welcome to the jungle.

01/02/2011 § Leave a comment

He cried over writing every word.

It broke my heart to read that.

Imagine a man of stature and stance, en-blazoned with a love for humanity, neatly sitting at his desk covered with pens and purpose, dark-ink dwellings of the depths of depravity he has seen. And I wonder how it must have seemed.

“I am so scared for my friend, I don’t know where he is right now.”

“Nothing is ever as it seems.”

Or is it?

We can only theorize what life is like in other places. We romanticize or impoverish them with our minds unless we see it for ourselves. And even then, an experience is tied to our emotional response.

“Smells. Smells are so important,” the young lady with bleach-wheat hair told me. “And then, when I smell that smell somewhere else, I think of people. And then I think of those people and I feel so much for them.”

I wonder why that is or how that happens.

When I smell clean fuzzy fleecies or snow melting on the pavement, I think of my grandma. When I smell clean breezes and old wood, I think of my parents. They trigger wells of emotion that are hard to re-place. I find myself trying to create comforts of home, an attempt to feel grounded once again. I crave the salt of the Earth.

As I get older, I’m finding it harder and harder to grow up. I remember asking my parents if they ever felt like they grew up.

“No, we just learned to relax a little more.”

Last night, I walked to my friend’s place. I picked up my rhythm with every bead of sweat that I accumulated under my shirt, imprinting patterns and realizing that I usually don’t sweat. Not like this. The salt is different on this side of the Earth.

After a night of gathering, four of us humans curled on my friend’s bed, “generations” separating us, and snuggled with the newest furry addition to their family, Felipe — the three-month old Persian who is going to star in a movie (Cats vs. Rats). His feline brother, Indie, is a bit older. He was not really into playing.

The older I get, the harder I find it hard to grow up. And then I wonder if we ever do.

Earlier in the night, I scooped Felipe in my arms and buried my nose in his forehead. He smelled clean and his fur crept into my nose. I didn’t sneeze. I danced a little while he dug his chin into my hand. It feels so good when that happens.

If you unravel the seams, you find a deep well of light-refracting water. In everyone and everything.

That’s why Upton Sinclair poured his soul into The Jungle.


the valid dictorian

30/09/2010 § Leave a comment

On top of a hill, on a long veranda, on a chair. he sat and dipped ginger snaps into his black coffee and wondered how he got there.

He was older, but not old. He could not remember his first steps or his high chair or the first time he climbed the stairs. He remembered the sound of his mother’s voice, “Oh, you were something, you were such a hoot. The sound of a great thud and running to the bedroom and seeing you climb the ladder to the bunk bed. You wouldn’t walk, but, man, you would climb everything!” She told him that story a lot. As it turned out, he decided to skip walking and chose to run or leap or fly.

He was harder, but not hard. He knew he liked salty crackers and sweetened tea and the bitter taste of dark chocolate, but he could not put his finger on it. He did remember the early mornings with his cousin and grandmother, rising before the crack of dawn to watch the weather station and dunk ginger snaps into a mug filled with black coffee. “Morning, Fred. It’s going to be sunny today. What do you say we go to the beach and do nothing,” his grandma would say. As he grew older, he noticed that the jar of ginger snaps would always be full. She only bought ginger snaps for him and his cousin.

He was wiser, but not wise. He knew he got decent grades and was mediocre at sports and wondered what everyone else was doing. He learned a little bit of everything from the things that he tried and discovered that he liked language and freedom. Everyday in French class, he was sent into the hall. “No, Monsieur, I will not go into the hall again! It takes two people to talk and disrupt the class and I will not be the martyr of consequences!” At recess, he apologized to his friend for sending her out into the hall and she told him it was nothing. It gave her the opportunity to do something other than work, like colour and listen to her tape deck. Later in high school, he, too, enjoyed the moments in the hall during math class.

