4 weeks ago
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Played hooky Wednesday. Too beautiful a fall day.
I decided to do something I haven't done in a long time. In this age of Amazon and Alibris, I don't visit used bookshops very often anymore. Sadly, there are not that many left.
Like most people, I suppose, I now order most of my books online. You always know you'll find what you're looking for.
But on this beautiful fall day, I wanted to experience (once again) the pleasure of finding a buried artifact during one of those archaeological delves through the various strata of the used bookshelves.
On this beautiful fall day, the dig yielded a handful of useful relics, including an early 20th century edition of Johnson and Boswell's Tour throughout my Hebridean homeland, as well as an excellent edition of Ulysses. It replaces another copy of the same edition that I owned when I was in high school, and had to hock, along with many other brethren and a hefty chunk of my CD collection at the time, for survival cash during a lean period in Vancouver. I can't imagine ever doing something like that, which I had to do several times. But you can't eat (or drink) books, even though I've often wanted to (and may have tried to a few times when in an altered state).
Although, as an erstwhile biblophagist, I have to confess my unabashed love for books. The shape of books. The texture of the yellowed pages. And the smell of books. I think I've gotten high once or twice on bookbinding glue.
Did I tell you that I love books? Those that I want to own and read, that is. And I really love books that have been gathering dust in old bookshops for decades, if not centuries, and the ones that have accompanied me throughout my peripatetic movements all over North America. Like listening to the music you love, the act of reading books that are interesting or important to oneself is humane, calming and civilizing.
Perhaps most of all, I love my bookshelves. Like much of the inner architecture of my apartment, built from knotted white pine by my father in his workshop just over five years ago, though he no longer remembers doing so. Most everything else in my apartment is ephemeral, and while missed, can be replaced. But not those particular books, each of which has other stories to tell. In the marginalia. On the cover sheets. On pieces of paper lost within the pages. Nor those bookshelves and everything else my father made with his own hands. Still solid. Still stable. Forever priceless.
My beautiful fall day continued to unfold. I stepped into a pub that I once knew well very. After a couple, I stopped looking for any familiar signs. I recognized nothing and nobody. Though the bartender was a friendly sort.
And as I walked home, I remembered that it was three Halloweens ago that I first noticed some unfamiliar and unwelcome signs of my own. My old friend the X-Man and I met for a double bill of The Exorcist and The Shining. Shockingly, he had seen neither. For a few hours, I could be blithely unaware, sharing a couple of my favourite films with a good friend.
But paying no heed to the emergent signs of the Interruptnum would have been a much too vulgar display of the power of denial.
Happy Halloween, friends. May the Power of the Book compel you never to buy a Kindle reader.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I'm thankful for my country home. I needed to lose those bell rung blues. And finally forget about the Information.
I'm thankful that that old white line was a friend of mine, and that I had the opportunity to make a break from the city into the bucolic bosom of the ancestral Glen. The Glen at the apex of its autumnal allure. Something I missed so much during my occidental exile that seems so long away and far ago. A repatriation with the bounty of the harvest, the smells and textures of the season. The productive portion of the cycle, marked by a plenitude like no other. The reinvigorating chill, the fecundity of Nature, the cornucopia of abundance that Mother Earth thanklessly provides. The Glen, where I can try to make peace with the chthonic gods, and where the pages of my youth can be thumbed though once more. Working with my Dad "on the land", so very different now, but still so familiar. So calming. Like getting the malware out of the hard drive in your head. The family bond that may bend, but never breaks, and is so readily recoverable from the ruins of the past or the catastrophes of the present.
The World that We Have Lost, and the Days that Used to Be.
All of this, accompanied by the resumption of our cultural pastime, has dispersed the doom and gloom of a soul melting summer, dozens of diagnostic tests, bell rung bewilderment, and the multifarious demands of the Information. Though it may have strained the limits of body and mind and, at times, imagination and credulity, the Information (and its contexts) has finally, as a dear friend would say, been slain. And the Heat is off, for now anyway.
Upon return from my restorative retreat in the Glen, my apartment is littered with the detritus of the Information. Armed with a re-optimized mind, I know what I want to reconnect with. Family and friends. Books and beer. Music and film. And maybe a visit from Molly Maid.
