Ron Mueck

29 08 2010

Check out Ron Mueck. Fabulous stuff.





That Girl From Temse

26 08 2010

I have been bike riding recently with my headphones on. Listening to a eclectic variety of music from Johnny Cash to the Kinks to Ella Fitzgerald to the Wallflowers. (Even some Eminem.) Doing this when I go for walks as well. Even sitting in a Starbucks. (Although they have music on which parallels my own taste so its pretty much the same.) I am not alone. Many or most people are listening to something while they march on through their days. The other day I took my headphones off. What I noticed is that there is a lot of noise in the world. I’d noticed it before of course but this time it felt as if there was something wrong with my hearing. It hurt. Are we becoming intolerant toward the noises of the city? Perhaps we are returning to a pre-industrial sensitivity. Music (whatever your taste) is about order, harmony, rhythm. It feels good in our head. Noise is random, harsh, reaching pitches and notes that hurt. Are we going to change the noise pollution in our cities or are we going to hide from it?





THE SUICIDE OF A MIDDLE-AGED RETAILER

24 08 2010

THE SUICIDE OF A MIDDLE-AGED RETAILER

“I want to die.” Mr. Singh spread the fingers of his two hands across the counter. Like they were two crabs doing push ups.

“Is that too much to ask?” A robust man, Mr. Singh had thick hairy eyebrows that fell haplessly over his sorrowful down turned eyes.

A round face looked out at the world.

“But…” His nose spread like a train tunnel. His mouth fell open like a tea pot’s spout ready to pour. Mr. Singh took a deep breath as his eyes scanned the couches, beds, and bureaus in his huge furniture store.

“They won’t leave me alone. Why? You’re asking yourself why a successful merchant such as myself would want to commit the ultimate… sale.?”

There was a sign behind Mr. Singh. Hanging on the wall. Like a drapery on an aircraft carrier. Everything On Sale. Everything Must Go, read the sign.

Mr. Singh moved his tongue around in his mouth tasting his words.

“Appreciation!” The word shot out of Singh’s mouth like spit. “Nobody appreciates anyone. Anymore. We have lost the ability to appreciate. We depreciate. As soon as something is off the lot. We are never satisfied. There must always be more. Lesson learned. First word – appreciation.”

Mr. Singh hesitated. He looked off to one side as if he was waiting to be cued.

“Second word. Congratulations! No matter what difficulties you face and overcome, no one congratulates you. They do not come up and shake your hand. They do not say, ‘Mr. Singh, you have done a very nice job!’ They complain. ‘Mr. Singh, why aren’t your prices lower? Why must you add sales tax to the cost of this item? Or that item? If everything is to go, why can’t you give it to me for free?’ As if it was my choice whether to add sales tax. Am I not already selling this or that item on sale? Is that not enough? You are saving money. Be happy. Be content. You must not be so greedy. Smell the coffee… roses. Lesson learned. Second word – congratulations.”

Mr. Singh took a handkerchief out of his jacket pocket and wiped his brow.

“Infestation! We have mice. I was so embarrassed when I was showing Mr. Green a new couch and he discovered mouse droppings under the cushion. I am afraid to go downstairs to the storage room and check out the mattresses. There could be empires of mice down there. Civilizations. Mice versions of the Incas. Of Rome. There could be an Alexander the Great. An Attila the Rat.”

Mr. Singh raised his right hand and pointed upward.

“My brother-in-law sold me the mattresses. On margin. He was taking a loss. Or so he said. At such mind blowing prices, he argued, people would flock to my store to buy these mattresses. Have I sold one mattress? Have I seen a flock? I should not have trusted my brother-in-law. And would not have if my wife had not assured me of his honesty. Have I sold one mattress? I have not. Do not trust your wife’s relatives. Lesson learned. Third word – infestation. If not for these mice, I would have slit my wrists long ago.”

Mr. Singh took a deep breath and wiped his brow again.

