Friday, December 18, 2009

Pigeon Talk

I am at home now at last, after learning all about pigeons on the flight home (thanks to the flight's repeated broadcast of a Discovery Channel show). Did you know the Dodo bird was a pigeon? Did you know that in London, they have pigeon shows, where breeders display pigeons they've bred to be exotic? Did you know a pigeon could be exotic? It was actually rather interesting, as I didn't realize that pigeons existed on all continents in all climates...both times I watched it, I missed the first part about how they actually define the pigeon. I did hear that they normally lay two eggs in a season. One particular forest-dwelling pigeon lives symbiotically with the trees by eating the leaves and seeds, then pooping out the seeds, which sprout. I got to see the pigeon pooping several times, which I thought unnecessary footage. I also got to see domestic cats gone wild caterwauling....I turned that off promptly, as I didn't want my seat-mate, an old Jewish LA guy who farted (at least, that's my suspicion), to get ideas.

At one point, he said to me, "What an interesting book you're reading. Is that for work or pleasure?" (I was reading the Ancient Mariners sounds weird, but I was deliberately trying to prevent him from seeing the cover, as I knew he was studying me, and would use that for an opening.) I said for pleasure. He acted like that needed more explanation, so I said, I like history. Then, he said, "I have something in common with you -- oil painting."

I looked at him expressing the eternal question, "What????" but also trying to temper the number of question marks, as I didn't really want to hear the answer.

He said, oil painting lets you know about history because of who they paint, and the styles. I really didn't care whatsoever, so I put my headphones on...thus the pigeons. Then, he got up and opened up the overhead bin, and got a big book on oil painting out. He turned on the light, and paged through the book...but held it so that all the pages faced me, so that I could become curious and inquire. (I didn't.) Then, I was hungry and was wondering when they'd come around with food, but every time I glanced from the monitor or my book to the aisle (I was in a window seat), he'd turn to me immediately like he was just about to speak. So, I started not even turning my head, but just shifting my eyes, but even then, he met my glance once or twice. Quite terrible, as until he mentioned the oil painting, I thought him a fine enough seat mate.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Radio Show

N and I* were on 104.4 FM Resonance Radio Friday night! If the radio show were at all interesting, I’d post a link. We were on with some Swedes who specialized in scatological noises, an eco-musician and a Chinese artist. The radio djs would talk normally during the breaks, and then the second they were on air, they both assumed these stupid dj voices. They both had huge noses. Afterwards, we all went out and the Swedish fart guy kept inviting me to visit him in Stockholm, saying I could sleep on his pink futon. (I asked him if it were from Ikea, but he didn’t answer.)

*Well, I was there just to support N.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Three Men in a Boat or I Love Babies!

I had the most embarrassing moment just now: I was in Starbucks ordering a latte when a pleasant looking boy (about 18) came in and said, "Excuse me. Do you mind if I ask you a question?" Not at all, I said. "Why are you so happy? We saw you coming and going, and both times you were laughing."

Now, on the way there, I was only especially happy, because I was listening to my IPod Touch -- finally got ear-pieces for it, and realized it's so much fun listening to music! But on the way back, I was recounting a particular line from Three Men in a Boat, which I find excruciatingly funny. But, I was laughing so hard, all I managed to get out in answer to the boy was something about cheese and "dead baby." The boy crept away. The coffee attendant was now looking at me funny, too, so I decided I had to explain myself. The boy was outside sitting next to a girl, and I went over and said the dead baby line was from Three Men in a Boat, an English classic, and I'd just assumed he'd read it, being British. He hadn't. Luckily, I had it downloaded on my IPod, and showed him the paragraph.

"OK, now I understand." The girl said, "I thought it had to be about a boy."

"In that case, I'd be weeping. Of course dead babies don't typically make me laugh."

Then I noticed the woman sitting next to them...with a baby. "No, I love babies! Just looove them!" I went on and on about how much I loved babies (almost said "especially living ones," but thought better of it. But, it was like the woman could read my mind, because she smirked in unison with my thought).

The girl said, "You do? I do, too! I just love babies! All my friends think I'm so weird! I work in an obstetrician's office! Aren't babies the best!"

As a matter of fact, I'm quite blase about babies. Luckily, she started talking to the other woman about babies, and I made my exit.

Of course, now I'm obliged to include the pertinent lines from this most hilarious book, Three Men in a Boat. The narrator has carried an odorous cheese onto a train, and soon gets the carriage to himself:

"The remaining four passengers sat on for a while, until a solemn-looking man in the corner, who from his dress and general appearance, seemed to belong to the undertaker class, said it put him in mind of dead baby; and the other three passengers tried to get out of the door at the same time, and hurt themselves."

Imagine how funny it'd be if you read the whole paragraph!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Straight from the Camino notebook: Paris to Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de Port

Sunday, May 17
2:25 pm

On train to Bayonne, though at the moment, it’s still in the station. Nice mauve tones and things that flip up: foot rest, tray, cup holder. Just as many backpacks (with those lethal walking poles) around me as suitcases. Wonder if they’re all going on the camino? And if any of them are lugging around a bag of freshly purchased toiletries and makeup? Forgot my new collapsible brush-mirror. Hit me this is the first time in years I’ve been anywhere without a mirror. As of yet, it’s not liberating -- mostly as I sense my chin is slightly too red.

7:22 pm

On train waiting to depart DAX (not an acronym). On last train, around 14:20, suddenly realized I hadn’t eaten since morning and accordingly went to the buffet car. Closed! And not to reopen, even though we had four hours to go to DAX. We pulled in here at 19:00 and I followed the signs to BAR. It was empty, except for the attractive, brown-haired lady wiping the counter, and a young woman with tightly pulled back hair and greenish eyes who observed me with the same sort of expressionless interest my cat shows me. But when I smiled and shrugged, she smiled Mona Lisa like back. I went right to the “sandwich” display case -- saddest, ageless remnants of food ever. Five round, thin pastry-type things with either slices of dessicated ham or apple (couldn't tell which). I stared at it with a biologist’s eye, not a gourmet’s. Their only companions were four brown icing donuts. The bar woman communicated to me, no food. Closing in “sanc” minutes.

