Tag Archives: Books

Found Objects

There are quite a few things in my house that I literally picked off the street, things people left out for other people to take…unless no one does, and those then things become garbage.

My former neighbourhood (two neighbourhoods before this one) was great for found objects; weekly treasures that sprang up with the morning dew like mushrooms. Most of the things were gently used, some were brand new (i.e. still in the packaging); others, decidedly not.

My former neighbourhood (one neighbourhood before this one) was pretty good for found objects, though they were more seasonal in nature, appearing like the harvest moon or showering the streets like meteorites.

My current neighbourhood is OK for found objects. They appear often enough, but not always, like good (or bad) weather, seemingly blowing in with the wind itself. Timing is key here.

Then there are the random neighbourhoods I pass through with their own rhyme, reason and rhythms for found objects. Timing is everything, in these places.

My current take from the streets thus far includes (but is not limited to):

  1. A sturdy red (seldom used) TV tray.
  2. Books in varying condition (mostly good, mostly celebrity autobiographies, cookbooks and textbooks with interesting pictures, maps and diagrams).
  3. A detail of Michelangelo’s “Birth of Man,” in a gilded frame.
  4. A metal, Tiffany-esque lamp (the kind with three settings…bright, Brighter, BRIGHTEST).
  5. Coffee mugs (more than a few, some of them funky).
  6. THIS MAGNIFICENT TWIN HORSE LAMP.

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  7. A wooden owl. Decorative?
  8. Big-ass sea shells!
  9. A working Magic 8 Ball (found by my sister-in-law and generously gifted to me). Yes – definitely.
  10. Carabiners!
  11. An ornate black resin picture frame, of the kind you’d find at your great aunt’s house, or failing that, an off-the-beaten-track Winners.
  12. Like, so. Many. DVDs (including the an entire season of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer).
  13. A kitchen mirror (non-haunted).
  14. Two 1,000 piece puzzles (one of doughnuts, one of shoes).

Will I ever stop finding things on the street and taking them home?

Hm.

There are…other ways to live, I’m sure, that don’t entail picking things off the street to use and enjoy in your home – ways involving, I dunno, yachts and oversize vases that accent the Roman pillars holding up the front entrance of your foyer. Or not.

There are places with foyers. And places without.

There are ways, certainly, like that.

That is very, very true.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Birds, Books, Hobbies, Places, Routines, Thrift

Stranger Readings

When and wherever I see a stranger reading (the subway, the park, the doctor’s office), I always try to figure out what is it they’re reading. What, then why.

How being obvious.

(Or is it? There are times the pages are obscured, and I just have to imagine they’re there and also being read. Also, there are so many assumptions in “How,” isn’t there?)

So, why? Why that book? Is it the content? The author? Is this a project, or a pastime (or both)?

Is this good?

More: good in all sense or semblance of that word, “good.”

Tell me stranger: Do you know something I don’t know? Maybe you know something I do.

Also: Maybe I could tell you a thing or two. I have books too.

Then: “Books are dead.” Did you know that?

Finally: Yes, dead. Read for work. Reading is work. Work to get paid, or don’t work at all. Getting paid is everything, or it is nothing. Anyway, no one likes their job, which is the same as work. Don’t be a sucker! A show-off! A conceit!

Never concede.

Books are dead.

***

Now, of course, I wouldn’t take things so far down that particular logic hole; the rabbits there are deranged.

This is nothing that should be done. Stranger readings ought to stay that way.

This is just an exercise.

The premise being ridiculous.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Communications, Death, Interruptions, Language, People, Routines, Words

The Quick and the Dead

“Books are dead!” proclaimed my guest, who wasn’t really a guest as a surprise visitor who came in with one of my actual guests. He was just that type, just the sort of person to do just that, just to give you an idea.

It is my fault for letting him in, I know. Though I do not take responsibility for his behaviour. That would be asking too much, I think. It would be expecting the whole world.

Books are dead!” he cried out again, after I faltered in my response, not knowing exactly what he was getting at (but also noting all the books we have weighing down the shelves and invading the little free spaces of our tiny apartment).

I read for work,” he continued. Incredible. There was an aura of self-induced triumph about him.

