Category Archives: Relationships

Choice Animals

In the 2015 film, The Lobster, single people have 45 days to find a partner with at least one key trait in common with them (could be anything, love of the outdoors, matching catsuits, a hangnail), or be turned into the animal of their choice.

(Alternatively, they can reject romantic love altogether and, if they can manage the harrowing escape from society, live in the wilderness amongst a motley crew of single people known as The Loners. But that’s where the plot meanders about and becomes dry and rather unengaging.)

But still. A neat premise, that: the literal dehumanization of people who do not conform to heteronormative standards of coupledom, if not outright love. It is ostensibly a punishment for being single…though as a reward for not being in a relationship, there are worse things out there certainly.

Imagine it. Any animal. You choose.

The animal of choice for the protagonist, David, is the lobster: they are long-lived and anyway he’s always loved the sea. His brother chooses to be a dog. One woman chooses to be pony. Yet another hopeless person decides to be a wolf.

For me, it would be a hard decision.

But I think I’ve narrowed down the list:

1. A Cat.

So I can judge you.

2. A Galapagos Tortoise.

So I can be alone with my thoughts for 100 years.

3. A Bumblebee.

Hive mind, hive mind! Hivemindhivemindhivemind!!!

4. A Giant Squid.

Ten big arms so I can terrorize all the seamen.

5. A Pangolin.

So hot right now.

6. A Black Rain Frog.

My inner self turned out and made fabulous.

7. A Spotted Hyena.

Such a gorgeous laugh it’s crime not to have it.

8. A Dung Beetle.

Because why not a dung beetle?

9. A Caiman.

Like, an alligator, but not so much.

10. A Moth.

OK, for real. I want to be The Mothman.

***

I suppose….

I suppose deciding on your choice animal is, actually, a lot like deciding to commit to a relationship. Everyone has their reasons, their likes and dislikes and preferences for the long term, or at least for the foreseeable future.

Whatever those are, and whatever that is.

***

BONUS ROUND:

11. A Pelican.

I would really enjoy that beak.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Change, Movies, Philosophy, Relationships

Won’t Amount to a Hill of These

My habit isn’t to eavesdrop on people, but I do at times catch snatches of conversations that are hard to keep to myself.

 

Yesterday, it was one about beans:

“I can’t eat so many things right now.”

“You want chicken wings? My mom can make chicken – ”

“No.”

“How about tacos?”

“With the kids? Too messy.”

“Oh.”

“You know. I can have chilli. She makes good chilli.”

“Okay! Chilli it is.”

“Problem is, I hate beans in my chilli. Can’t handle them. Especially now.”

“So we’ll ask her not to put them in.”

“Oh, please.”

“What?”

“Remember the time you mentioned you didn’t want beans and she served you a bowl of bean-less chilli and then she gave me mine and it was just full of beans? And I told her, again, that I can’t stomach beans in my chilli and she was like ‘Oh, you don’t like them?’”

“That was just a misunderstanding.”

“No it wasn’t. She hates me. She did it on purpose. Because she hates me.”

“She doesn’t – ”

“She’s crazy and she hates me.”

“Because…she puts beans in your chilli?”

THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO ABOUT BEANS. You didn’t have any beans in your chilli.”

 

Shortly after, it was time for their appointment. I watched as they walked out of my life, presumably forever.

Memory and conviction are odd catalysts in conversation – where they will take you and where they don’t, and what that will do to the rest of your day.

It wasn’t about the beans.

It wasn’t ever about the beans.

 

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Filed under Communications, Family, Food, Relationships, THE FUTURE, THE PAST

Encounters Both Mundane & Strange (a.k.a. Midnight Neighbours)

Stephen and I have taken to taking late-night walks because the dog cannot (possibly will not) walk in the ungodly daytime summer heat.

Over the course of these past weeks and months, I’ve come to notice certain neighbours: Midnight Neighbours, who seem to only come out at night to do their various neighbour/nighttime things.

(Midnight being, of course, a name. I don’t always see them at Midnight, and they do come out at other times of the day. Midnight just sets the context and is specific to my POV).

(Also: “Midnight Neighbours” seems both descriptive and cool).

(Doesn’t it?)

 

1. Green Bin Hilda

Her name may not be Hilda. I don’t know for sure what her name is, but I once heard someone call out to her from her bungalow and the name sounded something like “Hilda.”

Lit up by the awful yellow streetlight, GBH’s seemingly disembodied head can be seen hovering in the corner of the front window facing the street. She watches. She’s a watcher.

She is also a rummager.

