Night shots taken December 2020 when I was out taking photos of Christmas lighting. All east end Toronto.
I was on the subway. Standing & avoiding those crowding close me. Breathing slowly into my mask, head down to keep as from contact as possible. The new reality.
People got on & off at each stop. Each negotiating space around them & between others. Some apologizing for brushing up against someone when it was impossible to avoid brushing up against someone. The old reality.
In the window reflection I saw someone stand close beside me but when I glanced to them there was no one there. The reflection was unchanged though. There was clearly a person – I say a person because though the shape was clearly there, the face was distorted by the glass. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female. I couldn’t even see any race. I could feel them press against me as the subway stopped. When I looked to apologize there was no one there. No one.
They were only there in reflection. Wearing a mask much like mine.
The train stopped at my station. I moved to get off but stopped for a moment to glance at the figure by me. I saw it moving past me in reflection. I followed. It turned. I saw it full face. It was me. He exited. Stunned, I couldn’t follow.
The door closed. I had no reflection. I merge back into the crowd. Stood behind someone, willing them to look up. When they did I saw my refection.
Les Mersey’s is a PQ pop group who thrived thanks to CanCon regulations about both the amount of radio airtime that had to be devoted to Canadian music & in Quebec how much of the time had to be in French. I have several stand-alone cds of the amazing series ‘Les Groupes des Années 60.’ The 25 Chansons include originals, a few sung in English but mostly French versions of English hits such as their take on The Rolling Stones – Stupid Girl, Fille Stupide. These are a delight.
I started to collect these when I visited Montreal in the mid-90’s. It was a vain attempt to improve my French but, well, that didn’t happen – c’est la vie. But it did help open my eyes to the insidious influence of US pop music & the sometimes hilarious ways it was adapted by other cultures. If you like this wonky cultural appropriation search out Cambodian pop for the 60s.
Next M is Metro Station best known for their insanely addictive summer hit Shake It. Catchy & fun the album is solid, though nothing quite has the zip of Shake It. All the tracks would make nice movie/TV moments though. The band disappeared after this hit, as far as I know, though Wiki tells me they are still active. The subway in Montreal is known as Le Metro so there is a connection with Les Mercy’s.
The last of this M miscellany is MGMT. I have stand-alones of Oracular Spectacular & Congratulations. I picked up them first as at the result of reading about it in Entertainment Weekly. I may have also seen the video for Electric Feel – which is a great slinky summer hit. The lps are described as psychedelic rock – but, well, they aren’t Umma Gumma trippy. Enjoyable as they are, two cds were enough for my collection.
Maybe He Was Dead
So far there were no TV crews hovering around what was going on. Jan stayed within listening distance but tried not to seem too nosey. A few people were taking pictures with cell phones but they were being warned off by the police. TTC was always sensitive about what went on. She had to figure how to confirm what her sister had told her.
Manonotti was one of the more outspoken voices on city council when it came to almost anything, he never dodged the limelight. His latest mission had been to side with the cyclist union for more dedicated bike lanes. He felt that giving more money to public transit didn’t have to mean just the subway and that if there were more attention payed to alternate forms of transport the city would be better off.
As a result he was frequently at logger-heads with both the TTC and merchants. Merchants who felt more bike lanes meant less parking for paying customers who now had no where to park their cars. Manonotti was outspoken and blunt. Now, maybe, he was dead.
Jan had met him a few times. Interviewed him once when he his crusade was to halt the health spas that were popping up along the Danforth in long empty store fronts. The spas were covers for rub and tug operations where the massage was sexual and not medicinal.
But when he saw that transportation was getting more press hw switched his focus to what would get him the greatest face time. He had hopes of parleying all this into a run for the mayor. He felt it was time the city had someone born and bred in Toronto at the helm and not some corporate clone.
Here’s another cd mp3 compilation that covers genres, eras, & even countries. Epic rock, funk, disco, retro & meditation – who could ask for more? Khrishna Das has been described as “the chant master of American yoga.” One doesn’t have to know yoga to enjoy this meditative music. I have Breath of the Heart & One Track Heart. New Age world music of the top order. Evocative & emotionally resonant. Good for writing to as well.
