Monday, December 31, 2001

One of the first things I realized when I got what was at the time called a "real job", was just how much time can be wasted in an office. You can make yourself look busy doing just about anything, and it may take months, or even years for your superiors to learn that you never worked at all. When I worked as a brick layer, making obscenely expensive driveways for overpriced log homes in Whistler, it was immediately evident to my employer how quickly I was working. I was either laying bricks in the ground or I was not, in which case I would be asked why I was not laying bricks in the ground. We even used to joke about the city workers who would gather round in a circle, perhaps 5 of them, to take turns at digging a hole, or changing a manhole; one person digging while the other four adopted a Ken Dryden pose with their work shovels.

When I was hired at that first job, I wasn't hired to solve some immediate problem or produce immediate results. I was hired based on some expectation of future results, which obviously cannot be determined until that future date, and even at that time there are hundreds of reasons why you didn't meet expecations. In an office, you could squeeze 6 months of employment by looking busy; walking around looking stressed, carrying papers everywhere, going on sales calls that don't exist. If I had tried to pull that off while laying bricks I would have been gone by the time the coffee truck made its first visit.

What is even more alarming is that the higher you go in the organization, the more nebulous and vague the job description becomes, and the longer it takes to get fired. It is assumed that you have reached such lofty status by providing great returns to your employer, so you are left to wallow the time away for up to a year before any suspicions are raised.

This reminds me of a story I heard from the COO of one of the big five accounting firms. He had been planning to fire an executive named Sam, but company policy dictated that he do it in person, not over the phone or by email, which is becoming more and more popular these days. Sam worked and lived in Dallas, and the COO was not going to fly to Dallas just to can his ass. Business often took him to Dallas, so he figured he would just do it whenever he got there. Sam knew he was going to get the bullet, and he knew the COO had to do it in person, so he kept a suitcase in his office, which he used to make timely getaways whenever he heard the COO was coming to town.

"Suitcase Sam" was able to keep up this game for over a year, until one day, at a seemingly safe company cocktail party in Australia, he was confronted by the COO, and summarily terminated.
Scott writes again, about his undiscovered genius, undiscovered only by the public, as his genius is quite evident to those who know him.

When you exit your creative writing class and picture your classmates eagerly awaiting for you to pass out of earshot so they can safely discuss your in-class comments and recently submitted work, do you imagine their conversations as adulatory or meanly sarcastic? And while this might be a more appropriate question for your psychiatrist, or even aromatherapist, the answer reveals much about your inner state. The proper outlook as easy as playing a film of success through your frontal lobes, like the visualisation techniques they teach in high school football -- scoring touchdowns and laying powerful well-timed blocks in front of the cute cheerleaders with button noses. As my old coach used to say: “winning is like hot broth. Ingredients: 90% imagination and for flavour, 10% will. Plus a dash of talent.” Unless imagined nothing ever comes to pass.

Sometimes I spend all day contemplating when I will be famous: universally respected for my wit, blinding intelligence, robust build and radical yet sensible opinions. The critical community unanimous in their agreement, and a little bit afraid.

I often dwell on how to best guard my privacy. Becoming too much of a media darling can steal objectivity, which holds truth. Should be serious and straight, or playful -- slipping the media only obtuse clues to decode? And I have to admit that as much as my books will be popular, their final meaning will definitely be cloaked; I -- despite celebrity status; multiple academy awards and a citation for my animated work; a UN ambassadorship, resulting in thick volumes of my collected speeches; and a lordship -- must remain an enigma. It is more a question of whether my influence on foreign policy and the structure of international society should be implicit or explicit. To be an Einstein or a Kissinger?

Honestly, I can envision a Nobel somewhere down the road, hopefully before I’m forty so I can enjoy it. Just like TS Elliot, I want to go ice-skating in my tails and top hat during a Scandinavian winter’s night. Though, with the committee being so political it’s hard to know exactly when the timing will be right.

