Friday, July 30, 2004

Anderson River Group from the east. Alpaca Peak is the long ridge in the foreground, whose base I traversed in the morning, left to right, and then back along the ridge crest in the late afternoon, right to left. Bighorn Peak is 2km out of the picture along the lower right hand ridge. A lot less snow now, of course. Photo courtesy Dru Posted by Hello
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Waltzing With the Ungulates (Solo Ascents of Bighorn and Alpaca Peaks)
Trip report posted to

Sometimes the best trips come about by serendipity.

One hot July afternoon, I prolong my lunch break by walking down Broadway to Office Depot for some envelopes and cash register ribbons. MEC’s book department beckons insidiously as I wander by. “I’ll just go in for a second,” I tell myself. “Just a quick look at the nature guides.” Forty minutes later I’ve read all the good bits in Alpinist #7, the Powell River Rock guide, and, hey, isn’t that the new edition of the Beckey guide? Wonder what he has to say about Unnamed Obscure Peak in the Chilliwack Valley?

Lots, as it turns out. But then the book flops open at geologist George M. Dawson’s 1879 description of the Anderson River Group: “Looking up the valley of the Anderson, in a bearing of S 6 degrees E, a great block of higher mountains at a distance of about thirteen miles, can be seen. On the west of the group is an irregular conical peak, nearly vertical on one side. These summits must reach an altitude of 7,000 to 8,000 feet.” Dawson’s words make me think of Patagonia, and then about how little I’ve actually explored close to home. I use $50 of my Office Depot money to buy the Beckey guidebook and federal map 92 H/11, “Spuzzum.”

Fast forward a few weeks. Drew posts a road bulletin for the Upper Coldwater, declaring it 2WD. I stumble across the bulletin on a slow Monday afternoon, and, an hour or two later, check the road access against the Beckey guide and the topo map. Beckey and Bivouac both agree it’s possible to get close to timberline with a passenger car. A call to the weather office confirms 24 hours of sunshine and light wind. Another call, to Anonymous Car Rental Agency, turns up a Toyota Echo. I leave a possible route description with my staff and take off to collect the car, then lie through my teeth as the rental clerk directs my attention to the contract clause reading, VEHICLE MUST BE DRIVEN ON PAVED ROAD. And it will be, too, at least for part of the trip.

East through the Fraser Valley at 11pm with the Fine Young Cannibals on the car stereo. Up the Coquihalla in choking clouds of dust from the obligatory summer road refinishing project. Through the toll booth at 1am. On the Upper Coldwater at 1:20am. I drive slowly with my high beams on, following the road as it winds among the dark trees. Though I don’t want to admit it at the time, I’m a little scared. If anything goes wrong, it will be 48 hours or more before anyone’s looking for me. Plus, the dark night and three-quarters moon spurs other, more supernatural thoughts: the hooded yellow eyes peering from the woods up ahead; the skeletal grin and long bone-white fingers in the rearview mirror. The hair rises slowly on the back of my neck as I drive past shotgun shell-pocked road signs and the moon floats up over a low hill to flood the empty cut block with bright white light.

Past a Forest Service recreation site at km 7 the road narrows. Branches scrape off the side of the car, and rocks thunk off the undercarriage. Then something lurches out in front of me, which I take at first for a sick or injured snafflehound. But it isn’t. It’s a frog. More accurately, the biggest frog I have ever seen in my life. Its body is as big as my clenched fist, and its legs are as long as my fingers. I get a good look at it as it hops across the road in the moonlight and into the underbrush. Around the next bend, another frog. Around the next, five more. By the time I pass the km 12 mark I have seen seventeen huge frogs.

There’s a bridge out just past km 12. The car’s headlights reflect on a shallow dark slow moving stream. I briefly contemplate a four-figure tow job and call a halt for the night. I put up my tent at the side of the road and crawl into my sleeping bag, then fail to fall asleep quickly enough to not transform every rustle of leaves or stream’s splash into the stealthy approach of some supernatural intruder.

Sunrise. I poke my head outside. I’m camped at the edge of the last big cutblock before the valley’s walls rise up all around. I pick out Alpaca, Vicuna, Gazuma and Llama Peaks, all familiar from the Beckey guide and Bivouac. Twenty minutes later I’m shouldering my pack and heading up the road.

