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Dating Laurie was my introduction to a world very different from the one I’d grown up to. I was a good eighteen inches taller than her, so to me she seemed quite small, and lived what I assumed to be a life typical of most small people. She drove a small car. She lived in a small house. But the thing that struck me most was her kitchen: the top shelves of the cupboards were all empty! She couldn’t reach them, so she didn’t use them. If I was small, I think I’d at least buy myself a little ladder.
I don’t drive, never have; and so for the last 37 years or so, at least since my parents divorced, I’ve spent the bulk of my car time in the front at the right; except for that month Mary spent driving us all over New Zealand, where they drive on the other side of the road, and the so-called “death seat” is on the left, and the hillside roads are fast and narrow, and Rowan, who had just turned one, would invariably wake up in the middle of all this locked in his carseat and quickly work himself into frenzy.
I swear, the more we get together, the more Tony and I start to sound like a couple of old men just shooting the shit. We reminisce about our school days as if we’d boarded together at Eton. We talk about our campaign work with the NDP like two veterans of the Winnipeg General Strike. And we complain about our random maladies as if our bodies might soon return to the soil.
The problem, I think, is that neither of us got to watch our fathers grow old, and so we haven’t a clue how work through our middle age.
Any scientist would consider himself lucky to even be on the payroll of a lab responsible for an important discovery, and yet here he’d personally made two in one afternoon.
The first was the result of his search for an economical alternative to FD&C Red No. 3—for use in food, drugs and cosmetics—and wasn’t so remarkable for the way it looked but for the effect it appeared to have on his normal inhibitions. The second occurred the moment he plopped a spoonful of the stuff into his mouth, and he knew it was going make them all rich.
Are you sure you want to talk to me about fashion? I mean, just look at me,
I wear the very same clothes every day.
Okay, I’ll grant you that I do change my underpants daily, and I do vary things a little the rare time I’m scheduled to see the same person two days in a row. But basically I’m a sucker for not having to bother, especially in the winter when I tend to layer things up a bit, and so can remove and install the entire top half of my ensemble in one graceful and time-saving motion.
Recently, Torontoist covered the artistic antics of Scott Pilgrim, who, when assigned in class to create a self-portrait, convinced a friend to photograph him streaking naked across the “scramble” intersection at Dundas Square.
Then, as if their readers had demanded proof he’d actually done it, the editors ran a follow-up in which they teased us with a link to
the full set of photos
of Scott’s short, cold trip. And although these did indeed deliver on the promised nudity, I found their notion of completeness suspect . . . because, unless Scottie really has no willy, Toronto didn’t really get The Full Monty.
This story ends sometime in the summer with my mother and me wandering in different directions on the beach at Ward’s Island.
It begins in September, probably Grade Seven, when gym class changed, and Mr. Mason had us running laps, whatever the season, practising for our timed run around the goal posts at opposite ends of the field.
Then back to the beach, where I saw my mom in the distance and decided to show her what I could do, and so ran all the way . . . the first time I actually enjoyed it, but the last time I did it.
There’s a bit of my body I want to remove, but I’ll be damned if I pay a dermatologist $200 a pop for something I figure I could do myself with the proper equipment. Okay, it’s only a few ugly moles; they’re just not ugly enough to be even potentially cancerous, which of course would make the whole process free. So I warned my doctor I might just try to burn them off with this newfangled over-the-counter liquid-nitrogen wart cure I’ve found, figuring she would freak right out; instead she actually seemed intrigued with my do-it-yourself approach to cosmetic surgery.
My mother took my nascent interest in
magazine as her cue it was probably time for The Talk, which I must say she started quite gently by first trying to make me think about how girls are
from boys; and, although the images of all those tits were quite fresh in my mind, the best I could come up with was that girls have long hair and wear dresses. So, ultimately, it was up to Joann Murano to clue me in on the details . . . to make a baby, she said, a man has to pee inside his wife.
A word of advice to the more poetic young men out there: Beware the symbols you choose to impress your young lady.
For instance, imagine you’re both still virgins, and that you’ve done everything you can to set things up so as to remedy that situation, and that you’ve even purchased two overpriced cherry truffles to consume sometime after the culmination of said remedy . . . well, you might just want to back away from the silly symbolism, because things don’t always work out as well as you plan, and that expensive chocolate might just leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
I know there were plenty of nastier jobs than mine, but I’d be hard pressed to think of one so overtly dehumanizing. For seven summers I was a Computer Operator, although all I ever really did was exactly what the computer told me to do. When it needed a tape, I mounted it. When it had something to print, I loaded the forms. The room itself was lit up like the inside of an icebox and just as cold so the equipment wouldn’t overheat, and we all worked round the clock because all that expensive electronics had to keep busy.