Evident as well, especially whenever I revisit my writing, is the longevity of the movement I will inspire. Following in my wake: an intellectually cognizant literary faction as much in thrall with my personal life as with my stylistic innovations and structural bearing. A generation of young Turks with an aggressive semi-colon in their toolbox, knowledgeable of military history and displaying a healthy scorn for the Schoolmen of grammar and punctuation. Ready to do my literary bidding at creative writing schools worldwide.

I see fame and influence augmented to such a degree that bonds will be issued based upon my future projected earnings. The squinty-eyed quants, PhDs and other assorted bankers quantifying and formalising the deal will be astonished at the new pricing formulas and financial logics I develop. New vistas of debt financing and methods of derivative option figuring will be opened by my efforts. Ancient financial horizons will be surmounted, made close as I inaugurate the dawning of a new era of capital. As I near a deeply mourned death, knowledgeable experts will celebrate these innovations as containing the same revolutionary power that the invention of perspective brought to Renaissance painting and the birth of the modern. Innovations I, even now, seamlessly integrate into the structure of my more serious fiction and criticism.

Of course you will be there with me, the celebrated second prong of our two-fold, bar-b-que fork attack on the literary world. As much famed for your insight and empathy as your daring-do and feats of endurance. Two prose heroes for an age in need of serious fiction. Our lives mirrored in the art that first brought us such acclaim and critical applause.

We will patrol the corridors and hallways of Knopf, BMG and Verso with impunity, waylaying interns and speaking in loud voices. Our drinking bouts will rival any previously recorded and not a hangover will be suffered. It will be great, until our eventual split and mutual downward spiral -- so necessary for any biography worthy of acclaim. I think we will part when you viciously turn on me, disparaging my work in Esquire, the Guardian, El Mundo and Cosmo. I, of course, responding with generosity and understanding, and a tell-all book thinly disguised as fiction: A life lived less Ably. But we will be reconciled. And for the effort our handshake will grace the cover of the Economist. You will become famous in Mainland China -- personally credited with saving the Pandas from extinction.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

My nephew Bond has taken to wearing a gold cape around the house. He is only in his 4th year, so why stop it? He also has a rubber dagger and magic pearl that has some kind of magical properties ( he won't specify). He was the ringmaster this Christmas, which was spent in Union Bay, on Vancouver Island. I like Christmas to be short, and this was.

I think I am losing my grip at work. Little things that usually annoy me are now sending me over the edge. I need my quarterly vacation, which is coming up in 2 days. We'll be leaving New Years Day for New York.

See ya!
I normally don't read Heather Mallick's whiny columns, however, I have to give her credit for her year ending piece in the Globe and Mail. You finally got it right Heather.

Friday, December 28, 2001

At last, witty and insightful commentary on the effects of heavy modern weaponry on a deserted and war-torn countryside. Get your war on!

Monday, December 24, 2001

Okay, so it is Christmas Eve, and I am still in the office, with a handful of others, working on next year's plan for world domination. Well, not world domination, just domination in my sales region, on both revenue and non-revenue generating areas. As most people look back on the year, they take stock, evaluate, review, assess successes and failures, and plan to make changes for the coming year. Of course, some people just hit the booze and cruise blissfully until January 10th, when December's credit card bill arrives.

My parents used to make me watch the Queen's Christmas message for my grandmother's sake. My grandmother was a staunch monarchist, despite being 5th generation Canadian and the fact that her family was likely expelled from the "old country". I love how so many of that generation feel a sense of pride for the long-lost motherland that did nothing but persecute them, discriminate against them and all but buy their passage to anywhere just to get rid of them. I have not had to watch the Christmas message since the last Christmas I spent at home, which was in 1992. Since that time, my grandmother has been institutionalized, so my family has also been spared the Queen's broadcast.

Well I have a mesage for you.:

Whatever it is your worrying about, it is probably not worth it. As I often love to say, worrying is interest paid on bill that may never come due.
It requires much less work and maintenance to be agreeable and friendly than it does to be an asshole.
You are not as cool as you think you are.
Others are not as cool as you think they are.

To all my readers, however few there may be, enjoy a safe-but-not-risk-free holiday.


