Tuesday, May 31, 2005

My favourite Sydney urinals

I love going into swanky
places and using their facilities
for free. Here are the Top 3
places to piss in Sydney:
(3) The Sydney Opera House
The room glows like a hollow white candle,
the recesses where toilet paper hangs
are lit from within. The doors are opaque,
almost green, like some glass water jugs.
(2) The Museum Train Station
At the corner of Liverpool and
Elizabeth Street, southwest corner
of Hyde Park. You walk down and turn left
where the railings are wood and wrought
iron and the ceilings are high. It feels
old and British. You piss in a long
stainless steel trough.
(1) The Sofitel Wentworth Hotel
On Philip Street near Bank, this exterior
struck me immediately: an austere curved
brick with a copper curtain that buckles out
at the awning entrance. Take the escalator
to the second floor, turn right at the
black piano. Silvered coffee tiles,
urinals like ceramic buckets sunk
diagonally on the wall. Chrome faucets
with drains near your shins -- to rinse
shoes? Manual sink faucets that you
can turn to cold and drink. Excellent
hot hand dryers below the steel paper-towel
dispensers. A separate swinging
door inside with eight toilet stalls.

a DJ plays the Bondi surf

The 380 bus deposits me on the paved
ledge to the sand of Bondi Beach. A blast
of wind from the south, which is
not the warm direction. The sea is half
white, strips of white and they are
like rough pieces of white paper torn
into wedges, these whitenesses.
This is a scene for the new glasses. And
now come the surfers. Signs that I thought
said WEBSITE are WETSUIT. I set myself
on a white towel and read the TLS. I read
of writers who fall in love and remove
themselves to Greek Islands and have lots
of kids and die of tuberculosis. The
fast water turns the beach into
a curl of itself and there's a man
in a t-shirt crouched in the surf, he's
getting his picture taken by a woman
holding a camera over her head. She's
looking up to check the digital image. He's
clutching a vinyl LP in each hand like
a discus thrower, and he's wearing
grey headphones, grimacing. He is
playing the records on the lip of
each wave as they crash through him.
Beside them is a Chinese businessman
in a black suit, his pant legs rolled
up, his bare feet. He is delighted. A
hundred feet away is something small,
black and shining. A pair of leather

Monday, May 30, 2005

Prawns the size of Lobsters

I meet a woman I havent seen in three years
and she invites me to dinner with a friend
who is a photographer. We take a bus
and buy two bottles of wine. We are good
with our directions. We cut corners and arrive
off a main street in Newtown.
They show me the pictures G took on their cattle
drive. They are travel writers and go
on press junkets and piss tourist boards off
when they mention the beach is nice, but you
might get blown into the water by jet aircraft
lifting off. G lives in an apartment with her
boyfriend, an apartment with a glass garage
door onto a verandah and the rent is $370
a week. On the CD is David Kilgour. The photos are
gorgeous: cropped horse's heads, wranglers
looking off to the left, a ten year old boy
with a new cowboy hat, the shed skin of a snake,
a man shoeing a horse, a tourist in a pink
striped shirt and bug hat that make her
look like she's beamed down from the planet
full of barber shops. They take me out to
dinner in Newtown and share a bowl of prawns
the size of lobsters.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

I sit with all the unemployed actors

It's the Sydney writers festival wrap
party. Jared Diamond had the last word
and the last word was "an orgy of
cannibalism". He had me until the word
orgy. There's a milk crate of champagne
and beer and I'm asking everyone where
I should go with my two weeks of following
my nose. Then I see the unemployed actors
in their black and orange festival shirts
and saunter over to check them out. They
are the wait staff and the program deliverers
and the cafe latte makers. A man with crooked
teeth hauls me to his thigh and puts his arm
around me. If I leaned that way I would want
a man with crooked teeth. There is something
menacingly beautiful in a face that's handsome
with a wild mouth. Who are you, he says. And
while I tell him a woman in a turquoise jacket
stands on a chair and delivers a song. Behind
us, over the Old Coat Hanger bridge, the silver
dots of bats swoop and arc, happy stars.

At the Governor's House

You have to march into the botanic gardens,
which are one of the more gorgeous things
on earth. Except for the ginger flying
foxes. We meet her excellency and then
later I approach the man who has two
medals on his chest. And he used to have
a girlfriend in Nova Scotia. And he's
been to Harbour Round, near La Scie
in Newfoundland. He went to a funeral
there, he said. Where everyone was very
used to funerals. I held a beer glass
and when it emptied a pitcher appeared
full of froth and a man emptied the pitcher
into my glass, negotiating the froth.
We talk for most of the night under an
oil painting of a woman who looks
like she is waiting for a man to ask
her to shell peanuts.

