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Ephemeris  July 2011

 

July 31, 2011: DW was in the right of it when he not only declared himself shocked, but that what he had just heard emanating from Labrosse's mouth was terribly shocking, decidedly so. There we were, yesterday afternoon (and it was a perfect one, temperature and humidity-wise), DW, Labrosse and I at the 'bratwurst' terrasse. Three old men with cell phones—And the running joke to do with the gadgets continued. That is to say, some Evil Entity, other than the Tatiana (Stalin's restive ghost) who seeks to get at DW for his political views, keeps programming and re-programming his cell phone in Danish. Of all the languages such an entity has from which to choose, why Danish? Don't much care for anything Danish, not even danishes. His ear cannot abide the sound of the language, let alone the sense—The thing is, Labrosse had just characterized humankind, and for all that Labrosse might happily characterize X,Y and Z, he is a cautious sort and not given to darkly flip remarks of questionable taste, unlike some of us he is sorry to know. Labrosse: "Human beings? Well. They're like mushrooms. Keep them in the dark. Feed them s—t—" Yes, it was very much unlike Labrosse, man of the business world with a secret yen for politics of the more progressive sort, old guard humanist, to boot—The words were certainly not words one might mouth to a girl on a first date—DW: "How sweeping. How nihilistic. Perhaps you'd better consult a physician—" Sibum: "Well, I never—" Labrosse had the look of a cat who had just swallowed a bird and then gut-checked himself—Labrosse, confessing: "Well, the words aren't mine, exactly. I first heard them back in my university years - some fellow I met—" DW: "Yes, but it seems you mean it. What's come over you?—" But if Labrosse did mean it and if something has come over him - too many poets in his life? - he was not saying. Perhaps I, too, had come across something similar somewhere: de Tocqueville on a bad day? Already, I miss my Moby Dick that had become something like a companion. No nihilism in those pages, however much fatalism in league with a large measure of empathy for the lot of humankind are to be had in the book. Moreover, the Roman period piece I have taken up is a most sorry substitute. Not expecting great literature from it, but still, could not the author even pretend to a few Jamesian flourishes - you know, Henry James, or he who dithered about Rome on a few occasions? Perhaps it is time to take my annual pilgrimage to points Tacitus and Livy and Sallust and Polybius and Marcellinus—We decided, three old farts that we are, and whatever the hobgoblins that lurk in DW's cell phone, that the demise of the two-party system to the south of here is nothing good; whereas in hail fellow, well met Canada, should a political party decide to shoot itself in the foot, by all means, let it shoot itself in the foot - the system will adjust nicely enough, thank you, and trundle on. Not so down there, the political mentality of a different order and so, however much the 'debt ceiling' crisis is street theatre and nothing but, the crisis is a very real one, inasmuch as it takes old bogeyman words like 'dysfunctional' and 'polarized' and downgrades them from hurricane status to tropical showers and, and - well, we have a situation that could easily become so much more dangerous than polarized and dysfunctional. Recurring dream: I am in Rome on my motorcycle. I am a little apprehensive as I have no license for the machine, perhaps because I never bothered to obtain one, for fear of failing the obligatory driver's test. Clearly, the dream reflects the reality of my writing career, its lack of academic creds—Traffic jam - Quattro FontaneJust that those aren't carabinieri, they're 'cops' in steel helmets—In any case, despite the dream, it has come around morning, and Alexandra the waitress is in a pleasant mood here in Nikas. Enter Irish harpy with husband plus friend, a certain Lady LaGa - she of the hats. Eddie, one of the owner-cooks, he sees them coming and he announces: "The plane for Cooba is boarding in five minutes." Irish harpy: "But what's there to eat on the plane?" Eddie, with best Albanian-Greek drolling bravado: "BLTs, hold the mayo—" We are agreed on one point, for all that - that the real Lady GaGa is perfectly hideous, nothing more than a money-making machine, while Amy on the other hand— When it comes to pass that those who are naturally slow of apprehension and cold of heart and brain, though perhaps of good understanding, with much acuteness of mind, and competent learning, are almost wholly unable to appreciate works of imagination; because they are quite unable to enter into the author's spirit, for whom usually they have a feeling of contempt, since, when they read his writings they are unable to discover in what his merit consists, as it affords them no emotional or imaginative delight, nor, indeed, pleasure of any kind—Leopardi on pop music, and much else, besides—

July 30, 2011: I am done with Moby Dick and, for the moment, there is little to say. That there is little to say is no reflection on the book and its qualities. For a long stretch of time, over the course of many chapters, Melville goes on about everything and nothing - everything to do with whaling and seemingly nothing else. No creature, no wife, is more domestic and tied to routine than a crew member of a whaler; and I saw a pale reflection of such when I booked passage on a container ship from Montreal to Thamesport some years back—All the while one knows that what will truly matter is Ahab's eventual showdown with the white whale, which, when it finally comes, is not so much anti-climax as just another piece of business, more matter for the course of things—One might have wished for a few more theatrical sparks, given Melville's Shakespearian flourishes; more scope given, for instance, to Starbuck who knew all along that he was going to die, sacrificed to Ahab's monomania; and that, perhaps his manner of death would be something of an offense against his own personal God, he being a self-willed Quaker and all; more scope given to Stubbs the happy fatalist— Then again, there is nothing more irritating - to this interlocutor, at least - than programmatic drama. I lost sight of Queequeg, that prince among men—Morning. Nikas. A midnight thunderstorm cleared off some of yesterday's humidity. Alexandra the waitress has had her hair freshly tinted, the effect unhappily garish. It has aged her. Asked to do so by a London Lunar electronic missive, I had a listen to Piazzola's Oblivion - a bit of tango. Its bubbly but melancholic demeanor suits well the final musings of the novel Moby Dick, the lone survivor Ishmael staying afloat by hanging on to what was intended to be Queequeq's coffin—

July 29, 2011: I will have to put it to the girls, or A and E: Lady GaGa. Am I missing something? Or is she not simply hideous? Whereas Amy Winehouse—Enough. May the Lady prosper and live happily ever after in an old shoe—Morning. Nikas. Alexandra the waitress, in collusion with Larry the software entrepreneur, pulled a gag and locked the door, through which Larry eventually yelled: "Closed for renovations!" And then, upon relenting and giving me access: "I'll have to see some ID, sir." And then, as my toes gained purchase on the parquet: "There's plenty of room at the back—" Yes, Alexandra thought it all quite amusing. But like the 'classical ideal', reason does swing by every so often so as to effect a little equilibrium between  moving parts, and Larry, in motion, did bring up an older and better time, as when he used to drink with Nick auf der Mer, a notorious and much beloved Montreal journalist, prodigious drinker. Which brought to mind that I, too, had enjoyed a couple of sessions with the man - at Winnie's and at Ziggy's down on Crescent—And Montreal seemed an authentic city and not merely an excuse for strip malls—Even so, anyone who has taken a degree in Political Science will, sooner probably than later, spring this thing called reason on you; and Larry the software entrepreneur has the look of one who will do that very thing - preemptively, should the conversation threaten to turn serious; otherwise he would much prefer to carouse; and there is even carousing to be had with coffee and dry toast—Fostoria? It is a town in Ohio, its motto: small town in the middle of everywhere—Auto-Lite was there. Spark-plugs. Then the plug was pulled—Earlier, I was reading in Moby Dick (chapter one hundred and twenty-six): Now, then, Pip, we'll talk this over; I do suck most wondrous philosophies from thee! Some unknown conduits from the unknown worlds must empty into thee!—Ahab is addressing Pip the little black boy become his spritey Ariel—But for some reason I had it in my head that it was Pip's ghost here with whom Ahab was sojourning; and I had to backtrack and reacquaint myself with the fact that Pip was no whaler; that he fell into the sea twice; that he was only rescued by chance the second time around; and that perhaps he had an encounter with God, but that, in any case, it had all driven him mad—And Ahab, his fellow in madness, had taken pity on him and brought him down into his cabin - as if Ahab, who happily intends to bring ruination to everyone, is also 'human', and either all the more ruinous or all the more human or both on account of this madness that consumes him—And Queequeg's coffin is about to be re-worked into a life buoy such as will prove the instrument for Ishmael's salvation, and only Ishmael's, as everyone else will be taking an extended vacation at the bottom of the sea—When Larry the software entrepreneur, in a fit of civility, inquired after Labrosse, I answered that I had put to Labrosse the following question: does Quebec have a 'character', and, if so, has it changed over the last twenty years (as it certainly has over the past fifty)? To which Larry responded: "Ah, interesting question. But I lack sufficient depth with which to properly treat with its implications. Sayonara, baby. My toast awaits—" Yesterday afternoon at 'bratwurst' on the terrasse, Labrosse did weigh in on the matter. And the long and short of it is that, yes, Quebec has a character that is distinct from that of the other 'characters' such as comprise a federation perceived by the world as Canada; but that, no, it has not changed much in the course of the past twenty years, if one adjudges how the politics gets done and considers that demographic tendencies have been pretty constant—The people . . .is an assemblage associated by a common acknowledgement of right and by a community of interests . . . Where . . .there is no true justice there can be no right—And so forth and so on. From Augustine, City of God. Also, bar talk one has heard over the years. Also, Aquinas was wrong when he suggested that an 'unnatural act' like that of stealing from one's fellow man cannot be made lawful through the sheer effrontery of the human will—One would have thought that the Italy of the princes and bankers—As to the south of here, it happens every day—And one might quote Pound's 45th canto, the rant against usury and false values, and one might hear how 'romantic thinkers' just do not get it: despite usury, world prosperity has gone up; populations have increased, and, and—


July 28, 2011: If no one had anything to say, last evening, it did not matter much. Enough that we struck poses and took up attitudes on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, and we may as well have been arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Sibum, rewording somewhat Tashtego's outburst in chapter one hundred and twenty-one of Moby Dick, a storm happening up there in the ship's rigging: What use thunder? Um, um, um. Don't want thunder; we wants rum—A raised brow, one which belonged to A, answered this exhortation, it suggesting that Sibum, perhaps, had unsuspected depths. We did not talk politics. Nor art. Nor culture in any specific sense. However, we talked sex - talked a modicum of the thing, banteringly, neither sleaze nor inhibition mucking the waters. As A and Labrosse, in pursuit of their perpetual mock marriage and mock honeymoon, had apparently fallen into a real enough quarrel ( and then kissed and made up) - something sexist perhaps to do with A's skirt and that it flattered her - I suggested we could retire the item after a long, rich and noble life lived to purpose, as is done with uniforms of famous athletes—Once again it would seem I was guilty of unsuspected depths—E asked how I was getting on with the Roman period piece she was having me read - at the expense of the Harry Potter A would have me read, and at the expense, too, of Moby Dick, Melville's prose coming to a head now that fifty or so pages remained in which to treat with the white whale and have done with Ahab's hubris, and perhaps, America's debt crisis. I spared E a remark I might have made, that the book in question might as well have been computer-generated, what with the obligatory plot and characterizations and atmospherics, kind of like some celebrated novels of which I am aware but will not handle, not even with rubber gloves. In any case, we parted company fairly early on, as A and Labrosse both had appointments to honour first thing in the morning, and E had a surprise birthday party to spring on her roommate. Yes, it struck me that what was wanted for her was a colony she might haunt and invest with highlights, she very much an indefatigable Social Director, always politic, genial; always meaning well in light of which everyone should bloody well behave. But wait a minute - colony? - ah yes, look about - have a gander at—Sometimes the dreams I dream are so real I am convinced I have lived them in waking life. I have had more than one chat with Bill Clinton who did me the courtesy each time of not attempting to snow me. And now, Current President. He entered the café I was in; he pulled out a cigarette and asked for a light, which I provided. His eyes said, please, no politics. But what was my opinion of the book So-and-So wrote? Public intellectuals were gathering outside the café looking for a coup - not a political coup but a social coup, a feather for their caps—How effing transparent. (At least I have not had conversations with Napoleon.) And so I woke from the dream as one always does when one gets wise to oneself, no entertainment value left in hanging around Dreamland. London Lunar set on me another Geoffrey Hill lecture (you know, the famous poet) like one might set a dog on a person, and he would have me investigate the prose of a certain Sobin, American versifier who apparently hid out in the Provence for three hundred years, extolling the place—

