Ok, so I've dropped off the face of the earth over the past 12+ months. Starting a business and extricating myself from my former employment has really been distracting, I have to admit.
In any event, this post will be mercifully short. I just want to get the word out that my friends at Matchbox Pictures are at it again. Their third and latest project, CHEAT, is in pre-production and they're offering opportunities for community investment via Indiegogo. If you would be interested in supporting the London film community, I'd highly recommend tossing some dough at this project:
As a friend of the principals and an investor in a prior project, I am very excited for this one to go into production. Hope that others will also see this as a glorious opportunity to support local arts and business.
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Saturday, 8 June 2013
Posting a new-ish piece of writing that I've been meaning to edit. Comments welcome!
* * *
Heading down the 401 with the Barbaras and Bonnies and Brendas before seven in the morning. The sun is still low in the sky, just a suggestion of light climbing the tops of the trees. All the women named Barbara and Bonnie and Brenda drive sensible, North American cars, Regals and Luminas and LeSabres. Their make-up looks practised and sedate, their suits appropriate and professional. They are beating the traffic, going to the places where they hold responsible jobs in office administration, finance, human resources, but there’s something around the eyes or their grip on the steering wheel, something pursued and worried. It’s as if they are dogged, even on the morning commute, run to ground by the Lisas and Kellys and Jennifers nipping at their heels. As I pass Barbara (or maybe Bonnie or Brenda), she clutches the wheel, eyes steely and straight ahead. No matter how much faster I go, I get the impression Barbara is miles ahead, ready and girded to meet her pursuers.
Monday morning. Another spring commute. To ease the boredom, I start to take a body count. Putting aside the parts of corpses, the clumps of hair glued to the asphalt with guts, some of the corpses reduced to woolly sweaters discarded on the road, indefinable carnage, London to Woodstock looks like this:
Raccoon, raccoon, rabbit, raccoon, deer, possum, raccoon, raccoon, raccoon, groundhog.
I’ve barely crested the hill, Woodstock spread out across the saucer of its valley like an apron draped on a warm lap, when the sky warms like an oven element. On a morning like this, who could maintain a death toll? I look to the shoulders and start counting the strips of discarded tires from transports.
1, 2, 3, 4 …
Traffic thins so I contemplate the morning drive.
Don’t get me wrong: I feel a kinship for the Barbaras and Bonnies and Brendas. But as I pass out of Oxford County, I drive into an imaginary landscape. A gauzy blanket of fog lies atop the sleeping fields of soy and corn, juvenile plants wriggling their toes in the rich earthy bed. This is a dream place, or a place I dream. I start to imagine the Barbaras as the roadkill, the tires of their Regals and Luminas blown out, scattered on this asphalt ribbon. In this imagined geography, passing, passing, are we as good as the strewn remains of the dead? Are we as good as dead? Am I just another casualty of the commute, another bit of the flotsam, weighed and considered and preyed over by ministering crows? I am turning this around in my head and driving almost unconscious amidst occasional swirls of ground fog, for the moment, making good time.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
After some time, I felt compelled to put something new up. Not sure why, really. Perhaps I've broken free of the grip of self-doubt and excuse-making. Regardless, here's a piece that I wrote some time ago, on a now distant warm August day. Not sure if this is a return, or just a Christmas card from an all-but-forgotten old friend. In any event, I hope others might find something they like. Having just re-read it for the first time in a while, I realize it does suffer from maudlin romanticism, but I still think it may have some good bits.
This is for Char, who believes in me when I don't believe in myself.
This is for Char, who believes in me when I don't believe in myself.
* * *
End of the vacation
You kissed me violently and threw your head back with a laugh, kicking off across the top of the pool like an otter or some half-glimpsed siren. I sat in shallow water at the foot of your wake, small waves lapping my lips. Sparrows averted their eyes, before flying away. The breeze came up and filled the sail of clean sheets on the clothes line, lifting up the day as if we might take to the high seas, set a course for uncharted waters. You gestured to me from the other side of the pool, inviting.
I had just read the story of a woman who built her bed above the tomb of her husband beneath the bedroom floorboards. Taken too soon, he’d always promised he’d never leave her or the home they’d made together, and she took him perhaps too literally. Slept every night next to him, until she would eventually join him again. It was gruesome and romantic, in equal measure.