The rest of this compilation is not as transcendent but is definitely emotionally resonant starting with the classic: Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell. Epic, operatic rock that still tops the oldies charts. I remember the seismic shock when this was first released & everyone was listening to it. I still love it. Sadly there was no really successful follow up – operatic quickly became bombastic tripe. If you are one of the few people on earth who has never heard Bat, do so asap 🙂
Speaking of earth here too is Rare Earth: In Concert. Solid rock/funk. More about them when I get to ‘r’ on the shelf. But we won’t wait for ‘r’ for Revolver Reloaded. This is a set of cover versions of the Beatles’ Revolver. This remake of a vintage lp is a popular nostalgia genre now. Good fun by British bands I’ve never heard of & some nice re-imaginings others too reverent.
For some more earthbound balance is Ray Charles: The Very Best Of – classic rock before classic rock was invented. I have vague recollections of some of these songs on the radio & was happy to add it here. Finally some classic disco with Jackie Moore: I’m On My Way. I have clear memories of sweating to this on the dance floor & never wanting the song to end. A great voice, great production & like many disco albums only the singles pop.
Murder on the TTC
Jan was walking up the stairs when her cell began to ring. There were too many people around her for easy access to it. At the top she stepped aside.
“Jan thought you’d want to know. They found a body at the Bloor station!”
It was her sister Karen.
“Yeah I saw the police when we passed through there.”
“It was Peter Manonotti.”
“What!” she automatically started back down the stairs. Manonotti was one of the most vocal city council members when it came to matters transit.
“I gotta go. Can’t be caught tipping you off.”
“Thanks, sis.” Karen was a subway driver. “Don’t want you to get fired on my account.”
“Fired! Ha. I have a union. Takes more than this to get rid of a tough dyke like me.”
Jan got on the next train back. Manonotti dead. Murder on the TTC. She could see the headlines now. She stepped off again at Bloor and made her way down the stairs and up to the other side. Maybe this would be the scoop she needed.
A yellow tape marked a corner from the top of the stairs to the gateway. Patrons were being moved along directed by police and transit security. Both washrooms were now out of bounds.
She pulled her press card out of her purse ready to show it to the officer in charge of moving people along.
“Can you tell me what happened Office Lee.” She glanced at his badge.
“Nothing to tell.”
“I hear there’s been a body found?”
“Some guy had a heart attack taking a crap.”
“Out of the way people so the medics can get though.”
He pushed her aside into the crowd that had formed.
Next on the shelf is a mp3 cd collection of radio fodder male singer/songwriters of the 70’s, with one exception. Here is Don McLean’s American Pie, Don McLean, Homeless Brother. Pie & Vincent are era defining songs that are used in countless movies for instant period ambiance – in fact all it takes is the ‘buy buy’ oops, I mean ‘bye bye’ & you know where your are in time. I loved that song. Vincent less so – too gentle & greeting card for me. McLean never matched this early success but continued to record. The self-named album sees him as a pop version of Noel Coward with fun songs two of which are worth tracking down: Narcisissma, On The Amazon. He’s sort of the US answer to Gordon Lightfoot 🙂
I loved Jim Croce. On this cd I have You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, I Got A Name, Life & Times. As a stand alone Photographs & Memories; Greatest Hits. His writing & music was emotionally accessible, unpretentious & catchy. He wrote about ordinary men & women with lived-in affection. Looking for the track listings for his lps I want to name check every song as they are each classics. The emotional directness of some of the songs can make me almost tearful. His unexpected death in 1973 at 30 ended an amazing career.
Also inescapable was Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky. The album is sweet folksy, slightly psychedelic & fun with of course his big hit. Canned Ham his second ‘hit’ was good. He recorded a few more stepped lps then back – the music industry wasn’t for him. The same is true for Scott McKenzie: The Voice Of … smash hit with If You’re Going – that road the crest of flower power sweetness – the album is a tad bit darker but those flowers lost their petals, as it were. Thanks to Papa John Phillips he (& Barry McGuire) fill blanks in the Mamas & Papas catalogue nicely. In fact Scott became a member of that group for awhile.
