Monday, November 29, 2010

Notes from the Field

I decided to drop into a walk-in medical clinic this afternoon, and I came away with more astonishing anthropological anecdotes for the note book. I need to get it down before the details fade further into the farrago of my increasingly clouded consciousness.

I've had an ear problem of some sort since last Thursday. I decided that, rather than add time and physical distance to my already heavily compressed daily schedule, I would drop into a walk-in clinic downtown, and save me a drive out to my own doctor beyond the pale of the downtown core. One ear has been plugged intermittently, and the other seems to percussively "pop" every so often. A little potato of ear wax had gotten stuck, I presumed, and I simply needed a flush with a medical syringe.

In my immediate neighbourhood, there is a (putative) clinic that's only open one or two days a week. And last Friday wasn't one of them.

So, on Friday, I trekked about 15 blocks, against an unusually bitter November wind, to the hinterlands of the downtown core, only to be told to expect at least a four hour wait.

The waiting room was suffocating in the swell of sick humanity. Screw that, I says, and I went off to the gym as per usual on Friday afternoons. During that session, my ear got unplugged somehow, so I didn't worry anymore about it.

On Monday morning, it had returned. After getting a reasonable amount of work done, I decided to give the walk-in clinic another shot. The one nearest to me was open today, and I had other errands to do on the same street.

I got there around ten to 1, and a few people were lined up. I went and did a couple of other errands, and when I returned more people had lengthened the line. They all seemed rather anxious and hopeful at once, as if they were in line to buy a limited edition copy of "Halo" or "Call of Duty: Black Ops". I waited for another minute or so, and finally the line started to move quickly into the vacuum of the now open walk-in clinic, and I was pushed from behind into the swirling vortex as the crowd surged forward. I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of my decision, thinking that I should have just jumped into my car and made the pilgrimage outside the pale to my own practitioner. By then, however, it was too late.

I was herded into the waiting pen along with the rest, and once I was registered, there was no going back. An hour and a half wait. OK, I can do that, get my ear flushed, get over with it, and get out of here.

I pulled out my reading material, and settled into a seat. Not long after, an old white man and an older black woman who may or may not have known each other began to engage in a rather loud and public conversation. Eventually the conversation drifted into a discussion of race and ethnicity. "What are you?", the man asked rhetorically, as he had previously asked the receptionist behind the front desk. The woman, without a hint of Samuel Jacksonian irony or self-reflexity, replied, in her shout-speak, that she was a (offensive n-word deleted). For some reason or other, this otherwise mundane conversation continued and escalated to the point where she was repeating, matter of factly, she was a (offensive n-word deleted), and that was that. Stunningly, very few people in the waiting room seemed to bat an eye. There were a few black people in the waiting room, and one of them was getting noticeably and understandably agitated. Even the old man she was talking to was begging for her to shut up, but she inexplicably kept describing herself using that term. I couldn't help but peer up from my page -- almost everyone else was staring into space, seemingly oblivious. Even the receptionists went about their business as usual. It was exquisitely uncomfortable.

Finally, the young black guy told her to shut up, explaining how offensive she was being, and that she should be ashamed of herself. The verbal spat went on for several minutes in the waiting room, and all I could do was squirm in my chair. Then she stepped out for a few minutes, the two still shouting at each other through the window.

Things calmed down after that, even after the older woman returned, and then it became the usual exercise in ennui as all those before me were called in to see the "doctor" down the hall. I finished my TLS, wishing I had brought the following issue with me as well.

Eventually my name was called. I was ushered to a tiny examination room, and almost immediately she entered behind me. I had seen this woman earlier, floating around the front desk in a confused state, and I assumed she was a previous patient. A gnomish four-footer, she was wearing a blue jean jacket and sporting a cheap, bloody orange dye job. She looked to be in her mid-80s and going through a 2nd or 3rd postlife crisis. I expected Ashton Kutcher to pop out from under the examination table telling me I had been PUNK'D.