July 27, 2011: A pair of literary thugs, up to no good, really, drifted into Montreal-NDG, last evening, and we wound up comparing notes at the 'bratwurst' terrasse. Where, in the semi-dark, Persians were in a festive mood, and a terribly serious child, perhaps a poet in the making, attended to a yellow balloon of significant size. Yellow begonia on a string—It was good and brave but ultimately silly literary talk in which we engaged; and whatever ails the literary scene here and elsewhere, and much ails it - here and elsewhere, we will not fix it, let alone cure it, though mind, heart and soul are pure, and, on occasion, willing. We can perhaps see to each our self-respect, if sufficiently exercised to do so. We can refuse to cave to the fundamentalists of every ilk, be they religious or secular - narcissists all - and they have been busy infecting almost every aspect of life and culture with their poisons, along with the constant and increasingly giddy streamings of the ideologically hidebound. But - but - but - you see, I sense a foot of mine creeping toward that soapbox that is always handily situated—Perhaps this is what Rilke meant some time ago when he observed that, at times, it is best to just put a sock on it; that no matter what lovely things one has to say, if the air is polluted enough with myriad rancours, all those lovely things one has to say will only breed freaks and monsters. I used to think my life was an answer to all the literary bs, to all the artspeak, to all the empty-minded morally-ascendants such as have set up headshops in every laundromat and faculty lounge and church basement in the land, peddling moral and awtistic trinkets— But I can see I had been flattering myself. To be sure, I will account it a good day should M1 write that trumpet-blast of a novel and bring down Jericho's battlements on the other side of which a populace of piranhas keeps endlessly gaming the game, and half their books consist of blurb and identity, and the remaining half - well, who has the time? In other words, no one is simply a poet or a novelist any longer; everyone is a specialist. And I will account it a good day should M2 write that piece of critical derring-do and incur the wrath of the literarily chosen, but that, now that he casts a shadow on the radar, he will not cravenly retract the piece and say, "Sorry, my bad", and begin to cosset the very same frauds he had exposed, because, you know, he has a career to advance—Good, brave, and silly palaver—Labrosse who once inhabited the real world sat a while with us and nursed a Jack Daniels. MH sat a while with us, too, she in a genial mood, though her mind was very much on her painting, and that she might finish it tomorrow, and maybe in a year, she couldn't say, and maybe not ever—Like some shy forest creature at the edge of a wilderness town, A and her rugby gear materialized from out of that semi-dark; and she did not know that she should trust her life to such dangerous hombres as ourselves; that perhaps it were a better thing to do to go home, shower down, hit the sack and avail herself of the fancy of love that she is not quite getting from workaday life. Closing time, and I went inside to inquire of Flora what the damage was. She was seated on a bench, tired, a mother again, as her daughter and the newborn - the father a catastrophe - require mothering—Let us live, my Porphyry, and together comfort each other; let us not refuse to bear that part which destiny has assigned to us of the evils of our race. Let us continue in association; and proceed encouraging each other, and mutually giving help and support; in order to fulfil as best we may the task of life. Which without any doubt will be brief. And when death shall come, we shall not lament: and likewise in our last hours friends and companions will comfort us, and we shall be cheered by the thought that when we are no more they will often remember us and love us stillDon't know whether to laugh, cry or hoot. And towels are optional. But, in any case, from Leopardi's Plotinus and Porphyry.

July 26, 2011: We did not get up to much, last night, the girls, Labrosse and I. We did view another episode of The Sandbaggers, the viewing a species of archaeology, as the content on tap has to do with an old British spy series that, in turn, has little to do with car chases and much to do with political sensitivities, or the Cold War. I have described this business sufficiently in previous posts, all that soupcon of the aforementioned sensitivities plus inter-office rivalries both tweedy and pinstriped and perhaps bedenimmed on the sly. At the conclusion of which viewing, and at Labrosse's behest, we switched to one of the major American networks, and eh voila, but there was Current President remarking on the debt ceiling crisis, he to be followed by the Speaker of the House remarking, no doubt, upon the same. And he did so remark, going to bat for his party, he the hostage of a certain faction of his party, or Tea Partyers who, in their guise as freshman members of the House of Representative, are providing nation, continent and world a lesson in what it means to stick to one's guns. That is to say, they are apparently principled. I have no quarrel with principles, which is why I have problems with the pragmatism and nothing but of a P.M. Carpenter who I otherwise esteem for his political commentary, but 'principle' is one thing, boneheadedness another. In any case, I objected to Current President's best daycare tone of voice in his address, and that he must needs read the effing address off a teleprompter only enhanced the tinny theatricality of it all. The girls thought otherwise, and in a sense, they were right to think otherwise, as the man is no out and out liar, no matter the hamstrung delivery. House Speaker, fuelled, to be sure, by a number of martinis, came off much better, more - how shall we say - naturalistic, as naturalistic as a man in the prime of his cups about to toss off a risque joke at the country club, and I may be mistaken, but I do believe I did see the odd wink and nudge in his holding forth. As if MacBeth, in his agony, were nonetheless auditioning for a stand-up comedy spot—For all that, the man was, by every measuring stick, a blowhard on his best behaviour, which means he merely riffed with a few howlers and whoppers as opposed to having clicked his heels and heiled us. Competing mediocrities then, insofar as mediocrity pertains to thespian matters and not 'political' acumen—Labrosse would have us all regroup at the 'bratwurst' terrasse under cover of darkness so as to discuss howlers and whoppers, or 'politics', but I declined for a change, which set the girls into a brief spate of murmuring amongst themselves. What's up with that? (The Sandbaggers, in whatever spirit it is meant to be viewed - as history, as entertainment - does interest them, but it always disconcerts at how quickly they fall into gossip and talk of 'boys' at the end of each episode, as if school were now out, larking imminent)—In chapter one hundred and sixteen of Moby Dick, Ahab considers his immortality, always a worrisome sign. And in the next chapter, The Quadrant, the sky subject to his corrosive revery, Ahab looks into the eye (the sun) that has, at this moment, no debt crisis obtaining here, the white whale in its sight—And by way of some perverse bending of light, one might venture to say that the old U.S.of A. has degenerated into a pure democracy a la Madison in his Federalist Papers; that is to say, it is a 'pure democracy' that will have its problems with the mischiefs of a faction whereas, in theory at least, a 'republic' with a 'representational' mode of government has more scope of maneuver in regards to said besetting faction. In theory, at least—Otherwise, Tocqueville: A democracy can obtain truth only as the result of experience; and many nations may perish while they are awaiting the consequences of their errors. For a decade and more now, there has been in my organs of hearing a steady tap-tapping of restive toes and drumming fingers, such auditory hallucinations having little to do with questions of my diet—


July 25, 2011: I scribbled in my notebook the words ad hoc words. I must have had some notion of what I meant to suggest by those words, but obviously I failed to scribble the notion down. That ours is a culture of - ad hoc words? Something along those lines? And as for Amy Winehouse? Well, I did not know what all the fuss was about until the news of her passing away was accompanied on TV by a sound-byte of her singing, and her talent was instantly apparent. She was, according to London Lunar, "born with a voice already inhabited by the ghosts of several lives". Just that she and that Breivik fellow in Norway, and the poet Geoffrey Hill, and the heat wave and the price of tea in China; far right violence, blinkered progressives, the non-existent centre; and daisies, too; and Proust's last years; oh, and Canadian water - all of the above, as per some law of physics, are connected somehow, I am sure, only I couldn't tell you why. Or that it is morning and that I sit in Nikas somewhat bewildered by this sudden spate of words in their onrush, and in some trepidation of the chaos gaining on us - but I can't tell you why. But surely it is one thing to bewail the growing lack of tolerance that seems to be spreading across the western world on either side of the pond, and it is another to continue to hold that human society is perfectible - which it isn't. Amy Winehouse then because she was clearly more than just another pop singer. Breivik because, however deranged, he evidently believes he is 'political'. Mr Hill because, oh, I don't know, because I was not well-disposed toward him or his work until I was presented with a recent lecture of his and I heard it out, and yes, the man had much worthwhile to say about poetry and the state of the condition its condition is in, which it is parlous. Heat wave because we in Montreal-NDG have just gotten through one and remark upon it, that is, if one is an Irish harpy with husband and son in tow. The price of tea in China because there is always the price of tea in China no matter what obtains at the moment—The far right and the progressives and the unrepresented centre because something is coming to a head, and soon could be as soon as tomorrow or fifteen years hence, but soon enough it will be, just as the Weimar experiment was soon, as were the 1850s incrementally leading up to the War between the States—Daisies because - common flower - common flower that people love - and who needs a kazillion dollars for happiness? One can buy happiness for a great deal less—Proust's last years (in his cork-lined digs) because he seemed to have expunged from his life all that he did not require, his deck clear for writing—And Canadian water because, well, it symbolizes how it is Canada's relations with its neighbour will always be on the somewhat tenuous side—In chapter one hundred and fourteen of Moby Dick, the Pequod meets the Bachelor, and the captain of the one whaling ship, having killed a lot of whales and having gotten a lot of oil out of them, is a smug and happy captain, and wishes to have the other captain come aboard for a convivially social drink; which Ahab, being a gloomer, declines, on account of the disgusting fatuosity on the part of his counterpart, that he is much too jolly- what's economic success really mean in a world in which the white whale roams at large? "Hast seen the White Whale?" gritted Ahab in reply. And then in chapter one hundred and fifteen, dying whales turn their dying heads in the direction of the sun—

July 24, 2011: It is futile to look for patterns and linkages and associations and whatnot where nothing exists but random occurrence, but then, that is partly what a poet is about: futility. Even so, a Taiwanese (Ang Lee) directed one of the better movies ever to have been made about the American civil war, a little thing entitled Ride with the Devil that is a depiction of 'jayhawkers' and 'bushwhackers', terms that require a book to adequately explain them. The short of it though is that, roughly on the Missouri-Kansas border, jayhawkers and bushwhackers waged predations on each other in a war within a war, and were more or less thugs with quasi-political motives—Their combined viciousness was an 'insult to barbarism'. Somehow, and to be sure, I cannot tell you why, the fact that I caught the movie by chance and the fact of that business in Norway and much else besides all seem of a piece at this moment, partly because, I suppose, the American civil war and 'thuggery' in general are never far from my thoughts. Why? Once more, I cannot tell you why. I have no roots in the south, no genealogical linkage to any 'unionist' or 'rebel' of which to boast. I have no desire to romanticize thugs; and though the war was a big deal in my schoolyard years, and though I have read books on the subject, seen movies, viewed Ken Burns's notorious documentary on the matter, even so it is not 'in my blood' as it is with many people I have known, some of whom have told me the war continues to be a 'festering wound' from out of which came Vietnam and Iraq - and so forth and so on. And here is one more thing that is just 'one of those things' that yet, seem so awfully to the point, if for inexplicable reasons: Lebanon, Missouri (where we were living off-base, my father in the army). 1957 or thereabouts, and I am, I believe, a fifth grader. The class is taken on a field-trip - to some 'ante-bellum' mansion in the area now a library. I have no more memory of it than this, just that, as soon as I stepped inside the edifice and seemed to be inhaling weary dust that nonetheless sparkled in the sun, something in me now tingling, and as I gaped at the highest ceiling I had ever encountered, I knew I would be ever after marked by the fact of that moment. That is all it was - a moment. Years later, and I would come to have similar - near 'out of body' - experiences - at Harper's Ferry and the Palatine Hill in Rome; though an acquaintance with history and literature at least semi-explains those episodes, and the rational obtains—In any case, the movie I watched, last night, was no popcorn flick; and it had a great deal to say about the notion of 'honour'; how it is all that one has left once reason has broken down, and for all that 'honour', as a mode of conduct, is so often the butt of satirical treatment, generally on the part of left of centres. Honour, tragedy, farce - very little, if anything, separates one from the other. Yesterday, I happened to read bits of a piece (an internet post) written by an American poet who suggested that Blake, when he went on about those 'Satanic mills', was ruing not so much the fact of machines and the 'industrial revolution' but how it was that human beings were, in his day, debased by the way that those machines and that industry took language over and tended to obliterate all the fine distinctions. In other words, think computer; think how we all became ineluctably 'hardwired' once the computer became such a large part of our daily lives. We have been enslaved by a metaphor. I did not read all of the poet's piece as he is a bit of a 'raver' a mystagogue, in my estimation, but in this instance, I believe he has a point, and it is one that has been exercising my thoughts since the late 80s. After I had my fill of the 'piece', I went to Nikas for my usual one o'clock coffee. I encountered there a booth of young men adjacent to my customary spot in the rear of the restaurant, their voices decidedly middle-class. Even so, they were talking quite strangely, it seemed, until it became apparent that they either comprised some sort of Christian group or a recovery program of a kind (drugs and booze), just that missionary zeal had them all by the shorts hairs, and competitively so; and when one of them went on about the 'nameless higher power', and don't you have some belief in a nameless higher power and et cetera, come on, don't s—t me, bro, you can share this with us, I put it to myself: "Poor Plotinus, you've been misappropriated, and by role-playing cretins, too—" Perhaps they figured they were pushing back against something a little larger in scope than their addictions for which they required a 'metaphor', but I cannot say—In chapter one hundred and thirteen of Moby Dick, there is something of a meditation on the nature of the sea and fact and faith: But the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof, calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm—Or that special appeals might have their uses, but one ought never to count on them for very long: there are shark's teeth beneath those lovely, billowing waves—It had been my intention (until I was so grievously sidetracked by the above) to go on about the most precious lot of poets I have ever come across, that American colony of them in the old, heady days of a certain era in Vancouver; and how it was they would sell themselves to the world as an un-precious lot, not like those formalists and such for whom they had such derision; and had I the wit back then to have pulled a Byron, I would have hocked and soda-watered the lot of them, excepting a Keats, if there had been a Keats among them—

