Friday, 26 September 2014

Seen

          The PCL guys—don’t any women work at this construction site?—return from lunch, walking slowly, as if they’d eaten that extra burger at the all-you-can-eat Luther cafeteria.

          I got an email from my sister in Kelowna this morning, saying that one of her old school pals from our home town had died. “Another one of the old gang gone,” she wrote. The funeral will take place in B.C., but there’s to be a memorial at his farm somewhere near Regina. Although I didn’t know the guy—he was 12 years older—I told my sister I’d attend the memorial on her behalf if she wanted. She’ll let me know.

          The workers get up to the 12th floor in an elevator that crawls up a shaft fixed to the southeast corner of the new residence tower. I can see their yellow safety vests through the grille of the elevator car. I’m curious now about how that elevator works. I can’t see any cables but I hear the motor.

          This Jake, my sister’s friend who died, played on a ball team for which I was the batboy, years ago. They were men; I was a boy. As I saw it, they inhabited a world I wasn’t yet qualified for. They smoked cigarettes and drank beer and knew how to talk about girls. Jake, a tall powerful first basemen, was one of their leaders. I think he became a high school principal.

          The elevator holds at least 8 of the PCL workers, I see. The 8th guy hangs back long enough to finish his cigarette, which he flicks over the railing at the entrance to the elevator. Three more guys file in, and the car ascends. I see now part of the pulley system that runs it.

          And we all carry on into the afternoon.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

14 Minutes

They found my silence and gestures odd but brought in their leaves (or as we hockey fans say, Leafs). I tried to keep it going until everyone had dropped his/her leaf onto the silver tray I passed around. I guess it was no surprise when the whole room got silent, until "Well, that was a goofy idea," I said. The leaf-words didn't seem that interesting, at first pass. But I'll bring them back and see if I can get them to think of words more as sound than meaning events for a while.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Notice of Attempt at Personal Best : Longest Time Not Speaking While Engaging Class in Useful Language Activity

Depending on the system of measurement, my PB stands at a mere two minutes, maybe two and a half. The idea I'm about to present, however, guarantees, if successful, a score of 20 or more on the Minutes scale. Here's the plan. I present 14 expository writing students--skilled, if unchallenged, writers--with this set of instructions:




As soon as you finish reading this, get up and go/wheel outside. Leaving everything here, where it will be secure, take nothing with you. Nothing at all.


Your task is to find a leaf big enough to have a single word written on it. Therefore, the leaf cannot be too brittle, or too fresh. Attention to detail is required.


Think of a specific word. These words are banned: love, perfection, beauty, truth, creativity, honesty, joy, health, money, travel, happiness, peace, life, mercy, tenderness, desire, sex, sympathy, understanding, brains, magic, pain, heaven, faith, serenity, everything, One, good looks, music, melody, harmony, unity, heart, autumn or any season, humour, disease, certainty, silence, Name, hope, generosity, spirit, moon, sun, earth, blood, colour, light, sound, sensation, mystery, death, wonder, disappearance, violence, pleasure, splendour, breath, birth, sadness, temptation, or any word like them.


When you’ve found your leaf (with maybe a back-up leaf) and thought of your word, come back to class. Maximum time outside: 15 minutes.


Using the felt-tipped pen I will provide, write your word on the leaf and drop it into the container.


Yes, and I'll come up with something to do with the words later.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

What Happens

Just now I compared a notebook entry from Jerez de la Frontera, March 27, with its present iteration as a poem called "The Right Size". The first had a Saramago move: "...engaged in the study of what we call, choosing the most common metaphor, borderlands...". This never made it to the poem.











Where the notebook entry goes on to coin edgethropologist, the poem gets to its five stanzas and sees itself looping at the end, as did the entry, now that I read its last half-page.
Anyway, I've been noticing with such material a drift from where I wrote the entries--I can't remember the exact place in this case--and what I saw, to the form it's taken now. Maybe that's why I've kept the place and date bottom-right of each poem (not in photo above). To keep the lines of the place moving my way.











Could have been written here.

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.