Dystopic Decent II


I read the news today, oh boy, though I didn’t need to. The blessing and the curse of modern technology is that you can follow along as breaking news unfolds in all of its uncertainty – although there was little of that last night. The who, the what, and the where seemed obvious from the get-go. The only question was, “How many this time?” This line of thought truly marks the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in.

This event was not shocking. As we often hear, the question that surrounds the next attack has been reduced “When?” Events like last night are more numbing than shocking; we have become desensitized to the point that the most prevalent feeling is one of familiarity. We have seen this play before.

The First Act is comprised of atrocity and emotional outpouring – from far-off ineffectual hashtags to visceral reactions on the affected streets. Resiliency is strong and immediate, and this is perhaps the only positive to be taken from these most inhuman situations. As the primordial battle between good and evil rages, we may despair at the prevalence of the latter but we can never doubt the supremacy of the former. This trait is essential to our very survival in this senselessly violent epoch.

The Second Act is sickeningly predictable. The blood in the streets will barely have dried before we are inundated with the need for more surveillance, more police powers, and more military might. We have heard this call before; we will hear it in the coming days and weeks; and we will surely hear it again in the future. In the wake of a tragedy the majority seldom seems to consider that this is the always the prescription. Yet this medicine serves only to inflame the illness and exacerbate the problem.

The most tragic reality of these events is that there are people, governments, and industries who benefit from them. There are those who will seize the opportunities that fear and grief present, exploiting them for myriad nefarious purposes. Power is to be consolidated, problems to be diffused.

It is time for we the people to write a Third Act.

Morning Musings: or, eternal sunshine of the liquored mind

tangential wandering

On occasion I will return from an evening of revelry with a certain determination – awake, alert, unwilling to rest just yet. My mind may be clouded with drink, but scarcely does it evince such clairvoyance. Countless thoughts and ideas and tangents course through it – and some are even useful. Such potential demands that I take advantage at the time these ideas are plyed from the subconcious and present themselves. And after all, going to sleep at three in the morning is for bums and bankers. Sleep can wait until daytime. There is work to be done, and my notebooks would be sparse territories if it were otherwise.

This particular night had already elicited the story of the lawyer and the parrot, a minimally coherent admonition of Uber, and an even more half-hearted comment on self-censorship. As so often happens, elucidation ended when a particularly idyllic sunrise gets noticed.

This morning was clear and cloudless. The sky in front of me held hues of peach that gave way to incremental blue shades that pressed up against the cerulean. This scene struck me as redolent of so many drunken mornings before it, and the same feeling that always washes over me did so again. It is a realization that few people simply sit and watch the sunrise, and even fewer do so at the acceptable of level of intoxication the event demands. Who else gets to see the sunrise as I get to? This feeling of singularity always entertains me in this state.

The birds above bid one another ‘good day’ as the sound of a lone automobile rips through this conversation, no doubt carrying its driver somewhere less peaceful. The treeline is interrupted by highrises and by cranes generating more highrises, by the clock tower of the scion school. A big ole jet airliner soars above it all and adds its own voice to the chorus of yet another summer morning in the city.

The airliner piques my interest just then. Two hundred people plus – on vacation or business, on to the next thing – entrusting their most recent existence to a confluence of metal, fossil fuels, and human desire to push its physical limits. As each one passes I wonder about the itinerants on board. What life stories do they carry with them as they go, stoicly, unapologetically, onwards? Where have they been? Where are they going? Does that really matter to me, or even to them?

Mother Nature marches onward, blind to these and other quotidian concerns – with any luck she is mocking them. For our world is designed in such a way that for too many poor bastards a magnificent sunrise merely signals the recommencement of vacuous toil. The beauty of it is revealed only to the dispossessed, the degenrates, and the driven capitalist. These are scarcely possessors the most admiring eyes or appreciative souls.

Sunrise always strikes me as poignant reminder that the world is what we make of it in the midst of inexorable forces far beyond our control or, in many other cases, our understanding. And in the end, as John and Paul put it, the love you make is equal to the love you take.

The sun will rise the same above a world ravaged by famine and fear as it will above a world availed of peace and plenty. The universe and all its forces care little what damage we wreak on ourselves. So it falls to us to act accordingly. We can do better, should do better, must do better than we have to this point if we are intent on seeing many more sunrises.

Unimpeachable Itinerancy

travel & adventure

Even though the journey that starts in the airport is so familiar it feels routine, I’ve managed to lose little fascination in it. Its basic concept is consistently striking in its simplicity, and never fails to inspire awe – step through this building to step onto a tin can that will drop you off anywhere in the world no later than tomorrow.

Paradoxically, this putative launchpad, this ultimate gateway to freedom is one of the most controlled spaces on the planet. Here there exists a set of words, actions, and mannerisms that are strictly verboten. Defy those restrictions at your peril – step out of line and you will be dragged into the back room, ejected, arrested, banned, or any combination of those inevitabilities.