But before that could happen, the Information needed to be slain. For me, for the Company, for the Mansion on the Hill, for the corporate consensus. All summer long, I was all too aware that the contents of my head were the property of the corporate client. And I needed to adhere to the expected protocols of corporate genre.
"What's it gonna be Fisheye, orphan, or dame?"
Like a good Company Man, I abandoned my ambition and delivered the deliverables. Damn good deliverables, I dare say. The corporate collective and the individual were as one this summer and early autumn.
But the Information, as all things, has a history, fabulist though it may seem. I do not look for a moral. For an exemplar. There are none. There is only One. One Crazy Summer of severely strained Stoic self-command, corporate incompetence, false starts, false finishes. One dog going one way and the other going the other way, and me in the middle saying, "waddaya want from me?"
There were good times. There were bad times. Exhilarating highs and humiliating lows. Why did I keep Fucking Up and having to do things Over and Over Again?
I knew it was going to be an unpleasant summer once it became obvious to me that I was expected to work two fulltime jobs at the same time. It didn't add up. But after the persuasive rhetoric, with its promises of wealth and riches beyond my most perversed of fantasies, had lured me into the spider's web of corporate consent, I had no way out. My colleague wriggled her way out by prematurely delivering a research product of her own.
And then it was all up to me. The weight of the corporate collective rested entirely on my shoulders. I couldn't fuck it up, even though I may have wanted to.
But having a few more steaks in the freezer wouldn't hurt. Having all those billable hours to myself -- I had visions of abundant car payments and 42" flatscreens in my multiply-concussed head.
It started as commedia dell'arte and hybridized into farce by the end. But I learned a lot of things. Such as the Borgesian paradox that our National Library is not a library of any sort.
But was it worth neglecting my friends, my family, my physical and mental health, and the Blog by subordinating all to the Final Cause of performing a one-man chorus to the strains of the Information?
Of course not, but you gotta be able to walk out on everything when you spot the Heat around the corner. And at least I was in complete control. I work best when its only my name on the bill. When I'm unencumbered by the concept of teamwork and breathing the corporate breath. When I'm on the edge, where I gotta be.
From late August to September I sequestered myself in my Grub Street garret and put in my 12 hour days, ate my Georgie's pizza, and moved ever closer to the End. When I wasn't working along to the innocuous sonic background of Galaxie's "Chill Lounge", the street noise below provided an alternative soundtrack of anthemic jackhammering and backup beeping. On the day of the long gun registry vote at the Mansion on the Hill, there were helicopters swirling around my head from morning to night. I felt like a paranoiac Ray Liotta as they hunted out any disgruntled lone long-gun-men. Another day, while enjoying an end of work day shower, the water was shockingly cut off due to a water pipe burst in my charming yet antiquated building. As always, I blamed the Information.
It also didn't help that throughout all this I was dealing with the Old Masters of the Vinci Park corporation. Every Monday morning, I had to make a pilgrimage down to Vinci HQ to void parking tickets that were administered by an employee # that they claimed to have no record of, although he had access to the corporate toolbox. When I was unexpectedly offered a parking spot at my building that I suspected didn't exist, I took it on trust and was able to get out of my Faustian deal with Vinci Park. On October 1, after an entire day of feeding the gaping maw of the streetside parking meter, I finally got the call. It wasn't encouraging when the first words over the receiver were asking how big my car was. Not parking a motorcycle, I was now shit out of a downtown parking spot. The upshot of it all is that I am now parking my car in the hinterlands of the downtown core, even farther away than my Vinci deal.
I could tell you many other stories, but you probably wouldn't believe them, and I couldn't blame you for that.
All that matters is that the Information has finally been slain. And while there have been many false endings, like twists in a bad horror film, the corpse seems to have stopped twitching. I have delivered the goods into the baseball mitt of the government litigator (literally, sadly). I've taken my bullet for the Company, and next time it will be a corporate comrade's turn.
Dancing Days are here again, and that means the Grand Productive Days are back.
You're home free, brother. Yeah, home free.