this is not a temporary error

Vancouver poet Zaccheus Jackson’s death by train in Toronto ‘an absolute tragedy’
36-year-old Alberta native is remembered as a passionate educator who was “just fully coming into his power” as a spoken-word poet of Blackfoot descent.

Zaccheus was a good person as well as a good poet. He was a bright light, easy to recognize even at a distance, and he shone constantly and tirelessly and true. Even though I met him years ago, he was one of the only people who could still coax me to come out to a poetry slam.

I am sorry I didn’t get to know him better. I am grateful for how much I did.

Always remember to tell people when you love them. Nothing is permanent. There is no such thing as the future. There is now and then there is maybe, possibly, only potentially a later version of now. Tell people you appreciate them, that they move you, that you respect them, that their taste in clothes is nice, that the way they move is graceful, that you like how they place their hands on the wheel of the car as they drive, that you adore when they sing along to the radio, that their stutter is appealing, that their guitar face is ravishing, that your admiration for their way with words is endless and honest, that you are attracted to them, that you are in awe of how silly they can be, that you think it’s great that thing they did one time, you remember, with the fork and their niece, that thing, you still think about them, you think about them and you smile, that you think about them and cry, that you think about them, that you miss them, that you sympathize, that you admire and recognize their efforts, that you grasp what they are trying to say, that you regard their puns as a necessary evil, that you commend their sensitivity, that you respond to their touch, that you feel the world is better with them in it, that you worship their cooking, that you long for more time with them, that you idolize the same values, that you are fascinated by the same things, that you hold them dear, that you have had your mind changed by their point of view, that you dig their taste in music, that you value their opinion, that you applaud their parenting, that you esteem their criticism, that you enjoy the way they make you laugh, that you luxuriate in their attention, that you treasure their affection, that their approval makes you happy, that you want to make them proud, that they inspire pride, that you care for them, that they satisfy your curiosity, that they are sweet, that they are treasured, that that shirt matches their eyes, that you’re glad to have met them, that it’s no problem to help out, that you are glad to be of service, that you accept their charity, that they are cherished, that they are anything and everything, that we, each one of us, is the world. Remember and tell them and love and love and love.

“The fastest we live is still the slowest we die.” – Zaccheus

Tell them, your friends, your loved ones, but the acquaintances, too. Tell everyone. Fight against the inevitable coming of night.


She’s Still Dying On Facebook

“On March 2, more than four years ago now, Lea died of substance-abuse-related liver failure. June 10 would have been her 27th birthday. This time of year is when she’s always most on my mind, and I’m sure that some Facebook technician who keeps track of what we all do on the site would report that my visits to Lea’s profile increase exponentially as the weather gets warmer. I don’t know how, exactly, I managed to open up my old messages with Lea. I want to say that Facebook put the messages there—that I didn’t click the button, that they just appeared, Lea’s face popping up because she had something to say, she wanted to chat. But I must have clicked. Maybe by accident. Still, I can’t ignore the pull of my bookworm’s interpretation, arguing that technology is the closest human beings come to magic. I know nothing about the way the Internet works. I still half-believe the Internet is simply air. So why isn’t it plausible that Lea’s messages appeared in response to how much I miss her, to my own guilt about her death.


Lea died the first time soon after she joined Facebook, when I witnessed her transformation into someone she would have mocked and pitied. She died again, a smaller death, a year or so before her real-world one, when she basically stopped posting altogether. On March 2, she died publicly, her wall turning into the memorial it is now. To me, she’s died again and again since then. The posts remembering her are fewer and fewer, months apart sometimes. When I rediscovered our messages, she died again—in a different way, because I’d come face to face with how I failed her. Facebook has made her death a sort of high-concept horror movie. How many more times will I grieve her? How many more details from my past, from Lea’s past, are buried online, waiting for me to uncover them?”

the 24 hour road trip: improbability field engaged

  • America's 99 problems, a ranked list.
  • A map showing which bands enjoy the most outsized support in each American state.