It is these characteristics, antithetical and yet existing in such close proximity, and without a hint of friction, that make the airport a most unique, perplexing, and wonderful space.

It is also in this space that one might come across the most infuriatingly laughable elucidation of what it is to travel. Invariably another traveller will be passing through this sacred space on their way to “do” a place – whether that term is intended to be sexual or not is an ambiguous matter, and I have no interest in settling it. There might be the bourgeois couple going to “do” Southern Europe. Just as likely, there will be the recently graduated ingénue, feeling smug and sophisticated as she sets off to “do” Southeast Asia.

Travel is not about scrawling checkmarks in some contrived boxes or collecting photos of the most venerated sites – exhausted as they are by the unending gazes cast upon them by the stupidest sets of eyes. This is not to deny that travel takes such activities as a single element among many. One does not go to London and purposefully avoid the British Museum and the myriad pints of ale. But to define travel as a mere checklist is to denigrate it to the point that it becomes unrecognizable.

To travel is not simply to do, but to live, and to live on a scale far grander than the nationalistic hermit or the parochial sightseer does. It is to inform and be informed by complete strangers; to seek out previously unknown ideas and perspectives and occurrences – or to simply have those find you. It is to seek the very essence of our common humanity, taking for granted that such a thing exists.

And of course there is a certain joy to be found in the actual act of travelling. Fascination in airports, train stations, bus terminals, and the itinerants found therein. Fascination found by opening one’s eyes and ears at every point of the journey.

This undeniably includes the customs hall, the bottleneck that squeezes the quotidian tourist and bizarre thrillseeker alike. In the customs hall at Frankfurt I once found two of the most exceedingly bored men I have ever encountered staffing a passport control booth. The shaved head to my left failed to register my existence; the one to my right, hair and all, seemed to follow suit. But after a few idle seconds he summoned every ounce of energy he contained and waved me over to his desk.

Perplexed and overtired, I watched this indifferent guardian of the nation go through my passport as if it were some kind of mildly amusing flipbook. In this moment I dared not question what in the hell he was looking for, or why in the hell he wasn’t actually looking at the pages. Luckily comic relief was not five feet from where I stood – for the bald one had found an ounce of energy himself.

As he checked the papers of an elderly couple, the wife ventured to ask him a question. This was her fatal mistake. The shaved head immediately cut her off: “In Germany, vee say ‘Good Morning’ before asking zee question.” But apparently vee do not say “Good Morning” when velcoming zee people into zee country.

Here was the most flawless, uncompromisingly stereotypical German I ever had the good fortune to witness in action. I stifled my laughter, cherished the moment, and continued my adventure.

Cynicism Suspended

tangential wandering

She is perfection. She might be called a socialite, but that title seems to defame her. True, she is a person fond of social activities and entertainment. Yet this is but a segment of her appeal. That she may be in high demand within all of her social circles speaks only to an unmistakbake radiance, unmissed and unseen – her very own radioactivity. For there is a potency and intangible danger about her, but danger in only the best radical sense of the word. She is an earthquake waiting to happen, but one that can only knock humanity into its own betterment.

She is a woman, perhaps the woman – self-assured, sexy, and brilliant. She’s got everything she needs, she’s a scholar, she don’t look back. She never stumbles, she’s got no place to fall. Her intelligence commands the respect of every room she walks into, not by decree but by coversation. She is a maven of many things relevant and intriguing, the sharpest knife in the Crillon kitchen. Her contemplative silence is more interesting than the last ten thousand words I’ve spoken.

She is self-assured to the nth degree. She knows what she wants and is even more certain about what she thinks – challenge her at your peril. Rare is an existence that flows from its own enjoyment and conviction; rarer still is a life this aplomb; and it is more likely to win the lottery than to find such an existence and such a life complemented by a mind so incisive. She has a presence in any event that is at once carefree and inexorable – it cannot be ignored, though nobody would dare try to. The upright manner with which she carries herself is arresting in its own right.

She is gorgeous from the inside out. Her intellect is astounding and her ebullience incomparable. Her exterior seamlessly mirrors the brilliance within. Her disposition is unobtrusively advertised by every adventure beyond her domicile. Her look is informed only by that which she approves of and relishes in – high, low, and the rest of society be damned. And every day the world nods in approval to the point of whiplash.

She is irrepressably jovial. We have embarked on many a misadventure together, forged many a misplaced memory, and fought over the ownership of at least one hamburger. We are adept role players in some of each other’s fondly-held recollections. She has never shied away from drink. And to drink with her is to immerse and join in her joviality. She benefits from the fact that the positivity she embodies is only amplified by intoxicating liquors. Her radiance and enthusiasm is simply made blinding, if it was not already found at such a state.

