My friend Candis’s store on Corydon. Check it out!
My friend Candis’s store on Corydon. Check it out!
After years of negotiations the New Zealand Documentary Board was granted safe access to the secretive world of modern-day vampires. What We Do in the Shadows follows the daily lives of four vampires who live together in a ramshackle old house and confront the realities of 21st century life: paying the rent, keeping peace among roomies, getting into nightclubs and doing five years worth of dishes while maintaining the sanguine requirements of being a vampire. It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years.
This fresh take on vampires is the creation of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark, Boy), two young New Zealand filmmakers. Clement and Waititi play Viago and Valdislav to the hilt as older vampires while Jonathan Brugh is Deacon, a younger less responsible vampire. In a vault in the catacombs of the house lives Peter who is thousands of years old and represents a traditional view of vampires as simply bloodthirsty. Add in all the classic abilities of vampires – flying, hypnotism, silver allergy, etc – and the result is tumultuous fun.
Of course it’s not a documentary; it’s a full-blown comedy, one of the best indies in recent years and a darling at recent film festivals. The screenplay is wonderful, keenly written with a natural comic eye as the men try to explain their lives and deal with each other, various undead and humanity. The lead actors construct characters who are consistently absurd yet possess enough human qualities to create empathy for their modern dilemmas which aren’t that different from us non-vampires. Their encounter with the werewolves made me howl – “We’re werewolves, not swearwolves.”
Watch the trailer and decide if What We Do in the Shadows appeals to you. I found the movie on icefilms.com. Thanks to my friend Kevin for making me aware of it.
Still in the hit parade mode, CKRC was CKY’s rival for the young at heart market in Winnipeg as their weekly chart states. CKRC used the image of the singing beaver in boater hat and striped jacket a la barbershoppers, for several years.
This chart for the week of September 3, 1965 features a picture of CKRC Good Guy Boyd Kozak and the four winners of the contest to see The Beatles in Toronto August 17, 1965. Although I didn’t know Boyd, actually Borys, when we were both DJs, in recent years we’ve become coffee buddies. He did a wonderful voiceover for A Town With Water from my series The Lonesomes. You can still hear his golden tones on the air. Boyd does morning news at QX104 and Fab 94.
I sent Boyd the picture from the chart. He commented, “Thanks Reid..wonderful memories, those three days. This was my second trip, having done same, a year before for the Beatles first trip to Canada.”
Here’s the rest of that week’s chart along with the DJs of the day. Click to enlarge
I love taking long baths.
Alone in the house, I decided on a bath. I made all the preparations, climbed in while filling – my favourite part – and gathered around me a hot soothing broth that would be my world for now.
I’m not a fussy bather. We’ve had large old claw-footed monsters with sloping backs that compliment the curve of my spine perfectly. Now we have a dated blue-coloured metal tub under a shower. Small and narrow, it’s a tub nonetheless. I lit a candle; pulled the shower curtain to create a tiny room and floated off into a warm watery reverie. My kind of evening.
Not two minutes into the soup, I heard a dull thud from downstairs at the back of our two-story house. Then another. I had locked the front door and knew the back was secure as well. A louder, longer thud came followed by the sound of the heavy patio door sliding open. I sat up in the tub and listened intensely. I heard stealthy footfalls and a mutter. Break-in.
As quietly as possible, I stood up in the tub and slid past the curtain. I dried my feet on the floor towel and wrapped the bath towel around my waist. I could hear the sound of brittle plastic clacking. They were after my CDs.
I cracked the bathroom door. The clacking grew louder.
With no phone on this floor I wondered what could become a quick weapon. Nothing came to mind. The heaviest thing on the floor was LPs. Why not, I thought.
I deeked into the nine by nine, grabbed a handful of LPs from the top shelf and carried them to the table at the head of the stairs. My towel fell off and I kicked it to the side. Naked I carried two more handfuls of LPs to the table. I had almost fifty LPs at the ready. The clacking continued the whole time. Just then, the cat came chatting down the hall toward me to investigate the commotion. I grabbed her, put her in the bathroom out of harm’s way and closed the door. The snapping of the door made the plastic clacking stop.
