I Am #Boomer, Hear Me Lecture! +PLUS+

Don Cherry: Don’t feel sorry for this outdated relic of a dumber, whiter, less inclusive time


A collage featuring Don Cherry, a poppy and some Muslim servicemen and their families.
“YOU PEOPLE”

To kick off today’s in-depth exploration of the obvious, let me ask you a question: Who gives a flying fuck about a miserable, bigoted, old white guy sportscaster with bad taste in clothing and worse taste in philosophy?

As it happens, I’m the first one hundred people who reply: Not me, Murgatroyd McGraw. Look—pockets empty. Not a single fuck left to give. But it is Christmas season coming. Ask me again on Boxing Day. Or, better yet, Epiphany!

For those of you not privy to, or interested in, the finer points of Canada’s sports world and its personalities, let it be known that Don Cherry worked—the past tense is deliberate— for decades as a sportscaster for Sportsnet, a subsidiary of Rogers Media. He was and is known for his ridiculously garish suits, his supposed dudely brilliance in the area of hockey coaching, playing and announcing, and his tough, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is 80-year-old heterosexual male bluster, which is just as tedious and backward and unapologetically, ear-splittingly raucous as you might expect.

Unfortunately, on Remembrance Day, Mr Cherry removed the puck from his mouth, became confused, and inserted both his feet instead.

Live on Sportsnet, Mr Cherry offered his opinion that “immigrants” were not buying enough red poppies and wearing them to honor the fallen, an opinion completely lacking in any factual basis.

“You people, you like our country, you like our milk and honey, you could at least spend a couple of bucks on a poppy and wear it.”

— Don Cherry

Let’s unpack this:

You people. You people who are immigrants, you people who are physically different, you people who aren’t white, you people with your funny clothes and accents, you people who are taking over, you people who want hand-outs, you people who are lazy, when you’re not you people taking all the jobs, you people who aren’t Christians, you people who aren’t real Canadians.

It’s astonishing how much hurt, hatred and damage can be packed into two little words. It’s shameful that someone can have missed the point so completely and thought it would be acceptable to make such a demeaning, patronizing, divisive and, yes, racist comment live on national television.

Rogers Media issued a statement apologizing for Cherry’s remarks, then fired his saggy white ass.

Predictably, middle-aged white guys are up in arms—well, actually, they’re in their La-Z-Boy recliners swilling Labatt’s 50—because Don Cherry got fired for stating his opinion. Freedom of speech!

But how was his freedom of speech curtailed? He said exactly what he wanted to say. Or is what you want to protect really freedom of speech without repercussions?

In the end, as I say ad nauseum, there is no such thing as complete freedom of speech, or of anything, for that matter; every freedom must be balanced with others’ freedoms, considering the common good. Freedoms come with adult responsibilities not to cause harm to individuals or to society.

But go ahead, Don, say whatever the hell you like, in private. I just don’t understand why you’re so damn proud of it.



And while I’m on this particular rant, let me take this opportunity to bemoan the hegemony of professional sports. (Sportsarchy?)

Hockey may be your national identity, fellow Canadian, but it ain’t mine. Please note that there are at least several of us who are not knuckle-dragging homophobes with no front teeth.

Sports is supposed to be the great leveler, a way for citizens to bond and feel a common cause. The whole gung-ho, well-rounded, wave your team’s flag and get shit-faced pro sports boondoggle reminds me of those Fascist parades with girls spinning Swedish medicine balls and precocious boys with way too much muscular development for their age. As Noam Chomsky has suggested, it’s a way to keep us occupied with something useless but addictive, anything that stops us thinking deeply about our world and fills up the time we’d be better off using for activism.

As excited as everyone is for me to be a “joiner,” I have always sashayed to the beat of my own drummer, or karaoke machine, depending on the night of the week. We don’t need to reduce everything to the highest common factor and dumb everything down until we’re spitting out our broken incisors and talking like Donald Trump, who’s made President of the United States, the most powerful position in the world, into a massive, developmentally-challenged fifteen-year-old’s macaroni picture that you stick on the fridge door.

