Category Archives: Ritual

Q&A

Asking questions to which the answer is known is one thing.

Asking leading questions in search of an answer is another.

Questions are said to be more important than answers.

Because there are no stupid questions.

There are no stupid questions?

How about ridiculous inquiries? Pointless inquires? Abject probes?

Yes and yes and oh, hell Honey, yes.

But I guess that depends on who’s asking, never minding why.

 

 

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Filed under Communications, Interruptions, Language, Ritual, Words

Everyday Decisions

There’s an election on now in Ontario.

Or there was (by the time you read this the election will have occurred and outcome decided).

The choices, such as they are (or were):

  1. Person who’s not been very much liked for quite a while and now, it seems, has lost the ability to inspire much trust, or failing that, much faith in their leadership prowess and (therefore) their party’s efficacy;
  2. Person who has ridden the pony express to political provincial power via an all too familiar path of self-aggrandizement on behalf of an amorphous and ill-defined “people,” whose uncouth charisma in these lacklustre times (a heady mix of perceived business acumen, feigned compassion and calculated aggression) seems very much to compensate for their lack of a party platform and experience as leader of anything;
  3. Person who’s been a presence in Ontario politics for a good while, a good long while, but who has always seemed to come off more as an acquaintance seen from across a crowded room rather than a viable candidate for premier, whose party gives off the impression of the last person standing after cooler heads have prevailed, good intentions be damned.

Not exactly what you would call a bumper crop of candidates. Not all that much to fill the streets or scream from hilltops. A lot to lose, perhaps, but not all that much to gain. It reminds me of something…

Wag the dog, but if a dog chases its tail for long enough, will it die of exhaustion?

What’s inevitable and what just isn’t?

There will be no winner, not after the votes are tallied and the results declared. There are no winners here, no sense of solid victory or sound accomplishment. Simply the sense of having lost a little less than what could have been, democracy, in the end, having been processed, one way or another.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Politics, Ritual, Routines, THE FUTURE, THE PAST

Open Secrets, Vol. 6

– Fallow’s not all bad.

– No contest.

– Hell vs. Fresh Hell.

– It’s, like, a metaphor.

– Try counterclockwise first.

Fancy: extra, too, that.

– Glee is hard.

– Tough vs. Tough Enough.

– Guilt gawks.

THE WRIT HAS DROPPED.

Waterfalls: Niagara, Kentucky, don’t go chasing.

– Greatly Offended vs. Offended Greatly.

– Fate is what happened after the fact.

– Interchangeable is often just easier.

– Balding sometimes worse than bald.

– No, contest.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Interruptions, Philosophy, Ritual, Words

Open Secrets Vol. 2

– You can be kind to be cruel. It is, definitely, an option.

– Apocalypse/beauty/success is in the eye of the beholder.

– That sheer difference between luck and fate.

– She doesn’t like you.

– There are other beholders.

– Everyone: poops, lies.

– “Hideous” is a very good word.

– The facts don’t matter compared to the Truth.

– It’s not them, it’s us.

– What does, and does not, count as controversy.

– Lake —> Lake Monster.

– “Because why not?” is why.

– It also gets better before it gets worse.

– More to the point: you’re not them.

– Beyoncé. Always.

– Just make sure they’re good lies.

– Never Beyonce.

– It’s not OK. And yet.

– It’s really obvious when you don’t think about it.

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Filed under Celebrity, Music, Names, Philosophy, Relationships, Ritual, Routines

SERIOUS BUSINESS

Yesterday (March 15th, 2018) was the first day of the Friends of Toronto Public Library Clearance Book Sale over at the Toronto Reference Library. All items, library discards and (here’s the important thing, the key) donated books, most of which are in good, gently used condition: $.10-$.50.

Cents to the dollar.

***CASH ONLY***

Best deal in town. Can’t be beat!

See the impetus? Sense the urgency?

The Plan:

  • Wake up early.
  • Dress.
  • Eat pre-breakfast (boiled eggs prepared from the night before).
  • Make sure phone fully charged (again, ensure this is done the night before).
  • Grab extra bags (for books).
  • Bring cash, bring pockets full with change (Correct change matters; correct change = ADVANTAGE).
  • Take out dog.
  • Leave home.
  • Arrive early: no later than 9:00AM, a half hour before the book sale (in recent years, word has gotten out and people, lots of them, come for the sale even before the doors to the library open at 9:00AM…these are serious people).

