All pictures taken January 2022 around my east end Toronto neighbourhood. Berries galore, mostly red, but some purple too, on bushes & trees I’ve seen on my morning walks. The last photo is of a shrub in my back garden.
Day-to-day life had developed a new routine as the severe lockdown measures loosened a little. You could meet with a friend, have coffee, walked unmasked while socially distanced & soon, it was felt, we’re even be able to go shopping without masks on. Many recovery meetings had returned to limited size, masked f2f meetings. Many were in the process of reopening then the latest variant wild fire sparked then took off.
Double masked recommended, additional booster shots with folks lined up for hours to get them (while being heckled by smug anti-vaxxers). Often it’s hard enough to order though a mask, through plastic cashier guards – double masked means everyone will either need an android to order ahead or carry note pad to write their order down. I’m sure rapid-tests will be next on the mandatory list to even go into Tims to order a cup of coffee.
People are weary of being vigilant for themselves & others. Being forced to discover new ways of social interaction is frustrating & at the same time a relief. Avoiding people becomes less personal when covid is the buffer. The hardest part is the roller-coaster of restrictions, hardest on small retail – making it possible to plan lest the next set of protocols cut your staff in half. Travel was never easy since the additional security measures after the Twin Towers – now you have to not only take your shoes off but prove you are covid negative going & coming back.
Once again we’re faced with a socially shut-down festive season. Even though I’m triple vaxxed, double masked I’m not taking any chances with parties, & will avoid public transit as much as possible. I’ve reduced our annual Xmas day gathering to five people (past years we’ve had up to 12). Gone are the day when two people could sit side by side in my little living room.
I’m pretty sure covid & its variants are here to stay mainly because of the economic disparity between countries that can afford protection & those that can’t afford even clean water.
Festive wishes in keeping with your belief (or lack of) system.
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I suppose I should start with the disclaimer – I’ve known Charlie over 20 years. We met when I immersed myself in the Toronto spoken word scene in 1999 at the Renaissance Cafe (now a butcher shop) when Valentino Assenza’s Cryptic Chatter was in flower. At that time Charlie hadn’t embarked on the arc of a life that took him from female cultural gender drag to his present trans masculine reality. An arc that can be on going.
The pieces in ‘Why I Was Late’ follow some of that arc. I’ve heard several them many times over years & appreciate Charlie’s ability to rewrite what you’ve just read with a closing line. This is writer who knows the power of the right ending – as opposed to the obvious ending. Charlie never takes the easy way out, never underestimates the intelligence of a reader to understand.
Directly or indirectly the pieces deal with growing up while living in a rigidly gendered culture – one in which even colours are not allowed to be neutral – i.e. pink for girls – serious writers wear blacks, greys & purples. But colour coding & print fabric condemnations are another post.
Charlie’s piece about being a lighting rigger shows how females in traditional male occupations have to struggle with the cultural acceptance that it is the females fault if men find them attractive. They become as adept at fending off uncalled for male attention as they do at doing their job. I suspect many females avoid those professions, not because they can’t do them but to avoid dealing with men’s rampaging testosterone.
Simple, direct language makes these pieces accessible to everyone. This a book of lived-in experience not of abstract musings on the silence of snow or the lambent light on prairie wheat but of people enjoying, struggling with the demanding emotions of self-realization, of stepping out of the culturally dictated colour codes & into the power to be.
Now in its second-printing this Brick Book publication is available from Brick Books as well as at most major & independent bookstores. Get it.
the movie opens
on a busy sidewalk
someone with a knife
stabs a stranger
keeps on going
while the victim collapses
remember the knife
the flash of it
blood blood blood
people stepping in it
as they step over the body
on their important way
bloody foot prints
quickly splotching the sidewalk
as the camera
pulls up up
the police arrive
the credits roll
over the expanding trail
of bloody foot prints
steps lead to smart shops
down marble corridors
over carpets in hotel hallways
blood gets on hands
trying to clean shoes
the fingerprints on mirrors
dried flakes fall between
smear smart phones
traces tracked undetected through
airport screening machines
splotches on luggage
the blood travels around the world
with the outline of the body
is a pool of blood
after crime scene photos have been taken
after cellphone photos have hit the net
city works come to clean it up
the camera looks for the stabber
pushing through crowds
roving over heads shoulders
blood pooling in sinks
almost dripping down the walls
seeping out of TV screens
lead up to a door
the bell rings
you reach to open the door
the closing credits roll
In Toronto we’re at the edge of post-covid19 life as the retail world returns to life, within safety protocols, that is. Stores have signs that say maximum capacity 121, while others say no more than 4 at time. Some say ‘for rent’ not having survived the prolonged lockdown. I suspect some took the lockdown as a sign to close up a business that was merely breaking even.
