Hair

Hair

she was a stranger

who felt no compunction 

in reaching out to touch my hair

I must have been in my mid-twenties

at the time

my hair was freshly washed

shoulder length

‘it’s like baby hair,’ she said

I was a natural blond

even blonder 

after a month of summer sun

‘I would kill to have like yours’

she smiled 

‘thanks’ I replied

not adding

that I hate my hair

I hate it being so smooth

hate being asked

are you a boy or are you girl

being called fruit

by guys because of my hair

not that I was mr masculine

to begin with

 

shortly after that

I dyed my hair for the first time

I wanted a change

I bought a home kit

to make it permanent jet black

the look was striking

my mother said

‘what were you thinking’

I went to work

raised a few eye brows 

but no comments

the black faded after the first wash

so much for permanent

in a week it was ash

in three weeks

back to baby fine blond

 

my hair

was like my sexuality

something I couldn’t disguise

no matter what women

I flirted with

what I tried to call it

what I drank to blot it out

it would always be

I had to live with the envy

some felt about that hair

about something I was powerless over

something I hadn’t constructed

something I learned to live with

 

I remember my first perm

a head of tight blond curls

they bounced in the light

it was my face

but a different me

the stylist conferred with a colourist

both agreed

that my hair was too fine 

to hold colour for long

that it would be a shame

to tamper with it anyway

 

the permanent curls

would flatten within a week

I wasn’t willing 

to go to bed with hairpins in

to look like my mother

so I’d get that perm 

every month or so

I loved my hair for the first week

then a week of doing what I could

to keep the curl in

it was too much work

too much time checking in mirrors

 

I had a friend who was

what he referred to as 

a hair burner

he touched my freshly washed

uncurled hair one day

‘you have baby hair.

I have clients

who would kill to have hair like that.’

I said

‘I hate my hair.

it’s too much work.’

he said

‘do you trust me?’

 

I let him do what he wanted

it took a couple of hours

that first time

to cut it short short short

then incise it with electric razor

patterns into the hair

sometimes a maze

other times circle or triangles 

always different 

 

then he died

murdered by HIV meds

 

I shaved my head for his funeral

no one would ever touch my hair

again

This piece was directly inspired by reading posts, tweets, cultural analysis of race & hair. Black women, in particular, frequently have co-workers, friends of friends & complete strangers of all races, walk up to them to touch their hair, often without asking. It is seen as a lack of boundary respect.

This is something that happened to me more than once. Perhaps as a man it hasn’t had the same response from me. There is a cultural difference between a woman touching a strange man casually – than a man touching a woman’s hair casually. A woman’s touch isn’t threatening whereas a man’s is. Recently someone, without asking, stroked my fresh shaven head and said ‘smooth.’

Anyway this piece isn’t about sexual or racial politics but about my hair. This hair touching did happen often when I was a child, less often as a teen but until I actually started shaving my head it continued. The dialogue is actual, the hating of my hair is an exaggeration. I loved the colour but hated that it was baby fine. It was shiny but shapeless. I was hounded in high school by teachers to get my hair cut when it was getting to length I liked. Brian Jones-ish. 

I did dye my hair jet black & as the piece says, it washed out within a week, I never tried to dye it again. There was no altering it just ways of cutting it. As a big I usually had a brush cut, hight school was mod mop top; I never went for scraggly hippie long though. I was grappling with my sexuality & what masculinity meant. Though caring at all about my hair was then seen as being a more feminine attribute.

 

When I moved to Toronto one of the first things I started was getting my hair permed. I might photos of that somewhere. I would go to House of Lords to get that done. It was there the colourist said my hair would never hold colour. It would also not hold curls, unless I did extra work myself. 

The hair burner was a friend in recovery. Ed – he was also from my hometown, Sydney, Cape Breton; though we never knew each other when we were living there. I often wondered what might have happened had we met way back when. As the piece says he cut my hair super short then ‘etched’ patterns into it with an electric razor. I loved it. Our haircutting sessions were slow, mediative talks for many years, in which we became spiritually connected.

He was an early HIV diagnosis & thus one of the guinea pigs as science figured out dosages. The meds killed him, not HIV. ‘So sorry.’ Before he passed I did try another hair-burner friend in recovery but he didn’t have the patience for the cut that Ed gave me. For Ed’s funeral I shaved my head for the first time. I knew that in some religions mourners would wail, tear their clothes, even scar themselves in a display of grief. This was/is my display.

