Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Blue Coffin at the Airport

It rained and the roof leaked at Winnipeg
airport. At the departures x-ray gate I
passed a blue coffin. It was a glass cabinet.
A hose of blue LED lighting around it. I
looked inside. A rubber blanket. Then I
saw the woman. It's a massage table, she
said. Come here I'll demonstrate.
She pulled a nozzle and the cabinet sprayed
water like a car wash. You dont get wet,
she said. The rubber sheet protects you.
You lie under it. She does it every shift.
Okay, I said.
You want music? It's good it's Tai Chi.
She showed me the CD.
It's not too new age?
You'll like it take off your shoes.
She cranks up the lid and I lie face down
on a cushioned bench. A sheet of tissue
on my face. There's a gizmo to push if
I want the water to stop on a sensitive
spot. The lid closes and I feel like I'm
awake at my own funeral. I feel the chops
on my body. The rubber bladder hammering
down from the jets of water. It runs up
and down my body. You can't help but think
it's her, running her hands along your body.

One night in Winnipeg

I like the buildings, how theyre sliced from
the same pie, then pushed around the basin
of Winnipeg and twisted so that
they all dont face the same
way. Tried to find a restaurant. Are you
a member? No I'm not a member.
The ballfield is lit up, so I walk to it.
Up the steep stairs. The game is just
over. Theyve covered home plate with
green tarp. And near the exit, a worn box,
I check but there are none. Perhaps given
to the umpires.
I swim in the Fairmont's pool. This
is the 21st floor, and if you want the
keycode for their health club it's

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Too sunny on sherbrooke, I dart into beaux art

Three people sitting in the grass, in a bowl of
shade under a tree. The shade has moved on them
and sun is glancing off their bent elbows -- reminding
me of the man in the post office I stood behind. He
was short and balding, and in the boundary of scalp
and hair were the numbers 666 in blue ink.
So quiet and so recently exposed. There's a wooden
crucifix in the art gallery, from 1100. Is Christ
triumphant, eternally alive, or is he suffering
for mankind's sins. His eyes are open though his
eyelids are turned down. Sneaky! He is not sagging
on the cross, though he's nailed. There are two
portraits by Henry Raeburn, from the late 1700s.
A great double-breasted coat and yellow vest
on a man. Henry likes a daub of white paint on
the point of the nose. So in the end all you
notice is the daub. My god is daub a word.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

On our way to Montreal

Power lines on towers that look like columns
of newsprint. Passing transport trucks box
us in tight. How invigorating,
like we're involved in a greater economy,
a larger scale. We pass a barn that
is a rusted red. And beside it a billboard
as big as the barn, in bright red and yellow.
We pull in to a service station and stare
at the fast food. There's a poster tacked
below the regular features: a special on
gravy, three sizes of gravy. Places like
Whitby and Kingston are the same size as
St. John's. There's new pavement now, and
crisp white striping, like stitches on a
charcoal suit. Orange contruction signs
powered by solar panels. We hit Quebec and
a line of fluorescent cones with heavy rubber
tire bases, a sign that reads TRAVAUX.
There's a man dressed head to foot in
new leather, and boots of bright yellow.
Biker gear, ribbed leather that balloons
at his lower back, he looks like he's wearing
a borrowed scuba suit that doesnt fit him.
Roadsign to St Zotique and St Polycarpe.
Now there are two saints I'd like to meet
and share a chausson aux pomme at Premiere

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Frogmarsh of Bondi Beach

I fly from Cairns to Sydney and pick up
messages and take a bus to Bondi. It's
hot, bright and the surfers are using
all their etiquette not to brain each
other. I'm looking for Terry and he finds
me, he's calling from the topmost apartment
in a wall of white condos. Up here, he
says, the fourth floor. I find the elevator
and it says 1, 2, 3, PEN. I press PEN.
The door opens onto a wide open room with
a baby grand and a wall of windows onto
the beach. Terry is from Brigus, he met
me with his wife at my reading in Sydney.
Youre living, I said, in the Frogmarsh
of Bondi, and they laugh. There's a photo
of their house in Brigus, the yellow one with the
twine loft. They have been in Australia since
the 1980s. We sit to eat prawns that are almost
red, and cold white wine from Tasmania. There's a
bowl of lemon water to rinse your fingers.
I meet his children, possible Newfoundlanders who
play rugby now and have Australian accents.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I drink nervously in the Railway hotel