In Canada, we have other pursuits besides holy hockey. For winter sports, climb onto a circular aluminum toboggan and swirl down the hill behind the primary school, right out into the oncoming traffic. Personally, I’m hot for skating with my ankles bent inward at a forty-five degree angle, and stopping myself by slamming into the cold, wet walls of the ice rink, or a concrete arch, if I’m in Nathan Phillips Square.

And culture, forever underfunded and relegated to “the elites,” is on our radar, too. Curl up with Margaret Atwood’s latest dystopian saga, a bottle of Seconal and some razor blades, or watch something by David Cronenberg involving people with new orifices growing out of their necks, a nasty sex virus and a posse of wise-cracking, animatronic bugs.

Sometimes I play the piano of an evening. And, trust me, no one was telling Beethoven, “You should get out more, Ludwig. You’ll never find your beloved—immortal, hanging on for dear life, or even prone to occasional nasty chest colds—sitting at home scratching out these—watchamacallilt, symphonies. Honestly, you really think Napoleon is gonna listen to this shit for an hour? My crazy Komponisten! Go out, live a little! Be a joiner! Fancy a Jagermeister jello shot? What? Oh, you mean I have to write that all down?

But most of all, I love to spend time at the Canadian Opera Company, where at any given performance you’ll find more combat, gore and hysterical screaming than you could shake a Zamboni at, but nothing aimed at your head that’s more dangerous than a high E-flat.

And there, resplendent in Balcony Three, and Canadian as all-get-out in my bow tie and loafers, I’ll stay.


I never thought I’d be in a position to complain about an entire generation being too concerned with getting things right. And I never envisaged the possiblity that this same generation, raised with LCD crystal displays for eyes and a 404 Not Found error message where their emotional intelligence should be, would feel empowered to talk back so sassy to their elders.

I’m interested in the mindset of perfectionism, seeing that this behavior is supposed to be the Achilles heel of Virgo, my astrological sign, and stop putting your hand over your mouth when you titter, I’m not fooled.

Over the past five to 10 years, Young People (which is everyone at least one year younger than me, just so we’re on the same page) sacrificed an entire country, the United States of America, on the altar of “if I can’t have Bernie, I don’t want nobody, baby” and during the same time Republicans, determined to thwart Obama’s every proposal, refused to engage the primary engines of democracy, namely, compromise and consensus. Frankly, I’ve begun to despise the entire concept of insisting on the most perfect manifestation of your ideals, up to and including the end whose bitterness is a foregone conclusion.

Here’s an example I stumbled on recently, in an online rag with a definite tilt to the far left called “Common Dreams.” It’s a short read, if you care to, is entitled

Obama’s Endorsement of Trudeau
Highlights Class Unity of the 1 Percent

and takes for its premise: “if Barack Obama truly cared about endorsing a progressive economic leader, or even a leader of colour just like him, he could have chosen Jagmeet Singh of the left-wing New Democratic Party. But he didn’t.”

(The link above opens a new tab. Of course it does! Jeezus. Who do you think this is, ol’ Grampa Wilkinson with the rosy-apple cheeks and his Princess telephone from 1971?)

Ah, to be young and dewy-eyed again! If it ain’t one hundred percent perfect, goes the sentiment, then we’ll take our votes (endorsement, goodwill, high fives or whatever benefit would have been forthcoming) and go home.

According to this mindset, for Obama to endorse Trudeau can only mean one thing: they’re part of an international cabal of the one percent (how much is Bernie Sanders worth, again?); and Trudeau’s lifting out of poverty of 300,000 children is just slight of hand to distract us from his….? What? Helping Hillary at the pizza parlour?

I’m as dumbstruck and angry as you about corruption and economic inequality—just ask Canada Revenue Agency—but good reporting, even good opinions, don’t result from taking a holier-than-thou stance then cramming the facts into it like an ugly sister’s foot into a glass slipper.

I dunno, is it possible that Obama holds progressive views, Justin holds progressive views, they’re great friends and Barack truly believed he was the best choice for Canadian Prime Minister (not that we vote directly for the prime minister, we vote for a party, as I keep reminding everyone in my snippy, know-it-all way)?

What’s Obama supposed to do? Endorse everyone so they won’t be hurt, like mom buying all the kids the same Christmas toy?

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party and a political novice, appears to be a man of great integrity, and demonstrated real leadership and finesse throughout his campaign, especially the way he handed Blackface-gate.

