Friday, December 26, 2008

What looks like elephants, smells like oranges and tastes like sawdust?

Warning: The following post contains humiliating confessions. If you are uncomfortable around losers you may wish to quietly sneak away at this point.

A while back I completed the entire Halo video game and was content to put the roommate’s Xbox away and get on with my life. Until a day later, when I started playing his Halo 2 game. Upon completion of that, I discovered that such accomplishments were pale in the light of my having played each of them entirely on Easy mode.

Since then, I played through each entire campaign again on Normal mode and celebrated their completion and my ability to let go and get on with my life.

Except that my nightly Halo dreams have not abated while several falsely-sympathetic friends have gleefully pointed out the existence of the Halo 3 game.

“How much would it cost?” I asked my brother over Christmas turkey dinner.

“Maybe sixty bucks. Maybe less, now that it’s been out a while. Go to EB Games. They sell used copies cheap.”

“EB Games? Never heard of them. Do they have a Mississauga location?”


This morning as I drank my coffee, my nose in a good book, Steve-o came jogging down the stairs. I hadn’t seen him in a while due to all the holiday travel we’d each been neck-deep in.

“Merry Christmas!” he said.

I tried to be subtle and gracious and not tip my hand. “Oh - hi there. So um - did you get Halo 3 for Christmas! Did you!”


“Fucker!” I screamed.

He backed away from me slowly and slipped on his boots and coat. “Halo 3 is an Xbox 360 game. I only have the original Xbox. You can’t play Halo 3 on it.”

“Liar! I cried. “You’re conspiring against me, you Bastard!”

“Dude, it’s true. I swear.” He watched me wide-eyed as he reached for his keys and backed out the apartment door.

I googled Halo 3 and Xbox original. What the bastard had said was true.

My mouth had gone dry. I tried not to panic. To all problems there is a solution.

Ah hah! I’ll rent it!

I rushed to the truck and drove to Blockbuster Video. My stomach growled at me, wondering why this task was so much more important than breakfast. So I reached into the Tub o’ Christmas Loot I’d lugged home from the folks’ place but not yet hauled inside from the truck.

I pulled out a giant chocolate bar - one of those ultra pure dark kind that are so much less tasty to me than milky chocolate. This one had relief images of elephants all over it and had a hint of orange flavour. Except that I really couldn’t detect much flavour. That it froze overnight wouldn’t have helped. Temperature-change kills the flavour of chocolate. It’s true. I worked in the industry. Of course, I’m not supposed to be eating any chocolate. I’m supposed to be dieting. I need to lose about eighty pounds so that the I.S. will love me. I know. I know. That’s so pathetic you don’t know whether to laugh at me or cry.

So I gobbled down the giant orange-scented nothingness and marched into Blockbuster Video.

“Do you rent Xbox 360 units?”

The girl looked very confused. A boy came up behind her. “You mean the actual consoles?” he asked. They both looked at me with the strange look that young people give me sometimes. The look that translates into “What an interesting creature! Did he just step out of a time machine?”

“That’s right.”

“No, we don’t”

“Do you know who does rent them?”

They shook their heads.

“Or is that a thing of the past? Renting game consoles?”

“It’s a thing of the past,” said the boy. “We do sell them though.”

“For how much?” I asked, not interested of course, but for the sake of conversation.

Apparently there are different versions of the Xbox 360 console; regular, arcade, pro, whatever. He quoted various extravagant prices. I zoned out.

“Blah blah blah,” he said, “But that unit has no hard drive. Blah blah blah blah…”

“Blah blah blah Halo 3 special edition blah blah -”

“Did you say Halo 3! That’s what it’s all about! It’s all about the Halo three! That’s what I want!”

“Yeah, well this is really cool. It’s green with orange-gold trim just like the Master Chief suit blah blah blah…”

What the fuck is he talking about? Why is he talking about bloody colours? I just want to sit in front of the TV and kill everything in sight. Who cares about the godforsaken colours?

“It comes with a Master Chief helmet that you can store your Halo games in!”

I patiently overlooked that I was being mistaken for some kind of cheese-eating little video game geek and asked, “Does it come with the actual Halo 3 game?”

“No. That’s sold separately. Blah blah blah blah… basic version on sale for 19.99... Blah blah blah… sold out… blah blah blah blah… Shall I call the Erindale Station store? I think they’ll have some in stock.”

“I don’t know. I need to think about this.”

