Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The hopeful worthiness of the long-distance runner

As the only white guy in an all-black maintenance crew at the old Prince Hotel, Toronto, I didn't know what to expect.
Me the only Hunky around?
Jesus. I was the token?

How life turns around.
I had decided to take a job working with my hands for therapy. I was separating from my wife, had a girlfriend, tried to hold onto the kids over weekends, and was trying to hang onto my sanity by making spare keys and fixing TV's.

Yet the madness would not abate.
There were these strange dreams at night of Egyptian corridors leading to somewhere down there in the Styx. I would wake up worried, convinced for sure that my life was going down into the sewer of the Universe.

I was working with Island folk, though not Jamaican--Grenada, Aruba and the like. Seems they had never met a more inept man as a maintenance type. "What a guy", they would laugh when I didn't have the sense of applying the bit of an electric Philips screwdriver at an angle first in order to gain purchase and drive the screw home. "We'll call you "challenged Ivan."
But it was good-natured ribbing not the kind you get from
some white hicks from the sticks who become foremen and make life miserable for everybody. We were all in the same boat, we needed to float, and there seemed no tension at all between anybody. At first fearful, I realized that I had nothing to fear. I was becoming at the very least a token Guyanese, even if I thought a Makita power tool was an old Russian Communist.
But they did wonder what was wrong with me, so I told them.
Don Juan had had his comeuppance. F*cking around.
And what was good for the gander was now good for the goose.
She may well be singing an old Carolina song of her own: "Nothing could be finer than to shack up with a (...miner?) in the m-o-o-r-n-ing..."

I wanted to kill that bastard, headlight and all.
But Goosy Gander too, had been something of a black swan. Hooka tooka, soda cracker. Jeff Bridges in the making. Too much too fast. Noveau riche excesses. Doing a Spitzer before that well-known governor. Doesn't everybody?

But it seems marital separation was pretty average, it seems, with the Island People. "Don't kill the miner....Give here everything. Give her money. Give her everything you got. You were at fault."

I got to be better at setting screws. I learned how to work live on outlets and switches without turning off the main power. "You only live once!" they had cheerfully told me. No one died.

And by the time I left the crew, they seemed happy with my progress.

"I think he's going to make it now. He's going to be like us. Watch his smoke.
"He's gonna be a long distance runner."



benjibopper said...

Great little piece of writing, this one. Really enjoyed it.

Charles Gramlich said...

a very tight little piece of expository writing. I liked this.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...



ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


One newspaper editor I know--and I worry about him a bit--said that my first novel was, according to another reviewer, "tightly woven."
He then sort of did a little mince and said, "Tightly woven.Oooh. I like that!"

I anwered by a quote (misquote?) from my political oponent at the time Mayor Ray Twinney, who said all journalists have a gay streak.
I was sued over that, but that's another story.

The phrase "Tightly woven." Why does this get some journalists excited? :)

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Here is what I just got after trying to enter the comment space of my own blog:

This content cannot be displayed in a frame

To help protect the security of information you enter into this website, the publisher of this content does not allow it to be displayed in a frame.

What you can try:
Open this content in a new window




Security Schmechuritiy!

It is so annoying when I can't get into my own comment space to myself comment....I had to back into my own blog space by taking a long way around Blogger.

Why does shit happen when you haven't got your techie son around?

I hope readers of this blog can access my comment space...I certainlly can't...Not without Herculean effort by trying to out-bugger Blogger.

Google Blogger: Get it together...This is becoming as confusing as trying to log into Facebook!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ooops. Zez here my browser is disabled and I lost my cookies.

Yeah. I just ralphed my cookeyes over all this.

Got gorilla mozilla.

...I finally got into my own comment space.

Like old wife used to say, "Why do you always do things the hard way?"

Blame it on the Explorer?

Mona said...

Precise and Baconesque :)

ivan said...


I am bringing home the Bacon?

But Bacon was someting of a precisionist, the founder of the modern scientific method. "Work on the stuff," he would say.
...Nevermind what's going around in your head...Work with what's in front of you.

I never thought of myself as much of a Baconian, though I did score a B+ in Physics once in high school.

...But I had an ethnic Quotient. I preferred Polish sausage to bacon. :)

...And I thought I had let it all hang out in the writing. :-)


Mona said...

Ok. Good theorizing on that one. I hope it paid enough for the alimony...

On my blog is a different kind of 'marriage' tho...

Anonymous said...

Reminder: I'm reading from Drive-by Saviours tonight at 7pm in Mahone Bay at the Biscuit Eater Cafe, 16 Orchard Street. If you know anyone on the South Shore (in Nova Scotia that is) please nudge them a little ;-)

Also, just over a year ago Silver Donald Cameron and I co-wrote a report looking at the state of local food production in Atlantic Canada, with direction and expertise from Jen Scott. The client, the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, recently posted the full report on its website at http://www.nsfa-fane.ca/files/images/file/Crisi&Opportunity_SCREEN.pdf. It's a substantial document, but if you are concerned with things like increasing food prices and dependence on food imports, climate change, peak oil, and skyrocketing healthcare costs, it might well be worth your time to read it. [As a primer, I recommend listening to Stan Rogers' Field Behind the Plow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUM8mXJre1c.]

Happy reading and happy weekend!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Break a leg out there in South Shore Nova Scotia!

You mention the food report that you worked with along with Silver Donald Cameron.
Silver Donald Cameron?
Why, he used to provide us with some really fine, almost poetic writing for the Old Star Weekly.
I doubt if he remembers the longest name there, mine, as I used to handle some of his copy for the Star Weekly/CANADIAN PANORAMA SECTION, the black-and-white pullout, the one that featured rotogravure advertising, and was carried inside the CANADIAN.
My wife, way back then in l971, upon reading Mr. Cameron, had said,"This guy is God!"

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Different kind of marriage indeed!

I read your blog and followed your link, so I would understand:

Nikāḥ al-Mut‘ah (Arabic: نكاح المتعة‎ marriage), is a fixed-term marriage in Shi'a Islam.

So I could sort of have a Hertz Rent-a-mistress, contract her for however I wanted her and still kept a clear conscience under the law?

Gee. Had we been under Shia law here in Canada--and it had been proposed here but stopped--my wife would had had no grounds to sue me for my sort-of Nikāḥ marriage!
The mind boggles.

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