Category: 31 days of creativeness

#8: Kerouac lost

Looking for Kerouac

From the 29th floor the city flickers
a glimmering expanse of light and movement:
fluid ribbons of cars, taillights warm with red glow,
glass towers pass bright sweeps of colour
from pane to pane. Neon and dancing.

This is not Kerouac’s city — this glittering gem,
this light-washed spectacle of clean and reflection.
Constant and shining, opaque veneer of newness.
There is no sooty shadow, no soiled alleyways.

Where are his dirty corridors? The crimson
confessions pooled in shadows, bottles and breath
soured from marathons of words and raging.
The filth and fury and beautiful darkness?
Where are the broken bedsprings, the broken souls?

Gone. In this new and unbroken city bleached by light.
All darkness and dirtiness purified. Exorcized.

#6: Spinning it

Today I went spinning for the first time in about ten days. Spinning can have many definitions, but in my case, it’s the exercise kind. The get-on-a-stationary-bike-and-pedal-like-mad-for-45-minutes kind of cycling action.

Spinning –while making me sweat profusely and reminding me that my heart can actually beat that fast — also does something to my mind. It occupies it. Making those wheels go around at breakneck speed takes concentration. It’s something I actually have to think about — which is a challenge for any brain that justwontshutoff. So initially, instead of fretting about the email I forgot to send, the laundry that needs to be done, what to make for dinner, those colleagues who are driving me nuts, I have a much bigger thing to think about: keeping this bike going. Now, I won’t lie: those nagging thoughts do muscle in sometimes (a quiet mind is impossible), but for the most part I need to really think about what I’m doing. And thinking about just one thing is a really good thing.

So once I get the legs moving and the effort takes less and less concentration, sometimes there is this magical space. Perhaps it’s that just-right combination of a great song, breathing rhythm, and state of consciousness — I’m not sure. But when it happens, it’s really amazing. In a “I wish I could bottle this and share it like a drug” kind of way.

And this is when the really good thoughts start to happen. All the noise shuts off. All the people disappear. I start to think about the things that bring richness and light to my life. The good things. This can lead to thoughts about writing, projects I want to work on, or a real great line for a poem. And although I am still connected to the intense exertions and exhalations of my body, my mind is somewhere else nearby having a really nice time, thank you very much.

Today I approached my bike with trepidation. Anytime I’ve been away for a while it feels like I am beginner starting all over again. So I wasn’t expecting any grand moment of calm. I would have been pleased just to make it to the end, unscathed and a little less than exhausted.

But The Calm did come. And even though it was for a few moments, I was able to spend some precious moments thinking about what I want to do next — what changes I want to make in my life — and the very important role that creativity will play. That felt really really awesome.

#5: Walking out into light

Today I left the house for the first time in a week. Put on jeans and socks and shoes, grabbed my phone and house key and walked outside into brilliant late afternoon sunshine.

Being insulated from the city for even a short while can make you forget its allure. How the sounds and smells of busy intersections make the skin prickle. All diesel and dazzle. Horns and shouts and the quick whips of wind as cars roar past. People clutching coloured bags and cellphones and dog leashes as they navigate sidewalk obstacles, rushing breathless toward the streetlights.

My legs begin to remember the rhythm, muscles reacquainting themselves with bend and curve and stretch. A few steps around the corner leads to near-quiet, a leaf-lined sidewalk beneath the curves of old trees. And every few metres the fierce last flashes of light between branches as the sun defies its draining hours of daylight. And then the squeals of children in the park, a sound that carries above our heads, above the trees, and into an October-blue sky. A dog barks. An old Asian man is clapping and smiling. This grass still smells of summer.

Down an alley and then suddenly the rush of traffic again. The streaks of colour as cars and taxis and streetcars blur pass each other on the bridge. Warm wind lifts the exhaust from the air, sweeps the grit from my teeth. Below, the thrumming of the commuter train turns into a frenetic waltz, one two three, one two three,; it shakes the railings, as the dissolving afternoon light stretches across the tracks. I close my eyes and feel its warmth on my skin.

And I realize how much I have missed the city, even for those six days. Its constant hum and wash of sound, the depth of shadow and the warm richness of its light.

#4: What the past won’t speak back

If these diner seats wanted to talk they would start speaking and never stop. But they won’t. The cheap, highly-durable red vinyl is, if anything, reliable. Relentlessly faithful. They’ve heard the screeches of children and the belly-aching of old men. They’ve borne witness to plots and plans and countless whispered adolescent trysts. Oh, the crushes and crashes and clandestine moments of young, pitiable love.