I said, “Donut?” She looked like a judge about to make a guilty ruling, but the young woman, watching me all this while, repeated, “Doh...?” I ran (well, took two quick steps) back to the case and pointed: “Donut.”

“Ah.” She translated to the barmaid, who said, “You don’t eat here?” (Actually, I have no recollection of her saying that in English, but I know that’s what she meant.) I nodded and she slipped a donut into a little paper bag.

I finished that then went to a vending machine on the station platform and got a bag of cheese-horns, which were truly disgusting and feel as though they’ve coated my stomach. But the bag said, “Sans ... sans ...” so I had hoped that meant without artificial flavourings, saturated fats, etc., but it must have meant taste.

Now the train's passing through green farmland. No hikers on this train -- seem to be all locals. A little pig-tailed girl with thick glasses was crying when I got on and I smugly detected not the slightest aversion to her. I even smiled sympathetically at her, which seemed to catch the eye of the woman opposite me. Turned out she’s the girl’s mom, but you’d never have guessed it until she told the girl, “Shhhh...” and fixed her hair. Now that’s a mother.

Kids quietly playing some handheld game. Unfortunately, they keep failing at the same place, so the classical theme song keeps just missing the crescendo.

22:06 Hotel Room in Bayonne

How nice! Hotel guy knocked at my door. I was topless taking photos (not of me, but of the river), and said, “Yeah?”

“Books. I have books.”

“Hold on!” Put a towel around myself and opened the door. Two romance novels and a promising crime novel -- might buy it off him tomorrow. Had asked about a bookstore 30 minutes earlier when I went down to get a bottle of water.

Monday, May 18 – Bayonne Train Station Cafe
11:40 AM

So much for an early start! Or for starting the camino today, for that matter. I’ll be lucky if I get to St. Jean Pied de Port before the information shop (or whatever it is) closes. So will have to stay in St. Jean Pied de Port tonight and start early tomorrow. Ah, there’s an obvious hiker: middle-aged, glasses, blue aerodynamic shirt, garish red hiking pants and huge backpack. He just did the same circuit as me -- walked and looked around, then wandered into station area. Probably be back once he finds the public toilets are closed.

There are some outstandingly attractive people here. Only noted women, except for one mesmerizingly pretty guy last night, who was having dinner with a woman just as attractive.

Ah, here comes the hiker, as predicted. Now at bar ordering something, like I did. Perhaps the camino does start here.

This guy looks not unlike a murderer -- the unassuming, “kept to himself in the family house after the parents died,” type. Chin looks like it had pretensions once, but any definition now eroded away. At the critical point, it melds into neck. Thick glasses make his small eyes look almost normal-sized, but too close together. Looks about 52 and is alone. Unshaven and short hair, little mouth drooping open (or perhaps he just took a sip of latte). At certain angles, the light reflecting on his glasses eradicates his eyes. He speaks French.

Gonna say yesterday on train to Bayonne, saw one girl reading a French novel. Then another. Thought, “How pretentious.” Then remembered I was in France.

Ah, two more pack animals. I’m definitely the youngest of the lot so far. I should ask them about the trail start, etc. Left my guide book at home, along with my mirror brush.

Realized today that the waist belt of my pack at its tightest still doesn’t touch my waist, so all the weight is on my shoulders.

Dark brown hair and brown eyes seem to be the look here -- like in southern Romania. Whoever that original ancestor was really got around!

Tried to get my ticket stamped, but the machine refused. At last asked train lady worker. Tried auditory charades again -- showed her my ticket, mimed sticking it in slot, and beeped. She laughed and then smiled when she saw how crumpled it was.

"I got nervous."

But probably it was more those three lattes. She got it stamped and now I'm on the vibrating train (it's not moving yet), surrounded by grey-haired men with huge shells strapped onto their backpacks. No English speakers as of yet.


On the way to St. Jean Pied de Port! Just passed trhough Ularitz.

2:35 PM, St Jean Pied de Port cafe

Got my passport and map. Start tomorrow. Now enjoying...hold on. Oh, well, kinda enjoying glass of white wine and waiting for pizza. Two car train from Bayonne with grey-haired Europeans. Pray I can outwalk them, as we'll all likely be starting at same time. Did hear one young American voice coming out of a refugio, complaining/querying the cost of something. From the station, I followed signs to "centre ville". Reached a main road with the first clusters of confused looking backpackers looking down at maps, then up at road signs. Followed clusters instead of signs until their density levels indicated I was right outside the official start (bureaucratically speaking) of the camino.

Backpacks (all huger than mine, but so are the people) lined the back wall, hiking poles protuding from each like protective thorns. Along other wall three or four tables pushed together, a middle-aged official (volunteer?) behind each, sorting out the pilgrim with map and passport.

Ended up standing behind the murderer from Bayonne. I asked him if this was a queue and was relieved when he spoke no English. "Italiano." Then a couple got up from the closest official's table and he made to sit down, but the official said, "English. No Italiano. English or Spanish. Italiano there." He pointed at guy at furthest table. I cried out, "English!" and made my way past the other people who'd been ahead of me. His English was rudimentary. Like, he indicated a point on the way to Roncesvalles and said, "Forest. Beautiful view. Danger. Slippery. Last year, woman dead."

He asked if I needed a place to stay (too late to start today. He said 9-11 hours to Roncesvalles and "extremely difficult"). I said yes. He said talk to the lady one door down on the right. But, as other pilgrims were waiting at the door, I kept walking. Happened to look in open door of another refugio and saw adolescent sitting, slope-shouldered, on top bunk and that decided me: I'd get a regular hotel room. Probably be sick of communal living by this time next week. So, 40 euros for top floor room (no elevator). They didn't even ask me my name -- the young man just showed me up.

On entering the little room, I said forlornly, "No CNN?" He looked around and then understood. "No, no tv." But, at least I have a shower. Thank god I stole that book from the other hotel. Also regretting I didn't bring a French phrase book.

