The Paranoid Blues

pull up a chair

I’ve gotten my annual flu shot. I know I’m playing into the hands of the big pharma conspiracy to keep getting bigger – after all they made the myth of covid into hugely profitable reality. I’ll get the next covid booster too. I’ll also apply for the dental cost supplement – playing into the hands of the dental conspiracy that tells me good teeth are a good idea.

I wear a mask on TTC, when shopping, when going to the theatre because I’m one of those gutless guys unwilling to take a chance when no one else is taking a chance. I’m okay if that mask mandate comes back based on the figures I’ve seen.

What figures you ask? Well, to be honest I haven’t seen any – they are nearly impossible to find – at least for Toronto. The fact that some hospitals have seen an alarming increase in cases is enough for me. Gone are the days when got regular media reports on such matter – the info didn’t find the right advertisers. It wasn’t bringing in enough money except for big pharma & they are being quiet about their profits. 

Even new variations are old news now. People seem to have become inured to threat, risk, precautions. ‘We’ll have a shot for that soon’ is the attitude, so meanwhile don’t get annoyed if I happen to cough in your direction’ My response, ‘don’t get annoyed if I don’t want to shake your hand or give even a little hug.’ I’ve got better things to do than take a home covid test just to be sure.

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Targeted

Targeted

most days

my compassion

is outflanked by

my gratitude

for not being the target

this time

<>

I live in the world

where many are caught up

in target practice

it often seems the actual target 

is irrelevant

as long as they have a target

something to direct 

their control 

their need to prove their superiority

so their fear of inadequacy

can be drowned out

by the noise of their gun fire

their shouting

about unrealistic native land claims

about gender definitions 

loudly trumpeting scriptural

justifications

for their own fears

genocide seen as natural

ethnic cleansing

to maintain property rights

<>

I’m grateful

not to be the target

this time

dodging bullets is tiring 

when you don’t know

who is firing or why

Does this sound familiar: a politico not getting enough votes starts a movement to have bathroom users prove their biological gender in order to protect women & children, or, a corporate vip with no medical background insists that covid masking is a conspiracy & not medically effective & is hurting their bottomline. Then there’s – people are lazy because they won’t work for minimum wages.

The book ‘You Are Not the Target’ by Laura Archera Huxley from decades ago is partially based on taking things overly personally, that they sometimes come from issues in the other person’s life – you know the sort of thinking that you are being shouted at in deflected anger. I get that, but, that doesn’t deflect the loudness of the shouting or the weapon the shouter is waving at you.

This piece reflects my gratitude for being white cismale in a culture where running while black can lead to a police chase, where being a female entitles any male to express sexual interest, where – well, you get the picture. But I also know how I appear isn’t protection against a rage-a-holic running me down in their car along with anyone else on a sidewalk, or being shot in a mall as part of someone’s need for the highest body count, ever.

I’m not paranoid! I figure my fears are realistic – I still mask up if I’m going to in transit, if I’m spending time in a room with more than two other people, shopping, though a few times going into Tim’s I have forgotten to slip on my mask before going in. Is there a government, big business conspiracy to stop reporting the covid #s? I don’t know, nor do I really care. If I’m a target for covid I’d rather be harder to hit.

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Symptomatic

 

A friend offered me a ticket to see Elton John here in Toronto. I said no thanks. Not because I don’t like Elton (though his single with Britany Spears is a piece of crap) but I’m unwilling to spend that length of time with that many unmasked or masked people sweating, shouting, singing along. I know masks are ‘strongly recommended’ but no longer mandatory.

To too many ‘strongly recommended’ means ‘unnecessary.’ I have friends who contracted covid after taking their masks off to have a drink at a Lady Gaga concert. So I’m not taking chances. I wear one in transit, when I go into any store, answering the door for food delivery. Even under the sarcastic gaze of people in a coffee shop not wearing theirs.

Yes, I’m paranoid. 

Three days after our recent Stratford day trip I did the home test kit to be extra sure. If I sneeze or cough I use that home test kit – everything is a symptom. Is that a mosquito bite or monkey pox? Am feverish or is it the 40 degree humidex that’s making me sweat at night. Don’t stand so close to me. Everything is a symptom. So far all my results have been negative but I’ll stick to caution. I’ve had all the boosters, so far & the monkey pox shot but they aren’t invisible shields of protection.

