cigar-tin stories number sixty four // hope is a waking dream

Can you guess what anniversary is tomorrow? On some level you probably can, instinctually, because it’s the kind of thing you feel, deep inside, all the time. Something you very intentionally don’t think about but somehow still remains. Ignored but always felt.

I am doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Last year’s effort was really more editing than writing, and reaching the goal of fifty thousand words by month’s end was relatively easy (this is the upside of a drifting attention span –– one has so much stuff in the way of half-finished, half-assed stories just lying around, all these notebooks and text files with titles like “late_summer_2015” and “fragment_38”). But this year I’m determined to create entirely new writing, at least a story every day, so while the output is lower, it is, at least in terms of the project’s energy and intent, better. Today is Day Seven. My word total at the end of yesterday was 8072, which projects an end date well into December. We’ll see about that.

I don’t consume much in the way of writing advice or tutorial (one doesn’t need research into a decadent and insolvent enterprise), but a remark by Salman Rushdie sticks with me: don’t listen to anyone. And if you doubt this, then just look around at how many seminars and courses and coaching there is on offer, and ask yourself why so many writers are really in the business of teaching (with festivals and prizes as secondary industries).

Standing in line at the bank. The people in front of me seem to be in pajamas? One woman (people get so upset these days when I say ‘girl’, but all I mean is that she seems young) stands there with a hoodie in her hand, letting it drag on the floor like Linus and his blanket. Her friend one spot ahead holds his bank card and some form in one hand, an unlit cigarette in the other. The acne and missing teeth prompt me to add holding single unlit cigarette to my ongoing list of NEGATIVE INDICATORS. This is a Kingston-centric project and perhaps I can get a local grant for it –– pitching it as some kind of ironic and wholly negative tourism scheme, with a David Foster Wallace-ish title like A FIRST CLASS TICKET TO THE UNDERCLASS or something. I mean, people already love the prison tour.

C’s strike is into WEEK FOUR. I had a feeling that this would be a long one, in that it represents a watershed moment for management: if they can keep the hammer of using temp and contract workers to fill most positions, then they can effectively bypass the union. Even better, eventually they can shrink it out of existence.

When I start thinking about my own workplace, it suddenly occurs to me that my department (and several other ones in states of mild anarchy and persistent disrepair) would become a wilderness if it wasn’t for our collective agreement. I mean, Jesus, the talent show is pretty thin as it is, but who would you get if there was no security, no dental plan? People would just cycle in and out, taking what they could, expecting nothing, and effecting just as much.

At the end of the day, a coworker regularly breaks into a run when he gets within fifty yards of his car. It is an enthusiastic, heel-kicking kind of run, like little kids have, spontaneous and effortless. It always makes me stop and stare.

In some fit of sleepwalking or psychosis, I visit No Frills at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. I fully expect the worst. In fact, I’m dressed for it, as if going into a robbery –– black toque, black jacket, scarf, black gloves, running shoes, burial money. But the experience is weirdly quick and u-shaped, less Guantánamo Bay, more seedy tavern where you just run in and use the phone. I celebrate by giving away my cart to a woman who offers me two dimes and a nickel for it. “I looked into my wallet and thought, oh no!” she says. “That happens to me all the time,” I reply, walking away.

And then more work: trying to make new things for the Christmas season and the two-day Fat Goose Craft Fair on December 1st and 2nd. In the links below you’ll find some of the newest stuff, a book art object, cigar-tin story, art journal and mixed media collage. And then all I can do is keep moving.

