Saturday, December 29, 2007
How're things? I know. It's been a while. I've been busy and, when I haven't been busy, I haven't had much to say. Lots of half-baked ideas that never get cooked because the oven seems to be on the fritz.
Anyways, it's a grey Saturday morning and I'm listening to Davis' Kind of Blue for the first time in a year, year and a half. I keep forgetting what a great album it is. I go in spurts with my jazz listening so it was not until last night that I finally put some choice albums on my ipod - Kind of Blue, Nefertiti, Coltrane's Blue Train and My Favourite Things, Mingus Ah Um, Brubeck's Time Out - the greatest hits, as it were. That, and a little more Shostakovich, and I do believe my ipod is ready for tomorrow's run to Sarnia (train trips go better with good music).
The last time I really listened to Kind of Blue, I was in Sarnia. I was hanging out with a friend on his roof-top back patio. There was this watery quality to the light, as if fall had finally sapped most of the sun's strength and all that was left was this pale white disc. We hung out and talked - nothing important - but it was just a cool afternoon. Sometimes the music really does make the scene, I guess, and that's what I'm thinking of right now while Miles does his thing.
But let's get to the really important question. What have I been reading? I know. You're dying to know. Anyways, I've gone for the guilty pleasure. I've tried to be good. I'm still working on the Canadian book project. Heck, I even picked up Augustine's Confessions yesterday. But what has taken up my precious reading time lately is Slash's autobiography.
I am a mostly unrepentant Guns N Roses fan. I love their stuff. Now, I don't get weird about - I have no compulsion to mimic Axl's cornrows or wander around with a bandanna hanging out of my back pocket - I just go through phases where I spend a lot of time listening to Appetite for Destruction or Use Your Illusions. Then I put it away. So, while I tried to resist, a Slash autobiography quickly became part of my reading list.
So far, it's been fun. It's definitely not great literature. It definitely will not get put up on my bookshelf beside Nabokov's Speak, Memory or Jim Harrison's Off to the Side, but that's fine. We all need a little trash now and again. For some, it might be the occasional Harlequin. For others, a Mack Bolan. I'd recommend against the Da Vinci Code as a guilty pleasure (I still feel dirty for having read such a dreadful book) but it's too late for that. For me, it's a ghost written biography of a hard rock guitarist.
Well, I must be off. I'm celebrating New Year's for the first time in a decade and I really don't have a thing to wear. And I'm too old for togas. Besides, it's (probably) not that sort of party.
So long for now.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
It's hard to objectively deal with a novel like this because I am the target audience, a book obsessive in good standing. I rarely go anywhere without a book. I prefer commuting by transit because I never got good at reading while driving. The mental map I have of the city I live in is laid out not in terms of neighbourhoods, but in terms of where the bookstores are. So liking a novel like this is almost a forgone conclusion.
That said, I do not feel the need to be objective. How often do we book lovers get a novel written about us? How often do we get to see our quirks and obsessions in print? Not that it really goes a long way to making me feel more normal. I mean, finding out you are not the only inmate at the asylum does not mean they made a mistake by committing you. But that's okay, because the library is good and I have good company.
Next up, I'm going to finish up Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing. Then it's either on to Farley Mowat or, more likely right now, Phyllis Brett Young's The Torontonians. I'm intrigued by the notion of an international bestseller about Toronto that was written in the very late fifties.
Toronto? International? 1950s? It seems so improbable now. The impression we normally get is that 1950s Toronto was a kind of. . . I guess I can't say dark ages, considering the fact that everything was supposedly so white. We are taught that Toronto was originally some boring, uptight town where the week's excitement consisted of going to church on Sunday. (Come to think of it, lots of people still have that impression today, minus the church going part.) We are taught to believe that nothing happened in Toronto until at some magic point in the late 60's/early 70's a switch was thrown and Toronto suddenly became the cosmopolitan, multicultural hub we like to think it is today.
So, The Torontonians has squeezed its way onto my ever-growing CanCon reading list. At some point, I'm also going to have to get around to reading Andrew Daley's Tell Your Sister. I bought it from the author that the last Small Press Book Fair and I just haven't got around to cracking it open yet.
Anyways, the morning is slipping away and I really should finish my Christmas shopping before I head into work.
So long for now.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
It's Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Anyone who loves reading should take the time to read this.
