Thursday, December 31, 2009

The pissing race

So he’d gone to such-and-such-a-school, traveled here-or-there, come back tanned or learned, hair parted in a new direction. She’d married, had a kid or two, worked a bit, put on some winter weight.

Graduate, post-graduate and doctoral thesis research. University is not for her so it’s off to coastal college. He’s becoming this-or-that, she’s on her way to one place, another. One bought a big house, another a condo, a third talks up an apartment.

Nod, pause for effect, speak again. Wait your turn, listen attentively; make eye contact and smile. Leave room for failure, lie a bit, mix anecdotes for maximum impression. Tell different stories to persons over 40, mention newfound business savvy.

Show off ringed fingers, pull out photos of grinning children; collect bathroom paper plaques, war and drinking stories. Remember husbands beat boyfriends, mistresses are kept secret, fianc├ęs linger large.

And before you go, pull it out and measure. But worry not, there’s time to grow. We’ll see you again, same time, same place, next year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Highway number three

Still have that heavy foot as you speed down those yellow dotted lines you’ve followed so many times. Farmhouse blemishes dot the snow and sky blue sky stretches off the horizon, over the car, back into empty snow-covered prairie. The pedal presses down, tires spin and the car stereo breathes the words, “Live through this, and you won’t look back.”
My parents were babes
The homecoming party

“So why haven’t I seen you around here before?” he asks me. I tell him I’ve been long gone from the haunts I used to call home, am only back for a bit; couldn’t stay away forever.

This time of year we spill out of bigger cities, new jobs, trips east and west, wherever. We all end up back around old bar tables, sleeping at parent’s houses or on friend’s couches, gossiping about the locals with the best of them.

We avoid the bars that have new names: Whiskey Dix, HiFi, Pink Taco. Instead we make our way to the King’s Head, end up back at Bar I, wonder what happened to the Collective. We spread ourselves thin, eating too many separate lunches with friends who have long since ceased talking, hear each side of the same story over and over again.

The streets haven’t changed: they still lead us back and forth from one reunion to the next. We pull up to the red light and I open the door to take a leak. I let the road run yellow as the light turns green, hop back in, wave at the cops and drive away.

I make it home liquored up on dark beer, stomach full of his cake, sigh to myself, “Welcome home, Winnipeg.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Meet the Martins

This is the only family I could be the tallest member of.

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I was dining with a ghost

And so the eating tour of Winnipeg begins, with a sunday on a Sunday at an all-day buffet. First off is Aalto's, our one-time Friday morning hang over breakfast spot. Served with a slurpee, in true local fashion, the hotel lobby eatery cured each ache and pain brought to us from nights spent dancing at the Pyramid Cabaret.

Next is Cousins for a veggie burger and pint of Fort Garry Dark, eaten with the company of a good book and your favourite waitress. Then it's off to the Fyxx for your fix of your favourite left-over sandwich, all cranberries and love.

You still have days, pace yourself, you murmur into the Rye-bread. But without fail you hiccup from scarfing the meal down too fast, and think to yourself, that this says a lot about your relationship with Winnipeg.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Teenage kicks right through the night

Before the blast-off of engines, there were a few last bad decisions to be made. Crowded two too many into the car we headed east, then north, then east again, ending up off our usual grid, out of the city core; at the right apartment. The mob scene had already begun, what with its bathroom penetration, guns behind locked doors, kids on ketamine. The crazed young things, we called them, as if we weren’t still walking in their shoes.

With toothy smiles and clutching presents we raised a glass to the woman of the hour before settling onto couches, around tables, and on wash-and-dryer tops to watch the madness, participate, and watch again. The air was thick with sexual expression, frustration, confusion: they danced and drank the evening and their inhibitions straight away. Then as the door began to swing we decided it best not be the last left in the room, dialing our way backwards to the highway lights.

And as we stumbled towards bed sheets we spun past the clock, blinking its early morning hour. Spilling into our homes we set alarms with time ticking closer, and despite the cabs to call, bags to pack, and farewells to say, we blinked black windows away unbothered, thinking: this must be what it feels like to be young and in love.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Trash talking Toronto

...and with that he heads home.
Talk to me, my stuff

Six months after the name went on the lease, my apartment sits clean for the first time in what seems like forever: the product of time to waste. And so here is a tour, not of rooms or walls or windows, but the borrowed, bought, and stole pictures, photos and frames that fill my mind-space.

