272 Earl Street

I'm going to a party in Kingston today. For a newspaper; or more specifically, for a newspaper culture, born of a newspaper house. Sadly, it's a wrecking ball party.

Along with my friend Greg, I was editor-in-chief of that newspaper for a year: May 2001-April 2002. Managing a staff of 30+ reporters, editors, photographers and business staff, along with hundreds of volunteers, was the most difficult thing I ever did.

Greg and I would often work 12-20 hours a day together in the Journal House on Earl Street. Most nights I'd go home to my third story apartment on King Street, wired or exhausted, feeling like the loneliest person in the world. Mostly I felt I had no control over my existence, because I was locked into this newspaper machine.

In September our computer network caught a virus, and our entire hard drive was wiped out - essentially vapourizing the Journal's computer archives. A couple weeks before that our web site URL had been stolen by internet pirates in Hong Kong. These were unfamiliar waters. Not to mention the constant accusations of racism, sexism, ageism, whatever-ism anytime we published a story someone disagreed with. We had many tense confrontations with the Human Rights Office - it became a running joke actually. These were the weeks directly following Sept 11, and folks in general were a bit hysterical.

I should stress that at no time as a newspaper editor did I consider myself a 'real journalist', though I had worked for a summer as a reporter for the city daily. I was just some guy, a comedian who had landed on an unfamiliar stage. I was surrounded by real newspaper types though. I was/am so proud of all of them. More than half a dozen of my co-editors are currently writing for major print publications - like Greg, who writes for the Globe. I knew they were going far, but I would wander still. I was some sort of vagabond/eccentric and not future reporter material, this much I already knew - but I put my head down, wrote, edited, managed, tried to act like a leader, and got every last drop out of the experience. It was the best year of my life, and it almost killed me.

By November it had become clear that our advertising dollars (90% of our revenue) had gone to shit. We were losing buckets of money. It was right after 9/11, and no big national advertisers were buying ads in university papers. We had long pissed off the student government with our stories about them, so they were less than sympathetic. To maintain our autonomy, we decided to cut our own salaries - by 25per cent. It was either cut costs, or risk being shut down by the finance board. Greg and I had to make the decision, to cut the salaries of the people who worked alongside us, 12-20 hours a day, who all but bled for the paper. We called a meeting and I tried to explain to my best friends why I was no longer able to pay them. Someone at the meeting made a comment and I broke down. People at the meeting started to cry. The next day when I woke up, I realized that I couldn't walk.

I was physically in tatters and emotionally annihilated. And still I was producing a 30-page newspaper twice a week. Looking back now it doesn't seem so serious, but the stress at the time was literally crippling. For three months I wobbled around campus on a cane. I was 23 years old and trying to graduate from university for the second time. I had a girlfriend living 1500 miles away.

I came home one night, looked out my window onto King Street and wrote 30 minutes of glorious horseshit without stopping to look at the screen:

