Monthly Archives: January 2011

Next Goal Decides the War

Do you know of the peace that broke out every Christmas across the no man’s land of World War One? Do you know that German and British soldiers played soccer games together? Do you know that anything’s possible?

Private Ronald MacKinnon wrote of the peace that settled upon his part of the Western Front, Christmas 1916. Pte. MacKinnon wrote:

“I had quite a good Xmas considering I was on the front line. Xmas Eve was pretty stiff, sentry-go up to the hips in mud of course… We had a truce on Xmas Day and our German friends were quite friendly. They came over to see us and we traded bully beef for cigars.”

Private Ronald MacKinnon would be killed four months later by these same friendly Germans, storming Vimy Ridge, trading bombs for bullets.

You know in a nicer world, the soccer game would have decided the War, even if it had to go to shootout.

The Nothing Store

“What do you get the guy who’s got everything?” Jonah said aloud to himself, his recently adopted mantra. His older brother, Robert’s birthday was tomorrow, and Jonah had been fretting for weeks over the gift. He had to get Robert the perfect gift, this was all Jonah knew. He beat his brains out to present the present that best defined his brother’s interests in baseball, chess and bingo. 

‘I could get him tickets to a Yankee game. No, he’s got season tickets,’ Jonah was going over ideas he’d already explored. He was completely lost.

“What do you get the guy who’s got everything?”

‘Nothing. You get him nothing. It’s the one thing he doesn’t have.’

Finally, a breakthrough. Jonah went online to see if there was a store that sold nothing. This being New York City, there was. Were, there were two of them. One in the North Bronx, the other in Chinatown.

Jonah got out at the Canal Street subway stop, and followed the directions he’d downloaded onto a piece of paper.

He spotted it, a sign of white characters painted on a black backdrop, one word: NOTHING.

Jonah walked towards the something that marketed itself as nothing hoping it had the nothing he was in the market for.

The anti-salesman, a white man, appeared from behind a black curtain. “You’ve already bought it. Leave before you have to pay for it.”

Jonah ignored the anti-salesman, marching straight for him. The store was a narrow black box, void of anything, even a shelf. The only decoration was the black curtain. 

“I’m looking to buy nothing. Your website said you sell nothing.”

The anti-salesman glared at Jonah. “You are the problem.”

“Excuse me?” Jonah felt like he was about to be insulted, without realizing the insult had already passed.

“Nothing. Welcome to the Nothing Store. Now get out.”

“Get out? But I haven’t gotten anything, yet.”

“Exactly. Good bye.”

“But, I can’t just show up with nothing tomorrow. Rob’s going to think I’m cheap, or worse, poor.”

“Better to think you’re frivolous.”

“Excuse me. Don’t you want to make a sale?”

“No,” said the anti-salesman.

“Then why are you in business?”

“This is a none of your business kind of business.”

Jonah scratched his nose, though, it wasn’t itchy. He didn’t know what to say to this man who worked in a store that hoped not to make sales.

“Maybe you’re the problem,” Jonah said back defensively. He was not comfortable in this fight, for, he didn’t know what he was fighting for. He just felt he should be putting up a fight.

“You’re singing ‘Silent Night’ Christmas Eve World War One. You’re playing soccer with the enemy, you don’t know what you’re fighting for.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means how can I help you?”

“I’m looking to buy nothing.”

“Of course you are. How much nothing are you looking to buy?”

“About two hundred dollar’s worth.”

“We only accept cash.”

“Here,” Jonah handed four fifty dollar bills to the anti-salesman.

“Why are you still here? Thank you for shopping the Nothing Store, now get the hell out.”

“But, you haven’t given me anything.”

“Exactly. Good bye!”

“But, what, am I supposed to show up at the party saying I spent two hundred dollars on nothing? Can’t I at least get a receipt to show?”

“No, receipts are something. This is the Nothing Store. And I have nothing more to say.” The anti-salesman turned and returned behind the curtain from which he had appeared.

Jonah’s gift was a hit. He saved the story for dinner. He told it beautifully, milking the absurdity for every laugh. He exaggerated little; his only lie came naming the price of the nothing to be $1000. His brother was tickled by the story, and touched by his little brother’s generosity.

Jonah wondered how he could top this next year. He had 364 days to come up with something that was more than nothing, cause this year, his gift of nothing had really been something.

Still Life Moving Fast

I admire how women can juggle so many different emotions at the same time. Like, if people were laptops, women would have so many more emotional windows open, while guys would just be looking at porn.

This was illuminated driving my sister to her new apartment. She’s in the passenger seat, crying her heart out, heartbroken, having just broken up with her boyfriend.