Lastly in this compilation is Elmore James: The Final Sessions. I wanted something to balance out the flower power weight of the other performers & this set. James is a true blues slide guitar magician. Only one album by him was released during his lifetime. This set collects his final two sessions from February 1963 in New York City, and he would be dead within three months of a heart attack at the age of 45. Timeless music.
The Kick Outside
On the subway the little girl kicked me in the ankle. She was about six but at that size and age who can really tell except a parent. I’m no parent. She was one of the prime reasons I wasn’t interested in being a parent.
I said, “Stop.”
She laughed and kicked me again.
I looked for a parent. Across the aisle was a woman beaming at her cute little girl, smiling at me to indulge the little sweet thing.
The little sweet thing had on patent leather shoes. Black shiny hard. As she was about to kick me again I gently pushed her back.
“Stop that.” I said.
The mother glared me.
‘“How dare you touch my child. Keep your hands to yourself.”
“Tell your child to keep her feet to herself.”
“You perverted slime ball.” The mother stood. “Touching my child. Don’t think you’re going to get away with that.”
Grinning, the child kicked me harder. People looked at us. The little girl began to cry.
‘“Look what you’ve done! Hold him there while I get the police.”
Two large men appeared and held me by the shoulders.
“The child was kicking me and I pushed her away.” I explained as they pulled me off at the next stop.
“She musta had a reason to kick you, you asshole. Your type makes me sick.” One of the men grunted.
They held me there for about ten minutes until the subway police showed up to see what the fuss was. The woman and child where gone. The guys holding me admitted they saw nothing.
When I got home there was a bruise on my ankle.
So this is a glance at my living-room. These two prints I picked up many many years ago at The Clay Room on the Danforth. I bought the veranda one first – I love the mood & sense that someone just stepped into the house. It sits over the mantle piece. A few years late I bought the bicycle one. Again the mood is relaxing.
There is fine detail work in both that my camera doesn’t capture. They were both framed & under glass when I bought them. The fact that frames were a perfect match for the walls did play a part in my getting them. Both by the same artist whose name is scrawled unreadable (by me) on the bottom. The Clay Room no longer sells prints.
On the mantle piece is this scale model of a TTC bus. Here I’m showing it off out of its box but it does sit in its box on the mantle. Don’t want dust to demise its collector value. Made to scale. I ordered it from the TTC gift store. Hand painted, it also has a set of details int he box for various routes, which will remain in the box. I do have a spare one tucked away in a drawer too. Some day they may be worth enough to get some Stratford Festival tickets 🙂
The samurai is one of the posters for a 1989 show at the Beaux Arts in Montreal – ‘Le Japon de Shogun’ – which I bought when I went to the amazing exhibit there. It took a year or so to realize the person in the samurai was real & not a mannequin of some sort. I used to visit Montreal with a recovery friend who moved to TO & would go back for a week every summer. I loved the city & even learned a few helpful phrases – Mon hôtel est près d’ici. 🙂
Finally is this object that my partner bought at a sale at his school decades ago. It was made in one of the arts classes there & reminded him, for some reason, of Lord of The Rings. It is a grotesque & serves as a warning to negative energy to back off. It sits on top of shelf near the TV.
Love’s Tangled Socks
what’s the word
you know the one
to call a kiss
that feels like walking into
a dew jewelled spider web
on a sunny day
while looking in the basement
for that lost sock
you know that word
that slip of the tongue
that tip of the tail
yet with a vague damp unease
at the same time
wanting to give in
feeling it’s all too sudden
too sticky in your face
while one hand reaches
to brush the spider web off
the other wants to fondle the spider
what is that word
I have to get the right word
for that sensation
also one for that rapidly
elusive need for the right word
I have to tell you all this
in exactly the right tone
if I don’t
it may never happen again
I may never find that sock
I’ll have to go with one foot bare
on this chilled concrete floor
while other is snug in a sock
trying to balance that tightrope
of grit under one foot
and comfy protection on the other
when did I lose that sock
when did I do laundry last
I have pairs upstairs
in neat rows in a drawer
but it has to be these socks
the ones you liked
to pull off my feet
you like to undress me
kiss each freshly bared part
trace my outline in your silver silva
draw me into to that web
the bed at the centre
where we would devour each other
without a second thought
the other sock has escaped
I thought I had it trapped
like your tongue
held firmly in my grasp
yet it slips slides
elusive fleshy fragments
of tender mystery
and all I can think about
is the tender shock
of this cobweb on my face
don’t want it to get in my eyes
it has caressed my lips
a dusty sooty taste
one hand darts up to brush it away
but stops when I see
the spider scuttle away
into the dark
shocked by the size of this catch
not ready to crawl across my shoulders
the way you do so well
not ready to take the seed
spray it into new shapes
along my stomach
slithering cool trails
us laughing at the moment
turning over in the bed
looking for our clothes
time for clean socks
the other must be in the laundry
I’ll be right back
only I’m stuck here
caught in a loss for words
looking for a definition
that will wind you
around me forever
? Richard III – Stratford Festival
? All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival
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I’ve seen so many frenzied crowds battling for food & pillaged stores in movies that the covid crisis felt a little unreal. I didn’t expect to see the end of the world – not that I think it’s going to come to a dry coughing end now – but there are endless doomsayers moaning & pointing the finger of blame.
