Monday, October 31, 2005

Shadow Ball at the AGO

I dressed up in my tutu and a hoodie
with a cob of corn with the letter
J chiselled into it and wore fangs,
so what was I.
I was also wearing a tux.
There were three fairies in
a green aquarium blowing puffs
of air off little sticks.
There was a floating box that
lit up as a hurricane passed by.
They ran out of martini glasses
and I should know.
We tried to tickle the ghosts and
make them laugh but they were very
severe ghosts.
There seemed to be fake sex going on
behind the scrims, but maybe that
was just me not wearing my glasses.
There were film projectors banking
light off cloth.
Later we were dancing with a Fellow
at Massey College. We jumped through
a window and over a fountain. He
is running up a hefty tab at Massey,
and I thank him for the heft.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Overheard at the Toronto Festival of Authors' Hospitality Suite

Everyone dies by accident and it
doesnt matter which carrots youve

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dresden Dolls at the Mod Club

Dried flowers under the keyboards with
Kurt Weill in white letters where you
usually see Yamaha. First there's the
opening act Faun, erect as a bowsprit.
Classical guitar. Girls who dressed up
in tickle trunks. A red light that burns
all black to red. A handheld light source
read our tickets. We've snuck in my
underage niece. Girlfriend dressed her
in a leather coat and applied a slight
dark ring under her eye. At the door
the bouncer told us to wait, as the
line-up had backed up inside. So girlfriend
started talking. And we're in with a
16 year old. A stripper with red tassles
on her butt cheeks, two circus performers
rotating on a steel ring. Possessed dirges.
Devotchka is the second act. The lead in
tuxedo and some dark casual shirt, almost
garage, biker boots, tux tucked in. Again,
a classical guitar with pick-up. An accordion
player who makes a violin turn into a
whole string section. There's a theramin.
The drummer tries his hand at the trumpet.
The band has east European tints to their
sound, but theyre all from Denver.
Then it's the Dresden dolls. A woman
sitting at keyboards and the man at
a drum kit. The songs are pulses of contrast,
loud sounds mixed with pauses. The audience
is mixed, young and dark, but some in
their forties with long hair. There is
a good demonic force here, something not
at all menacing. A flower is thrown out
and my niece catches it. We have to get
out more often.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A weekend with my niece

She likes Chinatown and Kensington Market.
We order the number 23 and 22 at Pho Hung.
I get a plastic man bent over blowing
bubbles out of his arse. We find a blue
parka at Value Village. We see Catherine's
red and gold carriage at the AGO. The spoked
wheels are as tall as me and it was Great. She
takes off on her own and ends up at the
Gladstone listening to the Republic of
Safety and the editors of a magazine I
can't remember now, starts with S. We
take transit for an hour and discover
all the peeled bodies at the Ontario
Science Centre. We schmooze at a Harbourfront
event and eat all the veal dumplings.
We see The Squid and the Whale and cry
and laugh. We play checkers and then
see Junebug and same result. End up at
New Generation ordering take and ume
boxes at midnight. It's rained the entire
time she's been here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My first night back at teaching

It's been months since I've walked
into the U of T and taught. The class
is big, 15, horseshoed around me.
Usually I teach six or eight. Intimacy.
Harder to connect. A rumble below us.
That's the subway. A chant to the right --
another class. Then a second class behing
the other wall. At least there's no
asbestos in the ceiling (last
year's classroom). We spend 45
minutes introducing ourselves and it
works. Everyone says a sentence that
is interesting and could be used in a
story. It's hard to convince people
who have real jobs that their work is
interesting and they can write about it.
A woman who works in mutual funds spoke
of an outside client. Those words, outside
client. If a story began with those
words, I'd read on. Half of them could
write stories just on how they got their
first names. The exhilaration of teaching,
of screwing my face up to think if something
is good and true, then, after two and a
half hours, the quiet return home.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Reading at the Heliconian Club

Inside the walls are white with a bright
blue ceiling, so it feels like a mural
of Santorini. I read to 163 women and 2
men. The men have questions. The
women do too. If youre wondering who
wrote the questions in the back of the
paperback, the writer is Colin McAdam.
If youre wondering what Question 14 is
all about, I am too. If you think, from
reading the book, that every man in
Newfoundland is a homosexual except for
Rockwell Kent, well that would be the
fault of the author. I was wearing my
grandfather's watch, as I've busted my
other two. It's a cold clear night in
Toronto. I took the subway home, and
someone was reading the Complete Novels
of George Orwell. They were all under
one cover. A man with long hair in a green
army jacket was kissing a woman in a
checkered cloth coat. They were happy.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I sold my hat at an auction