However, the idea of Barack Obama endorsing Jagmeet made me choke on my maple-glazed donut. It would be like Barack Obama endorsing Marianne Williamson for President, or doing a commercial for the Segway: utterly bizarre, laughable, a pity endorsement.

The New Democrats have never held power federally. Ever. Not in my entire lifetime and before and beyond. And Jagmeet Singh is a promising progressive voice, but with almost no experience. Normally we endorse a product that we’ve used and that we know works. Kind of thing?

Canadians definitely know how our dysfunctional first-past-the-post electoral system works, i.e. with results weirdly disconnected from the actual numerical vote count and with most of the parties ending up with few or no seats in Parliament. Is it any wonder that many voters feel that their participation was a waste of effort? In Ontario, after a year enduring the awful oppression of Conservative premier Doug Ford’s “balanced budget” (translation: cuts to essential services), we weren’t about to let the Conservatives and their dissembling leader, Andrew Scheer, anywhere near the driver’s seat.

We voted strategically, holding our noses about the blackface pictures, for the Liberal Party. This past federal election was, for Canadians, desperately important. We had endured the Harper years, like Trump years currently, just quieter, and we needed to send a message about keeping our progressive image and values. We barely succeeded.

I’m also sorry to see yet another tiresome iteration of the Conservative baloney about SNC-Lavalin, our lame Canadian attempt at a scandal that would be user-friendly, not involve sex or drugs and get everyone to bed by ten PM after making hot chocolate, watching Peter Mansbridge, then brushing and flossing.

In this particular scandal involving the corrupt dealings with Middle Eastern clients of a Canadian firm, the Ethics Commissioner misinterpreted his own legislation to the extent that, were his interpretation followed to its logical conclusion, every tax break and every other incentive to any corporation would have to be judged a breach of ethics.

Then there was the “pressure.” The choice was: litigation or remediation (hefty fines). The legislation allowing remediation was tabled by the CONSERVATIVES. The execs at SNC had already done their time, and there was nothing to be gained by litigation except the probable loss of 9,000 jobs. That was the issue that caused Trudeau to “pressure” the Attorney General, Little Orphan Jody.

Imagine the blow-back if the company had folded due to the litigation. “Did no one see this coming?” everyone would have shouted. Well… yes. Justin. Can you say, “can’t win this one”?

Then of course, as soon as Trudeau shows any backbone and demotes her in a carefully-calibrated-to-be-obvious cabinet shuffle, it turns out it’s the wrong kind of backbone. He fired a woman! He must not be feminist after all! He fired a member of the Indigenous community! He’s racist!

Please. I’m as feminist and as supportive of Indigenous rights as it’s possible for a white male oppressor to be, and I’ll happily state that Jody Wilson-Raybould was incompetent and not up to the pressures of her appointment. If anything, Trudeau erred on the side of over-confidence in appointing her.

I’m disappointed with Trudeau’s having made empty promises; but to use what fell off the table to utterly discount his other significant achievements is unbalanced, unfair and maybe just the tiniest bit immature.

Remember this: Justin deliberately ran a deficit.

For a few decades, “austerity” (but only for the middle class) has been touted around the world like a regifted Christmas sweater and foisted on one unwilling citizenry after another. I nearly wept for joy when Justin declared that he was going to spend some money to take care of infrastructure and to stimulate the economy, and when he declared that running a deficit was OK.

To be OK with a deficit flouted economic dogma. To be OK with a deficit and even smile about it was just unseemly. To spend like a good old-fashioned Keynesian economist while all the world worships the golden calf of Milton Friedman was a big mud in yer eye to the austerity drones.

Everyone who fails to keep a promise isn’t part of a sinister cabal or just pretending to be progressive.

World leaders, if you haven’t noticed, have fairly full schedules, which includes responsibilities to all citizens.They also have to have, up to a point, rather stinky diplomatic relations with autocrats, which does not constitute condoning their actions, necessarily; and they must engage in other imperfect, messy, reality-based activities that nonetheless have concrete and positive results, such as promoting human rights both at home and abroad.