In the meantime she forges on to an M.Sc. almost as a matter of course. Medicine was her calling from a young age. She is not so much suited to the program as it is suited to her – surely it is honoured to count her among its ranks. She will be unable to do anything less than excell on her chosen career path, imbuing everyone around her with an unassailable espirit de corps.

All this, while being profoundly genuine and solicitous. She is the everywoman – if every woman were effortlessly magnificnet. She seems to hold the same hopes and dreams and desires that you do, or that you wished you might. If humanity possessed all of her qualities there could be no conflict, no war, no despondency, no suffering. The world is better for her being in it. Soo too my life, populated as it is by her incomparable authenticty.

Accidental Charity

travel & adventure

You know, it’s funny what a young man recollects. It’s even funnier what he carelessly forgets. And it’s deeply enthusing how some or all of the senses attach themselves to a memory, holding out the possibility that redolence may unleash a wave of memories temporarily misplaced.

In November of 2009 and in March of the next year, I took the first of many trips to Amsterdam. I left a sizeable piece of my heart and a more substantial slice of my soul there – personal effects I’ve shown no interest in retrieving no matter how many times I return. They now belong to the murky canals and the narrow houses, to the splendid museums and the sultry coffee shops.

In the autumn of 2011, I purchased a green hooded sweater of the finest slave-labour quality, and it soon became one of my most favored garments (evidently the stench of the blood and tears of distant abjects had not attached itself fully enough to the material to affect me.)

In April of 2014, I vacated my apartment in Kingston, making sure that the sweater and other worthy items accompanied me. A year from that time my parental landlords in Toronto had moved house, taking the same care to leave behind nothing with or without value. Yet when I arrived on the scene the sweater was nowhere to be found. No matter, for surely it would turn up in this box or that bag eventually. I soon found this was not the case and, so certain that it had left Kingston with me, I wracked my brain for its probable location. I became increasingly perplexed as I repeatedly drew blanks – I had not a damn clue as to the fate of this sweater.

In May of 2015, I embarked on Amsterdam, Part VIII, though this was a fleeting visit. My main goal here was to procure a bicycle and head east to Apeldoorn and beyond, to the tulip fields. That adventure successfully concluded four days later with the bike returned and some hours in the city left to blaze away. At some point I was traversing the tourist trap district adjacent Centraal Station in search of some place more civil, as I had often done before. En route to civility I cut through a nondescript alleyway lined with bikes and graffiti. Despite its ordinary appearance the spot effused an unmistalably redolent charatcer that seized upon me in an instant. In short order I had a dumb smile across my face that gave way to stupid solitary laughter.

A year before this moment, nearly to the day, I had been in this very alleyway. That time I had journeyed to the Dutch capital of depravity to meet up with a good friend and his travel companions to serve as acting drug-fuelled tourguide. Their hostel was around the corner from this alleyway while mine had been beside Vondelpark to the south. One evening I had locked my bike in that alley, leaving my water bottle and one green hooded sweater attached but not secured to it.

The malcontents, thieves, and rotten bastards of the world nowithstanding, I’ve always maintained a cautious faith in the essential decency of people. I assume that the theft of items such as the ones just left would mean they had simply gotten into the hands of someone who had a more pressing need for them than I did.

Sure enough, upon my return there were to be found no items attached to my bike. Fortunately I had recourse to my ideal and brushed off the inconvenience, the items to be easily replaced. I unlocked my bike and brought it towards the opposite end of the alleyway, delighted and bewildered to find my water bottle standing at attention atop the seat of a nearby Vespa. In light of the amount of biking and smoking going on, a water container was of immeasurably greater value to me than the sweater. I happily reclaimed it and carried on.

Satisfied and unquestioning, I brought my bike out of the alley and mounted, turning left and starting south. Within a few meters I noticed to my left an ostensibly destitute man shuffling along the sidewalk draped in a recently aquired green sweater.

My ideals affirmed, I cycled on into the most pleasant Dutch summer’s eve, exceedingly amused by the whole sequence of events. As I passed the man I made sure to tell him, cheerfully and with the slightest feigned disappointment, “Hey, you stole my sweater…”



All of the below and most of the above constitute the so-called early works. They are Marx’s radical news writing without the incisiveness, Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise without the readability, Thompson’s pre-Gonzo stories without the content. As they stand many lack polish, while others lack the most basic coherence; still others are passing thoughts that piqued an intoxicated mind but in truth should never have been committed to the material world in any form.

So it goes.

Early works are often substantively unimportant writings. They only gain currency once something profound and of enduring relevance gets produced, as they mark the progression to that point. But as far as content goes their irrelevance tends to persist, and in many cases the passing of time exacerbates that irrelevance as cultural markers and idioms erode.