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Headlights

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Headlights

the elevator door opened

there was a woman

alone

 

after a startled stare

she stepped back

to let me enter

 

I didn’t get on

I let the door shut

so she could continue

her ride alone

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Lost on the Road to Clear Thinking

Lost on the Road to Clear Thinking

 

I couldn’t think clearly

for days

that seemed like weeks

weak with those thoughts

sorting resorting

each thought clouding things

even more

even more

each thought building on the last

another tangent

another possibility

murkier than the last

yet refusing to quiet

without the noise

it was as if life would end

 

lost was proof of direction

confusion was proof of intelligence 

the stupid are never lost in thought

the complicated are the bright spots

glimmering in the dense mist

of one idea one notion one misstep

after the other

clarity was for the simple minded

the intellectually challenged

 

it isn’t easy

to remain so invested in this

sorting and resorting 

but without it there would be

no one here

just a blank stare of serenity

Our culture spends an inordinate amount of time & money on finding serenity while at the same pushes the importances of consumerism. Getting more while enjoying simplicity is a modern dichotomy. If you are making money you are respected. If it isn’t making money it’s a hobby not a valid pursuit. But how can you afford yoga mats, stone serenity fountains unless you get to work. Of course the more your serenity fountain costs the more serene you will be.

Self-care is only for those who can’t afford professionals to do it with them. ‘The Learn to Relax’ workshop that costs $1200 is certainly better than one that costs pay-what-you-can. 

So you can see where some of the inspiration for this piece comes from – those mixed messages that often go heard but not really listened to, merely accepted without question. The morose are seen as challenges – men & women are often drawn to partners who need a little fixing up. Married to the right person will make a real person of you. You’re nobody until someone wants to change you.

Happy, well-adjusted people are seen as somehow lacking in emotional depth or are consider in denial. The depressive are seen as authentic – if you haven’t suffered enough you aren’t seen as interesting. If you haven’t experienced & survived childhood sexual abuse aren’t as compelling a writer, painter so what bother writing?

I am one of those, so far, lucky ones who have had a relatively blessed life. The only abuse I suffered was going up in an abusive culture. That ‘suffering’ has been mostly emotional & mental. Some name calling, bullying in school but that’s it. The worse physical abuse I went through was at the hands of alcohol in a culture that said booze was the best way to deal with anything. The alternatives: shock treatment, chemical castration – were considered viable treatment for sexually non-conforming teens at that time. I’m grateful that I avoided getting the help I might have needed then because that help would have killed me or left me with a blank stare serenity.

 

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Architectural un/Digest/able

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Architectural un/Digest/able

The White House

architecturally speaking

holds no interest for me

big sprawling 

designed to impress 

not to live in

history was made there

apparently

 

but to me

it isn’t even a photo op

merely a symbol 

of promises unkept

of hopes betrayed

needs ignored in favour of profit

not for progress

 

I’ve seen it from a distance

that’s close enough for me

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Gift Guide

The Giver Not The Gift

why yes thank you

it’s wonderful

I can’t get over it

you made it yourself

you made it just for me

I’m amazed

not that you made it

I know you are capable of making things

don’t take the wrong way

it’s just that I never expected you

to make anything for me

let alone something like this

 

I’m sure I’ll find

the right place to put it

not that it won’t fit in anywhere

one might chose to put it

something so unified

that uses only the purest

that uses every possible part

nothing is wasted

but it needs to be the right place

after all the work you put into it

I can’t just stick where

no one else will see

 

(though I’m tempted

to to do just that

how long before I can regift it

perhaps drop it into some

donation box

share the abundance

but get it out of my sight)

 

thank you

Over the years I have been given gifts that made me think ‘who the fuck do you think I am?’ who mistaken bright for garish. I have had & passed along gifts that aren’t quite right for – if asked – you ever wearer did you read – it’s easy for me to say I met someone who really loved it so it ent to a better home. 

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of the same though – giving someone something that they felt obliged to say ‘oh how lovely’ or some-such other Canadian politeness response. Now I’m more inclined to let someone dip into my music collection rather than presuppose I have the perfect music for them. Be warned, if you want something similar to Kenny G out of my jazz collection – that’s not going to happen 🙂 

The home-made, hand-made gifts I appreciate are cookies, jam – things that don’t need size & the only taste level is the flavour of the yummy goodies. So. yes, this piece is based on some actual experiences of being given travel purchased t-shirts that I knew I would never wear from people who should have known better. and yes I admit I can be hard to shop for if you think of stuff but if you think of the unemotionally of gift cards then my gratitude is real. iTunes, Starbucks, Tim Horton’s even Swiss Chalet – these are things I use.