As it turns out, not driving through the stream was a good idea, because the driveable road only extends another half a kilometer or so. It then forks, with the left hand fork going to a cut block below the Llama-Alpaca col, and the right hand fork crossing another creek and then climbing up to a cutblock below Vicuna. Both these spurs are massively deactivated with extreme cross ditching, no bridges, and logs dropped across the road every (in the case of the Llama fork) thirty or forty feet. You might be able to get a Jawa Sand Crawler through. Maybe.

I choose the right hand fork, and, after crossing the Coldwater River on some rocks (less exciting than it sounds; at this point, the river is about as big as the creek across the street I grew up with as a kid), begin to climb slowly NNE through a cut block. Bivouac describes a signed trail about 400m up the road, but I’m unable to find it, so, after about twenty minutes, when a totally overgrown road cuts back into the cut block, I follow it, and immediately begin to flounder through fireweed, blueberries, baby pines, devil’s club, & etc. Once the bush gets really bad I churn straight uphill to the edge of the cutblock, and into the woods beyond, which are just as steep, and, truthfully, not that much less overgrown. I plough on, not knowing exactly where I’m going, but reasoning that, so long as I keep heading NNW, I’ll eventually run into the 2km-long flank of Alpaca Peak. Occasional holes in the forest cover disclose views of Vicuna Peak’s granite crest high above. And, soon enough, I emerge, soaked in sweat but happy, into the meadows just east of the Alpaca-Vicuna col. Marmots whistle sharply from the fridge-size white boulders that dot the hillside. A wind comes up, taking the heat off the day. I contour up into the col proper, shoot some pictures, eat some lunch. It’s shaping up to be a great day.

Through the col and down the long, scree-studded slope on the other side. I countour along below Alpaca’s slabby NE face, crossing over steep snow slopes and down smooth granite ledges covered with bits of scree. At one point, a pretty impressive rockslide comes flying off Alpaca’s high grey walls and sprays bowling ball-sized shrapnel across the snow a few hundred yards ahead of me. I’m wearing a helmet, but I nonetheless take the hint and travel further down on the slabs, sticking to the edges where streams of meltwater have pooled into substantial lakes and tarns.

Up onto the long flat ridge that runs from Alpaca to the day’s target, little-climbed Bighorn Peak, two kilometers north along the ridge. But first another water break and pictures, of the Anderson River Group rising high to the west. The sound of a chainsaw floats up from a cutblock on the far side of the valley, and a little red pickup zips down the Anderson mainline, a child’s toy at this distance, raising a huge cloud of brown dust behind it. Other than these things, and one jet contrail high in the sky, the world is bright and warm and still.

Along the ridgeline past little tarns and brilliant humming patches of heather, fragrant and bee-hung. Then Bighorn Peak’s slabby south face rises before me. The Beckey guide calls this peak “a hike,” which isn’t really accurate, it’s more like class 2-3, with some exposure near the top. The climb goes as follows: ascend granite slabs to half height (class 2, like the hardest parts of the Chief’s Second and Third Peaks). The objective is to reach a distinctive “brush ledge” that cuts the face from west to east. Walk to the right hand edge of the ledge and trend up and right on sloping ledges to pass beneath two huge, totally distinctive boulders with a pie-shaped wedge missing from each (class 3, slippery when wet, big drop below). Scramble back left to the broad summit ridge and cairns. When descending, take care to always turn to the right, so as not to end up on a series of steeply sloping ledges dropping off into space.

Half an hour later I’m back on the ridge, and, in a fit of inspiration or heat exhaustion, decide to end the day by traversing over Alpaca and on down to the valley. I slog back along the ridge, wilting a bit in the heat, and then up Alpaca’s grassy NW ridge. The ridge starts off wide and steep, a bit like the standard route on Needle Peak, then gets progressively narrower, steeper, and wet. The crux is 20-odd feet of stiff wet 3rd class scrambling, then the ridge kicks back to the summit plateau with its double cairns and little tarn. I shoot some more photographs and bask in the sun. Then fall asleep with my hat over my eyes. When I wake up, the shadows have grown. Time to go! I descend Alpaca’s long south ridge toward Llama Peak, but overshoot the ridge that drops into a grassy bowl below the Alpaca-Llama col. Half an hour of thrashing down through wide krummholtz-infested ledges puts me in the first subalpine trees. But as usual, bluffs, several hundred feet high, separate me from the valley below. This time, though, I draw upon past experience and head toward, not away from, the head of the valley. I pick the largest trees I can find, duck under them, and start downhill. Within fifteen minutes I intersect a flagged route that leads steeply downhill and, eventually, into unlogged old growth. The flagging finally spits me out at the edge of a cut block below Llama Peak’s eastern face. All that remains is to stagger through the clearcut, down the deactivated logging road, and into the creek by the car, where I scrub away some of the dirt and salt and sweat and try to puzzle out where the bear is that left the huge, still-steaming piles around the tent in my absence.

