Thursday, 11 September 2014

How Long It Will Take to Read The Great Gatsby a Page at a Time

It will be easy to get my students engaged with the first sentence on page three: My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this Middle Western city for three generations. Admire the hyphens, first of all. This gradual zoom--what could a zoom be but gradual, I'll propose to the class--on who's narrating, never mind who Gatsby might be.
I blame this on fame. What new might a person say or write about The Great Gatsby. Better to read it, a page a time. So far it's all the narrator's worry over how he hears people, how he got tangled up last summer back East.
But back to My family, in a minute.
Today I asked--in honour of the designation of "selfie" as Word of the Year--what word do you like and why? Write it on the board; we'll all see it. We'll read it out. One of the results was "family," a word selected for meaning only, not sound.
That was fine, of course, but the word that turned out best, for me anyway, was chug, which I've tried to do since then.
The rest of page three gives us Carraway and his story, though not yet his first name. (Pssst, if you've read past 3 don't give it away.)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Wascana Hill

I reached the crown of the highest hill after half-time of the Riders-Bombers game.

Up there, listening northwest toward the stadium, I couldn't hear the crowd noise as I can from home. Geese I heard--a family spat--and patches of traffic from Wascana Parkway. Pelicans near the north shore ruled more serenely than ever.
Listening to the first half on CKRM, I'd heard one announcer, in a scripted ad, say "where the action's at". Earlier, the statistician had stated that in the first quarter the Riders were "plus one in the turnover ratio". These would be exhibits #1 and #2 in one of my English classes starting in a few days. Not that I have a case that requires exhibits. I'll be happy just to talk with my classes about whether and how such language matters.

At that point on the 2nd highest hill in Regina (now that I'd spotted the landfill hill), I decided to head back for the 4th quarter of the game, arriving at 13th and Lorne to the unmistakable din of touchdown delirium, Rider fans celebrating a 59-yard completion to Taj Smith.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Hillsdale Rain, Sunday

It came in so sure of itself it didn’t need a storm. And it’s stayed that way 17 hours, with 17 more to come.

We forget that the urban subdivision known as Hillsdale comes post-glacial, as does the body of southeast Saskatchewan, from which Hillsdale extends as knuckle, finger or hand. Subject to wet spells, would be the polite way to put it.

But let’s be blunt: flooded basements, trunks floating, wretched sewer back-ups that stayed backed up. Pets lost, schoolwork abandoned, no piano practice for days—piano lost in the flood!

We figured out the sump pumps and plugs and for a decade or two stayed pretty dry.

It feels different now, the rain, weird climate dynamics. (Quake in California last night, for example. I’d watched a ballgame from Oakland—no sign of the quake by 10:00 pacific time.)

The runty little avenue, Anderson, where I lived for ten years as a boy used to be open space with no trees. The tallest things were survey sticks, which we used as swords with yellow ribbons, or paint can lids which we imagined as attack Frisbees. Or ourselves, but that’s another story.

Now the rain turns Hillsdale inward, clinging to bark of its own elms, canopied. The young professionals and managers, physicians, judges and football players have long ago moved to new homes somewhere else.

Nothing weird about this rain. It covers everything.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Wascana Lake East

I don't want to say much about the teaching year ahead, which is coming up fast. Today I thought about preparing for the year by reacquainting myself with the landscape. That would include repeated exposure to interiors, approaches to doors. But let's start with the lake.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hello From the North Apron of Wascana Pool

I pulled weeds along the fence to make a place for my towel, which is the first time I've said such a thing.
Run. No wait, don't run a mom tells her daughter. My bad!
A lifeguard, dude with red-blonde afro, takes the loudspeaker Listen up, hey listen up to explain how the deep end works now that the high board has gone. The high board--how many times did I arc against a blue sky poolward, blade or wrecking ball, the surface all mine?*--took us higher than anything, especially the Recreation Ranch-style, worn blue, office and changeroom building.
It's the contour I miss, of high ladder.
When some teen with a football calls out Hey good timing, buddy, afro says Thank you with his loudspeaker as he disappears inside.
He makes other announcements--too many. People will stop listening.


Saturday, 12 July 2014


I wonder if visiting an archeological site, say a Roman settlement near present-day Mertola, in Portugal, and finding your jackknife there would make you old. Old needs no help, of course. I worked my scaps the other day and felt like a bird, old bird, proto-pelican. I liked what it did with my voice, but I tell you, the rest was brittle. Things continue that way. A casual swipe of a square inch or two back of my left eyebrow leads to consultation with NASA as to the composition of my noggin. I'm called "you old fuck" during a parking lot episode. In Lisbon about two months ago a young man on a tram offers me his seat. (Here I'll remember that a crowded tram in Lisbon leaves you hanging from forces of nature beginning with, but not limited to, hump, swivel, bend, press and hundred-year-old wooden box with windows.)
Eyes that require
their own staff and budget
(but don't they see past the bridge?)
is how an idea like this carries on. And I'm not feeling old today!
I did point out to my daughter the other day, though, that "we're all pushing 80."

Monday, 7 July 2014

In My Room

Not to go on about old songs, but the Beach Boys are doing it right now, singing "In My Room" at my desk while I look out across the Courthouse. In either case a fortress is built, as adolescent boys know how to build them.
Here I am, thinking this way.
I don't know details but Brian Wilson got heavy into himself, I think, and the group broke down. I'll use sublime for some of their songs, though. "In My Room" can take a lot of abuse--sentimental pap, lyrics that beg for satiric intervention, squarest possible harmonies--but every fourteen years or so I find it again.
Look at the workers streaming home through the sunlight, 4:49.