Thursday, October 28, 2004

Welcome to Vancouver

There are green edges and valleys and
pots of colour, the pale blue tents of
mountains in fog and the pale quiet ocean.
I flake out on my bed on Granville Island,
I'm exhausted and order a pizza and draw
a bath and sit in it until the knock on
my door. The best twenty dollars ever
spent, this pizza, the soft cheesey wedges
and meat and black olives, my god is it
good. I eat half of it. I leave it on
the bed and snooze. I sleep with the
fading light and then the phone rings.
We're waiting for you, Mr Winter, in
the lobby.
To take you to the Grand Reception Fundraiser.
I havent read my welcome package. There
are people waiting to see me.
Okay, I say.
I am whisked in a limo to a posh members club,
tuxedos and ecru evening gowns, a yellow
and brown ceiling, crystal and mirrors.
There's a table with an empty seat. There
is a portion of filet and three
spears of asparagus, a slice of baked
pear. I can't eat a thing. Downstairs
in the Mens there is a set of scales
and a small black book on top. A man
sees me fingering the book.
Is that the book, he says.
It's a book with a lot of numbers.
My goodness, he says, zipping up. It's
still here.
He looks at it. I'm in that, he says.
He flips through it, a man in a tuxedo
standing by the brass and chrome scales.
Here, he says. He has found his initials.
That was my weight in what?
Nineteen sixty-four, I say.
He laughs hard. He holds my shoulder
to laugh. There is a list of weights,
178, 181, 183, 179.
That was my heaviest, he says, 193. I
wonder if George is in here.
He flips to the back, and finds George's
initials. A much heavier man. He laughs
again and strokes his eyebrow.
I'm having dinner this very minute
with George. I had no idea this book
was down here. I'm bringing him down
and we're going to make another entry.
Do you strip off to make an entry.
No, no, just as you are.
Can I put my weight in the book?
Youre not a member, he says. And he's

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Edmonton without a Parka

My bus rolls into Edmonton at two in the
morning, a full three hours late due to
greasy snow. There's been a trapezoid of
reflected blue light in the window, down by
the side of the Greyhound, that has followed us
for hours like some pilot fish.
Sleep my son sleep like a bear.
I wake up to the white window and a
white Starbucks. In my tennis shoes
and suit jacket I hunt down breakfast.
Okay breakfast is over I'll try lunch.
The six foot parrots on top of Earls
look French -- they are wearing white
berets of snow. It's election day, and
that day turns into the night of 14 innings of
Red Sox comeback baseball. It's the
most snow that has fallen in Edmonton
in 156 years. And I have come to read.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Last call in Auburn, beneath Calgary Tower

A woman wets her finger and sculpts my
left eyebrow, another reminds me of why
I broke up with my ex-girlfriend -- That's
a reductive rumour, I say. You told me
yourself, she says.
There are tasty martinis and the crisp
leather burgundy coat wrapped tightly around
a poet's shoulders. A pact is reached, that
if we break up with our current partners,
our next ones will be older and
established or a doctor or lawyer. A visual
artist wearing a military shirt
describes a piece at Truck Gallery: a hundred
butterflies slightly vibrating on pins,
so that the field appears to be shimmering
with their lively wings.

Friday, October 15, 2004

My Tanks Roll into Calgary

It's cold here, and I've been walking around
Calgary for three hours, until it struck
me that everyone is inside, walking in shirtsleeves
behind that thin skin of blue glass and metal. The only
internet site is the public library, where I
took the free C-train (a woman in a copy center
assured me it was too far to walk -- it was
a ten minute walk). I had to kick off
a woman who hadnt signed up to use this
terminal. Well, a librarian did. They are
a feisty bunch here in Calgary. A woman says, I remind
other women of their boyfriends. Another says,
Jack Layton has small hands -- it's a known
fact that fascists have small hands. A librarian
says to a customer, You look so different I
didnt recognize you, honest to God.
I'm staying at the Palliser, and wish
that Fairmont didnt think it had to put
its name on the front of every Canadian
Pacific hotel it snapped up. It even
did it to the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Ironed Man

Lower Town, Ottawa. If you look west down Guiges, you see the greenhouse roof of the National Gallery, to the left the twin spires of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It's the first of October and the sky is as bright as tinfoil. The parking meters shrouded in maroon funeral bags. Norman Levine's childhood home has been sandblasted, new windows and doors. There's a blooming bird of paradise, four feet high. Red. You have to pay now to go into the National Gallery.
When did this happen.
As you round the Curatorial Building of the Museum of Civilization, you hear the rumble of bees, the rubber tires on Pont Alexandra.
We have done our readings now and are sitting in Room 1511 of Les Suites hotel. It's been a hard night of opening beers with the heel of a borrowed butane lighter, in the hospitality suite. Two women on the couch are saying, loudly, We only want to sleep with you. They say it to every passing person. So we're home now, and safe. Drinking Bushmills with ice. A man says, Have you ever filled your iron with whiskey, and steamed your clothes? Earlier, children were playing ball hockey in the hallway to the elevator. When they saw me they said, Nice pants. When I walk to the readings at the National Library I pass a young woman sitting at the bus stop. She stares at me and says, Dork. This hurts me. It hurts the frame of confidence I was building, like pearl. I'm shattered at her hardness.
I read at the Manx pub. I drink six pints and eat a juicy hamburger with grilled pineapple. It's all on the house. My god if you are spending a night alone in Ottawa head to the Manx pub on Elgin. They will take care of you. There's a cheque as well. This is all right, I can get used to this. There's even a driver to take me to the train station. Too bad I smell of whiskey. Yes, I filled the iron with the dregs of Bushmills. I pressed the steam button and puffs of aerated alcohol impregnated my suit. My scent is so exotic they direct me to first class. It can be the only explanation.