• Two librarians are arguing in French. Otherwise the place is deserted. There is new furniture the colour of old mustard; the couches curve in graceful, modern crescents while the chairs scoop you in, their sliding black writing trays a strange extra arm. I’m reading about Albert Schultz in The Globe and Mail, then about psychopaths in Harper’s. There is also some mention of gloomy octopuses and how the summer populations of flying insects have fallen by eighty percent in the past twenty-five years. The light outside reminds me of hospitals and unused bedrooms, that piling kind of slush grey, in successive washes. • At the bank to put $100 on a separate credit card that I keep for my art business and to buy my wife presents (buying her things from our joint account feels a bit too much like Homer giving Marge a bowling ball, I'm afraid). I'm third in line when I arrive, but the person currently at the counter is doing multiple things with stacks of papers and scribbled-on envelopes and her mobile phone, which she has to hold at arms length to use, and the clerk looks to be about fourteen years old, and I know things will go badly when he starts taking crumply papers and going off to offices in the back to ask questions. Soon there are at least a dozen people in line, twitching like robots when their power goes out. Of course I could make my own transaction through the bank machine but: not today, Satan. Apparently the person at the counter has cheques that cannot be cashed, and the app on her phone won't tell her the things she needs to do with her life. Really, she is doing everything, all at once, like a trip to the doctor which starts with dermatitis and ends with full-blown Ausems Wittebol-Post Hennekam Syndrome. Sorry! But now I am next in line and only God with a handful of locusts and lightning can move me from this spot. • In the studio on a Thursday night and there is no water –– the second time in the last week or so. Things get tricky without water, especially painting with acrylics and gels, and now I'm thinking of having an emergency supply on hand. They must be doing some kind of work in the building or area but this is downtown so who knows, things just stop or break occasionally, from age or cold or ghosts. • Strangely warm in the morning but of course this is a joke; by evening there's a severe cold warning. The 501 Express is emptier than usual. As the bus drivers change shift, the new driver ribs his colleague about the chill on the bus, how he has "poor temperature etiquette". The floor is thick with water and melt and mud, and for the first time I notice that it has drains. It reminds me of a house our realtor once showed us; somewhere behind a hidden door in the basement was a circular room in smooth cement whose only features were rubber hoses and a large floor drain. They must have removed the chains and hooks for viewing, our realtor said. • Walking home in my neighbourhood at night, in this severe cold, I might as well be on Mars, nothing but me and the sound of my boots, squelching in that echoing too-loud way, as if I was a little machine. All of this is infinitely preferable to my old neighbourhood, downtown, where there was always some badly bundled troll emerging from the darkness, dragging something half broken or trying to ride three bikes. • About six times a day a fire truck roars into the parking lot at work. Are we having fires? God has never answered my prayers before. But no, they only hang around for a few minutes and then tear away again. • Oona and I finish the illustrated children's Old Testament. It gets pretty crazy towards the end –– careening from good king to bad king, bad faith to salvation, with plenty of murders along the way. On to the New Testament!
• A triptych, in miniature: three thickened blocks of paintings on cradled wood panel called all of this I did alone, without even your melancholy fire in my mind. • Five TOTAL MANIACS –– five ink-brush drawings on vintage library cards of history's bloodiest two-legged disasters –– Alexander the Great, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Hitler, and Napoleon. Not all totalitarians, not all dictators, but all drenched in whole buckets of depravity and terror and madness.
• The fourth season of Black Mirror. The shiny, superlative strangeness of this series continues. Utterly clever, completely compelling ... and yet. And yet many of these episodes I would not want to watch again, either because I've already seen the rabbit pulled from the holographic hat or because they are so relentlessly bleak that I'm already wincing at the idea. • Molly's Game. I see this with C one night when Oona has a sleepover with Brownies (thank you, Brownies). C calls it a poker movie but it's really a bad men and a woman with a chip on her shoulder. We enjoyed it quite a lot, although Kevin Costner might be miscast. • Best Day Ever. Or rather: a very bad day with a psychopath who is unintentionally hilarious (this is the kind of character who would call himself "a very stable genius"). By Kaira Rouda. A quick read, nicely done, with a few problems of being too neat at the end. But most people seem to want everything tied up the end, whereas I'm happy just to see it all it flames, so what do I know.
It's already January 9th! Only three more months of winter to go. Stay off the highway, if you can.