My heart sincerely goes out to Young People, who’ve been taught from birth to expect instant connections and even faster results, who’ve lost the art of subtle thinking in direct proportion to their disdain for reading and therefore history, which means re-inventing the wheel, with no benefit of context or any notion of degree, countless times in a day.

Young People have been saddled with moral, spiritual and geophysical debts of every kind just as the last of us boomers are preparing to leave spaceship earth, waving farewell with our angel wings and mouthing, “Good luck, suckers!”

We fucked up. Everything. Our fragile, wounded planet. The climate. How we raise children. Sex. The way we grow lima beans. Justice. Relationships. Choosing VHS instead of Betamax. Everything.

I know this. I literally tear up when I see the frustration and anger, above all, the lost innocence of the next generation as they realize, at way too young an age to fully understand its enormity, the grand larceny we’ve committed in the name of greed and profit.

And the white male oligarchs of greed and profit have no remorse. They react in outrage at outspoken Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old climate activist from Sweden, seeing in her nothing but teenage rebellion and lack of respect, when they should be begging for her forgiveness. She is the sad avatar of her generation, children forced prematurely into adulthood as they struggle to salvage something from the wreckage in order to live. They are the new chimney sweeps.

Nothing is perfect. Insults are not political argument. There are shades of grey for the same reason that there are emergency generators and the cloud. You need a Plan B. You need to keep what works and throw out what is not working. You can’t, and you don’t need to, throw out everything.

What works, what lubricates the gears of democracy?

Compromise. Consensus. Slow, gradual, incremental change is how liberalism works (unless your country will be underwater in ten years. That merits a bit more speed). Consider how France descended into the Terror through rigid ideology that renamed the very months of the year and enforced its codes with the guillotine, and compare how England, stodgy and tradition-bound, established liberalism and true freedom through a slowly evolving concept of precedent and the inviolable rule of law.

The neoliberalism we hate is an ideology, not an economic theory. There is no such thing as a democratic ideology, because ideologies are rigid boxes. Neoliberalism is profoundly undemocratic.

So is revolution.

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What’s More Shameful Than Nude Photos of a Member of Congress?

thinking that they’re shameful.



LET ME STATE THIS RIGHT OFF THE BAT: Revenge porn is sexual assault. And Katie Hill, the thirty-two-year-old Democratic representative for California’s 25th District who has resigned over nude photos of her leaked by her ex, has been violated as completely as if she’d been raped.

Though you be in sunny Des Moines and I in Toronto, I can hear you think, “Nonsense. Katie Hill suffered embarrassment, but not the physical horror of rape.” And I agree with you.

Nonetheless, psychological horror is as real as physical, and can scar someone irrevocably. Violation is not confined to the physical. Assault is legally described as “the least of touching without consent,” and can also include a threat, if the person under threat believes that the threat is real and imminent. This removes any mitigating idea of degree, that below a certain threshold it’s not assault.

What is being defended here is the integrity of body and mind. To rape is to annihilate a woman’s ownership and control of their own body, to render them powerless, to break them. Rape is negation.

Rape means a woman having to process the contradictory ideas that she is both a victim (weak), but in ways subtle and overt, also the perpetrator, because she “brought it on herself.” In rape, a woman becomes the specific target of generalized male powerlessness turned to rage.

Women enrage men, because heterosexual men are eternally in competition with each other on every level; sexual conquest is a primary way for a man to “win” the competition. In the sexual realm it appears at first that women call the shots, picking and choosing from the roster of strutting competitors.

But male identity is a fragile construct that needs constant shoring up. Men live in a constant state of sexual anxiety, and as they jockey for their place in the pecking order, humiliation is a constant threat. One humiliation too many, and a poorly socialized male with a wounded ego can react with aggression against its perceived cause.

A humiliated male is a dangerous beast.

Don’t try to win this one. Either she was too sexual and therefore an irresistable temptation (a whore), or she was not sexual enough and therefore distant and cold, a rejection ( a bitch). There is no change of women’s behavior that will create safety for women because women aren’t the problem and never have been, except in men’s minds.

Katie Hill, in other words, was asking for it.

It boggles my mind, already heavily into boggled mode as the impeachment circus enters the Big Top, that nude pictures of Katie Hill should even be an issue, especially when there is a US President who enumerates his nauseating sexual “conquests” with nothing less than full macho (insecure) locker-room pride and whose advice to “grab ’em by the pussy” remains his most eloquent, or at least most famous, contribution to modern political discourse.