You kept gesturing me to your side. I was not a strong swimmer, and you knew it. The breeze kicked up tiny breakers between here and there. It was the last day of vacation. The last day of too many cigarettes and too many beers in our scorched yard. I felt sun-weakened and paper-thin, parched. You latched me with your eyes, and the wind blew up a gale in my ears, filling the sheets, and the pillow cases looked like hot-air balloons. I could taste something that was ending as the pool-water formed waves, crashing on my head. Through sheets of spray, I saw you smiling and wondered how I’d look laying on the bottom, all oxygen pushed out of me, something wrecked and water-logged.
In an instant, I made up my mind. Better to be driftwood than flotsam. I threw myself into the pounding surf, flailing arms and kicking legs, thrashing through the water to where I imagined you’d be on the other side. Knowing that without reaching you, I’d forever feel your arms, lifting me up, pulling me from the pool. Laying me on the stinging concrete, your lips pressed to mine, with the sun beating us down.
I knew as I took in mouthfuls of pool water that wherever I made land, you’d be there, forever beside me. And the sun would be shining on your cappuccino skin, glinting electric in the silver of your hair. And you would gently lay me in a shady spot. You would lie down beside me. Even if I sunk like a stone from too much of everything, you would make sure that our promises were kept.
Sunday, 5 August 2012
Ok, so I finally got around to downloading an OCR program, converting the graphic files to text, and re-posted three pieces from my earlier publications. Hopefully, "The Things We" (ALL the pages this time), "I wrote a story about Vienna as my father lay dying" and "the sound of flight" are much more legible. If you haven't read them previously, please enjoy and feel free to comment. If you have read them, you may want to pay another visit.
Sunday, 22 July 2012
Randall sat murderously quiet. He heard the office door close and Jack Vanetter returned to his chair on the other side of the desk. Jack tried to look compassionate. He gave it a good try.
“Randy,” he started, and stopped. Randall could see him struggling with the handful of words HR had prepped him with. Randall thought that Jack was really not cut out for this sort of thing.
He said “Randy” again, and stopped once more.
Randall thought, ‘this could take all day at this rate.’ He let his mind wander as Jack looked for what needed to be said.
On the way in that morning, Randall got to thinking about Lizzie. He pictured her standing by the door, wearing a serious look. She had Sarah’s way of crinkling her forehead, but also the innate ability to smear breakfast all over her face. The area from her nose to her chin seemed to be dyed a permanent shade of orange or red. He couldn’t take her seriousness entirely seriously, but he did his best to seem sincere.
“Daddy,” she said, waiting to continue until she had his full attention. “Will you be home to watch Idol with me?”
Randall weighed his options: an unconditioned yes; a maybe; or the truth. He tried to convince himself that today would be different, that he’d slip away quietly by 6 pm; that it would not take him over an hour and a half to make the commute home, all white knuckles and profanity; that he’d pull into the driveway before the sun had slipped below the horizon. He knew she’d be at the window when he arrived, no matter what, so he said ‘maybe’, he’d do his best.
Even then, at 6 a.m., it felt dishonest.
On the way in he passed a small sign on the side of a hill next to an entry ramp to Highway 8. In the fall and winter it had been clearly visible. “Work From Home”, it exhorted. No details or instructions, or perhaps the rest of the sign had fallen off. Still, Randall thought, it made its point. The tall grass of the hillside had crept up, so that only a bit of the white of the sign was visible. But he knew its message was still there, unmistakable.
Across from him, Jack’s mouth was moving, but he was far away or underwater and the words were reaching Randall muffled and incomprehensible. “Not working out …” Randall thought that maybe it was Jack who was drowning, seeing the almost panic in his face. He made no movement, and he imagined that his silence was making it harder on Jack. It didn’t matter, he told himself, the particular words. He knew the gist. He’d heard rumours.
Randall thought about the garden edging he’d bought on the weekend. He’d need to start installing it this Saturday. He put it on his mental to-do list, also knowing that he could count on Sarah to remind him of the tasks to be completed. He imagined pounding the individual pieces of edging into the ground, with steady uncomplicated thwacks. Randall pictured the smiling woman on the box. He figured if the petite blonde on the box could install this product without breaking a sweat, he’d be up to the task.
Randall wondered what Lizzie and Sarah were doing just then. Eating mac ‘n cheese? Doing laundry? Building a princess castle in the living room with blankets and pillows? He wondered what he was missing, putting the things he’d already missed to one side.
Jack’s mouth kept moving, and his brow furled and unfurled like a flag in the wind. “We need to think about the organization … package …” This was serious. Randall was again reminded of Lizzie’s question, and the sign by the road.
Thwack, thwack. He drove in another piece of edging, separating garden from lawn. Placing things in their separate categories. Work: Home.