What has surprised me is how many Americans there are taking up the challenge. It's impressive and probably more surprising than it should be.
That is the cool thing about this whole interweb thingamabob - it really can connect people. Just look at this challenge - it was started by someone from Iqaluit but has participants from all over the continent.
Anyways, my immediate game plan is this - I'm reading Corey Redekop's Shelf Monkey right now. I'm also reading Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing. I've been meaning to read that play for years.
Next up will probably be Farley Mowat's Lost in the Barrens. I read it as a child and it stuck with me all these years. This challenge is giving me an excuse to revisit a part of my childhood and I cannot pass that up.
Other options - re-reading Hugh MacLennan's The Watch That Ends The Night
- Richler's St. Urbain's Horseman (or maybe just re-reading Barney's Version)
- Sean Dixon's The Girls Who Saw Everything
- Noah Richler's This is my country, what's yours? (a CanCon book about CanCon books would definitely qualify)
(And then maybe I'll tackle something that isn't tied to Montreal)
If anyone is actually reading this and also happens to be looking for a good Canadian book to read, pick up Alayna Munce's When I Was Young and In My Prime.
Well, it's late. The sidewalks are gradually becoming skating rinks outside and inside I can't muster the energy to brew a pot of tea. So it's time for bed, I guess.
So long world.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I wish I had found this earlier as I've been on a bit of a CanCon kick lately. In the past couple of months, I've read Ray Robertson's What Happened Later, Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals and, most recently, Elizabeth Hay's excellent Giller Prize winner Late Nights On Air.
While I would love to add them retroactively, I won't. That means my first one will be Corey Redekop's Shelf Monkey. I figure I will go for variety here. I'll take the chance to read an old favourite or two (like Earle Birney's Turvey or Michael Winter's This All Happened), maybe a play (Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing) and some poetry (Purdy or Acorn). I'm not sure if I'll get around to doing the white stripes thing (a book from each province and territory) but I'll try.
I'm off now to do some more Christmas shopping. Joy.
Friday, December 07, 2007
I actually noticed this on Wednesday when I made a trip to MEC. I was looking for a small daypack but I also figured I'd pick up another Nalgene bottle. Surprise, surprise. They were nowhere to be found.
I had an idea of why. There had been rumblings for quite a while that the plastic in the bottles was not entirely safe. Thankfully, they offered a replacement product that is working out pretty well - a stainless steel water bottle.
So far, it's working pretty well. I think I will go back soon and pick up a couple more and swear off the plastic ones at least until there are some conclusive findings.
In other news, it's Friday and I have decided to take the whole weekend off. Usually, I work an extra shift or two on Sundays. This weekend, I'll spend my Sunday catching up on my cleaning. Tomorrow, I'm thinking of going to see Lars and the Real Girl. I like quirky indie fare.
So long for now. . .
Thursday, December 06, 2007
He really hits the nail on the head, outlining the sorrow, worry and joy that comes with living with a person with disabilities.
The part about the 'clicking' really struck me. It's amazing how you learn to communicate with people who cannot communicate normally. My foster brother was never able to speak. When you spent enough time with him, though, you realized that, while words would have been nice, they were never essential to the conversation.
You see, I understand his position. While I do not agree with it, I can understand the reasoning behind what he did. He was faced with a horrible choice - the choice between ending a life or maintaining a life that is hardly a life at all. It's a heartbreaking, horrible decision to have to make. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.
I have worked with and been around people who are not very different from his daughter. People who are alive mainly because of the wonders of modern medicine, but wind up suffering the profound silence of the profoundly disabled. Lives of pain that can only be guessed at and feelings that can only be divined through close attention and hope. You find yourself looking for the smallest gesture, the faintest expression, grasping for a connection that you have to believe is there.
But 'there' is a hard place to pinpoint when dealing with such severe disabilities. And at times, you have to have doubts. You have to wonder sometimes if you are doing the best thing for these people by continuing the struggle.
For me, the answer is always yes. Why? Because there are breakthroughs, however fleeting. Because a hard won smile or even a glance is worth so much effort and struggle. Because these are people whose lives are far from normal but who are people nonetheless.
I believe that, mercy or not, Robert Latimer committed an act of murder. I am glad that he was convicted and punished for what he did. Mercy can only cover so much, especially when dealing with crimes against those who are without a voice. What has me conflicted is the punishment. What are we gaining by keeping him in jail? Do we really believe we are protecting the public by keeping him behind bars? How do we justify keeping him behind bars for as long or longer than people who have murdered for profit or out of anger.
