Update: Did Not Actually Get Eaten By NYC

Kinda fell off again there awhile.
My bad.

I’ve a few months worth of distance from my trip now, which wipes away some of the gloss and the fog and adds a nice layer of perspective; still wouldn’t trade it all for anything. I definitely wouldn’t want to live in New York, but damn if I don’t want to get my work there in the near future.

The rest of the trip after the Day One recovery was split between museums, galleries, endless walking around Brooklyn and Downtown, more than a few instances of nearly getting lost, a passerby politely offering to sell me coke in the Village after a night of live jazz (and holy fuck the jazz!), conversations with total strangers in a cinema bar, and Hamilton.

There’s still nothing I can really say about Hamilton. They have all the words on that stage. I have none. I didn’t mob the theatre doors after the show angling for an autograph, but I did manage to snag an extra copy of the program, which I mailed to my grandfather, who’d always wanted a bonafide piece of New York city. Well, now you do.

After making the trek back, I stumbled right into the final rehearsals for my own show. Smaller black-box theatre, small cast, beautiful folks. Our run came and went and it felt good to be back in the thick of things. Cut to several months later and the summer is riding high, new projects are cooking along on all burners and I’m about ready to shuffle off from the city again for awhile. Instead of heading back to the grimy glorious heart of America, however, I’m aiming straight for the middle of nowhere, where I’ll have the time and the opportunity to stare out across an empty expanse of stick-thin trees and open gravel roads without hearing a single damn siren unless someone’s fireworks show gets really out of hand.

More to follow. Coffee now.

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The New Yorxpedition: Day One

The Fox and the Crepes, mere steps from my temporary lodgings. Pictured: Lifesaving coffee. Not pictured: Lifesaving crepes.

Off the plane by a little after 7AM, bleary eyed stumbling through JFK, onto a waiting train to a waiting train to a wrong train to a right train to Brooklyn, where my host whisks me away to brunch almost as soon as my bags hit the floor. We’re diving back down into the metro and I completely lose track of where we are until we resurface and suddenly we’re in the guts of Chinatown, wandering past slabs of fresh fish on ice and noodle houses by the dozen. We walk until we find the intended restaurant is backed up out the door, his Toronto friends that have joined us recommend a nearby taco shop and before long I’m putting away banana-leaf-wrapped flank steak tacos and tall cups of coffee and staggering back to catch three extra hours of sleep before the evenings adventures begin. When they do, we’re navigating a construction-wracked warren of train transfers until we arrive at the Harlem apartment of one of my hosts classmates. It’s an exposed-brick sixth floor artist’s nest with books and scripts scattered across almost every available surface, the walls lined with hand drawn portraits of famous dead men (her “harem,” with King Charles, Kafka and Aaron Burr among her favourites.) Everyone there is sociable and welcoming, the conversation ranging wildly from the historical (did you know Aaron Burr tried to declare himself Emperor of Mexico?) to the bizarre (toilet paper versus paper towels, the ultimate showdown.) By the time the wine bottles are emptied and the guacamole consumed it’s nearing one AM, and the various train delays and long stretches spent wandering the platform waiting for an errant F train to materialize drag the journey out until it’s well after 3:30 in the morning by the time I stagger back and hit the couch like an astronaut suddenly becoming very reacquainted with gravity.
First impressions? I like it. I like it a hell of a lot.
More to follow once I get some coffee in me.

The New Yorxpedition: Prologue

The Cheesecake Factory is full to bursting, ravenous young diners sparking cigarettes outside or huddling into seats in the waiting area as they pore over menus and down cocktails, killing time until their hockey-puck pager starts rattling like a fault line dwelling and they get a proper table. The place was recommended to me by the late-teen cell phone jockey who set up my phone with Stateside service for the duration of my visit, but I suspect I only would have managed a few bites there if I’d arrived on an earlier bus. Maybe yesterday’s. Instead I wander the streets for a short span until the Daily Grill stretches out on the street corner, and that’s where I’m writing this while I tuck back a Dark and Stormy and wait for the chefs to throw together a chicken pot pie.
Washington State is beautiful, as far as I’ve seen from the Greyhound bus windows that have been my main viewpoint for the lion’s share of the afternoon. Halfway to Seattle, we passed through the town where my mother spend most of her youth, and she commented that the West Coast must simply be in our blood, through and through. I couldn’t disagree; between the tiny towns lining the highway after the border crossing, I was fixed upon the scenery so much I almost forgot to watch the new Sorkin film I’d made sure to download for the trip (Good, but the Social Network still reigns supreme.)
The alcohol is starting to works it’s wonderful magic now as the stresses I was feeling earlier today begin to dissipate like a morning mist getting burnt off before noon. I woke up with a belly full of fire and my heart in my throat like it was ready to stay there, an obstinate occupier, for the rest of the week. I’ve been getting better at managing my neuroses, though not enough to avoid doubling back to check to see if I’d locked the door behind me after I’d left (I had).
When they bring me the chicken pot pie I ordered, the damn thing is bigger than my face.
Welcome to America.

  

Out West

I told you I was going out West to make things right
Said don’t worry, they said the land
has enough for everyone, we just
have to shake it out.
We cracked her open like an egg and then
for good measure
we cracked the whole carton
because what good’s the yolk in the shell, you know?

I told you I was going out West to make things right
Sent you back everything you’d ever need
No hungry lullabies, no rent-cheque bruises
We were never going to wait in the Wednesday line again,
never have to bum a dart, never have to let go.
And your mom, god, how her face turned
when we took all she ever said about me
fed it right back to her.
“He’s done good,” you said,
“He’s done so good.”

