Food In Peace Out

Food In Peace Out

let me eat in peace

spare me the story

the videos

the tweets

of whatever war was going on

because there is always a war going on

<>

don’t bother me

with exploitation narrative 

of the people who produced

this yummy food

in the face of wars

famine

their own children

not eating

what I get to eat

no one needs to know all that

we just want to eat in peace

<>

even if peace is impossible

because peace doesn’t equal profit

money is lost

economies stagnate

when there isn’t exploitation

of people

of land

or resources

<>

let me eat in peace

keep the reality away from the table

the lack of nutritional content

is irrelevant

the suffering sacrifice of animals

makes meals even tastier

don’t you think

because we don’t want to think

we only want to eat in peace

amen

An acquaintanceship ended several years ago over food. A small group of us were having lunch & I ordered a burger. The acquaintance asked if knew how harmful meat production was to the planet, how the animals suffered etc. The acquaintance had ordered a salad with something done to tofu. I asked if they knew how tofu was made, what was the ecological effect where it was grown etc. That part of the conversation ended & I enjoyed my hamburger.

Personally I have no objection to what people chose to eat but before they make their choice mandatory or somehow ethically superior to mine they should get their facts ready. I know little about the production of tofu but I suspect that in the long run it is no better environmentally than beef. It has to be grown, fertilized, converted, transported & prepared at a restaurant. 

Guilting me over my meal choice never works. I’m human, so get over it. It’s like trying to guilt trip people into masks or vaccines (both of which I fully support) is a wasted effort. If this acquaintance had pushed I would have asked what they were doing about their meat concerns? Where they financially supporting any anti-meat groups or was merely not eating it all they were willing to do. 

There is also a commercial profitability  undercurrent to much of what gets touted as being better for us. ‘Ethically sourced’ ‘gluten free’ ‘100% natural’ ‘no preservatives’ – all of which often cost more – making it clear only those who can afford higher prices can save the planet. ‘Ethically sourced’ becomes a way maintaining class differences & making it clear who is morally better.

This acquaintance unfriended me. Such is life. Pass me the all-natural Black Sea salt. 

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Picture Perfect 102 

Picture Perfect 102

The next day was a picture perfect day – overcast with a thick cloud cover over the harbour. Dan skipped breakfast to get down to the boardwalk. The pictures were spectacular though. Dark and forbidding. Ideal for a Storm Cloud calendar. 

He went back to the hotel dining room for breakfast. The coffee was passable, the coffee cups were too small, the eggs were tasteless and the toast was equally as dull. As he ate he went over the events of the last couple of days. This get away to Sydney hadn’t turned out to be a stress reliever after all.

One thing he was reminded of was that casual sex was not for him as much as he fantasizes about it. He was incapable of the sort of encounters so frequently shown in gay porn. He needed something besides the rawness of opportunity. Even a body as perfect as Stan’s hadn’t been enough for him to let it happen. 

He borrowed an umbrella from the front desk and walked up Charlotte St., the main street. All the shops that were still in business were opened but it was still and quiet. He checked his cell for the messages he’d been ignoring for the last couple of days.

The most recent two were from Brenda. As he checked another call came from her.

“Dan! Is that really you?” she said.

“Yes.”

“It’s been so long we weren’t sure you were …”

“Okay! Okay! What’s so important. I’ll be in St. Peter’s in time for the big ceremony tomorrow.”

“Don’t bother. The Morrison clan has made that an exclusive event.”

“Exclusive! How?”

“Don’t ask me how but only select invited press will be allowed.”

“Tell that to the drones.” He laughed.

“Very funny. So your travel plans have been …. updated. Instead of going there you’ll be flying back to Toronto tomorrow. We have to get some of the voice-overs finished for the episode one debut in two weeks.”

“Two weeks! Right.”

“Look we have enough footage to stretch out for six episodes. Baxter is getting more local colour to fill them in & bulk them up.”

“I get it.”

“Don’t sound so enthused. Along with your flight details I’m sending you the scripts for them. No need to to memorize them.”