“Compromises! I opened a corner of my store for one dollar purchases. Six aisles. Of junk. And so little profit margin. But it does cover the wages of the young lady I must employ on the cash. To monitor the store when I am not there. The young lady is my own daughter. Yes, I must pay my own daughter. Like I would any other employee. I do not charge her room and board but still she insists that I pay her. I do not mind. I want to encourage her to look after herself. To earn and save. But… she wants benefits. My own daughter wants benefits. She talks about a pension plan. What does a fifteen year old girl need with a pension? And a raise. She argues that she has worked for me long enough to warrant a raise. And still she complains. The sounds of the mice frighten her. Nightmares. The thought of the mice keeps her up at night. It is not the mice but that damn internet. But I say nothing. I must say nothing. That is what my wife commands. And she who spends my money must be obeyed. My wife says that I must not alienate my daughter. My daughter says that there aren’t enough customers to keep her busy. To keep her from listening to the tiny feet across the ceiling. And under the floor boards. And the cries of the new born mice. All pink and blind and wanting. Squealing to be suckled. I do not know how she can hear anything with that damn electronic device in her ear. She cannot hear me. How can she hear the mice? She tells me that the job is too boring. She wants to be busy. I hand her a broom. And she calls me a pig. I do not want her to be bored. I want her to be busy. Still she complains that it is my fault. How do you manage these teenage girls? Who only worry about make-up. And clothes. And the boys. That is what is on her mind. I have warned her mother. Talk to the girl. Make her aware of the thoughts of these young men. They are not satisfied until they are satisfied. And my wife looks at me like I am crazy. I was a boy once. Yes, she cries, I remember. You were always pestering me. More. More. More. You have always been greedy. Do not hire your daughter. If I had no daughter, I would have been in the ground long ago. Lesson learned.”

“Ambitious! That is what I am. Not greedy. I want a better life for my family. For my daughter. So that she can have the man that is worthy of her. And not some high school drop out. And my wife. I want her to have an easier life. Not like my dear mother. Who complained all the time that my father was lazy. But, I overstepped. The Six Points Plaza. I should never have come here. I was happy in Alderwood Plaza. Yes, the store was small. But I could get by. Okay, all the bills didn’t get paid. Do they ever? And yes, my wife wanted us to move to a better neighborhood. She’d heard that Canadians all have cottages. Where was ours? She wanted to bring her mother over from the old country. To a cottage. To let her swim. To go trout fishing. You think my mother-in-law wants to go trout fishing. I would pay to see that. But, my wife does not listen to me. She wants her Canadian cottage.”

Mr. Singh loosened his tie and undid the top button of his pale blue shirt.

“We wanted the better life. What did we get? Mattresses going musty. Mice shit. A daughter with the attitude. And Mr. G! I have not mentioned Mr. G. Mr. G is the owner of the plaza. A most unpleasant man. Tall. Wispy blonde hair. A beard that is clotted with food and spit. Bad breath. And terrible teeth. He does not want to hear complaints. He does not want to talk about improvements. Or maintenance. Or the fire code. He only wants to see my money. I tell him that we need to talk. I would like to drop in at his home. But, he doesn’t give out his home address. I think Mr. G is afraid of guests. Rules! There are so many rules. Mr. G tells me I must not open a dollar store. There is already one in the plaza. And he tells me that my furniture is too cheap. It makes the whole plaza look cheesy. And I must take down my bankrupt sale sign. People don’t believe I am actually going bankrupt. The sale has been going on too long. I tell him that is the way you must sell to the public. I know the public. The public has been my education! Mr. G. cannot teach me anything about retail.”

Mr. Singh picks up a glass of water from a side table next to him. He takes a swallow.

“I am not selling enough merchandise to make a profit. Oh yes, I do make some sales. Many of those people return weeks later with complaints. They want a refund. Or an exchange. Do they not understand the meaning of a bankrupt sale? It means that you cannot return the object that you have purchased. This is the meaning of a bankrupt sale. Everyone knows this. I should not have to explain it. But still they do not listen. The public! You cannot believe the kind of customers I have. Last week I was showing Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds living room suites when I found a man asleep on one of the couches. I did not see him come into the store. Later my daughter said that he had come in earlier that morning. I know the man. He is always loitering around the plaza. I do not understand how Mr. G allows such people to loiter. He buys nothing. This man. He comes into my shop and looks around as if he will buy something but never does he make a purchase. Always the promise. ‘I will come back later, Mr. Singh,’ he says. And he does come back later. But not to make a purchase. He is a giant. And he does not bath often. Nor change his clothes. I think he is deranged. He talks. Incessantly. Never stops. I should introduce him to my mother-in-law. And he takes naps on my couches. How am I to sell this merchandise to Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds? I cannot.”

Mr. Singh loosens his tie some more and takes another drink of water.

