A Very Short Story About The Parting Of A Man And A Mouse

The mouse put his hand on my shoulder when we got close to the border.

-I am afraid that I cannot follow you past this point, for I am forbidden to cross.

-That is most definitely sad news. You have been a tremendous friend and a valuable ally. I hope that this will not be the last that I hear from you. Are you by any chance on facebook?

-I am a mouse. So, no.

-Of course. Well that is sad indeed.

We stood there looking at one another in silence for a long while. The sun set. The constellations appeared and slowly clocked around the sky. Approaching dawn lightened the horizon. At last I spoke.

-I hate saying goodbye.

-Then you should just turn around and walk away.

So I spun on my heels and marched toward the border.

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The Candy

1

Candy

Casey Deane

Eleven year old Axel Malidore was all by himself when he hopped off the school bus one spring afternoon and almost immediately a van rolled to a creep alongside where he walked and a stranger propositioned him.

The sun was hanging heavy in the sky at that hour and beneath it the warm breeze of the year’s first equinox weaved it’s way through newly budding trees. An abundant flock of starlings cascaded against the deep blue above like a single black cloud and then lifted abruptly up and over unseen thermal pressures, shifting and suddenly falling before rising again and turning in a seemingly random pattern of path through the air.

Earlier the driver of the van was hungry and tired from being locked in a long fight against temptation. It gnawed at him, this demon, pestering and fingering him in the gut from morning through night, day after day, year after year. He had been driving and momentarily distracted, eyes off the road, snared by the sight of the birds and their chaotic flight, when those very birds by chance led his line of vision to drift across the boy walking alone on the sidewalk.
An opportunity, the man thought, fallen right into my lap.

Birds forgotten the man sank his foot onto the brake pedal and as the van slowed down he dropped the passenger window and let slip out an urgent pssst.

“Pssst. Kid. Hey kid.”

Axel glanced over but kept walking.

“Kid. Do you like candy?”
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Hell yeah I like candy, Axel thought, it was one of two things he’d contemplated all day. So he began toward the van. Suddenly a lone starling swooped in front of his face and he watched as it settled fleetingly on a nearby branch. It sang a single
note before it took off and disappeared.

“C’mon kid. I’ve got a lot of candy here.”

When Axel reached the van the man gestured with a nod to the door handle, “Open it.”

Axel swung the passenger door open and the man leaned over and pointed down to a cardboard box on the passenger seat. “It’s all right here. You can take as much as you want.” Take it, the man thought, the sugar; my vice, my lethal addiction.

Axel peered in as the man began to describe the contents of the box to him, “Sour worms. Liquorice. Suckers. Chocolate coins. Jelly Beans. Bubble gum…”
Axel let out a tiny gasp and whispered, “Look at all the Lifesavers.”

The man, beads of sweat and stray strands of wispy hair falling over his pink face, smiled a slightly crooked and somewhat brassy smile. “Yup. Lifesavers. Oh, and…” He reached into the box and pushed some of the candy around until he found a package. The crooked smile spread wider across his face and he swept his hair back and winked, “Gobstoppers.”

“Gobstoppers.” Axel repeated, eyes never leaving the box, “I can have this? You’re serious?”

“Dead serious.”

I know who will love this, Axel thought as he opened his knapsack and began to fill it with candy until the cardboard box was empty and his knapsack was full. “Thanks mister.”

*

Axel opened the door to his home and his mom called from the living room, “Ax, is that you?”
Axel paused in the foyer and studied himself in a mirror. “Yeah mom.”

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“How was school?”

“Good.”

“That’s nice honey. I’m heading out soon okay? Microwave some of that chicken cass…”

“I’m having candy for dinner.”

“…for dinner. And go upstairs and you make sure you get changed out of your school clothes before you go back outside.”

“Ok.”

Axel bounded up the staircase and cornered into the washroom where he stood in front of the toilet bowl and dropped his pants to his ankles. He rummaged through the newly acquired bounty in his knapsack while his pee splashed in the water and then off the toilet seat and then back in the water again. He found a chocolate egg filled with candy cream and dropped the knapsack onto the floor beside him then pulled the coloured foil off the egg with his teeth and spat it out, watching it float like a feather until it landed silently on the surface of the toilet water. He popped the entire egg into his mouth and with his hands aimed the pee stream and pummelled the piece of foil. When he finished peeing he pulled his pants up to his waist, flushed the toilet and watched the defeated and submerged candy wrapper foil spin around in a vortex until it disappeared. Then he rushed from the washroom, knapsack slung over his shoulder. He bounded back down the staircase and glanced at himself briefly as he passed the mirror in the foyer. He could hear his mom in another room begin to call out, “Axel, did you…”
But before another word could reach him he was out of the house and the front door had closed behind him.

*

Several stray and quickly moving clouds streamed and tumbled and tossed various patches of dark roaming shade onto the gentle slopes of the park and over the benches next to the playground where a boy no older than Axel sat swinging his

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feet. Simon was busy scrolling his phone and inspecting his fingertip after having retrieved it from his left nostril. Brow furrowed in concentration he was about to
switch apps and return for another dig when he heard the shuffling footfalls of Axel approaching along the paved bicycle path. He wiped his finger discretely on the
front of his pant leg and gave his classmate a quick nod. “What’s up man?”

Axel approached Simon, popped a last nerd into his mouth and chucked the empty box onto the grass, then he swung his knapsack from his shoulder and opened the zipper, “Yo… check this out.”

Simon took a peek into the knapsack. “Holy motherfucking shit. Where did you get all that?!”

“An old man rolled up on me when I was walking from the bus drop and…”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Nope.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Nope.”

Simon tilted his head back and let his jaw hang open. “Why doesn’t shit like this ever happen to me?”

“I don’t know,” Axel answered, “Maybe because you suck.”

Simon scratched a scab on his elbow and shrugged, “Shit, I guess so. Can I have some?”

Axel stuffed his cheek with a long red twisted piece of liquorice, re-zipped the zipper and swung the knapsack back over his shoulder. “Nope.” Then he wiped some artificial cherry spittle from the corner of his lip with his sleeve, spun around, and slowly strutted away from where Simon sat on the bench.

Simon sighed and sat with his shoulders slumped, picked at his scab, kicked at the dirt, and watched Axel walk away.
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*
The sidewalk was washed in a long blue shadow. It extended from rusty red brick storefronts that were packed tight and tall each next to the other. Axel emerged from the adjacent bicycle path and meandered his way up the walk where he spotted a classmate leaning against the door entrance to one of the shops.

Brendan had all of his attention zeroed on the electronic device cradled within his sweaty palms.

Axel stopped in front of him, “Brendan.”

Brendan peered up then looked back to the shop window and back to Axel again, “Hi. My mom says I’m not allowed to play with you.”

“I know,” Axel responded, munching on a candy dip-stick, his upper lip encrusted with neon green sugar powder. He held out his open knapsack, “Check this out.”

Brendan gasped and both of his long blonde eyebrows popped up toward his hairline. “Where did you get that?”

“Some old man rolled up along side me when I was walking home from the bus stop and gave it to me.”

Brendan let his electronic device drop with his hands to his waistline and did a double-take from the knapsack to Axel and to the knapsack again. “Do … I mean … what about… I mean do you think that was a good idea?”

“Fuck no.”

“Axel!” Brendan indicated to the shop door and hissed, “My mom’s right there.”

“Sorry. No. I do not. What kind of idiot gives away a whole box of candy for free?”

“No I meant you. I mean… do you think it was smart to take the candy?”

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Axel retrieved a sucker from the knapsack and began to unwrap it. “Um… yeah, sure.” He tossed the sucker onto his tongue then turned and began to walk away.

“Ax?” Brendan called out.

Axel stopped and spun around.

Brendan took a step toward him, “Can I have some?”

Axel approached his classmate with an inquisitive look, “Are you allowed?”

“Shut up.”

“Are you?”

“No.”

Axel with sucker stick sticking out let spread a slow sardonic smirk. Brendan scowled, pursed his lips and kicked his foot against the ground.

*

Axel sauntered down the street, occasionally he stopped to peek at his phone or to delve into his knapsack. After a while he neared where the row of shops successively diminished and in a short distance a railway crossing cut the road and it was precisely at the moment when he looked up from his root for a gummy hot lips that he spotted Sariya Iolana.
She stood across the street on the opposite sidewalk in front of a narrow break that separated two of the last buildings on the strip. He recognized her instantly, though she was silhouetted by shafts of golden soon-to-be-setting sunlight that slipped through from behind the two-story structures.

With eyes locked on the girl Axel stepped onto the street and almost immediately the loud scream of car tires sliding across asphalt erupted and was just as suddenly eclipsed by the incredibly vociferous howl of a horn.

A man behind the wheel of the affronting vehicle shouted at Axel as the glass in his door window slid down, “Look before you cross! You could’ve been killed!”
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The man facepalmed, shook his head and muttered to himself, “Look both ways before you cross the goddamned…” He interrupted himself by shouting out the window again, “Where the hell are your parents?!”

Axel spun and raised his arm in a fist to the sky and the driver, his face warped with outrage and expecting an answer, received the bird instead. His mouth dropped. He was about to further berate Axel, who had already spun back around and was in mid stride away, when a car behind him began to honk. The driver in the rear, his travel so rudely jammed, was in the midst of vividly pantomiming an act of unmistakable rage. Although this rage may have been misdirected it did not stop the driver from honking a second and a third time in quick succession. So the first driver begrudgingly slid his window back up and as he did so revved the car engine and pulled away.

Sariya was holding her phone in an outstretched hand and casually preening herself.

“Hi Sariya.” Axel said when he had arrived at the other side of the street.

“That was dumb.” She lowered her arm and nodded to his knapsack, “Why do you still have your bag?”