The dystopian future has unexpectedly become a reality. All those irrational actions & reactions in films weren’t just dramatic licence, they were reflecting real human responses – people pulling guns at Costco over toilet paper. Toilet paper! Lining up for the latest game release rather than consider social distancing. Will there be a new iPhone?
I had a lunch plan with a buddy who may cancel because he doesn’t want to take public transit – if we get together it will be take out (as many restaurants, coffee chains, aren’t doing dine in) so we can keep that 6 foot distance between us. It got too complex so we cancelled.
Worry about the transit system running smoothly now becomes will I take transit at all. I’m one of the ‘lucky’ one without a job to deal with. The few things I took transit for have been closed until April 5. Many of the recovery meetings I go to are in community centres or churches – now closed until further notice. So I’m already engaged deeply in social isolation.
I’ve done a few things as a result of the crisis. I’ve bumped up my Vitamin C & spread it out over the day as the body can only aboard so much at a time. I’ve added zinc to my pill intake as it boosts the immune system. I downloaded a set of “Solfeggio Frequencies: Activate Qi Flow and Healing Energy.” I can leave this playing in the background when I’m doing chores around the house.
What are you doing to prepare for the dry cough end of the world?
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I’m going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way again – this is definitely the 2nd time with someone else. First was, alone, was way back in the mid 90’s, then a few years later with a friend in recovery. I’m going through it again with the same friend. I may have done some of the exercises that first time because I starting doing morning pages in the mid-90’s as I result of that first reading.
The next time we worked through everything. Now some 20 years later it’s time for this version of me to give it another go. I found it productive then & hope to again. In recovery meeting soften go through the same text, a step at a time, endlessly because repetition is the mother of learning. No one is too well to get better 😉
I still have my paperback of the book but opted to download a Kindle copy for reading in transit. I’ll went to Indigo & bought the workbook – that’s right I went into a book store ! & bought a book ! I did check a couple small indie stores first but they didn’t have the workbook. I discovered that there is now a ‘Creativity’ section full of books to free the mind – a step up from New Age, I suppose.
So far I’ve read through the introductions. Cameron makes no secret of her recovery & the role that it played in her ability to explore creativity. I remember when I got sober I was afraid that without booze to fuel the furnace of art that I’d never play the piano again 🙂 I thought I wrote better after a few drinks – I still have some of notebooks & can read my handwriting for the most part. I was certainly in touch with melodrama & self-pity after a few doubles.
it didn’t last long
for a brief moment
passing him on a subway platform
me getting on
him getting off
not long enough to snag
our heads turn
but the doors close
am whisked away
the moment memory
has a hold of me
a face that needed a shave
sloppy quick half smile
eyes I think I remember
moment too short to get color
dark hair dark eye browns
or was that just subway lighting
or memory dimming already
I carried that glance
as long as I could
I didn’t check my phone
didn’t look for other faces
savoured that intimation
or am I reading
something into those eye
maybe he was glad
I was the only body
between him and getting off
a half smile of thanks
to the transit gods
that allowed for his easy exit
he did turn a bit towards me
as the doors closed
he did follow me
as I was ripped out of his arms
did he have arms
I’m pretty sure he did
but all I have is that face
the unshaved line of his jaw
half a smile
yes I think he had short hair
or was he wearing a tight toque
funny how a glance
can take in so much and so little
would I recognize him
will it be one of those faces
one can’t quite place
like extras in movies
in a subway scene
just out of view
out of focus
filling in a background
so my life
doesn’t feel so empty
Richard III – Stratford Festival
June 25-26-27 – Capturing Fire 2020 – Wooly Mammoth Theatre -Washington D.C.
