue us with an air of mystery or intrigue. One of my go to birthday events is the UFO crash at Roswell. Clearly the most famous supposed UFO crash of all time, and it happened
on July 3rd 1947. I want to believe dammit!

Definitely the most surreal and unsettling one is death of Jim Morrison. He died on July 3rd 1971, exactly ten years to the day that I was born. Impossibly, Jim died sometime in the early morning hours, approximately 3-5am, while I was born at about 4am. You may know where I’m going with this. I half convinced myself when I was seventeen and a huge Doors fan that I was at least one quarter Lizard King. I had to be! It was quite conceivable that he died at exactly the same time as me, exactly ten years (a nice tidy round sum) before I was born. It’s not like he died on April 14th, 1973 for Chrissakes! That would mean absolutely nothing to the story! Based on the ten year purgatorial soul rule, Mr. Mojo Risin must have floated out of his body in 1971 and wandered the streets of the city of lights and then, looking for an inhabitant of a city that was more unburdened with centuries of history, he submerged his wayward soul into the umbilical cord of a prenatal boy in the generically comfortable suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Take that Paris!

I really got into the Stones when I was in my late twenties. I, as most other people with two ears and a heart, have always liked the Stones. No one hates the Stones. Perhaps you dislike the ubiquity of the Stones, but it seems impossible to me to hate them, at least their 60’s and 70’s output, and especially a lot of the songs you don’t hear on the radio. Believe me, I don’t ever want to hear Start Me Up ever again either, but I never tire of the duelling lead guitars on Beast of Burden.

It’s impossible to throw on Waiting On A Friend or Sweet Virginia and not think about my old guitar teacher. Surely, the two are mutually exclusive, but they’re inextricably woven into the fabric of my being. Try as I might to untangle the knots, they coexist. Some songs hit the feeling home harder than others. Especially those awesome 70’s songs because that’s what Dan loved. He was always mentioning something called Exile on Main St. and calling it one of the greatest rock records ever and I pretended to care and insist that I would "Check it out."

The Stones' 60’s success gave way to the decadence and debauchery of the 70’s, where I’m sure all four of the guys found out that despite being rich, famous, and one of the most successful rock bands in the world, problems persisted. They found out that they were still mere mortals. Drug problems and egos and girls will fuck any good thing up. Don’t discount that as glib or trite nonsense. The realization can crush your fucking soul. There’s no way out. Picture this: you are on top of the world of rock n’ roll, for all intents and purposes a real life superman spending 85% of your life flying over the plebeian masses to get to the next show where you play 15-20 songs in a stadium full of nameless faces. In fact you see so many vague little amorphous faces in the crowd, you see more actual human beings than most any other people in the world, but they’re just staring at you and going wild and though you see so many people and they see you, it’s not like there’s any sort of conversation or meaningful nuance to the mass of people you see night in and night out; a crowd in Tulsa is the same as one in Vancouver. All you can do is manipulate the coiled strings on this long necked wooden device that is heavily amplified to explode throughout a massive dome reserved for entertainment, and you have to control these patterned noises you’ve written with your band mates a while back, and now have to play these things over and over the same way (for the most part) as the only means to really extend a hand to these endless nameless faces that scream back at you every single night, and sometimes all you can do is lay down in the quiet of a hotel room far from home (as if you really even have such a thing anymore) and shoot junk and snort blow and come up with more intro/verse/chorus/interlude/solo/verse/chorus/outro patterns to amplify in front of the same screaming faces around the same time next year.

Dan only shows up now when I’m learning the tab on a Stones song, making sure I use my pinkie if needed. He can rest assured. I don’t cheat anymore with my ring finger, my pinkie’s well trained after playing for some fifteen plus years now. Sometimes Dan is there in the flesh, his slight frame translucent. Sunlight coming through his whispy blonde hair. He’s some kind of Frankenstein between Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain, with a dash of David Foster Wallace. But sometimes it’s only a feeling; a vague senescence, little Dan particles infused everywhere, in between every chord.