The test kits are sort of fun once one gets used to them. The directions are so small I needed a magnifying glass to figure them out when I first started. Now I feel like a miffed scientist (miffed as opposed to mad) when I self-administer the test & stir it up in the little plastic test tubes. Too bad they can’t be recycled somehow. 

There is no comfort in the governmental assurances than things are under control, that in Ontario, the proportion of vaccinated means quarantining is no longer necessary. I suspect the economy is more important & now that our heath system is being privatized think of the profits for those ‘health’ providers. They seem to forget that the dead don’t pay taxes & once their insurance or estates have been sucked dry by private providers there is no one to sue for the balance. 

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Recap April 2022

The TOpoet.ca following blog grew with over 600 people get notification whenever I post a new blog! The WP map does show my hits have come from  countries around the world. The USA tops the world list is interest but that Mauritius (Bonjour abonnés mauriciens) & Ghana are in the top 10 is a surprise. As you can see by the top 10 posts That’s Not Funny (https://topoet.ca/2022/04/26/thats-not-funny/) tops the list. F**k Cancer is a post from 10 years that made a trip to the top 10! 

Picture Perfect: 114 sections, about 162,000 words posted so far with about 25,000 words left to be edited then posted. I also cut some 2000 words out this past week & figure there’ll be another 2000 to get chopped soon. So I could be done by the end of the summer.

Synchronicity often puts books together for me. Last month I finished Stephen Leacock’s London Travels eBook & next on that eBooks shelf was Sunlight & Shadow (1880) by John Bartholomew Gough (died 1886). He was a temperance orator! The book is his reflection on life in London as he brings his message & it is fascinating – & also a little sad as attitudes towards alcohol & poverty haven’t changed much since then. What is amazing is that his comments on being misrepresented by the press are still relevant, plus his ‘tips’ on speaking in public hold true for today as well.

Read ‘Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger’ by Brontez Purnell – this is hilarious & highly recommended. Unfiltered Sedaris-like essays on the vagaries & vulgarities of gay male life. I laughed out loud often. Be prepared for explicit sex & language.

Enjoying Servant of the People – the eerily prophetic Volodymyr Zelensky series. The writing is fearless in its political attack, the performances are spot on, though as it turns out Zelensky wasn’t acting, merely rehearsing for the role of a lifetime. Here in Canada Vision has been showing it with English subtitles which I presume aren’t censored or mistranslating what is being said. 

I have been getting to one in-person recovery meeting a week. The return to meetings in Toronto has been slow even though the only requirement by meeting spaces is that we stayed masked. Like many I’m not comfortable with more than ten people in a large room, even when all are masked. A couple of the zoom meetings closed for their in person meeting but returned to zoom to run both. I think zoom recovery is here to stay.

Two visits to my dentist this month, so I’m not sure what my summer plans are after having that $$ turned into fillings. The other drain on my summer plans was a new TV, as the ‘old’ one was losing its plasma picture – it was like watching though a thin layer of smoke that was getting smokier by the week. We found it was impossible to find one without internet in its system 😦 Getting it set up was a maze of menus but once again we can enjoy full screen & amazing colour. 

After the winter of our discontent, coming up in May, a day trip to Stratford  to see Richard III. We will be driving regardless of this entreaty “A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!”

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2021 Recap

Over the past year by TOpoet.ca following blog grew from 445 to 468! Doesn’t sound like much but I did a cull of followers who are no longer active on WordPress. The WordPress map show my hits have come from over 70 countries around the world. USA still tops the list but that China & Bangladesh are in the top 10 is a surprise. Nigeria in the top 20 – but behind Malawi! Kazakhstan! Still no hits from North Korea 😦 My Tumblr is at 346 followers. 229 Twitter followers.

My top ten posts of the year include 2 out of the archives! Born To Be Blown – from 2014 – https://topoet.ca/2014/01/24/born-to-be-blown/; & Sydney Academy 2 from 2019 https://topoet.ca/2019/08/12/sydney-academy-2/.