Today, the parole board said he could not be granted parole because he has not exhibited remorse. Like it was that simple. Like it was all some movie where truths come in black or white and never gray. This strikes me as horribly wrong and overly simplistic. I mean, if it was always about remorse, people like Karla Homolka would never see the light of day.
Me? I have no doubt that this act, however wrong, was an act of love, an attempt to alleviate pain and suffering. I have to believe that. As such, I believe we need to treat this case differently than other crimes, mandatory minimums or not.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Music video? Or TTC commercial? Hard to tell.
If that wasn't heretical enough in this televised age, check out the full report here:
http://www.arts.gov/research/ToRead.pdf - Realize that we really are not that different from our neighbours to the south and be afraid.
A few of my favourite sites:
http://www.bookninja.com/ - book and book related news rounded up with some decent comments. It's how I start most mornings.
http://seenreading.blogspot.com/ - I just know the day I am seen reading, I'll be reading something embarrassing. It's sort of voyeuristic, but I love it.
http://www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca/ - It seems like a largely quixotic quest, but Yann Martel raises some good points and offers a great selection of books to check out.
http://transit.toronto.on.ca/ - It really is the better way. Info. for transit users with some articles for enthusiasts.
http://www.ttcrider.ca/ - How to get from point A to point B as easily as possible.
http://www.cumberlandcustomcases.com/ - So you can carry your harmonicas in style. What? You're not carrying harmonicas? The horror. The horror.
http://www.comics.com/comics/getfuzzy/index.html - This comic strip kills me time and again.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Then I had a short conversation with my Mother tonight and it's thrown me off in a whole different direction. So, if you're going to blame someone for the loss of my Nirvana post, blame her. Just don't blame her on Wednesday because that's her birthday and it would not be nice.
A few weeks ago, I did an impromptu spring cleaning of my book collection. It's something I've never really done before. I've always sort of looked at my library as a sort of organic construct - a jumble of piles and boxes and stacks that submitted to no logic except it's own. Sure, I could find whatever I would go looking for, but not before turning tall piles into other tall piles and finding some gem I'd forgotten about until that moment. I'd say that finding books involved quixotic quests. . . but then I'd have to go looking for my copy of Cervantes' tome and I don't have that sort of time.
So, anyways, I've been accumulating books since my early high school days. Paperback, hardcover, new, used. . . You get the idea. I still harbour visions of having my own library with floor to ceiling shelves, a gargantuan arm chair and a nice lamp. Unfortunately, my visions have tended to obscure the reality of having boxes and stacks of books everywhere. The tops of my bookcases are sort of like a literary version of Jenga (you take a book from the middle and then they all fall over and you have to stack them up again).
So, I finally decided to trim my collection. . . at least a little. I started off easy by digging into my collection of travel books. They were nice to have around, but I usually buy a new up-to-date book before I travel anywhere, so they were expendable. Once I started, it got easier. I soon moved on to small paperbacks, the penguins and new canadian library's. Old Stephen King's and some trashy detective novels I'd bought one summer when everything I read had to have fedoras and dames and stiff drinks. That's when it started to be fun. While I still was not sure what I was going to do with them (Sally Ann, most likely), I started to think of the cool books I could offer up. I started thinking of the books that I longed to find when scouring thrift store shelves of harlequins and pulpy thrillers. I've found Henry Miller's novels in Goodwill and Shakespeare nearly everywhere, so it became a matter of what treasures I could leave for the next bookworm with too much time on his or her hands. It was a game, seeing what I could give up without too much heartache. Tempting myself, daring myself, it was like creeping up to the edge of a cliff, seeing just how far I could force myself to go.
When I was finished, I had two big plastic storage bins full of books. It didn't really put a huge dent in my collection, but it was nice, nonetheless.
Next, I had to figure out what to do with the books. While I had recently seen someone set out a dozen or so books for people to take in my building's lobby, I didn't thing the owners would appreciate a small library's worth of books for kids to toss about and people to leave everywhere.
Thankfully, my parents came through for me. I think they just wanted to see physical proof that I would ever part with a book. They picked up the books and took them up to Barrie, promising to find a place where they would be appreciated.