Down the road a kilometer or two, is the answer. A big one, too, jet-black and as tall as my shoulder. Maybe out looking for toads in the twilight. Doesn’t hurry, even when I honk, just gives me a slow, Clint Eastwood-style appraisal and steps off into the woods, with that funny swinging walk they all have.

Home at midnight. In bed by 1am. The best sight on the way home, the moon rising full over Mount Cheam from near the Herrling Island turnoff, the huge mountain all black and white in the light, like a Rembrandt etching, or the woodblock print W.P. Weston made from that location in the late 1930s. A fitting end to my best day in the mountains in years.

Stan Persky reads The Da Vinci Code, from Dooney's Cafe:

"“’Tell me about the Priory of Sion,’ said Sophie.” Robert gulps at the scenery, and then goes into lecture mode. “’The Priory of Sion,’ he began, ‘was founded in Jerusalem in 1099 by a French king named… [blahblahblah].’ Sophie nodded, her eyes riveted on him.” ‘Nother big glob of explanation follows. “Sophie looked uncertain.” Onto the Knights Templar. “Sophie glanced up with a surprised look of recognition.” More Templar. “Sophie already looked troubled.” “Sophie looked confused.” “Sophie looked uneasy.” “Sophie looked skeptical.” And so she should, poor dear. Yes, Sophie looked skeptical. “I’ve never heard of it,” she says of the reference in the last glob of exposition. “’Sure you have,’ Langdon smiled. ‘You’re just used to hearing it called by the name Holy Grail.’” Cue music. Cue Harrison Ford in his Indiana Jones tweeds. Cue the smoldering gazes."

Overheard in the Kingsgate Mall BCLDB lineup:

"As an adult I wouldn't want my kids doing it. But as a kid I had a good time."

Fish Head and Salt Man Save the Day! -- "artistic," nay, surrealistic use of Flash in a commercial context (thx Michael and John)

Monday, July 26, 2004

Gone climbing. See y'all Thursday. Posted by Hello

Sunday, July 25, 2004
Fungibility and bookselling -- a still-current essay from Dooney's Cafe


Stayed up all night with this, ex-Vancouver Review editor Bruce Serafin's first book.  Serafin writes better than 99% of his local contemporaries, and I really admire his clear-eyed, lucid prose.  The book's structure confounds me -- lurching and jerking around like a plane in turbulence -- but I made it all the way through in one go, nodding at the accuracy of the reported dialogues and his dead-on and utterly unsentimental analysis of West Coast academic and class politics.

"How powerful social structures can be.  The professor smiles; I sit before her with my back bent, my head lowered, a man in his forties unable to make the quip that would ease the emotions her words provoked.  Those emotions resulted (I realize now) from the class structure that ordered the room; more exactly, they were due to the experience of being put in your place, the quintessential colonial experience, which I had reacted to the way people have always reacted to such experiences, unable to salve the wound and unable to wound back."Posted by Hello

Saturday, July 24, 2004
Font Change 
Georgia somethingorother.  Feeling brave enough now to mess around under the hood with the CSS settings on my own. 

Two terrific Cascadian natural history publishers:

Lone Pine Press -- publishers of two comprehensive British Columbia plant life guidebooks, and a not quite as good one on Western Canadian mushrooms 

Timber Press, Portland, Oregon -- publisher of the best one-volume wild mushroom guide I have ever owned, proudly purchased at dour Mr. Henderson's amazing bookstore in downtown Bellingham

One of my old employers just started selling used books, in an apparent attempt to stave off bankruptcy.

Installing an ice machine on the Titanic? Not quite, but pretty close.

Back when I was working there, still laboring under the illusion that critical thinking about someone else's business model on your own time was not only permissable, but encouraged, I wrote up a little two-page proposal for getting into the used book business. The result? A lecture from my ex-boss about the impossibility of making any money selling used books and an exhortation to spend more time on "things that really matter" -- endless boring hours of zipping and unzipping spreadsheet files from an antiquated DOS-based point-of-sale system.

Gross sales fell every year. The decline was variously attributed to the arrival of a Chapters superstore around the corner; the bad movies playing across the street; the closing of a popular neighborhood nightclub, & etc.