July 23, 2011: Morning. Nikas. Late. That I slept in I attribute to the heat such as has made of Montreal-NDG a hot spot, a Shreveport, an almost exotic shrine to the 'summery look'—It has put me off my stride, this heat. What any of the above has to do with poetry and its kissing cousin history it is difficult, perhaps impossible to say - just that, what gives in Norway? Norway is not Terra Haute. Then again—All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked. . . .Ecclesiastes, and, I would have you know, not a cheap shot—Air Canada, long story, has managed to make of London Lunar an implacable critic - who is, for the most part, an amiable enough fellow. Certainly, Air Canada has no idea how to run a railroad—I have had it in mind to post a commentary on a walkabout poem of a young poet of my acquaintance, but the heat as monkey wrench - enough said. Plus the fact I have come across some wretched little errors as well as a few porkers of a stanza or two here and there in my recent poetic efforts, stanzas beset with decidedly flabby thighs, and I am disgusted; and, shoddy workmanship aside, I pray I do not have to suspect myself of incipient dotage. I accept that Lucien Freud, so recently deceased, was a cut above your average artist, especially when it came to portraiture some of which I have seen first-hand, but I have philosophical objections to his view that sex trumps everything in life. Yes, and what a thing to find out about oneself in one's incipient dotage: that one has such objections. Or that, despite the humiliations intellectual and otherwise that one will incur in regards to the following, and despite the fact that one is a self-described pagan and can live happily enough with the frivolities of an Ovid, one has been all along Christ-haunted, which is to say - oh for God's sake what? - which is to say I have no effing idea— It's just one of those rabbits that lurks at the bottom of the magic hat everyone hauls about in life—Or it is as if one inadvertently went ambling by the crucifixion scene, one day - perhaps there was a poker game to get to or an assignation of some sort - and one was minding one's own business, as one does in an occupied city, Romans about, and then one thought one heard a whisper—I have no use whatsoever for Quentin Tarantino who, I imagine, imagines himself as beyond metaphysics, as beyond the self-fetishizing intellect of the life of the mind, as having aced the Zen of violence - that there is nothing to say for it, of it, about it - it just is - but of course - mais oui - who would think otherwise, you pedantic arse? . . . . Try as I might I continue to find his flicks beside the point. And though Mr Jackson righteously has a moment or two of lucidity in Pulp Fiction, the flicks are for the most part devoid of anything but preeners strutting their stuff. . . The usual bilge, only more clever—Because, I would have you know, Mr QT wants everyone lolling about with their throats slashed—Likes a spectacle—Necrophiliac—Mercy—I could go on—

July 22, 2011: Nothing will get a writer more quickly into trouble than a metaphor, and yet the picturesque is all too often the point, satisfyingly compelling in the depiction of a nightmare. Or that I often have the sense, as I follow the 'news' and read op-eds and ruminations on this and that impending calamity, that I am at large in a realm in the ground of which fires smoulder, such as will eventually meet up one with the other, and then the world will have itself a full-throated conflagration, an inferno on its hands—Of late, P.M. Carpenter, a distinguished (or perhaps only merely prominent) political commentator to the south of this here region, as he follows the so-called 'debt-ceiling' crisis and other street theatre, has taken to likening the American political situation to the turmoil of the 1850s, the inanities of which invited a Civil War onto centre-stage—(I had thought to hearken back to that particular decade myself more than once, but then suspected myself of mission-creep melodrama.) As if to further accentuate the positive, the man now and then takes side-forays into what he characterizes as the Goebbelsesque, and this in regards to a certain segment of the political spectrum, and which is but a goose-step or two and a heil from all-out Nazism. But whether Mr Carpenter is taking liberties with an analog or whether he really has something in mind, I cannot say. To abruptly change course and to attend to left-over business from a previous post, the words 'puncheon' and 'tierce' that I encountered in my reading of Moby Dick, having taken on mystical properties in my addled mentations, want demystifying. So then, a puncheon is both a rough board - one side of which is finished flat, used to help support framework - and a large cask; whereas 'tierce', besides marking time as an organ-stop and as a canonical hour, is also an old measure of capacity, hence the use of both words in a single sentence of Melville. As easy as kiss my hand these off-handed sentences that Melville produced for Moby Dick knock for all eternity on the door of an infinity of cascading metaphors—And if the above forebodings will not do it for you, we can avail ourselves of a 'true death temper', as per chapter 112 or The Forge. Wherein Captain Ahab has commanded his blacksmith to fashion him a weapon that he hopes to disgorge, soon enough, into the body of the white whale and that the white whale shall spout not ocean but blood; and he has had this weapon tempered with the blood of various shipboard 'heathens', or Tashtego, Queequeg, Daggoo. What say ye, pagans! Like so, I figure Rumsfeld must have addressed a few of his cohorts in the Pentagon once upon a time: pre-nuptial shock and awe—For all that, we are always deep in ceremony, no matter how casual we come to it. And if not, we are always in the hunt for that ceremony that will cause us to believe we have gotten all the disparate parts of ourselves, as well as the unmanageable parts of body-politic, for that matter, into something like coherence. Or so I suggest in a recent poem of mine, a meditation of a kind on the Roman historian Tacitus whose Annals have been something like a bible to me, no matter that Ovid's Sulmona is not F Scott Fitzgerald's St Paul; no matter that it seems that so many contemporary historians know better than did Tacitus as to what monstrosities lurked behind the eye-windows of his own personal Caesar-grotesque, or Domitian—

July 21, 2011: The idea was to get Labrosse to rattle on a bit about Trudeau and 'repatriation', and in light of that, Quebec. That he should 'rattle on a bit' was precipitated by a curious sensation I experienced yesterday in Nikas. I was sitting there as I do most days around one in the afternoon, scribbling in my notebook or 'reading things over'; sitting there in the glimmer of air conditioning, looking at regulars all seemingly staring into vacant space. And, unaccountably, something struck me - from some foggybottom locale in me a question burbled up: what history? What historical forces shape or have shaped these lives? What on a par with, say, lebensraum, or the drive to sweep the Mediterranean clear of pirates (or terrorists), or Manifest Destiny, or a desire for Palestinian statehood or another round of bread and circuses? In any case, an odd moment. In which it seemed that nothing had ever happened, was happening or ever will happen. (In the meantime Patricia the waitress reported to me that, lunch hour, and she had been run off her feet.) But getting back to Labrosse and things Trudeau—The idea that Labrosse should hold forth was scuppered by the fact of Mehdi the truckdriver and his daughter. They were at table, yesterday evening, on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, and they had Labrosse in their clutches. He, naturally enough, was quite pleased by this state of affairs, as the daughter of Mehdi the truckdriver is beautiful, and she had brought out the gallant in him. Tall, beautiful, spoiled, yet unpretentious. Principessa. Drives a beamer. Cushy job with some Big Company. Devoted to Persian culture. Ah then, Persian poets. Persian poets? No, too difficult, really. No, no poetry. I repeat: tall, beautiful, spoiled, charming, intelligent, with a capacity for mischief - a touch shallow. Then again, and I am guessing here, but she has been protected by her father from certain brute realities, and all she really wishes to do is have a good time with her friends, and is that a crime?—For all that, as Labrosse attempted to explain 'signing instruments' and then proceeded to the phenomenon of high spring tide on the St Lawrence, Quebec City, and she was able, this daughter of Mehdi the truckdriver, to flesh out a few details and help Labrosse in the organizing of his thoughts, and in so doing, showed that she has a passing acquaintance not only with recent Canadian history but with a force of nature peculiar to Quebec. From there an analog was attempted between old money-new money and old religion-new religion and the psychologies that may or may not pertain to such rupturings, not 'rapturings', in the social fabric of any nation-state—It did not get far, this analog-building, as A - who had joined us and was seeking relief from the heat in the terrasse breezes - seemed pained by all the pedantry. She is a good sort who has little tolerance for the life of the mind. Moreover, Mehdi chose not to involve us in a discussion of Iranian politics, though he continued to insist that 'everything is political' even as Labrosse badgered him somewhat with the question: how so? How is everything political? I can't credit you this. The look on Mehdi's countenance more or less said: "Trust me - it is—" And yes, for the first time in my life, my own roots in 'history' - everything from my mother's Berlin to my young life's Vietnam - did not seem so much at the heart of existence; or that Mehdi had had very good reasons, indeed, for wishing to shield his daughter from certain realities, even at the risk of spoiling her—I went home. After an hour or so, the heat intolerable, I returned to the terrasse, different company now obtaining: E and a friend of hers who was off to Greece in the morning. The parents of this young woman live in the north of Greece. Turns out she has read the odd poet or two, ancient ones, and her eyes did not glass over when I made mention of Sappho and Alcaeus. She could roll with this—And for a few moments, I fell into a kind of fantasia, and she was a poet with Sappho's heart and I was in possession of Alcaeus's mettle. E? Well, she was clearly some dotty cousin of ours in need of attention and humouring. Just that there was something else in life besides pop videos and mall-rats and office politics and all the ways in which PC bends gravity— Of course, it was only briefly sustainable - this fantasia, and I retraced my steps home, watched part of a silly movie called Monsoon in which the rain was seriously existential, especially so for what appeared to be a sexual triangle in the making. Slept, and woke this morning out of a dream and into another patch of high heat and humidity. But in this dream I had been having converse with an old woman who was steeped in operettas and serious literature, even Shakespeare. The old woman in real life is my landlady, Russian octogenarian still going strong, and I just saw her a few moments ago in her curlers, looking most impish, setting up her shop window for the day's trade in trinkets and gewgaws and watch repair—

July 20, 2011: Morning. Nikas. It will be a stinker, today, in Montreal-NDG, and already, certain regulars, not me, are complaining about the AC. That there is no AC. Where oh where is that AC? Eddie? Eddie, the other owner-cook in this place, just back from Cuba - Cooba - expansively shrugs. He is, of course, on the cheap. In light of which I said to him: "I figured you'd wind up running the show down there." "Next time," he laughed. "He's already running his country here," observed Patricia the Romanian waitress, not without a wag's smile exploring her decidedly roguish countenance - to see what it might get away with. "The frickin' AC," gasped Irish harpy, husband and son in tow—London Lunar, who at the moment is waging all-out war with Air Canada (it is a complicated little scenario) remarks that never in the history of humankind has 'policy' so trumped the imagination, and if ever there was a time when we could cave without a whimper to the effects of an alien invasion, then that time is now. A nonagenarian friend of his, Torontonian, who happened to travel to Britain, had himself a medical emergency, the upshot of which he must fly home; just that he cannot fly home without oxygen; just that not any old oxygen will suffice - it must needs be home office Air Canada oxygen none of which is currently obtainable in merry olde Englaunde; that will have to be jetted over as soon as someone makes a decision, whenever that glorious day may be - Lord love a duck—I have it in mind to write a  number of things such as might require more rigour than that which these posts of mine evince, and yet, I am not comfortable with rigour even if I do eschew going about the landscape in dreaded cargo pants, sullying up said landscape. But yes, I have it in mind to write about a couple of sirens I have come to know in their capacity as drinking companions - and the ancients, however staggeringly wrong they were about 'stuff', were in the right of it when it came to sirens, and I tend to trust the ancient poets a great deal more than I trust my contemporaries—Sirens, then. In regards to whom there is no recourse but to secure oneself to a mast and stop up one's ears—Not because sirens are evil creatures whose sole aim in life is to lure sailors to their deaths, but because sirens are ordinary enough mortals - sometimes personable, sometimes anything but - who wish to lure sailors to their deaths. Which is one's likely fate should one get overly caught-up in the workings of the female mind in the course of unofficial, unauthorized study. In any case, fairly or unfairly, whether they wish it so or not, the two sirens to whom I refer are going to inherit the world, and they can have it—The other thing I have in mind to write but will most likely not write as I am lazy; as noodling about poetry does all too quickly get tedious; as Christopher Middleton in his noodlings has already said anything worthwhile saying on the subject - howsomever, I have long had it in mind to suggest that a return of the 'classical ideal' - whatever that means - is imminent. It is imminent tomorrow or a half-century from now, but imminent - and this imminence, whatever her qualities as a poet good or bad happen to be, is not in the person of Ann Carson, as she is not a classicist so much as she is a feminist with a bone to pick with certain Roman darlings of the ancient past. No, in my mind the 'classical ideal' has something to do with equilibrium - never mind whether equilibrium as such is even realizable any longer; with a way of being in the world (with a way of being a poet in the world, or a painter or a composer of music, for that matter) while subject to the demands of Psyche (the inner world) and Venus (the outer world - this inner and outer business as per Keats, and, what the hell, Sibum); that has nothing whatsoever to do with questions of formalism and silly quarrels over rhyme and meter; just as there is nothing more boneheaded in the environs than overly resolute theists and atheists bare-knuckling one another in the course of mindless talk-shows; and that in the verse of a young poet of my acquaintance, I apprehend a fellow who senses, even if he cannot quite 'see' it, this imminence. It comes around every five hundred years or so, or generally when things get, in an artistic sense, so effing bankrupt that Silly Season commandeers the vacuum only to render us first bored, then homicidal—I find I have already scribbled in my notebook something to this effect: that Keats had it right when, a long time ago, he announced that Psyche was the new top god in town, she presiding over the inner life that succeeded the dead letters of the mythologies, of Venus's realm such as had gone dead to 'truth', to 'justice', to 'beauty' et cetera. But 5 will get you 10 that Keats would have had little patience with our 'inwardness' that purports to grab all the intangibles by their scruffs so as 'express' them, so as to express the 'inexpressible', an activity subject to the Law of Diminishing Returns always and always, and who wants to be stuck inside some other nutbar's head, anyway? We may, through the agencies of circumstance, find ourselves dislocated or 'alienated' or at a 'remove' or at a 'loss', but we are never dislocated from the world - we are, irrespective of our condition, ever in the world, and poets who suggest otherwise, who invent, dream up, who wallow in all the art-speak of 'dislocation' and pass it off as 'verse' are not trustworthy, and when it comes to the wine cow, are to be kept at arm's length from it, as far away as possible—