I am a serious person…when it comes to books and massive book sales (when it comes to this massive book sale). This is a serious book sale.

Things. Did. Not. Go. As. Planned.

Woke up on time, but hit snooze and spent way too much time in the bathroom, forgot to boil eggs, grabbed breakfast bars only after the absurd amount of time it took to remember we had them in the first place and the panic that ensued thinking I’d have to go into this, one of the biggest book sales of the year, hangry, took out the dog, bolted from home only to find transit delayed, trains so slow, so slow and lumbering, arrived at library just before 9:30AM and found myself forming part of a very long line that went through the building, out the door, and around the block.

IMG_7714

Evidently, I am not the only serious person serious about this most serious sale.

Serpentine line, like at amusement parks, or celebrity wakes. Too many people, so many bodies blocking the doors it was a fire hazard. There was some confusion as people shuffled, and were shuffled, to and fro:

“Whomever believes the are at the end of the line, put your hand up,” said the burly library security guard. Many hands, scattered here and there, scattered all around, came up. Shot up into the air.

Libraries have burly security guards? This one does. Seriously.

The line was broken up; people waiting after a certain point (this was, roughly, underneath the stairwell inside the main foyer) were asked to line up outside, against the building and down the block. They politely obliged, so wiling they were to get into this sale that waiting in line was an accepted exchange, a hardship readily borne.

So serious.

People from all walks of life were there, but I could see clusters that mirrored each other: kids off from March break (serious ones, of course, who waited patiently for their turn at the books), retirees, university students (more than a few reading textbooks as the lined lurched forward at irregular intervals), obvious hoarders. Many brought backpacks and tote bags and suitcases, the kind with the wheels on the bottom and an extendable handle, for ease.

(Kind of wish I had thought of that, extra baggage in this case would have served as an extra advantage. For serious.)

I spent my time in the line chatting amiably with a woman named Fran,* who told her work she had an important “appointment” that morning which could not be rescheduled. Not a lie. Good on you Fran!

Fran has some very interesting theories regarding a library thief at her local branch (“Not the hoity toity library in the neighbourhood, the working-class library”): someone’s ripping recipes out of the new magazines that come on Fridays and Saturdays and Fran is on it. Together, we came up with some more interesting theories about who this person could be, and how to catch them.

Fran and I separated once we were finally ushered into the sale, way back towards the back of the big, reliable building by a volunteer who, one hour into the sale, at 10:30AM, was already losing her voice wrangling so many book-hungry people, poor woman.

“Bye, Fran! Good luck!”

Mayhem inside, but of a managed sort. Totally doable, and worth it for the books. Rows and rows and tables full of them, ten cent paperbacks, fifty cent hardcovers, although a lot of what was on offer seemed already picked over.

IMG_7715

Some people grabbed boxes which had been emptied of books for the sale and filled them with the books from the sale. Some people went from table to table, methodically running their hands over spines and covers, picking up titles that intrigued them. Others grabbed at the books, regardless of title, condition or type, and threw them into bags and boxes.

Takes all kinds.

I spent two hours at the book sale, jostling about, snatching books were I could. For all that trouble, I good a good haul: 14 books for just over $4.50.

You can’t beat that, and hard to dismiss it.

The sale goes on until tomorrow (March 17th, 2018, 9:00AM-4:00PM). So many people, so many books: the volunteers, mostly older people wanting to do good by the books, are heroes.

One, overheard on my way out: “Once we started posting about on Facebook and places, the sale has become so popular. It’s like we can’t keep up. We just keep refilling the tables and they just keep buying.”

12:30PM. There was still a line that went through the building, out the door, and around the block. More people outside waiting to get at the books inside.

IMG_7720

The best laid plans indeed.

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________

* Not real name. I got you, Fran!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Hobbies, Ritual, Thrift

Teeth (Part 2)

Have you ever had a friend with whom you could say the worst things – not about other people or even yourself, but about life, about life itself? Terry is that friend for me.

Terry slapped a hand against his cheek, the one that had been so egregiously affronted by the broken tooth. He nearly flung himself from his chair. He swore some more.

A lot, actually: “Fuck, fuck, fuck! I have nothing now! Nothing! My teeth were all I had!”

“Your teeth – ?” I began.

