One day in 1979 I put a cowboy hat from a Johnny West action figure and a scuba diving mask from a G.I. Joe on a Timbit. Then I took a photo of it. Such was the boredom of my youth.

Since then I would happen upon this photo — a Kodachrome slide — every handful of years, and I’d chuckle at it and put it back in its box. It is a ridiculous and meaningless photo, but over the years it became a sort of talisman, and I couldn’t throw it away. Now, almost four decades later, I feel like it has time-warping properties, as if on every viewing, spacetime folds and those collected moments come together and touch.

In many ways I feel haunted by this photo. Between viewings I tend to forget it exists, and then one day I’ll see it and it all comes back, like the mixed emotions of seeing an old friend and realizing that the old friend is still an idiot. Why couldn’t I have an interesting talisman, like a spider encased in amber, or a jewel-encrusted monkey skull?

Let me remind you; this is a photo of a goddamn Timbit wearing a cowboy hat and a scuba diving mask. It is meaningless. Or is it? Perhaps this was the beginning of a surrealist art career, and in a parallel universe I’ve graduated to bagels wearing Hugo Boss suits. I’ll never know. But I feel it is finally time to break the spell of this mysterious image by showing it to the world. Here you go. Now I am free.

Don't laugh...

(Published simultaneously on Facebook.)

Jane Austen with Kittens

You’ve probably heard of this movie that mashes up Jane Austen and Zombies. Well, there’s a story unfolding around our house that feels like something out of a Jane Austen story, but it involves kittens.

If you haven’t been following the kitty situation chez nous, here’s a quick recap: In spring of 2016 a local feral cat had kittens. The mother and kittens became regular visitors to our back yard over the summer, and as the months wore on we socialized the kittens (Phoebe and Fiona) and finally brought them into the house in November. The mother is friendly but too feral to adopt. We already have a grumpy 14-year old black cat named “the Mini.”

So what happens when you bring two spry young female kittens into the house of a 14-year-old neutered male cat? You’d think nothing, owing to the gonad-free life that the Mini has been living since George W. Bush was President. But apparently not.

You see, one of the kittens — Phoebe — has been madly in love with the Mini since the beginning, before we even let them into the house. Last summer, when they were wild and living outside, Phoebe, Fiona, and their mother appeared on the deck several times a day. If the Mini was sitting in the patio doorway, Phoebe would rush up to the door and go nose-to-nose with him through the screen, purring madly. While the other two cats displayed a mixture of mild interest and utter indifference to this black furball who lived in the mysterious world on the other side of the patio door, Phoebe was enthralled and would rush to see and sniff him whenever she could.

The Mini showed no interest, even by October, when the kittens started coming inside occasionally, nor in November when they moved in permanently. He would either ignore Phoebe’s eye-batting and snuggly invitations or actively swat her away. So it looked as though we’d have no real trouble with these as-yet-unspayed kittens, until Fiona — who had previously showed no interest in the Mini — went very explicitly into heat.

The G-rating quickly took a dive, as Fiona turned her eye on the Mini. And not just her eye; her modus operandi was to turn her tush to Mini’s face in a presentation so brazen and vivid that I expected the Vice Squad to burst through the door at any moment. Mini responded by biting her on the back of the neck, arching his spine, and assuming a position that would be referred to as “mounting” except that his aim is off, and despite the humping and yowling their naughty bits rarely seemed to be in the same ZIP code.

According to my research, a female cat stays in heat for a few days, then is done with it until the next time. But Fiona has apparently not consulted Wikipedia because she’s been in a state of heat — whether real or imagined — ever since, without a break. As a result, this furry tango with the Mini happens at least three times a day, sometimes at meal times, which is highly disturbing to the mood, and I find myself sitting there over dinner with cat screwing sounds drowning out the Spotify playlist, thinking “the only thing missing is the banjo kid from Deliverance.”

But where does that leave Phoebe? For the first few weeks, she would just sit there, eyes agog, as the love of her life ravaged her sister — or perhaps more correctly, ravaged the carpet while hunched over her sister. Unlike the copulations of apes, this furry yowling would go on and on, for what seemed like hours. Phoebe’s unrequited love was tragic to witness, which means, in Victorian romance tradition, it can only get worse. And it did.

Early in January, Phoebe finally caught on to this “heat” thing, and started slinking around the Mini with a whole new slutty look in her eye. Unfortunately she’s a bit of a klutz in the romance department, and she can’t quite bust the right moves. Whereas Fiona simply sticks her tush in the Mini’s face until he catches a whiff and springs into action, Phoebe prefers to slither alongside him and to roll over and purr like, well, a thing in heat. The Mini’s response is either to walk away or to growl at her and then walk away.

