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A street in the hills

A street in the hills

Crunk’s basement (Taken with Instagram)

Crunk’s basement (Taken with Instagram)

Bit of sunshine  (Taken with Instagram)

Bit of sunshine (Taken with Instagram)

Control by signage (Taken with Instagram)

Control by signage (Taken with Instagram)

Sky over Kits (Taken with Instagram)

Sky over Kits (Taken with Instagram)

An adolescent boy sighs as his mother tries to decide what she wants to drink. She’s heaved her massive pursebag onto the counter. The man behind the counter does his best to mask his agitation. He looks at the unhappy faces waiting in line. His eyes say, “I feel your pain.” He asks if the woman would prefer hot or cold. She doesn’t know. Her son sighs again. Mumbles something that gets his mother’s attention. She faces him, sharpens her gaze. Says, ”Don’t get exasperated with me, young man.”

From his seat by the front window Writerman has a commanding view. The place is a compact bookstore with a deli-style cafe attached. It is nearing noon, Saturday. The cafe is hopping. Bodies impatiently fidgeting. Aside from the magazine rack, the bookstore is more serene. Bodies contentedly lingering.

The adolescent boy’s cheeks are flushed with dejection as he sulks to a table crammed into the corner. At the table his younger brother plays with straws to a secret commentary. Their grandfather keeps their younger sibling amused. As the adolescent boy sits his grandmother places a hand on his shoulder and tries to console him with sweet nothings.

At the book desk a woman with a bright orange sunhat and large sunglasses complains that the book in her hand, a massmarket paperback, is cheaper online.

In line at the cafe a man of the currently cool generation takes a handless call. While his description of partying hard last night is robust and heavily inflected with animated slang, his body is as devoid of gesture as an android.

At the magazine rack someone has dropped their coffee. Reactions range from astonishment to indifference.

To the corner table comes the father, looking a little miffed.  “What the heck is going on? I’ve been out there twenty minutes already.”

Grand production of mop and pail at the magazine rack.

Pandemonium at the corner table as the clan prepares to leave. Father: “Didn’t you get me a coffee?” Answered by mother with a steely glare.

The woman wearing the orange sunhat looks around. Covertly. She slips the mmpb into her shopping bag and exits. Confidently.

Things have dialed down a notch in the deli-cafe. There is no longer a line. Tables are opening up. The sound of humans talking has lowered. Conversations have taken new directions. Bickering sessions have come to a temporary hiatus.

The humming drums of normal.

And then the man from behind the counter, after clearing the corner table, loses his balance. Clatter of plates et cetera hitting floor. Poking out from under one of the chairs is the adolescent boy’s mother’s massive pursebag.

Writerman takes a sip of water and packs up. During this last halfhour he wrote:

The government of a country with arctic lands approved the publication of a report that puts the value of its population of polar bears at about $425,000 per head. (Some might be interested to know that it costs considerably less to kill one of these polar bears, bag it, take it home—and the government will only ask for around a grand, plus taxes, to cover applicable licenses and fees.)

If life as we know it is compared to what happens in a washing machine: we’ve been soaked, rinsed and spun; now we’re just waiting to dry, but the machine’s broken, so it’s either getting hung out to dry or being sent thru a mangle.

Man alive, tundra in heart. Man on mission, stars in eyes.

Under the stairs where the suitcases stayed stowed there were shelves for shoeboxes and shelves for tools. There were boxes for records and old clothes and toys, and racks for wine that no one ever drank. A whole universe of trinkets and odd pieces was to be found, but to a lonely only child, none of this stuff held as much appeal as that mysterious set of shutter-like doors. Made of wood and set high on the wall, the doors were fastened together by a rusty lock that had no key. The lonely only child never did discover what hid behind the doors. But to this day he dreams of opening them. And these dreams always take him back, under the stairs where the suitcases stayed stowed.