Some that did close were fairly popular coffeeshops that subsisted on their takeout business anyway. Maybe the per sq. foot costs weren’t being covered by the sale of elevated cupcakes? Some places that survived have cut back their hours – no longer opening a 9 a.m. but at 11 a.m., or in some cases not until 2 p.m. Others are ‘by appointment only.’ I suppose the $ saved in operating costs helps their bottom lines.
Several have been replaced by similar business, chains like A&W or Burger King. The most invasive had been, what I call potholes. Marijuana dispensaries – that have taken over video, buy-your-gold, stores. Some have obvious names – High Time, Natural High, Neighbourhood Joint – others aim for a different ‘class’ – Canvas, Tokyo Rose (?). At least one has gone ‘native’ naming itself after one of the original land-owners. Cultural appropriation or perhaps the owners are natives? I don’t care to find out because even if they are, it is still a marketing ploy.
Last summer I did several photoblogs of ghosts – stores that had shut down due the pandemic – without cash flow they didn’t survive. I stopped taking those pictures as it become increasing depressing to see that covid19 wasn’t merely killing people but also opportunity. I’d say killing ‘the economy’ but lets face it big pharma is raking in the bucks.
As for the potholes that have shown up all over Toronto – I guess they are better than abandoned storefronts.
is this the last wrap
or the first
the first wrap was a tissue
‘oh i’m fine’
I used that wrap
over & over
until the tissue
was a layer
layer after layer of
‘oh i’m fine’
‘i don’t mind’
‘how can i make you happy’
rather than add another layer
hoping nothing had caught
no thread was snagged
on a expectation
on resurrecting love
I was protected
entombed by safety
by the fact
that all anyone wanted to hear
was ‘oh i’m fine’
‘this bandage solution will do’
‘you deserve to be fixed first’
peering at life though the slits
surrendering to the weight of history
pushed along by an unquestioned past
by ritual expectations
controlled by the clasp of gauze
layer upon layer after layer
some turned to dust
some turned to scar
some turned to face the sun
reaching for release
dust motes settling in the moonlight
‘how can i make you happy?’
‘how can i unravel the book of life’
can i survive
without another layer
of this tissue
this scar tissue of lies
‘oh i’m fine’
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Before heading to Stratford on September 30 I checked to make sure certain stores would be open as many across the province & Canada were closed for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. They weren’t but if they were I was ready with alternative plans. There were many people with orange t-shirts’s when we got to Stratford, even in the audience. Both acts of the show opened with a land acknowledgement – something the Festival has been doing for a couple of years now. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html
In June I blogged ‘Membertou First Nation’
https://topoet.ca/2021/06/06/membertou-first-nation/. Since then there have been increased protests – toppled a statue of the founder of Ryerson College here in Toronto – as the anti-native actions of historical figures are revealed. Streets are being renamed for the same reason. Some of this reminds of 1984 int which the past is constantly rewritten so make the people of the present comfortable. I saw a documentary on the Russian Bolshevik revolution in which figures were removed from photos when they were no longer considered good party members.
A National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an important step – though why September 30 isn’t clear? Why not co-opt the already existing Victoria Day? A chance for the colonized to dethrone the colonizers. My fear is that like Remembrance Day it will become one of ceremony as opposed to a call to action to end war. Will we get people selling lapel dreamcatchers to raise funds? Will wearing that be enough to assuage our personal guilts.
I see that Tim Horton’s is selling a time-limited orange sprinkle donut with proceeds going to native organizations: http://news.timhortons.ca/orange-sprinkle-donut-supporting-the-indian-residential-school-survivors-society/ . I’ve tried them – they are sweet, flavourless & without real substance – a # donut.
Psycho Zombies in the Rain
it was raining ballerinas
rain so heavy
each drop created a splash tutu
as it landed
on its one toe
to join the corps du puddle
a literal rain dance
wet ragged gene mutated zombie
staggering down the street
skin stinking in the rain
crumbling for the lure of brains
grabs a light pole
flings aimless decaying arm
drops into the gutter
eyes washed but not cleaned
the unlucky char
washed down the sewer drain
the rain not a sheet but a curtain
a shower curtain
lightening cuts through it
an electrified knife
stab stab after stab
screams drowned out by the rain
rain so heavy
we can’t see across the street
through the car window
wiper blades not cutting it
smearing rain like blood
on a steamy bathroom tile
Three Tall Women
Actually walking into a theatre for the first time in two years was a big part of the excitement of seeing Edward Albee’s ‘Three Tall Women,” directed by Diana LeBlanc with Martha Henry, Lucy Peacock, Mamie Zwettler & Andrew Iles, in the intimate The Studio Theatre, presented in two parts on the same day – think of it as a 3 hour intermission.