“I know, I just have to say them like I’m interested or something like that. ‘A dark shadow cast itself over the sunny seaside Nova Scotia town of Digby when …’ Is it a town or a village?”

“Stop! Dan.” Brenda laughed. “It’ll be nothing like that but I’ll send that ‘dark shadow’ along to the writers.”

As he walked it started to rain lightly. He forwarded his flight information to Peter. He opened his umbrella and headed through a small park. His cell buzzed. It was Peter.

“Hi, handsome.” Dan said.

“Good morning, sir.” Peter replied. “You still coming home next week?”

“Nope. I just sent you the info. Things have changed. I hop a the plane in the morning.”

“Hold on. Just got it. Tomorrow! I saw the cloud photos you posted this morning. You must enjoying the sights there? They are amazing. You want me to pick you up at the airport? How did it feel going back into your old house?”

“One thing at a time. I can get myself home from the airport. The old homestead was weird. Turns out it’s still in the family. I figured my Dad had sold it when he sold the business years ago. I could almost smell my mother’s home burning.”

“Burning?”

“She was fond of overcooking everything. So invariably something would be a little charred. Caramelized she said. She never did the knack of rice.”

“Have you considered what’ll happen with us when you get back? I don’t want to pressure you. I was just wondering, sir.”

“You wanting to move in full time?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m going to have to think about that. It’s not as if I’ve had time to think about much but Cold Canada the last few months. I’m still dealing with Sanjay as well. Can you stay put for a little while longer? It is rent free after all.”

“I’m still paying for my place.”

“I get the picture.”

It began to rain harder.

“It starting to rain here. I’ll have to call you later.”

A hand-drawn poster on a telephone pole announced a rummage sale a 100 yards away. Books. Memorabilia. Collectables. Live music. A fund raiser for the Island Historical Society. He followed the arrow and stepped into the hall as the rain became a full fledged storm.

<>

“You can put your umbrella here, sir.” A teenage girl took his umbrella and gave him a ticket for it.

He filled in raffle tickets for handmade quilt. He bought tickets for draws that were to happen all-day on the half-hour. Prizes were dinners at local restaurants, massage sessions. Each draw would be from tickets sold in the last-half hour. Smart thinking to keep people buying for every draw. Grand prize was a spa retreat weekend for two outside of Baddeck. Transportation not included. He guessed they wanted tourists not to expect return airfare.

The hall itself was much larger than it appeared from the outside. The building was a former fire station, now community centre that adjoined a coffee shop. The wall diving them had been partially removed to make a large space.

It presented a fascinating repurposing as the fire station fixtures had been kept. One side had fire uniforms, hoses, even the fire pole & an old fire engine; while the other looked like a western saloon with the coffee bar at one end, wagon wheel chandeliers, marbled mirrors. Over the bar was a sign that said Gracie’s Kitchen. All that was missing were cigarette burned, beer stained tables. Perhaps they were being used to display the sale stuff.

More people were pushing in to escape the rain.

Tables were grouped in blocks of fours with space in the middle for sellers. Books had a section against one wall with shelves. Clothes had a wall with racks. Gracie’s Kitchen was selling baked goods, sandwiches, coffee, tea and local cider. There was to be an oatcake contest later in the afternoon.

“Cooking? Tasting? Or who can eat the most?” Dan asked the woman behind the counter dressed like a forties diner waitress. Her name tag said ‘Gracie.’

“Tasting.” She nodded. “Best gets the ribbon. These are by Dolly Dinty, last year’s winner. And the year before, too.”

He bought one & a cup of Gracie’s Blend Tea.  Oatcakes had never been a big thing when he was growing there. Neither was the donair. Ditto for tea blends.

“No donair ribbon?” he joked.

“Nope. Not … Scottish enough. Too messy as well.”

“Ahh.” The tea was strong. The oatcake had an interesting taste. 

“Dolly’s trying something new this year. Lemon zest.”

“How radical.” He laughed. 

“Here.” she slid a card to him. “Judges will look at tasters reactions before coming to a decision.”