John Muir:

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

Any day involving a trip to the hospital seems to collapse onto itself. Time evaporates. Waiting is the game. First here—take a number. Then there—hope you got your smartphone. Doesn’t take long for confusion to mount. F0r disorientation to set in. You go in circles looking for a washroom (can you really go around the corner when the walls are curved?). And just when you’re thinking you might be lost you find yourself standing at a counter that looks familiar, albeit with different faces womanning it.

Like any good stage, all exits lead to possible entrances.

You’re right where you need to be.

Like Theseus (think labyrinths and the minotaur).

Or Perseus (think mirrors and Medusa).

Or K (think Kafka and The Castle).

Of course there was nothing heroic about my deeds today. My job was to ensure the GF got to and from the hospital. In between I wandered about New Westminster.

(Is it just me, or are the grounds of all hospitals ever in state of construction chaos?)

I found a coffee shop, read, scribbled in notebook, listened to Bob Mould’s new record (a fine piece of rock), took train to have lunch on the boardwalk market, gazed at the Fraser River, watched logging debris float, marveled at the clouds:

sky dunes

topographical clouds

it’s ancient up there

like Egypt

its deserts and oases

mirage, illusion, delusion

the lore that still defines us

by crook and flail

if not golden anymore

no less empowered

The call came around 2. “She’s ready.” I get off my Wednesday ass, head back to the hospital, collect my ‘charge’, take her for a bowl of pho. By 4 we’re heads on pillows, zonked til 6. Tho it doesn’t seem like I’ve done anything all day I feel like sand (this ain’t bad).

BTW, did you catch the sunset? Twas very textured and highly topographic. A delight to behold. (I write this in lieu of having been in a position to take a decent photo.) And the rain that fell was positively refreshing. Adieu.

On way home walk by a shirtless kid passed out on the grass under a tree by the curb. His legs are in a figure-four arrangement and one of his arms is bent back like it’s about to be handcuffed. It doesn’t look comfortable. Tho I’m in a hurry, I slow down. Whether out of curiosity or concern I can’t truly say.

It’s well past eight by the time I get in the front door. I was hoping to be home earlier. To take advantage of a free night. But it was one of those days. One thing after another.

Perspective grants that at least I’m home. My wife could only be so lucky. She’s busy putting out work fires. One of their servers went down yesterday. This in itself wasn’t so bad. They got it back online late last night. But this morning a client called to say all their files were either missing or corrupted.

I grab a bottle of wine and a glass. While waiting for the laptop to boot up, look over some notes from earlier:

  • Riddles, mysteries, secrets. Layers.
  • Places where hospitals used to be; places where buildings that used to be hospitals now house septic souls—remembering that when you needed medical attention you used to go to the hospital; not remembering when last you saw a doctor who wasn’t a dentist or a chiropractor.
  • Two smoking tradesmen with elbows on the high hood of a pickup truck. One says, “Let’s face it…flooring’s the last trade in line…always up against a deadline.” The other says, at the same time, “You there? Hello? Is the line dead?” They are facing one another but having different conversations.

I’d peg the shirtless kid no older than 22. He had thick strokes of black paint on his chest. From my slowly passing vantage it looked like an X. But if he was standing and I was facing him it would have been a T. Or maybe a crucifix. Other than that there wasn’t much to go on. The paint looked dry. The kid was breathing easily. He didn’t have a piss stain. That’s enough for me. Something about that black paint unnerved me. Was he marked?

Pour a second glass of wine and open email.

A bunch of crap. There’s one from myself. Subject: aliases. Body:

  • Markson’s various scriptonyms.
  • Roth’s Zuckerman.
  • Vonnegut’s Trout.
  • Pessoa’s peripatetic poets.

More crap.

See an old friend’s name in a Facebook notification. Click link, go to page headed with pixelated photo of a beach. John’s name is shopped in and beside his name is another photo. Of him with his face in a book and a cigarette in his mouth. As ever he looks troubled. I’m smiling and shaking my head. Wondering when last we spoke. I scroll down the page, looking at more photos.

