Tomorrow I begin eleven days without internet access, eleven days where I don't catch up with other peoples concerns, jokes, links, lunches. I was wondering what I'd do about my writing and drawing daily routines. Well, here is the deal. I may still write, if I do I'll write on paper. I may still draw, if I do I'll draw on paper. I won't be uploading anything. The paper will just pile up - if I actually use it. I may not. After eleven days I will have access to the internet again. Do I take this pile of paper - if it exists - and translate it to pixels ? Do I scrap the paper and restart writing on the screen ? We'll see. Frankly, I don't really care one way or the other. I consider this project a success. I've written things, a handful of people have read some of the things I've written. I'm not keen to remind anyone that there is more here to read. People are flooded with information anyway. Chances are, I will rope in my efforts and energies and put them to use creating something of substance. Frittering away energy is something I've done for much too long, like eating when stress starts to rise within me. Like surrounding myself with acquaintances instead of solid friends. So, see you later, here or somewhere else. This has been day 132 of a daily writing practice.
Outside dinner, loud team loses, paint over graf, chat with clients, sold some stuff, walked around, bought some groceries, sat with child, dreamt some dreams, laughed and sang, drank two beers, made some calls.
Applied for paternity benefits, forty minutes on the phone. Called back three times for help sorting through computer glitches. Finally done. Visit from friends from afar with baby. Attempted mini sleep over, didn't work. Some beer and chips, cheese and bread. Backgammon with the lovely lady, Minimal electronica and maybe bedtime soon. This is it. A listing of activities and events. Nothing more, no peek inside eyes or minds. Nothing but a small report that I rolled four successive doubles during the game. Meaning is yours to make.
Tonight I tried and failed to put my baby to sleep. His mother came and saved me from myself forty something minutes intuit he ordeal. Baby's got lungs and patience enough to keep screaming, refusing to be soothed. Mother comes and works her magic. baby is quiet upon her and soon will be sleeping. I turned to food (a bowl of cereal) to calm my nerves. And the computer.
In a few days I will take vacation with my family. We will go to cabin country in Ontario and visit with cousins. We will cook together and take care of each other's kids. During this time I will not have internet access. I will most probably abandon any of my daily writing and drawing practices. Writing long hand in some notebook for eleven days may happen but i'm not counting on it. I could, I suppose, do just that and when home again, transcribe it all and upload it. It's an option. I'm thinking that this may be a convenient time to stop all this nonsense and when I get back to reality, simply dive into my graphic novel project. It's a nice thought in any case. I guess I could draw a daily drawing out there on the shore of the lake. I could entertain the kids with the bunny drawings. They'll all ask for one anyway. I'll play it by ear, but know ye reader, that this is me starting to justify why I'm going to drop the ball. Picking up another ball is mandatory. I am obliged to do so. I simply hope I'm efficient about it. Time will tell.
No, do not conflate competition with decision making, do not assume competition is the only model extant in nature. Many models co-exist and intermingle in this world and as we, humans dear, shed awkward models of ourselves as Ur-versions of our present day technology, we'll find and appreciate our subtle, ambiguous natures and grow systems that echo them. No more body as machine, no more brain as computer, no more cosmos as clock or simulation. We are enamoured with the products of our hands so much that we think they mirror the thing that came before us, the thing we find ourselves in. There is always an analogue, yes, but we are the products of a greater hand, this world. If we will play games of infinite regress, let's play them right.
Hauled matter onto the sidewalk, to liberate the space inside. Grabbed piles of comic books and stuck them in a two dollar bin, let the kids buy them up. It's raining out now and not so hot. I realize, again, that I find it terribly tacky to put price tags on things. I'm so in the wrong business but I must say the shop looks good, like a candy store should. Bowls of goodies everywhere, not afraid of the colour or the chaos that comes with many things.
A decent day of sales, a small bit of personal work done, morning feeding baby in the park, finished my third John Carter, Warlord of Mars book. That's enough for now. I couldn't stand it if he let Dejah Thoris get snatched away again. And I'll leave it where every nation on Barsoom clearly sees he is the top Jeddack of all time. And me ? I gotta stop it with these salami sandwiches.
I repeat myself. I tell folks who know the neighbourhood so well that our shop is sixteen years old this year. They obviously are embarrassed.
The walking dead mewl into the store, unknowing what it is they see. The quickly alive respond, the curious delight, the engaged engage.
When I was an art teacher in a dead end high school, I realized that I shouldn't spend my energy on the wastrels and the stoners who don't bother to move crayons around on a sheet of construction paper. they frustrated me, they poked my ego, I couldn't get through.
Have I been making the same mistake in my retail endeavour ? Do I focus more on the dull and bored than I do on those who laugh and get it and actually shop ? Maybe I do. My pride again. Getting in the way. Helping me fog over the good and squeak to whoever will listen about those entitled few who traipse about, touching everything and buying nothing.
Today a few people came in glowing and shopping. It actually happens everyday. And yet too often I see folks in the neighbourhood and I can't help but think, 'they've never been in my shop'.
Stuttering towards hollow diary entries. Hot day, lunch with family, laughs with uncle, fresh fruit cut by hand. The boy is mostly good and happy, the soccer fans out the window still scream for meaning. I'm getting so that maybe daily should become weekly, fear that that will make this whole operation futile. I imagine 'saving up' my words for my weekly entry, finding I still may have nothing or little to say, skip it, skip a week, stop dead still. Project over. Tell you what, if I find myself drawing panels every day for this supposed next book, then I'll feel not so bad about dropping this initiative. This is day one hundred and twenty four. I started a daily text project for the month of March 2014. It is now the first of July, canada day, moving day in Montreal. The sidewalks are bursting with mattresses and chipboard bookcases. In a heat wave, it makes you want to cross the street, makes you think bedbugs can jump. If I had a wagon and a hazmat suit, I'd poke through the debris with my tongs looking for gold. If I had those things, I'd also have a cool country cottage with a stream nearby, a hammock under the shade and you guys would be coming over soon with drinks. Let me see if any of this will continue, let me see if I start frying bigger fish. There is one of you at least that reads these missives, you may call one day with the solution to a problem that exists only in my head. What do I do when I'm done doing this ?
Heat wave. Thunderstorm warnings. Half-naked people. Sidewalks crammed with soccer fans peering into cafés, screaming when it's time for them to scream, moaning when it's time for them to moan. I strolled about with the kid, around the block. Saw my lady near home and out we went again, sandwiches to go, to eat in our neighbours back yard. The ice-cream sandwich follow up made me feel like crap. I fought the feeling with an orange and a half. Did it work ? heat waves mimic fever when you eat the wrong thing. Spent a good part of the day reading John Carter adventures. Those martians are whack. The air-con was turned on for a few moments, it helped a lot. It's off now and the windows are still closed, we're stretching this thing. It's pretty hot out. Supper soon, maybe after an episode of I Love Lucy, then bed.
They are not my team. I don't have a team. If I had a team I'd get behind this whole thing a little easier. If I watched a match between your team and that guy's team, and we were all in the room, and I'd already had a couple of beers or maybe too much coffee, I'd probably get excited when you guys got excited. As it stands, I haven't made the effort to see what your teems are about. I also don't play the game, and I certainly can't do any of that fancy foot work. I respect athletes to a certain degree, I respect them in so far as they can play their game well. I don't respect them as statesmen though I can respect them as folk heroes. Some athletes are or become folk heroes, I respect that reality. I don't care too much about that reality, but I know it's there and that billions of people buy into it. Supposedly three billion people are excited about these games. Roughly half of the population of our current planet. The other half isn't all me, there are others in there somewhere. Maybe I think the earth's population is lower than it really is. I'm not up on the numbers. I sorely wish these games could replace the power plays and border politics of big industry. It would make a nice, trite science fictiony resolution. War is over, men are kicking around a ball instead. It won't happen anytime soon. If people cared about life on this planet as they cared for these games, we'd be ok. As it stands, we're not so ok. The games are winning.
Hot day today. Shorts and mini-socks and t-shirt, loose and thin. Quick walk about with cold coffee for an hour before I open the shop. Paid for new second hand computer today. Received many gifts of comics, zines and prints. Paintings too. Fennel apple salad. Sausage. Rosé. Watermelon sorbet. Yesterday night pizza and beer with cartoonists in a fading apartment. I'm close to pulling the plug on this text project. Daily is a grind and soon, I'll have a book to work on. We'll see what survives the transition.
