Monday, August 29, 2011

Downtown Boathouse Evening

Downtown Boathouse Evening

A Newfy, broad side-burned
in a goofy yellow shirt
squeezes reels and jigs
from a hollow musical snake.
His companion
sumptuous, earthy and beautiful
plucks a triangular banjo.

The setting sun
warms the boathouse boards
as I share the heron's stillness.
Water bugs leap like gazelles
from placid savannah grasses
winking flashes of silver.
Ducks churn purposefully,
bill-sniff side to side
dimpling the water's skin.

It is dinner time and the heron
intent on the island rock
steps once and twice into the shallow edge
retracts his beak like a cocked harpoon
and deepens his hungry stillness
as my toes, warmed by sun and music
keep the Newfy's beat.

A small crowd gathers behind the music makers:
a bicyclist or two, someone in a wheeled walker.
In the distance runners cross the railway bridge
young strides wide against blue sky.
The heron rips savagely, comically through his dignified stillness-
belly flops into the water, emerges ungainly with flopping
prey tweezered in his beak. It is duly pincered and gobbled.
Then proud stance resumed, a delicate sip or two of post-meal
river water, tea-time with pinky extended.

I rise from the warm boards; dinner waits nearby
at an elegant restaurant, itself doubtless no less a stage
for absurd and inelegant graspings.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Yet another poem:


Her Ford Fairmont was precisely positioned
to prevent my right-hand turn.
She could move up a few feet
violating the crosswalk, true-
but pedestrians were non-existent.
She was, out of ignorance
lack of consideration
holding me and my important business up.

Her body was slumped
her empty skull nestled
between the headrest and open window
fingers like whitened leeches
dangled unmoving from a slackened arm
down the side of her door. 

She was a slug
barely conscious
needing to be galvanized by my horn.
My car radio reports a death
a young hockey player, big contract,
suffering from depression, police
do not suspect foul play.


Maybe my slug is depressed;
maybe it took a massive effort
just to get into her car.
Happy people don't 
slump like that.
Maybe she lost someone close.
Maybe she was harried for years
by people rushing her
and she shut down inside.
Maybe I should just take my hand
away from the horn and stop
slugging her with my thoughts.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


This is from a dream, first poem in a while. A self-reminder that writing chops can deteriorate with lack of use. I mean it was tough to spit this one out.


A chain-mailed Knight serves as the Blowsnake's eyes.
Together they patrol the crenellated circumference
of the tower; its massive squared stones, sealed by weight alone,
are a polished curved wall seamed as by a glass cutter's diamond.
The Blowsnake's retracted tongue bloats his collar,
flaring the skin in coils that step back from his head
like successive Triceratops' shields. They flow him forward
on pulsing waves which are words yet to be born.

At the Knight's trumpet blast the tongue disgorges
from the Blowsnake's body, slides between crenellations
and insinuates itself into the ocean-fed moat below.
There it tastes of the dried sap in the hulls of invading ships.
From the splashes made by their furrowing prows
the tongue whispers to the sailors of leafy boughs, and long roots
in the warm earth back home. They feel the folly
of risking the sharpened edges of the granite reef
which lays barely submerged, dead ahead.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The iPod Miracle

The iPod Miracle

 About a year ago my iPod Touch died. Maybe died isn’t the correct term. More went into a coma. A coma where all the lights went out but you knew that somewhere deep down intelligence still lived. One knew this because though the screen was blank, the thing still worked. If I put on my reading glasses and shone a bright light at just the right angle, I could even turn it on and make it play music. But basically, unless you are the kind of nutcase who listens to the same music (Sinatra, Ella, Leonard Cohen) and/or the same audiobook (The Power of Now) over and over, the unit was a write-off. It was too much of an eyestrain to get it to do anything. Fortunately I am just that kind of nutcase. It remained on my docking station month after month, delivering the words of Eckhart Tolle that ushered me to sleep night after night.

Why didn’t I get it fixed? Because we don’t fix things, especially electronic things any more. We throw them away and get the next generation device. Fixing it under partial warranty would cost only $50 or so less than getting a brand new one with HD video recorder. I didn’t need an HD recorder. I didn’t want to spend $200 get it repaired under Apple’s less-than-ideal warranty. I didn’t want to be without Eckhart for the weeks it would be sent away. In short, ever stoic, ever lazy, ever frugal, I left things as they were.

I still had my laptop. I still had my Kindle. I still had my ancient cellphone which can’t even shoot video. Then my Kindle went into a coma. The Hercules screen saver got ripped across his midriff, leaving him leglessly battling a serpent. In the bottom half, under the tear, the Kindle worked perfectly. Above it Hercules remained, gradually disintegrating into a morass of vertical lines as the days went by. I called Amazon. They sent me a brand new one. God bless them; they want me to download more books. The Kindle episode was an omen. A precursor of good things to come. A harbinger of the iPod miracle.

