Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bird unions and bad taste

I’m lured into the wicker & whatnot store by sale prices on sea grass baskets, but end up at the back checking curtains. This is where I buy tab curtains so thin they are almost not curtains at all, which is what I like: more sky, less curtain. Usually, the store has a good assortment of solid colors, including neutrals.

Today, however, they have a display of patterned curtains. They are “retro” which is the new word for old made very ugly. They are printed with daisy outlines in assorted shades of Flesh Wound Pink, Dried Blood Burgundy, and Trying To Be Red. The designs appear to be doodles copied directly from a preteen girl’s notebook margins. They are so hideous, so gauche, I think if I ever had to look at them day after day, I’d hang myself.

The sales clerk hustles by me.
“So,” I say to her, grinning conspiratorially, “this must be your What Was I Thinking line of curtains, is it?” I realize I am a conspiracy of one at this point because she draws herself up as if I have personally affronted her and announces,

“They’re retro. That’s the style.

Style? Style? That was the style three years back. And since it disappeared from the clothing racks, I’d deluded myself that the onslaught of that particular eyesore was over.

Fine. Forget the sea grass baskets. Definitely forget the curtains.

I stroll past the cheap handbag and suitcase store with its’ display of retro patterned suitcases in the same mind-numbing color scheme. These, if possible, are even worse – huge grotesque orchids blooming on gigantic wheeled suitcases, carry-on bags covered in livid, overlapping ovals that look like bloodied eyes.

Lunch hour is almost up, but I have just enough time to search for the lame pigeon who haunts the deck of the Split Crow Tavern. There are always pigeons on Granville Street. Every outdoor pub and café is constantly shooing them away. They gather around your ankles if you sit on a bench, pecking hopefully at the ground, imagining that your cigarette may shed crumbs or your coffee cup will produce the coveted dropped French Fry.

They are incredibly stupid birds, but they win on sheer greed and persistence. At any given time, there are several with missing toes and I’ve become fond of one who is so hurt that she can only hobble a short distance and then sits down like a chicken roosting. While I eat, I sneak her balls of white bread product that came with my soup – and feel guilty because she gobbles them down as if they were food.

To make up for kindness-poisoning, I purchase slices of whole wheat bread and search the length of the walking street, only to discover that, 45 minutes later, there isn’t a single pigeon anywhere. It’s 2:00 pm and the pigeons apparently keep union hours.

The account of my lunch hour is: the date, September 28th, written in my journal, unaccompanied by an entry, the discovery of new worlds of eye-meltingly bad design, the aftertaste of bad soup, and the knowledge that pigeons have a quitting time.

But I’m only telling you the exciting parts here.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Beige Monday

Sign posted at the Petrocan station this morning:
"If today was a fish, I'd throw it back."
I love petroleum outlet poetry.

I wore beige today. I own exactly two beige items of clothing and I put both of them on, to celebrate the weekly return to work. Have you seen the movie, Groundhog Day? Mondays are like that for me. I wake up Monday, and it is the same Monday as last week and last year and ten years ago - the radio is blatting news or cheerful banter, I haven't had enough sleep - and I definately don't want to go to work. Then I come to grips, for the nine thousandth time, with the fact that I have to anyway because I am not independently wealthy and need to pay for luxuries like food and rent. I smoke cigarettes and drink very strong coffee, bracing myself against the thought of spending nearly an hour to travel seven miles on the number twenty bus. Then I shower, get dressed and pack the suitcase-size bags I compulsively carry everywhere with me.

I arrive at work my habitual ten minutes late, greet my coworkers - whom I sincerely like - and get on with doing my job. My job consists of accomplishing tasks that will not matter when I'm dead. Most of them will not matter in five minutes. But they pay me for this, so I do it.

Once, when I was young and very naive, I told a therapist, "I just want to do something that matters." And he told me this:
He had a patient with a brain tumor. This particular kind of tumor had been fatal to people for many years - uncorrectable, inoperable - but at the time, a doctor in Montreal had pioneered a surgical technique which could finally remove this tumor successfully. So my therapist called this doctor to refer his patient. "Do you know what he said?," my therapist asked - and of course, I didn't. "He said, 'Not another one.'"

So the moral of the story might be - don't mess with a Scorpio therapist if you don't want the truth.
Or the moral might be - some fish you just throw back.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

for Tiger Tiger

These are out of order. I found the black and white, which is corrected to erase cracks and lines in the original photograph, in the Library of Congress online files. I was taken with the beauty of this woman's expression and bone structure. The bottom picture was the second adaptation (the first is just colorized and not shown.) The top photo was the result of imagining her as African...and I used photos of silk batik and african masks in the composite. The final picture in the series is shown at the top of an earlier blog ("Bush and other natural disasters)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bush and other natural disasters

I read The Globe and Mail, the local paper, and half the papers published on the internet. I don't watch television, but I can't stop reading. The images coming out of Lousiana and Mississippi hit me on such a visceral level that I can barely believe it when I look up from the page and find myself in the middle of city going about its normal daily life.

I keep picturing a news clip I caught by accident once. "I'm a war president," George W. smirks. He has the look of a madman whose ego has ballooned to filled up the space where a brain and heart might have once been.

A "war president." Well, it's a damn good thing he let everyone know, because now we aren't furious to see him lollygagging around making speeches about controlling oil prices while half the population of New Orleans dies in front of media hundred degree attics...stranded in hospitals that no longer have food, let alone medicine, stranded in the thousands inside the superdome, while the bodies stack up outside - and young men already so disentitled and alienated give final vent to the brutality of need and anger.

I'm glad he's big on law and order too. We wouldn't want to see what little police power is left wasted on saving anyone when they could be enforcing the law and protecting property. And after all, I have to think, how can you expect this "war president" to relate? Do you figure he's ever been hungry? Or even stood next to someone who was? Do you figure he can imagine, in his wildest dreams, being someone without the means to evacuate? Without gas money or a car? Without anywhere to go? Could he imagine being sick or old or pregnant when the hurricane hit? Could he imagine how it must feel to realize that you are abandoned in a huge sewer and every face in that crowd of thousands is black, like yours, and that no one - no one - may be coming? At least not in time to get you out alive.

I see those horrifying pictures and I want to send George W. on a little vacation - two weeks paid holiday in The Big Easy. And he can take his advisors with him. If he doesn't like it, maybe a school bus will come along to take him back to Texas. And maybe he'll be one of the lucky few who get on it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Virtual biographies

5:30 am. The humidity is 90%. It's like breathing through a wet sheet. No sunrise.

There is a message from Man in New Orleans, who is actually in Baton Rouge, wishing me pleasant dreams. The number of time zones between the two of us mean he's writing when I'm asleep. Half my friends are on eastern, central or pacific time and still in bed when I start my work day.

At least I know where my friends are. WS, my Baton Rouge friend, has friends missing. People who didn't evacuate New Orleans. "I can't look at the pictures," he says.

We manage to maneuver the direction of the conversation to a more personal level. We are getting to know each other. It's a weird experience, trying to tell a stranger about your life online - like reciting one line of lyrics from a song without reference to the melody.

My process goes: state a fact (like, "I've been married three times.") and then add the usual disclaimer "but...."

A good rule of thumb is, "Don't explain." But the capsulized version of my life, if I'm not leaving 85% of the information out, sounds just a little unhinged. The life of someone with her feet planted squarely in mid-air. And I'm far too blunt, which often startles people.

I plead time constraints. I don't have time to fuck around with superficial conversation. I can't be bothered with superficial relationships. The mortality clock is ticking. I have no doubt this attitude makes me a complete pain in the ass to deal with. But c'est la Vie.