All posts by jackcaseros

I Seek the Bots

hashtagged, optimized, baptized by Google

first page

fresh meat

desperate kid

like

like

love?

ok, let’s not scroll too far

three clicks, buzzwords, news cycling

fake but not fiction

fight the right causes

network bridges don’t burn

no turning back

algebra abracadabra

algorithm all on the rhythm

penis pills?

mail-order wives?

monthly income from home?

get rich quick, quick, quicker

news-ticker troll tickler

Trump Obama racism capitalism

you got a problem?

bait click silly phish

blue screen of death

loading

loading

mine me for a bitcoin reward

shovels of kilobyte over-burden

don’t mind if I do

the AI is off on tangents

sine, cosine, co-sign for a mortgage

great deals

horny MILFs

broken link

spoiled meat

still desperate kid

like

like

nevermind

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Naturally Imperfect

Usually, I try not to use social media to personally insult another commoner. Famous people, maybe–their name or promise becomes more than the person who wakes up in the middle of the night to use the toilet and finds out there’s no paper on the roll. But someone else like me, just grinding through their day, seems unnecessarily mean.

At the same time, some people are just so striking that it’s hard to want to do anything else but share them with the world. I think that’s the entire premise of People of Walmart, or more abstractedly, the long-running Rate My Poo.

And I thought that was going to be the case with the Le Baron Barbie. That’s why I went out of my way in the ggrocery store parking lot to take the photo.

Carrots_LeBaronBarbie

Was it planted, some kind of performance art in the Real Canadian Superstore parking lot? Or had Barbie skipped California or New Hampshire or wherever she’s from and was now holing up in Alberta? A woman on the lam would need groceries, too. In her forties now, divorced from Ken, possibly with custody of children and strapped for cash flow ever since Ken was busted for tax evasion and insider trading. Her Le Baron her lifeline, hauling groceries and bustling her to work, day care, the liquor store.

I never found the owner of the Le Baron Barbie. It was too cold to wait outside. It didn’t matter that much. I would’ve forgotten about the photo altogether (to be deleted en masse, with the other stupid throw-aways).

But inside the grocery store, right past the sliding doors, there was a display of carrots in yellow bags, huge and heaped. We didn’t need carrots. There were blueberries in the neighbouring display, and when I went to check them out, I saw the carrots were more than just bargain produce.

Carrots_NaturallyImperfect

President’s Choice first decided to introduce off-spec produce into their stores in 2015 (and recently expanded in July 2017). I was surprised to actually see it in our local store. And it was interesting to see it packaged as no name, the anonymous, no-frills branch of President’s Choice. The brand’s already somewhat imperfect. The chunky vegetable soup is acceptable, but it’s certainly not a perfect soup. With that said, they do routine things properly and inexpensively. (Full disclosure: my pantry has a fairly yellow palette.)

When I heard that PC was releasing cosmetically-unacceptable produce, I imagined it bagged in brown bags or in mesh and up-marketed to hipsters in Toronto and Vancouver. It was nice to see it offered invitingly under the no name Naturally Imperfect label. But it makes me wonder why they didn’t bridge the label gap with people already put off by the visual imperfection?

Most consumers aren’t told how their food gets to them. However, I think most people understand that bad produce is weeded out before it gets to the customer. The end user doesn’t have to sort through things that didn’t ripen or rotted or are potentially diseased. There has been the expectation set that what is in stores will be the best of the best.

This selection process also rejects products for cosmetic reasons. If a carrot doesn’t look like a carrot, or a cucumber looks like a squash, or lettuce doesn’t look like it could appear in a fast food advertisement, it might not end up in stores.

For anyone who gardens, imperfections are inherent with the outcome. Sometimes the tomatoes are too small. Sometimes the bell peppers mysteriously cross with the jalapeños and become spicy. I’ve been growing carrots for eight years, and usually about a third of my crop turn into octopuses.