Don't yet know which path to take tomorrow, but will be glad to get started -- St Jean Pied de Port is rather oppressive, though less so now, maybe now that the hordes of identically clad (like me) pilgrims have disappeared and the postcard shops closed. Nothing but identical cafes and refugios. Hmm...the waiter or whatever here sings as well. A musical people.

Walked a bit out of the old town and saw down below a horde of tour buses -- suppose it carries people's crap and then takes them around for little jaunts at each destination.

Gosh, I hope I can find another book before finishing this one. What madness to assume I could go without!

"The 'now' was both specific and general, at once the next hour which somehow had to be filled, and the rest of a life which seemed increasingly predictable and pointless, in a vaguely cosy way." - Verga, author.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Camino de Santiago: Free medical attention for females

In Estella, next to the hostel, an old man set up a makeshift placard with a red cross on it, advertising free medical help for pilgrims. He sat in a metal chair in the narrow street and tended to a long line of broken down pilgrims. A Canadian guy said he'd overheard female pilgrims going on about the old man's great foot massages, so he got in line for one. When he finally put up his feet for his massage, all the guy did was put a piece of tape on his leg. Apparently, that's all he did to any of the male pilgrims.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Skeptic

"I don't believe in personality tests," said Matt, as we sloshed back white wine in a pub near Regents Park. "They just try to typecast people."

"Oh, but the Myers-Briggs test is really accurate."

"Perhaps." He savoured another sip of Chardonnay. "But then, I'm a Gemini, so I can't help being skeptical about things like that. You know, N is a Gemini, too. That's why I get her. As soon as I see her in class, I know exactly how she's feeling."

"Are you sure it's not because she's an INFP?"*

He ignored my comment. "Geminis are in tune with their feelings. We're not like Pisces."

"What's wrong with Pisces?"

"My dad was a Pisces."

"I'm a Pisces."

"Geminis are very honest." He looked at me sternly, as if that were a particular failing of Pisces, but he had too much Geminian delicacy to point it out. "We're also good at keeping secrets. You know, I've been wondering about you and what makes you tick."

I took another gulp...shall we say sip...of wine.

He continued, "N tells me everything. Because she knows I won't tell anyone."

"So what has she told you?"

He launched into a risque story about her ex-boyfriend.

"I was joking! Don't tell me!"

He shrugged. "Another glass of wine?"

*N's Myers-Briggs type.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Depeche Mode at Salsa Bar

Why do guys invariably start sniggering when I offer to show them a photo of my cat? Friday night, whilst out in Soho, I asked the members of Depeche Mode if they would like to see a photo of my cat; they reacted the exact same way an IT systems admin guy did earlier in the evening: waves of hope and alarm, increasing in amplitude until at last they saw the photo -- then, laughter. The lead singer and the lyricist reacted in this manner; the third band member (I called him supercilious, but I don't think he knew what it meant and took it as a compliment) said he didn't understand: "You're saying this is art?"

"No, it's my cat."

"You mean it's representational reality?"

"'s my cat."

He stared at it awhile longer, then gave the phone back to me: "I'm not interested in representational reality. I'm an artist." Then, after a further pause, "You've got great tits. Can I feel your ass?"

I'd gone up to them earlier on when I was guessing people's professions. I asked them, "Are you guys on the radio?" They looked like they'd been kept in a dark place for a long time, albeit with regular facials and the occasional visit to a tanning booth. The two blonde guys had hair that had not faded with their years; it was golden. (Perhaps this attention to grooming led them to later leave off my ass and boobs and compliment most enthusiastically my hair.)

The lyricist said, "No. But we were in an '80s band."

I thought they said bank, but I couldn't think of any one in particular -- I was trying to think of the savings and loan George Bush's brother ran into the ground -- so asked them which one.

"Depeche Mode."

All I could think of was that dreadful song, People are People. I didn't really believe them, though it would've been a strange charade. I chatted awhile longer, then went back to my friend, Marko, and said, "Get this: they're saying they're in Depeche Mode."

"They are! I recognize them! Get back there!" And he shoved me back into their midst, where I didn't really want to be. I still didn't really believe it, until a couple women came up for autographs. They seemed bored with this, and I commiserated: "I know how you feel."

"You do?"

"Yes, I'm a female computer programmer. It's the same thing, really. Especially at conferences."

The singer, lyricist and I all ended up dancing together at the bar. That was fun -- they were great dancers. The singer was wearing a green-bead necklace and his shirt was unbuttoned to expose it. He reminded me vaguely of someone who makes regular trips to Thailand; I've since been told that's the way he is on stage. Except for his going on about my ass and eyes and hair, like I was a horse, he seemed nice enough, but louche. The lyricist seemed more interesting, if only because his pink and white striped shirt was buttoned all the way up, so he really did look like a banker...though lacking the hunted air so many have assumed lately. I don't even remember his name. After admitting I'd never listened to their music, preferring the Carpenters and the Pixies in that era (he nodded sadly, as if I'd said something sensible: "Karen Carpenter had a beautiful voice"), I attempted to compliment him on the popularity of his lyrics. He laughed bitterly. "I'm no Wordsworth or Keats."

Eventually, their 25 year old manager made himself too annoying and I skedaddled. (He kept talking about a "bitch" who had turned her back on him when he tried to chat her up. "No one turns their back on me!" As he told me that, I turned my back on him, which cracked up various others, but not him.)

Before I left, I wrote down the title of my favorite book, "Dance to the Music of Time," and gave it to the lyricist. He said he'd never heard of it. When I told him it was the British version of Proust, he looked was the first time I saw him with an unguarded expression. (Though earlier on, I noted the peaceful, almost joyous look all three had as they surveyed the if they owned the place, really, and were in no fear their wife was sleeping with the head waiter.)

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

The missing book

The clerk stood behind his information desk, staring at the bookshelves as if he expected the books to tumble out the second a customer distracted him with a request. After my encore "Excuse me," he sighed quietly and looked down at me. (I was the only other person in the store.)

"Do you have Peter Ackroyd's history of the Thames?"