How does my Mother tie into this? Well, as happy as I was to get rid of some books, I really wasn't that keen on doing it again any time soon. I had humoured my parents, had more fun than I thought and cleared a little room for maybe another book or two (you didn't think I could quit buying books cold turkey, did you?). So, tonight, I'm talking with her on the phone and she tells me she is taking my books to the library. I guess they are always looking for donations. And if the books don't make it onto the racks, they sell them in a small shop in the lobby. Overflow often winds up going to the local hospital. Not only that, but my mother knows of a person with special needs, as the euphemism goes, who is a compulsive reader always looking for something to read. A kindred spirit, I guess. So some of the books will likely head his way as well.
Thinking of the books going to the library, alas, has set my mind to racing. I got home from work tonight and looked at my bookshelves in a brand new way. Do I really need to keep books I've read or, even worse, will likely never read, just because they look nice on a shelf. Well, today, the answer has finally changed to maybe not (baby steps, baby steps).
I'm not saying that I'm getting rid of everything - I doubt my heart could take that sort of loss. I just keep thinking that by giving up some of these books, I'm giving them a chance to be read anew and that maybe this will lead to more people reading. Like Ice-T, but different, "I'm your pusher (of books)."
So, I'm packing up some great young Canlit by the likes of Emily Pohl-Weary and Russell Smith. I'm offering up some classics, some trash and some treasures. I'm even parting with some long time favourites, like Tom Robbins and John Irving (though definitely not A Widow For One Year - that book is a keeper no matter what). I think I'll even give up Dean Bakopolous' wonderful first novel "Please Don't Come Back From the Moon", but only to a good home. With fiction done, I'm dipping into the poetry collection, as well. And my collection of chess books? Both the ones I don't have the patience for and the ones I don't have the talent for will soon be finding a new home.
I do have to draw the line somewhere, however, so the library will just have to buy its own copy of Alayna Munce's "When I was Young and In My Prime". And so should you, for that matter.
It would take a procrastinator like me, to start his spring cleaning in the fall. . .
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
In the fall of '91, my family moved to a small town outside of Sarnia. Like any move, there was a lull time between moving in and when I truly felt I belonged, with friends and a social circle of sorts. That sounds so down, but it wasn't. What can I say? I'm reluctantly social, so it just takes longer.
Anyways, my early, pre-Sarnia, high school days were spent listening to a lot of metal - hair and otherwise. My friends were into Kiss and Poison and Skid Row - real progressive stuff - so it just came naturally that I would listen to it, as well. For me, it was Metallica and Guns N' Roses. Master of Puppets was the soundtrack that accompanied me to work at A&W. As for G'n'R, I had my unsuspecting grandmother bring me back Appetite for Destruction when she went on vacation to Arizona. I still know most of the lyrics to Lies, an album I'd taped off a friend of mine. (actually, that's not saying much. my mind is a wasteland of remembered lyrics, bad and good. for instance, I can still sing, word for word, a stupid radio jingle that played for a few months on AM radio in Sarnia - it's a curse more than a gift)
This was Barrie in the very early 90's. . . At a Catholic school, no less. People generally seemed to be into one of 3 things - top 40, rap and metal. For me, it was metal. To be fair, I knew one guy with better taste than that. He was the manager at the A&W. He gave me my first taste of industrial music, especially Ministry and Skinny Puppy, and regaled me with tales of going to Lollapalooza. But that was just some weird guy with strange tastes and the lone exception to the rule as far as I could tell.
Anyways, back to September of '91. G'n'R release their two Use Your Illusions discs and I buy them the day they come out. They became my soundtrack of the next couple of months. In the evening, I would often take my bicycle out for long, meandering trips around my new town. In my walkman, I switched back and forth between the two tapes. I would just do these long circles through the neighbourhoods and let my mind wander. The town was small enough that I could ride down the middle of the road with a walkman blaring and not have to worry about getting run over. The one horse in this one horse town had died of boredom years ago. The town hobo lied down on the railway tracks one day and starved to death.
(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
I played the two albums so often that, for me, some part of fall is tied to those songs, Slash's guitar and Axl's wailing. When the weather finally turns cold, I have to dig out the old songs and play them once or twice, if only to remember those days. So that's what I did last night and, guilty pleasure or not, it felt right.