Randall thought of the million things he needed to be doing just then. He started to get up from his chair as Jack continued to explain what the company was offering him, on the way out the door. He told himself: if Jack finishes up quickly enough, I can beat the traffic.
I might even catch the evening news.
Saturday, 21 July 2012
A new poem I wrote recently, from a cast-off bit I found kicking around. Funny how something from several years ago can be recycled.
* * *
The rites of passing
He was a textbook rummy: like an old newspaper,
something blown into a doorway. His skin and clothes desiccated,
battered to the same hue of dust. Among the office tower legions, he was a
tumbleweed scouring the terrace. The sound of grasshoppers or cicadas
in faraway trees.
The day exhaled hot breath against
your cheek and the wind came up full of sunshine and grit. No one took notice
of death in a corner, its subtlety
adrift on the day’s undercurrent.
For an instant, all was still. A handful of coins lay at the feet of the congregated
pigeons. Priestly crow conducted a silent mass, head cocked.
Looking to the parishioners, catching the eye of anyone
willing to observe passage and make an offering. A gust riffled his
cloak, and he was off.
Taking the moment with him. A single black feather
marking the occasion.
Friday, 20 July 2012
The inside of the Otter head smelled like old rubber gloves and puke. I set it on top of my knapsack on the seat next to me as the Number 21 bus crawled through the ‘burbs. Mothers walked their children to the nearby public school, scolding them away from piles of fallen leaves. I looked at Jacob, but he wasn’t looking back.
It was the fall of 10th grade. Jacob Grant was my best friend then. I know it was the fall of 10th grade because that was when Jacob’s Gramms went into the nursing home and Jacob ended up on our couch for several weeks. You remember things like that in a way that makes them more definitive than a calendar or pictures of Thanksgiving dinner, 1985.
Jacob was a good kid, at least as far as you could know that about anyone. He was the kind of kid that your parents liked and asked about when they hadn’t seen him for a while, hopeful you hadn’t abandoned the friendship in the fickleness of youth. That’s how I remembered him when he showed up for school that fall. Only there was something about him that hadn’t been there before. He wore it like a bruise, just visible at the edge of a sleeve. I started to doubt he was the good kid any more as days went on.
Jacob had taken up swearing like a biker, not just the routine profanity of adolescence but real crude talk that would get you kicked out of a shopping mall. At the same time, he’d adopted a filthy laugh that he never had before. He started pushing his hair to the side, out of his eyes, instead of getting it cut. I couldn’t say whether these were habits he acquired over the summer, or something that was developing in front of my eyes, like a very slow Polaroid picture.
Sitting across from him on the bus, I noticed that his jeans were ripped above the knee. I figured that mom hadn’t seen him before he left the house that morning. If she had, she would’ve marched him back upstairs to find a pair of pants that didn’t suit a hobo. Since he moved in with a hockey bag of his belongings, mom had gone out of her way to treat him like her own son. She made his lunches, cutting the crusts from his sandwiches the way he liked. She washed his clothes, ensuring that he was as presentable as possible. At night, she would have loud conversations with my father – discussions that I was not supposed to hear through the hastily closed door of their bedroom – so I knew that she felt compelled to look after him in ways my father couldn’t understand or tolerate.
I walked into the living room one day when Jacob was watching TV. Mom was standing behind him. Her hand hung in the air just above his head, as if she were about to stroke his hair. When she realized I was there, she took her hand back and asked me if I wanted something to eat. The image lasted with me. Having seen my current wife take in a malnourished cat, I now understand that my mother was acting on an instinct even she couldn’t explain.
As I sat looking at him across the aisle, Jacob unfolded his jack-knife and stuck it into the seat cushion next to him, stabbing and twisting. There was less stuffing in the seat than you’d expect. He worked the blade like he was prying open clams or trying to work a lock, but not having much success. He didn’t look up or catch my eye.
“Jacob,” I hissed, and he looked at me finally. He placed a finger to his lips.
Jacob scrunched up his mouth and nose into a sort of duck-face with the effort of cutting through the thick vinyl of the bus seat. Finally, it surrendered with a horrible shredding sound.
The bus pulled over to the curb and stopped. The driver turned in his seat and I got a look at his eyes in the big mirror as he searched for the source of the ripping sound. I lowered my head. In my mind, at his size it would take 13 strides to reach the back of the bus. Maybe 12. Jacob flipped the blade of the knife closed inside his palm and slipped it into his pocket.
Nine, ten, eleven. Eleven-and-one-half paces brought him to a spot directly in front of Jacob.