A quick gust of wind pushed through the alley behind her and Axel noticed how it caught her black hair and feathered it across her cheek and her lips.

“It’s full of candy.”

“Thought so.”

“Want some?”

“Ew. No way. I heard you got it from a creepy old man.”

“Who told you that?”

She blew a bang off her forehead, “Don’t worry about it.”

“What’s in your bag?” He asked her.

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“A book.”

“A book?”

She folded her lips tightly together then released them and cracked a grin, “Yes Axel, a book,” she answered facetiously.

“What book?”

“Never mind. There’s a bird too.”

“A bird?” Axel glanced up into the sky but it was empty.

“Yeah.”

He leaned in, his face clouded and eyes fixed on her bag. “Is it alive?”

“Um yeah.”

A dog barked in a yard somewhere behind them. Sariya stared out along the street past the railway crossing far off into the distance.

Suddenly she rolled her eyes and broke into a laugh, “I’m just messing with you. It’s dead.”

“A dead bird?”

“Yes a dead bird.”

“Did you kill it?”

“Maybe.” She answered slyly.

A car horn honked a block away.

Axel looked at Sariya and then tried to follow her gaze to whatever she may have been looking at. In the sky early evening cirrus curled and swirled in a mix of

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gold, grey and white. A breeze picked up some momentum and then just as quickly faded away.

Axel, his face contorted in contemplation, looked down to the ground, then all around, and finally to Sariya. “Sari…”

She raised an eyebrow.

“…do you ever wonder what it’s all about?”

Sariya let out a sigh and folded her arms in a hug around herself. “No.”

Axel looked at his bag of candy. “Are you ever going to try to kiss me again?”

“Ew no.” She turned to look at him, “Axel Malidore that was a mistake.” She pierced him with a glare and he was transfixed; trapped in her stare.

She patted him patronizingly on his shoulder, “A big mistake.” She held his gaze for an eternity. He blinked and she broke from him.

Axel frowned and let his shoulders slump as Sariya began to walk away.

“I guess I’ll see you at school tomorrow.” He called out.

She turned her head to the side, “Only if you’re not dead!”

He looked at his knapsack. “Sariya Iolana,” He said quietly. “Damn.” And he kicked at the pavement.

*

Axel walked a ridge outside of the city limits along the set of train tracks until they began their long gentle curve up and further away from town and he could see the city street lights below him begin to twinkle in the twilight and somewhere unseen he could hear the sound of a siren wailing.
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After the sun had set he sat on one of the track rails overlooking the streets of the city and watched the streetlights continue to ignite in the distance. He munched on
the contents of his knapsack while a faint echo of his mother’s voice sounded far away and buried near the back of his skull, saying something that was often repeated about being home before it got dark. He sat there eating while the crickets began to chirp, the shadows around him grew deeper and darker, and the clouds in their constant shifting motion against the blackening empyreal backdrop veiled and then revealed in turn the first of the early night’s stars.

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The Needle

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The Needle

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. – From one of the Bibles

She was the greatest needle farmer in the Ottawa Valley, my Grandma was. That’s what they say. In my mind it went far beyond that. The entire province and maybe the world. Though she being humble would never admit as much.

“Mostly practice and most could do it,” she’d say, “with help from a little luck.”

She’d wink at me as she led me by the hand, my little feet shuffling next to her big boots over late autumn soil as black as oil.

Haystacks planted in row after tidy row silhouetted against the silver light of dawn and we’d tread in the intimacy of familiar rolling fields that sank and crested like ocean swells. My hand in hers and I could feel the calluses on her skin and the scars etched deep and ancient into her palm.

“Early morning,” She’d say, a stick of straw clenched in her teeth and her cap brim low over her brow. “Is when’s best. Before they wake and become aware of the day.”

As the first rays of sun pushed pools of fog from the shallows and evaporated feather-fine fingers of frost from the furrows we would stop and she would settle her free hand on a particular stack of hay and slowly nod her head. A haystack ripe for picking.

“Now take a step back,” she’d say and she would run her hands over the straw and she would lean her body close, her cheek mere inches from the yellow mound. As I stood captivated she would push her fingers into the haystack up to her wrist and push further until her entire arm would sink up to her shoulder and her face would be pressed against the side of the stack, her lips pursed and her eyes narrow and focused in concentration while I held my breath.

When she pulled her arm out I would clap and beam for there it would be. Slender and silver, long and sharp, pinched between two fingers. A single shiny needle. Hand sown and haystack-harvested.

These mornings were my favourite. The two of us, Grandma and me. Me begging her to have a try at it and she shaking her head, telling me that I was still too young, my arm too short and the needles too sharp.
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It was hours into a morning such as this, after we’d both returned from the fields with a bundle of freshly picked needles when uninvited and unannounced, the camel rider arrived.

I was inside with my Grandpa as he tended to the carpet he was growing. The day before I had watched as he painted a thin layer of adhesive onto the farmhouse hardwood floor. He kept the shades open and all day amber sunlight streamed through window glass in a shifting arc as the world turned. The house dust that hung suspended in the still air eventually settled into a fine coating over the adhesive and by early evening the floors had developed into an inch of soft felt. Overnight the carpets grew and when we woke in the morning they had matured into luxurious plush, though Grandpa wouldn’t allow us to tread on them; the carpets he grew weren’t for us. They were to be rolled up, stacked and sold later at market.

“Outside with you. Go on.” He said when he spied me edging a toe into his work. He stood on a strip of exposed hardwood with hooked carpet knife in hand. “And close the door behind you. One stiff breeze and this will all turn to shag.”

So I sat down on the porch steps with one of Grandma’s needles clenched in my hand and from there I saw the camel and the rider. They were approaching along a gravel lane that led from the main road. The lane cut along the side of one of the hayfields and along the length of it were a row of fat deciduous trees. The trees had shed most of their leaves save for a few that now fell silently around the man on his mount. Leaves of red, gold and orange that fell to the gravel and were crushed beneath the hooves of the camel as it neared.

Grandma stood close to the house. She was under a lone pine where the lane passed near the porch and she was turned away from me with her eye on the peculiar pair.

The man on the camel was dressed in a fine tailored suit and his hair was combed shiny and flat on his bare head but his eyes were sunken and his skin pale and pasty. The saddle he sat on was of oiled and ornately decorated leather. It was bound with copper rivets over ebony hardwood, studded with beads and jewels and embossed with swirling patterns and intricate designs. Behind him rose a tall and richly carved backrest of the same ebony and in the front of him a prominent forked horn extended to the height of the top of his head. The saddle rested on several folded saddle cloths heavily embroidered in a labyrinth of golden thread and dyed in a myriad of yellows, reds, and oranges and from them there hung tiny bells of gold and silver that chimed and sang with every step. The rider sat cross-legged on the saddle like a crown atop the camel’s shoulders and when he had come quite close he pulled up on braided reins, came to a stop and gave a nod to my Grandma, she chewing on her stick of straw with her dusty cap and hands buried deep in her coverall pockets.
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“That’s an impressive beast you got there.” Grandma said to the man. The camel snorted and shifted it’s eyes under heavy lids.

“Yes. Yes, it is. Too impressive I’m afraid.” The man pulled from a breast pocket a large white silk handkerchief with a rusty stain the size of a fist and holding it over his mouth broke into a lengthy fit of coughing.

“Not something we see around here often.” Grandma continued while the man continued to cough.

When the man had ceased his spams he held the handkerchief up to an overcast yellow sky, the stain now wet and dark. He scowled, shook his head, folded the handkerchief and tucked it back into his pocket. He peered down at me and then at Grandma.

“I hear you’re a needle farmer.”

“I am.”

“Heard you’re the best there is.”

Grandma flashed me a glance before answering. “Can’t say whether that’s true or not, but there ain’t many of us left anymore.”

“Well it’s been a long, tiring and tedious search for you so I know the last part to be correct.” The man stopped his speech and held his hand to his chest as though waiting for another cough to erupt. The camel chewed it’s cud and swatted at a fly with it’s tail. The moment passed without cough and the man lowered his hand and continued.

“Let’s get down to the tacks.”

Grandma nodded, “Ok let’s.”

“I’m dying.”

The camel paused briefly mid-chew and a sudden wind swept past. Several of the bells sounded and then went still.

Grandma pulled the piece of straw from her teeth, “Sorry to hear.”

“Happens to us all someday. But that’s not the point. The point of my visit is that I need a needle and when one is in need of a needle I’m told you’re the one they need.”

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“And the point of your point?”

“My point being that this need is a little different than most. I say this because the point isn’t the point at all.”

“It isn’t?”

“No. It isn’t. It’s the other end where my interests lie.”

“Is it?”

“Yes it is. I’m interested in not the point but the eye.”

“The eye?”

“The eye.”

The man and Grandma locked eyes. The camel snorted and swatted it’s tail and my gaze shifted between the two, man and Grandma, back and forth. They contemplated each other for what seemed like a long time until at last the man struggled for a breath, “What I need…”

He reached for the handkerchief and hesitated with it still folded, “…is for you to find me a needle…”

He was interrupted by a throaty hack and with a practiced flick of his wrist covered his mouth and coughed bright red specks into the stained silk.

Grandma chewed on her straw and watched as the man let out a long wheeze then wiped his lips before continuing.

“A needle large enough for me to drive this here beast I’m sitting on directly through the eye at the blunt end of it. To put it bluntly.”

Grandma let her jaw drop and the stick of straw clung to her bottom lip.

A large crow sitting on the farmhouse weathervane cawed loudly then spread it’s wings and slowly took off into the late season flaxen sky.

The camel chose the moment to evacuate it’s bowels and the results plopped in a steaming heap onto the lane.

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Suddenly Grandma erupted into a deep laugh and the straw hanging from her mouth bounced and quivered and shook. She bent over and held her side while her body trembled and the straw danced.