“Maybe I should try one of ..” he turned a glass jar of oatcakes around to read the label. “Clive Moffat’s.”

“You won’t be disappointed. Stick around & try them all. Money goes to a good cause.”

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Snow Forts

A major snow fall on Jan 17 halted the return to classes in Toronto schools resulting in a couple of extra days of play for the kids. This resulted in a boon of snow fort & tunnel building. These are all east-end Toronto in the Greenwood/Coxwell/Danforth area. Brought back memories of snowed in days in Cape Breton & building snow forts.

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Gunn Mann

Soundtrack composers are easy to dismiss for the mass appeal of their work – populist & therefore shallow. Henry Mancini is one such composer. The range of his musical ability is staggering when one looks at the span of his career. Academy awards only testify to the popularity of his work not of its quality.

Also with time, even his timeless pieces have taken on a sort of nostalgic campy quality. A song like Moon River seems quaint. I have always loved his music for Peter Gunn & have the original TV soundtrack. When you get past the Arch of the Cue Balls you have a fine, state-of-the-jazz art album that can stand with anything by, say, Horace Silver.  Quincy Jones Plays Mancini is a great set of covers. I love Baby Elephant Walk.

I guess I am a Herbie Mann fan, at least of his work up to the mid-70’s. The first Herbie Mann I heard was Push Push way back in 1971. I loved it & the use of harp in jazz was a revelation. I had that lp & replaced it with the cd. I found the double lp Evolution of Mann remaindered at Zellers & it covered the earlier part of his career, eventually I did the conversion from lp to cd. Stone Flute, & Gagaka I also had as lps at one time & both are stunning sets.

As mp3 I have by Herbie Mann:  Flute Flight 1957, Flute Soufflé 1957, Do The Bossanova 1962, The Complete Latin Band Sessions w Chick Corea 1965, Impressions of the Middle East 1966, Gagaku & Beyond 1976, Two Amigos 1990 w Dave Valentine, Beyond Brooklyn 2004 w Phil Woods. Stand-alones: lp to cd transfer of Evolution of Mann: a sort of hits collection; Stone Flute 1969 meditative with strings includes stunning take on The Beatles ‘Flying’, Push Push 1971 w Duane Allman Gene Bianca on harp. 

Mann was a world music fan before it was on trend. He explored Latin, Japanese, Northern Africa music with musicians from those areas. He steeped himself  in the sound & sensibility & co-created memorable music. I love the Gagaku work. Where to start? I’d go with Push Push. Don’t let his hairy shoulders put you off.

Rounding out the Mann mp3 cd compilations are: Wes Montgomery: Fingerpickin’, Moving’ Along. Early work by Wes with his trademark fluid jazz guitar. Stanley Jordan: Magic Touch – modelled after Wes, another deft guitarist. Art Pepper: The Trip – excellent sax with more of a hard bop edge. Some mid 50’s sleaze adventures, where you feel the tassels twirling around your nose as you listen: Strip Tease 50’s Classics: by the likes of Dave Rose, Sonny Lester – songs like Strip Poker, The Stripper; Buddy Bregman: Swinging Kicks. Burlesque A Go-Go: various rock-a-billy for peelers.

Perhaps the ultimate Bond soundtrack by John Barry: Goldfinger. Shirley Bassey delivers the best Bond title song of all time. Finally as a break from all that:  Don Slepian: Electronic Music From The Rainbow Isle – a moog, computer music pioneer; Szatvari Csaba: Galilei’s Nightmare – new ageish sound textures.

