memory bank


i cannot remember any of my mother’s native tongue
my father’s favourite tie
or my sister’s reasons for hoarding

i cannot remember what i had for breakfast
or anything you may have said
the morning after we got married

i cannot remember when i stopped playing the piano
or when i started letting myself go

i cannot remember all the lies i’ve told
or why men make war

i cannot remember what might cause women
to judge, invalidate, shun, erase, shame, oppress,
brutalize, condemn, injure or kill the spirit of
other women

i cannot remember if there’s a difference
between guilt and regret
but i can remember the words to every top 40 song
i heard on the radio
when i was thirteen

i cannot remember when i started writing
why i sent the artist away for 25 years
why helicopters scare me
but i remember peeing my pants
on the first day of kindergarten

i cannot remember the names of the apostles
where i left my sunglasses
or when to change the brita filter

i can’t remember to take my calcium supplements
to phone about the eavestroughs
to clean out the ring in the bathtub
or what i was looking for five minutes ago

sometimes it’s enough just to remember my own blessed eyes
my broken feet
and the hand that holds the pen
to remember that i am alive
to remember that i am loved
to remember to laugh

sometimes it’s enough just to remember
to breathe


barrie me not

“how can a free spirit ever possibly take flight living in a place called BARRIE?”

i scream this at my mother who cannot seem to understand why i am packing up my ’75 datsun b210 rustbucket and driving 2,000 miles away to take a job in alberta.

my mother isn’t getting it, but my 22-year-old gut knows that after three years as darkroom technician and general reporter at the bi-weekly bugle, it’s time to move on.

barrie soccer shirtbarrie is suffocatingly safe. it’s vanilla. it’s boiled potatoes and wonder bread and piano lessons on monday afternoons. it’s church rummage sales and junior B hockey. vodka smuggled into high school dances, labatt’s blue at the underage skating parties. april wine and foot in coldwater at the college pub night piss-ups. it’s an excruciating hour’s drive from toronto, which at least has a pulse. it’s waking up greasy and groggy after all-night poker games with the guys in the bullpen.

barrie is so boring that we don’t actually play poker at our poker parties — we play hearts and euchre. but we do eat chips and drink beer and smoke cigars in an attempt to invoke the sleaziness quotient of poker. still, barrie is so boring that we don’t even smoke real cigars, we smoke colts — which involves very little actual smoking and is more about sucking on the wine-flavoured tips.

my mom doesn’t seem to get this but barrie is so boring, we drag ourselves down to the lake and sit on the dock and just sit — sit and watch motorboats pull up to the docks and wonder why anyone with money enough to buy a boat would bother to come aboard at kempenfart bay. because there is sure nothing to do in our sleepy little town. no good restaurants — unless you LIKE cigarette ashes with your sweet & sour chicken balls from lem cho’s — and only two rinky-dink movie theatres — the roxy and the imperial, which never show anything good, just sappy walt disney stuff like hayley mills fighting off some guy trying to kiss her, or hayley mills smoking cigars in the boiler room of a convent. four-star bopperfests.

barrie is so boring, there isn’t even a mall. all we have is mother’s pizza and towers department store. when i was in high school we didn’t even have a freakin’ mcdonald’s, just root beer and teenburgers at the dub; and it was all we could do to convince the waitresses at the crock & block to serve us draft beer in their frosted mugs, because we were only 16 but not bad enough girls to have fake I.D.

back then it was firenze pizza and tom collins chasers, and midnight tokin’ with our steve miller LPs in molly jackson’s basement. back then the air was always oppressively humid and even the liberals were frighteningly conservative. now it’s jogging on the track at the Y after work, and lunch with harris and timer and richie every wednesday at the town & country lounge — where the soup is always french onion and the special is always beef dip — except on fridays, when god help you if you don’t want fish & chips.

no, a free spirit couldn’t possibly take flight in a boring place called BARRIE.

but my mom still doesn’t get it.

“you remind me of me,” she says. “when i was your age i wanted to move to alaska and have six kids. i never did that. but you …. you figure out what you want and you go after it.”

then why won’t she let me go?

i may not know exactly what it is i want, but i do know what i DON’T want: i don’t want to live my entire life in a white-bread, tim hortons-and-beef-dip town and end up sixty years later being buried in a place called barrie.

i don’t want alaska or six kids, either, to be sure … but whatever it is i do want might just be waiting for me in alberta.

i hear the weather’s good there in the fall.

cutting the cord

three days and counting.

on saturday, i made a phone call to my cable provider, asking them to disconnect my service. the chop comes on wednesday.

why? because, to paraphrase the boss: “57 bazillion channels and there’s nothing on.”