Yesterday the help I required appeared to me. It came in the form of reminders. One reminder manifested as a gentleman eating take-out chicken in his parked car outside the shop. I was leaning in the doorway when he asked me if the poster hanging in our window was an 'energy board'. I told him what the poster was actually and then asked what an energy board was. He told me he liked to drive around the country side until he got lost, he liked that, he said. He once stumbled upon an energy healing clinic that worked with kids, autistic kids, everybody. They have these energy boards you put your hands on and they align your chakras. I told him about my recent Reiki weekend, gave him a business card and asked him to return next time he was in the area getting chicken. The next reminder came in the form of a friendly repeat visitor to the store, a man who has made his living consolidating take-out menus. He asked how business was and I told him the truth. He asked if we do online sales and I sheepishly said, no, not yet. Well, c'mon ! he says, you have to. So I made the decision to give this a fair shot. My partner made it her project, the online shop, but got sidetracked by having a child. I'm done in the shop almost everyday and can easily get to it after a few small steps are taken. As the man left he reminded me about my slow wednesdays, 'mercredi web!' he called out while leaving. So two instances related somehow to take out food helped me. They helped me decide what to do. I will form the online shop allowing us to transition away from brick and mortar, supplement our income and deal with our collections. And I will integrate my interest in energy work with the rest of my life. Today I received a thoughtful and positive review of my latest book from a prestigious American magazine in my field. This sealed the triumvirate of interests shouting at me to continue and continue strongly. So far it breaks down like this: 1) Draw, write and publish 2) Collect and sell 3) Energy work and health
My business vacillates from an exciting flurry of activity and vibrancy to an unsustainable drag on pocket book and emotional health. Retail is something I've now done for fifteen years and though I sometimes think 'we can make a go of it', it must be realized that it has done gone. I am tired, truly, of fishbowl living. Dancing monkey in a gilded cage ? I come back to this place again and again, the place where I'm at my wit's end about what to do, how to proceed, how to unravel my knots. My sword seems rusted and too heavy to lift. I can't keep coming back to this place, not at this age. I need activation, radical switching, decision making, power brokerage. I need help.
My family is back after a week away. I shed tears of joy at the train station, seeing my little boy. He smiled and turned away and smiled and reached out. I tell you, my heart is his. I am the luckiest guy alive, my lady is a great mom and an awesome person. Together we made a child that smiles hugely.
Took a two hour CPR class this evening. Crossed a quiet city in the pouring rain. Obstruction on Metro tracks caused delay. I can't say I'm now ready to save any lives but at least I have a less vague idea about what my options are. Always call for help right away, then try to get the heart and lungs going. This rainy day was Quebec's national holiday. Thankfully the cafés were open. People seemed more interested in the soccer than in wearing the blue and white flag as a cape. The rains, I'm sure, quelled whatever parties were hoping to erupt. Reading Princess Of Mars again. It'll be followed by the next two in the series. Love this old stuff but that lingering stink of colonialism taints my pleasure. It's late now. I'm sipping quality scotch and writing this. The house is clean, all tasks done. My family returns tomorrow and I missed them sorely. I can't live without my baby boy.
I'm still amazed at the discrepancy between how long I thick something will take to do and how long it actually takes. My procrastination problem has always had as an adjunct some rationalization that the task postponed needs quite a bit of time to complete. With every passing day I am proving this an outdated attitude. There are still plenty of things on my to-do list that I am pushing away but no longer can I entertain the excuse surrounding time. There is enough time in any day to accomplish any number of things. My regular attitude has always been to reserve a particular day for a particular task. If I have to go downtown to buy some art supplies, for example, I would pencil that task in the calendar and reserve that day for that task. It takes an hour to go downtown, buy some paper and come back. I did that today, along with some grocery shopping, tile work, puttying cracks in the floor, visiting a potential client, vacuuming the house, doing some dishes, preparing my supper, goofing off plenty, visiting a friend. This new approach has emerged with fatherhood. I can't rightly postpone things that need to be down anymore. One can't change the kids diaper later. One does it now. I've been doing things now. So, I bought my art supplies. Soon I'll cut some of the bristol up and begging roughing in some panels, panels that will grow into my next full length graphic novel. It's doing to be a good one, I can feel it. I'm not writing it or drawing sketches or planning anything. I will start drawing and see where that takes me. I will trust the process.
It was fun, we ate and made some jokes. There was more food and beer than any twenty people could consume and we were ten. We stayed up late and promised to see each other more often. I think we work well together, the four of us. Each couplet have a history. Together, we've been through it all. It would make for right proper Dungeons and Dragons. Today I slept in, I needed to. I had six beers and a puff of pot and a rack of ribs. And a hamburger. maybe a hamburger every day this week. Something crazy like that. Now a cleanse is starting to call. After today, I slow down and clean up, after today I finish the jobs and fly straight. That's it, that's all.
Visiting with friends later tonight, old friends I don't see too often. I got cranky when I found out it wouldn't be 'just us'. Us expands with time and people add people of course. When it comes to reunions, I tend to favour undiluted ones. Social dilution means we can't properly catch up, share what we've been through, discuss things. Sometimes though, I've noticed, old friends just want to get hammered. That can be tiresome.
I rearranged my office and the front desk area of the store to good effect. The counter area is now more streamlined, with less dust traps. My office aka my studio is a neglected cubby of my stuff. Today I went through it, removed a piece of furniture, moved the desk from facing the wall to facing out into the shop space. It feels like I could use it now. This morning I finished up all the major renovations I planned on. All that's left is a coat of paint and tucking unused wires into the wall. Plates have been purchased and are ready to act. Business was ok today. Some very enthusiastic clients. That always helps, especially when the dish out more than just compliments. I'm tired. I was up late last night and up early this morning. Six thirty am. Craziness. I'm thirsty and dusty. If I took myself out to dinner with a book I'd nod off at the table. That is all. Tomorrow I see an old friend and go to a BBQ.
Hamburger, fries and beer for lunch. Coffee and two croissants for breakfast. An orange somewhere in there. Water. Two shots of fine whiskey. Rearranged my office again. I'll be facing into the open space now. I discussed writing with a writer. How the needs necessary to complete a project must be met above all else, within reason. I agreed with his suggestions. I share old artwork on social media. I enjoy the likes and the responses. It makes me feel relevant in a seedy way. Went to supper with a friend. Vietnamese soup. Smoked a pinch of grass and drew three drawings while listening to music. Walked home, bagels, cheese, salami and apple juice. I better get some more worked done in the morning.
I woke up early to get to a job down the Main. Had two eggs, potatoes, fruit and toast near the job site. Bumped into a friend strolling his baby girl. No one was at the site, I was getting miffed. Found a scrap of wood to write a message on, to leave by the locked door. Knocked this time, peering into the dark space. Someone opened. Couldn't do the job, ladder too short, tall ladder not there yet. I'm unsure if the tall ladder would be any better. I think it would be tough to paint a fifteen foot long sign , ten feet up on a ladder. I walked home Hit the reno's hard, chopsaw a'blazin'. Puttied the cracks between tiles. Took a walk, then open up shop. Slowish day, treated myself to a slow lunch and picked up a new book for the boy. Local bookshop is closing to make way for the one hundredth sandwich shop on the strip. I tell you, this 'hood is losing some serious charm. Back in the shop, we dismantled the window installation, replaced it with a stark, sober number and then went next door to an art gallery party, celebrating their twenty fifth year. Chatted with an artist who I knew from the shop. Met his wife and kid, drank white wine, came home to putty some more while my bok choy and mushrooms steamed. I'm tempted to go out and look for meat.
It's 9:23 pm.
A different day. Up at six to entertain the boy while his mother slept a bit more. We played, I changed him, we laughed. He went down for his first morning nap in no time. Eight am, our architect calls, we get coffees and discuss the balcony to be installed in a few weeks. After he goes, I help my lady get ready. She's going to Ontario with the boy for a week. I accompany her to the train station, we make good time but as we get there pre-boarding has begun and our goodbyes are too quick. I see my boy in her arms going down the escalator and hardly had more than a chance to kiss his head. I'm filled with loss as they disappear out of sight. At noon, nearby the train station, in front to big building I've never entered before, one with a skating rink and large atrium - nice to watch the skaters, I'm early - I'm to be picked up by two fast food bloggers. Today we'll attempt four diners across town, mostly LaSalle and Lachine. The first joint is closed up, an empty store front. The next yields a burger and coke. Two more rests to go. The second is a falling down dep. I get a hotdog from the toothless young rocker manning the place. The last place is one a broke down strip, run my ladies. Love it. Another burger and coke. with fries this time. I'd go again but man, it's far. The guys are happy with this place. They'll write about it. I can only do such things every two years, and I feel I was moderate. Back home, I remove two unused radiators and begin repairing the parquet floor they covered. Glueing in tiles, filling in putty, cutting baseboards and quarter round. I did enough for today. Tomorrow early, I'm heading down the street to paint a bunch of bunnies on the storefront of a candy shop. Will meet a friend for smoked meat. I'm totally pushing it.
I'll continue trying to read Ishmael Reed, Stan Gooch and Stephen Jay Gould. I'll be tempted with that new pile of books downstairs, Dick Hebdige, Joseph Campbell and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and a few more.
Fantasy trilogy is done and I may want more. Something decent. Not a ten book dynastic wank-off.
Between fantasy, folklore, myth, pop culture, paranormal, theory, sociology I have it covered. A little history of science, the occasional witch blog, Black or Native American cultural studies, crappy comics, pamphlets and arcane poetics. I wish I could merge all this in what I myself make. maybe I do and I don't notice.
I tried to buy art supplies today, some nice bristol board to cut into panels so I can start drawing. I know there will be duds, wasted paper, crappy third attempts, aborted sequences. But that's ok, that means I'm working. Right now all I have is the taste of blood in my mouth.
The art supply co-op near me had nothing I needed paper-wise. Not for this project. I bought four six by eight wooden panels for painting because I was there and I should have some such on hand when the feeling strikes. Wood over canvas because I scrape and gouge.