And that’s what made me think of the boy.

It was a Saturday morning and the subway car was, as usual, overcrowded – Stephen and I and quite a few others were jammed up close, near a young boy and his mother, who were seated but nonetheless closed in with the rest of us.

The mother sat by the window, the boy sat towards the aisle.

“Eee-er-rect? Ee-rect-a?” said the boy.

His mother ruefully shook her head, but did not discourage him. She smiled to herself and then at us as her son struggled with the ad hanging tantalizingly above our heads, its message as yet a mystery to his young mind.

“Dis-disfunct. Dis-func-sia-in,” he enunciated, carefully, loudly, heedlessly.

We waited. Stephen and I, the boy’s mother and the boy, and the half dozen people to our immediate left and right in that moment became a coterie, a clique, an inner circle facing out. The world be damned.

The boy continued: “E-rect-tile. Erectile! Dis…dysfunct-dysfunction!”

There was so much laughter threatening in that moment to break through. The boy’s mother congratulated him – sincerely, proudly – on his having mastered two very difficult words. Who would dare laugh then, and spoil everything?

And then the boy asked, pointing to the ad: “What is it?”

His mother looked at him. She looked at us. She looked out the window. “Ask your father,” she deadpanned.

So much laughter then, the boy’s merging with ours and I think, not because he understood his mother’s exquisite joke or deft delivery, but because, together, they had elicited a moment of joy out of the drudgery of the everyday. His mother laughed as she pulled him to her, beaming.

“Books are dead.” “I read for work.”

I guess what I’m saying is this:

I wish the boy and his mother had shown up at my house instead.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Children, City Life, People

The Places You’ve Been (Before & After)

Sharon Temple is located in East Gwillimbury, not too far from King City, Ontario. I went there with Nate and Ally[1] recently on a mutual day off.

IMG_7620

There was a school group before us. They left as we came in and staff were a bit surprised by our adult presence there on a weekday.

(This economy.)

According to their literature, Sharon Temple was “a community formed during the War of 1812, inspired by the Rebellion of 1837, and instrumental in the fight for true democracy in Canada.” Several members, indeed, took part in William Lyon Mackenzie’s 1837 uprising, which led to key political reforms for “responsible government” in what was then Upper Canada. Read more about Sharon Temple here. Suffice it to say, their stairway is an architectural feat, the Temple itself a marvel.

IMG_7626

Admission: $5 Adults. Children (under 16) free.

We hit an antique market in Barrie shortly after visiting Sharon Temple. It was two-and-a-half floors of a very large building just brimming with stuff – all kinds of matter, seemingly all manner of Thing, although it seemed rather generous to call or deem some of it “antique.” Antique markets are strange places: they seem rather like high-end thrift stores, or immaculate refuse heaps. We had been told by our mutual friend that this particular place was great for quality (or at least hard-to-find) books.

The books up for sale were overpriced for my taste, but Nate and Al poured over them and found some hidden treasures pertaining to their specific interests.

These include (in no particular order): Ontario history; archeology in Western, Eastern and Southern Ontario; provincial archives/sketches; big books full of old maps; and descriptions of early slip-decorated pottery in Canada.

This list is by no means extensive. I have very interesting friends.

I found (in no particular order):

 

  1. An array of foam skulls, purportedly from the set of the 12 Monkeys TV show (which I don’t watch).[2]
  2. A stain glass poodle.
  3. Many wood duck decoys of varying craftsmanship, price and (in some cases) degrees of decay.
  4. A “vintage” mushroom lamp that cost several times more than my hydro bill.
  5. An ENTIRE EDWARDIAN SITTING ROOM (removed piece by piece, bit by bit, wood panel by wood panel and by wall by wall from an estate somewhere in England, with the fourth wall removed/left missing like a stage play or sitcom…a steal, really, at only $38,000).
  6. Metal coin banks in the shape of various animals.
  7. A statue of a Bull fighting a Bear (both male) affixed to a pure marble stand.
  8. Circus Butts.
  9. Old, used buckets of KFC – let me clarify: for sale.