Sitting alone with a glass half full of coffee and cookie crumbs, he said out loud, “To most I am nothing, but to few I was something.” He laughed.

ww & thursday: a cylinder

23/09/2010 § Leave a comment

Tubes and tunnels bring back memories of empty paper towel rolls. Much like everyone else, I remember taking the flimsy, hollow logs of cardboard, pressing it around my mouth and hollering like a wolf or monster or sports announcer. It would leave a ring, a red impression, for a few minutes. Then, I would take it and pretend I was an explorer of sorts, holding it to my left eye and yelling, “ahoy!” It left a temporary monacle. Looking down the cylinder, I would notice how much brighter it looked on the other end, contrasted by the dark, cardboard tunnel.

Last night, I got to spend a little time with STB. Of course, sitting in her bedroom with newly acquired posters and trinkets, we started talking about books. For some time, I have not found the space (as I have a lot of time) to enjoy reading. Perhaps, it has been the literature that I have chosen.

Over a bottle of tap water, I explained my frustration of a book by Tom Wolfe, “I Am Charlotte Simmons”. It’s about a girl from Sparta, North Carolina, a small-town girl, who goes to college and finds herself lost in the sea of peer pressure: Sex and drugs and rap. It’s the same story, but it was poorly written. It sucked because it tried too hard.

Growing up, we were taught to look both ways before crossing the street, even if the light was green or the crossing-guard was guiding us. We were taught to be aware of our surroundings so that we could jump out of the way of danger, or, better yet, just yield.

Growing up, I used to think that endurance was equal to perserverance. I thought that putting one’s head down and struggling would bring me to the other side. From my observations (and my subjective right to create defintions), perserverance is to laugh in the face of hardship, whereas endurance creates it:  As soon as I am done school, as soon as I get off work, as soon as I finish this book… 

The problem is that we get lost in it. We put our noses into bad situations (books) and torture ourselves, hoping for a “better” at the end. We feel like we already put in so much time, we should not stop now. When it comes to the little things, that for some reason we seem to sweat over, we get tunnel vision. 

Raise our heads, look both ways and cross the street.

ww: tom wolfe vs. kurt vonnegut

15/09/2010 § Leave a comment

She is from a small town, cradled in the valley of the Blue Ridges Mountains in North Carolina, called Sparta.Despite the town name’s glorious connotations, the town boasts less than 2,000 people, all of whom speak with accentuated drawls and contractions, “you ain’ known ‘oo dunnit”. Her life there could have been simple, but instead she was given a sense of academic purpose and a will to use it. Her name is Charlotte Simmons.

She got into a prestigious American college called Dupont, where the post-boarding elite and full-scholarship basketball jocks levy the school’s international recognition. Entering pure and naive, Charlotte faces the turmoil of not belonging to either of these categories. She puts her own prodigious prowess on hold in order to fit in. Her story is the same as most.

He is a pensive science fiction writer from the back washes of the U-S-of-A. He is friends, or associates, with an automobile salesman by the name of Dwayne Hoover, a man who could be simple but also thinks too much. The writer’s name is Kilgore Trout.

He has a simple way of enduring hardships as a 3-time divorcée to beautiful and intelligent and patient women, having a son who’s last words to him were “you crawled up your own asshole and died”, and holds a general lack of interest in life. He was given, by his writer, “a life not worth living, but an iron will to keep on living it”. His story is the same as most.

Sitting on the balcony with thoughts in other places and ideas outside my own experience, I can hear the brat below yelling profanities at his mom, “Mom! Shut up. You are such an idiot. Yeah! I will do it when I want to!” His hot-headed breath makes me crinkle like shrink-wrap. I assume by his voice, with undertones of squakishness, that he is in his early teens, an age that you feel forcibly undefinable. He is not a boy, nor a man. He is no longer at the top rung of the school’s social ladder, but rather a freshman or sophomore in some high school. He enjoys playing basketball (most nights I can hear him and his friends playing in his backyard court) but needs to take all his compulsory academic courses. He doesn’t want to do a lot of things, but feels the need to do them. His life probably seems tough.

Last night, Tony told me about a video that shows the relative life span of the Universe. It starts billions of billions of years ago with the Big Bang and fast tracks to our current age of Obama-nation. Even people who live past one-hundred years barely register as any time at all. The video is a visualization, not contrived, of the bigger picture.