Tonight, I’m learning one of their easier tunes that I somehow never thought to learn after all these years (there is an embarrassment of riches): No Expectations. It’s 2013 and all the tabs are only a click away, books of tab that are sold at music stores, Dan’s notebooks full of meticulously laid out solos full of hammer-on’s and pull-off’s, and chord structures are now gone, their practicality rotting on the vine of a dead age. It doesn’t really matter. I don’t need to book a lesson to learn this one. It’s only C, F, and G for the all the beginners playing along. There is a great slide guitar part that is rumoured to be the last contribution of Brian Jones. Practically useless in the studio during the recording of Beggar’s Banquet, stoned out of his gourd, he somehow managed to put together the beautiful acoustic slide guitar part that really makes the song what it is, before he was fired from the band and then promptly drowned in his pool on July 3rd 1969.

8.

There aren’t too many motorcycle accidents in Brampton mainly because there aren’t too many motorcycles. Those types of accidents tend to happen more often on the winding country roads north of the city.

If only he didn’t pass that van waiting to turn left. If only he slowed down and just waited for a damn minute, if only he had patience. I guess that’s why people buy motorcycles in the first place though, right? They want to go fast, they don’t want to be stuck behind a minivan doing 40 K. If only he had a flat tire, or if only he didn’t bother to catch a crawfish on a houseboat on Pigeon Lake in 1987, or if only the other driver, the one facing Dan, waiting to turn left, didn’t assume the coast was clear and ease too far into the middle of the intersection.

‘If’ is the middle word in life.

As ‘if’ mentally rearranging the facts as though they were pliable, as though they were a rubik’s cube that could reroute and endlessly confuse the road that led us to the inextricable here and now.

To each party involved in the accident it must have seemed like they both came out of nowhere--until they didn’t.

By the turn of the millenium, I lost all contact with Dan, and hadn’t seen him for a few years, which turned out to be his last. Frankly, I was surprised that he had a motorcycle. He was 5’ 8” and 130lbs--wouldn’t exactly have fit in with Sonny Barger and Co.

There were only a handful of lessons in total, and certainly no further jam sessions. There was still an indelible mark left on my budding psyche. Nothing was better than the two of us sitting in the basement, learning a tune. No hard feelings. Just the way it is. Maybe I’ll see you on Christmas Eve.

But I never did.

My family began new traditions--we were travelling more during Christmas to see our extended family and contact with his family was somehow lost in the shuffle, relegated to the land of Christmas Cards.

Some people are destined to live on in memory only and there are no answers why so why am I even trying?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Underwater Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl

The cute guy who comes in and buys cigarettes actually drove me home today. Yay! His name is Neal and he’s thirty-one and I kind of think he likes me because he blushed when I said goodbye to him in the driveway and there was like practically no reason for him to blush, and his face went red as a big cherry. It was kind of sweet! He even gave me--ME!--his phone number in case I ever “needed a ride home again.” He even likes a lot of the same kind of music as me. I’m contemplating calling him on Friday night and pretending like I had a fight with Mom to see if I can stay over at his place for a while because his parents are gone. I don’t think he’ll mind. Probably like it. I mean Lizzie’s up at her Uncle’s for the weekend and Holly is like soooooo excited about her date with Jared on Friday, so there’s nothing really to do at the Beach (what else is new!?) Who knows I may not even have to pretend to fight with Mom the way things are going lately . . . anyways, I’d love to play GWISUE (Guess What I’m Singing Underwater Edition for those unfamiliar) with Neal in his Jacuzzi. Well okay, I just want to see him in a bathing suit, but still.

I know exactly what I’ll sing too. Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl. That’s the joke right? Because it’s such a long title to say underwater. I’ll be surprised if he gets it. I’m so funny ha ha ha! Will report back tonight (or hopefully tomorrow morning *wink*wink*).

SMOKES


Pack of Peter Jackson, small king, blue . . .” I said, probably for the third time this week. I smoke about half a pack a day, and like a wind up toy with one line, I utter the same phrase every time I buy my tobacco.