Eventually, I got a life, got over my G'n'R fixation (for the most part) and expanded my horizons. My tastes actually became shaped more by a certain album that came out just a week after Illusions, a piece of music that opened up all kinds of new horizons for me, even if it did become massively overplayed. Anyways, nevermind. . .
I've been taking advantage of the high Canuck buck and ordering in some new harmonicas and a custom case from the States. Sounds simple enough.
Until they start shipping via couriers who seem set up to deal with a 9 to 5 world and little else.
I do not live in a 9 to 5 world. I leave my apartment by 1 pm and then get home sometime around 11 pm. I tried to ask that they deliver to my place before 1 pm (seems reasonable enough) and that's when the fun starts. The first call to two different companies (I made 2 seperate orders) gave me what I wanted. They both said it would be no problem to ask the driver to do this. I'm not going to say that they lied, but they did not do a good job of telling the truth.
The second call is when I find out that the driver works with an 8 hour window and I can either work with that or make a trip up to the suburbs to pick up the parcel myself. Ironically, the driver is supposed to deliver between 9 and 5. Both times he tried to deliver, he arrived well after 6. Even if I went out of my way to be available from 9 to 5, I still would not have got my package.
Thankfully, the courier gods smiled on my and the first package arrived before I left for work.
The second package? Well. . .
I do not own a car. Nor do I want to own a car. Getting to Markham from my place by transit is not an easy thing to do. All this to pick up a parcel that I paid to have delivered to my apartment? And they wonder why I don't sound happy on the phone.
So, with that in mind, I make alternate arrangements. I set it up so they will deliver to my place of work, which is manned from 0500-0150.
I did this last Thursday. And then I waited. . . And waited. . . And called the 1-800 number, which said the package was redirected. And then I waited all weekend, because couriers do not work weekends. And then I waited through Monday and called the 1-800 number again. They apparently had a supervisor on the case now.
Then I get a call a half hour ago from the local office, asking for a clarification about my home address, completely unaware of the change of address or anything that has happened since last Thursday. DHL Express? Not quite.
I am usually a fairly understanding guy. I don't get irate and I don't hang up on people. . . Until now.
Now, both the local office and the head office tell me I will get the package tomorrow, 8 days after it arrived in the GTA.
Somebody hand me a stiff drink. . .
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Well, it's late, I'm tired and I have to get up early to go look at cows and pigs tomorrow (the Royal Winter Fair is on). As such, I'll keep it short and post a top ten (sic) list of sorts.
My list of favourite songs for a cold November night:
Prologue - Goodnight Irene - Leadbelly
1. I will do my last singing in this land somewhere - Rev. Gary Davis
2. Midnight Special - Odetta
3. Tower of Song - Leonard Cohen
4. Moanin' At Midnight - Howlin' Wolf
5. Tecumseh Valley - Townes Van Zandt
6. Visions of Johanna - Bob Dylan
7. Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night - Tom Waits
8. Help Me Make It Through The Night - Kris Kristofferson
9. Coney Island Baby - Lou Reed
10. Wichita Lineman - Johnny Cash
11. River - Joni Mitchell
12. Streets of Baltimore - Gram Parsons
13. He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones
14. Sweet Jane - Cowboy Junkies
15. Toledo - Danny Michel
16. Lua - Bright Eyes
Epilogue - Goodnight Irene - Tom Waits
That's a lot more country than I originally intended. But it fits.
Good night world.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
What is it with rock stars and their habit of dying at the age of 27? Off the top of my head, this happened to Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. Odd.
'Smells like Teen Spirit' was one of those touchstone songs for me. I can still remember hearing it for the first time, in my bedroom in Corunna, on a radio station from Detroit. I just had to stop and listen, knowing I was hearing something new, something revolutionary even. Those crunching chords, the angsty howl, the loud-soft-loud dynamic - it was perfect, or perfect for me.
The only other time I had a song affect me so deeply was the first time I heard Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone'. Same illumination, much different song.
It's sad sometimes to think that I will probably never have that same gut reaction to a song ever again. From what I've read, it's all biology. We are only wired to experience that much emotion for so short a time, and then things even out. That's why the music you heard in your teens still resonates decades later (a scary thought for the one-time fans of the boy bands and pop tarts that brought in this century. . . but I digress).
I'm not immune to this. I still go back to the stuff of my youth, even the harder stuff. I'm glad to have DOA, the Dead Kennedys and Metallica in my collection, even if I don't pull them out that often.