He tilted his head and took off his glasses to clean them; if we'd been in the poetry section, I would've said this act symbolized thought. As it was, we were closer to the DIY section, so probably it just meant they were dirty. After he put them back on, he said, "You know, I think we do. No, I'm sure of it." He glanced one last time at the Self-Help section, as one would at a dog after telling it to heel, and bounded over to History. "I remember seeing it in the computer the other said we had one copy left." He went over each row, and then shook his head. "I could swear we had one copy left."

"Maybe it's just in the wrong section?"

"No, that wouldn't be it. Someone's probably knicked it." He went back to his desk. "See, the computer says we have one copy left." He stared at the computer. "But that's wrong, because now I remember someone asked for it last week, and it said then we had one copy left, but we didn't. Yeah, quite a few people have come in asking for it, now that I think of it." He shrugged. "I don't know why the computer keeps saying we have one copy left."

He perched his fingers on the desk and resumed his observation of the bookshelves.

I asked, "Are you going to order it?"

"Hmm? Oh yes, I've been meaning to do that. Good idea. I'll do that right now."

I wonder how long that bookstore will stay in business.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Why the rug doesn't match the curtains

I went to the bathroom store and bought a bathmat. I told the lady how I liked the light green color, but it was safest to go with white, because once I bought a green rug to go with the green curtains in my bedroom, only to find when I got home that they were blue. And the rug was such a putrid green.

You wonder sometimes at garage sales what possessed people to buy some of the things – that rug was one of those things.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007


The Cockney cabdriver who drove me home from Paddington suggested we go down Avenue Road. He said, “I like to look at the asses there.”


“The asses! They’re so big and beautiful.”

I finally realized what he meant when we were on the street and I saw how big and beautiful the houses were.

“How much do you think it’d cost for an ass like that?”


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Some people should never be allowed to travel

Some people should never be allowed to travel. Instead of becoming more interesting, they become more annoying -- they're still just as stupid as before, but now because they've traveled, they're all puffed up with themselves. Last night I met a woman whose every sentence had some allusion to somewhere else.

"Oh, well, if you think the bread is dry here is at Kincaid's, you should try eating bugs like I did when I was in Africa. I believe bugs are the national dish of Zimbabwe."

The other girl with us mentioned that she'd just seen Memories of a Geisha. "Really? I would be interested in seeing that, as I am in the Asian Studies program at UCLA. I've been to Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand."

I didn't yet realize she needed no encouragement to talk about herself, so I asked, "Are you working on your PhD?"

"No, but my dad has one." She said this as if a PhD were some hereditary honor that would be passed down to her, so there was no point in her wasting time earning one. Judging from her age, I couldn't help but think she'd be inheriting shortly.

She started going on about the race riots in Australia, and how the tv showed a bunch of blonde, frat-looking kids pouncing on middle-easterners. "I've been to Australia, of course, several times. What makes this so funny is that Australians like to portray themselves as so laid back and welcoming."

I was so annoyed at this point, I would have disagreed with anything she said. "That's hardly true. They're the ones who turned back a boat of Afghan refugees and sent them to live on some desolate island. And they were with us in Iraq."

"Well, so was Poland," she said, as if that fact negated my point about Australia. And then she added in an undertone: "I've been there, too. Spent a summer teaching in Warsaw." Like she wanted to resist saying it, but couldn't, so she settled on speaking in sotto voice.

When she learned I was Canadian, she said, "Oh, really? I met a group of Canadians in Indonesia. My cousin lives in the east."

I didn't care where her cousin lived, but my friend asked, "East? Do you mean the east coast of Canada?"

The well-traveled troll flipped her hair back and waved her hand, as if hoping that would suffice. "Yes, you know, over there."

I think my friend was still confused as to whether her cousin was Canadian or Indonesian.

"Do you mean Prince Edward Island?" I asked.

"Oh, no, none of my relatives live on an island." She sounded insulted at the very idea.

"Novia Scotia? New Brunswick?" I continued on, determined now to pinpoint this cousin, and making each suggestion with the same relish I'd have had pushing pins into a voodoo doll.

"No." She tried to laugh, but it wasn't quite the silky, conceited laugh of before (I got to know her laugh well, because she always laughed alone). "I can't recall the name of the place."

Joe said, "Kellas' relatives live in Vancouver."

"Oh, I know Vancouver." She chuckled as if she and Vancouver had once been lovers, and she was recalling one of its romantic foibles. She shook off the memory and said, "My family is made up of world-class track and field athletes."

"Are they shot-putters?" After all, she was built like an East-German shot-putter.

"No. They are decathletes. We have several top decathletes in my family."

I said, "I didn't know Vancouver was known for its decathletes."

"Oh yes," she said, surprised at my ignorance. "Vancouver and Washington are famous for their love of track and field."

We ended up at a dance club. On the way there, she went on about how she didn't need a man, and how she pitied women who felt they needed to be in a relationship. "I'd rather be happy and single than miserable in a relationship." The very pretty girl who made up our foursome listened to her politely and said, "That's a good saying." She couldn't withstand the encouragement and blathered on, "A man should only enhance your life."

"Like eyeshadow?" I asked. I had noted that the weary traveler was wearing bright blue eyeshadow. The pretty girl laughed. If the woman had been a cat, her fur would have poofed immediately (as it was, her bleached, permed hair was so poofed out that from the back, her head did look a bit like an angry cat). Her acolyte had betrayed her with that laugh. Thankfully, Joe broke in with a comment on the traffic, and the battle was over.

At the club, she was noticeably older and less amused than anyone else there. She plopped down on a barstool with a vodka and remained there the whole night, whispering snarky things about me to the pretty girl, who sat beside her. I danced the whole time, and her derision as she eyed me was obvious, but pretty soon, thankfully, people blocked my view of her.

Coming home, she complained about the drinks being so expensive, but Joe said, "You don't really go to those places for the drinks," and then she started going on about her high tolerance for drugs and alcohol, as if hoping we'd find it surprising and somewhat shocking -- after all, she was a well-traveled high school teacher who when she wasn't boasting about her travels boasted about her wine collection. But I was not shocked. Joe said, "I've never done any drugs, except for weed." "Oh, that's hardly a drug." When no one else volunteered any drug experiences, or comments, she said, "Not to say that I've done any real drugs, either....." She laughed nervously. The stress of fooling herself must be getting to her, I thought. I got the impression that she spent her whole time trying to make herself believe she was someone she wasn't. Because if she could just fool herself, she could fool anyone.