He made the call anyway. They had the special edition Halo Three Xbox console in stock as well as the game. Both were on sale. Despite my disinterest, he gave me directions to the Erindale Station Blockbuster store. “Erin Mills to Dundas. Turn left. Pass Mississauga Road… several blocks to Erindale Station..”

I thanked him and left. I had to go down Erin Mills Drive to get to my bank. Had to move some money around in order to pay the hydro bill. That done, I found myself wandering into the Wal-Mart next door for no particular reason and into their computer/hi-fi section and casually noticing that they were out of stock on the Halo 3 game and any of the Xbox console units. Which is fine of course.

Returning to the car I noticed an EB Games store in the same plaza and took a little walk there - just for the exercise of course - and noticed that they too were sold out of these products - which is all well and good of course.

Leaving the parking lot I accidentally chose an exit with no left turn available which led me down toward Dundas St where I had to make a left turn in order to get back to Mississauga Road which would eventually lead me home.

Somehow I missed that Mississauga Road intersection and found myself continuing along Dundas Street. By now the giant sawdust orange elephant bar had percolated through me and my stomach was turning inside out. I needed a bathroom and fast. I drove and drove and lo and behold I came to a street called Erindale Station and there was a Blockbuster Video store there which has a public bathroom that they will unlock for you if you ask nicely.

So I rushed in and in my confusion blurted, “I need a Halo 3 game and a Halo 3 Xbox unit please - I mean - I mean - I need your washroom please!”

She scooped up the key, led me to the washroom and unlocked it. “Shall I get those items together and hold them for you at the front counter?”

“God No!” I said. But in my panic, it came out sounding more like, “Yes please!”

I emerged from the facility feeling much much better and went to the counter to clear up the misunderstanding. There I spied a good brand of White Cheddar Popcorn Powder for sale and so I grabbed a bottle. I know that there’s a Cineplex Odeon gift certificate in the Tub o’ Christmas Loot and there’s no sense going to the movies without your crack. I mean - white cheddar powder.

I’m not really sure exactly what happened after that except I found myself surrendering my credit card to pay $250 for cheddar powder while the customer at the check-out next to me said, “Ooh. That’s what my husband wanted for Christmas!”

“Cheddar powder?”

“What? No, the video game.”

Apparently the cheddar powder comes with free Xbox products. “Well, tell him that no adult should be playing with this game. It’s an irresponsible idiotic pursuit!”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go. I have a plethora of killing to do. Hopefully I will emerge from my bedroom in three days, twenty pounds lighter and well on my way to annihilating the alien Covenant forces and the Flood parasite. It’s called the Halo diet. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


So here's the thing. Try to put yourself in these shoes:

You're from Toronto. You start a band; you and two other local guys. It's clear early that two of you are major talents and you replace the drummer with someone up to your standards - perhaps even more so.

You're an immediate local phenomenon with a solid home fan base. Over many years you remain dedicated to your art. For no prize will you will sell out. You remain unique and you remain united into your third decade.

Commercially you occupy a rare space. The combination of your uniqueness, dedication, integrity and wildly abundant talent make you over-the-top champions of a marketing philosophy that would not come into vogue until the third millennium. It is the aim - not to hit every possible listener with a number-one hit and win the sale of an album or two from each of them - but to wow the shit out of a loyal fan base that will buy everything you make - permanently.

And regardless of your intention you are so damn successful at that, that even though you are popularly indecipherable you become commercially relevant; an industry icon even - for the sheer volume of your impact, however formulated.

You tour world-wide for two decades before ever considering South America. There are rumours of Brazilian interest but album sales there do not seem to indicate a particularly lucrative opportunity.

But loyalty flows both ways and whatever fans are there deserves their opportunity to see you.

It is 2003 and what you don't yet know is that the precocious prevalence of unofficial music downloading in Brazil can sometimes mask a band's actual popularity.

Your gigs sell out instantly. Your people book bigger gigs.

Bewildered, you are busy modifying various track components in order to salute the South American culture as you prepare to play before sold-out soccer stadiums.

Approaching Rio de Janeiro, a myriad of problems arise; weather problems; technological problems. Obviously the show will go on but the film crew that were aiming to record the show? They have problems of their own and have arrived late. Will they go ahead and record without the benefit of sound or video checks? Yes. It surely won't be the best concert video ever recorded but they will go ahead.

You don't suspect that from this collection of odd details, lie the makings of something very special.

You don't know that for years afterward kids young enough to be your grandkids; who don't even know your music, will say. "Rush in Rio? Shit, I hear that's like - the best concert video ever made!"

