Ebony and Ivory

Mike Tyson stopped by Toronto City Hall today to ENDORSE Rob Ford’s candidacy for mayor.


Ah Jeez. I just pooped a little.

Ah Jeez. I just pooped a little.


It warms my heart when such different kinds of crazy can come together and give each other a helping hand.

And it looks like Ford will be re-elected.

Thank you, Toronto. Thank you.



I feel bad for people who lived before the advent of skydiving. Without skydiving they would have had no way to demonstrate they are “adventurous” and “living life to the fullest.” And their bucket list would have been diminished. How did people measure the quality of their lives before skydiving? Thank you skydiving for giving the modern world an activity that people want to do before they die. You and electricity have given us so much.

Four Hours of Labour and a Few Complications

The first time I was told that my wisdom teeth would need to come out, I was newly moved to a small windswept prairie town in the heart of Alberta farm country. It was chock full of oilworkers with gun racks in their trucks and senior citizens newly retired and flush with money from selling the farm. It was weird to be surrounded by so much money and yet have so little myself. I worked for a place that paid nothing and certainly had no benefits.

“It shouldn’t cost much.” The dentist looked up to the ceiling while she picked a number. “Maybe five hundred a tooth.” This amount of money was science fiction. I was only having this one visit out of necessity as it had been a couple of years since my last checkup and I wanted to make sure everything was okay.

“I’ll think about it.” I said. But really there was nothing to think about. I would just have to take my chances. It was a few years later before I had a job with a good dental plan and a wad of cash to pay for services up front.

My dentist now is a kind, competent, funny woman who always remarks how absolutely spotless my teeth are. I am meticulous with my dental hygiene out of fear of having work done like pulling, drilling, and mining. But those wisdom teeth were still there and they had to come out. She gave me the choice of going to a dental surgeon and being put under as a couple of the teeth were in sideways and it was going to be a job and a half to take them out. My other option was have her do the deed while I had local anesthetic. Bingo. That was exactly what I wanted. I trusted her implicitly, and I didn’t want to be unconscious unless it was absolutely necessary because, well, if the apocalypse began, or a zombie invasion, or even a Russian invasion from the Arctic Circle, I wanted to be able to run, fight, or become a high-ranking lieutenant in the new world order.

At that time my dentist had her office in the same building I lived in, so getting to and from the office was not a big deal. Before we started, though, I had a request: “I want my teeth. I want to keep them, take them home with me.” I thought this might be a strange request so I was a little hesitant.

“Yeah, no problem. I even have a little clear plastic case you can put them in.” She explained that this was not exactly a common request but she did get it from time to time.

I sat in the chair for four hours. The procedure had become a mining expedition; my gums were the land torn open, and the vein of gold was my rotten, gnarled, and twisted wisdom teeth. The roots of the last tooth were twisted sideways, and I could feel the vibration throughout my head and down to my feet every time the pliers grabbed hold of the tooth but then slipped free.

“This one is really stuck in there. I can’t get a purchase,” she said.

“Purchase?” her hygienist said. “What do you mean, ‘purchase’? Like buying something?”

“No,” my dentist said. “You know. A purchase like in rock climbing. A foothold or handhold.”

“I’ve never heard that before.” The hygienist sounded doubtful that my dentist was using the word correctly.

“I’m going to drill an indentation on the tooth so my pliers can get a purchase and I can get this sucker out.” I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me, the hygienist, or both of us. Using only my eyes I said, “Sure, okay, whatever works.”

The tooth was stubborn. I guess change is hard for teeth as well. By this point my lovely lady dentist was sweating and exclaiming, “Son of a bitch, this tooth is stuck in there. Okay, wait, I’ve got a purchase. Come on, you son of a bitch.” She was pulling with everything she had. The veins on her forehead stood out and then “There it is,” she said triumphantly. “Finally.” She dropped the last of my wisdom teeth in a metal pan.

