Top Recs

The following: A list of things people have recommended to me, ordered according to our relationship to each other, arranged by order of importance and/or frequency of occurrence of said recommendation.

Friends:

  • Archer
  • Downton Abbey
  • Lost
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (book and movies)
  • Afternoon naps
  • Bouldering

Acquaintances:

  • Game of Thrones
  • Jimmy Fallon
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
  • Hitchhiking
  • The one on the left.
  • All lady fight club
  • To prove it by choosing which limb.
  • Mint tea
  • Chewing gum

Co-Workers:

  • Downton Abbey
  • March Madness
  • That cute place down the street.
  • To give up the coordinates for the rest of him we swear we only want closure.
  • Vaping

Upper Management:

  • To value “experience.”
  • To treat co-workers “like family.”
  • To give 110%
  • Offal on demand.
  • Game of Thrones
  • Dystopia
  • THE BOX

Family:

  • To call more.
  • A career change.
  • A nose job.
  • The key so we can finally know what he hid in that room we found behind the fake bookshelf in his workshop.
  • To please god stop reminding us.
  • Downton Abbey

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Family, Food, Friends, Hobbies, Jobs, Movies, People, Relationships, Sports, Television

The Blue Pill

Unless The Matrix starts with the scene with Neo evading Agent Smith, ducking behind cubicles and office furniture, desperately following Morpheus’ orders, the movie doesn’t feel real to me.

The first time I saw The Matrix I was in a car with a bunch of friends of a friend, at a rundown drive-in parking lot somewhere on the outskirts of Calgary, 1999. We got lost, arrived late. Caught the movie beginning at what reminds in my mind as that pivotal scene.

I have since seen The Matrix two more times (maybe three), and in its entirety.

Neo has an apartment? Look at those people standing there in the hallway! Trinity first speaks to him at some aboveground underground latex night club? Really.

Really?

Each time since 1999, Calgary, everything before Neo in the Office is a new movie, a different Matrix from The Matrix as I know it. I am aware that this Matrix is the real Matrix (The Matrix as it has always been, if there is in fact to be a Matrix film), but I can’t convince myself that that is so, memory and sensation in this case overriding fact.

Never mind the red pill.

***

2009. A transcontinental flight from Canada to Vietnam. Malaysian Airlines in flight movie.

The Watchmen.

It is the case that sometimes (and likely much more often than you think) countries will edit foreign films for domestic consumption. They revise the material, edit for content, blur things out, cut scenes containing, for instance, sex and/or violence (or interpreted as such…and let’s face it, hardly anyone makes cuts when it comes to violence).

Enter Dr. Manhattan.

Have you seen the film? Read the graphic novel? Then you’d know: the good doctor is naked, full frontal, a lot of the time.

Except where I was, fifty thousand feet in the air somewhere between Toronto and Ho Chi Minh City. From the hips down – way down – down past his cobalt thigh and down to his cerulean knees, there was a mass of pixels, pixels, pixels overlapping each other like crude geometric barnacles. They (the proverbial they) blurred it, and took extra just to be sure.

I found out about that extra later when I saw the North American (adult rated) release of the movie.

Imagine my disappointment; picture my surprise, however underwhelmed it was destined to be and inevitably so.

***

  1. My aunt’s house. A bootleg copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Hello again, Keanu.

Whomever got to this movie before me had a grand ‘ol time with the edits they employed. Bootlegging it, apparently, was not enough to satisfy.

All sex, all whiffs of it were cut from the movie’s 128 minute runtime, as was most of its violence (again not all, I saw much blood, a few stabs and, I believe, a beheading, if not the acts that lead up to them or even followed).

The final cut made no sense or rather, it made the kind of sense you’d sense in mediocre dreams and poorly-constructed nightmares. Dialogue cut mid-sentence, absurd time jumps from one scene to another, characters that simply appeared and/or vanished without explanation. Or reason.

The whole movie was 20 minutes long, if that. And it was the first time I’d ever seen or heard of a movie called Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

It took me years before I saw the full, unadulterated movie.

And yet. Both versions remain valid, the one being so far removed from the other that they are different things entirely, things quite impossible to compare, one way or the other. No need to vouch or even speak of quality or control here.

Too much has changed. Not enough remains the same.

Hello again, Keanu.

And again, but not really.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Characters, Childhood, Movies, Places, Politics, Pop Culture, THE PAST

The DENTIST

Do you like going to the dentist?

Does anyone?

