Pigeons are my mortal enemies

When I am on my bicycle I am faster than everyone but middle-aged men and women because I travel at reasonable, efficient speeds, and men and women in their middle ages travel too quickly because they are worried about death and afraid. Sometimes the way they like to challenge me is frightening, because they are bitter about lost youth, and if I ever get in their way I know they would not flinch at the idea of pushing me on the ground, which they did once, wrecking my bike.

In the bathroom on my way out of the hospital, my backpack in the corner by the door. The doorknob twisting frantically and some uhhing and grring and other frustrated mumblings, the door handle continuing to twist as I sit on the toilet and watch and say “Someone’s in here”, in a voice that’s not meant to be anything but comes out a bit smarmy and annoyed. Justified, maybe, because the handle moves in a way that I don’t like and it jitters too much and it really seems as if someone’s trying the “coin trick” and trying to get inside.
            I think that’s it but just as I am finishing up I hear heavy wailing with the words “Help me! Help me!” shouted loudly in a thick Eastern European accent and the throbbing of the woman’s voice is terrible like she is leaking blood out of her abdominal cavity. I hurry to get out but hilariously need to flush and wash my hands. My flush comes just as a nurse or doctor reaches her, it’s like an exclamation mark and when I finally exit the room there are five people surrounding the wailing woman and her daughter, who’s just passed out in a chair.
            “Oh, she’s just passed out,” I think.
            I am completely blank.

It’s a cliché at Queen and Yonge, like something out of a high-energy cartoon. Two businessmen in suspenders, white shirts, and ties, are driving SUVs side-by-side in anger, honking and carrying on like young brothers tussling in line. The two men stare into each other’s eyes and fight for position, hating the other man’s guts. Pedestrians, cyclists and other cars are nervous, because if it wasn’t such an inconvenience the two men would run over every single thing in their path.
            Later I’m drag-raced by a Discount trunk, and under a bridge a pigeon almost kills me, because pigeons are my mortal enemies.

anyway when I was washing the dishes from the vegetarian chili, the best lisa has ever had the water smelled like minestrone soup
just like anna the old italian woman, who watched us and wrestling, used to make
, but lisa refused to see for herself because the concept of smelling used-up sudsless dishwater is unappealing, probably for everyone, and I didn’t notice because it came one-at-a-time in grades, and the smell itself I found slightly comforting, and nostalgic.

In the Future Everyone Lives in an Art Museum

Sometimes I get in fights with my neighbour Sam the plumber, who I believe is deranged. On the odd nights I forget to lock the door he comes into my home while I am sleeping and fucks around with my things, most usually my cans, which he throws about, making such a mess and racket that you wouldn’t believe. I tackle him to the floor, usually, and whisper diplomatic-sounding words in his ear, or else I chase him out with a large iron-studded plank that I keep for this purpose.
              On the days I am feeling diplomatic I tell him to ‘Calm down’, ‘Calm down’, ‘Calm down’, and I say ‘What are you doing Sam, this isn’t even your place.’ Sometimes he will go on raging like a maniac and I will scream in his ear and push off and run to grab my plank before he wises up and arms himself with a can or something else. Other times he snaps out of it easily enough and says things like ‘Sorry, Neville,’ or ‘I just don’t know what comes over me.’ Those are the days that I say sorry too, for tackling him, and together we pick up the cans and mop up the ones that have split.
              It is our custom to have tea. We have tea often, for it is a soothing balm that calms our spirits and makes us forget all of the depressing wonders and truths about the world. When I am feeling diplomatic and Sam is diplomatic back we never part without having a cup or two, and discussing all of various things going on. It is important to keep on like this, for it is a sin to hold grudges, and besides, Sam doesn’t mean what he does. You have to make allowances for the few people you got, and to hold onto them as if they were fastened to you with bolts of thick iron, even if you suspect they may be deranged.

When you drop names like Heath Ledger or Anderson Cooper or, I don’t know, the Jonas Brothers, you are immediately googled. It’s bizarre. I barely even know who the Jonas Brothers are, but now that I have invoked their name, I am confident that I will receive many visits from ravenous fans interested in devouring them. Especially if I hint at some hidden secret of theirs that I have picked up through privelege, such as: did you know that Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers have been known to occasionally participate in all-night sessions of– I can’t even bring myself to say it. Pictures! Pictures! Pictures!

