Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bob’s Bag

The other Thing that happened at Goodwill was Bob.

His actual name isn’t Bob.  I can’t remember what his actual, real name was – or is – although it occurs to me that I never outright learned it in the first place.  But I feel that he is – or was – very Bob-like.  He emanated Bob; was infused with Bob-ness.  Absolutely reeked of Bob.

So, OK. Bob.

It wasn’t so much him, I guess, but what he did.

To tell you the truth, the Goodwill I worked at was, top to bottom, an almost-new Goodwill: they[1] had found an old building, gutted it and built the Goodwill from the inside out.  So that there was an intervening, makeshift period as the Goodwill was becoming a Goodwill that lunches were eaten, stored and discarded here-or-there, that garbage floated this-way-and-that and that bathrooms were take-it-or-leave-it rented Port-O-Potties with pathetic rations of tissue.  There wasn’t any running water for months, although Team Leader Annica seemed to think that hand sanitizer was even better, matter of fact.

For her, it was altogether primordial.

On and on it went like this.  The flies, naturally, flourished.   Generations upon generations.  Ancestors and descendants.  Whole genealogies of flies!  Mothers and sons and fathers and daughters and cousins and nieces and nephews and grandparents and on and on.

Enter Bob.

Bob was from the B-Cohort; those hired after the Goodwill had officially opened its doors to the public.  Those of us in the A-Cohort were, naturally, suspicious and resentful of B-Cohort.  We, after all, had been there since the beginning, before you lot came around with your bodies and enquires and before the flies even and yes, we know there are, like, a ton of flies around.  You think we’re not aware of the flies??

But Bob.

Bob had a solution.

"Is that a breast implant with a penny in it?!" He asks as I type.

Et voilà.

Yes.  He put a penny in a baggy and he filled it with water.  Then he stuck it to the wall and *winked*, actions that quite suited Bob, the gregarious, Bob, the earnest, Bob magic man and whose one lazy eye flickered with a certain shamelessness that was hard to ignore completely.  (I may have added the wink).

Good ‘ol Bob.

See, Bob’s Bob-like behavior didn’t exactly strike me as aberrant or weird.   He and it were just another and another quirk of the place itself.  Bob was atmosphere, he was au jus.  Just like how Manger Steve managed to sigh-slouch-slide into his black shrivel chair in a way that was invariably…graceful.  The way a dancer’s body sways in time to music only it can hear, or the way a hot air balloon simply gives in and deflates over and into its basket.

Or like how Annica would invariably declare that the lunch special next door was pretty good, actually, for oriental food anyway, so long as you picked out all that Chinese seaweed.[2]

And like how Fat Don could reduce cashiers to tears but was also truly heartbroken at all the mismatched Crocs that were donated to the store on an almost daily basis.

What reason, then, was there to deny Bob his bag?

But then, whyWhy this bag?

A few working theories.

  • All of the below.
  • The reflection of the penny in its transparent womb, compounded with the fly’s compound eyes and the light of the day, will appear to the fly to be a predator (i.e. a hornets’ net, or a horde of wasps or one singular, giant wasp or hornet), and thus serves to make it chase itself away for you.
  • The reflection of the water’s tiny prisms against the light assaults the fly with a dizzying array of colour and movement, disorienting the creature and forcing it to make a hasty escape to a more welcoming reality.
  • The fly sees its own reflection, possibly magnified, and in a fit of fly-self-hate and/or fly-on-fly hatred fleas.  Flees.
  • Your average housefly has a crippling fear of drowning and an equally crippling, incurable claustrophobia and will do whatever it can to avoid enclosed bodies of water.[3]

Whatever the reason for the bag – Bob’s Bag – Bob’s faith never wavered.  It would work.  It does work.  And before I left Goodwill it seemed as though – yes – there were less flies buzzing around the place.

Who knows.

My take?

It was just such a Bob Thing to do, you know?


[1] The collective “they”.  You know, Them.

[2] Seriously.  It was bok choy.

[3] My favourite.

Leave a comment

Filed under People, Places

There is This Place

Listen, OK?

There is this place in Banff, in Alberta, Canada that has a Thing you must see, if in fact you want to see it.  It’s not mentioned in tourist pamphlets and it’s barely on any map you’ll find up there.  It’s an open secret that, it seems, the locals either chuckle knowingly at or ignore completely.  Keeping up appearances, letting it slide to slip it right in.

As you enter town via the TransCanada Highway, turning left onto Mount Norquay Road, just follow this road as it turns into Gopher Street, then Lynx Street and, finally, Bear Street. Take the left onto Buffalo Street, then the right on Banff Avenue.  All the way down, keep going, across the bridge.  There, on the right.  Birch Avenue.  Cave Avenue.


Winter Hours 9:00AM - 6:00PM

Open Daily 9:00AM – 8:00PM

Enter the doors between the totem poles.  You’re welcome.


Past the bisected goats and the mounted moose heads.  To the back, keep going back.

In fact, I may have lowballed it.

As you can see…I wasn’t kidding.

Away from the snarling wolves and scattered fowl and pronghorns, but close to the grizzly that once embraced a nervous Marilyn Monroe.