I heard someone say, “You get the rest. Hurry.”
Holding a stack of LPs, I peered over the railing. I saw someone step onto the first landing, looking up. He glanced away and I dropped the LPs. They mostly missed him but the corners grazed his cheek and disoriented him a bit.
“You son of a bitch,” he said coming up the stairs.
I grabbed a bigger handful of LPs and lifted them above my head. I saw a flash of metal in his hand. He was looking up at me; head tilted back swearing when I dropped them. Bull’s eye! The flat side of the records slammed into his upturned forehead. His head went back, I heard a snap and he tumbled backward down the seven steps he’d climbed amid a shower of LPs. Some of the vinyl escaped from the sleeves in mid air. He landed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, limbs all akimbo, littered with LPs. A snub nose lay next to him.
I heard the accomplice say, “Nicky? Nicky? You okay?” in a semi-loud whisper. I saw a hand reach toward Nicky and give him a shake. I heard “Holy shit!” and the thump of a bag being dropped followed by the sound of a bumpy inelegant escape.
I leaned on the banister for support, my heart racing, breathing deep.
A few minutes later, I called the police.
I’d broken his neck. Killed him.
He was packing. Lucky for me. Self-defense. No charges.
Turns out Nicky was wanted for two gruesome home invasions. He’d bust down the door of one old man and gave him a heart attack. The other was an elderly woman in a wheelchair.
Police caught the accomplice twenty minutes later. His wallet had fallen out onto my living room floor.
My CDs and LPs were kept as evidence but I got the whole works back about three months later. There were twelve LPs in the first drop, weighing 8 lbs, twenty-one in the second, weighing 15 lbs. 33 records in all, 23 lbs total. All the heroic LPs involved are listed below. A few sustained injuries, noted with ^. There was one fatality, noted with ~.
The accomplice told police Nicky’s favourite song was “Stairway to Heaven.” Led Zeppelin IV was one of the LPs that killed him.
Everything is a circle.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s SDTK – Henry Mancini
Movies – Holger Czukay^
Fisherman’s Blues – Waterboys
Sea of Dreams – Nelson Riddle
Ptah the El Daoud – Alice Coltrane^
The Notorious Byrd Brothers – Byrds
All Aglow Again – Peggy Lee
Closing Time – Tom Waits
Greatest Hits – Wilson Pickett
No Pussyfooting – Fripp & Eno
Soldier of Love – Arthur Alexander
First – Jackson Browne^
IV – Led Zeppelin
West Meets East – Menuhin/Shankar
Silk Road – Kitaro^
Lonesome Echo – Jackie Gleason
Dear Friends – Firesign Theatre
Heartbeat – John Mills-Cockell
Relax With – Reveen
Rock Billy Boogie – Robert Gordon
The Red Bird Story – Various Artists
Time Out – Dave Brubeck Quartet^
Matching Tie & Handkerchief – Monty Python
The Golden Era – Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys
In Person Friday & Saturday Nights – Miles Davis
Ring-A-Ding – Frank Sinatra^
Floating into the Night – Julee Cruise
Rhythm of Resistance, Music of Black South Africa – Various Artists
Revolver – The Beatles~
Live Stiffs – Various Artists
Unrequited – Loudon Wainwright III
Music from a Sparking Planet – Esquivel^
Hawaii Goes A Go-Go – Martin Denny
Every week for at least five and a half years, CKY Radio, Canada’s Friendly Giant, published a hit parade that listed the Top 50 pop songs and Top 20 western songs in Winnipeg. The 50,000 watt station devoted a few hours a day to, what was then called, western music, country music’s uncle. The CKY hit parade was a colourful single fold sheet distributed free at record stores in Winnipeg and round the province to a degree.
The weekly chart was distilled using a formula that combined local record sales and listener requests and resulting in the hit parade. Post-1963 issues featured pictures of the disc jockeys.
The last CKY Hit Parade was published on February 27, 1966. The Beatles are #1.
I’m not sure when CKY started publishing a hit parade. The earliest one I have is for the week of September 9, 1961.