I made a few changes in my blogging routine to give me more time for actual writing 🙂 At the start of the pandemic blogging daily was an excellent way to get through the lockdown. Then it became work I had to keep up with & was no longer fun, so I cut way back.

In 2020 I did 322 posts; in 2021 I only 260 blog posts – of course having no live poetry readings or Stratford show to review reduced the quantity. Though on of the highlights of 21 was seeing Three Tall Women on stage in Stratford. Martha Henry’s tour de force final production.

Picture Perfect: Picture Perfect:  98 sections, about 142,000 words posted so far with approximately 45,000 to be edited then posted. I’ve been enjoying the slow process of edits & have made some major cuts in the final set of rough drafts. As usual my biggest issue is keeping names straight – what did I call that rcmp constable a hundred pages ago? I’m really enjoying creating the weekly graphic for each section. I do have an endless supply of frame & paintings that people have thrown out.

Like many people I’m weary of the pandemic, of people’s reactions, of the roller-coaster of restrictions, & now the paranoia. Is it allergies? A cold or covid? How ‘sick’ does one have to be to get tested? Who pays for it? By the time you get tested, have the results, early onset treatment is too late. How long before neo-citron markets a neo-covid hot lemon drink?

Highlights of the year: contributing a forward to Philip Cairns book Hollywood Poems; having some pieces of mine included in Pandemic Poetry. Extensive work on my garden. Deep house cleaning in a lock-down pandemic purge of the house top to bottom, in particular a basement full of stuff – some not touched since we moved into the house some 40 years ago. 

I did get used to zoom recovery meetings & now seriously doubt if I’ll go back to face-to-face. I do meet up with fellow recoveries for face-to-face conversations & sharing. Going up to my room for a zoom is much easier than getting ready an hour or so in advance to get there with the hope the TTC hasn’t shut down. 

What am I looking forward to in 2022? Good question. Travel out of the country is out of the question. Even for travel within Canada testing rules can change while I am landing so I might never get off the plane or end up living in a tent on the runway until I can get an appointment for the right test. But I am considering another week or so in Cape Breton if pandemic travel rules loosen up enough. Stratford has a tentative season with a couple of shows we’re interested in seeing but will it end up a repeat of last season’s open air productions?

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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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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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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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Face To Face F2F

In Toronto some recovery groups in churches have reopened for f2f meetings, all adhering, as much as possible to safety protocols. Many of the other usual places i.e. community centres, hospitals – have been slower at reopening for user groups of any sort. There are rumours that community centres will be reopening in October, at the earliest. This depends on the return to school over the next couple of weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a return to more restrictions.

I haven’t taken advantage of these reopened recovery meetings. I’m happy with the zoom community that allows for easy attendance – no transit to deal with for one thing. Social distancing is easy to maintain & one can mute a member easily 🙂 No more leaving the room to silence them.

I went to my first f2f meeting meeting haven been asked to speak there – a twenty minute talk about my recovery experience. It was within walking distance & I timed my departure to arrive just as the meeting started. There was sign in  for contact tracing & hand sanitizer at the door. Chairs were placed for social distancing. Some members were masked a couple were not. I kept mine on. The first participant berated the unmasked for defying protocols & they didn’t bat an eyelash. The others, when they participated removed their masks to speak then put them back on. This made sense to me so when I did my little talk I did the same. 

After a very brief look at my drinking history I focused on a line in the Big Book ‘we will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.’ There is a difference between intuitive knowing & automatic reflex. One thing I’ve discovered is that if I am baffled I should do nothing rather than respond because I’m afraid to admit I’m unsure – to be unsure is admit I’m stupid, incapable etc.

I wasn’t sure what to do about the unmasked but knew my primary purpose there was to share my experiences not lecture on masks. Social distance was kept & I was thanked by some for talking about living the steps today & note dragging them through a drunk-a-log.