All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival
Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
at Ted’s Bulletin in Washington DC
Working through the 227 Rules For Monks.
Who knew the simple life could be so complex.
somedays it isn’t safe
for me to be seen in public
not safe for others I mean
personally I am unconcerned
but the welfare of others
has to be considered
just a glance from any male
let alone a gay male
can be triggering
sending someone spinning
into painful childhood memories
that don’t involve me directly
but my mere looking
where I am going
can set people off
I never ask how are you doing
lest that appears to be disrespect
for their boundary issues
I dress to deflect attention
I won’t compliment your appearance
never talk about my happy childhood
because by doing so
I may be diminishing
what you experienced in yours
I get tired of negotiating permission
to continue a conversation
is it okay if I talk about ….
negotiating to avoid making
it isn’t wise to presume
that just because they are a clerk
that they want to be of service
I haven’t left my house
for years now
it’s the easiest way
of keeping the world safe
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Shell of a Man
a woman got up
stood at the subway exit door
I got up
stood behind her
she glanced briefly
over her shoulder
up the stairs
outside the station
we both turned to the left
both crossed in the same direction
turned down the same side street
I walked faster
to pass her
she walked faster
to escape me
we crossed at the same point
she was practically running
saddened by what had happened
by merely being a man
she felt threatened
because my house
was along her route
is a shell that shouldn’t crack
a bowl to carry me through life
that doesn’t get questioned
doesn’t get handled roughly
to my entitlement
of not having to worry
for what isn’t my direct doing
I didn’t create this cultural context
in which women
yet I feel guilt
should I have taken a different way home
when I saw us walk
in the same direction
is her fear
now my fault
how different from her
I get the same anxiety
when my sense of security
by my assumptions of strangers
do young men alarm me
simply because they are young
how did age become weaponized
how did skin colour become weaponized
the world is on alert
trust no one
justify that lack of trust
by falling back on distorted news
by a history
that suppresses facts in favour of controllers
by not acknowledging any complicity
in making them look pure
not driven by greed
by the need to control
I just wanted to walk home
take my shoes off and relax
not feel the fragility of this shell
This was prompted by an actual event, or rather events, because this isn’t the first time this has happened – me and a random lone female getting on then off the subway train at the same time, walking in the same direction, as the same time. I’m always paranoid that as we walk she’ll stop, unknowingly at the sidewalk to my house, and confront me, mace me, kick me in the balls.
So far no such confrontation has occurred. I don’t know of a way of reassuring anyone, of making myself appear non-threatening when this happens. At times I have not crossed where I usually cross but the defiance to my house is less than 5 minutes so there’s no real way to not go in the same direction. This reaction to her paranoia – I say her, as I’ve never happens when such accidentally-in-the-direction occurs with men.
I have female friends who tell me they have felt unsafe when a man walks behind them at night on the street. It saddens me. It one of the memento when I confront the this cultural context of fear. I feel very safe on the street at night, alone, but that is because I’m a man – not because I am necessarily safe – there have been shootings & stabbings all along the Danforth.
I have to admit though that I am less inclined go out at night unless I have a destination I want to get to. Even less inclined in the winter – icy, snowy, sidewalks can be treacherous enough in daylight – if slip and fall I want someone to see me asap. But the war on pedestrians is another issue.
In the piece I also look at this culture of paranoia regarding race & age. I have a black friend who still, in 2019, gets watched when he goes into a corner store. There’s a couple of corner shops in this area with signs that say ‘one student at a time.’ We have a US president who wants to build a wall to further the demonization of Mexicans (rather than rebalance the profit driven economy) – now that blacks have become a less sensational target.
Yeah a lot of that actually through my head when I’m accidentally going in the same direction as a woman. Sometimes I rather stay home at night than confront all that.