Bear claws claw.

The golden age may be over, but glory days, perhaps, remain?

Turn towards the opposite wall, following the dangling dreamcatchers along the way.  Look down, down.  Below, and you’ll find it.

There's an interesting article from 1942 about the Merman propped up next to him, and a handwritten scrawl that reads "This is all we know about the Merman". Nice touch.

“This curious creature of unknown origin on display in the Indian Trading Post, Banff, Alberta, Canada.” So reads the postcards on sale atop its glass case. $0.30/each.

It may not be a real mermaid.  It may be a fake mermaid (or merman as it is also called), if in fact mermaids  (or mermen) are real.  It’s real fake.  Fiji mermaid, “FeeJee Mermaid”, though maybe it’s from Japan.  Half-fish, half-simian-Thing, some papier-mâché, perhaps?  Promising to give you Things that it may not have to promise you at all.  Unless you want it to.

Even if you don’t, it’s there.

Petrified.  Unconcerned.  Busy.


Fiji/FeeJee Mermaid/Merman

And anyway.


Filed under Places

No One To Blame

Yeah, I get angry sometimes, but it’s not as bad as it used to be.

At the worst of it, I knew and lived the thrill of desperate yet intoxicating anger. It was brutal, indiscriminate, beautiful and I relished every moment of it.  Not only had I come to enjoy being angry but I also began seeking it out.  It was a high that, with a little practice, was simple to attain and easily indulged.

It felt good.  It felt right.

And it was wearing me out and shutting me down completely.

The problem with Hulk is that he de-hulks. Un-hulks?  He ceases to hulk.


I still like being angry, a little, which is a lot more than I should, probably. However, there are lots of Things out there that warrant basic human fury, and that demand it, really.  Anytime anyone anywhere says that what they’re doing to you is “for your own good”, for example, or when you’re on the receiving end of a slow, patient smile.

Head pats.

I have found ways to cope with anger that may be of use to Others out there, so like me:

  • Whatever else is involved, your anger is yours.  It’s yours and it’s valid and yours.
  • Remember:  not only bad people get mad.  For god’s sake.
  • Realize that when people give you pressing, unsolicited advice on how you must deal with your anger, their good intentions in this are theirs alone.  It can’t be otherwise.  Also, their parents never loved them.
  • Believe that there are people who don’t want you to get angry precisely because they’ve done Things they know will by all rights make you angry and the question “why are you so angry” is thus translatable to “did you find me out, or what?”  Their parents probably loved them too much, in which case the worst has already occurred.  What can you do?
  • Punch a human face
  • Wait

Yeah, waiting’s good.  Because it’s anger and something better is bond to come along.

Always does.

Leave a comment

Filed under Philosophy, Politics

Nepal: Rites of Passage

There is a certain magic when flying that makes time simply interminable.  That feeling of doing something important without having much of anything to do in the meantime.  The knowledge of having something a little unpleasant, kind of inexplicable, occasionally unnerving done to you and with your tacit permission too, just so you can get to where you have to be. The rites of passage.

Something else.

Hell is other people, which is another way of saying that’s all there is.  On a plane, that’s all there is.

No choice. Unless you like tarmac.

All in.

It is, thank god, a relative, various hell and it can surprise you in spite of itself.

Twice I was jarred out of fitful slumber by the rumblings of the plane, only to find my seatmate, Raj, humped over her seat tray, using it was a makeshift pillow, head to the side, facing me. It was disturbing and fantastic and, amazingly, not a fluke.  I never realized the human body could stay bent like that for such extended period of time without experiencing total structure failure, but Raj just slept on, like she slept that way every single night of her life.

Was she showing off?  It was impressive, whatever she was doing.

The first time I awoke to find her like that, with her hands tucked under her chin, her pretty pastel nails just peeking out from under her jaw line, she looked like a robot I had decided to turn off simply because I had that power. I stared at her, using all my mental powers and animal magnetism to wake her up psychically with my glare.  Nothing.  Perhaps that only works on my dog.  Sometimes, even, Stephen.

The second time, Raj’s arms dangled and swayed, a little, from her sides, though her head remained at a perfect perpendicular angle to the tray and floor.  As I hovered over her, agape, with my hair mussed in sleep and my eyes squinting themselves back into focus, it looked like I had killed her but only then realized the extra, rather nagging inconvenience involved in the body dump.  The stewardess passed by and briefly observed this macabre tableau.  Our eyes met and I tilted my head and pursed my lips, a little, in a look that served pretty well as confession to my crime in close quarters. Maybe I shrugged, like Atlas.

Who gives a fuck?

She handed me some pretzel sticks over Raj’s back and continued down the aisle.

Despite Raj’s superhuman abilities to sleep through pretty much everything around her (totally showing off, totally), she seemed quite nervous about our landing, and had to sit put away in a corner, earplugs engaged, as we touched down in New Delhi.  She helped me with my bag, and as we shook hands as we departed at our respective gates, I took one last moment to admire her lovely nails.

I didn’t tell her about her brief stints as an automaton and as the deceased.

Leave a comment

Filed under Places