July 19, 2011: The fracas that broke out at 'bratwurst', last evening, was instigated, I am sorry to say, by me. Where had it gone - my easy-going temperament? Mercifully enough, in the course of things, other considerations took over discussion at table on the terrasse, considerations that arose out of the brain of E that principally had to do with the 'generations', her frustration with mine and her own. In respect to her own, she presented a fairly harrowing account of indifference and impotence. I had not expected her to be as well-spoken in this matter as she was, or else the heat, along with the beer, had addled both our brains. We had been 'Sandbagging' it; that is to say, Labrosse, the 'girls' and I viewed an episode of The Sandbaggers, an old British spy series in which men who get shot at tend to experience nausea as well as the ups and downs and ins and outs of inter-departmental pettinesses. Afterwards, alone, Labrosse trail-blazed a path to our watering-hole as gossip had broken out between A and E, and there was no turning that around, just as there is no turning around a tsunami once one of those items has been generated. As for the pettinesses, I am, of course, mistaken - surely I am - in my growing conviction that there is nothing 'out there' by way of verse and art that has not been corrupted by, among other things, shabby notions of each their function. The banks believe, and Al Jazeera and CNN also believe, that art is meant to change the world, and it's a fun thing to be doing, too. Oh glory be. To make the world more ripe for the plucking is more like it. Otherwise, I am unclear as to the words puncheon and tierce and what they signify and will attend to this. I read that South Pacific pagans believed the stars were islands - one of the more lovely delusions. And yesterday, at the conclusion of chapter 109 in Moby Dick, the one entitled Queequeg in His Coffin, I hit upon my own obscure method of honouring Melville: I resolved to read no more of his book for the next little while so as to let a particularly wonderful stretch of writing set in my brain. Rig-a-dig dig, dig dig, indeed—

July 18, 2011: Last evening, to my horror, I found myself watching a romantic comedy; this after I had been doing a little heavy dipping into the wildnesses of Immanuel Kant. Finally, there is an imperative which commands a certain conduct immediately, without having as its condition any other purpose to be attained by it. This imperative is Categorical. This imperative may be called that of Morality. And there's one born every minute—But no, I am not a snob, necessarily; I have nothing against romantic comedies on principle: the more screwball they are, the better. But this one - I blush to provide its title - was particularly vile as it would implicate me in an oversight; or that, if it is the fact of our  humanity that makes us human, then we are all of us, I suppose, oh dear, human, no matter that 'humanity' as such is an arbitrary distinction. What aroma, for instance, does humanity characteristically give off? Moreover, one might be forgiven for thinking that 'being human' invites more into the discussion than a preponderance of endearing and quirky smiles, under protection of which all sorts of supply-side derring-do is permitted, nay, encouraged— Walmart wants it kept cute; and Walmart can always ask: "You prefer an evening's worth of bad poets at yet another poetry reading, no oxygen to breathe anywhere, to wallowing in our aisles?"—The movie, no doubt, had it sentience and a capacity for reflection, would look askance at my objection: what have I got against people falling in love? I have got nothing against people falling in love; there is precious little in this life that genuinely entertains, so, by all means, commend yourself to the ministrations of Cupid. But when, as per the flick, people fall in love, and this falling in love answers for, say, putting people out of work in the interests of profit maximization - but it's only the market doing its thing; it's nothing cruel and nothing personal - and look, aren't they cuddly, those two? - and the dog - and what a mutt it is - why, it can almost talk - you'd think the dog engineered the whole fiasco - then - well, as I watched in deepening horror with myself, the question arose as to just how depraved can one get? You may rest assured, if resting assured turns your crank, that history has got plenty of observations to make on that scoreSpeaking of the 'market', I did my noble best to put myself into a Harry Potter book, but it was a no go. Houston, we have a problem—Nothing obvious leaped out at me that I might either embrace or kneecap, as an afterthought. Perhaps I am not comfortable with the notion of children's literature; that the only children's literature I have ever read with any enthusiasm happens to have been Wind in The Willows - a lovely silliness for which I have an abiding affection. The Harry Potter prose seemed just a little, how shall I say it, concerned with not putting on airs; it seemed 'competent', as if in active avoidance of what might stigmatize it - telltale sign of the writing workshop. Then again, it might well have just been me, in a mood, the livelong day having been oppressive and sticky—I could get moralistic and pedantic - wait, I already am all that - and suggest that if reading Harry Potter books leads young persons to other, more substantial reading, then so much the better. But then, when I was devouring Jack London as a boy, and the Hardy Boys series (and, migawd, Nancy Drew - can it be?), I certainly did not envisage myself reading the nasty verses of Rimbaud at age fourteen, which is what I wound up reading, and in the middle of apocalyptic nowhere - Utah—

July 17, 2011: It is, of course, a prime source of propaganda and crowd control: morning television. It is difficult to ignore when I walk into Nikas, first thing, and there it is on high - the screen. This morning I was treated in passing to a bicycle race - a Tour de France, most likely, or something closer to home. Personal best and corporate logos fairly oozed from every solid and not so solid surface available to the organs of sight. It fairly oozed from every human pore; or that the one feeds off the other - logos and 'best' that, between them, constitute a celebratory paean to 'life', whatever 'life' is. Well, one does not carp at joy. One shrugs but does not carp. One retires to the back of the restaurant where one belongs and makes interesting shapes, encased in one's cube of jello. It is a logistical mess what follows, but I was a 'jock' once, enough of one to understand that there is happiness and 'poetry' to be had from any arena in which one finds oneself competing - be it a full-blown football stadium or the nearest sandlot. There is enough of Pindar in me and perhaps in you, too, to understand that it is awfully involved: the joys and rigours in athleticism, the surrounding and enfolding politics and economies, and the psychologies driving Red Sox Nation. It is - what else- a spectacle. Even animals love spectacle. Consider the mating rituals of exotic birds. Are we not fine and feathered? Our 'spectacle', however, has its insidious side such as left of centres and consumer critics and slithering creatures of one sort or other will have at - as it makes their day, endeavouring to bring into the light of day what lurks beneath the water-line, so to speak; that which wants us all hooked on artificially inflated drama and keeps us hooked. Each time I switch on the TV to the ball game I am testifying to the fact that I am hooked, happily so, for the most part, because I have love of the game, but only the game; the rest of it, the shilling, the flag-waving, the rationalizations indulged so as to explain away the presence of over-paid brats, prima donnas and the whatnot of all manner of Christian flora and fauna gesticulating at God whilst on their home run jaunts around the bases - enough of this and I start wondering what it might be like to check myself into a monastery—In any case, as I intimated above: crowd control. The science of how to exploit the fact that we all wish to be transubstantiated into whatever and whomever it is that wins, as winning vindicates our views as to how things should look and behave. They (they who have most to gain from what we believe and disbelieve) get to us below the water-line; or rather, they close with us beyond any point that we can articulate with alert-sounding, fine civic words. The spin-meisters of the world and poets (well, some poets) understand that this point exists, and on a good day, may even have some idea just where it is, precisely. You perhaps have a gut feeling about how things should pan out, and they - it is their raison d'etre to cater to this omniscience of yours - they massage it; they manipulate and bend it to their purposes. Bread and circuses. As heroic as the efforts of a P.M. Carpenter (he writes a daily commentary on the American political scene) to throw light on what lurks beneath that water-line - think iceberg - it suits the scenario despite the cyclists in lycra on terra not so firma - and though he is entitled to feel that his lucidities have kept the Titanic afloat thus far, it is all a mirage - on his part as a writer and on mine as a reader of his analysis. He believes there is sense to be made from the political arena as it were, and in making sense, one fortifies one's capacity for common sense, and in so doing, this making sense spreads, by way of contagion, to the body-politic, enough so that, eventually, at the ballot box, some nightmare circumstance will see its last innings. Perhaps yes, perhaps no. In light of which I believe Melville wrote to keep himself sane. No doubt, he gave thought to paying the rent and providing for his dotage. I know next to nothing of his personal life, and do not care to know, so I am only supposing; nonetheless I submit that he wrote to keep himself sane, a motivating factor I recognize in most writers for whom I have any respect. Some might argue, and a great many do, that the point of it all is to write oneself insane - that is, into a state of non-compliance with whatever regime happens to obtain at the moment. Well, go on, knock yourself out. Go tra la la. They will have got you where they want you: you will be that one more drooling idiot trotted out on occasion to demonstrate that one cares about art and life's Great Questions, and the next time you bank, bank with us—Buy our brand of cell phone: you will have been enfolded into future—In chapter one oh six of Moby Dick, Melville celebrates the ship's carpenter without whom shipboard life would lack even more amenities than it already lacks. For instance, Ahab requires a new peg-leg. All in a day's work for the man with the straightway files—And on he goes about it, Melville, that is, singing the praises of the carpenter; and one might risk getting warm and fuzzy feelings for the institution of carpentering and notions of Prometheus; but no, capitalism firing harmoniously on all cylinders or not, life is implacable; the gods are indifferent, and the sea and the whale - they have their own agendas.

July 16, 2011: I wonder if poetry is not better off left howling in the wilderness at the moon in the interests of no one in particular, and for no good reason. If what makes for poetry is defined by intangibles, then most of what passes for the published product is all too tangible, written by 'poets' for poets in the 'game' for future considerations. Perhaps none of this has anything to do with the following: that there seems to be a crisis shaping up in a certain Poetry Society, one whose coordinates lie somewhere in grotty, old Londontown. But the capital P Poetry capital S Society I have in mind may as well be situated anywhere that has seen liberal attitudes vis a vis X, Y and Z, or anything that truly matters in life, fall on bad times. To reprise Blake, in any case, where money trumps, war is the predictable outcome—Which is to say, do poetry societies with hat in hand serve poetry or the entrenched appetites of power-mongering bureaucrats? Otherwise, I have little else to mouth on about at this particular juncture of time, a fit of laziness having come over me. This then may be an opportune moment for me to point out, lest there is any misunderstanding in the matter of my politics, that I am nothing much out of the ordinary or beyond the pale; I am a liberal-minded hombre; just that I have long since grown accustomed to the forces of erosion eating away the ground from my feet. I look around; I see no allies natural or unnatural with whom I might fight back. Increasingly, I throw my lot in with certain Literary Thugs who, as unlettered as they are, at least care about literature, and that is a great deal more than can be said for too many poets with whom I have crossed paths. They talk a politic talk with a frisson of edge - lest there be any mistake as to which patch of turf their shadows infest; just that, let us not kid ourselves, whatever poetry is, it is about prizes and grawnts - so much so I cawn't leave off wagging: Milton! Thou should'st be living at this hour : England (and much else) has need of thee—Wordsworth. Morning. Nikas. George, the owner-cook, no doubt passed another night in the basement, double-shifting. Eddie, the other owner-cook, is still in Cuba; is, most likely, taking the place over, working his way through Castro's cache of cigars. Out in the 'vale' in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, a correspondent of mine wrote: The moon rose in the southern sky as I drove home - still daylight, and there it appeared, slipping through a slit in the sky - like some magnificent button—Be it good or bad or but middling prose, I have every confidence that the moon she witnessed genuinely affected her, and she was not even ensconced in a writing workshop. In light of which, I still bristle with the memory of it; or how, some years ago, I came across a critique on the part of some sod or other with an advanced degree in Hermeneutics that mortal minds lesser than his ought to leave off putting the 'moon' in their poems as it only lends itself to empty dreaminess and such—True enough on occasion. But then, what he was really after was to eliminate any threats to his guilty pleasures, any competition—

July 15, 2011: Apropos of nothing - Pascal: The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first—And: When we see a natural style, we are quite surprised and delighted, for we expected to see an author and we find a man. But then, no one says this sort of thing anymore, let alone thinks it. Moreover, the remark is politically and culturally suspect as it does not seem to allow for the fact that women also write, as well as infant prodigies and chimpanzees—Pessimist that I am, and something of a cynic, too - I see no point in camouflaging this failing in my character - I have yet to see that human relations over-all are possible without the leveraging that exercises of power and force impose upon them. Even so, I am sympathetic to the notion that one ought to try and conduct one's life as if it were possible to 'get on' without employing power and force; and if a group of people wish to explore the possibilities of such conduct, well then, God be with them and let the devil take the hindmost—No matter what one might think of the church as an institution and of what Christianity has become ( and here I have in mind what I, no doubt, flippantly characterize as New Rage apostolics, or those who are endeavouring to ram eschatology down the public throat) the early Christians were, among other things, a critique of Roman power; and that critique did, in fact, put something in the world that was not there before; and that something has been of enduring value - that is, if one believes the attempt to refuse power its innings is a worthwhile pursuit. Otherwise, yes, it is in the history books: the church has been but one 'player' among so many others—I come to the above by way of the recent (2010) film Of Gods and Men that MH and I finally got around to viewing, last night, at the conclusion of which I realized I could now write the above, when I have not been able to write the above for fear of entanglement in a can of wet, slithering worms—It is a good film, a very good film based on actual events and set in Algeria, but shot in Morocco. Left of centre types will drive, and have already driven customized tractor-trailers through some of its tell-tale scenes such as evince paternalism and shabby taste in music (as per that one passage in which the doctor-monk known as Luc mischievously plays Swan Lake on the communal ghetto-blaster), but then—In any case, the point of it all is that the monks, confronted of a sudden by Islamic fundamentalists and probable violence on the one hand, and the government's (the army) response to those fundamentalists on the other hand, with the prospect of yet more violence; and notwithstanding the fact that the monks relations with the locals (Islamists) have been harmonious and to mutual benefit, the monks must decide whether to stand their ground or get out while the getting is good. They stay. They stay because, to do otherwise, is to empower power. It is a decision that costs them their lives, their reasoning being, however, that they had already lost their lives to God—The movie seen, MH retired for the evening, and I carried on with the remnants of a ball game, and then Stage Door, old 1937 classic. It is hard to credit, sometimes, that such a world as that movie depicts ever existed, and probably it did not - no, not ever: that boardinghouse, that coterie of struggling and starving but aspiring actresses and their unceasing banter and oh so wry asides—London Lunar chips in with a report on Malick's new effort The Tree of Life. It is the sort of movie that will break up marriages, so London Lunar observes, he on the verge of seeing himself turfed from his Hammersmith demesne, his thumb's up a sore point in long-standing marital relations. And, zounds, who would've thought Brad Pitt could act? Something in the universe must have necessarily turned over in its sleep. As per Pascal - those eternal silences that terrify?—The effort, says London Lunar, is not without its howlers, but that there is redeeming nuance—"Nuance?" asks a toe-tapping wife. At MH's behest, I have begun reading The Heart of the Matter. Graham Greene. A few pages into it, and I already know what is coming if only because I have read enough novels, poems, essays, exposés and other print journalism, as well as journalism of the internet ilk; seen enough TV news and docs and archival war footage, and, and, and - surely, you get the idea; that nothing that is going on out there is any kind of a secret, and your government is doing it; and you know what is happening even if you are a little hazy on the particular particulars—History, according to Gibbon, can be boiled down to the following: In a composition of some days, in a perusal of some hours, six hundred years have rolled away, and the duration of a life or reign is contracted to a fleeting moment: the grave is ever beside the throne; the success of a criminal is almost instantly followed by the loss of his prize

