leaving for a small adventure, I won’t be on-line very much

This one, a collaboration with Frank Roberts,
went to David Lawson, Connecticut UNIX
sys-admin for a company that hosts
CMS software for newspapers.

Saturday Night: Crawling up the I5, radio on, I put a spell on you, watching Seattle fade from the windows, I flashed upon The Power Of Ten, a science-fact short film on-line that zooms out, then zooms out, then zooms out again until the screen is only full of stars. Somewhere, in all that tall glittering chaos of Saturday night dreams and entropy, he must have been walking. Head down. A tangle of black hair. Easy to lose in a crowd. Then, out. And all I can see are buildings, streets garishly flooded with cars, cruising teenagers. A minivan of boys cat calls at us as we cross an intersection, I wave at them and Nicole laughs. Out. Now it’s a city reflecting poorly into water. The rooftops of skyscrapers, threateningly postcard perfect. She asks me if I have a comfort food, a cookie, maybe, shaped like a musician, large enough to cuddle with. “I wish I’d kissed him more”.

Saturday morning: Getting on a plane, Beatles music humming in my head, because the world is round, it turns me on, bland colours, folding clip seatbelts, as waiting becomes doing, fearful of cold, becomes the air over the Cascades and a pair of new gloves. My carry on, a camera, a book, a borrowed memory card. Seat by the window. Shoes off, wondering if I’m going to come back with all my toes. His voice echoing up from Texas.

Calgary and Edmonton are both showing temperatures of minus twenty something. I can’t even fathom minus twenty-something anymore. I don’t think it even hits minus twenty on top of the mountains here. In practical terms, what does that even mean? I fail at being Canadian. Sure I own a vintage beaver fur logger’s hat and chug maple syrup like it’s water, but I certainly don’t go to Tim Hortons, understand hockey, say “eh?”, appreciate the Blue Jays, smoke pot or understand temperatures below minus six.

My Days of Awe: Pt III – the girl with the vagina made of glass

pt I, II.

Skip ahead twenty minutes. Stephanie and I have rocked our Moment to sleep, the natives are getting restless, standing outside is the hippest new thing. So suddenly we’re tumbling down the stairs, we’re an interlude between one venue and the next, out front the Railway, trying to manufacture some sort of plan. Shane stands at the centre of our group, a gentle figure of authority, trying to convince us to taxi-pool to the Brickhouse, the semi-hidden pub on the south edge of Cracktown where all the writers quietly go to drink. People are agreeing, asking directions. I want to wait for Mike, who’d already taken to touching my arm when he speaks, so I don’t speak up. I know if they leave, I will girlishly stay, a supplicant curled on the stained sidewalk next to the van, head bent into a book, waiting for him to finish upstairs and find me.

And so I turned every time the doors opened and smiled at the way he eventually spilled from them, concerned, anxiously scanning for my unfamiliar face. (Obviously, I was lost, I had left, never to be found again!) Gratifying, how his worry split gladly into relief as soon as I was located. It punctured something inside my chest, right there, like sunlight. Before I could react, Shane interrupted, scooping him into an enthusiastic hug. (They’d worked together at the Winnipeg Folk Festival). The exodus had gone critical. “Come with us!” An open, easy grin beneath his clumsy black hat. “Yeah, alright.” Quickly, I volunteered to navigate. The van was crammed with stuff, an entire life trapped in four metal walls, it made me smile down to my toes. He seemed nervous, but not overly so. Though I felt presumptuous, I felt okay.

Turn right here, right again again. The same way Vegas is bat country, this is where our junkies congregate. There’s architecture here, under the violence and grime. That used to be a theatre, that’s the crazy studio where some of us used to live. It’s a safe injection site now, maybe.

As some of you know, I’m a regular little history guide, full of odd knowledge knick-knacks, but that night I was only using it as punctuation. Instead, I was explaining as little as possible about my dead boyfriend while still attempting to accurately outline what the rest of my evening had been like. Sometimes it’s hard to be tactful, but I’d like to think I still managed. “Wow, that’s intense.” I had him agree to sit between me and the mystery woman with the socially devastating entrance. Do you ever see a precipice coming, but instead of thinking, deciding to tread carefully, just break out running? I find it borderline precious to waking up after you thought you already had your eyes open.

Worried we might part ways at the bar, I gave him my card as we pulled into the camera-protected parking space out back. Little things. Ink on paper. Another moment of good impression, of making sure we had contact. He reverently cradled them in his hands, red hair and angel wings, delicately painted lips, a cathedral framed against a skyscraper, sincerely thankful. I tried not to feel too delighted, I didn’t want to press my luck. Already, I liked him. I could taste the edges of it. I thought of all my poetry I wear as scars, of a heart made of plastic, how slowly it might beat. I thought, “I am rinsed of my worn places, I am free to do this. Really, it’s about time.”


My Days of Awe: Part II {part i)


After being stunned by the man who managed to create explicitly pretty music from a jacked-in cowboy boot, (seriously, what?), it was time to find a way to say hello. So, blood still ringing, I did the only proper thing to do – I offered to haul gear. “Hey, do you need a roadie?” For those not familiar, the Railway Club has stairs where high heels come to die, or at least twist some serious ankle. Thin, narrow, legendary killer stairs. (On rainy days, they’re a toss-up between murder and suicide). Stairs unfriendly to performers with large, heavy cases, for example. Like someone I could mention. So after helping tear-down, carrying said cases through the line-up of drunks shoving their way in to the next show, and guarding the gear on the sketchy street below, my help was more than appreciated – introductions were made and kept. I was In.