Then the camel took a step forward, let out a heavy sigh and allowed it’s legs to fold beneath it as it sank to it’s knees.

The man, his face aghast, widened his eyes and tried to force a piercing stare, “I’m bloody serious. I’m in a dire state and I’m convinced your needle may be my gate into paradise.”

Grandma shook out her head and the last of her laughter and even the grin faded from her face.

The man pulled a bloated velvet purse from a pocket. He hefted it over end and let it bleed several gold coins into his hand. Each shimmered one by one as they fell. “Whatever the cost.”

The camel rolled it’s eyes and let it’s tongue glide over it’s lips.

“Isn’t the cost that concerns me,” Grandma reinserted the straw between her teeth.

The man began to wheeze and with his next breath burst into another coughing fit, handkerchief drawn open and over his mouth.

“What concerns me…” Grandma tilted her cap brim up on her head and turned to survey the fields behind her, “What concerns me is the logistics of it all. If it can be done at all, that is.”
She sighed and went on, “Never farmed a needle larger than what could fit into my hand.”

The man on the camel, his attempt at wide eyes exhausted, eyed her where she stood from beneath heavy lids, his handkerchief still held to his face and he still coughing and sputtering into it.

Keeping her head turned Grandma continued, “Then there’s the time of course. Too late in the day today. In fact too late in the season. Would need to start early next spring soon as the ground thaws. Hayseed a whole field just for it, maybe more, can’t say right now.” She slapped at a fly on the back of her neck, “A whole field just for it.”

The crow cawed again, this time from the top of the lone pine. It spread it’s wings lazily then folded them and watched from where it sat perched high on a branch.
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Grandma kept talking, “Growing the hay will be the easy part of the thing. Even the cutting won’t be so bad. But the stacking – I can’t even imagine it right now but I imagine it’ll be a mighty sizeable stack judging by the size of that there camel you came riding in on, if you’re so determined, and you claim you are, about…”

“Grandma?” I tried to interrupt her.

“…And come to think of it, it’ll take more than just an arm length to find the darn thing once and if we ever do get all that hay to stack. I imagine I might need to crawl right inside…”

“Grandma?” I tried again.

“…So I’ll need a ladder or some sort of scaffold seeing as how I’d rather search from the top than reach up from the bottom on account of most times the eye being right side up and the point pointing down, so it saves a lot of skin as opposed to the other way around and that’s only if…”

“Grandma!” I finally shouted.

Grandma stopped her speech and looked at me and I indicated with a nod to the man on the camel.

He sat dead on his saddle with legs still crossed, his head tilted forward and his chin resting on his chest. His eyes were shut and his arms hung limply by his sides. He had surrendered his purse to the ground. The gold coins in a pile there on the ground and his open hand free of them. The handkerchief was picked up by a breeze and danced away along the lane like a leaf. The bells that hung from the saddle cloths rang together and the crow lifted up from the top of the pine tree and flapped away into the late morning sky.

Grandma walked over to the man, reached to one of his eyes and gently lifted a lid. It stayed open and behind it his eye was foggy and grey like a piece of smoked glass. With her finger she pulled the lid down closed again and brushed her hands off on her coveralls, “Well I suppose that puts and end to that. Poor fool, graspin at straws, wasn’t he?”

Grandpa slipped out of the farmhouse door and stood on the porch shutting the door behind him. “I heard bells. What the…” He pointed with his carpet knife at the animal sitting on the lane, “Is that a camel?”

Grandma pulled her cap off, slapped the dust off it and refit it on her head. “We could probably use one of your carpets dear.”
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Grandpa went back inside and I still holding the needle brought the eye up to my eye and beheld through it the entirety of the camel; head, neck, saddle, dead rider, hump, legs and tail. When I lowered the needle I saw Grandma smile at me.

“Let me see your arm, hold it out.” Grandma said after she’d walked over and taken a seat.

I held out my arm.

“Turn your hand over, palm up.”

I turned over my hand and she took it into hers and examined it, her thumb tracing over the fold lines in my skin. She took the needle from my other hand and held the eye up to her eye and I could see her gazing at the camel and the dead rider through it.

“There’s a small haystack in the far back corner of our field back there.” She lowered the needle and motioned with her head to the field that she spoke of. “It’s ripe for picking. If you think you’re ready, that is.”

She turned to look at me and I met her eye with mine and the both of us allowed smiles to break across our faces while the bells on the camel saddle rang, gold and red leaves danced over the lane and the crow circled high in the sky above.

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A quick little blog post to take your time with

I was faced with a bit of a conundrum today when I was at a mall in the food court and I arrived at the cashier fully prepared to order myself a tuna sandwich. This has nothing to do with embarrassing myself on the escalator moments earlier when I accidentally and awkwardly asked a bunch of unresponsive strangers if the dollar store sells laundry detergent. I had intended the question to remain in the private confines of my mind but my mind had felt the need to share my thoughts with my mouth. However, as I indicated earlier, oh I don’t know, at least one or two sentences ago, or a few dozen words ago, it hardly matters exactly how the offending passage is quantified so I will provide the courtesy of leaving the method of storytelling measurement to you while I get on with what was supposed to be a brief yarn. What I am hinting at is that the talking to myself on the escalator anecdote is irrelevant and has only served to make a short story longer. I humbly apologize for the slow start in writing about what actually happened and I assure you with all of my sincerity that I will commence to the telling of the real drama without another pause. Here then was the pertinent problem: The sandwich shop in the food court offers the tuna sandwich on a bun or in a wrap. Unfortunately this information wasn’t provided on the clearly marked and well-lit menu board. But this wasn’t what caught me; I’ve got a coin that takes care of those decisions, it’s not always handy and can be a struggle to locate in the winter when I am bundled in so many garments with so many pockets but when I am actually able to produce that coin my decisions get made in the time of a toss. The particular hurdle I tripped on was that when I chose the wrap the kind lady who was working the till warned me that they only toast the sandwiches served on buns and the wraps get served cold. I realized after I had inched forward with a growling stomach toward the counter that many of the people who stood in line behind me were employees at the mall and were probably on restrictive time allowances meant to be used for consuming food rather than waiting in a queue for some dummy to struggle with an ordering decision at such a pinnacle moment. Now I’m sure you can sympathize with me at this point because only a minute before I was confident in knowing what I wanted to eat for lunch and I even waited until I had chosen from the list of meals on the overhead board before I ever stepped into the lineup. It would never occur to me to inconvenience anyone who might have a limited bankroll of minutes to spend by wasting those minutes that were not mine to waste in utter indecision. So I did what anyone would have done in the same situation and I stepped away from the cash counter and surrendered my place in the line so that I could take the new revelations into consideration and reassess my plan. Eventually I made it through the line again and when I got to the cash and placed my order I chose the wrap. But hey, at least nobody had to rush through their lunch, and if they did the blame did not fall on me. Now I hope you will excuse me for interrupting, I only wanted to borrow a moment.

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The Cuba Journal – 2012

The Cuba Journal

 

My Trip To Camaguey Province 2012

 

 

Day Minus One –            Friday, November 23

 

 

Well the trip has begun and it’s a bit of a shaky start considering I had just spent the four nights previous drinking my ass off in Ottawa and Toronto. 

 

My plane landed at Camaguey airport at 1900 and I was looking forward to napping on the 2hr shuttle to the resort town of Santa Lucia because I wasn’t able to get any shuteye on the flight.

 

The first thing that I noticed when I boarded the bus was the sea of white hair and I realized that almost every seat was filled with senior male peckerheads.  I thought that’s kinda strange, but was too burned out to pay it any serious attention.  I found an empty pair of seats at the rear and plopped my bag next to me as a privacy shield so I could snooze uninterrupted. 

 

Just as we were pulling out one last straggler climbed onboard and a few seconds later I heard, “Oh good, there’s one seat left.”  A short while after that I was subjected to the torture of a full-blown conversation.  The torture was even more acute because as the bus ride went on I gradually became aware of exactly what sort of crowd surrounded me. 

It began innocently enough when the dude asked what my reason for making the trip was.

 

-Um, I hope to do some scuba diving, maybe explore the landscape a bit, meet some people, relax…

 

He chuckled and was like, Yeah that’s why we’re all here isn’t it? He nudged me and gave me a wink and then in a conspiratorial tone whispered, At least that’s what our wives think, huh? If they knew what this place was like…

I was like, “What?”

 

So for the remainder of the trip I received a first hand education on the do’s and don’ts of sex tourism from a seasoned veteran.  How to pick the best professional ladies, how to negotiate the best price, where to find a room, how to sneak a companion into the hotel, where to score Viagra, etc and as I sunk further and further into my seat it dawned on me that the bus was filled with these guys, many of them repeat customers, up to six trips a year – all laughing and giggling with anticipation – and I thought, what the hell have I gotten myself into??

 

When we arrived at the resort I was so friggin exhausted I just plopped my bag on one bed in my room and passed out on the other almost right way, fully clothed.

 

 

 

Day One –            Saturday, November 24

 

 

I woke just after 0900 and ate a sloppy breakfast of cold scrambled eggs, dry toast and black coffee (the latter of which was actually pretty good) in the resort dining room.  I was slightly disconcerted by how many old single men were lurking about but I had no intention on spending very much time on the resort grounds so I didn’t spend much time thinking about it and instead focused on making plans for the coming week.

 

One of the first things I did was grab my skateboard (an almost brand new re-issue of an old Caballero from the ‘80s) and hunted down one of the maintenance guys so that I could borrow a wrench and screwdriver to bolt on my trucks and wheels, which I had disassembled for packing.  He led me back to the hotel workshop and it suddenly became the most important project of his day.  He wouldn’t even let me lend a hand and in about fifteen minutes he had the job done.  I took off my shirt and gave it to him in thanks.

