Thursday 28 April 2011

The GHD, Step Three: If the bread and the onion are good enough, that's all you need.

Imagine a sandwich. Any good bread + don't skimp on the butter + any good cheese + one of onion (with cucumber or baby dill) or radish + lettuce if you must + any good sausage (substitute leftover chicken, beef or turkey). Double the recipe. Add a glass of milk and a Blue Jays game (when the bats are working and the pitcher's hitting his spots).

Good, now this is where the diet part starts: Use multigrain rice cakes + cheddar but minimize the slabbage and don't pop a slab into your mouth while you're slicing + cucumber + as much baby dill as you want + slice of red onion why not + salt and pepper. Call it an open-face. Keep the Blue Jays part, no milk.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

The Gerald Hill Diet, Step Two

Embrace your inner skeleton, for where else would it be? Whose season of tissue would it carry about but yours?

I remember wall charts in grade six, first flowering of the word system in my young vocab, as in circulatory system and digestive system (and the lore-shrouded reproductive system). The skeleton was portrayed as a mere collection of sticks, a rack of hangers for the glamour-pusses: muscle, organ, blood, nerve, brain.

Recently I've been reduced to seeing myself as skeleton. With add-ons, for sure, but essentially a bone-character, rising to the surface.

Monday 18 April 2011

The Gerald Hill Diet, Step One

Lose the Rip-L chips. As everyone in my family knows--hello my sisters--that's tough to do. Any lunch, any picnic or summer meal, anytime hot dogs stack on a plate or a can of beans (Heinz, in tomato sauce only) heat in the saucepan, it's time to pull another deck of Rip-Ls from that lower cupboard where the double-pack boxes neatly stack. But at about 250 calories per 11 chips--11 chips! That's barely a mouthful--they just do not, I'm sorry, fit the GHD, Step One. Same goes, by the way, for the lime nachos.

When I say Rip-L, I refer only to the Old Dutch variety. And if I ever say major lifestyle adjustment, I refer to that crisis point, a couple of decades back, when Old Dutch ceased dispensing Rip-Ls in the little bags and we either stood bewildered in front of the junk food machine or settled for plain chips (second choice, Sour Cream and Onions; third, Bar-B-Q).

I've written to Old Dutch about this matter but do they listen?

Wednesday 13 April 2011

What does your bridge look like?

In her journal, one of my students wrote that question, having found it in a self-help book her mom had read over and over. I think I'll run that question by a certain group of poets I'm looking forward to working with.

For me, it's an abandoned hump-backed concrete job like the old Borden bridge, although the other day I was dazzled by that 30s-era bridge over the rail yard in Moose Jaw that set my Loco Log meter all a-whirl. But these are just first crossings. What my bridge looks like depends on what it's over, where it leads, what it sounds like under my wheels. Maybe that black iron bolt-and-girder beauty just down from the Stegner House in Eastend, where I perched and watched the beavers. Maybe that river between Kupiano and Moresby in Papua New Guinea, '79 or so, that we could drive through when it was low, get stuck in after a rain, have to spend hours waiting for when it was running too high--until they built a bridge there after I'd left.

So what does your bridge look like, my friends.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Robert J. Sawyer.

I met him a few years ago at a Sask Writers Guild conference at which he was a guest speaker. He showed up at the annual open mic I've been hosting in recent years. "Has to be a three-minute piece," I told him. "I don't have anything that takes only three minutes," he said. "Sorry," I said. "No exceptions."

(Once I witnessed my friend Brenda Schmidt jump up and down, stamping her feet, when I cut her off after three minutes. Until then I hadn't realized stamping one's feet was actually possible.)

Sawyer disappeared upstairs to his hotel room, re-appearing a few minutes later with some sort of hand-held reader. "Ok, ready," he said. And he read from that.

The other night I heard his talk at a conference here. A spectacular performance: a thoughtful, energetic talk on the origins and future of consciousness, delivered without notes. Later, his answers to questions were likewise thoughtful, attentive to the heart of the question, and comprehensive.

He'd spoken of a time 40,000 years ago when homo sapiens became conscious of themselves. (Evidence: archeological findings of bodily adornment, the cave paintings at Lascaux, findings of "grave goods" buried with the dead.)  Leaving aside Sawyer's reading of why and how this all happened--he says it's all in his novels--I cut to that first sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I'd just watched again on the plane to Montreal, in which a group of primates whose limited set of behaviours about, say, how to take or defend a watering hole, expanded dramatically and forever once they touched a black monolith that appeared in their midst. Which allows me to name one of my favourite moments in movie history: when the primate, having discovered how to use an animal bone as a weapon and thus achieving an evoloutionary leap for the rest of us primates, tosses it triumphantly into the air, where it spins in slow motion and becomes, at its apogee, a futuristic spacecraft.