Takes a while for it to sink in that the page is dedicated in memoriam.

I go numb and don’t move until my wife comes home. It’s after ten.

What to say. Books. Piles of them. Everywhere I look. On the counter, on the desk, on chairs, in the window sill, on the floor, by the bed, in the closet, in the bathroom. I’ll say one thing about books: they sure make a place look lived in, don’t they?

The batch of books pictured above includes a purchase from Trail’s End, a small bookstore in Winthrop, WA (a wee Western-themed town on the desert-like eastern flank of the Cascades). There’s another from Eclipse, an inspired bookshoppe in the Fairhaven district of Bellingham. Plus a couple (as in two—I still find it strange when people need clarification on how many is meant by a couple) borrowed from the shelves of a friend (yes, the same friend whose cats, Cleo and Clive, were mentioned in the last bs hoedown). This batch is rounded out by an assortment of mainly Japanese titles, fresh from a visit to the library.

(On a somewhat related note, came upon Better World Books the other day. It’s an online bookstore that does more than take your money - and offer free shipping anywhere in the world on every title. A pretty good alternative to Amazon.)

Top to bottom:

  • Henry Roth - An American Type
  • Ryu Murakami - Coin Locker Babies
  • Sergio de la Pava - A Naked Singularity
  • Ryu Murakami - Popular Hits of the Showa Era
  • Yasutaka Tsutsui - The Girl Who Leapt through Time
  • Taichi Yamada - Strangers
  • Natsuo Kirino - Real World
  • James Frey - The Final Testament of the Holy Bible
  • Michel Houellebecq - The Map and the Territory

As an aside, happy to report that forthcoming albums by Sean Rowe and Bill Fay are well worth a good listen.

I came out of seclusion today. Went for a long walk that took me along traintracks and unfamiliar streets. Warehouses, storage facilities, wrecking yards. Past old buildings repurposed into living and creating spaces. Thru neighborhoods not mine. Parks, gardens, marshes, secret playing fields. West was the direction. Toward tiding water.

Mid-afternoon I made the ocean. Stood transfixed for an unknown period of time. Watching waves. Feeling the sun fall and the wind lightly breeze.

The spell broke when I felt the ocean soak into my shoes. Without hesitation I got to boxers, set my shoes and clothes by a log, stepped into the water. The crisp coldness of the liquid was nothing. I walked out til the ocean tickled my ribs. Then dove under. Held my breath and let my limbs propel me further out. Til my feet no longer touched the silty floor.

I let myself float.

A blue PT Cruiser was found. Submerged in a remote lake off a logging road in the mountains. The interior of the car was burned out. Two bodies inside. Both female.

I let myself float.

The identity of the bodies has yet to be verified. But there is something beyond a feeling that tells me the false hope is finally extinguished.

I let myself float.

See her smile and laugh and dance and read and wash her back and waken and stare at the stars and put on her yellow dress and stretch in bed and sip hot chocolate and break open pistachios and throw autumn leaves in the air and blowdry her hair and paint her toenails and look at me with love in her eyes.

With love in her eyes.

I let myself float.

The sky above. She is in the clouds there. I reach up a wet hand. See my fingers glisten.

It crosses my mind that I could join her. Just relax and let the water re-unite us. Then I see the moon. Pale and unprepossessing in the distance.


Dan and Lucy come home sometime after nine in the evening. I am sitting at my desk, looking out the window. Lucy runs up the stairs calling my name. Lala’s head pops up from the sheets on my bed. Lucy comes in and asks what I’m doing.

"Looking at the moon," I say.

Lucy goes to Lala and tells her about the movie she’s just seen with her dad.

Dan comes in. He senses that something has changed. Asks if everything is all right. I nod. Suddenly I feel an overwhelming appetite for food - hunger and the ability to eat have been moreorless absent since Airia disappeared.

I look over at Lucy.

"You guys hungry?"

"Starving," she says.