Saturday, June 2, 2012

My So Called Off Line Life: In Search Of The Canadian Dream

If you take a leisurely stroll through Bloor West Village during a weekday afternoon, it’s difficult not to take stock of all the people who are just plain out of it. Talking to themselves in a manner that is not endemic to natural ‘talking-to-yourself’ behaviour. I’m talking ’bout crazy folk. I mean, we all talk to ourselves, mutter a ‘Fuck, that’s hot!’ when accidentally touching the stove, or an ‘Oh yeah, gotta deposit the rent cheque’ when it’s overdue. But it seems to me that one in five people in Toronto are incapable of maintaining an inner monologue; they’re mumbling an entire scene from the drama of their insignificant lives for all to hear.

Where do they all come from and where do they all belong? All these people talking to themselves with hang dog jowls and arms slack by their side, shuffling down Bloor St.? Have they found what they’re looking for? Are they deeper into the dream than the guys on Bay St? These are the things that bounce around my bucket when I’m sitting on my toilet, dropping anchor, a cigarette between my fingers. Waste going out, flavour country going in. Where is the Canadian Dream? Our neck’s permanently crooked downwards into phone screens and fingers busy texting. Is the Dream slumbering inside of a device? Most of us are okay with distraction--that’s what we are, a nation of distracted dumb fucks lost in an electronic haze. All I see is people killing time. Just existing until the expiry date rolls around.

Sometimes I think the Canadian Dream, and by proxy happiness, can only be found on an isolated Samoan island. Live isolated in the jungle long enough and the skies open up and the sun beams shine through--no shucksters on the street corner selling a fix, no robberies, no junkie babies, no garbage trucks, no five year plans, no resumes, no taxes--just a tropical life. Yes, it may be hard at times catching food, it may be hard to sleep at night with no AC unit dripping out the window, it may even be scary hearing all those unidentifiable jungle noises at night, but fuck man, doesn’t it feel right? Doesn’t it feel natural? Isn’t this what humans are supposed to do?

There was a documentary about Greece the other day and the host of the film happened upon this old hunched over lady who lives in this ancient bucolic hilltop village. She lives alone for most of the year with the odd visit from her son. For food she forages for wild asparagus; boils it and squeezes a lemon on top and--viola--dinner! God only knows how much her piss smells. But when prodded about her isolation, her loneliness, she replied in a convincing manner that, in fact, she was quite happy. And you could tell by the look on her face that she meant it. She was happy. No internet, no job, no fancy new age electronic gadgets like iPhones or Teleputer’s, just the morning sunrise and the birds, and vomit inducing asparagus pee. She’s got a clutter free mind, that’s where a lot of the contentment comes from, I imagine. There isn’t the ruthless competition of living in close quarters in a metropolis and all the attendant social pressures that go along with it.

Here I am, a world and half away from Greece, sitting at my computer endlessly consuming information. I am a product of the zeitgeist and thus I am an admitted info whore just like most of you by way of reading this. One day I’ll be hauled away to some Arizona Infohab to detox from my digital crack pipe. Paging Dr. Drew.

Have you ever been in a YouTube hole? When you sit at your computer for hours on end watching clips (I‘m unemployed, okay). You can take electronic leaps from Liam Gallagher’s Funniest Interview Moments, to a Cute Kitten Unwittingly Running Into a Strip of Stretch Wrap, to Nardwuar interviews, to Mafia documentaries, to infinity and beyond. YouTube is so prescient in its time draining cruelty. Aside from any number of completely unrelated clips--and now for something completely different--after you watch a clip, YouTube then displays all these other inter-related clips, juicy morsels that are very similar to the one you’ve just viewed, and chances are you need to see it if you needed to see the clip you just watched. Off to the races! The possibilities stretch on forever like a YouTube fractal. Before you know it, you’ve sat through every Oliver Reed interview and every Russian Street Fight KO Compilation, and all the 9/11 and Tsunami footage. It takes all the willpower you can muster up to pull yourself out of the hole and say, “Enough! This is the last clip, and then it’s back to the real world, my offline life, whatever‘s left of it!” What a pathetic generation we are. A bunch of YouTube babies. You must stop reading this immediately, it’s a beautiful day outside and you need the Vitamin D.