This gives an extra edge to that bitter joke:
“What’s the definition of a slut?
A woman with the morals of man.”

Women are still judged by a supposedly exalted standard based on the assumption that men get to control, in fact, own, women. They’re judged on virginal innocence and “purity,” especially in North America, where Puritan mores are deeply embedded in our culture.

You must forgive a man his little dalliances (abuse, rape?), goes the idea, because that’s just the way men are; but the unavoidable conclusion is that women are still men’s property, and who wants damaged, or even used, goods?

Women are pilloried when they presume to enter public life. The trope of the dumb blonde emphasizes the role of women as decorative, not useful. You can be pretty or smart, preferably the former, and never both. Incompetence, acceptable if feigned but preferably real, removes any threat a woman might pose to a man’s fragile ego; it’s another infantilizing way to be innocent.

When women refuse to stay in their place, they’re swiftly punished. They’re told to keep their mouths shut, for the sound of a woman’s public voice is always deemed to be intolerable: “strident,” “shrill;” always piercing and unpleasant when she is usurping public space. It’s too much like a harping mother, that original castrator.

Women who insist on being competent pay for that trespass. They’re ugly, they’re lesbian, or, for example, in Michelle Obama’s or Amal Clooney’s case, the rumor begins to circulate online that they’re actually men who’ve had sex reassignment surgery, and their husbands gay, because how could a real woman be so strong ,confident ,intelligent and successful? How could a real man tolerate being married to such a woman? (Apparently, not at all, though the assessment ‘real man’ is entirely in the mind of the troll.)

I never stop mentioning, so I might as well continue, my shock at seeing a particular meme of Hilary Clinton prior to the 2016 election. It had been posted by a young male Sanders supporter and pictured her speaking into a cell phone, with the caption, “Shut the bitch up.”

It doesn’t matter what you think of Clinton’s campaign or policies, because obviously that’s not what shut the bitch up is about. It’s about the outrage of a man that arises from the idea of a woman occupying a man’s rightful place.

Forty years of feminism, I thought, seem to have been for nothing. Powerful women are still “bitches” (a female dog, literally; compare “subhuman” and “infestation”) and that imperative to shut them up carried a not-so-subtle undercurrent of violence, because how, exactly, does one shut the bitch up when apparently she has no interest in doing so of her own accord?

I see this happening right now, all over again, with Elizabeth Warren. The Twitter and YouTube trolls are lined up at their computer keyboards like the elves in Santa’s workshop, chipping away at her credibility and character. Who’s she compared to? Narcissistic, unelectable Bernie Sanders, another old white entitled male, because anyone but a woman, although it’s framed as “there’s no money for her policies” i.e. “socialist.” And Bernie isn’t?

She stands head and shoulders above the other Democratic candidates (and I’m gay, if I thought Pete was better I’d damn well want to say so), she’s done her time in the trenches and she’s fierce in speaking truth to power.

That’s the problem.

In a just world, Katie Hill’s ex-husband would be charged for the vicious act of sending these images without her consent, the public would be outraged by his violation of her privacy, and a woman would enter relationships with the same freedom as a man, without it affecting her career prospects or being judged “sinful.”

For make no mistake, workplace ethics and power differentials be damned: this is about sin, and Katie Hill is wearing the scarlet letter with more eyes fixed upon her than Hawthorne could ever have imagined possible. Mike Pence must be singing hallelujah.

In a just world, consensual sex between adults would be seen as natural, normal and good, and unworthy of comment, so that the very idea of shame in this context wouldn’t even arise. Ditto our frail, marvelous, imperfect human bodies. We’d have nothing to hide.

But maybe I meant to say in a perfect world.

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On Being a Clown



With the Canadian Federal Election over and the shenanigans down south reaching a point that is stretching even my credulity, I find it’s time to gather myself together and get back, at least temporarily, to the original intent of this blog.

Namely, to generate a whole cartload, a veritable eighteen-wheeler container-truck-full, of me-directed attention.

