cigar-tin stories number eighty-two / / memory ruins

Oona and I listen to a podcast about colours. One of the stories is about a woman who loses her sight, then regains it slowly, painfully, in a highly altered fashion, seeing like some prehistoric fish at the bottom of the ocean. At one point her brain begins turning on the colours of things when she’s told what they are; somewhere in our brains are tiny wires marked out for ‘blue’, I guess.

At the supermarket (always at the supermarket): a teenage girl, sullen in the wake of her mother’s endlessly stupid grocery shopping (“Why are you even buying that? I’m not going to eat that. This is boring!”), says, with little atomic lightning bolts shooting from her eyes, “Do you even know where you’re going? You don’t know where you’re going, do you?” Sometimes it seems like this is the entire world.

On Brownie night I serve Oona a quick supper––in this case it’s a mixed plate of grape tomatoes, sliced strawberries, vegetable crackers, seedless grapes, Polish sausage in bite-sized chunks, apple slices, cheese, toast with butter and jam, and cold chocolate pudding. It’s the cheese where I fall down; Oona won’t eat regular cheddar or mozzarella, she’ll only eat either when they’re mixed in a processed cheese string. Foolishly, I have broken these into pieces, and mixed them with all the rest. The censure is swift. “What were you thinking, daddy?” she asks.

I haven’t been posting as much art. This isn’t to say that I’m not creating as much, only that I’m experiencing some kind of glitch where I skip the last step, the packaging and presenting and posting part. I seem to have a lot of things lying around the studio, moving around but never put away and asking strange questions in their need to be finished off. But it’s always easier to start things than to finish them, isn’t it? At the start of things the world is yours. But finished things move away from you.

Part of this is down to organizing. Nothing of importance can be accomplished without organizing. I’ve heard. Unfortunately, the aspect of my brain dedicated to organization often looks like the forgotten remains of a bag of onions––all rottenness, brittle skins and some kind of plastic mesh where you can’t find your way in. And then as you get older, you just don’t care as much.

So much of my life these days is the giving up on things. I don’t mean this in any negative way; it’s more the ability to ignore the various circuses that roll through one’s cognitive suburbs. The noise, dear, and the people. I think instead about routine. I don’t want to buy anything. I have too many masters already.

Consumer society doesn’t really work so much anymore by pulling the old levers of advertising and having you want things; now it cultivates the need for adventure. It’s the difference, I guess, between the Cuisinart You and the Curated You. It’s just a different road to the same place. You’ll still require many products and devices.

Looking for music, I find a CD with the handwritten (Sharpie) label of ‘mixed for new’. It might be fifteen years old. The ancient JVC stereo in my studio was always cheaper than fuck, and these burned CD’s always have a secondary audio quality anyway, but I sort of love the heavy, low-fi sound: loud but somehow never sharp, never refined, as if coming from the end of some narrow memory tunnel.

At a children’s play where the kids read from scripts: it is not exactly a the-future-is-ours kind of moment. But the real play is called SELF-ESTEEM, and the velvet ropes are fiercely patrolled by organic-fed parents, all ecstatic applause and giant teeth, so I do not say a word.

It’s March Break, which should really be called Emergency Child Care Week. I take some holidays to stay home with Her Highness. The morning is for playing, the afternoon is for getting out. Yesterday it was simple: a giant walk that ended at a bakery. “But all these cookies have peanuts!”, my eight year-old complained, even though she is not allergic to peanuts and her aversion is completely based on some random comment by another manipulative eight year-old. In the end she picked out some lemon cookies and some shortbread with a jam centre. How awful.

Have a good March Break, everyone.


Draw things, write things, paint things, make things.

p.s. This is a version of my Tinyletter, which I send out every Tuesday from here.

songs for skating / / cigar-tin stories number eighty

I make a painting called The Adventurer. There are no real adventurers anymore, at least not in the classic mode: costumed out in khaki and straps, always crash-landing their dubious flying machines, or half-starved and completely mad beyond the borders of some godforsaken jungle, or abandoned hinterland, or skeleton-paved mountain range, before disappearing forever in some desperate, senseless attempt to circumnavigate an area of the globe entirely devoid of dots or reason. One can’t just rollick around the planet any longer, powered by stylish steamer trunks and charming letters of introduction to the right local chieftains. Too much of the world is a no-go zone now, with all the appeal of a drainage ditch, or wet ashtray, or Detroit, except with cluster bombs and refugees, and like Detroit these places just keep limping along, no matter how poorly their scars and screams fit into our Instagram feed.

