Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Wake from Your Sleep 


Saturday, in the parlance of our time, I got woke. That is, I became aware. I had a very full schedule so I needed to be prepared. My first priority was breakfast. This may not have done my cholesterol any favours but my customary two poached eggs with ham, cheese and toast was necessary fuel for the day ahead. I would be joining three different consecutive events. At 11 AM, I’d be doing Cycle Toronto’s “Coldest Day of the Year” Ride through the downtown to promote winter cycling, then at 12:30 PM there was the National Day of Action Protest (basically a protest against Donald Trump and Steve Bannon…) at the US Consulate, and lastly at 2 PM, an Introduction to Winter Bike Maintenance presented by Bike Sauce at a local library. The last one was primarily a show of support as I’m pretty accustomed to biking in the winter and know at least the basics of maintenance but both this library branch and the volunteers at the non-profit DIY bike shop, Bike Sauce have been good partners in our bike advocacy work.
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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Seen in… January 

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long but that didn't apply to these two Bright Lights

2016 was a bit rubbish. To avoid thinking about it, I thought it best to retreat into a world of fantasy and science fiction. Unfortunately, as Asimov knew, the best science fiction is about today not tomorrow and as we know from the golden era of musicals, the escapism of fantasy is glorious but fleeting. Now as I’m writing this, I’m watching Hypernormalisation, a documentary for the BBC by Adam Curtis and it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t which is the point of the film. The film relates how at some point the citizens of the Soviet Union became so disillusioned by the deception and lies of their government that they stopped believing in anything but they played along with the lies anyway. Living in the artifice of society created by the government became normal, “The fakery was so real, it was hyper-normal.” The film traces a line between 1970s Syria and New York City, the rise of Donald Trump and the obfuscation of Russian media manipulation. So yeah, there’s no hiding the awfulness of our times but here are the stories where I hoped to hide.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Scrape Snap Crack Dink 

Playing Hockey, 1912

Scrape, snap, crack… dink. That’s the reverie of the outdoor rink on a -15°C night. Each sound chased by an echo, which in turn throws its shadow against the neighbouring houses. That’s something I’ve missed from my winter runs; the crisp sounds of the streets which seem to travel faster and louder in cold air (does sound travel faster in cold air? Nope, but maybe further.) This was the second of my subzero runs of the season. The first was terrible. I was both over-dressed and under-dressed. Too many of the wrong layers left me sweating and freezing as a knife-edge wind cut through the fabric like sharp shears. This run was much better. The correct items of clothing placed in the correct order let me wick away the wet and block out the breeze just like the advertising promises. Gore-tex is at its best in cold weather when you layer properly underneath and are working up a horsey sweat that beads on your coat.

I also gave my lungs the time to acclimatize a little before sucking down the frigid air. Previously I stepped from the warm house and started running, immediately putting the chill in my chest which was enough to trigger some asthmatic wheezing. That didn’t happen this time which allowed me to go further for a little longer, loping in a bit of a lazy stride acquired from being utterly unfit due to my current station – meaning: being entirely stationary.

Winter in the city is neither kind nor pretty but exudes a dull cruelness that is hard to avoid. Sometimes it can be hidden beneath a dusting of snow but at the moment the dirt and grime are frozen to the pavement and bare trees look windswept and dead. I noticed how the Don River looked violently frozen as though it had been fighting to the end, its serpentine current full of heaving cracks and crusted ice. It’s odd how in the summer, running at night, the sulphurous security lights found throughout laneways cast an amber, nostalgic hue but in the winter the same light feels harsh and ugly. I guess that’s my imagination. Heading out for a winter run is also like running in the rain in the summer, in that you really do not want to step into it but once you’re going it feels better than fine. There’s that two sided nature of how your skin can be so cold against the air and so hot against your blood. There’s nothing quite like a hot shower after a cold run. Afterwards you feel like you do after a swim or a massage or maybe like a sauna. It’s almost like your limbs have been annealed by heat, hammer strikes and dunks in water the way Japanese swords are made.

What really makes running in the winter possible is the dryness. Here in Toronto we had a wet dump of snow quickly freeze but then followed by a couple of days of rain that ate away the snow. Then the wind came up, blowing the streets dry and the temperature dropped making the sidewalks bare and clear for the most part. The ice that is left is diamond hard and would easily take off your bumper if your car hit it. Unfortunately, another round of snow, rain and slush is happening right now, so my brief flirtation with running outside may be again delayed leaving me no choice but to languish on the treadmill indoors looking out.

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Friday, January 06, 2017


Where has all the cake and chocolate gone? Why is there no ice in my glass? Or ginger ale, or whisky? Where are the hunks of ham? The pies? Where are the pies? Where am I? Where are my wooly socks? All is lost. So many unanswered questions.

I was in a fuzzy, warm dream where within arm's reach were only brownies, and chocolate, and clementines, and biscuits and beverages of sweet and strong liquors. I laid on pillows under comforters. My belly grew large but I cared not. My head spun from drink and I cared not. That was Christmas and Christmas always ends.

I went from that heavenly bemused state of half-sleep to the purgatory of an airplane seat and then awoke at my desk. On the screen in front of me were confusing images and boxes and arrows all of my own creation but I knew not what they were. This is how Christmas always ends.

I had forgotten passwords, agreements, arrangements, protocols and meeting times. I had forgotten what I came for, what I stood for, what I cared for. I had forgotten why I was anywhere and where anywhere was. I was speaking to strangers about half-remembered promises but I forgot their language. I forgot the numbers to be tapped. I forgot the way and order to tap them. I grew distracted and bored and tired. This is how Christmas always ends.

In an useless endeavour, as if my desk labours were not torture enough, I stumbled and sighed into a gymnasium and hove weights of iron above my head. I tread like Sisyphus on an endless mill, rolling through numbers until I could take no more. This is how Christmas always ends.

And now we are here. Old Christmas Day. The beginning of Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Kings, when the son of God was revealed. The day my father died. From now on, this is how Christmas will always end.


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Seen in… November & December 

Amy Adams as a linguist to the stars in Arrival… image via The Movie DB

Fun Fact: in the last ninety days of 2016 I spent over 60 hours flying above the Earth’s crusty surface. That meant I ate terrible food, slept (or didn’t) sitting upright in my clothes, and watched a lot of movies on teeny-tiny, crappy little screens. You know you’ve traveled too much when you’ve seen everything in the movie catalogue on the flights you’ve been on.
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