Carrots_Homegrown

Every household can’t handle its own waste. But we have a bit of space and it wouldn’t make sense to me to do not use some of that area for our detritus. We compost most of our food waste. That goes into the garden. The garden produces food which we eat. Any waste goes back to become energy for the next round of food. It seems frivolous to yay-or-nay the outcome of that cycle because it looks a little different. There are enough real reasons why fruit & vegetables can be spoilt.

National Geographic featured food waste in America in their March 2016 issue (and previously reported in October 2014). (The National Resources Defense Council also has a decent overview that’s five years old but probably not all that outdated). It became easier to see why fresh food goes through so much selection. Consumers are fickle. Litigation always looms. Business are typically conservative, especially with the razor-thin profit margins of grocery stores.

But stores, restaurants, and chefs had been pushing against food waste. It has to be hard for someone peddling food to turn away food from their stores. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s all inventory, measurable merchandise to increase cash flow. I don’t know. I just eat the stuff because if I don’t, I’ll eventually die.

Back outside, I noticed Le Baron Barbie hadn’t moved. I had forgotten about her. Now I saw the little desperate corvette overlaid by the neon yellow and orange of the no name bag of twisted carrots.  And I wondered if I was any different than the countless people so removed from where their food comes from that they raise eyebrows at the sight of sinuous carrots. Maybe I’m so removed from where happiness comes from that I can’t even see how Le Baron Barbie is just looking for the root of her happiness in her own dirt pile, just a few parking stalls down from my own.

 

I Thought I Told You Twice: Bike Thiefs’ “Lean Into It”

If you’ve been seeking a band that supports dogs with anxiety and demurs at the consumerist principle of destination weddings, you probably need to meet Bike Thiefs.

IMG_0672[1]

Fundamentally, I insist that you need to have your bike stolen to really understand life–fortunately, this three piece out of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada isn’t so dire. Conversational, yes. Sardonic, sure. Sincere, probably.

“Just last week my sister went out and bought a new Dyson.

About goddamn time I felt some excitement…”

Their latest album Lean Into It, shows the band growing into some new sonic textures. Punk is a vast ethos that is limited to the safety pin aesthetic for most people. Bike Thiefs already proved with their last records, These Things Happen All The Time and Bloated, that you didn’t need three chords or a mohawk for punk to work. With this record, their sound is crisper–less screaming and more jeering. But still, as my tattoo artist told me, close enough for punk rock.

Which is good. From the punchy ‘Destination Wedding’–complete with the music video’s most honest portrayal of a Monopoly game–to the twang-ish swing of ‘Melatonin’, there’s a lot in the record’s seventeen minutes.

“You know me so well.

How low is your bottom?

And I tried all my best

to be transparent, militant, eye contact, intimate…”

They claim their new approach is conversational, but I find it almost literary. When I Google ‘literary music’ though, there are more references to existing literature & poetry appearing in music. Which I find strange, because that’s just gilding the lily. That’s not being literary–that’s just using literature.

Bob Dylan obviously won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Tokyo Police Club is a modern contender for me. Other than that, the bands I’ve been listening to most these days work with sound best…their vocals act as just another instrument. I guess I’m making myself out to have an unreliable opinion in the matter (and I certainly do, as with most things) (My wife informs me that my penis ensures I can hold unqualified opinions; I don’t understand why she rolls her eyes when she says it).

Thankfully, the music speaks for itself. My favourite song, ‘Cosmetic Damages’, is a poignant story of a minor fender bender with an asshole:

“Can’t you see I’ve got places to be?

I’ve got goals, man…

My Hyundai Sonata, my high blood pressure,

my left turn…

Now and I see

that your wife

is shaken and crying.

It’s my god-given right

to stay here and fight

and I fight good.

 

I’ve had nothing to drink.”

I don’t want to spend more  time explaining why you should listen than it would take you to listen. It’s been like…two to five minutes. You could be up to a third done by now.

The Plaza Paper (A True Story)

I found it half-hidden in the seam of a decorative pillar.