I have to go downtown now. I always knew I had to go downtown. That art supply shop near me has great stuff but never what I need. Once they were out of white acrylic paint. Good job, guys.
I'll try again tomorrow, downtown. The problem with that is if I do I'll get home later and there is stuff to do around the house. There are radiators to remove, parquet flooring to cut and glue down, expanding foam to stick between the walls and spray.
Lots to do. I'll find the time to goof-off too I hope.
It's all going in the book.
My dad's ok. He laughs a lot and makes many many suggestions to me about what I can do with this or that. He doesn't listen much or at least doesn't reveal that he's listening. Lots of people like him, he's a totally nice guy. Generous and friendly. Works hard. I don't really know what to say about him. He gets on my nerves but that's me too. He's also fun. Well, he's more fun as I get older. I'm a father now too and I see him emerging in me. How I gnaw my child is pure dad. I try to breathe deep and deflect my stress into calm. I think it's working. My dad is kinda stressed. His back is a wall of muscled tension. A massage would hurt, he says. I try to stay limber and supple. I don't want it to hurt so much that I won't do for a back rub. He won't stand for it. One of these old guys that think work and exercise is the same thing. Not the same thing, dad. One thing he says constantly is 'I know one thing….' and then he says something you've never heard before. He knows a lot of one things. He says I know I know while you're telling him something that he doesn't know. It could get frustrating. He was the youngest of nine siblings so that must count for something. Maybe jostling for attention, maybe being ignored by adult siblings. I can continue but I won't. I guess I do know what to say about him but am unsure what to prioritize saying. The things I just said are a start. Having a kid makes me realize that my relationship with my folks better get mature and pronto. I've been a kid far too long, in their eyes and in my own. Infantilized to a certain extent. A few short years ago I'd fight with my mom so she wouldn't do my laundry. They take me back if I wanted to move back home, maybe even happily. They both left the country of their birth and thus their families when they were nineteen year old kids. They hold onto us like there is no tomorrow. One of my recurring fantasies is just me leaving, going for a long walk, travelling across the country, returning much later. Not keeping in touch too much. Things are changing now that I have a kid, but they're changing because I'm adamantly reminding my folks that I'm a forty five year old man. Happy Father's Day.
So, I'm going to try and not compulsively greet everyone who comes into the shop. I know some shoppers hate that and it may cause them to not want to return. They want to slip through this life unhindered, unnoticed, they want to purchase or dream of buying without some over zealous shopkeep blathering on. This is not a social club, I'm not here to make friends or impress anyone with my soft melodious voice. It's a store. I always say hi and by doing so sometimes I visibly derail the shoppers experience. They were on a particular trajectory before I said anything and then they were lead away from it. They turn to look at me and change the course of their lives. Sometimes someone is browsing the books and when I make them aware of the posters, they put the book down and head to the posters. Maybe I could have sold a book. How long has it taken me to know all this. Not so long. Have I implemented what I know ? No, I haven't. Will I be like those cold quiet jerks that man art galleries ? The ones who know in their blood that some shithead like me certainly would only waste their time and never once buy anything ? Well, no, I won't be like that. But I'll let the customer come into the shop, deep into it, before I say anything. What if I lose that person in the shallows who didn't know where they were and needed guidance ? I'll cater to adults who are able to ask if they are curious. I can't do this much longer.
Thankfully the Dwarves were saved in the nick of time and found their rightful place on the side of the Light. There will probably be strained relations for a while in certain quarters but overall things should smooth themselves out. If I had to write in a Dwarf king I'd go on and on about the plaits of his beard, the colour of this hood and how often he thumbs the notched blade of his formidable axe. I'd mention his belt and jangle bits, his array of stalwart companions and his drinking horn. He'd probably carve something during my telling, some fine wonder in stone, something that emits light cleverly, in some unknown way. Would this king and his people live in some cavernous hall under the mountain ? Probably. Where else could dwarves live ? Can they be forest Dwarves ? I don't think so. They're all about rock and earth and stone and metal-smithery. Maybe my king would take some human to be his queen and then all hell would break out in the Dwarf meeting halls. She'd have to be pretty tough, I guess. Maybe she'd have nimble fingers, crafty and all that. How else would she win over the people she means to rule ? She'd probably have to find some lost Dwarf treasure, some item that the first kings crafted back in the days when the mountains were first hollowed out or something. Maybe it would be better if she herself made something that matched the skill of the ancients. I couldn't do any of this. I don't think so. Not with Elves either. No Dark Lord, no return of the great hero, no small fry redeemed to a hidden glory. No rings, no volcano, no gathering of the armies, no ugly mutant bad guys with hard consonant names. No fantasy novel. Maybe some conceptual writing.
Got up early to cross town to see my doctor for five minutes. Restocked by prescription for Synthroid. I'm good for the next year now. I gained almost ten pounds since last year but my blood pressure isn't as low as it used to be. It's normal now, whatever that is or means. When I got home I took the baby out for a stroll, saw some friends, walked with coffee until I got to the quiet streets. I am finding that a new pleasure for me is staying put on some street, under some tree, rolling the stroller back and forth as baby sleeps, while reading some book. I can't say enough how much I love this. I got to a park, it was drizzling a bit and I found some bigger trees to continue my reading. It's an alone time in corners of the neighbourhood. I can read a bit knowing the kid is getting his nap and no one will bug me. I don't mind raindrops hitting the pages of my book any more. It's over, the preciousness. It's still raining. No one has come into the shop today. Retail is dumb. I'm going to close early.
My fantasy novel will include a map of the terrain. I'll try not to make the sea in the west. I won't mention anything about anyone going west as some sort of step-in for nebulous death. I won't have swans or giant eagles. I may have elves. If I don't have elves, I won't have radiant, wise, ancient beings of light. I'd rather just have elves than some race of frost people the reader will respond to with 'why didn't he just have elves instead of these non-elf elves ?'. The trilogy I'm reading now has too many near-misses of Tolkien and King Arthur. King Arthur makes sense because he actually makes an appearance. Middle-earth and all that show up as if there was no other template available to the author. Even the names echo names found in LOTR but without the cohesion. My fantasy novel will be a trilogy but a short one. I want kids to read it but I may mention stuff that school boards wouldn't like. There will be a map and there will also be something I found very helpful in the trilogy I'm finishing up now, a list of characters in the front of the book. Great idea. I need to go back and see who the Dark Lords' first lieutenant is versus the Ancient Power of the Forest. My fantasy novel will not have a dark lord that must be defeated by the end of the book. In fact, there will be no dark lord at all. There may be evil and darkness and a deep dark evil but he won't live in a tower in some barren land and he won't have slave armies of gross sub-humans that can easily be slaughtered without misgiving by our heroes. My fantasy novel certainly will not have characters, in a moment of sober reflection, face the sea and sing. No one will do any singing in my fantasy novel. If they do, you can bet your shiney behind that I will not include the lyrics. If someone wants to sing they better just sing and get it over with. Like so : "Ranoth, heading back to his chambers after his appointment as Second Guard to the Queen, went by way of the armouries. Through the quiet turns of the stone corridors, he hummed to himself at a volume that was sure to disturb no one." I probably won't have any ships in my fantasy novel because I don't know anything about ships and I don't need anyone to hoist sails or stand on the prow as opposed to the non-prow. Anyway, it'll be a fun book to read once I get around to writing it. So far all I've got is what I don't want it to be.
I can't help but slobber all over my baby. I am constantly kissing him, he's turning away in disgust. I squeeze his fat little thighs and I stop myself from taking bites. I tickle him with my teeth and he squeals. I try to slow down and give him a breather because he's eight months old and has no control. I love taking him for a stroll, love when he's conked out and I can find some shade under a tree on a quiet street and rock the buggy back and forth while I read some book I saved from the trash. Strolling around with a baby makes me exempt from all the bullshit games I used to play. I no longer have to be overly concerned about any particular free wheeling' image. I have bigger fish to fry, like keeping this kid alive. I come and go as I please - or as my family pleases, more like it. I loiter and rock the baby. I do Reiki in the park for gods sake. I feed this little man avocado and banana. I always have water on me. I can't come to your party or show or thing but I can walk around the block. I just can't be high doing it. You can. Just be quiet, the baby is sleeping.
Up early for my blood test. My number was called as I plucked it from the machine. Out in no time. On the main for breakfast, two eggs, potatoes, beans and toast. And fruit. And coffee twice over, while reading a fantasy novel, book three of a trilogy that managed thirteen hundred pages without describing architecture or landscape. I'm glad one can write a book without having to get into the gory details that made Helm's Deep such a baffling chore to map out in my head. I recognized two parties from the clinic at the diner. The couple of man and woman, woman frail in wheelchair, man doting. And woman alone, middle-aged blonde hair piled in interesting brainwork, wardrobe colourful. This is the go-to place for after clinic chow-down. You fast for a blood test, you consider paying for a third egg or doing the lumberjack special, creton and all. I go hear at least once a year, their eggs are perfect. I always think I could use more toast but I get by. And I'm not ready to spring four bucks for a glass of Tropicana. On the way back I was hit up by two panhandlers to the tune of a dollar each. The first was a wiry older woman with blazing eyes. I felt I decked a curse with my dollar. The second was a haggard man come out of nowhere with a paper cup. I soon after, on my walk home, say a man tip head over his handlebars, I cried out 'oh shit!' as he was halfway through his move. The pedestrian in front of me ran to him, a moped driver stopped and helped him. I was free to carry on, only to pass an drifter with a guitar case on his back who made a stabby motion at me with his one free hand. All that made me stand on the corner and just slow down. The world was agitated this morning after my breakfast, the world was a tad hostile. These blood sacrifices aren't working any more.