 

I rejoined Nate and Ally. I left them once more to their books and wandered a bit before rejoining them again. I rejoined them again after walking back to the Edwardian Sitting Room, standing inside a place that was and was not there, before stopping at the array of foam 12 Monkeys skulls and picking one up as if it were, alas, poor Yorick.

IMG_7647

And lo. And behold: flipping idly through Al’s very large pile of “To Buy” books, I came across an account of the Children of Peace, the people who built the Sharon Temple and their founder, one David Willson. There were pictures, some admittedly at weird angles, of the Temple’s magnificent structure and accounts of Willson as an outspoken, even outlandish leader.

Further reading revealed a former school teacher turned minister, disowned by the Quakers for “some peculiarities of belief or conduct,”[3] (including, apparently, his love of music, including, for example, his own particular brand of mysticism), Willson is described thusly in one account:

“David Willson seems about 65 years of age and is a middle-sized, square-built man, wearing his hair over this face and forehead, and squints considerably…He was dressed in a short brown cloth jacket, white linen trousers, with a straw hat, all perhaps home-made. Originally from the State of New York, he had resided thirty years in this county. The number of his followers is unknown, but all offering themselves in sincerity are accepted, as he dislikes sectarianism, and has no written creed. He seems to act on Quaker principles, assisting the flock in money and advice.”[4]

(Willson strikes me, after everything, as a man not just of his time but of the unforeseen circumstances, rather than the inevitabilities, surrounding it – a compelling figure for all that he was, and remains, a rather uncanny person.)

Still, it was the pictures that I found particularly striking: we had just been there an hour ago. The pictures seemed proof of something; they somehow added another layer to the veracity of the day, conspiring with us, egging us on.

Something like that.

***

In the end, I didn’t buy anything at the antique market, but it’s the thrill of the hunt, yes?

IMG_7658

Because there’s something about it, isn’t there? Reading about a place you’ve been to before, feeling out how one experience compares (enhances? diminishes? challenges? complements?) to the other, afterward. Learning about someone you didn’t know existed a day before, or even that morning, their life leaving some kind of impression on yours.

And then there was the experience of having been in a sitting room that wasn’t, of having encountered a memento from a show I have never watched in, of all places, Barrie, Ontario.

Wasn’t that something?

Maybe I shouldn’t have passed by those foam 12 Monkeys skulls. Maybe I should have more seriously considered the Room.

But since I can’t place the value in either of those Things, since their purpose eludes me, I think it was the right decision not buy anything after all.

That day, at least, it was best.

 

 

________________________________________________

[1] Not real names.

[2] I have seen the movie (years ago) if that counts for anything.

[3] Hughes, James L. (James Laughlin). (1920). Sketches of the Sharon Temple and of its Founder David Willson. York Pioneer and Historical Society: Toronto, 1. Available: https://archive.org/details/sketchesofsharon00hugh_0.

[4] Patrick Shirreff, quoted in Hughes, 11.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Friends, Hobbies, People, Places, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Travel

That Monkey On Your Back

 
They came at us from the front of the room and as they picked each person off one by one, good intentions flaring like the quivering proboscis of an enraged primate, I grappled for a response I could maybe live with for the rest of my life.

An education seminar that begins with six suspiciously keen and terrifically alert presenters, all of them eager to feed upon the attentions of a captive and as yet hapless audience, is a deadly, deadly Thing indeed.  8:15AM sharp.  Bright shiny eyes, grinning from ear to ear. Gorgy faces gazing back at them, totally unawares.

The subject was reading – literacy – how do we as The Concerned get The Youth to enjoy reading as everyone everywhere, naturally, should.  Or something.

Suddenly:

“Without thinking about it, tell us what your favourite book is!”

TEAM BEEFCAKE.

See how they sparkle in the sunlight?

A trick!

A question the answer to which serves to define the questioned for the questioner according to level of intellectual and/or emotional and/or aesthetic maturity – or possibly even to showcase the supposedly advanced capacities of the asker – and infused with an unquestioned imperativeness (WITHOUT THINKING…TELL US) that mires it, all of it, in all kinds of smug, self-satisfied celebration.

A mess.

I am not good at giving people advice.  Any “advice” I do give can easily be broken down to its essential elements: a heady blend of avoidance and denial, topped with a generous dollop of after-the-fact rationalization.  Bait and switch. Cut and run.  That kind of Thing.