Listen to CKY go off the air forever on January 21, 2004.
If you liked this stuff, check out some of my other nostalgic Winnipeg memories like Eaton’s Beatle Bar, Inside the Mind of a 15 Year Old Beatlemaniac, CKY wants a town named after it, my radio career, the Beatles come to Winnipeg, even some fake nostalgia.
“We have been transmogrified from mad bodies dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark.” – Jim Morrison
Two years at Ryerson in Toronto had opened my eyes to all kinds of films from W.C. Fields marathons to Fellini Satyricon (below) to Andy Warhol’s erotic western Lonesome Cowboys which was shown on multiple TV screens (to avoid the censors) in Cinema 2000, a modern XXX emporium on the Yonge Street strip. I craved a similar experience in Winnipeg and found it at the Med Movies.
A year or so after I moved here in the summer of 1973 I started hearing about underground movies that some med students showed every Friday night. Asking around I discovered the Med Movies tucked away in a lecture hall in the Basic Sciences Building at Emily and Bannatyne, part of the newly named Health Sciences Centre.
From October 3, 1975 to May 21, 1976 I went to both Med Movies every Friday. Sixty-four movies and I didn’t miss one. It was like getting a crash PhD in classic and modern films at $1.25 per movie. What a bargain!
The theatre was a large lecture hall with full size screen. The continuous bench seating let you stretch out for comfy viewing. It pulled small discerning crowds, the size often winter-weather dependent. The atmosphere was casual, laid back and reverent to the movies. Here are the films in my “20th century cinema course” on the original schedule sheets.
Looking at the schedule, the series offered an eclectic cross section of genre-busting, rarely seen films that together create an exceptional overview of world cinema in the first 75 years of the 20th century. Several of these films left indelible impressions on me: Little Murders, Death in Venice, Zabriskie Point, Mean Streets, Red Desert, Amarcord (below).
I still recall my gasps as I watched Jodorowsky’s El Topo (top) for the first time, being abducted to his strange and cruel world where you couldn’t just watch the movie, your entire nervous system and every bit of viscera also had to fully participate in the experience. I recently re-watched El Topo and it had a similar effect on me as it did 40 years ago. Don’t die without seeing El Topo.
This wasn’t the first year the med students showed movies and I don’t know how long they went on. I didn’t go the next year because my life had changed. I’d fallen in love with Linda.
She and I sat in on an experimental film course at the University of Manitoba a couple of winters later. We created films together several of which can be found on my YouTube channel. One of the more experimental films we made together was called Passionate Leave, shot in 1978/79 on Super 8. More details with the video here
Ever since Aunt Ether, Uncle William’s wife of 32 years (yes, her name was Ether and she was named after the chemical used to put her mother under during childbirth), died of multiple beestings on her 53rd birthday, Uncle William found life full of new challenges. Many of them made him angry. One of them was churches.
Uncle William, who never allowed anyone to call him Bill or Will, didn’t like the insides of churches or their outsides either, for that matter. Nonetheless, Uncle William was a religious man who observed the Sabbath and believed he could petition the Lord with prayer. Uncle William solved his spiritual dilemma in his own unique way.
The “church thing,” as he called it, came on with sudden fury. Every day on his way to work, Uncle William drove past St. Victor’s Shallow Waters Evangelical Home of the Brave which the family attended and where Ether’s funeral was held. One day, as he looked at the tacky fake stained glass windows that littered the front of the metal-roofed building, Uncle William was immersed in The Lord’s Own Fry Pit. He suddenly felt like he was being deep-fried. It was not pleasant. It felt endless. It occurred every time he was near a church of any stripe eventually eroding Uncle William’s ability to be near a church, any church lest the deep-fried feeling returned full-blown which it had on the two occasions when Uncle William tested it on a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and a synagogue.