She demanded to know what was wrong with me. I told her about my ear, and I bent down to allow her to shine her light. In all of 15 seconds, she triumphantly declared "No Wax!" after a peek in each ear with her little light. She proceeded to start writing a scrip for a decongestant and to see her again in a week. I explained that I had my own GP and several other oncologists and endocrinologists, and I had simply expected the walk-in clinic doctor to instantly see what was in my ear and syringe it out. I tried to thank her and leave, but she held me for another five minutes as I dictated an abridged narrative of my health history the past 3 years to her. I had to tell her how to spell a few things, and I really began to wonder where the hell I was.

She handed me back the narrative I had dictated to her, put her stamp on it, and I walked dumbfoundedly outside to the street. 2 hours lighter, and 2 hours later.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Its damn well time.

A weekend to get down to it. Get over on it. Be over with it.

Dancing through the detritus of the disruptions.

Declassifying the documents.

Discovering the bones of displacement and distractedness.

Dispersing the odour.

Dispatching the days of dolour.

Driving out the disinterestedness.

Destroying the details of depression.

Drilling through the decadic layers of deviancy and delinquency.

Dispelling the indolence of disillusionment.

Disinfecting the disorder.

Dressing up the new order.

Desecrating the dead flesh.

Drawing out the new flesh.

Dismembering old devices.

Misremembering old vices.

Reconstructing the reality.

Deconstructing the decrepitude.

Discharging all dissimulation.

Designing a new direction.

Developing strategies of decorum and decency.

Directing a new dramatis.

Debunking the dreams of fabulists.

Debating the dubiousness of discretion.

Deferring to the demands of the Dionysian.

Daring to defy ....

Friday, November 26, 2010

Explosions! .... in the sky

.... its natural to be afraid

Sunday, November 21, 2010

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Damn! I'm in a tight spot!

My Brother HL2170 has abandoned me in a time of need. I can't print my documents.

I guess all I can do is stop working and watch the football game. G-Men vs. the Eagles.

Damn! We're in a tight spot!

In order to win our fantasy football matchup this week, Eli Manning has to outduel Michael Vick, and real bad at that. Bomber said we were gonna win the Bowl. We started 8-1, but this would be our second loss in a row, and our grip on a first round playoff bye would loosen. Hopefully Eli won't emulate his big brother, the Great Tactician, who earlier today threw a final seconds interception that cost his team the game.

Instead of listening to the annoying Chris Collinsworth, I've got the radio on a station where I can hear some old timey music. The G-Men just fumbled the football to the epic strains of "Tales of Brave Ulysses".

Looks like the G-Men are going to get the Gears given to them tonight. Eli just threw an interception, and the Eagles are again in the Red Zone.

At the half, Eli's fantasy point total is -1.

No matter, my keeper league hockey team is healthily in first place, thanks in part to the Macedonian miracle, the Pride of Markham who Waxes supreme amongst the scoring stars. May the Moirae not strike him down.

Will I win the Dominion Cup this year?

yes I said yes I will Yes.

Will I win the HoC Bowl? With this Manning, maybe not so much.

Thanks, brother.

Eli Eli lama sabachthani?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jigsaw Man

Sometimes I really don't know what to do with this blog.

Sometimes I think I have to be clever. Sometimes I think that I have to be vulgar. Sometimes I think I have to be funny. Sometimes I think I have to be serious.

Sometimes I think that it should be cathartic. Other times I just get a kick out of writing something, and playing around with some ideas. With language. With expectations, including my own.

Sometimes I just like telling stories. From the past, from the present. Those archived in the remoteness of deep memory, or those that have been thrown before me in the ephemeral event of the day. What we think happens all in a day, though, may stroll through our consciousness for a lifetime.

But sometimes, I feel that the best use of this medium is to talk to myself. To write ... to myself. Things that probably wouldn't be set down otherwise.

The overwhelming majority of the sludge that sloshes around in my mind each day would, I strongly suspect, be too confessional and far too messy for even myself to ingest and make much sense of, let alone subject anyone else to. My levee will hold, buttressed as it now is by the pillars of Sobriety, Stoic self-command, and the Wisdom that inevitably accompanies experience.

This late afternoon, however, as an astringent breeze carries the sound of the late day traffic through my open desk window, I feel a need to set something down.