Bulletin bruises: Me vs. Megan Fox, Jackson Pollock and Disco-Schtick
Thrifted treasure chest and green on greenery
Madam kitchen wall, found at Goodwill
Frames waiting for wall space, sunglass on display
Mum's abstracts, vintage suit carrying-case
Digital graffiti by Brian, gifted scarlett and Mr. Mcqueen at Holts
Niagara by tilt lens, magazine ad and thrifted frame

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The permanent pageant

And of the women in that city, all those dance floor blondes fought for the smallest crown. They stored away slim bikinis for weekend trips to beach house boredom, suntans and nights spent liquored up on borrowed booze. Later they’d find dive bar DJ boyfriends, photos on the web. Grow out of prep-school uniforms and up into parent’s past.

So they battled on to new cities, new dance floors, won larger crowns. But nothing really changed, new blondes dyed in their roots. And though they only hold such competitions in small towns and seedy suburbs, each year one girl rides up that airport escalader,

Miss Winnipeg.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Self portrait of a North American male, homosexual
Inside the clock maker’s home
Photo: Dale Reimer, '05

There is a house down a road and in that house there is a room. Half submerged, the view out its two-top basement window is a flower garden sill. Stones separate that dirt from grass, which grows out towards a sand-covered drive and highways further still. And in that room there was a bed, which now folds to a sofa. On that leather-bound present tense the man sleeps, all fat with moments past.

In a city far, far away, on a street dotted brick-brown, an apartment stands five stories tall. Come snowfall there is a room that sits in this stack of boxes, cold with turned-off heat. The fridge is empty, fan still; shoes sit on racks without a place to go. Bills pile high on top books and paperwork lost and found.

But before the plants brown and start to die (as they do each December) the mail arrives, the door spins, and into the hole the key turns.

He always returns.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Toronto the tiny

Just as her text message announces an early arrival at our reservations, his call inquires on appropriate attire. I’m half dressed in a jacket, tie and underpants, and say so to a whip-lash response: “Oh shut up, I’ll go put on nice clothes.” Click.

We’re easily the loudest, youngest table, all cozied into our booth, reaching over each other’s arms for the last bit of chicken liver mousse. Our waitress overhears, “I was having sex behind Hooligans…” and, of course, tells us she’s from Winnipeg, too.

In the next breath we discover she graduated with his brother and sigh, “Small world,” in unison; such is Toronto’s broken record. We assess the appetizers, down our drinks, and order one more at the pub down the street before departing with a promise to meet again here or there, knowing full well the homestead will soon stitch us back together.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Penile economics
*Photo: Pinups mag

It takes more than a head shake saying, “I’m not that kind of boy.” to throw them off our scent. Still, we find ways; believing fiercely that in the homo-caste-hierarchy we are the owners and not the owned. When sprouting silver turns us into foxes we will become more than our twenty-something selves. Until then, we call ourselves buyers not sellers; send steely glares, push back drinks and sneer, “Nothing’s cheap.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Everything may suddenly go wrong

Head full of pennies and an empty Advil container, weeknight television vacations. Morning meetings, afternoon coffee, hand in assignments. Drag it out, pull your cigarette, ride the bus home from work. Four walls, one bed, no food in the fridge, and canvas everywhere. Deep breaths, open window, close book and let the night fall.

Watch words jump around the city, end up in photographs and tattooed on knuckles. Drop your shoulders, stare at the pink paint stain on your shoe and repeat the mantra.

Stay calm.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The case of one too many Russes
*This is Russ Martin's butt

The headline hurts.

It reads, “Russ Martin: Paid Millions Not to Work, Bored.”

It certainly isn’t about me. I am paid next-to-nothing, always busy, juggling unpaid labour and other writing. Some guys get all the luck.

Enter Russ Martin, a 49-years-old disc jockey from Dallas, Texas. Martin grew up in a working class neighbourhood called Pleasant Grove, has a handlebar moustache, and owns a collection of replica cars from famous films. He owns two Batmobiles modeled after the 1966 live action Batman and another from Speed Racer. He even has an orange General Lee from the original Dukes of Hazzard.