Terry elabourated: “When I’m an old man and I have nothing else and I’m fetid and I’m dying and my kids have abandoned me and I’ve lost all my money and all my hair, I figured at least I’d have my teeth! Now what the fucking hell do I have? Nothing, nothing. Ass.”

I looked at Mae. “You probably won’t even make it to old age, Terry,” I said. “You can die tomorrow and with your teeth busted, it’d come out the same. That’s better than it sounds, isn’t it?”

“I could have been an old man with great teeth! That would have been…More than, better then -” he lost his train of thought. “Ow!”

Stephen sipped his drink.

Vain people are everywhere: places where you look and places you’d never think to look. I don’t know if that’s anyone’s fault. And maybe they are not so much vain people, but people that are vain about something. Who knows?

But ever know anyone vain about their teeth? Who, for example, brushed them vigorously in the morning and at night, who, for instance, flossed so religiously it was sacrilegious, it was obscene, and who, as a matter of pure fact, guarded them as carefully as a mother hen, as a tigress does their precious offspring?

Terry was very proud of his teeth; Terry was that proud of his teeth. And I’ll admit, up until then, they had been perfect: bright, gleaming, evenly spaced, with a good tooth-to-gum ratio. They reminded me of white picket fences, of flawless, snow-capped peaks, of Freud. The impression they left was one better than that of mere possibility, or potential: it was of defiance itself.

Defiance dentata.

Understand. For Terry, losing one tooth (even a partial loss) was as bad – worse even – than losing them all.

“OW!”

Terry and I once watched Teeth (2007), a movie about a girl whose vagina dentata is first her only defence then her best weapon against her attackers; men close to her and also strangers; men who molest, assault, rape.

“The teeth,” Terry had said about it. “At least she has her teeth.”

And here we were now: a bubble tea restaurant where Terry could not say the same for himself.

Oh well. “Terry,” I said. “You might as well suck it up.”

Terry spat out each word: “Suck. It. Up?” So much for being amiable.

“Fine. Lose all your teeth, why the fuck not? Knock the rest of them out for all that they’re worth now, crumple up into the gutter ass-up and die.” I’m never sure if I’m more or less articulate when I’m mad, or approaching it.

Terry’s mouth twitched. “I can’t afford to go to the dentist. What if this ends up hurting all the time?”

Ah. “What doesn’t?”

I am now reminded of the time when I was in the fourth grade and I begged my mom to take me to the dentist because my teeth felt loose. I’d grab a tooth and wriggle and it honestly felt like my teeth, all of them, were not properly attached to the rest of me. I was terrified of losing them (again, see Freud…or maybe, actually Jung?). More: I was convinced I would lose them merely because it was a possibility. The dentist thought I was insane. My mom, who has a hard time believing allergies (read: other people’s) are real, concurred. Did she ever. A lot, actually. It hurt.

“What doesn’t?”

And Terry, finally, let it go. Insomuch as someone like Terry could “let it go” at a time like that.

In any case, he stopped complaining as much (that is, as much as he could have).

“I guess I really can die tomorrow.”

It’s never so bad that it can’t get worse. Hope for the worst so that anything less than that has to be better. Sometimes that’s even more than you can ask for.

(Most times, you’re not even in a position to ask.)

Terry knows that, and so do I.

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Friends, Interruptions, People, Places, Relationships, Ritual, THE PAST

Book B-I-N-G-O (Part 2)

(con’t from Monday’s post)

The BOOK BINGO sheets were prominently tacked on the wall near the stairway leading up to the managers’ offices, a veritable dead zone for employees like me. Dallas, my manager, caught me a week or two into The Great BOOK BINGO Challenge of Twenty-Fifteen, standing in her way, staring at the sheets, paralyzed by indecision.

The sheets glared back, white and hot and waiting.

“You know,” Dallas said. “You’re allowed to read whatever you want.”

“This isn’t a test. Just pick a favourite,” came her voice, tinny and smelling faintly of copper.

“I’d like to know your favourite,” said Dallas, and smiled.  

***

(Dallas’s teeth were sharp and yellowed. Rumour had it she had a fake tooth, but no one knew which tooth was the fake tooth. It was anyone’s guess.

