The side street lights up as a spinning wheel of noise and colour gets hurled onto the pavement by a man with a horses head.
His friends loiter by the tennis court, on the playground, clutching half-empty brown-bagged concoctions,
slanted-walks in soda bottles.
Some didn’t even bother to dress up.
The rattle and snap goes on for blocks and blocks
the last few young Halloweeners finishing up their runs
as the taller, darker things eat up the night
howling at passing busses,
wailing into cellphones
losing a heel and losing their minds.
You’re out there, somewhere
wandering through the heady Pacific mist
and the remains of roman candles
masked, but never sinister.
And if our paths crossed in bottomless alleys
I’d overshout the burning schoolhouses
spit a stream of joyful sparks
set this whole dried-up deadleaf pile
I hear you howling on a 3AM street corner like a savannah eulogy,
Limping towards the watering hole as self-doubt and admission close in
eyes wide. And the neighbours know
This is gonna be a messy one.
I hear you rattling the doors and windows of your lovers house like a poltergeist, promising paradise prostate on the front porch, carrying that Terry Fox torch for a dying cause, trying so damn hard to file off your claws but they just keep
Sharper than they ever were,
You kill with kindness, every hug draws blood, all muscles on perpetual standby waiting for a defcon strike and she likes you still
Even when you’re covered in the freshest kill
I hear you howling against the alley wall
Tattooing the bricks with morse code love,
And I’m above, watching from my third floor balcony like a man
Observing, notating, maybe taking the occasional potshot if anything gets too close
I haven’t stripped off my hiking boots and walked these barefoot bloody paths since I
Fell from a post secondary sanctuary into the sticks
And got splinters under my fingertips
Because despite the stress they placed on an actors preparation
I was not prepared for this
It’s all Greek fires, live wires and savannah eulogies at three am
And I learned all about bending words
But what I wish they taught me
Was how to roar like you
There’s been a fog lingering over my neighbourhood the past few days like a bad houseguest, the kind who’s still loitering on the couch when you wake, who says he’ll go out in the afternoon and try to find a job and maybe he does but he’s really just biding his time until he comes rolling back in with the evening, confounding your best arguments with doublespeak and a fridge full of beer and Hey Man Can I Get Your WiFi Password?
I remember the fog in Victoria, mere weeks before my inevitable fiery implosion, where myself and a friend wandered the mist-laden soccer fields and haunted parks in search of the all-night Tim Hortons because we were broke and my poor dinner of perogies and perogies really weren’t the kind of fare one should solely subsist off, let alone offer to company. The streetlights were willowisps and the rare passing car was a rider in the night bearing ill tidings, leaves bowed and crumpled underfoot and you couldn’t lay a hand anywhere that wasn’t heavy with the dew. Far, far away, you could still hear a gull yowling out for it’s companions, and closer still were the dull scratchings of raccoons clawing at the edges of the bins like serial killers scraping against the car doors with meat hooks.
October dissolves. Rehearsals progress despite setbacks. A venue is emerging as a strong candidate for Deadmonton’s first home. Despite the time demanded, I can’t help but multitask even though I lack the brainpower for it. Part of me still feels like I’ve failed to deliver on a larger work so I’m working on a new play now, a full-length mashup of Vancouver grime and Greco Roman Mythology, a play that sparked from a single bitter text I sent to the same friend who had wandered through the fog with me in Victoria.
“There isn’t enough liquor in this city to drink her off my mind.”
…but what if there was?
Thanks for golden fall days,
crisp as apples, the perfect stillness
of seven AM when you don’t have to be up
Thanks for day-old apple coffee cake
from a family recipe, hot blonde roast
and newspapers, the kind
whose ink is all too happy to leap off the page
and onto your fingertips.
Thanks for the radio,
the Vinyl Cafe and the CBC,
unexpected depth in interviews with cinematic madmen
and the warm tones that used to carry nations
with their breath alone.
Thanks for carrying on bravely
even when everyone says you’re all washed up,
doing a daily Rocky montage on the airwaves
audio uppercuts for whomever happens
to be tuned in.