A standard white 8.5″ x 11″, filled with printed text on one-side. The font is size 11 Calibri, Microsoft Word’s most recent default. The first thing I can tell is that someone opened the program and started typing before firing it off to the printer. This was a passion plea.

2017-10-19 - IMG_3217

Olympic Plaza is Calgary’s inner-city monument to the 1988 winter games. It’s now well-lit, to keep away the junkies who found the grass and water fountain soothing. They go nine blocks west now, to Century Gardens. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what the police do to them–their own dealers are serving up fentanyl/carfentanil-laced powders. That’s a different story than now. Or maybe not. I can’t really say, I guess.

There were two police vans parked on an open pedestrian cobblestone path. One van passed me slowly as I approached. I didn’t think anything of it.

I made a roundabout around the fountains, where a man asked me for a cigertte, then hounded me when I refused. He even dropped the hockey bag he was carrying and stomped towards me from behind. That might have been bravery, but I saw how shallow it was when I spun around and stomped toward shim one step. Mahatma Gandhi could beat me in a boxing match, but I know that most people are scared shitless when you call them on their bullshit.

After that mess, I stopped at the commemorative larger-than-life sculptures of Canada’s Famous Five–suffragists who helped Canada realize that woman were in fact persons in 1919.

I was even reading each of the pillars. The French side first, for practice.

At the third pillar from the left, I saw the thin hint of a paper.

2017-10-19 - IMG_3216
A recreation of the original discovery. I wasn’t seff-conscious enough to take a pic before I unfolded the letter.

I’m a writer. I check out edges of pages like frat boys lose themselves in cleavage. When I saw the full block of text I felt a flutter in my chest.

My first guess was that it was one of those Artificial Intelligence experiments. You know, random computer-generated words strung together through iterative algorithms. Some kid thought it would be brilliant if some unknowing idiot picked it up.

I read the first line. Then I remembered the police vans. I stashed the letter in my coat pocket and started for my hotel room.

Before I even undressed, I pulled up a chair under a lamp, rested my elbows on my knees, and read everything through before moving:

[Verbatim & sic. Some private contact information has been obfuscated with Xs.]