Two nights ago, Tala brought Sasha Greene to my attention. She is “hot stuff” right now because of her openness as a sex-loving porn-star with no reservations. She is the hype because of her honesty, her realness inspiring People readers to embrace who they are or what they do. Although the idea is romantic — the people confidently wearing name tags that say “Hello! My name is Sue and I like cashews!” — I wonder what the need is to declare anything at all.

Sometimes we are labelled as egocentric or self-absorbed, wrapping the world around our shoulders, cozying into the idea that our life is so important (and it is, because it’s the only one we have). We come up with ideas and create thoughts that we believe make us unique and subjectively special. If proven wrong, or slighted in any way, we see it is a personal attack against our individual integrity. Reality and experience show that this belief is just one’s pride talking. Reality and experience show that everything is just a beautiful blip in life, moments to be picked apart and plastered like putty onto our own creation of ourselves. The reality of experience shows that there may or may not be a God except, perhaps, the one in our mind. The creator that imagines everything — the good, the bad, the necessary.

ww: an ode to hi ho.

08/09/2010 § 1 Comment

Today was a “b” day.

After work, riding up my street, I saw my roommate, Tony, walking home.

“Yo, T! You are back so early! You have that interview, do you not?”

“Yeah, where you off to?”

“Taking a little b-time.”

So it was I pedaled with no direction except East. With my tires freshly pumped and moving with the wind, I glided through Little Portugal, Kensington Market and Chinatown. I pedaled past my old street, my old park-ette, my old school, my old thoughts. Like an impulsion imploding, I locked Blue Velvet to a post outside Lillian H. Smith, one of the city’s many public libraries. There was no thought to this process, just following intuition.

Ascending the revolving stairs, my legs took me to the Merill Collection of Science Fiction. Inside this room of glass walls and faux-metallic offices, I found myself drawn to the receptionist’s desk.

“Hi. I would like to borrow Breakfast of Champions.”

The woman had white hair pulled back and glasses appropriately studious. In a methodical cadence, she explained:

“Is this your first time here, at the Merill Collection? If so, please fill out this form and provide all the necessary information. Since this is your first time here, I must say, please do not write in, bend corners of, mark in any way, eat food or sip a beverage around, defile or deface the book that you borrow. You must leave a 25-cent deposit but if you do not have it, I can lend it to you. I also request that you show me proof of identification so that I know that you, as the borrower, is who she says she is. You may not in any way or any time remove the book from this area. We are closed at 6pm and after you put your purse into the allocated lockers behind you, I will give you the book.”

Either out of habit or a love for orderly rhythms.

I sat with Breakfast of Champions for a couple of hours, reeling through the pages with a familiar ease. After a few lines, I felt invigorated with those words that had tumbled in my brain, but never read from another person until now: “born onto this damaged planet”, “canvas camisole” (when referring to a straight jacket), “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride”. Hi ho.

Either out of familiarity or general discontent, these phrases made me think of my childhood, particularly the first. I remember wanting the world to just change, to make it better and for the wild things to rule the land because they were far better creatures than ourselves. I was 6 years old. What a buzz kill.

From an early age, I had a negative outlook on the general sense of things and how they were but only because of what I believed we could be. I would see long faces and under-eyes with baggage, carrying too much weight of all the things that, in the end, don’t matter (like proving something and having good credit.)

Then, as I got older, I started seeing remarkable things happen. Despite heads held low and rounded shoulders, I saw small adaptations. At a bar that I used to work at, the door did not lock properly. The latch would jam, preventing it from hooking onto some hinge-like device. Still, every night, instead of saying “who cares, not I”, every worker that closed the door for the final time would take a butter-knife to un-jam the latch and slam the door, locking it. One small step.

The evolution of man and what it has destroyed in the process is nothing short of miraculous. We idle in efficiency because it gives us more time to do the things we want to do. Usually, the things we want to do have everything to do with having fun. It is the reason we work so hard to retire. We think that one day we will not have the energy to work anymore and will want to laze around and enjoy the last of our life. Have you ever spoken to a retired person? They are some of the busiest people I know.