Yet Uncle William needed the solace of The Word, to feel like one of His flock. Sunday mornings, rain or shine, winter or summer, feast or famine, Uncle William got in his Ford Focus, drove to Tim Horton’s and bought 64 ounces of coffee in a mug he found in Texas where everything is jumbo. Sixty-four ounces is eight small cups of coffee so the ESL kids at the counter did some confused math and arrived at a figure usually between three and nine dollars. Uncle William added ten sweeteners and eight 18 percent butterfat creams, secured the lid and shook it well. After the first few satisfying sips gave his tongue that pleasant burning sensation, Uncle William put the jumbo cup into his jumbo cup holder and tuned in his preacher, his Man, his Chosen One to deliver the very words of God, The Reverend Bob Clutterbuck. Reverend Bob’s radio show The Undamnable Light of God began at 9:05 every Sunday morning on CXXX Radio, “The Song of the Prairies.”
In Reverend Bob Clutterbuck’s greedy world, there was little difference between hellfire and brimstone, the two pillars of his Sunday morning yokel yodels. Damnation and donations, these were the twin tenets of Reverend Bob’s gleaning of the flock. One week, his broken leg needed extra splints which were surprisingly expensive; the next week the spill the family vehicle took running into a Baptist who was suing him plus the extra body work and insurance and “that cavalcade of decadence we call governance needs to have its pound of flesh, its ripple of rubles, its anointed entitlement.” Reverend Bob had an endless stream of misfortune which could only and merely be repaired by cold hard cash in envelopes still delivered more or less faithfully by Canada Post but he had Pay Pal for those who seek redemption from using the internet too frequently for guilty pleasures and overt physical release. Bob had all the bases covered. You could even transfer directly into his bank account from any ATM machine!
Uncle William turned up the radio and Reverend Bob blared into the little car. Every amen, of which there were many, was accompanied by a slug from the eight cupper in the centre sling. Then, with Satan on the run from Reverend Bob, Uncle William began his tour of every new car dealership in Brandon. There were just nine, the usual culprits: General Motors, Ford, Jeep Chrysler Dodge, Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Honda and Mazda. Uncle William had a specific route he followed every Sunday that ensured he got to every dealership without passing by a single church. He worked for a week figuring this out until the route became clear.
“My friends,” you could see the moisture glistening on Reverend Bob’s forehead and palate, “My friends, let me remind you what Hell is like. Hell is like being deep-fried twenty-four hours of every day for eternity. Hot oil on every inch of your skin, filling every pore, every hole, every orifice, every orifice,” Bob liked that word. It was one of his favourite words, “Every orifice forever. Like ol’ taters in boiling oil, Hell is you being boiled in oil forever. Forever. FOR EVER!!”
Forever was Reverend Bob’s trademark word because, at his third sounding of it, his voice created its own echo that reverberated throughout the room and even through the airwaves and into the lives of his listeners, like Uncle William who could relate to deep-fried Hell. He shuddered a little.
“You never get out of the oil. You never get dumped into the stainless steel bin, ladled into paper bags, salted, vinegared and downed by hungry overweight people sustaining their diabetes. You never get eaten, only continuously deep-fried and you already know how long that lasts. It lasts FOREVER!!”
The word echoed through the psyches of all Reverend Bob’s audience, causing Uncle William to have a peak experience where he realized he had been given a taste of Hell and redemption was essential to his salvation but let’s have a look at those new Kia Triages that came in this week first.
Uncle William got out of his car to look at a couple of sticker prices and peer hands cupped through windshields at the interiors of the Kia’s. He left his car door open so he could still hear the revelations Reverend Bob was sharing. The Reverend’s ludicrously exaggerated tones and phrasing boomed across the car lot of Kevin’s Kia as Uncle William prowled the shiny new cars.
“Jeeeeeeee sus must be in your mind and your heart at all times if you want to say you have given yourself to Him, to Jeeeeee sus.” Little rivulets of sweat started running down Reverend Bob’s cheeks and converged on the apex of his chin, hanging, glistening then falling falling falling. They looked like a waterfall of tears, the effect heightened by Reverend Bob’s frequent sobbing, great gasps of air filled his lungs as he wept, the moisture trickled away from him.
