Half empty at the ship and anchor.

When I sit at a barstool alone, i imagine him quietly sitting next to me, sipping on his beer, leaving to go smoke, coming back and scratching a $2 western he got at the sev.
In the other room, outside smoking, just one calling of his name away.


Cannery Row Chapter 30 Part 2

The party was about to recline and go to sleep when there was a tramp of feet on the stairs. A great voice shouted, "Where's the girls?"

Mack got up almost happily and crossed quickly to the door. And a smile of joy illuminated the faces of Hughie and Jones. “What girls you got in mind?” Mack asked softly.

“Ain’t this a whore house? Cab driver said they was one down here.”

“You made a mistake, Mister.” Mack’s voice was gay.

“Well, what’s them dames in there?”

They joined battle then. They were the crew of a San Pedro tuna boat, good hard happy fight-wise men. With the first rush they burst through to the party. Dora’s girls had each one slipped off a shoe and held it by the toe. As the fight raged by they would clip a man on the head with the spike heel. Dora leaped for the kitchen and came roaring out with a meat grinder. Even Doc was happy. He flailed about with the Chalmers 1916 piston and connecting rod.

It was a good fight. Hazel tripped and got kicked in the face twice before he could get to his feet again. The Franklin stove went over with a crash. Driven to a corner the newcomers defended themselves with heavy books from the bookcases. But gradually they were driven back. The two front windows were broken out. Suddenly Alfred, who had heard the trouble from across the street, attacked from the rear with his favorite weapon, an indoor ball bat. The fight raged down the stepsand into the street and across the lot. The front door was hanging limply from one hinge again. Doc’s shirt was torn off and his slight strong shoulder dripped blood from a scratch. The enemy was driven half-way up the lot when sirens sounded. 

Doc’s birthday party had barely time to get inside the laboratory and wedge the broken door closed and turn out the lights before the police car cruised up. The cops didn’t find anything. But the party was sitting in the dark giggling happily and drinking wine. The shift changed at the Bear Flag. The fresh contingent raged in full of hell. And then the party really got going. The cops came back, looked in, clicked their tongues and joined it. 

Mack and the boys used the squad car to go to Jimmy Brucia’s for more wine and Jimmy came back with them. You could hear the roar of the party from end to end of Cannery Row. The party had all the best qualities of a riot and a night on the barricades. The crew from the San Pedro tuna boat crept humbly back and joined the party. They were embraced and admired. A woman five blocks away called the police to complain about the noise and couldn’t get anyone. The cops reported their own car stolen and found it later on the beach. Doc sitting cross-legged on the table smiled and tapped his fingers gently on his knee. Mack and Phyllis Mae were doing Indian wrestling on the floor. And the cool bay wind blew in through the broken windows. 

It was then that someone lighted the twenty-five-foot string of firecrackers.

You're doing it wrong

Garage doors and power washers
Dog walkers and house keepers
All the dogs have anxiety
And the husbands high blood pressure
They call the dead ends cul-de-sacs
And the stillness peaceful
But it’s unnerving
And I want to go home


I used to be a camp counsellor

Sometimes I say that to a crowd of people and it's met with laughter.

'Well, that explains it!'

Usually it's when we're trying to start a fire, or put up a tarp or play a song on the guitar . All three of which I'm not very good at, because, truthfully, I wasn't a very good camp counselor.

I was only a camper for one year, at 14 years old, because my mom was the camp nurse and she got a 'deal'.

Maybe it was my counsellor singing Ani DiFranco songs, staring at the ceiling in my bunk, surrounded by equally entranced young girls that made me want to go back.

Whatever it was, I went back the following year and applied to be a counsellor. But I wasn't your average applicant, as I wore make-up, blow-dried my hair and stole my sisters clothes any chance I got.

Somehow though, I got the job.

They named me Dale after Dale Earnhardt for nearly driving off the road with a car-full of counselors the morning after a staff party.

The summer started off well.