Back when airports were mostly concerned with preventing a straightforward, fly-me-to-Cuba hijacking, it was likely the first time most of my class had ever seen an x-ray machine, and probably Mike was just caught up with the novelty of having to put the coins from his pocket into a little salad bowl when he wondered out loud if he put a gun in the bowl, wouldn’t they just hand it back on the other side of the metal detector?
We didn’t see Mike for awhile after that, but you know what? I still think it was a pretty funny joke.
Every once in a while I’ll find a single playing card, lying by itself on the sidewalk, usually face down; and I’ll pick it up to see what it is.
For a few years I seemed to be having a run of sixes; I’d find a card, flip it over, and as if by magic another six would appear.
And because I can’t remember ever losing any cards myself, I’ll wonder where these could possibly be coming from. Who removes a single card from a deck and takes it with them on a walk?
That same magician, perhaps.
On its website, Dupray Industries of Montreal, Quebec, competently markets a portable Steam Box capable of directing a blast at 145psi and 378ºF which, together with its detergent injection system, makes it ideal for the removal of old chewing gum from concrete surfaces. And yet they entirely fail to capture the magic of walking down Yonge Street at 3:00 AM towards the low pulse of machinery and the hiss of steam outside the Charles Promenade, the bulbous plexiglass display cases like treasure-filled bubbles floating amidst the clouds, the smell of exotic fruit in the air, the slightest hint of peppermint.
That was the year my girlfriend gave up on any idea of completing her degree and instead seemed to be settling into her new minimum-wage job.
“My parents actually told me they’re worried I won’t amount to anything,” she said. “But here I am, sitting in a nice apartment on a new leather couch, and I think I’m doing pretty well.”
But it was my apartment.
And although I’d never thought I’d ever make enough money to attract a gold digger, who could’ve imagined there’d ever be a gold digger who’d be satisfied with the money I make.
I had three serious relationships in my short career.
My first girlfriend was as smart as a whip but cold in bed, hopelessly insecure, and shy.
Girlfriend Number Two was vivacious—or at least that’s what she said in her ad—outgoing and overly confident, with a laugh that could turn heads in a noisy room.
The third I’ll call Goldilocks, because she was just right, somehow combining the best of her predecessors while patching over the worst . . . the porridge, the chair, and the bed—everything in balance, and a welcome respite from the extremes I had come to expect.
I think more signs should be like those they put up around the subway yards to keep people from hopping the fence: “Trespassers May Be Electrocuted.” Instead of just telling you what to do, it vividly describes the consequences of not doing it.
So, in that vein, how about “No Smoking within 50 ft . . . BOOM!”
Or “Slippery When Wet . . . CRASH!”
Believe it or not, what’s got me thinking about this is the guy who sells ice-cream in our neighbourhood; and who, apparently, has already adopted this approach with the warning painted on the back of his truck: “Caution Children . . . SLUSH!”
Occasionally, after a particularly strenous gym class, Douglas Clarington’s penis would arrive in the showers just a little before him.
There wasn’t much down there to be particularly proud of. In fact, under any other circumstances, it should’ve been the subject of ridicule; but no one dared be the first to point it out, because we all knew the penalty for looking at that sort of thing, even though everyone was.
And so, in a way, I had to admire Doug’s courage. I’d have sooner run another ten or twelve laps than walk naked past my classmates with a stiffy.
Girls be warned: It’s every boy’s dream to see as much as he can of what he shouldn’t, a skill we all secretly hone from the moment we learn what to look for. It’s the way we are wired.
And yet here’s me in class, mooning over my new secret crush, when through a fortuitous fold in her top, I catch a glimpse of breast clear to the nipple!
Never have I had such luck . . . and wanted it so little, because it’s really her that I want, and this tawdry treat is already beginning to feel like the consolation prize.
“If I needed an excuse,” said Atalanta. “it’d be that my mother used to take me down the coast every summer on vacation, and I got so tired of being hit on by all the pretty boys that I made up a serious boyfriend back home.”
“And at school?” asked Nick.
Force of habit, I guess. It’s just easier to pretend I was staying faithful to my summer boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if a unicorn could fall asleep with his head in my lap . . . okay, technically, he could; but he’d probably wake up real grumpy.”
NORMA ET REGULA
“You look tired,” said Atalanta.
“Of course I’m tired,” said Nick. “They’ve got me sharing a berth with good ol’ hot-and-horny Hercules!”
“You do know the proper term is
“I know what the word is,” said Nick, “but with you in your own
there really aren’t enough
to go around.”
“Don’t worry, Nick. Cute as you are, I know for a fact it’s girls he likes . . . but whatever, maybe this’ll teach you something about yourself.”
“Sure,” said Nick. “For instance, I’ve already learned that, given a small enough space, I can sleep standing up.”
Walking down the beach together, they found a guitar near the big fire pit from the night before.
“Somebody told me you could play,” she said to Hermes.