“The Word of GAAWWWDDD,” – it’s a three-syllable word when Reverend Bob said it – “is clear and concise. Jeeeeee sus must be like a bee in your head, a buzzing that never ends…”
Reverend Bob began frothing at the mouth, not just at the corners but producing a generous spray of foam overall.
“Children, ma children, ma little flock, we needn’t fear the world because we have weapons that will make the rest of the world change its mind. We can recreate The Stone Age anywhere we want in the world!”
The microphone was so covered with foamy spittle a technician wiped it off with a blue linen tea towel that had full colour images of seven varieties of birds found in New Zealand on it.
Uncle William pulled across the street to Todd’s Toyota to check out the unconventional colours of the hot-off-the-delivery-truck Toyota Maimer. Specifically the colours Maimers came in were oxblood, houndsblood, horseblood, tigerblood, bearblood and salmonblood.
Uncle William saw and disdained the Maimer colours and drove the three blocks to Mort’s Mazda. The TV commercials had caught Uncle William eye and he was very curious about the new Mazda Pillager, “perfect for around town” its ads said.
Mort’s lot became an echo chamber for Reverend Bob as Uncle William was out of his car immediately and visually mauling the Pillagers, his car door wide open to the all glass façade of Mort’s.
“Deep in the realms of Hell you cannot find one scrap of cash. Money is meaningless in Hell. That is how terrible Hell is. Let me say it again: Money is meaningless in Hell. How much horror can you bear?”
The Mazda Pillagers were giving Uncle William a hard-on, not literally but they were getting him excited, stimulated as only he could get by an automobile still aglister with morning dew. The three cups of Timmy’s coffee he’d drank were starting to seriously grab him behind his knees. He ran his fingers across the sensual rear fenders of the Pillagers, their shape reminded him of a woman. Unconsciously Uncle William pinched his left nipple through his shirt.
“The sins of the flesh are endless and uncontrollable; they haunt every ounce of flesh, every sinew, every corpuscle, every organ and every bone in every human body. The sins of the flesh…” Reverend Bob was having difficulty not touching himself during this part of his sermon.
Startled into the present by the Reverend’s words as they echoed around the car lot canyon, Uncle William walked briskly away from the Pillagers, got in his Focus and drove halfway across the city to Hugh’s Hyundai where “the most curious new car you will see this year, possibly any year” said Drive Drove Driven magazine was on display. The car was the Hyundai Quiz Show, so named because at the flip of a switch the car would begin asking you trivia questions. Voice recognition picked up your answers and if you were right, the car applauded briefly; if you were wrong the car taunted you mercilessly for one mile and there was no way to stop it, even turning the car off wouldn’t shut the damn thing up. This was what Uncle William was thinking as he cruised slowly past the line of TV shaped cars and out of the lot toward Freddy’s Ford to check out their new half-ton The Ford Exploiter. Its slogan was “Won’t eat your young.”
William remembered what his father said Ford stood for: Fix Or Repair Daily or Found On Road Dead. He also said Pontiac stood for Poor Old Nigger Thinks It’s A Cadillac and Fiat was Fix It Again Tony.
“Just as the bush never stopped burning for Moses, Hell never stops burning for those cast into it for not seeking redemption in the Word of GAAWWWDDD and Heart of GAAWWWDDD. For sinners like you, Hell never lets up. You are consumed but not consumed by flames forever! Eaten and uneaten forever! Forever! FOREVER!!”
Uncle William felt diminished and insignificant in the presence of the gargantuan and overwhelming Ford Exploiters. He felt dominated by the trucks and, in his true heart, not unpleasantly so. He caressed the huge tires, rubber and skin commingled and set off brief explosions of desire in Uncle William. While Truck and Man communed on the asphalt, Reverend Bob, looking like a dog in the final stages of hydrophobia, his jaw a hive of wet white bubbles, expounded rabidly.
“…the Dark Passageway to Damnation and the Bright Passageway to GAAWWWDDDD. Only you can choose your path. It cannot be chosen for you, only you can decide your fate. This is what you were born to decide. It is the only decision you ever really need to make in your life.”