These seats have withstood the violent ends of friendships, but have also gently cradled young lovers who spent hours finishing a milkshake, then married, and kept coming back until the decades blurred together.

Take a good look. These booths have never changed. After over 50 years the floor still creaks in the space above the stairs, on the back wall toward the kitchen. The pungent smell of old grease still hangs the air. You can also taste a “special.”

Remember what he told me back then? When that high chair was a juke box that gobbled our quarters and supplied the soundtrack to endless confessions and plates of fries. Do you remember what he said?

The old red seats remember. But they won’t betray a word.

#3: Octopus lost

Oscar woke up confused. He didn’t know where he was. He looked up and down, to the sides and back — although this effort was exacerbated by the fact that he was horizontal and facing sideways. And stuck to the side of something. A tenacious tentacle twitched against cold metal. It appeared that Oscar was adhered to a chain link fence. Curious that. And Oscar was a curious cephalopod.

Cars whizzed above on a concrete roadway in the sky. It made Oscar dizzy just looking up at it with one eye. All brightness and blue sky and buzzing. But the sound was somewhat soothing given this particular predicament. Below, and much closer, was a roughened pavement of stones from a nearby construction site. It didn’t look like a very comfortable place to land. A lone straggly weed looked up at him from the other side of the fence.

Oscar breathed in. Cough. He breathed in again. Better. He opened his other eye wide to take in the situation. All eight arms present — although in a deplorable state: fluffy rose now matted to a pink paleness, white dirtied to grey. No matter. It’s nothing that a little soap and water and fluff-dry couldn’t mend.

Now to the matter at hand: extrication from this metallic inconvenience.

Octopi have a uncanny way of getting out of tight spaces. Ask anyone. The lack of a skeleton can be invaluable. And their ability to perform complex reflex actions without even involving the brain is uncanny.

Hoping to remain inconspicuous, Oscar waited for the cover of darkness to make his move. And although he was a highly intelligent invertebrate, he didn’t even have to think about it.

In the morning Oscar was gone.

#2: Submissions of loss

It’s been more than a year (possibly longer) since I’ve made a submission to a literary journal. I have fallen out of practice, lost that rhythm of creating, submitting, re-writing, re-submitting. At times I have wondered if I can even write anymore. How disquieting it can be to look at the words you’ve published in the past and wonder who that person was, that writer. And did you ignore those voices long enough to have them bugger off in search of a more hospitable host, leave you indefinitely?

Writing about loss often presents a paradox: is it so easy to write about because it is inherently personal, and yet exquisitely painful to write about because it is inherently personal. And the finished product can walk that taut line between the melodramatic and the matter-of-fact. Both sides equal suicide.

This afternoon I dug up some poems that I wrote very soon after significant losses. These poems were never submitted to publications; they needed distance away from the events. Time to allow for a more critical eye to find that balance, to clear away any drama or indifference.

So I spent some time with four fairly heavy poems and submitted them to Arc. We’ll see how it goes. Right now, it doesn’t matter if they’re rejected. What matters is that I submitted them.

#1: Not the end of the world

Photography excites me — especially when I’m viewing the gorgeous, evocative, work by such talented artists as Frank Gross. His ability to capture the raw emotion of a landscape leaves me breathless sometimes.

So inspired by such deftness with a lens, sometimes I hesitate when presented with a snappable scene. I ask myself, Can I really do this photo justice? Can I capture what the lake smells like or how the trees etch their own words on the sky? I usually have just my iPhone on hand, which, having just enough megapixallage to get a web-worthy snap, has its artistic drawbacks. However, limitations aside, it’s terribly convenient and I can always blame flaws on the restrictions of the device. Right? (right.)

Anyhow, I persevere in my attempts at amateur iPhone photography. And this afternoon (Day #1 of creativeness), I spent some time arranging these snaps into a Flickr gallery (now gone). After agonizing over placement, I composed titles (which sometimes may even verge on the poetic) and descriptions.

This photo is taken from the upstairs gloom at The Waverley, a few doors down from the much-hyped establishment The World’s End pub in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Waverley seemed to have much better stories to tell.

October: 31 days of creativeness

Ok, so here’s the deal: I haven’t been terribly creative these past few months (years) and enough is enough. So I have forthwith set myself up with a challenge: for each day of October to commit to an act — however small — that can be justified as creative. This can be a post, a photograph, a poem, whatever. And the details of however-loosely-defined creative act will be identified here. Every day. No skipping days or waxing reflective after a four or five day stint. Every day will contain one post detailing the stretch of my creative muscle.

Better get on with Day 1…