Take The Plunge

the room was full

maple leaves sumac oak

aspen poplar beech

more leaves than the eye could see

could gave names to

rose lilac no flowers just leaves

stacked

each one tagged 

ready to be discarded

<>

leaves fluttering chafing rustling

at each breath I took

whispering to each other

that I was there

shuddering 

at the sight of my rake

they feared the rake

<>

the brown big bag behind my back

wasn’t going to hold them all

I’d need more bags

more rakes

<>

the leaves trembled in anticipation

to be stuffed crammed

longing to be taken outdoors

to become compost

for future leaves

<>

I didn’t know where to begin

were there stairs

the house was crammed

floor to ceiling

nothing could be seen

leaves crumbling 

stumbling 

over one another

more arrived every minute

squeezing though cracks in the wall

down the chimney

<> 

it was an endless task

I began raking 

pulling them from under chairs

bag after bag

line the curb

yet the house never emptied

all around me 

the swirl of leaves

green red black pointed waxy

I couldn’t get down the stairs

my rake was useless

they no longer had fear

no bags left and there were more

<>

catalpa palm smoke tree

I climbed out to the porch roof

the street was an ocean

the bags I had tenderly packed

had all broken open

children where running and playing

diving through the leaves

never touching the ground

unaware of the dangers

beneath the glorious tempest of leaves

<>

I took the plunge

(2008)

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Annoying Children

Annoying Children

the children had no clean clothes

they had no clean drinking water

they had no direction

they walked walked and walked

around the particle accelerator

<>

it cost millions

needed clean water to keep cool

it had direction

it had a film crew

to make a documentary

about the important work

about the progress of science

<>

these annoying

children in dirty clothes

were in the way

these selfish children 

in the way of the cameras

wanted the water

the accelerator needed

<>

even worse 

they were in the way of progress

I can’t recall if there was an actual incident that sparked this piece or if it was a response to the oil-pipe line protests. Or perhaps it was the paradox between the cost of political party advertising what they do to help the less fortunate vs using the advertising money to end child poverty. If there was no child poverty what could they use to score compassion points?

When I see documentaries about space exploration & how it is furthering our understanding of the universe & hear the cost of the exploration I wish we recognized that cost in more human terms. Today in the midst of the pandemic it is the countries that cannot afford health care that are suffering the most. Often the same countries industry counts on for cheap labour.

One of the Olympic factoids I was dismayed at was the removal of the homeless, the destruction of shack towns solely to make the location more presentable to foreign press. More money spent on that process than actually spent to improve those lives. Who wants those dirty, shoeless, children in the background of their vacation selfies?

Progress is for those who will profit from it, not for those who are used for the labour to make progress for those who will profit from it. You want better wages? Better working conditions? Health plans? Stop standing in the way of progress.


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Picture Perfect 101

Picture Perfect 101

He turned off the Lifend, got up from the desk to stretch his shoulders and back. He recalled that the other cigar box would be more postcards, pictures and maybe some hockey cards. The cookie tin, from the way it rattled was marbles, toys and maybe those cuff-links his grandpa had given him. He never had a shirt that needed them. 

He sat on the armchair to check his email. Messages from Peter, Baxter, but nothing urgent. There was reply with some attachments from his lawyer. The message said.

“Dan:

There’s nothing in your father’s will specifically about the east coast real estate . It does say that, as with all the other assets, it was joint property owned by you, your sister and your mother. I’ve attached a copy of will with pertinent sections high lighted.

“Also included are recent tax records for the properties in New Waterford, Nova Scotia; Cardigan in Prince Edward Island and Montreal, Quebec.

“As I’m sure you know its James Incorporated that owns these properties not any one of you. Unlike, say, your residence which is owned wholly by you Daniel James. The Depot property is owned by the Corporation which leases it to James Family Photographers.

“Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.”

Why did every answer lead to more questions? Cardigan? Montreal? 

His cell rang. It was Linda.

“What did you take from the house?” she demanded.

“Why? Did you leave something incriminating behind?”

“That is MY house and the contents are mine as well.”

“Look I didn’t take any of your damned sheets if that’s what you think. Other than them and some sticks of furniture that’s all that’s in OUR house.”

“Daddy said that was my house when we moved to Ontario. It was his way of paying me to leave all my friends so he could give you the life he wanted.”

“Said? Oral contracts are binding only there is a witness. As far as I know it’s the property of the company. Not the private property of any one of us.”

“Mom was there. She’s knows it is mine.”

“Linda you are welcome to it. I thought it had been sold when we moved to help pay for the move. Mrs. Donaldson let me in.”