Sep17th2017.Csis in Calgary are hounding me24-7,Zerzetsen,Zersetsung,Gang stalking/mi6 and csis stops my mail calls emails to my family in Plymouth England since I was deported to Canada by mi6 in 2002/Auntie Pamela X Abbotsbury way lowerham Plymouth Devon pl22hs. Tel XXX5X-5XX5XX/csis had Richard Kovac try to frame me up ask lee walklin about the hand guns ,csis blackmailed kovac to do this as he had sunk his boat in Vancouver Bc for the insurance, lees a witness-X Patna place north road west Plymouth Devon pl15ay uk-telXXXX-66X6XX,lee was fooled by kovac/csis try to break your will so you comply to them as a slave would to his master pure torture (Sound device) covertly done and hard to prove but not the hand guns, Brain numb, poor vision, slurred speech,headaches,teeth,penis,lungs hard to breath,ears,skin,feet,joints,eyes,Ass,hard too walk,spine lower back all painful, sleep deprivation for years here in the (TRUE NORTH).People who know what csis is doing help csis cover this up-David Eby was Bc civil liberties shouted at me while I had no sleep for days at his office and refused to help me which is my right as a Canadian citizen, he is a MLA now in Vancouver ask him 6XX-66XXXXX/Gail Davidson Human rights lawyer lied to me on her doorstep for csis, she told me she only helped People in war she works for lawyers watch ask her XXX-XXX-XXXX,just before I talked with her 2 female Agents walked past me and said hello to me one was British/Don Wright of Amnesty international lied to me ,he told me he had phoned my Auntie Pamela McCormac and spoke with her which is Bullshit when I returned to talk with him at his new office he told me he would get the police on to me if I returned, he knows that I know he lied to me for csis/ Wally oppal helped csis, wally told me that he had not got a note from me that I had handed him at a bookstore in Vancouver so I gave him another note and csis were standing right beside him snarling at me ,again I had no sleep for days, ask him TEL 6XX-6XX-6XXX – XXXXXXXX@XXXXXXXXLAW.COM I ALSO WENT TO HIS OFFICE/Kent hehr MP lied to me and put on a good act for csis and told me he was sorry which he will be when this goes to court, he has 4 notes that I handed him in persion-4XX-X44-XXXX/Joan crockat MP lie to me at her office on 17th Ave Calgary, she told me csis had more important things to do then hound me and did nothing/Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nanshi has a Note that I handed him in person at the library Ask Naheed -XXX-XXX-XXXX- if he can help me or csis .office of Mayor City of Calgary PO Box 2100 station M Calgary,AB T2P2M5/Csis had RCMP in Vancouver coerced me sign blank forms for a mock crime while I had no sleep for days and had me go to the police station for finger printing yet I was witness ?(2018- Bent Female cop)more Bent csis cops 5329-2511-who have used their power for csis/RCMP here in Calgary have helped csis they covered their numbers they would wake me up 2 AM when I lived outside in the snow and say hello Sammy are you cold or Turn on their lamp into my eyes or tell me to get going/Peoples commission network–csis watch–know about csis but not me Emails stopped and mail/Csis had Retard agent offer me $200-000 Bucks to work for them and a house and even a girlfriend, I told the Dumbass to stick it where the sun never shines/At first csis befriends you then they frame you up to blackmail you to be a (human labrat)/I have come across others like me one in a food line years ago in Vancouver he did not know his mates were csis till I told him so which pissed csis off, more torture (SOUND LOW FREQUENCY)/BRAIN LOCKS ON/Agent bumps into me for a week to piss me off then just walks past me the next day hoping i will attack, there is a camera above my head recording if I do the police have Evidence/Agent dressed like me in every way walks about shouting at people on the street, police are called they stop me/Remanded for attacking Agent who I never attacked, KIM ROSS my so called lawyer said he would not talk about my penis in court nor did he talk about csis either case thrown out Agent did not turn up at court ask Kim XXX-XXXXXXX,he talked to csis/ please contact Journalist to go to address( NOT YOUR OWN COMPUTER OK –TRACE )csis will not let me leave Canada to go home I stay at the DI staff helps csis, Agents live at DI.ME SAMMYMCLOUGHLIN,SINS–NE505944B-725514236.thank you. Stops me working, no welfare.

When I was finished, the phone in the hotel room rang. I didn’t answer it. I copied the letter before tearing it into tiny pieces and tossing it out the suicide-proof window. The pieces fluttered down like confetti onto the rail tracks the downtown hotel backed onto.

The phone rang again. I waited until it was clear it wasn’t an accident. Then I answered it.

“Mr. Caseros?”

“Hmm.”

“Your pizza is in the lobby.”

It occurred to me that I had gone for the walk to wait out the forty-five minute pizza delivery. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I told the front desk I would be down shortly.

I put on my sweater, coat & toque before I left the room. The delivery guy met me in the lobby, and didn’t know what to do when I followed him out.

From the hotel, it was only a couple blocks back to Olympic Plaza. I roamed around with my pizza. After long enough that I could feel the warmth from the box fading, I found a group of men with long beards. They had big backpacks and carried bags of empties. They were settling down for a smoke in the shadows beyond the well-lit fountain.

 

2017-10-19 - IMG_3213
“There is a river flowing beneath us”

 

With pizza box under my arm, I strolled up to them–straight-on and with a smile–and when they saw me I held out the pizza and asked if they were hungry.

Of course they were, they told me. I sat down and cracked open the box.

“Alright…”  I said as they rested back on their elbows eating folded slices of pizza. “Tell me, what do you guys know about Sammy McCloughlin?”

