Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Office Window Tease (a poem)

Real hell is there in the office; I no longer fear any other. […] For me it is a horrible double life from which there is probably no way out except insanity.”

–FRANZ KAFKA


My office window

is a mute tease.

Bared for me to see,

glass bones and all.

 

Just on the other side

a few millimeters away

the wind blows

lilac bushes.

 

They smell lovely, probably.

The wind feels refreshing, I bet.

No need for all that life

in this office, though.

 

A few millimeters of glass

will be just enough

to let me know what is out there–

and remind me what is not.

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In Memoriam: Streetsville Jason (Ralph Faustino)

I live a long way away from Streetsville (Mississauga), Ontario now, and it has been some time since I wandered the streets like I used to. As much as that time and place shaped me, I have also moved on.

So it was strange when I was asked me about ‘Black Kramer’ yesterday. If I remembered him. Considering the inquirer never lived in Streetsville and had only ever visited twice—and had never seen Black Kramer herself—I was shocked that she remembered enough to alert me to the Facebook post she saw about the man who was widely identified as ‘Streetsville Jason’.

[Note: Née Ralph Faustino, I have a vague memory of someone telling me his name was Ralph and me thinking it was a joke because even now he doesn’t strike me as a Ralph—a.k.a. Black Kramer because of his tall, slim build and upright hair that I see has since become dreadlock’d. Out of respect, I will refer to him as Ralph going forward…]

Of course I remembered the man. And I had apparently painted a significant enough portrait in her mind that when she saw the post, she remembered too.

But Ralph was like that.

In my teenage years, the man was ubiquitous. At any given time, he could be found floating along Queen Street. He was like an electron—his exact position could never be known until he was observed, and even then, it would differ from one observer to the next. People would talk about encountering Ralph outside the Masonic Lodge the same night that other people would mention they saw him at the Second Cup on Main Street.

I don’t have many solid memories of conversations with Ralph, although some of that is attributable to my state of mind at the time. Like most people, I remember giving him change for a coffee, or cigarettes and a lighter. On at least one occasion, I smoked a joint with him.

[Note: It is irresponsible to share psychoactive drugs with a person suffering from a mental illness…I understand that almost a decade later, so please refrain from any lectures…]

And whenever I imagine the intersection of Queen Street and Thomas Street, the image in my mind is never vacant—it’s occupied by Ralph, in his long coat, shuffling along the sidewalk, maybe even mumbling a little to himself.

In a way, I feel a little guilty about his whole situation because as a teenager he was a novelty. He was an aloof, token ‘homeless’ guy who popped up like Rob Schneider in Adam Sandler movies.

But he obviously suffered from some sort of mental illness. As stoic as he may have appeared, I would guess he was not living in that group home on Thomas Street because he was living his full potential. There are rumors he was a professor, an author, and a father. But the man most of us knew or saw was a humble flâneur, sometimes lively, sometimes detached.

Those rumors of Ralph’s past life could be true—but even if they are not, Ralph was, in a way, a professor, an author, and a father. Just not in the traditional sense.

It is a bittersweet gesture to have so many people pitch-in to try to get a commemorative bench for Ralph. If the community had shown the same coordinated support when he was alive, who knows what turn his life could have taken.

But it is too easy to look back at what we should have done. I think anyone who encountered Ralph was humbled by him. I am sure there would have been the typical ignorant douchebags who made fun of him or gave him a hard time, but I think most of us treated him with the dignity and respect due to any human being. We did what little we could to help his day be a little better. Without knowing it, that made us a little better too.

If his manuscripts are ever found, and they are not already published, and it seems unlikely he will land a bigger publisher…I will happily fund the print & distribution of his work. If they are anything like Ralph himself, they probably have a lot to teach us about being decent human beings.

‘Onwards & Outwards’ Now at Saskatoon’s McNally Robinson (!)

From the pragmatic, not-so-creative aspect of Life: Onwards & Outwards is making strides out into the world. Newborn fowl strides. But steps nonetheless.

And the cool people at McNally Robinson were kind enough to concede that Onwards & Outwards is indeed a book, and it can physically sit on a shelf. So if you are in Saskatoon and already not stopping at McNally Robinson, do it. Not even for my shit. You want to go there because they do good things for much better writers. And the food at the neighbouring Prairie Ink restaurant is tempting and just as pleasing (I suggest the grown-up grilled cheese; do not eat while reading).

…Then take your time to step through their bookshelf cove. The Saskatoon location even feels like you are on the film set of someone’s personal library. Endless good finds, and though there are not used bookstore prices, the selection is incomparable.

It also happens to include a little book about some kids doing some stuff called Onwards & Outwards.

It is already a little awkward to see your own name on a shelf—objectified and commodified, the titles blinking on the spines like a proto-Broadway sign as the eye scans down the row—it is even more awkward to be the person who has the carry the books there.

For one thing, books are heavy. The box is awkward to carry.

But there is also a vulnerability. It is different when you encounter a thing on a shelf in a store—it is there, outside yourself, magically ready and available for your consumption. Much like meat packaged in the store, you never have to think about the animal it came from (if you don’t want to).

But I won’t ask you to feel compassion for this cow. If that cow is me, then I guess that makes me a butchered carcass. This metaphor is getting out of hand. Suffice to say that Onwards & Outwards is at a cool place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

I have some other exciting projects too that I would love to write all about. Unfortunately, I have known way too many blowhards that talk a lot and don’t do shit. So don’t worry, I won’t bother you with things I have not yet done. You will know about them when (and if) they get done.