So enraptured by his own speechifying was Reverend Bob that he hadn’t noticed his extremely moist state. Though his words were a little bubble-muffled, his message still got through to the flock.
Uncle William’s heart pounded as he walked away from the row of shining Exploiters in Freddy’s lot. Though he didn’t know it, Uncle William would have his first wet dream in 31 years that night involving several Pillagers and Exploiters. Sometimes when Uncle William made love to Aunt Ether, he could only maintain his erection if he thought vividly of the Thunderbird he owned when he was eighteen. The T-bird’s leather bucket seats, the way they pressed against his young body, the feel of the leather steering wheel, the willing stick shift, the G-force and the speed were the genesis of most of Ether’s orgasms as William held the car and its parts deeply within his being.
Reluctantly Uncle William drove out of the Ford lot and headed toward Jerry’s Jeep to get a glimpse of the new SUV, the Jeep Jivaro. There was a huge banner stretching the full length of Jerry’s building that said “Jeep Jivaro. You will understand.” A smaller white banner said, “Sold out already. More on the way.” Uncle William kept driving as Reverend Bob broke down into all-out weeping. His incomprehensible words were wet thought bubbles exploding in mangled syllables that gurgled and drowned in the preacher’s moist abandon. Uncle William was getting a little misty-eyed himself as he pointed his car toward Nestor’s Nissan.
A few more draws from the jumbo travel mug put six cups of coffee into Uncle William in slightly less than 40 minutes. He wished Reverend Bob would stop sobbing and let his choir sing a hymn, something bouncy he could drum along to on the steering wheel. But they didn’t. Instead, there was a general mopping up of the Reverend and his excretions to the point where he began his plea for cash, his voice drenched with the sorrow of every tear shed today.
“Friends, friends, friends, there is no greater way to worship GAAWWWDDDD than by being generous. It’s in the BIIIIIII BULL. Generosity GEN ER AWE SIT EE is the key that unlocks every heart. How deep can you dig in your heart today to share your GEN ER AWE SIT EE with me, your limitless GEN ER AWE SIT EE which places you immediately in Heaven, dodging the fires of Hell? How much is it worth to you to avoid Eternal Torture and to find Eternal Bliss? I want YOU to find out the answer to that question RAT NOW! LOOK!” Reverend Bob is screeching now. “LOOOOK INTO YOUR HEART – DEEPER THAN YOU HAVE EVER LOOOOOKED…” Bob was falling to pieces and only cash could put him back together again.
The force of the Reverend’s words weighed on Uncle William as he pulled into the newly paved and yellow-lined lot of Nestor’s Nissan in search of the brand new Nissan Nuisance whose tagline in the ads was “You’ll want to spank it.” Uncle William didn’t even get out of his car to look at the Nuisance. Resembling a plastic box on go-kart wheels, very toy-like and cute in an I’m-not-quite-garbage-yet way, he thought its slogan should be, “You’ll want to get a shovel and bury it far far away.”
Just as he pulled out of Nestor’s lot, Reverend Bob’s 24-voice (actually three voices looped eight times), all female (except for Oscar who has a high voice that sounds feminine) choir, The Clutterbuckers, started a rousing version of Shepherds in the Pie which got Uncle William tapping happily along on the wheel. Behind the choir, Reverend Bob exhorted the flock to give til it hurts.
As Uncle William drained the last few ounces from his coffee mug on the way to his final destination, the song ended. Reverend Bob went insane or rabid or whatever it is, ranting about how expensive it is to get pigeons out of the studio.
“Do you know how much money it costs to erase their cooing from all the tapes we make here in the dangerous dungeons of Rory Calhoun and Clint Walker? Do you remember how tall and hairy Clint Walker was as Cheyenne? They don’t have the spoonfuls yet. The snapshots have arrived in dinkeyfuls. I’m feeling very transparent now. Did you just put your hand right through me? Did you?”
Uncle William snapped off the radio and drove in silence.