I wondered what changes there might be in safety protocols in the week before we would go to the show. Not having a smart phone our big fear was that only an e.ticket app would be acceptable – no paper – technology reinforcing class status so that only those with the right data plans could access entertainment.
Before we arrived I wondered if it would be like boarding at the airport after one had gone through all the pre-boarding. Well, there was no X-ray or luggage screening to deal with but we had to have all our documents in order – what’s the point of a photo i.d. if we’re wearing masks? Anyway there was no trouble getting into the theatre. Getting to our seats was a different matter – the steep incline had many people struggling up the stairs – this venue is definitely not for the mobility challenged.
So almost two years to the day we finally saw a performance at the Stratford Festival. As usual the production values were high for Three Tall Women. Good theme music, utilitarian & practical set, costumes that supported characters rather than create them. Strong cast, unfussy direction that let the play speak for itself.
The plot? In Act 1 she remembers, she gets lost in memory, a legal assistant taxes her short-term memory, her person care worker tries to keep her focused. In Act 2 the three are one person – much like the holy trinity – they are faces of her at different points in her life. Andrew Iles does a cameo as the son. The conclusion is well – I’m not sure – the conclusion is very Zen, our happiest moment is when we reach the end. Are we happy that life is over?
I didn’t end up feeling a lot of sympathy for any of the three faces, Zwettler didn’t have enough text to work with, Peakcock’s character was prone to placating – when Henry’s lapses into pro-racist language we are told she doesn’t really mean it (although written 1990, in 2021 people are still doing the same thing – ‘can’t you take a joke?’). Over all, I enjoyed the show but don’t feel the need to see another production.
After reading Stephen Rebello’s Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! I was keen to see the movie, again, & had planned watch it on my own on a rainy day but after seeing the excellent ‘Hitch’ which was based on Rebello’s ‘Alfred Hitchcock & the Making of Psycho’ my partner read ‘Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!’ also wanted to see it again. So we dug out the 2 disc ‘Special Edition’ – loaded with great extras. I had reread the novel earlier this year so I was eager to rewatch the film.
Where to start? The movie pales in comparison to the novel & I understand why fans were disappointed in the adaptation that removed 3/4 of the book. The characters are reduced to stick figures – gone is the fact they women live together for a time – in the film there isn’t one scene of the three of them together. Gone is Anne’s friendship with Helen Lawson – in fact Helen is almost excised from the script – Hayward’s performance jump starts the movie whenever she appears.
Don’t get me started the those songs – we get a glimpse of the Lawson’s Broadway show number ‘I’ll Plant My Own Tree’ & it is clear that no one involved in the film every saw, or was involved with a Broadway show. The song is clunky & staged with all the Broadway stage reality of a Busby Berkeley number but absolutely no sparkle. Hayward lip syncs it well enough. No Broadway set designer would ever ever use a mobile that covered the star’s face constantly.
Patty was not pleased to be dubbed & as result released the lp Patty Duke ‘Sings Songs from the Valley of the Dolls.. Yes, I have it thanks to iTunes & it fits perfectly with the music misfire of the movie. It did nothing to enhance her reputation as a singer 🙂 Nor did the film do much to enhance her reputation as an actress. In fact none of the cast’s career potential was increased by the film. Such is the harsh reality of life in the valley of the dolls.
I felt for Barbra Parkins when I saw those beige ‘office’ costumes when they matched the beige every wall she stood in front of. I laughed at the fab cosmetics commercial montage – a product supposed for any woman while she looks like an alien. But as she climbs the ladder to success her costumes do improve even as they remain impractical.
Patty Duke bravely & brazenly barrels though Neely without taking a breath. Her few scenes with Hayward are rich – Duke noisily claws the scenery, Hayward demolishes it by simply putting on a scarf. Yes, this movie needed more Lawson. Sharon Tate is nearly invisible as her story line is gutted by the screenplay.
How these actresses where treated by the industry is worse than how the characters they play are treated by the industry. I really think the guys who made Feud should consider this Making of Valleys as their next project. Oh yes my title ‘Valleys of the Bras.’ There is nothing lurid in the film but Parkins, Duke & Tate, at different points in the film, spend an inordinate amount of time emoting in bra & half-slip.
it turns into a trade
this is what I want
this is what it’ll cost
is that the price I’m willing to pay
is the sacrifice worth the result
why can’t I have it my way
is that too much to ask
I’m willing to compromise some
but when is enough enough
can I say no
to losing more of myself
to gain something I expect to get
by saying yes to
what I want to say no to
can I say yes and no
at the same time
how will you do
when I say yes I want what you offer
but not with the conditions you offer it with
do I want to give up
the comfort of abstractions
for the sake of superficiality of the concrete
if I’m ready for my close up
do I want to stand in front of the camera
Oscar Wilde said something the effect that it doesn’t matter what people say about you, as long as they are talking about. Bad press is better that no press act all. It is better to be trending for being an asshole that not to be trending at all. The recent US President was a master of trending & seemed to get ‘fatter’ on the negativity than on praise.