Meanwhile, the store did no advertising (having achieved zero response from a terrible Yellow Pages display ad that simply consisted of the store's name and phone number typeset in an attractive font), was still relying on a out-of-date Books In Print CD-ROM for special orders (business ADSL and every web catalog in the universe being "too expensive" at $50/month), and was routinely out of stock of the books customers requested every single day -- Dune, Siddhartha, Jitterbug Perfume, 1984, etc. At one point, I ordered a bunch of Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem trade paperbacks, which I later found shelved in the literature section, the guy in charge of science fiction ordering having decreed that neither author sold. It was then that I started thinking seriously about leaving.

I have no love whatsoever for either of Vancouver's chain bookstores. Heather Reisman's Indigo sits half-empty at the corner of Robson and Howe, its big display windows full of scented candles, pastel-colored pillows, Bill Clinton's autobiography, and remainder copies of bad Canadian first novels. Book Warehouse, while more physically attractive and better-merchandised, orders ultra-conservatively: lots of overpriced Penguin hurts, stacks of Sophie Kinsella and Dan Brown, not much else.

An independent bookstore unwilling or unable to compete with two of the most staid and boring bookstores on the planet is an embarrassment and a shame.

T.C. Boyle's terrifically funny novel, Drop City, which I found and read earlier this year, shed a surprising amount of light on my five-plus years at Vancouver's Favorite Independent Bookstore, and I recommend it to you.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Just another proud citizen of the Republic of Cascadia Posted by Hello


Help save the endangered (& elusive) Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus! (thx Dru) Posted by Hello

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

President George W. Bush offers impromptu demonstration of the previously undisclosed "remote viewing" techniques he used to verify the existence of banned weapons of mass destruction, thereby justifying the loss of over 10,000 Iraqi and 600 American lives.  Posted by Hello

Monday, July 19, 2004

Jeff Wall, Study for A Sudden Gust of Wind, photocopy and collage on paper.
"The main purpose was to plot out the position and sizes of the papers blowing in the air. I took individual pieces from the various original scans, copied them, and stuck them on the paper, changing them around to make the composition of the sky. This took quite a while, and the small pieces were moved around repeatedly. Each has a code number, so I could trace them back to a sheet of film. So the collage was really a working element in making the picture. " Posted by Hello


Jeff Wall, Volunteer (1996), my favorite of the black and white photographs. I spent most of 1996 as a curatorial intern at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and felt like the guy in the picture almost every day. Posted by Hello

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Medina Green's DCQ, Crosstown Beef currently rattling the walls

Crosstown Beef
Medina Green featuring Mos Def
from the Rawkus Records collection Soundbombing II

Mos Def:
[Keep rising] Medina Green
[Keep rising] DCQ
[Keep rising] Long I too(?)
[Keep rising] the Mighty Mos Def
[Keep rising] can't forget Cess
[Keep keep keep...] Mercenary from the De La
[Keep rising to the top...] Lace the beats up tight, yo tell 'em Dee

Four a.m. laid up at the res
Got a call made my heart jump out my chest
My man's got beef at the dance, exits is blocked
Enemies outside with they heat on cop
He's says that if he goes outside
He knows he gone get clapped
My man from way back
Ain't going out like that
He got peoples in the club and his ties is strong
But he know that they can only hold it down for so long
So now hes trapped off and he's calling on me
To come and represent like I'm G.O.D.
Ofcourse I must agree, cuz this is family
If tables was turned he would do it for me
So now I'm hopping out my bed,
Ready put a nigga never seen 'pon dead
Guess a black man can't have no peace
Pull out my heat
Woke up out my sleep over crosstown beef

Crosstown beef be like crosstown traffic, thick
Brothers be on some real shit
Everyman get scared and prepare for confrontation
"When the slugs penetrate you feel a burning sensation"
Crosstown beef be like crosstown traffic, thick
Brothers be on some real shit
Everyman get scared when prepared for confrontation
"Getting closer to God, in a tight situation"