 

I hit the road in front of the resort, which was surprisingly paved smooth, and proceeded to skate up and down the strip.  The sun was hot even early in the morning and I was shirtless and streaming sweat after only a few minutes.  I guess the sight of a tattooed gringo riding a skateboard in small town Cuba is rare because I had local heads turning and fingers pointing and shouts of  “Hola!” the entire time. Lol.

 

I found the dive center and booked my scuba excursions for Monday and Tuesday.  The reefs just offshore from here are supposed to be some of the best in the world and I was excited because it had been years since I’ve gone diving and I was long overdue. 

 

I found the car rental and booked a vehicle for Wednesday and Thursday so I could explore inland a bit and hopefully get to the city of Camageuy itself where with any luck I’d get lost in the labyrinth of streets it purportedly consists of. 

 

I figured I’d use this day and the next to just chill a bit and get my bearings, considering that as I’ve mentioned before I had just completed a fairly exhausting week back in Canada before I came.

 

The heat of the day continued to build and before noon I had already consumed 1.5l of H2O but my extremely eccentric palette was demanding something with a little more flavour and as a result by 1400 I had managed to become accidentally drunk.  The wonderful benefit of such a predicament was that after finding my way back to my room I was able to take a mid-afternoon nap de los muertos for several hours.

 

I woke at 2050 and almost missed the dinner buffet.  I devoured a delightful meal of white rice seasoned with salt and a glass of Bucanero beer.  There was some meat-looking stuff in a couple of the trays but I thought that they’d best be avoided.

 

I shook the cobwebs out of my skull with a tepid shower and decided I would investigate a so-called “white party” that earlier I had been told was being thrown down on the beach somewhere.  The premise was that everyone was supposed to attend dressed in white clothing.  I threw on a white button-up.

 

I hit the beach for the first time since my arrival and made my way toward the sound of music while the waves slapped against my ankles.  As soon as I arrived a flock of brilliantly feathered professional women descended on me like seagulls at a summer picnic.  I was quite bemused but also not very interested.  I will admit that many of these ladies were breathtaking to look at – but their beauty was layered strictly on their surface and I couldn’t help but be wary of what may lay just underneath, so for the first hour or so I was occupied with polite refusals and committed myself to avoiding eye contact.

 

It felt somewhat counter-intuitive on my part considering that I am a red-blooded heterosexual and these ladies knew all the tricks of seduction.  Most of the men at the party were much older than I am did not seem to share the same concerns or inhibitions.  It was a virtual feeding-frenzy and from my perspective an absolute surreal scenario, one that I had never really been witness to before.  Have you ever seen a septuagenarian attempt to impress a teenage girl by dancing to trashy euro-techno? It’s a ridiculous spectacle that can be succinctly summed with six letters: hahaha.  But ironically it’s a somewhat sad hahaha.

 

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I was in a writing mood and so I was compelled to leave the party several times throughout the night in order to go to my room and record my thoughts.  I was petrified that they would vanish forever as they’ve done an infinite amount of times before. 

 

As the night wore on I spent my time drinking Cristal cervezas, inhaling the salt-scented breeze and circling the periphery of the party, alternating my observations between the phenomenon of the revelers and the moonlit waves rolling against the shore.

 

I was standing there alone and drunk and lightly toying with the idea of wading into the surf and swimming as far as I possibly could out into the ocean when a stunning woman in a tiny white dress approached me from across the sand.  My defenses were virtually non-existent and although I had no intention of risking an STD contraction I considered the possibility of inviting this young lady back to my room where she could masturbate on the bed for me while I smoked a cigar and sipped on a beer.  There is nothing I enjoy watching more than a woman convulsing in orgasm and I pictured curling up next to her in bed when she was finished and falling asleep inhaling the scent of her hair. 

 

But then I remembered some of the old men with young locals that I’d seen earlier in the day around the resorts and they’re both laughing and smiling and flirting but the moment the man looks away her mask drops from her face and a vacant look is exposed beneath and in her eyes and it fell on me like an ocean wave that regardless of this woman’s persistence and enticing demeanor there exists the possibility that she is acting against her free will and I simply could never humiliate another human being like that.  So I turned and walked away and went back to my room where I passed out alone. 

 

The last thought I remember before I drifted off was how nice it must feel to be in love and how far away I was from that ever happening to me.

 

 

Day Two –            Sunday, November 25

 

 

I woke at 0800 and discovered that there is a snack bar where they offer cappuccinos so I sat on a deck chair and indulged.  While I was sipping I observed two kittens playing tag among the shrubs that circled the palm trunks and so I named them Capp & Chino and we immediately became friends.

 

A warm rain began to fall so I went for a long walk after I broke my fast and then returned to my room to read for a while.  When I next emerged from my room, just before noon, the sun had come out and with it my depression evaporated like the puddles that had littered the pool deck tabletops only moments before.

 

I decided to head out to the beach to see what the motherfucker looked like in the light of day.  I went for another long walk that lasted for about 1.5hrs in each direction.  I was only hassled a couple of times by local merchants which isn’t too bad considering how far I went.  I was fairly amused by the typical opening these dudes would approach me with that would go something like this:

 

-Hello my Amigo how are you I have cigars anything you want you like to fuck beautiful chica?

 

And I’d be like:

 

–       I’m good, how are y… wait… what? Um no thanks, I’m good.

 

When I got back to the resort I sat down under a palm tree with my notebook and a cerveza and spent some time contemplating the universe again.  After a short while a wrinkled old leathery bat swooped past me in flip-flops and mustard-gassed me in a cloud of her putrid perfume.  I wondered why people feel the need to spray themselves with that crap.  I was worried my eyes were going to bleed.

 

I sank into deep introspection and considered how much I do not “get” things like sun tanning or wearing make-up or perfume.  I’m prepared to accept that I may just be a strange and foolish anomaly for the way I think.  I don’t feel like people are more attractive as a result of that stuff, in fact I feel like it takes away from what makes someone attractive.  It’s all just industry driven propaganda motivated by profit at the expense of people’s self-esteem because it targets our insecurities and vulnerabilities and makes us feel like we need a product to have value.  We’re bullshitted into believing that our real selves aren’t good enough.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told a woman that I think she never looks more beautiful than the moment when she steps out of the shower and all the fashion and so-called health industry garbage has been washed away (ok fine I’ll tell you, it’s probably been at least a million times lol ).

I’ve actually had women roll their eyes when they hear this, turn toward the mirror and dive right into the makeup bag.  Disappointing and heartbreaking.

 

Yeah and the health and fitness industry is mostly all shite too.  I’d much rather squeeze soft and squishy over tight and toned.  As long as you’re not going to drop dead before you get old I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Millions of years of evolution have made certain things about a woman attractive to me and they all trump the opinions generated by the fashion and fitness industry that so many people subscribe to. 

Traits such as intelligent eyes that are deep enough to fall into, a warm smile that can wrap right around me, a genuine laugh, soft hair and body parts that jiggle.  But it’s difficult to sell those things in a department store like a bottle of tanning lotion so they get buried beneath a ton of colourful face-grease.

The fact is that getting that perfect tan is only going to lead to you eventually looking like a giant walking scrotum and I cannot speak for all men but the last thing I want to fuck is a baked ballsack with lipstick and perfume.

 

The remainder of the day was mostly uneventful.  I spent the evening relaxing on a chair outside my room because you’re not really supposed to party or consume alcohol the night before a dive.  Something to do with the oxygen/nitrogen in your bloodstream I think.  Anyway, I was restless falling asleep and didn’t manage to drift off until sometime around 0200.

 

 

Day Three –            Monday, November 26

 

 

I woke at dawn after dreaming that I had been locked in an apartment with a full-grown male lion.  My instinct had been to immediately run and try to escape but when I tried to initiate that action it only served to provoke an attack and the lion lunged at me.  So I thought – what would prey do?  Prey would turn and try to run and since I do not want to be prey I forced myself to stand and face him.  The lion lost interest in me, curled up and lay at my feet.

 

I went to the snack bar and ordered a cappuccino like I’d done the day before but only Capp was there and Chino was nowhere to be seen and so I became a little worried but after a few moments he appeared and it was then that I knew everything in the universe was right and good.

 

So I went scuba diving today but I thought that since it had been almost ten years it would be prudent of me to take a little refresher class first and that consisted of about an hour in a hotel swimming pool going over procedure, drills, and hand signals.  It all came back quick enough.  I will confess that half of that time was spent concentrating on diving instruction and the other half observing the group of girls in bikini bottoms splashing around in the shallow end. 

 

It’s funny because it was the first time I’d ever dove in a pool.  When I learned in Mexico we stood on the end of a pier and the guy mumbled a bunch of stuff in Spanish that I interpreted as “good luck” before pushing me off right into a busy shipping channel, the water was so brown and cloudy that I couldn’t even determine if I was upside down or right side up and all I could hear were the menacing thump of boat propellers like at the beginning of Apocalypse Now when the ceiling fan dissolves into the helicopter blades.

 

I went back to the hotel and scarfed down a hotdog that I garnished with some brownish stuff labeled “ketchup” and some other brownish stuff labeled “mustard” and it was delicious.  Capp thought so too – I wasn’t sure where Chino was but assumed he must be strictly a morning cat.

 

In the afternoon I did a real dive in the open sea.  I showed up at the dive center at 1300.  We geared up and trudged to the boat on the beach.  We motored for about 20mins until we reached the outer reef where the pilot cut the engine and I boosted myself up onto the edge and then flipped backward over the side, allowing the weight of my tank to drop me into the water with a splash.  There were four of us including the dive master and when the boat sped away we deflated the air from our vests and sank beneath the surface.