Unfolding Sydney

We are drinking the last of the whisky.
They had taken us to their old neighbourhood
in Balmain, to a crowded raucous
thai restaurant where you can bring your own
wine and you must yell to be heard and
sometimes it is nice to yell. We unwrap
our shoulders from our jackets. We order a snapper
and I open it with my swiss army knife. We
are on the verandah that is sheathed in thick
see-through plastic and we are yelling
at each other in the most intimate way.
These are good people and this is
something that escapes out of the
edges of things, it might have leaked out
of the snapper's white meat, this
escaped truth. Later, hiring a taxi,
seven people fall out of a pub door on
the side of the street, it was a very
London way of falling and maybe they
were British. We were on the edge
of our unfolded map of Sydney.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Outside the Hero of Waterloo

Which is Sydney's oldest pub. There's a yellow
sign with two figures and the word
I feel like loafing as there's the larger
part of me which is an idle man. Then there
is the active life whizzing by like a monorail.
Like something from the fourth dimension
youre not supposed to see. At night the
Australian flag whips past my window, and
it looks like a man running in a raincoat.
At the Circular Quay train station a plasma
screen reads, for outlying neighbourhoods,
Delay Earlier Vandalism. Did I mention that
at the most breathtaking views in the Blue
Mountains there are signs that tell you
of the vista, and they are repeated in
braille. What could be crueler.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Nancy Pearl the action doll librarian

Nancy Pearl shows us her action
doll, it's outsold the Jesus action doll.
She was digitized in a town near
Washington and turned into plastic.
There's a button in her back and when you
press it, her finger clicks up to her mouth,
ssshhhh. I was lost yesterday, in the
valley of steaming eucalyptus, a blue
haze above the canopy. It's good to have
the underdog get a laugh in early at
the power that will destroy him. There
were birds in a large peeling tree. They
made a sound like the tree was trying to
tune itself in.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

We are Driving to the Blue Mountains

A speedboat parked in a scrapyard.
The Anzac bridge, like a harp, across
Darling Harbour. Which someone called
Darling Harder. Amatos Liquor Store,
You Will Be Amazed.
A tattoo down the inside of a man's
arm. Lettering as neat as machine
Brick bungalows with red tile roofs.
But the red is probably painted iron.
Paramatta Road, theyre going to tear
it all down and rebuild. It's the only
bit of Australia that's reminded me
of North America. The Kenmount Road
of Sydney. Past the Sydney Olympics
facilities, just the rims of open
buildings in the trees to the north.
A concrete plant, pulling up sand the
colour of those flying foxes, and
the ginger clay of the French Open.
We're driving in a Mercedes Benz
twelve seat van. The grey pouch of
the stick shift, on the lower dash.
Couldnt they make it a little more
attractive than a hot scrotum?
That's a real Australian sky, the man
says. The one who is reading William
Hazlitt's "The Pleasure of Hating."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ancestors in Paris in 1944

To answer anonymous, the
only man in Paris in 1944 would
have been by mother's father. But
he wore cufflinks and leather shoes,
even when his shirts were threadbare
and his shoes had holes in the soles.
He would never have been seen in public
in a tank top. He was in the Coldstream

With Men on Manly Beach

I take the ferry out of Circular Key,
we're on our way to Manly Beach, me
and two men. We'll order fish and
chips and eat it on the cement steps
to the sand. We'll watch a long wave
curl and turn white around the struggling
brown bodies of surfers with long
bleached hair. There's a wall to
the water that will last seven years.
Above us the points of porches and
swimming pools, hanging over the cliff.
Later we'll visit Rick, the
Canadian ambassador. Or maybe he's
with the consulate. That's how authoritative
this writer is. We'll eat squares
of filet mignon in a living room that
has impressions of moved furniture
legs in the beige carpets. Rick has a
swimming pool with a red maple leaf
painted in the deep end.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

On my way to Australia

Who knew the plane lands in Honolulu?
We are told to wait at a holding gate
for one hour. Of course, I sneak off.
I have to repair the damage that happened
at the US customs site for homeland
security in Vancouver. I wasnt listening
or aware I was visiting the US. I live
in Toronto but carry a British passport.
It's a long long story, I said. The guy
looked like he had the time. This is
what he wanted: my left index finger
pressed on a black window that lit up
red. Right, he said. I thought he meant
he was done. Now your right finger.
As I'm doing this he waved a webcam
at me, and took a picture. That was the
damage that Honolulu was going to fix.
I found a courtyard, open to the sky.
A moist, sultry night.
Huge palm trees and a little memorial
draped with those garlands, strung on
yellow ribbons. The garlands are purple
and white, like sushi squid. I have
the enRoute magazine, and there's a photo
of the Ottawa poet David O'Meara in
there. I tear out his picture and place
it against the garlands. I want Dave to
know I left him in Honolulu. Cheers, Dave.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Middlemarch with W, K and Me

W said it used to be thirteen
hundred pages.
Me: I want to write a two hundred
page book.
K: You dont like big books?
Me: I can't read them any more.
W: So War and Peace is out.
K: They should have just called it War.
W: And Middlemarch.
Me: All we want is a Couple of Days
in March.