Mos Def:
Yo check it
It was a friday in the month of may
Around the time when everybody put they game on play
See my girl was out in deesa(?) it was all on me
I figured I would hit the metro on the mad L.D.
Now everybody know what the spring time is about
Players polish up they game cause the shorties be out
I was rocking jew-els and my wears was crisp
My man said there was a jam that I should not miss
I hopped in the livery(?) without a moment to spare
and when I rolled up on the function everybody was there
I was catching sexy stares from the shams in the rear
Saw my peers and heads I haven't seen in years
Now I was getting caught up in the nightlife mix
Then I see my main man from my old time clique
"Oh shit, not my nigga Mos Def in the house"
"Oh shit baby-paw, I ain't know you came home"
We talked about that and this and way back since
When I seen a caravan sporting wild dark tints
Its window half cracked and they was cruising slow
And was circling the block like they was po-po
Said I was jibbing with my man so I paid it no mind
That's when the shots rang out from the passenger side
It was a forty-five bark that made us all duck down
Girls was letting out screams as shells hit the ground
I was looking for my man so we both could split
That's when he turned to me and said "yo Mos I'm hit"
I guess the street life don't leave a nigga alone
Laced up at the party and he just came home
If he survive I know he goin' retaliate
If he don't, they bought theyself a burial plate
Either way situation status on code red
I'm on the horn to tell the fam its on like Con Ed


[DCQ:] Cash Rule:
[Peace] Peace
[Who dis?] The God 2
[Yo whattup son?] Nothing much, maintaining you?
[Right] I just came out the bing and shit is mad real,
This shit ain't bout nothing son [Son I know how you feel]
My girl is in the world trying to raise my seed
There's mad shit that she want and mad shit that she need [true dat]
Plus she got some nigga, knocking at her door [Who dis?]
Some crab-ass cat that she messed with before [From where?]
Always acting wild disrespecting my G, [Stop playing..]
I think he gotta go, what's the verdict DC

Verdict guilty, left hand on the scene
You might be locked down but you're part of the team
If you say gotta go, then that's what he gotta do
Ain't nothing sweet son, yo you know I'm here for you

No doubt, come check me on the day of knowledge born
Cause this phone shit ain't real, yeah that tap shit be on
Plus the God wanna see you so pull his name too
Cause he soon come home son, you know how he do

Yeah the God get down so I see you on the V-I
I'm a do my best to get this broad to bring you some lye
Peace to the Gods, read your math, hold your head
and as far as that kid goes, remember what I said- Peace

[Keep rising...]  Posted by Hello


Leave me alone this mornin'
Sour Suite
The Guess Who 
Lyrics by Burton Cummings
Don't wanna listen to my telephone ring
Or sing ding-a-ling or talk about a thing
Not this mornin'
I don't wanna think about the night before
Or maybe it's a bore behind that open door
Got no time for that this mornin'
If I had the mind or I had the time
Maybe I could throw together a new kind of rhyme
And tell about my warnin'
But it's too late now
It's too late now
It's too late now
I don't wanna think about a runaway Dad
That took away the only thing that I've ever had
Don't even miss him this mornin'
I don't wanna think about a cold goodbye
Or a high school buddy got a little too high
I can't help him out this mornin'
Reviewers laugh at me so I go out to see
And perhaps it's just as well, 'cause I'd rather be in hell
Than be a wealthy man this mornin'
But it's too late now
It's too late now
It's too late now
Whatever happened to images, 'cause now they're gone
And worn out phrases just keep a-hangin' on
Whatever happened to homes as opposed to houses?
A conversation, sayings as the evening drowses
It's just like 4 6 2 O 1
It's just like 4 6 2 O 1
Whatever happened to early morning urban skies?
And broken faces, half with melting eyes
Enough of riddles that just play with time
'Cause I'm still here and I can't beg a dime
I'm back here in 4 6 2 O 1
I'm back here in 4 6 2 O 1
Some bed is waitin' for me 'round the corner now
I gotta find it and try and hang on for a little while
Back here in 4 6 2 O 1, yeah
Mmm, there's gotta be a few small changes made
Don't wanna listen to my telephone ring
Or sing ding-a-ling or talk about a thing
Leave me alone this mornin'
Posted by Hello

Friday, July 16, 2004

Elaine Sturtevant, the most important of the conceptualists to retain objecthood as an aspect of their practice.  Sturtevant's works are visually indistinguishable from their (mainly Pop Art)  sources, eg., the Warhol Flowers she executed using Warhol's own screens.   Sturtevant's contemporaries have tended to be full-on in their praise until their own works come up for emulation and re-presentation.  I admire Sturtevant's work almost as much as I do Rodney Graham's and Jeff Wall's, but the intellectual basis for this admiration is surprisingly hard to pin down.  Other critics' attempts have devolved fairly quickly into love-ins with Sherrie Levine and Allan McCollum.  Forthcoming essay?  Stay tuned.     Posted by Hello