“I know that. What did you take out of the house?”

“Some things of mine actually.”

“We cleaned that house of everything. There was nothing left behind. Nothing.”

“Did you check the … floor boards.”

“Floor boards?”

“Yeah. In that cupboard under the stairs. I used to hide from you in there.”

“You pulled up those floorboards?”

“When I was kid. I used to stash my comic books there and stuff I didn’t want you prying into.” Which was true. He wasn’t going to tell her about the ultra secret spot in his old bedroom.

“Well, we knew all about that. You weren’t so smart after all. I showed it to Dad and he said just leave it there. There was still some stuff there?”

“Marbles. Fossilized bones of mice. Boy stuff.” He wanted to asker her about the other properties but that could wait until he was back in Toronto. He’s want to see what they were first.

“I thought you were coming back to Toronto now that the show was cancelled.”

“It hasn’t been cancelled merely postponed. I figured while I was here I’d visit my old school. I haven’t been back since we moved you know. Unlike you. Mrs. Donaldson tells me you visit at least once a year.”

“So what if I do?” she said.

She was so defensive he knew there was more to this that just visits to the old homestead to recharge her batteries or renew old acquaintances.

“I didn’t say anything. I did find those pictures we took of each other though. That day when I got my first camera.”

“Oh right. I haven’t seen them ever.”

“The original of us in the dining room mirror.”

“Thank God we stopped using that here. My hair is so bad in it. So bad.”

“I thought we might resurrect it for Christmas this year. The Family that selfies together stays together.”

“Don’t you dare.”

“I’m sure we can Photoshop your hair.” He sent her a copy of the version of the mirror selfie he had found.

“Oh my. I look so …”

“Young.”

“We all do. I love the expression on Dad’s face here too.” Dan said. It had been a long time since he had look at photos of his father other the ones on the walls at their stores. Even those had ceased to be prominent in favour of advertising. Maybe that’s what the Fairview store needed – an appeal to tradition and not this emphasis on the high end today. One of Lifend’s biggest sellers was the retro 30’s newsman’s camera series. 

“I’ll be back on Monday but I’m not sure for how long. We have more of segments to shoot down here. Don’t worry, I won’t be staying at the old house. I still like to be close to the action – i.e. downtown Sydney on a Saturday night.”

“Enjoy bingo at the Legion then. Bye.”

He re-read the files the lawyer had sent. There was nothing in them as he understood them that explained why Linda was so concerned about his being in the house. Was the fact that he knew about enough to alarm her? He didn’t trust her. 

There was a knock at his door.

Now what! 

He looked through the peep hole. It was Stan.

After his tactful bout with Linda he was ready for anything. He made sure the security hinge was on the door as he opened..

“Dan I didn’t mean to come on so strong the other day. I’d like to explain.” He tried to push the open further.

“I’ll meet you at the lounge downstairs in ten minutes. We’ll talk there.”

“Yes.” Stan stood peering through the crack in the door.

“The sooner you go the sooner I’ll be down to see you.”

“Okay.”

Dan cocked an ear to hear the elevator open. He rinsed his face, washed his hands. He dabbed the dust off his pants and shirt with a damp face cloth.

He checked his cell to make sure fifteen minutes has elapsed. He picked up the hotel phone and spoke to the concierge.

“This is Daniel James in 609. Could you call Stan Ferguson to the phone. Thank you.” He waited a moment while Stan was being paged.

“Hello?”

“I’ll be right down Stan. I just wanted to make sure you were still there.” Actually I wanted to make sure you were there and not lurking in the hall of stairwell on this floor.

“I’m here.”

In the lounge The Celtones were playing live. Upright bass, piano and gently brushed snares gave the drinkers privacy without making it necessary for them to shout. The bass player and piano player switched instruments to add fiddle, mandolin even penny whistle to their music. 

Stan was at a table by a window that over looked the harbour. He already a drink. Dan ordered a local craft beer. 