When They Said Kill Your Darlings…

When they said

kill your darlings

they didn’t explain

how they would only ask about the rabbits

 

so I said

ok, maybe

we can just stay here

for a while

 

so I stretched

& scratched my head

& bled

& waited

 

waited until they said

“look what you made us do

we sat just around

all afternoon”

 

didn’t understand

what else they were supposed to do

couldn’t soak in

those few moments

 

before I’m through

& through

& through

& the rabbits burrow away for the winter

Autumnal Equinox (Freewriting S.A.D)

Although I have a hard time identifying with any belief system, one’s actions can sometimes categorize one’s self into certain identities. With that said, I guess I’m fairly pagan–as wonderfully nebulous as that is.

I celebrate the solstices and equinoxes. They designate important time periods in my part of the world, and are particularly important as mile posts for the waxing & waning of the unfortunate side effect of northern latitudes: seasonal affective disorder.

That’s not a blanket side effect for everyone on the forehead of the planet. But it sure fucks with me. After floundering for too many years, I have found that observing the points where the sunlight increases or decreases is one small way to acknowledge the cycle.

That way, no surprises. The merry-go-round is there for all to see.

Unfortunately, I was born with a ticket and can’t get off. The freewriting piece below is awkward & unsettling & dizzying, kind of like a merry-go-round. It’s an older piece, but from the same period to come, between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. I don’t think it offers much hope, which is why I felt the need for this preamble.

 

~~~

—And can’t you go for a week without? Look at what you’re doing to yourself—

<<Doing? That’s exactly it, hun. I’m doing>>

—You’re doing nothing—

<<You’re doing nothing>>

—That’s exactly it, hun. I’m doing—

<<What are we doing here?>>

—We’re here again. You ever wonder if it has anything to do with a gain?—

<<It sounds more like a loss. To be anywhere again is only retracing your steps>>

—Unless you took a new way. What are we doing here again?—

<<I wish I knew. You’re no help>>

—No help is right. Look at what we’re doing to ourselves—

<<This is confusing>>

—That’s right. I’m doing—

<<You’re doing it again. We’re here>>

—And can’t you go a week without reminding me? Listen to yourself—

<<I feel it all over again. We’re here again>>

—God fuck it. Krishna suck it. Devil may share. Damn us all to earth for a thousand lifetimes—