We think that age brings fragility when it only brings about a better sense of humour. A psychological study on personality differentiation shows that as children we associate ourselves and who we believe we are with many different things. We dabble into a bit of this with a dollop of that in the attempt to find something that reflects who we think we are or who we want to be. As we get older, our personality differentiation becomes more streamlined and unilateral. We choose a tidy box and cut out the things that do not fit into the box. We curl up inside and close the lid, shutting out the light. Somewhere along the life line, either from boredom or suffocation, we re-emerge and our personality differentiation reflects our dabbling nature of our childhood. We take up art classes, choose a different career, get a dog, move to different places and choose different spaces. Some anal-ysts believe that it is human regression, whereas I like to think that wisdom shines a little light on the whole hilarity of a life’s purpose. Closer to the end, we realize it was all a joke, albeit, sometimes a cruel one, and that life is too short to be doing anything except the things that make you giggle.

So it was, taking a little b-time brought me to this point, sitting here in front of a computer, writing about my spontaneous spurts of laughing out loud in the “quiet zone” of a library while reading a story of one of my favourite human beings who I never met and never will.

Ode to hi ho.

ww: weekend warriors

01/09/2010 § Leave a comment

We push for the pull of weekend getaways, the ones we fantasized from films and photos, needing to get to anywhere but here. We look at far-away points and places and figure, “that could be us.” But, where do our pillows truly lay?

We planned a night in the wilderness, amidst trees and fields and close to the water. Where everything you need is at your fingertips and anything you want lay on the pillows back home. Our simplicity is scary.

A couple of days ago, the heat had returned to Toronto making the smooth lines of an approaching Autumn crinkle from perspiration. It was a day of celebration, so Cam,Liz & I were riding to grab a caffeinated beverage from the Sam James Coffee Bar. We had jingles on our minds, “Well, we know where we’re going, but we don’t know where we been!”

Sitting slouched against a white-washed wall, hands clasped around coffee cups, they asked, “So, do you know where you guys are going, tomorrow?”

“No,” I answered. “We are just going to pack up and go on an adventure. Due North.”

The next day, time was taken before the adeventure. It did not pull us in and we did not push back, we wiped the notion of a schedule clean due to post-cupcake-&-Creemore celebrations. Both of us another year older and feeling no different, but feeling the change. Any anticipation of the unknown was ironed while talking with Anna over eggies-in-a-basket and a third-of-a-glass of Tropicana to share between the three of us. We talked about movements and change, in one way or another, of people coming and going and time not ever standing still. “Girl, I will miss you, but will love seeing you when I do.”

After Anna left, we picked up the car and headed North on roads to nowhere. This was our weekend and we were ready to battle. We decided to take the back roads relying on our sense of direction and want of a challenge.

First Keele Street, through the forgotten corners of the Greater Toronto Area, everyone looking tired, drivers cutting in, horns honking as people rush to get away, me honking not trusting their driving, not trusting my own, Mr. P saying how funny cars remove us from our awareness, not knowing how dangerous we can be, then Dufferin Street, north of the 407, the one that begins off some back road as a continuum of city dreaming, then Yonge Street, taking a wrong turn only to find Best Asia Farms with signs that read “No Exit” and “Private Road”, the smell of cilantro peppering our noses as we came to the dead end where we needed to turn around, noticing a field with illuminated leaves set in deep dark chocolate earth, 5 or 6 workers wearing hats with conical tendencies, like we had dug our way to the other side of the world on this road that led nowhere, driving out with weird glances turned our way, emerging back into rural Ontario, then Leslie Street, turning into a general store to buy chips and paper towel and ice cream sandwiches and pepperettes. The car was full, but we were running on empty.

“I think we made a wrong turn, I should have brought a map, I can’t think right now, and drive and choose some place, I don’t know where to go, Lake Drive? Tell me what to do. Be my navigator.”

We pulled into a free-parking zone by a beach in some place we did not know the name of. The sun had begun to set but the heat still stuck into us. We needed food and fuel and a minute to catch our breath, air fresh from the lake. There was the Variety Store across the street from the lot that was selling sausages. It was run by a Dutch man who pulled in business from people like us, the ones pushing to find a little quiet somewhere on a beach. Sausages in hand, we flipped off our shoes and sat sizzling in the sun, finding no relief from the gurgling water, it sounding more like a kettle boiling over. “No, I’m done with this. I don’t really like water, I never really have, I don’t know why, it makes me uncomfortable, it puts flips in my belly, the sound is not soothing, it makes me nauseous. Can we go?”