“Health! The doctor in the plaza clinic tells me that I must learn to relax. Blood pressure. It is too high. And I must lose weight. Around the middle. You see my complexion. I look like I have been in the sun. The good life by the pool. Laying on a beach in Florida. Don’t I wish? It is high blood pressure. I cannot afford to be ill. Who is going to buy a three piece couch from a man who is barely alive? You must exude health. The successful man is a healthy man. I shall die of natural causes before I can kill myself. It is not fair.”





THE RAIL – Katie Halliday

22 08 2010

This poem was written by my oldest daughter. Almost on a dare. She used to write poetry when she was younger and I recognized early that she had real talent. Katie decided that her passions were other places. (She has become a sound editor in the film industry.) This is a young woman who can do anything she sets her mind on. If I had half her energy and talents, I would have considered myself blessed. I hope she continues to write. I love to read her stuff.

……………………………..

THE RAIL – Katie Halliday

The Dead Night Sky, clouded

The moon is blocked

Not even shadows prevail

It comes, swift and steady

The squeals of metal on metal fill the night

Sparks fly, lighting the dark

It takes them to new places

Only to bring them back to the beginning

It is fuelled by unseen forces

It is unstopping, unchanging

Its circuit is repeating

It passes

The screams echo; the only proof it ever existed

It continues on into the night

The clouds drift and the moon appears

Washing the color from the world





Alexa Meade

22 08 2010

This is an interesting artist. She paints people to look like they have stepped out of a painting.  Her name is Alexa Meade. I found her through this terrific blog Echostains.





Mircea Eliade – Monroe to Hitler

18 08 2010

What is the reason for archetypal figures? And are there so many that we cannot distinguish individuals from those types? Do we in fact know anyone except as some kind of generalization? He or she is this or that type of person. Are we incapable as human beings in seeing individuality? The idea is frightening. Do we know anyone, even our most loved ones, our mates, our children? Ourselves?





THE EXPIRATION DATE OF OLD MEN

18 08 2010

THE EXPIRATION DATE OF OLD MEN

“You’ve got to admit …” Harold smiled. And hesitated. There was a belch rising. And there was a word he couldn’t find. He searched through the thesaurus. Called his brain. What was the word that fit the situation? …Situation. And then there was gravity.

A small man, Harold was dressed in a t-shirt that advertised some coming event that had long ago since passed. On his head sat a dark blue beret. With a little nipple on top. Carefully, he attempted to lean against the pillar outside the Canadiana Restaurant, making sure that his shoulder was well placed before turning to his friend. Perhaps he shouldn’t have had that last beer. Or two.

“You didn’t handle that situation… well.” Harold added. There was a sense of confidence now. The pillar was solidly behind him. And he had discovered the word he needed and it worked. That wasn’t always the case. Recently.

His friend, Gerald, looked up at him. Gerald, a man of similar stature also wore a beret. His was black. Gerald’s legs wobbled as he attempted to stop. Rising up on his toes before settling back on his heels. Gerald stopped. On his t-shirt was imprinted the face of rock star Bruce Springsteen. Gerald looked at his friend. Did we pay our bill? He could not recall.

“I didn’t handle… it well?” Gerald’s words were slurred. As if his lips were hooked by the serifs. Gerald loved to fish. He thought like a fish. Sometimes he smelled like a fish. Gerald squinted. Like a small mouth bass through the weeds. His old friend looked blurred. Like television on rabbit ears. Gerald stuck a stick of gum into his mouth. He began to chew the words – stuck a stick.

Gerald leaned over and placed his half full glass of beer on the ground.

“I thought I handled it… appropriat… very well. You want a stick of gum?”

Harold shook his head. Gum made him clausterphobic.

“Why are you chewing gum?”

“I have to hide my breath,” Gerald responded. “I don’t want the wife to know that I’ve been… drinking. And then there’s my condition.”

Gerald fell back a step before catching his balance.

Harold nodded. “Oh that.”

“Besides,” Gerald continued, “its nicotine gum.”

“You don’t smoke.”

Gerald stared at Harold for a moment but did not respond. Stuck a stick had gotten stuck in his head. Like a hook in the throat.

“What do you mean calling me an Italian?” Gerald asked.

Harold looked at Gerald.

“You’re Italian. You’re parents were Italian. As far back as any of your..”

“I’m no more Italian than you are.” Gerald stared at Harold for a moment while he thought. “What the hell are you?”

“Irish,” Harold responded. “Mostly. A little Scottish. French. Native.”

“Native?”

“Indian,” Harold responded.

“You ain’t no Indian.” Gerald laughed. “I think I know an Indian when I see one and you, my friend, are no Indian.”

