Saturday, June 24, 2006

a moment of fricking silence please

A marvelous one has been lost. My baby is gone from me. Olga died this spring and yesterday I sold her body to another man. In all fairness, she had been unwell for a while. I rode her hard, too hard, perhaps and she wasn't young any more.

When I first got Olga in 1997, her name was Shitbox because I had to replace her transmission less than a week after I bought her. Those fuckers at The Beetle Shop took the wreck of my 1973 super beetle for $400 and upsold me to a 1984 VW Karman Scirocco. She was beautiful then; her body was mint and the interior immaculate. I paid $2300 for a car that, unbeknownst to me, had a 4 day life span. When I tried to return the car, they told me to go fuck myself. When I threatened to sue them, they laughed and said "go right ahead". I didn't. I was weak. I satisfied myself with series of complaints to the BBB about their business practices. Every shitty little thing I could think of that they had done, (both with my Beetle previously and with the Scirocco) I filed an official complaint about. I contacted other people who'd been screwed by them. They and others did the same. After a couple of years, the bastards went out of business.

Of course, I still had to replace the transmission in the meantime. I cashed out my RSP's and spent the next 6 months returning to the transmission shop until they finally got the thing installed correctly. Lesson 1 learned: take VW's to someone who knows how to fucking fix them. It took three years and two exhaust systems for Shitbox to earn her new, more loving name. That car could drive sideways down a dirt road at 100km and never leave me feeling unsafe. She road on a rail; I have never had a car that was more fun to drive.

That fun came at a cost and VW's aren't cheap to fix. Parts are expensive, labour is worse. Northland once quoted me $1000 to replace an axle spindle. I found the part I needed on a GTI at Pick Your Part for $14. That and a case of beer to tempt Trevor to come over with his torque wrench got the job done. Lesson 2 learned: the people who know how to fix VW's will rip you off every fucking chance they get.

Eventually, I left my lucrative sales job and returned to school to refound my life. With the money for her upkeep gone, Olga started to fail. Never fond of the commuter lifestyle, she began to overheat in the summer; she lurched and complained when driven to get groceries and perform other housekeeping tasks. Only truly happy when she hit the open highway, she blew her catalytic converter and demanded a straight pipe in order to race with the other girls. Her skin began to sag and develop blemishes. My baby was getting old and worse, she began to stop caring. On long trips, her transmission began to fail; she could no longer keep up though she still got me and Ash to Winnipeg in February 04, Penticton in July 05: when the chips were down, she still did me proud. I am not ashamed to admit that I have a tear on my cheek as I write this. Fuck you. Fuck all of you. She was a good car.

In Feb, one of her CV joints imploded while I was driving to pick up copies of the second issue of NoD. Having spent all of my money on the magazine, I could no longer afford to fix her. When the registration sticker expired I parked her on my lawn. Last week, faced with a need to pay my bills and not enough money to pull off the month and still have water and power to the house I caved and put her up for sale on Ebay. Yesterday, her new owner came by the house and paid me cash to take her away. He loves Sciroccos, she will be his fourth and he hopes to give her a new life in her new home. He might as well have kicked me in the stomach.

I'm glad she's not going to the wreckers. Only once in 9 years did I ever see a Scirocco at the wrecking yard: it was stripped to the skeleton in less than a day. My darling Olga has been spared that fate and I'm sure she'll be very happy in her new home with her new man and his two sons who really seemed happy to meet her. He has a good job; he can do better for her than me. That's the important thing; I just need to keep reminding myself that this will be for the best; the best for Olga.

Take a moment and remember her with me: feel free to reminisce and share stories about Olga and her adventures. Join me as I wish her all the best in her...her new life.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Toronto part 3 the award

All right, I've talked about the reading (amazing) and some of the stuff we saw in the city (damn, I really like Toronto) now it's time for a bit about the reason I went there in the first place. I won an award. Natalie Walschots, bless her werdnerdy soul, nominated me for the inaugural Outstanding Volunteer award from Magazines Canada. She told me nothing of this, so when I got the call from Barb at Mags Canada, I was completely shocked. Nat, you are an evil little sprite. :0)

The award has come with some ups and downs. Winning a national award right at the moment when I finish my degree and hit the job market - definitely an up. Having to skip convocation to attend kinda sucked and Caralee Hubbel's insistence that dANDylion will dictate how the $1000.00 in professional development money will be used; a major down and, as it turns out, completely inaccurate. dANDy has no say in how I dispense the award; the cheque is made out to me and is non-transferable. I just need to apply it to one of Mags' approved training programs, ie Magazines University or the Banff Centre, etc.