The other morning it happened. The iPod screen plinked to life. Great sound, that plink by the way. Some of the sounds in Microsoft, like in Publisher when the red X comes and something is disallowed, are horrible. Like being whacked over the head by a bent aluminum gong. But I digress. The screen came on, informing me that after a year on the charging dock, my battery was fully charged. Yay. And that the date was July 21. As it was August, I suspect it meant July 21, 2010, perhaps the day of the coma’s onset. No matter. I began to play with it. The light screen was on but the touch function was dead. No matter how many times I slid the glowing bar nothing happened. Still suffering paroxysms of hope I pawed at the screen, turned the unit off and on, pawed some more. Somehow, incredibly, the date and time became up to the minute correct. I felt like Dr. Frankestein must have on seeing the Monster’s finger twitch. There was only one thing to do. I plugged it into the laptop and let it figure things out. Somehow, between me, the laptop, the iPod and the Internet, healing began. Settings were restored. New software, new iTunes were downloaded. Ultimately and gloriously the thing began to work! As I whooped joyously around the house I did not pause to reflect on how all that meditation, all that Eckhart, had failed to detach me from identification with possessions. Who cared about that crap when a miracle had occurred? My iPod had been healed.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Journey to Wordsworth

Journey to Wordsworth

No. Not that Wordsworth. Not the Lake District guy who co-wrote Lyrical Ballads with Coleridge way back in 1798. We're talking the Wordsworth Bookstore in Kitchener, Ontario. The one my sister, the former schoolteacher, gave me directions to in an effort to promote my literary career. See, Wordsworth (the bookstore) is associated with the One Book One Community endeavor in Waterloo region. While I was in Kitchener on my yearly visit to my sister (we'll call her Betty though Muddy Betty might be more appropriate) we noticed that the One Book One Community was asking for suggestions for writers to take part in their reading series for 2012. Perfect! I'm a writer. I've got a book! I can come to Kitchener, stay with Muddy Betty and do all kinds of readings.  But what would be really smart would be to drop by the Wordsworth Bookstore on my way to Peterborough, introduce myself and maybe leave a couple copies of Waking Up Gilligan on consignment. That way the powers that be could peruse the narrative and become wildly excited about its entertainment value for next year's readings. All I needed to know was how to get there. No problem. Muddy Betty to the rescue. She whipped out her teacher's retirement gift (an ipad) and briskly informed me that the bookstore was located on 100 King St. Two rights and a left and I would be on my way. 

Let me set the scene for the unmitigated disaster we all know is coming: It is Tuesday after the August long weekend. Scorching hot day. We played golf earlier on a course best described as a few fairways cut through steaming tropical swampland. At least a dozen of my most prized golf balls are currently incubating in the fetid ecological mush where no human is allowed to set his or her foot. It is about 4 PM, still achingly hot. My van has zero air conditioning. Heat mirages rise from the hot asphalt. Along with Kitchener's rush hour traffic, assorted young people wander the sidewalks, lost and searching for meaning in their lives. I now realize that these were Muddy Betty's former students, the ones she had given directions to over the years.

 I watch the street addresses carefully through the steaming haze. I pass 200, see a parking spot. I grab it. One hundred can't be far away and who knows if I'd find another one. Gripping two copies of WUG (each one weighs almost exactly one pound) I trek past Goodlife, past a parking garage, past where number one hundred should be. But there is no one hundred! Mystified, I stop. I feel the perspiration from my fingers insinuating itself into the paper fibers of the WUGs they grip. Soon my deathless prose will be dripping down into a charcoal gray smudge on the sidewalk. There can only be one possibility. Number 100 must be on the eastern side of whatever street is zero. It can't be far. It is away from my car but it can't be far. Besides, a little more walking probably won't kill me. I'll see a little more of the town. 

Inspired by this oh so positive self-talk, I resume my trek. I soon realize that I was delusional. In this heat, it is far. Very far. And guess what?  "Well, I'll be," I say to myself (I actually said something else but Muddy Betty's and mine mother taught us not to swear), "no one hundred again."  There is, however a bookstore a few feet away, called the Casablanca. I go in. The girl behind the counter looks a bit like a charmingly tattooed Ingrid Bergman. She looks up. Our eyes meet. "Of all the bin joints in all the towns in the world..." she begins. "Save it Sister!" I say brusquely. "What have you done with the Wordsworth Bookstore?" One look in those eyes and I knew she was the type that would level with me.
"Oh," she says. "That's in Waterloo. You've got to go another twelve blocks further. You're on the right side of the street, though."