Humans are masters of adjustment and self-righteousness. Remember, it was only around ‘87 when smoking was banned on airplanes. For decades smoking on planes was a mild annoyance to the non-smokers (granted there weren’t many non-smokers at the time). Locked in a vessel with no escape at 20,000 feet breathing in all this horrible tobacco smoke. What did you do? You fucking sucked it up like a man, both literally and figuratively. But now, forget smoking inside tight quarters, even outside non smokers get their panties all knotted up. How quickly we are to adjust and feed the fire of our self-righteous indignation.

In the near future I’m betting the U.S. will be the first country to ban smoking in Mexico (under threat of military action) because of the cumulative effect of all those Mexicans’ second hand smoke wafting north across the border. American tobacco companies will put up a big fuss, but the overwhelming sense of entitlement and health of U.S. citizens will be too much. There will be massive protests in California, Arizona, and Texas. Angry citizens clamouring and rioting, smashing storefronts and fighting with police (though they won’t put up much of a fight because of their decreased lung capacities). Even health conscious celebrities affected by the second hand smoke in Los Angeles will film PSA’s, sitting on a reversed chair, telling Mexico’s population that “Butts are for sitting.

Mexico decides to ban traditional bowling balls because of the Kyoto II: No Tobacco For Mexico Protocol whereby Mexico‘s emissions and waste need to be cut down under threat from the U.S.A., so the Mexican gov‘t resolved, in addition to outlawing tobacco, to illegalize the manufacturing of the plastics and polyurethane directly involved with the bowling ball industry. To counteract the impending bowling ball shortage a few industrious and outside-the-box-thinking gov’t officials propose to use severed heads of the victims of the narco wars. At first, the Mexican population is aghast at such a macabre solution, but eventually give in because, after all, skulls aren’t much use rotting in the ground. Might as well bowl with them. Each ball’s formation utilizes two and a half human skulls and is fashioned into a beautifully round and smooth shape by plaster and reticulated drywall tape. These two and a half skull bowling balls obviously don’t last as long as the P & P type traditional balls, but the skulls were coming in from the morgue and then out to the manufacturing plant to the bowling halls at an almost renewable resource like rate, or so all the bowling hall owners joked, so constant replacement due to dents and nicks that would cause the ball to roll untrue was not really a problem.

Where did our attention span go?
Have you ever wondered just who in the hell all those people are on TMZ? All of those kids in the war room? Me too (again, I’m unemployed). Like an investigative journalist I scoured the internet for information on them for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. Maybe I just wanted to verify that they are, indeed, real people. I have some kind of binge relationship with TMZ. I will go for weeks without watching it and then all of a sudden, I‘ll watch it everyday for a week. It’s the apotheosis of our modern North American entertainment State, the most vapid form of entertainment TV I’ve ever tuned into--and I mean that in a good way, I suppose. I just get lost in every little stupid encounter, every little man-on-the-street interview and the accompanying goofing on the clip by the peanut gallery. Even while I’m watching the show I keep asking myself, ‘why are you watching this trash?’ The mild tingling of excitement at the start of the program is wholly nullified at the end of the thirty minutes by the shame of time wasted. I should be chasing the Dream! I can’t help but thinking that the very next story will be just right, a sexy B level celebrity in the middle of a coke and booze bender. My last wish on Planet Earth before I die is to order up a round of beers and sit down with the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson and watch an episode of TMZ.

“Goddamnit, man! What is this swine?” Hunter says, turning to me with tinted shades, rolling his cigarette holder in his teeth, unable to keep still. “They videotape people doing nothing?”

