Here To Stay

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.

covid Santa

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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The Late Charlie C Petch

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.

Bloody Footprints

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

the thrust

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

to offices

into elevators

down marble corridors

over carpets in hotel hallways

cafe floors

washroom stalls

<>

blood gets on hands

trying to clean shoes

the fingerprints on mirrors

coffee cups

documents

dried flakes fall between 

keyboard keys

smear smart phones

traces tracked undetected through 

airport screening machines

splotches on luggage

the blood travels around the world

<>

the sidewalk

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

no faces

hands washing

blood pooling in sinks

almost dripping down the walls

of apartments

seeping out of TV screens

<>

bloody footprints

lead up to a door

the bell rings

you reach to open the door

the closing credits roll

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Danforth Potholes

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.

Kharis 

<>

is this the last wrap

or the first

the first wrap was a tissue

of lies

‘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’

walking away

rather than add another layer

hoping nothing had caught

no thread was snagged

on a expectation

an exception

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’

<>

bound tight

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

<>

decayed tissue 

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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Orange Sprinkles

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

you know

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

lightening strikes

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

can’t see 

through the car window

wiper blades not cutting it

smearing rain like blood

on a steamy bathroom tile

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Ah yes, I remember it well

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.

act 1

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. 

act 2

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.

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Valley of the Bras

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. 

Ready

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

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Tales of Brave Trending

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 

university degrees 

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 cable

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

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Pandemic Poetry Project

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.

Buddies glitter washroom floor

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.

Buddiehttps://gladdaybookshop.com/item/kUIAuTpWhPwIbxRv1yQZuA

ISBN: 978-1-7775101-2-1

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