Thanks for friends,
the eclectic medley, the paint-spattered palette
I couldn’t do without.
Thanks for family,
gravel-road wisdom and San Fran soul
that gave me form and fire.
Thanks for fresh notebooks,
for pens that sit just right in the hand
for savage word-ballet frenzies that seize
at three in the morning to propel you out of bed
and to the keyboard.
And above all,
thank you for not drawing on my face
with a sharpie marker
after I’d passed out on the couch
from Turkey overdose.
You probably thought about it
more than once.
Dear city planners,
Where do I begin?
For starters you could start stopping popping out
Coffeeshops and liquor stores on every corner.
Cause if I’ve got two hands full
One keeps me up and one brings me down
That’s breeding inertia
And here I was trying to move forward
Dear city planners,
More slow trains please
So that we commuters might dance more often on the harrowing edge of actually talking to one another
And as for the preachers howling us down at the station gates
Let them stay
They keep telling me I’m going to hell,
Like they’re advertising a new suburb
And I’ll probably wind up there someday
But only after every other block’s been gentrified
And I can’t throw a beer bottle without hitting
An artisanal cheese shop.
Dear city planners,
Whenever I see you breaking new ground
I get nervous.
I wonder what buried bones your backhoe is going to crack
As it digs deep.
All the skeletons in closets moved to the countryside
Cause it’s peaceful, they can rattle and snap
Without giving anyone nightmares and now
You want to put a mall overtop their stomping grounds
And nail salons.
There’s only so much past you can pave over
Before a monuments gotta grow, even if
It’s locally commissioned and ugly as a bar floor
The morning after New Years.
Someone will still leave flowers there.
Dear city planners,
I don’t envy the position you’re in.
You have to pack so much into so little;
Cram a dogfight in a snow globe
Parades into paper bags,
And still get home to spend time with your kids.
Keep it up.
Nobody can weave this perfectly
And it wouldn’t be all that interesting if it was.
Don’t beat yourself up over the ragged edges.
Leave a little something for the next guy to figure out.
No more artisanal cheese shops.
For the life of me, I’ve never understood the appeal of pumpkin spice lattes. Maybe it’s just that you’re paying five dollars to access those fragments of family dinners you had when you were younger. Maybe you hated pumpkin with an absolute fiery passion as a child (I know I did) and you’re now only trying to atone for the snubbing of your grandma’s pumpkin pie all those years ago. She forgave you, of course, because sometimes these things are an acquired taste, like wine or jazz or olives or 6AM mornings on sniffling crowded busses headed to do something unsatisfying for eight hours.
Putting on plays was an acquired taste. I didn’t have the stomach for it early on, nearly choked when the curtain was rising on Rum and Ritalin, a collection of interwoven shorts I threw together during my first stumbling semester at college. They had to drag me out of my dorm room, emptied bottle of Captain Morgan clattering down to the floor, to ensure I was there to see this wobbly aircraft do cartwheels over the audience before sticking the landing just so. We drew tears where we didn’t expect to, and when I was hauled up onto the stage to take my bow I finally got it, like the first decent glass of wine you drink that doesn’t come from a box or a ten dollar bottle and sets you down a path towards keeping old favourites in your fridge door where the milk and ketchup ought to be.
We had our first read-through the other day of the new play, Deadmonton, the spiritual successor to Sea of Green that swaps the political idealism and bloody shouts for something darker still. It’s a play of secret hearts, knives in dark places and desperate love. Where Sea of Green was bombastic and yelled to the rafters, this one whispers from the corners. It’s a smaller cast too, shrinking the mob from my last piece down to a pair of unusual lovers with unusual habits, and pits them against a world we only catch glimpses of.
And I’m nervous. I haven’t directed a play in years, much less produced one. I can already feel the tired sensation in the back of my mind as we lurch forward, the notion that once again, yes, you’ll be spreading yourself too thin and you won’t notice until you’re already see-through. Nights dissolve into stage directions and budgets, venue squabbles and dousing forest fires with garden hoses, a slow burn of stress.
An acquired taste.
Let’s see what kind of damage we can do.