I wish I could quit my day job, he said with a coffee breath and a tired smile. I miss the madness that made me mirthful. It’s been the longest while, this nine-month trial. You’ll be a new man soon, this builds character you see. For too long I have been sitting in such pain; when your guitar stops making music and there’s too much responsibility to bear. And your friends all wonder where you’ve gone, and when you reappear it’s like you’re no longer there. And the weather gets colder and you worry about the holes in your socks, and your mother phones and asks how you’re doing, but you can never tell her, tell her the truth that something somewhere along the way drove you mad. And all you have left to show the world you still have sanity intact is blazing intelligence, which most fear, and others ask no questions because they are afraid you may answer. And music is your only salvation, and the things that eat at you aren’t half as unsettling as the things you are eating for breakfast lunch and dinner, and no, man there is certainly not enough fibre in your diet. And the only solace you have is the book in your drawer which takes you to another planet and there it is that you are warm and surrounded by good things again, and what is it really that bothers you man? Is it the pain in your neck that reminds you that you are mortal? There is no really good metaphor in your head and you are drowning in abstractions like a centipede in a toilet bowl, so much good do your hundred flailing limbs do you. And what can one person do to fix the world? You may as well admit that you are feeble and that change may or may not come, but it certainly won’t be at your behest for it is fate that determines your course in life and any choice you thought you had control over, well the illusion of that crumbled along with so many others the day those giant flaming gas tanks flew into those towers. And now there are so many babies crying, so many more than yesterday, and they will grow up stunted and without any illusions which is the cruelest thing of all to have to face reality at such an early age. Or wait, maybe it is crueler still to have illusions to have them all your life and then one day they vanish and you wake up and even though there are hundreds suffering and even a few laughing along beside you, you still have to realize that you are alone, and it is then, and only then, and you rue this moment for it shatters your aura of invincibility, and it is this one thing: that you need God, but where is He? And you look for meaning in the events that you can’t believed even happened, and it is futile to try to explain so you do your best to hold on tightly to those around you, even though they can’t look into your head and see how deeply you need them. And someday I will understand what it is that one-year-olds giggle about. Until then I cry, so much older for my realizations, so much at a disadvantage for the more I understand, and I wish my brain would stop its wicked neurological consciousness as I seek to reclaim the spirit that possessed me as a young man who knew nothing. And so many changes overtake me and it is all I can do to try to relax, and we go out for beers you and I and you tell me about your ex-boyfriend and I could care less, but polite as we are we must nod and smile and pretend that we aren’t two solitudes and I don’t even speak the same language as most of my countrymen. And we discuss academics as though we were scholars but the moment we shut our books we already begin to forget, for all education is an attempt to stave off the decay, moral and intellectual that reverts the human in us to the animals that gave birth to our intelligence. And the price of intelligence is that one day our brains will stop ticking and our hearts will stop beating and our bodies will decompose and will go back to being mulch for future cornfields and other plants that future generations of doomed humans will eat to survive momentarily, but alas I digress, for what I meant is that the irony of intelligence and understanding is that we die. For to lack consciousness is to be immortal, for we never wake up one day, fresh from the womb, blessed with a starting point but altogether doomed to suffer through an end point. We crave immortality but it never will come now will it.


By February I could walk again. The paper stopped losing buckets of money (we ended up $28K in the red - much better than it could have been), and the staff got 40 per cent of their money back. I got to suck up to John Ralston Saul and lambaste Men with Brooms all in the same year.

I love Kingston. I miss the newspaper and my fellow Journalists. I wouldn't have quit that particular day job for the world. Now they're knocking down the Journal House, my 'JoHo'. The paper lives on in a new building, but I'll pay my respects to the House that - for one year - was the entire universe, and was mine.


Lady from the radio

Brown hair and brown eyes
Light skin and slender wrists
Smile wide and eyes like apple pie
Lips like magnets
-oh she’s so concrete
And everything evaporates

5 things that bother me about margarine

1. Tubs of it. Why ‘tub’? Tub rhymes with grub and flub and almost with dud – do you a sense a pattern here? Whoever decided to stick margi in a tub sentenced it forever to sub-optimal status.

2. Butter comes in sticks. Or blocks. But margarine just sits there greasing everything it touches. Butter? Better. Next!

3. Have you ever remained on the margarines of society? It’s an uncomfortable feeling to say the least. Escaping the poverty trap, yada yada yada. Once again it's about suboptimal status and the inertia of the class system. No I am not a communist, but I feel for those who suffer under the yolk. Yeah I say this to impress the lesbian-granola crowd.

4. Margarine is useless for fueling your automobile. I learned this the hard way. Not all petroleum products are created equal.

5. Have you ever seen margarine on Oscar Night? Nope, nowhere to be found. Glitz and glamour? Nada. Spread that between your toast!

And another thing...

If Gorbachev were here right now, I'd read his autobiography to him out loud and every ten pages or so repeat one of the sentences twice and look up and say “I think you are lying - right here, in this sentence.” If he threatened to say, put me in headlock, I would make a face at him and then stuff a sock down his mouth. As for Boris Yeltsin, I would pour that man a drink and just watch him work it baby.