On a completely different tack, I met up with some incredibly interesting people last night. Anya and I recieved a phone call late in the afternoon ( well actually it was a message on our answering machine at home), from Thea, one of Anya's friends from McGill. Thea and Sam live in LA, where Thea has been working for the National Public Radio station, and Sam has recently become a P.I.

The strangest twist on the evening was that I met a friend of friend in a place I had never suspected as our meeting place. Scott ( see archives for Scott) had told me about a friend who had recently moved to Vancouver and was writing for Vancouver magazine. I had planned to ask Scott for his email and arrange some kind of meeting, maybe roll out the welcome mat as a good citizen would. However, it turns out that he was the person whom Scott referred to, and I surprised him with my knowledge of his arrival. A bit spooky perhaps, but word travels fast. But I am always amazed by such coincidences.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Some people call it luck, some people believe in guardian angels, some feel protected by a divine hand that washes one safely through peril and crises. At times I have felt that I had all 3 of these, as there was no other explanation for my good fortune. Sometimes it is merely the kindness of strangers.

I was reminded of this while playing black jack in Las Vegas recently. There were four of us, all seated at a $5 table, trying to make $50 last all afternoon. We had just come from a $10 table where we were cleaned out to the tune of $300 collectively, all in about 7 minutes. Our dealer at the $5 table was a woman named Tania, whom we guessed correctly was from Israel. Gold and diamond rings covered each finger, giving way to manicured nails that had stopped looking remotely human years ago.

She was a friendly lady, always joking with us, and trying to help me win. Being the novice of the group, among some seasoned gamblers, I often had no idea whether to hit or stay. Sometimes I was just guessing, and when I would guess wrong, I mean really wrong, rather than deal me another card, Tania would stare at her nails, and pick and rub away at an imaginary cuticle, pretending that she heard had not heard me.

Eventually, she took all my money, but with her help my $50 was extended by at least an hour.

On Las Vegas, I am reminded of Obi-Wan Kenobi looking out over the Tatooine desert: "Mos Eisley space station; you will never see a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."

It is amazing what some people will try to pull on you in the US. I must look like I just stumbled out of a smalltown. I must look real country, as they used to say. I am constantly hassled by DEA agents posing as dealers trying to sell me weed. It happened to me in Las Vegas, in the casino of the Flamingo.

We were sitting at a bar with video poker terminals built into it, waiting for someone to come back from somewhere so we could go get dinner. A black man walks up to the bar and sits next to me. He has corn rows like Snoop Dogg. This is how the story goes:

Snoop has just sprung from Carson State Pen, where he has just finished 18 years for shooting a cop in a dispute over drugs. He is looking for a ride home and is willing to offer me an indica bud to do it. I ask where he lives, and he tells me about 2 miles from here.
Two miles? Two miles? I say. Why don't you just walk?
Dude, do you know how old I am? says Snoop. I am 45 years old, I just spent 18 years in Carson State.

Okay, so you just get out of jail, you walk into a casino that must have a surveillance camera every 10 feet and you ask what you think or hope is a drunk frat boy to give you a lift 2 miles in exchange for some weed.

He reels back when I say this to him. I want him to know that I have figured out that he is either the stupidest criminal in Nevada or a very bad DEA agent. I want him to understand why I would not want to get into a car with someone who just spent 18 years in prison for murder.

He doesn't look that stupid, so I conclude that he is a DEA agent. Must have a great pension, because that is the must useless organization on the planet.

Friday, December 21, 2001

There are certain smells that will never leave me my memory. I have often read that the olfactory senses are the senses most closely linked to memories, more so than sound or even sight. In the pre-Christmas darkness I am reminded of the smell of diesel fumes, slush, ski wax and deep fryer exhaust. It takes me back to 1980, Stowe, Vermont.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

It turns out that it wasn't a firing, more of an "I am rich enough to not have to work here anymore" which pleases me. However, the ill winds of change and uncertainty are blowing my way....Don't worry, I am pretty safe for now. I just had a shock to my confidence. While everyone else gets to ignore the rules, I am made to follow them, which is unnatural for salespeople. However, this will not be taken into account when performance reviews are made....
Ever have a day when everything went your way, and everything seemed easy? That is what was supposed to happen today, but it didn't. In fact, I feel that I have been chewed up and spit out, dumped on the side of the road. Things aren't so bad though, I could have worse problems, which, in fact, I have had, but just don't have anymore.
To make myself feel better, I often watch the Sopranos 2nd season DVDs so that I can feel better than Tony. HE has problems.