There is no happy ending yet; the house remains a den of exploitation and sorrows. I hope this will be resolved “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” style by sexually lobotomizing the kittens under the veterinarian’s knife, after which we can go back to the usual snuggles and hisses.

Up Against the Wall Motherf***er!

Some 40 years ago, a friend had a cassette tape of some guy belting out a song called “UP AGAINST THE WALL MOTHERF*CKER.” Tonight, Martine was telling me about one of her new exercises, which is basically a form of “planking,” but done with your back against a wall. In one of those things where time collapses — like in those illustrations of how faster-than-light speed could be possible by folding space/time — the song came back to me.

It took about 15 seconds to find it on YouTube. I encourage you all to play this really loud, over and over again.

Oh, BTW, you should read up on the anarchist group the “Up Against The Wall Motherf*ckers” — usually abbreviated as simply “The Motherf*ckers.” No particular reason why. Just a thing to do. You know… inspiration.


[Originally published on Facebook, November 11, 2016.]


What makes someone a “character?” Is it the green hair? The fact that he or she is always the loudest one in the room? I don’t think so. In fact, the more someone conspicuously tries to be a character the less interested I am in that person as a character.

But I love those naturally occurring characters we see all around us if we take the time to look. The distinguishing factor may be very subtle, or it may be quite obvious, but whatever it is, it doesn’t have a patent and it’s not part of the person’s brand. It’s just good old fashioned quirkiness.

Here are a few such characters lifted from the living novel that is my life:


S- was a guy I worked with a long time ago, when I was a tech writer at a very cool company (check my CV and see if you can guess). He was an intern and I was his professional mentor (read: boss). S- was a cool cat in every respect – very laid back, well read, easy-going, and intellectual in a “street” kind of way. Very Jack Kerouac, minus the Jack Kerouac poseur pretensions.

He was a non-conformist, but not in a card-carrying annoying way. In other words he didn’t brand himself as a non-conformist, he just questioned things –  almost everything – and if he didn’t like the answers he came up with then he didn’t buy into whatever it was that had fallen under his scrutiny.

One of the things he questioned was his need for a corporate job. He couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer so he quit the program he was in at university and decided to try living hand-to-mouth for a while. He also wanted to travel, so he packed his dog into his beater of a car drove west. When the car broke down somewhere in Manitoba he abandoned it and stuck out his thumb. By the time he got back to Montreal several months later he was grizzled and worn but happy and full of stories about sleeping under trees, gnarly truck drivers, and hob-nobbing with the severely unwashed.

Over the next few years he took to bicycle couriering, as it afforded him some ready cash without any serious commitments along with work experience that is very portable. He bounced back and forth between the west coast and here for a few years, couriering in Montreal during the summer and in Vancouver or Victoria over the winter.

I haven’t seen him for a few years now, as I haven’t worked downtown since mid-2008. One of the last times I saw him was on rue McGill-College, just below Ste-Catherine, where he was taking a coffee break. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, so we chatted for a bit to catch up. Then I noticed that he was standing in front of a Cafe Depot while drinking a coffee from a Tim Horton’s cup – and not a paper one; a ceramic Tim Horton’s cup (the nearest Tim Horton’s is several blocks away). He seemed oblivious to this when I pointed it out, but to me that was a classic S- moment. Just a bit out of place, a tad discordant, but fully owning it even if he wasn’t even aware of it.


O- is a software engineer from one of those former Soviet republics that is always on the edge of some kind of revolution or civil war. He’s been living in Quebec for many years, but his English, French, and Russian are still spiked with a strong accent from his native ethnic language. He’s loud and humourous and assertive, and you’ll never lose him in a parking lot. But that alone doesn’t make him a character.

To look at him – especially when he’s wearing his black watchman’s cap and aviator sunglasses – your first thought is either “KGB strong-arm” or “Eastern-bloc mafia gun runner.” Yet, he’s funny and has a loud but gentle demeanor. He seems fierce enough to bite your face off if he wanted to but I’ve never seen him behave in an even remotely aggressive manner. When we’ve been in bars or restaurants together he treats the staff – particularly the female ones – with respect and a kind of old world chivalry. One of his favorite pass-times is salsa dancing. He drives a Smart car.

One day at the office I went into the men’s room to take a whiz. After I peed I went over to wash my hands and I saw him standing at a sink, in the middle of the afternoon, shaving. The best part was that despite the mounds of shaving cream on his face and the Mach III razor in his right hand, he was happily blabbing away on the mobile phone that he held in his left. That was a classic O- moment, and I’m not talking about Oprah.

Those are just a couple of the oddball characters that have made an appearance so far. I hope there are plenty of chapters left, because there is no shortage of people to fill them.