Twice now on garbage days, after Stephen, the dog and I walked well past her house, GBH rushed outside and across the street so that she could take a peek inside the green bins left out in the night for pick up in the morning.

(Mind you, the city’s green bins are built to deter raccoons: to open them, you have to grab a black handle that juts out from top and turn it just so.)

I watched the watcher. She scanned the contents of the bins, moved an item or two around, nodded approvingly, shut the lid and then walked back across the street and into her own house.

We’ve never spoken about it, GBH and I, and us. We’ve never spoken, GBH and I, and us, and eye contact has been spotty at best.

Still: why?

Why those bins, Hilda? Just those bins, Hilda? I have so many questions, though I admit they are only variations of the same.

Why, Hilda? How come?

Oh. And also: Hilda, would you ever approve of the contents of my green bin?

Could you?

 

2. The Sculptor

The Sculptor is a rather affable guy decked out in ripped jeans who plays one-man street hockey with a tennis ball and a makeshift stick that is too short for his tall frame, causing him to chase the ball with a practiced hunch and shuffling gait. He never falls.

I have never encountered him sober. He typically has a Bud Light in hand and, when he is not busily engaged in street hockey, he will raise it to toast you as you pass his property, which a lot of people must do because it lies on a direct path to transit.

Other times, he is working.

There are elabourate rock “sculptures” strewn all about his otherwise overgrown front yard: squat objets d’art of stacked river rocks that strike me somehow as being a gathering of disenchanted “rockmen.” A union meeting perhaps? Or maybe some sort of townhall meeting for sexist quartz and granite. Whatever is going on, The Sculptor can often be seen moving the rocks/men here and there; adding to them, taking things away or incorporating the occasional wind-chime or hubcap among their accumulated masses acquired from who knows where.

Once, while I was checking my phone in front of his house, he yelled at me from somewhere inside:

“NO PICTURES. DELETE! DELETE!”

He must have seen the light against the darkness of the streets. Or maybe he too was a disembodied head in a the window. Hard to tell, because the streetlamp by The Sculptor’s house is busted.

I wonder what my face must have looked like, illuminated by the screen of my smartphone.

It has never occurred to me to take a picture of the rockmen, though I admit it does not surprise me that he would get riled up at the prospect of anyone doing that. The Sculptor’s sculptures are his and his alone.

 

3. Basketball Shorts

Basketball Shorts is not young, not small and not an athlete. His clothing is merely more of a uniform consisting of an assortment of tank tops and the same pair of basketball shorts, the kind that just skim the tops of his the crooked domes that make up his kneecaps.

His primary function seems to be that of sitting in front of his house, on a too-small faded plastic chair, making intense eye-contact with passersby. He lives 2 streets across and down from us and I appreciate the distance, truly.

The other night, at around 11:15PM, we passed him walking our dog as he was walking his, a tiny Yorkie. He continued on his way and we on ours, walking past his house, to the corner and then turning to go down the opposite block. Stephen and I were far along down the block, many large houses away, when we paused in our conversation at the sound of some distant babbling.

A man’s voice – B.S. on the corner, at the intersection we had left as we turned away from his block. We couldn’t see his face. We could barely make out his form, but as his outline is quite distinctive I’m sure it was him, there, in the flesh. Him and no other. He no longer had the dog (or at least, I didn’t see it).

To get to where he was, he must have backtracked, gone past his home to end up at that corner.

He was frustrated – angry even – and talking to…who?

Us?

We were far enough away from him by this time that we would be little more than vague figures on a dark street. Had he gone out looking for us (because he would have had to, not knowing our intended path)? I didn’t see anybody else there, in his general vicinity, but then why talk at somebody’s back from a distance if you’re trying to make a point to them, whatever that point may be?

“I saw you…you moved the pylon! I know where you live! This is ridiculous! Pylon there – You moved…pylon! Pylon! Ridiculous!”

Code? These peculiar words were carried to us by the wind, and were the only ones to reach us from his remote though incessant chatter. Although, to his credit, there are some pylons set up around his block due to some city work being undertaken there this summer. He had something there at least.

Know where you live? A threat? I doubt very much he knows where we live, have never seen him on our street, though in addition to living 2 streets across and down from us, he also appears to live in moments like these.

Or perhaps not. His voice had the quality of a broken reed jammed into the mouthpiece of a rusted saxophone: it sounded thin, out-of-practice, forced. He, being the most able (or willing) of our Midnight Neighbours to wander the furthest from his house, seems also, unlike Green Bin Hilda and The Sculptor, to be the most unsettled because of it.