Ironically this keeps me writing, this knowledge that what I write now is not even worthy of judgment, and in a vacuum never will be, but that I am also one mere Gatsby away from an assortment of these musings being impressed upon the disinterested students of posterity as if they were some sort of goddamn gospel.

Thus I march on.

Dressed Right For A Beach Fight: Or, I Just Can’t Explain Why That Uncertain Feeling Is Still Here In My Brain

travel & adventure

If I had the creative capacity or sheer willpower to write a novel, it would surely be set in Brighton on a summer’s day in June, early in the month of course. It would be set amongst the tourists and tramps, the students and the hipsters, the hipster students and the student hipsters, the former hippies and contemporary pacifists, the tattooed gentlemen and body-pierced ladies of distinction, and the soon-to-be married manchild dressed as a parrot from the waist up.

What better feast for the senses than a stroll through such an environ? Commonplace shops share the street space with the most idiosyncratic and delightful storefronts as undulating waves of the most colourful cast of characters reality has to offer meander on by. Some walk with purpose, others seem lost and in a dream. One and all have come to see and be seen, to slake their thirst with a pint of local ale or a whiff of the sea breeze, or to simply to let their freak flag fly.

That all sorts find themselves drawn to this jewel of the South Coast is a gift from far, far above. God has a stoner side – a simple fact, and I dare you to proffer an objective objection. The gift given is a vibe, an essence difficult to define, even harder to tear oneself away from, and nearly impossible to find elsewhere – in Toronto, to wit, but also in the rest of Josef Camerin’s United Nationalist Kingdom.

The origin of this ineffable aura surely has its roots in the alternative history of the place, but it maintains itself through a hitherto well-maintained aversion to and evasion of development in the way a major city tends to understand the word. Most buildings in the centre are two- to four-storey constructs, be they venerable pubs, historic houses of correction, or simple places of residence. The hotels rise taller along the beachfront but are no monstrosities – rather their whitewashed facades give the coastal walk that distinctly British seaside appearance. Pure Quadrophenia, you see.

Be it the bustling Lanes or the modern-day 1920’s bar (complete with its midnight burlesque shows) this town is surely a backdrop for debauchery, adventure, and the most eccentric of encounters.

However, being located within the aforementioned United Nationalist Kingdom in the first quarter of this god-forsaken 21st century, the place is resplendent with the apparatus of conspicuous surveillance. Cameras, and perhaps drones posing as humans, are fortunate enough to have eyes on this whole scene – and from multiple angles! No doubt one need only splice together the highlights of these recordings to have footage far superior to and more entertaining than the majority of our “popular” television programs. But I digress; soon after what could very well be my final chance to ensconce myself in Brighton’s unpredictable splendour I received a most fitting sendoff.

Parallel to my most favourite stretch of the Lanes is a street I had inexplicably never stumbled upon until now. Rather than storefronts and pub patios this street seemed mostly residential, though these homefronts gave way to myriad vendors displaying their wares on collapsable tables or blankets spread over the pavement in a most inviting fashion. New and used books sat displayed, using the latter strategy, piquing my interest and – to my delighted surprise – that of more than a couple of other passers-by.

Rachel had progressed southward by now, but I made sure to peruse with a finer tooth comb the spot where I had found both an early copy of The Rum Diary and a rare Jim Morrison biography. This reassessment was interrupted by the words: “Sir, I have to show you my passport.” A tall, well-set gentleman in his late forties, with bearded chin and short-sleeve buttoned blue shirt had taken notice of my Zeppelin shirt. Here he had caught me by surprise, but it was only the beginning. Much to my astonishment, his passport  – from a country I took no note of, featuring first and last names I equally paid little attention to – proved this man’s legal middle name to be ‘Led Zeppelin.’

He went on to explain that he was on a motorcycle trip across Europe – for what else could this man possibly have been doing? He told me that before he set off he had resolved to show his passport and his back to the first individual he saw wearing a Zeppelin shirt – and now here I was, lucky Number One (apparently there are either no Zeppelin fans in Spain, or a handful of surreptitious ones.) He proceeded to unbutton his shirt and turned so that his back faced me, radiant with the Swan Song Records logo that matched my shirt – though far more detailed and permanent – and the logos of all the band members, also masterfully imprinted. This work of great detail covered his entire back. The magnitude of the work and the chance encounter through which it was revealed to me left me astonished, able to only eek out the words “Pretty impressive” as I stood marvelling at such megafandom.

The proprietor of the table next to the book blanket commented that this was just a standard Brighton event, confirming my exact thoughts. It was a scene that might look out of place anywhere but here, where the locale and surrounding instead provided the most appropriate setting for it to unfold. Based on the backstory given by the megafan this could all have unfolded anywhere our paths might have crossed. The truth is that it had to happen at this exact time and place, in the heart of Brighton.