Mags Canada offered to pay for my ticket and put me up for the night of the awards ceremony. Fantastic. Would be a pretty lonely ceremony without Ash along so we had to front for the other plane ticket and an additional night at the Hilton (we got a group rate fortunately, thanks to Mags U for that). I had thought that I'd be a shoo-in as a rep for dANDylion at the Mags U, since my plane ticket and accomodations were already paid for but not the case. Turns out we could only send two people and Jonathan Ball and Jordan Nail are both good choices. Jordon wound up not being able to make it because of a death in his family - a horrible thing and horrible timing; I really hope dANDy makes up to him and sends him again next year.

At any rate, the ceremony was nice; we got to meet some cool people: Cindy from Burnt Toast who was accepting for Tony Fouhse, Melissa Edwards from 3Day Novel who adjuticated the very first draft of my book Victor, and the Sellwood brothers who introduced us to a number of people and later (I think it was Dan (?)) gave us a lift back to the hotel. I also got to meet Jon Spencer who's actually coming out to Calgary in a couple of weeks to revamp the circulation program for dANDylion; he's a cyclist, I'm hoping we can hit the trails while he's out here.

Here's a couple of pics:
This picture of me and the awarders causing trouble: the photographer wanted a nice straightforward shot and we were far too busy horsing around. Drove her nuts but hey, when you're charging $7.50 a glass for the wine, better be prepared to deal with some entertainment value.

The actual award: full credit to Mags Canada for the class they brought to the entire event. They put us up at the Hilton, hosted the event at The Old Mill; a truly lovely space in Etobicoke and gave out awards that didn't come from Bob's Plaque Shop. Engraved glass suits me just fine, thank you very much! We shared a table with Cindy from Burnt Toast and Colleen Seto from AMPA who mentioned that the amount of feedback from member mags for these awards was quite year, we'll have to fire it up; I can think of a couple of very worthy individuals I'd like to see up on that podium next year.

Another shot of the award, back at the hotel room. If anyone is interested in learning more about the winners and the awards, you can check out the press release at

I think this is a hell of a good idea; not just because I won it but because this enables the small mags who rely almost exclusively on the labour of their volunteers just to remain alive to reap a little of the glory and reward their best workers in ways that they could not otherwise afford.

This trip was a fantastic experience and I'll tell you something that has quietly imbued the whole experience for me: it doesn't matter how old you get, you still need shiny things to bring home and show your mom. My mom died years ago but nothing just means I take a little pride in myself on her behalf. A huge thank you to everyone who touched this trip somehow and made it a wonderful experience for Ash and made my imaginary mom happy.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Toronto, part 2 the city

While in TO, Ash and I decided to knock off some of the sights and sounds; we visited City/Much, the CBC buildings and, of course, the CN tower. The tower is actually pretty darn big...the highlight for us though was stopping by the University of Toronto campus...magnificent; we were thrilled to find a university like this in Canada. Granted, it's no Oxford but it wasn't bad, not bad at all...and the UofT remains a possibility for both of us in our graduate studies.
One of the first sights to greet us in Toronto...this is why I love the playoffs in Canadian hockey.

St. Andrews Cathedral, right across from the Hilton, where we were staying. Very Scottish and very Cathedral...I'm fascinated by how fascinated Ash was with this place; she's a Buddhist but still gets draw to any Scottish culture icon.

University College at the University of Toronto; built in 1859 as a government effort to prove that advanced education could be supported by the secular government without interference from religious bodies. I still feel the urge to call it Balliol, though of course it's about 600 years out of date. At the far left, a young couple are having professional photos of themselves taken in a small shrub; we visited during convocation and photographers snapping rich kids abounded like bunnies in the grass.

A picture of the CN Tower from the grounds in front of University College. Unlike Calgary, the tower stands alone so you can actually see it from a distance; it isn't dominated by corporate head offices extolling business over civic exhibition.