July 14, 2011: I was sent something to read, this morning, by an accomplice of mine who also seeks neutrality, a non-belligerent's status in the on-going war to the death between Absurdity and Absurdity, a war that rages in every nook and cranny and recess of the human mind. You see, sometimes a metaphor can get overwrought; and in this instance, so far as I can make it out, a spiritually-minded engineer, having succeeded in seeing the inter-connectedness of all things, having acknowledged that, amongst trees, there is a uniformity of design, notes that it is in their barks that the uniqueness of each tree is to be observed - kind of like as it is with us hummin' beings when we hum along with each our particulars—At times, as I read Melville's Moby Dick, I worry that he, too, is about to over-stretch a metaphor - to the point of reducing the whole of the sensible world to inanity; but that what gives rise to this possibility is also what nips it in the bud: Melville's treating in such detail of the whale and the business of hunting it - whaling, then, in all its glory; so much so that one might view the novel as not a novel at all but an extended tract on some industrial operation—The wonder-freighted, tribute-bearing waves— And now he tells me - that is, London Lunar, having had his sport with me, puts me to the wise: there is no turning-point in Melville's plot. It is a novel made, as it were, out so much nothing, only that this 'nothing' is everything; that it is Fellini-esque in a sense, given that Fellini's La Dolce Vita is the greatest cinematic treatment ever of 'everything' and 'nothing'. I can see London Lunar there in grotty Hammersmith donning his sleep mask with its fully-adjustable strap, now that he has settled Sibum's hash and may reward himself for his virtue with a little shut-eye, a grim little smile playing about his countenance—In Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, twenty or so naval novels set in Napoleonic times, if so much depends necessarily on turns of fortune, even so, all that 'happens', really, is 'life', with or without Dumas-like cliff-hangers. It is life that just happens to come replete with Napoleon and frigates and the fact of Gibraltar and deep and abiding interest in the natural world; and it is life that is almost all over before one even knew it had begun. Similarly, Lampedusa's The Leopard, one of the four or five truly great novels of our era—One is young and in step with life; circumstances obtain with which one is familiar. Suddenly, one has seriously aged. Garibaldi has long since come and gone to his reward, Italy politically unrecognizable. Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed, seeing as a different lot of scoundrels on the take are scoundrels just the same, just that one hardly cares anymore—There is nothing left precious enough to fight for, Bamboo-Town the capital—And yet, to harry and harass and hound yet another a metaphor to its extinction, if the skeleton of a whale once formed a South Sea island temple inside which gods were placated, kids playing about its perimeters, Melville who had witnessed such a sight, could be moved to write this: Thus we see how that the spine of even the hugest of living things tapers off at last into simple child's play—It occurred to me, or rather it popped into mind, yesterday, as I was noodling on the guitar in a misbegotten attempt to compose something, that in tone and in his 'folkways' subject matter, Melville most resembles Frazer who wrote The Golden Bough, that anthropologically-minded classic. It is a book I dip into on occasion when I wish to remind myself what a mind that cruises along on twelve cylinders feels like, as opposed to the zippy but otherwise narrow-ranging, four-cylinder talking-heads as are 'specialists' and Chiefs of Staff—Morning. Nikas. George, the owner-cook, waters his ficuses and his flower-box. Alexandra, waitressing, chews gum. She chews away as she wipes down chairs and such with a damp cloth, George remarking on how nice a day, weather-wise, it is going to be, Alexander already drifting into stoicism. One hears that Current President walked out of a debt-ceiling crisis meeting between himself and major politicos. Yes, as per P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south, the yankee president has got the Republicans right where he wants them: culpable in an election cycle. Of course, they are culpable, exceedingly so, just that should they win the battle of public perception of events, it will not matter one jot how well Mr Obama played his hand of poker. He who against the opinion of others, has foretold the result of anything in the way in which it comes to pass, must not think that those who differed from him, having seen the result, will admit that he was right and allow that he was more sagacious than themselves: for either they will deny the fact or the prediction, or they will allege that the two differ in certain particulars, or in some manner they will find arguments by which they will strive to persuade both themselves and others that their opinion was right and the opposite wrong—Lady Gaga. In cahoots with Leopardi.

July 13, 2011: I do hope MC got home alright. After all, Literary Thug or not, he has a family to which he must attend. It was the philosophizing we indulged rather than the beer - and it was an awfully sticky evening - that gives me pause for worry. He swung by my place rather late, and after I briefly dazzled him with my newly found mastery of Desperate Man Blues - mastery, schmastery - we went in search of relief at the 'bratwurst' terrasse. A, having spotted us on the street, attached herself to our cause, she on her way home from rugby practice, and full of p and v and other sorts of bonhomie. Now MC has made a curious aesthetic choice: he has elected to write about the world of boxing past and present. In light of which I told him I could recall the field house of an American army base in Mannheim (Germany), a boxing tournament in progress, my father smoking a cigar at my side, as was every other grunt in the building, we high up in the rafters, so to speak, a George Bellows painting underway at centre court— Well, write about it, or so MC remonstrated with me. But I don't know anything about boxing—London Lunar writes of violinists in backless dresses - which bespeaks an aesthetic choice of a kind on his part; of private concerts at private venues, art's one remaining hope - the ghost of Tartini at the foot of every darling's bed—Does London Lunar know anything about the violin, let alone music? But enough awt. A has a crush, I believe, on MC, and she makes no bones about it, even to the extent that she attempted to come off intelligent with him, a gambit with which she hardly ever troubles herself, and it had a noticeable effect on her mode of speech: it was like gravity bending light—We went on about another Literary Thug, there being but one other, no matter what the critics say, and how, his first novel now a matter of historical record, he ought to get serious and really write. Sibum: "I mean, come on, first novel - who's going to read it? No one actually reads anything anymore. It's like Roman piety: one chants the mumbo jumbo long after the meaning of the words have been forgotten—" Et cetera. MC: "I think he should consider the practicalities and build on this effort—But he'll say he must maintain his integrity at all costs. Temperamental sot—" A: "Why doesn't he just lighten up and effing live a little?" Yes, it was altogether an evening of curious aesthetic choices— The sight of Jamal nursing his infant grandson (granddaughter?) was something else again, and had he a lactating breast, I believe Jamal would have whipped it out right then and there, saying - in Persian: "Here, knock yourself out on this." Flora, his wife, for all that she was pleased, also appeared quite nonplussed in regards to this display of paternal tenderness such as he ordinarily reserves for his wine-red Jaguar. And for all of A's p and v and bonhomie, the heat, the beer, and the fact of rugby practice - all of it caught up to her all at once, and eyelids drooping, she withdrew from the goings-on, noting that she herself wants to have oodles of babies. Did MC giggle? He and I might have hung on after closing time - as is the practice on occasion with Labrosse and Stalwarts - and where was Labrosse, by the way? - but for some reason, I figured it was not a good night for that sort of thing; I did not want Jamal and Flora worrying as to whether or not we were behaving ourselves, as they would catch the brunt of any complaints on the part of their immediate neighbours, they being the proprietors of the establishment, and answerable—But as MC wanted another beer, off we went to Honey Martin's a couple of blocks away, a ghastly scene of curious aesthetic choices in progress there - a cocktail of booze, sex and the trivial pursuit of Trivia Q&A. And nothing changes, and everything does. MC: "Unlike it was for me, and no doubt for you, the dears are liberated from the consequences of their coital labours. The trouble is, the angst that was tossed out the window took it with bits and pieces of sentience in the bargain, so much so, you'll have some trouble finding even the ghost of a First Principle inside those pretty heads. I know, and you'll remember that I was recently a high school pedagogue, and, horrors, may become so again. Integrated beings? Are you kidding?" Integrated. Big word, especially as the new trivia question was being announced by some emceeing and too clever by half twerp into the mic and it had to do with Picasso and his sex life - with Picasso, at any rate —It was good, perhaps, that MC and I had one another for company, as I might have gotten homicidal. To think I have worried about the young. How presumptuous that I would worry. Why bother with those who have the world by the short hairs, everything sussed out? Pressing concerns to do with my bladder trumped any future considerations on the matter. I might have teased MC over his esteem for Phillip Roth the author, and yes, Roth is a writer for whom I ought to have more sympathy - he is probably good commaderie - but - well, like I said - pressing concerns—Perhaps it was then that MC saw fit to unload a truly mature judgment; or that when it comes to bar scenes and else, atheistical zeal is as much to be avoided as aggressive religionizing. And so, amen brother, and he went one way and I another—

July 12, 2011: Alright then, which is it? Is he a pragmatist sporting a broad centrist's stripe down his back? Is he a liberal in sheep's garb? Is he a closet Burkean of guilty pleasures? Is he a dime a dozen politico hamstrung by the money that owns him? Is he simply a man who just happens to be an elected official however exalted his position, one trying to do his best with not the best of hands? Has the question been sufficiently tiresome for you? Who is this Masked Rider about whom we prate on? Current President, that is whom. Pashas have (or used to have) many veiled wives. Presidents have their political advisers— How is this any different from the treacheries of the harem? And it might seem that what either defines him or further muddies the waters has little to do with the exigencies of Canlit and what defines it or rains on its parade, but no, the two worlds are not so far apart as all that: in the latter world the brightest critical voices of the hour are all Clinton-Blairish, Third Way triangulation, a strategy that has long since run out of the decencies; and one might argue that Current President, love him, hate him, endure him, is the inevitable segue of the centre-blob that oozed rightwards. In other words, as much as I have my own bone to pick with liberal idiocies, there are certain things with which one does not compromise, and it is not taxes of which I speak, but art, love, and the right to bear loathing toward misapplied reason and its kissing cousins - the narcissism, the cleverness, and the venal opportunism that passes for the so-called life of the mind. No wonder the vacuous rubes who comprise a large portion of the clientele of Nikas, for example, a local of mine, have such contempt for callings like poet and awtist and professor and, oh, hang it all, priest. (The Sunday brunch church crowd savours its own peeves.) Then again, a few nights ago, A taking time out from her mock marriage-honeymoon with Labrosse (we were at 'bratwurst' haunting the terrasse), and she asked if I had read any of the Harry Potter books. I had not. And why not? Not my bag. Oh, but, darling, you must. So off she trundles to her nearby digs to fetch a box set of the things, and, sometime thereafter, and I, drunken fool, am heard to be saying to no one in particular - perhaps I was howling at the moon - that, here I am, age sixty-four, passing down the bloody street with a box of effing Harry Potters. With a fantasists's treasure trove. When will I learn? Will dignity ever take a hand? The sky, you know, is going to fall. They among men who pretend to wisdom and expend deep thought on words do incur a serious charge of folly. No s—t, Shirley. Or rather - Euripides - from his Medea. Patrick O'Brian in his naval novels - the Aubrey-Maturin series - has a thing about shipboard routine and luck - how the one, via the complex machinations of the human brain, is inseparable from the other, and a single untoward incident can spook a ship's company for months on end and render it virtually unmanageable. A metaphor, for all love? Whereas in Moby Dick, by way of that synchronicity that is London Lunar's spiritual stomping grounds (and not some celeb pimping for celebrity on the Letterman Show), Ahab with his ivory leg meets on the high seas the captain of the Samuel Enderby, a fellow whaling ship out of London. And, eh voila, here it is, perhaps; could be London Lunar's turning-point in the plot: the meeting up with a captain who boasts an ivory arm. And what the two captains have in common is the white whale, how the creature has in its gut the arm and the leg that was once property peculiar to each whale hunter. Well, Ahab wants to know: has his counterpart had any sightings of the animal whereof much is spoken, this behemoth gotten legendary? Why yes, as a matter of fact. Well then, when? And Counterpart spins a pretty but convoluted tale of this and that, much to Ahab's exasperation whose life, whose very existence, whose every atom that he draws is consecrated to bringing devastation upon that spouting, fluking evil, the killing of which - like virtue - will be its own sweet reward, eating and sleeping a waste of time. Ahab is mad, of course. Ship's company knows he is bonkers. But, with the possible exception of Starbuck, ship's company is not yet spooked. Which returns me to the top of this post and its open-ended question, one expanding at ever increasing velocity - not unlike the expanding universe; just that, with the advent of the regime now in place, one was already badly spooked, so much so, that there did not seem much prospect of ever taking in an unanxious, uncompromised, unsullied breath ever again—