***

I never know what to do with my eyes at the dentist. Where to look? Not at the dentist, at least not into their eyes (best to let them concentrate).

Where then? Where is the middle distance in a situation like this?

Where indeed.

Some dentists have flat screens mounted to the wall, complete with streaming services. Pick a movie or show of your choice! Stare there, OK? Tune out!

As if. I have yet to deploy that particular option. There are too many choices and I want to be agreeable, pick something we can all enjoy or at least not hate. Besides, why potentially ruin a good show or movie via association? Tricky business, that.

I’m so glad they got rid of the mirror. You know, the one that used to hover above your face so you could watch yourself, immobilized, while a near stranger dug around your exposed teeth and gums with sharp metal instruments you didn’t even know the name of (even if you wanted to know them).

That was a hard sight to see. Hard to avert the eyes from that.

Out of sight, out of mind?

***

What’s worse is the tongue. What to do with the tongue while the dentist or (more likely) the hygienist in in there poking around with their instruments and fingers and thumbs? The tongue is definitely worse.

To the left? To the right? Up, down, side to side…?

But that’s the thing about tongues.

They are uncouth.

***

My aunt’s dentist sells Botox and other “injectable fillers.” Not such an odd combination of services, once you stop to think about it.

No free samples there, unfortunately. Not even the customary complimentary toothbrush, travel floss and/or sample toothpaste once your appointment is finished. Nothing of that sort. Just simple professionalism, whatever you come in there for.

Habit breeds expectation, after all. Fix your teeth, rejuvenate your face.

Smile pretty!

***

If I were a dentist, or ran a dental office, I would deal in teeth and manicures. My office would be called “Tooth and Nail.”

I imagine I would have to turn a lot of people away who come expecting Botox and other “injectable fillers.” I also imagine that some would come expecting a pub of some sort, but in that case would be covered: I would, naturally, locate the office near a good pub, maybe even next door to one that plays live music on Wednesday nights.

I would do it all for them, the people.

At least then they would know where to go; have a good notion of what to do with themselves, given the options, teeth or no teeth, dentist or no.

Really. It would be the least I could do.

***

Dentists used to be barbers. Or was that the other way around?

But no sense there, you know, in splitting hairs, etc.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Body, Family, People, Television

Rent or Buy

There was a rule in our house about movies: you could only rent or buy movies you hadn’t seen. Renting or buying movie you’d already seen was a wanton waste of money, precious resource that it was, stupid.

So, what happened? Nothing but the inevitable: we watched the rented movies that we liked as much as possible before returning them (ostensibly forever; never to see them again), and we bought a lot of movies we only watched maybe once, maybe twice.

There is a sense here of wasting time as well as money. Yet, my parents remained firm. If you saw something once you never needed to see it again, did you? It’s been spent, over and done with. Rent or buy.

(There was no room here – no accounting for taste).

It was like they wanted to eat their cake and have it too, but also not have it to eat it.

Actually, it feels like it was a kind of test, which we failed, miserably.

Or maybe not.

Maybe we surpassed all expectation, if only because there was really no accounting for taste, no reason for or against it.

Waste not, want not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Entertainment, Family, Movies, THE PAST, Time

Gros Michel & The Anaconda

Did you know? All bananas are clones.

Not all. But the ones we (you & me) buy at the supermarket are overwhelmingly clones, produced via cuttings of the most desirable progenitors; therefore (re)produced clonally.

Gros Micheal. That is the variety that dominates, that we consume, that we eat for breakfast. Which we have as snacks during our busy, hectic days.

But this is hardly new knowledge. These are just facts.

It’s just…the fact that the bananas we consume are genetically identical seems absurd, doesn’t it? Absolutely preposterous. That’s why a banana tastes like a banana tastes like a banana. It’s why a banana never not fits in a Banana GuardTM. Haven’t you noticed that?

It never not fits.

***

But not all copies are not always created equal. Lacking males (or perhaps it’s better to say “bereft of suitable males”) some reptiles, for example, have been known to spontaneously self-replicate, a process known as parthenogenesis (derived from the Greek meaning “virgin birth”).

However, genetic material can get shifted during parthenogenesis, shuffled like a deck of cards, thereby producing imperfect copies of the progenitor.

Not so for Anna the Anaconda, current denizen of Boston’s New England Aquarium and mother of 18 identical babies – identical to each other and to herself and born without Anna ever having contact with a male of her species.