Have a good week, everyone,

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


on bets and bad deals / cigar-tin stories number 61


Oona and I have a bet: how long we can keep on our wax paper bracelets from the Gananoque boat tour we did on Thanksgiving weekend, for FAMILY FUN TIMES (this is the name her aunt gives to any heavily planned/prescribed family activity, as in: why are we all in a car to Nebraska, commenting on cloud shapes and bleeding from the eyes? Oh yes, because it’s FAMILY FUN TIME). If Oona wins the bet, I take her to Menchie’s, which in her mind is like trick-or-treating in Disneyland; if I win, Oona has to get up every morning for a week straight with no complaining during her morning routine (pee, wash hands, brush teeth, wash face, get dressed, etc … I know, I know, it’s worse than a Soviet gulag). Throughout the week she is constantly asking me to show her my bracelet, to prove that I still have it on. I do. In fact, it’s in pristine condition. Hers, meanwhile, deteriorates rapidly. At one point I notice that it’s been torn and re-tied. I say nothing. Finally, the next Saturday morning, I ask her if she’s still got it on. Tears flow over the breakfast table. Of course her lawyer (read: mother) runs in to present arguments, saying that she made her take it off for swimming the night before. Yes, because it was all torn up, I say. And I know that there is only one rule here, and that rule is, Dad never wins, so I say, Look, I’ll make you a deal … I’ll take you to Menchie’s *and* you have to do your best in the morning for the next week, no complaining. More tears flow. That’s a good deal, her lawyer advises.

Three weeks after the hurricane, Puerto Rico is still a zone of unmitigated misery. President Trump says they need to get to stop complaining. I’d say he should make them a bet about a bracelet, but his wrists are probably too tiny.

What is it about the British and hideous crimes? Certainly, other countries will occasionally produce a spectacular contender to tip the scales a bit, but aside from countries that don’t have functioning governments (I’m looking at you, Mexico), the grisly business of murder seems to be very, very English. Is that why they produce so much murder-mystery entertainment?

I have to lose my mind on Oona one morning when she cannot produce her puffy pink jacket –– the only jacket appropriate for the day ahead. She gets away with this kind of thing –– this not-caring-about-her-possessions attitude –– most of the time, but every once in awhile I feel compelled to go nuclear, just to implant a notable scene in her memory, and let her know that it is *not* okay to just shrug and not give a shit. I feel that this is a red line of sorts, like grafitti in New York City, where if you let the little things slide then it’s nothing but trouble ahead (believe me, I understand that the trouble will come anyway, but I don’t need to feed it).

Another week, another painting. Or, in other words, when in doubt, just work.


The Haunted; mixed media on cradled board, 18 x 24 x 1.75 inches. Inspired by a Mary Shelley quote: “Oh! Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me; if ye really pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought; but if not, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness.”

C is on strike. The main issue: part-timers make up 70 per cent of the teaching staff. In other words: the gig economy. A transient, disposable workforce. And then management wonders why staff is unmotivated and mercenary, and why nothing really works. Make more advertising about dreams and excellence! Give out more staff-appreciation certificates! More fun runs!

Tuesday is now Tinyletter Day; I’m going to commit to sending this out every Tuesday for awhile. See how it goes. I enjoy writing them (or at least they’re a good writing workout) and why the hell not.

Have a good week! Here’s a pic of Oona during a bike race, trying to look over her shoulder to see if I’m catching up with her.


I did. But I let her win the series.



The heart of a maiden is a dark forest.



The Maiden; mixed media on cradled wood panel, 18 x 24 x 1.75 inches.

Second blonde in a row for me, while still on this kick of icons (martyrs, idols, demigods, characters more poster than real) in a larger format. But the ideas for working small are creeping in, too.

Strange times. I look at the news and see spidery arrangements in lies and advertising. Of course the broken centre of this is the president of the United States, a character so blurry and appalling as to not seem real. Which, in a way, he is not. It seems even within the confines of his own skull he is not. The cultural historian Patrick Wright once described him as

A smudged deadbeat left over from the Reagan era … and propped up in a temporary kind of way by ailing US and Japanese banks that couldn’t afford to let him expire completely … If Trump was in the White House which, as he was rash enough to hint in those undiminished days, he might well be before too long, then he could follow the examples of Presidents Reagan and Harding, and look for astrological anchorage in the stars.

Or Twitter. That was in 1991. I guess this is the logical wreckage of neoliberalism, of the the triumph of markets and money and branded individualism above all. Trump speaks the language of reality television, which is really very simple: promise anything to anyone, and otherwise say whatever you need to say to confuse the issue, while advancing spaces in your mind. Even on TV this is sometimes dubious.

My attention to this is sporadic, at best. All I can do is work. There are really very few things I am any good at. I hope painting is one of them.