Saturday, February 27, 2010


So you go to bed with a decent buzz, still feeling sorry for yourself about this and that, and wake to learn that an 8.8 magnitude earthquake has struck Chile. You remember Haiti.  And then you really wake up.

You understand that your own problems are actually, in the vast scheme of things, a series of life-affirming, well-off-the-mark bullet dodges.

You tell yourself to shut the fuck up and just get on with it.  The way they were doing, before their houses collapsed and their families died.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I look back at the past year -- the past eight months especially and the last seven weeks in particular -- and I tally up the damage: emotional, physical and financial.

Sure.  One can always make a few more bucks. (Selling a kidney in India springs immediately to mind.) The trouble arises on the other outstanding accounts.

Tonight, there are too many bridges on fire.

And I loathe.  Am loath. To say much more, especially here.

Have fun.

Don't get old.

And don't expect any haggis

any time soon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden.  A story narrated by the two main characters, a niece (Annie) and her uncle Will.  I love the dual voices.  The book is both tough and funny. Story of a fifty-year-old Cree bush pilot with several crashes under his belt -- and a bunch of thugs on his case. Annie's story runs parallel to her uncle's and deals with the search for her missing sister.  The setting of the book (northern Ontario) is also a character. No dialogue as such... but you can hear it speak.  Am only eighty pages in.  But there's no rush, is there?

The New Quarterly, current issue, #113.  Some good fiction so far -- I always start in the middle of the magazine and work my way to either end -- by Colette Maitland and Jill Sexsmith.   Leaving the poetry and non-fiction till later.  This magazine is one of the best literary journals in Canada.  (Of course, I have to say that.  TNQ has published my work, after all.)

A manual on literary arts and the school curriculum.  Who writes this shit? And the bigger question: Who actually teaches reading and writing in this cut-and-dried way?  Unfortunately, the answer is damned near everyone who wants to keep their job. (For me, that is simply not an issue.) My kids understand narrative voice and point of view and all the rest of it because I encourage them to listen to what they're reading.  Literacy, literary arts, reading and writing should never be presented as a convoluted crossword puzzle that needs completing in a certain way on certain days on province-wide test papers.
Well, at least I made it to page three before throwing up.  What a piece of crap.

The Heineken label on my beer bottle.

Friday, February 19, 2010


On the day my son turned 19, my mother began her final week of life. That's kinder than saying she had seven days left to live.  The only things I recall about those seven days are these:

I was scared and sad.  My son is taller than I am. And a lot tougher.  For three days, I fed my mother thickened water from a spoon. Then she stopped opening her mouth.  She spent another three days being turned regularly and injected with pain medication.  Throughout, her eyes were open, even at night.  During her final hour, Laurie (her nurse) managed to get them closed. We told her to let go.  I kissed my mother's cheek. I think she knew I was there.  Her hands felt like cold, waxed paper.

* * *

I had a diseased tooth removed from my mouth yesterday.  The pain is finally fucking gone.  And I only bled for five hours.

* * *

I'm enjoying the Olympics.  (Especially digging that snowboard stuff... although I'm personally more suited to curling or a crack game of Crazy Eights.)

The Dutch are good at speed skating.  And making beer. My dad was a speed skater.  He wasn't Dutch, but he made his own beer.

Is it just me or are all the women skiers and skaters extra hot this time around?

Never seen so many crashes on the downhill events.  I get a nosebleed just looking at the hill on TV.

* * *

Ooh, look... there's a weekend up ahead.  Get the Heinekens on ice, Llewellen.   And sweet b'Jeebus,  keep the buggers coming.

Thursday, February 11, 2010



Maybe the Mayans had it right.
Since we left the trees, scrambling on all-fours
(til we were smart enough to stand)
it's just been a matter of Time --
something the universe has in abundance.
The universe.
Not us.

Maybe the Mayans could do the math.

* * *

I've got a fucking abscessed tooth.  I felt something unpleasant in my upper jaw when my mother was in the hospital.  I figured I'd get it looked at when things weren't quite so nuts.  Been on antibiotics for a few days... on Sunday, it looked like I'd stuffed a canned ham inside my cheek.  The worst part of the antibiotics is the accompanying diarrhea.  But I'm down to only six bathroom visits a day now (not counting the ones I need to piss out the coffee and beer).

I managed to read a novel in three large gulps this week.  A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews .  Wonderful novel. It won the Governor-General's Award a few years ago. Certainly took my mind off other things.  I am looking forward to reading her other stuff.  (And she's just a kid: born in '64.)

Looking forward to the Olympics.

Looking forward to the World Cup.

Looking forward to the next beer.

Ahhhh..... the world continues to spin.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Among the many messages of condolence I've received, there was one (it arrived today) that blew me away... and took me back nearly sixty years.  It was from a woman who, as a little girl, lived on the street where I spent the first twelve years of my life.  We are the same age.  And we haven't seen each other since we were seven years old.  She doubted that I'd remember her.  But I did.  (She was, after all, the first girl I ever loved.)  I'm going to write back, of course.  But I need to do something right now.  Tonight.  And this seems to be the only place where one can work undisturbed -- and be served beer at the same time.  (Thanks, Llewellen.  Keep 'em coming.)


I know you'll never see this; but it is important, somehow, for me to acknowledge the chunk of my past -- our past -- you resurrected.  It's the only currency that matters right now.  Thanks for bringing those kids back to life.  I really needed not to lose those memories.  There were exactly eight kids on the street back then... you, me, Richard, Robert, Lenny, Meagen, Ricky and Donny.  And I can see all of our houses and the train tracks at the bottom of the street.  The school was only a block away, hemmed in by factories and foundries. Nobody had cancer or Alzheimer's -- with the exception, I suppose, of Mrs. Avison who could never remember our names.
I still have a picture, somewhere, of you in the back yard. What's with all the mud?
How about Hurricane Hazel, eh? Our roof was nearly torn off and the centre of town was flooded.
There is a story in all this.  Maybe even a novel, who knows? 
Your letter was more important to me than you will ever know.  And I can't express my gratitude properly.
So I'll just say thanks.  To the woman who was the little girl who was my friend.
I'm a lucky guy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


President Obama has mentioned more than once his admiration and love of nurses, and the profound impact that nurses have had on his life.  During the past month (especially), I have been reminded of his words, many times over.  The kindness and generosity of the nursing staff at my mother's nursing home during the last difficult week of her life was truly remarkable.

I can never thank them enough.  For helping me and my wife through those last seven lousy days.  For truly caring.  And for the love they expressed ( in so many, many ways) for my mother over the years.

I honestly don't know how they do it, day in and year out. Nurses are special, wonderful human beings.

From the bottom of my aging, grieving heart... thank you for being there.

You guys are the best.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Thanks, mum.  For everything.   For being my mother.  I couldn't have picked a better one.

I'm just so glad you're at peace now.

This is the song I had in my head today.  I hope you like it, mum.

Cheers, lovely lady.