I sometimes imagined her taking her new tooth, fresh from the dentist’s office – a brilliant enameled chip, or maybe a hard, alabaster nugget if it was a molar and meant to crush and grind – and staining the tooth with tea bags and coffee grounds on her kitchen table, late into the night, and doing so until she was absolutely certain no one, not one living soul, could tell just which tooth was the fake tooth as she smiled at them from behind dead eyes.)

***

Rumours are many-edged, double-faced things that can cut and bite you if you approach them the wrong way. They proliferate like vermin; spread like wildfire.

Which also means that rumours can be useful – travelling fast and burning away at things until their cores are naked, exposed.

Eventually, it hit me again: the categories didn’t matter.

It was the books.

The books were the key.

***

“Why the Hell would you read Fifty Shades of Grey as your BOOK IN A SERIES? That book is pure, unadulterated smut. And it’s not even good smut.”

“You sure, Dallas?”

“Trust me.”

I read, I adapted. I read some more.

The Secret is your IMPORTANT BOOK? Dallas and I love that book,” boasted Houston, another manager and Dallas’ husband (the place was pretty incestuous, but only insofar as most office environments are incestuous, which is to say not very much, by comparison). “You know,” he continued, lowering his voice, “It’s, like, an open secret.” He winked. It was foul.

I read.

It became a source of power, and a refuge.

The Art of War isn’t an EPIC POEM!”

“It is, Phoenix, if you read it fast enough. The Chinese starts to rhyme.”

“Are you joking?”

It saved me from myself.

***

Did I read all the books I marked off on my BOOK BINGO sheet?

Yes.

Did they fulfill their categories?

Yes.

Were they good books?

Honestly: any book that sets you free is a good book. Any book that does precisely that is worth its weight in fucking gold.

Yeah. I won BOOK BINGO that year. That year, I got bragging rights and learned so much compared to what I eventually gave away. And then I found work in a better, more supportive environment.

There is no doubt about it. It was because of the books.

***

I wonder: did the others who partook in The Great BOOK BINGO Challenge of 2015 do the same as me? Had they recognized the power lingering on the other side of books?

If they had, I didn’t notice, which of course would have been the whole point.

 

THE END

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Education, Employment, Interruptions, Jobs, People, Relationships, Ritual

Saving Grace

 
I see the church standing there everyday on my walk to work, at a busy intersection in the heart of Mirvish Village, and I think how miraculous.

I’m hardly in churches. My first time, I was in elementary school because, in their gratitude to some helpful and determined neighbours, my parents took me to a church for Sunday school. A show of goodwill, a polite gesture (nothing actually promised).

I remember it was dark and I remember the happy smiling triumphant faces of the neighbours, a husband and a wife, as they lead us into the church.

And I remember it being dark. Dark inside the church as we walked through the heavy wooden doors. Light filtered through stained glass, deep reds and blues I hadn’t ever seen before. There were seats like benches and a sort of fountain full of still water.

I don’t remember thinking much about the water because (I’m told) I stopped and stood transfixed at the figure thrown in contrast by the windows, nailed to a cross nailed to the wall of the church.

Thin emaciated naked save for rags strewn around his delicate waist. His face a mess of agony, blood streaming freely from the thorns wound round and round his head.

His weird muscles. And nails right through the palms of his hands. More blood. I close my eyes now and imagine dirty fingernails.

Actually, (thinking now), all nothing I hadn’t seen before.

But for that save for that beard.

My god, that beard.

I was only five, maybe six. I lived a very sheltered life, school and home and adults with no beards. None of the men in my family had beards, or attempted them. None of my teachers had been men, or had beards.

My god, that beard. Too much too far, already asking so much to begin with.

I cried and screamed (I’m told). I cried and cried and cried (I remember). Inconsolable willful desperate child! The neighours, appalled dismayed embarrassed, told my parents to take home. I was never asked back. My parents never went back. No babysitter. Oh well too bad.

And I think thank heaven for, you know.

Thank god.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Filed under Family, People, Religion, Ritual

Anatomy Lesson

 

Having dispensed with the customary reading of Corinthians 13:4-8:

  1. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  1. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

the Minister – the struggling sun alighting his thin face, the leaves from the trees shading his features in ugly patches – turned to the Groom and turned to the Bride, and he asked them each in turn:

“Groom, what is your favorite food?”

“Steak,” was his answer. He had to think about it.

“Bride, what is your favorite food?”

“Chocolate,” she answered without hesitation.