~~~

<<And you would still just come back here>>

—Probably. I can’t go a week without—

<<What does it taste like?>>

—It tastes like we’re here again. I feel it in every nerve—

<<Must be close>>

—Must be doing nothing—

<<Unless you took a new way>>

—Naw, fuck it. You know it. There is no other way—

<<Did you just feel that?>>

—I think that’s the point—

<<No, it wasn’t sharp. It was full-bodied>>

—Why don’t we forget about it all and get a bottle of Malbec? —

<<Why don’t we just enjoy the tilt of the earth for once?>>

—You know there is no other way—

<<There must be another way around it>>

—Oh sure, we can circle it all day, but we’re just going to up here—

<<Here? Again?>>

—You’re doing it again—

<<That’s exactly it, hun. I’m doing>>

~~~

Jim Carrey Just Dropped Eternal Yogic Wisdom on the Most Unprepared People

“It’s a weird little semantic jump, and it’s not that far, but it’s a universe apart from where most people are.”

Jim Carrey, 2017

 

 

You are not earth, water, fire or air.

Nor are you empty space.

Liberation is to know yourself

as Awareness alone—

the Witness of these.

Ashtavakra Gita, 1.3

First & foremost, I don’t intend to validate “celebrity news” with this post. On the site where I most often encounter agglomerated news stories, the Celebrity section is laid out ahead of Finance. Since I’ve become old enough to want to read about commodity prices & shit Warren Buffet says, I have to scroll past thumbnail pictures of people who look so perfect I wonder if they even belong to my same species.

When I saw Jim Carrey’s uplifting smile in one of those thumbnails, I swooned. I clicked. I wanted to know whatever vacuous thing this celebrity columnist thought I needed to know about people I don’t really know.

It really helped that the headline said he gave an “emotionally heavy talk about ‘giving up hope’ during [a] rare public appearance”. As Robin Williams’ suicide reminded me, these slapstick comedians aren’t as one-dimensional as their typecasting made us think. (It also made their later films like One Hour Photo or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind so jarring that you could forget it was Aladdin’s Genie or Ace Ventura on the screen.)

The NY Daily News article went on to explain that Carrey spoke on a Broadway stage with Michael Moore. They got real. After quizzing Carrey about how he was coping with Donald Trumps’ presidency, Carrey went into his “emotionally heavy” stuff that apparently made people uncomfortable.

“Give up! Surrender to the idea that things are bad and yet still, from 3,000 feet up, we don’t matter,” Carrey continued. “Things are happening and we’re going to happen along with them whether we like it or not. But we don’t matter. … Once you lose yourself, you’re pretty okay. Just get you out of the way.”

Jim Carrey, 2017

wqoxq

That quote was the gem that made me realize Carrey was tapping into some classic wisdom that modern society has since tar-papered over as ‘nihilism’ and clinicalized as ‘depression’. Had he said this in an ashram, people would have swarmed the stage to touch his feet or place garlands around his neck. But he said it on Broadway, in a country where at least 1 in 6 people are on a psychiatric drug.

The emotional red flag was vindicated this week, when Carrey appeared at New York Fashion Week. This time, the reporter was baffled and defensive about Carrey’s attitude in the midst of the grand event celebrating fashion icons. Carrey never missed a beat, his delivery so perfectly casual:

“Celebrating icons? Oh boy, that is just the lowest aiming possibility that we could come up with. Icons. Do you believe in icons? I believe in personalities. I don’t believe that you exist but there is a wonderful fragrance in the air.”

Jim Carrey, 2017

That last line was a straight-up Zen koan dropped on this unsuspecting fashionista. How else could E! approach that, besides by dwelling on how ‘strange’ it was?

“Why is the monkey not dancing when I ask it to dance?” they wonder.

Because the monkey has found a way out of the cage. But the good zookeepers at E!,  Entertainment Tonight and TMZ like to come out with their cattle prods to make sure the monkey gets back behind its bars for our entertainment.

There is the classic yogic aphorism that when you are ready, your guru will appear. Basically, you have to be in a certain state of preparation in order to receive the grace of the guru. Carrey is not a guru per se, but I think the principle applies here loosely—if you’re not ready to be enlightened, you will never find the means to achieve enlightenment.

Carrey even went so far as to explain himself in a follow-up interview, quite clearly and coherently:

“As an actor you play characters, and then if you go deep enough into those characters, you realize that your own character is pretty thin to begin with,” he said. “You suddenly have this separation and go: ‘Who’s Jim Carrey? Oh, he doesn’t exist actually.’ There’s just a relative manifestation of consciousness appearing, and then somebody gave him a bunch of ideas — they gave him a name, and a religion, and a nationality, and he clustered those together into something that’s supposed to be a personality, and it doesn’t actually exist. None of that stuff, if you drill down, is real.”