“I honestly don’t know what got into me at the museum.” Stan started. “It’s been awhile since I’ve, you know …” 

He stopped talking as the waiter put Dan’s beer on the table. The waiter poured half a glass of it for Dan to sample. Dan took his time – holding the glass up to the light, swirling it, sniffing it – as if he was a true connoisseur. He could sense Stan getting impatient. He sipped it.

“Very nice. Thank you. No, that’s okay, I’ll pour it myself. You’d like one.” he asked Stan.

“No, thanks.” Stan replied. “Ginger ale is fine for me.”

The waiter left the table.

“I want to make some sort of amend for how I acted. I felt there was some chemistry between us.”

“Chemistry? When we were looking the funeral pictures of the wedding gown rentals?” Dan laughed.

“We don’t know each other well enough to have chemistry.”

“You’re not just an innocent out-of-towner. I felt the way you looked at me at the museum. You don’t find me attractive?”

“You are …”

“Too short? Or am I just some nobody & you’re this big somebody who doesn’t have the time for nobodies like me?”

“Is that what you think?” Dan signalled for another beer. “Is that why you showed up at my room? To prove you’re not a nobody? Or were you attracted to me because I was a somebody?”

“I … I thought if we got more acquainted.”

“This is as acquainted as we’re going to become.”

“Right.” Stan stood abruptly. “I’m sorry I annoyed you.”

Dan finished his beer and watched Stan leave. That went well. Did this happen to every new queer face in town?

Back in his hotel room he glanced into the other two boxes. The larger cigar box had more photos, cards and prize ribbons from school. An envelope with birthday twenties and silver dollars in it. The tin had a couple of marbles, some pogs, loose hockey cards and four or five unopened packages of hockey cards. A little cloth bag with his baby teeth. Baby teeth! 

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Piaf Pink

Some voices sound real, not studio manipulated for emotional resonance. One of the realest voices is that of Édith Piaf (1915-1963). You don’t need to understand French to feel the emotion in her Ne Me Quitte Pas. In my collection I have as mp3: Absolutely (a hits collection), Live in Carnegie Hall 1957, Recital 1960 (at Olympia a comeback following a two-year illness) lp to cd transfer, Mon Legionnaire (another hits collection) a stand-alone & the La Vie en Rose Soundtrack.

She’s an acquired taste, like Yma Sumack, well worth developing. Her version of Le Marseilles gave me goose bumps. I’d love my memorial service to to start with her Je Ne Regrette Rien & as people leave, Ne Me Quitte Pas should be played. If you are unfamiliar any hits collection is a good starter.

Rounding out the mp3 collection is, naturally, Jacques Brel: Ces Gens-La, 1967, Ne Me Quitte Pas. More fine French melodrama with some unexpected production flourishes like an ondes martenot on some tracks. Tino Rossi: Vintage 2010 – a hits collection of similar vintage French, non-rock, pop. Liane Foly: Reve Orange, Lumieres – two sweet slightly jazzy adult pop albums; finally Barbra Streisand: Je M’Appelle Barbra (1966) – well-sung but not as melodramatic as Piaf or Rossi.

Piaf recorded under rather limited conditions whereas current vocals have an arsenal of studio gimmicks to amp up the emotion. But not all of them rely on that, though they may use them. Pink is one of those who doesn’t need them. I have as stand-alones: Can’t Take me Home 2000, Mizzunderstood 2001, Try This 2003, I’m Not Dead 2006 & Fun House 2008. I like the emotional rawness of her voice & the fact that, unlike Adele, she doesn’t feel the need to sing the shit out of very song. If you are unfamiliar with Pink, start with a hits collection & then hit the trapeze.