Did I mention he’s paid to do nothing? As far the things Texans talk about on the radio, Martin has spit them all. Religion, sports and country music: Russ Martin has always has an opinion. At least he used to. According to NBC’s DFW in Dallas, Martin was dropped from his radio gig despite high ratings one year ago, but remains on company payroll to the tune of an annual $1.1 million. In the spring, he got a 10 per cent raise.

Now he’s bored. “I'm not really being productive. I'm pretty much a burden on society,'" he told the station’s website.

Here comes the bad stuff.

As the story goes, Martin pulled a gun while screaming threats at his wife, but never pointed the gun, or pulled the trigger. He also says he did not hit her, and the two are still together, the NBC story says. But he’s not speaking to the Dallas Observer, which reported his wife moved out of their $3 million dollar home and gave back his $30,000 engagement ring.

The Observer also says he’s faked many of his Howard Stern style gags, claims staffers on his show hated him, and reminds readers Martin is the type to say things like, “Only stupid people are poor.”

But domestic abuse and crown douchery aside, it still stings there a much, much more successful Russ Martin than me. Only in Texas, I sigh to myself, forcing my eyes away from the page.

I click close on the window and think:

You asshole, this is what you get for Googling yourself.

*This post is dedicated to Irina, queen of all that is Bizarro

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Art for the Internet age
*Sons of Parts Unknown

We were sure we had been given the wrong address. Wading past a disgruntled man wearing only one shoe and a gaggle of strangers smoking questionable substances in sidewalk shadows we stared listlessly into dark store front windows. Everything was closed.

We trekked on until we spotted a plaid shirt and an ironic moustache. Warmer, we thought. Inconspicuously sketched onto a red door we finally found the right words: Butcher Gallery. Bingo.

Up a steep staircase was a table of cheese and chips and brownies and a few mingling guests. The first door we tried led to a cluttered bed. Was it some sort of Tracey Emin sloth-like statement? No, just a bed. Moving on.

Down a dark hallway we found the actual art in its crowded, white closet-sized space; but it wasn’t what we had expected. A few collages, a mirror set sideways and covered in tiny silver balls, and a floorboard propped up with a white stick. What was this saying about the internet?

We consulted the hand-written and photo-copied single page program, which explained the show was “inspired by the Internet’s influences on identity, narcissism and voyeurism.” Hm.

Shifting my eyes around the room of “hyper-contemporary” young artists and their fans and followers I thought: “I feel self important and watched. Hey! Two out of three ain’t bad.”

With that we bought beers and settled into conversation. One of the un-artists revealed he’d picked out a hanging picture of a naked baby boy at the St. Lawrence Market. “I’m going to go put a red sticker beside it,” he grinned.

As he walked away I watched an actual handshake deal go down. One of the elders in the room beamed towards a fresh faced artist and announced she was picking up his piece. Surprised wide eyes melted into a smug smile as he followed her out the door and towards her car.

And just before we turned the other way I thought to myself: I may not be buying this, but I’m glad someone is.

*Collage by the excellent Liam Crockard

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Those boys in gym class
*photo Jason Bell for OUT

Tight lipped and eyes glued to the television screen, we waited for disaster. It was a moment we’d each been through, in one way or another. But sitting silent in a stagnant car, trembling teary-eyed at your mother just isn’t the same as slapping on that made-for-TV-smile and announcing to the nation: yep, I’m gay.

It’s not like the audience was without its suspicions. In a culture like ours, roman a clef and reality blend together, leaving us wondering which personalities we’ve made up, and which ones we’ve become. But in every television persona’s career (and every homo’s life) arrives a time to come clean. So just as we had, around dinner tables and after long, awkward telephone pauses, Adamo anted up the information.

It was an E-Talk Canadian celebrity special and big news on the blogosphere. But the attention only served as reminder we’ve chosen few gays as idols and kept countless others hidden in closets. So it was with relief we let out a breath, logging on to see the not-so-cumstained pictures on Perez, welcoming him to the Gaybourhood.

