January 31, 2008 § 2 Comments
This morning I walked to the end of the Queen streetcar, that’s Neville Park. It’s a turn-around in front of concrete stairs running up to a fenced-off grass courtyard– “THIS AREA HAS BEEN CLOSED FOR GROUNDS REJUVENATION, TORONTO WATER“. It’s the art deco water treatment plant from In the Skin of a Lion. I’ve been looking for it everywhere, casually, seeing it in places that it shouldn’t be. And now it’s there, at the end of our street.
The beach nearby is frozen in thin silica sheets, catching the receding line of the water, the moon’s movements. Flanked by boulders of thick quartz. Rough hewn from the shield, dripping threads of ice. Empty, but for two dogs who run up and inspect me, then bark for treats.
In People of the Deer the Ihalmiut describe that the chief reason for erecting inuk-shuks isn’t to provide directions, it’s to mark out that someone was there. That the earth was moved by a human hand. Mowat describes what it’s like on an unmarked, empty lake. Without a name, hugging the edges in their kayaks. Knowing what it would mean to tip. Vulnerable to strange magics.
The lake is at the edge of one of the largest cities in North America. But looking across, it’s empty and you can’t see the end. And you know what it’s like. And you see the first settlers, from the ice bridge, and see how they came. To a land not inhabited, but full all the same. Dripping, a different world; lacking people, but full of powerful spirits, and trees.
January 30, 2008 § 2 Comments
Working at a retail chain store when you’ve settled down is bizarre to the point of absurdity. The managers complain about turnover at places like this, and yet they do nothing at all to reduce it. Apparently, a “mature” employee like me is someone they want to keep, and yet complaints are ignored and explanations about even little things are repeated ten times over, as if you hadn’t mastered it on your third day of work. It’s demeaning.
Have you heard the one about too many cooks spoiling the pot? Imagine five consecutive days of work, working with three different people. Your manager telling (not teaching) you one thing, at length, on the first day. Your assistant manager doing the same on the second. Your manager again on the third. A seasoned vet on the fourth. And your manager again on the fifth. It’s grating. It’s lame. I know what I’m doing here, thanks. I think I’m qualified enough to operate a cash register and put movies back in alphabetical order.
This isn’t me acting high and mighty. I’m not saying this because I think I’m too good for the store, though gradually I’ve realised that I am. It’s because it wears you down, day after day, being treated like you don’t matter. Like you are infinitely replaceable. Like there is no real difference between you and a thousand others. And there isn’t! Not for this job, which monkeys could do. But the daily affirmation is what kills me. I can see how you could slip into working there for years and years, based soley on your demolished self-esteem.
Two weeks into working there, my assistant manager actually stopped what he was doing, without saying anything, and watched me — from literally one foot away, entirely in my line of sight — handle a customer. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have been observing me, that’s part of his job, but the way it was handled was not healthy. The way that it happened implied expected failure, on my part. He was itching to correct, not teach.
Is it just this one store that’s the problem? Is it chain stores in general? Is it me?
Is this work? Is this what it’s like in the Real World? Are you beat over the head until you submit, is that normal for everybody? Maybe it is. But I’m not submitting for ten dollars an hour. Not for a job that doesn’t even try to care about me. Not for a manager who regards trading shifts and the mentally challenged as impediments to doing business. Who doesn’t understand what it means to serve your employees and the community.
There’s so much more I could tell you about this job, but I’ll just skip to the best part: I can quit. I have another job. It pays more. It’s not full time, but for us it’s enough. I can be home with my wife. I can write in between.
January 28, 2008 § 2 Comments
I think what I like about blogs is the fact that their lines are so clean. Do I mean the design? No, I’m not sure that’s it. Or, it might be. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Something about a web-page devoted entirely to words appeals to me. It is a singular experience. There is no friend page. There are few links, or there should be a minimum amount necessary.
If I set up this blog myself, it wouldn’t be anything. Besides what it is, which is words. Or maybe it would be two blogs, side-by-side. Linked in interior frames, but not ugly. One for words, running like a film-strip, in columns (so maybe more like something you’d dig up and display on micro-fiche), and a standard vertical-scroll blog somewhere in the middle, for comics. Or maybe these should be two separate pages. Anyway, that’s the dream. A page, or two-pages, of creativity. Nothing else. Little explanation.
A well and that’s it. You could dip in and dip out. More importantly, I’d do that as well. Drop my deposit, and go. GET OFF THE INTERNET. You know that’s what you want to do too, you silly little information-hoarders. You wide-awake, web-packs. That is the ultimate dream. If you could do it, you would. I know, I know, I know.
January 25, 2008 § 7 Comments
While it is never fully acknowledged as having any ill effects, the hunger for Fame has reached epidemic levels and has replaced art, education, politics, medicine and civil service as an acceptable career objective for today’s youth. Because once under its spell, the pursuit of Fame can become an obsession on the order of chasing the dragon, making one all too willing to sacrifice anything in order to obtain its fleeting and instantly addictive high.
What an interesting generation we are. We all acknowledge that not everyone should be famous, that celebrity is toxic, and that everyone wants to be one. We know that being famous is a poor drug and goal, (think of those people famous for being famous, and you know what I mean: Paris Hilton, William Hung), and yet it’s something that most of us do strive for. Many people are hit hard when they realise, at the age of forty, that despite having no real musical talents they will not ever be a rock star. Those same types reel with shock when they discover that they are not already great writers, athletes, and television personalities.
Is it enough to say that sometimes, and in the past certainly, I’ve been like these people too? What is it in our culture that creates and stokes this desire? It should be self-correcting. People should learn, with their first brush with fame, that something’s wrong– just by needing that extra high. But they want more, and accept that as something they need to feed and flame. Because in the twenty-first century, the body is never wrong.
January 25, 2008 § 4 Comments
THIS MELANCHOLY AGE
What a wonderful thing the internet is. With lightning speed I have altered the appearance of my blog enough so that my previous post no longer makes sense. The humour value is nilch. No wonder there seems to be a resurgence in interest in the printed page. Unless you are terribly confused, context is right in front of you. What more do you need to understand? You don’t need to be shepherded between hundreds of different links.
That, I can do without.
The day I realised that I was watching a shrimp on a treadmill, an image I’m sure you’re all intimately familiar with.
January 25, 2008 § Leave a comment
THAT FIRST, TERRIFYING DAY
This blog looks like it was devised by a skeleton. Or someone trying desperately hard to ignore His Dark Roots. Well, it didn’t work. And now I’ve got to admit to you all that I was born with a fish-tail and an intense urge to leaf through the collected works of T. Manicus Spearicus, long deceased. One day I won’t have to use that qualifier, T. Manicus. And we will ride side-by-side down the river of fire. If I can just solve your last theorem!
T. Manicus was very mathematical, you see. More so than other wizards, warlocks, and those of their ilk.