Clowns, like me, are attention hogs. Something was missing early on. Maybe my mother left me on the soft, nurturing shoulder of Highway 401, outside Pickering Nuclear Power Station, and I took it personally. Or instead of her nipple—and I get an ugh-y shudder of Oedipal horror as I type the word—or the sexless, 1950’s Frankenstein substitute, pacifier and bottle, she offered me a drag on her Craven “A” King Size.

Already hungry for attention, it’s just possible I accepted. After all, I’d been smoking half a pack a day since conception.

Something was missing, but I was only a kid and hadn’t yet grasped what was supposed to be there in the first place. At any given moment, my father was away, as a traveling salesman needs must be, and, on reflection, my mother spent more time in bed than seemed strictly necessary.

Something was off-kilter. A screw was loose. When my father was due to return from a trip, my mother would hiss, “Hide the knives!” which created an atmosphere of morbid suspense around his arrival that was as thrilling as it was mystifying. I never saw my father wield a knife unless there was a dead turkey on the dining table.

Perhaps my mother was sending a coded signal that she didn’t want any more children, or, for that matter, sex, and thought “hide the knives!” got the Freudian point across more subtly than “Step away from the penis, George.”

Occasionally, when summer thunder drew close and beat its head on the storm windows, I would awaken, startled, to see my mother in my bedroom doorway, her hair incandescent, like the corona of an eclipsed sun. Her nightgown billowed around her and terror’s sheet lightning would crackle across the surface of my body.

Once, when I had a childhood fever, I awoke to the sight of a wolf lying at the foot of my bed. Then I awoke again, in reality, dredged up by the struggle to cry out that produced only macabre silence. The bedclothes were cold and wet, as if someone had thrown a bucket of water onto me.

The fever had broken, and instantly I forgot what fever was, could not conceive of it. My convalescence felt light, every physical indignity, everything clenched and cramped and muddy, was now breathing like a newborn, fragrant, limpid. I felt as though I been forgiven for something vicious and irrevocable I had done in a previous life, then forgotten.

One day when I was twenty-six the malaise descended upon me once again like a hot wool blanket, burning sand sifted through my joints and vesicles weeping yellow serum erupted over the entire surface of my body; I understood for the first time what it meant to want to die if that was the only possible release. I was convinced I had syphilis and my lover, frantic with worry, drove me to his private doctor, who took one look and diagnosed chicken pox

—whenever fever came again I couldn’t imagine what it had felt like not to be hot, foul, aching and full of bodily grief. Sickness became my temporary occupation and demanded full commitment.

Later, when I fell in love again, love was a lot like having a fever and then not having one.


So I’m a clown first of all because I’m hungry for attention and they didn’t know what to make of me, this kid who liked music, sat and listened, transfixed, to the Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah and the Roman Carnival Overture on old 33 rpm records; this kid who preferred sitting with the girls reading books and spending his other time alone, this shy kid who spoke like he’d been to elocution classes, with a vaguely British accent.

Being the clown told them what to make of me. I was someone who was there to entertain, to keep their brains fizzing with fun and sunshine, and I discovered that to entertain, to not be taken seriously and to keep them guessing, was power.

A clown is a distancing persona, very handy for fending off the tentacles of need. I’m never happier than when avoiding intimacy, because what most people call intimacy I call manipulation, co-dependence, guerrilla warfare and vampirism.

I’m a clown, we’re clowns, because we’ve decided to direct laughter at life rather than wallowing in its sorrow. Sorrow takes care of itself, insinuates itself into all available space, settles into the cracks and crevices like the black soot in the Toronto air that settles onto my window ledges. If you’re lazy, which I am, you do your best to normalize it, and after a while stop seeing how infested your life has become with mundane sorrow.

But if you have character, which I do, you’ll eventually experience one of those inconvenient sunny mornings when the shafts of gawd-light illuminate every single speck of black soot, giving each fusty dust mote a three-dimensional, Rembrandt-y heft, and you’ll sigh, roll up your sleeves and borrow someone’s vacuum cleaner.

Sorrow is the black soot of life, laughter the vacuum cleaner. Sorrow will happen anyway, but being a clown requires positive action: The exercise of intelligence, which I have, the near-involuntary urge, rising almost to lust, for making imaginative and unseemly connections, that’s to say, wit; and the desire to flaunt one’s personal style.