Jim Carrey, 2017

Holy wow! Rich white people pay tens of thousands of dollars to sit with enrobed wisemen who tell them the same thing. We get the fucking thing for free and can’t even appreciate it.

Yoga is a great exploration of identity. In fact, the system of yoga as described by Patanjali is entirely based upon stilling the modifications of the mind and going beyond false identities. Right off the top of his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states:

At other times, when one is not in Self-realization, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, taking on the identity of those thought patterns.

(Yoga Sutras, 1.4)

The Self’s confused identification leads to suffering in its many forms. Modern day mystic Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev expands on this sutra in his discussion about identity and prejudice:

“The moment you are identified with something that you are not, your intelligence is freaked. It will go in cycles around that. Whatever you are identified with your intelligence functions only around that. […] A prejudiced mind cannot see; a prejudiced mind cannot reveal the reality of life, that’s all it is. When I say prejudiced, it’s on many different levels. ‘No, no, I am very broad minded, I am not prejudiced.’ Well, you have a broad prejudice, you know. Your mind is functioning with a certain identity. Once there is an identity it is prejudiced.”

Sadhguru

Sadhguru oftens speaks about finding the separation between the seer and the seen. Patanjali reminds us that confusing the two is the essence of egoism and a major stumbling block to achieving self-realization.

Finding that space is not easy. Carrey explained his method for overcoming his suffering: “The fact is, going down the river of sorrow and suffering is the way to freedom.” Likewise, Sadhguru argues that darkness is a far greater possibility than light. Even more fundamentally, zero is the only infinite possibility:

The science of yoga is the technology to make ourselves into a zero because zero is not a simple thing. Zero is infinite, it is the very beginning of everything.

Sadhguru

Although I don’t think dipping into the river of sorrow & suffering is a viable method for many people, we have to acknowledge that there are many paths to the same place. Reducing Carrey’s method to depression or some other mental illness is infuriating. If Katy Perry can try to find her heaven in a mind-eraser Friday night, why can’t Jim Carrey find his heaven by facing his suffering in an honest and vulnerable way?

I don’t know the man, so I can’t say for sure if he’s coming from a place of self-harm or self-help. But on the face of it, in my unqualified opinion, between Carrey and the people reporting on him, there is zero doubt in my mind who truly deserves the ‘mentally ill’ stamp.

I leave you with one last quote from Jim Carrey. It ends happily, or at least peacefully. I compliment it with another Patanjali sutra to chew over.

While the activities of the emergent mind fields may be diverse, the one mind is the director of the many.

(Yoga Sutras, 4.5)

 

“Know that no matter what happens, this is not who you are,” Carrey said, according to People. “You choose the part you want to play in this life. I want to be a good guy. I want to do good things. I want to make people happy and I want to help out when I can. So you do what you need to do.”

Jim Carrey, 2017

 

Giving It My Best Shot

The approach of the autumnal equinox seems to usher a familiar feeling. I haven’t totally figured myself out yet, but fall always has some power over me. For one thing, my childhood ensconced September as “back-to-school”. That’s one thing I thought I had moved away from…but this year, I have summoned it back.

Of course, on a subtler note, the earth is tilting. The daylight swings wildly enough where I live that the difference between June’s all-night glow and December’s darkness is noticeable. Already, the days are shorter. The fifty-foot balsam poplar in my neighbourhood that serves as my seasonal barometer showed its first yellowing leaves over a week ago.

There is no burst of colours in the trees. The electric yellow canola fields trail off into a pale green before it’s piled into swaths which accentuate the topography. The other crops turn brown before they disappear. Trees denude back to twisted branches and twigs, their silhouettes etched like lightning against the sky.

2017-09 Brown Prairie

I can’t explain why the leading lines make my eyes shiver, or why the smoothed contours soothe me—but there is a certain space I can enter when that certain blend of summer and winter meet on an archetypal autumn day—and even when I’m outside for the briefest moment, there’s a quietness that follows the thought that I lose as it’s whisked away by the nippy breeze.

The geese are in the air, they know what that breeze brings. Soon flocks of hundreds of birds fly overhead, charting a magnetic path they can see with eyes evolved for the task.

Waterfowl move methodically and rhythmically, setting up shop when necessary or where food is available. Warblers are more blindly determined—they only pass through for days, as opposed to the weeks that it takes ducks and geese. Warblers cause tumults in the middle of the night, quite literally warbling like a comet made up of a hundreds-strong (yet short-breathed) church choir.