“I used to,” he said.
But he knew it would suck out here in the sun, with the surf muffling the sound, like the lights from the pier that wash out the stars, the same old songs that can still draw us all to the fire, because they sound better there, protected there, within a tight circle of souls.
“We’d better take this back,” said Hermes. “Somebody’s probably looking for it.”
“So,” asked Nick from the shadows. “Just how bad
it back there?”
“Well,” said Atalanta. “The party’s over, so they say. Someone ended up smashing through one of those big coffee tables—I don’t know how—and everyone just scattered.”
“A record body count,” said Atalanta. “ . . . but it looks like
made it out okay.”
run pretty fast,” said Nick. “And I’m very good in the woods.” “You know they’re still looking for you, right?” said Atalanta. “You might not want to go home for awhile.”
“’I’ll build myself a fire. Don’t worry.”
Peter’s sister was a nurse who, when I was getting to know her, lived in a little house on Palmerston, north of Queen, right next to the firehall. We’d been sailing together and, at some point, I guess, she must’ve thought I was at least presentable enough to invite a big party she was planning.
But for some stupid reason I can no longer recall, I missed it . . . a party of nurses and firemen from the station next door.
I missed a party full of people who actually got to be what they wanted to be when they grew up.
I don’t know if my family were particularly fastidious flushers, but I don’t think I saw another person’s shit until I was at least nine years old. Not only that, and likely because of the enormity of the event (not to mention the turd itself) I can remember exactly where I found it, which was the toilet of the Esso station at the corner of Martine and La Grande. It was perfectly formed and dwarfed anything I could even imagine coming from my tiny butt, and yet at that moment I realized this too must be part of growing up.
Trier-of-Stuff wasn’t bright, but the tribe depended on him. Whenever they encountered something different—a new fruit, another tribe, an inviting pool—Trier was there to dive right in. He liked the attention, certainly; but he loved all the females it brought him.
“Hey,” said Maker-of-Things. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“I’m sick,” said Trier. “It hurts when I piss.”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Remember that cutter I made.”
“Yeah,” said Trier. “That hurt, too.”
“Well, I have a new idea that might help you.”
“Don’t worry,” said Maker. “Just give me your cock.”
THE PERFECT MARTINI
Before you begin, you’ll need to set aside at least four solid days for this project. Mornings can be especially problematic.
Pour a few generous measures of gin from a 1.14 L bottle of Bombay Sapphire.
Top it up from a 1 L bottle of Martini & Rossi Extra Dry vermouth, shake well, and stick it in the freezer while you drink the gin.
Once you have finished the martini mixture, start on the leftover vermouth . . . over ice, if you still have any.
And for God’s sake, eat something! Anything. Although an olive or two is traditional.
So much about camping is just keeping dry and keeping all your stuff dry, too, and of course finding clever ways of drying your stuff once it’s already wet in spite of all your best efforts to keep it dry. Rule of thumb: If your matches light and the salt pours freely at the end of the day, you’re probably winning that battle.
Of course, keeping yourself warm is important, too, but more often than not just follows from the quest for dryness. I certainly don’t remember hearing anyone on a camping trip complaining about how cold and dry they were.
Somehow, I’ve managed to bung up my wrist, and as usual my ill-advised attempts at self-medication have only made it worse.
David would tell me to go to the doctor, but then he thrives on finding the definitive solution to these sorts of problems, while I actively avoid the time-consuming spiral of tests and referals and treatments where everyone eventually just gives up, and the problem goes away on its own.
Plus, in this case, there’s a certain level of embarrassment, since I’d have to tell my doctor that it
hurts when I reach around to . . .
wipe my ass.
THE BALLAD OF SERGEANT SCHULTZ
Rogers (Roy) was still a star
When I came on the scene,
With Charles Schulz’s Peanuts
In every magazine.
But Hogan and his heroes
Appeared on TV shortly
And brought with him a namesake
Both incompentant and portly.
“I see nothing,” Schultz would say,
To my classmate’s jubilation.
He knew nothing, nothing heard . . .
Until their cancellation.
Then Robert Crane was murdered
And Sergeant Schultz had gone
And reruns of the Nazi camps
Were hardly ever shown.
So, I suppose the lesson is
To name kids carefully,
Even though we named our boy
After Mister Bean.
Abbé Nicolas Louis de Lacaille was a French astronomer noted for his catalogue of nearly 10,000 southern stars. He mapped great swaths of sky and defined the constellations that had once laid hidden from the eyes of the ancient world. He saw them first . . . and he gave them all unbelievably shitty names.
In chronicalling the drama that played out each night against the celestrial sphere, the Greeks had drawn upon their culture and the world around them: a world of nature, magical creatures, and gods.
Lacaille looked around his room and gave us . . . The Telescope, The Furnace, and The Clock.
The Tip Jar