I'd sooner wear a hair-wrap than attend a body painting session. I'm good with jodhpurs but not so much with top-knots. Shoes are judged by the foot and the leg and the circumstance. You know as well as I do what to wear to the gravel pit or the picnic. Baseball hats are for a segment of the population I can't relate to. I'd wear a fringed leather jacket or even a fringed suede jacket but the fringes better be long and supple. I'd wear make up if it was already on me but I won't put any on outside of someone wants to put some on me and I say ok. I would say ok and I'd also be ok walking around with some, but not for long. I've thought about skirts but not enough to do anything about it. Kind of like eating insects. Plenty of thought, haven't done much about it. I'd travel most places, I think, but won't plan enough to make it happen. I'd plan certain trips to certain places though. I need incentive. Maybe I'll gather my energy and build myself a great graphic design studio so I can make art that I like in an easy way and have the tools I need to produce and share it properly. I'd wear comfy clothes while I worked but would try to gather a nice wardrobe for special events. Something along the lines of Han Solo semi-formal. I'm thinking of one of those urban adventurer utility belts. I'd carry around with me a small note book and a pen, my mini-tool, business card and stickers, cash money and keys. One of the pockets would be reserved for ground scores. I'm going to look up some of these belts right now so I can imagine myself properly. I wish I had a jacket I'd be cool with covering in patches. I've had a wicked 'Follow Me' patch with a sword on it for decades. Never got the nerve up to commit to wearing it. That might have to change as I approach my fifties. I want to be that guy, that guy who never looked as good as he now does. That way, when I crack out the cloak and staff at seventy it will all make sense.
Today is a beautiful June Saturday. I have a shop to run so I'm running it. Noon until 5:30, maybe 6 PM. The internet tells me that everywhere one would choose to look, on can find a street festival, a garage sale, an outside summer event. I did what I could this morning. Garage sallied an original Inuit drawing, signed, for two dollars, a small bronze of a dancing bear playing tambourine for five. Home made leather purses, pure 1970s Quebecois hippie cost a bit more, four for twenty.. A street nearby hosted a many family garage sale so walking up and down a couple of blocks yielded much fun. I could have done it all day. I'd love to do it all day but here I am. One day I won't have the shop and I'll be able to go hunting and picking all day long. But then what would I do with all the crap I'd buy ? This is day one hundred of my daily writing project. I committed to a month and have now cracked three.
The rain came today but missed my flower boxes. The tree outside the car didn't miss last winter still hasn't grown leaves. All it's cousins down the street are green and shaggy. It's bark got stripped away half way round a few feet up. It's always been a bit of a late bloomer but I think this time its curtains. This is the fourth or fifth tree outside our place. They all seem doomed. I feel like I'm cursed, that a tree can't blossom and grow in front of me. It's true I've kinda given up, I don't rake it's soil or whisper to it. I hardly touch it. I touch other faraway trees more than this hurting little guy out front. I am superstitious enough to wonder how this relates to my business. I want to flourish but the tree outside is dying if not dead. I'm capping it off here and I'll go love that guy before it goes away for good.
Gratitude for our friends present and supportive. People who laugh with us and share the beer. Platters of loukoum and bowls of pretzels. There is fruit and vegetables too. Fine art and right solid play, kids and adults and chairs for those who need them. Friendly strangers, witty folks, quips and jokes, reunions, customers, family. Sometimes the organized event just brings it all together. Faces beaming and souls awash with humanity. Candy and art, Art and alcohol. Broken bottles as accidents and a dizzying maze of people. Thank you and thanks. What a fine evening. Bagels on the stoop and talk of romance. The evening cool and contained. Thank you.
On the strength of Bird Dog, I was all poised to strike the record button on my portable cassette player when the disc jockey announced that he'd play some Everly Brothers after the break. Turns out it was a song I hadn't heard before, Cathy's Clown. For years all that was played back was my disappointment. One song feeds into another. From old mix tapes, song orders are cemented in young ears. It would jar when it wouldn't follow. It's like when two songs that lead quickly into each other, forming a one-two punch of awesome rocknroll are hacked asunder by some FM radio robot, leaving you hanging. We Will Rock You must be followed by We Are The Champions. There is no need to explain. I wonder how some of these songs, forty years old now are still somehow around. I wonder if they have any contemporary analogues. Will there survive some listening structure of format that will accommodate today's songs in forty years ? One hit wonders from 1978 still get 3 million hits on YouTube. Will there be a YouTube to host all of today's songs in the future ? And how many mixtures are there ? Playlist after playlist, burnt CD, the revived cassette, the film soundtrack of curated oldies. So much to sift through. There's no way of telling which of today's songs some kid will make a tape of. Like the death of saturday morning cartoons, a focused kids culture exploded into distinct VHS habits changing from family to family. Once all kids were hooked into Bugs Bunny, then some kids demanded Winnie The Pooh to be looped endlessly by desperate parents while others sunk into the sickening appeal of Caillou. A generation torn asunder, unwoven, disentangled. Watching space shuttles blow up in the sky. Sampling can only go so far, what could they do but mash-up ? And now we have what once was a years work primed for a conceptual showing in an art gallery along with impenetrable text presented as another anonymous GIF tossed off into the slop trough of our collectivity, shared reactively for the moment and then forgotten. That stack of vintage art magazines ? Track down the cover artists. Let's see how they did.
I'm curious about how many deaths have occurred in which metro stations. I'd think that some of the busier stations have seen their fair share of jumps. But what about the smaller stations ? The ones that lead to some more dismal part of town, nothing fancy ? Does Sauve get any suicides ? Jarry ? I'm curious and I know the information is out there but I'm not curious enough to track it down, chart it up and share it. I'm not even curious enough to google it and see if this information is snippety-snap available. Today the rains came thundering down and fed the greenery. We stayed in, after our accountant left with our tax documents, and had tea and cake in the window room, baby playing on the mat, oldies dialed up on youtube. Baker Street. Baker Street. What a song. One can be judged on how they relate to Baker Street. Sometimes I feel like the old cokehead in that song that wants to move away from the big city and forget about everything. I'd never jump, that's for sure. But I always hug the wall when I'm waiting for the tube. That human pull can be strong. What would it feel like to have that pressure meet my flesh ? I hug the wall, scanning the platform for folks standing way too close. Don't tempt the fates, you kid. I want to make a playlist of songs from 1978. I want the kids to hear them. One hit wonders, love songs that make the goosebumps rise. It would stop anyone from jumping. The longing in some of those songs. I want to spend more rainy days, taxes done, reading fantasy and listening to smooth rock as my lady sews and my kid slobbers on wooden blocks. It makes it all so easy. I want the kids to know which soundtrack works for these sweet middle aged moments. I never going to commute again.
The ghosts of Laurier Metro sit up tall, backs straight, attentive. They wait for their ride patiently but somehow never board. Content to leave oily shadows slicking the black stone walls behind every oval wooden seat, they remain on the platform. They've been there for years. No one exists who hasn't noticed them. That can't be said for too many ghosts.
I was nominated for a Quebecois comic book prize this year. The gala was held in a posh night spot on the other end of town. I felt it was proper form to attend even though I was exhausted from a long day. Taking the metro there, I thought I'd be late but arrived early enough to grab a seat at my publishers table. I was treated to a pint and sat with friends as the short ceremony begun. My sausage sandwich was too spicy and I didn't win the award. I was only a small bit disappointed and decided it best to walk home. The clear night air did me good and I avoided the busier streets. Montreal in the cool spring evening is gorgeous. The trees are all lush, in sharp contrast to a few short weeks ago when all was barren from a long brutal winter. I walked home and thought about working harder. The book that won belongs to a friend and is a marvel of intuitive storytelling. It can easily serve as a reminder for me to loosen up a bit more and follow my nose, not be so high strung and determined to make sense. Freak out a bit more, as it were. I also thought on my walk home that perhaps I overvalue my talent. I am prone to thinking how great I am, easily confusing the thoughts I've had with my actual output. This hit home when I started musing upon a street campaign using a particular local motif. A short block later, there it was, stuck to the street signs, some one else had manifested the idea. I tend to daydream a whole heck of a lot more than produce. I manifest but not as much as I imagine I do. Too often I have seen ideas I thought of stare back at me, the work of other hands. I must only look at my actual output and not my potential in weighing my worth as an artist. I still haven't bought the paper I need to begin my next book. A book that will be better than the last one. A book that better be. To be better, the artist must relax into the task, create a work from joy and not perceived audience expectation. I think I can do it.