But I don’t hunt warblers. At least not with anything besides a pair of binoculars. The geese and ducks are not so lucky. Wild waterfowl makes for a delightful meal, which is a foreign concept for someone who was raised in a metropolis (like myself) and saw geese and ducks as companions to pigeons and seagulls (i.e. garbage birds). I had heard of homeless people in Toronto eating goose, and it sounded no different than someone eating a subway rat.

Now that I live in the fly-path between the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico, I think I can appreciate geese and ducks as something more. These birds certainly reside in cities at some point on their journey, but they benefit from a lot more free range than their eastern (or city-bound) counterparts.

(Some of that, I realize, is an idealization; and I am okay with that dissonance because so far, all the meat I have tasted has been delectable, and if it had any garbage-infused flavours they paired perfectly with the heartiness of goose).

2017-09 Goose Supper

Hunting can be a polarizing activity. It’s a complicated issue, and cannot be painted with the broad brush it so often is. It’s not a familial or cultural tradition for me. I have no compulsion or obligation to hunt. However, it seems disingenuous to me to eat and enjoy meat, but refuse to be part of the process.

I say, if you eat apples, go pick apples.

In a similar vein, I enjoy being entertained—therefore, I entertain. I don’t think that’s a comprehensive reason why I write, but it certainly feeds into my overall creative ethos.

Hunting and writing have some parallels for me—they’re done alone; can be fruitless no matter how much time and effort is spent; and, can be done without any instruction.

But the latter is only true if the outcome doesn’t affect your lifestyle. If I dick around in the field for three days and come back without so much as a feather, it’s all good. We go to the grocery store and buy whatever we need.

2017-09 Horseradish

So far, writing has been similar. If it fails (as it so often does), it doesn’t really matter. I have a job that pays the bills. No one will starve or suffer because my story sucked.

North Korea might force our hand to need to know more about sourcing our food. In the case of creativity, I am being my own North Korea, forcing myself out onto the proverbial gangplank, where I either succeed as a writer or I flounder as a provider for my family.

Just like the apprentice hunter of yesteryear would seek a master to teach the skills needed to excel, I am also seeking out masters to help me excel as a writer. I am super-psyched to have been accepted into Stanford’s Online Writing Course for Novel Writing. It’s a huge opportunity…so huge, it feels too good to be true, like I’ll finally be outed as the impostor I have always been.

Until that happens, I have to trust it’s just a syndrome. An impostor can’t really try. And I am trying. Even if no one knows it—and of course, it’s this chink that my inner critic can still hang out and harangue me.

Because identity is everything—encapsulated in that millennial idiom I’m tired of hearing & writing: “If it can’t be shared, it didn’t happen.”

My family doesn’t value creativity, I have no friends to call up about life events, and the place I live & work isn’t a particularly cultured/artsy place. Social media is supposed to be the panacea for my kind of situation, but I can’t help but see it for what it is (a placebo, and not a very good one).

So basically, none of this is happening. My inner critic has a field day with that shit.

Not everyone seems to have the same hang-ups about pride. Anton Chekhov wrote a short story about a man who borrows a medal for a dinner party, only to find out someone is there who knows he didn’t earn that medal—only to later find out both of them are frauds trying to impress the host. Usually we never have that final reveal. Instead, we really buy into our borrowed medal and convince ourselves the illusion is real.

2017-09 Upside Down Prairie

All I can do is give it my best shot, I’ve convinced myself. Until I shoot my eye out or carpel tunnel limits my ability to type, I only have my best shot. (After that, I have pain medication).

As September rolls on, I am re-acquainting myself with that “back-to-school” mentality. I am looking for my fingerless gloves and cleaning my shotgun. I keep one eye on the skies and the other on my prize. And then I put my sunglasses on, because no one can know.

Turtle Shell (a poem)

I found a

sacred space

in the crystal cave

of my heart—

 

a holy cavern inside a turtle shell

at the bottom of a lake—

 

where the turtle eats my roots,

bunches bouquets with my shoots,

looks askew as it redecorates the clay

where I warm my blood—

 

warmer than mulled wine—

like wasabi but fleeting like love—

thumps in, thumps out–takes your breath away,

makes breakfast in the morning—

 

promises to sleep away

the next holiday—when it knows

I will be in the

crystalline centre of my heart—

 

at the bottom of a lake

an empty shell gleams at midnight—

 

a sacred space

beneath the gleam

in the crystal cave

of my heart.