 

Instantly the world that I’m used to living in vanished as far away as outer space.  All the bad shit disappeared with it as well.  War, anger, suffering, greed, deceit, envy, ignorance, judgment… all gone and I was soaring high above the sea floor on wings, reborn like a phoenix and in love with everything around me.

 

We descended over the edge of a coral cliff, floating our way down like four feathers drifting toward the ground and the cliff walls were teeming with life and beauty and colour.  Anyway… I saw plenty of fish.  Blue fish, yellow fish, red fish, green fish, fat fish, skinny fish, large fish, small fish.  And brilliant shades of coral.  Hammer coral, bubble coral, flower coral, brain coral, soft coral, hard coral, giant vase shaped coral.  One of my favorite animals to watch is the parrotfish, brightly coloured and if you get really close to them you can hear them gnawing on the coral with their beaks and it sounds just like someone crunching on a mouthful of potato chips, which in real life I find a little disgusting but in this life I consider beautiful.

 

When I finally surfaced the weather had changed and the sea had turned into giant swells and I was bobbing cork-like and virtually helpless.  One moment I would crest over the peak and I’d spot the boat several swells away and the next second I’d be cascading down a slope of water until I was at the bottom of a trench with walls of ocean on either side and nothing to see but a narrow slice of sky above.  In addition to that my vest seemed to be leaking air and my tank was almost empty and if it ran out completely it wouldn’t be long before my vest would deflate and I would be forced to jettison the entire set-up or risk being pulled right back down to the seabed again.  Thankfully soon after I found myself next to the boat and so I climbed aboard and was safe and sound.

 

One of the hotel staff had obviously noticed my fascinating menu choices whenever I dined and I assume felt sorry for me because after I returned to the resort in the late afternoon I was approached and invited to a dinner at a local home in a village not far away.  I was like

 

– Hells ya!

 

She was like – Qué?

 

So I was like – Sí sí

 

So at 1800 I hopped into a horse driven carriage and was taken through some fields to a row of houses about 8km away. 

 

There were very few electrical lights but the moon was almost full and I could make out the cinder block construction of a single story dwelling with a path leading through a fenced in yard that I followed until I was at the rear of the building. 

 

It was situated right on the sea on a point where the waves split and crashed over some rocks that rose black out of the surf (I had asked for a baño when I got there and was laughed at so I was standing behind a clothesline urinating while I observed this).

 

There was a small room filled completely by a single table decorated with a cloth and fully set with plates and cutlery.  Several of us gathered around including a young girl, her mother, the hotel staff lady, a man who had been introduced as the owner of the home, and a couple of others I assumed were either friends or family. 

 

The feast began right away and it was phenomenal.  Sliced cucumber and tomato salad, thin sliced fried banana chips, fresh garlic shrimp, white rice, and fat fluffy lobster tails that had been fished from the ocean only hours before right off the doorstep.  I wolfed down three of them.  It was such a welcoming respite from the drudgery of the resort buffet.  So yeah, what a great meal!

 

After we ate there was some attempt at a broken conversation across two languages and I taught the little girl how to play wooden labyrinth on my iphone, which she picked up right away and was clearing levels in no time.  Then her mom showed me a school textbook that the girl was using in her classes and I was amazed to discover that a ten year old was doing grade 11 algebra for homework every night and doing well at it.  That made her better at math than me. 

 

Fidel Castro may have been at the helm of a repressive regime but there were a few things he was determined to implement and one of them was that every citizen would receive the highest standard of education.  Cuba contributes 10% of the total budget toward education compared to the 3.5% and 2% that Canada the US contribute, and the illiteracy rate for children in Cuba is 0%.  When the regime finally ends and the embargos lifted the world better watch out because it is an island full of rocket scientists all chained to the launch pad and just starving to take off and soar.

 

I walked back to the resort in a cool tropical breeze and fell asleep exhausted and content.

 

 

Day Four –            Tuesday, November 27

 

 

Woke at dawn excited for my big dive today.  The dive I’d really been waiting for and one of the main reasons why I’d made this trip.

 

The little boat took four of us from the shore out to sea and we chugged along the coast on a trip that lasted about 30mins.  We stayed shoreside of the reef and the water was calm and glassy and as I looked out on it I thought about how the surface was like a tinted window that masked a world so close to me yet invisible and mysterious and impossible to know until broken through and experienced first hand.

 

After splashing into the water I looked at my fellow divers and noticed something and at the last moment I tried to voice a concern

 

-Hey, why do you guys all get to carry knives and I don’t have one? Do you think I could possibly…

 

Glug Glug Glug… and we were under.

 

5 feet.

10 feet.

20 feet.

30 feet.

40 feet.

50 feet.

60 feet.

70 feet.

80 feet.

 

It occurred to me that if I were superstitious I would have been inclined to interpret the suspicious absence of both Capp and Chino while I was enjoying my cappuccino that morning as a bad omen.  It was because I was thinking about this as well as concentrating on slowing my descent in order to hover just above the ocean floor at 87 feet that I didn’t even notice the first shark until it had already passed almost directly above me.  There was a sudden diminish of light and then brightness again as the shadow swept past.  I caught the arch of the animals tail in my sight and as it turned I was able to behold it in its entirety. 

 

I had been diving with sharks in the past, the graceful, slender and relatively harmless Caribbean reef sharks that are a common attraction for scuba expeditions throughout this part of the world.  But this creature was something different.

 

This was the notorious Bull shark. 

 

Ten feet long and a muscle-packed 500 pounds.  Considered by many to be the most dangerous shark in the world, responsible for more attacks on humans than even the Great White or Tiger.  They’ve been called the pitbulls of the sea.  They are highly aggressive, unpredictable and territorial. 

 

I had settled on the lip of a sloping embankment and was trying as best as I could to keep still and make myself appear like a chunk of coral, but it is difficult (especially with my minimal experience) to maintain neutral buoyancy because every time I filled my lungs with air I would begin to rise slightly and then with each exhale I would sink again and so I had to focus on only filling my lungs halfway so as not to levitate from the floor too much.

 

Then from out of the deep blue gloom the ghostly silhouettes of six more Bull sharks emerged.

 

They were circling closer with every pass in what seemed to be an organized formation, like a search party patrolling.  Maintaining a slow and steady cruise that they punctuated with sudden bursts of speed and they’d open their jaws and snap at things, triangular serrated teeth tearing into any unlucky fish in their path.

 

I couldn’t see the other divers, they were all behind me and I was the one furthest out in front.  The largest of the sharks, the one who had first swam over me, came close enough that I could see a large scar just behind her left eye, so I named her Capone.  She was the shark who was paying me the most attention and I assumed that she must be the matriarch of the clan, although in my research later I wasn’t able to find any evidence that they organize themselves in any sort of system – all I could find were fear mongering articles and scary attack stories.

 

The sharks were circling so close now that they were disappearing in my peripheral while I struggled to keep an eye on whichever one happened to be in front of me and it was slightly unsettling to know that I couldn’t see them all at once.

 

Soon Capone became preoccupied with swimming directly toward me and then circling around and repeating the move and I figured that she was performing some sort of recon maneuver fueled by a curiosity about this invader who had settled on her turf.

 

When I was a child my father had told me that if I was ever at risk of being attacked by a shark that the best thing to do is to punch them square in the nose.  He had been in the navy during the war and I suppose it must have been a common topic for sailors to discuss considering the threat they were under of being torpedoed and thrown into the Atlantic.  All the nerve endings convene at the tip of a shark’s snout, it’s the most sensitive part of the animal’s body, so it was advice that I never forgot.

 

Suddenly on her third pass Capone darted at me. 

 

She came unbelievably fast and when she was less than three feet away her mouth opened and I could see rows of teeth and realized that I could fit my entire head inside.  I clenched my fist and braced myself and at the last second she turned and the entire length of her massive body brushed past my face.

 

I had looked her right in her stone black eye.  Into millions of years of evolutionary perfection.  And I could hear the thoughts that she was speaking to me.

 

– I’m sorry that you’ve misunderstood us.  We have only been trying to live.

 

And then I felt the weight of shame come over me like the millions of tons of water above.  I was ashamed for belonging to such a bloodthirsty, ignorant, murderous species of indiscriminate monsters. 

 

Humans are the real killing machines.  We are slaughtering this magnificent animal to extinction and for what?  Because we are stupid and short sighted and we allow our fears to dictate our actions.  A large part of why they are so wrongly perceived is because of that idiot Stephen Spielberg and his ridiculous horror film.  

 

We are living in a world where misunderstanding is epidemic and perpetual.  These creatures are immune to cancer and we are going to lose our chance to learn why!  There is so little that we know about ourselves and our universe and so much they have to teach us and as I hovered there at the bottom of the ocean I watched them swim in the gentle current the way you would image angels fly among the clouds and my heart broke for them.  They are gorgeous and majestic and the love I have for them eclipsed anything as silly and irrational as fear.

 

Eventually the sharks lost interest and circled away from us, fading like spirits into the distant blue.

 

In the afternoon we did a dive over a sunken ship and it was very good.  When we got back to shore the dive master mentioned to me that he loved photography but didn’t have underwater camera housing that he could take that deep, so I gave him mine.

 

When I returned to the resort in the early evening I was invited to a second dinner at a local’s home.  It was a woman’s birthday and there was going to be a celebration that included a pig roast so of course I was all in.

 

At 1900 I wandered over to a house on the other side of the town with a couple of other hotel guests who had also been invited to the party.  It was a beautiful two story house with spiral columns supporting a large verandah beneath which were tables already set up with numerous plates of mouth watering food.  Several people were gathered in the front yard and some neighbours had assembled into a four-piece band and were playing music.

 

When I stepped through the front door into the house the first thing that caught my eye was a large painting that dominated the wall.  It depicted a boy alone in a room with a lion.

