cigar-tin stories number #47 / the unknowable edition

/a/

When Prince used to meet with his agents (yes, plural) at the talent agency CAA, he would sit with his back to them, and they were told not to look at him. Making eye contact (I'm not sure how – via a mirror?) would trigger immediate contract termination.

/b/

On the drive to her Brownies meeting, Oona begins to argue with me about the sun, starting with the claim that it is no bigger than one's thumb.

No, I say. That's not true. The sun is actually a star, and it is much, much bigger than the Earth.

No, you're wrong, Oona says. Stars are different. And the moon is only as big as your thumb, too.

No. No. That's wrong again. It only looks that big. How could they land a spaceship on the moon if it was only as big as your thumb?

Silence. Then: Nope. You're wrong. The science teacher told us. How could an adult be wrong? Anyway that's not what I mean.

We are early for Brownies, so I park the car and tell Oona to stay put in her seat. Let's ask Siri, I say, producing my phone.

That's an interesting question, Siri says, before providing some handy links. After a few minutes reading aloud on the wonders of our solar system (did you know that Pluto is smaller than the USA, and that the edge of the solar system is at least another 1,000 times farther away?), Oona gives in.

Okay, fine, she says. Can we go in now?

/c/

When I go pick her up an hour and a half later (they lock the school doors until the end of the meeting, leaving all the parents standing outside, in the dark, looking at their phones ... it all feels vaguely AA somehow), I can hear square dancing music from farther down the hall. Do they lock the doors to keep us away from the square dancing? Like some kind of social contagion?

The Brownie leader lets us in. Oona runs up for a hug. Why is the front of your shirt all wet? I ask her.

Because she was sucking on it! another little girl announces, rushing up to us, eyes huge and crazy with informer's joy. She was sucking on her shirt all night! All night!

/d/

It all sucks

And my brain is full of sounds,

a friend writes me.

What sounds? I write back.

Sounds of others

Cars

People

My own list would be:

• a woman laughing in the hallway (her husband died this year)

• raccoons on the roof outside my studio, tapping on the glass

• the burned and distorted female robot voice on the bus intercom saying

MORE SERVICE

MORE OFTEN

• the chorus to "Take the Skinheads Bowling"

• the gear-screaming, glass-crashing arrival of the garbage truck

• the scrinching noise of my left knee when I bend really low

/e/

A man in grey, bunched-up sweats and unlaced army boots stands in the bread aisle, holding different loaves up to his face, inhaling deeply. All the bread is in plastic. Forty minutes later, in the parking lot, I see the same man, walking off towards an empty field. He has no groceries.

/f/

Tony Clement has dropped out of the race for the national Conservative leadership race in Canada. My reaction to this is a bit like when one's creepy, yellow-fingered manager declares that he is no longer going to try to be your best friend.

/g/

If it was 1989, the four guys on the bus would be coming straight from their chess club meeting –– fifteen or sixteen years old, grey wool slacks, dark wool sweaters, straight white collars, wire-rimmed glasses. One of them is missing a muffin, and the rest of them think it's hilarious: doubled-over by it, their front teeth sticking out. It reminds me of a lunch in a Winnipeg diner (now closed), long ago, where the guy across the table laughed so hard that soup came out of his nose.

/h/

The point that Prince was trying to make – that he was unreachable, unknowable – seems to be a pointless one these days. Truth is so elastic as to be disposable, or reinventable (look, I just made up a word); a quick survey of your friends' Facebook photos will tell you that quickly enough. Or listen to the news. Or start a discussion about vaccines. Or Jesus.

This is why people love stories, because their lives are guided by them, made up along the way. And who on earth can know that?

 

/i/

I have been doing these ink drawings (ink brush to cold-pressed paper) of ukiyo-e colour woodblocks. The term ukiyo-e translates as "pictures of the floating world"; essentially, it's 18th century Japan's version of Weimar Germany, in that it represents a socially limited (pleasure-seeking urban class) but inventively decadent (and creatively extraordinary) indulging and celebration of culture. A friend told me these drawings were "surprisingly good", which is the only kind of compliment I'd expect to get these days.

Okay, take care, everyone. 

djb

p.s. An earlier version of this post appeared in my Tinyletter feed. 

escape from a dreaming planet

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