As I get older I have less compunction about passing things on. Some gifts have turned up as amazing prizes at Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam. Who knows that what you give may not end up making somebody else day. I am grateful for anything anyone takes the time to give me though – I may not appreciate the gift but am always appreciative of the giver.

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Still Waiting For Godot’s Tip

Waiting For Godot’s Tip

 

some people

you know

expect to be thanked

just for sitting at a table

if you don’t say

thank you for eating here

thank you for looking at the menu

they start making demands

with their eyes

 

mind you

you know

they expect you to know

what they want

expect you to apologize

if the specials aren’t special enough

if you don’t

bring water fast enough

they are waving their hands

 

you know 

I do this for hours

keep track of every little motion

every wrinkle of the brow

to stay on top of their needs

to fulfill

because that is my job

that is the job of the world

to be constantly aware

and ready to happily fulfill

unspoken desires

all for lousy 10% tip

 

you know

most days it isn’t worth it

but it’s better than

starving 

right

 

then I think

this is the job of the world

to be constantly aware

and ready to cater

to the unspoken desires 

of those around us

particularly

when we don’t know

what we want ourselves

Back to the 224 Rules for Monks after the October boo break 🙂 The rule that prompted this one is about not being too pushy with someone who is supposed to supply you with something. As I often do I changed the point of view to someone upon who we often make demands – in this case waiters. Have you ever tried to catch the eye of a waiter expecting them to guess you wanted another glass of water?

The notion of waiters easily lead me to the title – a play on Waiting For Godot – a play in which the lead characters wait for this guy to show up and offer them some sort of salvation – spoiler alert: he never shows up. The tip is what is awaited here – the hope for something of size – our reward to them for being pleasant. 

I’ve seen customers take it out on waiters for things that aren’t the waiter’s fault. Waiters bring the food, they don’t cook it, they don’t plate it, they bring it and let you eat it. They don’t wash the dishes, the cutlery, or decide on the portion size of your drinks, the strength of the coffee, or even what tables are available. Trust me they’ve heard that joke (whatever one it is) hundreds of times.

In editing this for more than typos (I’m sure there’s at least one) I expanded it as I realized that in life we all serve someone – bosses, partners – we live in a world of unexpressed expectations & cultural conditioning. The tip we get is the other person’s approval. This construct is impossible to transcend without being a hermit. It ends with admitting that often we really don’t know what we want, merely what we think we want or what we’ve been taught we want. That’s what the ad industry is built on. We get sold the ‘smoke’ but end up getting the cancer.

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Simplicity

Simplicity

I can’t remember

the last time I owned

just one of anything

such simplicity 

was never allowed me

 

I try as best I can

to possess less

to be less owned by what I own

when something new comes in

something old must leave

by leave I mean

must be gone

not merely stored away

but donated shared given away

thrown away

reduced slowly

 

but becoming less attached to things

isn’t the way of this world

even though we’re told

things don’t matter

we get judged

by things we acquire

told that if the house burns 

be grateful to be alive

you can’t take it with you

but

you might as well enjoy it while you can

We live in a wasteful culture in which to say you have enough is admitting defeat. Not to want more means one is settling for less than they deserve. This constant seeking is so subtly supported one often doesn’t know where the messages are coming from.

 

Watch any TV show & notice how often the same outfit is worn? In some shows the leads never wear the same clothing from episode to episode. Yet we rarely see the characters shopping for clothes. I recently saw a headline to the effect that so-and-so big-name-star was seen wearing the same outfit they had on last week. Clearly someone’s career is down the tubes.

One of the things that runs through the 227 Rules is a strong anti-capitalistic stance. The perfection of a spiritual path lies in not allowing things to control one but allowing for the need for things i.e. the robe. The push isn’t to transcend but to limit how things constrain us. Sounds easy in theory but in practice it isn’t so easy.

If it weren’t for these 227 prompts some of these thoughts would probably enter my head. I am, like most people, numbed by the constant urging for more to even notice the constant urging for more. Worse yet numb to the consequences, to the fear of being judged, left behind, in the wake of those spending their way to identity & satisfaction. My consumerism is controlled by my finances. I can’t pretend that when I win Lotto Max I won’t indulge in some mindless, foolish, spending. Sometimes Daddy likes a new pair of shoes.