Makes me think of the blues; the Filthy Bastard Blues

There's blood on the payphone
and a crack in the glass
somebody done cut me
and kicked my sorry ass

Livin' down on Pain Street
and wakin up alone
molestin my memories
with a squirt a groan

I'm Filty Bastard
way beyond bad news
ain't got nothin but a boner
and these filthy bastard blues

From Dry Shave, by Rod Filbrandt

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

More firings at work, or "resignings" as they say in the emails. Who resigns from our company? There is no reason anyone would do it other than to look like they left on their own terms. Makes me think of the cliche "You can't fire me because I QUIT!" However, I think it is just natural justice coming home to haunt those who have suckled too long on the bosom of complacency and residual revenue. Enough about work, as if lugging this anchor laptop home to update my sales forecast is not bad enough.

Luckily though, at least I get to do it in the luxury of a faux mediterranean villa in West Vancouver, which I am house sitting until the end of the month. I am getting spoiled with the selection of bathrooms (five) televisions (three) and studies (two). The only thing I think it is missing is a wine cellar, however, these people don't seem to be heavy drinkers, despite the bottles of Absinthe and Hennessy in their cupboard.

I reluctantly attended our company Christmas party, which was better than last year, when they ran out of food just as I arrived at the buffet station. This year the spread was opulent and I must have eaten $100 worth of scallops alone. Everyone seemed to be parading their partners around as if on display. It was interesting to see who was with whom and what their partner looked like, having listened to endless stories about them.I was alone of course, as Anya was working. People are used to her never being at anything due to her employment in the film and television industry. What amazed me was how many people that work right under my nose.

Man this weather is getting me down. I think I have SAD, and need to go on a vacation, but none is forthcoming, at least nowhere hot. Why doesn't someone ask me to housesit their villa in Costa Rica?

Please? Anyone?

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

This morning I was pleased to receive a number of messages from Scott, recently located to somewhere in Canada ( I can't say where, lest I blow his cover), one of which had a pasted story from Misery and human loss aside, the so-called war in Afghanistan has revealed the mainstream media to be a wretched horde of obsequious hacks, concerned more with creating a warm feeling in their readers bellies than accurately and objectively reporting the facts of this war. Rather than being outraged by John Ashcroft's decision to limit media access to information, they seem to be content to just make everything up now.

Here is a little clip from Scott (somewhere in Canada)

More disconcerting than the wacky exploits of Fox News (which is, after all,
regarded as a bit of a pariah in the journalistic community) is that even
supposedly responsible media outlets appear to have lost touch with reality.
The other day, a journalist friend gave me a list of items that he took from
the headlines of the New York Times. Here, with only mild paraphrasing, are
some of the proclamations that the Times has made since September 11:
* The age of irony is over.
* Red, white, and blue is the new black.
* More Americans are eating comfort foods.
* Post 9/11, no more disaster movies.
* Kids are anxious about Santa Claus.
* New Yorkers are drinking straight martinis, not apple ones.
* More people are considering moving to their summer houses year-round.
* Office parties are canceled. It is no time to celebrate.
* Office parties are expanded. It's time to get together.
* The age of irony is not over.

I have read many of those headlines, as I get the Sunday New York Times, and I have to agree that the quality of the times is slipping. Do I really care about the latest style of pajama-like pants for women to depressed, scared or broke to leave their appartments?