    So no, I did not go up to the church and ask for directions and risk being kidnapped into an 80's horror novel. The entire world was telling me to fuck that noise, so that's precisely what I did. I noped right out of there, went to the fruit-stand and had them write me new directions down on a tourist map of the area like a reasonable person. I followed that, got to the tire place, had the tire replaced, turned my music up loud, then drove straight to Ballard, two hours late yet weirdly relieved.

    The first person I was visiting in Washington was a stranger I met on-line. I didn’t want to arrive and immediately risk sympathy, so I updated my OKCupid profile so I seemed slightly less crazy and pinged a few people before leaving Canada. "Hey, wanna hang out?" The usual let's get into trouble sort of note. Someone named Matthew replied. He sent me his address and we made plans for dinner.

    I like Ballard. It's a neat little neighborhood populated with restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that I think of as friendly places. It is most notable in my personal mythology for housing the Tractor Tavern, the venue that annually hosts Mike as That 1 Guy when he's not playing at Neumos. (It is from that focal point that my explorations have expanded, so my knowledge of the place is mostly based on the hours of 9 pm to 9 am and may not be useful to everybody.)

    The restaurant wasn't ready for us, so I brought Matthew to a gelateria I especially like, and we got a couple of cones and parked in the window to chat and wait. He was telling me about his time in Naples when our conversation was interrupted by someone walking by in a bright red costume. "That guy looks familiar," I said, but wasn't entirely sure. Maybe we had met at a party? Then another costumed person walked past carrying a giant red banner and he looked familiar too. Nah. What are the odds? It’s probably my programming. Costume = Interesting = My Attention. Then Jay Benham walked past and I banged on the glass.

    Seattle, population 3 million. And out of the entire city, where I know an entirely of 50 to 100 people by sight and only half that by name, I had stumbled across the Kaos Kids. Or rather, they had stumbled across me. An aptly named and truly riotous Burning Man group if there ever was one, they were romping through Ballard on a Pisces themed Birthday Scavenger Hunt, stuffing themselves into unlikely places and taking absurd pictures with wooden sculptures of fish. Each team was led by a Pisces. The bright red team belonged to my buddy Big Dirty Sean.

    So, though Naples sounded fascinating, I swept Matthew into their wake and accepted my new post as Sean’s red-team photographer. Wouldn’t you?

    Soon we were on our way to The Kiss Cafe, where someone kissed Matthew in front of the sign, “we need a stranger!”, and the phone booth, into which we crammed the entire team, and the totem pole, where we piled everyone into an inevitable tower. But first, before we found any of those things, we encountered Tony & Jordan across the street! Tony, my ex, now lives in San Francisco. I cannot fathom the odds. They had come up for the birthday weekend. Surprise! At no point did either one of us know we were going to be in the same place at the same time.

    Always a fun moment, getting to explain that the fellow across the street lifting his kilt and flashing his cock at your group is one of your favourite exes. Awesome. (Thank you, Tony. You bring the party.) As first introductions go, it could have been worse, but it might have been difficult to make it any better.

    Next Matthew and I bailed for dinner, an easy thing at a Mexican place we both liked, and then I peeled off to reconnect with Kaos and Tony & Jordan at The Grizzled Wizard, a nerdly bar their friends run in Wallingford. Sugar came to meet me there and we chatted for awhile, leaning in to each other against the volume of the music, for comfort from our recent break-ups, for warmth and care and affection. I brought expensive chocolate and we caught up around the melting, gooey stuff. It is always a pleasure to see her. She had to run off to a dance festival, though, and I was stealing Tony & Jordan away as well, off to the onesie-themed Capitol Hill bar crawl.

Cutting your nose off to spite your face

  • Love, Actuarially: How Mathematician Chris McKinlay hacked OKCupid to find the girl of his dreams.

    How typical. As soon as I begin to believe, it’s over. I am a fool. My lover abandoned me the day before we were to go to Vegas together for a captivating weekend of circus and adventure.