“And I do apologize for swearing.” She looked down on me so earnestly. “But that last tooth was really pissing me off.” She was massaging her hands and forearms. I smiled as much as was possible with my mouth wedged open. My wisdom teeth were cleaned and placed in a clear plastic container as promised.


I consider my wisdom teeth valuable and may contain magical properties. So I've hired Katniss Everdeen to guard them.

I consider my wisdom teeth valuable, and they may contain magical properties. So I’ve hired Katniss Everdeen to guard them.



Yes, that is a bow in her hand. Do not mess with this lady.


My wife was there in the waiting room and escorted me home. I stared at my teeth and tried to grin all the way home. I think I had a bit of a nap. Considering the ordeal I went through I felt really good. And because I’m a superhero, I ordered a pizza. I ate the pizza. The dentist called and I told her how good everything felt. Hell, I’m going to brush my teeth. With an electric toothbrush. What harm could come from having a super fast, relatively uncontrolled, bristly appliance in my mouth where a delicate blood clot was still forming and acting as a protective barrier for my raw and exposed nerves? And, of course, that is when things went really sideways as I saw and felt the bottom left clot fly out of the socket and go down the drain. Oh shit.


I have two blackflies who I've trained to guard my teeth work the night shift while Katniss is asleep.

I have two blackflies who I’ve trained to guard my teeth and work the night shift while Katniss is asleep.


The flies are named Sweety I and Sweety II. I pay them in sugar.

The flies are named Sweety I and Sweety II. I pay them in sugar.


At first nothing happened and I thought maybe I was going to be okay. But I awoke in the middle of the night thinking that a tiny metal spider had somehow been let loose in the exposed socket and it was trying to scratch its way to freedom. It was a painful, miserable time that consisted of multiple visits to my poor dentist who daily packed the socket with a paste she created that sort of helped the pain and kept the nerve endings covered. She was infinitely patient and didn’t once scream at me, “You fucking idiot. I told you specifically not to brush your teeth for at least a day. You ruined my work you ass hat!” Eventually the socket healed and I had no further complications. Except I kept insisting on swallowing the horse-pill-size antibiotic dry, and as it went down my gullet it made a long, painful scraping sensation that buckled my legs and forced me to lie flat on my back. Water is for babies.

Sadly, I learned little from this as, at a certain point, I determined that my stitches were not dissolving fast enough. I grabbed a pair of tweezers, opened wide,  and yanked them out. They were starting to piss me off. Nothing really bad happened and for that I’m grateful. I don’t think I could have faced the dentist having once again done something stupid.

So now my teeth are kept on my desk and have provided me endless enjoyment as I look at them and marvel how they came out of me after being carried around inside me for so long. Maybe this is what motherhood feels like, though–and I don’t mean to brag–my teeth are much better behaved than most children.

It’s Good to Be Queen

I normally don’t write about politics, specifically local politics, as many of the people who read this blog don’t live in my neighbourhood, and for the most part local politics is not exactly the most stimulating topic. But due to the rather silly and sad conduct of the former premier of Alberta, Alison Redford, I thought I’d post a little blurb on the latest (and hopefully the last) chapter of this saga.

Alison Redford was the premier of the province of Alberta. I’ve previously commented, in a post titled “Oh Alison,” on her abuse of government planes and how this was the beginning of the end.

Redford resigned as premier in March but did hold on to her seat in the Alberta Legislature representing her constituency in Calgary (lucky people). If she thought that resigning as premier would alleviate the scrutiny she was under, then she was mistaken. It was revealed that the premier had ordered a luxury penthouse suite to be built on the top of a Government of Alberta building that was under construction. According to Global News, “There would bedrooms for Redford and her pre-teen daughter . . . , a shared bathroom, a powder room, a walk-in closet, a butler’s pantry and areas for dining, studying and lounging. There would be grooming and changing areas, a fireplace and room-by-room temperature controls.”  This was unnecessary and extravagant. The consulting alone was $173 000. The project has since been nicknamed the Sky Palace, which is fitting as Redford and her daughter seemed to be confusing themselves with the Saudi royal family. Once these plans were made public, everyone collectively groaned, “Not again.”