I told you I was going out West to make things right
and I made things right, kept my nose
cleaner than your kitchen counters,
never missed a day,
never crossed those lines we talked about
and then
they all called us into the big room,
gave us the news in asphalt tones,
some fellas started crying.
Never seen a fella so big
cry so hard.

We go any further West,
we might fall into the Pacific.
So what now?
So where next?

Colours

The red
is the colour of the coat
you wore when we were in Halifax
visiting your older brother.
He went to art school there;
tattoos running rivers up and down his arms
the fold-out couch he had for us reeked of pot
and paint.
Rained half the time
Red rainjacket.
Stop signs.

That was the first one to go.
That’s why I sold the Pontiac
and take the metro to the specialist
the Yellow line underground, across town.

The yellow
is the colour of the Warhol Banana
on the cover of the Velvet Underground record
we listened to ad nauseum.
Heroin angel lullabyes
to drown out the grunting of my roommate
and the false cries of passion
of his weekend lovers.
The record didn’t survive the migration
across the mountains in the Pontiac’s trunk
you said we’d buy another
in case we needed Nico to howl down
a neighbour’s yapping dog.

I still catch glimpses of it
but only in the corners, the periphery
of the right, the left
is a lost cause, but I still can’t help
but try while I’m in the waiting room
because really
what else is there to do in a waiting room
but catch up on fifty different sex positions to drive him wild
and casserole recipes for under ten dollars.

The green
is the colour of the dollar bills
I pressed into the hands of the cabby
that got us through the winter’s worst blizzard
to the theatre, only for us to find
we were five minutes late
and the usher was a tyrannical bitch.
You said it was okay,
King Lear was lousy anyway,
you just suggested it because you wanted
to look smart.
An hour later, corner booth at a greasy spoon
lousy coffee, apple pie, secrets and lies but you’ll never tell which is which
three hours later, you’re wearing nothing but my UofS hoodie
marvelling at just how fat I used to be
claiming the better of my two pillows, and telling me
that you’re not normally like this on first dates
but damn, I like your kind of crazy.
Green dollar bills.
Green lights.

With that one gone,
the rest went quicker
and the specialist says
I will have to adapt
my future rests in my fingers, he says
and I have homework again for the first time
in years.
Big blue binders, thick books
slabs of dots, stuffed into backpacks,
studied on busses as the daytime
gets darker.

The blue
is the colour of the dress you wore
to my sister’s wedding.
The band was great
the speeches were lousy
and I had trouble finding the microphone.
I had trouble finding everything,
I felt like an infant, my hands
were not ready for this.
The knots in the tablecloth,
the thick cardstock, the slightly raised letters
celebrating the new Mr and Mrs.
The soft sponge cake, the cotton of my tie,
the blue dress.
We tried a slow shuffle to a U2 crooner,
and I couldn’t lead without stepping on toes.
You said you didn’t mind.
I didn’t believe you.
And then all the colours went
and there started being less of everything else
like a pen, stuttering out of ink
one letter at a time.
The lines, the shapes, the curves and contours
The whole world retreating to the edges
and then falling off
and falling off

and I’m angry
not really sure at who
because I only had time to gather up
a finite number of paints to recreate
the person in my bed beside me
every morning.
Every morning, rebuilding
tracing the outline, shading, drawing you out
like a constellation along my empty-lot irises.
And I wish I had more.
But I think this will be enough.

North Van Adventures, January 2016

There’s a bone-white piano lingering on the skeletal steps of a two-story home hugging the curb next to a car cleaners, a Shell station and a block of Lego-brick luxury condos snapping higher every month.

Chartered busses bearing bearded boarders haul them from hostels heavenward on clouds of leftover cocaine from the last DJ set from that brokenjaw East Van special, six Saturdays and a Sunday thrumming arpeggios on their heartstrings, waiting for the day gravity finally pulls its pants on, catches up, and force-feeds them black diamonds of their own making.

The air feels less encumbered here, doesn’t carry notes of rush-hour arguments, alley-piss accents, staccato secondhand cigs. Instead, if you breathe deep enough, hold it just so on the tip of your tongue, you can pluck out an older strain, mountain-filtered, in stone tones that says

“Oh.

You’re still here?”

Five Rituals

One, the alarm clockbeaten bloody and blue.

I keep diving back in ten-minute attempts

to recapture the high of dreaming

something for the first time.

It just leave me groggy

but I’ll never learn.
Two, the coffee. Four minutes to steep

give or take. The tiny timer that accompanied

the french press took a swan dive off the countertop

during a house party. Now it just blinks

a nonstop series of eights at me,

occasionally chirping for no reason.

One milk. One sugar. Stir.
Three, the news. On a screen. Over breakfast.

Bombings and bad news stuck between

clickbait and cat videos so close together

they start to blur.

“You won’t believe how many refugees

fleeing certain death in Syria scrap by

just by following this one weird trick!”

I used to read the news for inspiration,

now it’s another bad habit

like my coffee addiction, or telling the truth

at the wrong times.
Four, the walk to the station, past houses

that have glimpsed a century through weary windows,

under twisted Tim Burton trees crawling skywards

like slow lightning in reverse. Same route every time. 

Round the corner of the coffee shop, a breath of fresh grounds

bleeding into half smoked cigarettes, the wet fur of dogs

Waiting patiently, throwing side glances

at the produce stands outside the next-door grocer 

Quietly praying dog prayers for a runaway tomato. 
Five, the train. 

I always take the last car. 

Couldn’t explain it if I tried.