Anyway, this woman reminded me very much of my ex boyfriend's ex girlfriend, the New Zealander who asked me if living in London were scary, after spending my life on a farm. (My ex must have told her I was from the midwest, which to her meant farm living...funny, that coming from a sheep-loving New Zealander.) But I'll go on about that some other time.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Munich restaurant review

I had the most delicious meal last night for only 8 euros (including a glass of wine). If you want to try it, it's a little "cafe bistro" next to the Theresienstraße u-bahn station. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name, other than that the words "cafe bistro" were in it, and it was next to a smoky, sad little beer room; I can't call it a pub, as it was fluorescent-lit, like a hospital waiting room, and there were only sad looking men in it…they looked like they were awaiting bad news of a loved one, too.

But, it was the only place in that neighborhood serving food at 8:30 PM. The ceiling seemed to resemble the roof of a cave, or perhaps just a generic hallucination. There was an Omar Khayam type scene painted on one wall, and slot machines lined up on the other. Except for the serving lady (who was very nice), there were only a few Persian men in it…two middle-aged guys were arguing, then suddenly, they stood up and hugged each other. I thought they were making out until I realized it was some emotional detente…maybe they finally agreed to let their son and daughter marry. Then they sat back down and one pounded his fist on his chest..they stared at each other and hugged again. I was already committed to leaving at that point, though, so I couldn't stay and watch.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Walking wounded

I saw the blood on his white t-shirt before I saw the blood on his face -- it took me a moment to connect the two. Holding a hand in front of his nose and the other out-stretched, he lunged from person to person, thickly asking, "Can you help me?" The suited workers, returning home, evaded his grasp and his glance. Then, he started to lunge at me; I found myself eluding him as gracefully as everyone else.

I thought, "Well, I can't very well help him. I'm a foreigner." Then: how did he make it this far without getting help already? There's got to be a reason. And, he's talking like a drunk.

Only afterwards did I think, perhaps a broken nose makes one talk like a drunk. But, then, how does one get a broken nose without being drunk?

That was two days ago. Today, after accidentally biking into the canal, I went to the Queens for a drink, and I mentioned the bloody young man.

"Oh, him. He's out here every day. Can't believe you haven't seen him before. He used to bleed from his scalp. He's just recently switched to his nose."

The guy said this in much the same tone my friend had said, "Women are wearing skinny jeans tucked inside their boots now."

Another local added, "He was at the betting room 15 minutes ago. He knocked over three chairs, trying to get Williams to hit him. Yeah, you just missed him." He looked at me sympathetically, as if the bleeder had stood me up.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Afternoon walk

I walked to Highgate Cemetery, passing through Hampstead Heath. On Parliament Hill, the white-haired, broad-shouldered man in front of me made as if to kick his female companion. But, just as his foot neared her rear (he didn't have to aim that carefully), he started toppling over and instead did an impromptu, one-legged dance as if he were on hot coals. A few moments later, an old lady passed me. Misinterpreting the cause of my smile, she smiled back. And suddenly I felt as if I were indeed smiling because I was kind-hearted and not because the man looked foolish.

I then passed an Indian guy, in his twenties, who was loudly talking on his mobile. He shouted, "What the f-ck! He gets a mortgage!" He pronounced mortgage, mort-gage. When foreigners swear in a language other than their own, it always sounds self-consciously deliberate; it's the verbal equivalent to someone wearing hiking boots with evening wear. He exacerbated this effect by immediately glancing around, smiling shyly, the phone still to his ear. It seemed like he was looking for approbation...whether for his cursing or his knowledge of mortgages, I don't know.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Friday Night Train Wreck

Just found one of the poems I wrote as a teenager...

Bill, Shelly and Tammy
-- but seeing as I'm a poet I'll call them Sebastian, Lulu and Fifi --
finish up their beers,
finish up their pot,
finish up their coke,
and sit quiet for awhile.
But Lulu, she's thinking,
Sebastian acts like he don't even remember
our night of illicit love. Acts like he don't even recall saying so sweet,
"Lulu, you got a hell of a nice butt." Well he was awful drunk.


Fifi, she's sitting unsuspecting between Lulu and Sebastian.
You see, she's the mama of Sebastian's bastard child
(they're not married or nothing).
And she's thinking, this is wild and all, sitting in a parking lot
on a Friday night,
but, well, what about little Eustace?
Eustace? Billy, Jr. I mean. (Must have been that last bowl.)
But, oh hell, he can stay at Mama's place.


Sebastian, he all of a sudden shouts, "Let's go for a ride!"
waking Lulu from her revery,
shaking Fifi from maternal kind of urgings.
And they fold up their lawn chairs, fling them into the truck bed
and clamber up and in,
Sebastian behind the wheel,
Fifi in the middle
and Lulu on the end.


Fifi's giggling and wiggling against her man's thigh
and he's sucking on a cigarette like a downhome James Dean,
but Lulu, she's staring out the window.
And she's thinking,
So what if Fifi's got bigger tits?
Another year, they'll be sagging -- she don't wear no bra.


And these three friends, they're bouncing up and down on the cracked
vinyl seat, rubbing against resilient flesh,
and man, that's right, this is Sebastian's going away party!
"Sebastian, you're coming back again someday, aren't you?" asks Lulu.
"Yep. Maybe in a couple of years."
"You think they'll parole you that soon?"
And they sit quiet for awhile.
Maybe things do come to an end.


Sebastian shouts.
And Fifi says, "You think I ought to go blonder?"
But Lulu, she's thinking,
Sebastian's acting like he don't even know
We're up here on the train tracks.
Acts like he don't even realize we're not going nowhere.
And those lights, those lights
Aren't the big city lights.
And Lulu, she says, "Yeehaw."
But boy, she don't sound like she means it.