 

In the kitchen I greeted the birthday lady with smiles, Hola’s and cheek kisses.  Two of her friends (family?) were busy preparing more food and drink.  In the back room the men were carving the pig and proudly posing for some photographs.

 

We ate outside under the verandah and I was given a seat next to the matriarch of the house, the woman whose birthday I had come to celebrate.  The band played music throughout the meal, which was a delicious assortment of brown rice and beans, sliced tomato cucumber and peppers, fried banana chips and roasted pork.

 

After we ate we lounged around and listened to the music, laughing, drinking and dancing.  The other guests and I agreed to chip in ten pesos each to the host in thanks for her hospitality and I was actually willing to put in like three times that amount considering the priceless value I’d received from the experience but one of the other hotel guests who I discovered was an ex-cop started bitching about what he considered a high cost.  I was furious at the whining sonofabitch.  I hate cheapskates and I was toying with the idea of inviting him to go out for a swim with me the next day in the ocean and I was thinking about that stupid Jesus poem where there are two sets of footprints in the sand and then later on there is only one set of footprints but I had no intention of carrying that peckerhead on my back, if you catch my drift.  But I let it go, forgot about him and resumed enjoying my night.

 

The band finished playing sometime near midnight and as I made my way back to the resort along the empty streets I gazed up to a perfect clear sky and there was a full moon with a near solid silver halo looking back down on me like a single unblinking eye and everything in the universe was right and good.

 

 

Day Five –            Wednesday, November 28

 

 

Woke at dawn and had a cappuccino while watching Capp and Chino chase after a lizard.  I was in an introspective mood again and was contemplating the idea of fear.  We live on a planet engulfed in a cloud of it.  I call it the Atmos-Fear.  We’re afraid of so much.  We’re afraid of being judged, of being hurt, of being alone, of the future.  We’re afraid to admit that we’re afraid.  We are afraid of what we don’t understand, and there is so much of that.  We are only simple human animals after all. 

 

And what really is the worst that can happen? Death?  The night my mom died we were alone together in a tiny room at the hospice.  It was mid-January and outside the window a frigid wind was howling and the glass was shaking and the sky was heavy with cloud and blowing snow and the darkness of those long nights had already settled.  She had been hyperventilating for a little while at this point and I was kneeling next to her bed with my arm around her and my hand stroking her hair.  Gradually her breathing began to slow and the moments of time that passed between each breath lengthened until eventually I was holding her and waiting and waiting for the next breath to come but it never did and outside there was a calm as the wind had died and I knew that my mom had not been afraid, she had just gone and was no longer there anymore. 

 

We die every time we go to sleep and are reborn each time we wake.  The day will come when you simply won’t wake up and you aren’t even going to notice it.  So what is there to fear?  Considering the island that I’m visiting while I write this I’m reminded of the last words spoken by the revolutionary Ernesto Guevara to the young executioner who was apprehensive about firing his weapon –

 

“Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.”

 

After breaking my fast I skateboarded down to the car rental because today was the day that I had intended to get the fuck out of this town.  I acquired a little white compact that I immediately named: nataS el’ Blanco.

 

I returned to the resort briefly to pack an overnight bag then hit the road.  I drove for about an hour through a light rainfall passing a couple of small villages and pastures with grazing cattle until I came to an unmarked fork in the road.  It occurred to me that I had neither a map nor a compass.  I reached a sudden conclusion that my attempt at this excursion had resulted in incredible failure.  I was angry and disappointed with myself and in a bitter mood as I made a u-turn and headed back to the resort.

 

I ate some lunch next to the pool and grabbed my skateboard because it looked like the rain clouds were blowing away and the sun was trying to push it’s way through.  A few of the hotel entertainment staff noticed me and came over to ask about the board. 

 

I offered one of the dancers to give it a try but she spoke no English, was hesitant and shook her head at first.  I pleaded “c’mon” though and she gave in – so I put my hands on her waist to steady her and she grabbed my shoulders and stepped up.  Her brow was furrowed and she was looking down at her feet but I lifted her chin up with my finger and motioned with my hand that she should look in my eyes, not at the ground.  For a few moments she was unsteady as I gently rocked her back and forth but it wasn’t long before her dancer instinct took over and a smile broke out on her face and her eyes lit up.  She had gotten it, and I had witnessed one of those little human miracles that occur whenever you try something new and you can’t do it and you can’t do it and you can’t do it and then suddenly something clicks and you’re doing it and it feels amazing.

 

I left the resort and went for a skate up the road until I got to the gas station at the end of the strip.  I ran into a few local kids who told me that there was one other skateboarder in town and one kid with rollerblades.  So we hunted them down and before I knew it I was part of a Cuban skate crew.

 

The first thing I noticed about the dudes skateboard was that he had a fairly decent deck, a Lance Mountain that some previous tourist must have given him, but his trucks and wheels were shot to shit.  So I mentioned to him that his wheels were coned and his trucks were ground down to almost nothing and that if he wanted I’d be willing to trade but he’d need to find a wrench and a screwdriver in order to make the switch and he was like – Qué?

So I just shook my head and tried to sign language what I meant and then he got it and we went looking for the necessary tools.

 

We came across some of his friends and got the tools and got to work and in about 30mins we had made the trade (his bolts were rusted and it was a bit of a bitch) and I think he was pretty happy.

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon skating around and I showed off my impressive trick repertoire that consisted of “pushing myself along” and “not falling off” and the occasional 360.  As the sun set I made my way back to the resort, promising to meet my new crew at the dance club later that night.

 

So I napped, showered, dressed and ate and by 2200 I was on my way to the dance club.  I was curious to see what it was all about as it was my first time checking it out.  What I got was another glimpse at the sex tourism world in living colour and full action.

 

There was a bar, an open courtyard with patio tables, chairs and a stage.  The place was packed full of young (some very young) local professional woman and older (some very older) white Canadian and European men.  There was also a light sprinkling of local dudes and a very small percentage of tourist women, but they were definitely in the minority.  From an anthropological point of view it was an interesting study.

 

But it was a house of illusions really.  One of twisted mirrors and bent shapes.  Shadows and tricks of light.  Pounding bass and dance beats.  I ordered a couple of cervazas and strolled around double fisted taking it all in.

 

As I watched dozens of senior men grinding against girls just out of high school I thought of some of the tragic stories I’d heard over the past week around the hotel and I was overcome with an incredible melancholy.  Stories of men who had stood by wives riddled with cancer.  Men who had been left forsaken in their lives or lives that had evolved into nothing but broken promises.  Widowed or divorced, lonely and destitute.  Or husbands having gone through decades of marriage empty of compassion and frozen by a lack of intimacy. 

There is a suffering here.  And it’s shared by the economic suffering that the women live their lives under, that forces them to participate in this illusionary game where these men have traveled thousands of kilometers for temporary respite.  For this make-believe dance where for a brief moment they can imagine that they are loved again. 

 

And as I stood there sipping my beer I began to slowly lift off the floor (not in real life but in my mind).  I levitated over the dancing crowd and the mingling patrons, girls in colourful dresses and vivid make-up; blue dresses, yellow dresses, red dresses, green dresses, fat woman, skinny women, tall women, short women.  I could see them all swimming beneath me as I floated over (not in real life but in my mind) and among them circled predators, large lumbering shapes cruising amid the shadows and cutting through the currents of sound.  Hunting with grinning mouths full of hungry teeth and the flash of folded paper pesos. 

 

And I saw all of these things, the smiling and the laughing, the flirting and the dancing, the groping and the grinding, the kissing and the caressing – but they were all just jagged coloured shards that were pasted together like a sheet of stained glass.  And beneath the semi-opaque surface lived a definite sadness.  An overwhelming sadness, a sadness of veiled misunderstanding and misinterpretations, a sadness of false hope and of the false promise of salvation, a sadness that permeated and underscored all of the conviviality and all of the exchanges of a love that is empty and nothing but a thinly disguised misnomer.  And the swelling beneath me was pushing me away or drawing me under, I don’t know which, but I had to leave, I was running out of air.

 

As I was exiting I ran into my skate crew and a bunch of other local dudes hanging out and I started chatting with a guy who spoke passable broken English.  I told him that I had a car and needed a guide to accompany me to Camaguey the next day and he was like – Qué?  So I slowed down and explained to him exactly what I wanted and he understood and said that his grandmother lived in the city and that he’d like to visit her so we made a deal to meet in front of my hotel the next morning. 

 

 

Day Six –            Thursday, November 29

 

 

Woke at dawn and had a cappuccino with Capp and Chino.  The sun was rising bright and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so I knew that it was going to be a good day.

 

At 0900 I met my new found Amigo at the front gate.  His name was D____, but I decided to think of him as Toothpick because he kept one in his mouth at all times.  He hopped in the car and we were off.

 

The early day was already hot and there were heat waves rising off the road ahead as we made our way across the countryside.  I had to keep the speed relatively low because the road was spotted with potholes and many of them were quite deep, considering that the only thing on nataS el’Blanco that the rental place wouldn’t insure were the wheels it would have been a potentially costly mistake to smash into too many of them. 

 

There were all kinds of the usual road hazards and distractions that you find whenever you are driving in the Caribbean.  Speeding buses, horse drawn carts, pregnant bitches with a dozen swollen nipples, cows, goats, ox drawn carts, shepherds tending to their flock and the occasional suicidal cock leaping across the road with their feathered plumes bouncing behind them.  Every once in a while we would pass groups of olive fatigued soldiers standing along the side of the road performing the immensely important job of “standing along the side of the road”. 

 

A part of me was hoping that during this drive something would go horribly wrong because nothing going wrong leads to a lackluster memory.  I joked that if I saw the flashing light of a police car behind us that I was just going to pin it because I was sure my rental was faster than the ancient vehicles the cops were driving.  Toothpick laughed but I’m not sure if he picked up on the fact that I was just pulling his leg.