In spite of this, I still try to find new sounds. I still go looking for the epiphany. I pick up new songs and artists compulsively and my tastes have changed. For instance, there is a lot more country in my collection than I would have once though possible (country being the good old stuff, not the new pop with stetson stuff). I have a lot of pop and rock in my collection, from Feist to Spoon and beyond. I've even dabbled in electronic stuff. While I've never really been ahead of the curve, I still know the curve is there and I'm not afraid of it.
It's only at times like this, when I really think about it, that I start wishing it could be different. For all my love of new sounds, I hate the fact that they'll never hit as hard or ring as true as the stuff I listened to a decade and a half ago. It just seems sad.
It can't be helped. Time does roll on. And I guess I wouldn't have it any way. I'm glad I was where I was, when I was. I'm glad that I came of age when I did, in a time when a trio of flannel wearing freaks who could name check both Leonard Cohen and the Pixies rewrote the book for a short while.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I'm heading to Sarnia this weekend for my friend Ezio's wedding. It's shaping up to be quite the event with well over 200 people expected. For a man who spends so much time claiming to be a hermit, he sure knows a lot of folks.
Anyways, I'll be doing my usual and taking the train down, much to the exasperation of my mother. Every time I go down, she asks if I'm going to rent a car. Every time, I have to tell her that it probably won't happen. It's not that I'm really against renting cars - I've rented them before and I will again. It's just that I rarely see a need for it. I enjoy the train ride and, when I get down to Sarnia, I find that a combination of walking and the occasional taxi will get me wherever I want to go.
I've always liked public forms of transit. Even before the aneurysm, when I drove a lot more often and had a car of my own, I often took transit when I could.
Now, I'm a regular transit user - a connoisseur of routes maps and schedule arcana - and I like it that way. It just suits me. I get to sit down, pull out a book and still get from place to place. Now that I've gotten used to commuting via transit, I can't imagine going back to any other way. Where I once spent my commute angry at the jerk in front of me and worried about the idiot tailgating me. While transit does have its drawbacks - grocery shopping by transit is rarely enjoyable - it's a trade-off I'm willing to make.
One by-product of this travel choice is that I also walk a lot more. I walk holes into my sneakers quite often nowadays. This is good for both my physical and mental health. I mean, it was while walking home tonight, listening to Elliott Brood above the rustle of wind-rattled leaves, that I started thinking about On The Road and what I would write here. On days when I have something less trivial to worry about, I find I can process it better while in motion. With my sneakers on autopilot, my mind roams free, far freer than it's ever been when behind the wheel of a car.
Of course, this is just what works for me. While I wish people would take transit more often, I know a lot of people who just can't handle it. I remember my first trip after 9/11. I took the train to Montreal for a few days. I was on the fastest train going to Montreal, a surprisingly quick 4 hour jaunt. The train was packed with people whose companies chose to have them take the train rather then risk a flight. It goes without saying that I was prepared for the trip. I had my mp3 player and a couple of good books on the go, so I was more than set. My fellow travellers? Not so much. They were used to a short one hour flight, the sort of flight where the flight attendant finishes his take-off spiel just in time to start the landing spiel.
Stuck on the train, you could see them get this stir-crazy look in their eyes as they reread the Globe's business section for the 4'th time because it was the only reading material they had. As much as I enjoyed the train trip, I'm not sure my fellow travellers did.
Well, I'm sure I could ramble on a while longer but I really shouldn't. It's late and I've got stuff to do before work tomorrow.
So long for now.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I had stuck around work for an extra hour tying up the loose ends of a night that did not go quite as smoothly as planned. For some reason, I didn't make my usual bee-line to the subway. Instead, I decided to walk a bit. Sometimes I just don't feel like going home right away and, besides, hitting the downtown streets at ten on a summer evening makes for interesting wandering.
As a habitual wanderer, I've taken most every route away from work, both above ground and below. There's Yonge Street, which is always a treat for people watching. University is all cars and faceless office buildings. The PATH network of tunnels is a maze of shopping malls and food courts that stretches as far as the bus terminal by day or, as I found out last week, the Sheraton by night.