    I asked for him to come anyway. If he needs to put this relationship down, I respect that need, but please respect mine, too. Let us do it together and with grace, with sympathy and care. End it with a whisper, I begged him, so that everything that came before could remain valid, so that the joy we found in our hearts in each other could stay alive, so that he would not have left a terrifying gulf of pain between us. My heart could remain connected to the world. We could stay open. We would still have undamaged space. He refused.

    Now there is nothing that does not hurt. I have been running through my entire catalogue of cognitive reprogramming devices to try and repair as rapidly as possible, but it is impossible to remove this much pain on pure “I said so” alone. And it hurts that I know that he isn’t going to help me and it hurts to know that it is possible that his life never offered the compassion tools that teach a person how.

    (I imagine he might be the only person more sorry about this than I am. And making a decision one will regret for reasons that will pass will probably only make for more sorry over time.)

    Meanwhile, I try to stay distracted, the same way it’s better to talk about anything but an injury when you have to walk on it. No downtime. No interstitial moments that aren’t filled with something. Songs on repeat with lyrics or chord progressions I want to learn, playing Tetris-like repetition games while I mentally recite lists of scientific facts, “In order for nucleotides to..”, or practice foreign languages, “Estoy desconsolada.”

    There is only so much strength to this sort of knowledge. For such tricks to work, there need to be new associations, better associations, you need to have happier threads, spark your neurons with joy like forcing a new path through a forest. And I haven’t had such a thing for a very long time, actual years, nothing could get in until I discovered our connection. Now that my only well has been poisoned, I am left without comfort. (Appalling, dire, it almost feels like life has reset back to quotidian norm.)

    So I called out to my social media networks, asking if there was anyone who could come with me. It felt unnatural, but it was all I could think to do. Everything had been paid for, I had been saving for a year and I couldn’t afford to pay for it twice, and there were only a few things I had warning enough to cancel, (some surprise reservations, something on Friday night, a flower delivery on Sunday). And it would be something different. New pathways, new experiences. But even so I knew I couldn’t do it alone. There would be nothing except in relation to that void and his absence would overwhelm the world.

    It took hours, until almost midnight, but eventually the internet shivered, shook, and delivered. People had been looking at air miles, at school schedules, at spontaneous adventure savings accounts, had been reaching, but failing. Until there was a shift. The gears caught together. Esme offered to drive me to the Bellingham airport, That 1 Mike wouldn’t be leaving for his tour until Saturday morning, Joshua was back from Africa, and a woman named Cypris had recently moved to Nevada, CJ said, and you two would get on like a house on fire. Then Cypris showed up in the thread, summoned by his tag, and promised a visit with the tigers, panthers, and the lion that live on the property she’s moved to with her love. It was the tipping point. I would not be alone in the most artificial city strip on earth while my heart was breaking. There would be company, authentic company. And that would be enough to go on, enough to carry my through.

    So thanks to you, my internet, I went to Vegas anyway. I cried a lot. (The universe had a lot of extra fuck you saved up for me, too, like being denied entry onto Friday’s flights and the only empty seat on the Saturday morning plane being right next to mine, where he would have been.) I melted down a lot. But I also social hacked a $350 plan ticket with a chocolate bar, visited my favourite bronzes and the mantis art car with Joshua and went to the sexy Cirque Du Soleil show with a circus person who was pulled on stage and gave an incredible performance and we rode the roller coaster on top of New York New York twice, once in the very front, once in the very back, and Cypris and I made faces together for the coaster camera and I got to sleep on a couch in a pretty little house in the desert instead of the soulless hotel room and I woke to savannah-style roaring and I walked on a new kind of stilts and I pet big cats and was licked by tigers and scruffled a gigantic lion and held paws with a panther and fed a different panther and climbed all over Red Rock canyon. And it was magical.

