Excerpt: Sleeping Alone

As a young boy we visited my grandmother very often. I dreaded these visits. There was nothing for me to do, and the trips seemed the equivalent of rattling the cage of a molting and miserable parrot. My grandmother was always very feeble; thin and withered, unsteady. I imagined that she constantly walked along the fine line dividing the land of the living from the land of the dead. The only surprise to me, when she died-by this time I was twenty-two, I hadn’t seen her in four years-was the fact that she managed to hang on for as long as she did. Terrible thoughts, I know, but I could muster no sympathy for her.

Throughout my childhood she was the omnipresent spectre of death, the most mundane, and therefore effective, of nightmares. When we stayed overnight at her old house in Leaside (as we sometimes did, for special occasions) I was forced to sleep alone in a musty and seldom-used guest bedroom hidden away in the basement. Everything about the place was old, and therefore terrifying: it wore the fine perfume of the long dead. The sheets seemed to me one hundred years old, the paint might have been, for all I knew, applied by my great-great-grandfather, or perhaps the Roman Caesar Nero. The furnishings, I was sure, came from Europe-an old place that carried with it the thick stench of death-or from Canada’s unmapped interior, resonant with dark and ancient magics I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. The paintings I remember quite vividly. With the lights off the darkness was not so complete as to completely eradicate the ghastly visages of those Princes, Saints, and dancers that are now burned into my memory. I had no cousins, none of my aunts and uncles were ready to stoop to children; no avenue of comfort was available to me. And yet what I feared most-what made me hold my tongue even when I felt the icy hand of some cruel oil Duchess on my shoulder-was still my grandmother. I could not risk calling into the room the woman who was, and still is, my most poignant symbol of death… what’s worse, I knew she would be totally helpless. There was nothing she could do to comfort me… Oh, I know now, looking back, that my parents wouldn’t have been very far behind. That any moment alone with my grandmother would be cut mercifully short, that upon their arrival she would melt into the oak panelling or quickly find some excuse to leave. Even still, I remain glad that I managed to avoid as much time with the woman as possible.

Book Census

Apparently something about “Family Day” screams “pointless tabulation of meaningless information”. In my estimation (I suppose I’m going to have to graph this some day) I spent something like six hours (this number seems unreal to me: if I broke it down into hard data maybe it’d be lower?) on the two following graphs and one to come in a later post.


Can I post these graphs without mentioning “Very Small Array“? Dorothy did it first, and better.

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MLB Spring Training Preview

Frank Thomas saved the Blue Jays last year, right?

Frank Thomas saved the Blue Jays last year, right?

Spring training is just around the corner. For most baseball fans, this is a period of a prolonged and steady, almost excruciating, rise in excitement. The sexual connotations inherent in the above statement are obvious, and necessary, as for many fans spring training is the closest they will ever come to genuine sexual pleasure—excluding pennant and World Series titles, awards given for individual accomplishment, and “that one time fumbling in the darkness behind the 7-11, among discarded candy wrappers and half-empty Big Gulps”.

Regardless of whether or not your team is going to be a good one, the stories that come out of spring training are on the whole hopeful. Unless your team’s star pitcher or center fielder tears a significant limb into ribbons during a routine stretch, there is usually little fuel to add to the raging fires of doubt that normally churn in any fan’s heart. Fans spin poor news endlessly and plausibly, as any team can be as good as any other before the regular season starts and the horrible truths begin to present themselves, one-by-one, in a procession equivalent to the exquisitely painful cutting rites of North American “emotional” teenagers. Continue reading →