Christine: (sobbing)  And I don’t know what I’m going to do without him. He’s all I’ve known for five years! I just love him so much. I thought we were going to get married and have- why don’t you get on the DVP, it’s faster- babies together. But, he said he wasn’t sure any more, and he didn’t think he loved- get over in the other lane, it’s coming up- me any more.

How do you do that? Women? How do you go from being emotionally crippled to acting as the car’s GPS?  I can’t cry and give directions at the same time. When I’m crying I can’t see! You’re crying over here, giving directions over there, looking out for the fastest onramp, you’re incredible! Women! What is your secret power that allows you to support so many emotions at the same time? At one moment you can go through happiness, sadness, empathy, there’s the grudge you’ve had against the girl who called you a fat slut in grade seven, all in less time than it takes to put on lipstick.

When I’m sad, that’s it, I take it like a man, face down in my pillow punching the shit outta my teddy bear.

“It’s your fault, Bear! You slept with her, too!”

It’s funny the things we keep after the breakup. For the longest time I had kept my ex-girlfriend’s lipstick and pantyhose in my bottom drawer along with her copy of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. For some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw them out, till, it hit me: if I were to die right now, people are going to think I was a cross-dressing pinko. So, I chucked communism and the last scraps of our love life in the trash.

Weather This

We’re constantly complaining about someone else’s weather. “We’ve got a hot spell coming up from the Gulf of Mexico”. Or, “we’ve got a Colorado Low moving in.”  Why are we allowing these foreigners to come in here and mess up our town? We should be calling the Governor of Colorado to come up here and get his lousy weather that’s screwing up our weekend. Colorado Low. That’s a new low, even for you, Colorado! Pretty soon we’ll be demanding a passport from the wind.

Local weather is never local. It’s somebody else’s problem that gets dumped on us. Some times it gets so serious, we’ve got to call in the army. What does the FLQ have to do with a snow storm? They are the last two causes to send the army into a Canadian city. One was a murderous terrorist organization, the other, some serious flakes. Like, snow so violent, it openly declared war on our streets and sidewalks. Remember Toronto January 1999? And how the rest of the country laughed at us for having to call in the army to shovel our driveways?

I never understood the problem. I mean, those hundreds of soldiers were just sitting around Petawawa; it gave them a chance to get out of Petawawa, get down to the big city, put in a full day’s work, then free to have a night on the town. Win win. Have you ever been to Petawawa? If you have, you know, if given the chance to pick up a shovel in Toronto, or, pick up at a picnic in Petawawa, you’re picking up the shovel.

We accept the reality that we have to clean up after the slovenly storm, still, we blame somebody else.

The xenophobia of weather. Like how we called Ben Johnson, “Ben Johnson” when he won the gold medal, but, Ben became, “Jamaican born Ben Johnson” when he lost it. And I bet I felt the same as most Canadians when I heard Ben Johnson had tested positive for steroids, I remember thinking: The Americans must’ve rigged his urine test. The Americans must have gotten hold of Ben Johnson’s pee and put dope in it. I wouldn’t put it past them, they’ve been conspiring to send us their crappy weather for years.

Irony’s a Southpaw Named Righty

My friend, Kiko, spends up to five hours a day playing Guitar Hero. After five years of this, Kiko has become a master at Guitar Hero. He’s so proud of himself. I was over at his house the other night, and he makes me sit there while he plays, ‘Freebird’ on Guitar Hero. When he finishes, he puts down the plastic guitar with plastic buttons, wipes his brow and asks me what I think. I told him that if he spent five hours a day for five years on the real guitar, he’d be good at that, too. Kiko didn’t like my answer and reminded me I owed him five bucks from ten years ago.

I’m sorry, but, I’m not prepared to celebrate you if you get good at punching buttons really fast. Guitar Hero. Come on. What’s wrong with just guitar?

What’s next, Singer Hero, where you just stand there with a microphone while someone’s recorded voice comes out of the speakers?

Or Drummer Hero, where the drum kit lights up in front of you, making drum sounds and you hit it like whac-a-mole.

How about, Relationship Hero, where you have a viral girlfriend, though, in this case, viral means good, none threatening. You wanna go viral with your viral girlfriend. Be the hero in every relationship, date, Relationship Hero. Where you sit in front of the screen dating your viral girlfriend who cooks dinner that you click to Accept. You push the buttons that light up on her face to always keep her smiling. Later, you can leave the laptop running all night, with the image of her sleeping next to you in bed. Good night Girlfriend Hero! You say after clicking to Accept her Sex Invite.