US Thrift Store Archetypes, shamelessly copied off the members-only message board:
"(Names abbreviated/changed to protect the innocent): TC: Alleged Viet Nam veteran who rarely bathes, sweats profusely, and wears the remains of his decades-old beret. It looks like a rotting carcass tied precariously around his head. I've been warned that TC is a nice guy who knows books and music, but will "suddenly freak out on you." Speaking of stinky people: Bowel Guy is skinny as a stick, wears glasses that are so big that I'm surprised his body can support them. He's way too concerned about his bowels, and is always talking about the benefits of eating oatmeal. Billy Goat: Buys only Louis Lamour paperbacks. Says he stores all of his books in a storage unit because he's not ready to sell them yet. He's been buying books for years. He won't sell his books online either. Says he doesn't "even own a computer." Guy in Linen Pants: Admits he hoards things, and that he has an OCD for dictionaries. Know-It-All: As a child, he discovered Japanese soldiers hiding in the forest near his home. He has studied magic with a famous magician whose name he can't recall. Actually, he has studied lots of things with lots of famous people, whose names he can't recall. Then there's my favorite: The Book Savior who buys all the really old books to save them from going to the dump. He says he knows he has a problem, and that his friends are starting to doubt his sanity. But I'm glad guys like him exist. Anyway, they are all harmless weirdos--except for TC?--and it's sometimes amusing to talk to them. Wonder what they say about me? Aren't I one of them?"

Thursday, July 15, 2004
Email reply to a German client's detailed query:
This is the first US edition.  Grey people carrying clocks under their arms are standing in front of a big red building with a cupola roof.  Behind the building are trees, and, rising above the trees, a moon which is also a clock face.
(Free Pulpfiction gift certificate to the first non-client to correctly name the book in question.  Entries to


I'm Not The Man I Used to Be -- 20 wonderful seconds of instrumental introduction, just waiting to be pilfered and looped.

Warm summer waves from a Hammond B3, says John.  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Copies of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code litter crash site! Courtesy The Onion Posted by Hello

Buddleia Davidii, a.k.a. butterfly bush, a.k.a. an invasive species originally native to China. Now widely dispersed across the Pacific Northwest and likely visible at a road cut or rail line near you. I used to cycle out to my Horseshoe Bay paper route along a decomissioned BCR right-of-way, which, from August to mid-October, was a blizzard of eucalyptus-colored leaves and sweet-smelling mauve cones. We buried some of my grandmother's ashes on a buddleia-studded hillside on Bowen Island overlooking the sea. Big shout out to this gorgeous biological intruder!  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
A Letter from East Van to Hammertown
(Review of Peter Culley's Hammertown, for the Rain Review)

Dear Pete,

Sylvia and I took a realtor’s tour of Hammertown last spring, beginning with the cheapest single family home listed on the MLS. Even as we pulled up in the driveway it was obvious no sale was forthcoming, but the realtor still insisted on walking us through. I recall a worn linoleum floor, unfinished wooden cupboards, an orange shag carpet in the living room, speckled here and there with grey constellations of ash, and, racked upside-down in a drain tray by the sink, pebbled plastic drinking glasses. The owner, a paunchy, middle-aged European, warily trailed us and the realtor through. He’d grown up here. The house had been his mother’s. I glimpsed, embarassed, an older woman’s clothes, protruding like a tongue from a half-open bedroom closet door. Death still a presence, not yet quite gone.

Downstairs, we inspected the basement’s unfinished concrete floor. A door opened out onto the sloping back yard’s gnarled apple trees and rundown greenhouse, its plastic corrugated panes all broken, full of gaping holes. I stopped. Abruptly thought of you. I’m still not sure which detail did it – the scattered black pots, full of woody geraniums and fuchsias? The telephone wires and bare black trees, crisscrossed in the lane, so much like some of the little photographs punctuating Snake Eyes? The pale March light above the islands? Maybe it is more truthful to say it was a conjunction of these things, the informe of the plant pots’ dessicated contents and the distant light inflecting each other, waltzing together like partners at a dance.