“Yeah, this is what we watch on TV now, Hunter. It’s kind of like a reality version of Seinfeld but with celebrities,” I explain to him.

“These people should be force fed scrambled napalm eggs. Get my hog! I’m getting the hell out of here!”

Shit, if it was up to me, I’d replace the entire cast of these TMZ hooligans with the likes of Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Manson, Osama Bin Laden, Mel Gibson, Lydia Lunch, John Gotti, Shane Macgowan, and with me hosting, of course, sucking on that silly sippy cup and scribbling out illegible notes with an erasable marker on a fancy transparent board. Now that’s a show! I know some of them are dead but it’s a fantasy so just suspend your disbelief. Maybe I’d get Mel to host when I’m on vacation…



The largest component to the Dream is a j-o-b. No doot a boot it. That’s what defines the parameters of the Dream itself and, currently, there aren’t too many prospects for this dirty pig in hog town. The Dream is an amoeba like organism constantly morphing and reconstituting itself into indefinable yet ever changing shapes. I checked one ad in the back of Now magazine and it said, “Now accepting applicants for Cock #24 for the adult film, 30 Rock (Hard Cocks). Call 416-819-****.” If it was Cock #3 or #4, well then, maybe, but not #24. So here I sit typing away with overdue bills to pay, trying to figure it all out.

It’s rumoured that the Nike co-founder, Dan Wieden, modelled the phrase, “Just Do It” after Gary Gilmore’s last words, right before he was executed, which were, “Let’s Do It”. A monosyllabic tweak and--presto!--advertising gold. Those shoes on your feet are made by slave children, and the phrase associated with the impulse you had to buy the shoes in the first place comes from a man who was executed for killing two people: a gas station employee and a motel manager, of all people. Well, there is a cock-shitting fuck load of time to do nothing and sit and think in a Texas prison, so at least two thirds of a golden ad slogan can easily bubble up to the surface in the mind of an inmate. Now let’s see you skip on down the street.

There is an underground terrorist group, maybe you’ve heard of it, but probably not, since not many have, and I may have just made it up. The leader is a broad shouldered man-woman with facial electrolysis, water balloon titties filled with milk (it’s a fetish thing), a bad blond wig parted in the middle, and big veiny man hands that can palm a basketball. She eats nothing but sandwiches which she has dubbed, ’LGBLT’S’ (Leeks, Guacamole, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes). They are gearing up to wage war on straight North Americans. With Bombs. Smoke bombs. In places like subway trains, Bay St. elevators, and select Tim Horton’s. This leader of the cell, who shall remain nameless, she always and without fail leaves her self-published manifesto which rants on and on about the vacuity and banality of straight culture on the floor in the middle of all the confusion right before she makes a hasty retreat.

President Obama has voiced his opinion in support of gay marriage and hey, it’s the right one, no matter what recondite political strategy it comes from, but why not nationalize gay marriage, strong arm it into the constitution (last time I checked, Nezbit, that right was ALREADY THERE, DUMBASS), you do, after all, have the power. And if that’s what you truly believe, then be a real man and do what is right, what you feel in your heart of hearts, listen to the throbbing cockles of your heart, play your heart strings, in fact, strum them like a mandolin and play God Bless America.

My first visual sighting of an actual player in action, two people getting hot and heavy, was a biracial affair involving a rakish guy who had neatly cropped facial hair and hailed from Trinidad & Tobago and a busty brunette white girl. He just laid pipe--I’m assuming--into tons of chicks. I was, after all, only twelve, with slim to no knowledge of actual carnal relations with females. He was one of those guys who just lives to get some pussy; the kind of guy who has like four ho’s on the go at any one time and juggles them around without any one of the ho‘s finding out about the other three ho‘s. He was my babysitter’s older brother, Mika, aged eighteen.