As it was every Sunday morning, Uncle William’s last stop was Chris’ Chevrolet, this week to seek out the new Bronto. Cars and Crap magazine said the name was short for brontosaurus and derided the vehicle in every way possible claiming “GM still doesn’t get this whole green thing. The Bronto handles like its namesake; it looks like its namesake and even has an unusual exhaust odour that likely resembles its namesake. It’s a dinosaur on the road. Avoid. Stop. Do not Merge with or Yield to this dumb thing. It should be extinct.” Uncle William concurred with the review when he saw the thing itself and added in the disparaging comments of his morning coffee buddies.
The next Sunday during his tour, a Bronto ran a red light, crushed the Focus and killed William. His death was deemed tragic, ironic and appropriate.
Previously I have posted two black and white snapshots of my cousin Edra when she was a child in the early 1940s. Both pictures were taken outdoors in winter with incongruent clothing and furniture. The images popped out of the hundreds of typical family pictures for obvious reasons.
The first was Sweet Dream Baby when she was about a year old. Click pics to enlarge
The second was Dreaming of Tea Time. She’s about three here.
Recently I came across two more pictures of Edra from The Winter Series, as I’ve come to call it. This time she’s seated next to her brother Arvin on the same little chairs from Tea Time. She’s about two years old. It’s called Me and My Big Brother.
Here’s my Mom wearing the same hat on her wedding day two years before.
Deep twilight I pull into a truck stop outside Maple Creek, Saskatchewan for a leak and a go-joe. A man sitting in a booth writes furiously in a journal; untouched raisin pie and coffee arrayed before him; maple walnut ice cream melting into slow brown rivers forming a small glacial lake. A mammoth fork leans in the cold goo.
His attention is utterly focused on the language. I recognize his state immediately. Pausing in the scribble to re-read a previous entry, he is oblivious to me, the restaurant, the world. He sets-to again, pen slipping through the black muddle, finding sense, the thrill of the hunt, losing sense, recaptured, triumph of abstractions.
“Language is a tailor’s shop where nothing fits,” Rumi said.
I stand at the counter for a few minutes, styro-coffee in hand, sipping, watching him shop for clothes. He never moves his eyes from the journal, not even to glance away during pauses.
I wonder what it is he writes so passionately? Is it poetry? Is it great creeping sadness fiction? Is it pioneer gestures and a town is born? Wisdom or gloss? I weigh my need to know against my personal embarrassment if he should tell me FO or find some physical way of saying it. Interrupted reveries have unpredictable ripples.
I sit on a red vinyl stool watching him in the mirror behind of the counter. He fits nicely between the shakemaker with its three swirling talons that torture milk and a showcase of inverted pies. It goes Talons-Writer-Pies in an even row.
I look away when the waitress offers me a refill. We exchange pleasantries, a moment later when she departs and reveals the writer, his coffee cup is being emptied; his pie plate holds a loose brown smear and a warm fork, nothing more.
I turn on my stool to watch him. Our eyes meet for the briefest moment before his fall back to the gaping hungry pages. His hand works the cup handle, rattling sometimes. The sound of the clacking ceramic cup seems to bring him into the here and now and he stops for a while.
His hand snakes, his spoon and saucer do a lively highland fling, a calm settled moment, cup resting quietly in saucer. He grabs the cup by the lip and pounds it into the saucer, which shatters and falls off the table. The waitress approaches reluctantly.
“Are you okay?”
He looks at her, smiling, and says, “Whatever happens next is what I will write.”
The waitress picks up the saucer shards, pallid against the dark stained carpet. The writer watches her with extreme intent finding a word for every nuance, every gesture, thought, flex and aura; consuming her, clothing her in language to take away her nakedness, to save her from wildness, wilderness.
An ominous shiver shimmies up my spine as I realize I am in grave danger of becoming part of “whatever happens next.” Should I flee now? Get up and walk back to the rental car, disappear into the vanishing point? Or stay and become included in some bristling mind’s embattled journey?
It was at that moment I knew “whatever happens next.”
As the glass door zizzes shut behind me, I hear someone clapping. In the parking lot I glance back to see the writer standing, applauding, chasing me with his eyes, the happiest laughter on his face. He bows ever so slightly just before I look away, forever.
August 5, 2002