July 11, 2011: Morning. Nikas. My attempt to skulk by Larry the software entrepreneur already ensconced in his customary booth fails. He does, however, appear unusually calm for it being the top of the week. "Bright out," I say. "Doesn't the air smell watery, like a swimming pool?" I ask. Apparently, it does not. There may be something out of kilter with my olfactory apparatus. George, owner-cook, pops up from his basement lair where he sleeps at night, Eddie the other owner-cook in Cuba, vacationing, George double-shifting. "Still here, George," I observe. He directs my attention to the flower box, one of the restaurant's highlights along with Greek-style pizza—Missing fuchsias. Some sod or soddess lifted them. Base. Despicable. "Ah," says Larry the strangely calm software entrepreneur, "I can feel for an idiot who sinks that low—" Myself, I believe it is the old woman who walks her dachshund around here at night—Yesterday was only notable for two syllables of Farsi I learned (and promptly forgot), the equivalent of shut-the-f—k-up. Parvay, I believe? - spelled phonetically? There is a French equivalence, too, or so Labrosse would have us know, and it slid off his tongue like quicksilver—Mehdi the truck driver who last played the cello at age ten provided the lesson, he attending at an assembly of three old farts with cell phones at large on the 'bratwurst' terrasse - Labrosse, DW and I. DW the pedagogue was still divesting his mind of school year horrors, exorcising them with quite a bit of gusto, I must say, though he took the opportunity when he could (he was coached by Mehdi on the proper wording) of congratulating Flora in her mother language for attaining grandmotherhood. P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, seems to think that Current President has the Republicans right where he wants them - in ownership of the Current Debacle - which one? - take your pick. Conservative Colonel once again has it, in a series of lamentations, that your average American grunt, still bogged down in Iraq, was most cavalierly used by the likes of a Cheney and a Wolfowitz and all the others who lied along with them; otherwise he went on about taking his God son to the local rifle range for a romanticist's afternoon of rifle-shooting in his beloved Virginia. And then there's Murdoch and then there's Israel— But I could not, in any case, interject a word of any of the above into the general discourse, DW at full throttle, Labrosse in good form, goat-nimble on the uptake, Mehdi just happy to be at table with sorts who appreciate good music, the chief love of his life. I have it in mind to liberate Patrick O'Brian the naval novelist (whose Aubrey-Maturin series I am but two books shy of completing) from the dingy, reactionary jaws of those who deem him their darling, Charleton Heston among them. It may require some girding of loin on my part—There is Moby Dick to finish, the 'turning-point' of which I have yet to discover. Which brings London Lunar to these proceedings, turning-points his speciality. How he, along with his wife, on a recent evening constitutional along the Thames, came upon a wondrous sight. But the effer can speak for himself for a change, so, hearken up: Young couple, Argentinian and Columbian, as it turned out, got up from a bench and started doing a tango, in absolute silence, clearly both of them dancing to the same tune in their heads. We just stood there stunned and amazed, this being one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I think they must have been professional dancers. Certainly, each knew, or rather, anticipated the other's moves. And those moves were very complex, indeed, oddly chaste and shocking, violently erotic, at the same time, and all in slow motion—Pure London Lunar - oddly chaste and shocking—Otherwise he does not agree that my latest poem is a work of genius—I say that the world is a league of rogues against the true men, of the vile against the generous. When two or three rogues find themselves together for the first time, they easily, and as if by signs intelligible only to themselves, know each other for what they are, and at once fraternise; or if their interests will not allow this, at least respect and feel at home with each other. If a rogue has dealings or makes bargains with other rogues, it very often happens that he behaves loyally, and does not deceive them; if with men of honour it is impossible but he will break faith with them, and whenever it is likely to turn to his advantage will seek to ruin them, even if they are persons of courage and capable of revenging themselves; because he hopes, as almost always is the result, to overcome with his frauds their bravery—Leopardi. Has it ever been put as straightforwardly as this? The shadowy workings of Canlit? But as for strange and unexpected beauty: —When our senses and imagination find what they crave, when the world so shapes itself or so moulds the mind that the correspondence between them is perfect, then perception is pleasure, and existence needs no apology—Santayana.

"Desperate Man Blues"

July 10, 2011: It was terrifyingly expensive, that issue of The New Yorker I bought at the Gare d'autocars de Montreal from a dismissive cashier, her contempt of humankind or perhaps just white people or just the male gender across the board plenty thorough-going, no stone bespeaking infamy left unturned. Perhaps she had been steeping herself in the news stories evolving around that fellow DSK, high mucky-muck French politico and alleged rapist, inasmuch as she was surrounded by heaps of journalism and its headlines—I believe I ought to have been able to read the magazine with greater pleasure, given the cost of the thing and what having it on hand might say for my character. I appreciated the article on the English Defence League (England, Their England) that is, so it seemed to me, a loose counterpart to American militia groups. Other pieces had an air of being 'aimed' or 'tailor-made', squeaky-clean professional. That is to say, those pieces fairly screamed 'we are New Yorker prose, stuff as homogeneous as endless tubs of margarine'.Yes, we wear our irony like the stamp on the hand that says one has paid one's ticket at the gate and can come and go as one pleases, jaded and bored in whirligigging strobe light flashings— The backhanded homage to Hemingway by a certain J Barnes was just that - backhanded, and I had no idea whether I was meant to take it seriously. And it would seem I have a 'posting fool' of a counterpart in China who enjoys a readership of three million in contradistinction to my thirty, but then, he races cars, too, and writes best-selling novels. Still, when he adjudges literary circles in their aggregate to be no more than releasings of gas, and we are not talking balloons, I have to consider tipping my hat. The best written piece was perhaps the one to do with a late-blooming baseball star, his brief stint as a celeb already winding down, cult-dom next—I had it in mind that, according to P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator down south, a show down looms between the Dems and the Republicans - over the 'debt ceiling' in particular, and over much else besides. A show down a la the Civil War, but minus the musketry thus far, Current President on increasingly shaky ground. Or not. Can anyone really say what in Sam Hill is going on? In any case, a two hour bus ride, and I found myself deposited in a country realm; and at the cabin down in a very lush ravine MH fed me, and after the washing up, I read a while from Patrick O'Brian's The Hundred Days - that time of Napoleon's swan song. Sleep came early, as it tends to do in country air. The following day was one of those perfect summer days that seem only to occur in one's childhood - warm, but not too warm, lots of blue sky, a hint of a breeze—I was to chauffeurMiss J to a berry farm where we would pick up flats of strawberries for the store in the 'vale'. On which account I was expedited by MH to Miss J's residence where a meeting of the Historical Society was in session, the meeting running late. So I wound up in the barn with the Ancient Mariner who is something of a redneck much given to the music of Beethoven and Mahler and anything 'decent', even Corelli. For an hour or so, he let me know that the Toronto Blue Jays were the garbage dump of the American League (we are on about baseball here); that the fix was in: no way anyone would ever allow Toronto to cop a World Series title ever again—And did I know who was running the world? And he did not dare walk into Miss J's kitchen just yet— For all that, Miss J and I did, at last, get on the road, I at the wheel of the van, a John Fahey cd in the cd player, lovely bits of countryside rolling by; she convinced that not one but three guitarists were performing the music that acquainted her ears with a sort of musical alchemy, a mix of Americana looking for its philosopher's stone—And how wonderfully beautiful was this Townships country in which she has spent her life. "Grand Ligne" (or grand line) so she informed me in regards to a road we were on, "has to do with lot lines or concession lines. One might come across stands where one can buy fresh picked fruits and veggies - nothing like Quebec asparagus, you know—" On the way back, and it is part of country life, too, we stopped off at a Wal-mart as she had a thingamajiggy to buy for her cell phone; and over and above my detesting of the place, I was once again gobsmacked by the fact of all those goods on all those shelves and all those glassy-eyed looks on the faces of all that clientele - rats in a maze. Miss J dropped twenty-eight bucks on a DVD set: the first season of Deadwood, a depiction of a time in the American past of the innocent beginnings of its capitalism; a depiction that London Lunar dismisses out of hand for its inordinate use of the word c—ksucker and other sobriquets that lard a rather formal usage of the language, almost to a straining point, Shakespearean—Back at the cabin, MH once again fed me, and then the washing up, and after, I took the car up to Miss J's for some wine, a chat with her and the Ancient Mariner, a mini-concert provided by me, a viewing of Deadwood, and more sleep - once I returned to the cabin. In the middle of which sleep a storm, a vicious enough squall, and it hailed buckets on the tin roof a foot and a half or so above our heads, MH blissfully unaware of the racket due to secret drug use or a virtuous life—Thunder rolling around in the hills, sounding lost, dashed, even annoyed: "Oh, this isn't the place—" Or: "This dump? Isn't much of a place - let's move on— " In the morning MH drove me to the spot where I would be catching the bus back to Montreal, she suggesting that all those cyclists on the road, what with their lycra and shaved legs and worship of 'instant identity' were so many road hazards; and they were, indeed, the object of her considerable country scorn. She insisted that I read Graham Greene's The Heart of The Matter that had been the occasion, on her part earlier, of a little lecture on everything I needed to know about Catholicism—She, too, is increasingly skeptical of a purely secular world but has no desire, so I suppose, to eat of the body of Christ—London Lunar wonders how the New World might have turned out had the Europeans somehow neglected to arrive—What architecture, for instance—In Nikas, last evening, Labrosse and A carried on with their mock marriage and honeymooning, so much so, that apparently, a customer asked E who was on shift if the mismatched pair of lovebirds - he very much silver-haired and 'past it' and she summery - were an item. E tittered that perhaps they were just that - an item. Now did the making of stone tools precede or follow upon the expansion of human intelligence? Or is the truth of it a bit of both, the fact of one compounding the war crimes of the other—Or is this one of those morbid thoughts of which London Lunar has been complaining, lately, as if there is no end, no bottom to the sleaze content of this world as we currently find it, and it is getting more and more difficult to tolerate the stuff. Compared to which sexual depravity is just so much Alice in Wonderland behaviour, tea party antics— E did say she had done some research in my absence, and to her mind, she did not believe there was much difference between the Greek notion of ethos techne and Roman 'mores'; it all had to do with 'character' and 'custom', moral vision perhaps something else again. She certainly was pleased with herself—

July 7, 2011: The 'girls' - A and E - had the run of the conversation, last night at 'bratwurst'. Their focus, so to speak, was on affection and 'touching'. That is to say, there is 'good touching' and there is Creepsville. There are 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. Apparently, Labrosse and I were among the former, walking along with the angels. In any case, Labrosse seemed content to let the conversational flow go where it would, and only on occasion did he raise objections to this and that - for the sake of form. I do not believe his heart was in it; that it was enough to sit out on the terrasse and enjoy the fresh night air, now that the humidity had broken somewhat. It was enough to remonstrate with E that her grasp of French should be better than it is if she hopes to find her life's work in French-English translation. I do think this stung E a little, she blushing to hear of it. "Yes," she said, "I'm a bit remiss." We had earlier viewed the first season's third episode of The Sandbaggers, which is a little slice of Cold War history as seen from the Brit point of view, and with emphasis on the 'special relationship' between the Brits and the yanks. This particular episode revolved around a conflict between private life and public duty. A special ops man, inclined to marry his girl friend, intended to quit the operations team for the sake of her sanity. His boss had other ideas. Special ops man had been expensive to train. He was good quality stuff. It would be difficult, if not impossible to replace him, and certainly not in the near future, the team already undermanned. Boss would resort to dirty tricks, if necessary, in order to keep his man gainfully employed, in service to crown and country et al. Dirty tricks were resorted to. And so, while events ran toward a sticky outcome, the girls were increasingly rendered thoughtful. To be sure, they could see the boss's dilemma and understand his reasoning, but he was a monster, even so, meddling with people's affections like that. "Oh," I said, "you haven't seen anything yet." As the episode also involved a sex scandal in high places, and a powerful bureaucrat had made use of it so as to destroy a political foe, Labrosse (who would like to have been involved in the political arena) wished to know how much of this sort thing actually goes on in real life politics. As if A and E and I had any idea—(Only that A hinted that there is a hotel in Ottawa where - see what I'm saying, pal?—) We did agree, however, that the fact that the special ops man - perhaps due to carelessness brought on by an overwrought mind, what with his job and pending marriage - had got himself run down by a taxi, was a plausible fact. It was not a cute plot device; ordinary accidents that befall ordinary mortals also occur to spooks—Moreover, the special ops man's sweetheart, the victim of his boss's dirty tricks, having had recourse to an overdose of booze and pills - well, Labrosse put his foot down. Convenient tragedy was for us romantic types but not for him, not with his Gallic intelligence and temper of mind, thank you muchly— This morning, I read with interest a longish article reflecting on Current President's re-election chances; that his hand is looking weaker than it should. Current President, according to the article's thinking on it, has a blind spot that those crazed Republican loons have turned against him and still are turning against him with considerable success, so much so that a flake like Romney, never mind all the other flakes, is beginning to look credible as a contender. The blind spot consists of the fact the Mr Obama has a weakness for 'smart white guys', especially those who helped engineer the economic mess that shows no signs of getting sorted out, and who are running interference for the banks, as well. I suspect P. M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here will have something to say about this. And he will say Mr Obama knows what he is about, and is biding his time and is setting his traps. But fourteen million people down there looking for work - gives one pause—Menelaus speaking: As with sailing, so with politics: make your cloth too taut, and your ship will dip and keel, but slacken off and trim your sails, and things head up again. The gods, you know, resent being importuned too much; in the same way the people dislike being pushed or hustled. Too much zeal offends where indirection works—Euripides, Orestes. Yes - perhaps. Sailing and politics and some floozy of a metaphor, and roger that—As for the 'girls' and 'the affections', 5 will get you 10 they were just a little bored, last evening - boredom such as invites Silly Season. It is a rare life that remains well-ordered even in private. Any man can play his part in the side show and represent a worthy man on the boards; but to be disciplined within, in his own bosom, where all is permissible, where all is concealed - that's the point—Montaigne. Those French. They kind of hit it on the nail now and then—