13 minutes at work

King Cobra on a Saturday snake fair, poison arrows and elephant nose hairs. Open applesauce and spread on your knees with a spoon, until the paperbag princess returns with the moon while I'm upsetting the cart, insinuating ‘Is this art?’ while dessicated senior citizens lick envelopes and fart, dry-lipped and gas-ridden til they get fired from Walmart.

Beach Boy bottlenecks on the way to Wasaga, listless motorists limp-wristed and fey. Is there another way to the beach, to the sand to the ocean? How can I soar surrounded by turkeys, I’m growling and proud and my cataract’s murky. Glaucoma + gastro-intestinal problems + prostrate cancer – in fifty years I’ll be short of answers still as well as wrinkled and demented, but it’s better than being dead as a dingo, pimpled and lamented, extinguished too early for a lifetime not cemented cuz I was out chasing the girlies.

BTW - Cleopatra and Delilah are interchangeable names, heaving their bosoms and playing their games.

Boys are made of salt and mud. Cows are made of crabgrass. Girls are made from shampoo suds, and pigeons fertilize the shittyscape.

I can’t take the world in discrete arguments, I need curves and arcs, rhythm and flow; I need a ‘here it comes’ and I need a ‘there it goes’...

But guess who's the Gestapo? Hand me a pistachio. Senorita, please shave my mustache ! Tonight it's smooth fine-dining with an honourable lady from the radio, and so I'm renting a radiant silk tuxedo.


The Cloud and The Sun (for Kat)

Totality had enveloped the earth, there was no room for fragments. Orthodoxy was the norm, which was to be expected. And yet there were loopholes.

Dry things were at an all time high. The forest was about to set into a kind of blaze. It was that time of summer where parched lands foment a revolution, or a teenager smokes a cigarette and burns down a million acres, just for the hell of it. So dies and is reborn an ecological symbiotic biospherical stasis. Or whatever

Into this equilibrium floated a cloud, who was named Klaus. Klaus was the only cloud in the sky, which had long gone grey with perpetual blankness. The horizon for example was on vacation, for all objects had lost their vanishing points. Rainbows were mere figments and 98 per cent of the Earth’s leprechauns were in hibernation and the other two percent had had sex change operations. It was like one giant hand had clapped itself into a self-destructing paradox, imploding all consciousness, stealing all sensibility until the Great Brain of the Universe suffered neurological collapse.

The sky, formerly a most excellent canopy, was more like a cesspool of blue-coloured urine. Who indeed could appreciate the sky, when all that roamed the world were worms and cockroaches? Indeed, few could appreciate much, since there was little of substance, but rather a glut of nebulousness.

Klaus the Klaud looked down and began to cry, each raindrop seeding a technicolour pyrotechnic. The ground was a giant piece of Kleenex, absorbing the cloudy droplets like a gigantic piece of gauze soaks up gallons of sprinkler mist. Klaus could not appreciate the pathos, however and no one was there to witness the flowering of the Earth. Things were not as they seemed.

The Sun did then speak:

“Hey there,” said the Sun to the Klaud, “you and I are antithetical.”

The Sun had a piercing presence. If Klaus had had pants, he would have soiled them.

“Anti-thetical - that means that you is my biotche,” explained the Sun, who was influenced by hip-hop videos.

No match for the sun’s confrontational patois, Klaus began to disperse. But as he did he made a summary of natural existence:

“O Mr Sun, Mr Golden Sun, here is what I think of thee:
You shine a light for no one and no thing, you grow plants in a stagnating swamp... your Vitamin D propaganda is the biggest joke in three time zones and you can’t even rap like a killa-ghat shorty. You will be eclipsed, mark my words – whether in this century or the next...If any cloud comes by to take my place, and you resume your campaign of intimidation, why then the joke is on you. We will drizzle our innards, we will block you out, and if the moisture in me will ever return, I personally will steal your thunder and chillify those sunbathing cockroaches far below.”