 

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Shelf Life

Shelf Life

moldy tub 

back of the fridge shelf

saved to save money

now lost to decay

so much food

we can’t eat it fast enough

bought in bulk

to save money

money is lost

when we can’t eat fast enough

when we eat fast enough

the time we save

is spent shopping for more

 

nothing that lasts

and when it does last

it can’t be used anyway

dispose don’t save

all those empty containers

take up more space

than we have to store what we need

they’ll come in handy

 

well if it hasn’t come in handy in a year

it’ll never come in handy

the surplus is comforting

but not profitable

share don’t save

the money you save

only pays off someone else’s bills

 

we reduce reuse

never have enough in the long run

while those that produce

what we have to reduce reuse

get fat bonuses 

and the prices keep going up

to cost us more than we save

 

when we run out

the planet gives its last gasp

don’t blame me

save your breath

even if there’s no profit 

in saving it

that is

if anyone can still breathe

on the back shelf

A neighbour recently cleaned out his garage and offered me two large boxes for jars & lids. All types of jars, glass, plastic. jars that had held jams, peanut butter, mayo and the like. He had kept them expecting to use them one day. When he ran out space in his basement he moved them to the garage. One box had 1995 written on the side, the other said 2010. He just hated to see them go to waste. I hated to think of what else he was still keeping for that someday when it would come in handy.

I identified with him though. I do have a drawer full of elastic bands mixed with bread bag clips – stopped buy bread in 1999. So this piece is about packaging and the hold ‘stuff’ can have on us.It also touches on  the fear of not having enough in a consumer culture in which having too much is seen as prosperity, while have enough is a compromise.

In Toronto we sort our garbage for recycling but I just don’t how much gets recycled – I’ve never seen a program that shows what happens to all those newspapers, tin cans, jars that we put in the right bins. Though I did see a news item a few years ago about how the cost of warehousing the city’s pick up of recycling is greater than is recouped by selling it so they were giving it away to some company and paying the shipping costs. I’m sure some executive got a nice bonus for facilitating that solution.

Toronto Hydro has a push for us wasteful consumers to reduce our power usage. More efficient lightbulbs, refrigerators and best times to lower the strain on the network. What about the strain die to sleep loss doing my laundry at midnight to save money? I wonder how energy efficient the Hydro offices are? solar powered computers? 


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Gilded Guilt

samprules2

Started a new set of prompts – I love lists of things – this one will prove to be endlessly productive for another couple of years – 227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This is last of the 30 nissaggiyas.

Gilded Guilt

you think the guilt

this guilt

this humiliation

is a benefit

that I somehow enjoyed

being reviled

being castigated by the press

by pundits on TV

people who have never met me

but who felt no compunction

in demonizing my actions

 

actions

which by the way

have never been conclusively been proven

guilt by accusation

not by proof

but once that accusation has been uttered

my innocence will never return

 

oh yes that was the benefit

the only benefit

I have experienced as a result

my face on every news channel

by name on so many lips

my reputation

in every gutter in the world

 

good thing

I’m not here to be popular

only to be rich

that’s right I’m rich

thanks to your condemnation

rich beyond your wildest accusations

and I will continue to gain

overtime bonuses

when anyone continues

to defame my name

even though I don’t enjoy the guilt

I sure do enjoy the interest it earns

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Dangerous Potential

samprules2

Started a new set of prompts – I love lists of things – this one will prove to be endlessly productive for another couple of years – 227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. These are from the 30 nissaggiyas

Dangerous Affirmations

you’ll never amount to anything

you have so much potential

you better buckle down

work harder

you can do better

you can’t be that stupid

 

that was my past

I try not to live there too long

most days I don’t

but like that scar on my knee

from when I fell off my bike

that memory of the past

will always be there

 

the fall was more embarrassing

than painful

lots of bleeding

while the grit was washed out

the sting of antiseptic

the sting

of how could you be so careless

why don’t you watch where you’re going

 

the teacher who told me

I’d never amount to anything

if I didn’t buckle down

try harder

stop wasting my potential

echoed all my teachers

my parents

my culture

that never did tell me

why amounting to anything

was so important

when I was told that queers were worthless

I was already worthless anyway

they didn’t know how queer I was

I was just different

and that had to be coaxed out of me

they failed

 

I failed

I never did live up to my full potential

I never figured out what that was

other than to survive that time

that epoch

when chemical castration

shock treatment

were considered the natural effective

courses to take

if one was caught

with their pants down

fulling some unnatural potential

 

that damage was done though

there are moments

days

when I find myself thinking

I’m useless

stupid

not worth the air I breathe

when I should just get out of the way

of entitled people who are moving forward

making a difference

 

I never amounted to much

just what I am now

and if it isn’t good enough

you have the potential to

get over it

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