But I want to help here. I feel compelled to ease the blunt force trauma of the trick that is the question that is a mess.

I really do.

And if only to get that wild, demented monkey to stop clawing deep into the raw flesh of your back and off of you already!  To stop it from biting up and down your neck as it clings there, frothing at the mouth.

They haunt me still.

It’s in the eyes where they get you, really.

 
The Alchemist

Sensibilities aside, invoking the title of this book at least puts you on par with the nine other people in the room who already sighed it out as their answer.  It is the classic hide-as-a-face-in-the-crowd tactic.  Much like that time in church when you didn’t feel like singing the hymns so you just mouthed “tomato, tomato, watermelon, tomato” until it was, finally, over.  Or come to think of it your entire career in middle school choir, which you saw through just so you could satisfy the extracurricular requirements established by the board of education – the ones that evidently demonstrate your well roundedness and civic mindedness, thereby setting you on the right path towards a bright and prosperous future as a valued member of society.  And everybody.

Loves!

The.

Alchemist.

 
War & Peace

Go ahead and fire off this salvo at them – a real fatty – and do it with everything you have in you, and especially if you’ve never read War & Peace. They will not call your bluff. They will move on after a moment of dubious yet acquiescent pause. The risk here is just too great. The stakes too high for anyone to do otherwise.

 
Black Beauty

“But not the one with the horse.”

 
Catcher in the Rye

A lot of people find this book admirable not just as reading material but as evidence, unequivocal, of a mind able to slice through the phoniness of society just like everybody else who has read this same exact book in high school for 11th grade English because every single copy of Life of Pi had been checked out and there was, like, no way you were going to take the bus across town on a Friday afternoon to the main library just to get it.  So you might as well let them have it. Go with it.

 
How to Train Your Cuttlefish

GRIPPING… an extraordinary achievement that completely redefines everything we thought we knew and then some. [How to Train Your Cuttlefish] is both deeply rich and luxuriously illuminating…[an] utter tour de force! With cuttlefish.”

 
 I, Platypus

No lies.  You’ll probably get called out right away for this one, but that actually makes it worth the effort. And if you don’t? Still totally worth it. You cannot lose.

 
The Phantasmagorical Journey Through the Outworlds of Nibs and Doon: Oridon’s Lament (First Edition, Vol. 2)

Extra points (10, 000+) if you can: 1) say this with a straight face and 2) preempt any follow-up questions as to the actual existence of this book (“Really? I’ve never heard of it”) with a dramatic, over the top eye-roll. Then flip the table and leave the room without another word. Have a sandwich and congratulations!

 
The Bakers’ Dozen

I dunno.  But sounds good, doesn’t it?  Legitimate, even. If pressed, try: “It’s a mixed-genre mystery thriller/cookbook. It is very psychological.”  That should do it.

Indigenous in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

These lovelies are known as Persians. Their pinkness is literally and figuratively the icing on the cake.

 
Shakespeare’s 10 Things I Hate About You

Yes. GO THERE.

 
Infinite Jest

“By David Foster Wallace? Have you heard of him?”

No?  OK. Then, yeah.  With raised brow and laudable guffaw I repeat: Infinite Jest.”

Yes? OK. Never mind. My favourite book is, uh, The Alchemist. It changed my life or something.”

 
Like I said.  Cut and run.
 

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Filed under Books, Education

Book Club

I like taking the subway to get to Other Places because I can do Other Things while I’m at it.  It’s like a kind of wondrous, effortless multitasking.

I love to battle it out in the underground.

Game on, game on.

Sometimes I listen to music.  I mean, how often can you just listen to music?

(Finally!  A chance to enjoy MMMBop, on repeat, without distraction).

(And in plain sight of a Society at Large that is none the wiser.  HA!).

(Mmm bop, ba duba dop/Ba du bop, ba duba dop/Ba du bop, ba duba dop/Ba du...)

Seeing double plus one.

I know you're in here...somewhere...

(I never stopped loving you, Taylor Hanson).

Sometimes, I people watch.