Anna, in essence, gave birth to herself: 18 babies worth. Only two survived. Still, that seems so much better (i.e. simpler, easier) and frankly more impressive than, for instance, being your own grandfather; no paradoxes there. No needless complications. Just the question of creation itself. Only the mystery of it, going forward, as we hurtle through time.

The same cannot be said for our Gros Micheal.

But then, it’s hard to complicate a banana.

***

Anna is also a palindrome, derived from the Greek meaning “again” and “way or direction.”

“Running back again.”

Never odd or even.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Food, Nature, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Time, Words

Good White Shirt

Someone stole Stephen’s white dress shirt from the communal laundry room.

We liked to call that shirt his good white shirt. Now the shirt is gone, gone, gone.

Nothing else was taken, even though there were other, what we also call “good” shirts in that particular load of laundry. Blue ones, a purple one. One in cascading shapes like fish and birds.

I sometimes wonder about that shirt. The good white shirt.

Why just that shirt?

 That shirt and nothing else?

In my more generous moments, I like to think that whomever took that shirt really needed it. For a job interview or custody hearing; a night out (someplace nice or at least, nicer) or a funeral (paired with a black jacket, or navy blue one depending on the shade).

In my not so generous moments, I like to remember how the sleeves of that shirt are just a little longer than you’d think, how the cut of it is specific and on most non-Stephen-shaped bodies would hang loosely and weird, like a strand of wilted fronds over an undersized fence or a full dead skin draped over a stranger’s lap.

Most times, I don’t think of that shirt at all. But then again…. it’s not like we are made of shirts (good shirts).

Why just that shirt?

That shirt and nothing else?

It’s a pickle, it is. Not the shirt, but the situation.

But you know what I mean.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Interruptions, People, Fashion, Work

Big, Little

The hedge encircling our house was a world onto itself, a network of tunnels and hidden places we scurried and hid in like rabbits. It was a refuge, a hideout, our shared headquarters. It went on and on, right around the house and into forever.

That was years ago. Years and years, the kind you can put into groups of five or ten and count on off. Our house, a squat three bedroom bungalow, was at the bottom of a hill, right at the dead end street behind which the train tracks that ran. Not exactly prime real estate, but then I never minded the trains (freight, never passenger), and missed them after we moved away.

Next door was our neighbour the hunter, and his pack of three walker/beagle hounds. Across the street was the family whose kids we feuded with on and off and whose grandmother had a pug. We also feuded (again, on and off) with the next door neighbour’s kids, three girls (but not one for each dog, as I’d assumed. The dogs were their father’s dogs and his alone).

Later, the next door neighbour acquired a chihuahua, which had puppies after he “accidentally” let it out loose in the neighbourhood with my aunt’s chihuahua. There were three or four of them, I could never keep track.

He named one of the tiny dogs Rambo. He never offered my aunt any of the puppies. As mad as she was about it, she still let her dog roam the neighbourhood untethered after the fact so it’s hard to feel indignant on her behalf.

***

I check in from time to time, on the old house, the old neighbourhood, despite myself.

The hedge has been removed, pulled out from the ground, roots and all, and replaced by a sagging wire fence (maybe it wasn’t always sagging…I have just only ever seen it sagging). The space the fence occupies, once enormous, seems so small now as to have been frankly impossible. Perhaps it shrank? Or maybe it just atrophied in memory.

The bungalow – somehow even squattier now and dingy in spots (the once white brick, the once gleaming windows) where I remember it had been pristine – has been split into two (of all things, lengthwise), and has been remade into a rental property with faded patio furniture in the driveway (at last glance, three off-white plastic chairs and an overturned table).

Other things, too, have changed.

The houses up the street have been bought up by the city and are in various stages of being torn down so that the street can be widened and a new, modernized transit system can be put into place – in this case, a light rail transit system and not, as I’d initially assumed, a monorail. Pity.

Some years ago, our next door neighbour died (in his basement), as did the man across the street (in his sleep), although that one is more recent. A coma and then a recovery and then that singular twist of fate that took him out of the picture.

The dogs, naturally, are all dead too. Rambo included.

My aunt gave away her dog soon after she had children. Be it shame or indifference or something more or light banal or benign, she never mentions him. It is as if he never existed, as if none of it ever happened.

Like none of us were ever there at all.