“When did you ever meet an Indian?” Harold asked.

Gerald thought for a moment then responded, “In the movies.”

“Those were Italians,” Harold responded. “Italian actors playing Indians.”

Both men were silent. Gerald stared into the parking lot. Harold felt like throwing himself in front of a car.  Gerald smiled. Some image had filled him with satisfaction.  Satisfaction threw him off balance. He staggered backwards. In order to correct this mechanical error, he threw himself forward. Just stopping before he fell off the edge of the sidewalk.

Harold watched Gerald’s performance for a minute. God, he’s a good dancer.

Gerald waved his hands in the air.

“You ain’t whatever you say, and I ain’t Italian.” Gerald pointed at Harold. “We’re Islington boys. Boys from the Six Points. That’s our nationality.” Gerald had trouble pronouncing nationality.

Harold looked down. Mistake. Things began to spin. And then he discovered the beer in his hand. Saved. He took a swallow.

“And she was giving me the eye,” Gerald said with added relish.

Harold pushed away from the pillar as he attempted to reach into his pocket. He pulled out his cigarettes and waving back and forth, lit one up.  He offered one to his friend. Gerald shook his head.

“For Terry,” Harold said.

Gerald’s eyes filled with tears. He licked his lips. Then angrily grabbed the package of cigarettes out of his friends hand.

“Why’d you have to mention his name?” And lit up a cigarette.

Smoke drifted out of Harold’s smile.

“She wasn’t looking at you.”

Gerald’s mouth dropped, a gob of smoke tumbling out of his mouth.

“I miss him.”

Harold stared at Gerald. “God, she was so young. Do you remember what that must be like? Holding a body. It ain’t going to happen again. You know that.”

Gerald stared back at Harold, the cigarette dangling out of his lips.

“What the hell are…”

“I ain’t going to fall in love again. Won’t happen.”  Harold wiped the tears from his cheek.

“Don’t do that.” Gerald said.

Harold shook his head. “Remember that girl. The one Terry almost married.”

Gerald grimaced. “Don’t.”

“Remember, she always used to wear red dresses. I used to have dreams about her.”

“Ya.” Gerald sighed. Defeated. “But she was Terry’s girl.”

“She was French or something.”

“Belgian.”       Gerald smiled. “Like Brigid Bardot.”

“She didn’t look like Bardot.” Harold shook his head. “She was tall. Remember her legs.”

Gerald smiled. “And her breasts. In that red dress. ”

“Why would she wear any other colour?” Harold said.

The two old men were silent again. Each lost in memory.

Gerald shook his head. He kissed the end of his cigarette.

“Why did they break up?” Harold asked.

“Why did Terry break up with any of them?”

Harold shook with laughter. Beer lapped up the sides of his glass. Trying to escape.

“What’s so funny?” Gerald asked.

“I hated Terry.”

“Ya. He always got the girl.”

“He left us here. Alone.” Harold finished his beer.

“He cheated.”

“I thought we were going to go through this thing. Together.”

“Like the three musketeers.”

“I hated Terry,” Harold repeated.

“We were such kids,” Gerald replied, shaking his head. “Such a long time ago.”

The two friends fell silent again. Gerald leaned over and picked up his beer. A few inches. Then put it down. And then unable to rise. Lowered himself. So that he was sitting. Beside his glass.

Gerald turned to Harold.

“What did you say to that waitress?”

Harold laughed then coughed, smoke spewing out of his mouth.

“I’m glad you’re amused.” Gerald shook his head.

“It was nothing.”

The two men chuckled.

“These things are going to kill you,” Harold said looking at his cigarette.

Nothing got us kicked out of the bar,” Gerald responded.

Harold waved his hands at Gerald.

“I said I liked her dress.”

“You said you liked her dress?” Gerald asked.

Harold nodded. “Her red dress.”

“There must have been more,” Gerald said.

“Well…”

“Well what?” Gerald demanded.

“I said that I’d like to see her red dress… around her ankles.”

Gerald broke out laughing. Smoke shaken from between his teeth. His eyes going white. His face turning red.

“Where would you come up with a line like that?” Gerald asked.

“I heard Terry use it.” Harold took a deep breath. “He got that girl in the red dress with it.”

“You were there?”

“Well…” Harold looked at Gerald. “Terry told me.”

The two old men started laughing. Gerald rolled over holding his stomach. Spilling his beer. Harold held onto the pole. His cigarette dropping out of his fingers. When they had regained their composure, Harold staggered over and helped his friend to his feet.