Laughter defies authority and will not be the square peg in the square hole. It refuses to follow the rules. You can’t have a dictatorship if the people are laughing.

A clown’s life trajectory requires courage: “Will anyone but me get this? Will they find it funny or just gross, or incomprehensible, or shallow or petty? Do I deserve the attention I’m apparently seeking?”

On the surface this is merely a continual demand for validation and a maddening exercise in narcissistic self-doubt, but the thirst for attention makes us courageous, a synonym for shameless or idiotic, take your pick.

Because to be a clown, to be funny, you have to be willing to make a fool of yourself, even thrive on it. It’s a very specific kind of foolishness: The foolishness you’re willing to take on, never the kind that is imposed on you.

But most of all, clowns become clowns because we have decided to laugh at ourselves—reduce ourselves to the butt of an amusing story about our stupidity or credulity or incompetence—before you get a chance to.

We instinctively know that there’s nothing more truly humiliating or bathetic than pomposity when it encounters a blank stare, nothing riskier than taking yourself seriously without a truly world-class problem to justify your brittle superior smile and dead, inward-directed eyes.

Sorrow is the black soot of life,
laughter the vacuum.

We take ourselves seriously because we are young and we think that no one has ever had this experience before, ever. Our love affair, our accident, our illness or our insight into why the moon and stars behave the way they do, we encounter each of these with the gobsmacked gaze of an infant staring at her handful of mushy carrots or squealing with terrified delight as the family dog licks her face.

Once you realize that there are no new experiences, no new ways of being in love, of being loved, of being out of love, of rejecting love because it is love (“you say I’m terrific but your taste was always rotten,” and thank you, Stephen Sondheim); of hurting oneself or hurting to the limits of destruction the person we love the most;

Once we realize that there are no original ideas, not one, not one single example of any idea you have now or have had or will have, that is original; when we realize that cavewomen and men were telling each other knock-knock jokes and why did the pterodactyl cross the road? back in the whatever-cene era, once you realize this, around the age of sixty-four, which I am, and stop taking your ideas, your problems and your life so goddamned seriously—you will be liberated.

And you will laugh.

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Leaving Quyon


Leaving Quyon, an elegy.  An autumnal scene of a rustic shed, tree trunks, a bench and trees with fall colors
The past is another planet.

Forty long years ago, I met a guy and fell. It was one of those holiday things: I was visiting Canada from England, where I was living, and was heading back there in a week or so. He was—is—a choreographer-dancer on a trajectory that would end in brilliant success, awards, esteem. I, on the other hand, was muddling through, though I daresay looking rather pretty with it.

My heart, not for the first or the last time, broke; cracked like porcelain, erupted like Vesuvius, and when our sojourn of sex ended I experienced, not for the first or the last time, the sensation that an essential part of me had been—not lopped off, oh no; more like maimed, and I would henceforth and forever have to drag around this mangled horror while putting on a brave face and pretending I was whole.

At the beginning of October, 2016, we saw each other again, for the first time since 1978. I was then 61. He was, I would like to say, ageless, and I know he would like that, too. I went to visit him in Quyon, about sixty miles outside Ottawa on the Gatineau, Québec side of things.

He had been living in a outwardly ramshackle four-storey beast of a house that, in fact, once you got past the front doors, revealed a mix of modern necessities and even luxuries—under which rubric does a sunken, heart-shaped bathtub fall, I wonder—and that eclectic, eccentric collector’s style that makes a dwelling into a cozy and endlessly fascinating museum of one’s life.

This is where he had held workshops, mentored dancers, acted as a choreographic dramaturge for visiting groups. And his time here was coming to an end: the house sold during the four days I was there. 

The past is another planet. I no longer know either of the young men who inhabited it. When it was time to leave, when he held me and I wept like my heart would break yet again and yet again, I had a dizzying, frantic perception, like a film reel scattering its millions of individual cells, of the arc of time that bound this moment to our first.

Every act contributed: every time I had chosen one street over another, one particular meal, whether or not to skip class, or to hold my tongue or speak my mind, to be friends or enemies or whether to eat toast with jam or drink my coffee black: Like Alice on the recalcitrant road that mocks her plucky determination and flings her back to the present at every attempt to escape, my freedom had been illusory, and I, too, ended up at a destination I could never have foreseen.