“Of course, m’dear. I wonder what it is about water. If something happened and it attached somewhere in you.”

We drove up and down Lake Drive, looking for a space to lay our one pillow, Roches Point, Jackson’s Point, no sign of parks or campgrounds, back tracks and turn arounds, getting dizzy and sleepy, finally finding a beach to rest, where the water was far enough away and it, too, lay still, other than the splashing around of a group of people. Staring at the sky, the stars became brighter with the sun receding. It had been too long since I had seen the Milky Way. “Um, excuse me, is that your Honda? The parking lot is closed for the night and the beach is closed at 10. You are going to have to pack up and move along.”

“Yeah, of course. Do you know where we can find a campsite?”

“Yeah, uh, I think, just down there on Metro Road, maybe five minutes you will find something,” his buttered Dutch accent nervous with having to deal with the youth in the water.

Back in the car we got out of the parking lot, turned left and turned right, noticing there were no signs, not knowing where Metro Road was, nor being able to see it, then down Woodbine, we had made it east enough to Woodbine, then through a series of false turns back onto Dufferin Street heading south as the half-moon, yellow with young night, was traveling with us on the left, then my lids getting leaded and needing some sleep, we can drive back to the city you know, I can make it, we can sleep in a bed, no, no, keep going, here pull off here on the shoulder, the car won’t get towed, we have cell phones if it does, then climbing over a fence and through a forest to a field that belonged to a farmer, so back into the forest where we lay a blanket down. “Mr. P, are there bears and wolves and coyotes?”

“Yes, m’dear, but they don’t like humans, they will stay far, far away from us. But, we do have a bag of food… Sleep, sleep”

A few swats at mosquitoes and I couldn’t fight the exhaustion. My heart rate slowed and I began to drift.

Yip, yip, awoooooo! something howled.

“No. Nope. I can’t do this,” I blurted while pulling the blanket out from under Mr. P.

Climbing back over the fence and into the car, reclining the seats and sliding the sun-roof open inviting the air of the night while keeping the coyotes at bay, I put the one pillow behind my head and slept and tossed and fidgeted until I could no longer fight the fury of slumber. There were moments throughout the night that I looked up through the sun roof and saw the moon glide by in stages. Inside the car was reassuring, even though I knew we were not going anywhere. So removed, feeling dangerously sleepy, I lay my head on the pillow and did not move until morning.

Waking up, a shield of grey clouds made my hips creak with heaviness. Each readjustment of my position made my body shift back into place. I grabbed a ripened peach from the back and bit down to the pit. Looking over I noticed Mr. P had used a roll of paper towel as his pillow. Our heads were different and now they seemed fresh.

We knew where we would be going that day, home to real pillows and inner-city breezes. It gave us the opportunity to pay attention to the changing scenery. We talked about the rolling terrain that turned into suburbia, again noticing the deep furrows and long faces of people rushing.

“It doesn’t have to be a sad place if you don’t think of it as such. You should be able to find happiness wherever you are.”

I don’t know where we were — somewhere between Points and places — and I knew we were going back to the city, but I still questioned where life’s road would lead. My battle wounds are internal and need mending with time.

In the windy city, sipping on a cup of coffee and running into good people put things into perspective. The seasons are changing and so are we and it doesn’t matter because we may not always see each other but will love it when we do, where our roads cross, before we sleep.

ww: blue anthropomorphizing

25/08/2010 § Leave a comment

Yes. You can come inside, but just for the night. You are not looking like yourself, so I am going to take care of you. Tomorrow.

I will wash away your creakiness and polish you dry. I will flip you upside down to reach your underbelly. I will take this cloth and wrap it around my finger to get behind your handle-ears. Sure, we can cut your threads.

No, you cannot get new saddle-pants or swap your parts for a pretty basket. For now, we live within our means.

I will feed you and be tender to you. I will make sure you do not have to weather stormy nights. I will talk to you, despite the stares, and silently listen to your quiet crank-iness.

Still, you are what you are and you will serve your purpose.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that you are just my bicycle.

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