You have to walk through a mall to get
to downtown Cairns. From the elevated
parking lot, there's a vista of the
tropical mountains and the sea. The
escalators take you past Angus
and Roberstons's booksale, which is
four tables of books covered in red
plastic for the night. They look like
a hasty burial of books. The first bar
is the Railway Hotel. It is the hardest
bar I've found in Cairns. There's a tall
blonde man with a dirty unshaven face.
He's dressed in mechanics overalls and
his eyes are clear and blue. At the bar
sit a mix of races, half aboriginal and
half European. If you can say that. I
heard someone say once, do they like to
be called Aborigines or Aboriginals.
And the person being addressed wasnt sure
what the question was. It's like the Jews,
the questioner said. They prefer now to
be called Jewish.
All I know is there's an official tone
of grave respect for Aboriginal peoples.
The tourist signs that might alert you
to a rock in the ocean as being two brothers
who are looking for their father will
say this comes from an early folktale
of a certain aboriginal group. And then
stress that permission to use this story
has been granted by the group. I wonder
if we do that in Canada. The other part is
the postcards. These expensive black and
white photos of Aboriginal children holding
baby kangaroos or posing with a gecko on
their heads. What could be more outrageous?

I am the first to leave the Woolshed

I tried sneaking out of the common
area, but I was dressed in my jacket
and carrying wodehouse and was spotted.
Come and have a drink.
There was a styrofoam box full of white
wine bottles. A gift from some tasting.
We're all going out dancing.
And soon I was encouraged and I followed
them into the hot night to the Woolshed.
We pushed ourselves on the dancefloor
and all the whites tops burned a
fluorescent blue and we danced in a crush
to the Bee Gees and Abba and all
those songs I realized I was the only
person in the bar to hear the first time
around. Was there another 40 year old?
Okay a 30 year old? No, Michael, there
was barely a 20 year old in there.
Someone spilled a pitcher of beer then
I realized it was me. Louise from Essex
was exhausted and sat in a window box
and then, when her song came on
nine seconds later, she revived and
with a flourish began dancing barefoot
in the window well. There were two
sisters from Maine and one was caring
for the other, but it was hard
to tell which way the caring went. Then
there was Paul, who knew how to dance. He
was doing something with his wrists over
his shaved head, and I knew that was something
that did not arrive in the human embryo
pre-1970. I was lost to that style and
so I bid my adieus and headed home, the
first to leave the Woolshed. In the kitchen
I found a kettle and a teapot and a teabag
and borrowed a litre of milk and made
a pot of tea and drank the whole thing
in my room with the green fan lazily
whomping and wodehouse finally in my
hilarious hand.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

my own cape tribulation

I had thought to get to Cape Tribulation.
I wanted to stretch myself that far north
and visit where Cook went aground. But I've
run onto my own reef in Cairns. I'm exhausted
and I've left my passport in an earlier
town. I have to find it, courier it to
Sydney and have it waiting for my Monday
morning flight to Canada. So I'll stick
around Cairns. It reminds me of what Miami
must look like. With West Hastings stuck
onto it. I'm living in West Hastings, in
a hotel that has a private room on the
second floor and I listened to the rain
hit the corrgated roof all night. There's
a green wooden fan on the high ceiling.
Am reading P.G. Wodehouse's "Right Ho,
Jeeves". And there is something light and
open and funny about this book. There is
something in it that Canadian fiction
could learn from. Humour and style and
openness. It's a memoir, and so he
abbreviates words. I guess it's twenty
years since I've read Wodehouse. Also,
watched Mike Binder's movie "The Upside
of Anger". Had heard the Joan Allen
character was impressive. And I thought
it was terrible. Binder himself and
Kevin Costner are terrific. Their
roles are fabulous. Those are men. But
what is it to describe Joan Allen that
way? That's not real anger, and that's
not the way women I've seen treat anger.
Binder gives a great speech about preferring
younger women because they enjoy a steak.
This is all true. But what is not true
is his portrait of an angry woman, or
the childish teenaged daughters she has.
It was pathetic. So too in Oliver Stone's
"Any Given Sunday." Dennis Quaid's wife,
and the daughter of the old team owner.
Both are terrible blonde women. What
gives, Oliver? There is no excuse for
men in films to be treating women this
way. I want to smack both of them.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

great barrier reef

I zipped on a wetsuit and chose a set
of flippers. I crouched for a weight belt.
Then sat to slip on a tank. I was on
the back of Passion of Paradise, a katmaran
out of Cairns. We were over the great
barrier reef. It was raining in Cairns,
but the sun was throwing pots of colour
on the water, turqouise to yellow to
black. We held our masks and fell into
the water. And breathed. And sank to
the parrot fish and schools of flourescent
fish and fish that turned sideways before
biting a dead thing and a turtle that
clawed away at an angle, straining its
grey throat. We pushed with our flippers
along the sponges and coral and stroked
a huge clam like the base of some heavy
lamp and its purple lips quivered. Later
we snorkelled around a barren sandbar
and as we climbed aboard it we were told
it wasnt sand at all but the milled remains
of coral after it has passed through the
parrot fish.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