    I wished the entire time, a rolling dull thunder, that he was there to share it with. I wanted to be the person who brought him to lion scruffling. To introduce him to these beautiful people. To kiss him in the art gallery. To pick him up and spin him in the line for the roller coaster. To coax him to laugh in the two-person sized bath I sat in alone. Of course I did. I still do. (I had semi-promised him a red rose in a love letter, so I carried one with me from the circus for him anyway and left scarlet he-loves-me he-loves-me-not petals in all the important places. I shook the last of them from the stem as confetti over my new friends and I at the airport. I told you I was a fool.) He would have loved it, we would have blazed with light, we could have had a record breaking excellent goodbye. But we didn’t. But I didn’t miss out because of him. That was important. Now I have these moments. They are shaded with loss, but still beautiful. Thank you.

    TLDR: Mourning. Loss. Suffering. Friends. But you know what else is important? Majestic one-on-one interaction with fucking gigantic cats.

  • With Andrew gone, it’s time to pick up the slack he’s left behind.

    by Czeslaw Milosz

    —When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
    The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
    The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
    What never added up will add up,
    What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.

    —And if there is no lining to the world?
    If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
    But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
    Make no sense following each other?
    And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?

    —Even if that is so, there will remain
    A word wakened by lips that perish,
    A tireless messenger who runs and runs
    Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
    And calls out, protests, screams.


    Andrew was barely in his forties, an acting father of three, a husband, a lover, and, as he would say, “all of the things”! Essential to at least three of my neighborhood’s core communities, he was a precious friend I never imagined doing without. He fell suddenly, an aneurysm or a stroke, the sort of death that unfurls its red flag without warning. I could list facts: his love of pirate clothing, his irrepressible fever for wordplay, his drawings, his games, the entire shelf of books on Rome that served as the incubator for a project that will never blossom from its imaginary blueprint seed. None of it will properly convey who he was, what sort of life he created to inhabit and to share, so the narrative that I have decided upon is to declare him the laughing buddha, the zen creature without public ego who didn’t give in to the idea that we should care what strangers think of us. Monks in saffron robes suffer on mountain tops while he found illumination in the way dice moved over a table, the way foam wrapped sticks bounced off other foam wrapped sticks, and a thousand other nerdy occupations I have never really understood but didn’t need to in order to appreciate him and his glee. We bonded over shiny things, science, dancing, and the regular delights of mangled days. All of that, years of it, but I cannot convey the map of his nation’s borders. He was smart and he was good and we miss him. Everything else is set dressing.

    It doesn’t seem so long ago since I last ran into him on Commercial Drive, floppy hat, massive cloak, somewhere probably a drum. The man wore tutus and face-paint as commonly as other people wear socks. He was easy to spot. Was, not is. I write that word and lose my courage. It doesn’t seem long because it wasn’t, yet it will never happen again.

    I offered to take his picture before he was cremated, something for the family, something for us, an image to represent the man we all loved. I didn’t even think about it, it was as natural as offering my hand to someone sitting on the ground, and his widow said yes and thank you and we agreed. This left me standing by his coffin at the crematorium two hours before the service, my friend Jay acting as a driver and a voice activated light stand, kit in hand and a bag full of expensive lenses I had never used before.

    Though it was surreal, I was fine until I bumped the coffin, reflexively apologizing to his cold face, and when I touched him, brushing hair to cover some of the bruising that the make-up didn’t cover. Excepting those moments, I had a skill set to wield, he could have been made of spring flowers, a still life empty of residual heat. He has too obviously absent, an unmanned puppet, only a former body of work, still bones, still skin. An object encased in love and lighting problems to solve.