This is, I believe, the perception I will have at the moment of my death: Roses touching my fingers when I am an infant, reaching up to a sun burning through summer curtains, my anxious mother’s cheek pressed to mine, all my loves and my cruelties, my grief and my regrets falling away as I step over the boundary

beyond which, for all I know, I may meet her again, meet each and every one of them again, face to beloved face.

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all photos © 2019, David Roddis.

Well, thank gawd THAT’s over…

… and now, back to reality.

The natural ruling party of Canada, the Liberals, didn’t exactly ace the election, but, considering Justin’s lapses of taste at costume parties and his penchant for making little Attorney General girls cry, they didn’t do too badly.

Doug Ford still looks like this, though:

The mirthless maniac Muppet-grin.

I don’t want to confuse my international fans. Dug-Up is the Ontario Premier (think governor), and his leadership wasn’t being contested last night; this was a Canada-wide Federal election, not a provincial one.

But he is of the Conservative Party in its most egregiously awful form, and in response to his repressive neoliberal economic policies, his corruption and his general repugnance, and as a statement that we could not allow Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to turn back the clock on our Progressive values, Toronto sent a clear message about Conservatives in general and voted Liberal en masse, sending Dougie a well-deserved smack in the gob, punch in the kisser, slap in the mug, et cetera.

This is, seriously, the political map of Toronto’s ridings as of last night:

Yep. That’s red for Liberal. Every friggin’ seat. I’m sorry I doubted you, fellow Canadians. We head into the future with the New Dems set to hold Trudeau to his promises and continue our push leftward, against the worldwide trend.

You see, Canadians are slow to anger, but we know what makes us unique and essential and we aren’t about to let some skanky Alberta Con destroy that for some pipeline and a few trashed abortion clinics.

Alberta now wants to separate. Sulk much? That’s the way to lose, Western Canada, by picking up your Super Mario handsets and leaving in a huff. Well, no cigar. You won’t get your laughable referendum or your land-locked independent, oil-guzzling, backward dictatorship.

You’ll just have to pull on your long pants, sit at the grown-ups’ table and learn to talk polite. Also, stop mushing your peas together with the mashed potatoes and eating them with a spoon. It ain’t fittin’.

You see, it’s a well-recognized fact that Alberta has been so totally Conservative for so long, they’ve lost the feel for democracy. This was made most obvious during the secretive and anti-democratic regime of that ur-Albertan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who prorogued Parliament not once but twice, destroyed science-based climate change studies and refused to honor subpoenas from the Commons that requested information on his government’s support for torture.

Harper, who despised the idea of a Canadian identity and ridiculed Canadians’ insistence that our values did not align with those of the US, openly declared, “I get more work done when Parliament isn’t in session.”

In other words, the work of democracy stood in the way of his agenda; he wanted more than anything to turn democracy inside out and to make a government of men, not laws. The parallels to Trump are real and frightening. This is the attitude that the rest of the country, and Trudeau, now must contend with, and there currently aren’t enough corners, dunce caps or time-outs to meet the demand.

I’ll weigh in more after I’ve had a chillaxing foam bath, attended by my election acolytes, many of whom look an awful look like the hunky Pete Buttigieg and some of whom look an awful lot like the luscious Seth Myers— I’ve choked the chicken over Trudeau so many times, it’s become just another old plateful of coq au vin—while sipping a lightly fizzed, boutique brewed, all-Canadian-apple hard cider with just a hint of pamplemousse.

Afterwards, I’ll choose my evening’s entertainment with care to complement my buoyant mood. No, I’m not tending toward the circus spectacle of Mulvaney telling Americans to “get over” the quid pro quo that apparently happens “all the time,” or of Trump trashing the “phony emoluments clause” of the US Constitution, as horribly entertaining as those are. I’m taking a day off from easy targets and obvious pleasures.

I need some depth.

So instead, I’ll prepare a bag of microwave popcorn, add extra salt and butter, settle into my armchair (outfitted with a fully plumped-up hemorrhoid cushion), then, when the priest gets pushed offstage, I’ll pump my fist and scream, “YESSSSSS!”

It’s a good, liberal life.

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