Today, I pointed my sneakers towards Bay. Bay Street at night is a study in contrasts. Suits and tourists share the sidewalks with street people and skateboarders. Where Yonge Street pulses with life well into the night, Bay is quieter, ostensibly honoring the bankers' hours of its usual inhabitants. The rows of blank and orange cabs patiently parked along the streets are the only sign that the buildings are not yet sleeping.
I really didn't have any plans. I figured I'd walk up to Queen and then cut over past the new opera house to the subway.
When I got up to Bay, though, I turned right instead of left. I then turned up the street that runs between the Eaton Centre and Old City Hall. It had been a while since I had been up that way and I wanted to see the labyrinth again.
There's a stone labyrinth behind the Eaton Centre. It's been there for a couple of years. Before that, there was a small plot of grass with the labyrinth mown into it. It's a interesting sight, even at night. Basically, it's a site for meditation and contemplation. You follow the path as it twists and turns and you are drawn out of yourself. Eventually you reach the centre. You then follow the path back out to the edge. For the believers, this is in many ways a form of prayer, a way of leaving your physical self behind, if only for a short while.
For a fence-sitter like me, it's still a powerful place. While I have doubts about religion, I have a certain respect for people who can open themselves to things magical and unseen. Doing this in the heart of the city, in the shadows of shopping malls and office towers, requires a great deal of faith.
I've never actually walked the labyrinth and I didn't do it tonight. I am content more to see that it is still there. Besides, I'm already experienced in walking circles. . . and squares. . . and even the rare straight line.
Cutting across a silent Eaton Centre I start walking up Yonge. I've been walking Yonge St. on my own for close to two decades now. I've watched it change, change back, stay the same and change yet again. I can remember when certain street corner preachers were young. I can remember when Yonge and Dundas had character and when video arcades were everywhere. I remember when hustlers and fish converged on a few chess tables around the corner from Sam's (I remember Sam's. . . sigh). I remember the excitement and the first sweet taste of freedom that came with being a teenager set free in the big city.
Alas, the city is doing its best to sap the character, verve and fun out of the neighbourhood. They tossed a fountain and some tables and chairs on the roof of a parking lot and then had the nerve to call it a square. They tossed up billboards and advertising everywhere as if they really believed that ugly posters could make people think this is a new times square. They tore down a bunch of small stores to put up a pointless mall across the intersection from the Eaton Centre. They got rid of the chess tables, banishing the hustlers to remote waters where fish rarely swim.
Thankfully, some of the grittiness remains, as it always will. While the fine folks at Cadillac Fairview may have made the space in front of the Eaton Centre smaller, buskers still show up each night at the corner of Yonge and Dundas, providing a show that is often more real and fun than the "entertainment" that goes on across the street.
After that, it was a short walk up to College and then down into the subway. A good book, as always, made the trip shorter. . . even the bus. Getting off the bus, I took my time walking down to my building, marvelling at the yellow grass and thirsty trees that say August clearer than any calendar.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
In less than half an hour.
Without leaving my apartment.
What amazes me most is not really how easy it is, but how commonplace it has become. It has gotten to the point where booking a flight is only a little more involved than checking email or reading the news. It's only in retrospect that it even registers.
I guess I could lament the loss excitement that used to come with making travel plans - the browsing of books and the trips to the travel agent - but I have to admit I kind of like booking my trips while still in pygamas.
Anyways, back to work. . .
Saturday, July 28, 2007
It doesn't hit me until I am almost at the Bloor Cinema that it is Friday night. . . And that the Bloor just happens to do monthly Rocky Horror screenings.
It all fell into place and I felt a little foolish. It takes a moment like this to realize just how far out of the loop I often am.
That said, I had a very productive Friday night. I bought a book of Jack Kerouac's letters and proceeded to read it on the subway. When the excitement became truly overwhelming, I headed for home.
Now, it's time to get dressed and start heading to the cottage.
So long for now.
A more interesting trend, though, is the number of people I've seen reading old school hard-boiled fiction lately. I have never seen so many Hammetts and Chandlers and Thompsons. Let's hear for worn fedoras and stiff drinks.
But these musings are done so much better someplace else. Head on over to http://seenreading.blogspot.com/ if you really want to know what people are reading. The premise is simple - the author notes what someone is reading on the subway or streetcar, guesses roughly what page said person is one, prints a paragraph or so from the book and then writes a short response of sorts. It's a great site that deserves all the hype it's gotten and then some.