Which is what the kid at the Orangeville Blockbuster said to me as he hunted down their last copy for me to buy. I would own it for more than a year before finally watching it for the first time. Sound strange? I knew it would be special. I had to wait for the opportunity to see it on a kick-ass Hi-Fi system; the ex's system which I knew very well, it once being mine.

"Sure, I'll look after your house while you're on vacation. Just warn your neighbors to close their windows the first night. Your place will be rockin."

So here's the thing.

There you are in front of 60,000 fans; a great undulating sea of beautiful bronzed Brazilians, swaying, waving and singing along with three old pasty white Torontonians; singing along to your instrumental songs even!

A huge flag sways above the 20th row or so. It is the flag of Brazil except the central globe has been replaced by a slightly modified version of the red maple leaf and side bars of the Canadian flag.

They don't adore you for your sexy image or for your hip style. They adore your work. Because it moves them like nothing else does.

So here's the thing.

At what point are you no longer simply playing a gig?

At what point are you in some kind of spiritual commune?

At what point can this intense connection between artist, art and the inspired only be defined with the word love somewhere within?

How do you maintain your composure? How do you keep your voice steady? How do you keep your feet and fingers and brain orchestrating the wildly complicated technical maneuvers that your task requires?

How do you keep the tears from your eyes?

This is what I want to know. This is the question for which the opportunity to ask them, I would give anything.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cafe du Rhyme

Saturday, December 20, 2008

News Flashes

FWG Still Alive
And kicking. He just hasn’t blogged in a while. Presumably, he’s been busy putting together the dynamics of his new, post-corporate lifestyle and income sources and not sitting around watching movies, playing Halo, and writing a
love-life advice column over at Crushed By Ingsoc, but one can never be sure.

Book Barn in Limbo
I approached the bookseller with the following offer: Let me set up a portable residence on this property, gimme two meals a day, and I’ll catalogue and merchandise your entire stock of books and give you an old computer with which you will access the catalogue; an estimated six-month arrangement.

The good news: The bookseller - let’s call him ‘Jack’ (since that’s his name) thought that was a fine idea!

The bad news: He neither owns the property, lives on the property or owns the major segment of the retail businesses. He just works part-time for the primary merchant in exchange for subletting the second floor for his books. He’s broke and lives off what little he makes selling the books. Furthermore, the City of Oakville which has allowed them both to do business for the last ten years on this rural property, has finally cracked down and demanded they cease operation or else cough up twenty thousand dollars to have the property legally re-zoned for commercial use. This kind of money is way beyond reach of either businessman or the landlord.

So the deal is a bust and the timeline for resolution of their dilemma is too long for me to wait around to see what part I might be able to play. As both operations are entirely to do with the reintroduction to market of used materials, otherwise potential landfill burden, in an age of environmental concern, I offered to organize a petition drive if indeed it could be determined that such would carry influence (many thanks to Terry-Anne for advice on this matter). But as for my own subsistence, I need to move on with specific plans. Mister Mastercard has been generous but I can't go on being his bitch forever.

Movin’ On
After a five-year absence, FWG is returning to Steeltown. Biodad and Judy took a major financial hit during his illness and could really use some tenant income for a while in order to catch up. Moving from a very large three-bedroom apartment into a single room may be just the right temporary logistics on route to a mobile lifestyle. More importantly, the Illicit Sweetheart lives nearby and has endorsed the move. And by endorse, I mean that when old fat guys are having a thing with someone young and gorgeous, old fat guys know how to play ball. It’s one of the primary laws of the universe. The Law of the Cookie. He who has the cookie does the telling, and he who hasn’t got the cookie, does the listening. ‘Nough said.

Oh My Hurtin’ Fingers
My three middlin’ fingers are constantly numb and the tips of them sting whenever they touch something - like the goddam keys on this here keyboard for instance. It’s some rare medical condition known as learning to play guitar. It’s true. The amazing Doc Lock gave me my first ever guitar lesson Monday night in exchange for an eight-dollar meal at the Super Happy Fantastic Chinese Noodle House* and the next day I went out and bought my very own Godin La Patrie Etude six-string classical guitar! I've learned a few chords and declared war on a few others. So far I entirely suck at it but that’s okay. I won’t be performing any concerts. It’s just a tool for the process of writing songs from some of my poems that demand they be made into songs. They do that sometimes. I can’t ignore their pleas any longer.

I am a New Day Rising
And so are you. So there.