Smoking Gun

I have to confess

there seems no way around this

even though I’m not so clear on it myself

on what did happen

true I was there

I was not really paying attention

you know how the mind can wander

for a few brief seconds

I was wondering about the weather 

at a time like that

can you imagine

when there were such vital things going on

things that needed my full focus

suddenly I was preoccupied 

with the weather 

noting that it wasn’t as cold 

as it has been

that the chill yesterday was really something

I could hardly breath

and I was standing there 

with all this going around me

wishing I had a worn warmer coat yesterday 

not that the coat I have on now

isn’t warm enough

and wasn’t that cold

despite the wind factor

but I knew it was going to get worse 

the cold I mean

and well that’s why I’m not sure what went on

during those few seconds

yes I know how critical it is 

that I remember

I’ve told you everything that went on

but at as for those few moments

I can’t swear 

I can approximate 

it couldn’t have been that much different 

from what else was happening

it all happened so fast 

I didn’t have time to catch my breath 

let alone fix it in my mind

if I had known it would be so important

I would have been more attentive

one doesn’t make notes constantly

on every little event and circumstance

I didn’t even have time

to get out my cellphone

it was over before I could take picture

yes I feel bad about not being able 

to tell you more

in point of fact I’m merely a bystander

I had no obligation to be more attentive

we’re not watch guards 

of each other

if we were 

who would feel comfortable

everyone spying one each other

taking pictures of every moment

I’d never leave the house

I’m no criminal

the fact that I w as inattentive 

for a few brief moments

doesn’t make me one either

I’ve told you all I can

all I’m going to tell you

nothing can make me any clearer 

I did say I was there

I was looking

I didn’t see anything 

I didn’t look away 

I just drifted off

for those few moments

what did I miss

(2008)

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Hover

Hover

don’t hover

please don’t hover

in fact

please go to another room

the need for appreciation

that is so apparent on your face

drains the moment of all pleasure

I can’t enjoy

what you want me to enjoy

while you are glaring at me

daring me not to enjoy it

just go away

let me eat in peace

let me find my satisfaction

on my own

because as long as you are so eager

I’ll keep my pleasure

to myself

I won’t let on if I like it or not

I know the power of the poker face

in the face of your anticipation 

before you leave

please pass the salt

your croquembouche has lost its choux

I love most competitive cooking shows. I’m amazed that these chefs can cook with cameras all around them, with close ups of their hands as they chop, close ups of their sweaty brows, of them slipping & falling, dodging around each other as they scramble for the ice-cream machine. I’m sure audition process includes some sort of screen-test. Cooking in your own kitchen with maybe the kids or the partner, or no one, watching is one thing, but in fronton cameras, lights, judges it must be quite stressful, to say the least.

The other side of the proposition is the judging, as the food is ultimately sampled by the panel under the expectant gazes of the chefs. I’ve learned phrases like: depth of flavour, unctuous, umami (I have no idea how it is spelled), caramelization, croquembouche. ‘Mmm these bacon & eggs have great depth of flavour.’

I don’t envy these judges, usually ‘celebrated’ chefs themselves, who have to render instant opinions – actually I don’t know how instant, as their savouring time is edited out & we rarely see how they come to their ultimate decisions. Chefs usually lose for technical issues (undercooked) or for lack of imagination. Rarely is there a blind tasting – where the judges don’t know whose food they are sampling. 

The piece is also about approval seeking – on the TV level the chefs don’t take the judging that personally but on the ‘home front’ it’s little more awkward. ‘I made this just for you.’ or even worse ‘I bought this just for you. I saw it & knew you’d love it.’ Yikes – more than once I’ve been given something I never like but one has to grin & be grateful. It’s the thought that counts, right? 


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Picture Perfect 100 

Picture Perfect 100

Dan hoped so because the living hadn’t much to tell him yet.

He locked the door after her. He checked the back door to make sure it was locked. He didn’t want any surprise visitors from the present to join with the ones from the past. Dan sent a text to Dell and Strong to have them find out who owns the family house in New Waterford and also what happened to the business located on Plummer Ave. He has assumed those properties were sold when the family moved to Toronto.

He turned on the upstair’s hall light and went to the door of his room. He took pictures of it opened slowly with the sun coming through the windows.

Other than a bed the room was empty. It was a single bed, similar to the one he had as a boy but it wasn’t the one he had as a boy, because it had been shipped to Toronto along with the entire contents of his room. All except for the ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK’ which he was told been accidentally torn up by the movers. 