I remember reading Scott‘s letters in school; I think he was meant to personify something specifically British and stoic and doomy and romantic all at once, and I wonder how much my National-Lampoon-saturated brain could have possibly soaked in.

Friday, March 16 or Saturday 17 – Lost track of dates, but think the last correct. Tragedy all along the line. At lunch, the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn’t go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and we induced him to come on, on the afternoon march. In spite of its awful nature for him he struggled on and we made a few miles. At night he was worse and we knew the end had come.
Should this be found I want these facts recorded. Oates’ last thoughts were of his Mother, but immediately before he took pride in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in which he met his death. We can testify to his bravery. He has borne intense suffering for weeks without complaint, and to the very last was able and willing to discuss outside subjects. He did not––would not––give up hope till the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning –– yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since.

We go skating. Oona never wants to go skating (see: kids, effort) but this is a skill she needs to acquire. As with learning to ride a bike or catch a ball, I would like her future decisions to be motivated by reason or enthusiasm and not based on fear. So yes, avoid the company slow-pitch team like the 100%-polyester drunks that they probably are, but don’t do so because you feel like Les Nessman in left field. Besides, she’s getting better all the time.

I played hockey as a kid and I was atrocious. Combine one cup of all-limbs, talent-free athletic ability with two tablespoons of white-bread, indifferent coaching, mixed with the mendacious no-name mincemeat otherwise known small-town hockey culture and voilà: you get a thoroughly lacklustre hockey player who jumps from the oven as soon as humanly possible, and afterwards can only relate to sports through a Funny Games versus Island of Doctor Moreau-like prism. Are all sports bad? Of course not. Should most of them be regarded as Amway with whistles and more meaningless prizes? Yes.

It’s always The Past at public skating. It’s always time for Nazareth or Golden Earring or Def Leppard (did you know the drummer only has one arm! wow!) or Tears for Fears or the Cranberries or even Poison, and it is never, ever time for Kanye. But the one song that eclipses all others, that tears through the psychic stratosphere of public skating like an avenging comet, obliterating all consciousness with syrupy detonations of feel-good rock stardom, is More Than a Feeling by Boston. You can skate to that forever.

Alright. C has put me on a 15-calorie-per-day diet so I don’t have the strength or mental cohesion to type any more. Tonight we’re going to see the Peking Acrobats!

I hope everyone is having a good day…


Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

cigar-tin stories number seventy-seven / / a rapidly congealing mass of paffle and nonsense


Here is the info for the brochure. I attached the original texts that I have been working from. This is pretty much already all done in Microsoft Publisher, except for a few things I can’t figure out.

Could you add some colour, like Bittersweet Shimmer or Deep Space Sparkle or other (not grey, or even Battleship Grey) and some borders; also there should not be spaces between items with a bullet.  Some fonts need to be changed to Calibri.

When will this be ready? I need 500 copies.

Esther Poppy Evans
Special Executive Administrative Assistant to the Spiritual Success Team


Please see the attached proof.

I do not have the capacity to print 500 copies (which would be 1000 impressions, and then 1000 folds done by hand). For that I will need to get a quote from a print broker (and you will need access to a print budget).

I can do 50 copies. How would you like me to proceed?



50 is a good start.

The proof: you rearranged the order of the text! Please use the original order. Is this font Calibri?

Esther Poppy Evans
Special Executive Administrative Assistant to the Spiritual Success Team


Please see the attached proof. I have put the text back into its original order. Some panels may now appear squeezed because it’s too much text for the space.



Starting to look good!

Except for:

on the first side, can you change the bullet points into stars
can you make the titles bigger
make the logo bigger
can you put a border around the logo? or a star burst
could you add some kind of colour in the background or a border.  any colour except Battleship Grey.
Some French Sky Blue would be nice
It is my eyes or does the font look like it’s bigger and then smaller, like ripples in the ocean. Like traffic at night, that light snake that is all eyes, mean and sliding along a road beside a polluted and forbidding lake. Like the stairwell in an abandoned parking garage, cold and wet with the ghostly smell of long dead anxiety. Like a drawing that falls off the page. Like footsteps in the forest, never seen.

Also change all the fonts to Calibri.

Esther Poppy Evans
Special Executive Administrative Assistant to the Spiritual Success Team


Please see the attached proof.