July 6, 2011: It was an odd evening. A Literary Thug (or M) whom I deem a friend colluded with me on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, and we did ourselves the honour of articulating what it is that has gone so wretchedly wrong with Canlit, only I now fail to recall his best, most cogent 'shots'. He did speak with some contempt of 'identity-lit', a state of affairs, apparently, when one is everything and anything at all but the man or woman or child one happens to be, condemned to shuffling about on this mortal coil—In any case, the effort took a while to consummate, and was not without a few side trips into vaguely sketched metaphysical notions, 'moral vision' and whatnot, at which point, levity, or a pretty girl, like destiny, tended to take a hand so as to rescue us both from real bafflegab. Besides, there was much on his mind that he had the good grace not to make the centrepiece of our discourse, the recent passing away of his mother having coincided with the publication and launch of his first novel. She, it seems, never took his ambition to write seriously and was fairly caustic in regards to it; and this had put a bit of a strain on their relationship, his anger toward her over this something he regretted now that she was gone. I suggested that, however inadvertently, she had done him a favour with her sarcasm and black humour; had most likely left him with a capacity for self-criticism - an almost extinct item in these parts; and she had probably caught him out being 'full of it' now and then and so, taught him something about the hazards of self-importance. One hell of a gift. Labrosse then joined us for a brief sit-down - he was not going to partake as he was to have an early morning in it - he just wished to extend to M both his condolences and congratulations. Sporting of Labrosse. He then took his leave, having also chaffed somewhat with Madame Boss, Jamal's wife; and M and I started in on Trudeau and Lévesque, how Labrosse is very much Trudeau and Lévesque and proud of it; and it has been steeply downhill since when it comes to 'quality' politicians. M ventured to say that his first meeting with Labrosse had not been propitious; it was downright off-putting, come to think of it, but that he has since learned to appreciate and value the man, as he should, Labrosse, however contentious, however much a prisoner of his biases, a good and loyal friend. M then rang up his father so as to check on the man. The father, a retired doctor, has decided to 'live' after all, now that his wife - to whom he had been close for so many years - was no more, and I have to say it was d—n near a poignant scene, M pacing in the evening dark with cell phone, no false solicitations in his voice, the father going on about the last movie Steve McQueen made before he died - something called Tom Horn, I believe, but do not quote me. Suddenly Jamal was closing up the place, wiping off tables, packing in chairs, cleaning the grill—That late, already— I decided to accompany M on his jaunt down Sherbrooke in the direction of the Vendôme metro, in the middle of which jaunt I was waylaid by a text message from E. So, fair weather friend, I abandoned M to his own resources, to his life of crime in literature, suggesting to him that he was too intelligent to entrap himself in the usual quagmires that seem inseparable from the territory, and so forth and so on; and I was beginning to wonder if I was not already failing him in a moral sense; or that, if one was going to be a writer come hell or high water, then how best conduct oneself as such; and it seemed that I was supposed to have some answers, and, you know, I have none. Don't try and game the system - it'll just game you. Just write. Write what you have to write—The long and short of what ensued is that I wound up at Maz Bar with E, and she insisted that we sit on the terrasse amongst a pretty scruffy looking crowd; whereupon she announced she had begun to read Moby Dick; that she had said she was going to read Moby Dick; had really meant to read the thing; and that I should suffer to take her a little more seriously in this respect of her intentions, flake that she might well be—Well, I never—But by then I was dull of wit. I considered that I had strayed into a Fellini nightmare. I began to expatiate on the yawning hole at the centre of our 'moral' fabric, and by moral I did not mean priggery or prejudice; and, and—I canned it. She may she may not have been interested, but I canned it. Lurched off home. London Lunar has remarked how it was Ezra Pound lost his centre of gravity: too many barroom brawls with the world—Leopardi: Nothing is rarer in the world than a person who is at all times endurable to us


  July 5, 2011: In a fit of something or other, I informed P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, that I intended to blow his musings out of the water; not because I dislike his musings - I like his musings; but because, what with the minutiae of American politics to which he appends his judgments and expertise, his is a claustrophobic, petty, churlish, rather close universe - close, as in stinky humid, as is our weather of late in downtown Montreal-NDG; Mr Carpenter noble for all the trouble he takes to paint a portrait of the mendacities. And it is a devastating one he paints. Even so, I would throw at Mr Carpenter's thought-processes Melville's Chapter 98 from his Moby Dick, that chapter entitled The Doubloon, that coin of virgin gold that was one face, among others, of the republic of Ecuador; that was the centre of gravity for the Pequod, and so forth and so on. For Ahab had nailed the thing to a mast, to be held there for the man who first spotted the white whale—I would throw Chapter 98 at Mr Carpenter because, card-carrying pragmatist that he is, he intimates that to promulgate a 'moral vision' is to stoop low to the lowest of the low, to foment chicanery; to erect yet another 'church', a church with which to oppress the natural, and perhaps, better instincts of a populace. In the meantime, I consider that mere pragmatism, as such, excuses much. Chapter 98 then. And one after the other, starting with Ahab, Pequod men slip into their pent-up musings, the coin (Godly eye, Human Aspiration, Folly) that which solicits a succession of the aforementioned musings, the final one this: Here's the ship's navel, this doubloon here, and they are all on fire to unscrew it. But, unscrew your navel, and what's the consequence? Then again, if it stays here, that is ugly, too, for when aught's nailed to the mast it's a sign that things grow desperate. Ha, ha! old Ahab! the White Whale, he'll nail ye!—In any case, if not London Lunar's turning-point-in-the-plot, then mine, inasmuch as the navel has now been situated, contemplated, is doing double-duty as filthy lucre and metaphor upon which men expend hopes and misgivings - par for the course, par for every par, par for every course, yes? And Melville the novelist, the true novelist, that is - as he plays a rather mild-manner Joker, wishing no one any unwarranted ill will - will hint at the possibilities of answers, but will then further observe that not even pragmatism answers at every turn of the screw, or fate, or chance—Mr Carpenter, d—n near saintly for the trouble he takes to sort out all the kinks and knots in the terrifying unfolding of American Discourse, in Leopardi's eyes, is borne out as just another dime a dozen positivist, such is the scale and the measure of what's at stake always as per the old Greeks and early Israelites and legions of modern cynics, none of whom, excepting modern cynics, Melville ever thinks to dismiss, though he has no need of God as Crutch—Last night, at 'bratwurst', I asked E what it is she figures she thinks most about. Food? Sex? God? Her nails? Her waitressing shift at Nikas where, some years back, she presented herself to me as a reader of Virgil - in Virgil's mother tongue (whereas I settled for the cheap seats - English translations). She hmmmed and hmmmed some more; duly hemmed and hawed, as she suspected a trick, no doubt; and then she answered, saying: "Well, I get up in the morning and review the situation. BBC. The Guardian. CNN. You know." "On the computer?" "On the computer. So?" "Just indulging a little anthropology here, anthropology the only ology I have any respect for—" Labrosse: "You're just saying that - so as to be saying that—" My silence indicated that he was, for the time being, to be ignored—We had been discussing the state of Canadian aboriginals as compared to their American cousins, and it appears this is the one thing that can get A steamed, as in truly steamed, and here she was, steaming. "They take their kids - they stick them in schools - where the priests bugger them - then, wonderful idea - really brilliant great idea - they send those kids back to their parents - I mean - Jesus wept - won't be able to get this off my mind for a week—" E: "Yes, we really ought to do something—" It was an awfully liberal thing to say, given the tone of voice in which the obligatory sentiment was expressed. Myself, I was not up to anything, despite what it looked like. For starters, I was curious. Trouble is, when this sort of mood strikes me, and it had struck me, Labrosse takes it as a silverback's signal to debate, and he comes it The Student Prince—There is no God - the church is the root cause of all our problems - a secular world? - good - it's so much better, infinitely better than a God-driven world - God - who cares? For certain people who abhor absolutes, in particular absolutes of a moral hue, that they should have absolute certainty in respect to X, Y and Z confuses and downright muddles me—"Well, said A, "It's fine that you think about these things ALL the EFFING time - Jesus, man—" E denied that she was restive, irritated, bored. True, the mosquitoes were out and larking for blood, mostly hers, and she was in shorts; and then, eh voila, and what she really had been wanting to talk about for the last hour was the impending marriage of some relative or acquaintance of hers—It is impolite to generalize and say that So-and-So is basically a simple sort, but in some respects A is a fairly simple sort; she likes her pleasures, wants her affections, and is looking for love all the while she is probably on the verge of considering love a mirage. E? One never knows where one stands with E, as she is quite guarded, fiercely defended; just that what she considers her trove might in other eyes wind up appearing fairly pedestrian—I went home to my guitar. There is nothing more absolute, beyond the abyss and a towering tsunami wave, then notes quietly struck and modestly ringing out in a quiet room late in the evening - pure notes, muffed notes, fine notes, indifferent notes - the guitar a mirror, a lake, a reflection, as it were, of the state of one's soul, or that which a peculiar sort of absolutist swears up and down does not exist and so, has no conceivable purchase in this world—

July 4, 2011: We will let A kick things off, she crowing - on a hot and steamy, Montreal-NDG afternoon, the maples in full flower - in other words, with sufficient shade-providing foliage for the 'bratwurst' terrasse: "Happy New Beer!" Well, she was not as demonstrative as all that in her exhortation, but the sentiment was unmistakable, and she had no where else to be that was as likely to provide her with anything like entertainment value. In the meantime, much to Labrosse's bemusement, DW was still divesting himself of his annual accumulation of unaddressed rage, it being the end of the school year, at last, he a grade school pedagogue and educational theorist, and a punching bag, too, for what has become of family values. He might perhaps be willing to acknowledge that, between certain economic and political realities and crazed and bellicose mommies and daddies, it is a wonder the 'kids' are not more messed up than they already are. He hummed that old bossa nova standard The Girl from Eponymous - absolutely apropos of nothing. We began rating musical instruments for their sexiness, and the cello came highest followed by the alto sax. The trouble is, the cello gave one cello tendonitis, and, to be sure, DW knew, as he now and then will have a whack at the thing. The bassoon, however - another matter. It was like an elephant giving birth to a mouse—A thought this possibly amusing. Labrosse reached for a cigarette so as to buy himself time to deliberate—I was going to mention the fact that P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, sweet man of sweet reason in a lion's foxhole, has been getting arch, if not downright severe on the Republican Party. He is the sort of political thinker who would welcome a reassertion of genuine conservatism in the political game; that the problem is radicalism - not from the left, in this instance, but from the right, and it has put all the balances hopelessly out of synch—Nonetheless, as Mr Carpenter is, I suspect, something still of a patriot, he continues to insist that the country, having already survived what there has been to survive - revolutionary war, civil war, great wars, culture wars, and economic downturns and Celine Dion - will continue to survive; will grab itself by its chinny-chin-chins and yank itself out of its foul black hole of a morass and rediscover your basic, your everyday, your daily bread varieties of the mediocrities - as opposed to what has been the more aggressive inanities - such as all the Palins and whatnot - and—I was going to introduce these thoughts into the conversation when we were only two at table, that is, DW and myself, Labrosse not yet ambled up to us and A not yet sashayed upon all our good will. But, eh voila, from three storeys up, a pigeon-bird, one later designated as a pterodactyl-bird, beshat DW from its nearer to three perch and soiled the back of the tunic he was wearing. (I do not believe the man cares to wear a shirt, the tunic bespeaking him as one with a penchant for exotic; as one who might join some Crusades into distant climes for no good reason, for the hell of it)—This episode only managed to return DW's psyche back to the swamp from which he had been attempting to emerge - grade school administrative horrors. There was this mother, for instance, BC anglo on the run from a bevy of social welfare authorities, who had confessed to breast-feeding her boy way past the time when he should have been weaned; who confessed to even yet keeping him in her bed; who confessed to drug use; to; to; to and to; and so forth and so on; and even then she had the temerity to suggest that the local pedagogues, bullies all of them, were stereotyping her child as an under-achiever, and, as such, so branded, the boy would carry the stigma of it throughout his life— Recounting all this only re-energized DW, and off he went on a stream of consciousness rant of which I can only provide a bare bones approximation. Gangland? Why, mosey over a couple of blocks, and there it is - below Sherbrooke on Cavendish, druggies howling at all hours of the moon. Ethiopia? Why can't it get water from the Nile? Sheesh. Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland? Gutted. But in Spain - and you're thinking Franco is gone, well, let me tell you, the Catholic old guard - it's still there - having lined their pockets, the effers. DSK? Even if innocent, he's guilty. Social democrats? They're corrupt. Everywhere they're corrupt. Feckless women? Well, what can you do with feckless women? Putin? So old school. But you know, if they shoot you they pay you tribute of a kind. In these parts, they just take your job, dis-enable you somehow and tar and feather you with the soubriquet of loser. Being a loser - worse than being dead. Because there are the insufferable and those who are suffering. I know. I've done high-end schools. I've done the pits. I know. But it's a fine afternoon. A little levity's in order. Here's something, My partner at school - she's retiring, getting out of the fray - well, they came to replace the old toilet bowls, you know, and she got it into her head to say, "My, but they've seen a lot of arseholes." And I said to her, "Why? Why would you say a thing like that? So vulgar? Are you mad?" And she answered, "No. But then, maybe yes. Maybe. My moon, after all, is in Uranus." Ha ha. And et cetera. The insufferable. The suffering—By this time Labrosse and A had had their share of this whinge-ing. But DW was unstoppable, so great his need to ventilate. Now A was stuck with the job of Wonder Girl. Her job description? To vanquish all of DW's enemies and assorted hobgoblins inner or outer—Look! Why - it's Wonder Girl! And A as Wonder Girl would do a 'Big Sasha', Big Sasha a Serb in the Ottawa area with whom A plays water polo in real life; and the Serbs, says A, and the Croats are the best in the world at the sport. For real. All the better then, as DW is also convinced that a Russian assassin named Tatiana is out to do him in, she a frequent occurrence in the elevator he happens to ride in his apartment high-rise—Labrosse, a federalist, but one otherwise loyal to all things Quebec, was beginning to bridle: DW was now hitting below the belt, slagging Quebec for its corporatism such as only breeds mediocrity, particularly in the medical establishment; such as creates a quasi-moral climate in which men and women can only think of one thing and that thing is: shadowing one's behind, hanging on to one's job. But this spate of potentially stormy weather passed incident-free, and once again, we were Three Old Men with Cell Phones (plus Wonder Girl whose cell phone, unlike ours, never jams or otherwise gets dysfunctional)—Now at a table near us four lovely young Persian women, expensively attired, were having at a water pipe. " I can tell you," said DW, "that you won't see girls from the lower classes doing that. Oh - maybe in Cairo—" "We are cultured old farts," I said to A. Yes, and she acknowledged the truth of it and added that she could barely keep up with us. Still, she just had an invitation from the cook of a toney restaurant down the street; that she should pop in and sample his lamb. At first I misunderstood her and figured she was looking for an excuse to decline. But no, it was how to take her leave of us - her touchstones, her moral bedrocks— "Oh for God's sake," I said, "just go. Away with you—"