There was linen and pillows at the head of the bed. Coat hangers in the closet. He tried to reach up over the closet shelf but couldn’t. He pushed the bed over and stood on it. He was able to access his secret spot. There was an rough space just above the closet. It was opening about five inches high that opened into the ceiling over his room.

He was able to peer into the space and illuminated it with his cellphone. He had never seen into it this deeply before. He set his camera for continuous as he pulled out a couple of cigar boxes and a cookie tin he had stashed there. There was nothing deeper than he dared to reach as a child. He put the boxes on the shelf behind him. Once he was sure there wasn’t anything else there he put the bed back to where he used to sleep on it when this was his room.

In the kitchen he found some paper towels under the sink and wiped the black dust off the boxes after taking pictures of them. This alone was worth coming here. He hadn’t remembered them until the door to the room opened. 

He resisted the temptation to open the boxes & dump the contents on the counter. He suspected that if he was in the house much longer Marge would knock on the door to make sure everything was all right. 

He found a garbage bag & carefully stacked the boxes in it. After locking the front door he dropped the keys into Marge’s mailbox and went to his car. Back at La Promenade he bought a newspaper & placed it over the top of the desk, set the Lifend on its tripod to record his opening of the boxes.

“Earlier today I found these boxes where I had hidden them in my bedroom in July 1984. Only I knew they were there and so when Linda and my mother packed the house for the move these were still there. 

He picked up the smallest of them & rotated it for the camera. 

“I loved little boxes for hiding things in. I still do, only now it’s pockets in coats, shoulder bags, camera bags. I’m not sure what this wood is. Perhaps pine but the cigars are from … well I can’t make out the name.” 

He opened the box and in it were some post cards, photographs and cereal box tops. 

“I was saving box tops to send away for a kite kit. I guess I never got it. These postcards are from a postcard club I joined. It was a game in which you sent a postcard to each of top three the names on the list. Then cross the top name off and add yours to the bottom. These are from Uganda and Bombay. I got a dozen or so but no more after we moved when we moved. There were others from places in Canada but I only kept the ones from far away.”

He looked at the photos. 

“I took these pictures with my first camera. They are of kids in the neighbourhood. This is Darrell McLeod. I ran into his mother this afternoon. I don’t recall who these girls are but I think the dog is Darrell’s. Scatter was his name.”

“Here’s the very first picture I took.” He turned it over and that was printed on the back. It was of his mother sitting in the kitchen with sun lighting one side of her face. “It’s of my mother so I could prove to my Dad I was ready to take portraits and that they’d be as good as his. She’s smoking here and having a cup of tea. Probably taking a break before she gets supper ready. That’s natural sunset light.”

“This next one is one Linda took of me taking a picture of a rose on the bush in the backyard of the house. My mother was so proud that she had planted something that grew.”

The next several were all similar – a picture his dad had taken of him and his sister taking pictures of each other. 

“We went nuts that day. Stalking each other around the house to get unexpected pictures. I locked myself in the bathroom to take a leak in peace. So did Linda too.” Dan laughed. “Here we are taking pictures of each other taking pictures of each other. We thought was so hilarious.”

“I was so pissed my camera could only take twelve shots before I had to put in another roll. Dad made us stop after three rolls each because they didn’t grow on trees. Only twelve exposures per roll. Only twelve! Fuck my Lifend can hold thousands, millions if I included cloud storage.”

The last one was of the three of them, him, Linda, his father in front the wide mirror in the dining room taking a picture of three of themselves.

“Oh my God. This last one is a classic. There was an enlargement of it in the shop window when we first opened in Toronto. Here we are  in front the wide mirror in the dining room taking one of the first mirror selfies.  This must be my shot as my face in a little blurred looking up from the view finder. I just had to make sure my face was in the picture. Mom was hiding in the kitchen.”

As he looked at each he checked the back to see what written there. The edges of all the pictures were date stamped by the developer except the ones his Dad had taken, which he developed himself. The only note was ‘my first picture.’ 

“That’s all there in this first box. No rare coins.”

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