Thursday, 24 June 2010

serve and protect

I am not going to get on a soapbox and talk about G20 and G8 and what a ridiculous amount of time and money and care Toronto is wasting. Security forces pulled in from across the country, closing of streets for motorcades, evacuation of buildings, the uprooting of saplings which might be used as weapons ... it's like having the Olympics, only instead of Shaun White and Jonathan Toews we get Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Angela Merkel. And we never get to see them perform.

No, I am not going to rant about that. I am instead going to share a moment I had the other day, walking through a downtown parkette. It was late afternoon, with a gray sky beginning to lighten. I was inhaling that most wonderful and evocative of smells -- rain on hot pavement -- while I strolled from the St Lawrence market to Queen Street. I did not have an umbrella because I am a straight middle aged casual kind of guy (the who carries an umbrella discussion will have to wait) but it didn't really matter because it was barely raining.

Anyway, the parkette is about an acre of grass and shrubs with one of those old timey wooden bandstands in the middle -- about right for a brass quartet to serenade weekend picnickers, or a couple of hobos to catch a night's sleep. There were no musicians or streeters there when I walked past. Instead, the thing was full of cops. Must have been twenty of them -- a variety of ranks and uniforms crammed under the overhang. They'd come in out of the rain from wherever they had been patrolling. And now they were peering out at the city they were sworn to protect, while the rain dripped around them.
The scene was so ludicrous I had to laugh. How much are we spending on security for this summit? A billion dollars? Something like that. I walked past the bandstand, laughing out loud, wishing I had a camera.

Is there an upside? At the London G20 summit cops charged into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. That's the picture up there -- a very ugly scene indeed. This kind of brutality is unlikely to happen in Toronto, as long the protesters take advantage of rainy days.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

dirty me

I feel dirty. Nothing to do with any kind of bodily abuse -- food, sex, drugs, exercise. This is a soul kind of stain. For the last few month or so, reviews have been coming in for the new book. I do not read reviews when they arrive. I compile a file and ignore it. But I can not ignore it any longer. My blog guy and publishers say I have to put the reviews on the website. This website.

So for most of today I have been forcing myself to read about myself. On and on and more and more, and all about me. Talk about your wankfest.

I hate bad reviews. Whether they are smartly or stupidly written, whether they make a good point or persistently miss the point I am trying to make, I hate 'em. Reviews that begin, Scrimger's disappointing new book ... or Until now I have always enjoyed Scrimger's sense of humour ... or I can not understand how Scrimger ... Yuck. I want to take these critics and throw them, collectively, off of a high place so that they land on something sharp.

But, see, I don't really like good reviews either. Scrimger is wonderful ... I think Scrimger is the best writer now .... Scrimger's brilliance is unmistakable ... (actually there aren't any reviews that begin this way, but you get what I mean). These reviews are not AS bad as the stinkers, but they are still kind of cringe-making to read.

Well, it's over now. Bleah. I have combed through the file, picked out the interesting and positive bits, and put them on the Me & Death page. Maybe I should give you guys -- you blog readers -- the real deal, and include the sentences that were not so positive. Maybe I will, at that. But not now. It's been a long dirty day. I'll have a bath in a moment, and feel cleaner.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

breathing lessons

When the bad guys lock Groucho in the bathroom in Duck Soup, he cries something like: Let me out of here! Let me out -- or throw in a magazine! I too like to read in the bathroom. I am not picky as to material -- romance novels, comic books, fine print on the back of prescription bottles, whatever. There's something about literature that concentrates my mind and lets my bowels think for themselves. This may be more information than you need to know about me, and I apologize for the visual, but it is germane to our discussion. Yesterday I was in a staff bathroom at a Lindsay elementary school, and I found I had come in without anything to read. My eyes went round the room looking for something -- anything -- with words on it. And I noticed I sign taped to the mirror. HOW TO WASH YOUR HANDS, it said.

You've seen the sign before, and so had I. In school bathrooms, doctor's offices, various public buildings. That's it up there, a series of diagrams with captions underneath, a short little safety comic strip on the subject of hand washing. I'd never read it. I know how to do this, I had always thought. Now, in dire need of something to help me pass the, well, the time, I did read the whole thing, top to bottom, poring over each diagram (why bar soap and not liquid), analysing each phrase (Backs of hands, Between fingers).
And of course I found that I'd been doing it wrong. Not all wrong -- I mean, I had the right body parts. But subtly, dangerously wrong. Not enough attention to detail. Not enough time. Not enough care. Oh dear, I thought. For decades I have been putting myself in danger of infection. If only I had been stuck in a bathroom without literature back in my teens or twenties! Think how much safer my life would have been.

I resolved to change my ways. This time, I followed the instructions to the letter. Step 1, Step 2 .... I took time. I took care. I paid attention to detail. When I finally emerged from the bathroom, using a paper towel on the doorknob, my host librarian had a quizzical smile on her face.
You okay?
she asked.
You bet, I answered. More than okay!
We thought you had got lost in there or something.

I laughed. You wouldn't believe what I was doing! I said.
Her face fell, and she changed the subject.

On my way home that afternoon, I noticed a store front. THE WALKING ROOM. I've passed it a thousand times, but never paid attention. The Walking Room.
I thought I knew how to walk, but now ... I wonder ...