For the past two years my parents employed a neighbourhood boy, Mika’s brother in fact, who lived six houses down, to baby sit me in the summer months at the economic-collapse-proof-rate of twenty dollars tax free cash per day. Someone had to watch me while my parents were working and school was out, and that someone was Marty. Our neighbourhood culture was one of warmth and plenty of communal interaction between kids and parents alike regardless of race and religious persuasion. There were summer barbeques and baseball games on the street. Our street was a cul de sac that formed a unique type of ball park, like a 2D beaker laid down flat. Legitimate jog-around-the-bases homerun’s constituted hitting the tennis ball onto one of the adjacent house’s roof’s. A homerun was considered an upper-decker if it plopped onto the top roof and just a regular, non-flashy homerun if it hit the lower roof. Our urban street ball had other unique aspects too: Incorporated into the game were all manner of obstacles that a fielder must be prepared for…bounces off cars, garages, curbs, just to name a few. If the tennis ball went under a car the runner was practically guaranteed an extra base and a half as the hapless outfielder was splayed on the street searching for the elusive ball.

Marty is from Trinidad & Tobago (what were my parents thinking, I know!), as is the rest of his family for that matter. He’s a sixteen year old kid with a good responsible head on his shoulders living with the aforementioned lady killer, Mika, with his two parents, who, whenever I visited were extremely quiet and reserved, especially the mother, but very polite nonetheless. Their house was alien to a white kid like myself. It was always so quiet which made any silences and natural body adjustments magnified and more uncomfortable. The first thing that almost illegally assaulted my olfactory senses upon entering Marty’s house was the thick stench of curry. I didn’t really like or dislike curry at eleven, though there was some apprehension to deeply inhale. It was more a massive whiff of whoa, that’s a little different, I wonder what Marty smells when he walks in to my house? Nothing? Because my house smells like nothing when I walk in.

Marty and I both looked forward to the summer months because he wasn’t so much a babysitter as a friend who cooked KD for lunch and played ball with all the kids and came down into my basement when my friends and I were building forts out of cushions out of both rectangular and right angle type cushions and pretend to be a monster and attack us. I mean, it’s almost scary to think back to how much fun and excitement fort cushions was. Why couldn’t I be eleven forever? And then the next day it would be baseball.

About twice a week we’d play inter-neighbourhood games at a local school’s ballpark that was closer to our opponents neck of the woods but generally conceded two summer‘s ago that it was the best ballpark in the general area, so we braved the longer trek. There were only two teams in our league. Outside of our own intra-neighbourhood games, more like pseudo-competitive practice for the inter-neighbourhood games, we only competed against one other neighbourhood team: The Indians (not Cleveland). These were the big games, the games where I felt a little anxious knot in my prepubescent stomach if I stepped up to the plate late in a tie game. Knowing what to do and waiting, waiting, waiting all this time for Marty to lob a floater into my wheelhouse so I can just plaster the baseball into outer space, so high and long that maybe the ball will be sucked into the gravitational pull of an asteroid belt and will revolve around Earth for a thousand years, and then it will touch down in some godforsaken place like Namibia. All I have to do is execute, like Gary Gilmore. Swing my pre-man body around with my favourite Easton aluminum bat and crank that ball into the stars.

Todays game: The White Kids With The One Illegally Older West Indian Guy vs. The East Indians.

My side of town against yours. The Indians lost almost every time but us White kids didn’t rub it in too much because of the illegal W.I. guy who was on our team hitting gargantuan homers every time he stepped up to bat like Frank Thomas playing on a triple AAA team. Sometimes he would crank it so far the hard ball ran out of grass and rolled onto the school’s paved recess play area, and if it was hit just right, it could scoot all the way down a narrow walkway about three feet wide and keep rolling into the front recess area which is, like, farther than any of Big Papi’s dingers. The Indians conceded Marty’s presence to the whole game because he was my babysitter and because he was the pitcher for both teams. There was just no escaping his participation. He organized and coordinated all the games and kept track of both teams’ batting averages.