He worried if the integrity of the circle would hold. It wasn't his first time casting but never had he felt so nervous. It was a beautiful evening, clear sky and little wind. The surrounding trees felt like the perfect guardians. He was taught to respect the boundaries of the circle, coming in and out of it only with specific gestures. The Special Guest, he noted, didn't seem to respect the bounds. They crossed where they liked and nobody corrected them. It took a lot for him to play along. He was naturally skeptical and deciding to participate in group ritual was something he made effort to achieve. If I am going to do this, he thought, I will do it how it's supposed to be done, how we were taught to do it. Why should others get special privileges especially when there was not even an attempt made at explanation? If the sanctity of the circle could not be upheld by the elders then why should he uphold it ? He couldn't help but question his role in all this, and the authority of those who invited the guest. Everyone was inside, building a mood of solemnity. Those assigned a task were at work. The others breathed deeply. The Special Guest though was muttering about something, He couldn't hear about what but it was snapping him out of whatever relaxed mode he strived for. This is not going to go well, he thought. Finally all the candles were lit and everyone was quiet. He felt his tension dissipate. Why do I always worry ? He thought, I have to learn to just go with the flow, not get so rattled up over time. The thunder clap came from nowhere and shook the trees. The leaves at the forest canopy felt the first drops of rain strike hard.
Wake up, take the child so his mother can sleep, after a while give child to mother so I can sleep. I read and fall asleep. I wake and take the child for a stroller walk so he can sleep. I get a coffee so I can wake up. After and hour or so strolling around, the kid does not sleep. I have to go to work. Uncle is waiting for us, he holds the boy while I ready the shop for opening. Mom comes home and soon takes her son. My brother and I look trough books he's getting rid of, some gems, some trash. He leaves. I tend shop. The day passes, nothing exciting. Some sales but no where enough to justify doing this anymore. It's pathetic. We survive on compliments and hope. I surf the net more than I need to. And by surf the net I mean back and forth between three social networks. I photoshop a couple of bunny images for my bunny blog, I have a couple of visitors, I excise some unwanted magazines destined for the give-box down the street. I look through a huge bag of donated children's clothes for the boy. The piles are installed in the back lot. one step closer to balcony installation. the workers cut down the only surviving honey suckle bush to do their work, the heartless bastards. We'll salvage what we can. I pay bills, I cut them a check for their labour. I have a half hour left to go. The lunch i ate today was a submarine sandwich and a chocolate bar. My breakfast was steamed kale and mushrooms garnished with finely chopped mint and parsley and grated carrot. Of course I had my warm cup of milk and my tablespoon of ghee. This life can be so much more.
Friends coming over with beer and food. Table and chairs for those who want them. The game may be turned on as a tip of the hat to the greater world we seldom care about. Music more probable but music to talk over. Some laughs. Doors open. I'd say monthly but years go by and nothing. Hard to plan an event around doing nothing. We work, we have families. Whatever. It happens when it happens. You're invited. But don't bring anyone else along, ok ? It'll just be us.
I'd take that corner out, smooth the edges. Knock the ceiling higher and clean the stairs. Rip out extra useless features and streamline that space between floor and wall. Redo the floor in hardwood, seamless. Windows open into extended patios, stairs to the roof where the deck awaits, vines growing over the whole area, making groves where tarpaper once was. Drain pipes leading right to the garden, grey water flowing back into the soil. Front door opens onto the street where friends can find us sipping tea and reading comics, can come up and join us, bringing with them juice and bagels. I have a room with a door and a window, the window is large and opens well, letting summer breezes rustle my papers. The door lets me in and invites others out when I need to work, otherwise sit on the daybed and chat with me while I sort through some details. My room has a desk in it, grande with cubby holes and pigeon holes and drawers for my things. One walls is lined with bookcases filled with my precious volumes, my tattered research materials and my collage piles. Another wall keeps my jars and collections. Filing cabinets keep my papers, my mock-ups and my manuscripts. I think I'll get a small table here so we can sit together and collaborate. Clients can visit and we can discuss projects. There is an altar in this room spilling with the objects that inspire me, it's near the window and gets dusting often enough. The kitchen leads into the garden of course, herbs abounding and vegetables a step away. There is a brook nearby leading to the lake. She goes swimming every morning.
Still no new art supplies. The to-do list shortens slowly nowadays. Each task gets waylaid by the matters at hand. Today I managed to buy a pair of shorts to wear in the house this summer. All my other shorts seem to have been given away in some fit of spring cleaning last year. We also managed to visit an art gallery and sit with a friend while there. The main task was getting the kid to the clinic to see what the spots were about. Seeing spots appear on the body of your kid is not pleasant. He wasn't too whiney so we knew it wasn't serious but still. One wants smooth babies not blotchy ones with fevers. We found ourselves too hungry to make the right lunch choice. We chose crappy pad thai from Thai Express, a chain whose photography far outshines the slop served up on paper plates. We made it home without getting too wet from the rain, the child napping in the stroller. As my lady went home and tried to rest I spun around the neighbourhood with my little man, keeping him aslumber while I poked around the give box and the mini book trading box. A few interesting scores for the store. Nothing I'd keep around for too long. It's tuesday night. Tomorrow I'll be in the shop dealing with the tetris of new display cabinets. Hopefully our girl friday can show up and give me a hand and some moral support. I'm anxious to redesign a portion of the shop but will have to wait for some art to come down before a certain corner is tackled. Yesterday my folks left for Greece. They'll be gone all summer.
It may have been late last night or early this morning when a forgotten phrase re-entered my thoughts. Tone poem is a musical term, I'm not sure if I knew that. I'm shamefully unschooled in proper classical music and its tendencies. A tone poem, I just found out, refers to some piece of music that takes as it's inspiration a poem or a painting, something that once was considered unsuitable to write music around. Since my interest in the term came with an ignorance of its meaning, I was free to consider what it may mean to me and my creative process. What a privilege! Instantly I saw an extended mood or tone being explored -in comics, for example. Panel leading to panel, all working out a sense of something rather than a plot. This is done constantly in comics and I have indulged in it as well. It came to me, I will accept, as a reminder to reconsider this approach to making comics. Shifting sequential images do not necessarily have to show action. Abstract comics have strung together tableaus of line or form evoking movement or change without showing much else. That's an extreme example. Good ol' regular story telling comics can use multiple landscape scenes or a roving camera eye over details to paint a picture, set a mood, etc. I am relishing the idea of slow comics, panels morphing slowly, action taking a back seat. Of course, what one is showcasing better stand up to a plodding movement. Would it work ? Is it gimmicky or wanky ? Maybe tomorrow I'll finally go buy my paper and supplies and start preparing myself for actual work and not whimsical considerations.
Write a word, a phrase. Followed by another and another. I'm not convinced. All I want to do is read. Summer windows wide open, stacks of books beside the couch, in my lap, cool water and fruit in a bowl. Reading theory and history and folklore, science fiction and fact, fantasy and myth, Gorging on it, drowsing as if with too little beer. Luxuriating as if no one will call, for hours, for days. Roll me over, call me for supper, pour me a drink again and again, I have notes to take, breaks maybe for coffee and dreamy walks. Let the words flow into my sleep, let me start with a nod and try again to polish off the chapter before I lay the text, splayed open, on my chest. My yearning pulls me here, to this desire. So simple that if indeed I had days to squander, I'd be a fool and seek diversion elsewhere, forgetting this one true love and seeking distraction in some shiny, moving thing.
My purging gets followed by new acquisitions. I have a bit of buyer's remorse for one over-large item. On the plus side I also have been given a whole whack of new items, some keepers, some pass-alongers. Easy come, easy go. Matter proliferates. New things are exciting and beautiful. Garage sale season is upon us. I am confronted daily with my desires and my failings. It is my job to accumulate and sell items but I must also be wary. Matter multiplies faster than it dissolves away into money. This week I have reduced some vital collections greatly. These gestures are instrumental for me, they signify gaining control over a compunction to collect thoughtlessly, to value things reactively, as if simply because I've collected something there is an inherent value there. Wrong. The value must be revisited. I must check in with myself and see why it is that I'm keeping something. Maybe what once was precious is now weighty and crude. Maybe what once was a drop in the bucket is the star of the show. And so on. I will continue to refine, to boil away, to distill until all I am left with is gold. First with my stuff, so that I'll have a clue what to do with my soul.
An article I read a few weeks ago put a small bug in my ear. The piece described the need to move away from the ironic stance that has swept not only poplar culture but contemporary art these last several years. The author made a case for meaning, hope and mystery. These elements have gotten a bad rap by certain arbiters of taste, coming off as sentimental. I have jotted down these three words and have reminded myself how much my interests relate to them. Separately, I've never been too strong on any one of these words. together, though, they are better. I invite one and all to meditate upon these three and see how they can be further inserted into the life. Meaning. Hope. Mystery. That Reiki workshop sure is taking it's toll on me.
The consistent monotony of retail is not something to build a journal around. The days leak banality. I forget what happens or what happens isn't too noteworthy. I refused antique cigarette prints. The picker saw them on the internet for 900 dollars each. how does one negotiate starting there ? one doesn't. I don't think that guy will come back. My regular picker brought me a load of antique photos, a persons entire life saved from the trash. Some beauties in there. I bought a flat file that is way too big for my space. Where will it go ? What will be dismissed to accommodate it ? It led me to redesign one corner of the shop that I now think works better but that still leaves the file out. I'll find a corner, I'll fill it with prints. When and how i don't yet know. I continued going through my large collection of posters and flyers. I reduced the collection by more than fifty percent. I donated the rest to a local archive intent on documenting independent culture. I al so relieved. My perspective has shifted. I don't care much anymore about clogging my life with other peoples achievements. I'll keep what I like or what I can sell, the rest gets passed on. That was today. Like most every other day. A slow shifting of material, around, sometimes in, sometimes out.