(That woman looks drained and downtrodden; she needs a break.  That man is robust, yet unfocussed, and just a little bit glib; he has had too many breaks).

(Everywhere I look pants are getting both tighter and bagger.  It’s like one is compensating for the other but I’m not sure which is doing which).

(Did I just indadvertedly make eye contact with that old lady?  Shit.  Look away!  No, wait.  Don’t look away!  PRETEND YOU’RE ASLEEP AND DON’T KNOW ENGLISH).

Hell is...

Happy 7:00AM, People! Watch me as I'm watching you.

Sometimes, I just, kind of, you know…space out and go from there.

Just…

…kind of…

…you know…

ZzZzzzzzzzzZZZzzZZzzZZZzzzzZZZzzzzZZZZZzzzZzzz.....

Amen, sister friends.

Mostly, though, I read.

I love to read on the subway because I win at reading on the subway.  I absolutely DOMINATE.

But it is not without its perils.

After all, nobody wants to LOSE at reading.  It’s all a matter of knowing when to pick your battles.

At a Tim Horton’s?  Go ahead, pull out that brand new copy of Jean M. Auel’s The Land of the Painted Caves.  Read it over timbits and half-eaten crullers and lowered expectations.  “Ooo” and “ahhh” whenever the mood strikes your fancy.  Laugh your head off.  Or not.  Who cares?  WHO CARES??

At a Starbucks?  Best then to go with that worn copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra that you picked up at Goodwill for just the occasion.  Be sure to smile indulgently at the page every now and then, and to nod your loving approval to a brilliance not unlike your own.  Chuckle, a little, to show your engagement with the DISCOURSE.

But the subway…

…On the subway, reading is an art.  Of war.  You have to know the terrain you’re on that particular day and adjust to the conditions and – this is critical – to know to withdraw when you have to.  It’s not like listening to Rock N’ Roll Razorblade, or reading from a Kinkle or Kooboo or whatever the hell, which you can do with the immunity of anonymity.

My other iPad is a Millennium Falcon.

iPad Dude! Damn you and your impunity from my scrutiny!

NO.

Because maybe today is a Dan Brown kind of day.  Sheep!  I shall raise the stakes with my rare edition of hitherto unpublished Mark Twain manuscripts!

But what if The Autobiography of Mark Twain is the Name of the Game?  Why, then, I shall counter with the Collected Works of the Emmanuel de Mure Volstein!  It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t exist; even if he did, you still wouldn’t have heard of him!

The Help.  The HELL?  HA! Allow me to retort with The Hunt for Red October, because it’s the better movie.

Twilight?  You’re better off with the movies in the way that people are better off trapped inside burning houses than under churning seas.

No surprises in the end, but least you’re not wet.

Shakespeare?  SHAKESPEARE! Shit…Oh shit.  How am I supposed to know if you’re reading in earnest or with ironic detachment?  Is there a book report due or a play in production?  Is Kenneth Branagh up to something??  Too many variables here.  Best to rock myself gently to the soothing melodies of Middle of Nowhere and live to fight another day.

(Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose/You can plant any one of those/Keep planting to find out which one grows/It’s a secret no one knows…)

You may ask: must I live this way, constantly on edge?

YES.

Because sometimes you have to lose to win.

Because sometimes the content of the book isn’t as interesting as who’s holding it by the covers.

Because sometimes Tenuous Something is better than Ample Nothing.

But sometimes…

…Sometimes I think that Things would be easier if I just read whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

"She was there to sell makeup, but the father saw more..."

"Put it away! Put it away!!!"

But the world doesn’t work that way, and it is in moments like these that I realize that I just can’t betray the standards I have set for others to impose on me.

It’s just easier to accomplish Things without really having to accomplish anything and that’s what we call SUCCESS in the end.

It is a hard Thing, living for others; entering the combat zone weary, battle scarred, knowing that in my heart of hearts, my love resides elsewhere.

No word of a lie: I LOVE Fran Drescher.  She is great to me.

This book has everything.

But I shall persevere.

(In an mmm bop they’re gone/In an mmm bop they’re not there/In an mmm bop they’re gone /In an mmm bop they’re not there/Until you lose your hair. But you don’t care).

(Repeat Chorus).

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