Post Op

Bundled in blankets, I watch the rectangles of fluorescence glide past as I am rolled down the hall. I don’t care about anything until I realize that I cannot feel anything below my waist. I cannot feel my feet or penis. I think about that. Think isn’t the right word. I consider that, dazedly consider the meaning of that, until I finally look down to find my toes pointing up against the sheets.

My penis is harder. Not harder. That’s not the word. But impossible to see beneath the sheet. I reach down to find it, loose and fleshy, senseless but there. I do that again and again, reach down, hoping it will regain its senses, and stare off as I’m wheeled again, into the elevator, into my room, and watch the various technicians jab needles for blood and fluids, let me drift off, now six oxycodones deep.

I greet each of the technicians as they check my vitals. I am chatty on the drugs, holding out my arm, being blithe and pithy, in between epiphanies for Mina, the third and final installment of the Cx Trilogy. Iterations of me. That’s what this is: me in the bed, me out the door, me on another planet.

I wiggle my toes and touch my penis. I am coming back into myself.

Media Scum Find Their Goat: Mike Babcock

The relentless attacks against former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock are another example of what is wrong with sports journalism. A new player is dug up every day – Nazem Kadri the latest – on Babcock’s tactics as coach. The vitriol is then vaguely, insidiously, connected to the racism of Bill Peters.

As I have written previously, it’s the sportswriters – talk about an oxymoron! – that are the root of the problem. Imagine going through their closets of homophobia and ethnocentrism. Ew, David. Indeed, if they were really concerned with the coaching culture in hockey, what of the obvious monsters who barely last 2-3 years per team – Mike Kennan, John Tortorella, Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle, et al? Why are they not suffering the slings and arrows of this onslaught? Laziness perhaps? Stupidity? Sportswriters are after Babcock because they are pissed off at him. Babcock never gave them the respect they desperately craved. He laughed them off. “Hey, Coach Babcock, why didn’t you give Auston Matthew three more minutes of ice time? Why didn’t you play Spezza on opening night? Why won’t you listen to us, Coach Babcock? We know best!”

The Toronto Maple Leafs are underperforming because they lack discipline. Their elite players – Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Taveras – rely on skill and not discipline. They do not work as a team. They fail to clear the zone. They do not dig in the corners. They forget to take the man. As wonderful as skill might be – especially for an All Star Game – hockey is hockey. It’s tough. It’s hard. There is no pointing fingers. The only one to answer for a loss is oneself. As if any of these sportswriters would know that.

Split in Half, Sinking

The world in my brain is more real than anything else, vivid and ingrained, clinging to the outside of a plane as it arcs over the river, the detritus of other planes split in half, sinking.

I walk naked with strangers, hide in a hot tub, staring at my love as she stares back, ignoring me, self-fellating, unable to dial my phone and get the right plane back, get back to some place that might make sense, as strange and awful as most of it is, how like me it resounds.

Clarity of the Surgical Moment

Live in the moment. That is what they say. You only get one life to life and you should live it to the fullest. They say that. I say it too.

Only it is not so easy to do. We have our routines, always doing the same things, seeing life in the same way. When it comes down to it, we forget what’s what. We are an exceptionally complacent lot.

Surgery is just the thing to break that mindset, getting stripped down, tubes stuck in, told to wait and wait and wait and wait.

That is a good time to think, waiting for the anesthetic to kick and then wear off, and then the painkillers to kick in and wear off, and then the steps out of bed, the first bowel movement, all of that, living in the moment, accepting that.

That’s when it clicks that this is it, nothing else, just this. This is this. And it’s good to remember that.

The Cancer of the Toronto Maple Leafs

The diagnosis is in for the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is a problem. And it is terminal. However the cure is something of a surprise. It is not trading Tyson Barrie. (Brandon Maron at Sportsnet). It is not restructuring the team (Jonas Siegel, The Athletic). And it sure as hell is not firing Mike Babcock. (James Mirtle, The Athletic, et al.)

Indeed it has nothing to do with Babcock’s handling of Matthews’ playing time nor his not playing Spezza in the season opener, nor even his comments on Marleau aiming to play the most games in history. It is instead the reports of these things. The reporters.

When reflecting on the media hysteria related to the Leafs’ current woes, there is no need to look any further than the reporters themselves. That’s right. It’s time to shoot the messengers.

I was a reporter for a neighborhood weekly in Toronto some years back, and while my insights into the sports world were well short of revelatory, my awareness of the reporters pool was acute. These guys are lazy and angry. They are wanna-be’s with over-inflated egos, sad little fellows who sit at the back of the bus, furious that their yearly salary barely matches an athlete’s per diem. That is why they foam at the mouth at every opportunity they get. It seems to help them sleep at night or something.

And so the cure is simple really. Re-assign these little boys to do something productive with their lives – ushers maybe? Let’s just stop all of this chatter for a while. What about that? Maybe just let the players play and Babcock coach. Let’s do that first. And then who knows what will happen? A few wins possibly? And the silence. Yes, that too.

