Trying to escape the supermarket on a Sunday night, my way is blocked by a floppy-headed man (is his head too heavy?) talking to an elderly woman with the tiny-eyed face of a Russian doll about his lack of plans for the holidays. “I used to do stuff,” he says. “I used to do stuff every year. Mostly with my cousins. But now they’re all dead. Would you like to hear how they died?” The woman begins gesturing towards the door and front windows. “I think that’s my bus,” she says, and performs a neat scurrying manoeuvre to get around him.
Driving, driving, driving. In the left turning lane, I notice a car coming in the opposite direction and the driver of that car has decided to create a new lane for herself out of my very own turning lane(!), which would be a fantastic idea if only …
(a) it was remotely legal
(b) my lane didn’t run out in thirty metres and
(c) I wasn’t physically blocking her flight path.
Squeezing out her way, I do what anyone does when otherwise powerless in a driving situation: I lay on the horn. The car rolls past, going that I-know-I-did-something-wrong speed, and all I can see is her contorted potato face of confusion and horror.
At my last shared studio space I once had a conversation with the women there about aging, and I remember laughing when they talked about how, as one heads into your fifties, your body begins to betray you. Well, guess what corner I turn this winter, and guess what I no longer find so goddamn funny. And I think it’s this inconstancy of the physical, combined with the diminishing returns of one’s relevance, that can make middle-age such a discouraging business (if you were a superhero, you’d be losing the capacity to soar while gaining the ‘power’ of invisibility). Especially as a white, middle-class male in 2017, I can be shouted down by pretty much anyone (even children!), for any reason, and all opinions I might have on anything are invalidated by history. Someone has to pay the piper, I guess.
Go around, go around, go around: some coping mechanisms are easier than others. My typical response to any physical complaint is to ignore it (hospitals are appalling places and should be avoided at all costs, especially when dying). This usually works until it doesn’t. Some things function in opposition –– beer improves my mood but continues to make my silhouette more and more bear-like. The rest of it is a mixed bag. Work is no problem whatsoever –– I just don’t talk to anybody at all (see: hating my fucking job). Writing is more difficult, but generally I move my characters through the world more as distorted or wounded psychic entities than as persons defined by race or sex. Aside from this electronic newsletter, social media is now strictly for sharing art and episodes of cognitive incoherence. When talking to real people, out in the real world, concentrating on holding my face in a kind of half-wince will usually keep me from saying anything exceptionally stupid or remotely meaningful (read: offensive).
Oona and I are reading the Bible –– a children’s version of the Old Testament. It’s old, once owned by her mom, complete with a charming drawing by her of a little pig on the inside cover. Being a vintage book (1973), it doesn’t shy away from or try to sugarcoat any of the Bible’s batshit craziness. God creates. God destroys. God puts candies on the table and then smotes anyone who touches them. Don’t look back, Lot’s wife! Oh, too late, now you’re a bag of salt (is this where ‘old bag’ comes from?). Now Abraham and his ninety year-old wife Sarah are having kids. Sweet! That should kill them.
Still, Oona seems to enjoy it. Sometimes, on the way home from school or Brownies, I’ll put on the religious channel for her, because they’re always telling some kind of choose-your-own-holy-adventure type of story, and she really likes it. They’re talking her language, where everything can be solved by some last-minute deus ex machina or glittering magic, and there’s always rewards as long as you say sorry.
The Globe and Mail has done, in a middle-of-the-night kind of way, a total redesign –– if by redesign you mean making it physically smaller and printing it on cheaper paper. But I notice lots of little ‘pop-up’ articles, too –– like the “BREEZE THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY THIS HOLIDAY SEASON” item in the new “Pursuits” section. And said breezing happens when you …
1. Keep presents unwrapped.
2. Have electronics handy.
3. Watch your liquids.
4. Be prepared.
5. Learn the new rules.
… and might I also suggest …
6. Faux-grovel in the face of faux-authority.
7. Do not be Arab or Persian.
8. Shave that beard!
9. Do not be Muslim.
10. Have no luggage and no personal effects.
11. Have no dignity.
12. Do not fly.
Just when I think I’m done with collage, it pulls me back in. It has a special addicting power, this stuff –– the layering upon layering. Like adult colouring books, except not for children.
Some podcast things I must recommend before I forget:
How democracy will end (soon, I hope!).
Why the future of work is awful.
The President of the United States is run by the Russians.
How is the CHRISTMAS SEASON treating you? Are you FILLED WITH JOY? No? WHY NOT? You’re probably not trying hard enough. TRY HARDER. You don’t want to let down Baby Jesus, do you?
Anyway, good luck with all that,
Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.