We drove around in the realtor’s SUV with her commentary ringing in our ears. That’s a grow-up. That one, too. There, the local Angels club house. And that? A revenue property -- ex-grow-op -- she purchased for her son. We topped a rise and gazed down upon a hollow full of rundown homes, a Vancouver Island Arkham. I thought again of you, and that E.J. Hughes Cowichan Valley landscape we both admire. & too – your Guston epigraph. “[A] sort of scrimmage is taking place – arms, discs, etc., the abstract forces are trying to pile themselves up into a permananent mound – BUT – a hammer looming in from the top-side is definitely hitting this structure, making it seem as if it is crumbling, collapsing.” The vista spread before us looked to me like Guston had gotten hold of that Hughes landscape and aggressively reworked it, canting the roofs and chimney pots in at weird, non-Euclidian angles. For a moment I was unsure of what I was really seeing, old suburban Nanaimo, or Hammertown’s strange streets. A full-scale ontological breakdown, precipitated by you. Thanks!

So, no structures then, or only provisional ones. Nothing really surprising there, just orthodox modernism ticking quietly along. These fragments I have shored against my ruins. But that’s not quite right either. Your quotations are way too abrupt for high modernism, eg., the snippet of Shelley's Epipsychidion dropped abruptly into Greetings From Hammertown. The sample? source? retains its own integrity, is not absorbed into the structure of the whole. The “permanent mound” of the poem is indivisible from the units that constitute it, the sample sources laid one atop the other, the heaved and twisted strata of history, politics, and other people’s texts. Style as geologic upheaval, or continental drift. Bob Smithson would be proud.

Your contexts, regional or otherwise? Smithson certainly, Blaser, Spicer, Stanley & their antecedents: Olson, Creeley, Ed Dorn. Maybe Avison. Basil B. Wee bits of the tish gang too, mainly Marlatt and Bowering, and even then present not so much in poetic structure as in tone, like those supercompressed tag lines Davis played live at the Plugged Nickel.

As for some of your local contemporaries, a phrase of David Mamet’s comes to mind: “A generation that would like to stay in school.” I have never understood why so many intellectually accomplished members of the working class would want to organize – even temporarily – as a school or movement. Bad memories of reading groups at UBC, little clusters of folks trying to puzzle out poems with the help of lots of dope and wine, the genteel what-is-this-guy-trying-to-say equanimity that eventually drove me right out of academia all together. All through my chequered grad school career I felt like the guy in Gin & Lime: “Throw off / like dirty clothes / this useless life / I’ve come to love, seeing / how / for so long / I’ve avoided / the inability / to say anything / that does not add to confusion.”

I’m old enough now to no longer want to read academic papers about poems, or to write them, or to convene seminars and conferences to discuss them. Old enough and foolish enough to believe that poetry principally composed as an object of analysis is ethically suspect, and that a real test of a poem's worth resides in its dailiness, the ways it speaks outside the confines of purely aesthetic or critical inquiry. & because of this, your poems have been valuable to me.

Valuable how? Start with that index, the big one that overshadows everything else in A Letter From Hammertown, “a kind of recording scrim, on which / the successive domed apprehensions / of the April sky, the / broiling surface tension of Dodd Narrows, etc. / can be decelerated and examined –“ A structure patterned on Richter’s Atlas or Perec’s User’s Manual, an form big enough to frame the world, but not to mirror it, not exactly. “I’m lining things up / all in a little row / so that the real image of spring / and the mental image of spring / can be made to somehow agree –“ But they never do. Poems and music arise from the tricky slippages between nature and its representations. Miles’ birdcalls, Delia Darbyshire’s unearthly hoots and whistles, DJ Theo Parrish’s repeat excursions into BIG and WIDE – all structures that are like, but not quite, nature. Include Hammertown in their company, too, with all its emulation strategies –- the endless catalogs, taxonomies, and samples. Not a conventional poetic voice but something else entirely, a modest, temporary structure like a tent, something to be erected and disassembled and moved again. A made thing, “not really a holler as much as a bowl, into which sounds enter or leave only with difficulty.”

Monday, July 12, 2004
Not Really "Office Work on the Computer"

Google "Squarehead" (thanks, Charles Reeve!) and "Godwhacker," in that order
Dwelling on Dwell
(verbatim from way-too-heavily annotated copy consigned to the dollar table):

To look up:

- early Egyptian civilization

- pyramids

- Che Guevara -- Cuban revolutionist


- is Derksen gay?

- what is allusion to fish

- what are all the stats?

- is he sick of cancer?

Gravel + Truck Tire / Plate Glass Window = $565 (+ GST, PST)
Sunday, July 11, 2004

Kevin Schmidt, Long Beach Led Zep (video grab)
Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on... Posted by Hello
Lunch with Ken Lum at Ho Tak Kee on Friday.