Wanted and Not Wanted in Hollywood, 1917

Not wanted: stories dealing with the ruin of young girls, betrayal of virtue, neglect of children, cruelty to animals, excessive smoking, drunk cowboys always looking for a fight, extreme manifestations of sex, maudlin displays of patriotism…

…situations likely to instill fear, insanity, hunchback, sissies, gruesomeness, gun-play, milk bottles to indicate poverty, rats, snakes, kittens as well as distressing situations.

Wanted: light dramas, comedy-drama, amusement, good fights, fine riding, topical stories, domestic drama, mother stories, heart interests, suspense and stories based on war conditions but not showing actual war stuff.

From Scott Eyman’s The Life and Times of John Ford

William Basinski Plays Magnificent Loops

Visionary minimalist performer William Basinski played a marathon eight-hour show at The Issue Project Room on November 9 in Brooklyn Heights.

Performed is not a fair word for this event. While he was most certainly dressed as a performer – head to toe in black, including gloves and dark glasses – he did little more than sit at a large table, chose the desired track, and then stared out, like the rest of us.

I was a little off to the side, near the sound board, where two tech guys either slept or hunched over their phone and incessantly scrolled their social media. So began the eight-hour marathon.

The small crowd of 200 sat rapturously watching Basinski watch his laptop as a Borealis light show dripped down the wall of the very cool – actually cold – landmark building. It was hard to stay focused – even with the cold – hard not to drift off to sleep, Basinski himself wandering off every hour for 10-minute breaks of his own.

Basinski is best known for The Disintegration Loops, a collection of loops he had recorded many years ago on analog tapes and re-recorded on 9/11 as the tapes physically deteriorated. He played four of these haunting recordings – Disintegration Loops 1.2,.2.1, 4 & the epic Disintegration Loop 5 – or, to be more accurate, his computer played these as he watched his computer and we watched him do that as the visuals continued to cascade.

In the end, Basinski closed his laptop, the visuals faded, and he thanked the 60 or so of us who had persevered and offered free stickers as our reward.

As crazy as it might sound, as tired as I was, all I could think of was when he might be doing this again.

Polar Bear Chase

We paddled slowly. One seal popped up in the water. That was strange. We hadn’t seen any since the mainland. Suddenly Don pointed. “Is that a polar bear coming towards us?”

“I can’t see anything,” I said. “Maybe it’s foam.”

“No, it’s a polar bear. Get your camera out and get a picture,” Don said.

I yanked the spray skirt off and reached for the camera. “What am I doing? I’m getting out of here,” I yelled back. The polar bear was coming at us from an angle to cut us off from shore. All I could see was the tip of his nose, his beady eyes and the tip of his head with the little ears lying flat. He made no wake as he slid towards us. Spontaneously we veered away toward the open sea.

Don yelled, “Look back and see if he’s still coming.”

I’d glanced back. Yes, he’s still coming.” I kept checking. The bear raised himself to a normal swimming position and now there was a wake as the chase began. The bear wasn’t giving up. We paddled as hard as we could for an hour. Luckily the waves were moderate and the wind was in our favor. I couldn’t see the bear anymore.*

*Extract from Victoria Jason’s Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak.

Jerry Garcia on the Obvious

I love it when it’s possible to (explore transitions between songs). That’s something that I am better at than I am at other things. That’s one of the things that I am good at. Eventually, like, if I have a place to go, eventually, I can get there and make it pretty seamless. Because for me, the relationship between one thing and the other is always obvious. You know what I mean?

Even if it’s completely invisible to everybody else, to me, it’s always really obvious, and all I need to do is know both halves and eventually I’ll find a place that works, the walk between the two. Like Weir sometimes does it, but has sort of a blockier notion, you know? Which is okay. But for me, I like that invisible thing. I like that sleight-of-hand approach. (Excerpt from Petter Conners’ Cornell ’77)

The Evil Spirits in Kosinki’s “Painted Bird”

I tried to visualize the manner in which the evil spirits operated. The minds and souls of people were as open to these forces as a plowed field, and it was on these fields that the Evil Ones incessantly spread their evil seed. If their seed sprouted to life, if they felt welcomed, they offered all the help that might be needed, on the condition that it was used for selfish purposes and only to the detriment of others.

These creatures that inhabited the human soul observed keenly not only man’s every action but also his motives and emotions. What mattered was that a man should consciously promote evil, find pleasure in harming others, nurturing and using the diabolical powers granted to him by the Evil Ones in a manner calculated to cause as much misery and suffering around him as possible.

Only those with a sufficiently powerful passion for hatred, greed, revenge or torture to obtain some objective seemed to make a good bargain with the powers of Evil. Others, confused, uncertain of their aim, lost between curses and prayers, the tavern and the church, struggled through life alone, without help from either God or the Devil. (Exceprted from Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird)