It Just Gets Weirder

That’s right.  If you can say it you can do it. Everything’s a mystery now.  You just don’t know what’s coming next but at least you’ve realized that’s how it should be, instead of fighting it.  It just flows.  You don’t want to die.  You try to be on time.  It takes guts to do anything after all you’ve learned, but punctuality is the main thing when you come up here.  Your girlfriend may not be on time but you have to be.  If you aren’t she’ll beat your head in.  Word of caution.  Never, ever have an 80 year old girlfriend.  It’s terribly difficult to explain.

I’ve figured something out.  There comes a time in everyone’s life when you need it.  You need it but more importantly it needs you, and even if you didn’t need it, you’d want to be around for your girlfriend.  He always has whatever you need.

Get out the ‘writing helper.’  Because it’s too late, and you can’t do this anymore.  You’re not ‘getting and spending’ and that quote from Dr Johnson haunts you.  ‘Nobody but a low-down, filthy con-artist ever wrote for anything but money.’  So what’s going on here?

Fact is I like it here because nobody bothers me.  I get very few mentions and there’s something else.  I’m powerless, really, to effect change.  Have no illusions.  You can do everything right and no one will notice.  Why should they?  Who are they, anyway?  It’s not about content, it’s about the triumph of ephemerality.  It’s about mastery of the inconsequential.

Allen Wrenches.  What do you know about this guy?  He’s a tool.  He’s a pistol.  I figure my girlfriend’ll know about this clown and we’ll have our solution.  My girlfriend has tools that have tools.  Incredibly well connected.  And I need something so here I go.  I despise tools.  I won’t have one in the house.


It’s a nice drive up to the old sod in slumbering Point Grey.  Everything’s been planted here long ago.  A lot of houses are disappearing in the face of thundering new houses.  The sod went up in 1913 but will be staying on as long as my girlfriend’s around.  We down a kilt-lifter to kick things off then move on to Señor Wrenches.  He’s got a lot of friends in an old salad dressing jar.  I remember this line of salad dressings.  They used to locate in the produce section, not in the salad dressing aisle, so they were special.  The jar is brim with the tool in all its many sizes.  I don’t know what I’m doing so take the whole jar.  There’s a problem at home with a tap and before we send in the plumbers we’re pledged to try a fix ourselves.

We talk irrelevancies, my girlfriend and I, then I drive away.  Down the hill I try everything in the bottle but the fishhook circa 1937, but nothing works.  We just can’t do it.  A part’s coming from Barrie, Ontario and if it don’t get here soon even Russell Crowe won’t help.  To rinse a glass is to take a bath.  I forget the rest.  What’s a fish hook doing in a jar of wrenches?  Thought about that one too.  It’s about as sensible as anything else around here.

The thing is you try.  You try and fail and you try again and fail again.  Then you try again and fail again.  So what’s it about?  It’s about failure.  I think it was C. States, in  a slightly different context, who uncovered that gem.  Failure will admit of no solution but success will.  Let’s drop some big likes on that idea.  I’m ready.



Spring Broke

That’s right.  Check your bank account.  You have a bank account, don’t you?  The kids’ll be taking a break and you’re broke.  You’ve been broke for some time now, haven’t you?  Like, if you’ve got two hundred dollars in the bank you’re feeling flush, right?  Feeling chipper?  Ready for Vegas?  Your account balance is $46.21.  You have no investments, no RSPs, no TFSAs.  You had to sell off all that to survive.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s bridge under the water.  Now it’s about the $46.21.  Poverty teaches many things.  The main lesson is it’s a lesson you didn’t need.

Being broke actually gives you a lot of power.  It’s not really great power, but still.  You have the power to say “no” to so much.  It’s the triumph of being broke.  You’ve made it.  You’re indifferent.  Let’s take a short break here to have a look at nature’s riches.

Team Crocus

Being broke means you’ve bought one pair of pants in the last five years.  You did well, really saved up.  You went without so that others could shine then finally you went out and bought those pants.  They cost you a dollar.  As for shoes, well, there’s been no shoes.  It’s a good thing you stocked up on shoes when you had the chance because even now, at this advanced date, some of those shoes are still wearable.  It’s close, but you can kind of fake along, right?  You go from strength to strength and it’s the power of the impoverished.  You’ve sacrificed everything for capital A Art and it isn’t until recently that you’ve realized the guy’s name’s not Art at all.  It’s Phil.  There’s been a error somewhere and you made it.  And Phil is not locatable.  Is that a word?  Everything’s a word here.  Locate?  Lo-cat?  Able?  Locate-a-cat?  ‘I should think that something must be terribly wrong somewhere.’

It’s five years now that you’ve been this broke.  Everything’s five years.  You used to buy anything you wanted.  Lots of pants and shoes, and shirts too as well as coats and jackets.  These days you’re still holding the line on shirts.  You haven’t bought one shirt in the last five years.  You’ve “borrowed” one jacket, meaning you wore it on a guestworker gig and neglected to return it. You liked it because it was black like you and carried no insignia of any kind and you knew, anyway, it was from Costco and cost about thirty-eight cents.  And anyway later the proprietor said it’s okay, keep it, you earned it, and she was right.  So you did.  You haven’t bought a coat, sweater or even a pair of shorts.  Okay you’ve bought underwear.  Let’s keep it real.  And you haven’t succeeded in stifling your ambition for books and beer.  You haven’t stopped reading and keep those famous words of Oscar Wilde close to you:  “I’m for beer and plenty of it.”  And you remember another one over at Ernest Hemingway:  “Beer is a food.”  He said it in “Green Hills of Africa”.  I wonder who the last person is that read “Green Hills of Africa”?  So you feel it’s all right.  And you support the economy of your back lane by leaving your empties out there.  Being broke doesn’t mean you’ve lost your passion for philanthropy.  It’s obvious you’re a generous soul.  Let’s take a short break here to have a look at nature’s riches.  There’s that echo again.

RoseObviously it’s wheels within wheels.  It’s poverty explained.  You can get a little burned around the edges and maybe the exposure hasn’t been all that great and there’s nothing but tofu in the house, but in the midst of death we’re in life.  There’s that too.  You can be cancelled financially, but you know what?  You open an account across the street.  Get over there.  You bring in your pennies and you’re helping your country too.  Get those pennies out of circulation.  Your patriotism is unquestioned.

You can tell when people have decent jobs.  They wear decent clothes.  But you’re still a lucky human being if you can see that you are.  And, who knows?  A dump truck full of cash could be right around the corner.  Alexander Pope was right.



We weren’t supposed to talk about this. I told Rodriquez I wasn’t writing about this place anymore.  But there’s so much great material!  And I’m thinking, if you can do 300 you can do 400. And the world is starved for material.  I mean good material.  It’s not that great a number.  400.  400 shifts.  It’s still embarrassing but you made it, right?  You’re still here.  You’re hitting 400.  And that’s too bad.

Right now I’m in the “Break Room”.  It’s that tiny room the size of a shower stall, or maybe a little bigger, but not much, where all the excess product, the broken cases and pierced cans and half-filled returns and stale dated stuff is dumped down the drain, and it’s amazing not only how much product gets written off, but how all of it is just dumped.  Bye bye.  It’s a messy, sloppy job and you wonder, you really wonder about all this stuff going down the drain.  There are worse things going down the drain, but is there something worse than going down the drain?  It’s dark down there, but if you’re anywhere around this drain you’d be drunk as a sewer rat, hombre.  Swimming in it and sinking.  Blub blub.

I had a strange experience.  Somebody kept putting the “Closed” sign in front of my till.  It happened twice and I put it away twice and then there it is again.  I saw Sebastian and realized he was doing it.

“Why do you keep putting the closed sign up?”
“Because I want to see you in the office.”

So that’s it.  Wants to see me in the office.  Could mean anything.  I have a good working relationship with Sebastian.  He’s a lifer manager.  He bears a striking resemblance to the “Milhouse” character from the Simpsons cartoon TV show.  You remember the Simpsons?  Striking, uncanny resemblance.  It’s all right.  Being called to the office could mean anything and usually does.  I follow Sebastian in at a distance.  The “office” is also a small, cramped space, but bigger than the break room.

“What’s the latest outrage?”  I ask, as I step into the office where Sebastian is standing waiting.

“You’re not selling enough chocolates.”  This is a booze store, not a chocolate shop, I think of saying, but think, correctly, that this might sound a bit flippant, and I don’t really want to irritate any of these lifer managers unless I’m really, really provoked, in which case I just wouldn’t care.  “We’re tracking it and you only sold six yesterday.”

For every dollar a customer donates they receive a chocolate treat in a little pink package.

Of course they’re “tracking” it.  They track everything around this place.  Everybody but the non-com part-time sweats like me track everything.  They’re all narcs.  There must be 60 surveillance cameras watching everyone’s every move.

“I won the gold star last year.  I’m just getting started,” I say.  And it’s true.  They laid a $25 Starbucks gift card on me last year at the conclusion of the “Adopt a School” program for selling the most donations.  And now, after one shift, when I haven’t been here for a week, the order has come down to hassle me because I only sold six yesterday.  Which right there is a snapshot of the organization.

I don’t blame Sebastian.  He’s not a bad oaf.  I know the directive came from none other than the senior manager, an insanely ambitious individual in his little world, who also takes his directives from the area manager, himself a piece of work.  It’s all about money, you see, as in any other organization, despite all the bumpf.  And image.  You can lead a customer to donate but you can’t make them donate, but that doesn’t matter.  Employees are held in such low regard it’s just good corporate management to hassle them every chance there is.  Maybe that’s not quite it.

I might have known something was afoot when I saw the senior manager just earlier in the office at the “shift starter” meeting and he was just leaving for the day and didn’t look at me, just kind of stared past me as he was going out.  I detected something in his non-acknowledgement, but at the time didn’t know what it was.  The senior manager knows I’m a writer and has seen some of my stuff.  His comment on one of my pieces as reported to me by the security guard was, “How does he stand working here with all these stupid people?”

So I knew who and what had put Sebastian up to it.  And later, when transferred to the break room, where you can’t importune customers to donate to “Adopt a School” because you’re not dealing with customers, I was wondering if anyone had marked it down that I was in here or if the stage was set for another chat in the office about how I’m not selling enough donations.

It’s a nothing.  It’s bagels and cheese.  I’ve hit 400.  That’s a rare distinction.  I can’t help but feel the season is winding down for me here.  No one hits 500.  Have a flower.

Spring Is Coming
Spring Is Coming
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