The days sneak right by me, whistling and side-eyed so I don't notice. They be all nonchalant and before I know anything I'm yawning with hardly any time left but a list still full. Write some shit down, draw a damned cartoon bunny, heat up some almond milk and stir in some ghee, meditate for forty fucking minutes with hands of light over my eyes, my temples, the back of my head, my throat, my heart, my solar plexus, below my navel, at my groin, on my knees, my ankles, the soles of my feet. Breathe in, breathe out slowly, six times a minute. Counting the whole time, nodding off, entering some dream place, left it too long, tired. It's quarter to ten in the pm. Nine is the new midnight. Every half hour past that is a whole hour in this new reality. I haven't stopped since six am. No, lies, I had a nap from 8 to 9:30 this morning. I found a book, an anthology of diarists. I read some of it, book leaning on the stroller, in the shade of a big tree on L'Esplanade. Stroller rocked back and forth as kid slept. I'm getting the hang of this. The tiredness is setting in deep. The first few months were nothing. It's starting in for earnest now. My lady has never slept and I'm slowly catching up to her. There is no question, you boy up and get dressed and find the wipes and do the changing. Walk the baby to sleep, rock him, stroll him, shush him. Hours and my voice is strong, my rhythm near perfect. The days fly by. To slow them I sort through paper, I rip into my archives, collections of garbage i've held onto for years for no other reason than compulsion. No more. Piece by piece, sorting through the piles, separating gold from dross. Reducing it down. A fine sauce. The rest ? Pass it onto better hoarders, committed ones who see value where now I see weight. Get it out of my house, these stacks of paper, these bits of someone else's press kit. See you later. Thankfully I have a friend who can help me, who can watch and suggest and support me as I reduce my keepings by eighty percent. The days go fast. The nights are fleeting. My dreams forgotten. But when I finally rest, I'll know I'm no longer surrounded by bullshit.
The weather has gone from cold to warm. The windows are left open now. The noise from the street comes in and makes itself known to us. It doesn't want us to forget about it. It is so nostalgic that way. I wish, I hope, that one day the noise from the street can just grow up and live life without us. That it can stop worrying about getting our attention and move on. There must be other ears for it, ears welcoming, maybe even ears deaf. The noise from the street comes in many voices, tones and moods. It so often isn't satisfied to murmur or lull. It too often insists on sudden claps, attempts to get our notice. Maybe it's us ? Maybe we should just ignore those advances. But it's hard. This is a long and complex relationship. Maybe we all have to move on. It'll be a while before it gets cold again and the windows close.
Last night I practiced the relaxation technique I learned this past weekend. In combination with deep breathing and particular postures, I came out of my forty minute reverie feeling like a million bucks. I hope to add this to my daily routine as a slow lead in to physical activity and spiritual practise. It is well situated between both. For many years I have hoped to learn techniques that would enable me to harness the energy I've glimpsed stirring in the palms of my hands. I am committed now to finish at least three weeks of daily meditative practise. I am unconcerned if the lengths of my daily text pieces decrease. I am unconcerned if my daily drawing habit skips a beat. I will still upload a text and a drawing daily knowing that my health takes precedent over these other concerns. I have proved to myself that writing is beneficial and that I am able to maintain some sort of discipline. Much clarity has ensued. The bunnies come and go with quality and I am ok with that. The meditation has been needing to start for far longer than I care to admit to myself. I am curious to see how it will affect the rest of my life. Stay tuned as I tune myself up for a future full of present days.
To walk streets slowly is a gift. Every step intentional, every sidewalk crack another line in a vast sprawling poem that each new walk reveals another stanza of. The houses, the homes, the buildings themselves creak with character. The hockey stick garden posts, the porch furniture sagging, the paint jobs and the rusting banisters, bicycles teamed up like herds, chained to each other. The chalk drawings on walls and in alleys, on sidewalks are all blessings. The children are safe and they can scribble, they can add to and better the ill thought out sprayings of their elders. They can write games, inviting slow walkers to take note, reminding fast walkers to slow down. Where are you rushing off to ? Yoga ? Coffee ? Don't rush to where you can slow down. Slow down all the way there. The trees are waking up. The blossoms cascade over lawns. There are book boxes, sharing spaces, places that reaffirm our humanity. There are so many things to give thanks for every step on the long way roundabout towards home. Gratitude comes with breathe, with slow and careful steps. Thank you.
It's not that late at all. I'm more tired than yesterday. I came home after an energy healing workshop and found I had to attend to things instead of lying back and absorbing what I experienced. That mean that this text is meaningless to me right now. I put down my two lines, kept the ball rolling however slowly and will pick it up again tomorrow. Adios.
Trying to write about art with zero references around you is kind of a dumb way to do things. There are so many nuances lost that even memory of beloved pictures falls short and fails. The scholar, I'm sure, has all the right pages marked clearly with post-its, all the right references lined up in a row. Huddle and limp, just tell the world you love something, tell the people there is an idea somewhere in your head. The things I love in no particular order: King Kong, the original 1933 film, the first Star Wars movies - they're called something else now but fuck that, The Lord Of The Rings books (the movies make me seethe and or kind of entertain me). How, I cannot imagine, can a director decide to make a 12 hour long movie mostly consisting of ring in hand shots, decide to completely remove the arguably most important part of the trilogy - the scouring of the Shire ? Anyway….I love crappy superhero comics of the seventies but not enough to care who is who in regards to artists, letterers, writers. I love paranormal shit, never got into ghost stories too deep but it's not too late. I love fantasy and science fiction, I love the shape of reported ufos, I love monster sightings but not enough to call myself an expert. The internet clearly shows that there are experts for every niche, and many to boot. I'm a luke warm Fortean. I love black and white logos, symbols and charms, type and noise, stamps and seals. I love mystery tongues and wizards, robots and villains, heroes and queens. Horses, tigers, dogs and elves. I love plant life and rock life. I love planes and gods, people and things. I'll keep Britannica open to my favourite page, the one I can rip out and scribble on. I love lost and found paper, old books and puzzling lists. I love the shape of lips and legs, clouds and bricks. I love poetry and songs, paintings and objects. I forget what I like, I lose lists like I make them. I love fantasy art. I love words. I love stories and myths, fables and tales, lies and jokes, pranks and hoaxes. I read and I forget details. I give the books away, I've forgotten which ones I've read. I don't keep score. I keep score. I'm no scholar, I'm a scholar without an index as of yet. Or a bibliography.
As a mid teen I tripped out on the paintings of Boris Vallejo who signed his slick fantasy paintings simply Boris. Any budding fan soon discovered that he and his wife served as models for the paintings, both being what is called in our society, attractive types. Boris himself was athletic and was a few leather and rivet gauntlets away from being a fantasy hero himself. The paintings were direct, glossy and tightly rendered. He would play with the usual colour fields as backgrounds and the occasional paisley shaped abstraction acting as body jewellery for his savage warriors queens. I knew, of course, of the work of Frank Frazetta, but somehow clicked onto Boris. In hindsight, a hindsight that is now over twenty years old, it is evident that if Boris is for mid-teens, Frazetta is for sophisticated people twice or three times that age. Boris is Menudo to Frazetta's Rolling Stones. Other lame analogies may fit as well, we'll leave them for someone else to pen. Frazetta's fantasy paintings, reproduced as prints, book and album covers, lovingly airbrushed on vans and motorcycle gas tanks, are art. Solid, complex, deftly executed pieces of art. He can be as tight as he needs be, but his classic paintings seems thrown chaotically onto the board, almost hastily. Quick dabs of paint, rough almost blurry forms and edges give his work energy and life. They move, they shimmer. The colours are moody and dank, swampy tones for primeval heroics. Boris, on the other hand, is candy clean and well lit. His work got more well lit, more staged as the years went by. I recall getting disappointed in his continued direction. The fantasy painter most akin to Boris at the time was Rowena, her clean line and light of day approach followed directly from Boris. By highlighting his style, Rowena showed me what I missed by siding with Boris while not immersing myself in Frazetta. He work was too staged, his heroics were in the photo room. Frazetta's heroics clearly clashed axes in his own psyche. This stuff was real. It was threatening to a fourteen year old. It was FM rock radio late at night, high on drugs.
I write all this because yesterday the deaths of two great fantasy artists were announced. From the shadow came H.R.Giger, discussed briefly in the previous post. From the faerie realm of baroque phantasmagoria came Patrick Woodroffe. Both these greats and their passing reminded me of my early love for fantasy art, how as a teenager their books enthralled me though I often couldn't afford them. Giger had a cheap edition by Taschen but Woodroffe always eluded me. I looked at his work and marvelled but I never took it home with me. I took home Boris. A few months ago I lucked out on two books by Frazetta, the classic editions I never picked up as a kid. The other books that I fear I'll start collecting are the Paper Tiger oversized paperbacks, Roger Dean et al. This house published both Woodroffe and Boris ! But the main artists who totally captivated my attention from the age of fourteen or so until my late teens were the inimitable Brothers Hildebrandt. From their spot on depictions of Middle Earth to their impossibly pretentious name to their feather in cap coupe of a Star Wars poster, they made me stop and look. I outgrew them though and now poring over their pages, I stop at the early Tolkein work. Urshurak and beyond just left me cold. Fantasy art. One of my dear strong early loves. I'll come around some day and try my hand like I did back then.