 

 

 

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Filed under Change, Childhood, Death, Dogs, People, THE PAST

Titles of Biographies Written by People Who Never Actually Talked To Me (Likely, I Forgot to Call Them Back)*

  1. That Bitch
  2. Hopeful Disappointments
  3. Of Course Not
  4. Like, The Right Amount
  5. Cockamamie Outcomes & Contradictions
  6. Wayward Consequences
  7. You Heard Dirty
  8. Shut It Down, Bring It Up
  9. Enviable Indignities
  10. The Pits
  11. Knee High
  12. Where Applicable?
  13. About Thirteen
  14. And Such That It Wasn’t
  15. HELLO STALLION!
  16. Normal Weird
  17. Once or Twice
  18. Light Here
  19. Every. Damn. Day.
  20. Good Psychology, Bad Math
  21. Pffffffffftttt!!!
  22. The Skinny On The Shit
  23. No, Actually
  24. Stupid Good Times
  25. Origami Logic
  26. Oh, You Bet
  27. That Bitch

 

________________________________________________

* Please follow any of these with “The Cindy Phan Story,” where you feel it best fits.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Mind and Body, Relationships, THE FUTURE, Words

Favourite

I have an aunt who would ask me all the time, “Am I your favourite?”

I have a lot of aunts. She wanted, it seems, to stand out distinguished among them.

(Though there are a lot of aunts, they are not interchangeable, but the issue seems to be hers exclusively.)

As time passed, the questioned changed:

“Who’s your favourite?”

And changed again:

“I’m your favourite, right?”

Until, finally:

“Tell them who your favourite is.”

“No,” “Why,” “I don’t know” did not deter her from asking her question, and neither did “Yes.”

“Yes,” as you can see, was what led to further questions until the inevitable “tell them.”

(NOTE: “I don’t have a favourite,” was met with disbelief and scorn, and also the equally predictable demands for a “real” answer. Demands for “the truth.”)

The truth is this: I no longer speak to that aunt. Not anymore than I have to, anyway. Which is to say not a lot. Which is to say not much.

Funny now, looking back on things. Funny the lengths we go through, the trouble and expense, to define something for others on behalf of ourselves.

Among other things, “favourite” means “chosen”, “preferred”, and “cherished.”

No longer speaking to my aunt is my choice, it is my preference and something I have come to cherish.

My favourite.

 

 

 

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Filed under Change, Family, Relationships, THE PAST, Words

The Crow

FLASH MEMORY: my grandpa had a crow!

At least that’s what I remember, I think. I think I’m sure I do.

I remember being 5 or 6 years old. Coming in from a hot summer’s day, running up the red porch steps of his house and past the broken screen door with the holes in the mesh and into the kitchen to find it there, large and black and so alive, staring out from its wire cage which had been placed on top of the counter by the sink.

I remember its giant wings. Its sharp beak and the way its back sloped smoothly down toward its ragged tail feathers. Its sacred black eyes, blacker than black. My grandpa standing next to it, watching it with his one remaining eye.

Why did my grandfather have a crow? How long had he had it? What was he going to do with it?

Answers elude. Companionship? Husbandry? Admiration?

Or something else.

A day? A week? A month?

I can’t say.

And what indeed.

Grandma was there too, standing at the stove across from the sink, the crow, my grandpa. Standing with her back to me making soup, giant daikon sectioned neatly on her cutting-board.

Grandpa, Grandma, Crow. Sink, Stove. Wire Cage, Cutting-board. I stared at all three – at everything – burning the scene into my mind. No one said a word.

The crow beat its wings inside the cage.

***

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this memory, only its intensity, or what I like to think of as its tactile veracity. The truth behind the facts.

I don’t want to know if it is real or not. I want neither to confirm or deny but rather to indulge, let the image sit as it sits and shine or fall, fade or endure as it will.

My grandpa had a crow, with giant wings and eyes blacker than black. There was soup on the stove and sliced daikon arranged in neat piles on the cutting-board.

I can’t remember what my grandma looks like, not from memory.

 

 

 

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Filed under Birds, Childhood, Family, Food, Hobbies, Pets, THE PAST

Soft Shark Swimming

There’s chatter going around right now about the Greenland shark – specifically, that these sharks are believed to live up to and possibly over 400 years. Maybe even over 500. Maybe even over more.

So many years. So much time.

What to do with all that time, I wonder?

But then, the answer seems obvious and clear:

1) Mind your business; &
2) Keep swimming.

Stay soft. Be good.

500+ years, of course, is the highest possible estimate. So far.

But then, that’s in human years. And what are those, after all, to the Greenland shark?

Laughable, possibly; precious almost certainly.

But never mind that.

Just keep swimming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Nature, Philosophy, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Time