A couple of rock legends have breathed life into their trending by being vocal anti-vaxxers. Releasing new music to articulate their stance. Eric Clapton, Van Morrison – as a duo & separately have chosen to stand up for the common people with their recent releases.
I’ve listened to the songs, read the various comments & am more amused than impressed. Positive posters praise them for their anti-establishment stances & their decisions not to play where masks are mandatory etc. I want to say ‘Honey, these men are millionaires not anti-establishment spokespersons. They represent their own bottom line not your rights as an individual.’ Check out the ticket prices to their concerts.
As I said, I’ve listened to their brave anti-lockdown songs & you know, if they weren’t publicized as anti-safety-protocol songs it would easy to assume Eric is mildly peeved that his latte wasn’t milky enough. The music itself is low-energy, the singing is indifferent & the lyrics are cliche.
Those who are critical of Eric & Van’s anti-establishment stance have derided them for being uninformed. There have been pics posted of their cds being tossed in the garbage. I want to say ‘Honey, these men are millionaires you can’t un-buy their music.’
I see all this more as p.r. than anything else. A way of seeming culturally relevant in ways their music isn’t, unless nostalgia is a radical construct. Their search for self-expression was rarely anti-establishment. A man who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads turns out to be an anti-vaxxer. Gasp!
Civic Duty (2008)
I’m believin’ what Stephen has to say
Harper harping on what ordinary folks
think of the arts
sad to say he’s right
ordinary guys are more interested
getting in cheap dope
getting their hands on the latest xbox
than they are in
Canadian Short Story anthologies
they want hockey scores
blow jobs on demand
they don’t want no Canadian identity TV
they want CSI not Little Mosque on the Prairie
they want Steven King
not David Adams Richards
in fact Mr Harper
you would do us all a favour
if you out right banned
anything that called itself Canadian
who needs McLean’s
when we can have People
who wants to see Canadians
give us Linsey Lohan in a yellow thong
not Sarah McLaughlin in gossamer scarves
the ordinary folks don’t give a crap about much
they would really love it if
you could see to it t
hat they never have to work
because they don’t like getting up
dragging their weary bones
to some soul sucking job
so if you really want to get elected
let us live in luxury
without having to do anything
we don’t want no education
studying is a total bore
and a waste of taxpayers money
creating art elitists
they only use to make them act superior
to us ordinary Joes and Janes
whose backs they are climbing on
to get to the opera
while we have to sit around Tim Horton’s
waiting for our Old Fashioned glazed
to be digested
we want tv’s everywhere
free data plans
get rid of the cbc
give us all sports channels
free porn for my android
it has to be free
if you want to get elected
free beer for teens
that’s the ticket
give the ordinary folks
what they truly desire
a life free of want
free of any responsibility
the arts are the pretty tip
of that ugly iceberg
I’m so believin’
what Stephen has to say
glad someone had the balls
to finally say those arts phonies
are just cry babies
who suck the vital masculinity
from our country
we gotta get this country
back on track
take back Canada
redirect the wasted energy
we put in to the arts
we finally have leader
who can lead out of the cave
& into the deep dark forest
Sunlight and shadows in The Williamson Ravine September 2021
I have two pieces in the Pandemic Poetry Project ed. David Bateman published by Buddies In Bad Times. I’m is good company as the anthology includes work by Patricia Wilson, Kathleen Whelan, Robert Standish, Neta Rose,Charlie Petch, Stedmond Pardy, Dianne Moore, Ashok Mathur, Merle Matheson, David Marshall, Marcy Rogers, Sri M., Peter Lynch, Amy Lester, Steve Keil, Brock Hessel, Sky Gilbert, SK Dyment, Judith Chandler, Philip Cairns, Ashley Bomberry, Marusya Bociurkiw, bill bissett, Paul Bellini, & David Bateman. A superb sampling of lgbtqia writers.
I was asked by David to submit a couple of pieces last year. I sifted through some recent writing & sent in the two that appear. At the time I was unaware that it was a ‘Pandemic’ project or I might have sent pieces with a lockdown subtext. It is a handsome little book the size of a cd case with 150 pages of insightful, silly, spiritual, sexy, political writing.
It can be bought for $19.95 , in person, at Buddies In Bad Times on Alexander St. Glad Day Bookshop also has it on the shelf or you can order it, but there will be shipping costs.