At my zoom meetings many are longing for the social context of face-to-face, I am not one of those. I certainly enjoy that context but am content not having to deal with indoor social distancing & dealing with people only via eye contact. 

from October 2015

Conformity

<>

It’s a SOCA convention

a man in a rust-red tweed sport coat

riches out his hand

‘are you here for the convention’

it’s my hotel but not my problem

<>

though I am awake & out before 9 a.m.

not hungover or looking to score

the schooners around me are boats

not beer glasses

in some brassy sports bar

<>

I know about recovery

rooms of people sitting in circles

rounds of support

restless feet in black shoes

where they end by

holding hands

they want to show me mercy

but I don’t want to hold their hands

joining in that circle

won’t bring me into their lives

<>

one is the loneliest number 

who has one rusty nail

sees one snow flake

though no two flakes are identical

<>

I am recovering like them

but I don’t enter their circle

won’t make snow angels with them

I felt the itch that induced SOCA

but never scratched it that way

<>

he reaches out his hand

I say ‘not here for the conference’

and sail out into the morning

not ready for conformity

<>

(SOCA – Southern Ontario Cocaine Anonymous)

(Conformity

http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1pR )

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Reconnect

tangled plots

Met up with Lizzie Violet, an actual f2f visit, with someone outside of my bubble for the time since the initial pandemic lockdown. I haven’t spent time with Lizzie since the unexpected demise of her Cabaret Noir a few years ago. We’ve had a few coffee dates with a group of writers but this was a one-on-one without distractions. The day proved to be hot, for me, to sit on a shady patio, so we enjoyed the a/c cool of my dining-room for a couple of hours. (http://lizzieviolet.com)

story building blocks

She writing a novel set during the 30’s set in Toronto & one of the characters is from the east coast. I was a natural resource seeing as my novel, Coal Dusters, is set near that time – there was little change in Cape Breton due to the depression after its own disastrous labour struggles with the coal/steel industries. They were already a hard-scrabble people making the most of what resources they had. But I digress, slightly.

some plot steps lead nowhere

I do get to talk ‘writing’ with one of my Loyalist crew every month or so but was great to do so with with an almost new face 🙂 I also got to share some of the books I picked up in my Cape Breton research & some of the things I discovered for other sources – things like the black miners imported from the Caribbean with promises of company houses etc only to arrive totally unprepared in the middle of a blizzard with no real place to live. There’s a book that needs to be written.

I also shared how I read novels written in the 20s/30s to get sense of the language used, I also read some boys adventures written at that time too. In Dusters I wanted my characters talk like 20’s people not like the over-articulate people of today. In rewatching the The Tudors recently I was dismayed at the over use of the word fuck – I know it existed at the time – but as a word of mocking not vulgarity. 

too many diversions?

Hopefully there’ll be opportunity to reconnect f2f with more of my writing/poetry community before the the lockdown rolls back to protect us from people who feel their personal rights supersede their responsibility to others. 

from August 2008

Dreaming Of Me

you tell me 

you’ve been dreaming about me

you think about me all the time

you think such talk is flattering

but because 

we’ve only been together 

three times

to me these are warnings

things too much too soon

from someone I don’t dream about

about whom my only thought is

how do I break this to you gently

<>

you really are quite sweet

but being attracted to me

isn’t enough anymore

not that I think I’m so hot

that I can pick and choose

it’s just that I’m no longer

driven by opportunity

the way I once was

<>

the longer you dream

the longer it will take

for you to wake up to the fact

that you aren’t in my dreams

I don’t fantasize about you 

I don’t long for your call

I’m not hungry for your kiss

I didn’t want to say no thanks

too quickly

opportunities like this

don’t come often in my life

the last time it did

I was eager like you

for more of that mouthful of wonder feeling

but this time

I’m more inclined to keep my mouth shut

let someone else do the talking

then I’ll do the walking

<>

I’m out of here

once I figure out how to tell you that

after all we’ve only been together

what three times now

not long enough 

for me to consider it an investment

more of an investigation

a chance for both of us 

to check out the goods

and as much as I’m pleased 

with what lies beneath the sheets

I’m not drawn back for more of it

even when you tell me

you dream of me

that you waited all week for my call

the fact that I waited a week to call

should have told you something

if I was that into you

nothing would’ve held me back

<>

I wish you sweet dreams though

feel a little flattered 

some of them are of me

but I’m not selling 

myself for a dream 

anymore

cabaret noir march 2015
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