 

We stopped at a fork in the road that split off to the city of Nuevitas and picked up a pretty hitchhiker that Toothpick spent most of the rest of the trip chatting to.  It took us a lot longer to get to Camaguey than the shuttle bus took from the airport last Friday, but I was driving with extreme caution and so we didn’t roll into the outskirts of the city until almost 1200.

 

We dropped the hitchhiker off at a train station and proceeded to make our way into the core of the city.  Camaguey is an old place.  There is no logic in the street layout.  For centuries the people who lived here had to defend themselves against pirates who would arrive to plunge and pillage and so they purposely designed the city to be as confusing as possible to any outsiders in order to give them a fighting advantage. 

 

I discovered this first hand as Toothpick called out directions, his poor understanding of English caused him to frequently mix up left with right so finding our way around began as quite a clusterfuck with me making more wrong turns than correct ones.  Eventually we made it to his grandmother’s house and I was able to park.  He introduced me to this adorable old lady sitting behind an iron gate in her entranceway.  

 

Then we went on a walking tour of the neighbourhood.  There were piles of debris scattered through the streets, leftovers from the devastation caused by the recent passing of hurricane Sandy.  In fact there were parts of this island so ruined that they don’t even exist anymore, something that much of the outside world is not even aware of.

 

So we made our way through narrow streets and throngs of people checking out the sites, buildings, statues, storefronts and all the usual crap people look at when they’re touring a city.

 

We soon met up with a friend of Toothpicks named Ronaldo who could also speak pretty good English and the three of us grabbed some cervazas and spent the rest of the afternoon joking around and getting buzzed.

 

We found a casa where I could rent a room for the night and for some reason Toothpick thought it was very important that I come across the street for a slice of Cuban pizza just as I was negotiating a price for the room and Ronaldo was asking if I could drive him to pick up the shoes his girlfriend had forgotten to bring to work with her and for a couple of minutes all hell was breaking loose and I almost lost it.  I mean seriously Toothpick, can’t the pizza wait for five fucking minutes!?

 

Things settled down and I ate my pizza (delish), paid for the room, and we delivered the shoes, which turned out to be a real emergency because I guess Ronaldo’s girlfriend really needed them badly since she was calling his cell every three minutes asking what was taking so long.  The good thing was I got to meet two of her friends, Mary and Juanita, and we all made plans to meet up later in the evening.

 

In the late afternoon I went to my room in the casa to rest for a bit while Toothpick and Ronaldo went home to do the same.  I started to think about freedom and what it really means to be free.  These people don’t really know it and have not known it for a long time.  They’re not allowed to leave.  They’re not allowed to earn a wage.  They’re not allowed to speak their mind.

 

And yet I live in a place that’s supposed to be free but it can be so conservative, socially restrictive and judgmental that I’ve actually witnessed a woman in her mid twenties break down and cry because she had yet to find the man she was supposed to marry, as if it were something that she’s obligated to do in order to be accepted.  I’ve also witnessed people subscribe to that obligation and then live in misery, trapped in a life they cannot escape because the social implications are so extreme and the stigmatization that breaking from it would invite forbids such an escape.  How does the word forbid equate with freedom?

 

Sometimes cultural law and the rule of peers are just as demanding and restrictive as civil law implemented by government.  Sometimes revolts against the tyranny of the worlds we live in are fought with violence and guns and sometimes they’re fought by facing possible disgrace in a social setting and being brave enough to do whatever you need to do in order to make your own life happy and to be truly content with who you are.  Shedding tears because you’re not living up to the absurd expectations of your own arrogant family? Often the lines between sorrow and anger are difficult to distinguish, but instead of succumbing to the first, my tendency is to embrace the latter.  To stare judgment down and reveal it for the illusion and fragile shell that it really is.  But I still don’t know if any of us are ever really free, or what it even means.

 

The night had arrived and I met Toothpick, Ronaldo, his girlfriend (who I’m sure must have had a name), Juanita, and Mary – who I thought was absolutely gorgeous – near the monument down the street.

 

We went to a restaurant where we ordered cervazas and weird little cheese things with bread.  We were going to go to a dance club after but I had neglected to bring any long pants and they wouldn’t let me in without them so we decided to go back to Mary’s place, at least I think it was Mary’s place, it could have been Juanita’s, or maybe both of their families lived there.  Fuck, I’m still not sure; there were some language hurdles that I just couldn’t get over.

 

We brought a couple of bottles of rum and climbed a set of stairs to an apartment on the second floor and there were a wack of people there who I was rapidly introduced to before we sat down and began playing dominoes.  They threw on some hiphop beats and we sat around sipping straight rum out of teacups, laughing at jokes I wasn’t able to interpret and playing into the night until gradually most of the people drifted away and there were only a handful of us left.

 

When it was close to midnight I was feeling pretty drunk and Mary led me by the hand out onto a balcony.  We could hear mambo music emanating softly from somewhere in the streets below and she put her arm around my waist and made an attempt to teach me how to dance a salsa sort of thing but I didn’t do very well at it and ended up just falling against her and we laughed until one of the common rolling blackouts plunged everything into silence and darkness and there was only the moon and starlit terracotta roof tiles and a dog barking somewhere in the distance and there was nothing I could say and nothing left for me to do except close my eyes and lean in to kiss those pretty waiting lips.

 

 

Day Seven –            Friday, November 30

 

 

A rooster woke me at 0400 and I found myself in a hot and dark room.  I peeled Mary’s arm off my chest and slid out of bed.  I leaned back over and whispered to her,

 

Goodbye stranger, ha sido buena.  Espero que usted encuentre su paraiso.  He intentado ver la perspectiva y espero que todos tus suenos se hacen realidad.

 

But she was sound asleep and didn’t hear me so I kissed her forehead and slipped out of the room. 

 

I woke Toothpick who was sleeping on a cot with Juanita in the room where we had been playing dominoes the night before.  She was yawning and rubbing her eyes as we said adios to her.  Toothpick and I made our way down the pitch black stairwell and out into the street.

 

We walked quietly along the predawn narrow cobblestone roads, winding and crisscrossing our way to the casa that I hadn’t even slept in to get my bag and then to where we had left nataS el’Blanco.  We had to wake the carpark attendant who was sleeping in the rear of a 1950’s Caddy.  He opened the gate for us and we got in our car and drove off.

 

It was an intense drive for me, the headlights offering an obscure interpretation of the road ahead.  Potholes firing toward me like asteroids in a video game.  At one point Toothpick began to hum a tune that I thought was familiar but I didn’t get it right away until after he repeated it several times and I figured out the tune he was humming was Imagine.  So I propped my iphone on the dash and played it for him on repeat and he only knew four words, imagine all the people, and every time those lyrics would happen he’d sing along and it was a little hilarious and we laughed about it. 

 

And there I was, speeding along a Cuban road in the middle of the night with my Cuban friend singing John Lennon and picturing in my head a world full of peace and love. 

 

Next came Instant Karma and the moon and the stars began to fade away and were replaced by a rising sun off to our right and I could see the road ahead more clearly and everything began to get better and at that moment I knew it was all right and good in the universe. 

 

We got back to Santa Lucia around 0630 and I dropped Toothpick off, said goodbye and returned the rental car.  The rental agent did an inspection of the vehicle and was like,

 

No flat tires?

 

No.

 

Not even one??

 

Um, no. (Wtf?)

 

I was quite exhausted at this point so I went straight to my room at the resort and tried to get a bit of sleep but my mind was racing with thought.

 

I know that I’ve written all kinds of macho bravado shit about not having fear and swimming with sharks and staring down lions but the truth is that I am afraid.  I may have a greater fear than anyone because I am afraid of falling in love.

I’ve seen it so many times in my life already.  I’ve seen people happy and in love and spending their lives together and sometimes it’s been years and years and decades and decades until inevitably one of them dies.  And you might be lucky and both of you might go at the same time like in a car crash or something but the odds are that won’t happen.  One of you will go first and then what happens to the one left alive?  You’re abandoned and left in sadness, destitute and heartbroken.  And the more complete your union was the less equipped you’ll be to survive alone.  And your loneliness will be more palatable than mine ever could because I’ve already made a friend of it and so I know how to live that way.  And everyday will become so much of a misery and so much of a burden that one day you’ll just decide that it’s too much and you’ll do something like prop a rifle up against your washing machine and shoot out your heart. 

I never want to have that to look forward to.

 

I was woken at noon by a knock on the door from the hotel staff wanting to know why I was late for my check out.  So I packed my shit and dropped it off in the main lobby.

 

I had a couple of hours to kill before the shuttle was to leave for the airport so I took my skateboard out for one last rip.

 

I was skating through the village down the road when a group of school kids gathered near to watch me, so I called them over and let them take a closer look at the board, which they seemed to be fascinated by.  One of them, a young boy, asked if he could give it a try, so I pushed it out for him and he put one foot on it, then the other, and within a few seconds he was pushing himself along with a giant smile across his face.  So I waited until he was a few feet away and then I turned around and walked back to the resort.

 

It was almost time to leave but there was one last thing that I had to do.  I went to the snack bar and sat down and a few seconds later Capp and Chino came and sat with me, one at each foot.  I looked at them and said

 

-I am so grateful to have you two in my life while I’ve been here, my little friends.  It means more to me than you can ever understand.  I’m going to miss our mornings together and I’ll think of you for the rest of my life.  I have to leave now, but I know that you’ll be alright.  I love you guys.

 

They cocked their heads and looked at me as if to say, “Qué?” and then a passing insect stole their attention and they both sprang away.