July 3, 2011: I liked Shakespeare in Love when it first came out (1998), and I still like it as an occasional divertissement when I come across it by chance, however much I see it now as so much yuppie tripe - charming, yes - but tripe, nonetheless. To what extent in this thing is Shakespeare Shakespeare? To what extent is he Horatio Alger (going west to Virginia - Twelfth Night), or Bollywood gotten into bed with some let's write us a hit BBC ghost writers? Muggy morning. Nikas. As for Desperate Man Blues, I have aced it - or nearly so. Oh dear, I am crowing—But for all that, No profession is so profitless as that of literature; yet so much is the value of imposture in the world that with its aid even literature becomes fruitful. Imposture is the soul, so to speak,  of social life, and an art, without which veritably no art and no faculty, considered in regard to its effect on human minds, is perfect. Always when you examine the fortunes of two persons, of whom the one is of real worth in any art, the other of only seeming worth, you will find that the latter is more fortunate than the former; indeed, in most instances the latter is fortunate, the former unfortunate. Imposture avails and secures results even without any merit; while merit without it can do nothing. Nor does this arise, I believe, from any perversity in mankind, but from the fact that the naked truth always appears so poor and unattractive that in order to impress or move men it is necessary to heighten it or colour it with some portion of illusion and prestige, so that they may be induced to think it a much more alluring thing than it really is. Nature herself practices imposture towards man, and only renders life dear or supportable to him by means of imagination and illusion—Leopardi, Thoughts. The Canlit method of dealing with the likes of a Leopardi, inasmuch as a fellow like him would ever register on its radar, would be to put him in the mines, that is, saddle him with emcee duties at some awards ceremony—As for Kydde and his capacious intellect, his undying curiosity about things still distinguishes him in his silver-haired phase of life. There is a bit of the what-happens-if-we-do-this? sadist in the poet that loves effect for its own sake—Very few people can carry this off with any true humility, let alone aplomb. He reports that London Lunar behaved himself at the recent birthday gala of Mrs Kydde; managed not to soil his shirt with bits of edibles or stick his foot in it. Mrs Kydde is one of the more accomplished women around - linguist, archivist, writer, fashion-plate, chef, bon vivant—E called me at the end of her Nikas shift. Was I awake, up for a beer, it being my birthday? But it was late, 'bratwurst' closed. My cell phone was acting up - useless piece of junk to which I am padlocked by virtue of some Draconian contract—In other words, between E's hallmark fecklessness and my reluctance to force an issue - who did I think I was - Playboy of the West? - and the dropped calls and errant text messages (and as muggy as it was), I reasoned that I did not need that beer, after all, not in any of the still available venues in the neighbourhood in which my curiosity about grotty low life might all too quickly find itself disenchanted—.

July 2, 2011: Chapter 95 of Melville's Moby Dick is perhaps one of the great extended riffs in all literature, in American literature, at the very least. I cannot put my finger on the why of it. We are talking fairly prosaic stuff here, a disquisition on 'try-works' that has to do with the cooking of blubber in a specially designed, brick shipboard oven—By midnight the works were in full operation. We were clear from the carcase; sail had been made; the wind was freshening; the wild ocean darkness was intense. But that darkness was licked up by the fierce flames, which at intervals forked forth from the sooty flues, and illuminated every lofty rope in the rigging, as with famed Greek fire—Pagan teeth flashing impossibly white in that fiery darkness, Ishmael hallucinating horrors, then drifting into sleep, and in his sleep, nearly bringing catastrophe to the ship as he was at the wheel—The ferocity of joy and the ferocity of the more sinister passions - they are seemingly inseparable one from the other—And besides, we are talking a very complicated endeavour - whaling, and very complicated technology - the ship, and a very structured shipboard life and yet, how little one controls anything - at the mercy of every random chance occurrence, let alone something as organized as a hurricane—I wondered, as I read, if I had not reached, at last, what London Lunar said was the turning point in the novel's plot, but no, it was just one more digression piled on top of a heap of digressions—I have been obsessed with Desperate Man Blues these past couple of days. My fingertips are in agony, having gone soft over the years of my neglect of the guitar. They will finally toughen up if I keep at it, and I will be able to hammer on the strings and slide up and down those strings, and play C and F and G chords without the accompanying screams of pain— Last night, when I had had enough of pain, I switched on the TV and caught at random a flick called Margaret's Museum, 1995 Canadian-British production, with Helena Bonham Carter. Though it is not a great film, it is passably good, my favourite character being the hardbitten mother to Carter's rather erratic character; that the mother has already lost a husband to the mine (Cape Breton), and it seems to be her lot in what is left of her life to play the harpy, to continually remind her daughter that she will lose any husband she gets to that same hell-hole of a mine, and if not to the mine, then to drink—Hers is a reasonable assumption, the economics and the politics of the situation being what they are. Even so, daughter goes and, against all odds, gets happily married - such a fluke; and then, indeed, she loses her man to the mine; loses her brother, too, and even her grandfather whom she was supposed to mind (in her mother's absence) until the latest 'incident' distracted her from this ministration. So now, there she is with three corpses on her hands, and she has this brilliant idea - she will preserve certain of their body parts from oblivion. She hacks out her grandfather's lungs, supposing that 'medical men' might actually want to know what coal dust can do to lungs. She hacks out her husband's lungs for a comparison, as his were fairly healthy, given that he had refrained for as long as he was able from working in the 'pit'. She hacks off her husband's tongue and fingers, and why not? the effer had played the pipes. She hacks off her brother's penis because, in her estimation, it had been such an important part of his body, and he had been flush in his young life's first sexual affair—Of course, she winds up in the funny farm for a couple of years; she does not bother to attempt to explain that she, for all of the above, is quite sane, terribly so. Quaint, eh? The flick put me in mind of a conversation I had years ago with D.M. Fraser who wrote a novel entitled The Voice of Emma Sachs, a novel I liked at the time. Fraser said, fine, go and visit the 'maritimes', but do not move there - I would find life 'hellish'. He was the son of an Anglican minister, a fact which may or may not have had anything to do with his point of view. He, in any case, lived a hand-to-mouth existence on the wrong side of Hastings and Main, Vancouver. He was unfairly pilloried in left-wing critical circles for his prose style: that it did not suit what ought to have been his subject matter. In an ideal critic's world, rhinestones trump diamonds—Well, perhaps his novel is a dog, after all - my copy of the book has gone astray and I cannot, at the moment, revisit it and reacquaint my critical faculties with the result; but even so, I believe it is a better book than it ever got credit for. Fraser died of AIDS, but that was only the excuse. As it was with a few other writers I have known in this nation-state, general heartbreak did him in. Quite unintentionally (he was a shy man and for the most part, gentle - to the point of mousiness), he taught me an early lesson in the reality of CanLit - that there is a lot of nice talk and such in regards to the thing, but basically, it is a blood sport; it is vicious; there is a want of true generosity on the part of its participants; and anyone with anything like 'genuine goods' to put on offer by way of book or reading had best keep his or her head down lest the righteous blow it off—Morning. Nikas. I can report that Alexandra the waitress seems to have released me from her doghouse or else, all along, she had been in a mood and I happened to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. So then, from Leopardi's Thoughts: The man who has always lived in little places where small ambitions and vulgar avarice prevail, together with violent enmities between their inhabitants, will not only be disposed to believe that great voices do not exist, but will be led to think that sincere and solid social virtues are also non-existent—Yes, and to that, I can add . . . .

July 1, 2011: I put a question to A and E and Labrosse, last night, as we sat out on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, rather cool evening temperature-wise. I asked, as per Francis Bacon the painter, whether sexual obsession or love is the greater force in life. I was somewhat taken aback by how quickly answers arose - as if instantly and perfectly formed, spewed forth from Zeus's head. Labrosse: "Good question. Great entertainment value in it. But, without doubt - it hardly requires review - love is the greater force." E then launched into a tale of nephews and nieces, and it had nothing to do with either sex or transformative love, at least as far as things stood with her nephews and nieces at the present moment. She was enjoying playing 'favourite aunt' - it was all so cool. Her eyes not yet quite rolling in her head, a bit of a smirk there on her mouth, she finally closed on the subject, saying: "The answer? Oh - love. Definitely. For sure." A had no opinion as of yet as she had not yet arrived, though she was with us in spirit. When she did arrive - via her rugby practice and a shower-down - the conversation had moved on to other subjects. No skin off her nose. We had shifted from our customary table to another that did not sit directly under someone's bedroom window, the sleeper or sleepers, no doubt, sleepless in Montreal-NDG, helpless captives to our vocatives, our noodlings. Obviously, the renter had complained to Jamal who is a grandfather now to a 17 pound brute of a new-born child. Is that possible - 17 pounds? Had love anything to do with such bulk? As we sat there in the dark, and I watched what appeared to be stragglers in post-party shuffle or in a state of pre-party got to find one, I likened the situation to an underworld of some myth, Rue Sherbrooke the Styx. A, as promised, did manage to arrive, her visit a brief one, guys, as she was off to Maz Bar to shoot pool and perhaps perform karaoke like some woodland nymph in a larking state of mind. I was not in the mood for any of that. E had the expedient of girlfriends to see. Labrosse was gassed. He considered that we all of us are warped somehow, even gays. Which brought the session back around to Francis Bacon whose work I have never particularly cared for though I see its genius. A took the liberty of bussing me on the cheek and sidled off, flip-flops slapping against her heels. E went hmmm-hmmm as is her wont, whatever a wont is, and she, too, took liberties. If Labrosse had any notions of taking liberties, I soon quashed them. Now - William Hoffer, sometime bookseller, from Yeltsin-ized Moscow, 1997, in correspondence to me out in the boonies of the Eastern Townships: Everything is on the internet. And nothing is. It is an expression of our comfortable alienation from art, history, time. But I wish you'd get your e-mail up—Hmmmm. Perhaps. Certainly, the tone of the remark is right, if not the substance. Then again, the substance of the assertion is close enough to the mark - comfortable alienation, however transparent the causes—Listen, my friend. I was born to love, I have loved, and perhaps with affection as intense as can ever exist in a living soul. Now, although I am not yet, as you perceive, of an age naturally cold, nor perhaps even lukewarm, I am not ashamed to declare that I love no one, except myself by necessity of nature, and myself as little as I possibly can. Nevertheless I am wont and ready to choose rather to suffer myself than be the cause of suffering to others—et cetera. Leopardi, Essay and Dialogues. Timander and Elander in conversation on a theme of 'fame of misanthropy'. The quote does seem suspiciously familiar. Perhaps I have appealed to it before for the tying up of loose ends—



 

 

 

 

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