I saw a guy coming home on the bus, sitting right up at the front, chatting away with the driver. I was just a couple seats back, so I could listen to their comments on everything from the weather, to what’s best to wear in certain weather. The conversation lasted a good ten minutes, till, the man pushed the bell on the pole in front of him, alerting the driver that he would like to get off at the next stop. He rang the bell. The man had been speaking to the other man for at least ten minutes, and he couldn’t work in the words, “Next stop, please,” into their all-consuming dialogue about everything weather? This is what we’ve become, a bunch of button-pushers.

I Got a B- in Math and a Two Minute Hug in Science

My nephew goes to what’s called a “progressive school”. Sounds very positive, doesn’t it? ‘Progressive’ means students have more choice of what they learn, and even when. Math class at 10am is an invitation, not an order. If the students wanna stick to finger painting, they’re free. Students are free to follow their feelings. It’s a very feelings-first kind of education model.

“I don’t feel like studying math. I wanna blow something up in the chem lab.”

Go right ahead, young miss. As long if it’s how you truly feel.

There are no grades given out, just hugs. This school feels grades send the wrong message, and encourage unhealthy aggression and competition among students, so they give out hugs. The longer the hug, the more help you need. A quick hug’s like an A. A quick hug says, you’re fine, keep going. A long hug says: God help you, child. You’re lost and I feel for you.

But, don’t worry, these kids are getting a first rate education. I asked my nephew what he did in school today, he said, “They brought in a professional gym teacher who showed us a new way to play dodgeball.”

Perfect. If there’s one thing we need to teach the kids is how to get the hell out of the way of shit flying at you.

I’m a Bag of Showers

I had to get arrested to get noticed. My hits for my Saturday post: ‘Arrested For Poetry’ were way up. Huh. Maybe I should get arrested more often. Crime may not pay, but, it sure gets you the hits.

What I’ve found most interesting is the vitriol my post has provoked. I’m getting called everything from a whiny douche bag to a self indulgent douche bag. Whatever insult you’re called these days, most people seem to have to work in the word, ‘douche bag’ with it. It’s a funny insult: douche bag. Shower bag. I’m a bag of showers. Some don’t even bother with the “bag” and just call me, “a douche”. That’s right, I’m a shower.

What I love is how the French must interpret this insult when they hear it for the first time: you douche! The irony for us English is that our stereotype of the French is a bunch of unwashed, well fed people. What do the French think of us?

“Oh, Mon Dieu! For the English a shower is something so terrible that they use it as an insult! You shower! They scream at each other in anger! Like, it’s the absolute worst thing to be a shower. And sometimes a bag of showers. The Anglo are crazy! And dirty!”

A lot of people think I should shut up and pay my fine. I respectively disagree. If I was charged for the proper offence, I would. My offence was being mouthy. Even the TTC guy who sicked the police on me (two of them. It took two 6′, 200 plus pound officers to take down this skinny poet), even the TTC guy today (I bumped into him outside on his break) admitted I got arrested for my attitude. Here’s the conversation from this afternoon:

Me: You have no respect for creativity, or poetry.

TTC Guy: If you want to hand out something, you go down to Davisville Station and fill out a form.

Me: You never gave me that option. And I spoke to the security guard. He said it was alright.

TTC Guy: We don’t have a security guard.

     [Really?  Then who was that man I spoke to in a uniform with TTC looking badges one marked: SECURITY?]

 TTC Guy: It was your attitude that got you arrested.

Me: Attitude is not a crime.

TTC Guy: Yours is.

And he slammed the door to the station and walked away.

So, by the man’s own words: I got arrested for my attitude. So, why doesn’t the word, “Attitude” ever show up on any of the three tickets totaling $750 worth of fines? I can’t find it once.

Finally, I love being called self indulgent. I love it. Call me that again, whisper it in my ear: self-indulgent. It turns me on, I don’t know why. Sorry, I guess you want your writers to suffer. They shouldn’t indulge themselves, they should just indulge You Reader. Hey, if you’re reading this, I see us as allies, lovers, even, very much like the relationship between reader and story in, This is About You. I can’t begin to tell you how self indulgent that was of me to refer to my own post to explain myself, but, I’m just being consistent.

Thank you for all the kind words you gave me today outside Eglinton Station. It was good to see all of you. I owe you these words. You own these words now. They are in your eyes now, not mine. Play with them.

(That’s only as dirty as you made it.)

Making Love in a Canoe

It’s impossible to define what it means to be Canadian. Thirty-four million of us and counting and we don’t share a language, place of birth, or, national perogie. So, what is a Canadian? Pierre Berton said: 

                        “A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe.”

I guess I’m not Canadian, cause I capsized. Good thing I was alone wearing a lifejacket. That could have been dangerous.