Small mercies. Very small. If thoughts could kill, it is at this moment that my baby sister would be reduced to a mere splotch on the sidewalk.

The Wordsworth Bookstore was eventually reached. Though the charming young lady was helpful, I couldn't leave my WUGs on consignment and a "committee" would decide who next year's readers were. The quest for a reading in Kitchener-Waterloo continues, though one wonders at what cost? What if the locale of the reading is on King St.? Would I be able to maintain my sanity in a city which potentially has not one, not two, not three, but four identical such addresses? On a street that runs both east-west and north-south? And where does the selection "committee" meet? How do they find each other? The mind falters. Kafkaesque vapors overwhelm. Only one thing is stunningly clear: my little sister's name is mud.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Journey to Fergus-2

Journey to Fergus 2

 Christopher K. Miller and I have exchanged first novels and some of the talk in the Goofie Newfie naturally turns to them. What I don't get a chance to ask him is why he called his 'The Bridge (aka The Money Song)'.  Dude, The Money Song all by its lonesome rocks as a title. Surely 'The Bridge' as a novel title is one that one would come across over and over through the years. But 'The Money Song' conjures up all kinds of feel good associations from Pink Floyd to street buskers to Celine Dion. OK, so Celine Dion is more feel weird than feel good. We'll move on.

It turns out that Chris is an expert in encryption, the art of turning data into code that only those in the know can decipher. His novel, if I understood him correctly despite the visual distractions in the Goofie Newfie, is about a guy who works doing encryptions for a financial institution. Having a screw or two loose (or maybe just being greedy, if you can imagine such a thing in this day and age) he decides to use his ability to extract the PIN's of strangers for his own ends. He chooses a certain victim, a gambler who will likely not notice money missing amongst the multitudinous deposits and withdrawals from his account. But the victimizer gradually becomes involved in the victim's life and... I have to read the book to glean the rest. Certainly the premise is interesting enough to get me started.

Chris also let it slip that that he considers himself a good ping pong player, even going so far as to challenge me to a game. Did I mention how gangly he was? With those long arms and his edgy, borderline frenetic energy he would doubtless be a formidable opponent. Little does he know (actually he does know because I told him) that I misspent many hours of my youth playing (read usually being crushed at) ping pong in my basement with former junior squash champion Ian Shaw. Nor that I've since honed my game by watching other drunken tourists play in Cuba. The next Journey to Fergus could be an athletic and literary clash of titanic proportions. Rest assured that a return visit to the Goofie Newfie will certainly part of the action.

Coming Soon: Journey to Minden! Yes on Aug.13, I, along with local literary giant Brenda L. Baker will be traveling to Minden, Ont. to read at the R.H. Lawrence Festival. We currently suspect our readings will be @ 3PM. And on August 20 I will be situated at a desk at our local Chapters Bookstore right here on Landsdowne St. in Peterborough, Ontario, to sign copies of  Waking Up Gilligan. Barb, the Chapters manager, tells me that I'll be just inside the front door. Hopefully between 1-3 pm that afternoon I will be tripped over by some familiar faces.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Journey to Fergus-1

Journey to Fergus-1

It has surely been argued somewhere that our child-like sense of wonder has been ravaged by television. Like soma dripped directly into the brain via the eyeballs, the images of other lives, lives more beautiful, dangerous, and witty than our own, experienced vicariously, have sapped our ability to experience the raw sense of wonder that is our birthright. Could it be possible that the widespread use of the Internet, the Interactivity of that medium are helping us to restore that lost ability?

You see I met my editor over the Internet and it was thanks to him that I found myself traversing a long catwalk far above the tumultuous waters of the Grand River. Where was Christopher K. Miller, this gangly stranger, whom I'd met just minutes before taking me? There was no sign of a destination, just rocky precipices on either side of a fearsome gorge. Across from me a gigantic culvert spewed water and other effluvia from the Fergusian streets down and down to the river-thrashed boulders below. And Christopher, internet legend that he was, spotter of countless tiny errors in spelling and grammar, corrector of logical inconsistencies, was rightfully known for, and personally proud of, his macabre, inventive, and fundamentally twisted turn of mind. Should I be bracing myself for a plummeting plot twist worthy of the Harry Potter movie I had seen the night before? (DH part II was pretty good btw, a worthy, satisfying ending and my first 3d since Avatar was well worth the extra cash.)

But wait. The barren catwalk broadened and became populated. There were tables, pitchers of beer and young people in the evening sun. We were entering a wondrous new world perched high over what is presumably part of the Elora Gorge. We were entering the Goofie Newfie cafe.