Visionary art is a label that has been bandied about these last few years and tends to get stuck to folks painting psychedelic blow-outs, ayahuasca visions, elaborate symbolic cosmographies and the like. Most of these visions are light-driven. The artist has ostensibly seen through the veils separating this world from the greater unseen one and has come back to report on their discovery via affordably priced giclée prints on canvas or sometimes lenticular blinkety-blinkies. Alex Grey, of course, is the name most often associated with this movement. Digital artists too using high resolution fractal software also create moving visions, allowing the viewer to tunnel into other-worldy realms. These visionary artworks so far discussed reach for a realm many yearn for, a realm of the light, angelic superstructures, shamanic bestiaries and cosmic unification porn. They are also undoubtedly related to the large and still growing body of fantasy art, from the paperback cover, the comic book, the airbrushed van to the album cover, the scratch built kit, fan art and beyond. Fantasy art has always embraced the mystical vision, the world beyond ours. It has also always shown us something other than the light of good vibes. There is a flip side to these visions. There are artists, rarely called visionary but are undeniably so, that choose to paint the shadow side of the cosmic dream. Nightmares, visceral architecture of body parts, spinal landscapes, creatures horrific and vast, the bad trip. H.P. Lovecraft sowed many seeds of unspeakable cosmic horror and set the stage for artists to bask in shadow. Heavy Metal album art often showcased the fantastical, Death Metal album art went to town, playing in the guts. Recently the world lost a visionary artist of great caliber. H.R. Giger played out nightmares of bio-mechanics on every scale. Vast cathedrals of terror or isolated bodies bound by bone and cable. His visions fused the body and the machine, not some quaint steam era machine but the living machinery of alien wizardry. Part fetish wank painting, part study of much-used operative function, part landscape, all nightmare. Beautiful, lush, infinite, original nightmare. Bravo maestro, you saw and you executed your visions perfectly, true visions that resonate strongly with many viewers. You will be missed.
Do I have the time to show up at the office and churn out a short paragraph about my thoughts and feelings ? Do I have the time to moisturize my face after working outside with sun beating down and pallets of earth moved across alleyways? Do I have the time to worry about Antarctica and the ice sheets and the people and Hydro Quebec and radical skepticism and ill informed rationalism and people who think way too much ? Do I have the time to consider and reconsider and reconsider still my contribution to what seems like a confused and collapsing civilization? Do I have the time to make a comic book and dream of a career in the arts instead of selling everything I have and moving to a small cabin in the countryside?
Ask me what I would do if I had five years to live and I wouldn't answer 'what I'm doing now' so why am I doing what I'm doing now instead of what I'd do if I had only five years to live ? Tell me about it. Tell me about my choices and my decisions and my set backs and cop outs and excuses and fears and paralysis and devil you know. Devil you know will strangle every last breath out of you, five years or no. And by you I mean me.
Here we are accumulating garbage for the big parade. Accumulating garbage to tuck into the loose corners of our coffins. And coffins ! What an extravagance. We'd be so lucky to get a nice lacquered wooden box to rot in. Some folks never get the option. They sink into the field where they are struck down, maybe thrown into the ravine with the others.
Sure, go back to school to get a masters degree, join the post docs in line for food and clean water. Wait for the corporate overlords to have their ghost of Christmas past moment, wait for Dick Cheney to shudder at his reflection and take it all back, take it all back, restore the droned children to life, restore the forest to it's majesty, restore the women to their humanity.
Let's work a tad harder, let's do a little spring cleaning all year round, let's whip it out and get it on, let's high five until the sun rises, let's sort the recycling, reuse the reusables, take out the trash, forgive our shitty neighbours, rejoice with our cousins and see where that takes us.
This is a moment of missives, this is the time for all times, we've made so many children, let's scrub the sidewalks for them so we don't have to pick glass shards out of their kneecaps. Let's turn off the power so they can breathe. Let's stop with the filth so they can eat some decent food and make their teenage parties something not tinged with ragged desperation born of hopelessness.
We'll turn around in circles until we straighten out this mess. We'll pull the plug and wear extra sweaters in the winter. We'll collect family members to live with us. We'll turn this boat around, I swear, and plant gardens in every cop car.
Little bearded heads, simply drawn, speaking text, unpanelled, 6 or more to a page, narrating action that isn't seen, memoir, opinion. Subtle differences in the shape of the face and expression of the features moves the reader's eye along. The text is without balloon, loose next to the drawing, short bursts. The shape of the face can change radically, the head can reference these changes in the text, formalist experiments that are easy to read. The head can refer to other cartoons, other characters can burst in and talk back to the head. Other characters can blaze a trail ahead of the bearded head and tell other tales. Two bunny creatures, names withheld for the time being speak in snippets and solo words, rife with inside jokes and wry nods to each other. They engage in a half telepathic dialogue, finishing each other's sentences, riffing and making word plays. They are simple contour drawings, text spoken by each critter directly above. They form sentences rather than panels, sometimes they are living in discrete spaces, two heads a panel, four panels a page, maybe more. A finely rendered little ceremonial magician embarks on a quest. Detailed pencil work, replete with smudging and erasing as graphic tools, four panels to a page, each panel originally drawn at four by six inches. The world this character lives in is a small town, plenty of greenery, parks and old brick walls. His home has many rooms, hard wood floors and ritual objects. Furniture is zen hippie. Unlike the other two proposals above, he has two books to his credit, one full length graphic novel the other a collection of shorts. Do I here 'stop inventing', ie: instead of launching into unknown territory, I make my next graphic novel using characters and a cartoon universe that already exists in print, reinforcing the brand, as you'd say. The temptation to somehow weave all proposals into one work sounds good in theory (maybe) but may also be a disaster in reality. Better the straightforward production, low on razzle dazzle and high in storytelling. I apologize for using this forum to outline and clarify my intentions regarding graphic novel projects. It is useful for me to do so. This is a journal of sorts, and I'm writing simply to maintain the habit and by chance, maybe hone my skills. This next big project in comics is much on my mind and I need to clarify my many conflicting thoughts about it. Scribbled notes aren't cutting it anymore, I have many of those. This process of writing about what I may do puts my thoughts in order, one after the other. I'm banking that at night, while I sleep, the proper decision will surface.
My first full length graphic novel was published by a house unfamiliar with the form and unfamiliar with how to sell it. Granted, it was a silent book and possibly quite oblique for people who don't make a point of reading comics. The book that followed it employed the same character and was a small run of three hundred copies. It was a collection of shorts that possibly didn't have enough breathing room between them and so came off crowded and possibly confusing. My very first comic book which came out years earlier than both of the ones mentioned above was a collection of radically different strips that may have made a groovy wtf reading experience but also didn't give the reader enough of any one thing. This upcoming and so far hypothetical fourth book cannot be doomed to obliquity. It would be good if it was easily read, simply enjoyed and provoked wonder enough to be reread. I am forced to admit that by over planning I get anxious and that if I simply trust the process and begin the final work straight away, a decent enough story will emerge. My one recurring issue is that I am starting to think that text in the body of the book may enable a wider audience. I am not convinced that silent books by my hand are not dismissed as too difficult to read or to 'get'. In my experience, many folks don't 'get' my work whereas the very few really 'get' it. For what's it's worth, I'd like more getting to happen. I have a possible publisher lined up and I'd like to provide something that they will feel confident is a book they can reasonably sell. Anything too inaccessible I may as well publish myself in a tiny run rather than blow a chance at wider distribution with something that doesn't sell or is limited to a small audience. At the same time of course, I am incapable of making a teen soap drama. Thanks to anyone who actually read this over long and fully naval gazing post. I am becoming overly self conscious about how often the word 'I' pops up in these missives.
Church is an odd thing. I don't buy a male creator god whose model of creation is mostly ladies making babies. I don't buy the dogma, the creed and all that. Not a bit. Always drawn more to the esoteric schools than the exoteric. I'd be happy to see the Vatican catch up, give away it's gold and start becoming a force for good in this world. I'd also be happy to have most Christians become environmentalists and start seriously protecting this garden of ours. Not going to happen ? Maybe. Today I was in church because my partner and I decided to get our 7 month old son baptized. Small affair, a few family members and friends. Baby took the ritual like a champ. I'm not a Christian, neither is my partner. I think I did this for the photographs, for the nostalgia of photographs. I don't need a ritual to remove sin from my spotless baby boy. I love ritual though. I love the incense and the iconography of the Greek Orthodox church. And I love a good post ritual feast with family and friends. I'm going to take the kid to church once in a while, let him suss it out. There are good things there. It's not all evil and backwards. That's it for today. Church isn't all bad. And it was the godparent we chose for our baby that had to renounce Satan, not us.