All that Battleship Grey is too overpowering.
Can you make a Light Medium Orchid border around all the paragraphs?
And a gilt-frame border around the logo?
Do you have Calibri as a font choice?
Also make the logo bigger.

Esther Poppy Evans
Special Executive Administrative Assistant to the Spiritual Success Team


Please see the attached proof.



This is perfect! I need 500 copies by tomorrow. I’m off for the rest of the day, but I’ll come by to pick them up tomorrow morning.

Esther Poppy Evans
Special Executive Administrative Assistant to the Spiritual Success Team


You’re killing me. Stop it.



I hope everyone’s well (even you, Esther). We’re still in the single digits of February but more sun is on its way.


Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

cigar-tin stories number seventy-six / / three days

Sunday: I have a stomachache. It’s one of those high-end-pressure aches, some kind of clamorous, furry gas inflating me middle-ways, with enfilading fire via my esophagus. It reminds me of an episode of LOST –– strangely insistent but ultimately completely senseless.

And then I try to think of the why –– what I might have consumed or been irradiated by to cause all this pointless suffering –– but there are no compelling suspects. Apple? Peanuts? Chocolate milk? Quiche? Heroin? It hardly matters. The stomachache is going to live its life, bathing itself in the glittering Cuban surf of my pain, and all I can do is wait for it to complete its destiny.

Getting sick is always tricky in the respect that if I tell C, then I have to expend considerable effort describing the evidence to a skeptical and impatient judge who can’t wait to dismiss the case. Yeah, you had what I had this morning, she says. It’s nothing.

Oona and I are now at the part of the children’s illustrated version of the New Testament where Jesus returns to Jerusalem, and it seems like on every second page the disciples cower and waver in the background, cringing with doubt, while Jesus provides cryptic answers along the lines of, Look, it’s the family business, I don’t really have a choice, besides I’ll rise from the dead. And this is a very confusing narrative for the disciples, never mind for an eight year-old. But in another way it’s the perfect story for our times, when everyone believes in whatever’s convenient, and all our problems will be solved by magic. And by fighting the man I mean the power I mean the patriarchy. And zombies. Look, it’s Lazarus!

Monday: after a semi-deranged morning of distraction and complaining and general non-compliance, I spend the drive to school lecturing Oona about being capable and coping. Good times! But it’s a lecture I keep coming back to with her, because of this future wave I see of people not being able to cope (the British would call it ‘not managing’). My generation was defined by the kind of fucking up that came from being both too-cool and generally clueless; the only advice most of us received from our parents was of the get-the-hell-out-of-the-house vein. To be fair, their own upbringing hadn’t exactly prepared them to deal with us, and we couldn’t exit fast enough. So these were largely crimes of omission: when we failed (often, and in spectacular fashion) it was in that oblivious, floundering, falling-into-something manner, with any adults around trading in a lot of anger or shrugging. But at least we were doing things, and and trying to course correct along the way. Whereas what I see now is things not happening, and loads of people not coping, and looking for the sidelines, where they can just live through their phones. Anyway, all we want her to do is brush her teeth, wash her face and get dressed, and do these things on her own, with no chasing. And most days this is still a fail.

Weird dreams. A completely invented title for a completely invented object. Besides, I have weird dreams all the time, which I try to write down while they last: Monday’s features a pile of utility blades on the couch, and my insistence that they could not be there, how dangerous that was. Exciting, right? A notable one from last week was about being lost in a giant warehouse, and something about being shoeless and not stepping on spiders. Yeah, I really don’t know.

A friend of mine reminds me that this is my last week to be 49. I can write that number down and circle it and no thoughts come at all. I never expected to live this long (there’s always been a doom-y streak, or low-volume countdown, somewhere in the background) so I guess I should be thankful?

Tuesday: listening to BBC radio while I make breakfasts and lunches, and I hear the question, “Now, where does that leave the political situation in Kenya?”, which makes me laugh. But you know what? It’s fine. I’m glad to learn a little more about Kenyan politics. That doesn’t hurt at all. Most importantly, it’s not Trump. Because I think I’ve reached peak Trump. The news about him is starting to fall away, is beginning to lose any coherence or meaning. The American system is so oppositional, so confrontational that it begins to look like some kind of Orwellian media super-scheme, leached of any nutritional value by propaganda and agendas and false flags. Most of what I read and hear is recycled nonsense. Hardly anyone talks about economics and class, the two issues that really matter (and solve many others). So what’s the point?