The trucker's cap in the photo --
the hat from Small Point. I sold
it at a Descant auction. I've
heard that a lot of people tried it on
and it raised forty dollars. So who has
the hat now? Anyone out there know?
Next year I will get a hat from Jerry's
Nose, or Dildo.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Two things I dont understand

We're waiting for the machine to
print out the third receipt. She
keeps one and staples the other
two together. She hands it to me.
Why two receipts, why the staple.
The plane lands and docks at our
gate, the seatbelt sign goes off
and people in the back rush the aisle,
to get as far up the plane as
they can. Then they wait and jam
others trying to get into the
overhead bins. The plane never
deplanes quickly. So Why do they
do this?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sometimes I want to make the new music

I want to make it more interesting than
it is. I strain and hope that it will
be better. People tell me to listen to
Arcade Fire and Stars and Feist and I
strain my temples to make it better.
Then I remember how I did that when I
was young, when we were all looking for
the Beatles of our generation. For
instance I thought a song by Aldo Nova
might be it. I remember listening to
my brother's records and working hard
to make Prism into some kind of Pink
Floyd. Was I ever really bowled over
by Chris de Burgh's Spanish Train and
Other Stories? What is it in me that
bought every Paul McCartney album of
the 80s hoping he'd make something
brilliant. And I'm doing it today, I
am reluctant to believe my first instincts
because my first instincts are cruel.
Perhaps the popular music is only meant
to be eaten like food and then new
music eaten. How often recently have I
listened to Antony and the Johnsons?
And what do I think of the Dresden
Dolls? And what of Vampires of Love?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My first American review

This appears in this week's Publishers Weekly.
I guess they wanted more daubs of paint.

This odd bird of a lucidly written biographical novel about 20th-century American painter Rockwell Kent is not about art. Other than the titles of a few paintings, and the studio where he retreats to escape his family and the world, there is little discussion of Kent’s work. Instead, this is the story of Kent and his family’s sojourn in Brigus, Newfoundland, where they flee the inquiring eyes of New York for some rural peace. But rather than affording privacy, the small town greets him first with fascination, then scorn, and then, with the arrival of WWI—and the socialist painter’s lack of patriotic zeal—unfounded fear. Winter expertly outlines his protagonist’s psychological nuances, but offers minimal indication of what Kent’s art means to him or the role it plays in his life. The author (Creaking in Their Skins) is on steadier ground with dialogue, which is uniformly trenchant and humorous. Kent’s discussions with his friend and mentor, Gerald, take on the glow of a modern Socratic dialogue or an intellectual improv routine, and Kent’s wife, Kathleen, comes vividly to life. Winter gives us a flesh-and-blood Rockwell Kent the man, but does not do the same for Kent the artist.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mike Summers, my alter ego

My sister gave me a column from the local
St. John's paper. It was about Mike Summers.
He's with the Constabulary, but also is
a referee for amateur boxing. She thought
I'd like it because I boxed Mike Summers
one summer when I was fifteen. Our fight,
my first amateur bout, was billed "the
battle of the seasons." It's a story I tell
sometimes. So I read the column and in the
middle of it, Mike Summers recounts, with
fondness, his first boxing match. It
was against a Mike Winters of Daniel's
Harbour. And how, in Newfoundland,
winter always beats summer. How surprising
to see your own name come up, in the memory
of someone else, in print, about boxing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A long black message and Sailor White

I woke up and in the sky some
message trailing behind a plane.
Can I read it. Long black message.
But it's a power line smudged
by condensation on the window.
It seems when I'm on the road
there are obituaries of Newfoundland
people. Today was Sailor White.
Last year it was Mike Wade. Shocking
when I see them in there, their
lives well described by Joan Sullivan.
And what does Joan think, being
often the person to tell us in
the Globe who has died from Nfld?
I once looked up a friend, Sherry
White, in the phone book. And
right above White, Sherry was
White, Sailor.
What is this napkin spoken
of in one of the blog comments?