I’m waiting for the day that the teenage girl behind the counter just knows what I want and gets the pack of smokes without me actually having to say anything. I’ve only been in this beach town a few weeks so it’s entirely excusable that she doesn‘t yet know that I want, every time the same refrain: a pack of Peter Jackson, small king, blue. Maybe when--or if--I’m still living here in the months to come, she still hasn’t figured out what I want then there might be problems. For now I’ll let it slide.

I know she’s only a teenager, sixteen or seventeen, who can really tell these days, could be fourteen with all the right makeup in all the right places. She’s undeniably attractive, good bone structure, big green eyes and naturally beautiful smooth skin, long neck, perfectly angled shoulders, and thick straight healthy hair . . . even if she does streak some strands on the front with the colours of the rainbow, and she puts on a disaffected attitude, and paints her fingernails with tiny images of black hearts. Ah! To be a rebel again with youth on my side!

The fact does not escape me that she’s a little on the young side for a man of my age to even consider dating, let alone to fantasize about in the privacy of my own thoughts. My high school days are long behind me--not so far away that I can’t see my shadow waving goodbye in the rear-view--but certainly it’s inappropriate to flirt with a girl of her age. I wouldn’t even know how to be honest. In fact, propriety pushes me the opposite way and I become very cordial and without any personality, unwilling to engage in any extracurricular conversation unnecessary to the situation at hand (hence the cyborgian declaration Pack of Peter Jackson, small king, blue). I only ever buy cigarettes from this shop, never any of the dizzying array of sugar doped ice cream treats, or chips, or chocolate bars, or the bongs, both regular, all business functional ones and also gas mask ones that hang throughout the shop (I have my own bong thank you very much).

My Grandpa--who served for the Canadian forces in WW2, god rest his soul--if he set foot in this modern day convenience store, he would undoubtedly be thrust back to Italy circa 1942 and end up shaking in the fetal position behind the Cool Ranch Dorrito aisle once he sees what we do nowadays with gas masks. Can you think of a modern day accoutrement of war where the use has been totally repurposed to do the exact opposite of the thing it was designed to do? Think about it: Instead of insulating the user from poisonous gases, we now use these same masks to suck in these (some will say poisonous) gases--marijuana, hash, tobacco, crack, DMT, herron, freebase, salvia, and god knows what else. In times of peace there’s simply too much of nothing to do.

 AT THE STORE FOR SMOKES, AGAIN, SOME DAYS LATER

Pack of Peter Jackson, small ki--,” I said for the umpteenth time to the teenage girl with the rainbow hair since I moved up to this beach town, a town which is decidedly bi-polar. In the summer it’s full of rowdy teenagers with gelled hair and rock hard bodies, like a tsunami hit the Jersey shore and the detritus washed up here on Georgian Bay. Soon as October comes a-knockin’ it becomes a total ghost town. A mass exodus until only the crusty locals are left to deal with the snow. The whirs of snow blowers and the crescendos of snowmobiles driving down my street provide the dominant cacophonic backdrop.

While I was mid-order, the girl with the rainbow hair turned and headed to the concealed bins where the cigarettes are hidden, as if only we can hide our addictions behind plastic flaps they’ll magically disappear, and pulled out the exact right tobacco product--the right brand (Peter Jackson), the right strength (Blue), the right amount (20) and the right size (King). Lord knows that if you get a smokers’ order wrong, they’ll be quick and ruthless to make the correction. I was stopped cold in my tracks. She just gave me a sly little smile, we made eye contact for the briefest of moments before she broke first and looked down, handing me the change.

BACK AT THE STORE FOR SMOKES, AGAIN, AGAIN. SORRY

There were no other cars in the small parking lot and no pedestrians about, so I left the car running. Pretty much all of my driving years I spent in the GTA (not the game). Would I do that in Brampton? Toronto? No. Never. But it still feels okay for whatever romanticized bucolic reason to leave the car running up here at the beach, if only in the winter time when there‘s no one around. I’m in and out in a jiff. Only need a pack of smokes. And why I go almost every day to buy a pack I’ll never know. Why not buy a carton and save the gas, save on tobacco, and save the time? God only knows. I’m a regimented man and I don’t like breaking my routines so 4-5 times a week it is.