Glenn Gould patiently listens while Ash and I take turns talking his ear off. I have to say, his accomplishments as a musician and composer aside, he is also one hell of a conversationalist.

The old and the new...the first pic shows the old TO city hall...

and like the city of Calgary, right across the way is the new city hall. I wonder; do they still use the old building for municipal government or has it just become a culture site, like Calgary's? This shot comes from the City building...I suppose the point is that their news staff are always hot on the scene for a story...perhaps a little too hot, though the job they did making this look realistic is quite impressive.
I took some pics from the CN Tower; we got lucky, the visibility was fantastic that day. So the total height of the tower is some 550 metres. We were up about 330 metres of that total height, or about 120 stories. The Hilton, where we were staying, sits in the centre left of this photo. The Hilton, some 4 blocks away from the tower, is 32 stories high. Very cool...we could see well past Toronto and scope out the clusters of towers that marked the central districts of other "cities" from Etobicoke to York.

Of course, you can't do the tower without taking the requisite shot of the ground through the glass floor. I had hoped that the glass floor would be, in fact a glass floor - that would have been very cool. But no, it comprised a few glass panels embedded in the floor. Pretty boring, though still too much for some of the people who were there. Ash herself couldn't work up the courage to stand on it even though she weighs much less than 14 grown hippos.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Toronto part 1, the reading

Ashleigh and I flew out this week to Toronto for the Volunteer Appreciation awards being presented by Magazines Canada. We spent three days there and the highlight of day one was indisputably the impromptu reading hosted by Angela Rawlings at the picnic table behind Coach House Books. In the words of John Barlow...
The movge., Gio you'd have loved tonight's reading,
the quick and graced Impromptu II, 15 people were there for an only 24 hour announced reading at the picnic table
and a majority read and read well. even as the light eased off into night. Arranged by Angela to quickly have a reading with Kevin Hehir so briefly (fwd to him i never wrote down anywhere stable his email when it switched here from St John's, and Colin M(artin) from Calgary "lumpy onion monophony/blogspot" but all these other spectacular others also reading in wild assessment of reading order i'd say it went kevin colin camille greg lynne marianne then 2nd set myself reading all from rotundai read tim posgate's 1st 2 paragraphs re multidiscipline arts and uncreative, then harold rhenisch 11 streams of poetry (read as naturally and for intake as anything, streaming with thrill through the poem, such a great poem, then ross priddle's Civil - with a talk of ross's writing style then rose umbrella and many already knew the poem which felt entirely comfortable inside reading after introducing it with rose's many dimensions as a writer and mind - i say mind now but was saying mystic 'applied mystic in the most thorough way' all the while weaving a thread through the diffrent pieces qua genre politics, (calling my own preference the totalizing of all era and mode 'anything exposed to' and ended with curry's "night frieight" from the cover)
then who read next at that point,

the last readers -
conor green read jason christie's ataxis
and canada post with such p
erfect insight nifting out like a sewer the pacing, then aaron G read, then Angela read a translation of a japanese poet i didn't hear the name then went into lepidopterist, and for those who havent
witnessed the intensity of wind poetry that erupts from other poetry of which they are incapable, they'd realize the kind of power they're dealing with, but even as it was now night people's enthusiasm continued up with further readings additional readings from previous readers, and Conor inspired upon discovering read Kemeny Babineau's
kovalev story from the back cover with a gravity
that wrung, and i think the final poem read

was camille's reading of her leafblower poem
that is just referenced along the edge
of her page in rotunda, a one line poem
poem and title in one, which i felt my collage style would make hard to understand and see for a one line poem/title in one so just edged it framing other poems off the edge of the page
then people talked festively and as we had no washroom use the impulsive led the way to see the last few minutes of carolina's 5-0 win, from the ferret patio with a sharp tv facing out onto the patio under the moon conor reading kemeny and jason from rotunda over the other works from rotunda seriously seemed to delight and all households represented by the people present have a copy

such a great reading, & night,

more on all other threads another time


The reading was wonderful, the result of the hockey game terrible but mollified by good company and conversation; the sort of night my grandfather would call a Fellowship with all the faith and gravy. We call our faith Language but it still needs good company; once again, thank you to Angela and all the Torontonians who helped us feel welcome.