Another possibility: he wasn’t talking to anyone – no one – at all. Maybe that, in the end, is where he really lives, speaking of bringing things home.

 

 

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Filed under City Life, Dogs, People, Relationships, Routines

Open Secrets, Vol. 13

  • What goes around comes around around around.
  • Reverse Psychology vs. Emotional Blackmail.
  • Bad relationships —> Good Drama —> Bad Kharma.
  • Where are all the candelabras?
  • Back Talk vs. Forward Thinking.
  • Kingmaker, Starkiller, Widowmaker.
  • Missing: keys, cat, you.
  • Eat the whole thing.
  • Seen it yet?
  • Work family values.
  • Puff Up vs. Simmer Down.
  • Back again there and.
  • Everlucky 13.

 

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Filed under Change, Communications, Relationships, Words, Work

Work It Real Good

So much of my work is editing other people’s work that I often find it fascinating to know where their work (and mine), begins and ends. The burden of the work is clear: it is theirs, but also, here and there, and after a fashion, mine. But not really. But also more than maybe so.

I suppose this is what you call the collaborative process. It’s certainly an interesting way to live, and not at all a bad way to mention earn a living.

It’s fascinating what people come up with as they work through things – to follow their ideas as they emerge, take shape, grow (and at times falter, at times slip and derail). It’s fascinating what can be done to help them; what they need, what they want. They only have to ask, or let me ask on their behalf.

There’s a lot of trust that goes around, only to come back again. Mistakes, too, happen, not all of them regrettable. Some of them very.

The work varies, from not-so-great to good to great. But maybe it can be a little better. Not everywhere, not always, but there will be room enough, here and there, to re-work things. Why not?

It’s up to you, and then it’s mine until it’s yours again. Between us, we’ll work it good.

Work real it good.

 

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Filed under Communications, Employment, Language, People, Relationships, Words

Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.

 

 

________________________________________________

Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

Direct Quotes, 1

Sometimes, the only thing to do is to get it down. Save it. Relish it. Keep it pure:

 

Unsolicited Opinion: “Books are dead.”

Conspiracy: “The Illuminati have Tupac because his music is too good.”

Religion & Science: “Cindy, that was over 2,000 years ago. Before science. Back then that shit [immaculate conception] was possible.”

Elderly Neighbour: “Dear, what is a ‘dingleberry?'”

Anatomy: “That’s my candy gettin’ arm!”

Life Advice: “If you don’t want to have a baby, just have one!”

12-Year-Old’s Prognosis: “I like it how my knee kills me and then it just doesn’t.”

Power Couple: “Babe, what’s glands?”

Term Paper Gem: [Margaret] Mead was a woman who wore capes, was flamboyant, and although maimed at one point, had a lesbian affair with Ruth Benedict.”

Hetero Idiot: “Gay guys hit on me all the time. I’m what’s known as a ‘bear.'”

PSA: “Basement floods are on the rise.”

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Body, Children, Friends, Mind and Body, People, Relationships, Science, Words

False Alarms

On a recent road to Ottawa the fire alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 7:00 in the morning.

I did what I think anyone would naturally do, which was assume that it was a false alarm – accepting that there was no real danger – and went back to sleep. In fact, no one staying at the motel seemed particularly concerned about the alarm: there was no running out of doors, no frantic calls to staff (or each other) about the apparent looming danger, the possibility, yes, of a suddenly close (probably painful) death.

None of that.

***

On a different trip, I was staying at the UBC dorms in Vancouver when the fire alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning. It rang and rang and rang. My roommate and I finally got out of bed when it kept on ringing. Only we didn’t know what to do after that. Call someone? There hallways were dead, no one was rushing out of the building or knocking on our door and it seemed wrong, if no one else was showing evident concern, to stir up a commotion. More than that, it seemed an impertinence.

Who does that?

I have often been called an impertinence.

When the firetruck showed up, we called down from our 4th story window. Should we leave?

Yes, the firefighters responded. You should. And please, if you don’t mind, go and knock on all the doors and tell all those people to leave too.

We did, and is it really a surprise that not everyone behind those doors decided to leave right away?

Well, was there a fire, or wasn’t there?

When there turned out to be, in fact, no fire, there was, rather then a sense of collective relief, that heavy cream feeling of having wasted everyone’s time.

All the embarrassment we weren’t spared.

How needlessly we had knocked on all those doors.

***

But the alarm was real, wasn’t it? That’s what bothers me still, that particular uncertainty, the exact definition(s) of that, and also what it could look like if looked at differently.

The alarm was real – or wasn’t it?