“And do you love steak? Do you love chocolate?” asked the Minister.

“Yes,” answered the Groom.

“Yes,” answered the Bride.

From beneath him, the Minister produced a body. Free of blemishes, unmarred in any conceivable way, it was in a word, perfect.

“The Ancient Greeks,” he began, addressing the Groom and the Bride and us, the Dearly Beloved, his hands hovering gently above the body, “have four words for love.”

He looked down at that perfect body, that immaculate skin.

And he plunged his hand within, producing a horrible shlucking sound as he probed past muscle and sinew, past bone and fat and guts, searching for purchase. He stopped suddenly as he found the love, and with a strength almost unimaginable, he pulled it out for all to see.

AGÁPE! Spiritual love, good will and benevolence!” he cried. “With this, you love a spouse or you love a dog and are loved in turn and in kind by them. You are content, with this kind of love.”

He held the love before him, where it pulsated, trying to keep in erratic time with the body from which it had been so cruelly torn. Bile oozed from its insides; sugars and toxins spilled from it, unprocessed. Large and unwieldy, the love was tossed back inside the body’s abdominal walls.

The Minister pointed at the Groom, and then to the Bride.

“Do you each have this kind of love for each other? Do you have this love for each other more than you have for steak? FOR CHOCOLATE?”

“Yes,” was the answer, echoed from Groom to Bride.

Throwing his hands up in the air, the Minister continued. I blinked and suddenly he was driving them down again, into the body once more.

“ÉROS! Physical, passionate love. Attraction, romance. I take it you are well acquainted with this love already,” he intoned rather matter-of-factly, indicating the Groom and the Bride as he moved further down the body, grasping the love at last with both hands. A great balloon, he retched it from its place and held it before us all, cradling it as one cradles a newborn. Juices spilled from the love. It churned, searching, questioning; always hungry, forever ravenous.

Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” whispered the Minister, gently rocking the love to and fro and bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“Yes,” was the answer, immediate and true.

The Minster nodded curtly and dropped the love into the gaping hole before him. He surveyed the crowd, letting his hands wander along the length of the body.

He came to the head, and paused.

I stared on, unable to look away.

We went in through the eyes.

Pulling this love out in handfuls of chunks and mush, he continued.

PHILIA! The love of the intellect. Loyalty, virtue and friendship. ‘Mental love!’” he almost screamed, grabbing frantically at the love, fingernails embedding deeply into the grey matter within.

The synapses of the love spurted, firing helplessly into space, trying desperately to connect as the love was thrown haphazardly over the Minster’s head, at the Groom and the Bride, at the crowd of Dearly Beloved. Finally, having run himself ragged, the Minister stopped. He looked down into this red, red hands and regarded the love with something like pity.

And just as simply, he shrugged off the love, flinging its remnants it into the woods behind him.

“Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” asked the Minister, wiping his hands on the sides of his trousers.

“Yes,” was the answer. The Groom’s voice flattered, consumed with emotion. The Bride’s chest shuddered, as she tried to hold back the tears that were threatening to overwhelm her.

The Minister closed his eyes, breathing heavily, nodding gravely. Finally, he pulled back his arms at impossible angles and plugged first one and then the other fist into the centre of the body. He found what he wanted easily.

STORGĒ! Affection. LOVING AFFECTION. Familial love, natural love, LOVE OF GOD!!!” he shouted, holding this love high in one triumphant hand, while the other braced itself against the poor, mangled body.

The love pounded and throbbed. It shuddered; chilled by the afternoon breeze, pumping diligently away to serve the others, even at it itself was rapidly losing precious oxygen.

“Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” asked the Minister,unwilling or unable to lower his arm, squeezing the love till it was pushed through fingers like tree roots.

“Yes!” answered the Groom and the Bride, both shaking in exquisite agony for what was to come.

“Good. Good. Very good,” said the Minister. He put the love into his back pocket, for later.

Depleted of energy and seeing now his impending irrelevance, the Minister softly proclaimed, “You may then, finally, kiss the Bride. God. Bless. You.”

The Groom, at last, kissed the Bride.

The Bride, breaking the kiss, turned and smiled widely the Dearly Beloved.

And I remember thinking, almost aloud:

Love is, and it wants what it wants.

And who’s going to clean up all this blood?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ceremony, People, Relationships, Ritual