Maybe a project is to insert a distinguished (and perhaps related) picture of some celebrity or whatever into every post and see how that works out, except I don’t really want to do that. Maybe I will just blog daily about the Large Hadron Collider, as well as the Superbowl, and what Anderson Cooper has to say about hurricanes and war, and that tantalising scandal involving the Jonas Brothers.

I originally posted this months ago. Over the course of that day I pared it down and then down again, chopping off piece after piece until it became disfigured and unrecognisable. Ashamed, I took it down. Here it is again. It’s much less topical, but I think it’s worth it.
 
 

Endless Night
A response to Batman: The Dark Knight

Hope dies. It withers. It gets shot at. It was never really there in the first place.

In the city of Gotham, there is very little worth saving. There isn’t much to like about the shotgun wielding ‘good Samaritan’ in the bank; the death-threatening ‘angel-of-life’ convict on the boat; the crooked cops; the weak, helpless, and inert. Our one moment of real humour, our collective (and early) sigh of relief, is a hockey-pad wearing vigilante, a Batman imposter, admonished and tied-up by the genuine article. It isn’t long before this ‘weekend warrior’ is unmasked, torn to pieces on the TV news, and dropped from a tether during a scene that seemed (until that instant) to be leaning on the hopeful end of bleak. It’s a telling moment: there’s little time for reflection in a city where every lunch break turns into a car chase, gunfight, or bombing.

The Joker is not a man. The feats that he performs are not possible from any creature that is not supernatural. He’s a ghost that haunts the end of every corridor, with a bomb rigged underneath every mailbox, car, and counter. He’s—what? What’s he supposed to be, exactly? The depressing, unarticulated death wish of every audience member? The oppressive, omniscient god of modern culture? Because he’s everywhere, because he can’t be controlled, tamed, or touched—there is menace in every moment, beyond what seems acceptable. Death hangs around every corner, not tempered by the frequent (and frequently pathetic) talk of hope. “The world is going to end,” says the movie, “there is nothing good about the world, there is nothing you can do to change it,” and then it shows you, shows you, shows you.

It’s such an obvious device that I wasn’t surprised to hear, on exiting the theatre, a young woman who’d seen the same movie express pretty much exactly what I was thinking: “Heath Ledger was God”, she said, in awed tones to her friend, who quickly assented. Yes, I thought, and not one of a world I’d want to live in, not even for the short length of time that I did.

It was only later that my wife revealed that the woman behind me in the line-up to get out hadn’t said ‘God’ but ‘hot’: as in attractive, sexy, desirable. She wasn’t the only one. Most of the laughs the Joker earned during our showing were in the midst of threatened violence, violence, and unabashed death. A brutal pencil through the eye gag. A one-liner during a bank heist or a district attorney fundraiser.

It’s fine to love a bad guy, but an evil one? There are few real questions in The Dark Knight, and there is at least one that doesn’t have to be answered or asked: the joker is an evil man, and there is nothing redeemable in his insanity. What that woman was attracted to was not Heath Ledger’s inherent ‘hotness’ (his props in the movie are garish makeup, active death, and scars), but power in its ugliest and rawest form. Power. Pure, angry, and hard.

It was only afterwards (for reasons that are obvious) that it occurred to me that I wasn’t watching the movie. It happened to me. To what extent can someone be said to be ‘watching’ when presented with a laundry list of emotional and physical torture? I do not use that word lightly. At a certain point in the movie (I can’t say exactly where) your critical reasoning turns off. You lose your sense of time. You die, only to wake at carefully chosen points, and only to wonder why you are still there. Do not expect to relax. Do not expect to think.

Q: “Hey, you’re in prison. What do you talk about?”
 

A: “When I’m in prison I talk about spreadsheets and printouts. At lunch I sit with the other girls and we pull out our liquid paper and highlighters and talk about the possibility of a single period or other forms of punctuation. Sometimes we make graphs, sometimes tens of pages high, and we measure each bar and point so that it corresponds to the correct line. We break and tear at our pieces of bread, and wonder about project management, expressing our mild distress that Wilma has to reapply for the same job.”

Sometimes at night you will think “Hey, I have to do this,” and you will think that over and over and you will lie in bed and say out loud “Hey, I have to do this,” and your wife will wonder what is up with you and laugh, and you will say “Hey, I have to do this,” and she will laugh again and wonder why you just left her there, alone. But you will go and do it and come back and you think, over and over, “Hey, that wasn’t really something I had to do.”