Being a lefty, I would typically, if I made solid contact, smack it into right field (but I could go both ways wink wink), and that was conveniently where the Indians stuck Jindy (who I called Jindy 500 mainly because he was hitting about .500 [.497 to be exact]). Most of the Indians didn’t have turbans, but Jindy did; one of those starter turbans for prepubescent boys that is a tennis ball sized bubble of hair neatly wrapped in a colourful fabric placed directly on top of the head. Turb Bubbles is what some of the kids called them. But that’s not why I intentionally hit the ball to his portion of the outfield--it was because he was an immensely fat kid on little legs. His nubby weiner dog legs couldn’t chase down any substantial hit into the gap within a reasonable amount of time, so a triple was always in play, even though it would typically be a single or at best a risky play for a double. Jindy had a decent arm, too. He’d launch the ball from deep right field all the way to the plate with one bounce, right into the catcher’s mitt. But like I said, all this was pretty much negated by his foot speed. The point is if you’re white you have unfair advantages in this world.

And then one day I woke up shortly after Marty arrived, which was S.O.P., and walked downstairs bleary eyed yet excited at the prospect of another day swimming, or playing ball, or doing whateve’s, sizzling in the summer sun. It’s all good baby baahby. Marty was watching t.v. and I grunted ‘hi’, or ‘hey’, or some other kind of salutary grunt denoting acknowledgement. The mornings always started off a little slow and I lazily sauntered into the kitchen to get a glass of milk. To my amazement I could hear, emanating from below, what sounded like cutesy girlish giggles, and I thought, hmmm, that’s strange. Strange cutesy girlish giggles don’t, like, ever happen around here. I chugalugged my milk, kahhhhh, and went downstairs to investigate. I kept the lights off and traversed the first few steps that led to a small square landing before the stairs changed direction at a right angle and continued downward. I stood on the landing and let my eyes adjust to the darkness until the semi-formed biracial octopus morphed into two intertwined people, a West Indian guy on top of a busty White brunette. He was, to my virgin eyes’ stunned amazement, smothering her with kisses and grinding against her with his six foot frame. It was a heavy petting zoo, that’s for sure. I recoiled and turned to go back upstairs and maybe heard the two teenaged lovers even giggle at my quick retreat up the landing and back into the kitchen to process what I had just seen. I thought to myself, “Girls actually kiss guys with all that hair on their face? Grrooosss.”

I could tell that Marty was a little miffed that Mika was using the Nezbit household, of which he was responsible for during the weekday hours of 8:30 to 5, for his sexual gratification. Now he was even more livid because he could tell by my puzzled prepubescent face that I had gone downstairs and witnessed god knows what. Mika bullied his brother as siblings are oft to do, and he was understandably hesitant to go downstairs and tell Mika to take his kissing booth somewhere else for fear of later reprisals. But his duty to purify the sanctimonious Nezbit household was paramount and he trudged downstairs and told Mika to hit the road.

As they were leaving, this brunette, she smiled apologetically at me and Mika playfully adopted a boxers’ stance and hit me softly with a combination as I turned my body and crumpled inwards with my skinny little arms. Then out of nowhere, with Mika and his girl walking out the front door, a whole procession of people came strolling in and the walls of my childhood home collapsed as if on a Hollywood set to reveal a sizeable studio audience and a whole apparatus of lights and cameramen and producers running around with headsets.

There was Mel Gibson, Charles Bukowski, the LGBLT shemale, Dan Weiden, three Mexican gov’t officials (with bowling balls), Nardwuar, Hunter S. Thompson, Gary Gilmore, the old Greek lady, President Obama, and the entire cast of TMZ, interlocking arms and starting to do the can-can dance, just like the showgirls in Vegas.

Dat dat dat de-dat, dat dat dat de-dat…

The studio audience went wild! Marty and myself stood stupefied in the middle of all this with our mouth’s hanging open unable to process the scene.

I quite enjoy curry now, for the record.

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