More on Scott.
In the winter of 1997, I took a job that was thrown into my lap as a ski/snowboard instructor for snot-nosed Eurobrats and diplobrats in Switzerland. I met Scott in the staff pub on the first night of my arrival. The manager of the camp was a pale englishman, who upon meeting me, uttered "Just what we need, more Americans." He brushed me off and went back to smoking his Marlboros and continuing the story about how he saw Blur in Geneva. Scott told me not to worry about the manager; "It's not that he's english, he's just a prick." Scott helped me adjust to the local customs so that I would not stick out so much, giving me pointers on how to avoid getting fleeced by unethical bartenders (geen and toneeek? 14 francs please), and what beer to avoid at all costs. This unholy brew could give you a 16 hour hangover from 2 pints. Most of the time we drank a beer called William Tell. Imagine that.

The pay was so low I won't even mention it, but the experience was worth the free ride they gave me, allowing me to ski France and Switzerland for at no real cost to myself. I was also able to influence many young children, preventing some of them from becoming accountants, lawyers, and policy analysts.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

I don't have cable at home, as I feel $40 a month is too much to pay in order to waste your time. Since I have been housesitting for the last few days, I have been taking advantage of my absentees friends' cable, clocking as much mindless fluff into each evening as is tolerable. My favorite new program is the Much Music Bio, which I have watched both last night and the night before. Last night the biography spotlight shone on Judas Priest, who are a suprisingly amiable group of lads that you would never suspect play in a heavy metal band. A very articulate bunch, they were happy to explain how they made their riffs sound so heavy. They revealed that on one track, ( I think it was Metal Gods), Rob Halford shook a tray full of silverware to produce a clanging "metal" sound. This was layered perhaps 20 times, to create a sound that would conjure up images of a robot covered in chainmail, roaming a bleak planet and annihilating humanity.......

I was also pleased to learn that chaos, chance and pure dumb luck were part of Judas Priest's success. Having been shut out of America and largely known as a British metal band, Priest were sprung into success with "Living After Midnight", their first US hit. The song was recorded by three of the band members while singer and lyricist Halford was trying to sleep directly above where the guitarists were laying down their riffs. Of course he couldn't sleep, so he wrote the lyrics while lying in bed.

Monday, December 10, 2001

All I want.

All I want is a v-neck sweater, grey, if you can find it. Can you believe that I cannot find an item as simpe and as staple-like? Please help.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

The recent lapse of posts is a result of my increased hours at the office. The darkness keeps me there, knowing there is nothing I could be doing outside other than running or walking in the rain. So I stay later, and come in earlier. The only time I go outside during daylight is to get lunch. This darkness drives people into hibernation in Vancouver. RIght now, across Vancouver, thousands of people are curling up on their couches to watch movies and get stoned.

My younger brother has been barely turned on a computer yet he has a more advanced presence than I do. Typically done with much less effort than it seems.

Last week my mom sent me my high school alumni newsletter, Loyola Today. The front page revealed that my grade 7 (or secondary one, as we called it) English teacher had been murdered by gunmen in Jamaica. HIs name was Martin Royackers, SJ. I went to a Jesuit all-boys Catholic school. The Jesuits were the renegades and mercenaries of the Catholic church. It was founded by a warrior, and his tradition carried through into more than a few of my teachers. Our principal went down to Nicaragua, in the darkest days of it civil war, for 10 months. His mission was to work with the local villages to help them protect themselves against the CIA sponsored death squads, or as Ronald Reagan euphemistically called them, The Freedom Fighters. In a civil war between a recently disposed corrupt family dynasty and a socialist revolutionary, dirt poor villagers had nothing to gain from either side, their lot was going to remain miserable regardless of who was in power; all they could offer was free food and hiding. However, his duties often found him involved in confrontations from both the Contras and Sandinistas.
Father Brennan had spent years in the Phillipines, organizing villagers against onother US backed family dynasty. One of his better stories is how he was late for work one day and had to run to the village church, from his shanty some 5 minutes by foot. He was forced to take a long detour through a swamp due to the poison spitting frogs that were blocking the path. The delay saved his life; when he arrived 17 vilagers lay slain in front of the church, shot by Marcos' soldiers.

Royackers was a tough but fair man who did not suffer fools gladly. He could recognize even a trace of effort and skill. But for those who showed neither, he had nothing but contempt, and he rode your ass until you were on your way out.