Friday Words XIX: Inure

Defn: Accustom someone to something, especially unpleasant.

We were kids and used to goof around all the time, snowballs, street hockey and riding our banana seat bikes down to the ravine. And then, I don’t know when, he was different. He thought that he knew everything and that I didn’t. I got inured to that until I finally told him what I thought. We don’t talk anymore.

Travel Thursday: The Metaphor of It

I’m giving up on Existential Thursdays. Got tired of pushing that rock up the hill! Instead, let’s try Travel Thursday because it’s always nice to go somewhere, especially when you can’t.

In the lives of emperors there is a moment which follows pride in the boundless extension of territories we have conquered and the melancholy and relief of knowing we shall soon give up any thought of knowing and understanding them. There is a sense of emptiness that comes over us at evening.

Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and never will have.*

Excerpted from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.

Pandemic Accomplishments in Week Eight

Eight weeks and counting. Time to list things I have completed so far:

a. Took over 100 pictures of empty New York streets

b. Attended Zoom events with famous people including McCaulay Culkin and Joel Cohen.

c. Read this book twice.

d. Starting in Week Two, rode this machine almost every day.

Note the backwards handlebars which were not fixed until Week Six

e, Most impressively, I reached Level 371 of Fishdom

Young Chronicles III: Cochrane to Timmins

Mileage 8573

I phoned my mom last night and everybody is fine. And me and Nigel had a party last night. We had three cookies and we watched TV. Then everybody went to bed and a pillow fell on me. And we saw two mouse like in the picture.

Mileage 8638

We are arriving in Timmins and we are ahead of the two cars, Mr. Fleming and Mrs. Cohen. We went to an open pit mine. It is 4/3 of a mile long and 1/2 a mile wide and 500 feet deep. They told us they have been working for seven years and they are going to work for three more years!

Then we went on a tour of a Timmins. We got magazine called The Golden Porcupine. The weather changed and it began to rain. Then we saw a skating rink and Frank Mahovlich learned to skate there. And I got one rock for dad, one for mom, and two for my sister and two for my brother. And one for me.

Mitz Calls His Condolences

Mitz, an old acquaintance from college, called out of the blue after my mother died. I knew that his wife put him up to it. She was a sweetheart. I don’t know why she stayed with him. Mitz was a dick. Years back, he fucked my ex-wife when she was passed out drunk and pretended he was drunk too.

“So how are you doing?”

That was his opening line, and It went on like that until I finally said it for him. “You’re calling about my mother’s death?”

“Are you doing okay?”

“Fine, thanks for asking.”

“Are you in Toronto for the funeral?”

“Still in New York, Mitz. Quarantined like everyone else.”

“Oh, yeah, I don’t know where my mind is at. But you’re doing okay?”

“What about you, Mitz? What about you?”

“I’m managing this co-op. And so that’s good.”

“No, I mean, are you still fucking drunk chicks?”

He pretended not to hear, but I wouldn’t let him off the hook.

“Or did you stop doing that?”

“Okay, that’s good. I’m glad you’re doing okay.”

“Yes, Mitz, I’m doing okay. Everybody is doing fucking okay.”

But he was gone by that time, and I didn’t know if I was supposed to feel bad about that.

Friday Words XVII: Deus Ex Machina

Defintion: An unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel.

The key word being ‘contrived’. In other words, fiction. One day we might even accept that the only empathetic machinery in the universe is in our imaginations.

The Elephant’s Child as Existential Hero

Rudyard Kipling’s 1902 children’s story certainly has its flaws, but there are some merits to it, one being The Elephant’s Child comes across as an existential hero.

There was one Elephant—a new Elephant—an Elephant’s Child—who was full of ‘satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions. He asked, ‘What does the Crocodile have for dinner?’ Then everybody said, ‘Hush!’ in a loud and dretful tone, and they spanked him immediately and directly, without stopping, for a long time. He said, ‘My father has spanked me, and my mother has spanked me; all my aunts and uncles have spanked me for my ‘satiable curtiosity; and still I want to know what the Crocodile has for dinner!’