Well, that's about all for now. Have a great weekend.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I had an uneasy feeling reading this article. There was something wrong the I could not quite put my finger on. On the surface, it seemed like a good article. One can appreciate the level of dedication Mr. Fantino has for his job. Here is a man not afraid to mix it up with the general public. A man not afraid to have his driver chase down any and all law breakers. A man whose sense of duty is matched only by the Boy Scouts.
Then it hit me - why do we have a police commissioner doing the work of an everyday constable? This is not the Boy Scouts. Mr. Fantino is not the leader of a small troop of badge-wearing boys. He is the Commissioner of Canada's second largest police force. I, for one, would hope he has more pressing business than playing traffic cop. Besides, I thought that was what we had Cam Wooley for.
Then there is the cost. I am pretty sure that Mr. Fantino is making a bit more money than your average constable. I mean, if Mr. Fantino wants to work as a constable, I hope he at least gets paid as a constable. Of course, if that happened, he may just feel a little less duty-bound and a little more interested in doing the job we pay him to do. I say, if he is really an officer first, then we should pay him as an officer.
Walking home from the bus stop, I wound up continuing the conversation with a Russian who immigrated from the Ukraine. While I was sort of criticizing the english language and the way it tends to homogenize cultures and customs, I was also glad to have a common tongue so I could easily talk with someone from the other side of the world. It was a kind of have your cake and eat it too moment.
I love talking to people who have immigrated to Canada. I have the utmost respect for anyone who has chosen to move to a different country to have a better life. Think of how difficult that is. I mean, I come back from the States amazed and sometimes bewildered by all the differences between that country and mine. To travel half way around the world? To risk all of one's savings? To give up everything that is familiar and safe? I don't know if I could do it.
That's something I wish more people would understand. Before you start laughing at or, even worse, complaining about immigrants, think about what they have gone through to be in the same country that you were born in. This sounds preachy, but it's true. Too often I've met people who resent immigrants. People who go to great lengths to highlight the differences when they really should be looking at the similarities. People who harbour ridiculous resentment against people for trying to maintain traditions and all because these traditions are somehow "not Canadian", whatever the heck that means.
I wish these people would just wake up and see that, while there are differences, these differences should be explored and celebrated, not mocked and denigrated. I'm going to step right out on a limb, catch my balance, and make a tv analogy. These are people that go home and expect 50 or 100 channels on their tvs. They want 30 varieties of donuts at Tim Horton's and a whole wall full of choices at the beer store. Why, then, are they so willing to accept just one type of Canadian citizen? Sounds kind of boring to me.
That's how I spent my commute. I doubt any of this would have happened had I owned a car.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Think of this the next time Harper and Co. want to scare us into giving up our rights in the name of fighting crime.
At the end of the day, when it comes time to evaluate the effectiveness of Harper's Parliament, I think it will just be simpler and quicker to look at what he has done right as opposed to what he has done wrong.
For instance, Harper has done. . . uh. . . well. . . didn't he. . . ? But there was that time when. . . uh. . .
And that's it.
ps. - I forgot to mention that he did try to buy us off with one GST cent on the dollar. And then he went on a vote shopping spree that has yet to end. Let's hear it for slash and spend conservatism.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
I didn't really intend to do all that. But Ottawa's core is so compact that the only thing that wasn't in walking distance was the Aviation Museum. Packing in a few museums, then, is quite easy. It was fun to just wander around.
I also took some time to go for a ride on their busway. While I still like railed transit better, the busway is a great system - a line of dedicated roads for buses with full, subway-like, station stops. Especially for a smaller city, it seems to be a great way to get subway service from buses.
Now, I have to go do some cleaning.
Monday, July 09, 2007
And play with my cameras.
Even better, I get a discount rate at the Chateau Laurier.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Just a thought.
. . . and mess with the fonts a bit.
Now that that's over, I think I will talk about the latest Die Hard flick. I liked it. It was silly, over the top and somehow the perfect way to unwind after a long day at work.
Yes, the plot is ridiculous. Yes, the brushes with death are all too conveniently foiled. Somehow, that seems to be the point. This is 80's action filmmaking cast through the lens of the Scream movies. You don't have to worry about suspension of disbelief because even the stars seemed content to wink and mug for the camera while firing off more one liners than bullets. That's what made it so much fun. It's a throwback that seems fresher than it should, a reminder that, in summer movie land, fun can trump smart at least once in a while.