Trying to get Oona out the door, out to the car. I forget my phone, which I go back for. Then, dropping Oona off at school, I realize I’ve forgotten my coffee flask. It’s sitting upside down on the dining room table, upside down so the spoonful of honey at the bottom can work its way through. And I’m a little angry about this, and I resolve to move my wake-up time from 5:30 to 5, because I need to be completely done before anyone else gets moving, otherwise things get forgotten or badly done. I guess I’m prone to distraction, too.

Please have a good week, everyone,

Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

p.s. This is a version of my every-Tuesday Tinyletter; if you’d like to subscribe, please go here.

DECEMBER IS FIRE // cigar-tin stories number sixty nine

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.

the new rules are old again / / cigar-tin stories number sixty three

According to Harper’s Index, 92% of Americans spend 90% of their time indoors or in vehicles. The part of that which makes me stop is the in vehicles part, how commuting in a large city must be a constant fugue state of displaced helplessness and rage.

I am not doing well at work; all information systems and cognitive relays seem permanently compromised. I send things out and they keep bouncing back. Nothing is ever finished. Clients desperate for Solution A, clients in some last-minute bind, will not be satisfied when I actually supply them with Solution A, on time –– when I solve their stated problem. Suddenly they want Solution AB, or maybe even B would look better, don’t you think?  Plus the logo needs to be bigger. BIGGER, PLEASE. ASAP. Most days it seems pointless to do anything, especially if the work is going to be reviewed at any kind of meeting.

So I make some NEW RULES. They’re mostly old rules, mostly just underlining the idea of using up the entirety of my limited brain power to doing my own work first. Then the rest of the day, with its continuous debasement of my coherence as a human being (this imagined entity embued with stained dignity and a dangerously compromised soul) seems less egregious, as I stumble through in a robotic haze.

Snacking and naps are also integral. Walking and reading next on the list. Also: being strategically disagreeable. It has to be possible, and easily imagined, that you will wreck any dinner, walk out any front door, or exit any vehicle, if people talk to you or otherwise treat you like an asshole.

I read Personal Days by Ed Park. It’s a book about an office in decline, in its death throes, a last-days sort of thing, with the usual quirky-and-clever-but-flawed characters. Everyone has a tic, every moment is existential. It’s smart, probably too smart by half, because only the villain has any blood in him.

A double-page spread in The New York Times Style Magazine shows off a Louis Vuitton handbag decorated with Claude Monet’s Water Lillies. Also, just in case you don’t get it, there is a gold, embossed MONET on the side. This is what the Impressionists are now –– art so accepted, so colonized and consumerized, that it no longer works as anything but merchandise. Like the Beatles.

Because my office mates never, *ever* leave the office at lunch, and because they close the door at twelve o’clock sharp (even though 90% of the building has fled by 11:30), and because my idea of fun is *not* to sit in a closed room with two people and their chewing sounds, against a background of mouse clicks, I almost always leave at lunch. I run errands, I do some dry-goods grocery shopping, I visit the library, I drop by the studio. It feels like fleeing and the idea is half accurate.

The fourth floor smells like wetness and death but I know it’s just industrial grade mold. I can recognize that smell of degeneration anywhere –– the last office I worked at flooded all the time, because Winnipeg is hell’s black box of bad weather, and because somebody had poured concrete down all the drains. Eventually, all the floors and walls needed to be completely re-done. Anyway, at least I work on the second floor, and probably have a good three or four years before major pulminary issues.

Of course the Wi-Fi doesn’t work.

Lots of talk about how the political project is dead. I can’t say I’ll miss it; my adult entry into the world was to find myself wading into a sea of unemployment, debt and malaise. We still have the debt but at least everything’s constantly on sale.

Oona has a Halloween party at school, a Halloween night at Brownies, a Halloween day at daycare (another PA day, quel surprise). Never mind the actual Halloween. Every holiday is a week now. Christmas is a month. Does anyone wonder why? All I see are stooped hordes of hapless parents, playing seamstress/purchaser/chauffer/partyplanner. Being harangued by five year-olds for stupid choices. BIGGER, PLEASE. ASAP.

I used to love Halloween. It was greater than Christmas. In fact, Christmas was really for the little kids. Once you hit 12 or 13, Christmas was just a bit play-acting in the thank-you department followed by a highly awkward meal with not nearly enough stuffing. But Halloween in a small town in Saskatchewan in the early eighties, a town with no resident police presence … well, it was pure, unbridled anarchy, and more than once some middle-aged man came tearing out of a front door, trying to catch one of us so he could kick someone’s ass. Which only incited us to egg him and his house more.