The Elephant’s Child wants to know things, even though he is beaten for that desire.

So he pulled, and the Elephant’s Child pulled, and the Crocodile pulled; but the Elephant’s Child and the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake pulled hardest; and at last the Crocodile let go of the Elephant’s Child’s nose with a plop that you could hear all up and down the Limpopo.

The reward for his desire for knowledge is permanent physical deformity, which he then promptly turns to his advantage.

‘Your nose looks very ugly,’ said his hairy uncle, the Baboon.

‘It does,’ said the Elephant’s Child. ‘But it’s very useful,’ and he picked up his hairy uncle, the Baboon, by one hairy leg, and hove him into a hornet’s nest. Then that bad Elephant’s Child spanked all his dear families for a long time, till they were very warm and greatly astonished. He pulled out his tall Ostrich aunt’s tail-feathers; and he caught his tall uncle, the Giraffe, by the hind-leg, and dragged him through a thorn-bush.

The Elephant’s Child takes it too far in the end, however he does assert his point of view and establishes a new understanding of the world. All of this due to his desire for knowledge.

For my mother

The Fear I: The Wizard of Oz

The very first time The Fear hit me was when I was six or seven years old. We were having Sunday supper and were watching The Wizard of Oz. Everything seemed to be normal. Nothing of note, to the best of my memory, happened that day. This was probably the fourth or fifth time I had seen the film. And then, right when the witch appeared in a cloud of orange smoke in Munchkin Land I got this horrible feeling. I wasn’t afraid of the witch; it wasn’t anything like that. It was a much more general feeling. Everything just seemed wrong, bad, evil. I couldn’t sit still. I had to stand up and move.

I walked across the room – nobody, not my sister, brother, father or mother, seemed to take any particular notice – and sat in a chair in the corner. I figured that if I didn’t watch the movie the feeling would go away. But it didn’t. I walked out of the room, down the hall and around the quiet, empty house. I paced up and down the stairs, went room to room, floor to floor. It took some time, but it did eventually fade away. I never directly associated the feeling with anything, but the movie certainly did seem to have brought it on. I didn’t watch any more of the film that night, nor did I see it for another fifteen years.

For the next few years I had two consistent nightmares. One where a witch lived in the basement and another where I would be sucked in between the walls and into the pipes by some sort of foreboding evil. I saw The Wizard of Oz again sometime later. It was incredible; no horrible feelings. I laughed all the way through. It is one of the best films ever made.

Knowing Nothing

I like to think that I know things. I read and think and write, and so I think I know things. And then at the end of it, or the middle of it, or before it even started. I don’t even know what I am doing, let alone who I am or anything else.

I read others with a hyper-critical eye, noting what should have been edited or elaborated, highly judgmental of narrative structure or character development, whatever it might be, something not quite there, or maybe too perfectly so, that I, yes me, would have done better.

I think as I sit on the fire escape, or at least think that I do, cigarette and scotch in hand, and message myself revelations that are repetitively vacuous or vacuously repetitive, one or the other, but seem an absolute at the time. And so I write those down and put them in some kind of order resembling something or other. I do all of that, over and over again, and finally send some of that to an editor not to be edited but just to get a contact and get published and instead get this feedback on page one.

And that’s when I think that I don’t know what I thought I did or even know that I didn’t know anything to start, that it’s a charade, because even if I do the edits – and I will – I won’t know what it is anymore because I’m just doing it to get published and I’ve lost sight of the thing that made me push off into the unknown in the first place or something like that, something that I should text myself or delete or not even have bothered to have thought of at all.

Words XVI: Insidious

There is no dramatic moment, no towering wave to crash on our shores, no horde of viral hornets descending upon us.

Hurricane Sandy 2012, East River, New York City

It’s just this insidious thing which inevitably grinds us into silence.

Covid-19 Quarantine 2020, Mid-Town, New York City