Friday, May 13, 2005

the new war museum in ottawa

looks flipped over, its rusted keel
sticking up. what you can't put in
a couple of crosswalks. you have
to DRIVE to the museum. okay okay
calm down. there's a set of rusted
keys in an unpaved parking lot.
they were dropped there in a foot
of snow in february. someone walked
home in a fury. let's step inside.
uneven green tile floors, the ceiling
is a series of odd levels. what
is the intentional effect of that.
remember, it must be intentional.
I pay. the lettering of the admissions
counter is done in MASH stencil.
do you want a combo ticket.
no I do not want a combo ticket.
the cafeteria is called The Mess.
oh god it's gonna be like that.
I'll cut this short because I have
to go to bed. It was a maze in there.
it's meant for wheelchairs and
schoolgroups. of which I'm
neither. there was a beautiful
gatling gun that was unmarked.
a nazi staff car shunted in the
corner. an amazing car. it should
be in the center of a room. it
must weigh five tons. black
and chrome, mercedes, seventeen
feet long. longer. it should
be compared to a volkswagen. okay
I liked the periscopes in the
faux trench. a woman encouraged
her boy to enjoy the spitfire.
look, she said. it's got bombs.
there was a room set off on
its own with the tombstone of
the canadian unknown soldier.
it's a beautiful white tooth
of a stone. it's elevated
so you can see the stain of
dirt where it was sunk in the ground.
but theyve tacked it to a cement
wall. it should be floating in
the middle of the room. it
should be standing on a pillar
of glass, with light blasting it
from the front. it should be in
silhouette, with a huge shadow
cast upon the wall, perhaps a wall
with the map of canada. what this
museum needs is life. I'm sorry,
even the cathedral of silence
where the keel is exposed, is full
of chunky plaster exhibits. there
is no fluid sense of structure.
they stamped my hand and it looked
like a blue tattoo. I noticed this
in the holocaust exhibit. there's
a boutique by the entrance, yes a
gift shop.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

from montreal

okay so \i dont post every
day are you gonna give me
a hard time\/ am in a french
city with a french internet
connection. my god every woman
with a long cigarette. we ask
directions at the ritz carlton,
which used to be full of white
rhodesians. a man confessed that
he capitalizes his emails to those
who capitalize him. another praises
the stories of anthony doerr,
the shell collector. her flesh
was the colour of a pale leather
belt but then \i saw below her
white top that it was a leather belt.
the door code was simple, two numbers
repeated, something you could read
from thirty feet. there was a bank
of propane you could feel the nuzzle
of, or the smell registered as a
softness. he ruined all his good work
by talking loudly in the smoking room.
she was researching a magazine article
from 1966. it made me realize that
newspaper work was not temporary.
it could be as lasting as a novel.
dismay at that.

Friday, May 06, 2005

In the Middle of Things at a Launch Party

If you get to New Mexico you should stand in a lightning field.
I’m a lemming not a leader.
What is meat?
It’s not muscle.
It’s an extra parcel.
Face it, he said, a record is only a flattened-out dixie cup.
So you think the next radio idea is Gene Autry aboard the Enterprise?
Imagine Hank’s Health and Happiness Hour beamed from Mars.
That man there, has been waiting to use the toilet.
But he’s standing next to the closet.
Someone should tell him the toilet door is the next door.
Her thumb is on the red button, taking short silent films of people’s pelvises.
Authors mentioned: Henning Mankel. Rupert Thomson. And a book
called “If No One Speaks of Remarkable Things”.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The dogs of Brigus

I drive out to Brigus and clip a
few branches from Rockwell Kent's
pear tree. To make them bloom
in water back in Toronto. A man
with an old dog. The dog looks
to lunge at me but doesnt have
the power.
Yes he's thirteen, the man says,
and he's blocked with the
The man looks down to admire
his sour-faced dog.
He's a '92, he says.
Later, at a yard sale, another
dog howls from a chain on a doghouse.
You could put him in the house, I say.
Owner: Oh he won't even look at the house.