Real or not, it seems that the instinct to go to look and see and at least make sure that everything is OK (or not) – to confirm that someone’s been crying wolf (or not) – is suspiciously absent.

***

Suspiciously? No. Not so suspiciously. There’s certainly a kind of expediency to ignoring what is clearly a false alarm – and more than that, to ignoring the kind of alarm that straddles you with the burden of having to take some kind of dubious action on behalf of self-indulgent others, a job, frankly, that you did not ask for, and that is not theirs to foist upon you.

Who even looks up when a car alarm goes off, and who can blame them for not looking?

***

Sometimes I wonder how much it matters if the danger is real. We are told to be afraid of so many things, false alarms or no, it gets to be exhausting. It is the kind of thing that both drains and undermines you.

Another thing to do is another thing you have to do.

Another thing on top of everything.

An impertinence.

***

I am reminded of the tornado drills we used to undergo in primary school. The alarm went off (in this case it was a practice, not a false, alarm, another critical distinction), the teachers lined us up, walked us to the basement, lined us up again (this time, rather ominously, against the wall) and told us to duck, and cover.

The tornados never came. In fact, we didn’t live in an area in which tornados should have been of any real concern, except the one time they almost were.

I remember how our teacher talked us through the drills as the alarm rang out.

“Keep your heads down,” he said. “Everything’s fine.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Friends, Interruptions, People, Relationships, Routines

The Intimidation Game

I don’t get put off by people so much as places, partially because so many are built with certain people in mind, for them to congregate, mingle and be alike.

It is a circuitous anxiety, as most are: I know that I am actually not trying to avoid any one place. I know this. But it is also the case that places built with certain people in mind must therefore exclude other people from the forefront of said mind. Must therefore consider them not quite people. Fancy places, exclusive places, everyday places in which life’s simmering tensions and pro forma injustices get played out in the most banal and outlandish ways.

Places – any place – that renders you lesser because of your very presence there. Places where everyone, theoretically, can belong. But not anyone.

See: That Philadelphia Starbucks.

See: My elementary school.

See: Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook (etcetera).

The trick, if there is one when it comes to these places, is to go with someone (preferably someone coded as the kind of person who is sought after in these kinds of places; someone who would be, rather than suspect, welcomed). Further, it is imperative that they go in first. At least, at first. A scout sent in to assess the situation, a decoy and then a port for which you become proxy then agent,* a literal human shield to dive behind to avoid or defy prying eyes and then, if need be, to sacrifice as you make your own backward escape out, away.

The sacrifice, of course, is mostly yours, not quite theirs. It is their privilege, after all.

I am not kidding. I have done this. I have lived it.

The other Thing to do is to avoid these places altogether, the idea being to starve them of your patronage. But when such places already exclude you, or work to do that in the myriad ways at their disposal to do so (by providing cold, cruel service, by inflating the cover, by labelling you “difficult” or “aggressive” at what they deem the slightest provocation), that seems a hollow victory, a rather shallow high ground.

I think maybe it is not so much a problem to be addressed, as undermined. You don’t have to avoid these places, since anyone can count as everyone, but you don’t have to go to them either for any other greater reason than because you want to. I mean not just you, and not just me. Anyone, anybody. Everyone.

Presence of mind is a place. It counts.

And if only it were just that easy.

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________

* Need it be said? You are always agent. For good or bad, yours or otherwise.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under People, Places, Politics, Race, Relationships

Noodle Soup

Ah, all the noodle soups I’ve had in my life! The hot, the savoury, the lukewarm and questionable.

When I’m feeling down, or bored, my thoughts often turn to noodle soup.

Where can I get some? Where must I go?

Beef Noodle Soup. Ramen. Phõ.

Oh, Phõ!

(Often pronounced, by some, in anguish, as a low, almost guttural, “P-OE” or “PO-HOE.” Sometimes “re-imagined” or “deconstructed” by others into a dish only very remotely resembling what could only very generously be called Phõ.)

I don’t begrudge them. It’s, frankly, not all that important (not really, not always). Just don’t mess the ingredients. More: don’t intrude on the scene expecting more than you give. Than you can give.

Don’t insist. You don’t even have to call it Phõ!

There’s more than enough for everyone, but not if you insist. Not in the way that you think.

(Trust me.)

The taste might be different each time, the experience. But not its standing. Consider the weight of the Thing, the ingress, the import. The majesty it imbues. Be mindful.

Do or do not do.

(Trust me.)

Some things in this world are not to be taken lightly.

Listen:

The broth is key.

The broth is life.

Trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Food, Philosophy, Race, Relationships