“We need another drink,” Harold said.

“We got kicked out,” Gerald said.

“You’re going to apologize to the waitress,” Harold said.

“Why should I apologize?” Gerald asked.

“She’ll never listen to me,” Harold explained.





Fu, the man with three fingers

12 08 2010

FU, THE MAN WITH THREE FINGERS

Look at him. Big giant sloth. Rambling up to me like he owned the entire f’ing planet. Where am I? Sitting here in front of a pharmacy. Could be the foot of the Andes. Does it matter? Don’t I have a right to sit? People have no respect for your privacy. People better learn. Or I’ll have to start ripping out some throats.

“Hey, look at this.” The giant sloth called Everest began to dance. To a tune as he sang, In my solitude you haunt me. With revelries of days gone by. In my solitude you taunt me. With memories that will not die. There was a smile on Everest’s face. Would have institutionalized a smaller man. Everest stopped dancing. He looked down at the panhandler sitting on the ground, his back leaning against the wall of the drug store. Didn’t look like he was having much fun.

Looking down his nose. At me. Could be a ski jump. He thinks he’s the Prime Minister. Thinks I am a flea. Like to squash me. Or make me jump through a hoop. Life ain’t no circus. So why is he smiling. Like the MGM lion. What’s he smiling at? The big goof.

“That’s called the waltz.” Everest smiled. “There are many versions of the waltz. Like there is of life. Some times we can’t recognize life. Sometimes we don’t know how to dance.”

The panhandler did not respond.

Why should I? What the hell was there to say. About waltzing. Who does the waltz? What is this? Some relic from those old black and whites in Hollywood’s golden age. Talking in metaphors. Where did that get anyone? Nowhere buy confusion.

“You got a name?” Everest asked. His face had slipped from his shoulders and traveled down toward the panhandler.

The panhandler looked up from the book he was reading at the large man looming over him. And the head that floated down near him.

It wasn’t a book. It was my ipod. Checking out my email. I’ve got to stay on top of things. Been corresponding. With Larry King. And the king of rock’n’roll.

The panhandler gestured to the shoebox beside him where a few coins lay. He expected to be paid.

No pay. No talk. I got bills to pay. I’m saving up for a vacation to Hawaii. You wouldn’t believe the bargains you can find on the net. If you’re willing to leave on a moment’s notice. I got the time. And then there’s my heating bill. Balanced payments. And now I’m still paying for warmth. In August. Or whatever month this is.

“Folks around here,” Everest continued, “call you Fu. Because of your Fu Manchu moustache. I doubt if any of them know who Fu Manchu was. Anymore than they know who Caesar is when they pour dressing over their salad. People are ignorant like that. Maybe they call you Fu because you’re Asian. Though you could be Indian. Even Mexican. Maybe Finnish. You know that the blood lines of the Finns go back to the Huns. Finns don’t like you telling them that. Huns aren’t crazy about it either.”

The panhandler took a deep breath and returned to his book.

Okay, this time it was a book. Highly recommended. The Art of War. A Chinese military treatise that was written by a dude named Sun Tzu in the 6th centure, B.C. I was adapting it to social situations. I’m not too big on social adroitness. Chicks. If you get my meaning.

“Or maybe they call you Fu, because there are so few of you,” Everest added. He chuckled. Pleased with himself. “Ever the individual. People always going on about individuality. Like it was something special. The opposite is true. There are no two things alike. I’d go so far as to say that it was impossible for two things to be the same. They’d have to occupy the same space. Breath the same air. Answer to the same calls. Nature’s and God’s.”

Everest waited for a response. There was none.

What do you expect? I didn’t know what the hell the fool was talking about. And why was he talking to me? Cause I’m sitting here. Only the sun has that right. I wonder if Sun Tzu had to deal with geeks like this.

“You’re not too chatty,” Everest declared. “That’s alright. I like a man who’s not always shooting his mouth off. Don’t trust a man who has an opinion about everything. Usually means that he doesn’t hold fast to any opinion. A mile wide and an inch thick as they say.”

I could see him looking at it. My hand. I’d lost a couple of fingers working in a bakery. They ended up in the meat pies. They fired me. If this fucker asks me my bowling score, I’ll f’ing pull his throat out. And the nose scratching jokes. And the jokes about biting my nails…

“What are you reading?”

The panhandler turned his book over so that Everest could read the title.