Redford and Daughter

Don’t you pay any attention to these rubes, honey. They have no idea how to treat a princess.

Before she resigned as premier, she ordered an investigation by the Auditor General into the use of government aircraft. I guess this was an attempt to demonstrate that she had nothing to hide, that she was serious about getting to the bottom of mishandling of government funds. She wanted to know who was responsible for defrauding the Alberta taxpayer. At that point everyone in the province said, “Uhhh yeah, you know that’s you, right, Alison?” Her ordering of the audit doesn’t demonstrate a lack of intelligence but a surplus of disdain. She simply didn’t seem to care what anyone thought and was generally annoyed if she was  questioned.

The day before the Auditor General’s report was released, Redford resigned her seat in Calgary. These are a couple of highlights from the report–and by highlights I mean examples of entitlement and abuse of power and trust:

Whenever a delegation of Alberta politicians and staff had to fly somewhere for whatever reason, Redford’s staff would book the plane and fill the passenger manifest with people who weren’t actually going to fly on the plane. Just before the flight was to leave, staff would cancel these passengers and leave just Redford herself and the few people she wished to fly with, basically so she and her besties could have the plane all to themselves. As a result two planes were often used when only one was needed–Redford and her entourage on one plane and the unwashed rabble on the other. Wow, she must have made a lot friends with a strategy like that.

Empty Plane

I once rode a bus that was empty but never a plane.

Perhaps the lowlight of the report was the revelation that Redford had employed a travel scout, a woman who was paid $127 872 to go places the premier was planning to visit in order to suss out the best hotels, restaurants, and local sights, even giving weather reports (she e-mailed the premier that she  may need a jacket on some mornings in New Delhi). On top of the travel scout’s ridiculous salary, she racked up $330 000 in expenses in just twenty months. This was a position that didn’t exist until Alison Redford created it.

How does someone get a job like this? What would the qualifications be? I will conclude this post with how I imagine the job interview for this position:

Premier: Hello, John. Thank you for coming in today for this interview.

Me: No problem.

Premier: Do you like to travel?

Me: Sure do.

Premier: Do you like to spend other people’s money on luxury hotels and the finest restaurants?

Me: Oh, for sure.

Premier: Well then, John, welcome to the team. The job is yours. And might I say you had a fantastic interview. You just blew me out of the water.

Me: Oh, stop.

Then we both laugh and put our feet up on some Alberta taxpayers as we sit in leather chairs and light cigars with hundred dollar bills.

The premier announces to no one in particular: It’s good to be Queen!

Robin Williams, Palestinians, and Proximity

How can anyone possibly spend any time and attention fretting over the death of Robin Williams while children are dying in Palestine?

We hear this kind of indictment every time a celebrity dies when children somewhere in the world are suffering and dying. And to a certain extent I understand the reasoning behind the question; everyone understands that the suffering of children should be more important, or at least occupy more space in the collective culture, than the life and death of a celebrity. But this almost never happens, so indictments are made and proclamations of the demise and fall of the western world are shouted from soapboxes, or keyboards, and we all take a moment to feel ashamed.

So allow me a moment to explain why the death of Robin Williams occupies in my mind the same amount of space as, if not more than, that of children killed in Gaza. And that is proximity. I am closer to Robin Williams than I am to any one person in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this has as much to do with the randomness of where I was born as anything else.