Three pieces of art advice that I have gotten over the years stick with me, surface from time to time. The most recent one, received at an artist residency around seven years ago from a visiting curator has proved pivotal to my practice since then. The first two, received from my brother maybe ten or fifteen years earlier helped me get through the intervening years. He looked at a drawing I was working on and simply said, 'use more black'. I repeated this to a friend or two for a laugh and they carried the wisdom around, inserting it into any remotely relevant conversation. I indeed started using more black and I found the advice fruitful. Too much space left untouched can leave a drawing free floating. Fear of blocking in white space with ink can stop a young artist from just going for it - fill that page, thicken those lines, shade like you mean it, like you don't care if something goes overboard, you can always make another one. The advice of course pertained to a specific drawing. The advice became abstracted and took on other finer meanings. It meant, roughly, work it. Or finish it, or make it more of itself. Another piece advice that my brother gave me has been told elsewhere, was issued when I was down after not getting a mainstream job drawing editorial cartoons. It was a 'use more black' tailored just for me. Brother John said, 'Bill', he calls me Bill not Billy, 'you can freak out better than most people can freak out, so … freak out'. I've been freaking out better since. The result of freaking out led me to continue feverishly a program of rampant experimentation begun in early adolescence. This then led to the third piece of advice, given to me by someone who hardly knew me personally and only knew the art that I made during the seven week residency. He told me, simply, 'stop inventing'. This threw me for a loop as I have always prided myself on what I perceived as versatility. The curator showed me the flip side to that. He was suggesting that instead of constantly churning out new ideas I may want to hunker down and refine a select direction. This would lead to a better grasp on my overarching themes and a honing of my skills. I don't think I've stopped inventing but I certainly keep the advice in mind. I often find myself spinning a whole new look instead of refining one that has served me well in the past. Since that day I have made a conscious effort to understand my various tendencies, to group traits and relate them in a cohesive manner. I have continued to invent but have become much more proficient at contextualizing, refining and understanding the art that I make. Thanks guys.
The people outside are wearing hockey jerseys in support of their team. This team, it can be argued, is also my team except I don't really follow their antics too closely. I have friends who do, who jump out of their seats at prime moments during a game, or match I think it may be called. These friends are good people so I don't begrudge them this simple pleasure. I can't say I don't care about sports because I can easily be coaxed into watching a bit and I'll get into it. It's easy to get into. It has to be. The only part, I suppose, that I may never understand is how one can continue to be excited by the win hours into the night if one isn't drunk. As a kid I was into it, I suppose, because I was a kid and mythology loomed large in our minds. Great players, newspaper photos, hockey cards, us and them, older siblings and fathers who were into it. All this made one lockstep into gear and follow along. Some of my little friends knew way more than the occasional name like I did. They knew scores and who was playing who and when. Divisions, play-offs, player numbers, the whole bit. I'd limp to their confident parkour. I had a jersey of my own. I still have it, rigid and tiny. Quality stuff. It used to mean something. Now, post bitter irony mass culture hate on, I've mellowed a bit and understand the role these things play. I won't have it but I'll dip in once in a while, a tourist in my own town.
I was born in 1968 making someone born in 1972 a mere child. This of distance has somewhat diminished since I've accrued decades. As a kid one year apart makes a huge difference. My brother was born in 1967 which is altogether a cucumber year as opposed to a tomato year like 1968. These distinctions are crucial until all of a sudden they aren' anymore. Being born in the late sixties gives one, if they manage to survive, an early to mid seventies childhood. One understands iconographic images like blunt tipped stars trailing rainbows, pinball machine graphics and bubble windows on chevy vans. One is torn between disco and rock until one isn't. One is iron-oned, bell bottomed, bowl cutted. One has a 1980s adolescence. The eighties took me from twelve years of age to twenty two so any subsequent eighties revival made me cry foul for it's revisionism. This also made me wince at the nostalgia for the mid seventies that also came about. I still wince seeing certain trends return from the grave at revolving door speed. I too am guilty. I adored the 'sixties'. I idealized LSD research and crash pads, underground commix and sitars. I also read up enough about it all to be cynical, knowing Death Of Hippie preceded The Summer Of Love, Altamont followed Woodstock and Speed Kills. I also knew that the patchouli and dreadlocked didgeridoo hippies of the 1980s were way off base and nothing I could relate to. As I aged I gravitated towards the early seventies for my music. As I grew my hair and experimented with my mind, man, my friends were getting into punk rock. I'd tag along and also loved that scene to a point. As an amateur rock historian it was my duty to find the roots of things and dug those early raucous sounds that of course i missed out as a five year old. My personal aesthetic was long haired t-shirt patched and ripped jeans suede or corduroy jacket and a bit of a sneer to my smile. I'm not hippie and I don't love you was my line, though I may have passed pretty well. In the eighties I was up on what my very up friends were digging. I was sick of U2 by grade eight, way before you got sick of them. The local scene was revealed by the end of high school and with it forms of music I recognized as part surf and part garage and part just plain weirdo. It was a revelation of course. My eighties were Bauhaus not Joy Division, Smiths or The Cure. They just made more sense to me. They fit in better with Jon and Vangelis. Right now when I'm browsing books I can spot a 1972 poetry chapbook from four feet away. I now the typefaces and the design. I collect them if they don't suck. I have friends that were born in the seventies, eighties, nineties. They are all just as mature as me. They teach me about all the art and culture I've missed out on while I was on my own path. Music from the twenties. Painting from the fifties. Time behaves funny as one ages. It wiggles and changes places. It isn't a steady stream, it's a many armed river and it flows backwards and stays still. I stopped wearing baseball hats when I was ten.
I love nodding off while reading. The words blur and the dreaming self continues the sentence in ways unexpected. I've snapped to and seen that the last words I read were nowhere on the page. Falling asleep on the bus is a pleasure I haven't had in years, since I was a daily long distance commuter. I'd bring a book, hike my knees up against the back of the seat ahead open my book and eventually nod off. Again, on road trips, the car getting silent as the driver focuses, the shotgun co-pilot drifts off and I, in the back seat, bob my head, never quite making it, half trying to stay awake for the nebulous benefit of the driver. In my father's arms, a mere child, mostly asleep as he takes me from the bed full of coats where we were crashed out to the car, after a family party. Pure pleasure, easier than making the walk on my own. Staying awake, bordering on sleep, as baby wakes up again and again. Doctor's waiting room, Chatelaine in hand, eyes closed. Almost but not quite. On the acupuncturist's table, breathing deep, twenty needles in me treating heat in the body. The doctor leaves me for twenty minutes or more, I drift into dream. Getting back to bed, tired from a day of hardly sleeping and working hard. As soon as I hit the pillow and pull the blankets over me, teasing tastes of last night's dreams rush back. They've been waiting for me, soaked in the bedding, dreams woven through the thread count. Right now, asleep at the keys, tapping notions, eyelids drooping heavy. Needing a book jammed under my chin, splayed open on my chest, the best pillow. Read a paragraph, something about something and I'm off.
Did I have enough fun while I was single and childless ? Did I misspend my youth adequately ? Did I party in a way that my 90 year old self will look back and crack a contented smile ? No, across the board, no. Sure, I had fun, I partied, I had a gas at times. Most often though I sat in a room with friends who held guitars and passed reefers or passed reefers and watched bad movies or funny movies or good movies, but movies all the same. At the time, that's what was done, that's how the friends gathered. Looking back, what a waste of getting wasted. What a load of boring non-events I sought out night after night. I should have gone dancing when I said I didn't feel like it. I should have made a pass at her, him, them when I had the chance. I should have said, yes, I'll visit you in Vermont, yes, I'll eat those mushrooms, yes, I'll meet your friend, yes, I'll go camping. Too often it was sorry, I don't feel like it. In reality I was nervous, anxious, afraid. Afraid of novelty. Fear of threshold, I called it. I'm afraid of stepping over that invisible line and into a new world. Once I'm in the new world though, big deal ! Oh this ? Why was I afraid of this ? This is nothing. It wasn't the new world I was afraid of, it was stepping into it that sounded my alarms. Why is this ? Why should novelty be such a terrifying thing ? Devil you know will bore you to tears. I was often so bored and it's true what they say, it's because I was boring. I still may be boring but I think I'm actually a little less so nowadays. We'll see how this plays out. I was bored, I sat and scribbled while my friends sang songs together. I was too nervous to sing along. I wasn't good at it, so I drew to the beat. I was a visual artist insisting on hanging out with this bunch of musical people. I could have been sitting around a table and laughing and drawing with other drawers but they weren't the ones who were my friends. It's complicated. Yes, there is regret. I can't get into all the shoulds right now because I'd run out of pixels and life is too short to boot, but I should have had more courage. I should have got up and left. I should have sought out another scene. I should have stayed home and I should have gone out. I should also cut myself some slack, now I know about that whole youth is wasted on the young thing, 20/20 hindsight and all that. At the time, all I was doing was hanging out with my friends. I didn't think that I was actually making decisions or that I had options or choices or any of that. I was hanging out with my friends. Passively. Repeatedly. Boringly. Man, get out there and try out people. Go to parties, meet strangers, buy your own drugs, sing out loud even if the whole world knows you suck because by doing so you won't. It's not to late for me, near forty-six and father to a baby boy. I'm learning new things and trying things out, slowly maybe but surely. And I don't want this kid to be too afraid of this old world of ours. I won't push it but I hope he falls farther from the tree than I did.