*Not the correct name for this particular noodle house which really deserves proper attribution because it totally rocks for its BBQ pork and cheap cheap prices. I'll get back to you on that.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Apologies to No Frills

As I write this at Denny’s restaurant there is a group of young people leaving the table beside mine. One (or possibly more) of them were continually belching out loud. Every now and then I have to dig deep and reaffirm that I believe the human race is worth saving.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the last two years poking fun at the Bristol-and-Creditview No Frills store and their customers. I’ve gone so far as to call it the Galactic Centre of Ignorance on occasion. Not very kind, I know. Not very enlightened. But fun. It’s always great fun to bitch, isn‘t it? The best things in life are free.

Yesterday, on my way to Strat-o, I stopped at the much fancier and dancier Real Canadian Superstore to pick up a case of pop and some prepared fried chicken from the hot section.

They had a bit of a line-up going on. At the check-out I dropped one of those cool separator bars onto the belt between my fried chicken and the goodies being purchased by the fellow in front of me and dropped another behind my case of pop so that the woman behind me in line, draped in her furs, would feel free to add her items to the belt. A lot of people don’t seem to know what those bars are for. Well, that’s what their for. I wouldn’t lie to you about something like that.

Oddly, the woman in fur would not begin placing her items down until I was finally paying for mine. Perhaps I smelled bad. Maybe I’d stepped in dog poop and didn’t know it. Or maybe she follows some one-customer-on-the-belt-at-a-time rule on advice from her priest or something. Who knows?

But as I was picking up my goodies to leave she pushed her cart into me. Not a problem. Didn’t hurt. She didn’t apologize. Odd, I thought but also not a problem. I paused a second to get a proper grip on the case of pop and she ran the cart into my leg again. This time I looked directly at her. She looked away, saying nothing.

“Sorry about that,” I said. “I’ll be out of your way in a second.”

She glanced at me and looked away again. I went on my merry way.

Mysterious behaviour, I thought. On my home planet I was taught that when one person hits another person it is the hitter, not the hittee, who apologizes. But hey, who am I to preach tradition, right?

Maybe she has a cougarish streak and this was some odd manner of flirting. Or maybe I was on Candid Camera and I left before they had a chance to drop the bucket of pig’s blood on me. Or maybe she just wanted me to pay for the sins of all the men in her life. Maybe I got off easy.

Do you have any theories?

Maybe she was a princess in her former country and she was taught that all her mistakes are automatically someone else’s fault. Or maybe she saw my fried chicken and forgot it’s not 1950 and didn’t like my being in the white line. I really hope that’s not it.

There is now a new group of young people at the table beside mine here at Denny‘s. One of them tried to order a fur burger. The waiter offered a polite laugh. The next kid, not to be outdone, ordered a pussy supreme with extra pussy. Part of me is jealous that I never thought of something that clever back when I was young and a moron. The other part of me thinks it might be real nice if humans were confined to the North Pole and industrialized polar bears were down here fucking us out of existence.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

god, this is so embarassing:

... but does anyone know how to kill the prophet Regret in Halo 2 for XBox? So I can get this shit over with and go back to being a productive member of society?

I mean - a productive non-member of society?

I mean - an unproductive poet what nobody understands?

I keep whacking the crap out of him and his float-buggy with a salvaged glowy sword and all he does is make alarmed noises and I don't understand if the blood splashes are his or from the endless army of little ninny guards that just never dry up.

Please. Please help me get my life back.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Holiday Wish List 2008

A meme of sorts from the excellent Viorica:

My top-ten Christmas wish list. It`s supposed to be sincere and so this is. Pass it on if inclined. I don`t know if this will really be the top ten but it will be the first ten that come to mind.

1. Cures for Diabetes, Cancer and AIDS.

2. A comfy security guard job where I can sit at a desk and write for eight hours and get paid for doing nothing.

3. More time with the I.S. (Like twenty hours or so per day).

4. A research assistant who works for free.

5. An agent.

6. An airline ticket to Pondicherry, India.

7. To reach a perfect state of harmony.

8. A cap for the truck.

9. An acoustic guitar.

10. That every living person in the world be... okay.

FWG: The Deer and I

I walked alone on a moonless night.
I walked alone but for the sounds
Of my boots upon the ground
And the raindrops on my hat
And the wind in my ears.

I almost never saw him;
Only a few short strides away.
The deer stood statue still
And so then did I
But he was more still than me.

Then I saw another frozen figure,
Much like me but formed
Of material alike the deer.
Of course, it was a Santa.

I sighed and went home.
Such is life in the suburbs.