   The following is dedicated to Sandy47, whose posting in my Comment’s section inspired it.

           Also, I’m a bad Canadian cause I cut out all the u’s in my words: color, favorite, neighbor. I save a lot of time, hours every year just cutting down on my u’s. Why do you hold on to them? They’re empty calories. I get so much more done in the day. Stop writing them, you’ll have the time to write that book you have kicking around in your head.


        I think thirty-four million Canadians would define what it means to be Canadian thirty-four million ways. A couple weeks ago when I asked my friend, Nikos, what he thinks of my favorite poet, William Blake, Nikos responded: “Poetry’s all Greek to me.”

“I said, Nikos, you’re Greek. Your father’s from Crete.” Nikos forgot he’s Greek.

Like I forgot I’m an American. My Mom’s American, which makes me American, but, sometimes I forget. Like when I was crossing the border a few years ago to move to New York City, got the car all packed up, stopped at the border, border guard asks: What’s your nationality? Canadian, I say. What is the purpose of your visit to The United States? I’m moving down to New York to live. You’re going to have to step out of the car, sir. Then I remember how I can speed things up. Wait! wait! I’m an American! Sorry, I forgot I’m American. The guard is stunned. What do you mean you forgot you are an American citizen? I never use it, I say, showing him my American passport. The guard shakes his head and waves me through.


You May Now Punch the Bride

Does anyone here know of a good marriage? Anybody? I’m hearing a lot of silence. I would hope if married, you are happily married. I am rooting for you, rooting for love to carry the day and night. Still, more and more marriages I thought were working broke down into bitter divorce, or worse, a marriage of hate and regret.

I think the problem with marriage is that we always get married on the best day in front of our best friends, with our best man, and have the best party, then go on the best vacation. People will show you pictures of their wedding, people will show you pictures of their honeymoon, but no body ever shows you a picture of the day they get back from the honeymoon, when it counts, when it’s real. Cause there’s nothing to look forward to at that point, and the whole till death do you part starts to sound like the escape clause of the marriage contract.

That’s why I think we should get married in reverse. We should get married on the worst day, in the worst weather, stuck on the subway late for work in front of people that just hate you, in front of people you owe money to. Surrounded by people who stink and stand with their armpits right in your face, jammed in the middle of unwashed commuters. And instead of exchanging rings, you exchange punches in the gut and a kick in the crotch. Then you say the one thing you truly hate about your partner, before you’re both stuck in a hole for a weekend with nothing to eat except your hair and your fingernails and then after three days you’re let out.

If your wedding can survive that, your marriage has got a real shot. After twenty years, then you’re given the wedding and the honeymoon and it’s all paid for by society.

Who’s with me?

Arrested For Poetry

I got arrested yesterday for poetry. This is not the setup of some joke, this actually happened. I got arrested yesterday for poetry. This is not metaphor. This is literal. I literally got arrested yesterday for poetry.

I have taken to handing out my poems and short stories in front of Eglinton subway station. I do it proudly and with a smile. I like what I’m offering, and if you’re reading this now, so do you. Thank you and you are welcome. Please know, dear reader, you feed these words as much as I. I appreciate you dropping by to say hello.

So, last evening, there I am, standing in front of the turnstile, offering my stories, when two police officers ask what I’m doing. I hand them one of my poems and go back to my business of handing out poetry for free. The TTC guy in the booth resents that life goes on outside his little box, pounds on the glass and gets the police officers to tell me to get lost. Now, I had already spoken with the TTC security earlier in the day, and the security guard let me go on distributing my writing, because he could see I was simply offering a bit of humor and passion to the world, free of charge.

The police told me to scram. This infuriated me, that the world sees the distribution of poetry as a crime. I said, I was happy I could read the officers names on their uniforms unlike the G-20, when they’d removed them so they could put the boot to peaceful protesters.

Next thing I know, my arms are being twisted out of their sockets, I’m face down on the floor getting handcuffed. I’m shouting, “Help! I’m being arrested for poetry! Take a picture! Get out your cell phones and record!” The officers didn’t like this and squeezed harder, apparently hoping juice would come out of my ears.

After a thirty minute pat down and interrogation in a secluded TTC washroom, (creepy), I was set free with a $750 fine. My charges: Causing a disturbance on TTC property; obstructing with proper authority; failing to leave premises when directed.

Really, the charges should simply read: for trying to breathe some life into this cold world.

But, let’s not end on a sad note. Let’s sing, you and I. Let’s fight this, the only way we can, with more poetry. Keep on reading and I’ll keep on writing. Let’s spit in The Man’s eye with poetry. He’ll never know what hit him.