The Sun look at the cloud and winked. “Ah-ight, cracka!” and he took off down below the horizon. The ocean rolled and the volcanoes snored. The sky let out a sigh. And leprechauns were as flamboyant as ever.

Happy Easter!


Mucus poem + Highfalootin Insults

Oh a man
A green thing on his hand
A bit of snot
Let it not be said that I dreaded the mucus
I embraced the sneeze!
I lurched forward with every intention of snatching your soiled rags!

Or did I?

You grease-monkey turdball.
You little piece of skypenugget. You bilgerat with a wastewater mustache! O Grand Poobah of Sludge! You foul the noses of the Skunkerati themselves! Be gone, not to Stonehenge but to SewerHenge! I wish you the intimate company of a dozen ugly wenches! You have eaten nothing but the minds of the wise; you are a cesspool of skulldragon soupbroth… O - why has the Supervisor of Stupidity plopped you at my side, shackling me with eleven lifetimes of lummoxery?

O bacon turd! O flopsy shred of incandescent muttonheadedness - you generate a vortex of scowls. O green scaley thing! Spit on my eyes to blind me, I’d rather not gaze on your ebullience of pus!


Trying to write a story for the Mighty Kat...

A story on demand, an interesting concept, like a free pizza that materializes out of the sky whenever you're hungry, but with plot instead of dough and probably twice as saucy. I work for hours in my hot ovens but I'm at a loss for crumbs even. And she wants a story not a crummy metaphor.

She wants a story with no people, and I only write stories about bizarre people named Moses Drecksnider or Ethan Pelletier the Very Silly Man or Jenkins Tomaso Burnbranch or El Santos the Mexican Vampire.

Here's a stab at a story with no people:

The wind was tired and still. The sun was asleep on the far side of the moon. The ocean was known for its dry sense of irony. And the newborn mountains had horrendous acne.. It was a world with no people but plenty of potential for conflict...

Unless you anthropomorphize the wind, and make it a person, how do you get a story? That takes more skill than a cupcake man possesses.

Or how bout this, about pickles (a reliable topic):

A squad of pickles thrust themselves forward from a jar. It was the Pickle Derby, the morning before the big race to be precise, and the kitchen was in the late preparation stages...

No that's no good. Still too humanish. Scores points for being about pickles, but pickle parodies tend to scare up protest from the cucumberphobes and I got enough hassles than to cater to patch-vegetable lobbyists from rural postal codes, no shit.

A verb acted. Very adverbially, almost adjectival until it became a noun. The prepositions had been there before, but conjunctions and the definite article. ! Interjected the full stop. Any questions?

Shockingly direct, but not enough sex. I think my dear grammarmother would like it.

Erp, I'm dry. As Yoda said when he worked in Starbucks and they ran out of fancy tea: Boo, or boo not - there is no chai. But I swear Kat I'm not just chaiing.


As the world turns...

(my weekly allotment of trash. And you dear reader are the garbageman)

In the middle of the town sat a piece of dust, it was the wind that moved the world around and built entire cities of speckled parts, million masses of a millionth.

Ever discuss the world with friends? Probably get a few blank stares. I need a long vacation. Would do me good. Don’t ask me what to do with the children, they will learn as I did, in their cage stuffing their brain with whatever mild perversities are needed to survive. Let's call that character. All these phrases are new, I have a new phrase to tell you.

Grab that woman and give her a kiss, melt the magic in the momentary mist, you dissolve all atmosphere into day but clarity can be anticlimactic. The world is the oyster of the psychopaths, the corporations aren’t human, zombies more like it – ‘Brains! Brains!’ the monster-trucks exemplars of the industrial wrath.