    Fast forward, I stood with his family, perhaps the only one present who wasn’t tied to him through marriage or blood, the last of the last, in the final moments before he was taken away and sublimated into shimmering air molecules and carbon. Tillie couldn’t be there, but AJ read out a note from her, a prayer for the living who stood in a circle around Andrew’s abandoned body. I watched everyone, I watched and I ached and part of me died, and I made my own strident promises: May we remember this and resolve not to let it go. May we forever refuse to stand still.

    we all melted a little bit softer

    There is a table heavy with lit candles and houseplants at one of the longest room in a nice white house in a bad part of town. Musicians play in front of it, warm voices, golden instruments, while the rest of us are arranged on the floor and on chairs, a cozy audience of friends and friends of friends, even as autumn is whipping the last of summer away with rain while we’re nestled safe within. The duo up front, a slim violinist with long chestnut hair and a man in a hoodie on an acoustic guitar, fill the space with their music, keeping us safe with lyrics about cigarettes and love. They call themselves Two Stoned Birds and can’t remember the lyrics to the Bob Dylan cover they offered to play. They fumble and sip from a brown paper bag and it all fits right in.

    Jess Hill played earlier, as memorable and flawless as the after image of a lightning strike. I love her, as always, as ever. She gets a little better every time she performs and I’ve been watching her for years now, sitting on floors, following her invitations to coffee-shops and backyards. If she asks, I will come. Anywhere. I am so proud of her, I can feel it in my blood. It is her house we’re all crammed in and she made the chai that’s simmering on the stove and filling our cups. She put together this night. Possibly she made the borscht, too, but I don’t know is that’s true.

    James Lamb is next, a young man denim jacket and a steel embedded electric guitar. He’s the first to use the amp. Two other men play with him, the man with the hoodie on bass and a drummer cleverly brushing an ersatz kit on the floor, (a cookie tin, a bass drum put on its back), but James is the show. He steals and keeps our attention. He tells fun stories between his songs that have nothing to do with the music, but help glue the moods of them together. It is obvious that his set is what Jess has been waiting for all night and as soon as he sings it’s obvious why. He’s incredibly talented. The songs are powerful, lovely creatures that make me think of worn out vintage trains. They seem to travel from one coast to another as the singers harmonize, melodies eroded by salt spray, lyrics sharp with the taste of oil yet as warm and comfortable as freshly combed wool. The urge to sing along unrolls naturally out of the notes, even when what’s coming out of the guitar is almost too complex to follow.

    Meanwhile, we’re taking photos with our phones and putting them up on Instagram and pushing the buttons that populate them everywhere else. We’re humming along and tagging photos of the performers and audience as we go. We’re sipping tea and nodding our heads to the beat and clapping between songs, happy to be here, glad to be part of it. The concert wraps up with a song about living in a small town called “Everybody is an Expert” and our voices are huge as they join the chorus. Our voices are larger than even the rain. And everything, absolutely everything about this concert, is just right.

    it seems 1000% easier to succeed at happiness as a manic pixie dream boy

    Everything erased. Seats down, my shawl for a mattress, we lay in the trunk of the car. He had put on some Philip Glass when we arrived, the most beautiful songs, turned up as loudly as they are true. “I play these every morning when I get up” he said, and I briefly imagined how happy that would make me, to wake up to him on a piano the next room over. I would make breakfast and pester him. He would argue, I would laugh. We had reached into the car at the same moment, one from each side, to take the volume and turn it up. The music made certain that everything was cinematic, the way his voice curled around his cigarette’s smoke, the sound the water made curling around the causeway, how everything echoed the gray-blue sky tinted the same shade as my eyes.

    My head in the hollow of his shoulder, gulls crying overhead, his feet hanging up on the edge of the back. It was a cascade. Interlocking pieces slipping together to create a perfect moment. Physician, heal thyself. Like this, with this stanza. Pianist as penicillin. Then this. We were waiting for a ferry, almost an hour early, when he had complained of being tired. (A man nearly always complaining, this one, of heat, of exhaustion, of needing to eat. Peevish, I called him, a charming bear caught in the belly of a human’s needs). So I had over-ruled his protests, moved his bags from the backseat to the front, and flattened the seats in the back of the car. “Come on,” I told him, improbably hoisting myself into the trunk. Cotton candy pink hair, a go-go dress, clunky wooden heels, and expensive, expensive black lace stockings, researched reproductions of tights from the 20’s. I can’t imagine what sort of quaint affair I looked like to the people across the lot, but he didn’t question me, only followed.