Stepping out of the car there is only one lonely soul, a woman walking her two dogs down the bridge and to the beach. She is also regimented because I see her at least two times a week so it’s not going too far to extrapolate that she probably walks the dogs everyday through the same route. If this were July, there would be gaggles of scantily clad teenagers milling about with floatation devices and whooping it up on the streets leading to the main drag. It’s a decidedly bi-polar beach town that I live in. Though it’s desolate in the wintertime, there’s an odd sense of impending doom as the winter ends knowing that this quiet semi-hick city will be--there’s no other word for it--invaded by young adults and teenagers looking to get rowdy and see what kind of trouble they can stir up. Hence the tiny cottages that dot so many of the streets. If you’ve never been here, it would be forgivable to think I live in a city full of elves.

Maybe this year will be the year that no one shows up and all the cozy cottages will remain empty. No mass exodus out of Toronto once the summer rolls around. For no particular reason, just an inexplicably strange emptiness. People go somewhere else. Never happens though. They always come. The stretch of beaches are simply too pristine and like the way freshly hatched turtles instinctively know which way the sea is, we too naturally flock to this Canadian oasis, our own endless postcard horizon.

The girl was engaged in a conversation on the store’s phone, and when she noticed me come inside she turned her back and started twirling a sizable strand of rainbow streaked hair around her index finger until the pressure was too much and her scalp started to burn and she relented, only to start all over again in the next moment. I patiently picked up a copy of the Toronto Sun and flipped it open to page two to check out the day’s Sunshine Girl, letting her know that I’m in no hurry. Another white trash broad with what appears to be the tattoo of a poem starting at her left lateral ribcage area and running down the side of her hip bone. On her stomach is a flock of birds. Really. No shit. I still haven’t figured out why the Sun insists on almost exclusively using girls with multiple ridiculous tattoos. Class would be near the bottom of the list of words I can conjure up to explain most of the Sunshine Girls. Don’t get me wrong, I find a lot of them attractive in a bestial way. And there’s the odd gem, the rare needle in the haystack, but boy, sometimes there’s weeks in between.

It was now becoming clear, as I continued to flip through the fluff that takes up most of the Sun’s ink, reading a line or two but not really taking it in, that the girl was not in some banal conversation. Though I couldn’t make out every word (I didn’t want to be rude and seem like I was eavesdropping so I kept a safe distance from the counter), I could sense the general thrust and it was not a comfortable chat, of that much I‘m sure.

DRIVING THE GIRL HOME FROM THE STORE

“I’ll just move that into the backseat,” I said, the both of us eyeballing at the same time the six pack that was preventing her from sitting down in the passenger side. She slunk herself into the seat and fastened her belt. I was nervous as all hell. What the fuck am I doing driving this teenage girl home? Every little thing I say to her will, no matter how commonplace, be reflexively filtered through a thought checkpoint to root out any potential sexual references to this minor that I have no familial or long-time-family-friend-type relation to, and no good reason to be with, so that now I’m obviously taking great pains to avoid any kind of talk of sex or boys or whatever, and that makes it seem like I’m creepy for acting like sex talk is unnatural. Or so I think, turning the ignition.

“So . . . where to little lady?” I asked, backing out of the parking lot.

“Hey thanks for driving me, I don’t live far. I was talking to my Mom on the phone. She’s totally hammered and couldn’t pick me up,” she said in a way that suggested it wasn’t the first time that sentence had sprung from her lips. “My name’s Sadie, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you Sadie. My name’s still Neal,” I said smiling as warmly as I could at her.

“Still?” She chuckled and I chuckled back, her one word question phrased more rhetorically rather than inquisitive. I didn’t answer.

There was a moment of silence while I backed up and she looked out the window indiscriminately at the same slushy sights of dirty snow that she saw everyday and I nervously scratched a phantom itch on the back of my neck to fill the empty space and tried to think of something to say, also feeling a hint of an odd kind of inchoate guilt as I thought of the aforementioned six pack that was now ominously situated in the middle of the back seat. Like I’m somehow implicated in her mothers’ irresponsible behaviour.