The downpour that had been threatening all morning finally burst, loud enough to overwhelm the usual kitchen noise. At some point, lightning hit the electrical substation opposite the Western Front. A colossal BANG, then silence.

The lights at Broadway and Kingsway went out. Traffic, barely visible through the foggy window behind the bar-b-q ducks and the heat lamp, backed up, then, when I next checked, was flowing fine again. Had the lights returned?

Not quite.

Out into the storm's aftermath. A civilian stood in the middle of the road, directing traffic: the local nut usually found on the traffic island opposite Kingsgate Mall, pretending he's a traffic cop. Ken and I watched for a while. He was doing a terrific job.
Friday, July 09, 2004

In high repeat on the shop's deck: Thievery Corporation's latest DJ set, a.k.a. The Outernational Sound. Soon to be played to death in every upscale hair salon, coffee bar, and clothing store in town, but, for the moment, still sounding remarkably fresh. Highlight: Paul Weller on sitar. Posted by Hello
Open a virtual pack of Wacky Packages -- go on, you know you want to!

More than you ever wanted to know about Wacky Packages, much beloved by me and many others in grade school. Big shout out to Harry's Market, Dundarave, West Vancouver, still peddling WPs after all these years. Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 08, 2004
OK, OK, just one more: Cat & Girl vs. Magritte. Some of these are pretty hit and miss, but this one just made me choke on my coffee.
Lots more Cat & Girl -- thx Michael!
These Poems, She Said

I used to keep a photocopy of this Robert Bringhurst poem on the wall of my study carrall in Buchanan Tower at UBC. Found it again today, in Doris Shadbolt's copy of Bringhurst's first collection of selected poetry, The Beauty of the Weapons. The empathy I felt in my early twenties for the speaker hasn't diminished a bit, though the critique down toward the end beginning, "Self love...", which made no sense at the time, makes more and more sense now as time keeps fugit-ing on.

These poems she said
by Robert Bringhurst

These poems, these poems,
these poems, she said, are poems
with no love in them. These are the poems of a man
who would leave his wife and child because
they made noise in his study. These are the poems
of a man who would murder his mother to claim
the inheritance. These are the poems of a man
like Plato, she said, meaning something I did not
comprehend but which nevertheless
offended me. These are the poems of a man
who would rather sleep with himself than with women,
she said. These are the poems of a man
with eyes like a drawknife, with hands like a pickpocket's
hands, woven of water and logic
and hunger, with no strand of love in them. These
poems are as heartless as birdsong, as unmeant
as elm leaves, which if they love love only
the wide blue sky and the air and the idea
of elm leaves. Self-love is an ending, she said,
and not a beginning. Love means love
of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.
These poems, she said. . . .
You are, he said,
That is not love, she said rightly.

Cat and Girl -- "These images don't carry on a dialogue with the world"

Wednesday was supposed to be spent in the mountains, but when I woke around 4am rain and wind were thrashing the trees outside the window. At 9am, the Cheam Range and Mount McGuire were still hidden by steel-colored clouds, and Hope was invisible behind a soft grey wall of water. Plan B: down agricultural back roads to Bellingham through rain and sun showers, with a stopover in Lynden for coffee and croissants, then down the whole length of Whidbey Island. Walked the beach at Deception Pass, bull kelp heads trailing out in the current just offshore. Briefly into Seattle and home at twilight. I-5 lyrical companionship courtesy Gift of Gab.  Posted by Hello
Monday, July 05, 2004

In the air tonight: Mr. Otis Clay's A Lasting Love, whose world-weary vocals really are a standout, even on an album already packed with hits.

Don't try to change me
Try and understand my way
Accept my love the way it's offered
That will be the surest way
'Cause my love keeps growing, growing
Just you wait and see,
Ooh, it will be a lasting love,
A lasting love it will be...

 Posted by Hello
Sunday, July 04, 2004

One of 1400-odd Bus Stops in Surrey, B.C. Photo by Sylvia Grace Borda  Posted by Hello
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Jericho Beach Webcam, updates every 10 minutes
Friday, July 02, 2004
Consummate noir author Paul Cain -- author of Fast One (Black Lizard, many reprints) and a biography rivalling any of his fiction.

"He extended his mythology to reseumes and professional film publications, where he claimed to have written such books as Syncopaean, and Hypersensualism: A Practical Philosophy for Acrobats. He also claimed to have been published by the Black Sun Press, and in famous periodicals such as Blast and transition."
The Cascade Mountain Brush and Bushwhack Rating System

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