Create the world in seven days. Unlock the ocean and part each wave. Combing the waters as you straighten the stars. Sometimes the world looks great from afar. I was tall once, a mountain, I stood among clouds, but the clouds don’t speak and a giant gets lonely. Let me crawl in dust and sweat and bleed, it’s all written down in the Apostle’s Creed. Each singer has just one song. Sing it from the spine, can’t get it wrong. Enough! Enough! Don’t let my head turn or my attention stray, I have stiff competition yet I give it all away.

My image is "more fractured than Italian politics." Manipulate the familiar to consolidate power? I refuse. Exploration as a compulsion, creativity as a vice, unpredictability as founding principle, although even quantum leaps can make an educated man yawn, so when in doubt write poems about girls because girls are cute and when I’m boozy I get mushy. Yummy. Attention consensus is what we use, the lowest common denominator to control, abuse. Coca Cola is our ambassador to the rest of the Galaxy. There is nothing special about carbon. We are all carbon beings, that lowest denominator but only 1 trillionth get to become the diamonds.

The synthetic and empirical gives way to a priori and eternal. We are reeds wilting in the wind, but the cave sandblasted over decades stands forever but is that what makes the grade for eternity just a huge hollowed out hole?

I need a strong woman who will last. I know there's more out there, outside the cave.

Dinosaurs drive my car! Dinosaurs drive my car! Their extinction expedites my own.

I’m a fossil fool. But it’s a useful tool. Pulling us up by our bootstraps, melt a few billion ice caps along the way. Ice cappchinos… notice how slushy they are, global warming, yeah that's funny. Cancer? Chalk it up to experience and usher in the era of housemaid robots. Oh progress! We are freed from work! But the reverse is true, each email I send you and I’m shackled to the pew. I would ‘reply all’ if I could, it’s a faster way to goodbye. I’m a sucker for pithy, push me out so I can fly, but flight is an illusion, it’s more like floating than flight; we are flying fish floating through air. We’re little specks passing through, atoms from solid to liquid to gas, all three states are possible every time you blink, you miss your chance to walk through walls.

Hydrogen gives life it comes from the centre of the sun, but that’s like saying ‘the basic building blocks of life give us life’ you are better saying ‘existence exists’ or perhaps a single High-C would suffice if we were blind and dumb and senseless. It’s called Logos my friend and I know little enough to know my little knowledge is but a seductive debutante seeking to impress. If ephemeral at least be brief. Guilty of prolix metaphysics. If deep, be still.

Validating myself via my own untested discoveries. My empire is a house of cards. Quit teasing me about the fourth dimension (yet another impossible search). We don’t worship the sun but we should. As close to an uncaring and guilt-free deity as there is (shares parenting duties with the moon, it’s like good-cop bad-cop).

When the supernova hits I hope we've made it to other solar systems.

As much as I remember, there is so much uselessness I’m glad to forget. For every ten bad ideas come one good one. To paraphrase a wiser man, to have a good idea, have lots of ideas. Be fruitful and multiply. Waste not want not. Love. In Harmony. Like the Beatles.

I’m a victim of the remote control epoch. Nothing if not a mirror. You get what you deserve. You are what you reflect, but no ‘actually I’m lefthanded’ and so even the mirror lies. And the camera has to flip things upsidedown twice to make a picture and I was told two wrongs don’t make a right so why should I believe my own eyes?

This constant state of disbelief, I can suspend judgment but not incredulity.

Dearth! The Dearth! This perpetual obsession for worth!


Worst Enemy

(self-deprecation - an extreme sport)

When you throw yourself against a brick wall
It’s gonna hurt
But it feels good too
Feels like something
at least
that’s my excuse

I gave my body to that beast
Let her do what she pleased
She tried to eat my brain
I was immersed, eviscerated, swallowed then vomited
Now I sit with a broken neck, out of smiles
What the heck

Next day, I tried to pray
But nothing made her go away
I’m rebuilding myself every fifteen minutes
and the black dog is a permanent houseguest



smiling lips
firm on hips
this grip
lock loosen
breathe, then
four lips on
lips like
two pair of
ruby sugar tire tubes;

repeat until
too tired
happy and