    And so it played.

    “Forever music,” he had said, as a woman from across the parking lot stood next to my car, holding her phone and head inside, recording the music on Shazam for later. I loved everything about her. Her sharp sentences, her undeniably commanding accent, so at peace with her clothing, her demeanor, the cut of her hair. Her voice was a treasure, as if she had been cast to be that person by some greater power. I had noticed her before she had approached us, before she realized we existed. She loves Philip Glass, she told us, and then described a concert she attended in Calgary that Michael Green was involved with. Coincidence. Sympathetic magnetism. A stranger who almost wasn’t. The notes rolling out like story movie magic.

    “He wrote it when he was young, when the Dalai Lama came to visit.” I remembered my godmother, Silva, talking about the Dalai Lama. “The only person she had ever met who seemed completely full of light.” I called after him as he left, “remember what I said about longing,” instead of goodbye. But that was then, then later, and now, now we are in the trunk of the car, two manic pixie dream people parallel with the earth, resting, still, allowing ourselves and the music a chance to flourish. There is only piano, the sound of his heart, and the small, cutting call of a solitary bird. Maybe it is flying home.

    Facebook Friend #19 – Julie Salkowski

    Facebook Friend #19 - Julie
    Facebook Friend #19 – Julie

    Julie is a Montreal based painter, designer, and occasional horticulturist who married one of my best
    friends, Michel. We met when I visited for their wedding in 2009 and I have adored her (and their four
    cats) ever since. She’s quiet, but don’t be fooled, she’s mischievous, too.

    Side note: I took her photo in front of Silo #5, the home of the Silophone.

    My Facebook Friends Portrait project began when I hit 1000 friends on Facebook in 2012. The project is on-going and shall continue until I take a portrait of every FB friend I have.

    Mike & Karina

    Mike & Karina




    Mike’s girlfriend is a sweet, appealing girl with a fast smile and clever eyes. (He met her while living in Santiago, Chile). She primarily speaks Spanish, which I mostly understand but can no longer speak, while I primarily speak English, which she can read, but not easily comprehend when spoken. We both lack the complex vocabulary. Mike acts as a guide between us, he explains and untangles our words. We all laugh in the right places, though, and manage complex topics like feminism, family structures, culture maps, information design, game theory, and politics. The language gap could have been awkward had we been other people, but instead it became entertainment, a brainteaser we share and enjoy.

    Burning Man 2011: Rites of Passage -::- the moving pictures show

    Maybe soon the right song will slide on or an opportunity will blossom from a seed planted in the desert, but I haven’t been able to positively frame my time at Burning Man this year. I’m too drained to regret it, but nor am I happy I went. To make up for that, and for my lack of pictures, as my camera died its first day there, here are my videos from last year, which was truly excellent.

    Burning Man 2011: Rites of Passage

    An Earth Harp concert at The Temple of Transition

    For more information about the Earth Harp visit

    Propane Fueled Kinetic Fire Sculpture

    Crunchy Mama’s Burning Man Wedding Ceremony

    “Do you promise to support each other’s pursuit for other heavy machinery operators?
    And act as the first line of defense in vetting suitors while not cock-blocking?
    Do you promise to each honour and abide the No Fleetwood Mac rule?
    Do you promise to give each other open access to your drawers, including culinary, personal, and mechanical?
    Do you promise to keep their best interests in mind, give the best advice you can give, and never pull punches?”

    The Miraculous Virgin Birth that resulted from the wedding

    The Processional Pulling of The Trojan Horse

    Read more about the Trojan Horse project at

    The Gamelatron, the Robot Gamelan inside the Temple of Transition

    Thunderdome Fight: Furry VS Furry!

    A Persistence of Vision Art-Bike Wheel

    El Pulpo Mecanico

    For more information on this art-car, visit

    Peter Hudson’s stroboscopic zeotrope sculpture: Charon

    For more information on Charon, got to