TV rantthis decision did not come easily.
i’m a boomer; part of a proud, gluttonous generation that has never NOT known television. a child of the sixties, i watched with my mom in disbelief as reports of the JFK assassination crackled out from our grainy little black and white t.v.
the whole family huddled around that same box when the beatles made their first appearance on the ed sullivan show, and whenever the wizard of oz made its annual appearance (it wasn’t until a decade later, when our parents finally replaced the rabbit-eared B&W with an electrohome colour model, that we discovered the yellow brick road actually turned yellow, and the ruby slippers really were ruby).

walt disney, a charlie brown christmas, the brady bunch, mannix, mission impossible, the wild, wild west, get smart, gilligan’s island, the beverly hillbillies, red skelton, i love lucy, the monkees … i grew up on a steady diet of television. (obviously not all of it “quality” programming.) our mom had no time for afternoon soaps, but she would call us in to watch if there was a guest on a talk show she thought we should see — like janis joplin guesting on dick cavett. (i didn’t appreciate it at the time, but i realize now that most moms back in the day were trying to limit their kids’ exposure to artists like janis joplin, not encouraging it. so, thanks, ma.) she also made sure we witnessed neil armstrong’s giant step for mankind, and the maple leafs’ exploits every saturday on hockey night in canada. the mod squad was allowed, much to my older brother’s chagrin, on a school night provided i got my homework done first. and she didn’t make us watch tommy hunter or hymn sing, for which we are eternally grateful.

hitting adolescence in the early ’70s, i spent countless hours in front of the tube as the hot-button social and political issues of the day — racism, sexism, vietnam, watergate, women’s rights, gay rights — were played out more and more on the small screen. the times, they were a-changin’, and this was not merely reflected on the nightly news, but dealt with on popular sitcoms like all in the family, the mary tyler moore show, m*a*s*h.

fast-forward to right now … and those same shows, along with other less-worthy time-wasters, are still in syndication all over the airwaves, squeezed in amongst re-runs of newer shows like seinfeld, friends, the simpsons, sex and the city, etc.

which brings me back to why i’m pulling the plug: i can no longer ignore the fact that most of the shows i end up surrendering a chunk of my brain to when plunked in front of the tube at the end of the day are not new, current network offerings with any social and/or political relevance or even a smidgen of life-enhancing entertainment value, but repeats, ad nauseum, of repeats of repeats (see seinfeld, friends, etc., above). i mean, the dance moves of elaine benes almost cause me to — dare i say it? — ROTFL & pee myself, but 18 times a day? all things in moderation. please. and there’s the rub, because TV has never been about moderation, has it? it’s all about saturation. and i’ve hit my saturation point.

outside of 30 rock and law & order (svu & ci), there’s nothing on that interests me any more. i gave up on ER two seasons ago because the cast members kept getting younger, more shallow and less likable. i absolutely refuse to watch alleged “reality” shows, which bear no resemblance to any real life on my planet; shows where, in fact, the objective seems to be to subject “ordinary” (REAL!) people to judgment, scorn, humiliation and ridicule; ordinary people who are willing to eat bugs or proclaim to the world that they’re stupid (at least stupider than a fifth grader; stupid enough to eat bugs) so they can have the 15 minutes of fame they believe they’re entitled to. and there’s now the converse: the pathetic “reality” of former child celebs trying to reclaim the 15 minutes of fame they pissed away 25 years ago and feel they’re still entitled to (the two coreys, scott baio is 45 and single … arghghgh)

there’s also a phenomenal preponderance of shows based around experts helping you remodel — remodel your house, your garden, your diet, your wardrobe, your kids, your marriage, your dog, your financial portfolio, your sex life, your colon. my, my, my. aren’t we a sad lot, in need of rescuing on so many levels.

well, sorry, oprah and ellen and all you hysterically real & genuinely flawed folks in search of prime-time redemption, but i’ve had it with your lyposuction and your colonoscopy and your “final answer” and your “giggity, giggity” vulgarities invading my living room. life is too short to spend it sitting in front of a soul-sucking, madison avenue-driven squawkbox.

i will miss jack mccoy and olivia benson and bobby goren, and boy, will i miss tina fey … i’ll even miss the occasional old hippy concert special on PBS (notice how everything always comes back to the sixties?), but that’s about all.

from now on, i’ll get my daily news fix from reputable internet sources, not from some idiot local anchor who thinks he’s a stand-up comic, thank you very much; and the $60 a month i’ll save on cable costs will pay for a couple of decent bottles of red wine, or a nice dinner out, and the occasional DVD i’m resigned to purchasing when i really need a fix.

three days and counting. til then … please pass the remote.