“Just keep going up Main until you hit the lights at River then go left. You live around here I guess?”

“Yeah, by the police station. Just looking after the folks’ home and the cat while they’re away this winter in Florida. It’s great. I can grab a beer and relax in the Jacuzzi anytime I like.

“Ewww . . . a Jacuzzi.”

“I lived in Toronto for five the past ten years or so, but wanted a change, to get away from the city and live out in the country for a bit. ” This line of reasoning was SOP when trying to impress someone, or put a nice glaze over the rotten facts that my life has become. Though it was mostly true, I was leaving out what most would consider an integral factor to the story, a game changer, a TSN Turning Point: I quit my job a year ago and didn’t do much of anything towards finding a new job in the first six months until my meagre stash of money saved up from my security sales job rather quickly evaporated and I was faced with not being able to pay next month’s rent (let alone beer, pot, smokes, groceries, et al). I had to schlep all my crap two hours north and move back in with the folks. What other choice did I have? I read an article that said more and more Canadians are moving back in with their parents, whether it be the economy, lack of opportunity, whatever. It made me feel marginally better, I suppose. If Sadie dug a little deeper my vague cover story would fall apart, and if that happened, I’d simply tell her the truth, every pathetic detail. Try to pull off a quick turnaround redemption. I didn’t have the fortitude to spin some elaborate web of deceit about the events that led to my current loserdom status living in my parents‘ basement. I prefer to weave a simple, uncomplicated web when I lie and deceive; then come clean if prodded.

“I’d love to live in Toronto. I’ve only been a few times to visit my aunt. I’ve lived here my whole life,” she said and sighed, looking blankly out the window at the rows of semi-squalid beach motels that give way to the carefully delineated box stores.

“Some of my favourite band’s are from Toronto . . . but I‘ve never seen any of them,” and Sadie proceeded to drop a few names, taking the awkward first step when discussing music with a stranger, and/or perhaps to gauge what my preferences were. “Crystal Castles, Metric, Broken Social Scene, Drake.” She stopped listing musical groups and looked at me, “I could go on and on if you like.”

“What about Neil Young? He’s from Toronto.”

“Oh yeah, definitely him too. I love Heart of Gold.”

“That’s a good one but there’s better. A lot of his ‘70’s stuff that you don’t hear on the radio is his best. Zuma, On The Beach, American Stars N’ Bars.” I looked at her and with a smile said, “I could go on and on if you like.”

I continued: “I’m only familiar with the one Broken Social Scene album, You Forgot It In People, but it’s one of the best Canadian albums ever. The kind of album that is pretty much impossible to duplicate, and all future attempts have a lingering sadness because it can never be that good again. That‘s the way I--”

“Oh my God! That’s totally my favourite album from them too!” Sadie jumped in. “I found it last year and have been listening like religiously.”

I relaxed, satisfied that there was some common ground between us no matter the age gap--music is a universal language!

I told her, “Whenever I think of the title, I think of it as, ‘forgot what in people? Like a toy or something?’”

Sadie looked at me with a stern face and said in a monotonous deadpan, “I’m glad I let a complete psycho drive me home.”

“You would probably like The Sadies,” I told her, showing off my Hogtown indie scene knowledge and connecting it to her namesake.

“There’s a band called ‘The Sadies?’” She asked, clearly unaware of their hitherto existence.

“Yeah, they’ve been around a long time. Pretty good, too; straight up mother fucking rock and roll. Awesome guitarists.”

I knew it was wrong, this unstoppable swelling of attraction to this teenage girl. I would never make a pass, she’s too young, I told myself. But good people are capable of bad things if put in the right wrong situation. Believe me, I’ve assimilated modern North American values regarding acting on sexual impulses towards young teenage girls. My baser instincts are firmly held in check, and it’s fine because I really do like women that are my own age, refined women in their late twenties and early thirties, not teenagers with multi coloured streaks in their hair. There’s no getting the toothpaste back in the tube, I ‘spose.