And that train pushed them all the way from Seventh to First.
And some who saw it said it was better than
the goddamn Danbury High homecoming parade.
Even that year they won state.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Me, at 13

This journal begins on the day when I left for Winnipeg by plane. For those of you who chance to read this and wish for more details I will tell you that I flew on a 727 on Air Canada. The flight lasted about two hours. Unfortunately I neglected timing it.

My parents and I drove in the old navy Volvo to O'Hare airport on a Saturday. I remember that we were all in a rush so that I would not miss the plane and rather grouchy at the start of our ride. Being in a rush tends to cause the members of my family to be grouchy. When we were nearing the airport our personalities took an upward lift so that I left them in good cheer, despite the fact that I was already homesick. I tend to get homesick in anticipation of leaving my family and then nearly forget about them the rest of the trip. That is quite hard-hearted of me to say, I usually feel sad every three days if they haven’t called me and as soon as they do I feel better for another three days.

After the plane was firmly on ground I relieved myself of the gnawing worry that I would be killed at the prime of my life in a crash. I sat waiting until the last group of people got into line to get off before I joined them. I still remembered saying good-bye to my parents and being pushed away from them until they disappeared as I turned a bend. When on the plane (I sat on the last row in a window seat), I waved outside for at least ten minutes hoping to catch a glimpse of my parents. I thought I saw them a few times and I might of because they said later that they were situated where I was facing. Getting back to leaving the plane, I was told to wait for a pudgy man who carried a walkie-talkie and wore ominous looking sunglasses. I waited in a hall until he came out pushing a baby carriage for the couple that had sat in the row before me. He led me down some stairs that I could have found easily myself I didn’t wait for him and had just followed the crowd. He left me at a doorway and on opening found myself in a large room where people were in some more lines. I got at the end of one and waited. The man before me asked for about the third time that day what my doll was called (I had to carry her because there was no room in my suitcase. That was embarrassing. I think the adults thought I was carrying it because I needed something to hold onto and be comforted by) and I replied automatically, “Annie” since it was commonly known as a raggedy Ann doll. Thereby he asked if I had seen the musical Annie, which I hadn’t and don’t intend to either.

I felt very distinguished wearing my brother’s glasses but after looking in a mirror I wore them as little as possible because it made my nose look big and my eyes small. That was very ugly.

After going through customs I went up to pick up my baggage. Somehow the sponge on the handle had disappeared so I had to wrap my kerchief around it so that my hand would not be ripped by the sharp edges. When I came out into the main area I saw my Aunt K. staring at me until she finally came up and said, actually asked, “Kellas?”

I nodded in agreement and she then told me that I hadn’t grown an inch. Since I last saw her two years ago I took that as an insult. At least she could have said how tall I was like my other relatives do even if it was probably lying. We were driven home by my cousin Leslie’s boyfriend and of course Leslie. On the ride home Aunt K. lavished them with thanks and gratitude on driving us to Lundar straight from Winnipeg. I was disappointed that I couldn’t look around before going to Aunt K.’s home in the country. I suppose I seemed a little sullen on the ride home because I kept wishing I was back home and was almost always on the verge of tears. I resigned myself to my fate by the time we were at Aunt K.’s and was set on having a good time.

I just remembered that Aunt K. was upset because the people at the airport didn’t let her come and get me. According to the airport, 13 is considered independent. That means I no longer have to say whether anyone is picking me up. I was a bit angry and relieved that Aunt K. didn’t come to get me because I got on very well by my lonesome. I wouldn’t have take so long if I didn’t have to wait for that eyeglass man with the walkie-talkie. The trouble is that Aunt K. treats me like a baby. I hate nothing more than that.

Aunt K.’s house used to be a school. There is a chalkboard on one wall with misc. things pinned up. Mostly they are scraps made by previous visitors. There is a red pump in the kitchen since she has no faucet. The outhouse is behind the house on the border of the weeds. When entering the outhouse a horrible stench envelopes you. At least there are not as many flies as when I was last here. Last time you couldn’t help but squash them when you walked because they lined the floor like a carpet, and flew out of the toilet when you opened it.

The ticks were awful. Aunt K. kept saying that they were not that bad this summer because she had only gotten four the whole summer and she had been in the grass where they nest almost all the time. I was relieved by this until I got five in two days and I had barely left the house. The only time I did was when Aunt K. asked if I wanted to go to the lake. I thought she meant the beach she had been talking of earlier so I said yes eagerly. We ended up walking through weeds up to my neck and then turned back before we even reached the lake. I had told her before I didn’t want to go there because last time I went I was loaded with ticks. Since I came from the L--s I have not gone out of the house except to go to the washroom and so far so good.

Aunt K. almost spoiled my whole trip. Somehow she got the idea that my mom wanted me not to sleep over at the L--s but visit for a day. She meant me to visit at the end of my trip. When I heard her talking on the phone to Mrs. L and saying I couldn’t go to the beach with them because Aunt K. couldn’t drive to Lundar I almost screamed. I had always gone to the beach with them whenever I was visiting them so I didn’t see how come I couldn’t this time. It seems that she misunderstood my mom (Aunt K. misunderstands a lot of things) and that I was allowed to go. After a lot of begging and straightening things out I went. Mrs. L-J and Rebecca and Rachel met me at the bus depot. I talked with a nice old lady who shared my bus seat. Rachel has braces and otherwise looks the same. Later on in my visit she got a haircut that made her look totally different. Everyone is the same almost. Kristin has just as loud a voice and Rebecca is the same. I had made up my mind to have a good time so I wasn’t shy. Rebecca and I took a walk through the park that evening. At the lake we had a nice time. We played cards and swam. Rebecca couldn’t go in the water because she had a sore back and couldn’t touch cold water with it.