I never found Robin Williams terribly funny (gasp!), but I did find him to be a talented dramatic actor. Throughout my lifetime, I watched stories in pictures acted out by Robin Williams in such films as The World According to Garp, Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, and The Night Listener. Much of how I learn about the world is through story, whether read, watched, or listened to. Robin Williams was someone whom I had seen in movies, and I grew to appreciate the way in which he chose to act out the story someone else had written him. His face was familiar to me; and his face, his body, his physicality, is linked to stories that I ingested, and as with almost all stories of any quality, helped me to form my perceptions of the world. Sometimes the ideas I had in my developing brain were not yet articulated clearly until I saw or read the scenarios of conflict and resolution, or lack thereof. Some of these ideas were developed in and linked to Robin Williams’s work, so I naturally make a myriad of links and associations between my development and the stories that contributed to that development. Some of these fence posts are more important than others, some are downright frivolous and silly, but I believe that all of them are contributing to my identity and how I see myself fitting into the world.

Robin Williams

Of course I find the death and suffering of children horrible. But due to a geographic gulf and a cultural distance, the abhorrence I feel is more abstract than visceral. I can watch the news and, by simply being a human capable of compassion, I can sympathize with the plight of anyone in a war zone. I am not necessarily going to react the same way emotionally as I would if, for instance, it were my family and friends in an armed conflict three provinces east of Alberta. Nor should I. If I did I’d be an emotional wreck and a blubbering idiot for most of every day. When 9/11 happened my reaction was strong, and later it dawned on me that one of the reasons may have been because many of those killed and injured were people who lived in close proximity to me and had a shared culture. These were people who looked like me and thought like me, and we had many shared collective cultural experiences. To a certain extent these people were me.

The fact that Robin Williams committed suicide is also a reason his death occupies a bit more real estate in my mind than it would otherwise. Suicide is something that has been a dominating shadow in my family. Three of my uncles committed suicide. These were men who were raised in the Catholic Church when church was a defining element in the growth and development of an individual. The stories that helped them develop their identity were from the Bible. A dominating theme of sin is repentance and forgiveness. Except with suicide. With suicide there is no repentance, no forgiveness. You will go to hell. Yet despite this, they chose to kill themselves. Fear as a motivator did not prevent them from leaving this world.


Robin Williams had achieved, by every metric in the western world, fantastic success–money, fame, adulation, all of it. Yet success as a motivator did not prevent him from taking his life.

Another link that I make is that perhaps these men suffered from defective brain chemistry, or some other physical debilitation we have not yet been able to identify or completely understand. I’m thinking of Robin Williams in the context of the suicide of my uncles, and I wonder if I have inherited some of that genetic material.

When I think of the life and death of Robin Williams, I guess I’m really thinking of all the links and associations he is a part of in my life, and this is at some level automatic simply because of how I consume text in Canada at this time in history. The fact that I have more associations with Robin Williams than I do with a conflict in the Middle East does not make me a bad person but a person who has a healthy, functioning mind that can only do what it can do, and to expect more might be something that only happens in the movies.

Palastinian Conflict


American Graffiti

Montana was every cowboy movie he’d ever seen. This was first time he’d been outside the forest of Ontario and he had no idea that space like this existed, with yawning parcels of seemingly infinite land and a sky that was as large as outer space, with a blue so bright it seemed to be shouting. Then the suddenness of the mountains that seemed to appear out of nowhere like a magician’s trick. He loved these sharp pieces of infant formations that jutted from the ground proud and confident. And stored within the small valleys were isolated storms that were small enough that a person could drive through them like nature’s car wash.

He pulled his car over to the shoulder to stretch and maybe take a few pictures with the cheap disposable camera he bought at a gas station. The store was full of families buying slurpees and overpriced t-shirts; the lights were harsh and felt soul depleting. The noise from the makeshift arcade in a half-closed-off room at the back was almost annoying enough to induce some nervous twitching. He felt panicked as he ran the gauntlet of parents and kiddies decked out in fanny packs and wraparound sunglasses.

He took a few pictures of the rolling hills that were set ablaze by the dipping sun. Here and there smoother, reddish rocks peeked out from the earth like the callouses on a farmer’s hand. He wanted the pictures to be the tangible evidence that he was actually right here, at this place, in this time. He could believe that none of this was real, but if he had some sort of record then maybe he could come to terms with the part of him in denial.