Have a good week, everyone,

Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

The Reverie


The Reverie; mixed media, cradled wood panel, 18 x 24 x 1.75 inches. More pictures here.

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A Sunday trip to the library morphs into a broken conversation with a shrugging security guard about a locked door –– “It’s summer hours,” she explains. “But you can still use the book return!” Hooray. So Oona and I wander the mall for awhile, waiting on mom to do some shopping. Almost instantly I find myself in Claire’s, where I get conned into buying a two-piece charm bracelet that reads BEST FRIENDS. “I’ll make my bed, daddy,” Oona lies, because that’s her currency instead of money. I shrug. I give in. BEST FRIENDS. Then we wander some more. Everyone looks like extras from a pirate movie; there are limps, eye patches, tattoos, blindness, crutches, more blindness, hips where hips don’t belong, brown and blue teeth, horizontal facial scars, missing fingers, invented hairstyles, ballooning outfits with stars on them. The psychic weight is crushing.

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Halfway through my morning shower, the water pressure falls by half and my entire world view reasserts itself, comes into focus: people are going to do what they are going to do. Certainly I can storm upstairs, half-soaped and fully crazed, and ask, Are we all done running water yet? Certainly right is right. But where does that kind of thinking get me? Right is never right. These days, ‘right’ is more of a shrug. The whole reason I get up first in the morning, long before anyone else, is to go around problems like this. And going around these things, I think, is the key. A guy comes into my office with some marked-up photocopy of a job that I’ve never seen and says, I don’t have any of the text or pictures for this, how long will it take to do? Certainly, How about never? feels about right. But then he’s going lose his nut, and sooner than later I’ll have my manager in my office, bursting at the hairline trying to manage something. So I say, Leave it with me, let me take a better look at it, I’m just having some computer issues right now, and I just have this other job to finish first, there’s this thing with this other person tomorrow, but I’ll get to it as soon as I can. And then I take a long lunch, and leave early, and the day after that I’m on holiday for a week.

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Listening to Naomi Klein on Democracy Now!, and the interlude music is some Ani DiFranco song, I might as well be in a dream where it’s 1999 and I’m sitting in front of a red velour curtain in some musty theatre in Winnipeg, and some girl with ripped jeans and dirty hair is explaining to me how wrong I am about everything, and how I really need to read the I Ching and get my teeth fixed.

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I need to start running again. For months this winter I trained for the Limestone 5K, all the way from only being able to run 90 seconds at a time to going the entire distance without pause. I ran every second day, without fail. I ran when there was no one else out there, often late at night, in the cold and the dark. And on the morning of April 30th, in freezing rain, I ran the race. Ta-dah. And then we went to Cuba for a week. And then: June. Goals have a way of deflating themselves.

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It’s the staff barbecue so I take the day off. I believe that work is meant to be work –– not a place to fulfill your dreams, not a place to make best friends, not a place where people know anything about you, not even a place to score free hotdogs. The ideal situation is to be the polite person at the end of the hall with a job description that coworkers don’t understand or care about. Also, if management wants to show me how much they care, then please spend that hotdog money on institutional improvements. How about clean bathrooms? How about coffee in the kitchen? How about air-conditioning? How many mission statements read like conspiracy theory. Anyway, excellence now!

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No real plan in the studio lately. I’d been set to move out –– briefly, there had been a person known to police in the studio next door –– and then the situation resolved itself, and it was if some kind of reset button had been pushed. So I’ve been painting large paintings, with a mind for icons and characters. All painting is therapy, and the works themselves just relics for the cult of beautiful but pointless posterity.

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People walking around downtown in two of three dimensions on a Friday night and I think, Is it Mental Health Week again? Forever? In Kingston, at least. A woman tells me that Jesus loves me. Another is swearing at her two chihuahuas. At least they’re on a leash. The people in front of the McDonalds look like the Apple Dumpling Gang on opioids. Purple gums, yellow fingers.

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It’s summer, I guess. Men walking around in shorts, white chicken leg embarrassment. The women on the cover of the magazines by the checkout have lustrous dark hair parted straight down the middle, their hairlines an inch above the eyebrow. People squinting at things. More humidity than heat. Oona has a final ‘play’ for her acting class; the teachers say the lines for the kids, then the kids repeat them. I guess that’s how we do things now.

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