It didn’t kill Neil Patrick’s career, and it won’t kill yours, we told him. We’ve moved past that time, or at least like to think we have. And as it turns out, the ordeal meant as much to the audience as it did to him. Letters in the mail from boys like the ones we were in small-town-somewhere confirmed we still need to see ourselves on TV to believe. That shouldn’t be how things are, but it is. Now they see stereotypes, but at least know the options. We weren’t so lucky.

It’s with that I’ll extend a nod in the direction of Mr. Ruggiero, an honouree in the recently announced OUT 100.

Thanks for being a big gay, buddy.

We needed it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Looking back into the trees

And so we stayed indoors all weekend, at bars and on couches, dancing time and sobriety away. It felt like winter already, as we’d retreated despite warm weather and smart blazers to be worn. Jackets were traded in for cotton, stretched around sleeves and bathtubs and hair and toes. And as conversations ended, the street window whiplash of cars sped on and on. There you sat editing photos, full and hungry, waiting for the cold.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sunny streets again

For some reason, the sun waited until then to appear. We’d had a few summer stretches of heat, but to be honest, July and August stunk. First it was garbage and closed public pools, then cool nights and an early on-set autumn against a smog grey sky.

But out of nowhere mid-November brought perfect weekend weather. On a sleepy Sunday out came heavy sweaters and light jackets; we went to see the last of the leaves to fall. Faded colours and a long coffee breakfast, we strolled lazily through the park. Photos were taken and movies rented, then as the stars rose we fell into sweatpants, grateful to turn off fans and open screen doors.

And even if it ended with morning (which it didn’t), we went to sleep knowing our season had come.


*shot with a German Leica pocket cam. panorama, panoramic.
Problematic PR tactics

Toronto's favourite nobody is up to trouble again. It seems gossip monger Zack Taylor recently came up against an age old journalistic conundrum: under pressure, does a journo who has been sworn to secrecy reveal anonymous sources?

A few days ago Taylor got into it with Disney darling Demi Lovato over her supposed romance with her fellow D-Tween, Joe Jonas. When Lovato got wind that Taylor had posted a confirmation of her relationship with Jonas on his Toronto-based gossip blog, the Tweets started to fly.

The snap-back denial began with a Tweet Lovato posted at 3:00 a.m. on November 5, reading: There's been a lot of rumors lately that I'm dating one of my best friends Joe. I can promise my entire career that I am not.

The message was quickly followed up with another firm denial: We've NEVER dated. He's incredible, but we don't have feelings for eachother in that way. I love you guys, and I wouldn't lie about that.

And finally a shot at Taylor: It's ufortunate that some people out there are so desperate for attention that they have to make up gossip to keep their site alive.*

That’s the pressure, or so Taylor sees it. In the face of the flack he was receiving from Lovato through her public tweets, he returned to his source, who had insisted anonymity.

Word from the still unnamed source came in the form of a text message reading, “you gotta be patient cuz no rep is gonna confirm it I can assure you!” and another: “It’ll die down in a couple of days, then the truth will come and ppl will say “OMG he was telling the truth!” Then they’ll respect u even more.”

Taylor was doubtful, and faced with losing his Hollywood credibility (read: points with PR practitioners and loudmouth “insiders”) he caved.

The source? None other than Lovato’s mother, Dianna Delagarza, Taylor says.

But before the plot could take a further Living Lohan twist, Taylor jumped on the defensive. In an interview posted earlier today, the blogger told the known Taylor-haters over at Torontoist, "My emotions went from feeling pissed-off, to feeling betrayed, lied-to, hurt, confused, to finally, a clear conscience."

Can Taylor keep that conscience? Probably, as much as any gossip columnist or blogger can. Shady blind-item ethics are currently kosher amongst the celeb-dishing set, so when it comes to anonymous sources writers like Taylor are forced to either sit on the “truth” in silence, or spill the beans.

But let’s face it: if Mr. Taylor’s moral dilemma is between the shady practice of using un-named sources and the shady practice of concealing a mom-anger’s (equally shady) PR tactics, well, this is embarrassing for all involved.

Conclusion: You always lacked conscience, Mr. Taylor, that’s exactly what keeps your site’s content flowing.

Conundrum solved.

*Spelling mistakes courtesy of Ms. Lovato