That’s when he saw the man on a horse. He was riding fast, kicking up a trail of dust, and the stiff rope attached to his saddle jerked up and down in time with the horse’s gallop. His face was lean and symmetrical and he wore a leather work coat and a denim shirt accented with a red bandana that hung loose around his neck. The traveller knew that this was the Marlboro Man. He was every billboard and magazine ad he’d ever seen.

Marlboro Man drew up close to him. Each man was silent for a while staring at the other, neither sure who was the anthropologist and who was the untouched tribe. Finally the cowboy spoke. “Hey there.”

“Hey,” Traveller replied. “Nice horse.”

“Thanks.” Traveller reached out and petted the horse, and the cowboy smiled as he rubbed the steed’s neck. The horse was a beautiful shade of chestnut.

“What’s its name?” asked Traveller.

“Her name is Chestnut.” He shrugged. “I was going to name her something like Diaspora or Simulacra, thinking I was clever, but I was just drunk and when I sobered up I thought Chestnut was a far less pretentious name to give the best friend I ever had. The only friend really.” The reflection of the sun winked off the gun in his holster as Chestnut shuffled a bit.

“You don’t have any friends? Human friends? Why?” Traveller held up his hand to shield his eyes from the sun.

The cowboy smiled sadly. “You’re passing through here, right?”

“Yeah. I’m not too sure where I’m going but I sure as shit know I ain’t going back.”

“Then you’re a lucky son-of-a-bitch.” He looked off into that endless horizon. “I have to go now. You drive ten more miles west and you’ll come to shitty little roadside dive called The Rhizome. Go take a piss and you’ll learn everything about me you need to know.” He turned Chestnut around and rode off into the sunset.

Traveller did as he was told. The parking lot of the bar was filled with Harley Davidsons and pickup trucks with gun racks in the cab and animal horns mounted on the hoods. He could hear ZZ Top pounding out through the door. Traveller thought to himself: Jesus, I’m in shit-kicker heaven. I hope I leave this place with my pecker intact.

But as he made his way to the bathroom he was greeted with friendly nods and a few smiles. Traveller took a piss and as he was washing his hands he saw written on the side of bathroom mirror in black marker:

I Hate This Part of Texas.

This struck Traveller as funny. He laughed. He felt good. He dried his hands and took out his camera from his back pocket and laid it gently on the sink, leaving it behind. He walked lightly back to his car and drove west. All the way to the ocean.






Bear Attack or Self Defense?

Man Attacked by Bear Near Smoky Lake.

That was the headline I read yesterday. Wow. That sounds very scary for the man and also for the people who live in the area.

But then I read the whole story and found myself once again saying WTF!

The bear was minding his business, being a bear, in his home, which is in the woods. And a hunter went to the bear’s home and shot him with a gun. The wounded bear ran away and the hunter ran after him. At this point the bear turned around and IN SELF DEFENSE struck back at the man and likely said something in bear like: “I’m going to fuck you up, you meddlesome bitch!” The bear got on top of the hunter and was winning the fight, biting Elmer Fudd on the head and arms, before the hunter unfortunately got hold of his gun and shot the bear again.

First I'm going to make you my bitch, then I'm going to eat you.

First I’m going to make you my bitch, then I’m going to eat you.

If you hunt legally, then good for you. I guess? But if the animal you’re trying to kill fights back and tries to kill you, then I say good for the animal. This isn’t an attack–it’s self defense. I found it so strange that the media framed the encounter in those terms, like the bear did something wrong. If you’re killed trying to kill an animal in its home, then I say, to a great extent, you went looking for trouble and you found it. Don’t cry. Take your lumps. But to frame this as a “Bear Attack” is really unfair to the bear.

Not such a tough guy without your boom boom stick are you? Asshole.

Not such a tough guy without your boom boom stick are you? Asshole.

I wish bears could learn how to shoot a gun. Then, at least, I would consider this kind of hunting more “sport” than “slaughter.”