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Month: December 2007

between the superheroes

I’m starting off 2008 with less baggage and cleaner priorities. I’ve deleted or disabled my FaceSpace accounts, wiping out years of time-suckage disguised as social networking, and, uh… signed up for Twitter instead. Updates posted on the sidebar to the right, under maintenant headlines. Hopefully this means I’ll be hanging around here more often.


Late afternoon sun glows dimly across a west-end parkette; a technicolor CN Tower presides over skaters at Nathan Phillips Square.

Flight canceled this morning, so I have some time to kill before I can get on a plane. Time for blogging and reminiscing, of course. I haven’t done much work or research over the holidays, but I did leave plenty of space for decompression, digestion, reflection.

Anyone who moves around a lot likely obsesses to some degree over the idea(l) of community. Our relation to one another, how we fit in each others’ lives, how we treat the folks around us. Individuals, neighbours, classmates, fellow passengers, fellow pedestrians, friends, rivals, alpha men and women, nervous little kids on the first day of school.

Some countries, like some people, exist only in opposition. There is a constant need for enemies, for wars, for a reason to rally together against something or someone. These communities cannot simply be, cannot be content to live together, admitting to need, to dependency, rejoicing in it, and hide instead behind real or imagined menace. They won’t hug for love, but they will huddle for protection.

Other communities—artistic, spiritual, the non-geographic sort—aren’t much easier to figure out or tame. When the territory is invisible, lies within the heart, it’s harder to tell what kind of ground you’re standing on.

I’ve spent years trying to build community. I gave up on the idea of a single catch-all community as a kid, realizing early-on that listening to the same music or reading the same books or having the same upbringing doesn’t necessarily translate to connection. My music communities and journalism communities have taught me more about this than anything else. Just because we’re two heads, or two heads that write about being heads, doesn’t mean we gon get along. Finding community isn’t about finding other versions of self. It’s not about reassurance in mirrors. It’s about finding complements, other pieces, links that fit.

I devoted a lot to community-building in 2007, in my personal life, in how I’m creative, and how I work. I’m still trying to understand it, and still trying to fend off this growing Western sense of selfishness and alienation with closeness. I’ve backed away from those two monstrous online communities, but that hasn’t severed any ties. If anything, I’m devoting even more to nurturing, strengthening, valuing and expanding my communities. To making them healthier. May the people you surround yourself with and connect to in 2008 reflect richness, strength, bravery. Happy new year.

_

pap sec com manteiga, ehh carai


click for larger. original image from an “ugliest intersections” feature, here. galleria to the left, macdonalsh to the right.

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I was back not two hours and already frustrated with the Duff-ring bus. Waiting for what felt like hours, sandwiched between tall, traffic-dirtied snowbanks, while five or six buses passed in sequence across the street, going the other way. When my bus finally came, of course, it was too packed to get on — a crush of bargain shoppers, women with baby carriages, kids with hockey sticks and nylon bags bulging with equipment, cussing to each other and yapping into cellphones.

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Everything was the same. There were the same dudes, parked behind the McDonald’s around the way, their souped-up Mazdas (sub-woof in the trunk, momo rims and a tinted windshield, eh bro!) blasting music with bass so heavy it rattled the windows, the frame, the entire depressing block. Shit-talking dudes with cigarettes hanging out their mouths, spitting, pacing, staring at girls, but mostly just cursing and flexing hard. When I was younger, guys like these wore their hair slicked back, dark and greasy. Now they had buzz cuts and fades, their bright leather bombers looking more hip hop than FOB. Some of them had graduated from hatchbacks to SUVs or Escalades. Probably sold drugs for Pino around the way. Probably still lived with their moms, too.

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Across the parking lot from their Friday night ritual was the Galleria — the mall of lost souls. Old Portuguese men killed time from morning to dusk here, shifting from bench to bench, conversation to conversation, sometimes people watching or staring into space. Far from the Old Country and the lively cafes and public squares where they used to gather, they made do with the drab, faded brown interior and florecent lighting of the Galleria. The orange glow from the Price Chopper grocery store by the entrance was their substitute for sun, their secret weapon against the year-round S.A.D. that seemed to affect the neighbourhood. So much grey, so much asphalt, so much grime and gloom…

The same tired food stand sold stale corndogs and Italian sodas. The same lottery kiosk run by the same Korean family still had a line of customers blocking up too much of the hall, each hoping anxiously for a piece of the next big prize — something, anything to help them escape this. To ease their tired expressions, sloped shoulders, aching backs, holey winter boots, scuffed jackets, grown-out roots, waning patience, and grumpy, perpetually displeased children. Too much sugar in the diet. Veggies aren’t so fresh at the Price Chop.

Zellers used to be the big draw at this mall, Where The Lowest Price Is The Law, according to the old tag line. Clothing, canned food, greeting cards, bedding, toys, DVDs, soaps and medication for less. The aisles used to be teeming with shoppers, their carts filled and their kids tugging at their sleeves for more, screeching in portuglish or enguluese, maaaaheeeng, mãe mãe, eu quero this one, pleeease?

Since the Walmart opened down on Bloor at that much nicer, much bigger mall years ago, the Galleria, and Zellers, have emptied out dramatically. Except for the old Portuguese men wandering the halls and taking up bench space, the orange glow of the discount grocery store, and the sad-faced lottery ticket hopefuls, this place feels like a ghost town. The Dupont or Duff-ring bus is still the only way out.
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Home. Ongoing.

november twenty-ninth

I got one last riverside bike ride in before the leaves and freezing rain began to fall a few weeks ago. It’s four:thirty, and the sun has set over Manhattan, outlining brown brick buildings and rooftop water towers in pink and orange.

This city ain’t so bad sometimes.