“The Dubliners,” Everest read. “Good book?”

The panhandler grinned. And went back to his book.

Okay, I lied. I like Joyce. Stupid last name for a guy. But the Dubliners weren’t a lot different than the geeks in this plaza. I could tell you a story.

There was a long period of silence.

“I used to hang out with Dylan,” Everest said. He waited for a response from the panhandler. When there was none, he continued. “They call that a brush with greatness. When us plebs have a passing relationship with the aristocracy of the world. That’s what famous people are, Fu. They are aristocrats. And we are fascinated by them. Their habits. Their loves. Their addictions. Their passions. Their tragedies. The Greeks started the whole thing. This preoccupation with the gossip of the days. All those gods. Like the folks on Coronation Street. You like soaps, Fu?”

Fu did not respond.

How’d he know that I wasn’t famous. Maybe not to him. But what does this giant goof know about famous. Maybe he’s gay. He think I’m going to do him?

“Human nature,” Everest continued. “That’s what soaps are about. Oh, how we love their tragedies. I’m talking about the rich and famous. We’re not too interested in each other’s tragedies. That my friend is a downer. No sir. You interested in your neighbours problems? That’s called being nosy. And you better not be interested in your neighbour’s passions. We call that, perversion. Both his passions and your interest. The common man is not interested in other common men. That’s why it took so long to have universal medical coverage. I’m not boring you, am I? I do tend to go on.”

Fu did not respond.

Everest cleared his throat.

Christ, he woke me up.

“But,” Everest continued, “you were asking me about Dylan. I mean Bob and not Thomas. I used to handle their gear. Bob and his band. Called the Band. Talk about imagination, eh? My, those boys had a good time. Girls coming out of the woodwork. Covered in butter. Not too many smart ones. But girls nevertheless. Mostly high school drop outs. Girls who couldn’t pass math. Well, who passes math anyway? Beautiful girls. With liberal views on life if you take my meaning. You know what I’m saying?”

There was a certain sadness in Fu’s eyes. Resignation. Defeat.

He’s going to go on like this forever. What did I ever do to him?

Everest smiled. “And I got some myself. Like the crumbs from the master’s table. There were a lot of crumbs. Girls would sleep with the hands that served the master, so to speak. You know what I’m saying. Of course you do. I guess I got arrogant. Forgot my place. Figured Bob and I were buds. I don’t know what got into me. I got it in my head to tell him to stop smoking. He was coughing a lot. I didn’t want the world to lose another voice to smoke. That’s what I said afterwards. But truth be told, it just got annoying. Coughing first thing in the morning. Right over your breakfast. Right over your corn flakes. Who’s know what could have been fired out of his lungs. And I was eating blue berries with my flakes. And in the middle of your afternoon nap, Bob would start hacking. And there was phlegm. Disgusting. Horking and snorting. Spitting. Well, you get the image. So I told him to quit the fags. And Bob looks at me like I’m from Mars and tells me to fuck off. In front of everyone. Later one of his people told me I was fired. Bob couldn’t do it to my face. Royalty doesn’t do that sort of thing themselves. It’s beneath them. I got other work. Frank Zappa for a while. That was one crazy fucker. He loved motels. Wouldn’t stay in a hotel. Had to be a motel. With a pink Cadillac parked out front. Like he might have to make a getaway. Rented one if he had to. Just to park in front of his motel for the evening. Crazy. The world just ain’t big enough for that dude’s form of crazy. But, I quit. Couldn’t work for a guy named Zappa. What kind of name is that? Zappa. Like something from a science fiction movie. Flash Gordon. I love the evil guy in those flicks. What was his name? Merlin? Maurice? Mandrake?” Everest scratched his head. “It was Ming. Emperor Ming. A relative of yours?”

Everest looked down at the panhandler. Fu continued to ignore him. To read his book.

I couldn’t believe that the guy wasn’t picking up on my signals. What did Sun have to say about situations like this? Take off the head and the body would follow. I should cut his balls off.

“I guess the Dubliners must be about people in Dublin? I’d like to write a book about the people around here. In the Six Points. What the hell would you call it? Etobians? Etobicokians? Six Pointers? Just doesn’t have much of a ring to it. Who wrote the Dubliners?”

The panhandler turned his book up.

“James Joyce,” said Everest. “Sounds like a happy name. What is he? Jewish?”

The panhandler shrugged.

The guy was an idiot. 

“No, not Jewish. Irish. Sounds Irish. Bob Dylan sounds Welsh. He’s Jewish. Did you know that?”