We are cruising through a residential area, I‘m purposely driving slower than usual so we can continue our conversation (thankful there‘s no one behind me). “I live up here on the left, mine is the one with the gnome in the yard with a red toque holding a beer mug . . . my Mom put it there. She‘s kind of a drunk, if you don‘t know already. Sometimes, when she‘s really messed up, and sitting on the couch watching Hoarders or Housewives of Whatever, she‘ll say, ‘Sadie! Get Momma a drink from the litter cabinet, and don‘t forget to clean Kiki‘s liquor box.”

“Sounds like a real hoot,” I said, pulling into her driveway, coming to a stop. “Well, here we are.” I put the car in park.

I don’t have a sound rational reason for what I said next, I think I said it to cut the silence, and you know when you quickly flip through the rolodex of possible topics in your head and you’re pressed for time--someone has to say something right now!--and the longer the silence drags on you just grasp for any old dumb thing to say even if the consequences of saying said thing are worse than not saying anything at all in the first place? She asked me to drive her home. What was I supposed to say? “Get outta my face, lady!?”

“Hey, take my phone number if,” and that’s a very loaded ‘if’, I’ll admit, fraught with innuendos, “you ever need a ride home again.”

Sadie quickly took out her cell phone, which was encased in a pink plastic cell housing bedazzled with little red hearts, some of them faded and not really even hearts anymore where she must hold the phone. She opened up her contacts and entered my name and number, manipulating both her thumbs around the screen of the device with the efficient dexterity that teenagers now display with any handheld device.

She smiled right in my eyes, her twin spotlights lighting me up, and put her phone back in the front pocket of her jeans, bulging noticeably against her thighs. “I’ll call if I need a ride,” she said, lingering by the open door, “Just don’t drink any of those,” and her eyes moved to the six pack with the who me? expression in the back seat, “If I let you drive me home again.”

“I wouldn’t dare, Sadie.”

She closed the door, insulating me from the frigid, dandruff inducing, soul destroying air that whipped off the bay. Alone in the car. I watched Sadie walk up the walkway, shovelled so narrowly as to barely allow a human being to trek through. I didn’t actually watch her open the front door. I didn’t want to seem like a creep, sitting there in her driveway not leaving, as if driving her home and giving her my phone number wasn’t creepy enough.

I’m fucking thirty one years old! Ahh! I got the hell out of there and drove home and resolved to forget about Sadie with a few pints and a few puffs. Shit, am I going to have to buy smokes from a different store now to avoid future potentially embarrassing situations with this girl? Why did I involve myself with the local convenience store clerk? I chided myself for needlessly complicating my simple life. I debated the pros and cons of funnelling my future tobacco dollars towards the other convenience store which was definitely much farther away than the current one, and from what I remember, there was a whiff of something rotten in the air. That was two strikes against.

And then I was pulling in to the driveway of my empty suburban house, waiting for the automatic door to fully ascend.

SADIE COMES OVER

I didn’t recognize the number but the voice on the other end was hers. Of course she could come over if she needed to get away from her mother for a few hours, I told her. She was walking over this very minute.

I convinced myself that I didn’t even think of Sadie like a seventeen year old. She seemed sweet and clever, and yes, kind of attractive too. It’s hard to choose to be attracted to somebody because that’s what the culture you live in tells you to. You just kind of are, am I right?

There’s a ton of moral diversity within the thirteen to nineteen range and what’s permissible, both legally and culturally. Not many would bat an eye if a twenty year old male dated an eighteen year old female. Happens all the time. A few heads would certainly start turning if a twenty five year male dated a seventeen year old female, and heads would possibly start rolling (either from law enforcement or paternal rage) if a thirty eight year old male dated a thirteen year old female (the disgust of this summed up neatly by the fact that no one would actually call it ’dating’, it’s called something else entirely).

Thirty one and seventeen. I pondered the mathematical range of our ages and couldn’t keep the clichéd platitudes from bubbling to the surface. Age is just a number. . .

