Anodyne
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
 
A Farewell to Arms

After all the unkind statements made here in the past about Mr. Hemingway, you'd think this an unlikely choice. Nonetheless, depressed and poverty-stricken, there I stood in Suburban Corporate Thrift Store last night, only to be accosted by a slightly unbalanced self-styled "book scout."

"What are you doing here?" was his opening line, followed by, "This is my turf." Followed by following me around, offering up books off the shelves:

"Do you need this one?" (Prince Charles: Portrait of a King-In-Waiting)

"No thanks."

"How about this one?" (Raise Your Puppy Right)

"Naw, that might take a while to sell."

"How about..." But I'd grabbed A Farewell to Arms and fled.

Not as manneristic as I'd imagined, with a few straight forward scenes that I want to later go back and carefully dissect (the awkward retreat from the front lines; some of the unvarnished descriptions of the mountainous Swiss landscape & etc.) and some more self-consciously "writerly" passages that quickly ripened into the "style" -- breathless purple prose -- clogging The Garden of Eden and Islands in the Stream.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
 
ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Ben Folds' and William Shatner's In Love, played repeatedly on Sunday until customers and Mr. John Tweed physically repossessed the deck. No autobiographical subtext implied; if I could simply quote the drums and keyboard riff in place of the lyrics, I would.
 
Unreal City

New Westminster's deserted Front Street swept by grey June evening rain. Tide high in the river. Wet black driftwood bumping along toward the distant sea. A troller working downriver, a guy in a yellow rain slicker smoking on the back deck, mechanically tending his lines.

A fisherman on the public pier reeling in, then carefully wrapping his wet Thermos in a Safeway bag.

"Get off at the next stop."

"I'll get off where I want," says the rough male voice beside me. "That's why I'm standing up."
 
Two wasted goth-chic junkies, guiding portable IV drips on poles, cross Davie Street near the hospital in the thinly falling rain.

"Does anyone know what day it is?"

"It's Thursday."

"Did I pick my cheque up yesterday?"

"No. Yesterday was Monday."

Heroin's insidious counter-circadian rhythm.
Monday, June 06, 2005
 
Asshole

#1:

7am's commute interrupted by Charles Manson's shambling half-brother at the corner of Broadway and Granville. This clown, regular readers will recall, is a guy who typically picks a small and defenseless person -- in my neighborhood, a Chinese or Vietnamese grandmother -- and stands right in front of them, blocking their path till they cough up enough for their release. He's also a raging racist and homophobe, "chink" and "faggot" being two expressions that regularly pass his lips when someone refuses to empty the contents of their purse/wallet into his grimy hands. There are some truly hard-luck cases on Vancouver's streets who have received coins, food, or books from me (on occasion, all three), but Manson isn't one of them.

So, accosted this morning, I respond just as I always do: "Fuck off, Manson."

Today's delightful wrinkle: a young man on a bicycle, who overhears and proceeds to curse me out as follows: "Hey asshole, poor-basher, that's not cool, dude! Betcha voted for Gordon Campbell, didn't you! Randite!"

Fortunately the express bus comes, preventing further escalation.

#2

Books arrive at work in the middle of a very...slow...day. The customer proceeds to take each item out of the box in turn and talk it up, as if flogging knives on late night TV.

Most of the books are either very old and battered, or remainder-table favorites. One, an art catalog, is passable. Our last copy moved at $12.95. My offer: "$5 in cash on this one and no thanks on the rest."

"Hah! Asshole! This was $85US on the Internet this morning," says the vendor, confusing, as amateurs typically do, his paperback reprint with an original. "Richard Nixon's honester [sic] than you! Fucking ripoff jerk! Fucking ASSHOLE!"

#3

Sharpie Book Scout arrives. Bleached-out Andy Warhol hair, bleached soul patch, cloying hail-well-met-my-brother attitude covering previous ethically sketchy behavior. Showed up last week with boxes of mostly manky trade paperback bestsellers: Snow Falling on Cedars, etc. I combed through, bought about 5% of them. "Gee, should I take these to your other store?" wondered Mr. Bright-Eyed Innocent. "No need," I replied, "If we've seen 'em at one, we've bought for both the stores."

"Oh, okay," said Mr. SBS, who then proceeded to break all speed records between Main and Kits, arriving less than 15 minutes later, only to be shut down by my crack staff. Undeterred, returned 3 days later with the same manky books. So today I thought a subtle word was in order, re-iterating that there was no need to walk his boxes down the road. On any other day, things would have ended there. Not today!

"Hey, man, what's with all the passive aggression?" (Probably the first time in my life I've been accused of being "passively" aggressive) "You need to get laid, dude, you're bein' an asshole."

"You're outta here," I informed him. "Good luck selling to some other gullible sap."

"Fucking ASSHOLE!"

Rinse 'n repeat....

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