The panhandler nodded angrily.

“I think he changed his name,” Everest said. “Why do you figure he would do that? Sounds like a cliché in show business. Folks are always changing their name to make them sound more memorable. John Wayne changed his name. Marion Mitchell Morrison.  Cary Grant was Archibald Alexander Leach. Bob Dylan. Wonder what Dylan’s name was before he changed it.”

The panhandler looked up at Everest.

“Zappa,” Fu replied and went back to reading his book.

That felt good. Finally I had upstaged him. Or so I thought.

Everest looked down at the panhandler as if his feelings had been hurt. Then he looked around to see if anyone was watching and when he surmised that no one was watching, he grabbed the smaller man, raised him to his feet, off the ground, and putting an arm around  Fu, began to dance a Fox Trot.





Senior’s Day

10 08 2010

SENIOR’S DAY

Senior’s Day. At the pharmacy. Discounts. Tables. Complimentary coffee. Cookies fresh from packages. Retiree’s gathered around. Like scavengers. Waiting. Listening politely. One of the pharmacists is making a pitch. A bright young girl named Jenny Lee. Recently graduated from a pharmaceutical college. Top three in her class. Chemistry. And some of the seniors claimed to have known her. From childhood. Hers. Although she had just moved to Etobicoke. From Winnipeg. The previous spring.

“I used to do her mother’s hair every week.” Mrs. Cunningham insisted. Her dentures loved to speak. “The poor woman was losing it. Bald. Right on top. Like a monk. What a shame. A good looking man like Mr. Lee with a bald woman.”

“Jenny went to the graduation. With my John.” Mrs. Wright’s pasty red lips stapled into a smile. “He’s so shy. I had to ask Jenny myself. Asked her mother. Such a lovely couple. She had a pretty pink dress. John’s tuxedo was white. I warned my John. Don’t  take advantage of that girl. She looked so pure. John was as good as his word. I don’t know why John never called Jenny again. Compatibility. That’s what he told me. That seems to be his explanation. For all the young ladies I try to match him up with.”

“Jenny has lovely teeth, don’t you think?” Dr. Steele offered. Shaking his head with delight. “I’ve been perfecting that smile of hers for twenty years. I remember her first cavity. The girl bawled her eyes out. She thought it was her fault.”

A giant people called Everest stood at the rear of the crowd. Like he had done something wrong. Behind the head pharmacist. James Edwards. The giant put a huge paw on the shoulder of James Edwards. Leaned over. Whispered into his ear.

“Like a soup kitchen in the dirty 30s.” He chuckled. “The price of a meal is a speech. And then redemption. In this case, prescriptions. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good sermon. This new girl is quite the looker. Nice legs. What is she? Vietnamese?”

James Edwards turned. Looked at the big man. He was about to respond. Reassure the giant. Jenny was from Winnipeg. And not a refugee. From a foreign conflict. Instead James Edwards smiled. A smile that could have pierced the heart. Of the giant. But because of his height, hit him much lower. The giant groaned. And doubled over.

When Jenny Lee was finished, she turned. Introduced Mr. Edwards. The handsome black pharmacist stepped up through the crowd. Shaking hands on his way. Kissing the older ladies. In wheelchairs. When he reached the podium. He turned. Smiled again. Everyone knew it was an insincere smile but forgave him nevertheless.

“He is so bloody handsome,” Mrs. Williams whispered to her friend Maple Parks.

Maple had a hand cupped over her ear. Leaned toward her friend.

“Do you think so?”  Maple asked.

“If I was twenty years younger…” Mrs. Williams sighed. Licked her lips. The two women began to giggle.

Mrs. O’Hara looked at them sternly. She was trying to listen. Her hearing had begun to deteriorate. Years before. Shortly after her marriage. Mr. O’Hara was known for his bellowing voice. Sang in the choir. Drove a truck. Coached soccer. Before his untimely death. On a railroad crossing. When his truck rolled to a stop. And he’d fallen asleep.

Mr. Edwards placed his large hands together. Softly. Like a magician. Holding a dove. The older women smiled at each other. Acknowledging Mr. Edwards’ charm. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a son or son-in-law like Mr. Edwards. Each of their smiles spoke. Even the men were taken. Mr. Edwards had a manner that appealed to all the sexes.

Mr. Edwards said a few words. Mostly tiny words. Soothing words. Reminding everyone.  Of the discounts that were available to seniors. And how each of his employees was trained. To serve their needs. Individual needs. How it was their duty and their pleasure.