His wife held his shoes

Have hauled my raggedy arse up along
the eastern shore of Australia. A night
on a quiet beach at Lennox Head, where
I found the Southern Cross finally, or
something that looked like it. Men were
fishing in the dark water with lights
and white buckets and long rods. I sat
there in my pinstripe jacket and the
trucker's cap from Small Point, Nfld.
Next day a bus took my to Byron Bay,
and I walked around a cape that is
Australia's most easterly point. I know
all about easterly points, and was
surprised how one can be replaced with
another. Cliffs, wind, the park
administration. There were five humpback
whales forcing fish into the shallow bay. It
began to rain. I watched a man hang glide
for the first time, and his wife waved
at him, clutching his shoes. Dolphins
turned their backs on the waves, and
surfed. There was the dark diamond
of a manta ray. When the rain happened,
it seemed everyone was carrying
an umbrella, and there was a chinese
woman in knee-high plastic red boots,
walking past an agressive black turkey.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Tailgate and a cello

Three men in hard hats sit around an
open tailgate. They are eating sandwiches
from tupperware containers. Two have
green fluorescent vests, one orange.
A woman wheels a black varnished music case
across the road. Must be a cello. A
pair of wheels like an airplane's
landing gear. When I was looking for
jeans I went into Big and Tall. There
are stack of pants, with wide waists.
Me: I'm tall but I'm not big.
Woman: I'm sorry darling, you have
to be both.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A vain man with a sore throat appears nightly

I have a small ragged sore throat,
like a piece of raw liver tied
to my neck and there are dogs
leaping for it. but there are
no dogs in sydney. perhaps the
birds have eaten them. I am
not happy with the length of my
jeans. what a small thing to have
in your head. but I am a man with
long legs and arms, and I refuse
to scrimp on that last inch. so
I enter a mall across from the
Queen Victoria Building. It's a
gorgeous old British building with
no doors on the openings so the
wind can blow through, a building
that can only be built in a place
like Australia or India. I plead
for help and the clerks tell me
to find G Star. I do. And I find
a store that will sell you jeans
for eight hundred dollars. I try
a pair on and they feel like something
they make you wear in an insane
asylum. something straitjacketish
about the thick denim. But then
I find my jeans. Last year's model,
a bit of flare at the ankle. Cheap.
Well, relatively cheap. They cost
the same amount as what they pay
for me to read. Which seems like
a deal. And so I'm wearing them
now, happy with my covered ankles.

a dance show at the Opera House

The piano must have furry feet. They are
moving it around the stage and it is quiet.
The smallest dancer sits on the piano
seat, as if she may as well be pushed
as her mass could hardly matter. In the
end the light director should get a
little medical award. a doctor
of light. at the beginning the piano
is in a box and a mirror reveals that
all the dancers are under the piano.
I forgot to mention in my urinals posting
that the opera house toilets have
amazing sinks. It's a warped white
board and faucets pour onto the board
and there is no splash, the water streams
off behind the board.

Watching Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs

At the cinema they dont have posters
for movies, just a plasma screen that
scrolls through trailers. So you have
to wait for the film you are curious
about to come up. I've got two minutes
to decide between four films and
I dont have time to wait for the latest
Batman to end. So I go in for Michael
Winterbottom. Because of his name.
Imagine seeing a film by someone
with your name, and then tag on the
word "bottom". What do we want in a
story. Is it enough that I'm left with
the image of a handjob, of cum on
a man's belly? A shiny condom
from below? That it's not a blue
movie. That the walls are a nice
shade of coffee. That they go see
a table dance and he has enough
but she stays to experience the full
thing. That he looks tired as she
continues with a vibrator. I guess
I wanted more tension. I wanted
more of the trouble that is
in us all. But it's worth noticing
all the moles on a woman's body.