I shouldn’t have even offered her a ride home. What am I doing inviting her to my home? Do I need to hop onto the net and look up Sex Laws in Ontario? This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Remember to ask her when her 18th birthday is. Okay, there’s a force field around her and I’ll simply just not touch her at all, not in a sexual way or a friendly way, only if she’s choking and I have to give her mouth to mouth, then and only then will I reach out and connect my lips to hers.

Without warning the doorbell says, “Ding-dong.”

I exhale loudly (if a man sighs alone in a house does it make a sound?) and hop down the small set of stairs that lead to the front door. I can see a slender persons’ silhouette through the stained glass pattern, bathing them in a translucent, multi-coloured, ethereal glow.

We say our hellos I lead her up the stairs to the main area of the house. There is a definite power when welcoming a guest into your home for the first time. You‘re in charge. The family house was an open concept, combining the kitchen and t.v. room; it was where friends and family congregated to engage in conversation and whatnot. Sadie was no different.

“So this is it,” I said with a sweeping motion, gesturing at all the stuff--sixty inch flat screen hanging on the wall as if put in place by the hand of God, leather couches with matching ottomans, hardwood floors, sleek modern kitchen where pots and pans dangle, ready for use.

“Thanks for letting me come over for a while, my Mom’s annoying the shit out of me. I promise it will only be for a few hours, until she passes out.”

“Hey, it’s all good. I could use the company. Kind of lonely by myself all the time here. I’m used to living in an apartment on Bloor Street in Toronto and having to close my curtains because too many people are walking by.”

I open my pack of PJ’s and perfunctorily offer her one and she declines.

“I remember that you said you have a Jacuzzi,” Sadie said with a conspiratorial sideways grin. “So I brought my bathing suit.”

I cleared my throat and said, “Great, great. We can definitely do that. She’s all warmed up and ready to go.”

There was freshly diced vegetables, flour, bread crumbs and spices for my deadly fried chicken all laid out carefully on the kitchen counter. I didn’t really know what else to do for this girl except feed her. It’s all about the Panko!

“Not hungry I take it?”

“Maybe later. Got somewhere I can change?”

IN THE MOONLIGHT & JACUZZI

The jets they are-a bubbling and we sit down at the same as far away as possible on opposite ends of the tub. We both let our bodies acclimate to the water which was perfectly set at just-hot-enough-to-hurt-so-good.

If you haven’t slaked your thirst with a few Moosehead’s and then waltzed through subzero temperatures in nothing but a bathing suit towards a tub full of hot water and laid back and smoked a cigarette looking up at the moon, the stars, the sun, well than you haven’t caught a glimpse of paradise yet, my friend.

“Lot of stars out tonight,” I shot across the ocean between us, my head cocked to the heavens. It was something, anything. Did I want a response? I don’t know.

“Let’s play a game,” Sadie said.

I’ll admit, there weren’t too many games I wouldn’t play with her at this moment.

“Okay then.”

“Turn off the jets and we’ll both take a deep breath and go under water. I’ll sing the first verse to a song and you have to guess which song.”

Well I‘ve gone this far. To turn back now would be as bloody as moving forward. I flexed my stomach muscles and stood up, leaning over to where the main control panel was located and punched one of the buttons, killing the jets.

Like when you play Jeopardy! or Trivial Pursuit with your friends, I was confident that I would know the song, whatever song she decided to choose. She’s only a teenager, after all.

A silence that was always there, hidden by the jets, suddenly revealed itself and, I’m sure, caught both of our attention at the same time, but it went unacknowledged. We crouched down onto the floor of the tub, the dying swells from the jets making our kneecaps gently tap, tap, tap, together. Two heads and four shoulders our only parts above water. Spumes of heat rise over the surface, the only things moving at this moment in the backyard, the whole world. We sucked in what was all around us and what we were sucking in all the time when you stop and think about it, but was now wholly precious and uncommonly dramatic considering how crucial oxygen was to the game, and then we disappeared beneath the surface.