We went to the Manitoba desert. It was really fun. After that we went to the art gallery to see a movie, “Rhapsody in Blue” which was about George Gershwin. The next morning I was going to leave. Rebecca and I were sleeping downstairs when we heard the doorbell. We rushed up because we thought it was my Aunt K. It was just the mailman. We stayed awake and were just going to have some French toast when my Aunt K. phoned. We went and picked her up at the bus depot and then went back home to eat our toast. Then the L-J drove us downtown. After saying good-bye we went shopping. I bought two small crystal vases for my mom plus a Bashevis book. For my dad I bought a double record of Gershwin’s songs. Aunt K. bought me a pen which ran out of ink the next day. I bought myself some books and then we walked around until 5:30 when we caught the bus. Yesterday, July 8, Aunt K. took me to a bingo game. Another girl, Carla, was there. My Aunt K. knew her mother and since Carla is just a few months younger than me we decided to go swimming some time. A very dignified lady, whom I instantly liked, talked to Aunt K. It turned out to be her neighbour.

Aunt K. and I both had three cards. We played the full 23 games and never won a thing. Some people bought 20, like the old woman with the fuzzy hair and overbite who sat by us, and never won a thing. That made me feel better.

On Sunday I helped Aunt K. clean her car. She’s getting it all fixed up because she got a notice in the mail that her car was going to be inspected on August 2. Later that day I asked if she had a tape recorded. She searched for a long while until I found it with some books. Then she went into a spaz as she tried to rewind the tape. She finally got it.

On Monday, which was yesterday, I went over with Aunt K. to the Miller’s. I was going to learn how to use the small tractor so I could mow Aunt K’s lawn. Mr. Miller showed me how to start it and then said that I could try it around the yard. I went up the driveway and on looking back found that Mr. Miller had disappeared. I then found that I didn’t know how to stop it or reverse it so I could get back to the house. I finally turned around onto the grass and went over some loose logs. I was sure I was going to crash but I finally made it to the place where I began. I drove around until Mr. Miller appeared and told me how to stop. I was then on my way. I drove a little and then asked how to get to Aunt K’s. He told me and then I drove a little more and then stopped to ask what side of the road to drive on. I finally got going. I mowed the whole lawn while Mr. Miller cut hay on the wild grass and Aunt K used the hand mower to go around the trees. That evening I drove the tractor back to where it belonged with Aunt K in her car behind me. We stayed there awhile and tried some of my music on the pump organ. I was rocking back and forth trying to push down hard enough on the pedals.

Some neighbors dropped in while we were there and talked awhile. When the topic got to weeds Aunt K spoke up “You should see my garden.” Mrs. Chrisp glanced over at her and nodded very coolly and tugged at her cigarette. No one else paid any heed to her. When the subject got to dry land Aunt K said, “You should see the big cracks in my garden.” Again Mrs. Chrisp looked at her and nodded and smoked her cigarette.

This morning I washed my hair. In the water there were things floating around so I fished them out. Aunt K stood watching awhile until she left saying, “You’re too damn fussy. If that is the worst thing that’ll ever happen to you you’ll be lucky.”

When she got back with a sift I calmly told her that I didn’t need a sift because the water was clean now and that worse things have already happened to me so I wasn’t lucky. I also said that nothing was wrong with cleaning the water that you are going to wash with. Aunt K said a few days ago that she couldn’t understand people who swore and now she is doing it.

That night I heard a mosquito buzzing above me so I called Aunt K to get it. I was half asleep when she came so she sat down and woke me up by telling me all the misc. things that had happened to her during her life. I kept trying to go back to sleep but it wasn’t possible. I kept saying yeses and no’s until I didn’t say anything. She was quiet for awhile and then started talking again. Finally she told me that it probably flew into her bedroom and awoke me completely by pounding me on the back in supposedly friendly manner. This morning she said that it had chomped her and she had killed her. I asked her about her theory that buzzing mosquitoes don’t bit and she said that this was an exception.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today is the 10th. That means I only have about nine days left to spend in Manitoba. Aunt K keeps going on about the chimney people not showing up to excuse herself from taking me anywhere. I know it isn’t her fault about the chimney but I get tired of hearing about it. I wish she had got it done before I had come because I’m stuck in her house now and there is nothing to do. Other than that I’m having a nice time.

This girl from Edmonton wants to go swimming at the pool in Lundar with me. Aunt K knows her grandmother I think so that’s how I met her. She was at the Bingo game and had come over to where I was and we exchanged some talk until she went back to her seat. She is sort of pudgy and I can’t recall her face at all. I do know she has brown hair.

Aunt K’s neighbors were at the table beside ours. One of the neighbors was old, she didn’t give the appearance of being old somehow although she was missing some teeth and had dark grey hair. She looked very distinguished and had an English accent. She wore a bright orange sweater. Her daughter sat beside her. She reminded me of a chipmunk because her cheeks bulged out as if she had stored some nuts in them. She was very nice also. It turned out that she has a thirteen year old daughter who is in BC visiting some cousins. The daughter is coming back on the 19th. When I told her that I was thirteen also she said in a surprised tone, “You are?” She sounded disappointed when she heard that I was leaving on the 19th. She told me that I would have to visit them next summer if I come.

At the Bingo game some people bought more than 20 cards and never won a thing. An old lady sitting beside us did that. She had fuzzy grey hair and a face wrinkled like a prune. She had an under bite so that it looked as if she had no upper lip. She, like most of the other people at the game, spent about 15 dollars on fifty cent game pieces. The idea was to have three of one kind of fruit so that one could win. No one ever won and there were heaps of tickets in the garbage and on the tables. I bet that the makers of the pieces feel good. I certainly would with all that money coming in. I’m glad I didn’t buy one.

I tried diet pepsi and didn’t finish it because it tasted disgusting. At least I’ll never buy it again.

When I was at the L--s I had a fabulous time. The only problem was that Mr. L kept saying how dangerous it is in the U.S. I kept on saying that it was just as safe as in Canada. I don’t think my message went through. Just today I heard about a police officer being charged for murder because he had hacked up his brother-in-law, and there are all sorts of robberies in Tuxedo.

I saw Mrs. Dawson while at Rebecca’s. She hasn’t changed a bit. Her youngest daughter is looking just like Kay did, although I think she might turn out better.