Which, to be honest, was the entire point.

The van was loaded, the blinkers tossed on, and plans for dinner bravely made, then we went back inside. I wandered about while he was sucked in by fans, trying to find friends who hadn’t fled the mediocre following band. (No worries on being left behind by this point, carrying cases that heavy awards Honorarily With-The-Band.) On the porch, I found my luck. And more besides. Shane was out there, as was Jessica and River and Michael Campbell, a few other folk, and a thin, blonde woman I’d never seen before. She gasped when she saw me, her entire face going blank. “Are you Jhayne Holmes?!” I blinked, startled, but not terribly surprised. So I said, “Yes.” I assumed she was from the internet, a reader maybe, or someone following Heart of the World. It happens. But then she started crying, looking as if she’d been struck by stones.

“I was a friend of Jon Gaasenbeek.”

This, to me, meant a thousand unsung emotions stopping my heart, but, I’m sure, tells very little to you. Let me fill you in: Jon, dear heart, was my boyfriend who hanged himself a few years ago. It’s not something I generally discuss, and his name isn’t one I’ve heard anyone speak in years. When he died, it was a strangely isolated event. In spite of knowing each other for years, we were taking things as slow as humanly possible. The few people we had in common were mostly not speaking to us, hardly any of my other friends had met him, and I hadn’t been introduced yet to any of his. It’s been one of the strangest traumas I’ve carried, this solitary and unspoken lance through my heart. To have a stranger suddenly drop his name on me, let alone claim some sort of kinship, was tremendous.

So we had a bit of a Moment, out there on the smoker’s porch, us crying and people edging away, trying to give us space in the crowded din. Turns out her name is Stephanie and her long-term ex, John, was Jon’s best friend. Twenty years, they grew up together. She has contact info for his family and his old bicycle, the black one I helped him build five years ago, the one that came up to my solar plexus. She asked me if I wanted it. I asked her how on earth she came to know I was connected with Jon. And this is where it blossoms past merely improbable into a full fledged soap-opera list of associations, as if my night hadn’t been ridiculous enough. (Remember, this is the same evening that started with a transit stabbing.)

Stephanie found my post about visiting Mackenzie, who lives on the block Jon did, through the blog of the woman who used to roomie with the love of my life, the one who slept with him as soon as I went out of town.

Right. Now that’s over with, let’s get on with the rest of the night. I’m not even up to midnight yet.


What I Did The Last Summer Weekend (to Friday, around tennish)

Impossible, this last weekend, mythology in my bed, history approaching me blind, yet wonderful. L’shana tova! Ketiva v’chatima tova.

These are my Days of Awe:

The original Friday plan was a very loosely defined, “Go To Concert”, that began with stepping out from my apartment in time for a bus that would get me to the Railway Club at nine. Easy enough. Half way to the venue, however, a man was stabbed stepping off the bus. Right in the ribs. Welcome to the poorest postal code in Canada. The assailant ran off. No way to see who it was, no way to ever find out.

This being an insulated part of the world, no one else knew what to do with violence, and so sat uselessly back, looking too shocked to move, but Crackton is my old neighborhood. This sort of thing happens practically bi-weekly. Abandoning my things to the back of the bus, I began giving orders. “Who has a cell-phone? Did anyone see what happened? Call this in.” I got a pair of sterile plastic gloves from the driver and set in staunching the blood with a bunched strip of shirt torn from the wounded man and tried to keep him awake. Paramedics arrived twenty minutes later, (slower than pizza delivery), tell me he’ll be fine, and drop me off, late and shaky, outside the Railway Club.

Not the most auspicious beginning to a night out.

Shane‘s was the first table I found in the crowd. I saved a seat with them, tried to explain what I’d been doing, found myself suddenly in the middle of a conversation about trying to look professional in a miniskirt, gave up, and went looking to see who else had showed up. (Not that it isn’t possible, they seemed very sure). There was a row by the bar, another table in the very back, and a group out on the smoking deck. It was comforting, I’d only given people a day’s warning, and – yet here they were, a little bit of everywhere. One darling friend told me she hadn’t even checked what was playing, but merely came on my invitation. After my stressful transit adventure, her comment was a cliche ray of light in the murky pub darkness.

The concert, thankfully, was phenomenal. I parked myself up right against the stage and watched rapt for the entire show. That 1 Guy plays with an exuberant precision, like a holy embodiment of joyful, theatrical grace. It washed the entire medical emergency right out of my system. I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t think there is anything like it. His instrument is an intrepid midi-wired double-necked upright bass made out of pipe and studded with triggers, but not really. And while he sings and enthusiastically plays this poetic contraption, building intense, complex sample loops, he’s mucking elegantly about with three kick pedals, a snare drum, and a saw. It’s almost overwhelming, like watching a sound-cultivating conjurer with as much energy as a coke-high David Byrne. {check if he’s playing near you}