“Your girls just love you!”
“You must be doing something right, the way your kids talk about you!”

I think kids are attracted to sensitivity, and I was both highly sensitive and extremely vulnerable at the age of 16. We related. I was still silently terrified, but as my confidence grew, so did theirs.

As the summer went on, I shyly participated in more and more activities, dressed in costumes for skits and even started teaching water activities I knew nothing about. Like the time I filled in as a kayaking teacher, only to be rescued by the kids as the wind carried me down the lake at a terrifying speed.

My camp world began to unravel the night my kids did a skit for talent show. Each of the 6 girls took turns 'playing' me – their counselor. They borrowed my signature cat-ear toque and pretended to be me, sleeping in, napping all afternoon, skipping the morning mandatory health-hustle & polar plunge, and just generally being a shitty counselor. I was mortified. They were revealing all my secrets. They were getting so many laughs – at my expense.

Did I mention I was a very tired (and lazy) teenager?

My favourite part of the evening was the 30 minute window where the kids would get ready for bed, and we'd go to the office and check e-mail/ICQ/Messenger, whatever it was we did back then. A small group of us would take turns dicking around, telling stories about our day, and prank-mailing eachother's camp inboxes. I still have some of the 'camp mail' I received, my favourite being a photocopy of Snipers hand that reads: Big hands I know you're the one. 

After our mini office rendez-vous we'd run back to the cabin for bedtime, hoping no one noticed our absence. Sometimes the girls would blow my cover by running over to the oldest boys cabins whose counselor was actually there, and tell him they couldn't find me.

But mostly they would  just dance around the cabin singing and yelling with the pre-bedtime hyperactive hysteria that always appeared at 8pm. I'm sure if I'd stayed in the cabin during this vulnerable time, it could have been avoided, but hey, I was a kid too.

Once we'd calmed them down, shoo-ed all the boy campers away from the front porch, and got them into their bunks, we'd talk about the day. Usually in Rose & Thorn style. It worked well because everybody got a turn, even the quietest kids who usually couldn't get a word in . Like I said before, these kids were sensitive, so a fun day could really turn sideways if they scraped their knee on a rock in the lake, or a cabin mate put yogurt on their face during breakfast. Talking it out was cathartic for all of us. Often the thorn was how homesick they were, which is not always obvious to a counselor. Camp was often the best part of their summer, and the most difficult, emotionally and socially. I used to take one camper to her little brothers cabin every evening to say goodnight to him and she'd cry the whole walk back to our cabin. 

After the girls would go to sleep, I'd run off into the night for an hour or two, talking and flirting and laughing with any counselor that would indulge me, hence the 'tired-lazy-teenager' the next day.

I worked at Camp Kawartha for three summers. Although I'd never win a Camp Counselor of the Year Award, the experience helped form me. I like to think I'd be better at it now, at the age of 32, and maybe I would. But I still can't kayak, and I love staying up late.


Baby it's you.

It was December 10th, 2007. One week after his birthday, but I didn't know that yet.
Georgia and I walked into Broken City for the afternoon jam. We got pints, sat in a booth and watched.

He was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans. His guitar was yellow and black, and he had a cigarette hanging from his lips. He played Human Fly by The Cramps (here).

My heart fluttered. The room quieted. I knew it right then and there.
I am mad for this man, Georgia. I need to meet this man.

Like a good friend, she walked over and said as much. He came to our table and sat down and we talked for awhile.

He got up and announced it was time for him to go, walking over to the stage. I thought I was going to lose him.

 He put on a red jacket, slung his guitar over his shoulder, and returned to my table.
"Well, are you coming?" he asked.

And so I went.
And I never looked back and I never said goodbye and I never doubted it for a moment. It was him.

He died on January 7th, 2010. A week after tattooing a dot on my ankle. A tattoo that screams 'I was here and I was yours' before he left.

Pinky and the brain.

This year, I think I’ll prioritize brain health.  I’ll sleep a bit more, learn to give it some rest by turning it off for periods of time....