 

 

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edit post

I realize that I came down a little hard on the ol’ english dictionary last time and I’d like to apologize for that, not to any of you… but to the book – my dictionary wouldn’t stop crying about it. That is until I reminded her that I hold her in the highest esteem when it comes to defining mysterious words I stumble on when I’m reading.  Sometimes I can figure out what a word means just based on the context but more than half the time I’m like ???????  So soon as I said sorry my dictionary got all warm and fuzzy and cuddled up right next to me, even though I still think she can be a bit stubborn when it comes down to spelling.  Anywayzz dot dot dot we’re friends again.

So I’m working on a collection of short stories.  Something I’ve been putting off for a long time.  I’ve finished one so far and my goal is to complete 10 sometime before the end of the year I guess.  Ok well that’s no way to set a goal, so, um, definitely by the end of the year.

Wow it’s difficult for me though.  Why? Because I’m a bit of a compulsive editor and I have a hard time getting one paragraph down without reading back over it and making a million little changes.  And then I do it again.  And again.  Then I’ll be like dammit, now it reads like it’s been over worked and I’ve gone and flubbed the natural flow all up so I should just rewrite the paragraph from the start.  In fact even with these bloggoroonies that I’ve been posting I find myself going back days or weeks later and making changes.  Tiny ones.  If you go back and read a post today that you first read at some other time I promise you it’ll be different, but you wouldn’t even notice because that’s how obsessive, compulsive and insignificant my editing can be.

Sometimes I’ve got no idea where to put comma’s and I’ll just throw’em in there wherever the hell I feel like it, then I’ll take them out after a read thru and stick’em somewhere else.  Then back where they were in the first place.  In fact there used to be a comma right after the word comma’s back at the beginning of this paragraph but it’s gone now and I put an “and” in there instead.  Will it always be like that? Doubt it.  And fuck the semi-colons, I’m tempted to just do away with those altogether.

As an aside, sometimes I like to pretend that I’m more obsessive compulsive than I really am.  Or at least I think I’m pretending.  For example, when I’m eating dinner with people I’ll make sure to eat and finish all my eggs first before I touch my bacon.  Or I won’t touch the potatoes until I’ve swallowed every last bite of my steak.  People usually notice and say stuff like, OMG you’re one of those people?  Haha.  One time I convinced someone that I couldn’t sit in a room unless every object was placed at least six inches away from the edge of whatever surface it was on, because the idea that something might drop off the edge was too much for me to handle.  So we spent like 15 mins moving all sorts of nicnaks around until I was able to relax and enjoy myself.  Ok so there’s a really good chance that I’m not usually like that but when it comes to editing my own stuff I’m much much worse.  I’ve already gone back and changed the opening paragraph of this lil piece like 4 freakin times! (5 now)

OMG I just noticed that I described eating bacon and eggs for dinner when what I really meant to say was breakfast.  But I’m going to leave that in just as an exercise in self-control.

The way I got through the first story is that I forced myself to just spit out one complete page without looking back over it and then taking that page and hiding it from myself.  And I somehow against incredible odds was able to do that for each page, one at a time until the heart of the story was on paper.  But it was hard, like an alcoholic trying to pretend that there isn’t a case of cold beer just a few steps away in the garage, or an LCBO one elevator ride and half a block away.  I could hear the pages calling to me to come and give them a quick read.  Just a real quick one; a skim.  But those devious little pages know if I let myself give in then before long it I’d be at the keyboard-pipe, taking hits from the editcrack until the story is completely torn apart and ruined, wide-eyed and rotten toothed, walking with a stagger in the rain offering complete strangers…. um where was I?

I think the problem is that I get way too close to the story while I’m writing it and can’t see it for what it is.  I think people do that sort of thing a lot, not just with writing or creating but in all aspects of life.  You get too close to anything and it’s hard to see all of it at once; to understand what it’s really all about.

When I bury my head into a story that I’m writing it’s me looking at it from the inside out, and that’s even worse than just being too close.  That’s why I make unnecessary changes or edit things prematurely and end up losing the story altogether.  It’s like I’m in a labyrinth desperately searching for waymarks when what I actually need is the oversight of a cartographer.  Some people might argue that no map is required to find your way through a maze, you just need a friend who’s got a keen ability to smell cheese – but I don’t buy that.  The cheese could be a trap.  And what if my story happens to be lactose intolerant?  That cheese smelling friend might just ruin everything for you.  You need to get the hell outta there and pull way way back so you can see the entire labyrinth from a GPS POV.

Sometimes seeing the whole picture at once isn’t even good enough.  I need to look at a different picture entirely and then look at the first picture again a little later on – my reason for hiding the pages I write as I write ’em.  It’s also my reason for having other things to do other than just writing a collection of stories.  Otherwise I’d be looking at the collection as a whole too closely and risk fucking the entire project up and wasting all my time.  So, in addition to the short story collection, I’ve set myself the goal of finishing 10 paintings with 10 iron frames to match each one, depending on what the theme of the paintings are.  I’ve done one so far.  I’ve also set a goal of making 5 iron sculptures.  This way I’ve got things to rotate my concentration off to, allowing myself to focus on something totally fresh for a while so that hopefully when I rotate back I’ll be able to see things from a different perspective.  Get the big pic.  Make the right edits.  Forge the right sculptures.  Not waste paint or any more of my time than I need to.

I’d like to take this moment to send a big shout out to my boy JP – who tirelessly promotes this shit on his FB page like it’s going outta style (it won’t).  Thank you.

Oh and BTW I think I fucked that whole blind man elephant story up and all the voices in my head are telling me to scroll back and delete it but if I did how the hell could anyone make any sense of what they’re reading right now???   ;so I guess it stays.

That huge mockingbird analogy is definitely nixed though.

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raven’ lunatiks

Ok so I made a commitment to myself that this blog would have nothing to do with birds.  The last blog was about geese and it’s not like I’m all up in here droppin’ one of these sweet bitches every single day now is it?  So two blogs about birds in a row might be a bit much.  People might think I’m obsessed or something and I’m not, I’ve got a million other things to say.  Even though I reeeeeeeeeeealllly wanna write a’ sumthin about crows.  I’ll save it.

I also wanna write about words.  Especially the spelling of words and how I’ve always been terrible at it.  How I struggled to correct my spelling for years until I read a beautiful little book called The Professor And The Madman that tells the true story of how the official English dictionary came to fruition and how so many of the accepted spelling of english words were decided by a lunatic.  I realize that in the 21st century there are no lunatics and only people with mental health issues, but he lived in the 19th century and there were plenty of lunatics back then.  Also, I like the term lunatic because it’s derived from the latin word for moon and I have a thing for celestial bodies.

I know I said in my last post that I would try not to digress (ROAR), but fuckit, it’s not like I outline this stuff, so it’s gonna happen.  Crows are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet.

Can you believe that a dude tried to correct me once by telling me that insects are not animals?  When I asked him to explain to me what they are he said that they’re insects, plain and simple.  Well I’ve got news for you buddy, there are only two hemispheres of life on Earth; plants and animals, and I know that insects aren’t plants.  Oh and btw the word animal is derived from the latin word for animate.  Two latin word origins explained in one blog! Lunacy! Crows can recognize human faces and can be taught to speak more words than parrots or macaws.

I love how hiphop culture (yay!) and internet culture (blah) is taking the spelling of english words back from the dictionary and into the hands of the peeps once again.  It’s the only sane way for a living language to exist.  For the entire 20th century all english words (except for minor colour vs color variations and the like) absolutely had to be spelled the same.  Prior to that it was anything that sounds right will work, and now once again, anything that soundz rite will werk.  Oh and I’ll just slip this in before anyone notices: Crows are able to actually improvise and create new tools to solve problems such as helping them to obtain difficult to eat foods, other animals that are known to use tools usually inherent the skills.

You wanna know what’s difficult? Trying to plan how to become a fossil in the future.  For the longest time I just wanted to be buried in a burlap sack and planted under a tree when I died.  Hopefully a tree that bares (sp?) plenty of fruit so that my juices would soak up into the root system, get into the fruit and eventually be distributed all over the forest.  That way I would be reincarnated as a natural greenspace.  But now with all this widespread deforestation going on I don’t know if it’s such a good idea – the last thing I want is to be sawmilled and used as the wood for someone else’s coffin, talk about purpose defeating.  And speaking of communication, there is evidence that crows can relay their calls from one to the next and communicate messages that way across distances that span hundreds of kilometers.

Sometimes I think of the living Earth the way I think of the human body.  There are all these species that have existed for sooo long in harmony with each other.  Whales, crows, lions – all of’em really, I think of them like organs in the body; like the heart, liver, lungs etc.  Then you have humans evolve relatively outta nowhere and spread within a few dozen rapid centuries like some insane sort of cancer.  We’re so egotisical as a species that we can’t even value other animals as being just as or more intelligent than us, simply because we happen to dominate them (temporarily – just wait till the viruses stop playing around and decide to get serious).  Is dominance better than harmony though?  Not in the long run I would guess.

As far as I can tell, the best bet to becoming a fossil would be to croak (no guff) and sink into the sediment of a lakebed somewhere.  Then it’s just a game of wait and wait.  Hopefully tectonic forces will push the lake up into a mountainside after a few million years and the sediment will turn to stone, fossilizing me.  It’s a bit of a longshot, but hey, well worth it.  Because fossils are in a way like something that’s been written in stone and the spelling correct.  And maybe way off in the distant future there will be no life on earth, plant or animal, no more symbiotic cycles between predators and prey and the planet may very well resemble a lunar landscape much more than the one we’re familiar with now.  And me, a fossil, will be the only recognizable evidence that there was anything here at all that once moved, evolved, used language, wrote words, had tools.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some far off descendant of the crow returns from the celestial refuge they escaped to before the extinction of life, finds me and marvels at how we humans were once one of the most intelligent animals on the planet.  Then again they might not be very impressed at all.

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