My mind leapt to the reckoning: my parents called to deal with the police and the transit people, and Jacob saying nothing to help his cause. Me with nothing to say at all, since I couldn’t make out what would inspire someone to attack a bus seat that way. It would come down on me by extension, I was certain, as things that your friends do always follow you home. Guilt by association, they call it. I felt myself shrivelling. The driver stuck out his hand in front of Jacob, palm up. Jacob just looked at his hand, following the curve of his meaty arm up to the shoulder, the driver’s face.
I looked to the front of the bus. A 30-something woman held the tiny hand of a very young child, who stared back. My view of the bus started stretching out, as if the vehicle were elongating. I was at the wrong end of a telescope, getting smaller and further away. The image of the bus driver started to wobble, and then vibrate. I could taste breakfast pushing up the back of my throat. My legs made their own decisions. Their certainty started to spread to my basal brain.
I stood and picked up the Otter head. I couldn’t carry it and the book bag, not the 10 blocks to school. I held it under one arm for a moment, while I pulled the straps of the backpack over my shoulders. The bus wasn’t moving, but my knees and stomach were swaying. The coward’s certainty was waning.
“Excuse me,” I whispered as I tried to move past the driver. His bulk filled the aisle, blocking the long tunnel that led to the front door of the bus. He didn’t seem to hear me. His hand still stuck out in Jacob’s direction, demanding. “Excuse me,” I said again, slightly louder, “may I get past?”
The driver wheeled and looked at me for the first time. “Are you with him?”
Almost twenty-five years later, I wrestled with this question when my first wife, Marg, asked me virtually the same thing. It was over dinner one night, when we were into it over my mother’s refusal to come live with us after my father passed suddenly. Marg was hurt by some things my mother had said. Untrue, but hurtful things that people say when they’re looking for someone to share some of their pain. My then-wife looked at me over the bowl of potato salad.
She said, “I need to know if you’re with me or if you’re with her?” She said that and then she waited for an answer. I stopped cutting my steak and looked across at her, the fork still in my hand, unable to answer. Incapable of taking a side. The question hung over the marriage for a couple of years like a wobbling tight-rope walker, before it inevitably lost its balance and fell over.
That day on the bus was the same and I could read the impatience in the driver’s face. He waited for an answer a moment or two longer, but no response was coming. He turned his attention back to Jacob, without moving out of the way.
Jacob studied his fingernails. I thought about whether the driver would call the cops, and whether Amy would ever come to my house again if Jacob got sent away. I wondered whether I could outrun the driver if I pushed him and made a run for it. A million swear words riffled through my head – things I could say to blow up the moment and distract the driver. Nothing fit. My calculations did not factor in what would become of Jacob.
Jacob’s gaze never left his lap. He’d made his choice, I assumed, or a choice had been made, in any event, from which there was no retreat. Either way.
I sat down. The books in my knapsack bit into my back. The driver’s hand remained, stuck out like a sort of fixture.
He said, “son, just give it up already.” Then, in a slightly gentler tone, he said, “you’re not fooling anyone.”
Jacob looked up then. As if emerging from a dream, he saw the driver and the panic in my face. He reached into his pocket, and for an instant I imagined him pulling out the knife and stabbing the driver, repeatedly, in the hand and then the chest. He had the look of being adrift. Dazed and at sea. Like someone you might step over on the street, making crazy sounds. Someone who might who do anything at that very moment.
Instead, he placed the folded-up knife in the driver’s palm, which immediately closed on it. The driver said, “that’s right, son.” He walked the 11 ½ strides to the front of the bus.
Over his shoulder, he spoke to us. “I believe this is your stop, gentlemen.” The driver sat down, and the rear doors popped open as he pushed a lever.I looked at Jacob. He wasn’t moving, but I could see him shaking off the last of the trance. He’d need to be awake – it was about 10 blocks to school. I’d have to run to make the first-period pep rally.
I said, “c’mon, let’s go.”
Jacob found his legs. We stood at the same time, and I could see he was wobbling. I put out a hand to take his elbow. I thought he might brush it away, but he didn’t.
Jacob said, “I’m ok. You go ahead.” I released his arm and let myself down the back steps of the bus.
Jacob walked to the front. He leaned over to the driver, holding onto the fare box to steady himself. I walked along the side of the bus, meeting him at the front door. I wanted to know what he said, but I didn’t have a voice or the words to ask.
Jacob descended from the bus and started walking in the direction of the school. I fell in behind him.
I put on the stinking mascot head. I didn’t want him to see me crying.