When Mr. Edwards was finished, the crowd applauded politely. Mr. Edwards nodded appreciatively, shaking a few hands as the throng passed his way. And headed for the cookies and coffee. Mrs. Cunningham snuck her dentures. Out of her mouth. Into her bag. Shook the pharmacist’s hand. Mrs. Wright helped Everest to his feet.

Mrs. O’Hara looked around anxiously. Where had her grandson run off to?





Innocent When You Dream

6 08 2010

INNOCENT WHEN YOU DREAM

Deborah Hall placed her coffee cup on the roof of her small pink Toyota, leaned against her car and stared at the drug store. The store was new. All glass and silver siding. Panels in red and yellow. Deborah was disappointed. Everything should be pink.

An interview. God, she was excited. And nervous. She looked at her newly painted fingernails. A lighter shade of ruby red. And began to sing, In my solitude you haunt me of revelries of days gone by. She recalled how overwrought she’d been the previous evening. Pressing her pink blouse and black skirt twice before laying them out on the kitchen table. Beside the pink grapefruit. And cereal bowl. And the box of Corn Flakes. Her nails were bitten down. She’d have to glue on new ones. For the next morning. This morning. And the evening before. Hours spent. Trying to decide. Which shoes to wear. Finally rushing out at the last moment to buy a pair. A bright red pair. Like the shoes that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz. This was going to be a great day. Except for the nightmares. That seemed to follow each other. Like words in a song.

Deborah looked up at the pink sky. Red sky in the morning. Sailors’ warning. Must put away all negativity. Lovely little clouds drifted by. Like kids on their way. To school. She took the cup of coffee off the roof of her pink Toyota. Nice to see all these other cars crowded around. At least her Toyota wouldn’t be lonely.

Deborah was so happy. She wanted to dance. Across the parking lot. Her cheeks were flush. There was a boy squatting in front of the drug store. Reading a book. About a whale. Why do I have nightmares? Anxiety. There was a hat on the cement in front of him. A beggar. He looked Native. Maybe he was Japanese. He looked disheveled. Like he’d put his clothes on with a shovel. She looked for some change in her purse.

Deborah’s eyes opened. She looked down at her skirt. The skirt wasn’t there. She’d forgotten to put on her dress.

The first nightmare.

Deborah sat up. She was in bed. She looked over at her alarm clock. Four a.m. She was going to be dead tired for the interview. Oh what a terrible dream, she thought to herself. Imagine showing up for work and forgetting to wear her slacks. She felt funny. She pulled back the covers of her bed. Her breath stopped. She was wearing the clothes she’d prepared for her first day. Blouse, skirt, and bright ruby red shoes.

The second nightmare.

“I haven’t any change,” Deborah said to the homeless man. He returned to his reading. The sliding doors opened. As if they only opened for Deborah. She listened to her name being whispered by the air conditioning. A woman rushed passed her pushing a young child in a stroller. The fragrance of a dirty diaper followed behind them. Inside the store a tall black man stood. He’s a giant, she thought. 9 feet. And then she realized he was on a small ladder putting goods on the shelves. He looked down at her.

Moments later Deborah found herself sitting. In a chair. In a small room marked for employees. Across from Mr. Edwards. One of the owners. He was dressed for success. Three piece suit. Italian leather shoes. Nails filed. What was that fragrance?

There was a small table. Between Mr. Edwards and Deborah. She wondered if her skirt wasn’t too short. Mr. Edwards was looking over Deborah’s resume. She noticed that Mr. Edwards had mis-buttoned his shirt. How could Mrs. Edwards have allowed her husband to leave the house in that condition? There was a marriage that was beginning to unravel. Or maybe there was no Mrs. Edwards. Maybe he was gay. Too handsome to remain single. And too rich. Partner in the business and head pharmacist. What kind of car did he have? Something European, Deborah supposed.

“Is there a problem?” Deborah asked.

Mr. Edwards looked up at Deborah. “I see that you passed in the top quarter of your class.”

Deborah smiled. She did not respond. Did he think she was lying?

“You seem quite qualified. Tell me something about yourself.” Mr. Edwards smiled.

Deborah’s mind went blank.

“I often feel guilty for having done something very terrible,” she said.

“Excuse me,” Mr. Edwards responded. Then looked down at Deborah’s right leg.

Deborah looked down at her leg. There was blood running down from her thigh. It was pink.