Aunt K and I are always arguing. I sometimes talk to myself and I don’t mean anyone else to hear so I mutter the words. Then she asks “What” and I say, “Nothing,” and then she says, “I hate it when people say nothing after someone asks them to repeat it. It is very rude.” Then I say that it is not worth repeating. There are a dozen more things that we argue about but they are so insignificant that I won’t repeat them except our argument on books. I finished all my books and so I said that I wished I had bought some more. (I am being interrupted at this moment to discuss the subject of books with Aunt K.) She then got mad because I didn’t read any of the ones around here. I don’t read them because they are mainly Harlequins and nature books, such as “That Quail Robert.” I detest that kind of book.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am having a good time despite all my words. It is very interesting to live here. I think the problem is that I’m staying too long of a time. It is almost funny to remember how stupid our conversations are. I am learning how to sew and play cards. The problem with sewing is that I only like doing hems and things like that, but not cutting and gathering and pleating. I could do without that. When one comes down to it, one could say that making empty five inch pillows are one of my favourite things.

Rachel has braces now, or did I tell you that? They are building a new Safeway right by the old one. It is modernish and made of brown brick. It looks much better.

I find that writing letters to you is much easier than keeping a journal. I have recorded everything since my visit but I skipped some days because I didn’t do anything except read, nibble food, and sleep.

I found out what being insane feels like. It was the middle of the night and I was awaken by the buzzing of a mosquito. I heard it all night. Sometimes it wasn’t very loud but I stayed awake wondering if I was imagining it and then it would dive in closer and I would slap my hand against my ear. That was when I felt that I was mad because I heard it louder than ever and the noise would reach really high notes and then plummet down to low notes. I felt that it was in my head but I wouldn’t move to the couch because I knew it would follow me there. I felt I was in the same situation Snitter was in in the Plague Dogs because he kept thinking there were flies buzzing around inside of his head. I am happy to tell you that I survived.

I am also happy to tell you I haven’t had one tick since I came from the Ls. I probably just jinxed myself by saying that.

The cows in the neighboring farm bellow as if they are being murdered. This morning Aunt K said she was awaken by one of the cows because it was in the yard. That was before you called.

Aunt K bought me a nice pen with the letter “K” dangling from it. The next day it ran out of ink

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Sunday, April 08, 2007


"Let's not talk about politics."

I cried, "You're a Bush supporter!" It was too bad -- he was kind of cute. And, he paid $5,000 a month in rent for a house in Beverly Hills, which had a 180 degree view of something or other. He had also read Nietzche. (I found that out in the first minute or two...and again in the second and third.)

"No, it's not that."

"Then what is it?"

He looked at me as if judging my sobriety level. I either passed or failed; he asked, "Do you know who was in charge of the Bay of Pigs? Bush Senior."

"Oh really? I knew he was in charge of the CIA during Ford. That was supposed to be a political dead-end job for him."

He looked like he was trying to raise one eyebrow, but couldn't. "Do you remember how Nixon lost the presidency to Kennedy?"

"No." I was rather offended, as I was younger than him. "But I know he did. Because of his five o'clock shadow."

He smiled and shook his head sadly, although I'm not sure it was in disagreement.

"Bush was working for Nixon. When he was supposed to be working for Kennedy."

"Oh my god. You think Bush killed Kennedy!"

He looked around furtively, as if he were a celebrity wanting to retain his anonymity. "And everyone else."

"Martin Luther King?"

He nodded. "And Bobby. Everyone."

Then it became a has-been guessing game, as I came up with alcoholic, dead celebrities: "The Doors guy?"

"Yes. They killed Jim Morrison."

"That woman who drank a lot?"

"Janis Joplin? Yes. And Jimi Hendrix. Bush's father dealt opium. He got them all hooked. But, I don't like talking about this. Let's talk about something else." He seemed a bit embarrassed about his theory, as if it were a gauche relative he'd like to disown. "Did I tell you I just moved to Beverly Hills?"

"Yeah, you mentioned it. I have a friend who lives in Beverly Hills. Around Wilshire and La Cienega."

He didn't quite sneer. "I live in the hills. I can see Jack Nicholson's house from my window."

"Does that improve the view?"

He looked confused. I explained, "If I had to look at Jack Nicholson everyday, I'd want my rent lowered."

My friend, K, was talking to his bald friend, who had originally seemed the crazy one...just because he was bald and wearing a sweat suit. But, in a whispered aside, she assured me he was normal. She asked me, "So what do you think about B., huh? He's kind of cute."

"He's fine. Except for being insane."

When B. went to the bathroom, I asked the bald friend: "Who do you think killed Kennedy?"

He sighed. "Look, I just know him from elementary school. But, he really does live in Beverly Hills."

Anyway, I still danced with B. But, when he and his friend invited us to another bar, K and I said no. And, after a while, we headed for my car. We were laughing about something or other when a man jumped out at us from some parked cars, crying, "What are you laughing at?"


He stared at us in an insane fashion. We started speed-walking. K said, "Union Cattle!" and we turned right. He followed. We started running, and he ran. We got into the bar just in front of him.

"Sorry, we're closed."

The crazy guy was standing right next to K. I whispered to the manager guy, "He just chased us in here."

They then did a shoulder butting, stare-down thing. Eventually, the crazy guy left, and the manager walked us to my car.

All in all, I prefer the first kind of crazy.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Female hostage

From Drawings

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Junk on my trunk

Porto Pollenca...

We parked on a main street by the port. The next morning, our car was covered in dirt and twigs and such, though there had been only a light rain. G wondered why only our car was filthy. He cleaned it up a bit, and we went for a hot chocolate. When we got back, it was even filthier. G seemed a bit bothered that he couldn’t figure it out. Anyway, we got in the car, and as I was strapping on my seatbelt, thunk! A load of dirt landed on our roof and dripped down the windshield. I looked up, and saw a little old lady with huge glasses that magnified her eyes sweeping her balcony just above us. She had potted plants all over it, and I assume her balcony also collected the junk from the balconies above her, and so it all ended up on our car. She was only a few feet away, but seemed quite oblivious as she continued to sweep junk down on us with violent strokes.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007


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