I am listening to music that never fails to move me, and is embedded with endless layers of memory. From my life and, I can only imagine, from those who composed and recorded it. Music has an ability to invoke that kind of sublimity. An ecstasy that cannot be entirely emulated. By ideas. By books. By cinema. Even by love, or what we each think that to be.

This late autumn afternoon, as a not so fiery sun sets over the city, I am thinking about my father. I have been able to see him more often since the Information was signed, sealed and delivered. But this provokes an emotional polarity in me. On one hand, it is wonderful to spend time with my father. But, during the course of an extended visit, seeing a man's mind slowly and invisibly disintegrate before you is a devastating experience that shatters me to the core each and every time.

Worse yet is knowing that my mother's heart breaks every day of her life, as if she had been consigned to hell and doomed to repeat each day after frustrating day. No woman deserves that. But especially not one who has an infinite capacity for love, loyalty, nurturance, and forgiveness. I do not know if my father truly earned that. Some of the things you see as a child you never really forget. I severely doubt that I have earned that loyalty, as her son. I only hope he is aware of that and still has the facility to understand the sacrifice, though he was never entirely capable of that acknowledgment. Perhaps none of us are.

I cannot pretend (to myself) and fabricate a father who I ever really knew, though I may have egotistically believed that I understood him. But he was, and is, my father, and I love him. He now embraces me, after a lifetime of firm handshakes. But I don't know if that signifies any fundamental change in him other than what he sees my mother do to any loved one she sees. I'd like to think that it does, though.

My father quit school after Grade Nine. He worked for a living from the age of 14, including extended periods in the far north of Ontario and Quebec. He took over my Grandfather's agricultural machinery business and, by sheer dint of a savant-like ability with numbers and business sense, work ethic and trustworthiness, built a business that allowed all of his children to have an opportunity to attend university.

But, like my Grandfather, my father was a hard man, and an immoderate man. If there is anything I can acknowledge that I inherited, it is that quality. I would probably still be immoderate if I could.

Such a salve, yet so destructive. I'd like to think, however, that I had put myself, most of the time, in a position where only myself could be damaged. Until the machina of the Interruptnum saved me from the deluge developing inside my levee. Saved me? Did I really write that? No, I don't think I did.

The genius of contingency! The unintended consequences will always catch up.

Dispensing with the traditions of primogeniture that were so entrenched, my father never expected me to be his successor. But he could not have understood what I appeared to want to do, or what it would all lead to. I asked that question of myself all the time, and never arrived at a satisfying conclusion. But he understood, even when he didn't.

Returning to the ancestral Glen as I am able to do from time to time, largely to help and provide companionship and understanding to my mother in the indifferent absence of my sisters, there are moments that I have been able to share with my father, maybe for the last time, that feel so familiar. Working together on the land. Driving around the countryside, roles reversed. Sharing the pleasure of a Leone western. Talking and listening and, sometimes, laughing. And, sometimes, crying. Hard Men never cry do they? Maybe when they don't know what is happening to them or how to make it stop?

Once upon a time, my father not only ran a successful business, but built things out of wood with his own hands. The pieces that adorn my home will always be cherished. It is so difficult to imagine him doing so now, and he doesn't seem to remember himself. But I do, and I always will.

The bulk of his retirement stolen from him, he can no longer work in his workshop. He feels that he cannot visit his old friends and colleagues. He has become reclusive. He goes outside and tinkers around with the yellow and green machines that are the last remnants of his once vast empire.

When I am home, I sit with him and watch westerns and hockey. I have learned to love almost everything Clint Eastwood because he does. He tells me he went to the movies all the time when he was a boy in the 40s and 50s. Too often, he looks into the flat distance, eyes wide open, neither asleep nor awake. And I wonder where he has gone.

Sometimes, I want to go with him.

Sometimes I bring home jigsaw puzzles for him to do. Though I have never attempted one myself, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of jigsaw puzzles. I know the quality ones he likes. The number, size and tactility of the pieces. The sorts of images. He becomes obsessed by them, to the point where he has to be told to stop. I wish he would approach his life again with that kind of fervour.

Each of us fell ill at almost precisely the same moment.

But as the jigsaw of my life falls back into place, my father is floating further and further from me.

Sometimes, I wish I could go with him.